It’s interesting how perceptions have changed in the last year.
A year ago this time, there was a growing sense of panic that Jim McElwain was going to strike out on the recruiting trail in his effort to add a third scholarship quarterback to join incumbent starter Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier. McElwain didn’t land a recruit and even though he made a strong pitch to land several 5th-year graduate transfers, the best he could come up with was Josh Grady, who spent most of his Vanderbilt years catching passes instead of throwing them.
A year later, the Gators have five scholarship quarterbacks already in school and there is speculation that by the time spring practice is completed, incumbent Treon Harris will be trying his hand at a new position. It could be argued that the situation is not ideal since Will Grier has transferred out following his suspension for performance enhancing drugs, but if Grier were still here there is every good chance Feleipe Franks would still be an LSU commitment and it’s less likely that Austin Appleby would have made the decision to transfer from Purdue to Florida.
So maybe it’s not ideal but it’s getting there.
When spring football begins, the Gators will have three quarterbacks with real Division I game experience in Harris, Luke Del Rio (played in 2014 at Oregon State) and Appleby, who threw for 19 touchdowns and ran for 10 while at Purdue. And, in Franks and Kyle Trask, the Gators have two big armed freshmen with the size and arm strength to be difference makers in the future.
A wise coach once said the way to tell if a football program is on the right track is to count the holes on the depth chart. That same coach said that even the bottom feeders have 30 SEC caliber players. The good teams that are going to win 6-7 games a year typically have 30-40 SEC quality players on their roster and the teams that are going to win 8-10 games per year are going to have somewhere between 40-45.
Championship caliber programs will have at least 48 SEC caliber players ready to go right now with another 30 or so in various stages of development. The Gators aren’t at a championship level yet because there are still too many holes on the roster but it’s a good beginning when the most important position on the team is well stocked.
GRIDIRONNOW’S FRANK FRANGIE SAYS
Frank Frangie, writing for gridironnow.com, believes Purdue transfer Austin Appleby will emerge as Florida’s quarterback. Frangie writes:
“Yep, I’m gonna call the Purdue transfer the leader in the clubhouse. No, I’ve never seen him play in person, but I have seen tons of tape. I also have spoken with folks who cover the Big Ten who told me he never had a chance because of horrendous line play and average receivers. He wound up passing for more than 2,700 yards at Purdue, with 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. And he completed a bit more than 55 percent of his passes. Pedestrian numbers to be sure.
“ … He is big (6 feet 5, 239 pounds), strong-armed and relatively athletic; witness his 10 rushing touchdowns at Purdue. I think he is chomping at the bit to get the kind of coaching and help he will have at Florida.”
ESPN’S TOM LUGINBILL SAYS …
Former Georgia Tech QB Tom Luginbill, who works as an analyst at ESPN, believes that Feleipe Franks has a chance to come in and make a difference immediately for the Gators. Luginbill says:
“If Florida could win 10 games with the group of quarterbacks it had in 2015, could it be worse with a freshman in 2016? The reality is Florida had some breaks and things go its way in 2015, but defensively it is legit and will only be better on the offensive line next fall. If Franks can come in and perform at a reasonable level, he could put the Gators in the mix in the SEC East -- which puts them in the playoff discussion.”
WEEKEND UPDATE: SEC FOOTBALL
Alabama: It was a weekend of very good news for Alabama as DE Jonathan Allen, LB Reuben Foster, TE O.J. Howard and PK Adam Griffith all announced they will be back for their senior seasons.
LSU: WR Travin Dural will return for his senior season and DE Lewis Neal reversed course and elected to stay in school. The news wasn’t nearly as good on the recruiting front where QB target Anthony Russo committed to Temple.
Mississippi State: Raekwon Davis, a 6-7, 319-pound defensive tackle from Meridian, Mississippi and a US Army All-American, pulled off the recruiting shocker of the weekend when he de-committed Alabama and pledged allegiance to Mississippi State. Davis does have grade issues and it’s 50-50 whether he’s playing Division I or juco football next fall, but still, it’s a huge recruiting coup for Dan Mullen.
Vanderbilt: CB Tre Bell is transferring to UConn. He was a part-time starter in 2014 who played very little in 2015 so it’s not a huge loss for the Commodores.
THE STATE OF THE BIG 12
University of Oklahoma president David Boren is an outspoken critic of the disadvantages of the Big 12 having only 10 members, but there’s more to his criticism than just the size of the conference:
“The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least 12 members, we do not have a conference network and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all threw will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference.”
FORMER GEORGIA LINEBACKERS COACH MIKE EKELER SAYS …
Ekeler, now the defensive coordinator at North Texas, told this to the folks at gridironnow.com:
“People talk about hiring great recruiters (and) I think that’s an absolute joke. If you’re labeled that, 99 percent of the time that means you can’t coach a lick. That’s a fact. There are very few exceptions. [LSU assistant] Ed Orgeron is a fantastic recruiter and he’s probably the best defensive line coach of them all. The guy is big-time. It’s great to recruit five-stars, but then they come in and play like two-stars. It’s too bad that’s how this profession is, but that’s part of the deal now.”
SEC BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS
1. Texas A&M (15-2, 5-0 SEC; #8 RPI): This is the SEC’s most complete team. The Aggies are that right combination of size, athleticism, shooting and good guard play. The reason that front line of Tyler Davis, Danuel House and Jalen Jones is so good is because guards Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins are so good at setting them up.
2. Kentucky (13-4, 3-2 SEC; #18 RPI): From a talent perspective, the Wildcats should dominate the league, but there is very little in the way of chemistry and until John Calipari gets that problem sorted out the Wildcats are going to do the unthinkable like blow a 12-point lead and lose at Auburn. You would think that Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee would be dominating inside but they can tear it up one game and three days later they’re a no show.
3. South Carolina (16-1, 3-1 SEC; #27 RPI): South Carolina got exposed last week by Alabama but bounced back with a win over Missouri. The Gamecocks are vastly improved over last year, but it’s a bit deceiving since their strength of schedule ranks #228 nationally overall and #289 for non-conference.
4. LSU (11-6, 4-1 SEC; #95 RPI): Johnny Jones is still tinkering with the lineup. He’s got three he can count on in Ben Simmons, Craig Victor and Keith Hornsby, possibly a fourth in Jalyn Patterson, but the point guard situation fluctuates from outstanding to difficult between Josh Gray and Tim Quarterman. If the Tigers ever figure it all out they’re going to be an extremely difficult matchup. Simmons continues to prove he’s the best player in the country. Enjoy him while you can because this is his only year of college basketball.
5. FLORIDA (11-6, 3-2 SEC; #16 RPI): When the Gators shoot like they did against Ole Miss, there isn’t a team in the SEC they can’t beat. When they shoot from the 3-point line and foul line like they did in the loss to the Aggies, there isn’t a team in the league they can’t lose to. Mike White has a defense he can count on. The offense runs hot and cold, but could be showing signs of life, especially if KeVaughn Allen can find the consistency in his game. Florida’s strength of schedule ranks #2 nationally.
6. Vanderbilt (10-7, 2-3 SEC; #54 RPI): The Commodores seem to be emerging from their coma after two solid wins last week against Auburn and Alabama. Jeff Roberson, with 30 points and 19 rebounds the last two games, seems to be the missing link in the Vandy lineup. His presence seems to have opened things up for Riley LaChance, who has hit 8-10 from the 3-point line the last two games. The Commodores go on the road at Tennessee and Kentucky this week, so we’ll know if they’re finally ready to live up to the preseason hype.
7. Ole Miss (12-5, 2-3 SEC; #71 RPI): As long as the Rebels are hitting on all cylinders offensively, they can mask their defensive deficiencies but they’ve been exposed the last two games by LSU and Florida. The key to stopping the Rebels is neutralizing Stefan Moody because everything offensively goes through him.
8. Tennessee (9-8, 2-3 SEC; #76 RPI): Kevin Punter has scored more points in 17 games this season than he did all of last year. He is the fuel (22.4 points per game) that makes the Tennessee engine go. If the Vols can get an opponent to play a running game, they’ve got a chance to win. If Rick Barnes can get the Vols to the NIT it will go down as one of the better coaching jobs in recent SEC history.
9. Alabama (10-6, 1-3 SEC; #40 RPI): Last week’s win over South Carolina overshadows the fact the Tide has lost three of the last four and is getting pounded on the boards. Leading scorer Retin Obasohan has scored only 14 points in the last two games combined and that’s a real concern for a team that has trouble putting points on the board.
10. Arkansas (9-8, 3-2 SEC; #86 RPI): The Razorbacks bomb away from the 3-point line (SEC leading 44.7%) but there is no help on the inside for Moses Kingsley (16.9/9.4 and 2.8 blocks per game). Kentucky comes to Fayetteville this week, a game that could shape the future for both teams.
11. Georgia (9-6, 2-3 SEC; #68 RPI): Mark Fox still hasn’t been able to find a reliable fifth starter and that’s killing the Bulldogs, who are solid at the other four positions. Among the starters, Fox has to wonder when Charles Mann is going to take his game to another level.
12. Auburn (8-8, 2-3 SEC; #72 RPI): The problem for Auburn is defense. If the Tigers who smothered Kentucky in the last 10 minutes show up, then Bruce Pearl can beat anyone in the league. If the Tigers who stood flatfooted in losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt show up, then Auburn is an SEC bottom feeder. Kareem Canty can score (19 per game) but he’s a freestyle launcher who never met a shot he didn’t like or wouldn’t take.
13. Missouri (8-9, 1-3 SEC; #150 RPI): Last week Missouri self-imposed sanctions for violations during the Frank Haith era. The NCAA continues to investigate but is likely to accept the Mizzou sanctions (no post-season play this year including the SEC Tournament) if no other violations are found. Meanwhile, it’s going to be a very long season for the Tigers, who have real problems putting the ball in the basket.
14. Mississippi State (7-9, 0-4 SEC; #194 RPI): The Bulldogs can put points on the board (76 per game) but they don’t play Ben Howland-like defense. That will have to wait until next year. For now, the game plan is win shootouts. For opponents, the key is take out center Gavin Ware (17.1/8.0), who is the only combination of size and skill on the entire roster.
NOAH OUT 4-6 MONTHS
Joakim Noah will undergo surgery on his dislocated left shoulder, which means he’s out for 4-6 months. This is a contract year for Noah, who becomes a free agent in July. Jo is not a good fit with Fred Hoiberg’s version of the Chicago Bulls. It’s entirely possible that he could wind up in Oklahoma City with Billy Donovan. Noah’s defense and ability to facilitate shooters with his point center mentality would make him a great fit for a team that has Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. It must also be noted that this is a contract year for Al Horford and he says he won’t talk extensions or new contract with the Atlanta Hawks until the 2016 season is over.
It was a good weekend for the Hoke Brothers. Former Michigan coach Brady is the new defensive coordinator at Oregon and former UF/South Carolina defensive coordinator Jon is now the secondary coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
The Cleveland Browns have a new head coach in Hue Jackson, who is in no way ready to reconcile with Johnny Manziel. Jackson says he would prefer if the organization would move on to another QB instead.
Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who has declared for the NFL, is hoping the Dallas Cowboys will draft him.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Although it’s a couple of months before spring football begins, who do you think will emerge as the starting quarterback in April?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
After listening to the latest album by the California Honeydrops over the weekend, I found a nice live performance by the band from last September. Lech Wierzynski is such a talented front man for the band and his love of the soul music from the 1960s and 1970s shows in the music. Today’s music is a performance from the Strawberry Music Festival from 2015.