1. Will Grier will emerge quickly as the #1 quarterback: The ball just comes out of his hand in a hurry. Grier is a dart thrower and that’s just the kind of quarterback Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier like. With an untested offensive line they will be looking for a quick release and a ball that gets to the receivers in a hurry.
2. Ahmad Fulwood will feel like he’s reborn in this offense: In the past four years UF has become a graveyard, a place where wide receivers come to die. Fulwood was wasted the last two years when he caught a combined 29 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. He’s got size (6-4), great hands and as he showed against ECU in the bowl game, speed to make big plays (see 86-yard touchdown reception). Watch him become the go-to guy this spring.
3. Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick will develop nasty streaks at DT: Mr. Brantley and Mr. Bostwick are about to get coached up by Chris Rumph. Either they will get downright mean and nasty in a hurry and start being a disruptive presence in the middle of the D-line or else they’ll discover what riding the pine is all about.
4. Randy Shannon’s presence will be felt immediately: The last time Florida linebackers were a collective bunch of decleaters, Charlie Strong was running the defense. For too much of the past four years, Florida’s linebackers have played the game far too passive. That will end with Randy Shannon doing the teaching. His linebackers have always been famous for bringing the pain.
5. Brandon Powell will be McElwain’s Swiss Army Knife: When he was coordinating the offense at Alabama, McElwain was famous for mismatching the defense by going from power I to spread while using the same personnel. The defense didn’t have time to sub and linebackers and safeties were so often caught in bad mismatches. Brandon Powell gives McElwain a guy he can move all over the field without having to sub. If you’re looking for a breakout guy in this new offense, Powell is your man.
Conference commissioners are taking an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” stance for the college football playoff for 2015. They might tweak the selection process a bit and make some other minor adjustments, but the four-team playoff will remain intact next season and the foreseeable future.
The playoffs will be expanded to eight teams when the conference commissioners either feel they’ve maxed out the income potential of a four-team playoff or Notre Dame has a blockbuster season, forcing at least two power five conference champions to take a seat and watch all the fun of crowning a national champion from their living rooms. At some point, one of those two scenarios is inevitable and when that happens four teams and an extra week will be added to the playoffs. It’s not a case of if, just a matter of when. The cost of doing business in college football is not going to suddenly grow less expensive.
Barring something unforeseen such as huge cracks appearing on the earth’s surface and chunks of rock falling from the sky, the Gators are going to finish with their first losing record since the 1996-97 season, Billy Donovan’s second as the head coach. The Gators face Alabama in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday and even if they win that game, the next game is Kentucky on Friday. Now, it’s possible the Gators could win that game and possible they could go on a run to remember in Nashville. Anything is possible. Just not probable.
Florida’s season to forget will soon be over and the process of re-tooling the roster will begin immediately. Jon Horford is the only senior on the team so he’ll be gone for sure but that is the only sure thing. There are four potential wildcards: (1) Dorian Finney-Smith; (2) Eli Carter; (3) Chris Walker; (4) recruit Kevaughn Allen.
Finney-Smith is a fourth-year junior who has one year of eligibility remaining so he could come back. His NBA stock has risen along with his 3-point percentage (43.3%). He can on the perimeter or high post offensively and he can defend all five positions. Because he has a child to support and will have his college degree, the prudent route might be to go pro.
Carter is also a fourth-year junior so he has another year of eligibility. Carter was an outstanding scorer before he broke his leg his sophomore year at Rutgers. He’s never regained the quickness nor the elevation he once had and it has affected his ability to score the basketball. He will have a college degree and another year of eligibility without sitting out a year. He may choose to play next season at a school closer to home in New Jersey.
No one needs another year in college more than Chris Walker. In the second half of this season he has shown increasingly frequent flashes of explosiveness and athletic ability, but he remains undisciplined and in serious need of physical strength. If he were to put in the effort in the offseason he could have the kind of junior year that could get him back in the NBA Draft talk, but does he want it bad enough to do the work? Some say he hates school and would rather take his chances in the D-League even if the pay isn’t great.
Kevaughn Allen has North Little Rock playing for another state championship today. He’s seriously explosive, has a lethal jumper and can take over a game. Allen didn’t sign his scholarship papers back in November. He recently reaffirmed his intention to sign with the Gators and has not visited other programs but that hasn’t stopped a lot of top D1 schools from recruiting him.
Here is a look at a potential Florida roster for 2015-16 with Chris Walker and Kevaughn Allen in Gainesville:
Seniors (2): Michael Frazier (6-4, 202), Alex Murphy (6-8, 225)
Redshirt juniors (1): DeVon Walker (6-6, 203)
Juniors (1): Kasey Hill (6-1, 182), Chris Walker (6-10, 220)
Redshirt sophomores (2): * John Egbunu (6-11, 266), * * Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250)
Sophomores (2): Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160), Devin Robinson (6-8, 180), * * * Zach Hodskins (6-4, 203)
Redshirt freshmen (1): Brandone Francis (6-5, 205)
Freshmen (4): Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 210), Noah Dickerson (6-8, 240), Keith Stone (6-7, 230), Kevaughn Allen (6-3, 170)
* Transfer from USF, eligible 2015-16
* * Transfer from Stanford, non-scholarship, eligible 2015-16
* * * Non-scholarship
The general public may not know much about Bob McKillop, but basketball coaches know him all too well. Even before Seth Curry brought so much attention to Davidson, rival coaches knew facing a McKillop coached team was like having your fingernails removed by pliers. After dominating the Southern Conference for years, Davidson made the jump to the much tougher Atlantic 10 this year but tougher competition just brought out the best in McKillop who got the regular season championship in year one in the new league. Whoever gets Davidson in the NCAA Tournament better know how to play tight man-to-man defense because the Wildcats have four guards who can light it up from the outside.
1. Northern Iowa (30-3): Ben Jacobson will play anybody anywhere anytime. The only problem is no one in his right mind wants to schedule the Panthers who play nasty defense (give up 54.3 per game) and go 10-deep. Of the 10, nine have the green light to shoot the 3-ball. The team shoots 39.7% beyond the arc and can fill it up in a hurry.
2. Davidson (23-6): These guys are happy if you try to take one of their guys out of the game offensively. That’s because everybody can shoot. As a team they hit 40.1% from the 3-point line and they’re always pushing tempo (4th nationally in scoring, more than 80 per game). Teams that try to run with the Wildcats do so at their own peril.
3. Wichita State (28-4): The Shockers don’t have Cleanthony Early but they have a pair of guards who play lock down defense and hit shots in the clutch in point guard Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker. The Shockers give up only 55 points per game.
4. Stephen F. Austin (27-4): There is plenty of depth and interchangeable parts because head coach Brad Underwood plays 11 players at least 10 minutes per game. They’ve beaten Memphis on the road and have taken Northern Iowa to overtime.
5. Dayton (23-7): Dayton has a lot of athletic guys between 6-4 and 6-6 who are matchup nightmares on the offensive end and they trap so well defensively that it’s hard to get into a halfcourt game with them. For the most part this is the same team that played the Gators tough in the Elite Eight game last year. Dyshawn Pierre and Jordan Sibert can play for anyone in the country.
1. Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa: There are many reasons why Northern Iowa is 30-3 and a team no one in the power conferences wants to play but Seth Tuttle is chief among them. Call him the point center. He is a 6-8, 240-pound load who the UNI offense revolves around. He’s the team leader in scoring (15.3) and assists (3.3) and is second on the team in rebounding (6.8). He hits 61.6% of his shots overall and 42.9% from the 3-point line.
2. Taylor Kalinoski, Davidson: A 43.3% 3-point shooter for the season, Kalinoski saved his best for the A10 title-clinching win over Duquesne when he lit it up for 32 points and hit 8-10 from beyond the arc. For the season he has 84 3-pointers, a 16.9 per game scoring average and is hitting 83.9% from the foul line.
3. Derrick Marks, Boise State: Unless you stay up late at night to watch Mountain West basketball on Fox Sports, you probably haven’t heard about this guy, but once he heats up, he can turn into a one-man wrecking crew. He’s hitting 50.6% from the field, 46% from the 3-point line and 80% from the foul line while averaging 19.6 per game for the MWC co-champs who have won 14 of their last 15 games.
Who is your pick for the Gators’ spring breakout guy?
Among the artists whose reputations have been enhanced by songs written by John Hiatt are Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Three Dog Night, Emmy Lou Harris, Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and Jimmy Buffett. It’s hard to pinpoint one certain style for Hiatt although he’s played more blues than anything else in the last few years. This is “Memphis in the Meantime” from Hiatt’s 1987 album “Bring the Family.” This live version features some extraordinary work by slide guitar legend Sonny Landreth. Hiatt will be playing at Springfest at Spirit of the Suwannee Park on March 20, his only southern stop on a tour that will take him to Tokyo and Europe among other places.