The first step on a return to the College World Series in Omaha begins for #1-seed Florida (47-13) at 6 p.m. when the Gators take on Bethune-Cookman (29-25), champs of the MEAC in the second game of the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. In the first game at 1 p.m., UConn (37-23) of the American Athletic Conference will square off with Georgia Tech (36-23) of the ACC.
The good news for the Gators is the return of first baseman Peter Alonso, the leading hitter on the team (.352, 9 HR, 47 RBI), who has been out of action since May 13, when he was hit on the hand with a pitch against Vanderbilt. Alonso is Florida’s best power threat but his return will force Kevin O’Sullivan to make decisions about his lineup. With Alonso out, Jeremy Vasquez and Chris Hicks played first base until O’Sullivan inserted JJ Schwarz during the SEC Tournament, a move that seemed to ignite Schwarz at the plate. If he goes with Schwarz at first and puts Alonso at the DH, that would leave Mike Rivera handling all the catching duties (normally alternated C and DH with Schwarz) every game. While Alonso isn’t a gold glove fielder, he’s more experienced at the position than Schwarz so O’Sullivan will have to think this through.
It’s likely the Gators will continue leading off with center fielder Buddy Reed, a move that seemed to jumpstart the offense at the SEC Tournament. O’Sullivan also found a productive hitter in freshman Danny Reyes, 2-19 during the regular season but 6-15 in Hoover.
Decisions will also have to be made with the pitching staff. SEC Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore (10-0, 2.41 ERA) had a stomach virus in Hoover so he needs work but will O’Sullivan start him against BCC or hold him until Saturday for a winner’s bracket game? There have been some indications that O’Sullivan will start lefty A.J. Puk (2-3, 2.88 ERA), who pitched extremely well (7-1/3 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 7K) but got no decision against LSU in his last outing. If Puk goes, that would put Shore throwing Saturday with Alex Faedo (12-1, 3.49 ERA) going on Sunday if the Gators make it through the first two games unscathed.
Elsewhere in the SEC: Six other SEC teams are hosting a regional starting today. Texas A&M (45-14), the #4 seed overall in the tournament, will face Binghampton (30-23) in the College Station Regional; #6 seed Mississippi State (41-16-1) will face Southeast Missouri State (39-19) in the Starkville Regional; #8 seed LSU (42-18) will face Utah Valley (37-21) in the Baton Rouge Regional; Ole Miss (43-17) will face Utah (25-27) in the Oxford Regional; Vanderbilt (43-17) will face Xavier in the Nashville Regional and South Carolina (42-15) will face Rhode Island (30-25) in the Columbia Regional.
SABAN MAY HAVE THE RIGHT IDEA
Basketball has come up with a good model for players who want to test the NBA waters but it’s a model that would be difficult to work for football given the recruiting calendar. The NBA is able to give a player two full months to go to combines, work out and get a clear evaluation of draft status. The problem for football is National Signing Day, the first Wednesday in February and less than a month from the national championship game. If draft-eligible juniors were given two months like the NBA, it would screw up the recruiting process.
“You wouldn’t know until May what your numbers really are,” Saban said at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.
But the kids need more time and a better chance to have their skills evaluated. Saban thinks that could be resolved by holding a junior day for NFL scouts after spring practice. That’s a move that could get traction in a hurry both from college football and the NFL.
Another idea of Saban’s that might take off is take coaches off the recruiting trail and go to a scouting department like they have in the NFL.
In response to a question about satellite camps and the problem of coaches staffs being stretched thin, Saban proposed, “We should just have a scouting department like the NFL and say, 'You guys go scout. You guys go recruit. You're the recruiters. Go evaluate players. Go watch practice. And, hey, the full-time coaches are here to coach our team.' "
MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL ADMIT JEFFERY SIMMONS
Five-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons will be allowed to enroll at Mississippi State. He will miss one game and there are some other good conduct stipulations attached to Simmons, who has been charged with simple assault and disturbing the peace after a video surfaced that seemed to show him beating a woman after she was on the ground.
In light of what just happened at Baylor and the pending rape trial of two former Tennessee players that was the cause of a Title IX lawsuit against the school, the decision by Mississippi State raised eyebrows nationwide and makes you wonder what they’re thinking in Starkville?
MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin says there will be serious consequences if Simmons violates a strict conduct code or has a repeat incident. Stricklin also pointed out that Simmons was never charged with domestic violence.
“Our sense was this was a parking lot fight that god out of control, which is why he’s not being charged with domestic violence or sexual assault,” Stricklin said. “That doesn’t make it okay.”
Apparently, Simmons has never had any trouble like this before so if he stays out of trouble while he’s in Starkville and proves this was an isolated incident, then Mississippi State will be praised for giving a worthy kid a second chance.
But what happens if this isn’t isolated? What happens if the kid loses control once again and this time the victim is seriously hurt?
This is the kind of gamble that could end careers if Simmons gets into trouble.
Both Georgia and Michigan were present at the Next Level Elite football camp at Maynard Jackson High School in Atlanta. Georgia sent 10 coaches including HBC Kirby Smart but Michigan was there with 20 including Jim Harbaugh, who wore a #44 Hank Aaron Atlanta Braves jersey. Pitt had five coaches there while Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and UMass also had coaches at the event.
By all accounts, Harbaugh ran the camp as if it were on the Michigan campus.
Not a satellite camp, but Cam Newton was running a camp in Cobb County at approximately the same time.
AROUND THE SEC
Alabama: Chris Low of ESPN reports that “the door remains open” for LT Cam Robinson to play football in 2016. Robinson was busted for drugs and for possession of a stolen gun. He says he bought the gun and didn’t know it was stolen. Consider me shocked (sarcasm injected here). For Robinson to play the felony charges will have to be reduced and Robinson will have to get some sort of pre-trial intervention or else a rather quick jury trial and acquittal.
Arkansas: Former Montana State head coach Rob Ash will join the Arkansas staff as an offensive analyst. Ash has 246 wins as a head coach in Division III and Division IAA.
Auburn: Defensive line coach Rodney Garner says DE Byron Cowart, CB Carlton Davis, WR Ryan Davis and DB Jeremiah Dinson are “remorseful” while they wait a court date for an April arrest for marijuana possession. Are they remorseful that they used or remorseful that they got caught?
Kentucky: Football might be the important sport at the other 13 SEC schools, but at Kentucky, basketball is king. John Calipari was asked in Destin if Billy Donovan’s success at Oklahoma City has renewed his interest to return to the NBA. His response, “No, I’m happy at Kentucky. I’ve got enough of a challenge right there in doing what I’m trying to do and keep this thing right where it is.” He makes something like $9 million a year. If the Cleveland Cadavers lose to Golden State in the NBA Finals and LeBron says come coach me … and the Cadavers offer something like $12 million a year and give Cal control over all personnel matters, will he say no then?
Missouri: Juco transfer Nate Strong, who was expected to give Mizzou an instant starter at RB, won’t be able to enroll until January of 2017 because of academic deficiencies. Most analysts rated him the #2 juco RB in the country last year.
South Carolina: Counting assistant coaches, analysts and others who work in the student life sector, there are 32 members of the football staff. That sparked Steve Spurrier to remark, “We’ve got about 12 more than when I was there in one year. That’s the way it is in recruiting. It’s more year-round football than it was several years ago.”
Tennessee: WR Corey Henderson won’t qualify academically so he’s off to Blinn Junior College in Texas … The Vols have already been established as 23-1/2 point favorites for their September 1 opener with Appalachian State.
Vanderbilt: James Mason might be 7-17 in two seasons at Vanderbilt but he’s making more money than James Franklin made. Franklin went 6-7 and got the Commodores to a bowl game in his first year on the job and then went 9-4 with a bowl win in year two.
WARRIORS GO UP 1-0 ON CAVALIERS
Normally, you would like your chances against the Golden State Warriors if you could hold Stephen Curry to 11 points and Klay Thompson to 9 on combined 8-27 shooting and just 4-13 from the 3-point line. Normally, you would like Cleveland’s chances with LeBron James just one assist shy of a triple double.
But this isn’t normal what Golden State did to the Cavs. Everybody else got in the act for Golden State and the Warriors scored a blowout, 104-89, win in game one of the NBA Finals.
Golden State’s defense was exceptional and 29 of the 43 made shots were the result of an assist, a sign of superior ball movement.
This series is a long way from over, but a 1-0 start is serious momentum for the Warriors.
SEC AT THE WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
Georgia and Auburn got the SEC off to a 2-0 start at the Women’s College World Series. The Bulldogs knocked off Florida State, 5-4, thanks largely to a WCWS record 7 errors by the Seminoles. Auburn followed that with a 10-3 pounding of UCLA. The Oklahoma-Alabama and Michigan-LSU games were postponed by heavy rains and lightning and will be played today.
The Big 12 presidents say they are in no hurry to expand but Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com asks why not? Dodd reports that the league’s contracts with ESPN and Fox would generate $500 million over the next four years if the league expanded by two teams and $1 billion if it expanded by four teams. But which teams would actually add something to the league? The top candidates are Houston, Memphis, UCF, South Florida, Cincinnati and BYU. Do any of those schools jump at you and make you think they bring real value to the league?
How much – if anything – will Baylor owe Art Briles when he is officially fired? He was making $6 million a year and had 8 years remaining on a 10-year contract extension that he signed back in 2013.
Still on the subject of the Big 12, the league’s faculty representatives did the right thing by granting Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield an extra year of eligibility. Mayfield walked on originally at Texas Tech, then transferred after his freshman year. He sat out the 2014 season and then led the Sooners to the final four and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. Under the old Big 12 rule, 2016 would have been Mayfield’s final year of eligibility because Texas Tech offered him a scholarship during his freshman season. It was a dumb rule but now it has been made right.
Jim Harbaugh called Nick Saban a hypocrite for his remarks about satellite camps. The press in Big Ten territory jumped on it and seems to be of the opinion that Saban is scared of Harbaugh and the Big Ten. Seriously?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Is Mississippi State making a big mistake by allowing Jeffery Simmons to enroll and play football?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Tom Petty got the band together again and they’re on a mission. Okay, maybe not from God, but it’s a mission just the same. Mudcrutch played Atlanta last night and while I don’t have a full video to show you of Mudcrutch I do have Petty’s 30th anniversary concert from last year to offer as today’s music.