It was so calm, almost too good to be true. It turns out it was too calm.
We almost made it seven months without an arrest (previous arrest was December 19, 2015) until freshman wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells were arrested on felony charges for allegedly firing BB guns and causing more than $1,000 in property damage at the Keys Residential Complex on campus. Per the police report, both Cleveland and Wells admitting firing the BB gun in the dorm. Wells reportedly turned the BB gun over to the police.
The charges are serious but not the end of the world. The fact Cleveland and Wells admitted they were in the wrong should play favorably with the State Attorney’s office, which will decide whether to press charges or offer pre-trial intervention. As long as there are no priors for either one, there is a very good chance they will have to pay for the damages, do some community service and other punishment and face a couple of years of probation. There will be further punishment from the athletic department. Since they committed a felony, even if the charges are dismissed pending pre-trial intervention there will be discipline from Jim McElwain and the UF athletic department. It’s hard to imagine anything less than two games and it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s three or four.
The hard part for McElwain, AD Jeremy Foley and the others in the UF administration will be to decide what’s appropriate without allowing Cleveland and Wells off the hook too easy or making the punishment too harsh. The mere appearance that Cleveland and Wells skated is intolerable just as treating kids like hardened criminals for a BB gun incident in which there was no one physically harmed is also unacceptable.
Whatever choices are made will resonate throughout the Florida football team. The charges and the punishment are serious but they aren’t the end of the world. Sending the right signal is paramount and a distraction the Gators could have done without.
Elsewhere around the SEC:
Alabama: Tight end O.J. Howard, who caught 5 passes for 208 yards and 2 TDs in the national championship game against Clemson, figures to get the ball more often as a senior (38 catches, 602 yards, 2 TDs in 2015). Howard says, “This season I’m looking forward to Lane Kiffin dialing up plays. I think we are going to be able to get a lot of new formations and plays.”
Arkansas: Quarterback Austin Allen, who spent the last couple of years backing up his older brother Brandon, brings a measure of toughness to an already competitive nature. Says, HBC Bret Bielema, “His demeanor is one that I can already tell he’s one that we’ve got to calm down a little ebit because he’s got a linebacker’s mentality at times.”
Auburn: Gus Malzahn says too much blame is placed on QB Jeremy Johnson for Auburn’s descent to a 7-6 record last year. Says Malzahn, “Everybody focuses on the quarterback but when your offense isn’t executing like it should, but really it was an overall breakdown; it wasn’t just one position.”
Georgia: Speaking on the Russillo & Kanell radio show, Danny Kannell asked Kirby Smart what it will take for freshman QB Jacob Eason to start game one against North Carolina. Smart responded, “Jacob is a special arm talent but Jacob has not been anointed or appointed that job.” Eason might not start game one, but you can almost bet the farm that he’ll be the starter before September is in the books.
Kentucky: It has been 29 years since the last Kentucky win over Florida. What would it mean to end the streak? Linebacker Courtney Love says, “It’s going to give us the momentum we need to create a dynasty at Kentucky.”
LSU: The murder of three police officers in Baton Rouge hit HBC Les Miles particularly hard. Slain officer Montrell Jackson was am acquaintance of the LSU coach. Said Miles, “Montrell Jackson has had conversations with me and my family … just a joy to be around. It’s a day where the state of Louisiana and Baton Rouge has a heavy heart.”
Mississippi State: Mississippi State is on its third defensive coordinator (Peter Sirmon) in three years. That doesn’t bother senior defensive end A.J. Jefferson, who says, “Playing defense doesn’t change. Every defensive coordinator we’ve had come here might dress it up a different way but it’s all the same thing. They want us to be juiced and have energy and just go out there and play.”
Missouri: Some of the candidates being mentioned to step in for departed AD Mack Rhoades are deputy AD Wren Baker, Rutgers senior associate AD Sarah Baumgartner, Memphis deputy AD Mark Alnutt, Louisiana-Monroe AD Brian Wickstrom, New Mexico State AD Mario Moccia, Ole Miss AD Russ Bjork and San Diego State AD Jim Sterk.
Ole Miss: Even though the Rebels lost 15 touchdown catches and 1,797 receiving yards from last year’s team, tight end Evan Engram (38-464, 2 TDs in 2015) says Ole Miss will be just fine. Engram says, “It’s time for a lot of those guys at receiver to step up. We have guys – Van Jefferson, DaMarkus Lodge, Quincy Adeboyejo – we have talent.“
South Carolina: ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill thinks South Carolina’s QB fortunes will rest in early enrollee freshman Brandon McIlwain or Jake Bentley, who skipped his senior season in high school to enroll this summer. Said Luginbill, “He [Bentley] is the type of player that Kurt Roper wants to have in the offense. He [Bentley] and Brandon McIlwain – one of those two will emerge as a starter.”
Tennessee: For the Vols to have the kind of dynamic offense they wish to have, Butch Jones says freshman wide receivers are going to have to contribute in a big way. Jones says, “We’re going to have to rely on some true freshmen. We talk about the constant evolution of our football program. We talk about being nine strong, power of the position and nine strong interpositionally. That’s a position where some of the our older players are going to have to do a great job of leading the younger players.”
Texas A&M: Senior transfer QB Trevor Knight has the physical talent to get the job done. His main concern is leadership. Says Knight, “I think I’m a great leader verbally, so I continue to try to bring the guys along and develop that culture. I think that X’s and O’s are extremely important, but if you have a great culture, you’re going to be successful. That’s not just in football. That’s in any organization so my whole goal was to come in and be the leader that I am and get the culture moving in the right direction.”
Vanderbilt: Linebacker Zach Cunningham doesn’t lack for confidence as the Commodores look to end a 2-year skein of losing seasons. He believe the Commodores have what it takes to be great. “There’s really going to be no ceiling on how good we can be,” Cunningham said.
A COUPLE OF NEW NAMES IN THE SEARCH FOR UF’S NEXT AD
For the past month, the names of Greg Byrne (Arizona), Bernard Muir (Stanford), Chris Del Conte (TCU) and Kirby Hocutt (Texas Tech) have been mentioned by one media source or another as a potential successor for Jeremy Foley. A couple of other names have been heard in the last few days – Okahoma AD Joe Castiglione and Kansas State AD John Currie.
Castiglione is 58 years old and a native of Fort Lauderdale. He’s been on the job since 1998 and just this past year had a football team in the final four and a basketball team in the NCAA championship game, plus won NCAA titles in both men’s and women’s gymnastics and softball. Would he leave? Anything is possible. Is it likely? Maybe a one in ten chance.
As for Currie (age 45), he’s raised the money for facilities upgrades and expansion, expanded the athletic budget by $26 million and turned a cash surplus for six straight years. He spent 12 years at Tennessee where he was in charge of marketing and development before taking the KSU job.
SISTER HAZEL WILLIAMS, RIP
Many years ago, Hazel Strong, herself an angel of mercy, talked about Sister Hazel Williams, who dedicated so many years of her life to being a beacon of light for Gainesville’s downtrodden. “If you’ve seen Sister Hazel’s smile and seen her eyes, that’s probably the closest you’ll ever come to seeing the face of God here on earth,” Hazel Strong told me. It was true. Sister Hazel was a clear reflection of how God’s love is supposed to radiate through us and into the lives of others. The Bible tells us that we’re supposed to love others the way God loves us. I think Sister Hazel did that about as well as anyone on earth for her 91 years. She loved the unlovable. She cared for those who had given up hope that anyone would ever care for them again. She gave love until there was no more to give and then somehow, someway – almost miraculously – she found more love to give.
She was such an inspiration in Gainesville and the surrounding communities that a rock and roll band was not only named after her, but thrived, almost as if blessed by the almighty to spread the word about Gainesville’s very own saint. Countless homeless and many others who wondered if they could ever catch a break knew that no matter what happened in life, there was at least one person who they could turn to for help. She poured her life into Sister Hazel’s Rescue Mission and Gainesville and the world were better off for it.
Sister Hazel died Monday, called home to heaven after 91 years spent living the golden rule. The world is already feeling the void.
You can tell imagination has been taxed to its limits because AJC.com is rating the 14 SEC cities by craft beers. Here are the rankings: 1. Athens (Wake, Bake, Creature Comforts, Tropicalia); 2. Gainesville (First Magnitude, Swamp Head, Cottonmouth); 3. Tuscaloosa (Druid City, Black Warrior, Band of Brothers); 4. Lexington (Alltech Bourbon Ale); 5. Columbia, SC (Swamp Cabbage, River Rat, Monck’s Corner Abbey Ale); 6. Nashville (Gerst Amber Ale); 7. Columbia, MO (Boone County Brown); 8. Fayetteville (Spottie Oatmeal Stout); 9. Baton Rouge (Tin Roof Brewing); 10. Knoxville (Big Bastard); 11. College Station (Warimono); 12. Starkville (La Saison De Chihuahua); 13. Oxford (Sorority Blonde); 14. Auburn (Southern Bumpkin).
AJC.com also rated the 10 best looking stadiums in the country: 1. Doak Campbell Stadium (FSU); 2. Kyle Field (Texas A&M); 3. Michigan Stadium (Michigan); 4. Tiger Stadium (LSU); 5. Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama); 6. Rose Bowl (UCLA); 7. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State); 8. BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM (FLORIDA); 9. Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial (Texas); 10. McClaine Stadium (Baylor).
David Schoenfield of ESPN rates his top 10 players in baseball history, a list that includes juicers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. Here are his top ten: 1. Willie Mays; 2. Hank Arron; 3. Bonds; 4. Babe Ruth; 5. Ted Williams; 6. Clemens; 7. Rodriguez; 8. Ty Cobb; 9. Greg Maddux and 10. Mike Schmidt.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Supposing Cleveland and Wells get pre-trial intervention and the felony charges are dropped, what do you think would be appropriate discipline for the two freshmen?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
“Pilgrim” was Eric Clapton’s first album of original material in nine years when it was released in 1998. Still hurting from the death of his young son Conor in 1991, Clapton didn’t want a sad album although he honored the memory of Conor with “My Father’s Eyes” and “Circus,” written because the last time he saw his son he took him to the circus.