Jim McElwain was doing his best to be nice Monday. In the first of the 12 obligatory Monday morning press conferences that kick off game weeks for the Gators, Florida’s first year head football coach was trying hard to say nice things about Saturday’s sacrificial lamb, the New Mexico State Aggies, winners of 25 of their last 123 games over the past 10 years and owners of a 10-game losing streak.
He was doing his best to make the Aggies seem like a respectable first-game opponent and not just another will take a beating for a paycheck team, when he made this statement:
“There’s some freshmen in there that we don’t know too much about.”
Yes, Jim McElwain actually said that. You would worry if McElwain knew something about the freshmen that Doug Martin has successfully lured to Las Cruces, the cultural capital of Dona Ana County. If Mac is recruiting players who actually consider scholarship offers from New Mexico State, then Gator fans have reason to worry about how the cupboards for the future are being stocked.
After that doozy, Mac went on to say that the Aggies will not be intimidated by The Swamp, using last year’s 63-7 Saturday night paycheck slaughter at the hands of LSU in Baton Rouge as his example. In that one, Les Miles did everything but let the Golden Girls run some read option in the fourth quarter.
Actually, there is no reason for the Aggies to be intimidated. They are here for one reason and one reason only: pick up a big check that will help balance the athletic department books back home in the desert southwest.
Following those nuggets of wisdom about the Aggies, McElwain’s next ten minutes of Q and A could best be described as much ado about nothing. About the only thing McElwain said of importance was confirming what we already knew, that Antonio Morrison has been cleared to play football once again.
Everything after that was an exercise in coach-speak. McElwain wasn’t at a loss for words. It’s just that he didn’t actually say anything. His lips move. You hear words. They’re almost hypnotic. You pinch yourself to make sure you don’t fall asleep. Not that you would miss anything if you did, but you pinch to spare yourself the embarrassment in case you snort or snore.
Mac was asked a question about how the reps will be split between his two quarterbacks – Will Grier and Treon Harris. That’s important. Teams tend to be only as good as their quarterbacks. Mac told us he has a plan about the reps and that will depend, in part, on the game situations. Well, that’s good. Everybody needs a plan and every game has situations.
So what does that tell us?
Mac said, “As much as you try to simulate it, there’s no experience for doing it, and, uh, so I think it’s going to tell us a lot, you know, when we get down and watch the video of this game.”
Okay, so we won’t know anything until after the game is actually played and coaches watch the film, and even then we probably won’t know anything because if next Monday’s press conference is anything like this one, we’ll get a lot more coach-speak. Right now the Gators are 0-0, have more questions than answers and are prepping for a team that bottom feeds in the Sun Belt Conference so there really isn’t much that needs to be said.
That will change in the future when games get more important and the play from the week before will dictate tougher questions that demand real answers. For now, however, McElwain is putting the mushroom theory for press relations into action: Keep them in the dark and up to their ears in poop.
Ole Miss 17, Florida 14; October 5, 2002
Ron Zook was almost back in the good graces of Florida fans because the Gators followed up the Miami embarrassment with three straight wins including a 30-13 win over 4th-ranked Tennessee in the rain in Knoxville. It was a mini-honeymoon for Zooker, but the honeymoon came to an end in Oxford where Rex Grossman endured his worst day as a Gator. Grossman was 19-44 passes for 204 yards with four interceptions including the one Matt Grier ran back for the game winning touchdown with 7:34 to go in the game. Zooker pretty much threw Grossman under the bus when the game was over, saying, “Some of the shots that Rex took were Rex’s fault. Rex has got to get them out of the plays. He knew what they were doing. Our offensive coaches had a nice plan.” If it was such a good plan then the Gators might have come up with a running game – UF managed 95 yards – and the O-line might have figured a way to keep Grossman from getting pounded nearly every play. There were also 11 penalties including one in the fourth quarter that nullified a Grossman to Earnest Graham pass that would have given the Gators a first down at the Ole Miss 12. There was also an illegal formation penalty that helped put the Gators into a fourth and 13 from the Ole Miss 30 on that same drive. “Foolish penalties” is how Zooker described it. He also called all the offensive problems “correctable” and said “I have no concerns.” Overshadowed by the lack of offense was an outstanding defensive effort. Florida held the Rebels to 191 total yards and the only offensive touchdown they gave up was the culmination of an 18-yard drive after a Grossman interception. This was the third meltdown in six games for the Gators. The run defense was destroyed against Miami. Special teams imploded against Kentucky. The offense went in the tank against Ole Miss. The honeymoon was definitely over for Zook and from that point on, he got nothing in the way of favors from the media or from boosters who weren’t accustomed to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Alabama: A week ago, Alec Morris was the hot name in the 3-man race for starting quarterback that includes Jacob Coker and Cooper Bateman. Today’s hot name is Bateman, whose improved accuracy and quickness (supposedly he’s run a legit 4.5 40) have him poised to be the starter. When Alabama released its depth chart for Saturday’s game with Wisconsin, those three and Blake Barnett and David Cornwell were all listed as the #1 quarterback.
Arkansas: Phil Steele rates the Arkansas O-line #4 in the nation in his preseason magazine. Across the front the Arkansas line looks like this: LT Denver Kirkland (6-5, 340); LG Sebastian Tretola (6-5, 334); C Mitch Smothers (6-3, 322); RG Frank Ragnow (6-5, 312); RT Dan Skipper (6-10, 338).
Auburn: Danny Sheridan made Auburn a 10.5-point favorite over Louisville for Saturday’s season-opener in Atlanta. The Vegas line has dropped from 11.5 to 10.5 points … Coordinator Will Muschamp expects eight true freshmen to play on the defensive side of the ball Saturday.
Georgia: Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert will start Georgia’s season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, ending a three-way battle with Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta for the #1 QB job. If Lambert holds onto the job all season, bet the ranch that either Ramsey or Bauta – or both – transfers because the Bulldogs are bringing in Jacob Eason, Scout.com’s #2 rated quarterback in the nation with the recruiting class of 2016.
Kentucky: Temper the optimism in Lexington with this reality: the Wildcats released their week one two-deep and it includes eight true freshmen and 10 redshirt freshmen. The offensive line is where the Wildcats boast the most experience with a collective 92 starts led by LG Zach West (30 starts), LT Jordan Swindle (24 starts) and C Jon Toth (23 starts).
LSU: Brandon Harris has the endorsement of Les Miles. Sort of. “I would not be surprised to see Brandon Harris take a first snap,” Miles said Monday. That doesn’t mean Anthony Jennings won’t get his chance to be the starting QB. Miles said, “Who takes the last snap and who is the starter at the back end of the season, I’m going to withhold my judgment.”
Mississippi State: Although the Bulldogs return only four defensive starters, there is no lack of experience. All 11 projected starters are either juniors or seniors and all 11 have seen the field extensively the last two years. Dan Mullen expects weakside linebacker Beniquez Brown to become the next big thing at MSU on defense. He had 62 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 tackles for loss last season.
Missouri: While Missouri contemplates whether or not to redshirt freshman QB Drew Lock (38-51, 484 yards and 4 TDs in three scrimmages), the offensive line battles have been settled. Mizzou will go with LT Connor McGovern, LG Alec Abein, C Evan Boehm, RG Mitch Hall and RT Nate Crawford.
Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze named Chad Kelly as his starting quarterback for the season opener against Tennessee-Martin but from the sound of his remarks, the quarterback battle will continue in Oxford. “I don’t know who our starter for the season will be yet,” Freeze said Monday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had been relatively injury-free until late last week when redshirt freshman wide receiver Shaq Davidson tore his ACL. Sunday, freshman Jerad Washington suffered a broken leg. Neither were starters but both were expected to contribute this year.
Tennessee: True freshman Jauan Jennings, recruited as a quarterback, is listed as a starting wide receiver on the newly released Tennessee depth chart. Even more surprising, walk-on Colton Jumper is listed as the starting middle linebacker.
Texas A&M: Coordinator John Chavis says the defensive philosophy is rather simple: “We’re never going to sacrifice speed for size. We’re going to get as much speed on the field as we can.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores played 19 redshirt freshmen and 12 true freshmen last year. The Commodores released their two-deep for Thursday’s game with Western Kentucky, which shows 2 freshmen, 9 redshirt freshmen, 10 sophomores and 14 redshirt sophomores.
Matt Hayes of The Sporting News ranked the best college football teams in the country from 1999-2013 with 2001 Miami taking the top position, which should surprise no one. Hayes has the 2008 Gators ranked #4 and the 2006 Gators ranked #14.
1. Miami, 2001
2. Florida State, 1999
3. Southern Cal, 2004
4. Florida, 2008
5. Texas, 2005
6. Alabama, 2009
7. Florida State, 2013
8. Texas, 2009
10. Alabama, 2012
11. Ohio State, 2002
12. Miami, 2002
13. Alabama, 2011
14. Florida, 2006
15. Oklahoma, 2000
In wake of two Indiana basketball players being issued citations for illegal alcohol possession last week, school president Michael McRobbie, blew a gasket when talking to the school’s athletic department. These were the 10th and 11th citations, arrests or drug suspensions for the basketball program in the last two years.
Without saying what the repercussions would be if there are further problems, McRobbie told his athletic staff, “What I do not want to see is any more stories of repeated student misbehavior. They embarrass the university, they embarrass all of you in athletics and they are a complete distraction from our primary role as an educational institution.”Talk is one thing. They talk a good game at FSU, for example, and nothing changes. Let’s see what actually happens the next time an IU athlete is arrested.
So much for complicated offenses and how long it takes to learn them. Former Eastern Washington QB Vernon Adams, one of the best players in Division IAA the last three seasons, didn’t get cleared to begin practicing with Oregon until two weeks ago. He’s already earned the starting quarterback job over Jeff Lockie, who has been in the Oregon system three years. Adams threw for 110 touchdowns in three years at Eastern Washington, which, along with Portland State, was his best offer coming out of high school.
Tom Brady and the NFL failed to reach a settlement in the appeal of Brady’s 4-game suspension. US District Judge Richard Brennan says he will therefore rule on the case, at the earliest Tuesday and at the latest Friday. If you’re a bettor, put your money on the judge lifting the suspension.
One day after suffering a collapsed lung at a golf tournament in Mississippi that forced hospitalization, John Daly was back at the course, smoking cigarettes and in all likelihood, consuming adult beverages.
Lost in Jason Day’s blowing away the field at The Barclay’s Championship over the weekend was Brian Harman scoring two holes-in-one during the same round. Even with the two aces Harman was just -2 for the round, good for a tie for 30th and a $46,933 paycheck. Harman bought beer and liquor for everyone in the media tent.
Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson has won the starting QB job at Florida State. Golson threw 14 interceptions and fumbled the ball away nine times last year.
Will you be in The Swamp Saturday night or watching the game on television?
Before there was Stevie Nicks, there was Fleetwood Mac, which was fronted by Peter Green. Fleetwood Mac got its name from drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, but Green was the band’s driving force. A bad LSD trip during the band’s concert tour in Germany contributed to a bout with schizophrenia which led to Green leaving the band in 1971. Green battled the mental illness for eight years, emerging again in 1979 as a serious blues solo artist. B.B. King said Green on the guitar “was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.” Today’s music for “Screaming Guitar Week” is Peter Green’s 1998 Soho Session.