While so much attention is being paid to the recruiting class of 2016 the next two weeks, an equally important recruiting job for Jim McElwain might be keeping a few of his juniors in school one more year. There are six players likely to ponder leaving early for the NFL Draft and if Mac can keep these four guys – Kelvin Taylor, Marcus Maye, Keanu Neal and Alex McCalister – in school it should pay significant dividends next season.
Here is a look at the six juniors with NFL possibilities:
Vernon Hargreaves III: Barring something totally unforeseen and unimaginable, he will be a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft in the spring. He’s been NFL-ready for two years and now is his time to cash in on those marvelous cover skills.
Kelvin Taylor: This is a good, not great year for running backs so it might be tempting for Taylor to take his chances, but with the probability that he will run behind a much improved O-line next season he could certainly improve his draft stock. He’s not going to improve his top end speed by staying in school but he can improve his quickness and work on his pass receiving and pass blocking skills.
Marcus Maye: Mel Kiper ranks Neal as the #6 safety. His cover skills have improved enormously and he has great instincts for showing up at the football. If his draft evaluation comes back showing a likelihood being drafted no later than the third round, he should seriously consider leaving early.
Keanu Neal: Neal hits like a linebacker but sometimes he’s a lost ball in the high weeds when it comes to coverage. Another year in school with a chance to hone up his cover skills could catapult him into the first three rounds of the 2017 draft.
Demarcus Robinson: Robinson projects as a combine warrior. He’s got the body and the physical attributes the NFL is looking for but he also has a history of difficulty with authority, which has cost him playing time and embarrassing suspensions. Then there is the question of work ethic, which has been severely lacking during his three years in Gainesville. He’s running out of chances with Mac and the staff so you have to wonder if he would even be welcome to come back next year. He needs another year but only if he’s willing to get with the program and show some discipline and work ethic.
Alex McCalister: There aren’t many guys as quick off the edge as McCalister but he’s still too skinny to be an every down player at the next level. If he elected to leave, he would get drafted but he would be a pass rush specialist and a late rounder. He needs to come back to school, get his weight up in the 255-260 range and improve his upper body strength.
BAD SHOOTING, NO REBOUNDING KILLS UF VS. MIAMI
Florida’s 66-55 loss to Miami can be summed up with these two stats: 1-12 shooting from the 3-point line and outrebounded 41-31. While the Gators were struggling to make a shot beyond the arc, Miami lit it up for 7-17 to compensate for an overall poor (20-51, 39.2%) shooting night. While John Egbunu (5-10 shooting, 14 points), Dorian Finney Smith (4-7 shooting, 1-2 on 3-balls, 12 points) and Devin Robinson (5-10 shooting, 11 points) shot the ball well, Florida’s guards combined to shoot 6-25 from the field and 0-8 from the 3-point line. The Gators don’t play again until Saturday when they travel to East Lansing to face #1-ranked Michigan State.
ALABAMA: Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Black was granted a full release from Alabama, leaving him free to transfer to any school. Black graduates this month so he will be eligible to play wherever he goes. He was one of the nation’s five most highly recruited receivers coming out of Jacksonville First Coast but he never got untracked at Alabama.
USA Today All-Americans:
First team: Derrick Henry, RB; Ryan Kelly, C; Reggie Ragland, LB. Second team: A’Shawn Robinson, DL
First team: Cam Robinson, OL; Ryan Kelly, C; Derrick Henry, RB; Jonathan Allen, DL; A’Shawn Robinson, DL; Reggie Ragland, LB; Eddie Jackson, DB
Second team: Dominick Jackson, OL; Calvin Ridley, WR; Adam Griffith, PK
ARKANSAS: When new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart tried to lure Arkansas OC Dan Enos to Athens it was discovered that all Arkansas assistants have a no-compete clause which forbids them making a lateral move as an assistant coach to any school in the SEC unless they’ve been fired.
USA Today All-American: Hunter Henry, TE (1st team)
First team: Sebastian Tretola, OL; Hunter Henry, TE
Second team: Dan Skipper, OL; Alex Collins, RB
AUBURN: It’s being reported that Gus Malzahn has targeted Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly to replace Will Muschamp. Kelly played defensive back for Pat Dye at Auburn from 1986-89.
First team: Daniel Carlson, PK
Second team: Shon Coleman, OL
FLORIDA: It’s absolutely amazing that safety Marcus Maye made first team All-America yet didn’t make either the first or second All-SEC teams selected by the league’s 14 coaches.
USA Today All-American: Marcus Maye, S (1st team)
First team: Jonathan Bullard, DL; Vernon Hargreaves III, DB; Jalen Tabor, DB
Second team: Antonio Morrison, LB; Johnny Townsend, P
GEORGIA: General consensus among those who cover Georgia on a regular basis is that new HBC Kirby Smart better move quickly to name an offensive staff. The Bulldogs have already seen running back Devwah Whaley (6-0, 200, Beaumont, TX Central) decommit and it’s a crapshoot whether stud QB Jacob Eason (6-6, 220, Lake Stevens, WA) keeps his commitment to UGa or flips to Florida.
First team: John Theus, OL
Second team: Leonard Floyd, LB; Dominick Sanders, DB
KENTUCKY: Perhaps nothing is more indicative of the talent gap between Kentucky and the rest of the SEC than the Coaches All-SEC team. Kentucky is the only school in the SEC that didn’t have at least one of its players selected to either the first or second teams.
LSU: Everybody knows Les Miles has to overhaul the offense and that probably means coordinator Cam Cameron has to go but there has been no staff movement so far. Cameron’s contract, which pays $1.6 million a year, expires in March. Miles told The Advocate that “I am contemplating no changes at this point in personnel.”
USA Today All-American: Leonard Fournette, RB (2nd team)
First team: Vadal Alexander, OL; Leonard Fournette, RB
Second team: Evan Pocic, C; Tre’Davious White, DB; Jamal Adams, DB
MISSISSIPPI STATE: The coaching staff points to the decline in pass rush as one of the key reasons the Bulldogs didn’t repeat as 10-game winners in 2015. In 2014 the Bulldogs got to the QB 37 times for 225 yards in losses. This year, it was 25 sacks for -182 yards. The lack of pass rush also showed up in the secondary where interceptions declined from 16 to 11.
First team: Fred Ross, WR; Dak Prescott, QB
Second team: De’Runnya Wilson, WR
MISSOURI: New head coach Barry Odom is zeroing in on Utah State offensive coordinator Josh Heupel as his offensive coordinator. Heupel was the QB for Oklahoma’s national championship team in 2000 and was co-offensive coordinator at OU from 2011-14.
USA Today All-American: Kentrell Brothers, LB (2nd team)
First team: Kentrell Brothers, LB
Second team: Charles Harris, DL
OLE MISS: Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is leaning toward entering the NFL Draft per Rand Getlin of the NFL Network. It is also expected that left tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive end/tackle Robert Nkemdiche will also declare.
First team: Laquon Treadwell, WR; Trae Elston, DB
Second team: Evan Engram, TE; Chad Kelly, QB; Robert Nkemdiche, DL; Marquis Haynes, DL; Mike Hilton, DB
SOUTH CAROLINA: Travaris Robinson has been officially named defensive coordinator and former Alabama support staff Bobby Bentley, a high school coaching legend in South Carolina, has been named running backs coach. Also added to the South Carolina staff is former Auburn and South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.
First team: Pharoh Cooper, WR and All-purpose
Second team: Skai Moore, LB
TENNESSEE: Tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Mark Elder has accepted the HBC position at D1AA Eastern Kentucky. Elder produced the nation’s #1 punt returner (Cameron Sutton, 18.68 per return, 2 TDs) and the #1 kickoff returner (Evan Berry, 38.3 yards per return, 3 TDs).
First team: Evan Berry, KR
Second team: Jalen Hurd, RB; Derek Barnett, DE
TEXAS A&M: Is Texas A&M a program in decline? The offensive numbers would say yes. Scoring has been down each year since 2012 (44.5 per game in 2012, 28.3 in 2015) and so has yards per game (558.5 in 2012, 423.0 in 2014). The overall defensive numbers were improved across the board from 2014 to 2015, but the numbers aren’t all that dissimilar from the 2012 season when the Aggies went 11-2 and beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
First team: Myles Garrett, DE; Drew Kaser, P
Second team: German Ifedi, OL; Christian Kirk, WR, All-Purpose and KR; Taylor Bertolet, PK
VANDERBILT: It was a year of improvement at Vandy. There was one more win than the year before and while the offense scored fewer points per game (15.2 in 2015; 17.2 in 2014), there was an improvement of 38.2 yards per game and a 1,000-yard rusher in Ralph Webb (1,152 yards, 5 TDs). Defensively Vandy gave up 12.3 fewer points and 51.6 yards per game.
First team: Zach Cunningham, LB
THE FINAL REGULAR SEASON AP TOP 25 VS. SPORTING NEWS
1. Clemson 13-0: Preseason #11
2. Alabama 12-1: Preseason #5
3. Michigan State 12-1: Preseason #8
4. Oklahoma 11-1: Preseason #20
5. Stanford 11-2: Preseason #24
6. Iowa 12-1: Preseason unranked
7. Ohio State 11-1: Preseason #1
8. Notre Dame 10-2: Preseason #10
9. Florida State 10-2: Preseason #9
10. North Carolina 11-2: Preseason unranked
11. TCU 10-2: Preseason #2
12. Northwestern 10-2: Preseason unranked
13. Oklahoma State 10-2: Preseason unranked
14. Houston 12-1: Preseason unranked
15. Oregon 9-3: Preseason #4
16. Ole Miss 9-3: Preseason #16
17. Michigan 9-3: Preseason unranked
18. Baylor 9-3: Preseason #7
19. FLORIDA 10-3: Preseason unranked
20. Utah 9-3: Preseason unranked
21. Navy 9-2: Preseason unranked
22. LSU 8-3: Preseason #14
23. Wisconsin 9-3: Preseason unranked
24. Temple 10-3: Preseason unranked
25. Western Kentucky 11-2: Preseason unranked
Sporting News Whiffs (Preseason prediction/final regular season record):
3. Auburn 6-6
6. Southern Cal 8-5
12. Georgia Tech 3-9
13. UCLA 8-4
15. Arkansas 7-5
17. Arizona 6-6
18. Georgia 9-3
19. Arizona State 7-5
21. Boise State 8-4
22. Tennessee 8-4
23. Missouri 5-7
25. Mississippi State 8-4
THE HEISMAN TROPHY
Two weeks ago, Derrick Henry seemed a lock to bring home the trophy. While he didn’t do anything that would eliminate him from winning in Alabama’s 29-15 win over Florida in the SEC Championship Game, his efforts weren’t nearly as spectacular as those of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson and Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in their conference championship games. Random samplings of potential voters indicates a 3-way split of a vote that could wind up one of the closest in the history of the Heisman Trophy.
While the rest of the football world was thinking Will Muschamp’s sideline demeanor in the Auburn game might prevent him from getting another HBC job, it didn’t deter South Carolina AD Ray Tanner. That might have something to do with the fact that as a baseball coach, Tanner had his share of tirades with umpires.
Former Southern Cal running backs coach Todd McNair sued the NCAA for defamation dating back to the Reggie Bush case and while a California appeals court and while the court didn’t necessarily agree with McNair 100%, it did take the NCAA to task. McNair was fired from USC when the school went on probation for rules violations regarding Bush, who won the 2005 Heisman Trophy. The court noted “the NCAA recklessly disregarded the truth when the COI (Committee on Infractions) deliberated decided not to correct the investigation’s errors or to acquire more information about what McNair knew concerning the rules violations.” This is just another black eye on the NCAA, which continues to lose lawsuits. Either the member schools of the NCAA need to totally overhaul the institution or else the schools with the financial wherewithal to secede need to do so and start their own organization with their own set of rules.
The Big 12 took a step toward improving its strength of schedule ratings by requiring every team to play at least one team from one of the Power 5 conferences.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you are a Heisman voter, how would you vote (in order) for Henry, Watson and McCaffrey?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
If you have never taken the time to listen to the late Miles Davis, then you’ve missed something very special. I get in these moods sometime when I can listen to him for hours on end. Today’s music is “Ballads and Blues” which is a 1996 release of music Miles recorded from 1950-58. I just close my eyes and absorb what I’m hearing.