Kan Li / Scout

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; July 6

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning...

Will a year older make Florida’s offensive line a year better? You like to think so and from the look of things in the spring, the Gators look to be very strong up the middle. The most glaring weakness is at the two tackle positions where David Sharpe can grind in the running game but seems to have problems with speed off the edge and Fred Johnson lacks consistency.

Sharpe and Johnson will start practice in August as the starters at tackle, but that situation could change if they don’t show immediate progress. One solution might be to move Martez Ivey from left guard to left tackle and move Sharpe to the inside, where he will probably play on Sundays someday. Another solution might be to move Ivey to right tackle. No matter what happens with Sharpe, Ivey and Johnson, the Gators have nothing in the way of experience for the backups.

Perhaps the ideal O-line would be Ivey and Sharpe on the left side, Cam Dillard at center, Tyler Jordan at RG with Johnson at RT. Jordan could end up being the glue guy this year since he can play all five OL positions which could allow Mike Summers to move people around until he finds a cohesive unit which can help the Gators produce more than 3.48 per rushing attempt and fewer than the 40 sacks allowed last year.

The most glaring weakness for the other 13 teams in the SEC:

Alabama: All they’re asking Bo Scarbrough to do is replace a Heisman Trophy tailback who gained 2,219 yards and scored 28 TDs last year. That’s all. Behind Scarbrough are three very inexperienced runners.

Arkansas: There are three new starters on the OL and a new position coach in Kurt Anderson. Last year the Razorbacks averaged 465.5 yards and 35.9 points per game while giving up only 14 sacks. Even with a brand new QB and RB, the Hogs have the skill people to be one of the best offenses in the SEC but Anderson is going to have to develop someone other than C Frank Ragnow and RT Dan Skipper for that to happen.

Auburn: Jeremy Johnson (137 yards, 6 TDs) and Sean White (35 yards, 0 TDs) represented a 616-yard and 5 TD dropoff from Nick Marshall’s production in 2014. Marshall gained 1,068 yards and scored 12 TDs in 2014. When Auburn’s QB can run, the offense is really difficult to stop. As badly as the Tigers need to upgrade the defense (good luck with Kevin Steele as the DC), it won’t matter if the QB (probably John Franklin III this year) can’t run the ball.

Georgia: Georgia fans are drooling over Jacob Eason’s big arm. He can throw it. Who will he throw it to? Big problem. The only receiver (Malcolm Mitchell) who could (a) get open and (b) catch the ball has moved on to the NFL, leaving behind a crew that makes up for its lack of speed with its penchant for dropping the ball (see Reggie Davis).

Kentucky: The Wildcats gave up 198 passing yards per game and 14 TD passes last year. Don’t blame the DBs. You can only cover people so long. The Wildcats got to the quarterback for 17 sacks last year. This year’s projected starting DL of Denzil Ware, Reggie Meant, Matt Elam and Courtney Miggins combined for 2 sacks last year. If they can’t meet at the QB a bit more often, Mark Stoops will be out of a job in December.

LSU: There is no shortage of talent on either line of scrimmage, the back seven on defense or the wide receivers and running backs. How well the Tigers do rests squarely on the shoulders of the QB tandem of incumbent Brandon Harris and Purdue transfer Danny Etling. If they can make the throws, LSU will be next to impossible to beat.

Mississippi State: In six of Mississippi State’s 13 games last year, opponents ran for 200 or more yards. There is a new DC in Peter Sirmon, who coached the linebackers at Southern Cal last year. He’s made the switch to a 3-4 that is designed to present a tougher front against the run. The linebackers are fast and the secondary is experienced. If the DL can hold its own against the run, the Bulldogs can have an SEC-caliber defense.

Missouri: Missouri had one of the most experienced O-lines in the SEC when last season began and they still gave up 30 sacks, which had a lot to do with QB Drew Lock spending 2015 in a constant state of regression. The bad news is four OL starters from last year graduated, leaving only Nate Crawford, who had backsurgery in April, as the only holdover. Last year’s offense averaged 13.6 points and less than 281 offensive yards per game. Somebody better block of those numbers are to improve.

Ole Miss: Even with the loss of four OL starters including an NFL first rounder, the Rebels rotated so many players that experience isn’t going to be a problem. They should give Chad Kelly enough time to throw the ball, but Ole Miss still doesn’t have an every down running back and that could be problematic. If someone doesn’t emerge, expect to see a lot of 8-man coverage packages.

South Carolina: Where to begin? Everywhere Will Muschamp looks there are more holes to fill than there are able, talented bodies to fill them. His best defender, middle linebacker Skai Moore, is out for the season, which means the Gamecocks will be playing three new starters at LB this year. If you think this has the makings of a really bad season, then move to the front of the line and pick up your prize.  

Tennessee: The Vols don’t lack for experience (#3 nationally in that department) and the defense should be vastly improved under new coordinator Bob Shoop. The Vols figure to be one of the best running teams in the country with QB Joshua Dobbs and the 1-2 running back punch of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. The Vols have guys who can catch the ball, too. The problem is they don’t have any real defense stretchers on the outside, meaning a lot of 8-in-the-box defensive sets will be seen. For the Vols to live up to the ever so high expectations this year, they’ll have to do better than 2-inch passes.

Texas A&M: The Aggies like their front four, especially if Daylon Mack can get the push in the middle that frees up Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall on the outside edge. The linebackers can’t afford an injury and the corners get lost in coverage. The offense figures it will put points on the board but if the Aggies lose a linebacker and the corners aren’t vastly improved, Kevin Sumlin’s time in College Station could be limited.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores desperately need to improve their offense (averaged 15.2 points, 326.5 yards per game, 4.5 yards per play), but there is very little in the way of speed. Ralph Webb is a very tough runner between the tackles but when he gets into the secondary he doesn’t scare anyone. The receivers have nothing in the way of separation speed.

THE 10 BEST CORNERBACKS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016

If any defensive player makes it to the Heisman podium in December, Iowa’s Desmond King is probably that guy. He’s the best cover guy in the country and even though opponents try to avoid throwing to his side of the field, he still comes up with picks. He’s also one of the country’s most accomplished return guys.

1. Desmond King, Iowa, SR (72 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 8 interceptions, 13 pass breakups, 1 TD; 17-241 punt returns, 29-708 kickoff returns)

2. Jalen Tabor, Florida, JR ((40 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, 14 pass breakups, 2 TDs)
3. Adoree’ Jackson, Southern California, JR  (35 tackles, 1 interception, 8 pass breakups, 1 TD; 27-414 receiving, 2 TDs; 24-251 punt returns, 2 TDs; 30-690 kickoff returns)

4. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson, SR (48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 9 pass breakups, 1 TD)
5. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan, SR (52 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 20 pass breakups, 1 TD, 1 forced fumble, 15-378 kickoff returns)
6. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, SO (45 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 8 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles)
7. Sidney Jones, Washington, JR (46 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 10 pass breakups, 1 TD, 4 forced fumbles)
8. Damontae Kazee, San Diego State, SR (75 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 8 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1 TD, 2 forced fumbles; 5-70 punt returns, 1 TD)

9. Tre’Davious White, LSU, SR (44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups; 20-229 punt returns, 1 TD)
10. Cameron Sutton, Tennessee, SR (28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups; 24-467 punt returns, 2 TDs)
Just missed: William Likely, Maryland, SR; Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin, SR; Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado, SR; Desmond Lawrence, North Carolina, SR; Kevin King, Washington, SR

DENNIS DODD’S 15 COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

The CBSSports.com columnist scores coaches like this:

5: Win or be fired

4: Better start improving
3: Pressure mounting
2: All good … for now
1: Safe and secure
0: Untouchable

Here are his 15 coaches on the hot seat and their scores:
Les Miles, LSU (5)
Jim Grobe, Baylor (5)
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (4.5)
Paul Haynes, Kent State (4.5)
Charlie Strong, Texas (4)
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (4)
Mark Stoops, Kentucky (4)
Darrell Hazell, Purdue (4)
Gus Malzahn Auburn (3.5)
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (3.5)
Steve Addazio, Boston College (3.5)
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (3.5)
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest (3.5)
Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan (3.5)
Chuck Martin, Miami of Ohio (3.5)

Scores for other SEC coaches: Nick Saban, Alabama (0); Bret Bielema, Arkansas (1); Jim McElwain, Florida (1); Kirby Smart, Georgia (1); Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (2); Barry Odom, Missouri (2); Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss (2); Will Muschamp, South Carolina (3); Butch Jones, Tennessee (3)
Other scores of note: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (0); Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic (3) ; Ron Turner, Florida International (3); Scott Frost, UCF (0); Willie Taggart, South Florida, 2; Mark Richt, Miami (1)

SPORTING NEWS RANKS TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL QUARTERBACKS

Sporting News ranks the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten as the two most powerful college football leagues in the country. It’s amazing that the two top leagues account for only four of its top 25 quarterbacks in the country – Chad Kelly (Ole Miss) and Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee) from the SEC and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) and C.J. Beathard (Iowa from the Big Ten). Based on the Sporting News rankings, the Big 12 is the best conference for quarterbacks (5) followed by the ACC with 4.

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson, JR
2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State, JR
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, JR
4. Seth Russell, Baylor, SR
5. Greg Ward Jr., Houston, SR

6. Luke Falk, Washington State, JR
7. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss, SR
8. Josh Rosen, UCLA, SO

9. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee, SR
10. Brad Kaaya, Miami, JR
11. C.J. Beathard, Iowa, SR
12. Lamar Jackson, Louisville, SO

13. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame, JR
14. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech, JR
15. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, JR
16. Skyler Howard, West Virginia, SR
17. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss, SR
18. Anu Solomon, Arizona, JR
19. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State, JR
20. Jake Browning, Washington, SO
21. Brett Rypien, Boise State, SO
22. Taysom Hill, BYU, SR
23. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati, SR
24. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan, SR
25. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech, SR

RANDOM THOUGHTS

In his speech when he was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame, Steve Spurrier encouraged prep athletes to play more than one sport. Spurrier, who was the MVP of state championship games in football, basketball and baseball in his prep career at Johnson City (TN) Science Hill, Spurrier said, “Not once did any of eh three coaches say, ‘Steve, you ought to stick with baseball … you ought to stick with basketball. I’m thankful for that because I wasn’t very good at football until my senior year and we started throwing the ball a little bit. I couldn’t run very fast, wasn’t very big but I could shoot and hit and stuff like that. But, I just kept playing them all and eventually football seemed to be my sport.”

Alabama self-reported 19 NCAA violations in 11 sports, all of them level III or level IV. Of the 19 violations, 19 were football-related. 

There is speculation that Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors because he felt he and Russell Westbrook had plateaued as a dynamic duo. Although Westbrook’s points were down (28.1 in 2015; 23.5 in 2016), his numbers were up in rebounds (7.8) and assists (10.4). Durant probably benefitted from Westbrook passing the ball more as his points per game rose from 25.4 in 2015 to 28.2 in 2016. Let’s see what his numbers are like when he has to share the ball with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

CBSSports.com’s Chip Patterson says that recruiting at Baylor might be difficult. Really? I don’t have to make this up.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Tackle is obviously a glaring weakness for Florida’s offense this year. Do you see another glaring weakness on either side of the ball?

MUSIC FOR TODAY
After a 10-year hiatus from making music, The Corrs have a new album (“White Light”) and they’re touring again.  This is an Irish band consisting of three sisters and a brother whose music combines traditional Irish rhythms along with Celtic and some rock and roll. I saw them live in 1997 when I was living in Europe.

Today’s music is their 2004 performance at Montreux.  

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9V8rqZONew


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