Back in September, standing in the parking lot at the Gainesville Golf and Country Club following a meeting of the Gainesville Quarterback Club, Travis McGriff surprised me with this statement: “The best quarterback on Florida’s roster is Luke Del Rio. He’s been the best since practice began in August and if he were eligible, he would start this week (vs. New Mexico State) and every single game after that.”
A former Gator All-American, McGriff sees quarterbacks through the eyes of a wide receiver. From his days at Florida and the NFL, McGriff knows what it takes to beat coverage and get open and he has real appreciation for a quarterback who can deliver the ball on time and on target. In discussing Del Rio, McGriff made two points very clear – (1) he sees the whole field and makes the right reads and (2) the ball gets to the receiver accurately and on time.
Contrast that to the last seven football games.
During the fall months, I had occasion to talk to three other former players who had opportunities to view practices that were closed to the general public. Their assessment of Del Rio was almost chapter and verse the same as Travis McGriff and this was BEFORE Will Grier was suspended. They were in complete agreement that Florida’s best quarterback – Grier included – was Luke Del Rio.
Now, we won’t know until the spring and perhaps even next fall if Del Rio is game ready. He hasn’t played in a college game against live competition since October 24, 2014 when he completed 4-8 passes for 87 yards in Oregon State’s 38-14 loss to Stanford, but he’s had a full season of practices and time in the film room to learn what Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier want to do. We won’t know if he’s game ready until September of 2016, but if what regular practice observers say holds true, then he will be an improvement over the quarterback play the last seven games of 2015.
FROM MIKE HUGENIN OF GRIDIRONNOW.COM
Hugenin is widely regarded as one of the college football media’s most reliable experts. Here is what he says regarding Will Grier’s decision to transfer from Florida:
“If Grier transfers to another FBS school, he must sit out the entire ’16 season, then serve a six-game suspension in 2017 as a junior. In that scenario, Grier will have played six games in three-and-a-half seasons: He redshirted as a true freshman in 2014, played six games in ’15 and will have missed all of ’16.”
JU COULD BE A GET WELL GAME
There’s nothing like a game against a seriously mismatched opponent when you’ve got guys who couldn’t throw it in the ocean when they’re standing on the end of the pier. Jacksonville University comes to the O-Dome tonight and it’s a chance for some of Florida’s slumping shooters to regain some confidence. Florida (7-3) is coming off a quality win over Oklahoma State last Saturday night, a game won because the Gators’ tough defense converted 14 Okie State turnovers into 21 points. Florida’s defense should overwhelm JU tonight and there should be an abundance of open looks on the offensive end. Sometimes it only takes knocking down a few shots to get confidence and a rhythm back. This could be a get well game at just the right moment since FSU is next on the schedule followed by the SEC grind.
AMANDA’S GATORS ARE ON A ROLL
Since opening the season with a loss to Temple, Amanda Butler’s Gators have been bulldozing anything and everyone that gets in their way. Monday afternoon, the Gators won their 11th straight game and took home the championship trophy of the Gator Holiday Classic by knocking off North Carolina State, 79-72. From a personnel standpoint, this is almost the exact same team that went 13-17 last year. The difference-maker is freshman guard Eleanna Christinaki, a do-it-all type who figures out what the team needs most each night and then gets the job done. Against NC State, she was a scorer, leading the Gators with 18 points while hitting 6-9 from the field overall, 1-1 from the 3-point line and 5-5 from the foul line. This is a fun team to watch. They scramble all over the floor defensively, force tons of turnovers which they convert into points and they light up the scoreboard – 86.92 points per game. The Gators have one more non-conference game against UCF December 30 and then the SEC grind begins.
GATOR BASEBALL WILL START THE SEASON #1
The Gators won’t open the 2016 season until February 19, so they’ll have plenty of time to sit on top of the college baseball rankings. Collegiate Baseball came out with its preseason poll Monday with the Gators at #1, one of four teams from the SEC in the top 10.
5. Texas A&M
8. Oregon State
The rest of the top 25: 11. Mississippi State; 12. Cal State-Fullerton; 13. California; 14. Oregon; 15. TCU; 16. Florida State; 17. Missouri State; 18. Houston; 19. Tulane; 20. Rice; 21. Georgia Tech; 22. North Carolina; 23. Michigan; 24. Arkansas; 25. Oklahoma State
BROCK HUARD ON THE SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
The former quarterback turned ESPN analyst unloaded on College Football Live about how the growing sense of entitlement in college football has led to the growing number of transfers:
“Players, we’ve always been selfish. You had selfish teammates. We were all selfish, but the level of entitlement today, though, is off the charts. … This isn’t just a one-time occasion. It’s multiple players looking out always and constantly for their self-interests ahead of any culture or any team.”
SEC FOOTBALL ATTENDANCE
National rank in parenthesis
1. Texas A&M 103,622 (3)
2. Alabama 101,112 (4)
3. Tennessee 100,584 (5)
4. LSU 93,441 (7)
5. Georgia 92,746 (8)
6. FLORIDA 90,065 (9)
7. Auburn 87,451 (12)
8. South Carolina 78,822 (16)
9. Arkansas 67,326 (21)
10. Missouri 65,120 (23)
11. Mississippi State 61,784 (26)
12. Kentucky 61,295 (27)
13. Ole Miss 60,479 (29)
14. Vanderbilt 32,134 (66)
Other schools of interest: Florida State 73,219 (20); Miami 47,561 (49); UCF 30,065 (71); USF (78)
RICKY WILLIAMS SAID THIS ABOUT KEVIN SUMLIN
The former Heisman Trophy winner who is working now as a college football analyst spoke out about Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who has seen three highly regarded QBs transfer out in the last two years, including two last week, made these comments on ESPN:
“He’s got to win now. When you draw all this negative attention to yourself and get all of us talking about it, the spotlight is on. He’s going to have to have his best coaching job of his career to keep things together and move forward.”
SEC BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS
National RPI in parenthesis
1. Kentucky 9-2 (22): That win over Duke seems like such a long time ago. Since then Kentucky seems to be sliding slowly downhill. Tyler Ulis looks very ordinary at the point and Skal Labissiere is looking like a lost ball in the tall weeds. This team has a long, long way to go.
2. Texas A&M 9-2 (10): The Aggies showed what they’re capable of doing by blowing the doors off Baylor Saturday.
3. South Carolina 10-0 (38): Frank Martin has five starters scoring in double figures and the team is shooting 39.9% from the 3-point line. That’s against a national strength of schedule that’s rated #285. Things get infinitely tougher in the next 2-3 weeks.
4. Alabama 7-2 (20): The only two losses are to the #1 (Xavier) and #8 (Dayton) RPI teams. Avery Johnson’s faster offensive pace suits this roster fine but there are concerns about what happens when games slow down and opponents pound the ball inside.
5. Vanderbilt 7-3 (40): It’s critical for Vandy to find another inside player to complement Damian Jones. The Commodores have plenty of shooters and Jones is outstanding, but if there’s no inside help, they’re vulnerable.
6. FLORIDA 7-3 (3): The Gators are as good as any team in the SEC on defense. If they ever figure out a way to shoot 3-balls and free throws they’ll be a nightmare to play.
7. Ole Miss 9-2 (61): The Rebels got a quality win over Memphis on the road last Friday. Sebastian Saiz (11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds) is emerging as an inside presence that takes the heat off Stefan Moody (23.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists per game).
8. LSU 6-4 (138): Getting Keith Hornsby back from injury takes pressure off Ben Simmons, who is the best player in the league. These guys don’t play a lick of defense.
9. Georgia 5-3 (28): All three losses are to teams with a top 50 RPI teams. Mark Fox might have found his fifth starter in junior Houston Kessler, who had 6 points, 8 rebounds and played quality defense in the win over Georgia Tech.
10. Auburn 5-3 (45): You want points? Bruce Pearl has a team that can light it up. The only time the Tigers have been held to fewer than 75 points was a loss to Xavier, the #1 RPI team in the country. Marshall transfer Kareem Canty is averaging 20 points a game while Providence transfer Tayler Harris is averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.
11. Arkansas 5-5 (143): The Hogs have the most improved player in the league in Moses Kingsley (15.5 points, 10.3 rebounds per game) but the guard play has been exposed against every decent team they’ve played so far.
12. Tennessee 5-5 (121): Four of the five losses are to teams that are top 100 RPI. Unfortunately, there isn’t a win over a team with a better RPI than #141 (UNC-Asheville).
13. Missouri 5-5 (102): The Tigers have lost by 12 or more points to every decent team on the schedule.
14. Mississippi State 5-5 (167): The Ben Howland era is off to a less than rousing start. The Bulldogs have losses to bottom feeders Southern U and Missouri-Kansas City.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
So far: 5-1
Today’s attempt at predicting winners:
Shirley Temple 33, Holy Toledo 21: Shirley Temple and Holy Toledo are probably good enough that they should have landed in a bowl game played after Christmas in a big stadium. Instead, they are playing in something called the Boca Raton Bowl at FAU’s 30,000-seat on campus stadium that has all the ambience of a shopping trip to Dollar General. Shirley Temple will win this one because it kept its coach and staff intact while Holy Toledo lost its coach to Iowa State (yes, I asked the same question … why?) and most of its staff. Chalk up a win for stability.
Utah State 24, Akron 20: This is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. I never met a famous potato in my life although the last one I consumed at Charley’s on SOBT in Orlando was so good it could have one day been famous if only I hadn’t eaten all the evidence. When the season began Utah State probably envisioned itself bowling in some resort location. Instead it gets to go to Boise. As for Akron … well have you ever been to Akron? If you have then you know that any place – even Boise – is a resort by comparison. Little Terry Bowden is just thrilled to be at any bowl game anywhere but he’ll lose this one to Utah State.
Back in October, Willie Taggart had one foot out the USF door. Then the Bulls got hot and made it to a bowl game, so now he has a contract extension through 2020 that raises his pay to an average of $1.8 million a year.
There are reports that Texas has no interest in former Texas A&M QB Kyler Murray. The place he fits best is Houston, whose QB Gary Ward Jr. will be a senior next year. Murray and Ward have similar size and skills.
Georgia State has purchased Turner Field. The Atlanta Braves will play there one more season and then hand the keys to Georgia State, which plans to convert it into a football stadium and develop much of the surrounding property (67 acres in all) into more student housing and retail space.
File this under tell us how you really feel: Utah punter Tom Hackett, who won the Ray Guy Award, said after the Utes knocked off BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, “I’m lucky enough to be one of the many players on the football team that has never lost to these bastards. Which leads me to end and say, this is Utah’s world and BYU is living in it.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What impresses you most with the way Jim McElwain has handled the transfer of Will Grier, the suspension of Alex McCalister and team discipline throughout the past year?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Ethan Tucker is a recent musical discovery that I believe has the potential to be a breakout star in the next year or so. From Washington state, Tucker has a style that shows his reggae, soul, blues and rock influences. Today’s music is his latest CD “Misunderstood.”