Just four days into practice, we are already seeing a real similarity in the way Jim McElwain coaches the passing game with the way Steve Spurrier used to teach it during the head ball coach’s 12-year run from 1990-2001. McElwain shares that same attention to detail and precision that earned Spurrier the title “The Evil Genius.” With Spurrier a 17-yard route meant 17 yards, not 16-1/2 or 18 and few things riled him more than receivers running what he called lazy routes. In Florida’s practices so far, McElwain has more than once lit into his receivers for their lack of precision. Saturday McElwain was several times heard shouting “18 to 22 yards” to receivers who weren’t running routes with the kind of crispness that he demands.
After Thursday’s practice, McElwain was not happy that receivers ran lazy routes and dropped passes when they weren’t covered.
“Pitching and catching is the #1 thing we’ve got to consistently get better at and I know we will,” McElwain said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m probably a little more critical because there’s no reason to me you should ever drop a ball on routes on air. Likewise, there’s no reason to me that you should ever miss a throw on routes on air. It’s on air. There’s nobody else out there.”
Dropped passes and rotten route running was an issue in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the Gators and while there were plenty of complaints, no one ever seemed to do anything about it. I can think of at least five games that were impacted the last two seasons by dropped passes and receivers either running the wrong route or giving up on a pass that could have been caught had they continued to run the route the way it was designed. Jeff Driskel caught a lot of flack and sometimes, rightfully so, but it wasn’t always his fault. Quarterbacks are only as good as the receivers.
It’s obvious that McElwain has gone through all the tape of Florida games and practices the last two years. He seems determined to make certain the same problems don’t carry over into the 2015 season and that is refreshing.
Adam Lane GRANTED RELEASE: Freshmen Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite no longer have the luxury of easing their way into the rotation at running back. With Adam Lane asking for and receiving his release, they have to get ready to go immediately as Kelvin Taylor is the only experienced back the Gators have.
Elsewhere in the SEC:
Alabama: Starting left tackle Cam Robinson gave everyone a scare when he was carted off the field Saturday. There was speculation that he broke his foot, but the injury was a knee sprain. Robinson is day-to-day ... Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin says it’s a 5-man competition for the starting QB job but does anyone think for a second Jacob Coker won’t be the starter on opening day?
Arkansas: Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema shocked his players by telling them two-a-days might not be necessary because the Razorbacks are in such good shape and had such a good summer. “I’ve been through four fall camps and when he told us that I was so happy,” said offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola.
Auburn: Wide receiver Duke Williams missed practices Friday and Saturday for what Auburn coaches are simply saying is “a discipline issue.” Williams’ issues caused head coach Gus Malzahn to say, “Nobody is better than the team around here.” That sounds like it’s far more serious than a simple discipline issue.
Georgia: Wide receiver/kick returner Isaiah McKenzie left Saturday practice with a hamstring issue. He could be out as much as 7-10 days … Defensive end James Deloach missed Saturday practice with a hand injury … Linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes is transferring out, looking for more playing time at another school.
Kentucky: Projected starting outside linebacker Jason Hatcher will miss Kentucky’s first two games due to some academic issues ... Although head coach Mark Stoops is thought to be on the hot seat if the Wildcats don’t make significant progress, athletic director Mitch Barnhart says he won’t measure progress by wins and losses. Sounds like the same thing Jeremy Foley said last year about Will Muschamp.
LSU: Because he was at all the summer drills while Anthony Jennings was suspended from team activities, Brandon Harris will start fall practice as the number one quarterback. At Saturday’s practice, Harris showed he has a much better grasp of the offense than he had last year as a true freshman.
Mississippi State: Four junior college transfers are expected to play prominent roles as the Bulldogs open camp: wide receiver Donald Gray, offensive tackle Martinas Rankin, defensive end Johnathan Calvin and linebacker Traver Jung. Gray, Ranking and Calvin participated in spring practice while Jung arrived in June. Rankin is good enough that he’ll either start at tackle or move inside and start at guard.
Missouri: Starting senior safety Ian Simon is listed day-to-day with hamstring issues. Running back Morgan Steward (hip), offensive tackle Nate Crawford (back) and guard Andy Bauer (hip) were limited for the third consecutive practice on Saturday.
Ole Miss: Head coach Hugh Freeze says the Rebels will limit the amount of hitting and physical play during August practice. That didn’t help defensive lineman Herbert Moore went down with a season-ending ACL tear in a non-contact drill.
South Carolina: Third-year sophomore Connor Mitch threw two interceptions but otherwise had a good day Saturday. “The ones he threw that were picked off were not his fault,” Steve Spurrier said after practice ... Pharoh Cooper didn’t practice Saturday because of a knee bruise. Skai Moore missed the practice because of concussion symptoms and wide receiver Terry Googer may have suffered a concussion on the final play of the Saturday scrimmage.
Tennessee: Wide receiver Von Pearson practiced Saturday. Pearson was accused of raping a UT student back in April but the Knox County district attorney announced last week that there is insufficient evidence to file charges ... Defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry and wide receiver Jason Croom were held out of the Vols’ first three practices.
Texas A&M: The Aggies reported on Sunday and will begin practice late Monday afternoon ... The renovation of Kyle Field ($485 million) is all but complete. The stadium was basically gutted and rebuilt in two years without cost overruns and was totally paid for in cash. What a concept.
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt may not be able to redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Johnny McCrary has started the season as the #1 with Wade Freebeck as the backup, but after Saturday’s scrimmage it’s fairly obvious that Shurmur will push for the starting job. Someone better step up or Vandy will be as bad or even worse than last season.
Florida 24, Auburn 10; October 18, 1997
With Doug Johnson suspended for the game for breaking curfew two nights before the Gators lost their first game of the season and #1 ranking to LSU, freshman Jesse Palmer got the start, but the story of the game was Noah Brindise and the Florida defense. Tied at 10-10 in the third quarter, Steve Spurrier benched Palmer, who had thrown two interceptions, and turned the game over to Brindise, who started his career at Wingate College in North Carolina before transferring to Florida and walking on. Brindise immediately led the Gators on a 14-play drive, completing 4-7 passes for 63 yards and converting three third downs. The drive ended on a 10-yard Brindise to Jacquez Green touchdown pass that gave the Gators the lead for good. Green scored the clinching touchdown with 4:27 to go in the game on a 5-yard reverse to seal the victory. In the first quarter, Green threw a 12-yard pass to Jamie Robinson for Florida’s first touchdown. Fred Taylor consistently took the pressure off Brindise by grinding out 140 yards on 34 carries. The defense did the rest as the seventh-ranked Gators handed sixth-ranked Auburn its first loss of the season. The Gators held Auburn to 159 total yards and -22 in the second half. The Gators sacked Auburn quarterback Dameyune Craig nine times for 80 yards in losses, picked him off once and forced him to cough the ball up twice.
ESPN has listed its preseason Top 100 players in the country and it should come as no surprise that the Southeastern Conference dominates the rankings with 33 players, easily surpassing the second place Big Ten (19) and third place Pac-12 (16). Alabama and Ole Miss lead the way for the SEC, each with five players picked among the top 100, while Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU each had four. Florida’s only selection was corner Vernon Hargreaves, rated the #4 player in the nation.
That Florida has only one player among the top 100 is a testament to how far the Gators have slid back to the middle of the SEC pack. In 2009 you could have made the argument that nine Gators deserved to be in the top 100 preseason: Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Marquise Pouncey, Joe Haden, Major Wright, Ahmad Black, Aaron Hernandez, Carlos Dunlap and Brandon James. Even from 2010-12 the Gators would have scored at least 3-4 players but six seasons later, there is only one.
Florida State had three players listed among the top 100, one of which is running back Dalvin Cook, currently suspended from the team for allegedly striking a woman in the face. Miami only had one player selected.
1. SEC 33
2. Big Ten 19
3. Pac-12 16
4.(Tie) Big 12 14
4. (Tie) ACC 13
6. Others 6
Players by school: Alabama (5), Arkansas (4), Auburn (3), Florida (1), Georgia (3), LSU (4), Mississippi State (2), Ole Miss (5), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (4), Texas A&M (1)
SEC Players in ESPN Top 1004. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
6. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
7. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9. Laremy Tunsill, OT, Ole Miss
13. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
14. (Tie) A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
19. (Tie) Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama 19. (Tie) Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
23. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
24. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
25. (Tie) Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
35. (Tie) Duke Williams, WR, Auburn
42. Vadal Alexander, OT, LSU
45. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
51. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
56. (Tie) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
56. (Tie) Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
58. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
60. Jalen Mills, S, LSU
61. (Tie) Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
63. (Tie) Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss
63. (Tie) Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
68. Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
69. (Tie) Jamal Adams, S, LSU
71. (Tie) Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
75. (Tie) Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas 77. (Tie) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
77. (Tie) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
84. (Tie) Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas
88. (Tie) Curt Magitt, DE/LB, Tennessee
93. (Tie) Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia
93. (Tie) Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
98. (Tie) Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
Frank Gifford passed away Sunday at his Connecticut home. Gifford’s entire Pro Football Hall of Fame playing career was spent with the New York Giants where he went to the Pro Bowl at three positions: running back, safety and wide receiver. He was the NFL MVP in 1956 when the Giants won the championship. Gifford replaced Keith Jackson in the booth for Monday Night football in 1971 and teamed with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith for what is probably the most famous three-man booth in broadcasting history. Gifford remained with Monday Night Football until 1985.
Suspended running back Dalvin Cook was present for one team photo, then walked away before a second photo was taken at FSU’s media day according to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel. Cook is due in court on September 2. Jimbo Fisher says he will not take any permanent action against Cook until the court issue is settled. What are the odds the charges will be dismissed for a lack of evidence?
David Price threw seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven against the New York Yankees Saturday. In two starts since he was traded to Toronto by the Detroit Tigers, Price is 2-0 with an 0.60 ERA. The Blue Jays are 10-1 since they acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Price.
Even though it was a preseason scrimmage under the lights at Met Life Stadium, New York Jets fans booed quarterback Geno Smith when he lost a fumble when sacked, nearly threw an interception and then threw a bad incompletion toward Brandon Marshall. Smith has 41 turnovers in 30 NFL games.
Even though you’ve had all spring and summer to grow accustomed to the fact, does seeing programs like Tennessee and Arkansas with far more players than Florida listed among the top 100 in the country shock you?
Tom Wolfe said you can’t go home but Tom Petty proved that’s not always the case when he hit the stage at the O-Dome for his 30th Anniversary Concert. A Gainesville High graduate, music has taken Tom all over the world but he’s never forgotten his Gainesville roots. What better way to start Florida Roots Week than that Tom Petty O-Dome concert from 2006.