Stuart McNair

How will Bama fare against dual threat quarterback?

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning...

Apparently, former Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby will be transferring to Florida for his senior season. A 6-5, 229-pounder from North Canton, Ohio, whose career numbers are 2,777 passing yards for 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, Appleby will have one season of eligibility remaining.

There was speculation that either Davis Webb (Texas Tech) or Will Gardner (Louisville) would join the Gators, but Webb won’t graduate until May and Gardner has missed most of three seasons with injuries. Rated 3 stars out of Hoover High School, Appleby was selected to participate in the Elite 11 competition in the summer of 2011 where he showed a very strong but erratic arm as far as accuracy.

It is difficult to gauge Appleby’s skills or potential. He played for Purdue teams that went 6-30 (1-11 in 2013, 3-9) and there wasn’t much in the way of pass protection as the Boilermaker offensive line gave up 92 sacks during those three years. If you look at the Purdue receiving stats the last three years, it would also seem there wasn’t much in the way of speed – Purdue’s 11.02 per pass reception in 2013 was the best mark of the last three years. So, it’s possible that Appleby is a talented QB who has been surrounded by below average talent, hence the underwhelming numbers.

There is also the possibility that Appleby won’t be the only graduate transfer QB. Since Davis Webb doesn’t graduate until May there is always the possibility that he could still transfer to UF. Having Appleby on campus would assure the Gators an experienced QB to challenge Treon Harris, Luke Del Rio and the two incoming freshmen (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask) in spring practice and provide insurance if Webb had problems picking up the offense quickly if he did make it to Gainesville.

And here’s one more scenario: Perhaps Appleby is being brought in to provide insurance for Luke Del Rio. I heard from four different former UF players during the fall that Del Rio was the best quarterback on the roster and that was even when Will Grier was looking like a future NFL QB. If that’s true, then he could very well take the #1 job and run with it in the spring and Appleby could give the Gators an experienced backup who has size and a strong arm.

So, best advice is to wait patiently and see what Appleby does in the spring. Maybe Appleby is the diamond in the rough who simply needs to be surrounded by good players to bring out his potential. Or, once again, perhaps he’s being brought in as that experienced insurance policy to back up Del Rio. We won’t know until we see him live in March.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RATINGS

Whoever made the decision to put the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve needs to be reassigned to the mailroom. The TV ratings were down 36% from last year. In real numbers, 28 million people watched the semifinals last season. This year, only 18.5 million.

While it didn’t help that both the Clemson-Oklahoma and Alabama-Michigan State games were blowouts, it didn’t help matters that New Year’s Day was filled with games that have no bearing on the national championship.

CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock insists there will be no changes next year, which means the semifinals again on New Year’s Eve.

Let’s see what Hancock has to say if advertisers complain long and hard. They pay through the nose for time during the semifinals and finals and if they don’t perceive they’re getting their money’s worth, they’ll pull back the dollars.

But remember, this is ALL about the student-athlete and has nothing to do with money. Yeah, right.

ALABAMA VS. DUAL THREAT QUARTERBACKS

A year ago, Alabama struggled against dual threat quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson of Clemson who the Crimson Tide will face in the national championship game. Watson has put up spectacular numbers this year – 3,968 passing yards for 31 touchdowns and 1,032 rushing yards for 12 more TDs – causing Alabama coach Nick Saban to state, “Tremendous dual-threat (ability) in terms of being a very good passer and rushing for over 1,000 yards this year. Really is a very good rhythm passer as well as a guy who can sustain plays and extend plays because of his athleticism and ability to scramble. Really as fine a dual-threat quarterback as we’ve played against for long, long time.”

During the offseason Saban made it a point to change Bama’s approach to dual threat quarterbacks and it showed the way the Tide defended against the two most athletic quarterbacks on the schedule. Compare the numbers for Josh Dobbs and Dak Prescott from 2014 to 2015.

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee: Dobbs was 13-21 passing for 171 yards and 1 TD in Tennessee’s 19-14 loss to Alabama. He carried 16 times for 19 yards. In 2014, Dobbs threw for 192 yards and 2 TDs and ran 19 times for 75 yards against the Bama defense.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: It was a rough day for Prescott who hit 22-43 passes for 300 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception in Mississippi State’s 31-6 loss to Alabama. It was even rougher on the ground where Prescott managed only 14 yards on 26 carries. In 2014, Prescott threw for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns while running for 82 yards on 22 carries.

SEC BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

1. #9 Kentucky (11-2, 1-0 SEC, #7 RPI): This Kentucky team isn’t nearly as good as any of the previous five, but the Wildcats still have the most talent in the league. Kentucky has four wins over top 100 RPI teams including Duke and Louisville. Skai Labissiere has scored a grand total of 31 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in the last seven games.

2. #21 Texas A&M (11-2, 1-0 SEC, #19 RPI): The Aggies lead the SEC in scoring margin, beating opponents by an average of 16 per game. They opened the SEC portion of their schedule with a 23-point blowout of Arkansas. The Aggies have four wins over top 100 RPI teams.

3. #22 South Carolina (13-0, 0-0 SEC, #34 RPI): At some point you expect the Gamecocks to come back down to earth. They’re unbeaten but their strength of schedule ranks #242 nationally. But, their last two wins (over St. John’s and Memphis) have been impressive. All five starters average double figures.

4. Alabama (9-3, 0-0 SEC; #52 RPI): Alabama ranks dead last in the SEC in scoring per game (66.4) and scoring margin (+1.5) but the Crimson Tide keeps winning the close games. Quality wins over Wichita State and Notre Dame will go a long way toward getting the Tide in the NCAA Tournament if they get to 20-22 wins in the regular season.

5. FLORIDA (9-4, 1-0 SEC; #18 RPI): Have the Gators suddenly found their shooting touch? They hit 9 3-pointers and hit 40.9% from the arc against Georgia, which is a good sign. Florida’s 9-4 record is impressive considering the strength of schedule rates #4 nationally. The Gators lead the SEC in scoring defense (62 per game) while holding opponents to 37.5% from the field and 32.1% from the 3-point line. The Gators have three wins over top 100 RPI teams.

6. LSU (8-5, 1-0 SEC, #164 RPI): Now that Arizona transfer Craig Victor is eligible, the Tigers have an inside player who can take the pressure off Ben Simmons. Simmons, meanwhile, is the best freshman in the country. He’s third in the league in scoring (20.5), first in rebounding (13.1) and is fourth in assists (5.4). See him while you can. He will be the first player taken in the NBA Draft in June. The Tigers have bad losses to Marquette and Houston.

7. Vanderbilt (8-5, 0-1 SEC; #74 RPI): The Commodores have lost four of their last six games. The Commodores have plenty of shooters (average 40.5% from the 3-point line as a team) but only one inside player in Damian Jones, who can’t get it done by himself. There isn’t a signature win on the pre-SEC portion of the schedule.

8. Auburn (7-5, 1-0 SEC; #75 RPI): The Tigers have no problems putting points on the board (79.6) but they can’t stop anybody either (allowing an SEC worst 77.8). The Tigers will have to get it done in the SEC portion of the schedule because there is only one win (Mercer) over a top 100 RPI team. Marshall transfer Kareem Canty (19.3 points per) can light it up from the outside (41.2% and 3.9 3-pointers per game).

9. Georgia (7-4, 0-1 SEC, #57 RPI): There is no help on the inside for sophomore Yante Maten (16.6 points, 7.5 rebounds) and if J.J. Frazier gets pushed off the 3-point line, the Bulldogs don’t have a consistent shooter to stretch defenses. The Bulldogs will have to get it done on defense. 

10. Ole Miss (10-3, 0-1 SEC; #56 RPI): Kentucky exposed the Rebels lack of size and depth. Stefan Moody (23.7 per game) has to make shots and Sebastian Saiz (11.7 points, 9.8 rebounds) has to stay out of foul trouble for Ole Miss to break even in the SEC.

11. Tennessee (7-6, 0-1 SEC, #103 RPI): The Vols try to make every game a track meet. With their lack of size, it’s the only way they can compete. Juco transfer Kevin Punter (22.8 per game) and undersized power forward Armani Moore (6-4, 217; 13.9 points/8.2 rebounds) can’t have bad games if the Vols are going to have a chance to win.

12. Arkansas (6-7, 0-1 SEC, #134 RPI): The Razorbacks can score but they can’t defend anyone. They lead the SEC in scoring (84.2) and are next to last (77.8) in scoring defense. Moses Kingsley (16.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.7 blocks per game) is the entire inside game. Anthlon Bell (16.1 points) and Dusty Hannahs (15.8) can bomb away from the outside but they’re both defensive liabilities.

13. Missouri (7-6, 0-0 SEC, #131 RPI): It’s going to take another couple of years for Missouri to recover from the Frank Haith disaster.  The Tigers lack size, they can’t shoot and they turn the ball over entirely too much.

14. Mississippi State (7-5, 0-0 SEC, #204 RPI): The Bulldogs are barely break even against one of the worst schedules (#256 strength of schedule) in the country among power 5 conference schools. The schedule includes losses to Southern University and Missouri-Kansas City.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

If you caught North Carolina’s 106-90 win over Florida State Monday night, then you saw Brice Johnson go off for 39 points, 23 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots, the single best individual performance ever by an opponent against a Leonard Hamilton-coached team. Johnson has grown from a rail-thin 6-9, 185 to a 235-pound beast who can score, rebound and block shots. He was ever so close to signing with Florida before North Carolina turned him about two weeks prior to the early signing period in 2011. Johnson’s parents loved Billy Donovan and Florida but his AAU coach had the most influence and sent him to Chapel Hill. Put Johnson on Florida’s 2014 team and the Gators win the national championship.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Doris Burke is right there with Hubie Brown and Jay Bilas when it comes to the best analysis of a basketball game. She knows when to talk, when to shut up and her breakdown of what’s going on in the game is incredibly insightful and accurate. I give her a lot of credit for working her way up the ladder by taking the games nobody else wanted early in her career to the point now that she gets plum assignments in both the college game and NBA.

Former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight will transfer to Texas A&M where he will have one year of eligibility remaining.

Supposedly, Chuck Pagano was on his way out as coach of the Indianapolis Colts. At least that’s what we heard for the last three weeks. Apparently the Colts don’t believe everything they hear in the media. They are extending Pagano’s contract. So much for the Nick Saban to Indianapolis speculation.

Chip Kelly’s people have reached out to the San Francisco 49ers per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This actually might be a good situation for Kelly because he would finally have a quarterback capable of doing the things he wants to do in Colin Kapernick, who was relegated to the bench midway through the season. Kapernick is at his best in an offense where he can get out on the edge and have the option to run or throw, which is what works best with Kelly’s offense.

Speaking of the San Francisco 49ers, do you think their ownership is filled with hard hitting dummies? They fired Jim Harbaugh who was 44-19-1 in four years and took the team to the Super Bowl and twice to the NFC championship game and replaced him with Jim Tomsula, who they fired after one season. Tomsula will cry all the way to the bank. Getting fired was worth a $10.5 million severance check.

Tom Coughlin has resigned as the head coach of the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls. The dumbest thing the Jacksonville Jaguars ever did was to fire Coughlin in 2002. They haven’t been the same since.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Two-part question: (1) Did the College Football Playoff people screw up by putting the semifinal games on New Year’s Eve? (2) Did New Year’s football seem less interesting since the most important games had already been played?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Driving back from an acupuncture appointment today I heard “Back on the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders and haven’t gotten it out of my head since. So todays’ music is this nice compilation of their best songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deB71e_X7rs

 


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