Antonio Morrison more than made up for missing the NFL Combine Tuesday at Florida’s Indoor Practice Facility. Sick and unable to participate at the combine in Indianapolis last month, Morrison showed no lingering signs of illness or of an ACL injury suffered toward the end of the 2014 season. He measured just a hair under 6-1 and weighed in at 233 pounds, bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times and did an unofficial 5.0 in the 40-yard dash and 4.65 in the shuttle.
The speed numbers are okay, but not great but the NFL scouts watching him work out Tuesday weren’t worried about what the stopwatch has to say. They’ve seen enough of Morrison on film to know that he works well in space, avoids getting picked off by blockers and shows up at the hole to put a hit on a ball carrier.
What the scouts were looking for Tuesday was relentless effort and Morrison showed that. Effort guys raise eyebrows with NFL scouts because if they’ve got talent (Morrison does) and playmaking ability (ditto on that) they tend to be very good leaders, something every NFL team needs.
Morrison is a guy who came to UF a kid with a reputation and left a mature man who has learned to channel his passion and energies in a positive direction. He didn’t exactly wow the scouts with Star Wars numbers Tuesday, but he didn’t have to. He showed up, listened to instruction and then gave 100% effort on everything he was asked to do. Relentless effort left the scouts feeling the warm and fuzzies.
Pro Day Notes: CB/S Brian Poole helped himself with a 4.49 time in the 40 … Alex McCalister’s weight might be a problem (245) but he’s got the frame (a tad more than 6-6 and arms that measured 36 inches in length) that someone will take a chance … TE Jake McGee turned in a 4.76 unofficial time in the 40 … Keanu Neal’s unofficial 40 time (4.56) isn’t spectacular but it’s good enough speed that someone will draft him, probably on day two … OT Mason Halter did only 9 reps of 225 on the bench, which is very disappointing … Demarcus Robinson did all the measurable and the workouts. He’s trying to make up on the field for reports that his personal interviews at the combine were less than impressive.
#1 GATORS 2, #19 FLORIDA ATLANTIC 1
After giving up a leadoff homer to Stephen Kerr in the top of the first inning, six Florida pitchers combined to shut down the Owls on four hits the rest of the way as the #1-ranked Gators knocked off #19 Florida Atlantic, 2-1, before a Tuesday night crowd of 3,792 at McKethan Stadium. The win was the 16th straight for UF, which got the only two runs it needed in the bottom of the second when Nelson Maldonado tripled home Deacon Liput and scored on a throwing error on the relay.
Jackson Kowar gave up a home run to left field by Kerr on his second pitch of the game but settled down and gave up only 2 more hits while striking out 6 in his 4-1/3 innings of work. Frank Rubio, Scott Moss, Dane Dunning Kirby Snead and Brady Singer gave up only two hits and walked two in 4-2/3 innings of relief after Kowar left the game.
The Gators (22-1, 3-0 SEC) travel to Lexington this weekend for a 3-game Southeastern Conference set against Kentucky (15-5, 2-1 SEC).
Women’s Tennis: The new poll came out Tuesday and the Gators (11-2, 6-0 SEC) jumped from #13 to #7 in the new rankings.
Men’s Tennis: Two wins last weekend over higher-ranked teams boosted the Gators (9-4, 4-1 SEC) eight places in the latest ITA rankings. UF moved up to #16 after barely cracking the top 25 the week before.
Men’s Swimming: Fifth-ranked Florida begins its quest for the NCAA Swimming championship in Atlanta starting today.
Former UF basketball assistant Larry Shyatt had four years remaining on his contract to coach basketball at Wyoming when he surprisingly announced Monday that he’s walking away and turning the keys to the program over to assistant Allen Edwards. This wasn’t spur of the moment – “I’ve thought about it for a long time,” Shyatt said at his farewell press conference – and if you ever had the chance to know him, then you are aware that Larry Shyatt never makes any move without a lot of thought and lengthy discussions with the love of his life, wife Pam.
You can bet that basketball will be in his future but not at the collegiate level for at least one year due to a contract restriction. Shy turned down an assistant’s job with the Dallas Mavericks last spring and it would surprise no one if both Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder) and long time bud Greg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) have already offered him a place on their staffs.
Here are a couple of memories of Shyatt during his days as a UF assistant from 2004-11.
His first year as a Donovan assistant was 2004-05. The Gators had a reputation as a talented but very soft team prior to his arrival. Shyatt toughened up the Gators and made them accountable defensively. UF knocked off heavily favored Kentucky to win the SEC Tournament that year. Kentucky did its best to physically intimidate the Gators but no one backed down. That wouldn’t have happened a year before.
In the summer of 2006, the Gators already had a commitment from Nick Calathes but the jury was still out on Nick’s Lake Howell buddy Chandler Parsons, then a very skinny 6-8. Shyatt was the lead recruiter and throughout the AAU season was always sitting beside Donovan, whispering in his ear, “I don’t like this guy … I love him!” Donovan still wasn’t all that impressed even though Parsons went off for 36 points, more than either Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon of Chicago Mean Streets at the Nike Peach Jam. At the AAU Nationals in Orlando in late July, Parsons lit up pre-microfracture surgery Delvon Roe for 42 points to lead Nike Team Florida to a huge upset win over All Ohio Red. Even though Roe was only a rising high school junior at the time, there were NBA scouts who thought he was ready for the league even then. Sitting by Donovan that night, Shyatt grinned and said, “I love this guy (Parsons) … come on, smile, tell me you love him, too!” Donovan grinned and shook his head affirmatively. A week later CP committed to UF and then spent the next four years transforming into one of the best players in school history.
After the Gators won their second straight NCAA title in 2007, I was sitting in Shyatt’s office one afternoon. It was Joakim Noah’s last day on campus before he started pre-NBA Draft workouts. The door opened suddenly and Noah leapt into the room and assumed a defensive stance. “Give it to me, Coach!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. Shyatt got out of his seat and proceeded to take Noah through about two minutes of defensive drills right there on the carpet. When it was over, Noah hugged Shyatt, then looked over at me and said, “Coach Shy is the Minister of Defense. He believed in me when not many people did and he made me love playing defense. I love this guy!”
SPRING FOOTBALL NEWS FROM THE SEC
Alabama: After his monster performance against Clemson in the national championship game (5 catches, 208 yards, 2 TDs), most experts believed tight end O.J. Howard would go pro but he surprised everyone by returning for his senior season. The decision, he says, wasn’t all that difficult: “It was the kind of a decision where I thought I had so much left on the table in college. How I can mature on and off the field. It really wasn’t a hard decision at the end of the day. I thought about it a lot.”
Arkansas: QB Ricky Town may have a lot of physical talent but apparently what’s between the ears is keeping him from contending for the #1 job this spring. Said HBC Bret Bielema, “He never really got a grasp of the offense. We put him in there during bowl prep and he literally didn’t know any Hog-anese … [OC Dan Enos] is getting on him and he’s like ‘uhhhh,’ like we’re speaking French to him.”
Auburn: OT Brodarious Hamm, a 2016 signee who was planning to enroll in May, has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has already begun chemotherapy.
Georgia: Georgia is the latest school to get signed scholarship papers from 2016 5-star wide receiver Demetris Robinson from Savannah. He’s also signed papers – but no LOI – with California and Georgia Tech. What’s the hold-up in making a decision? Apparently Robinson is waiting on test scores that would allow him to gain entrance to Stanford while thumbing his nose at Georgia, Georgia Tech and California.
LSU: It’s spring break at LSU this week so where is Les Miles? He’s in Cuba as part of the US delegation during President Obama’s visit.
Mississippi State: Tautvydas Kieras, a former record-setting discus thrower on the MSU track team, was encouraged to participate in Pro Day even though he’s never played a down of football. The 6-3, 271-pound native of Lithuania ran a 4.69 40, repped 225 pounds 24 times on the bench and did a 35-inch vertical. That was all the Kansas City Chiefs needed to see. They signed him to a free agent contract.
Missouri: No reason has been given why running back Chase Abbington has elected to leave the program. A former juco transfer, Abbington played in 10 games last year but gained only 39 yards on 6 carries.
Ole Miss: At the moment, Jeremy Liggins, Alex Givens and Sean Rawlings are the three players in contention for the vacant left and right tackle jobs that could be won by a pair of true freshmen in August. Five-star Greg Little and 4-star Bryce Matthews are talented enough to start from day one but right now, they’re both winding down their high school days prior to graduation.
South Carolina: Sophomore Lorenzo Nunez, who’s been battling for the starting QB job this spring, hyperextended a knee. That’s the bad news. The good news, per HBC Will Muschamp, is that the Gamecocks “hope to get him back in a week or so.”
Tennessee: Longtime Tennessee writer/radio personality Jimmy Hyams, while admitting the Vols might be heavy favorites to win the SEC East, points to the fact the last time UT had expectations this high was 2005. The Vols were preseason #3 but finished the season 5-6 with the first of 11 straight losses to the Gators and the first loss since 1982 to Vanderbilt. Among the reasons Hyams says the Vols could fail to live up to the hype is UT QB Joshua Dobba, who specialized in the two-inch pass last year. No UT receiver caught 40 passes or gained more than 400 yards receiving in 2015.
Texas A&M: Super-agent Drew Rosenhaus says new client Johnny Manziel has drawn interest from several NFL teams even with all the problems and baggage. Manziel’s life is complicated by a pending criminal investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident.
Vanderbilt: One of the reasons there is optimism that Vandy’s offense will improve in 2016 is the return of wide receiver C.J. Duncan, who missed all of last season with an injury. In 2014, Duncan caught 28 passes for 441 yards.
THE TWITTERVERSE AND BRENT GRIMES
There is no doubt Brent Grimes is one of the best cornerbacks in the National Football League. Three Pro Bowls while playing for the Miami Dolphins is undeniable proof.
There is also no doubt his wife – radio personality Miko Grimes – is a certifiable head case. We know that because of her constant harangues of Miami QB Ryan Tannehill, getting arrested outside Sun Life Stadium last September and threatening a reporter of the Miami Herald who wrote a story that questioned her husband’s future with the Dolphins.
So, if you’re wondering why Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross sanctioned a parting of the ways with his talented CB, now you know. Miko lived in the Twitterverse and everybody was fair game. Ross wanted no more of it and jettisoned Brent.
“I think everybody knows what she represented,” Ross told the Palm Beach Post. “I thought it was best that the Dolphins move on from Brent and Miko.”
Brent and Miko Grimes are now a problem for the Tampa Bay Bucs to deal with. They might provide comic relief if Jameis Winston melts down again.
Former Gator Chandler Parsons will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, ending the season prematurely for the second straight year. In his last 27 games, Parsons averaged 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 51.9% overall and 47.7% from the 3-point line.
The NFL is eliminating the chop block in all forms. It would be nice if college football would adapt the same rules change and save a lot of ACL surgeries in the future.
Florida State freshman Malik Beasley declared for the NBA Draft Tuesday. It’s likely he will be joined by teammate Dwayne Bacon.
Malik Newman, who was somewhat of a disappointment as a freshman at Mississippi State, is testing his draft stock before he makes a decision about staying or going.
In what will probably be his last chance to prove he can play professional football, former Alabama All-America running back Trent Richardson has an agreement to sign with the Baltimore Ravens. Richardson has a career average of 3.3 yards per carry.
What were the odds that Texas A&M could outscore Northern Iowa 14-2 in the final 44 seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime where the Aggies won to advance to the Sweet 16? Analytics site FiveThirtyEight.com’s Neil Payne said the Aggies had a 1-in-3,333 chance to pull it off.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you are an NFL owner or GM, do you take a chance that you can reform and rehab Johnny Manziel or do you pass on the belief that he will be someone else’s headache?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When I was a senior at Gainesville High School in the fall of 1968, “Wichita Lineman” was a constant on the radio. That was Glen Campbell at his absolute best. From Delight, Arkansas, he became a great studio musician and spent more than a year as one of the Beach Boys before he went on to a spectacular solo career that included his own Sunday night television show. He’s in the final stages of Alzheimer’s now and it’s only a matter of time before he’s gone. So, today’s music is music to remember him by.