With a little more than five days until National Signing Day, here’s a blast from the past.
In early January of 2006, the morning after the US Army All-American Game in San Antonio, Bob Redman and I walked out of the Alamo Dome after the Reebok National Combine only to have Chris Rainey wave us over to do a video interview with him, Ahmad Black, John Brown, Paul Wilson and the Pouncey Twins. It was all good fun but the twins shocked us by going on camera and announcing they were de-committing Florida State. Later that day when Bob and I posted the video and wrote about the twins, we were accused by a certain FSU website of coercing Mike and Maurkice. Later that day the story changed, that the twins were still committed but were having fun duping a couple of stupid Gators into thinking they were opening up their recruiting. A day later, the story changed again and it was Tom Lemming who had convinced them to de-commit.
On a cold Saturday morning in March, Nike held a combine at the Florida practice fields that was attended by Rainey, Black, Wilson, Steve Wilks and the twins. Rainey and Black tore it up that day but the twins stood around and held court over on the sideline. When the combine ended, Rainey convinced the entire group to go over to The Swamp to check out where he was going to be a star someday. At some point, they met up with Urban Meyer, Charlie Strong, John Hevesy and Steve Addazio.
The twins were impressed and a relationship was forged.
A good many Lakeland kids came to UF to camp in early June and the growing relationship between Mike, Maurkice and the Florida coaches went from strong to serious … serious enough that the twins decided to travel to Tallahassee to meet Bobby Bowden to see if they really felt the love at FSU. That was the morning of June 7. While they were traveling to Tallahassee, Rainey and Black were in Gainesville where Black committed to become a Gator. While in Tallahassee, the twins spent most of their time with Odell Hagins, who had been recruiting them since they were 9th-graders at Lakeland High School but a funny thing happened when they popped into Bowden’s office.
The legendary coach couldn’t remember their names. Mike and Maurkice were stunned.
On the drive back to Gainesville, Bowden was the topic of discussion so when they got near Gainesville, they called Meyer and asked if they could stop in for a visit. Meyer, of course, said yes. The love they didn’t feel in Tallahassee they felt in abundance in Gainesville. Looking Meyer eyeball to eyeball, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey said yes when asked if they wanted to be Gators.
Things got interesting when the twins got on I-75 for the drive back to Lakeland. They called their parents, Lisa and Rob Webster at a rest stop just south of Ocala to tell them what they had done. Lisa told the boys to stay right where they were, rounded up Rob and the two of them headed north. They met up with the twins at the rest stop and then proceeded to Gainesville for a face-to-face with Meyer. Lisa was determined to end this Florida nonsense on the spot only it didn’t happen. Meyer, Strong and the Florida coaches made her feel comfortable and after talking to Mike and Maurkice to ask once again if they were certain this is what they wanted to do, she gave her blessing.
The twins never wavered from their commitment to the Gators even though there was intense pressure from FSU to flip them. Lakeland went undefeated for a third straight year for their third straight 5A state championship and a second straight mythical national title. The twins, Ahmad Black and Paul Wilson enrolled early at UF in January of 2007. On National Signing Day, Rainey, Steve Wilks and John Brown all signed with the Gators. The Pounceys became All-Americans as did Black. Rainey made All-SEC. Wilson and Wilks had their careers cut short for medical reasons and Brown transferred to a juco after running into academic difficulties.
The 2007 recruiting class is one of the best in UF history but you could make a strong argument that the key components were Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. They might have worn garnet and gold if Bobby Bowden had only remembered their names.
RANKING THE PRE-SPRING PRACTICE QB SITUATIONS IN THE SEC
1. OLE MISS
Starter returning: Chad Kelly (6-2, 215, SR; 4,042 passing yards, 31 TDP; 500 rushing yards, 10 TD in 2015)
Backups returning: Ryan Buchanan (6-3, 218, JR; 96 passing yards, 1 TDP in 2015); Jason Pellerin (6-4, 229, RFR)
Backup lost: DeVante Kincade (Transfer to Grambling; 79 passing yards, 1 TDP; 87 rushing yards in 2015)
Early enrollee: Shea Patterson (6-3, 198)
Assessment: Kelly is the unquestioned starter and the best returning QB in the SEC. Buchanan is a solid backup who knows the offense inside and out. The dilemma with Patterson next year will be whether or not to burn his redshirt.
Starter returning: Joshua Dobbs (6-3, 207, SR; 2,291 passing yards, 15 TDP; 671 rushing yards, 11 TD in 2015)
Backups returning: Quinten Dormady (6-4, 216, SO; 209 passing yards, 1 TD in 2015); Sheriron Jones (6-2, 200, RFR)
Early enrollee: None
Assessment: Dobbs is unchallenged as the starter but beyond 2016, Dormady is the future. Jones wanted to transfer then changed his mind.
Starter returning: Brandon Harris (6-3, 220, JR; 2,158 passing yards, 13 TDP; 226 rushing yards; 4 TD in 2015)
Backups returning (3): Anthony Jennings (6-2, 216, RJR; 1,792 career passing yards, 12 TDP; 210 career rushing yards, 2 TD); Danny Etling (6-3, 226, RJR/TR; 2,490 passing yards, 16 TDP; 4 rushing TD at Purdue); Justin McMillain (6-2, 193, RFR)
Early enrollee: None
Assessment: If Harris plays in the spring the way he did in LSU’s Texas Bowl win over Texas Tech, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be the starter. Etling isn’t the runner Harris is, but Harris can only wish he could throw like Etling. Jennings started in 2014 and didn’t play at all in 2015. He could transfer. Coaches like what they’ve seen of McMillan in practice. He’s a dual threat who’s more runner than passer, however. Harris should finish spring as the #1 but don’t be shocked if Etling passes him by in August.
Starter lost: Jacob Coker (3,110 passing yards, 21 TDPs; 2 rushing TDs in 2015)
Backups lost: Alec Morris
Backups returning (3): Cooper Bateman (6-3, 220 JR); David Cornwell (6-5, 221, RSO); Blake Barnett (6-5, 200, RFR)
Early enrollee: Jalen Hurts (6-2, 208)
Assessment: Bateman (37-52, 291 yards, 1 TD last year) and Cornwell have spent two years working with OC Lane Kiffin so they have an upper hand when it comes to experience but the fair haired boy is Barnett who should emerge as the #1 QB by the midway point of spring practice.
Starter returning: Jeremy Johnson (6-5, 240, SR; 1,054 passing yards, 10 TDP; 137 rushing yards, 6 TD)
Backups returning (2): Sean White (6-1, 200, RSO; 1,167 passing yards, 1 TD); Tyler Queen (6-1, 241, RFR)
Early enrollee: John Franklin III (6-2, 180)
Assessment: Johnson turned out to be the most overhyped player in the country last year. He can make all the throws but he’s not the runner this offense needs to be productive. White isn’t a runner either. Queen can run but is a questionable passer. All eyes will be on Franklin in the spring. He’s the run-pass threat that can make the offense explosive. If he earns the job figure Auburn’s offense will be really good next year.
Starter returning: Treon Harris (5-11, 190, JR; 1,676 passing yards, 9 TDP; 238 rushing yards)
Backup lost: Will Grier (6-2, 204, RFR)
Backup returning: Luke Del Rio (6-1, 216, RJR)
Early enrollees (3): Feleipe Franks (6-6, 214); Kyle Trask (6-6, 211); Austin Appleby (6-4, 238, RSR, Transfer from Purdue)
Assessment: If Harris is still the starter when spring practice ends, the Gators are in trouble. The two to watch are Del Rio, who observers say was the best QB in the Florida camp even when Will Grier was starting, and Appleby, a one-time Elite 11 QB who suffered from bad O-lines and slow receivers at Purdue. The freshmen won’t feel the pressure of having to produce right away. Del Rio and Appleby should finish spring in a battle for the #1.
Starter returning: Greyson Lambert (6-5, 220, RSR; 1,959 passing yards, 12 TDP in 2015)
Backups returning: Brice Ramsey (6-3, 213, RJR; 249 passing yards, 1 TDP in 2015)
Backup lost: Faton Bauta (Transfer to Colorado State)
Early enrollee: Jacob Eason (6-6, 217)
Assessment: Lambert is not a difference maker and Ramsey could very well transfer if he finishes the spring #3 behind Eason and Lambert. The door is open for Eason to start from day one and it shouldn’t be a surprise if Kirby Smart names him the #1 when spring practice ends.
8. MISSISSIPPI STATE
Starter lost: Dak Prescott (3,793 passing yards, 29 TDP; 588 rushing yards, 10 TD in 2015)
Backups returning: Damian Williams (6-1, 228, RJR; 434 passing yards, 3 TDP; 175 rushing yards, 1 TD in his MSU career); Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 227, RSO; 235 passing yards, 3 TDP; 127 rushing yards, 3 TD in 2015); Elijah Staley (6-6, 248, RSO; 51 passing yards, 1 TD; 18 rushing yards in 2015); Nick Tiano (6-4, 231, RFR)
Early enrollee: None
Assessment: Williams was redshirted in 2015 specifically so he could start two seasons so he will be the man to beat in the spring, but it’s not going to be easy. Fitzgerald and Staley wowed the coaching staff last fall so they’re not going to accept a backup role without a fight. Expect Williams to finish spring at #1 with whoever finishes #3 among Fitzgerald and Staley to consider a transfer.
9. TEXAS A&M
Starter lost: Kyle Allen (Transfer to Houston; 2,210 passing yards, 17 TDP in 2015; 33 career TDP)
Backup returning: Jake Hubenak (6-3, 195, RJR; 399 passing yards, 3 TDP in 2015)
Backup lost: Kyler Murray (Transfer to Oklahoma; 686 passing yards, 5 TDP; 335 rushing yards 1 TD in 2015)
Early enrollee: Brandon Knight (6-1, 206, SR, Transfer from Oklahoma; 3,424 career passing yards, 25 TDP; 853 rushing yards, 8 TD)
Assessment: The situation is a mess. Knight is a graduate transfer so he’s only got one year. Hubenak is a nice backup at best. There are no other scholarship QBs.
Starter lost: Brandon Allen (3,440 passing yards, 30 TDP in 2015)
Backup lost: None
Backups returning (4): Austin Allen (6-2, 210, JR); Rafe Peavy (6-2, 204, RSO); Ty Storey (6-2, 215, RFR); Ricky Town (6-3, 200, RFR)
Early enrollee: None
Assessment: Austin Allen (9-19, 188 yards, 1 TD career) has spent two years backing up older brother Brandon but smart money heading into the spring is that Peavy, Storey or Town will emerge as the #1. Town, who spent last spring at Southern Cal only to transfer to Arkansas in the summer, has the big arm and big play reputation that make him the favorite to emerge as the starter in the spring.
Starter lost: Patrick Towles (Transfer to Boston College; 2,148 passing yards, 9 TDP; 5 rushing TDs at UK in 2015)
Backup returning (1): Drew Barker (6-3, 225, RSO; 364 passing yards, 1 TDP; 1 rushing TD in 2015)
Backup lost (1): Reese Phillips (Transfer to Montana)
Early enrollee (2): Gunnar Hoak (6-4, 190); Stephon Johnson III (6-3, 200, JUCO)
Assessment: Losing Towles and Phillips leave Barker as the only QB with any experience at all. Johnson is a dual threat juco transfer and Hoak is a pocket passer. Neither one figures to challenge Barker.
12. SOUTH CAROLINA
Starter lost: Perry Orth (1,929 passing yards, 12 TDP; 2 rushing TD in 2015)
Backups returning: Connor Mitch (6-3, 211, RJR; 165 passing yards, 1 TD; 51 rushing yards, 1 TD in 2015); Michael Scarnecchia (6-4, 210, RSO); Lorenzo Nunez (6-3, 210, SO; 376 passing yards, 3 TDP; 375 rushing yards, 2 TD in 2015)
Early enrollee: Brandon McIlwain (6-0, 193)
Assessment: New OC Kurt Roper really likes dual threat QBs so Nunez and McIlwain will get long looks in the fall. Mitch has to prove he can stay healthy but he’s got the best arm of the three who will have the best chance to start. If Nunez can make the throws, he should be the #1 coming out of spring.
Starter returning: Drew Lock (6-4, 205, SO; 1,332 passing yards, 4 TDP; 1 rushing TD)
Backups returning: Eddie Printz (6-3, 205 RJR); Marvin Zanders (6-1, 185 RSO)
Backups lost: Corbin Berkstresser; * Maty Mauk (654 passing yards, 6 TD; 145 rushing yards, 1 TD; 42 career TDP)
Early enrollee: None
Assessment: Lock got thrown to the wolves as a freshman. He’s plenty talented but he’ll be operating behind a young, inexperienced OL in the spring. Mauk could be gone forever. Some observers said Zanders ability to run should have allowed him a chance to show what he could do last season. If Zanders isn’t given a legitimate shot to compete in the spring, he’ll probably think about transferring out.
* Suspended indefinitely
Starter returning: Kyle Shurmur (6-4, 226, SO; 503 passing yards, 5 TDP in 2015)
Backups returning: Wade Freebeck (6-5, 226, RJR; 402 career passing yards, 1 TDP)
Backup lost: Johnny McCrary (Transfer; 1,533 passing yards, 6 TDP; 186 rushing yards, 2 TD in 2015
Assessment: Vanderbilt’s offense was horrible in 2015. It could be worse in 2016. Shurmur is the unquestioned starter.
What’s wrong with this picture? Georgia lost to LSU in Baton Rouge by four points Tuesday night. Georgia shot 24 free throws. LSU shot 55. The officiating crew included Pat Adams, who Billy Donovan feuded with for three years and Karl “Body Bag” Hess. It’s not my imagination. Basketball officiating in the SEC is worse than the football officiating.
Speaking of officiating, the Atlantic Coast Conference, whose football officials are generally considered the worst in all of college football, has added an assistant coordinator for football replays. As bad as the ACC zebras are, their replay officials might be worse.
Davis Webb, once thought to be leaning toward a transfer to Florida for his final year of eligibility, has announced he will transfer to Colorado. Webb will graduate from Texas Tech in May and will be immediately eligible at Colorado. Colorado QBs combined for 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2015. Webb has thrown for 5,757 yards and 46 touchdowns in his Texas Tech career.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Instant replay continues to show us how poorly both basketball and football officiating has become in college sports. Is it time for conferences to hire full-time officials in football and basketball and would full-time officials in any way solve the problem?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Quite by accident Wednesday, I stuck a Rita Coolidge CD in my car and I was pleasantly reminded just how good she used to be. A graduate of Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville, she became a backup singer for Delaney & Bonnie, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Stephen Stills among others. She went solo after meeting up with Kris Kristofferson, who became her husband. She hit #1 with singles “We’re All Alone” and “All-Time High” and won a couple of Grammy Awards for albums she did with Kristofferson.