Trip Thurman has seen quarterbacks come and go since he first arrived at the University of Florida. When he first arrived, Johnny Brantley was Florida’s QB and Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator. Backups were Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy, who all transferred out. The tight end was Jordan Reed, who played QB the year before Thurman arrived. Driskel led Louisiana Tech to a 9-4 record and a bowl win this year and Brissett quarterbacked North Carolina State to seven wins and a bowl game. Murphy, who is playing in the NFL as a wide receiver, transferred to Boston College where he led the Eagles to a bowl win in 2014. Some of the other quarterbacks who have come and gone are Skyler Mornhinweg, Max Staver and Will Grier.
Currently, Florida’s QB is Treon Harris, who probably won’t play QB next year. That job might very well go to Luke Del Rio, who started his career at Alabama and then transferred to Oregon State before landing at Florida, where he sat out the 2015 season.
Thurman, who has been here for a lot of attrition at the quarterback position probably speaks with a measure of authority about what he’s seen of Del Rio. Speaking after Florida’s practice for Friday’s Citrus Bowl game with Michigan, Thurman praised Del Rio, saying, “He knows defenses, he knows the offense, he was with (UF offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Doug) Nussmeier at Alabama. That’s a big key.”
Thurman sees a bright future for Del Rio, who several former UF players who were regulars at practice say was the best QB on the Florida team this past season.
Thurman said, “He has great chemistry on that scout team and he has great chemistry throughout the team, so I think he’s going to be a big part of this team next year.”
5 COACHES WHO SURPASSED EXPECATIONS IN 2015
1. Jim McElwain, Florida: This team won 10 games in the regular season. How? That’s a question we’ll have to ask someday when we stand before God and he asks us if we have one great mystery of life question we’d like to ask.
2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: During the offseason Fitzgerald had to sweat out a unionization vote by his players. That kind of offseason usually leads to a spot on Countdown to Firing Day’s Endangered Species List, but Fitz and his fighting nerds beat Stanford in game one and went on to win 10 games.
3. Larry Fedora, North Carolina: Gene Chizik must have spent the last three years learning exorcism because after three years away from coaching he became Fedora’s defensive coordinator and somehow cast out all the demons who were causing the Tar Heels to give up a bazillion yards and points per game last year. The hire of Chizik might go down as one of the two or three best assistant coach hires of all of 2014.
4. Mike Leach, Washington State: Buzzards were circling in Pullman after Wazzoo lost to D1AA Portland State in game one. Then the Pirate defied all odds and won nine games. Now, the folks of Wazzoo Nation will expect him to do this every year, which by all accounts is next to impossible. Pullman, Washington isn’t the end of the earth, but you see signs that read “Last chance for cold beer before you reach the end of the earth” within the city limits.
5. Willie Taggart, South Florida: He had one foot out the door and a moving van parked around the corner from his house in Tampa in early October.
Then he did the unthinkable and won seven of his last eight regular season games, which got him a contract extension and a nice raise.
5 COACHES WHO UNDER-ACHIEVED IN 2015
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State: Yes, the Buckeyes went 11-1 in the regular season and finished ranked 7th in the rankings, but so much more was expected since so much of the 2014 national championship team returned including three extraordinary quarterbacks. When your roster includes Braxton Miller (2-time Big Ten player of the year and 2-time top 10 Heisman finisher), J.T. Barrett (Big Ten offensive player of the year and 5th place Heisman finisher after taking over when Miller got hurt in the 2014 preseason) and Cardale Jones (took over when Barrett was injured and won the Big Ten championship game, CFB semifinal and CFB championship game) and your offense sputters all year, then you failed to meet expectations and you’re borderline under-achiever.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Everybody had Auburn in the top ten preseason and a lot of folks expected the Tigers to supplant Alabama at the top of the SEC West. It didn’t happen because (a) Malzahn’s offense runs like a moped with a bad engine without an elusive running QB and (b) defensive coordinator Will Muschamp couldn’t turn chicken poop defensive personnel into chicken salad.
3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: There was that one good moment – beating FSU – but the rest of the season was so forgettable that folks in Atlanta have a hard time remembering that Johnson led Georgia Tech to 11 wins in 2014. Tech was in everybody’s preseason top 15.
4. Charlie Strong, Texas: Nobody ever expected a second straight losing season. While much of the blame could be placed on underachieving assistants, who (a) didn’t recruit very well and (b) coached worse than they recruited, Strong is still the guy who hired those assistants. This is Texas. Texas should never have two straight losing seasons.
5. Bret Bielema, Arkansas: The Hogs were considered dark horse candidates to sneak up and win the SEC West after the way they closed out 2014 with back-to-back shutouts of ranked teams and a brutal beatdown of Texas in the bowl game. In September, the Hogs lost to Toledo and Texas Tech. Sure, Toledo won 10 games this year but SEC contenders should never lose to a team from the MAC and no decent team should ever lose to Kliffy Kingsbury and Texas Tech. And that was before three SEC losses.
MEADOWLARK’S FINEST HOUR
If you grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, then you knew Meadowlark Lemon as the clown prince of basketball, the face you associated with the Harlem Globetrotters. If you spent time in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina and got to know some of his friends and mentors such as the late, then you knew him as George, the guy who never forgot the lesson his coach, Spike Corbin, told him – good manners will take you places that money and good looks can’t ever get you. At the height of his career with the Globetrotters, the guy everyone knew as Meadowlark was one of the most recognizable faces in the entire world. He dined and shook hands with kings, queens, dictators and presidents.
In 1971, just days before the Globetrotters were to play at Brogden Hall on “Meadowlark Lemon Day,” the governor called out the national guard to try to bring peace to a city where racial tensions turned ugly. Sensing an opportunity to ease the tensions and bring the city back to normal, George Lemon showed up a couple of days before the Globetrotters were scheduled to play. He went on television and appealed for calm, then went to the streets and talked the people who were the angriest into sitting down with the city fathers and governor. Within a day, the riots ended and Wilmington was almost back to normal.
On his night of nights, with an overflow crowd of nearly 4,000 at Brogden Hall jammed to the rafters, Meadowlark put on one of the great shooting exhibitions anyone had ever seen. Famous for taking hook shots – and making them – from the corners, Meadowlark ventured out to halfcourt where he launched and hit his first shot. Encouraged by the first success, he tried another one on the Trotters’ next possession and like the first, it hit only net. Before he was finished he hit six halfcourt hook shots in a row.
As amazing as that shooting exhibition was, what had everyone talking was the fact that white people and black people sat side-by-side cheering for an all-black team led by someone who grew up on those same streets where people were looting and burning just 48 hours before. George “Meadowlark” Lemon brought peace to the city. No matter what else he did in his career, this was his finest hour.
When the game ended, George Lemon signed autographs for the longest time. When he signed the last one, he walked over to hug Spike Corbin. The embrace lasted what seemed like three or four minutes. When Meadowlark walked off, Spike Corbin, as tough a guy as I ever met, had tears running down his face.
He looked at me and said, “My boy is a man … a man’s man. I’ve never been so proud of one of my boys … ever.”
George “Meadowlark” Lemon died Monday and immediately checked in up in heaven where he found Spike Corbin waiting for him.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
Today’s attempt at predicting bowl game winners:
California 35, Air Force 28: This is the Lockeed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, not to be mistaken for the Military Bowl, which Navy won Tuesday in Annapolis. This game is played in Fort Worth on the TCU campus, not exactly a place you associate with armed forces. Cows being herded into the stockyards for slaughter? Yep. Armed forces? Nope. But the football game should be good.
North Carolina 47, Baylor 41: They could score 100 points and gain more than 1,000 yards in this game. North Carolina will get to celebrate an unexpected 12-win season when it’s over. Baylor will spend the offseason wondering what might have been if not for the injuries to its first two quarterbacks and stud runner Shock Linwood.
Colorado State 32, Nevada 27: Who is Nova Home Loans and why are they sponsoring a bowl game in Tucson between two teams from the same conference? This is the only bowl game without a national television contract. For good reason.
LSU 41, Texas Tech 24: Texas Tech gives up 271 yards per game rushing. Leonard Fournette might get that many yards in the first half alone. About the only way Texas Tech stops Fournette from setting a bowl record for rushing yardage is if they get an emergency rule change that allows them to stack the box with 14 players.
Former FSU assistant Eddie Gran is leaving Cincinnati to become the offensive coordinator at Kentucky. Gran’s offense at Cincinnati averaged 33.8 points and 537.8 yards per game.
With their 21-14 win over Central Michigan Tuesday, Minnesota became the third 5-7 team (San Jose State and Nebraska were the other two) to win their bowl game.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which coach in college football surpassed your expectations in 2015 and which coach would you consider to be the biggest under-achiever?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since the Gators are playing Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, the music the rest of this week will be by bands or groups from Michigan. Today’s selection is “The Essential Collection” of the Four Tops.