During the past couple of weeks Paul Finebaum has been allowing fans to vote in a playoff for the best quarterback ever in the Southeastern Conference. His 12-man playoff included Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Fran Tarkenton, all three fine QBs but they were far better pros than they were collegians.
Here is my list of the 10 best ever in the SEC and it’s based on seeing all of them play both in person and on TV and is not based on what they did as pros. Who would you have on your top 10 list?
1. Danny Wuerffel, Florida: It always comes down to Tebow or Wuerffel and while Tebow had great stats, Wuerffel got four SEC championship rings and played for two national titles, winning one. It’s a close call but that 1996 national championship season and Heisman give him the slightest of edges.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida: This is another tough call. Statistically his best season was the worst of his four at UF but it was good enough to win the Heisman. He probably should have won at least one other Heisman but was penalized by the fact he played with virtually an NFL lineup. The year he really should have won it was 2008 when the Gators won the national title and he clearly was the best player on the field for the SEC and national championship games.
3. Archie Manning, Ole Miss: Archie was a thoroughbred who played with a bunch of donkeys. Bear Bryant called Archie’s 510-yard total offense game against Alabama the greatest game he ever saw a QB play. I saw him in person. He was better than either of his kids.
4. Peyton Manning, Tennessee: The knock on him is that he never beat Florida and never won a national championship. He should have won the 1997 Heisman, however. He would have won it if his name had been Ralph Smith. He took a Heisman hit because he was a Manning.
5. Cameron Newton, Auburn: It’s actually a tough call putting him this high because he really only played one year of college football after transferring out of Florida on a bad note. Of course, during that one season he was the best player in the country, led Auburn to an undefeated national title and won the Heisman.
6. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The character issues we see now were there all along, but even so, the kid could play. What he did to Alabama as a redshirt freshman won him the Heisman. He needed to stay another year in school to mature a little bit. He’s paying the price for that now.
7. Steve Spurrier, Florida: Danny Wuerffel threw for more touchdown passes in Florida’s 1996 national championship season than Spurrier did in three years at UF. It was a different era but Spurrier would have been great in any era. He won the 1966 Heisman.
8. Bert Jones, LSU: He’s like Archie and Spurrier in that I often wonder what he could have done in this era of spread offenses. He had the best arm of any SEC QB I’ve ever seen before or since. He was an All-Pro QB in the NFL until the injuries cut his career short.
9. Pat Sullivan, Auburn: He’s another one who ranks top ten and not just because he won a Heisman. He was a high character guy who would have won in any offense because he was the total team player. He also threw as good a deep ball as any SEC QB who’s played in the last 50 years.
10. A.J. McCarron, Alabama: A lot of folks don’t want to give McCarron his due, but he belongs in the top ten if for no other reason than he won back-to-back national championships. The last QB who did that was Tommie Frazier of Nebraska in 1994-95.
GATOR BASEBALL BOUNCES BACK
Buddy Reed’s third inning triple drove in Jonathan India with what proved to be the game-winning run as the #2 Gators (24-3) bounced back from losing two of three to Kentucky last weekend with a 3-2 win over #8 Florida State. Jonathan Koward, Brady Singer and Shaun Anderson split up the pitching duties with Kowar (3-0) picking up the win after allowing one run and only five hits through the first five innings. Singer gave up an unearned run in three innings of relief and Anderson came on to pitch a spotless ninth, striking out two to earn his fourth save of the season.
Kowar gave up a first inning home run but settled down to shut down the Seminoles the next four. Florida took the lead in the bottom of the second when Deacon Liput singled and Mike Rivera followed with his sixth homer of the season. In the third, India walked and Reed followed with his triple down the right field line for the game-winner.
The Gators play host to #1 Texas A&M this weekend in what will be the most highly watched and anticipated baseball matchup of the still young collegiate season.
Softball: The new rankings came out Tuesday and the Gators (33-1, 8-1 SEC) remained comfortably in front of second place Michigan. The Gators are one of nine SEC teams in the top 25. The others are (3) Auburn, (7) Alabama, (9) Georgia, (10) LSU, (11) Texas A&M, (12) Kentucky, (15) Missouri and (16) Tennessee. Of interest, Florida State is ranked #8 and USF #23.
The Gators play host to #7 Alabama for a three-game series starting Friday.
Women’s Tennis: The new rankings came out Tuesday and the Gators (11-2, 7-0 SEC) moved up one spot to #6. Just ahead of the Gators are (4) Georgia and (5) Vanderbilt. Other ranked SEC teams are (8) South Carolina, (14) Auburn, (15) LSU, (23) Kentucky, (24) Arkansas and (25) Texas A&M. Miami is ranked #7. The Gators will play host to LSU Thursday and Texas A&M on Saturday.
Men’s Tennis: The Gators (11-4, 6-1 SEC) moved up five spots to #11. Also ranked from the SEC are (7) Georgia, (10) Texas A&M, (14) Arkansas, (19) Kentucky and (25) Mississippi State. Additionally, USF is ranked #17 and FSU is ranked #22. The Gators play host to Vanderbilt Friday.
TEBOW ON RUNNING FOR POLITICAL OFFICE
It’s spring which means Tim Tebow is out and about, doing what only he can do, which is inspire hope and love wherever he goes. Tim might not have made it in the NFL, but it’s fairly obvious if you follow him that there is a higher plan for his life. Is there anyone that you know of so capable of inspiring young kids – and even adults – like Tebow?
Asked by Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News if he would consider running for political office someday, Tebow responded, “If there's a chance you can make a difference some day in something, that would be intriguing.”
Considering the mudslinging that’s out there these days and times, candidate Tebow might provide a welcome change of pace to the political process, but could he stay above the fray? And even though most of us would believe with all our hearts that he’s squeaky clean, even the squeakiest are subjected to a media determined to find even one spec of dirt that can be turned into a scandal. While I think no one would find any dirt on Tebow, the process of being investigated and having to watch your step so closely has to be a grind.
Governor Tebow? Congressman Tebow? Senator Tebow?
Could it happen?
PERCEPTIONS, OLE MISS AND HUGH FREEZE
There is a very good chance that three Ole Miss juniors – LT Laremy Tunsil, WR Laquon Treadwell and DT Robert Nkemdiche – will be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Tunsil seems a lock to be the #1 overall selection by the Tennessee Titans while Treadwell might be the first WR taken. So ask yourself this question because a lot of people including the NCAA are doing it already: How did Ole Miss land this kind of talent?
Generally speaking, there are two trains of thought here: (1) Hugh Freeze is simply outworking everyone and selling a dream the same way Billy Donovan sold the dream to Mike Miller, who openly asked, “Why not Florida?” or (2) great players don’t agree to spend at least three years of their lives in Oxford, Mississippi so Freeze and his staff must be cheating.
The NCAA seems to be intent on proving point #2, which led Freeze to say the Ole Miss program has undergone the equivalent of a “four-year colonoscopy.” The four years of investigation have come up with a handful of NCAA violations, most of which occurred before Freeze arrived in Oxford. The charges that may stick on Freeze’s watch might not involve Freeze or his staff at all, but Tunsil’s interaction with agents. Ask any Division I coach and he will tell you agents and their runners are almost a bigger threat to their programs than having to face off with Nick Saban and Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
So is Hugh Freeze playing it by the book or has the long arm of the NCAA law finally caught up with a rogue coach who’s made an SEC bottom feeder relevant way too fast? I’ve got no proof that Freeze is cheating but a lot of people seem to think so. The only thing I know is he’s won wherever he’s coached and whatever the sport (a bunch of girls basketball championships in Tennessee). Somehow I doubt he’s cheated all these years at all these levels or else it would have caught up with him sooner than Ole Miss.
But right now, if you go by the court of public perception, Hugh Freeze is guilty as sin.
ASSOCIATED PRESS ALL-AMERICAN BASKETBALL TEAM
First team: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma; Denzil Valentine, Michigan State; Brice Johnson, North Carolina; Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia; Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Second team: Jakob Poeltl, Utah; Ben Simmons, LSU; Perry Ellis, Kansas; Kriss Dunn, Providence; Georges Niang, Iowa State
Third team: Grayson Allen, Duke; Yogi Ferrell, Indiana; Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa; Kay Felder, Oakland; Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Ron Higgins of the NOLA.com reports that SEC football programs have had fewer arrests through the first three months of 2016 than any year since 2011. Of course, May 1 through July 31 is the period when the greatest number of arrests occur at SEC schools.
We’ve known for some time that Vandy QB Johnny McCrary had one foot out the door. Now that spring practice is over, McCrary has the second foot out the door. He’ll play at Mercer next year.
South Carolina’s 5-man battle for the starting QB job this spring got more interesting when last year’s starter Perry Orth suffered a broken collarbone at last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Tennessee’s QB depth chart took a hit when third string QB Sheriron Jones was injured and declared out for the rest of the spring.
Offensive lineman and defensive back Cornelius Floyd are no longer part of the Arkansas football program. Floyd’s problems are academically related and he could rejoin the program in August.
Now that Georgia Tech has fired basketball coach Brian Gregory, the search seems to be centering on Miami’s Jim Larranaga and Duke assistant Jeff Capel. I can understand Larranaga, but why Capel? With all the talent in metro Atlanta, Georgia Tech needs to hire a coach with some real credentials who can get the kids to stay home. I doubt Larranaga will leave Miami. He’s got the best recruiting class in Miami’s history coming in next year and he’s won 25 or more games in three of the last four years, something that just hasn’t happened before at The U.
Here’s something to think about: Five years ago, the BABC AAU basketball team out of Boston had Nerlens Noel (Kentucky and Philadelphia, NBA), Jake Layman (Maryland), Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas), Georges Niang (Iowa State) and Jaylen Brantley (Maryland backup point guard) on its roster.
Declaring early for the NBA: Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas); Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt);
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What is your top 10 list of SEC quarterbacks of all time?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I broke out some music by Henry St. Clair Fredericks Jr. Tuesday and was reminded once again just how entertaining he is. If you love the blues then you know Henry as Taj Majal, which is his stage name he adopted after having dreams about Gandhi, India when he was a teenager. I was introduced to Taj by Al Hospers when I was working at The Record Bar on University Avenue after school in 1969. Today’s music is his “Natch’l Blues” album from 1968. I remember it well.