We could give out a preseason football trophy and call it the Rodney Dangerfield Award. The late comedian made millions with his signature line, “I don’t get no respect.” That could be the 2016 signature line for both the Florida Gators and Jim McElwain.
Last year it was easy to understand the lack of respect. The Gators had a new coach, a new staff, an offensive line that had only 10 career starts and Phil Steele ranked the Gators dead last in the Southeastern Conference and #125 nationally in terms of roster experience.
And somehow Mac and the Gators won the SEC East and finished the season 10-4. Not bad for a team that nearly every expert predicted to go 5-7 or 6-6 at best. Even though the Gators lost their last three games, they still won 10 games, they did indeed beat Tennessee for the 11th consecutive year and they did totally destroy the Georgia Bulldogs, 27-3.
One would think that based on those results, the Gators would be on somebody’s top 20 list to start the 2016 season, but only Athlon has the Gators (#21 preseason) ranked in the top 25. Phil Steele’s long-awaited magazine hits the stands on Tuesday and he’ll have the Gators at #34.
Nearly every “expert” has Tennessee ranked in the preseason top 10 and most have Georgia in the top 15.
It is true that Tennessee will have one of the most experienced teams in the country and the Vols did indeed win their last six games to go 8-5 last year. However, other than Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, none of the teams UT beat in the last half of the season compiled a winning record. Tennessee did bring in Bob Shoop to coach the defense and he should be an upgrade but this is the same defense that gave up 411 yards to Vanderbilt, which had one of the most anemic offenses in the country.
So why all the love?
Georgia is getting all the love because everybody is enamored with Kirby Smart, who was Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator. Kirby has always been in the booth and he’s never been the guy to call all the shots on game day. It can be argued that he’s apprenticed under Saban, but the same thing can be said about Will Muschamp. Muschamp might turn out to be somebody’s outstanding head coach someday. Really, he might. But, he came to Florida with no head coaching experience and as we should have learned from the Ron Zook Error (oops, Era) this is no place for on-the-job training.
It’s very interesting that the experts are also going ga-ga over Georgia freshman QB Jacob Eason. Experts and Georgia fans alike think Eason will take the Bulldogs to the promised land. I mentioned this last week, but the last time a true freshman QB was an impact player in the SEC was 2003 when Chris Leak threw 16 touchdown passes and went 6-3 as a starter with wins over eventual national champ LSU (coached by none other than Nick Saban) on the road in Baton Rouge, #7 Arkansas on the road in Fayette-Nam and #4 Georgia in Jacksonville. In between there have been a bunch of freshmen who tried to make it big as rookies in the SEC but nobody has been impactful.
So why all the love for Georgia?
And why so little love for the Gators?
Yes, the offensive line wasn’t great last year, but four starters return. Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby will be both taller and a step up from Treon Harris. The running game has more speed and the passing game has more game-breaking potential especially if Antonio Callaway is allowed back (all indicators are that he will be wearing orange and blue in the fall).
The defense is going to be exceptional even with the loss of six players to the pros. Florida’s corner tandem of Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson is about as good as you’re going to see and Marcus Maye did make some All-America teams at safety. Even with the loss of Antonio Morrison, the linebacking will be better.
And Florida has a kicker who can (a) put the ball through the uprights and (b) give the Gators a chance at points from the 50-yard line on in.
I see this. You see this.
The experts don’t.
The Gators get no respect.
If Jim McElwain is the psychologist that I think he is and his staff can buy into the no respect card enough to sell it to the team, then the Gators could be the team with the big chip on their shoulder in the fall. I think Tennessee and the first word that comes to mind is overrated. I think Georgia and the first word that comes to mind is also overrated.
I think Florida and the clear thought that comes to mind is some of these experts are going to look foolish in December.
NBA DRAFTS TONIGHT
The NBA drafts tonight and Ben Simmons of LSU and Brandon Ingram of Duke will go 1-2 to the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. However, the Sixers are diligently trying to move Jahlil Okafor either to the Lakers so they can draft both Simmons and Ingram or to the Boston Celtics so they can take point guard Kris Dunn with the third pick.
These are the consensus top 10 players:
1. Ben Simmons, LSU
2. Brandon Ingram, Duke
3. Kris Dunn, Providence
4. Jamal Murray, Kentucky
5. Jaylen Brown, California
6. Dragan Bender, Croatia
7. Marquese Chriss, Washington
8. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
9. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
10. Henry Ellenson, Marquette
ESPN’s Chad Ford predicts the first 10 picks will go this way:
1. Philadelphia: Ben Simmons
2. Los Angeles: Brandon Ingram
3. Boston: Kris Dunn
4. Phoenix: Marquese Chriss
5. Minnesota: Jamal Murray
6. New Orleans: Jaylen Brown
7. Denver: Dragan Bender
8. Sacramento: Buddy Hield
9. Toronto: Domantas Sabonis
10. Milwaukee: Dejounte Murray
THE 10 BEST TIGHT ENDS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
After his eye-opening performance against Clemson in the national championship game, O.J. Howard raised his draft stock significantly. He came back for his senior year with the promise that he’ll be a bigger feature in the Alabama offense. This will be a big year for tight ends in the SEC with four ranked in the top
1. O.J. Howard, Alabama, SR (38-602, 2 TDs)
2. Evan Engram, Ole Miss, SR (38-464, 2 TDs)
3. Jordan Leggett, Clemson (40-525, 8 TDs)
4. Jake Butt, Michigan, SR (51-654, 3 TDs
5. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, SR (27-389, 6 TDs)
6. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, JR (40-530, 6 TDs; 5-27 rushing, 1 TD)
7. Brandon Lingen, Minnesota, JR (33-428, 3 TDs)
8. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma, SO (19-318, 7 TDs)
9. Ethan Wolf, Tennessee, JR (23-301, 2 TDs)
10. Kody Kohl, Arizona State, SR (32-368, TDs)
Just missed: Cam Serigne, Wake Forest, JR; Josiah Price, Michigan State, SR; Cole Hikutini, Louisville, SR; DeAndre Goolsby, Florida, JR; Jake Roh, Boise State, JR
THE TEN BEST PLAYERS IN ALABAMA FOOTBALL HISTORY
1. Lee Roy Jordan, LB
2. John Hannah, OL
3. Derrick Thomas, LB
4. Derrick Henry, RB
5. Don Hutson, End
6. Mark Ingram, RB
7. Chris Samuels, OT
7. Ozzie Newsome, TE
8. Woodrow Lowe, LB
9. Julio Jones, WR
10. Harry Gilmer, QB
Tomorrow: The best 10 players in Arkansas history
SABAN SUSPENDS ROBINSON, JONES
According to Al.com, Nick Saban has suspended left tackle and backup safety Hootie Jones indefinitely and will require both of them to regular urine tests, regular drug counseling, do monthly video appointments with a mental health counselor and take a twice weekly course with the Tuscaloosa PD for gun safety. Both will also have to perform 20 hours of community service. Robinson will have to ride with the Northport (AL) PD for 26 hours and Jones will have to spend 21 days in a drug rehab.
Okay, that’s all well and good, but will either one miss any game time?
Here is a guess: Robinson will be in the starting lineup game one against Southern Cal no later than halftime. Jones will be made to look like the bad influence who led Robinson astray and will elect to “transfer” to a school closer to his home in Monroe, Louisiana.
Nick Chubb vows he will return from his multiple ligament tear knee injury in time for Georgia’s home opener with North Carolina in Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend.
Speaking of Georgia, early enrollee defensive back Chad Clay has been dismissed after his second arrest in four months. Clay was arrested for theft Wednesday. Back in April he was arrested for breaking windows at an Athens area school with a BB gun.
The feel good story of the year is Pitt running back James Conner’s recovery from Hogkin’s lymphoma. He never missed a practice while taking chemo during spring football and has since been declared cancer-free. A three-decade-old award that has been given to the most courageous cancer survivor of the year in Pittsburgh has been renamed The James Conner Courage Award. Conner helped to put together an event that raised $400,000 for cancer research.
The Chicago Bulls traded for Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday and a second round pick in 2017 for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon. Rose is the only player that matters from the Knicks’ standpoint and that seems a steep price to pay considering he hasn’t played a full season since 2011 and his numbers have been in a steady decline.
The Atlanta Hawks are parting with point guard Jeff Teague as part of a three-way trade with the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz. The Hawks are hoping to create some cap space that will allow them to re-sign former Gator Al Horford.
The kindest thing to say about the US Men’s National soccer team’s performance against Argentina Tuesday night is they stunk. Maybe US soccer isn’t the level of Argentina quite yet, but taking one on the chin 4-0 is ridiculous.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two-part question: Does Nick Saban actually dock Cam Robinson playing time and does Hootie Jones end up looking like the bad influence who led Robinson astray?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Fitz and the Tantrums just released their new CD “Handclap” and it’s outstanding. The band is on tour but they won’t come to Florida until a November 4 date in Fort Lauderdale. They will play in Birmingham on July 17. Today’s music is an excerpt from their concert at Lollapalooza in Argentina last year.