If it is true that there is strength in numbers, then Jim McElwain has to be breathing a whole lot easier when football practice begins later in the week than he was when he took the Gators through the paces during his first spring on the job at the University of Florida. Back in the spring, McElwain had only six warm scholarship bodies on hand on the offensive line and none of them had ever started a game. The overall O-line numbers are significantly better now (15 scholarship linemen) than they were in the spring, but there are only two who have ever started a college football game – Trip Thurman and Mason Halter – and Thurman is the only one who has started an SEC game.
All the preseason magazines rate the Florida O-line as an SEC bottom feeder, but that was before the additions of Halter and T.J. McCoy and before some impressive work in the weight room by 5-star freshman Martez Ivey. Halter transferred in after graduating from Fordham, where he was a D1AA All-American. He is expected to start or be in the regular rotation at tackle this fall. McCoy, son of Gator great Tony McCoy, spent the spring at North Carolina State where he was battling for a starting job at center, transferred to Florida to be close to his dad, who has been battling leukemia. McCoy adds depth at both center and guard. Ivey, who weighed 275 as a high school senior at Apopka, showed up in June at 302 muscular pounds and the look of a freshman ready to see immediate playing time.
The Gators will be the youngest O-line in the SEC and perhaps the country. Thurman, who is a lock to start at left guard where he had 10 starts last year for a UF offensive line that allowed only 17 sacks, and Halter are the only seniors. The other 13 are either third year sophomores (Cameron Dillard, Antonio Riles), sophomores (David Sharpe), redshirt freshmen (Travaris Dorsey, Kavaris Harkless, Andrew Mike) or true freshmen (Ivey, McCoy, Nick Buchanan, Richerd Desir-Jones, Fred Johnson, Tyler Jordan, Brandon Sandifer).
CENTERS: Dillard, Jordan, McCoy
GUARDS: Thurman, Riles, Dorsey, Buchanan, Desir-Jones, Sandifer
TACKLES: Halter, Sharpe, Mike, Harkless, Ivey, Johnson
Projected Game 1 Starters:
C: Dillard or Jordan
RG: Dorsey or Riles
RT: Halter or Ivey
Florida State 24, Florida 21; November 30, 1996
Injuries forced Steve Spurrier to send the undefeated (10-0) Gators on the field at Doak Campbell Stadium with two true freshmen and a little-used sophomore center to go against an FSU (10-0) defense that had been knocking quarterbacks out of games all season. Florida’s strategy was to double team Peter Boulware and Reinard Wilson coming off the edge, but FSU countered by bull-rushing up the middle and the result was four sacks to go with the two Boulware and Wilson gave them. In addition to the pressure that forced Danny Wuerffel into a 23-48 passing day (362 yards), the Seminoles were aided by wicked crosswinds that took normally accurate passes off target and pushed a 53-yard Bart field goal attempt that had plenty of distance wide right. Later in the game, Edmiston hurt his knee while attempting a second field goal. Two interceptions and a blocked punt helped the Seminoles jump out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. While Florida’s inexperienced offensive line couldn’t open up anything significant to get the running game going, FSU ran at will behind Warrick Dunn, who finished with a career-high 185 yards. Dunn was at his best in the fourth quarter when FSU drove 75 yards in 11 plays to expand the lead to 24-14. Dunn accounted for 74 of the 75 yards on three catches and three running plays, the last of which was an 18-yard sprint on third and two that got the ball to the Florida one. The Gators responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive that finished with a two-yard scoring pass from Weurffel to Riedel Anthony with 1:19 left in the game. Trailing 24-21, Matt Teague’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds, giving the Seminoles the ball at midfield. On third down, Dunn ended any hopes of a Florida miracle with a 14-yard run off tackle for a first down. FSU ascended to #1 nationally and accepted a berth in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators won the SEC championship a week later in Atlanta and then got a rematch against the Seminoles.
1. Georgia 89-27-4
2. Auburn 86-31-2
3. Alabama 85-33-2
4. Tennessee 77-37-5
5. Florida 76-38-3
6. LSU 70-41-5
7. Ole Miss 50-59-4
8. Mississippi State 50-62
9. Kentucky 47-62-3
10. Vanderbilt 33-77-1
Not in the SEC in the 1980s
Best 5 coaches
1. Vince Dooley, Georgia (89-27-4)
2. Pat Dye, Auburn (86-32-2)
3. Johnny Majors, Tennessee (77-37-5)
4. Bill Arnsparger, LSU (26-8-2)
5. Charley Pell, Florida (32-16-2)
Best 10 players
1. Herschel Walker, Georgia
2. Bo Jackson, Auburn
3. Wilber Marshall, Florida
4. Emmitt Smith, Florida
5. Reggie White, Tennessee
6. Derrick Thomas, Alabama
7. Cornelius Bennett, Alabama
8. Wendell Davis, LSU
9. Lomas Brown, Florida
10. Terry Hoage, Georgia
Has the Pac-12 slid past the Southeastern Conference in football? Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott seems to think so.
“In my view we were [the best conference] last season,” Scott told Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel. “I don’t think any conference had the resume that our conference had. I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation had Oregon beat Ohio State.”
Right there is the problem.
Oregon didn’t beat Ohio State just as Oregon didn’t beat Auburn back in 2010. And while the SEC has gone two years without winning a national championship, you can’t ignore the seven straight championships the league strung together from 2006-12 and the fact that Auburn was within 13 seconds of making it eight in a row against Florida State back in 2013.
The Pac-12 seems to think that because Oregon played for a national title last year, Marcus Mariota won the Heisman and six Pac-12 teams won their bowl games that it’s moved past the SEC. Pac-12 supporters point to quarterbacks such as Cody Kessler (USC), Anu Solomon (Arizona), Jared Goff (California), Travis Wilson (Utah) and Kevin Hogan (Stanford) and claim that the league will be better than the SEC this year because of superior quarterback play.
Here is a novel idea that would settle the debate: let one of those hotshot Pac-12 quarterbacks actually take his team to a national championship. Do that and maybe there is a case for an argument. Until someone from the Pac-12 wins a national title, forget about it.
Starting in 2016, the Big Ten will add a ninth conference game and mandate that all 14 of its member schools play at least one opponent from another power five league. Additionally, the other two games must be against Division I schools. No Big Ten team will be allowed to schedule a team from Division IAA.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney believes this scheduling model will help the league when it comes time to select the four teams for the College Football Playoff and believes it will help all 14 teams at the gate.
At Big Ten Media Days, Delaney said, “We think it’s what our fans want. We think it’s what our players want. And, we think it’s what the College Football Playoff committee wants.”
The Pac-12 already requires a nine-game conference schedule but eight of its 12 teams will play D1AA teams this year. The Big 12 has only 10 teams so everybody plays a nine-game league schedule. Both the SEC and ACC have resisted the nine-game conference model, but that might change in the next couple of years.
Asked if it is refreshing to have quarterback Anu Solomon back for his sophomore year, the Arizona coach had this reply:
“Refreshing? I think an ice cold beer or a Bacardi and Coke or maybe even a nice iced tea, sweetened is refreshing. What was the question again?”
Russell Wilson ($87.6 million) and Bobby Wagner ($43 million) got their big paydays with the Seattle Seahawks but not without consequences. To pare down the salaries it will take to get under the cap, the Seahawks cut starting defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, who has started 29 of the past 32 regular season games for what has arguably been the best defense in the NFL.
Laremy Tunsil and his stepfather have agreed to end their dispute. They better star working on getting their stories on the same page because stepfather Lindsey Miller has made a bunch of claims that have the NCAA investigating both Tunsil and Ole Miss.
Vernon Adams, the Division IAA stud quarterback from Eastern Washington who was supposed to keep Oregon’s offense running at a peak level, was supposed to graduate from EWU in June. That didn’t happen. Now he’s supposed to report to Oregon on August 13. Of course, that depends on Adams graduating. As of August 1, he still hadn’t graduated from EWU.
Tiger Woods fans will be encouraged by three under par rounds out of four and an 8-under par finish at the Quicken Loans National, but he still finished 10 shots off the pace against a less than stellar field. He went 3-over on Saturday on a course that everyone was tearing up. Maybe this is progress but he still has light years to go before he’s capable of playing at a championship level.
The NCAA Clearinghouse thinks there is something fishy with the significant ACT score jump by Tennessee freshman wide receiver Preston Williams. Williams will have to take the test again in two weeks then wait for a score and an okay by the NCAA to start practicing with the Vols.
Take a look at the Women’s British Open leaderboard and you will understand why the LPGA Tour struggles for an audience in the United States. Yes, it was a tournament played in Scotland, but the results mirror the results of most tournaments played on US soil. Only three of the top 20 golfers are Americans. Until some Americans can start challenging the Asian players for supremacy the tour is going to have marginal support.
Rowdy Roddy Piper never won wrestling’s heavyweight championship, but he made up for a lack of championship belts with serious entertainment value. Piper had too many feuds to count, but the one he carried on with Hulk Hogan lasted years. Piper died last week of heart failure at age 61.
As expected, Larry Brown denied any wrongdoing in a probe into possible NCAA violations by the SMU basketball program. It might be easier to believe Brown except that he has a history of running afoul of the NCAA sheriff at both UCLA and Kansas.
Erik Murphy scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds as Finland (Erik has dual citizenship) knocked off Tony Parker-led France in a tuneup game for the EuroBasket tournament that begins on September 5. Murphy has signed to play for Besiktas in the Turkish League in the fall.
Ohio State has trademarked the name “Urban Meyer” and the phrase “Urban Meyer Knows.” Ohio State and a Meyer charitable foundation will split any royalties.
If you are a college athletic director in need of a head coach and these seven guys will all say yes if you offer, which one do you pick: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll, Gus Malzahn, Jimbo Fisher, Mark Helfrich, Jim Harbaugh?
Wilson Pickett’s career took off when he moved from Detroit to Memphis and hooked up with the house band at Stax Records studios. Starting with “In the Midnight Hour” in 1965, Pickett became one of soul music’s most bankable artists for the next seven years. From 1965-71, Pickett delivered 16 songs that made the top ten on the Billboard soul charts. We’ll start Soul Music Week with the music of Wilson Pickett. Duane Allman played lead guitar on four Pickett albums recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for Atlantic Records.