Maybe it’s because Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida in football since the first term of George W. Bush (2004). Or maybe it’s because Tennessee will be one of the most hyped teams in the country this year and Butch Jones is already feeling the pressure.
Whatever the reason, Jones was doing his best to make the Gators seem like the team that deserves all the preseason accolades Tuesday on the opening day of the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings at the Sandestin Hilton. The Vols have lost 11 straight games to the Gators and Jones is 0-3. Tennessee goes into the 2016 season as everybody’s favorite to not only win the SEC East but finish among the nation’s top 10 teams (Lindy’s preseason magazine has the Vols #6).
So either way you look at it, there is serious pressure on the Vols – beat the Gators for the first time since the average Tennessee senior was a 5th grader and live up to the national expectations that are based on a 2015 season-ending 6-game winning streak of which only the bowl win over Northwestern was against a team that finished with an above-.500 record.
Jones tried to deflect the pressure by saying of the Gators, “They'll be one of the best teams if not the best team in our conference, when you look at their defense, when you look at their returning starters."
It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see the Gators exceed expectations for the second straight year (they won the SEC East and finished 10-4 in Jim McElwain’s first year on the job) nor would it be a shocker to see the Vols fail to live up to the hype, particularly with a Title IX lawsuit hanging over their heads and a trial for aggravated rape against A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams expected this summer even though the trial dates have been pushed back.
CALLAWAY AND HARRIS NOT ENROLLED IN SUMMER A
Florida coach Jim McElwain had nothing new on the status of wide receiver Antonio Callaway and quarterback/perhaps wide receiver Treon Harris, both of whom were suspended from the team back in the spring. Asked if he has had any contact with Callaway recently, McElwain would only say, “That’s being handled.”
Fightin’ Gators’ info guru Bob Redman has maintained for quite some time that the timetable for final disposition of the suspensions will be late-May (already passed) to mid-June.
Prediction: Callaway will be cleared and will enroll in Summer B. As for Harris, the situation is more complicated so it’s at best 50-50 that he will be cleared.
Injury updates: McElwain was upbeat about the status of offensive lineman Martez Ivey, linebacker Alex Anzalone and slot receiver Brandon Powell.
“They’ve been cleared to do everything right now,” McElwain said. “Obviously, there’s no contact. It’ll be no different than what we did with Antonio (Morrison) a year ago, but you still have to test it before you want to throw them out there on Saturday. But everything’s been going great. Brandon, too. In fact he’s got a new set of shoes. I threw every other shoe out of his locker. He’s required to wear to help on that. But he’s been cleared.”
AMANDA LORENZ NATIONAL FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Amanda Lorenz, who led the Gators in hitting (.403, 8 homers, 48 RBI) in her first year on campus, was named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Freshman of the Year Tuesday night. Pitcher Kelly Barnhill was one of the three finalists for the award.
HORSFIELD NAMED PING FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICAN
Freshman Sam Horsfield was named PING first team All-American by the Golf Coaches Association of America Tuesday. Horsfield is the only freshman to make the team.
SABAN GOES OFF ON NCAA DRUG TESTING POLICY
Whether he likes it or not, everybody in college football hangs on every word that comes out of Nick Saban’s mouth these days. That’s what happens when you have unparalleled success and you’re being mentioned in the same breath with the greatest to ever coach the game.
Saban’s latest rant is sure to get plenty of attention everywhere that college football is played. Speaking to the media at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin Tuesday, Saban went off on the NCAA for its policy of drug testing the four teams involved in the college football playoff. Not a big deal, you might think, until you realize the NCAA doesn’t drug test any of the teams involved in playing in a bowl game.
“If they’re going to test, they should test everybody,” Saban said. “They shouldn’t just test the four teams in the championship … So just because you got into the championship and the playoff last year your guys got tested — so those guys are all getting suspended next year. But how many other guys played in bowl games? It’s not the same standard for everybody.”
There should be a uniform testing policy, particularly since a kid who gets nailed for marijuana use in the final four will get a 6-game suspension the following season. During the regular season, the NCAA comes by once and a handful of players are randomly chosen to be tested. All other drug testing is handled by the institution and suspensions vary from school to school.
The idea that the kids in the final four get tested by the NCAA where they are subject to the harsher NCAA penalties while the rest of the players involved in bowl games are only tested if the school schedules a test is ludicrous.
“What good does it do for a guy who got tested in December to suspend him six games next September?” he said. “Is this changing behavior? … I don’t think that helps. I don’t think the guy can even remember, I know I won’t remember in September what happened in December of the previous year.”
While it is easy to agree with what Saban had to say, there are a lot of folks in Alabama who wonder if it’s a cryptic message that maybe some of the returning players from that national championship team will have their regular seasons cut in half?
VERNE LUNDUIST WILL STEP DOWN FROM SEC FOOTBALL AFTER 2016
Verne Lundquist, who has done play-by-play for the “SEC on CBS” since 2000, will step down after the 2016 season. Lundquist will be replaced in the booth by Brad Nessler. Gary Danielson will continue in his role as analyst and Allie LaForce will continue as the sideline reporter.
Lundquist has been with CBS for 20 years and has been broadcasting sports for 53 years. He was part of the Dallas Cowboys broadcast team from 1967-84.
QUOTES FROM THE SEC SPRING MEETINGS
Florida basketball coach Mike White on Canyon Barry working with John Egbunu on free throw shooting: “Canyon is really excited about developing a relationship with John Egbunu to see if he can get him to change his style, to get him to go Rick Barry-style.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey about the possibility of Auburn moving to the East: “I’ve read those stories.”
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: “There is a difference between making mistakes and cheating. Did we make mistakes? Yes, we did, and we’ve taken action. We’re not perfect. But I'm not going to cheat. I'm not. I'll lose, but I'm not going to cheat."
Nick Saban, Alabama: “By doing what we’re doing now, we’re doing what we’ve done in every other sport we complain about every day – AAU basketball and all this – because that’s what’s happening out there. Anybody can have a camp now. If they have a prospect, they can have a camp. Then you’re expected to go to that camp and they use you to promote their camp. Because Ohio State’s coming, Alabama’s coming and whoever else is coming. Somebody sponsors the camp, they pay the money. What do they do with the money? Who makes sure the kid paid to go do the camp? This is the wild, wild west at its best because there’s been no specific guidelines relative to how we’re managing or controlling this stuff.”
Jim Harbaugh tweets about Saban’s comments: “Amazing to me – Alabama broke NCAA rules & now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly ‘amazing.’”
Butch Jones, Tennessee: When asked about the comparisons of Baylor and Tennessee, which is embroiled in a Title IX lawsuit, Jones said, “I’m not into comparisons. All I can speak on is the University of Tennessee. I feel strongly as everybody in our organization that we’ve done the right things. I’m proud of the culture that we have built.”
Fox Sports response to Jones’ comment: Dieter Kurtenbach writes, “To treat those accusations as frivolous is tone-deaf and foolhardy. For Jones to defend the school's culture Tuesday, despite the claims of this pending lawsuit, lacked tact and foresight. That simple statement could haunt him his entire career.”
OTHER SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Not everyone from Alabama’s #1-ranked recruiting class is on campus just yet. From Destin, Nick Saban said, “No, we have a couple of guys that are there but have to get their final grades. Another guy that’s not getting out of school until tomorrow. We have one guy who hasn’t qualified yet.”
Arkansas: Bret Bielema says he is in favor of a combine for underclassmen that would allow players to work out for scouts before making a decision whether or not to enter the NFL Draft. Jones believes that if running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins had attended such a combine they wouldn’t have declared for the NFL.
Auburn: Running back Roc Thomas, who ran for 261 yards and 1 TD last year, is transferring to Division IAA Jacksonville State where he will have two years of eligibility remaining. Coming out of high school, Thomas was Alabama’s Mr. Football ... QB recruit Woody Barrett graduated from West Orange Tuesday night. He’s still waiting on an SAT score but his high school coach said Barrett will be at Auburn later this summer.
Georgia: Incoming freshman running back Elijah Holyfield, son of former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield, says he doesn’t exactly care for the Florida Gators. Holyfield told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I don’t like Florida guys that much. They kind of have an attitude about them. Every time we go to any 7-on-7 camp or anything like that, it is always me and a Florida guy that end up just not seeing eye-to-eye on the field.”
Kentucky: HBC Mark Stoops tells Gridironnow.com’s Tony Barnhart, “We’re right now where we ought to be. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the sixth win last season and maybe a seventh in a bowl. But, there is no doubt in my mind that we are a better football team right now than at any point last season.”
South Carolina: Linebacker Skai Moore, who led the team with 111 tackles and 4 interceptions in 2015, will miss the entire 2016 season after undergoing neck fusion surgery last week. Rehab will take a minimum of six months. This is a big blow to Will Muschamp’s defense.
Tennessee: Butch Jones is doing his dead level best to deflect the high expectations for the Vols this fall. Tuesday in Destin he spent plenty of time talking up Georgia – “I think Georgia is one of the best football teams in our conference, not just in the East, but total” – and Florida – “They’ll be one of the best teams if not the best team in
Texas A&M Prep quarterback Tate Martell, who sparked an embarrassing rant on Twitter by Aggie WR coach Aaron Moorehead when he decommitted in April, came out with a new top seven list and the Aggies were nowhere to be found. Martel’s final seven are Southern Cal, UCLA, West Virginia, Cal, Ohio State, Miami and Colorado.
Vanderbilt: Wide receiver Ronald Monroe will transfer out. He had 5 catches for 17 yards in 10 games last year. He’s expected to enroll in junior college where he will play with his twin brother, then have two years of eligibility remaining. Vandy has only 5 scholarship receivers returning and 3 incoming freshmen.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told Dan Patrick that Tom Brady made an “incredibly generous” offer to settle DeflateGate with the NFL but the NFL refused. Brady has filed an appeal for a second hearing before the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Monday night’s Golden State-Oklahoma City game 7 of the Western Conference Finals was the most watched NBA game on cable ever.
I’m getting old. I remember watching Klay Thompson’s dad, Mychal Thompson, lead Miami Jackson past Darrel Dawkins and Orlando Evans for the Florida Class 4A state championship in 1974. What a war that was. Double D got his state championship the next year and then went straight to the NBA.
HornsDigest.com cited multiple sources Tuesday when it reported the Big 12 Conference will neither expand to 12 teams nor will it launch its own television network. They will probably change their minds in October when the Southeastern Conference releases its financials. The Big 12 paid out $23.3 million last year, $9.4 million less than the SEC. The SEC paid out $33.7 million last year, a figure that would have been much greater if all 14 schools hadn’t shared in the startup costs of the SEC Network. Expect a payout of somewhere between $38-43 million in October.
A woman who claims she was raped by two Oregon State football players 17 years ago says she has a solution for Baylor. “I think they need to get rid of everybody and shut down the football program for one year,” says Brenda Tracy, who claims she has been raped by five different men since she was 9 years old and none of the men have been brought to justice.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Would it help for the NCAA to appoint a football commissioner and come up with a standard drug testing policy that applies to every school in Division I?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums estimates that Dire Straits spent more than 1,500 weeks on the UK album charts, which ranks fifth all time. The band broke up in 1995 when lead guitar/vocals/song writer Mark Knopfler tired of extensive touring. He still tours as a solo artist but on a much more limited scale. He played four dates in Florida last fall (St. Augustine, Melbourne, Clearwater and Fort Lauderdale) but hasn’t released any plans to tour this year. Today’s music is a great performance by Knopfler when he fronted Dire Straits from their Brothers in Arms Tour of 1985.