For all of August, the expectation was that Will Grier would be Florida’s starting quarterback, but Saturday night when the toe hits the football for the first time at The Swamp, incumbent Treon Harris will be taking the first offensive snaps for the Gators against New Mexico State. That really shouldn’t surprise anyone even though word has trickled out of the practice field that Grier has thrown the ball with tremendous accuracy and the ball gets to the receivers a whole lot faster than it does when Harris throws it.
Harris started six games last year and went 4-2 while Grier was taking a redshirt. He’s the proven commodity who isn’t going to be the least bit jittery when The Swamp erupts. In those six starts he earned the trust of his teammates and showed he is capable of playing well in tight games. For those reasons, he probably should start the first game.
In choosing to bring Grier off the bench, Jim McElwain is taking a good bit of the pressure off his redshirt freshman. He’ll have a chance to absorb the atmosphere and get an idea of what New Mexico State’s defense is doing before he’s sent out to take his first snaps. He will get plenty of snaps Saturday and if he outperforms Treon by a significant margin, he’ll make his case to start game two against East Carolina. If Treon plays better or if it’s a marginal difference between the two, we’ll probably see another two-quarterback plan against ECU.
There is also the possibility that McElwain will go with a two QB system well into the 2015 season and perhaps the entire schedule. Given the lack of offensive experience, he needs every advantage he can get. Since the skill sets of Harris and Grier are quite different, a two QB system will force opponents to take up precious game plan time readying for two distinctly different styles.
South Carolina 32, North Carolina 24: This game will come down to South Carolina’s ability to contain Marquise Williams, who threw for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 788 and 13 more last year. If the Gamecocks can keep him from extending drives with his feet, they’ll start the season 1-0. Watch for freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez. Steve Spurrier is going to ease him into the offense but he is the future.
Western Kentucky 28, Vanderbilt 13: Remember the name Jeff Brohm. He will be on everybody’s must have coaching list next year largely because he’s got a hot quarterback in Brandon Doughty (49 touchdown passes as a junior), a stud running back in Leon Allen (1,542 yards, 13 TDs as a junior) and four returning receivers who all caught at least 40 passes last year. Meanwhile, Vandy can’t decide on a QB and has lost two of its most important offensive players for the season.
Alabama: Quarterbacks were sloppy Wednesday. Although Nick Saban won’t come right out and say it, there’s a really good chance his QB Saturday night will be Jacob Coker.
Arkansas: They’re talking about freshman safety Santos Ramirez as if he’s the second coming of Steve Atwater … Redshirt freshman wide receiver JoJo Robinson will miss the first half of Saturday’s season opener with UTEP for an unspecified incident that occurred earlier in the summer.
Auburn: Duke Williams has gotten back into Gus Malzahn’s good graces. He lined up with the first team offense at Wednesday’s practice.
Florida: With junior safety Keanu Neal out with an injury and Marcus Maye suspended for the season opener, the Gators will go with a rotation that includes Brian Poole, Duke Dawson, Nick Washington and Marcell Harris.
Georgia: Georgia lists nine true freshmen on its two-deep for Saturday’s opener with Louisiana-Monroe. Of the nine, corner Rico McGraw is the only expected starter.
Kentucky: Commonwealth Stadium’s $120 million renovation included downsizing to 61,000 capacity ... Lexington Herald-Leader columnist John Clay sees Kentucky going 6-6 with one of those wins over Florida on September 19.
LSU: Left tackle Jared Hawkins is fully recovered from an ankle injury that slowed him during preseason camp … Although his rehab is coming along faster than expected, the projected return for safety Jalen Mills (surgery on his ankle) is October 10 against South Carolina.
Mississippi State: Other than a few bumps and bruises, the Bulldogs are 100% healthy for their season opener with Southern Miss in Hattiesburg Saturday … Dan Mullen won’t say how many true freshmen he plans to play, just says “a lot.”
Missouri: Sensational freshman QB Drew Lock is #2 on the depth chart but head coach Gary Pinkel insists (a) Maty Mauk’s job is safe and (b) there is no quarterback controversy brewing. Mauk is 14-4 as a starter but has a tendency to throw interceptions.
Ole Miss: Ole Miss signed a 12-year extension to remain with Nike that will “more than double” the $1.9 million the school was paid on the old deal according to AD Ross Bjork … Ole Miss will ditch its artificial turf and return to natural grass starting in 2016.
Tennessee: Supposedly, Vol fans are foaming at the mouth for the season to hurry up and get started. That isn’t translating into sold tickets because the season opener with Bowling Green at Nashville’s NFL stadium is 9,000 tickets shy of a sellout.
Texas A&M: Defensive coordinator John Chavis likes the improvements he’s seen at corner and thinks the defensive end duo of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall will be as good as any rush ends in the country, but he has concerns about the linebackers, who lack experience.
Michigan 38, Florida 20; January 1, 2003
As if he hadn’t been second guessed enough during the regular season, Ron Zook’s decision to go with Ed Zaunbrecher’s call from the booth for a Vernell Brown pass off a double reverse on first and 10 and the Michigan 27 with less than two minutes to go had the entire Gator Nation calling for his scalp. Trailing 38-30, Rex Grossman guided the Gators 46 yards, aided by a personal foul for a late hit against the Wolverines when Grossman scrambled out of bounds after a six-yard gain. When Zaunbrecher called the play from the booth, Zook asked, “Are we sure we want to do this now?” Zaunbrecher said yes, Zook approved and Brown threw a pass intended for Grossman that was intercepted to end the Gators’ chances to tie the game and send it to overtime. This was a game the Gators should have won. They chewed up the Michigan defense for 506 yards (323 passing, 183 rushing), Grossman threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns without a pick, and Earnest Graham ran for 120 yards and two TDs. The defense couldn’t find answers for Michigan tailback Chris Perry, who ran for 85 yards and scored four TDs, plus picked up another 108 on receptions of screen and dumpoff passes from John Navarre. The Brown pass at the end wasn’t Florida’s only mistake. There was a botched 2-point conversion in the second quarter that left everyone shaking their heads. In the third quarter when the Gators took a 22-21 lead, it was the perfect time for a 2-point conversion but the Gators kicked then. And, there was an ill-fated reverse after a third quarter kickoff in which the Gators pinned themselves back at their own 7. A short punt gave Michigan the ball on the UF 32 and it was an easy drive for a touchdown from there. It was Florida’s fifth loss of the season, the most of any Florida team since pre-Spurrier in 1989.
Nick Saban has won four national championships (one at LSU, three at Alabama), tops among active head coaches in Division I but in talking with Paul Finebaum, Saban said he probably should have won eight. Saban said, "People talk about we've won four national championships. Well, I feel like we've had good enough teams to win eight. So I feel like we failed four times. I feel like I failed four times. Now is that being too difficult? I don't know. But I just know that we have other teams that have the talent and we weren't able to do it. Are we satisfied with where we finished and how we finished? Absolutely not."
1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: He’s taken Western Michigan from 1-11 his first year to 8-5 in year two. He’ll take a couple of paycheck beatings (Michigan State and Ohio State) this year, but if he gets 8-9 regular season wins, he will be sizzling hot. He’s 35 years old, good looking and charismatic. Someone will snap him up this year. He’s paid $800,000 and has a miniscule buyout clause.
2. Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky: He spent seven years playing QB in the NFL and worked as a college assistant under Howard Schnellenberger, Ron Zook and Bobby Petrino. He’s 44 years old, a proven recruiter and has an innovative offensive mind. The Hilltoppers won eight games last year and have a real shot to win 9-10 this year. He’s making $600,000 with a $1.5 million buyout.
3. Bob Stitt, Montana: The secret is out. This is the genius behind the no-huddle hurry-up offenses, the guy Chip Kelly, Mark Helfrich, Kevin Sumlin and Mike Leach (among others) have been consulting for years. The only knock on him is that he’s spent his entire coaching life at small schools, but there is no denying he probably has the best understanding of the spread offense of any coach in the country. He’s being paid $205,000.
4. Justin Fuente, Memphis: He’s taken Memphis from the waste land to 10 wins in just two seasons which has resulted in a hefty raise (to $1.4 million) and contract extension (6 years) and promises from boosters headed by Fed Ed CEO Fred Smith to do whatever it takes to keep him. That sounds really good, but some power conference school is going to make him an offer he can’t refuse. Soon.
5. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette: Four straight 9-win seasons have him poised to take on the new challenge of a power program. They’re doing everything they can to keep him in Lafayette, however, by expanding the football stadium to 41,000 that will be followed by a complete renovation and a new 100,000 square foot athletic performance center. Salary is $750,000. He’s too good to stay in the Sun Belt Conference much longer.
1. Will Muschamp, DC, Auburn: He will get head coaching offers. He had them last year but chose to work for Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Staying or leaving might depend on economics. He makes $1.6 million as Auburn’s DC and has four years of $1.6 million coming from Florida. At $1.6 million he makes more than 58 other head coaches in Division I. The combined $3.2 million would put him on the list of the top 35 best paid coaches.
2. Clay Helton, OC, Southern Cal: The USC offense is only going to get better now that the scholarship sanctions have been removed and there is a full complement of players on the roster. Helton is a terrific quarterbacks coach and he’s both liked and respected. He’s 43 and he makes $850,000 as a coordinator. Time to leave the nest and fly on his own.
3. Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Georgia: If Georgia’s defense plays lights out this year, Pruitt will be a hot commodity. He’s 41 and considered an exceptional recruiter. The only concerns are that he’s never been a head coach at any level and has only been coaching on the field in Division I since 2010.
4. Mike Norvell, OC, Arizona State: He won’t turn 34 until November. He’s been an offensive coordinator since 2011, at Arizona State since 2012. He’s turned down a couple of head coaching opportunities while waiting for the right opening. Arizona State made him and associate head coach and raised his pay to $900,000 to keep him another year.
5. Lane Kiffin, OC, Alabama: Folks in Tuscaloosa talk as if the perpetual brat has mellowed under Nick Saban. There is no question that he’s got one of the best offensive minds in the country, just can he bite his tongue occasionally. He’s probably going to be someone’s head coach next year unless he decides to stick it to Southern Cal for the remaining $4 million on his buyout.
In what could be the decisive piece of evidence that overturns Roger Goodell’s 4-game suspension of Tom Brady, New York Jets kicker Jay Feely was never punished when the NFL suspected he was using doctored footballs back in 2009. The equipment manager was punished but not Feely even though he admits he was trying to get a competitive advantage. Feely talked to the judge presiding over this case about that situation.
Nebraska coach Mike Riley is being sued for $7.5 million by a woman who says she was raped in 1997 by a cousin of Calvin Carlyle, an Oregon State football player who was charged in an alleged gang rape of another woman in 1998. The woman suing Riley says he failed to deal with “a sexually violent culture” in the football program.
You remember Lawrence Phillips, don’t you? He brutally beat up his girlfriend his senior year at Nebraska yet he was allowed to play in the Fiesta Bowl against the Gators. Well, he’s been officially charged with the murder of his cellmate in a California prison. Phillips was already doing 31 years for convictions that included domestic violence, spousal abuse and false imprisonment.
Oklahoma State spent Wednesday night at the Hotel Doherty in Clare, Michigan on the eve of its season opener with Central Michigan tonight. Allegedly the hotel is haunted. A couple of famed ghostbusters say the amount of paranormal activity at the hotel is “startling.”
ESPN analyst Ryan Clark, who spent 13 years playing safety in the NFL, calls recently released Trent Richardson (by the Oakland Raiders) “the worst running back of all time.”
Are you surprised by Jim McElwain’s decision to go with Treon Harris as the first game starter?
Jeff Beck’s philosophy about playing guitar: “I don’t care about the rules. If I don’t break the rules at least 10 times in every song, then I’m not doing my job properly” Beck is 71 and he’s still rocking the house. His latest release is “Live+” which was released in May. Beck played with Clapton and Jimmy Page in his early years and has forged his own path throughout the decades. Lately I’ve been listening to “Emotion and Commotion,” his 2010 release. He’s earned his place among the great guitarists of the last 50 years.