A little more than a month ago it was announced that renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center were being put off for at least one year due to escalated costs that required a change in the construction management team. In making the announcement that renovations were delayed, it was noted that $60 million was set aside for the project and that the University of Florida was fully committed to the renovation of the 35-year-old building.
It is being rumored and whispered around Gainesville that postponing might be the very least of the worries because there are serious concerns both in the engineering community and the UAA regarding feasibility and costs to renovate vs. the cost of a new building on another part of campus. Given the history of the building – there were serious structural defects that had to be addressed even before the O-Dome opened and in 1983, the state had to get involved with the engineering firm responsible for the construction – you have to wonder if renovation really is the best and most feasible approach to the building that serves as home to Florida basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and swimming.
Whatever the final decision, the one constant in the Gainesville scuttlebutt is the costs are going to go far beyond $60 million. If that is truly the case, at what point does it make more sense to abandon the idea of renovation and go with something brand new like the buildings that have been constructed at Auburn and Ole Miss that cost less than $92 million each? And if a new building is the answer, what do you do with the O-Dome? Do you raze it and perhaps make it the Florida athletic department hub with offices, weight and training facilities, dining and nutrition and academic support?
This is a very difficult decision that affects the entire athletic department at UF and will have a widespread effect for years to come.
With less than 60 days until fall camps open up throughout the SEC, here is the big question for the offensive units for all 14 teams.
Key stat: Henry was actually Alabama’s leading rusher last year with 990 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. In two seasons of limited opportunity, Henry (6-3, 242) has 1,372 yards (6.59 per carry) and 14 touchdowns.
Key stat: As the head coach at Central Michigan, Enos had a 60-40 run-pass ratio, about the same as what Arkansas did last year. The difference? CMU averaged 8.3 per pass attempt while Arkansas averaged only 6.8.
AUBURN: Does the switch from a dual threat in Nick Marshall to a one-dimensional quarterback in Jeremy Johnson tap the brakes a bit with the Auburn offense or will Gus Malzahn make the Tigers more explosive by adding more downfield throwing?
Key stat: Johnson was 12-16 for 243 yards and two touchdown passes in the only game he started last year. In two seasons as Nick Marshall’s caddy, Johnson is 57-78 for 858 yards, nine touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Key stat: When they were at Alabama, McElwain and Nussmeier ran power offenses and won national championships behind offensive lines loaded with NFL prospects. At Colorado State with decent but not great offensive linemen (79 sacks allowed in three seasons), McElwain spread the field, created mismatches and exploited one-on-one coverage that resulted in averaging 7.2 (2011), 7.8 (2012) and 9.5 (2014) per pass attempt. Florida has had only one season (2011; 7.5) averaging more than 6.7 since 2009.
Key stat: Georgia threw sparingly last year (322 attempts) but got good production (7.8 per attempt; 21 TDs, 4 INT). Chubb gained 1,547 (7.06 per carry) and scored 14 touchdowns as a true freshman even though he only started eight games.
Kentucky: Mark Stoops got the balance he was looking for in last year’s offense (444 rushing attempts; 404 passing) but not the productivity (4.14 yards per rush; 6.8 per pass attempt). What has to change for Kentucky’s offense to get better?
Key stat: Two things have to happen. The Wildcats have to (1) get better play out of their offensive line (gave up 36 sacks) and (2) get the ball downfield to wide receiver Ryan Timmons (45 catches but only 11.91 per catch).
LSU: With the fastest set of wide receivers in the country and Leonard Fournette to run the ball, the Tigers could be scary good on offense if they get anything from their quarterbacks. Do Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris get the job done or does LSU suffer another year with incompetent quarterback play?
Key stat: When Jennings and Harris were accurate, the results were really good. Jennings threw for 11 touchdowns in 227 attempts but he completed only 48.9% of his passes. Harris hit 55.6% and averaged 10 yards per attempt but like Jennings, was indecisive and ran far more than he should have. If Jennings and Harris show measureable improvement, LSU’s offense could be unstoppable.
Mississippi State: How do the Bulldogs replace the production of Josh Robinson, who ran for 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 370 yards and one more TD?Key stat: The Bulldogs might not have one running back who can replace Robinson, but they have two juniors who were impressive in relief roles last year. Brandon Holloway ran for 294 yards (6.53 per carry) and one touchdown and Ashton Shumpert, who ran for 274 yards (5.83 per carry) and two touchdowns.
Missouri: Last year Maty Mauk struggled at times to throw the ball to the guys wearing the same color shirt he wears. With a brand new set of receivers will the struggles continue or does he mature and become an upper tier quarterback?
Key stat: Even with three experienced senior receivers and a veteran offensive line in front of him Mauk struggled with his consistency last year, completing only 53.4% of his passes and throwing 13 interceptions.
OLE MISS: Although Bo Wallace threw for more than more than 9,000 yards in the last three years it was feast or famine because he also turned the ball over a lot. Will it be addition by subtraction this year when Chad Kelly takes over at quarterback?
Key stat: Although he played in junior college, Chad Kelly completed 66.9% of his passes while leading East Mississippi to the national championship. He threw only eight interceptions in 453 attempts. Wallace threw 41 interceptions in three seasons including 14 in 381 pass attempts last year, plus he had a penchant for fumbling the ball away in critical situations.
Key stat: South Carolina won 11 games a year from 2011-13 with Shaw throwing 55 touchdowns passes against 15 interceptions and running for 1,518 yards and 17 more touchdowns. With a pocket passer in Dylan Thompson last year, the Gamecocks won only seven games and got -72 yards rushing from the quarterback position.
Tennessee: Almost all of those young offensive linemen who struggled last year return. Does a year older equal a year better?
Key stat: The Vols averaged 28.9 points per game last year even though they averaged only 3.63 per rush, 6.4 per pass attempt and gave up 43 sacks for 305 yards in losses.
Texas A&M: When Kyle Allen replaced Kenny Hill at quarterback, Texas A&M’s average per pass attempt dropped from 8.3 under Hill to 6.9 under Allen and the Aggie offense lost steam. Can Kevin Sumlin jump start the offense with Allen at the helm or will there be a quarterback controversy in College Station?
Key stat: The Aggies were 3-3 with Allen as the starting quarterback. Only against Auburn (9.6 per attempt) and West Virginia (8.4) did he average more than 6.8 per pass attempt. Against Louisiana-Monroe, Allen averaged only 3.8 and against LSU he averaged 5.3.
Vanderbilt: You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find a worse Vanderbilt offense than the one the Commodores put on the field last year (17.2 points per game and only 288 yards per game). Can a new offensive coordinator (Vandy brought in Andy Ludwig, who was the OC at Wisconsin last year) revive the anemic offense?
Key stat: Vanderbilt averaged only 3.42 per rushing attempt and 6.0 per pass attempt last year. Head coach Derek Mason expects improvement but the personnel is basically the same as last year.
It’s that time of the year when there is a new list every single day. Monday, Clay Travis of Fox Sports offered up his list of college football’s top 25 coaches, which differs substantially from the one put together by Matt Hayes of The Sporting News. At 1-2 are Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, which comes as no surprise, but numbers 3-25 have a few surprises.
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
2. Nick Saban, Alabama
3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
4. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
5. Gary Patterson, TCU
6. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
7. Art Briles, Baylor
8. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
9. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
10. James Franklin, Penn State
11. Les Miles, LSU
12. Jim Mora Jr., UCLA
13. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
14. David Cutcliffe, Duke
15. David Shaw, Stanford
16. Chris Peterson, Washington
17. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
18. Todd Graham, Arizona State
19. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
20. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
21. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
22. Mark Richt, Georgia
23. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
24. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
25. Charlie Strong, Texas
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard wanted assistant T.J. Otzelberger to succeed Fred Hoiberg, who left last week to coach the NBA Chicago Bulls. School president Steven Leath wanted Jeff Hornacek, the coach of the Phoenix Suns who had never coached a college game. They compromised and brought in Steve Prohm from Murray State, whose style of play is very similar to that of Hoiberg. So who takes over at Murray State? One name you might hear – and it makes good sense – is former Florida assistant John Pelphrey, a Kentucky high school legend whose jersey hangs from the Rupp Arena rafters. Pelphrey needs a place to jump start his head coaching career and Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference would be a nice place to turn things around.
Who would make up your top 10 list of college football coaches?
I’ve heard about Mike Onesko for years but since he plays mostly on the west coast, I’ve never seen him in person. In checking out some video from the Crossroads Guitar Festivals, I found this great performance from Onesko and the Blindside Blues Band from the 2010 Crossroads.