Tyrie Cleveland (6-3, 190, Houston, TX Westfield). Kristian Fulton (6-0, 177, Metairie, LA Archbishop Rummel). John Simpson (6-4, 290, North Charleston, SC Fort Dorchester). Brian Burns (6-5, 212, Plantation, FL American Heritage).
If those four kids put on a Gator hat on National Signing Day Wednesday, it will rank with the better last day closes by any Florida coaching staff in the past 25 years. Cleveland is the #2 wide receiver in the nation, thought to be making a decision between Florida, TCU and Arkansas. Fulton is the #3 corner, expected to decide between Florida, LSU and Arkansas. Simpson is the #13 guard, deciding between Florida, Clemson and LSU and Burns is the #5 defensive end, expected to decide between Florida, FSU, Georgia and Alabama.
The odds that the Gators go 4-0 with these guys on signing day is unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Even a 2-2 finish might seem a bit optimistic but it must be noted that Jim McElwain struck gold last year on signing day when he landed Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But what if the unthinkable happens? What if the Gators whiff on all four? Would that be considered a disaster for the Gators, particularly in light of the fact UF has received only one commitment since early January?
The only way the day becomes a disaster for UF is if the Gators whiff on the big four and several of the 14 committed players who aren’t already enrolled flip to another school. That would be a disaster. Not signing one or more from the foursome of Cleveland, Fulton, Simpson and Burns would be unpleasant but it is nowhere close to the end of the world. McElwain and his staff have already put together a class that addresses nearly every serious need, particularly quarterback, placekicker and speed at the skill positions. The Gators figure to finish with a class of 28 that in all probability finishes no worse than fifth or sixth nationally. If they land two or three of the big four the Gators could finish in the top three.
Monday night thoughts on the big four:
Cleveland: I like Florida’s chances. A lot.
Fulton: If he signs with Florida it’s because McElwain already has his new secondary coach lined up and Fulton and his dad like him. I’m not sure McElwain has his coach lined up so I think Fulton goes to LSU.
Simpson: He’s from the same high school as Carlos Dunlap so the Gators have scored big there before, but the lure of potentially playing for a national title at Clemson as a true freshman will be the difference-maker.
Burns: It’s going to come down to who he likes best – FSU’s DC Charles Kelly and DL coach Odell Hagins or Florida DC Geoff Collins and DL coach Chris Rumph. I think Rumph will be the difference-maker.
AS THE NSD CLOCK TICKS DOWN TO WEDNESDAY MORNING
Scout.com SEC rankings as of 7 p.m. Monday
1. LSU (2 5-stars, 15 4-stars, 6 3-stars)
2. Ole Miss (2 5-stars, 13 4-stars, 7 3-stars)
3. FLORIDA (1 5-star, 12 4-stars, 11 3-stars)
4. Alabama (2 5-stars, 12 4-stars, 4 3-stars)
5. Georgia (2 5-stars, 10 4-stars, 3 3-stars)
6. Auburn (11 4-stars, 6 3-stars)
7. Tennessee (8 4-stars, 9 3-stars)
8. South Carolina (5 4-stars, 16 3-stars)
9. Texas A&M (1 5-star, 5 4-stars, 10 3-stars)
10. Kentucky (3 4-stars, 16 3-stars)
11. Arkansas (5 4-stars, 13 3-stars)
12. Mississippi State (3 4-stars, 15 3-stars)
13. Missouri (15 3-stars)
14. Vanderbilt (1 4-star, 10 3-stars)
Scout.com national top 10 as of 7 p.m. Monday
2. Ohio State
3. Ole Miss
7. Florida State
8. Notre Dame
9. Michigan State
Other SEC teams: 13. Georgia; 14. Auburn; 22. Tennessee; 28. South Caorlina; 30. Texas A&M; 34. Kentucky; 35. Arkansas; 46. Mississippi State; 55. Missouri; 65. Vanderbilt
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Redshirt freshman QB Blake Barnett, who is expected to emerge as the starter after spring practice, sent out a tweet message to players Alabama is still recruiting: “I got 16 reasons why you should commit to UA. There chances of there being 17 reasons next year is likely.” Barnett was referring to the 16 national championships Alabama claims. Alabama got a commitment from cornerback Nigel Knott (5-11, 174, Madison, MS Germantown) Monday afternoon.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks made up for flipper Kiel Pollard with five weekend commitments, linebacker Dee Walker (6-2, 210, Moultrie, GA Colquitt County), offensive tackle Paul Ramirez (6-6, 300, San Bernardino, CA San Bernardino Valley CC), safety Micahh Smith (6-1, 196, Marshall, TX) corner Joseph Putu (6-2, 195, Wahpeton, ND, North Dakota State College of Science) and wide receiver Tobias Enlow (6-1, 188, North Little Rock, AR).
Auburn: Safety Daniel Thomas (6-0, 182, Montgomery, AL Lee) was told he won’t be offered by Auburn because the class is full. Auburn has 16 (9 early enrollees) in its class and expects to add four others on National Signing Day.
Georgia: The Bulldogs are hoping to finish fast with 5-star athletes Mecole Hardman Jr. (5-11, 176, Elberton, GA Elbert County) and Demetris Robertson (6-1, 180, Savannah, GA Savannah Christian Prep).
Kentucky: Former Gainesville Buchholz and Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas is leaving Louisville to take the wide receivers coaching position at Kentucky.
LSU: Committed guard Donovaughn Campbell (6-4, 347, Ponchatoula, LA) says he will decide on Wednesday whether he’s going to stick with LSU or sign with Georgia Tech where his brother is a redshirt freshman quarterback.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs picked up a commitment from offensive tackle Steward Reese (6-5, 340, Fort Pierce, FL Central) Monday afternoon.
Missouri: Former Alabama wide receiver Chris Black, who graduated in December, has transferred to Missouri. Black caught 25 passes for 290 yards and 2 TDs in his Bama career. Also, Missouri is expected to hire Arizona State D-line coach Jackie Shipp.
Ole Miss: Linebacker Genard Avery (6-1, 255), who had 53 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks for Memphis last year, is trying to get a hardship waiver from the NCAA so he can transfer to Ole Miss. Avery wants to be closer to his mother, who is seriously ill.
South Carolina: Juco running back Tyren Jones, won’t be signing with South Carolina Wednesday reportedly because of academic issues. The Gamecocks picked up a commitment from wide receiver Kiel Pollard, who flipped from Arkansas.
Tennessee: The Vols feel good about their chances on Wednesday to land defensive tackle Derrick Brown (6-4, 322, Buford, GA Lanier), who is also considering Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State.
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ class took a hit Monday when defensive end commitment Mark Jackson (6-2, 221, Cibolo, TX Steele) flipped to Oklahoma.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores picked up a commitment from linebacker Kenny Hebert (6-2, 211, New Orleans, LA Holy Cross). Hebert was previously committed to Tulane.
FINNEY-SMITH ON A ROLL
What Dorian Finney-Smith has done the last six games is what senior leadership is all about. He’s become the vocal leader of the team, but also the one who leads by example. In the last six games, Finney-Smith has scored 114 points (19 per game), grabbed 62 rebounds (10.3 per game) and handed out 15 assists (2.5 per game). He’s hit 36-63 from the field (57.1%) and 17-31 (54.8%) from the 3-point line. For the season he’s averaging 14.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
While scoring and rebounding are obvious and necessary contributions, it’s the little things that Finney-Smith contributes to winning that is elevating the Gators. He’s Florida’s Swiss Army Knife in that he can play and defend all five positions but he’s also the guy who directs traffic on defense, fights through double teams, sets hard screens and sets the example of the one guy who always plays at full speed.
ALLEN SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
KeVaughn Allen was named SEC Freshman of the Week after turning in 35 points in Florida’s two games last week including 19 in the win over then 9th-ranked West Virginia. Against WVU, Allen hit 4-8 from the field, 2-5 on 3-pointers and 9-9 from the foul line while contributing 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. For the week he was 10-20 from the field overall, 5-9 from the 3-point line, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Since the Texas A&M game, when he was shut out, Allen has averaged 18.5 points per game. He’s hit 28-48 (58.3%) of his shots and 15-26 (57.7%) of his 3-pointers.
FLORIDA WOMEN RANKED #22
The Gators (18-4, 6-3 SEC) are back in the Associated Press Top 25 poll at the #22 position after their big win over Kentucky. The Gators definitely deserve to be ranked, but how is it Kentucky is ranked higher? Kentucky (15-5, 4-5 SEC) has three SEC losses in its last four games and has a losing record in the conference. The Gators have won four of their last five and are the one team that nobody in the SEC wants to play because of their relentless full court pressure. The Gators will have another chance to slay one of the SEC giants Thursday night when they play host to #12 Texas A&M. The Gators travel to #2 and unbeaten South Carolina this weekend.
UF MEN’S TRACK #1; WOMEN #4
This could be quite the spring for Florida track and field coach Mike Holloway, who already has five NCAA championships to his credit. As the indoor season begins to wind down, Holloway’s Florida men are ranked #1 in the nation while the women are ranked #4. The Florida men will be the favorite to win the NCAA indoor title while the women could finish top five. What is interesting is the Gators are strongest when the season goes outdoors. Could Holloway add two or three more NCAA title notches on his belt this spring?
UF WOMEN’S GOLF TEAM WINS FLORIDA CHALLENGE
After three years of steady improvement under coach Emily Glaser, the Florida women’s golf team could soon be cracking the top 10. Ranked #12, the Gators brought home the team championship at the Florida Challenge in Lecanto, scoring a 12-stroke win over Florida State. Kelly Grassel and Taylor Tomlinson shared medalist honors with 3-under par 141s.
The story line for the Super Bowl is all about the quarterbacks – Denver’s Peyton Manning who might be retiring and Carolina’s Cam Newton who some call the QB of the future – but there is every good possibility that this game will be all about the defenses. Denver led the NFL in the regular season by giving up only 18.5 points and 283.1 yards per game while the Panthers gave up only 19.2 points and 322.9 yards.
The NCAA gave Mark Emmert a 3-year extension on his contract to run the bloated bureaucracy that is college sports. I ask why? Does it take another three years to prove that Emmert is the walking embodiment of The Peter Principle?
Duke University fell out of the top 25 in the Associated Press poll Monday, marking the first time in 167 weeks that the Blue Devils were unranked.
And while we’re on the subject of streaks, the Tennessee Lady Vols fell to #23 but they kept their streak of being in the top 25 every week since February 17, 1985. That’s 563 weeks, which is fairly remarkable.
Brandt Snedeker won at Torrey Pines over the weekend. Since 2011, would you believe only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have won more PGA tournaments?
Former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek has been hired as safeties coach at South Florida.
The Green Bay Packers have asked running back Eddie Lacey to drop 30 pounds. Lacey is listed at 234 pounds although he looks like a prime candidate for Nutrisystem or the Slim Fast Plan. The people at P90X have offered to make him the poster child for their fitness plan. I don’t have to make this up.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Can Jim McElwain pull off another signing day coup by landing at least two of the top four final targets?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I’ve used this album before as my music for today but the death of Paul Kantner compels me to use “Surrealistic Pillow” again. This was Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 release that included “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit. The band included Kantner on rhythm guitar and vocals, Grace Slick on vocals and keyboards, Marty Balin on guitar and vocals, Spencer Dryden on the drums and Jorma Kaukonen on lead guitar.