The numbers to remember for Florida’s defense for next season are 10, 8 and 10: as in 10 linemen, 8 linebackers and 10 in the secondary. That’s how many players coordinator Geoff Collins intends to play in each game. It’s a sound strategy that Collins used last year at Mississippi State when the Bulldogs were one of the best in the nation at keeping opponents out of the end zone.
Forget the Capital One Bowl where Mississippi State got hosed by Georgia Tech, which scored four touchdowns in four trips into the red zone. Collins wasn’t even coaching Mississippi State in that game. In the previous 12 games, opponents got into the Mississippi State red zone 40 times and came away with only 15 touchdowns. The Gators allowed opponents into the red zone 37 times and gave up 18 touchdowns with far superior talent than Mississippi State and without having to face the grind of an SEC West schedule.
On numerous occasions last season, Collins attributed Mississippi State’s ability to play good defense in the fourth quarter as one of the reasons the Bulldogs were in the national title hunt until the last week of the regular season. Less wear and tear made the Bulldogs less susceptible to injuries and the constant rotation ensured that less experienced players were comfortable and prepared by midseason.
Collins is working with an exceptional defensive staff in Chris Rumph (D-line), Randy Shannon (linebackers) and Kirk Callahan (secondary). The combined expertise to go with a plan for aggressive, attacking schemes and the depth that a 28-player rotation can provide should allow the Gators to remain competitive while Jim McElwain and quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier bring the offense up to speed.
Things we hear: Alex McCalister is ready to make the competitive leap to the next level. He’s always had the athletic ability. Now the work in the weight room has paid off and he’s strong enough to be an every down impact player … Everybody is impressed with David Sharpe’s NFL size at left tackle, but what is really wowing everyone is his footwork … McElwain wants to travel with 11 wideouts with nine ready to play every game … Although the Gators lack depth at linebacker this spring, particularly with Antonio Morrison out, Collins likes what he’s seeing of Matt Rolin, Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian.
#1 Kentucky over #5 West Virginia: Bob Huggins is 8-2 career against John Calipari dating back to the time Huggy was coaching Cincinnati and Cal was at UMass. In all 10 of the meetings, Huggy has used the same approach – attack the guards until they crack. It worked in the 2010 NCAA semifinals when UK had almost as much talent as it has right now. West Virginia has turned opponents over 668 times in 34 games and gets 28 points a game off turnovers. Here’s the stat of stats: Kentucky has turned the ball over 94 times in the last 10 games and only 381 in 36 games all season.
#3 Notre Dame over #7 Wichita State: These two teams are almost mirror images – one big surrounded by four guards. They both like to run. They both have shooters at every position. They both play a gouge the other guy’s eyes out brand of defense. I had to flip a coin on this one and it came up Notre Dame two out of three, then three out of five. So I go with the Irish. I think.
#1 Wisconsin over #4 North Carolina: It would be tempting to pick North Carolina in this one except for that teensy fact that the Tar Heels typically lead every good team they play with five minutes to go in the game, then somehow figure out a way to blow it. It would be tempting also to pick North Carolina in this one if Kennedy Meeks were able to play at 100% but that’s not going to happen. Wisconsin will prove far too disciplined to win this one, particularly down the stretch, and the Wisconsin front line of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes will probably succeed at fouling out all of Carolina’s bigs. Also, as if they need extra help, Traveon Jackson has been cleared to play. He was a starter on last year’s Wisconsin Final Four team.
#2 Arizona over #6 Xavier: Before he was the head coach at Arizona, Sean Miller was the head coach at Xavier. Before he was the head coach at Xavier, Chris Mack was Sean Miller’s assistant. There will be a strong degree of familiarity because essentially, these guys run the exact same thing at both ends of the court. The difference is that Arizona runs the same things with far superior talent.
1. Murry Bartow, East Tennessee State
2. Howard Moore, Illinois-Chicago
3. Jerome Allen, Penn
4. Dale Layer, Liberty
5. Steve Aggers, Loyola Marymount
6. David Carter, Nevada
7. Chuck Driesell, The Citadel
8. Lenox Forrester, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
9. Oliver Purnell, DePaul
10. Milan Brown, Holy Cross
11. Anthony Grant, Alabama
12. Paul Hewitt, George Mason
13. Bill Grier, San Diego
14. Alan Major, Charlotte
15. Tom Pecora, Fordham
16. Rick Ray, Mississippi State
17. Steve Shields, Arkansas-Little Rock
18. Dave Bezold, Northern Kentucky
19. Geno Ford, Bradley
20. Jimmy Lallathin, Kennesaw State
21. Dickey Nutt, Southeast Missouri State
22. Luther Riley, Alcorn State
23. Herb Sendek, Arizona State
Rumblings: LSU assistant Eric Musselman is the new head coach at Nevada … Arizona State’s target to replace Herb Sendek apparently is Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel. Capel was a winner in previous jobs at Appalachian State and VCU but he flamed out as head coach at Oklahoma … Charlotte will hire former Georgia Tech and NBA star Mark Price. Price is currently an assistant coach with the NBA Charlotte Hornets … It’s such a mess at DePaul and no one but no one has a handle on who is the top candidate for the job. ESPN was touting Ben Howland until he took the job at Mississippi State without ever really considering DePaul. Next, ESPN said Bobby Hurley was the man. He has a contract extension waiting on him that will more than double his salary at Buffalo, and it is thought that he might be the backup plan for Alabama should Gregg Marshall elect to stay put at Wichita. Of course, Hurley would be a fine candidate for Wichita if Marshall left. CBS, which touted Howland and then former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin, now says it’s Bruce Drew from Valparaiso. Another Chicago source says it’s Brian Wardle, the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Josh Tobias came to Florida as one of the nation’s most heralded baseball recruits out of high school, but spent three largely unproductive seasons with the Gators, perhaps because he stopped switch-hitting and went righty only. Back to switch-hitting as a senior, Tobias has been wearing out opposing pitchers. He goes into Florida’s 3-game series with Alabama that starts to night at McKeithan Stadium with a .391 batting average … Former UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis sold his horse farm in Reddick for $1.2 million. He bought the place in May of 2011 for $1.1 million. Charlie will be paid more money ($4.6 million) NOT to coach in 2015 than all but four (Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn and Les Miles) coaches in the SEC … As if the NCAA doesn’t have enough trouble … Emails submitted at evidence in the defamation lawsuit by former Southern Cal running backs coach Todd McNair show NCAA official Rodney Uphoff compare the infractions case against USC and Reggie Bush to the Oklahoma City bombing base against Terry Nichols. This is just one more reason why it’s time to ditch the NCAA completely and start over again with a blank slate … Remember that old adage that basketball is not a contact sport? Tell that to Luke Kornet of Vanderbilt who was kayoed by an elbow to the face from Stanford’s Anthony Brown … Dondre Harris, who plays defensive tackle for Essex High School in Tappahannock, Virginia is what you would call the ultimate space eater in the middle of the line. He goes 7-feet tall and tips the scales at 380 … Former national player of the year Ralph Sampson believes if basketball players were being paid more of them would stay in school longer … Mark Richt is 136-48 in his 14 seasons at Georgia, which is a far better record than either Vince Dooley or Wally Butts had in their first 14 years. So why are so many Georgia fans thinking that Richt really needs to produce this year? It starts with ZERO SEC championships since 2005. During that same time frame Alabama has won three national championships, Florida has won two, LSU one and Auburn has won one and played for another.
Do you see any chance for an upset in tonight’s Midwest and West regionals?
Jimi Hendrix is credited with the discovery of the Native American/Mexican American band Redbone in the late 1960s. A big fan of Lolly Vegas, it was Hendrix who convinced Vegas and some fellow musicians to form a rock and roll band that drew from the influences of Native American and Yaqui Indian (from Mexico) music. The band was Redbone, a Cajun term for a mixed-race or halfbreed. The band had moderate success until 1974 when they hit it big with “Come and Get Your Love” which made it up to #5 on the Billboard charts. In the subsequent years, the band got very political and lost its following, but “Come and Get Your Love” still gets plenty of air play thanks to being featured in the film “Guardians of the Galaxy.”