Jalen Hudson has found a new home. The 6-5, 195-pound wing guard who averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds for a Virginia Tech team that made the NIT, is the second transfer in three days to Mike White’s Florida basketball program. College of Charleston graduate transfer Canyon Berry transferred to UF on Monday and he will be eligible immediately while Hudson will have to sit out 2016-17 per NCAA transfer rules. Hudson has two years of eligibility remaining.
Hudson’s transfer could be a signal that Alex Murphy’s appeal for a sixth year will not be accepted by the NCAA. Adding Hudson to the roster brings the Gators to the NCAA maximum 13 scholarship players. There is still the possibility that Murphy will get his sixth year but that would require either someone to transfer out or Devin Robinson to keep his name in the NBA Draft. Robinson, who underwent surgery for a broken foot recently, has until June 13 to withdraw his name.
Hudson is an exceptional defensive player in a full court press up and down style. At Virginia Tech, Buzz Williams ran a similar press to the one White prefers to play at UF. Hudson is more of a slasher and scorer than shooter. At Virginia Tech he hit only 34.6 of his 3-point shots last season but that was an improvement from the 28.3% of 2014-15.
Softball: I don’t mean to sound like sour grapes or too much of a homer here, but how did Kelsey Nunley (20-5, 1.22 ERA) of Kentucky win SEC Pitcher of the Year over either Aleshia Ocasio (19-1, 0.71 ERA) or Delanie Gourley (18-3, 0.76 ERA, 202 strikeouts? Nunley is a fine pitcher but she’s not in the same league with either Ocasio or Gourley.
Add this to my list of gripes. Aubree Munro was selected SECOND team catcher. The coaches voted Ashley Walters of Texas A&M first team. Walters has had a fine year at the plate with 10 homers and 56 RBI and she’s a decent catcher, but Munro is the best defensive catcher in the nation and perhaps the best defensively of the last 10 years. Evidence? Only four bases have been stolen against the Gators this year … and only 10 have been attempted. If you add Munro’s offense – 3 homers, 28 RBI, .289 batting average – to what she saves the Gators with her defense and a rocket of an arm that puts the fear of God into every base runner, she deserves the first team award.
Further reason to gripe: Munro is the only Gator to make the All-Defensive team. Florida is the #1 defensive team in the nation and easily the best in the SEC with only 25 errors in 56 games and only 4-10 stolen bases allowed. Yet only Munro makes All-Defense? That makes no sense.
Gourley and Ocasio made first team All-SEC as did freshman outfielder Amanda Lorenz and sophomore DH Kayli Kvistad. Joining Munro on the second team was center fielder Kirsti Merritt.
Lorenz was the Freshman of the Year and she was joined on the All-Freshman team by pitcher Kelly Barnhill.
Oh, by the way, the Gators (52-4) will face Ole Miss (39-19) in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Starkville today at 5 p.m.
Track and Field: The SEC Championships for both men and women begin in Tuscaloosa today. On the men’s side, it should be a crowd at the top as SEC teams – #1 Texas A&M, #2 Florida, #4 LSU, #4 Arkansas, #6 Georgia and #9 Alabama – occupy six spots among the nation’s top ten in the polls. It will be no less competitive on the women’s side where SEC teams hold down six of the top 11 spots – #1 Kentucky, #2 Arkansas, #6 Florida, #7 LSU, #10 Texas A&M and #11 Georgia.
EFFICIENT RECRUITING: LINEBACKERS
Analysts tend to agree that it takes a bare minimum of 10 linebackers to make it safely through an SEC season with 12 scholarship LBs the ideal. With that in mind, consider the fact the Florida Gators signed a grand total of 14 linebackers from 2010-15. Of that group, four transferred out and one changed positions.
It is absolutely shocking that Florida somehow played great defense with such a lack of depth at a critical position. It’s even more shocking that UF recruited the position so poorly with a defense-first coach in Will Muschamp from 2011-14. Now Muschamp did inherit future NFL linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins (both from 2009 recruiting class under Urban Meyer) but he didn’t replenish the position. In the four Muschamp years (2011-14): Florida signed two linebackers in 2011 who never played a snap at the position and both transferred out within two years; only two in 2012 and one left with a year of eligibility remaining; four in 2013 and ZERO in 2014.
Compounding problems, Jim McElwain has only landed four linebackers in two years.
With their three 2016 freshmen, the Gators will go into the season with eight scholarship players who were recruited as linebackers and a converted safety to make nine.
Any way you cut it, the recruiting has not been efficient at this position.
Chris Martin, OLB: Martin redshirted in 2010, then transferred to Colorado in the summer of 2011 after a number of off-the-field incidents in Gainesville. Martin transferred again to Kansas but was arrested for a home invasion before he ever played a game. Sentenced to three years in the big house.
Darrin Kitchens, OLB: Kitchens played special teams in 2010 and then was a solid backup for the next three years. He played in 45 games with six starts and was in on 59 tackles in his career.
Michael Taylor, MLB: It was considered a very big deal when the Gators flipped him from Tennessee in the recruiting process. He was the #10 middle linebacker in the country coming out of Atlanta. After a redshirt season in 2010, he gave the Gators solid production as a backup and part-time starter in 2011-12, then was in on 62 tackles in 2013 and 64 in 2014. Played in 47 games in his career with 19 starts, 194 tackles including 14.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries.
Neiron Ball, OLB: There was a time when we worried if Ball would even live much play football. After a promising freshman year, he missed all of 2011 after surgery to correct an ateriovascular malformation at the base of his brain. He played in 11 games in 2012, made seven starts in 2013 and played in nine games with seven more starts in 2014. He had 25 tackles in 2013 and 49 in 2014. Taken by the Oakland Raiders in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Gideon Ajagbe, OLB: Recruited as a linebacker, Agagbe made the move to fullback in 2013 and played tight end in 2014. Most of his career was spent on special teams. He played in 21 games, made 2 starts and caught 4 passes for 28 yards and 1 TD.
Assessment: Taylor was the only player who made consistent contributions his entire career. You have to wonder what Ball could have done if had been healthy because such good things were expected of him after his freshman year. Kitchens was a solid backup guy and Ajagbe contributed on special teams. Martin? What a waste of talent. Give this group a B- overall.
Graham Stewart, OLB: Stewart played in 12 games in 2011, all of them on special teams. He returned a blocked punt for a TD in the Gator Bowl against Ohio State, then promptly transferred back home to UConn where he played in 33 games and started 27. He finished his career with 176 tackles. Signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings back on May 2.
Chris Johnson, OLB: He was recruited as a linebacker but played safety as a freshman in 2011, finishing with 8 tackles in a backup role and on special teams. He moved o running back in 2012 and had 5 carries for 35 yards. He also had 11 special teams tackles. He transferred to Duquesne in the spring of 2013 where he played safety for two seasons. He committed suicide in March of 2015.
Assessment: Neither recruit ever contributed at linebacker so the grade is a very tragic F.
Antonio Morrison, MLB: This guy wins any tough guy award you can think of after rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in the Birmingham Bowl on January 3, 2015 and then playing the entire 2015 season with 14 starts, 103 tackles including 12 for loss and 2.5 sacks. Morrison was underrated coming out of high school where he merited only 3 stars, but he was an instant contributor at UF and finished his career with 37 starts in 47 games. He recorded back-to-back 100-tackle seasons in 2014-15 and finished with 294 career tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 interception and 3 forced fumbles. He was selected in the fourth round of 2016 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
Jeremi Powell, OLB: Gaining weight and strength was always an issue. After a 2012 redshirt, Powell played in seven games in each of 2013-14. In 2015 he played in 10 games and was in on 11 tackles but he didn’t accompany the Gators to the Citrus Bowl. Powell left the team in January of 2015 with a year of eligibility still remaining.
Assessment: Because Stewart transferred and Johnson was moved to another position, at least four linebackers should have been recruited. Morrison was a stud and because he was so good, the group gets a B even though Powell never contributed much and the class was under-recruited.
Alex Anzalone, OLB: It was thought 2015 would be a big year but as in 2013 and 2014, he couldn’t escape the injury bug. He played in only two games in 2015 and was in on 6 tackles. His career numbers are 22 tackles including 1 for loss.
Jarrad Davis, MLB: Davis had the least hype of the four linebackers in this class but he is head and shoulders the best. He contributed in 2013-14 when he played in 21 games and was in on 47 tackles. He thrived in 2015 with 98 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception. Heading into 2016 he’s considered one of the elite linebackers in the SEC.
Matt Rolin, OLB: The Gators flipped Rolin from South Carolina and was considered a big get. His career has been marred by injuries. He tore an ACL in August of 2013, missed all of 2014 while still recovering and then played in three games with two starts in 2015. He was in on 11 tackles in 2016.
Daniel McMillian, MLB: A US Army All-American, big things were expected but progress has been slow. McMillian played in 13 games in 2013-14, totaling 13 tackles. He played in all 14 games in 2015 and was in on 23 tackles.
Assessment: On paper this was thought to be one of the better linebacker recruit classes in the nation, but the injuries to Rolin and Anzalone combined with the slow progress of McMillian offset the fact that Davis has become one of the nation’s best. The grade is a C+ but only because of Davis.
Assessment: The failure to sign even one linebacker is why the Gators will lack depth at the position in 2016.
Rayshad Jackson, OLB: Jackson took a redshirt in 2015. He will have to contribute in 2016.
Assessment: Signing only one linebacker hurt. Jackson will have to play in 2016. The Gators also turned a safety (Kylan Johnson) into a linebacker but the lack of signees in 2014-15 could bite the Gators badly if there are injuries in 2016. By signing only one the year after whiffing, this is a D- at best.
Vosean Joseph, ILB: Alabama tried to flip Joseph but he remained a Gator on signing day. He’s an explosive tackler who is always around the ball.
David Reese, ILB: The Gators stole Reese from right under the noses of Michigan and Michigan State. He enrolled in January and will be required to contribute immediately in 2016.
Jeremiah Moon, OLB: Moon was a 4-star signee out of Hoover, Alabama. He’s got size and speed to contribute on the outside as a freshmen.
Assessment: The class could have used at least one more linebacker, but the three the Gators landed should be first year contributors.
Final Assessment for linebacker recruiting: Of the nine linebackers recruited from 2010-15 who stuck it out, there has been rather good production out of four – Taylor, Ball, Morrison and Davis – and Kitchens was a steady backup. There are four others who need to step it up in 2016 and the freshmen better be ready to play from day one. It is a head scratcher how the Gators managed to play such good defense with so few linebackers.
NOMINEE FOR THE GEORGE WASHINGTON AWARD
George Washington has been called the “Father of His Country.” In honor of our first president and fearless leader of the troops during the American Revolution, we need a George Washington Award to honor the athlete doing his part to be this year’s father of his country. My nomination is former FSU standout Antonio Cromartie, recently of the New York Jets.
Cromartie had a vascectomy more than a year ago but that didn’t stop wife Terricka from getting pregnant with twins, who were born on Mother’s Day. These are children #3 and #4 for Cromartie and wife. He has eight other kids by seven other women for whom he pays out a collective but whopping $336,000 in child support.
First day winners at the SEC Softball Tournament in Starkville: #11 seed South Carolina, #7 seed LSU, #9 seed Ole Miss and #5 Alabama. In Thursday’s quarter-finals, #3 Tennessee vs. #11 South Carolina; #2 Kentucky vs. #7 LSU; #1 Florida vs. #9 Ole Miss and #4 Auburn vs. #5 Alabama.
Stephen Curry was selected NBA MVP by a unanimous vote. He’s the 11th player in league history to win the award in consecutive seasons and is the first unanimous winner in 81 years.
NBA officials are having a rough go of it. The league admitted that there were two incorrect non-calls at the end of Tuesday night’s 95-91 Oklahoma City win over San Antonio.
Former Detroit Tiger Max Scherzer, who now pitches for the Washington Nationals, struck out 20 Tigers Wednesday night.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If the SEC could drop any two schools and add any two schools from anywhere in the country to the league, which two would you drop and which two would you add?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I found this live recording of the Allman Brothers playing at the armory in Jacksonville 1969 when Duane Allman and Berry Oakley were still alive. After listening to this and remembering seeing the Allmans back when Duane and Berry were still alive, all I can say is these guys were taken from us way too soon.