Okay, the Orange and Blue game is just practice, but it’s the last live football we will see in Gainesville until September so savor the moment whether you are at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium tonight or watching it on the SEC Network.
Here are five things to watch for tonight:
1. Luke Del Rio and the deep ball: There are reports that while Del Rio throws a very accurate and catchable ball, he hesitates to pull the trigger on the deep routes. Accuracy and getting the ball to the right people are staples of the Jim McElwain offense, but so is throwing the ball deep just often enough to keep secondaries from crowding the line of scrimmage. If it’s true that Del Rio hesitates, that could open the door for Purdue transfer Austin Appleby to move into the #1 QB job between now and September.
2. T.J. McCoy at center: If he can hold down the #1 job, then the UF O-line just got a lot more versatile since Cam Dillard will be freed up to join the guard rotation and Tyler Jordan can become UF’s jack-of-all trades guy who can be in the rotation both inside and outside.
3. Ahmad Fulwood as a legitimate outside threat at WR: To put it bluntly, this is a contract year. Coming out of high school, Fulwood was thought to have NFL potential, but other than a play here and there, he’s been somewhat of a disappointment. He’s a rising senior now, so if he’s ever going to make it to the NFL this is the year he’s got to do it. Reports are that he’s had a consistent spring so let’s see if he can have a good O and B and then carry it over to the summer months.
4. Thomas Holley at DE: We forget what a highly regarded recruit he was coming out of high school. He was a monster DT in those days. Injuries and surgery have turned him into a trimmed down version at DE. By all accounts he’s a great kid who’s just had a real run of bad luck. It would be good to see him emerge as a strong side guy who can stuff the run.
5. Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian at LB: Anzalone’s problems have had everything to do with injuries. He was running ahead of Jarrad Davis last August before he got hurt. Now he’s playing alongside Davis and looking like a guy who’s ready for a big year. The question is health. Talent is not a problem. McMillian and Fulwood have something in common. It’s a contract year. He’s a senior so the lights need to come on if he’s going to attract any NFL attention. Apparently, he’s had an outstanding spring so perhaps a breakout season is ahead.
UF SPRING SPORTS ROUNDUP
Baseball: The #1-ranked Gators (28-3, 7-2 SEC) also have the top RPI in the nation. When 10th-ranked Mississippi State (21-8-1, 6-3 SEC) comes to town for the start of a 3-game weekend series today (5:30 p.m. start at McKethan Stadium), Logan Shore (5-0, 2.59) will square off against MSU ace Dakota Hudson (4-1, 0.92 ERA). UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan will continue his shuffled pitching rotation that sends Alex Faedo (6-0, 2.53 ERA) to the mound Friday night followed by former Saturday starter A.J. Puk (1-2, 3.38 ERA) on Sunday.
Because the Orange and Blue Game will be played Friday night, there will be shuttle service to McKethan Stadium from the commuter lot on Lemerand Drive starting at 3:30 p.m.
Softball: The Gators (35-3, 9-3 SEC), who dropped to #2 nationally after losing two out of three to Alabama in Gainesville last weekend, hit the road for a 3-game series at Ole Miss (28-10, 4-5 SEC). The Gators are the nation’s top fielding team and boast the best team ERA (0.86). Pitching and defense are not the problem. Hitting is. The Gators have scored only 7 runs on 18 hits in their last four games.
Lacrosse: The 2nd-ranked Gators (11-1, 2-0 Big East) travel to Washington, DC, Saturday for a Big East encounter with Georgetown (3-7, 1-0 Big East). Next home match for the Gators is next Wednesday when Marquette comes to Gainesville.
Women’s Tennis: The 6th-ranked Gators (14-2, 9-0 SEC) will try to maintain their lead in the SEC this weekend when they face #56 Alabama (4-13, 0-9 SEC) today in Tuscaloosa and then #13 Auburn (19-4, 7-2 SEC) Sunday. The Gators, who hold a 1-game lead over 4th-ranked Georgia (15-2, 8-1 SEC), will face the Bulldogs in Athens next weekend for a match that could decide the SEC regular season title.
Men’s Tennis: The 14th-ranked Gators (12-5, 7-1 SEC) head to Athens for their showdown with #7 Georgia (14-3, 9-0 SEC) this afternoon. The Gators are coming off a home loss to #13 Virginia Wednesday night. The Gators have a 2-game lead over Arkansas and Texas A&M in the SEC standings.
Nothing Jordan Speith did in the last two months heading into Thursday’s opening round of The Masters prepared us to think he would shoot a 6-under, 66, for a 2-shot lead. Speith looked like the Speith who took Augusta by storm as a 21-year-old last year, not the guy who has missed a couple of cuts and finished in the top 10 only three times all year. Speith isn’t the longest guy off the tee but he’s deadly accurate with his irons and typically leaves himself with makeable putts. If he can hit the greens and breeze through the next three rounds with minimal numbers of putts the next three days he will be wearing the green jacket for the second straight year.
Jason Day looked like he was on his way to either tying for or taking the lead until he hit 15, where he 3-putted for a double bogey. Day lost three more shots to par on the next three holes and limped in at even par.
Irishman Sean Lowry is tied with David Lee for second at -4. With his beard and his belly, put a plaid flannel shirt on him and Lowry could pass for the bartender at a Twin Peaks Restaurant.
Sergio Garcia is at -3. I wonder when he realizes this is a major, that he’s in contention and that he’s due to melt down? Again. Watching Sergio makes me believe there should be a rule for the number of re-grips on your driver before you actually whack the ball.
Former Gator Billy Horschel is tied for 9th at -2, as is Scott Piercy. Along with Speith, they are the only Americans in the top 10.
I discovered I have something in common with Ernie Els. He scored a 10 on the first hole Thursday. I can relate. I did a 10 on the first hole at Valle Del Sol in Costa Rica in 1999. Of course, Ernie 7-putted. I put five straight balls in the water hazard.
I had Jason Day and Bubba Watson as my favorites to win on Thursday morning. It’s still early and both of them could rally but I have to say Speith and Rory McIlroy (-2) are my new favorites.
HOW UNC COULD HAVE SOLVED ITS ACADEMIC ISSUES
As the University of North Carolina athletic department awaits a decision by the NCAA Committee on Infractions regarding academic improprieties, I came across this YouTube video and realized that UNC could have solved its problems years ago just by taking the following steps:
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL NEWS
Alabama: Former UF basketball assistant and Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey has joined Avery Johnson’s staff at Alabama. Pelphrey was a UF assistant with Billy Donovan from 1996-2002 and from 2011-15.
Arkansas: Respect. That’s what Bret Bielema is looking for when he or Arkansas coaches are out recruiting. He’s not talking about respect for Arkansas, but respect for parents and women. On the Jim Rome Show, Bielema said, “I tell our coaches, ‘Look out for social issues with women,’” Bielema said. “If he disrespects women at that time in his life, wait until he’s on his own on campus, it’s just a ticking time bomb. Maybe if a kid curses his mother or says something you shouldn’t say in front of your mom, that’s a red flag for us, ‘Let’s get out of this thing before it’s too late.’
Auburn: Backup QB Tyler Queen will miss Saturday’s A-Day Game with an AC joint injury that will not require surgery. Queen was running #4 behind John Franklin III, Jeremy Johnson and Sean White. Franklin, Johnson and White will share the snaps almost evenly on Saturday.
Georgia: Greg Pyke, who has started the last two years at right guard, has been moved to right tackle by new OL coach Sam Pittman. The rest of the OL currently has LT Kendall Baker, LG Isaiah Wynn, C Bryan Kublanow and RG Dyshon Sims.
Kentucky: Although the Wildcats haven’t abandoned the 4-3 look on defense altogether, new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot says the Wildcats will be in a base 3-4 most of the time next season.
LSU: David Patrick, LSU’s Australian connection for basketball recruiting, has taken a job on Jamie Dixon’s staff at TCU. Patrick is the godfather of Ben Simmons, the Australian who was a one-and-done at LSU this past season.
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen replaced former Georgia coach Mark Richt on the Division I football oversight committee. Duties of the committee include recommending improvements to the regular and postseason and supervising licensing of postseason bowls.
Missouri: Out for the rest of the spring are OL Nate Crawford (back), DE Charles Harris (right shoulder labrun) and DE Nate Howard (left knee soft tissue). Practicing on a limited basis have been DL Terry Beckner Jr. (ACL recovery), OL Jonah Dubinski (meniscus) and safeties Isaiah Pierre and Tavon Ross (both recovering from ACL tears).
Ole Miss: OL Rod Taylor, expected to start at guard in the fall, was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting. Taylor allegedly failed to pay for two bags of charcoal that were under his shopping cart when he went through a self-checkout line.
South Carolina: With Perry Orth (broken collarbone) and Lorenzo Nunez (hyperextended knee) out with injuries, freshman Brandon McIlwain is expected to get the bulk of the first team snaps at Saturday’s Garnet and Black Game.
Tennessee: Former Alabama QB and SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy spent a couple of days in Knoxville to check in on spring practice at UT. McElroy told the Paul Finebaum Show, “People very confident here in Knoxville and I think for good reason. The team looks absolutely outstanding.”
Texas A&M: Wide receiver Speedy Noil has been suspended for Texas A&M’s season opener with UCLA. It isn’t the first time Noil has been in trouble. He was suspended for the Aggies’ loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.
Vanderbilt: New basketball coach Bryce Drew got a 6-year deal worth X. Drew says the goal is to make the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Even though the SEC is likely to lift its ban on satellite camps by the end of May, Nick Saban doesn’t seem too interested. “I’m really not even thinking that it has much value,” Saban told reporters this week.
The quarterback situation in Denver is bad enough that HBC Gary Kubiak checked into the idea of signing Johnny Manziel. Noting that the Broncos passed on Robert Griffin III (signed with Cleveland), David Steele of The Sporting News penned, “The guy with the bad knee (RGIII), the brand logo, the aggravating social media habits … get outta here. The guy who’s been through rehab, who’s being investigated for assaulting his girlfriend, who got benched for his off-field actions, who might as well have his own weekly segment on TMZ … let’s talk.” Jeff Legwold of ESPN says about the Broncos, “There’s not a quarterback that they wouldn’t consider right now.”
Pat Summit’s son Tyler resigned as women’s basketball coach at Louisiana Tech because of an inappropriate relationship. He was 30-31 in two years.
The Phoenix Suns want to talk to Villanova coach Jay Wright about taking over as head coach. A lot of college coaches haven’t fared well at the next level but the recent success of former Butler coach Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics) and Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder) has changed perceptions.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two-part question: The NBA regular season is down to its final 4-5 games and the playoffs are about to begin. (1) Have you paid attention to the regular season and (2) now that it’s time for the playoffs will you be interested enough to follow what’s going on?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Tonight, Chicago will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Deep Purple, N.W.A and the Steve Miller Band. While I believe Chicago deserves a place in the Hall of Fame, it’s for the music the band produced in its first 10 years of existence, not the whiny, life sucks because you left me and I’m wasting away into nothing music that dominated the band when Peter Cetera took over the band’s direction. I still listen to the early music when it was rock and roll fused with jazz and a 3-man horn section that was as good as it got. Today’s music is a live performance from 2014 at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles.