Apparently, there are some coaches in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference who hold a rather low opinion of the Florida Gators heading into the 2016 season. Gridironnow.com ran a two-part series with coaches from both the Eastern and Western divisions speaking on conditions of anonymity. Coaches from the East weren’t all that impressed with the Gators.
One coach said: “Florida won’t be as good as last year. They might not finish as high as third. They lost their quarterback (when Will Grier transferred). They grew with Grier last year; now they’re back to ground zero. They don’t have the same depth and numbers of potential explosive guys on both sides of the ball that they’ve had in the past. It’s surprising, considering the state of Florida has so many skill-position players.”
My reaction: You might be able to make a point about depth because it will be another year before Jim McElwain is comfortable with the numbers up and down his roster, but there is more experience than there was last year from an overall standpoint. Ground zero? The QBs last year were in their first year in the McElwain offense. Luke Del Rio is actually in his fourth year of this offense (ran it at Alabama, ran it under Jason Garrett at Oregon State, and was running it in practice at UF last year) so his understanding of what to do is light years ahead of Treon Harris and Will Grier. Austin Appleby has 11 starts at a power 5 school. Explosive guys? Callaway is back and he’ll be joined by Dre Massey and Tyrie Cleveland, plus the running back situation is much better than last year in terms of speed and versatility. I think the Gators will be much improved offensively and one big reason is better QB play and more speed at the skill positions.
More from this coach: “They should have lost to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky (last season). They have offensive line issues. And they haven’t recruited as well on offense as they have on defense.”
My reaction: But, the Gators won those games and that was with a team whose starting O-line had 10 collective starts all belonging to one player (Trip Thurman) last year. Florida won ugly because Mac outcoached Butch Jones, Derek Mason and Mark Stoops and because DC Geoff Collins got the job done on that side of the ball..
Another coach regarding DC Geoff Collins: “Geoff is overrated. He’s overrated as a tactician. He’s 11 to 14 among SEC defensive coordinators. He’s not in the top 10, I don’t think.”
My reaction: Then tell me how the Gators finished 8th nationally in total defense? If he’s so overrated, wouldn’t it figure the Gators would have finished much further down the pack?
It’s early for bulletin board material and even though these comments are supposedly anonymous, I would be willing to bet the Florida coaching staff already knows who said what. There is a coaching grapevine in this league unlike none you will find anywhere else. Mac goes out of his way to avoid saying anything that can be used as bulletin board material elsewhere. He’s not above using what someone else says against them, however.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: True freshman Jalen Hurts and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett are separating themselves from the rest of the competition at quarterback. In Saturday’s scrimmage Hurts had a touchdown run and a touchdown pass that both covered more than 50 yards Barnett, who is 17 pounds heavier (215) than he was in the spring, had long completions to ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster plus a TDP to Foster during his time working with the first team offense.
Arkansas: The brother-to-brother transition at QB seems to be off to a rousing start. Austin Allen, who is charged with replicating older brother Brandon’s 31 TDPs this year, went 13-18 for 148 yards in the Razorbacks’ 112-play scrimmage Saturday afternoon. Rawleigh Williams III carried 14 times for 67 yards and a TD while true freshman Devwah Whaley was 13-95 for 1 TD ... On the injury front, freshman WR Kofi Boateng will miss the season with an ACL tear.
Auburn: Cornerback Jamel Dean is out indefinitely with a knee injury that will require surgery. Dean has an ACL tear and two meniscus surgeries previously in his other knee ... Junior DE Raashed Kennion has left the team to “pursue politics” according to HBC Gus Malzahn.
Georgia: Graduate transfer Maurice Smith practiced with Georgia Saturday, just 24 hours after the SEC granted him a waiver that will allow him to play this season … Running back Nick Chubb, who is coming back from a serious knee injury, took contact and was tackled to the ground when Georgia scrimmaged on Saturday … RB Sony Michel practiced in a non-contact jersey but without the cast on his left arm.
Kentucky: Redshirt sophomore safety Darius West, expected to start this season, suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. Seniors Blake McCain and Marcus McWilson are expected to compete for West’s spot in the lineup.
LSU: Heavy rains have caused flooding in Baton Rouge and on the LSU campus. All non-essential personnel have been asked to stay away from the campus in Baton Rouge.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost a QB and gained one over the weekend. Redshirt sophomore Elijah Staley will transfer out while former juco Wyatt Roberts will join the team. Roberts threw for 2,197 yards and 23 TDs last year at East Mississippi Community College. If Staley is smart, he’ll spend one year in juco and then resurface somewhere in the SEC. He’s a serious talent.
Missouri: Running back Trevon Walters has been suspended indefinitely after he was arrested in Boone County, Missouri and charged with stealing and fraudulently using a credit card. Walters redshirted as a freshman and missed all of 2015 after suffering an ACL tear.
Ole Miss: Ole Miss is still looking for a left tackle to replace Laremy Tunsil. Senior Jeremy Liggins is currently suspended from the team and junior Rod Taylor has been moved over to left tackle from right guard to give an experienced lineman to the position. Then there are redshirt freshman Alex Givens and true freshman Greg Little. “It’s the position that has the least amount of experience,” says O-line coach Matt Luke.
South Carolina: There was no separation between the three quarterbacks – senior Perry Orth and freshmen Brandon McIlwain and Jake Bentley – after Saturday’s scrimmage … Three position changes were announced after the scrimmage: Freshman Darius Whitfield from D-line to O-line, walk-on WR Javon Charleston to DB and freshman Aaron Thompson from DE to DT.
Tennessee: QB Joshua Dobbs says the Vols can’t be overwhelmed by high expectations. “We have to embrace the expectations,” Dobbs told Gridironnow’s Tony Barnhart. “It’s our only option. When you downplay something, it means you don’t have the confidence you should have. You can’t shy away from the spotlight. You can’t shy away from the big moment.”
Texas A&M: O-line coach Jim Turner and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks returned to practice after serving out two week suspensions without pay for their part in making sexually suggestive and sexist slides for a women’s football clinic that was hosted by Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt: With Andrew Jelks out for the season with an ACL, Will Holden will take over. Holden, who played LT last year, had moved to RT in the spring. With Holden moving to LT, the RT competition will be Jared Southers, Justin Skule or Devin Cochran. Barrett Gouger is set at C with Bruno Reagan and Delando Crooks at the guards.
ESPN.COM PRESEASON HESIMAN WATCH POLL
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
6. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
7. (Tie) Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M; and Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston
My darkhorse candidates: Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina; Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami; Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss; Luke Falk, QB, Washington State;
RANKING THE DIVISION I CONFERENCES
1. SEC: Since 2006, the SEC has won eight national titles. Nobody else is close. This year, you can pencil in Alabama and/or LSU in the final four. Arkansas and Ole Miss would win the conference championship in at least seven leagues.
2. ACC: It’s not just the big two of Clemson and Florida State. Louisville, North Carolina and Miami are all going to be very, very good. Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech are going to surprise people.
3. Big Ten: You have the big three of Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan and two very good teams in Iowa and Nebraska.
4. Big 12: Oklahoma could win the national championship and TCU will be really good. Everybody but Kansas can score a lot of points. Who knows what happens at Baylor.
5. Pac-12: Let’s see what Stanford does with a new QB. Southern Cal and Washington might end up being the best two teams and Arizona is going to scare a lot of folks.
6. AAC: Houston is a legitimate national title contender. Cincinnati and Memphis will be pretty good and everybody has a tough time dealing with Navy and that funky offense.
7. Mountain West: Boise State could run the table and San Diego State can go outside the league without getting embarrassed.
8. Conference USA: There are the haves – Western Kentucky, Marshall, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee – and the rest are the have nots.
9. MAC: Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois won’t get embarrassed outside the league. There are four teams at the bottom that rank among the four or five worst teams in all of college football.
10. Sun Belt: Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette are the best teams. The rest of the league is unfortunate.
5 top countries medal count
USA 69 (26 gold, 21 silver, 22 bronze)
China 45 (15 gold, 13 silver, 17 bronze)
Great Britain 38 (15 gold, 16 silver, 7 bronze)
Russia 30 (9 gold, 11 silver, 10 bronze)
Japan 26 (7 gold, 4 silver, 15 bronze)
Is there some unwritten rule that requires the USA men’s basketball team to only play one-on-one offense in the fourth quarter? Get to the fourth quarter and everybody stands around and whoever has the basketball dribbles it until he can shoot. That has a lot to do with why Team USA struggled to beat Serbia and a French team playing without Tony Parker by three points each. That and the overall lack of desire to play any defense.
Contrast the USA men to the USA women who (a) pass the ball with incredible efficiency and (b) swarm all over the place when they’re on defense. I’m watching the men play only because I want to be able to say I was watching if and when they lost a game. I’m watching the women play because they truly understand the way the game is supposed to be played and everyone parked their egos back in the US.
They call it synchronized swimming now, but I still think of it as water ballet. I never could get excited about it when I was growing up and I’m less excited about it now.
Speaking of water ballet, how is it that we have water ballet and horsies on the main NBC channel and you had to channel surf to find the USA-France men’s basketball game? NBC might discover that the genius in charge of scheduling might have something to do with its tanking ratings.
Hope Solo’s remarks after Sweden beat the US women in soccer were embarrassing. Calling Sweden “cowards” was uncalled for. The US isn’t in the quarterfinals because Solo’s play in the net was as embarrassing as her remarks about Sweden.
Okay, Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter of this generation. I have trouble calling him the greatest ever because I saw Bob Hayes run.
I have no problem calling Michael Phelps the greatest swimmer ever. I am hoping that he really means retirement this time. Go out a legend and do nothing to diminish what you’ve accomplished, Michael.
QB Sean Maguire broke his foot so FSU’s starting QB will be Deondre Francois. Francois is a far superior runner to Maguire and they’re fairly even as passers. The real test will be between the ears. Maguire knows the FSU offense backward and forward.
Derrick Henry’s NFL debut against the San Diego Chargers was rock solid. Henry carried 10 times for 74 yards with a 6-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. The Titans could be as improved a team as there is in the NFL this year with Marcus Mariota in his second year at QB with a 1-2-3 running attack of Henry, DeMarco Murray and Bishop Sankey.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, a University of Cincinnati graduate, endorsed the Bearcats bid to join the Big 12. Meyer said, “I am a graduate, a fan. I think they should be in the Big 12.” The Big 12 is expected to announce expansion plans between now and September 1. I believe the league expands by four teams – Cincinnati, UCF, Memphis and Houston.
With Giancarlo Stanton out for the season, the Miami Marlins are thinking about signing Alex Rodriguez. Another possibility is Carlos Gomez, who was recently released by the Houston Astros. Gomez probably makes more sense since he can play the outfield.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Would it shock you if the USA men’s basketball team failed to bring home a gold medal?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady are at it again. The two legends from their days with Jefferson Airplane and then later on with Hot Tuna have got the band together again and they are on tour. Unfortunately, they won’t do any southern dates this year. If you are ever anywhere close to where they are playing, by all means take the opportunity. Today’s music is a 2015 concert of the electric Hot Tuna band (Jorma and Jack do acoustic concerts as a two-man band as well).