“The one thing that really differentiates guys, it’s how they elevate the play of people around them. It’s amazing those guys that have whatever that is. I wish I could say what it is and we’d all be rich doing it. At the same time, seeing how guys respond to the and how they produce when they’re on the field … that position is so important as to what the other guys do.” – Jim McElwain describing successful quarterbacks Tuesday morning on First Take with Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and Cari Champion.
Although talent certainly helps, finding a quarterback who makes the other guys around him want to play harder and better is job #1 for McElwain once the Gators take to the practice field for two-a-days in August. Talent will only take a quarterback so far. The rest is all about making the guys in the huddle want to run through a brick wall for you.
The best two examples of quarterbacks who elevate the play of their teammates – one at the pro level, the other at the college level – in the past 15 years are Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Tim Tebow of the Florida Gators. There are numerous quarterbacks with stronger arms and quicker feet in the NFL but Brady owns four Super Bowl rings because when he’s on the field, everyone on the Patriots plays better. Tebow had a hand in Florida’s 2006 national championship as a situational quarterback/battering ram inside runner, then he went 35-6 as a starter the next three years, winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy and getting on the podium in 2008-09 while leading the Gators to a 2008 national championship and within one bad game of a chance for a repeat in 2009.
Now, it’s too soon to say if either Treon Harris or Will Grier possess Brady or Tebow-like qualities to lead teams to play at a championship level but the one who shows he has the ability to uplift his teammates in August will be the September starter at quarterback for the Florida Gators. McElwain’s history with quarterbacks (See Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron at Alabama; Garrett Grayson at Colorado State) tells us that he finds guys who not only get better under his tutelage but make everyone else around them better, too.
Florida 50, Oklahoma State 7; September 8, 1990
It took exactly 1:50 for Steve Spurrier to announce just how radically different things were going to be for Florida football. Taking the opening kickoff of his first game as Florida’s head coach, the Gators went no huddle and moved the ball 65 yards down the field – four consecutive passes covered 62 yards and a three-yard run by Dexter McNabb finished things off. By the time the dust settled and the Gators had their most impressive offensive showing in years, former sixth-string QB Shane Matthews was 20-29 for 332 yards and a touchdown, a great start on his way to SEC Player of the Year. It wasn’t all offense. The defense and special teams got in on the fun, also. Okie State managed only 47 rushing yards while Huey Richardson got a sack for a safety and Darren Mickell got a touchdown on a 14-yard return of an interception. Over on special teams, the Gators blocked a punt and a field goal and Arden Czyzewski kicked two field goals. This was the first of 122 wins Spurrier would earn in 12 years as Florida’s football coach and it set the tone for things to come as the sleeping giant awakened and became the dominant force in the SEC.
Florida’s 1992 recruiting class included Reggie Green, Danny Wuerffel, Jeff Mitchell, Cameron Davis, Johnie Church, Anthone Lott, Jason Odom, Donnie YoungLawrence Wright, Dexter Daniels, James Bates, David Barnard and Shea Showers. Allen Wallace of SuperPrep Magazine rated UF’s class #1 while Max Emfinger had the Gators tied for the top spot with LSU and Tom Lemming rated the Gators behind Notre Dame and FSU..
Wallace said, “Best class in the country. That’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult to call. Florida is a solid #1. Miami is a solid #2.”Emfinger said, ”I’d almost make LSU and Florida co-national champs. Like 1 and 1A. Florida has made a powerful, positive statement in the state of Florida. They are there and they are there to stay. This was total dominance.”
Lemming said, “There’s nobody close to Notre Dame.” That 1992 Notre Dame recruiting class will go down as one of the worst in Irish history. Lemming went on to say the Seminoles landed four of the top five consensus players in the state in Danny Kannell, Tamarick Vanover, Marcus Long and Henri Crockett. Green, the #1 offensive lineman in the country by most sources, was the #5 player in the state of Florida for Lemming.
Wallace gushed over Kannel, saying, “Kannel is worth a million points for FSU.” Kannel was never the player Wuerffel was. Crockett didn’t get into school until 1993. Vanover played two years at FSU before legal problems forced him to go to the CFL. It took Long 52 games before he earned a start.
The MIP is the guy each team can least afford to lose to either injury or suspension.
ALABAMA: You can’t measure what A’Shawn Robinson does for Alabama by personal stats although 49 tackles is phenomenal for a 325-pound nose tackle. Robinson occupies two gaps, commands a double team on every play and frees up the linebackers to make stops.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks are knee-deep in running backs and they have plenty of speed at wide receiver. What they don’t have is a replacement for quarterback Brandon Allen, who threw for 2,285 yards and 20 touchdowns against only five interceptions last year, a dramatic improvement over 2013 when he threw for 1,552 yards, 13 TDs and 10 picks.
Auburn: Wide receiver Duke Williams is the guy who keeps opponents from loading up the box to stop the Auburn running game. He has the speed to stretch the field and the size (6-2, 225) and strength to go across the middle. He caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns last year when Auburn was a 64/36 run/pass team. It will be more like 50/50 this year and Williams could make All-America teams.
FLORIDA: The Gators will throw the ball more this year, which is a refreshing change of pace, and that means Demarcus Robinson (53 catches for 810 yards and seven TDs last year) will have many more opportunities to show his stuff. Considering there isn’t a receiver returning who had more than 15 catches last year, Robinson better stay healthy and figure out how to get loose against the inevitable double teams.
Georgia: When Todd Gurley was suspended, then injured last year, Nick Chubb took over and the Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat. If Chubb were to go down this year, the results would be similar to 2014 because there are plenty of talented guys waiting for their shot. The irreplaceable guy at Georgia is outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who had six sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and 8.5 tackles for loss along with 55 tackles. Floyd is the SEC’s most disruptive player coming off the edge.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have two big-armed quarterbacks in Patrick Towles and redshirt freshman Drew Barker. What they don’t have is anyone other than Ryan Timmons (45 catches, 536 yards, two touchdowns) reliable enough to catch the ball on a consistent basis. If Timmons goes down, UK is in deepest and darkest.
LSU: LSU is going to run the ball and Leonard Fournette will probably gain something between 1,500 and 1,800 yards this year. LSU likes to run right and the road grader who will be paving the way for Fournette is right tackle Vadal Alexander, a 6-6, 320-pound beast who is one of the best run blockers in the country.
Mississippi State: Even though the Bulldogs have two backup quarterbacks who would be starters at half the schools in the SEC, the irreplaceable guy is Dak Prescott, who will be in the Heisman hunt if the Bulldogs win nine or more games. Last year he threw for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 986 and 14 more. Word is that he’s a much more accurate passer this year.
Missouri: The Tigers are replacing their entire defensive line. No big deal. They do that every year and come up with NFL-ready replacements. The guy the Tigers can’t afford to lose is weakside linebacker Kentrell Brothers, a tackling machine with 182 stops the last two seasons including 112 last year. In 2014 he also broke up four passes, had a sack, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.
Ole Miss: When Laquon Treadwell broke his leg last year, the Ole Miss offense went into stuggle mode the final four games. He had 48 catches for 632 yards and five touchdowns in eight games last year. If he’s healthy all season, he’ll put up monster numbers and the Ole Miss offense will flourish.
South Carolina: If Pharoh Cooper goes down, the Gamecocks are in a heap of trouble. Cooper made All-SEC last year as a wide receiver when he caught 69 passes for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns. Running mostly out of the wildcat formation, Cooper also picked up 200 yards (7.41 per carry) and scored two touchdowns. He was 5-8 as a passer for 85 yards and two more touchdowns plus returned 15 punts for 75 yards.
Tennessee: The pre-Josh Dobbs offense was pathetic last year. Once Dobbs entered the game and injected life in the Alabama game (192 passing yards and 75 rushing yards in a 34-20 loss), the Vols suddenly had a dynamic offense. In only six games, Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 469 and eight more. The Vols were 4-1 in games he started.
Texas A&M: Everybody in the world knew Myles Garrett was the Aggies’ only threat coming off the edge last year so he got a double or triple-team on every play. A lot of good that did. He still had 11.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. That was as an 18-year-old freshman. He will be scary this year.
Vanderbilt: Put tight end Steven Scheu on any other team in the SEC and he’s a first team all-conference candidate. Put him on offensively challenged Vanderbilt and he’s the closest thing the Commodores have to a star. Even though every team in the league knew he was Vandy’s only threat over the middle in the passing game last year, he still caught 39 balls for 525 yards and four touchdowns.
When Miami joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004 pundits from all over the country predicted a power shift that would see the ACC emerge as the dominant conference in college football. Here we are, about to embark on year 12 since the merger and the ACC has exactly one national championship (the SEC has seven) and we’re still waiting for Miami to even make it to the conference championship game. Fans of The U claim it’s that nasty probation that has kept the program from assuming its rightful place at the top of the ACC heap, but long time and controversial Miami booster Luther Campbell says that’s all a bunch of hooey.
The NCAA probation still has 15 months to run before The U can work with a totally clean slate and scholarship restrictions (-3 per year) are in place another three recruiting classes but Campbell told Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com that “Probation is not an excuse.”
When you consider the amount of talent within 100 miles of the UM campus in Coral Gables, it’s difficult to argue with Campbell. That Miami could have 13 players either drafted or sign NFL contracts and the team still went 6-7 is unfathomable.
That brings us to Al Golden. He is 28-22 overall and 16-16 in the ACC in four years. If he can’t win at least nine games and get the Himmicanes in the hunt for the ACC Coastal Division championship, he might be seeking gainful employment elsewhere. The boosters aren’t happy with Golden and Donna Shalala is no longer there to protect him.
Steve Spurrier says South Carolina has a zero tolerance policy for violence against women. A player who hits or punches a woman one time is automatically dismissed from the team. As for marijuana, Spurrier says it’s “three pots and you’re out.”
Former FSU quarterback De’Andre Johnson hopes to enroll in junior college at Northeast Oklahoma A&M.
It has always been a question of when and not if a professional sports franchise would call Las Vegas home. Currently, there is an ownership group from Las Vegas bidding for an NHL expansion franchise and it is rumored that if the league approves the sale of the Arizona Coyotes to billionaire William Foley he will move them to Las Vegas. Also, the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA are threatening to move west if the city of Milwaukee doesn’t participate in a joint venture to build a brand new arena. If the NHL and NBA call Vegas home how long before the NFL and Major League Baseball come calling?
UAB will resume playing football again in 2017. UAB president Ray Watts disbanded the program last year after the Blazers’ most successful season both on the field and at the gate in years.
Who do you think is Florida’s most indispensible player for the 2015 season?
The “Daylight Again” concert in 1982 was the last great performances for Crosby, Stills and Nash when they were still in the business of making new music. David Crosby’s battles with cocaine made touring impossible but for one night Crosby Stills and Nash got together in Los Angeles and it was like old times. Today’s music is that one night stand that offers a glimpse of what a great band CSN used to be.