Jim McElwain fired off a pre-emptive strike Tuesday in Destin, choosing to pour cold water on what has seemed to be a simmering verbal feud with former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, now the defensive coordinator at Auburn. Rather than allowing the spat that began during spring practice to pick up where it left off a few weeks ago, McElwain made it a point to praise Muschamp, the coach he replaced, at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings at the Sandestin Hilton.
During spring practice, McElwain commented on the obvious shortage of numbers at certain positions, which was immediately interpreted as a backhand slap at Muschamp, who made it a point to emphasize he was leaving behind a lot of talented players at his Florida farewell press conference. When word got to Muschamp about McElwain’s comments a few weeks ago, the former UF head coach fired back a one-liner of his own that opened the door for a potential war of words.
So, Tuesday, McElwain diffused the situation by offering up the equivalent of an olive branch. It was a brilliant public relations ploy.
"Well, I just know what a great coach he [Muschamp] is," McElwain said. "I've known him a little bit through people. We had conversations. He was very helpful in this job. I've got nothing but great respect for him. You won't hear me saying anything about that stuff. I just know the sheer numbers that are there. You've got six offensive linemen now. That's not his fault. I never said it was. Sometimes that's the hand you're dealt. If you've ever been in a poker room, sometimes you might get a hand every now and then that you're not going to win with. You've got to make the best out of it and that's what we're doing right now. He did an outstanding job creating culture. I know that he did a really good job with discipline. I've got nothing but great respect for the guy."
INJURY UPDATES: McElwain said defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (hip surgery, missed spring practice) is close to getting his okay to return … Linebacker Jarrad Davis (knee) should be ready to go in August … Linebacker Antonio Morris will miss at least a few practices in August as he recovers from knee surgery ... Trip Thurman, Florida’s only offensive lineman who has actually started a game, is lifting weights and slowly getting back to a point where he could be cleared to play again. Thurman missed the spring because of chronic shoulder problems.
SABAN ON MCELWAIN: As Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator, McElwain called the plays for two national championship teams (2009, 2011). Speaking about his former assistant Tuesday, Saban said, “Jim did a fantastic job for us. First of all, he's a real quality person. Players really respect him and like him. He's a really good teacher. He's innovative in terms of things that he does that create problems. And I think he really has the best interests of the player in mind and the game."
One of the first tasks for Michael White after being named Florida’s basketball coach was to salvage the 2015 recruiting class. Of the four that made up what was considered a top ten class, White was able to keep combo guard Kevaughn Allen, center Kevarrius Hayes and combo forward Keith Stone but lost center Noah Dickerson. Given the short time he had to build new relationships, saving three of the four was admirable.
“We did our best to expediate and catch up with a relationship-building process with all the guys on the current roster and the four signees," White said when he talked with media members in Destin Tuesday. "Unfortunately, we lost one signee, but we went 3-for-4 which we feel pretty good about. We have three former Billy Donovan signees that they’re excited to continue their trek to the University of Florida, they’re excited to be Gators and we’re excited to have them.”
White then turned his efforts into forging relationships with his returning players. Getting to know his veteran players and getting them comfortable with him will be an ongoing task for White, but he’s comfortable with the process so far.
"There’s a lot of work to be done to build relationships, and we’re still very much in that process, not only building with them but their people, their families and their coaches back at home,” White said.
White also made it clear the door is still open for fifth year senior guard Eli Carter to return. Carter has graduated and has been weighing in on offers from Clemson, North Carolina State, Seton Hall and others, but there have been rumblings that he might remain a Gator.
"We've exchanged texts,” White said. “I haven't met him; he's out of town. At some point I'm sure we'll sit down. Again, I'm kind of open to everything at this point. But I do feel good about the guys we have currently on our roster as well."
As one of the most powerful men in all of college athletics, Nick Saban’s voice carries plenty of weight. Tuesday, the Alabama coach sounded off about problems that will have to be addressed by the power five conferences (plus Notre Dame) now that they have the ability to write their own rules within the framework of the NCAA. Of immediate concern to Saban is the lack of uniformity between the conferences whether it’s cost of attendance, transfer rules or satellite camps, all of which are on the agenda this week in Destin.
“If we’re going to compete for the championship and everybody is going to play in the playoff system and everybody is going to compete for that, we need to get our rules in alignment so we're all on a level playing field, whether they're transfer rules, whether they're satellite camp rules,” Saban said. “It's a disadvantage not to be able to do something in one league and be able to do it in another. It's a disadvantage to be able to recruit a player in one league and not be able to do it in another. These rules need to be global.”
Alabama, Georgia and Florida were among the potential transfer destinations for former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, who ended up signing with Florida State. The SEC schools were handicapped by league rules that prevent signing graduate transfers who had disciplinary problems at their former schools. Golson had to sit out a full season on academic probation at Notre Dame.
Cost of attendance will be a major point of emphasis since each school comes up with its own formula for determining the actual cost of attending versus the traditional room, board, tuition, books and fees athletic scholarship. Tennessee and Auburn, for example have set their cost of attendance beyond the scholarship at more than $5,500 while Texas A&M sets its cost at $2,706.
Saban believes the discrepancies will be used in recruiting.
“It does create recruiting issues if you have different levels of cost of attendance,” Saban said. “It needs to be worked through. We're going to end up with differentials we're all going to have to live with."
As the only player in college softball history with more than 60 homers (68) and pitching wins (68), it is only fitting that Florida’s Lauren Haeger is the 2015 National Player of the Year. Haeger, who has pitched four consecutive shutouts in NCAA play to lead the Gators to the Womens College World Series where they will have a chance to bring home their second consecutive national championship, has a 28-1 pitching record with a 1.24 ERA this season to go with a .329 batting average, 16 homers and 64 RBI.
1. Georgia: My grandmother used to say, “If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he jumps.” Every time I think about that old saying I think about Georgia. This year they’re saying we were only a couple of plays away from 12-1 last year (Bulldogs went 10-3). It’s always something. It will be something again this year.
3. Clemson: The Tigers will be really good defensively but the guy who called all the offensive plays is now the head ball coach at SMU. There are questions on the O-line where there are three new starters.
4. UCLA: Just because you’re a year older doesn’t make you a year better. Nearly everybody returns on UCLA’s defense, the same guys who gave up 28 points a game last year. They’ll give up tons of points this year too and the offense doesn’t have Brett Hundley to bail them out.
5. Boise State: Bryan Harsin went 12-2 with Chris Peterson’s players last year and now he’s got key pieces to the puzzle to replace. Boise will still be good enough to win the Mountain West championship but they won’t be good enough to play with the big boys at the top of the power conferences.
1. Arkansas: The Razorbacks Ground and Pound offense returns four of last year’s five starters and nine of the 10 on the two-deep. Left tackle Denver Kirkland and center Mitch Smothers are on the short lists for best players in the country at their positions. Quarterback Brandon Allen, the most improved player in the SEC last year, will be even better this year. SEC purists hate this fact: Bret Bielema can (a) flat out coach and (b) for a fat guy with a dorky haircut he’s got a smoking hot wife.
2. Florida State: The Seminoles have as much talent as anyone in the country. They also benefit from a schedule that sets up for a 6-0 start. By the time FSU plays Georgia Tech, all the holes will be filled and the Seminoles will be formidable.
3. Arizona: This is Rich Rod’s fourth year at Zona. He’s got his own players at every position and they’re all experienced. They have a terrific quarterback in Anu Solomon and maybe the best front seven defender in the country in Scooby Wright. The Wildcats are going to trample people.
4. UCF: Among UCF’s first four games are roadies against Stanford and South Carolina. If the Knights are 4-0 heading into October they are going to be a team nobody wants to play in any league, much less the American Athletic Conference. Justin Holman is the real deal at QB.
5. Missouri: Yes, all the receivers have graduated and two more stud defensive ends will be plying their trade in the NFL next year. What else is new?Gary Pinkel has won the SEC East the last two years (23-5 record) and in both years Georgia (as always) and Florida were rated higher in the preseason. Don’t be surprised if Georgia figures out a way to lose 2-3 games it shouldn’t and Mizzou sneaks into Atlanta for a third straight year.
Who do you think is the most overrated team heading into the 2015 college football season and who do you think is the most underrated?
Rolling Stone Magazine considers The Beatles 1966 release “Revolver” the third greatest album of all time. The album was a runaway #1 on the worldwide charts with two #1 singles – “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine” – but probably the best song is “Here, There and Everywhere” which you will find ranked in nearly every top ten of the best rock and roll songs of all time.