Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; April 27

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning...

We are a day away from the start of the three days of the NFL Draft and there are NFL general managers fretting over Vernon Hargreaves III’s measurable. In particular, they’re talking about his height (5-10) and his arm length (30-5/8 inches).

This is a kid who ran a 4.5 40 at the combine which means he’s got the kind of speed you need to stay with NFL receivers. He has a vertical of 39 inches and that should compensate for the fact he’s not 6-0 tall and his arms might not be an inch or two longer.

There are times when you forget the measurables – VHIII’s aren’t that bad but they just aren’t great – and look at the film. If you watch the film, you see a fast, athletic kid who isn’t afraid to make plays.  Watch the film and you see a kid who isn’t afraid to throw his body into the fray. He puts people on the ground no matter their size.

But, there are some GMs out there who are going to look at those combine measurables and they’ll pass on a chance to draft VHIII. Someone in the first round will do it – most likely the Tampa Bay Bucs or Miami Dolphins, both of whom need a corner who can actually cover and tackle.

VHIII isn’t the only player in this year’s draft who might be overlooked because he’s a half inch too short or his 40 time is a split second past what is considered ideal. Far too many scouts will be wowed by physiques and 40 times and the number of reps on a bench press machine. Rather than watching film, they’ll draft guys who look like Tarzan but play like Jane.

Film doesn’t lie. The film says VHIII can play.

KEANU NEAL MOVING UP
Most of the mock drafts have UF safety Keanu Neal going mid-to-late second round or early third, but Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com says Neal is going to be drafter higher than anyone expects and could go even as high as the first round.

Sports Illustrated has Neal going second round to the Carolina Panthers with the 62nd overall pick. Ahead of him in the SI mock is Florida DT Jonathan Bullard going to the Jets with the 51st overall pick.

BRIDGET SLOAN WINS HONDA SPORTS AWARD

Sloan, who graduates from UF this weekend, was named winner of the Honda Sports Award for women’s gymnastics. Florida’s Kytra Hunger won the Honda Sports Award for gymnastics last year and Lauren Haeger won for softball.

FLORIDA-MIAMI PLAY IN 2019 FOOTBALL SEASON OPENER

The Gators and Miami will face off at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando for the 2019 season opener in which will be called the Camping World Kickoff. As of today, the Citrus Bowl will be called Camping World Stadium. I’m happy the Gators and Miami are playing, but I’ll still call the stadium the Citrus Bowl, thank you. Personally, I am all for eliminating games against Division IAA opponents – let them play D1 teams in the spring – and that would force more games like Florida-Miami. I can’t see it ever being played home and home again or even every year unless there is some sort of move to eliminate the paycheck games with D1AA teams.

RANKING THE BEST FOOTBALL COACHING JOBS IN THE SEC

In the search for the best football coaching job in the SEC, we have already evaluated winning (records since 1990), tradition (championships since 1990 count 2X more than those prior to 1990) and coaches. Facilities do play a part in how we rate coaching jobs so today we’ll rate the SEC stadiums top to bottom, scoring 14 for first, 13 for second, 12 for third, etc.

Tomorrow, we rate non-stadium football facilities (yes, we’re going to talk about the arms race); followed by recruiting (who does the best job and why); and intangibles (weather, location and other advantages).

Since there are 14 teams in the SEC, we’ll score 14 points for first place in any category, 13 for second and all the way down to 1 point for finishing last. Save your choices and score along. When we’ve gone through all seven categories, we’ll compare scores.

1. Kyle Field, Texas A&M: The Aggies spent $475 million and got a brand new stadium on the same site in two years. They did it in halves, knocking down one side and rebuilding in 2013 and then doing the other side in 2014. What used to be one of the more decrepit ball yards in the country is now a palace. It was an 84,000-seat venue in 2012. It seats nearly 103,000 now and has more amenities than any stadium in the SEC. Now, throw in rabid Aggie fans, who can take obnoxious to unimaginable levels, and the Aggie band (must see) and it’s a game day atmosphere unique to even the SEC.     

2. Tiger Stadium, LSU: There may not be a better place to see a ball game on a Saturday night than Tiger Stadium. The fans start getting greased on Thursday night and by the time Saturday night gets there, they’ve got 48 hours of alcohol and a week full of meanness stored up. And all this is before the truck brings in the Tiger. Capacity has been raised to 102,231. This is another loud, obnoxious crowd that’s whipped into a frenzy by as good a college band as there is.

3. Bryant-Denny Stadium: The stadium has been expanded three times since 2005 to its current capacity of 101,821. When they enclosed and decked the south end zone, they turned an already loud place into one that can get downright deafening. With Alabama winning like it has in the last nine years, the fans feel invincible and that has added to an intimidating gameday atmosphere.  

4. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee: It’s still a great place to play and one of the most scenic atmospheres in all of college sports with its setting along the Tennessee River. Capacity has been reduced to 102,455 to allow for more skybox seating and amenities. Tennessee’s struggles in the last 10 years have reduced Neyland Stadium’s ranking among the greatest stadiums. That could change if the Vols start winning like they did in the 1990s.

5. BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM, FLORIDA: It’s old and cramped and even though they’ve made a lot of upgrades, it still lacks amenities. What it does have is a playing surface some 35-40 feet below street level and that not only holds in the noise (deafening) but the heat (sweltering). It can get so loud that your ears hurt so badly that they won’t stop hurting for days after a game. With the potential of Florida winning in a big way once again, the magic seems certain to return to The Swamp.  

6. Sanford Stadium, Georgia: This is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the country. There is something about playing a football game between the hedges. The stadium capacity has been increased to 92,746. There were plans to increase capacity to 101,766 but they were rejected because it would interfere with the view to the west. It’s a tough place to play, not impossible for opponents to win.

7. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn: There is a master plan in place since 2011 to expand the stadium to 100,000 seats, but for now they’re content to keep capacity at 87,000 and add amenities such as the largest LED video board in college sports. The sight lines are outstanding and the game day atmosphere when the eagle circles the stadium pregame will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

8. Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina: This was once one of the worst stadiums in the country. They started transforming it in the 1980s and raised the capacity to its current 80,250 in 1996. There were plans to increase capacity to something around 90,000 but they were scrapped in favor of adding more luxury seating. It’s probably a good thing since Steve Spurrier is no longer the coach. If Will Muschamp can get the Gamecocks winning again, it’s probable expansion plans will go on the table again.  

9. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium: This is another stadium that was once one of the worst in the country, not just the SEC, but since the 1990s, there has been a concerted effort to upgrade. With the new enclosure of the north end zone, capacity has increased to 64,038. Nobody calls this an intimidating place to play, but anyone who has ever done pre- or post-game in The Grove considers this a truly great game day experience.

10. Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State: The stadium is on the same site as the original Scott Field so it’s considered the fourth oldest stadium in all of college football. The $75 million renovation that enclosed the north end zone in 2014 along with other amenities have turned this into a very nice home stadium. When there are 61,000 fans ringing cowbells it can be a very loud and intimidating place. The fans are among the nicest in all of college football before and after the game.

11. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Arkansas: There are plans to renovate the north end zone and increase capacity to somewhere around 81,000. The new expansion might mean a new place for the cage with that huge razorback hog (must weigh somewhere around 600 pounds). The most impressive thing about the stadium is the 30X107 “Pig Screen,” which is one of the largest video boards in the country.

12. Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky: They reduced the capacity by 6,000 and made a bunch of cosmetic changes plus added some amenities to make it a better place to watch a ball game. In a lot of conferences this would be one of the top places to see a game. In the SEC, it’s a bottom feeder.  

13. Faurot Field, Missouri: There is nothing really spectacular about this 71,168-seat stadium. There have been studies done to turn the south end zone into real stands, which would eliminate the grass berm and the big white M made of crushed rock. Other than Vandy, this is the one stadium in the league that just doesn’t feel like an SEC venue.  

14. Vanderbilt Stadium: There are some outstanding 40,000-seat stadiums in the country. Vanderbilt Stadium isn’t one of them.

Points through four categories:

1. Alabama, 54
2. LSU, 50.5

3. FLORIDA, 44.5

4. Auburn, 36

5. (Tie) Ole Miss, 35

5. Tennessee, 35

7. Texas A&M, 34.5

8. Georgia, 32
9. Mississippi State, 28.5
10. Arkansas, 24.5
11. South Carolina, 19
12. Kentucky, 11.5

13. Missouri, 10
14. Vanderbilt, 9

DREW BREES SAID IT

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees said commissioner Roger Goodell has entirely too much power, saying that Goodell serving as “judge, jury and executioner” when it comes to discipline, but especially in the Tom Brady/Deflategate case is “a black eye” for the NFL.

Regarding the Brady case, Brees told Dan Patrick, "Forget the issues at hand here with Deflategate or whatever you want to call it," Brees told The Dan Patrick Show. "I think this was an issue again where the commissioner's authority was challenged and the league is gonna do whatever they can to make sure they know that he is in position to make these types of unilateral decisions, and there's nothing anybody can do about it."

RANDOM THOUGHTS

JaMarcus Russell, the #1 pick of the 2007 draft, hasn’t played football since 2009. He’s sent a bunch of letters to NFL teams and says he would “play for free” if a team were willing to give him another chance. Russell says all the time away from football has been a humbling experience. “I am a better man because of my struggles, and I simply desire an opportunity [to] redeem myself. I do not want my legacy to be a trail of unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities.”

Ivan Rabb, a 6-10 big man who was projected to go in the lottery, has decided he will return to California for his sophomore year.

Skip Bayless is the latest personality to leave ESPN. A day after it was announced Mike Tirico is leaving ESPN for NBC, Bayless announced that he’s leaving when his contract expires at the end of August. I can’t really say I’ll miss either one of them.

CBSSports.com NFL Draft Analyst Jason LaCanfora, predicts there will be numerous trades either before Thursday’s draft or during the draft. Canfora believes the Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks are all looking to make deals to trade up in the draft.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Skip Bayless and Mike Tirico are leaving ESPN. Do you consider either one a great loss?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

A lot of people buy Maroon 5 records. I’m not one of them. If you like them, good for you, but I just think all their songs sound alike. This week is my week to unload music that doesn’t exactly flip any of my switches. Today’s music is a live concert the band did in Rio.

https://youtu.be/C0PqR03HjW4


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