With the transfer of Adam Lane, Brandon Powell could become Florida’s version of the Swiss Army Knife. He’s scheduled to play in the slot, which will allow him to get the ball in space where he can turn short passes into big gainers and contribute on reverses and jet sweeps. Lane’s departure probably means Powell will take some reps at running back where he gives the Gators a threat in the passing game outside the backfield. Even though he’s small for a wildcat back (5-9, 185), Powell’s quickness could make him a weapon in those situations. The way Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier like to move receivers around, Powell will also get some chances in the downfield throwing game as an outside receiver.
When McElwain was calling plays at Alabama, he liked being able to go from two-back, two wide formations into a shotgun spread without having to change personnel, which forces defenses to go with the personnel they’ve got on the field or burn a timeout. What made it possible for Bama to effectively change the offensive dynamics without subbing was versatile players who were as comfortable running downfield pass as they were running an off-tackle blast from the I-formation. During his Heisman Trophy season of 2009, it wasn’t unusual for Alabama to shift Mark Ingram (1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing) out of the backfield and throw to him downfield (32 receptions for 334 yards and three touchdowns). Backups Trent Richardson, Roy Upchurch and Terry Grant combined to catch another 31 passes for 225 yards that season.
McElwain and Nussmeier will probably use Kelvin Taylor, Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite out of the backfield, but Powell gives the Gators that dynamic guy who can play anywhere in the offense and put pressure on defenses. If he’s used the right way and can stay injury-free, he could be the X-factor that has been missing from the Florida offense the last four years.
Elsewhere around the SEC:
Alabama: The Crimson Tide practiced in full pads for the first time Monday. Cornerback Tony Brown, injured Sunday, returned to practice Monday while wearing a shoulder harness … With Chris Black (ankle) sidelined Monday, Ardarius Stewart and Robert Foster were the first team wide receivers ... Black and corner Marlon Humphrey (pulled muscle) are listed day-to-day.
Arkansas: Freshmen Jamario Bell and Derrick Graham have swapped positions. Graham, who has bulked up to 262 pounds, has moved to defensive end while Graham, 6-5 and 250 pounds, is now at linebacker … The five starting jobs on the O-line are secured but the competition for the five backup jobs is intense with a big surprise: Walk-on Johnny Gibson, who was on last year’s scout team, is running number two at left tackle.
Auburn: A 90-play scrimmage Monday morning produced no touchdowns and only two field goals. The defense forced three turnovers. Head coach Gus Malzahn termed it the best defensive scrimmage he’s seen in the two-plus years he’s been head coach … Duke Williams remains suspended from the team.
Georgia: Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt told the Athens Banner-Herald that the older players in 2014 “didn’t know what we wanted to get accomplished.” Oh, so they didn’t understand that it’s their job to stop a team like Florida for running the exact same play 40 times in a game in which the Gators ran for 418 yards? Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Kentucky: Nose tackle Matt Elam arrived at Kentucky thinking he would be a star from day one but after a season of hard knocks and tough lessons on the field, his attitude and physical condition has changed. He’s down to 360 pounds (he’s 6-7) and has shown up at camp better prepared both physically and emotionally to go hard every play.
LSU: LSU had the pads on for its first full contact scrimmage Monday. Once again, Brandon Harris took the snaps as the first team quarterback although incumbent starter Anthony Jennings made some good plays with the second unit according to head coach Les Miles … Defensive end Tashawn Bower, who left Saturday’s practice exhausted, didn’t practice Monday.
Mississippi State: Rufus Warren, who came to Mississippi State as a 250-pound tight end, has grown into a 6-5, 299-pound left tackle. Warren will have the first crack at replacing Blaine Causell, who started 42 consecutive games at left tackle.
Missouri: Mizzou linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who was in on 122 tackles last season, feels disrespected and is motivated to have a great season by the SEC media, which selected him third team in their preseason vote ... Juco defensive back Anthony Hines has signed with Missouri and will play this season. He’s taking the scholarship that was held for juco offensive lineman Tyler Howell, who failed to graduate.
Ole Miss: The Rebels put on the pads and went for three hours Monday ... Left guard Aaron Morris, a returning starter, has trimmed down to 313 from last year’s hefty 345 … Head coach Hugh Freeze gave nearly equal snaps to quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan, DeVante Kincaid and Chad Kelly. Kelly is expected to be the starter, however.
South Carolina: Connor Mitch leads a 4-quarterback competition for the starting job but even if he wins it, Steve Spurrier is already hinting he will play more than one. “If they’re all even, we might say, ‘Hey, play the first couple of series. You’re going to play a couple and we’ll see what happens.” … Pharoh Cooper will sit out a couple more practices. He’s got a bone bruise in his knee and a sprained hand.
Tennessee: They say that imitation is the finest form of flattery. Butch Jones has all first year players wear a black stripe on their helmet and they have to earn the right to have the stripe removed. Juco transfer running back Alvin Kamara was the first. Let’s see, if we go back to 2005 and that Urban guy at Florida, we see where the black stripe thingy was started.
Texas A&M: Jay Bradford, one of two running backs in the incoming freshman class, is not in camp for health reasons. Bradford is still a part of the team but is not part of the 105-man preseason roster, which means the earliest he could begin working out with the team is the week before the season opener.
Vanderbilt: After a Saturday practice performance that had Vandy followers feeling optimistic, freshman quarterback Kyle Shurmur had one of those two step backwards practices Sunday. A fumbled snap, poor reads of coverage and a few off target passers made it abundantly clear that for the moment, at least, Johnny McCrary is the #1 quarterback.
Florida 32, Florida State 29; November 22, 1997
Second-ranked and undefeated Florida State had this game circled on the calendar since January when the Gators hammered the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship. This was a chance for redemption for the Seminoles, who came into the game ranked #2 and needing only a win over the 10th-ranked Gators to secure one half of the national championship game equation. FSU was an overwhelming 31-1/2 point favorite to beat a two-loss Florida team with quarterback issues. The atmosphere in The Swamp was already electric when the Seminoles added the element of disrespect by stomping on the “F” at midfield in pregame warmups. The Gators rushed to midfield where both teams started pushing and shoving. Coaches from both teams had to step in to separate the two teams. Then came the big surprise. Steve Spurrier alternated quarterbacks Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise. “I had someone tell me that Florida State had all our signals, so I said let’s eliminate the signals.” Conventional wisdom says you don’t alternate quarterbacks every play but on this night the tactic worked. Johnson and Brindise combined to throw for 318 yards and Fred Taylor pounded the FSU defense, ranked first nationally against the run coming into the game, for 162 yards and four touchdowns. Florida’s defense came up with a huge stand inside the 10 with 2:38 to go in the game, forcing Sebastian Janikowski to kick a 20-yard chip shot field goal that increased FSU’s lead to four, 29-25. Janikowski mocked the Gators with a chomp afterward. After Janikowski’s kickoff, the Gators started at their own 20 but it only took three plays to get into the end zone with the game-winning touchdown. On first down, Johnson signaled Jacquez Green to run a hitch and go against FSU corner Samari Rolle. Green lost Rolle, grabbed Johnson’s pass at the FSU 47 and then went crossfield for another 30 yards before he was dragged down at the 17. From there, Taylor took over, bursting off the left side for 16 yards on a draw play to the FSU one, then powering through a crease in the left side of the line for his fourth touchdown of the game. Collins Cooper added the extra point for a 32-29 Florida lead with 1:50 to go. FSU still plenty of time to come back, but the Florida defense came through as Dwayne Thomas picked off Thad Busby on third down. Out of time outs, FSU could only watch while the Gators ran out the clock the final 1:01 and ended the Seminoles’ chances of an undefeated national championship season for the second straight season.
1. Ohio State
7. Southern Cal
8. Michigan State
9. Florida State
12 Notre Dame
15. Ole Miss
17. Arizona State
20. Georgia Tech
23. Boise State
25. Texas A&M
Floyd Mayweather has listed his top five boxers of all time. He lists himself as the #1 followed by (2) Roberto Duran; (3) Pernell Whitaker; (4) Julio Cesar Chavez and (5) Muhammad Ali. Mayweather wouldn’t make my top five. Mine would be (1) Ali; (2) Marvin Hagler; (3) Sugar Ray Robinson; (4) Sugar Ray Leonard and (5) Roy Jones Jr.
NASCAR legend Buddy Baker died of an inoperable lung tumor early Monday morning. Baker won 19 races in his NASCAR career including the 1980 Daytona 500. One of the most affable and approachable drivers, Baker worked NASCAR Radio for Sirius XM until the affects of the tumor forced him to retire a little more than a month ago. Baker told his audience about the tumor when he signed off on his last broadcast, saying, “Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name. I’m not saying goodbye, just talk to you later.” RIP Buddy!
What’s this? An American woman not named Williams actually won a WTA tour event? Be still my beating heart. Sloane Stephens got her first WTA tour win in 84 tournaments Sunday in Washington by knocking off Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1, 6-2.
Former Alabama running back Glen Coffee, who gained more than 1,300 yards in 2008 and left early for the NFL only to retire after one season, has found peace in the US Army. He’s a Ranger who teaches advanced waterborne operations at the Ranger school that trains out of Eglin Air Force Base.
Floyd Mayweather gives himself top billing for his list of the five best boxers of all time. Who would make up your top five?
Back when Duane and Gregg Allman were students at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, their band was known as the Allman Joys. They used to regularly play the frat house circuit in Gainesville and Tallahassee until Duane was discovered and became an in-demand studio musician. The band moved to Jacksonville, changed its name to the Allman Brothers Band and they became the standard by which all southern rock and roll bands will forever be judged. The band survived the death of Duane and bass player Berry Oakley and continues to tour today. Today’s Florida Roots Week music is a live recording of the Allman Brothers from March, 1971, just a few months before Duane died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia.