When the conversation turned to football recruiting Thursday afternoon, my transplanted Gator friend who now calls the Left Coast home made the comment, “There’s no excuse for Florida, Miami and FSU to ever have a down year with all the built-in recruiting advantages they have.” I commented the same is true for Southern Cal and UCLA, both just a ride down a smog-filled, traffic-clogged trip highway from his home which is perpetually in danger of falling down into the canyon because of a mudslide during the rainy season or a wildfire from hell when it’s dry, like it is now.
So we talked for another half hour and came up with a list of 12 teams that should never, under any circumstance win fewer than 8-9 games. In fact, an 8-win season should be considered scraping the bottom of the barrel. Here are the 12 teams and why they should never have a bad year.
1. Southern Cal (821-335-54; 10 national championships): No one has more advantages than Southern Cal. More people than the state of Florida live within a 100-mile radius of the USC campus so whoever is the coach can find great players without having to spend a night away from home. Now that USC owns the LA Coliseum, upgrades are being made and the place will be easily the best stadium in the Pac-12. There is a tradition of winning national championships, great academics and a history of alumni taking care of their own post-graduation. It doesn’t hurt the cause that a recruit can get whiplash looking at all the lovelies on an official visit.
2. Texas (886-356-34; 4 national championships): How can you have a bad year at Texas? It seems impossible with the combination of tradition, academics, moneyed alums who look out for their guys post-grad, facilities and the statewide obsession with high school football. It is mind-numbing that the Longhorns have won a combined 41 games since 2010. The state has 28 million people and enough prospects to fill the rosters at 12 Division I schools and eight from D1AA. If Charlie Strong doesn’t win big this year they’ll be breaking out the checkbooks and offering Tom Herman (Houston) something in the neighborhood of $8 million a year for starters.
3. Miami (596-347-19; 5 national championships): Okay, so they don’t have an on-campus stadium and the facilities generally suck. It’s still Miami and with the right coach in place, it can own South Florida, much the way Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Butch Davis did. Jimmy Johnson once said he’d typically take a first team All-Dade County over somebody else’s All-American. I’ll buy that.
4. Alabama (864-326-43; 15 national championships): There isn’t a program in all of college football with a more fanatical fan base than Alabama nor is there a football program that reeks more tradition. The population of the state is only 5 million, which is less than the city of Los Angeles, but Atlanta is just a couple of hours to the east and the Crimson Tide has been very successful on its forays into Florida. The level of high school football is just a notch below Florida and Georgia in the south. Facilities are better than just about every NFL team with the exception of the Dallas Cowboys.
5. Ohio State (875-320-54; 8 national championships): It doesn’t matter how many other Division I teams are in the state of Ohio and, for the most part, how many Big Ten teams are within driving distance of the state. Every kid in talent rich Ohio grows up wanting to be a Buckeye. They have the academics, the traditions and the facilities. Ohio State has won at least 10 games 11 of the last 13 years.
6. Florida State (522-241-17; 3 national championships): The Seminoles have one of the great recruiting advantages in the country with FAMU next door. The perception is a kid can come to Tallahassee and have the best of both worlds. How many great players who were ready to sign with the Gators ended up instead at FSU in large part because of the proximity of FAMU? The overhaul of facilities since 2010 has given the Seminoles an even stronger recruiting advantage.
7. LSU (771-404-47; 4 national championships): For a state with less than 5 million in population, Louisiana produces an inordinate amount of Division I talent. The talent pool in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport metro areas is enough to give LSU the foundation of a great recruiting class every year. In many ways, Louisiana is like Ohio in that every kid in the state grows up dreaming of playing for the state flagship school. Louisiana is also like Alabama in that there is true reverence for football, which is why in a state where they struggle to meet educational budgets there is always money to spend if the Tigers need something new in the way of facilities.
8. Florida (701-404-40; 3 national championships): It wasn’t until 1990 that the sleeping giant that was Florida woke up for good. In between 1990 and 2012 Florida won three national championships, eight SEC championships, posted nine or more wins 18 times and went bowling 22 straight years. Then came 2013 and that losing season was like a sore thumb in that it raised awareness that UF was way behind in the facilities wars taking place in the SEC. The Gators seemed poised again to become an elite program. Facilities are being upgraded and the perception is that Jim McElwain is the right coach in the right place. In reality, Florida should never have a bad year under any circumstance. There are too many good things going for the Gators.
9. Oklahoma: During the spring when the state becomes tornado alley, you can often see a black wall of thunder, lightning and rain heading your way from 100 miles away. That’s how flat it is. And in the middle of all that flat and very ugly countryside is this beautiful grove of trees which houses the city of Norman. When you compare the rest of the state to Norman, Norman seems like paradise. Okay, so nobody goes to Norman for the beauty and ambience. What they go to Oklahoma for is the tradition of winning championships. There aren’t enough good players in the state to field a great team, but Texas is close by and the Sooners have a history of raiding the state to fill their roster.
10. Georgia (788-413-54; 2 national championships): You start with the proximity to Atlanta and all that talent, then add in the overall excellent quality of high school football in the state and there is no excuse to win fewer than nine games a year. Mark Richt averaged nearly 10 wins a year for 15 years and he got fired. In Georgia they figure if you can take in the built-in recruiting advantages there is no excuse not to compete for national titles. Since the last Georgia national title (1980), Alabama has won 5 national championships, Florida has won 3 and both Tennessee and Auburn have won one. The natives are restless and wondering why not Georgia?
11. Texas A&M (718-466-48; 2 national championships): No matter how hard they try, the Aggies will never shake the image that they’re the little brother to the folks in Austin. Getting into the SEC helped the Aggies enormously and now that Kyle Field has been torn down and rebuilt, it’s one of the real palaces in all of college football. For the Aggies to become THE place to be in Texas, they’ve got to win a national championship or two.
12. UCLA (587-403-37; 1 national championship): Yes, UCLA is in the same city as Southern Cal and has the same advantages as far as population, but the Bruins don’t win national championships and no matter how hard the school tries to shake the image, perception is it’s a basketball school. A kid who comes down to Southern Cal and UCLA usually takes Southern Cal for that exact reason. Even without top notch facilities and without an on-campus stadium, it is a head scratcher why UCLA hasn’t done better. They have every advantage but it’s plain to see they don’t take advantage.
MURPHY, HODSKINS WON’T BE BACK FOR UF HOOPS
Alex Murphy, who has appealed to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, and walk-on Zach Hodskins, will not be returning to the Gators in the fall. If Murphy is granted the extra year he will transfer to a school where he is immediately eligible. If not, he plans to play professional basketball in Finland where his mom is a former pro and Olympian. Hodskins, born with only one hand, plans to transfer somewhere that he can have a chance to play. Also, walk-on Jhonny Victor will leave basketball to concentrate on track and field.
Murphy’s decision is the one that impacts the 2016-17 roster. The recent additions of graduate transfer Canyon Barry (from College of Charleston), Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson (will sit 2016-17) and 6-11 freshman Gorjok Gak brought Florida’s roster to the NCAA-maximum 13. Had Murphy remained at Florida with a 6th year of eligibility then someone on scholarship would have to agree to play as a walk-on.
Florida 2016-17 basketball roster breakdown:
Seniors (4): Kasey Hill, PG (6-1, 180); Justin Leon, PF (6-8, 196); SG/SF Canyon Barry (6-6, 210); * Schuyler Rimmer, C/PF (6-10, 245)
Juniors (4): Chris Chiozza, PG (6-0, 175); Devin Robinson, SF (6-8, 195); John Egbunu, C (6-11, 255); Jalen Hudson, SG (6-5, 180)
Sophomores (2): KeVaughn Allen, SG (6-2, 185); Kevarrius Hayes, PF/C (6-9, 215)
Freshmen (4): * Keith Stone, SF (6-8, 233); Eric Hester, PG (6-4, 180); Dontay Bassett, PF (6-9, 210); Gorjok Gak, C/PF (6-11, 220)
* Redshirt freshman
BASKETBALL RECRUITING UPDATE
The Gators will lose three scholarship seniors and they have to brace themselves for the possibility that two or possibly three (John Egbunu, KeVaughn Allen, Devin Robinson) might leave early for the NBA Draft. The Gators already have two committed players, but figure Mike White will sign at least two more
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6-5, 180, Toronto, Ontario/Chattanooga, TN Hamilton Heights Christian Academy): Gilgeous-Alexander is currently ranked #48 nationally by Scout.com but he is likely to move up perhaps as many as 10-12 spots after July. He can get to the rim and knows how to create his own shots. He’s considered a better than average defender, capable of holding his own guarding all three perimeter positions.
DeAundre Ballard (6-5, 190, Atlanta, GA Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy): Rated #95 by Scout.com, Ballard is a streaky scorer who is capable of putting up big numbers. As a junior he averaged 23.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.1 steals per game. Playing for Georgia Stars on the Nike EYBL circuit, he was in a shooting slump, hitting just 27.3% on 3-pointers and 35.8% overall while averaging 10.8 points per game.
Five 2017 Prospects to Watch
Chinedu “Victor” Uyaelunmo (7-0, 215, Lagos, Nigeria/Miami, FL Gulliver Prep): He’s very athletic and runs the floor extremely well. Like a lot of kids from Africa, his defense is ahead of his offense, but he does a good job of cleaning up around the rim. FSU is after him hard as is Miami. His academics have gotten him offers from Harvard, Georgetown, Vanderbilt and Stanford.
Christian David (6-7, 200, Milton, Ontario/Saxton’s River, VT Vermont Academy): He is a long, rangy wing who is a terrific pick and roll guy. He’s a terrific prospect as a shooter, but his defense is a little bit suspect and there are concerns that he plays below the rim. Still, he’s considered a high basketball IT guy who will only get better. He’s got offers from Baylor, Oregon, Providence, Illinois and Virginia Tech in addition to one from UF.
David Nickelberry (6-7, 202, Orlando, FL Windermere Prep): He’s another streaky shooter who wants the ball in clutch situations. When he gets his feet set he can knock down shots. He is a dangerous passer when he drives to the basket. He’s going to be a 4-year guy. He has offers from Texas, FSU, Georgia, Miami and Syracuse.
Daniel Mading (6-9, 200, Perth, Australia/Jersey City, NJ St. Anthony): He was originally committed to Arizona State, but just changed his mind on Wednesday. Florida and UConn were the runners-up when he committed to ASU, so it’s expected the Gators will be on the front burner again. He’s a stretch 4 who can be a nice fit on the high post or slide out to the wing. He seems a bit disinterested at times in playing defense and his lack of bulk hurts him as a rebounder.
L.J. Figueroa (6-6, 180, Tampa, FL/Oldsmar, FL Oldsmar Christian): He has a 7-0 wingspan and can guard multiple positions. He’s from the same school that sent Eric Hester and Dontay Bassett to UF. He’s a very smart player who fits in very well in a team concept. He improved dramatically as a 3-point shooter last year. Louisville, Miami, VCU and Virginia Tech are very much in the mix.
NBA DRAFT WRAPUP
Billy Donovan got the athletic guard in Victor Oladipo he wanted plus Gonzaga’s Damontas Sabonis in a trade with Orlando for Serge Ibaka. When Oladipo played high school ball at DeMatha in D.C., Florida was right there until the bitter end when he chose Indiana over the Gators.
Maybe the Phoenix Suns should change their name to Wildcats and try to lure John Calipari to coach them. The Suns already have former UK stars Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Brandon Knight on the roster. After Thursday night’s NBA Draft they have two more – Skal Labissiere and Tyler Ulis. Both Labissiere and Ulis dropped like rocks. Labissiere went from lottery to #28 in the first round while Ulis fell to the second round, the #34 overall pick.
There were 13 foreign-born players taken in the first round, led by the Philadelphia 76ers who took three internationals with their first rounders(Ben Simmons of Australia; Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot of France and, Furkan Korkmaz of Turkey). Another 13 foreign-born players were taken in the second round.
I really like Orlando’s second round pick Jake Layman. Ever since his high school days he’s reminded me of Chandler Parsons.
THE 10 BEST OFFENSIVE TACKLES IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
1. Roderick Johnson, Florida State, JR
2. Cam Robinson, Alabama, JR
3. Dan Skipper, Arkansas, SR
4. Mitch Hyatt, Clemson, SO
5. Zach Banner, Southern Cal, SR
6. Jon Heck, North Carolina, SR
7. Conn McDermott, UCLA, SR
8. Jashon Robertson, Tennessee, JR
9. Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt, SR
10. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma, SO
Just missed: J.J. Dielman, Utah, SR; Tyrell Crosby, Oregon, JR; Connor Williams, Texas, SO; Dion Dawkins, SR, Temple; Maea Teuhema, LSU, SO
THE 10 BEST PLAYERS IN ARKANSAS FOOTBALL HISTORY
1. Darren McFadden, RB
2. Dave Hampton, DT
3. Lance Alworth, RB/WR
4. Steve Atwater, S
5. Billy Ray Smith, DE
6. Felix Jones, RB
7. Loyd Phillips, DT
8. Shawn Andrews, OT
9. Dick Bumpas, DT
10. Chuck Dicus, WR
Monday: The 10 best players in Auburn history
Cinderella lives! Coastal Carolina eliminated Texas Tech Thursday night and moves to the bracket B championship against TCU at the College World Series.
The fallout continues at Baylor. The school granted five 2016 signees their releases.
The Atlanta Falcons have ordered $200 million in changes to the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Even with the changes, the stadium is expected to open June 1, 2017.
Now that Las Vegas has an NHL team, plans are on the board for a 65,000-seat domed stadium to lure an NFL team. Can you say hello Oakland?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Who do you think has the best overall recruiting advantages in all of college football?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I first discovered J.J. Cale when I checked the fine print on Eric Clapton’s album “Slowhand” whose first song was “Cocaine.” Until then Cale was relatively unknown to the general public, but well known among musicians. Neil Young once remarked that J.J. and Jimi Hendrix were the two best guitar players in the world. Today’s music is by J.J. Cale and Leon Russell, recorded at Leon’s Paradise Studios in Los Angeles in 1979.