There were two pieces of rather good news Thursday as the Florida Gators completed their first practice of August camp: (1) nobody got hurt and (2) everybody showed up on time and ready to go.
Addressing the second point, head ball coach Jim McElwain commented, “It means your mindset is right and that we had a lot of guys who were really into it and excited.”
That might not sound like much, but it is. As you hear it said in just about every field of endeavor, the devil is in the details. Whether it’s business or a sport, those that handle the details best typically have the most success. When football season begins, we tend to pay more attention to things like who gained or lost the most weight, who showed up in the best condition and who runs like a gazelle and while those things are important, so are the little things we tend to overlook. The attention paid to little things does make a difference.
When he was coaching UCLA, John Wooden, who is arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time and perhaps the greatest coach in any sport, used to spend 10 minutes the first day of practice teaching his players the proper way to put on their socks. Sounds silly, right? Except that socks worn the wrong way can cause a blister and Wooden wasn’t willing to lose a ball game because one of his star players had a painful blister caused by socks worn the wrong way. During practice, Wooden would only let players take the kind of shots they would get in games. Practice wasn’t to be wasted experimenting with something brand new. Practice was about making attention to detail second nature so that Wooden’s teams instinctively did the right thing.
It’s important to note that by all reports, Mac is detail obsessed in much the same way as his former mentor Nick Saban and former UF HBC Urban Meyer. There is no detail too small for either Saban or Meyer to fret over, which might explain why the two of them have combined to win seven of the last 10 national championships.
Mac knows it is impossible to win either an SEC or national championship in August, but it is possible to lose one then. He understands that championship mentalities are built one detail at a time, one day at a time.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: The Gators will have a Townsend punting for them at least for the foreseeable future. While redshirt junior Johnny is considered one of the four or five best punters in all of Division I heading into the 2016 season, younger brother Tommy Townsend is now on the Florida roster. The former US Army All-American punter quietly transferred to Florida in the summer. He will sit this year and have three years of eligibility remaining.
Elsewhere in the SEC
Alabama: Suspended RG Alphonse Taylor, who was arrested in July for a DUI, practiced Thursday afternoon. Per a report in the Tuscaloosa News, Taylor had a 0.00 on his breathalyzer when stopped back on July 17. He is set to appear in court on August 16.
Arkansas: Freshman linebacker Giovonni LaFrance and juco transfer defensive end Michael Taylor are not listed on the 105-man practice roster. LaFrance has a broken hand and his expected return date is unknown. Taylor is a junior college transfer who hasn’t reported to school yet. Both are expected to be added to the practice roster in September.
Auburn: With Jovon Robinson dismissed from the team, Auburn’s likely candidates to take over at tailback are sophomore Kerryon Johnson (208 yards, 3 TDs last season), fullback Kamryn Pettway and former Baylor commit Kameron Martin. Martin (5-10, 180) has reportedly been timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40 ... Stud freshman QB Woody Barrett isn’t in the conversation to be the starter according to HBC Gus Malzahn. Malzahn said, “Eventually, he’ll be in that conversation but this fall we’re just trying to get him prepared with our base offense.”
Georgia: The Bulldogs are going with a base 3-4 defense that will have two down defensive linemen and a pair of outside linebackers who can play as a standup DE or with a hand on the ground. The wildcard in this alignment is Aaron Davis, a corner last year, whose position is called star – hybrid DB/LB who can play close to the line of scrimmage in run situations and cover as a nickel against pass formations.
Kentucky: The Wildcats feel they will be able to compete at an SEC level on the offensive side of the ball due to a strong WR corps and a 1-2 punch at running back of Stanley “Boom” Williams and JoJo Kemp. The concerns are all on the defensive side where the secondary looks good enough to play at a high level, but where there are far too many concerns in the front seven. The Wildcats only got to the quarterback 17 times last year and that is a problem that once solved could make a real difference in Kentucky’s season.
LSU: Keep an eye on 6-1, 255-pound true freshman inside LB Devin White, who was an early enrollee back in January. He will certainly play a lot but could emerge as a starter in August … DE Tashawn Bower and LT MaeaTeuhema are out with minor injuries that might keep them off the practice field for a few more days.
Mississippi State: The opening depth chart at QB has redshirt sophomore Nick Fitzgerald as the starter followed by redshirt junior Damien Williams, redshirt sophomore Elijah Staley and redshirt freshman Nick Tiano.
Missouri: Even before he’s coached a game at Mizzou, Barry Odom’s job is exceedingly more difficult. Losing DT Harold Brantley and DE Walter Brady is a serious blow to a defense that will have to carry the Tigers this year. Brantley was considered a serious All-American candidate last year before he suffered a preseason knee injury. Many experts thought the combination of Brantley and Terry Beckner Jr. would have been one of the elite DT combinations in the country this year. Brady made Freshman All-American last year and led all first year players in sacks with 7.
Ole Miss: With construction complete on the north end zone, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is a complete bowl with a capacity increase to 64,036 … With the goal of $165 million already met, AD Russ Bjork has raised the target for donations for facilities improvement by another $35 million.
South Carolina: Former North Carolina running back Ty’Son Williams has officially transferred to South Carolina after one year in Chapel Hill. Williams ran for 57 yards as a true freshman last year. He will sit the 2016 season under NCAA transfer guidelines.
Tennessee: Starting the season ranked #10 in the Amway Coaches Top 25 Poll is nice, says HBC Butch Jones, who said he doesn’t “read anything into that” when informed that’s where the Vols will start the season. Jones added, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Texas A&M: Freshman wide receiver Quartney Davis has suffered an ACL and will miss the entire 2016 season. Additionally, freshman defensive end Alton Robinson, who was arrested and charged with robbery back in February, has been released from his scholarship.
Vanderbilt: One of the big challenges for Vandy OC Andy Ludwig is getting more productivity out of QB Kyle Shurmur, who completed only 42.7% of his passes and averaged only 4.9 yards per attempt last season.
TIME TO CHANGE THE TRANSFER RULES
Argue all you want that it’s fair to place restrictions on an undergraduate transfer but there is no defense for what Alabama is doing to defensive back Maurice Smith, who is set to graduate and wishes to transfer to Georgia to play for Kirby Smith, his DC for four previous years at Alabama, and Mel Tucker, who was his position coach.
Alabama says it is simply adhering to SEC rules and guidelines and in a statement pointed out that Smith “elected to have surgery in the middle of the season (2015) and left the program.” Alabama says it’s fine with Smith transferring just that it won’t be to another SEC school.
Smith is a kid who has done his time in the Alabama program and is graduating ahead of schedule. Because he fulfilled his part of the bargain academically, he should have the option of going anywhere he wishes to go. It is ridiculous that a coach who makes $9 million a year can dictate what a kid who has graduated from college can or can’t do post-Alabama.
Whether it’s Alabama or any other school, a kid who graduates and has eligibility remaining should be able to transfer anywhere he chooses regardless if it’s in the same conference or not. Arguments can be made in favor of some restrictions on undergraduates because you don’t want wholesale free agency in the college game, but a kid who plays football and graduates in four or fewer years has fulfilled his responsibility to the program.
He should have the right to go where he chooses and it’s time the NCAA made that a standard rule.
GRIDIRONNOW.COM RATES THE SEC O-LINES AND D-LINES
7. Ole Miss
8. Texas A&M
11. Mississippi State
13. South Carolina
One man’s opinion: LSU and Alabama at 1-2 are hard to disagree with and the way Tennessee run blocks, they’re probably a solid #3, but Georgia at #4? Even with new OL coach Sam Pittman, poached from Arkansas, the Bulldogs aren’t that good. The team Pittman left should be outstanding even with the loss of three players to the NFL. Florida will be better than #9 and Mississippi State should be at least 2-3 spots higher than #11.
5. Texas A&M
8. Ole Miss
10. Mississippi State
13. South Carolina
One man’s opinion: Alabama is an easy pick at #1 but the loss of Walter Brady and Harold Brantley is a serious blow to Missouri. LSU under Dave Aranda is going to be fierce. The Aggies can rush the passer but if sophomore DT Harold Mack isn’t the force in the middle, they won’t stop the run again. The Vols think their D-line will be top three in the SEC under new DC Bob Shoop. Florida is right where it should be, middle of the pack.
Trent Richardson was cut by the Baltimore Ravens. It’s doubtful the former #3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft will get another chance.
Alex Rodriguez is a real dilemma for the New York Yankees. It’s obvious his skills have eroded (he’s only hitting .204 now) but that doesn’t preclude him from cashing a $21 million paycheck. He’s also owed $21 million next year. He’s certainly not good enough to play every day and $21 million is a lot to pay someone whose contributions have been reduced to minimal. The Yankees would still like to get the publicity from A-Rod hitting four more home runs to become only the third player to reach the 700 mark.
There are concerns in Lincoln that Nebraska’s streak of selling out every home game for 54 consecutive years could come to an end this year. Back in May a Nebraska fund-raiser admitted the streak nearly came to an end three times last year, that the only thing saving the streak were calls to prominent “friends of the program” to buy up available seats.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Should a kid who has already graduated have the right to transfer to the school of his choice regardless if it’s within the same conference?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Jack Bruce, who played bass and sang lead on most of Cream’s songs, hooked up with drummer Ginger Baker and guitarist Garry Moore for some concerts for the German TV show Rockpalast. The result was an extraordinary concert with music that brought out the best in all three musicians.