Jim McElwain hit the jackpot on the recruiting trail once again when he landed a commitment from stud defensive tackle Shavar Manuel (6-4, 290, Tampa, FL/Bradenton, FL IMG Academy), rated 5 stars and the #10 rated player in the Scout.com 300. Manuel is a pass rushing terror (more than 50 sacks in his high school career) has the ability to split a double team and power his way to the quarterback. With All-American DT Jonathan Bullard graduating and taking his game to the NFL, Manuel will have a real shot at serious playing time as a freshman on what should be an outstanding Florida defense.
Landing Manuel is just the latest big haul for McElwain, who appears to be following in the Florida tradition of big time second year recruiting classes for head coaches dating all the way back to Charley Pell in 1980. Currently, Scout.com has Florida’s 2016 class and the Gators’ hold on the top spot could grow tighter as McElwain is in good position to land several other 4 and 5-star commitments.
Jeremi Powell announced he will forego his fifth year of football Tuesday, which leaves the Gators one over the 85 scholarship limit (61 on scholarship, 12 early enrollees, 13 other commits). If it is a typical year, the Gators will lose 4-6 to transfer or grades and perhaps 2-3 more who will take a medical hardship or leave because of discipline issues. McElwain said in Orlando that he figures the signing class will be 28-30.
SEC QUARTERBACK SITUATIONS JANUARY 5
Gone: Jacob Coker (as of next Tuesday morning)
Returning: Alec Morris (6-3, 233, RSR); Cooper Bateman (6-3, 220, RJR); David Cornwell (6-5, 221, RSO); Blake Barnett (6-5, 200, RFR)
Committed: Jalen Hurts (6-2, 208)
Looking ahead: Bateman actually started a game but once Coker asserted himself, it was all over. Bateman and Morris will go into the spring as the #1 and #2, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Barnett finishes the spring either as the starter or #2. Hurts, the dual threat quarterback of the future, has enrolled early. It’s really crowded. Figure someone is going to transfer.
Gone: Brandon Allen
Returning: Austin Allen (6-1, 210, JR); Rafe Peavy (6-2, 203, RSO); Ty Storey (6-3, 211, RFR); Ricky Town (6-3, 200, RFR)
Committed: Cole Kelly (6-7, 235)
Looking ahead: Allen has been the backup the last two seasons and it’s his job to lose but Peavy, Storey and Town all have bigger arms. Another crowded situation where you figure someone will transfer after spring practice.
Returning: Jeremy Johnson (6-5, 240, SR); Sean White (6-0, 200, RSO); Tyler Queen (6-1, 241, RFR)
Committed: Woody Barrett (6-3, 220); John Franklin (6-1, 185, JUCO)
Looking ahead: Johnson and White have the big arms, but neither is much of a runner and the Gus Malzahn offense doesn’t work all that well without a real dual threat QB. Johnson and White will be given every chance to earn the #1 job in the spring, but the one to watch is juco transfer John Franklin, an outstanding runner. Barrett is a fine runner but probably will take a redshirt.
Gone: Will Grier (transfer)
Returning: Treon Harris (5-11, 195, JR); Luke Del Rio (6-1, 216, RJR)
Committed: Kyle Trask (6-6, 211); Feleipe Franks (6-6, 220); Austin Appleby (6-5, 219, RSR/Transfer from Purdue)
Assessment: The Gators will have five quarterbacks to work with in the spring as both Trask and Franks are early enrollees and Appleby has already transferred in from Purdue. Harris is the incumbent but it would be almost shocking if he’s the #1 when spring practice ends. It’s Del Rio’s job for the taking but don’t count out Appleby, a former Elite 11 finalist, or either of the freshmen. Figure at least one of the freshmen will redshirt.
Gone: Faton Bauta (transferred to Colorado State)
Returning: Greyson Lambert (6-5, 220, RSR), Brice Ramsey (6-3, 213, RJR)
Committed: Jacob Eason (6-6, 217)
Looking ahead: There is a new coach and a new offensive coordinator. Greyson Lambert is the incumbent but does anyone really think Jacob Eason enrolled early to sit on the bench? No one should be surprised if Brice Ramsey elects to transfer. Georgia probably is looking for another quarterback for this signing class, either a freshman or a juco transfer.
Gone: Patrick Towles (transferred to Boston College); Reese Phillips (transferred)
Returning: Drew Barker (6-3, 225, RSO)
Committed: Gunnar Hoak (6-4, 190); ZyAire Hughes (6-1, 195)
Looking ahead: With Towles and Phillips transferring out, the job belongs to Barker, but there is no experience behind him. Two freshmen are committed, but Kentucky will actively seek a juco or graduate transfer.
Returning: Brandon Harris (6-3, 206, JR); Anthony Jennings (6-2, 216, SR); Justin McMillan (6-2, 193, RFR); Danny Etling (6-3, 226, RJR)
Looking ahead: LSU aggressively recruited Trevor Knight, who transferred from Oklahoma to Texas A&M. Brandon Harris is the incumbent starter but he will be pushed in the spring by Purdue transfer Danny Etling, a more accomplished passer who should thrive with the play action passes he can get off fakes to Leonard Fournette. Anthony Jennings started for two seasons then didn’t take a snap this year. He’s a good candidate for a transfer.
Gone: Dak Prescott
Damian Williams (6-1, 225, RJR); Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 225, RS)); Elijah Staley (6-6, 248, RSO); Nick Tiano (6-5, 230, RFR)
Returning: Committed: None
Looking ahead: Williams would have started for several SEC teams but he took a redshirt for the possibility of starting two years. He will enter the spring as the #1 QB. Dan Mullen loves the size and athleticism of Fitzgerald and Staley but they’ll back up Williams this year.
Gone: Corbin Berkstresser (graduated)
Returning: Drew Lock (6-4, 205, SO); Maty Mauk (6-0, 200, RSR); Eddie Printz (6-3, 205, RJR); Marvin Zanders (6-1, 185, RSO)
Looking ahead: It was baptism by fire for Lock, who took over as the starter when Mauk was suspended in October. Those two figure to battle it out in the spring for the starting job. Many observers thought Marvin Zanders was the best QB on the roster but he didn’t get a chance. Figure he’ll transfer if he’s not in the hunt for the starting job after spring ball.
Gone: DeVante Kincaid (transferred)
Returning: Chad Kelly (6-2, 215, RSR); Ryan Buchanan (6-3, 218, RJR); Jason Pellerin (6-4, 229, RFR)
Committed: Shea Patterson (6-3, 198)
Looking ahead: Kelly should be the top QB in the SEC next year. Buchanan is an experienced backup but the Ole Miss coaches love the athleticism of Pellerin. Shea Patterson is the nation’s #1 QB prospect. He’s a candidate to redshirt.
Gone: Perry Orth (graduated)
Returning: Lorenzo Nunez (6-3, 210, SO); Connor Mitch (6-3, 210 RHR); Michael Scarnecchia (6-4, 210, RSO)
Committed: Brandon McIlwain (6-0, 193)
Looking ahead: Kurt Roper is Will Muschamp’s offensive coordinator and it will be interesting to see if Muschamp lets him spread the field. If the Gamecocks run a spread then the QB figures to be Nunez, a terrific runner who showed potential as a passer. McIlwain enrolled early but will play baseball so he figures to redshirt. Mitch has a history of injury but he’s the best passer in the bunch.
Returning: Joshua Dobbs (6-3, 207, SR); Quinten Dormady (6-4, 216, SO); Sheriron Jones (6-2, 208, RFR)
Committed: Jarrett Guarantano (6-4, 195)
Looking ahead: Dobbs will be a third year starter and he’s no worse than the second best QB in the SEC. Dormady impressed everyone with his arm strength and accuracy as the backup as a true freshman. Jones is a dual threat who reminds everyone of Dobbs. Guarantano figures to redshirt.
Gone: Kyle Allen (transferred to Houston); Kyler Murray (transferred to Oklahoma)
Returning: Jake Hubenak (6-3, 195 RJR)
Committed: Trevor Knight (6-1, 201, RSR/transfer from Oklahoma)
Looking ahead: This is a dumpster fire. Knight not only has to deliver for the Aggies to have a big season, but to save Kevin Sumlin’s job. There are no commitments for 2016 and the Aggies are scrambling to find another QB.
Returning: Kyle Shurmur (6-4, 226, SO); Johnny McCrary (6-4, 220, RJR); Wade Freebeck (6-5, 226, JR)
Committed: Deuce Wallace (6-2, 205)
Looking ahead: Vandy committed to Shurmur as the quarterback of the future in November and let him play through mistakes. He should be much better in 2016. McCrary is a great athlete but he’s a turnover machine. Freebeck is smart and has played some minutes in the past. Wallace will almost certainly redshirt.
GOING PRO SEC
Alabama: A’Shawn Robinson, DT; Derrick Henry, RB; Jonathan Allen, DE
Arkansas: Hunter Henry, TE; Denver Kirkland, LT; Alex Collins, RB; Jonathan Williams, RB
Auburn: Shon Coleman, OT
FLORIDA: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB; Kelvin Taylor, RB; Demarcus Robinson, WR; Alex McCalister, DE
Georgia: Leonard Floyd, LB
LSU: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Mississippi State: De’Runnya Wilson, WR; Chris Jones, DT
Ole Miss: Laquon Treadwell, WR; Robert Nkemdiche, DT; Laremy Tunsil, LT
South Carolina: Pharoh Cooper, WR; Skai Moore, LB
Texas A&M: Germain Ifedi, LT
Vanderbilt: Stephen Weatherly, LB
Also of interest:
Florida State: Jalen Ramsey, CB; Roberto Aguayo, K; DeMarcus Walker, DE
Miami: Artie Burns, CB; Stacy Coley, WR
THE TEN BEST COACHES IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
1. Nick Saban, Alabama: Last year, you could seriously debate that it’s Urban Meyer. This year, there is no doubt. It’s Saban, who is 97-12 in Tuscaloosa since the 2008 season with three national championships and a fourth one pending. He’s 195-60-1 overall with a fourth national championship earned at LSU in 2003.
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State: He’s 50-4 in four seasons at Ohio State with one national title and 154-27 overall with two more national championships earned while coaching Florida.
3. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: He’s won more games at Oklahoma than either Bud Wilkinson or Barry Switzer. Stoops is 179-46 in 17 years at Oklahoma with a national title (2000). He re-established Oklahoma as a top five power this year with an 11-2 record that included a Big 12 championship and a final four spot.
4. Gary Patterson, TCU: In 15 seasons on the job he’s 143-47 with nine seasons of 11 or more wins. He’s won with a running game and defense and with a wide open offense capable of rallying from 31 points down at the half (see the Alamo Bowl. Patterson rarely recruits outside of a 200 mile radius of Fort Worth and he’s never had a top 25 recruiting class. He’s a 2-time national coach of the year who probably does more with less than any of the coaches on this list.
5. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: He’s 68-14 with a national championship and a final four appearance in six years. He went 10-3 this season with one of the youngest teams in college football. The Seminoles will be final four contenders next season.
6. David Shaw, Stanford: All the recruits Jim Harbaugh left behind have graduated, so this was the first year Shaw had to coach a roster that was completely made up of players he recruited. One of the recruits was Christian McCaffrey, who became the explosive difference maker that helped Shaw win the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl. Shaw is 54-14 in his Stanford career and has the Cardinal looking like a legitimate national championship contender in 2016.
7. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: Yes, he’s an absolute jerk to the media but it’s just a matter of time before he has Michigan in the top five every single year. He is 68-30 as a college coach including a 10-3 in his first year at Michigan. In four years he turned Stanford from a Pac-12 bottom feeder into a power before leaving for the NFL. As an NFL coach he was 44-19 with two NFC championship game appearances and one Super Bowl.
8. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: Dantonio has turned Michigan State into a national power, winning 11 or more games in five of the last six seasons. A former assistant to Nick Saban and Jim Tressell, Dantonio is 87-33 at Michigan State and 105-50 overall as a head coach.
9. Dabo Swinney, Clemson: For years, the knock was Dabo was all recruit, no coach, but that’s changed as he’s turned Clemson into a legitimate national power. He’s 75-26 in his career at Clemson with at least 10 wins in each of the last five seasons including 14-0 this year and a chance to win it all in the national championship game.
10. Art Briles: In the 15 years prior to Art Briles, Baylor was 54-115, the 108th best record in Division I. It took two 4-8 seasons and a 7-6 year in 2010 to get the program turned around. Since then, Baylor is 50-15 with three straight top 10 finishes and the Bears are the scariest offensive team in college football.
Eric Hyman stepped down from his position as athletic director at Texas A&M just a day after issuing a public vote of confidence for football coach Kevin Sumlin. Hyman’s sudden and unexpected departure could be a sign that boosters and higher powers at the school are extremely dissatisfied with Sumlin. There are unconfirmed reports that Sumlin has put his name in the hat for at least two or three NFL teams for both head coach and offensive coordinator.
Former Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen is transferring to Houston, a good move since Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. will be a senior next year while Allen sits. Don’t be surprised if Allen is joined by wide receiver Christian Kirk. Kirk and Allen are closest of friends. Kirk signed with Texas A&M to play college football with Allen.
LSU tight end Dillon Gordon was stabled multiple times early Tuesday morning at a bar near the campus in Baton Rouge. The injuries from the stab wounds are not life threatening.
Kirby Smart added former Virginia Tech assistant Shane Beamer to his Georgia staff as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. Beamer was one of Steve Spurrier’s strongest recruiters during his days as an assistant at South Carolina.
Larry Coker, who won a national championship in 2001 and played for another in 2002 as Miami’s head coach, was fired at Texas-San Antonio Tuesday. Coker took UTSA from D1AA to Division I football, but the program hit a wall and finished 3-9 in 2015.
Urban Meyer is losing a talented senior class to graduation but he’s also been hammered by underclassmen going pro. Wide receiver Eric Thomas became the 8th Buckeye underclassman to declare for the NFL on Tuesday.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Saban is obviously everybody’s #1 choice as best coach in the country but who would you rate for positions 2-5 behind him?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
During the mid-1990s when I was spending a more time in London than the US, I had a chance to hear Tracy Thorne sing live on several occasions. Thorne was the lead singer for the duo Everything but the Girl, which had great success in the UK and in Europe but moderate success in the US. Everything but the Girl split up in 2000 and Thorne went on to have a successful solo career in Europe. Today’s music is the album “Eden” by Everything but the Girl from 1984.