Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the lucky ones. Of the 100 or so players who have officially declared for the NFL Draft, Hargreaves knows he’s in a good position but then again, he’s been NFL ready since his freshman year at Florida. Of Florida’s five players who have elected to skip their senior seasons for a chance at an NFL paycheck, Hargreaves is the only one you can say for sure made a smart decision. Maybe you could lump Kelvin Taylor in there simply because his life is set financially whether he makes it as a pro or not because dad Fred had some very wise people who took care of his money when he played in the NFL, but the other three made very questionable decisions.
Keanu Neal will almost certainly make an NFL roster because he hits hard, runs fast and can play special teams, but he needed another year to develop the coverage skills that could have made him a second or third round guy. Barring something unforeseen in his favor, he’ll go fourth or fifth round so going pro might have cost him a half million dollars.
Alex McCalister is 240-something pounds and while he’s so fast and freakishly athletic, he needs to be somewhere in the 260-65 range to be an every down defensive end in the NFL. Had he stayed in school – even with a suspension that would have cost him at least the first two games of 2016 – and dedicated himself in the weight room, he could have put on the weight and therefore enhanced his draft status, which now looks like fifth round or later.
As for Demarcus Robinson, who knows what he’s thinking? If his three years at UF proved anything it is that he and discipline are like two ships that pass in the night. If he can’t follow a game plan, run routes correctly and show up to practice ready to go every day in college, how does he think he’s going to get the job done in the NFL? He’s got second or third round talent but a free agent head.
Linebacker Jarrad Davis, safety Marcus Maye and defensive tackle Caleb Brantley all elected to return to UF for their senior seasons and if they stay healthy, add some strength and make normal improvements they will almost certainly be rewarded with a better draft position than they would have gotten this year, which, of course, means they’ll make more money.
The 100 or so players nationwide who are skipping their senior seasons represent a significant rise from last year when only 74 declared. Two years ago, a then-record 98 declared for the draft with 36 going undrafted. That figure of 36 might pale by comparison to this year. There are a lot of kids getting a lot of bad advice and most of it likely comes from agents and their runners who are woking the college campuses harder than ever before.
Former Dallas Cowboys draft guru Gil Brandt, who works for the NFL now, told cbssports.com’s Dennis Dodd, “I guess it’s the agents getting to them. If you can keep your kids away from them, you’re the coach of the year.”
Agents and their runners were working Jarrad Davis very hard the last month, but he resisted the urge to go pro. Davis probably would have gone in the third round, but the way he hits and pursues the football, he should be no worse than a second rounder in 2017 if he stays healthy. And, there is that chance that he will have the knockout season that will boost him into the first round. His situation is similar to Reggie Ragland last January. Ragland was a late second, probable third rounder but by coming back to school has pretty much secured a spot in the first round. In other words, Reggie Ragland made a million dollar decision.
Let’s hope Davis, Maye and Brantley will be able to say something similar when the NFL drafts in 2017.
STAYING AND GOING ACROSS THE SEC
Alabama: DE Jonathan Allen, LB Ryan Anderson, LB Tim Williams, LB Reuben Foster, S Eddie Jackson and TE O.J. Howard staying in school. RB Derrick Henry and NT A’Shawn Robinson leaving for the NFL.
Arkansas: RB Alex Collins, RB Jonathan Williams, TE Hunter Henry and LT Denver Kirkland leaving for the NFL.
Auburn: DT Montravius Adams, DE Carl Lawson, S Rudy Ford staying in school. RB Peyton Barber, LT Shon Coleman and RT Avery Young leaving for the NFL.
Georgia: LB Leonard Floyd and RB Keith Marshall leaving for the NFL.
LSU: LB Kendell Beckwith, WR Travin Dural, DE Lewis Neal, C Ethan Pocic and CB Tre-Davious White staying in school. LT Jerald Hawkins and CB Rashard Robinson leaving for the NFL.
Mississippi State: LB Richie Brown and WR Fred Ross staying in school. LB Beniquez Brown, DT Chris Jones and WR De’Runnya Wilson leaving for the NFL.
Missouri: CB Aarion Penton leaving for the NFL.
Ole Miss: WR Quincy Adeboyejo, S Tony Conner, TE Evan Engram and QB Chad Kelly staying in school. DT Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell and LT Laremy Tunsion leaving for the NFL.
South Carolina: LB Skai Moore staying in school. WR Pharoh Cooper leaving for the NFL.
Tennessee: LB Jaylen Reeves-Maybin and CB/PR Cameron Sutton staying in school. WR Marquez North is leaving for the NFL.
Texas A&M: S Justin Evans, DE Daeshon Hall, WR Josh Ryenolds and WR Ricky Seals-Jones staying in school. LT Germain Ifedi leaving for the NFL.
Vanderbilt: LB Stephen Weatherly leaving for the NFL.
FLORIDA BASKETBALL STUFF
This is no time to let off the pedal even slightly for Mike White’s men in shorts. The Gators (11-6, 3-2 SEC) are coming off an impressive road win over Ole Miss and enter a 5-game stretch of games that will likely define the season starting with tonight’s game with Mississippi State (7-9, 0-4 SEC) at the O-Dome (7 p.m., ESPNU). It is imperative that the Gators hold serve at home against a Mississippi State team that has shown the ability to hang with good teams although it’s shown an inability to close in the final minutes.
The win over Ole Miss shows you what happens when the Gators actually shoot well while playing very good defense. The Gators hit 11-21 from the 3-point line and 24-49 overall, one of their better shooting performances of the season, led by freshman KeVaughn Allen (27 points, 5-6 on 3-pointers). Florida’s ability to hit the 3-ball opened the middle for John Egbunu (10 points, 7 rebounds) and Dorian Finney-Smith (17 points, 10 rebounds).
When the Gators are efficient offensively, there isn’t a team in the conference they can’t beat, but unfortunately, there isn’t a team in the SEC that isn’t capable of beating the Gators when the Gators throw up brick after brick from both the outside and the foul line as they did against Texas A&M. White has the Gators playing at a high level defensively so all they need is some help at the other end of the floor to become one of the top tier teams in the SEC.
And since we’re on the subject of basketball, Amada Butler’s crew is now 16-3, tied for the third best start in school history following their 53-45 win over LSU at the O-Dome Sunday. The score was closer than it should have been because the Gators struggled all afternoon at the foul line (11-26). The Gators can continue to hang with the leaders in the SEC Thursday night when they play host to Alabama, a tough opponent but a very winnable game.
GATOR GYMNASTS ASCEND TO #1 RANKING
By virtue of their win over #5 UCLA at the O-Dome last Friday, Jenny Rowland’s Florida gymnasts have taken over the #1 ranking in the nation. The rankings are based on average scores so the Gators have a 197.250-196.967 over #2 Oklahoma. Five other SEC teams are in the top 10 nationally -- #4 Alabama; #7 LSU; #8 Auburn; #9 Georgia and #10 Arkansas.
When the Gators travel to Auburn Friday night, it will mark the return of Rowland to her old stomping grounds. Rowland was the ace recruiter who helped Auburn head coach Jeff Graba turn the Tigers into a national power than made the 2015 Super Six at the NCAA championship meet.
Bridget Sloan, arguably the nation’s top gymnast, has won the all-around title at both Florida meets this year, scoring a 39.500 in the season opener and a 39.650 in the win over UCLA. The Gators haven’t scored a perfect 10 this year, but they’ve come close – 9.975 for Sloan on the uneven bars against UCLA and Kennedy Baker with a 9.95 on the floor exercise, also against UCLA.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE?
In Kentucky’s loss to Auburn, big men Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere combined for 13 points and 9 rebounds against a front line they clearly should have dominated. This Kentucky team is clearly not the preseason candidate to win the national championship it was predicted to be and Labissiere is looking more like a project than a #1 NBA pick. Monday Calipari said he’s hoping for “15, 20 minutes” of productive play per game from Labissiere. Calipari promised changes after the loss to Auburn, which saw the Wildcats blow a 12-point lead late in the game. He’ll need them because the Wildcats have a really good chance to get their doors blown off by Arkansas in Fayette-Nam Thursday night.
I don’t know about you but I think the college overtime rules are far more exciting and fair than the NFL. If the NFL isn’t willing to adapt the college rule, then at least make the teams play a full quarter.
Typically, Urban Meyer teams don’t rebuild – they reload. But, with a record 9 players declaring early for the NFL and a senior class that was 49-4 during its time in Columbus, this will be a full rebuild for Ohio State in 2016.
Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals) and Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) will be the first former Heisman Trophy winners to meet in the NFL playoffs as starting QBs.
It only took one season for Brian Schottenheimer to realize he’s better off in the NFL. The 1-season Georgia OC was named QB coach of the Indianapolis Colts Monday. While Georgia’s offense suffered last season, former inside LB coach Mike Ekeler says it wasn’t all Schottenheimer’s fault. “He came into a situation where he tried to run an offense that was already in place and didn’t run his offense, so to speak,” Ekeler said.
Kentucky football, which was down to one scholarship quarterback (Drew Barker), signed juco Stephen Johnson II out of College of the Desert in California. Johnson will enroll next week at the start of UK’s spring semester and will be available during spring practice.
When Auburn fans stormed the court Saturday after the Tigers knocked off Kentucky, 74-70, it cost the athletic department a cool $100,000 since it was a second incident. The first was the 2013 Iron Bowl when Auburn ran a missed field goal back for a game-winning touchdown as the clock expired.
Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt is the new chairman of the College Football Playoff Committee. You mean Flo from Progressive Insurance, the Geico Gecko or the Sonic idiots weren’t available? They could have at least hired Larry Culpepper. If you think I’m being sarcastic, you’re right. I’m not the least bit impressed.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which SEC school got hurt the most by players leaving early for the NFL?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Rock and roll lost another legend Monday when Glenn Frey died from complications following intestinal surgery. Frey was hired along with Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Gainesville’s Bernie Leadon (GHS, class of 1964) for a one night gig to back up Linda Rondstadt in 1970. The four formed The Eagles, who later added Gainesville musician Don Felder and became one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. Today’s music is a concert from the Eagles Farewell Tour.