Currently, there are 76 football players on scholarship at the University of Florida and a senior class of 12. Fueled by a 10-win regular season and the promise that the resurrection of the Florida football dynasty is just beginning, Jim McElwain and his staff are sitting on a 25-man recruiting class that is currently ranked #1 nationally by Scout.com and they aren’t finished yet. From all indications, the class will grow by at least six – perhaps more – and could wind up as one of the more impressive recruiting hauls in Florida football history.
You don’t need an advanced degree in mathematics to figure out that the numbers don’t add up. If no one else joined the recruiting class and all 25 current commitments signed with the Gators, Florida would still be four over the NCAA-imposed 85-scholarship limit.
Four over is not a problem. The Gators figure to lose three or four to early entry in the NFL Draft. Vernon Hargreaves III has had one foot out the door since his freshman year and he’s almost a lock for a top 10 pick. There are rumblings that Kelvin Taylor and Marcus Maye will take the NFL plunge so that’s three. Does anyone really believe that given all his issues with authority over the past three years that Demarcus Robinson will return for his senior year or does he go pro? He certainly needs another year for development, but if he plays another year of college football it’s likely on someone else’s campus.
But what happens if Mac and staff add five more? Or seven? Or even eight? For that to happen there has to be some attrition, whether it’s transfers, medical hardships or disciplinary issues. Since Jim McElwain took over the UF program after last year’s Birmingham Bowl, the Gators have seen 10 players leave the program for reasons such as graduate transfer (Jeff Driskel to Louisiana Tech), medical hardship (Roderick Johnson), playing time issues (Adam Lane to Eastern Kentucky) or disciplinary reasons (Jay-nard Bostwick). So, the numbers tend to work themselves out.
Currently, 10 of Florida’s 2016 recruiting class plan to enroll in January so they can participate in spring practice. Six of them will count toward last season when McElwain signed only 19 in his first UF recruiting class. That would mean the Gators can still sign 25 players on National Signing Day and hit the 85 limit on the nose.
But nothing at this point is set in stone so for now, just do simple math and figure the Gators will sign 31 players, count six toward last year and 25 for the 2015 class.
THREE RECRUITING PREDICTIONS: Stud kicker Eddie Pineiro (6-1, 180, North Miami Beach, FL ASA College) decommitted from Alabama Monday night. Alabama won’t stop recruiting him, but the call here is that he will be a Gator, particularly since Alabama’s kicker, Adam Griffith, is just a junior and was one of the hottest kickers in the country down the stretch. Florida spells opportunity for Pineiro.
Quarterback Jacob Eason (6-6, 220, Lake Stevens, WA) has narrowed it down to Florida and Georgia. If he chooses Florida he will have to do battle with Luke Del Rio, Will Grier (when he comes back), Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. Georgia is the path of least resistance and wins the kewpie doll.
Linebacker David Reese (6-2, 230, Farmington, MI) had a great visit to Florida then visited Texas. It’s a Florida-Texas battle but the prediction here is the combination of great weather, a chance to step into Antonio Morrison’s shoes and getting coached up by Randy Shannon will seal the deal for the Gators.
AROUND THE SEC
ALABAMA: In maybe one of Nick Saban’s best recruiting jobs ever, he’s convinced strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran to come back for at least one more season in Tuscaloosa. One of the reasons, Cochran is sticking around has to do with the Alabama state retirement system. Next year will be his 10th at the university and that will make him fully vested in the state retirement system. Saban gave Cochran a raise to more than $500,000 per year. Alabama did lose one strength coach, however. Jeff Dillman has taken the job of strength and conditioning coordinator for Will Muschamp at South Carolina.
ARKANSAS: When O-line coach Sam Pittman made the lateral move to become Kirby Smart’s O-line coach at Georgia, there was plenty of emotion at Arkansas, so much so that head coach Bret Bielema took members of the Arkansas line to Pittman’s doorstep Saturday night. “This one (move) took place within the conference and I just wanted Sam to address the linemen as to why this was happening,” Bielema said. Two available offensive line coaches who will probably be in the mix to replace Pittman are Rob Sale, formerly of Georgia, and Joe Wickline, formerly of Texas.
AUBURN: Perceptions carry a lot of weight and perceptions around the Auburn program – particularly when the conversation moves to defensive coordinators – is rather negative. Will Muschamp left to become HBC at South Carolina and nobody would fault him for taking the job but even before he was targeted by Ray Tanner to take over for Steve Spurrier, there were rumblings that Muschamp and Gus Malzahn did not get along. Just when it seemed that former Auburn DB Charles Kelly was poised to leave FSU for Auburn, complete with a hefty pay raise, Kelly abruptly chose to stay put in Tallahassee. Immediately, there were whispers that Kelly doesn’t like Malzahn’s hurry-up style of offense which he thinks puts the defense at a disadvantage. Auburn has had four defensive coordinators in the last five years.
FLORIDA: One day after making first team Associated Press All-America, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was named to the first team by the Football Writers Association of America.
GEORGIA: With the transfer of Faton Bauta, the potential transfer of Brice Ramsey and the decommitment of QB Bailey Hockman, new head coach Kirby Smart could be looking at some serious issues at the position if he doesn’t land Jacob Eason. Probably the only way Ramsey stays is if Eason chooses Florida and that might be the only way Smart can convinced Hockman to reconsider. Consider this possibility: Ramsey could transfer, Eason could choose Florida and Hockman could land at another SEC school, leaving Georgia with one scholarship QB for 2016 – Greyson Lambert.
KENTUCKY: With three straight losing seasons and two straight late season collapses under his belt, Mark Stoops faces a win or else 2016. Two areas that will have be addressed are pass rush and turnovers. Kentucky sacked the QB only 17 times in 2015 and committed 22 turnovers (6 fumbles, 16 interceptions). The sack total was down 10 from 2014 and there were 7 more turnovers as well.
LSU: LSU has issues and the big question is what is Les Miles going to do about it? There are quarterbacks to be had who can play immediately such as Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, Kentucky’s Patrick Towles or Louisville’s Will Gardner. Each of them would be a step up from current starter Brandon Harris and his backup Anthony Jennings, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is still gainfully employed and is under contract until March so nobody knows what is going to happen there. This is not a good situation and it seems that Miles is in no hurry to address the issues.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Dan Mullen believes he has capable quarterbacks to replace Dak Prescott in Damian Williams, who took a redshirt in 2015 so he can have a shot at starting two years, Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Stanley. The problem isn’t who takes the snaps, it’s who runs the football. Production at tailback took a nosedive when Josh Robinson left early for the NFL after the 2014 season. Four guys shared the position in 2015, combining for 874 yards, a dropoff of 400 yards from Robinson in 2014. Of the players on hand, true freshman Malik Dear (11-110, 1TD) and redshirt Nick Gibson hold the most promise.
MISSOURI: It seems doubtful that D-line coach Craig Kuligowski will be with the Missouri program next year. Kuligowski wasn’t the least bit happy when he was bypassed for Barry Odom for the Mizzou DC job and people who cover the team believe Kuligowski is even less happy now that Odom has been promoted to HBC. And speaking of Odom, he has only named three members of his new staff and has yet to name an offensive or defensive coordinator.
OLE MISS: Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has been charged with marijuana possession after an incident at an Atlanta hotel Saturday night in which Nkemdiche busted through a hotel window, climbed over a wall and then fell approximately 15 feet to the ground. Nkemdiche went to a nearby hospital and required stitches in his legs and back. This raises two important questions: (1) Will Nkemdiche be eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma State and (2) how will this affect his draft status? Nkemdiche has been widely viewed as a top 10 prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft.
SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina got in one recruiting weekend for new coach Will Muschamp before the dead period began at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Chief focus during the weekend was assuring commitments Brandon McIwain and C.J. Freeman. McIwain could be the Gamecocks’ quarterback of the future, but he could also go high in the Major League Baseball Draft and that could affect whether or not he enrolls in January. Freeman is a running back from Greensboro, NC, who, while committed to South Carolina, is having a scholarship papers signing ceremony tonight. Freeman says there will be ball caps from South Carolina, Wisconsin, Louisville and Georgia Southern on the table.
TENNESSEE: An 8-4 season earned Butch Jones a $500,000 a year raise to $4.1 million. While Jones is probably ecstatic about the raise in pay, he can’t be too happy after a week in which three commitments for the 2016 recruiting class backed out and top defensive end targets Jordan Bonner of Northeast Oklahoma A&M (juco) and Jordan Smith of Lithonia, Georgia committed elsewhere. Bonner is heading to Kentucky while Smith, a rangy 6-6, 220-pounder with elite pass rushing skills will be a Gator.
TEXAS A&M: With Kyle Allen transferring out and Kyler Murray reportedly unhappy and also considering a transfer, the Aggies are expected to make a big play to land Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight. Knight will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. He’s from San Antonio so College Station would be a logical landing space.
VANDERBILT: This ranks with the top shockers of the weekend: 4-star cornerback JoeJuan Williams (6-3, 194, Hendersonville, TN) committed to Vanderbilt over LSU. You can probably count on two or fewer fingers how many times in your lifetime no matter how short or how long that an elite kid has chosen Vandy over LSU.
ASSOCIATED PRESS ALL-SEC
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss; Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
OL: Cam Robinson, Alabama; Vadal Alexander, LSU; John Theus, Georgia; Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
C: Ryan Kelly, Alabama
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
QB: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama; Leonard Fournette, LSU
PK: Daniel Carlson, Auburn
All-Purpose: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
DL: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M; JONATHAN BULLARD, FLORIDA; Jonathan Allen, Alabama; A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
LB: Reggie Ragland, Alabama; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
CB: VERNON HARGREAVES III, FLORIDA; JALEN TABOR, FLORIDA
S: Eddie Jackson, Alabama; Dominick Sanders, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
WR: Fred Ross, Mississippi State; (Tie) Drew Morgan, Arkansas and Calvin Ridley, Alabama
OL: Dan Skipper, Arkansas; Kyler Kerbyson, Tennessee; Braden Smith, Auburn; Dylan Wiesman, Tennessee
C: Brandon Kublanow, Georgia
TE: JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA
QB: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
RB: Alex Collins, Arkansas; Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
PK: Taylor Bertolet, Texas A&M
All-Purpose (Tie): Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina and Evan Berry, Tennessee
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss; Jarran Reed, Alabama; (Tie) Cory Johnson, Kentucky, Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss and Charles Harris, Missouri
LB: ANTONIO MORRISON, FLORIDA; Skai Moore, South Carolina; Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee
CB: Tre’Davious White, LSU; Mike Hilton, Ole Miss
S: Trae Elston, Ole Miss; Jamal Adams, LSU
P: JOHNNY TOWNSEND, FLORIDA
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF
Ben Simmons of LSU is living up to all the hype. He’s averaging 19 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists per game while shooting better than 50%. Despite Simmons’ obvious greatness, LSU is struggling at 4-4. There isn’t another inside presence other than Simmons, freshman Antonio Blakeney has yet to meet a shot he didn’t like or wouldn’t take and Tim Quarterman, while an outstanding offensive talent is a matador on defense.
Kentucky is 9-1 but the Wildcats aren’t nearly as good as last year and one of the reasons is in the middle where Skal Labissiere has scored 18 points and grabbed only 7 rebounds in the last four games combined. Unless he improves dramatically, Labissiere’s draft stock is going to sink like a rock.
South Carolina is the SEC’s only unbeaten team and ranked #25 in the coaches poll. The Gamecocks have five players scoring in double figures.
Vanderbilt is 6-3. You only have to look at the rebounding column in the box scores to figure out why. The Commodores have fine shooters, but when they lose the rebounding battle they probably will lose the game.
Stefan Moody is a big reason why Ole Miss is off to a 7-2 start. He’s averaging 23.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
Among Alabama’s four straight wins is a 1-point win over #17 Notre Dame in Tuscaloosa.
RETURN TO PUBLIX
Jameis Winston visited a Tampa Publix Sunday. He paused for a photo that made ripples throughout the Twitterverse. Instead of shoplifting, Jameis actually purchased crab legs.
I don’t have to make this stuff up.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has denied Pete Rose’s appeal to be reinstated to the game, which would allow him to be voted into the Hall of Fame. Perhaps Pete might have tried showing some remorse long ago.
Willie Fritz is leaving Georgia Southern to take over the downtrodden Tulane program. Georgia Southern is expected to hire John Grass of Jacksonville State, who is 21-3 in two seasons and has the Gamecocks playing in the Division IAA semifinals.
A Missouri legislator is proposing a bill that would strip student-athletes of their scholarships if they go on strike. The bill would also impose fines on coaches who encourage or enable athletes to go on strike. This is a tough call. On one hand, athletes get a scholarship and other money to perform so if they go on strike they damage the people providing the scholarship and spending cash. On the other hand, there is that tiny matter of free speech.
East Carolina hired Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery as its new head coach. I still haven’t figured out why ECU fired Ruffin McNeal.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What impresses you most with the way Jim McElwain and his staff go about the recruiting process?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I became a big fan the first time I saw Robert Cray perform live with the Memphis Horns backing him at SunFest back in the early 1990s. After that one-hour concert, I bought the “Strong Persuader” CD and I’ve been listening ever since. His 2014 CD “In My Soul” is truly outstanding. Today’s music is the “Strong Persuader” album.