Ten days into fall camp and the problem remains the same for the Florida Gators that Jim McElwain addressed after the first practice: Can’t anyone catch the darned football?
“It’s a never-ending issue,” McElwain said after the Gators completed a 109-play scrimmage that included 26 special teams snaps Saturday.
McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have a history of delivering in the passing game, but the passing game is a two-way street. The most accurate thrower in the world is only as good as his receivers. What has to be a concern is this is not like the dropsies are a brand new problem. Will Muschamp might still be the football coach at UF if receivers had bothered to catch a few more passes.
So while everyone seems focused on who’s going to be the starting quarterback – Will Grier or Treon Harris – the bigger problem is going to be which of the receivers are going to become dependable targets?
Apparently catching the ball is just one of the problems for the receivers. Going after the ball when it’s in the air is another one. McElwain took particular umbrage with an effort made by Ahmad Fulwood.
“What is he, 6-foot-3?” McElwain asked. “He ran a pass under there that he looked like he was 5-foot-2.” While Fulwood was singled out, it’s likely that comment was addressed to the entire corps of receivers.
McElwain’s comments might sound harsh but if you’ve paid attention to his post-practice comments, he doesn’t sugar coat things. Even with such candor, it’s fairly typical that when a coach calls out an entire unit for subpar play, it’s usually far worse than what he’s admitting.
First year head coach Mike White landed his first prep prospect Friday when combo guard Eric Hester (6-4, 175, Clearwater, FL/Oldsmar, FL Oldsmar Christian) committed to the Gators. On the same day, long time commitment John Mooney (6-10, 245, Altamonte Springs, FL Lake Brantley) withdrew his pledge to the Gators. In choosing the Gators, Hester just said no to Louisville, Texas A&M and FSU, which were all heavily involved in his recruitment. Hester is an outstanding open court player who excels in press defense and transition, which makes him a solid fit for White’s style of play. Mooney, who has grown to 6-10 and added 20 pounds of muscle, says Florida is still on his list but he wants to explore other options. White’s up and down full court style might cause Mooney to look for a school that plays more of a half court game. Hester is extremely close to bigs Dewan Huell (6-9, 210, Miami, FL Norland) and Juwan Durham (6-10, 200, Tampa, FL Tampa Prep), top Florida targets who were teammates on Team Breakdown, so this could help the Gators land one or both of these very skilled bigs.
Alabama 40, Florida 39 (OT); October 2, 1999
This was the first loss of the season for what proved to be a dysfunctional Florida team. The Gators came into the game ranked #3 nationally and a solid favorite to knock off #21 Alabama. The game shouldn’t have been close. Florida gave Alabama 17 points off turnovers, missed a critical extra point in overtime and then got flagged for offsides on Alabama’s extra point in the overtime period. Given a second chance, Chris Kemp nailed the extra point to give Alabama the win. The most critical of the three Florida turnovers came late in the fourth quarter with the Gators leading, 33-26. Darrell Jackson fumbled a punt that Alabama recovered at the UF 22. On fourth and two after the recovery, Shaun Alexander ran 14 yards for the third of his four touchdowns on the day and Kemp kicked the extra point to send the game to overtime. In the overtime, Doug Johnson and Reche Caldwell teamed up for a 6-yard touchdown on Florida’s possession but Jeff Chandler missed the extra point. On Alabama’s first play, Alexander ran 25 yards for the score but Kemp missed the extra point only to be given a second chance because Bennie Alexander was flagged offside. The game really shouldn’t have been close. Doug Johnson threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns and Florida averaged nearly seven yards per carry running the ball but UF got nothing in the way of a pass rush, which allowed Andrew Zow to pick the Gators apart for 336 yards, and Alexander was unstoppable in the second half. He finished with 106 rushing yards and three TDs and four catches for 94 yards and another score. Florida would meet Alabama later in the season, losing 34-7 in the SEC Championship Game. The Gators finished 9-4, only the second time a Steve Spurrier-coached UF team lost four in a season. A year later Alabama went on a serious NCAA probation and Mike Dubose was fired.
Fox Sports’ resident college football experts – Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman – have made their picks for the 2015 SEC race and there isn’t a whole lot of respect for the Florida Gators. Mandel picks a 5-7 season with a 5th-place tie in the SEC East for UF while Feldman gives the Gators one more win. Feldman predicts a two-loss Bama team wins the SEC while Mandel goes out on a limb like no one else in predicting Texas A&M.
Stewart Mandel’s predictions
SEC West 1. Texas A&M (11-1/7-1) 2.(tie) Auburn (10-2/6-2) 2. (tie) Alabama (10-2/6-2) 4. (tie) Ole Miss (8-4/4-4) 4. (tie) Arkansas (8-4/4-4) 6. LSU (7-5/3-5) 7. Mississippi State (6-6/2-6)
SEC East 1. Tennessee (9-3/6-2) 2. Georgia (9-3/5-3) 3. (tie) Missouri (8-4/4-4) 3. (tie) Kentucky (7-5/4-4) 5. (tie) Florida (5-7/2-6) 5. (tie) South Carolina (5-7/2-6) 7. Vanderbilt (3-9/1-7)
SEC Championship Game: Texas A&M over Tennessee
Bruce Feldman’s predictions
SEC West 1. Alabama (10-2/6-2) 2. Auburn (10-2/6-2) 3. (tie) LSU (9-3/5-3) 3. (tie) Arkansas (9-3/5-3) 3. (tie) Texas A&M (9-3/5-3) 6. Ole Miss (8-4/4-4) 7. Mississippi State (7-5/3-5)
SEC East 1. Georgia (9-3/6-2) 2. (tie) Tennessee (9-3/5-3) 2. (tie) Missouri (8-4/5-3) 4. South Carolina (6-6/4-4) 5. Florida (6-6/3-5) 6. Kentucky (6-6, 2-6) 7. Vanderbilt (2-10/0-8)
SEC Championship Game: Alabama over Georgia
Alabama: The quarterback situation is far from settled after Alabama’s second scrimmage of fall camp. Three quarterbacks got the bulk of the Saturday snaps but there isn’t enough separation for Nick Saban to declare a starter. “From a quarterback standpoint, I can’t really say that one guy was better than another,” Saban said … Wide receiver Robert Foster sprained a knee during the scrimmage but it’s not considered serious.
Arkansas: Jonathan Williams, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last year, suffered a left foot injury in Saturday’s scrimmage that will require surgery. He will be out for an extended period of time … The 121-play scrimmage also wasn’t a good day for starting quarterback Brandon Allen, who completed only 10 passes with no TDs and one interception.
Auburn: Of the 100 plays at Auburn’s second scrimmage, 65-70% were passes. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson threw a long touchdown pass to Ricardo Lewis and running back Peyton Barber caught a long touchdown pass on a wheel route ... Roc Thomas and Barber are emerging as the 1-2 running back tandem although juco transfer Jovon Robinson made strides Saturday.
Georgia: Both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel ran with the first team at tailback at Friday’s scrimmage … Mark Richt says there are issues with the second team O-line. “Right now there’s nobody on the #2 unit that’s ready to play winning football yet,” Richt said … Starting fullback Christian Payne suffered a “small crack” in his fibula.
Kentucky: Both incumbent starter Patrick Towles and redshirt freshman Drew Barker have been so impressive that offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is contemplating the possibility of a two-QB system. “I’ve never really done that, to be completely honest with you,” Dawson said. “But I’m not saying – I’ll never say never with anything, really.”
LSU: The Tigers are trending toward more spread sets this year to take advantage of so many wide receivers who can stretch the field … The Tigers have only 19 scholarship players for the D-line and linebacker … Brandon Harris took the #1 unit snaps at QB in Saturday evening’s scrimmage.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ big scrimmage was last Thursday when they ran 165 plays although Dan Mullen pulled quarterback Dak Prescott after about 40 reps. Mullen said Prescott was “pretty sharp” and “liked the energy our defense played with. I thought they did fairly well for the night, a good job of creating some three-and-outs.”
Missouri: Freshman QB Drew Lock might be so good that the Tigers can’t afford to redshirt him. At Saturday’s scrimmage, he was 14-19 for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Of his five incompletions, the Columbia Tribune says only one was a bad throw … Starter Maty Mauk was 10-22 for 120 yards and a touchdown while backup Eddie Printz was 11-20 for 141 yards.
Ole Miss: The big news in the Ole Miss camp is that wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is back at 100%. Treadwell, who caught 48 passes for 632 yards and five touchdowns before a severely broken leg, and Washington transfer Damore’ea Stringfellow have locked down the outside positions with Cody Core solid in the slot.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier was disappointed with his offense after Saturday’s scrimmage. Four quarterbacks combined to complete 24-39 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, but they were picked off three times. Spurrier said, “Obviously, you can’t play four quarterbacks like we’re doing right now. We’ll look at the tape and try to make some realistic decisions.”
Tennessee: More than 40,000 fans attended the Vols’ scrimmage at Neyland Stadium Saturday … Injuries have shuffled the offensive line. O-line coach Don Mahoney is hoping to have five solid starters by the end of the week … Running back Jalen Hurd was dressed out Saturday but didn’t participate in the scrimmage for precautionary reasons … Freshman Quinten Dormady has been named the #2 quarterback behind Josh Dobbs.
Texas A&M: It’s a foregone conclusion that sophomore Kyle Allen will be named the starting quarterback after next Saturday’s scrimmage. Freshman Kyler Murray has turned heads with his athletic ability so far, but Allen has only strengthened his hold on the #1 job ... The Aggies will remain with adidas. Their new deal is good for $7.1 million a year.
When he was playing with mostly second teamers, Tim Tebow looked very sharp Sunday, hitting his first four passes on a drive that ended with a missed field goal from point blank range. Tebow was 2-8 the rest of the way playing with mostly third and fourth teamers but he did run seven yards for a TD. If you were scoring at home, grade Tim by that first drive and not the rest of the game when he had little in the way of blocking. His mechanics are better and he gets rid of the ball quicker, but he’s got to have a chance to play with better people if he’s going to make the Philadelphia Eagles roster.
Jordan Speith went -17 at the PGA Championship played at Whistling Straits and still lost by three shots to Jason Day, who got his breakthrough win at one of golf’s majors by setting the all-time record of -20 at a major. With Speith, Rory McIlroy and Day along with a host of other young guys who hit bombs off the tee and putt with laser-like precision, the post-Tiger era of golf is in good shape. For most of the Tiger Woods era, the great concern was ratings. If Tiger wasn’t playing, nobody would watch. That shouldn’t be a problem in the future. Speith has provided a ratings spike and with McIlroy and Day so young and talented, we have the potential to see a threesome like we haven’t seen since Nicklaus, Watson and Trevino in the 1970s or like Nicklaus, Palmer and Player in the 1960s.
The excuse for Adam Lane’s transfer last week was he wanted to be closer to his family. Gainesville is 130 miles from Lane’s hometown of Winter Haven. So Lane’s school of choice isn’t nearby USF (49.3 miles) or UCF (61.4 miles), but Eastern Kentucky (813.2 miles). At Florida he could have backed up Kelvin Taylor. At EKU, he will back up Dy’Shawn Mobley, who ran for 1,491 yards and 20 touchdowns last year as a sophomore.
Former FSU quarterback De’Andre Johnson, dismissed from the team for striking a woman in the face in a Tallahassee bar, has resurfaced at East Mississippi Community College. Scooba, Mississippi may not be the garden spot of the earth but it is a popular landing spot for quarterbacks who have a spotty history. Last year’s quarterback for the 12-0 national juco champ Lions was Chad Kelly, who was booted from Clemson for conduct detrimental to the football program. Kelly threw 47 TDPs last year at EMCC and is now batting for the #1 QB job at Ole Miss.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison made his sons (age 8 and 6) give back participation trophies because he does not want them to “believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.”
Braxton Miller might be officially listed as a wide receiver but he’s going to line up at running back and he’ll be throwing passes, too, this fall.
Remember when Trent Richardson was thought to be a franchise running back who might set records? Well, he might not even make the Oakland Raiders roster after five carries for 18 yards against the St. Louis Rams in a preseason game. On one carry he missed a truck-size hole and ran straight into the line.
This is the second time Jim McElwain has called out his receivers for their inability to make catches. How much does the play of the receivers concern you now that we’re less than three weeks before the season opener?
We’ll call this “Nothing but the Blues Week” and start out with Kevin Moore, better known as Keb Mo, a three-time Grammy Award winner whose music bears a strong influence of the late, great Robert Johnson. Mo grew up in Compton, California and got his musical start playing in bands with Papa John Creach. He spent more than a decade writing songs and arranging music for A&M records before he released his first album entitled “Keb Mo” in 1994. In the years since, he’s become an icon on the blues circuit. With the death of B.B. King, Mo is probably America’s greatest living blues performer. Today’s music is Keb Mo’s concert at the Rawa Blues Festival in Poland in 2013. Keb Mo will play the Atlanta Symphony Hall on August 29 and the Charleston Music Hall on August 30.