With the Orange and Blue game a thing of the past, here are some further thoughts about spring #2 of the Jim McElwain era.
1. A moment to remember: Did you catch the interaction between Mac and Feleipe Franks after Franks had thrown his third interception in four passes? This was not only a teaching moment for Mac but a chance to make sure his freshman QB wasn’t emotionally shattered. There was no yelling and screaming. Mac calmed Franks with some positive words of encouragement, then sent him back out there for that last series and let him throw a TD pass. And that throw wasn’t just some easy toss and catch, either. That was a big league throw by a kid with a big league arm. It was a tough night for Franks, but he’ll learn from the experience and now he knows he’s got a teacher for a coach, not someone who loses his mind on the sideline.
2. Duke Dawson is ready to break out: He’s shown flashes of ability the last two years but there has always been something missing. From all accounts this spring, the lights have come on and consistency is now part of his repertoire. Dawson has always had ball hawk instincts but now he looks like a guy who’s ready to put people on the ground.
3. Dre Massey is going to be a star: He only caught two passes Friday night, but if you watched him with and without the ball, you saw a very fluid athlete who doesn’t waste a lot of motion. If he were a car we would be talking about how fast he goes from 0-60. He’s going to lull a lot of DBs to sleep, then hit that extra gear and blow by them in the fall.
4. The O-line is a work in progress: We will have to wait until fall to see what kind of difference Martez Ivey can make by taking over at right tackle, or if Ivey needs to play LT with David Sharpe moving inside. I’m of the opinion that the best OL might have Ivey at LT, Sharpe at LG, Tyler Jordan at C, Antonio Riles at RG and Fred Johnson at RT.
5. If the DL can get to the passer, the defense will be as good as there is in the SEC: I’m convinced the Gators are going to be excellent against the run and I believe the secondary will actually be better than last year. Having Torrian Gray to coach the guys on the back end makes me think that way. The only thing that concerns me is pass rush. While I don’t see a dominant guy off the edge, there is a lot of speed and athleticism. If the guys on the inside can get enough push up the middle to force teams to play a fullback or keep their tailback in to pass block, I think the pass rush will be decent. If a guy like Taven Bryan has a breakout year and requires double teams in the middle, then the guys off the edge are going to make their presence known.
UF SPRING SPORTS
Baseball: The Gators (29-5, 8-4 SEC) dropped down to #2 in the USAToday Coaches poll. Miami (25-4) took over #1 with Texas A&M (25-7), Vanderbilt (25-7), South Carolina (28-5) and Florida State (22-8) trailing the Gators. Also in the top 25 are #8 Mississippi State (23-9-1), #11 Ole Miss (25-7), #12 LSU (21-10) and Kentucky (22-9). The Gators face Florida State tonight in Tallahassee.
Softball: The new rankings don’t come out until tomorrow but the Gators (37-3) shouldn’t lose any ground on #1 Michigan and #2 Auburn. The Gators play host to Florida State on Wednesday and then #5 Louisiana-Lafayette in a 3-game non-conference series that begins on Friday.
TIME TO RE-THINK SPRING GAMES
Ole Miss didn’t play a spring football game this year because of construction at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The lack of a spring game didn’t exactly cause Hugh Freeze to lose sleep. It’s not that he’s opposed to spring football, just that he thinks it would be better if the games were meaningful instead of a glorified scrimmage.
After Saturday’s practice, the last of the spring for Ole Miss, Freeze said, “I’m a proponent of playing another school at the end of each other’s spring practice, charge $5 and give every bit of the money after the travel team gets their expenses paid to a charity of choice.”
That’s not bad, but perhaps a better idea would be to eliminate regular season games with teams from Division IAA. That would force Division I teams to play other Division I teams in the regular season but since the teams from the lower division need paydays, play those games in the spring. It would give the lower division teams a six-figure payout, a chance to play in the big stadiums before bigger crowds and neither team would see its season derailed because of a loss.
Probably the biggest benefit of playing a spring game against a D1AA team would be a coach like Jim McElwain could see his guys going against someone else and have a better evaluation of just how far certain players or position groups have come since practice began.
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL NEWS
Alabama: While admitting that Cooper Bateman would be the starter if Alabama had to play a real football game this Saturday, Nick Saban doesn’t sound as if he’s really found a quarterback among the four competing for the #1 job that he’s happy with. Assessing last Saturday’s scrimmage, Saban said, “Nobody that I can say stood out but [they] made some good plays.” Along with Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and true freshman Jalen Hurts are competing for the job.
Arkansas: The revolving door for Arkansas basketball continues as freshman Lorenzo Jenkins has elected to transfer out. Already gone is Jimmy Whitt. Since big man Ted Kapita never qualified academically (committed to SMU back in February, allegedly after receiving a qualifying score), it means Mike Anderson’s 2015 signing class has been wiped out.
Auburn: After watching Auburn’s offense struggle last Saturday at the A-Day Game, Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky penned, “After all, spring is a time for hope, not panic, but if Saturday wasn’t a mirage, the time for panic will be Sept. 3 – and beyond.” … Former Texas Tech QB Davis Webb, who was thought to be a lock to Colorado as a graduate transfer, is going to visit Auburn. Webb threw 46 touchdowns and 22 picks during his time at Texas Tech.
Georgia: Kirby Smart says the competition for the #1 QB job between incumbent Greyson Lambert, backup Brice Ramsey and true freshman Jacob Eason could last well into August. For now, he’s trying to figure out how to split up the reps between the three for Saturday’s G-Day Game.
Kentucky: At UK, fans are debating whether or not the transfer of PG Derryk Thornton from Duke will affect recruiting Marques Bolden (6-11, 240, DeSoto, TX). Both Duke and Kentucky are in hot pursuit of Bolden but both have roster issues. Kentucky needs Isaiah Briscoe to go pro to open a spot for Bolden while Duke might have to take a scholarship away from someone to clear a spot on the roster. If Thornton decided to transfer to UK, that would add another roster management problem for John Calipari.
LSU: New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is transitioning the Tigers to a 3-4 and that means Tashawn Bower is making the move from DE to OLB. Also on the move to OLB is former safety Corey Thompson.
Mississippi State: Freshman Anfernee Mullins, a hybrid DE/LB was arrested over the weekend and charged with simple assault.
Missouri: Missouri’s 2016 basketball recruiting class is ranked 13th of 14 SEC teams but HBC Kim Anderson is trying to add another ball handler and a big guy this spring. The Tigers have a list of six spring targets. Unfortunately for Anderson, none of them list Mizzou as their top option.
Ole Miss: Tight end signee Jacob Mathis told seccountry.com that the school that disappointed him most during recruiting was “probably Florida, honestly” and pointed to facilities as the reason.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have offered 8th-grade QB Drew Pyne of New Canaan, Connecticut. Pyne led his Pop Warner team to the national championship tournament last year. Florida State and South Alabama have also
Tennessee: Todd Kelly Jr., offered Pyne who will be part of the class of 2020. Rashaan Gaulden and Micah Abernathy have emerged as the top three safeties as Tennessee begins winding down its spring practice.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are trying to seal the deal for graduate transfer Kevin Williams, a 6-2, 275-pound DT who is leaving Nebraska.
Vanderbilt: Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape last Friday. He and three other Vandy football players were accused in 2013 of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Brandon Vandenburg will be retried in June and there are charges still pending against Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks.
WHAT? NO NEW BOWL GAMES?
The NCAA has capped bowl games at 40 – 41 if you count the national championship game – and declared a 3-year moratorium on adding new games. You mean they want to avoid the embarrassment of 5-7 teams playing in the postseason (Minnesota, Nebraska and San Jose State did last year)? Or is it having teams from the same conference (Nevada vs. Colorado State in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl)?
Putting a 3-year moratorium on adding bowl games doesn’t change the fact there are way too many, but it is a step in the right direction. During the next three years it would be a good thing to change the rules for bowl eligibility such as the number of wins against Division I teams necessary (7 would be a good place to start) and raising the minimum payout for participating teams to at least $1 million. Adding those two requirements would probably eliminate 7-8 bowl games but that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Better teams and better payouts would make for better games.
Former Gator Billy Horschel’s tie for 17th at The Masters was good for a $145,000 check. That’s nice work if you can get it.
Over the weekend, the NCAA handed down a 10-year show cause on former Southern Miss and Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall. Ten years? Seems like too little if you ask me. Tyndall’s about as slimy as it gets.
Washington State coach Mike Leach calls the SEC “babies” for voting against satellite camps. Maybe Mike should talk to his own commissioner. The Pac-12 also voted against the satellite camps as did the Big 12 and ACC.
Remember Michelle Wie? Injuries have made her pretty much a no-show on the LPGA Tour this year and the LPGA desperately needs her to not only play but do well.
Those reports that Johnny Manziel was living with Von Miller turned out to be false. Instead of Miller, a former Texas A&M star who plays for the Denver Broncos, apparently Manziel has been living in LA with Josh Gordon, who just flunked another NFL drug test. Manziel told TMZ he’s simply spending time in LA to do some partying, adding “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with partying, bro. There’s a difference between partying and being out of control.” Sure, Johnny, anything you say.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Looking back on spring football, what was your biggest surprise and what is your biggest concern moving forward?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
On the way back from Tampa Monday I heard “Gimme Some Lovin” and couldn’t get it out of my head. I found this youtube collection of all his songs including “Gimme Some Lovin,” which he wrote when he was 16 years old, and “Roll With It” which was his big hit in 1988.