The obvious faces of Florida football are Jarrad Davis, Jalen Tabor and Marcus Maye. You could probably find a little room on your list for Bryan Cox Jr., too. He’s rock steady and could join Davis, Tabor and Maye on a lot of all-star lists this football season. All four of them have one thing in common – they all play defense.
This is the state of Florida football 2016. It’s been the state of Florida football the last six years. The last time an offensive guy was truly the face of the Gators was 2009 when that Tebow guy played his senior year. Those 2009 Gators averaged 35.9 points and 457.9 yards per game. The Gators averaged 5.59 yards per running play, 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 6.97 yards per play, numbers the Gators haven’t come close to duplicating since Tebow graduated.
Fans actually complained about the offense in 2009, said it was way too predictable and relied too heavily on the running game. There were a lot of fingers pointed at Steve Addazio, who called the plays, and while The Daz was far more conservative than predecessor Dan Mullen, he can’t get all the blame. There were two collisions – one Tim Tebow and Eric Berry of Tennessee and the other a sack at Kentucky a week later that sent Tebow to the hospital with a concussion. There are folks who contend that if not for the collision with Berry, Tebow would have never taken the hit at Kentucky; i.e., he got his bell rung by Berry and it impaired him. The Berry collision also did a number on Tebow’s shoulder. It wasn’t until the Sugar Bowl game with Cincinnati that he threw pain free again. All those things have to be taken into account when talking about the 2009 offense, but even with those problems, it was a far better offense then than anything we’ve seen since.
For the first time since 2009, I think there is reason to believe the offense is going to be very, very good once again. I really do believe the offensive line will be vastly improved. I know – how could it be worse than last year when the Gators averaged 3.48 yards per rush and gave up 45 sacks? It can’t. Last year was rock bottom. This year, those same guys have a year under their belts and an opportunity to redeem themselves. It says something that both David Sharpe and Martez Ivey were selected second team preseason All-SEC by the media in Hoover, Alabama last week. If they live up to that hype, you can almost bet the rest of the O-line will be improved.
Last year’s O-line was only part of the problem. So many of the sacks were because the quarterbacks failed to read the defense or held onto the ball way too long. This year’s QB is going to be Luke Del Rio. I have two words for you: Greg McElroy. McElroy was Jim McElwain’s QB at Alabama in 2009-10. What he did best was make the reads and unload the ball rather than take negative plays. That’s Del Rio. You don’t have to have the cannon arm in a McElwain offense, just one that is quick enough – and a mind that is also quick enough – to unload the ball.
Now take a moment to check out the skill positions. If all goes according to plan, we should see a three-wide of Antonio Callaway, Dre Massey and Tyrie Cleveland with a three-headed running back monster of Mark Thompson, Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett. What do they have in common? Speed and game breaking abilities enough that safeties are going to have to respect the Gators once again and play 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen that.
If this offense can come anywhere close to the 2009 numbers of 5.59, 9.1 and 6.97 this is going to be a very difficult team to contain and we might actually have a face of Florida football from the offensive side of the ball.
AN OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP FOR THE AGES
Phil Mickelson shot a bogey-free 65 on the final round of the Open Championship and finished the four days 17-under par. The six guys largely regarded as the best in the game today (Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler) were a combined +7 and only 17 players broke par at Royal Troon. What Mickelson did was astounding and yet he finished second by THREE strokes to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who shot a brilliant 63 that included a couple of bogeys.
This is one of those occasions that you can’t say the second place finisher LOST. Mickelson didn’t lose. He played brilliant golf but Stenson went into what Dan Jenkins would refer to as Open Coma and was unconscious on the back nine where he carded five birdies including four on the final five holes. That 50-foot putt for bird on #17 not only was the best shot of the tournament but will go down as one of the great shots in the history of the majors.
Stenson’s first win at a major conjured up great memories of the Tom Watson vs. Jack Nicklaus final round in 1977 at Turnberry, widely regarded as the best head-to-head finishing round in the history of the majors.
Stenson, who broke Tiger Woods’ record 19-under final score for the Open Championship, earned a paycheck worth $890,190. Poor Phil Mickelson will have to see if he can make ends meet with a $571,040 payday.
CBS RANKS COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S MOST DISRESPECTED PROGRAMS
These are the five college football programs that CBSSports.com’s Tom Fornelli rated the most disrespected:
1. Mississippi State: Agree with the choice.
2. Oklahoma State: But they really haven’t won anything.
3. Michigan State: I might have said yes three years ago, but not now.
4. Utah: No brainer.
5. Notre Dame: If anything, I think the Irish are constantly given more respect than they deserve simply because they are Notre Dame. Any other school would be forced to join a conference.
No, you aren’t reading that wrong. He did rate Notre Dame the fifth most disrespected team in college football. He is on the money with Mississippi State, picked to finish last once again in the SEC West. Dan Mullen is 50-35 since 2010 and has taken the Bulldogs bowling every year, something no other coach in MSU history has done. You have to wonder what Mullen would have done if he could have played an SEC East schedule the last six years.
If I were to vote the five most disrespected programs in the college game, my choice would be:
1. Mississippi State: It makes you wonder when Mullen will decide he’s had enough and move on to someplace that he can actually have a chance to win a championship.
2. Wisconsin: The Badgers are 60-21 since 2010 even with two coaching changes.
3. TCU: What Gary Patterson has done at TCU is nothing short of a miracle and he’s done it with Texas recruits, most of whom were somewhat under the radar.
4. Utah: If Kyle Whittingham were not a Mormon coaching in Salt Lake City, he might be tempted to go somewhere with better facilities and a higher profile.
5. Boise State: For now. The reality that Chris Peterson is no longer the Boise State coach has worn off and it’s up to Bryan Harsin to keep Boise State as that team none of the teams from power programs want to play on New Year’s Day.
BIG TROUBLE IN MISSOURI
As noted in the Friday column, athletic director Mack Rhoades skipped out on Missouri to take the Baylor job. It says something that an AD on the job for a little more than one year would leave an SEC program to take over at a school where the president, athletic director and football coach all had to resign because of a sexual assault scandal that involved football players going back a few years.
Even with recruits abandoning Baylor like rats leaping off a sinking ship, Baylor will recover. Count on it. It’s a fine school with a beautiful campus and an almost new state of the art football stadium located on the banks of the Brazos River. That stadium cost more than $200 million to build. Alum Drayton McLane, who owns the Houston Astros, wrote a check to cover the whole amount. There are a lot of Baylor people who are all too happy to stroke a check when the school needs one, especially for an athletic department with a $100 million budget. Baylor is a private school with high academic standards attended by some 17,000 students. Missouri is a land grant university with more than 35,000 students and a membership in the American Association of Universities. It has an athletic budget of $91 million and will see its yearly revenues from the Southeastern Conference increase because of the SEC Network, which has more than 70,000,000 subscribers in less than two years of operation.
At Baylor, Rhoads has a similar situation to what he had at Houston. If he needs something, he knows the boosters to call and they’ll get the ball rolling in a big way with some serious contributions. At Missouri, Rhoads told the boosters he needed $50-75 million for a new stand alone football facility. It is no closer to being built now than it was when he took the job at Mizzou.
An official from the SEC described Rhoades departure as “a kick in the gut.” Was it a kick in the gut because Rhoades elected to go just seven weeks prior to the start of football season or because Missouri is poised to become an SEC bottom feeder? You have to wonder. Football was horrible last year and there is a brand new coach who will have the same situation as last year – good defense, no offense, very few wins. Basketball is being investigated by the NCAA (again) and its head coach (Kim Anderson) is way, way over his head. In the recent SEC All-Sports standings, which Florida won for the 26th time, Missouri finished dead last.
When the SEC raided Texas A&M and Missouri from the Big 12 back in 2012, it was thought both schools would bolster the conference’s academic standing and that both would be very competitive in all sports. The Aggies have held up their end of the bargain.
As a side note, you can almost bet the ranch Rhoades has already conversed with those deep-pocketed Baylor boosters about the football coach who will lead the program in 2017 (Jim Grobe will interim this year). Rhoades is the guy who lured Tom Herman away from Ohio State to Houston and he remains closest of friends with Herman, who led Houston to a 13-1 record in his first year as an HBC last year. Money won’t be an object.
You might have missed it but Logan Shore signed a contract with the Oakland A’s last week for $1.5 million.
On the same day we witnessed one of the great finishing duels in golf history at Royal Troon, Lydia Ko was disposing of Mirim Lee and Ariya Jutanugarn in a 4-hole playoff to win the Marathon Classic. Ko, who hails from New Zealand was born in Korea. She has won 14 LPGA tournaments in her career, which isn’t bad considering she won’t turn 20 until next April.
Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, says QB Tom Brady was denied fair and impartial process by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Kraft is right, but Goodell only operated within the power boundaries set up by the NFL owners. If he really wants to blame somebody, he needs to start by looking in the mirror. Goodell has duped the owners into giving him unprecedented power in exchange for more money than ever before. Lord Acton once stated, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Give a power-crazed commissioner enough money to bribe the people who are supposed to hold him accountable and it’s amazing what he can get away with. Other than Kraft you don’t hear too many voices complaining about Goodell’s decision, do you?
There’s more trouble for Alabama’s offensive line. Right guard Alphonse Taylor, who started all 15 games last year and was a second team preseason All-SEC pick last week at Media Days, was arrested Sunday and charged with DUI. Left tackle Cam Robinson was arrested on drug and gun charges back in May but the DA in Monroe, LA elected not to prosecute. It’s entirely possible that Taylor and left tackle Cam Robinson could both miss the season opener with Southern Cal for disciplinary reasons. It will be interesting to see how Nick Saban handles the discipline on this one.
In case you missed it, the Denver Broncos forked out $70 million guaranteed as part of a 6-year, $114.5 million deal to re-sign outside linebacker Von Miller, last year’s MVP of the Super Bowl. The Broncos initially offered $39.8 million guaranteed money back in June but after the Philadelphia Eagles signed Fletcher Cox to a 6-year deal worth $102.6 million with more than $55 million guaranteed, the Broncos caved in. I remember the day when Joe Namath got a $400,000 signing bonus to go with the New York Jets and the whole country thought that was outrageous.
Nate Thurmond died over the weekend. He was 74. If you don’t know who he was, Nate was one of the great defensive centers in the NBA from 1963-77. He is the first player in NBA history to record a quadruple double with 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocked shots against the Atlanta Hawks in 1974. A member of both the Basketball and College Basketball halls of fame (played collegiately at Bowling Green), Thurmond was one of the game’s all-time good guys, well liked by teammates and fans alike and easy to interview by the press.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Do you believe it is possible for the Gators to come close to duplicating the 2009 numbers with this offensive unit in 2016? What would be the keys to making that happen?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Eric Clapton continues to hint that this will be his last year of touring. There are some physical issues plus he’s 70 years old next year. So, since we don’t know how much music he will be producing in the future, this is going to be Clapton week. We’ll start with his 2013 album “Old Sock,” a CD that had only two songs he co-wrote. The rest were covers. “All of Me” features Paul McCartney singing and playing bass.