When football practice officially begins Thursday morning at the University of Florida, Luke Del Rio will be the unofficial #1 quarterback. Jim McElwain really hasn’t tabbed Del Rio as his starter, but you have to figure an endorsement of Del Rio by Steve Spurrier probably tells you where Mac’s head is at this moment.
It would only figure to be Del Rio since essentially this will be his fourth year in the same offense. He ran the McElwain offense for UF OC Doug Nussmeier in 2013 at Alabama, then ran basically the same thing for Jason Garrett (last year a UF quality control guy for offense) in 2014 at Oregon State. Last year, Del Rio was in the meeting room every day with Mac, Nussmeier and Garrett and by the accounts of most former players who observed practice, he was the best QB on the field and that included the first six games when Will Grier was taking the Gators to a 6-0 start.
Mac’s offense is very cerebral and doesn’t require a cannon of an arm to execute. The essential qualities of the QB are quick decision-making, a quick enough release to get rid of the football rather than take a sack, and accuracy. In other words, be another Greg McElroy. From what we saw in the spring, that’s Del Rio to a T. The only negative is that he’s never started a college football game or so much as taken a snap in the SEC.
But there is this teensy – okay, when you’re 6-4 and 235 pounds you’re anything but teensy – problem of Austin Appleby, the graduate transfer from Purdue. Del Rio had a better spring than Appleby but he should have. After all Del Rio knew all the nuances of the Mac Attack after three years of learning what to do. Appleby, if you remember, had 2-1/2 months to learn things on the fly before spring practice began. If you saw what I saw in the spring, he looked really good all things considered.
By now, Appleby knows the system better and he knows his personnel. He’s spent the summer throwing countless passes to his wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. While Del Rio is an accurate passer with a strong but not powerful arm, Appleby is accurate and he’s got the big arm to go with it. Remember, if you will, Appleby was invited to Oregon for the Elite 11 QB camp in the summer before his senior year in high school. Obviously, if he could do it all over again, he would have picked someplace other than Purdue, which is a graveyard disguised as a college football program. He did get 11 starts in West Lafayette, threw 19 touchdown passes and played in Big Ten stadiums filled to the brim.
Now Appleby gets the chance to play games that matter in the best college football league in the country. It’s a chance for redemption, to make up for all the disappointment of one loss after another at Purdue. It’s one last chance to show NFL scouts he’s capable of playing for a paycheck on Sundays.
So while all eyes are on Del Rip as they should be, don’t be the least bit surprised if Appleby emerges as the #1 sometime in August. It’s a contract year and he’s got to make the best of it.
SPORTING NEWS CHOOSES TEBOW AS THE GATOR ICON: No disrespect intended for Tim Tebow, who will go down as one of the two or three greatest college football players ever, but the only real Gator icon is Steve Spurrier because he won the Heisman as a player then came back to UF to become the greatest (and winningest) coach in school history. Tebow would be my #2 with Danny Wuerffel #3 and Wilber Marshall my #4.
Elsewhere in the SEC:
Alabama: Bet the farm that Bama starting RG Alphonse Taylor will be starting game one. Arrested on DUI charges, court documents obtained by The Tuscaloosa News and Decatur Daily both report Taylor had a blood alcohol level of 0.00 when arrested … The Sporting News named quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath as Alabama’s all-time icon. I agree if we are simply talking name recognition, but if we’re talking icon as in the best player I would have to go with linebacker Derrick Thomas or tight end Ozzie Newsome, both members of the College and Pro Football halls of fame.
Arkansas: In keeping with the school’s policy of never playing in-state schools, Bret Bielema responded “No. Never. Never” when asked if the Razorbacks plan to schedule Arkansas State in the future … The Sporting News named running back Darren McFadden as Arkansas’ all-time icon. For me it would have been a toss-up between McFadden and defensive tackle Dan Hampton or safety Steve Atwater. I think all three of them were that close.
Auburn: Incoming freshman DE Nick Coe hasn’t gotten his okay from the NCAA Clearinghouse but the school will allow him to enroll. There are reports that Coe passed a summer online course with an A that made him eligible … The Sporting News named Heisman Trophy running back Bo Jackson as Auburn’s all-time icon. When you think of Bo you think of Auburn. Heisman Trophy QBs Cam Newton and Pat Sullivan would be next on the list.
Georgia: Nick Chubb practiced Monday without any restrictions as Georgia opened camp. … The Sporting News named Heisman Trophy running back Herschel Walker as Georgia’s all-time icon. Can’t argue with that. My second place would be running back Charley Trippi (College and Pro Football halls of fame), even over Heisman winner Flatfoot Frankie Sinkwich.
Kentucky: When it comes to his DBs, HBC Mark Stoops says, “I feel like we have some superstars in the making.” … The Sporting News named quarterback Tim Couch as Kentucky’s all-time icon. My choice would have been either quarterback Vito “Babe” Parilli (College Football Hall of Fame) or defensive end Art Still.
LSU: Defensive end Lewis Neal, who had eight sacks last year and is thought a high draft pick next spring, is a day trader who averages thousands of dollars per day … Les Miles’ son, a 3-star fullback, committed to Nebraska … The Sporting News named Heisman Trophy running back Billy Cannon as LSU’s all-time icon. He weighed 225 pounds, was the SEC sprint champion (reportedly ran a 9.7 100 yards) and also played middle linebacker
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen says it’s a four-QB race for the starting job between Damien Williams, Nick Fitzpatrick, Elijah Staley and Nick Tiano. He says it might be October before one of them establishes himself as the clearcut #1 … The Sporting News named cornerback Walt Harris as Mississippi State’s all-time icon. He was a very good player but linebacker D.D. Lewis is in the College Football Hall of Fame and there are still people shaking the cobwebs from one of his ferocious hits in the 1960s.
Missouri: Missouri needs an interim AD to replace the interim AD. Former interim AD Wren Baker, who stepped in when AD Mack Rhoades left for Baylor, got the North Texas job … The Sporting News named quarterback Chase Daniel as Missouri’s all-time icon. I wonder if they ever heard of Roger Wehrli, who is in both the College and Pro Football halls of fame?
Ole Miss: This is what you hope all your football players grow up to be when they leave college. Donte Moncrief, who is 22 and ready to breakout as a legit NFL star after catching 96 passes in 2015 for the Indianapolis Colts, says he will personally take care of the daughter of former Ole Miss teammate Zurlon Tipton, who died of an accidental shooting earlier in the summer … The Sporting News named legendary quarterback Archie Manning as Ole Miss’ all-time icon. Second place would have to be Archie’s kid, Eli.
South Carolina: Although quarterback is an unsettled position, HBC Will Muschamp said Monday that he likes incumbent Perry Orth’s leadership and intangibles. Prediction: freshman Brandon McIlwain will start before September is over and done with … The Sporting News named Heisman Trophy running back George Rogers as South Carolina’s all-time icon. No argument there although I’d put Sterling Sharpe as my #2.
Tennessee: Wearing green no-contact jerseys on the first day of practice were DL Shy Tuttle, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, WR Jauan Jennings and DL Austin Smith … The Sporting News named quarterback Peyton Manning as Tennessee’s all-time icon. I understand the adoration but my choice would have been Reggie White, who is a member of both the College and Pro Football halls of fame.
Texas A&M: A&M president Michael Young is very upset with two assistant coaches who made a presentation to women that Young calls “unacceptable.” Young said there will be other punishment for Jeff Banks and Jim Turner besides their 2-week suspension without pay … The Sporting News chose Heisman Trophy running back John David Crow as Texas A&M’s all-time icon. My second choice would be a toss-up between Lester Hayes and Jack Pardee.
Vanderbilt: Oren Burks has been moved from free safety to a hybrid LB/S position to get him closer to the line of scrimmage where he can make plays … The Sporting News chose quarterback Jay Cutler as Vanderbilt’s all-time icon. There have been so few really great players to come out of Vandy, but linebacker Jamie Winborn
GARY DANIELSON SAID IT: Speaking to Tony Barnhart of Gridironnow.com, the CBS analyst said, “Tennessee is very physical and they are a really good football team. But right now they are the least ready to win the tight games. That includes their fans, their players and their coaching staff. That is a big hurdle. They will have to win more than one of those tight games.”
Did anyone help themselves more before the Major League Baseball trade deadline than the Texas Rangers, who picked up all-star catcher Jason Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers and rejuvenated Carlos Beltran, whose already great numbers (.304, 22 HR, 64 RBI) could increase substantially with the kind of lineup the Rangers have?
Bill McCartney, who won a national championship at Colorado in 1990 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame has been diagnosed with late-onset Dementia/Alzheimer’s.
Is it just my imagination or is Navy about the only one of the 12 teams from the American Athletic Conference that hasn’t gotten down on its knees and begged the Big 12 Conference to invite them to join?
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, the nation’s best basketball writer (second place is light years away), predicts the Big 12 will expand by four teams – BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis. I can agree with Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis but believe the fourth team will be UCF. There’s just too much to be gained by the league to have a Florida footprint.
And speaking of Big 12 expansion, while multiple outlets are reporting the league will expand before the 2016 season it is also being reported that both ESPN and Fox Sports are discouraging expansion, claiming it will dilute the league brand. That might have something to do with the fact that both networks would have to kick in an additional $40 million if the Big 12 expands by two teams, $80 million if it adds four.
When Michigan officially made the switch from adidas to Nike’s Jordan Brand at 12:01 a.m. Monday, fans stormed the stores in Ann Arbor to buy the new merchandise. There was even an impromptu pep rally in the street with Jim Harbaugh leading the singing of “Hail to the Victors.” The party lasted well into the wee hours and it is said everyone had a good time. Love him or hate him but Jim Harbaugh is good for college football.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two-parter: If you had to choose the icon for Florida football who would it be and who would be your icon for the entire SEC?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When I heard this rather jazzy version of “I’m a Man” on this Estival Jazz Lugano video today, that settled in my mind what the music would be for Tuesday. Steve Winwood is a genius who has been in a near constant state of re-invention since he burst on the scene with “Gimme Some Lovin” back in 1966 when he was the 18-year-old front man for the Spencer Davis Group.