Whether or not Demarcus Robinson plays Saturday in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Alabama is in the hands of Florida’s seniors. Rather than extend Robinson’s suspension – he missed the FSU game last Saturday, his fourth suspension in three years at UF – Jim McElwain will let Florida’s seniors make the decision whether Robinson plays in this game and maybe even the bowl game.
If this were Robinson’s first or even second encounter with trouble, this would be a no-brainer and McElwain would never turn the decision over to his seniors. Depending on the severity of the offense that got him suspended, McElwain would simply say yes you’re playing or no you’re not. But this isn’t a first or even second time Robinson has run afoul of coaches, teammates and team rules. In addition to the suspensions in his career, Robinson has been sent to the bench or seen his name drop to second or third team on the depth chart a couple of times this season. There has been a casual disregard for team rules and the hard work and effort it takes to be a good football player.
Because Robinson’s actions affect an entire team, McElwain has elected to Robinson’s fate in the hands of teammates. Doing it this way accomplishes plenty. First, it sends a message to Robinson and any other potential repeat offenders, that the guys affected most by their unselfish actions will have the last word in the punishment. Second, it sends a message to the leaders on the team that they have to grow up and take everything from the team to what’s best for Robinson into account.
By demanding responsible and mature actions by his seniors, McElwain also sends a message to the entire team that says something like this: “This is your team and you decide if this guy is worth it. If he’s sufficiently contrite, then let him back on. If he’s not contrite and you welcome him back, then you’re willing to let one selfish guy shred the integrity and fabric of your team. So you decide if this guy deserves another chance but think long and hard before you choose.”
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that unless there are unexpected contract snags that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will become the new head coach at Georgia either Sunday or Monday. Smart is a former Georgia defensive back who played for Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. The only member of the current Georgia staff expected to be retained is defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. Would Smart reach out to former Florida HBC/Auburn DC Will Muschamp? Muschamp is a Georgia guy and the two are close friends who worked together at Valdosta State and at LSU.
Although he worked for Smart at Alabama as the defensive backs coach from 2010-12, it’s highly improbable that Jeremy Pruit will be retained as the Georgia DC. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Pruitt has left a trail of scorched earth behind him at his last two jobs (Alabama and Florida State) and there were rumblings of a serious rift between departing head coach Mark Richt and Pruitt back in September and October.
UCF hired Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost Tuesday morning. Frost had to check enough boxes to overcome two gigantic red flags – (1) his lack of head coaching experience and (2) his lack of contacts in Florida where the bulk of his recruiting will take place. The lack of head coaching experience is probably the least of the two concerns. The lack of contacts in Florida is a problem but it can be overcome if he hires the right assistants who have track records working the state’s high school coaches for talent. It is being reported that Frost turned down Syracuse to take the UCF job.
Mark Richt won’t stay unemployed long. He’s already talked to Maryland and Miami. He talks to Virginia today. My guess is that’s where he will land. It’s the ACC and he will be in the opposite division from Florida State and Clemson.
FIU is retaining Ron Turner. Let me get this straight. The same idiot AD (Pete Garcia) who fired Mario Cristobal, who basically built the program from scratch and took it to bowl games, is keeping a guy whose team (a) never had a winning record and (b) lost its last two games of the season by a 115-7 margin. Not only that, Turner says there is no need to make staff changes.
WEEK 4: COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS
1. Clemson 12-0
2. Alabama 11-1
3. Oklahoma 11-1
4. Iowa 12-0
5. Michigan State 11-1
6. Ohio State 11-1
7. Stanford 10-2
8. Notre Dame 10-2
9. Florida State 10-2
10. North Carolina 11-1
The rest of the top 25: (11) TCU 10-2; (12) Baylor 9-2; (13) Ole Miss 9-3; (14) Northwestern 10-2; (15) Michigan 9-3; (16) Oregon 9-3; (17) Oklahoma State 10-2; (18) FLORIDA 10-2; (19) Houston 11-1; (20) Southern Cal 8-4; (21) LSU 8-3; (22) Temple 10-2; (23) Navy 9-2; (24) Utah (9-3); (25) Tennessee 8-4
COMMENTARY: Unless #1 Clemson or #2 Alabama screw up royally, the playoff is all but set with Oklahoma at #3 and the winner of Michigan State-Iowa at #4 … If Iowa beats Michigan State to win the Big Ten, you can almost bet the farm that Oklahoma will move down one notch to #4. A Clemson-Oklahoma winner in one bracket and Alabama-Big Ten winner in the other guarantees the best ratings for TV … Although a Clemson-Alabama championship game would be intriguing since Dabo Swinney is a former Bama walk-on who stayed on as a coach following his playing days, the game television wants is Alabama-Oklahoma. Right now they’re playing the best football of any two teams in the country … That Tennessee is in the top 25 and Mississippi State is not is a complete joke … Stanford and Notre Dame continue to be ranked way too high. Don’t be surprised if Southern Cal puts a woodshed beating on Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 Championship Game … Clemson has wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, both of whom were ranked in the top ten at the time. The Tigers are the only team that has two wins over top ten teams … Even with the inexplicable loss to Texas, Oklahoma probably has the most wins over ranked CFB Playoff Ranking teams -- #11, TCU, #12 Baylor, #17 Oklahoma State and #25 Tennessee. The wins over Tennessee, Baylor and Oklahoma State were all on the road … North Carolina is as hot as anyone in the country, but if the Tar Heels were to knock off Clemson it would be hard to vault them into the final four because there is a loss to a 3-9 South Carolina and two wins over D1AA teams on the schedule.
ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1 SEC): Now that Kirby Smart is bound for Georgia, expect Nick Saban to look no further than secondary coach Mel Tucker as the replacement. Tucker has been a defensive coordinator at both the collegiate (Ohio State) and NFL (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Chicago) levels. In 2014, Alabama gave up 226 yards per game and 19 TDs with only 11 picks. With Tucker in charge this year, Bama improved to 185.8 per game allowed, 12 TDs and 15 picks.
ARKANSAS (7-5, 5-3 SEC): It’s been common knowledge that running back Jonathan Williams, who missed all of 2015 with a broken foot, would go on to the NFL rather than use his fifth year of eligibility, but current indications are that Alex Collins (1,392 rushing yards, 17 TDs) will also move on to the NFL rather than return for his fourth year.
AUBURN (6-6, 2-6 SEC): Jason Smith, who spent the season at wide receiver, wouldn’t mind switching back to quarterback, where he played in high school and at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Playing juco ball in 2014, Smith threw for 18 touchdowns and ran for 10. Because he’s a good running threat and can read option in his sleep, Smith certainly seems a better fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense than either Jeremy Johnson or Sean White.
FLORIDA (10-1, 2-10 SEC): In the four games since the Gators beat Georgia in Jacksonville, they have averaged 13.75 points, 124.75 rushing yards (3.09 per carry) and 169.25 passing yards (5.09 per attempt). That’s just 294 offensive yards per game. Those are Vanderbilt numbers.
GEORGIA (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Task #1 for incoming head coach Kirby Smart will be to hire the kind of offensive coordinator that will satisfy Jacob Eason, the top QB recruit in the country. Eason visited Florida Tuesday and it’s possible he could visit both Michigan and Stanford. If Mark Richt lands at either Virginia or Miami, those two schools could also be an option.
KENTUCKY (5-7, 2-6 SEC): Patrick Towles will graduate this month, meaning he will be immediately eligible wherever he transfers. Towles career at UK is 22 starts, 5,099 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also rushed for 353 yards and 11 more TDs.
LSU (8-3, 5-3 SEC): Now that Les Miles is assured that he’ll be coaching LSU next year, he and his assistants are hitting the road hard this week to prevent any more leakage out of a potential #1 recruiting class. One place Miles will visit personally is Crawfordville, Florida where he will try to convince recently flipped QB Feleipe Franks to forget the Gators and flip back to LSU.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4 SEC): Dan Mullen has interviewed at Miami and he’s said to be on the drool list at Maryland, Georgia and South Carolina. When the dust settles, expect him to stay put in StarkVegas. Mullen will always listen, but unless it’s one of those you’d be crazy to turn this down offers, he’ll stay where he is. At Mississippi State, he’s the first Dan Mullen and doesn’t have to be the next anybody.
MISSOURI (5-7, 1-7 SEC): Because there is a shortage of teams with 6-6 records, some bowls will invite teams with 5-7 records to play. However, Missouri AD Mack Rhoades announced the school has no intentions of playing in a bowl game, choosing instead to focus its attention on hiring a new head coach and staff.
OLE MISS (9-3, 6-2 SEC): Chad Kelly’s strong finish in the month of November (884 passing yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs in 3 games) has certainly improved his NFL stock, but enough to make him decide to forego his senior season? Kelly’s stats on the season are impressive – 3,740 passing yards, 8.8 per attempt, 27 TDs vs. 12 picks and 427 rushing yards plus 10 more TDs – but he spent a year on the bench at Clemson, one year at juco and now one year in the SEC. The extra year in the SEC could help but what if he tanks as a senior? Tough decision has to be made.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7 SEC): Last week, Houston’s Tom Herman was the hot name on the South Carolina drool list and he was replaced by Alabama DC Kirby Smart. Now that Smart is heading to Georgia, it’s almost like who isn’t South Carolina targeting? In the last couple of days the names Will Muschamp, Jeremy Pruitt, Mark Richt, Larry Fedora and Dan Mullen have been listed as potential candidates.
TENNESSEE (8-4, 5-3 SEC): Although there were issues with the playing field throughout the season at Neyland Stadium, athletic director Dave Hart says the Vols won’t make the change to an artificial surface.
TEXAS A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC): There are rumblings that Kevin Sumlin will make several staff chances, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. One thing for certain, he’s got two unhappy QBs in Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. There has been some speculation that both are seriously thinking about transferring out.
VANDERBILT (4-8, 2-6 SEC): As bad as Vanderbilt’s offense was (326.5 yards/15.2 points per game), imagine how bad things would have been without sophomore tailback Ralph Webb. Webb ran for 1,152 yards and 5 touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 188 yards and 2 more TDs.
I like and respect Greg Magarity from his days at Florida. I have to wonder if hiring Kirby Smart was his decision or the one he was forced to make. I’ve got to believe that after watching Jeremy Foley blow it with two coaches with no HBC experience that he’s at least a bit queasy with bringing in Smart, who has never been a HBC at any point in his coaching career. My philosophy is if you’re going to hire an assistant as your HBC, hire one with a lights out offense because at least the team will be entertaining while things are being figured out.
Let’s put the Georgia job in perspective. If you listen to Georgia fans, this is one of the great jobs in all of college football. Here is reality. Georgia won a national championship in 1942 and another in 1980. In 1942, Georgia had a great team but a lot of that had to do with World War II. Georgia had one of the great ROTC programs in the country and had a roster enhanced by players from all over who would go on to be officers. Georgia also won a national championship in 1980 when it had the greatest football player in the history of college football in Herschel Walker. Since Walker left early for the USFL in 1982, Georgia has won exactly two SEC championships and zero national titles. From 1983-2000, Georgia went 136-71-3, the 19th best record in college football. From 2001-15, Mark Richt went 145-51. Only five teams in college football won that many games but there were only two conference championships and no national titles during that time frame. So is this a top tier job?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What do you think of Jim McElwain’s decision to let his seniors determine the fate of Demarcus Robinson?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Today’s music is for ShelbyGT350, who requested the Amboy Dukes. The Dukes featured Ted Nugent on lead guitar and vocals. The music choice is the Dukes’ 1968 album “Journey to the Center of the Mind” which reached #74 on the Billboard charts.