Not having Jalen Tabor and C’yontai Lewis for Florida’s season opening game with UMass will in no way alter the outcome. The visiting Minutemen are a sacrificial lamb who plan to take a beating for a paycheck and leave Gainesville with as few injuries as possible. There isn’t a single player on the UMass two-deep that would factor in a three-deep at UF.
Just because Tabor and Lewis won’t play in game one doesn’t mean there won’t be a serious impact on the Florida football team, however. They won’t be practicing and that will hurt because game two is against a Kentucky team whose coach is confident he has the personnel that can line up and compete against any team in the SEC. During the summer months, UK players let it be known they have September 10 circled on their calendars with the intent of beating the Gators for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president.
What hurts the Gators perhaps more than the reps in practice Tabor and Lewis will miss, not to mention their chance to get first game jitters out of the way, is the kind of distraction that causes an entire position group or even the entire team to lose focus even for a day or two. This is the Southeastern Conference and you can’t afford bad days between the ears in August, particularly if you have to play Tennessee on the road two weeks after that Kentucky game.
Jim McElwain hasn’t had enough time to build a Florida roster like the one they have at Alabama where losing a player even as talented as Tabor is no big deal. Up in Tuscaloosa, one 5-star goes and another 5-star steps in. Teams like that deal with distractions the way elephants deal with pesky mosquitos buzzing their butts. Florida isn’t there yet and that’s why Tabor and Lewis added on to the distractions of Antonio Callaway and the arrests a few weeks ago of Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells are potentially the kind of thing that can mean the difference in winning and losing.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com is reporting that former 5-star corner Kendall Sheffield is transferring out of Alabama. His expected destination is Blinn Junior College in Texas. Sheffield is a redshirt freshman so he will have three years of eligibility if he stays only one year in junior college.
Arkansas: The musical chairs along the O-line continues. Wednesday, the line was LT Dan Skipper, LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Frank Ragnow, RG Jake Raulerson and RT Colton Jackson. The left side of the line seems set. The right side changes daily … In the battle for the backup QB behind Austin Allen, Rafe Peavy seems to have the edge over Ty Storey and freshman Cole Kelly. Surprisingly, Ricky Town is not in the hunt.
Auburn: While Kerryon Johnson remains the odds-on favorite to start at RB for the Tigers, sophomore Kamryn Petway and freshmen Kameron Martin and Malik Miller are getting long looks. Martin originally signed with Baylor but was granted a release from his LOI during the summer … How fast is QB John Franklin III? A member of the ACC 4X100 champion FSU team as a freshman, he’s been timed at 4.28 in the 40.
Georgia: Unless there is an injury, Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey can forget seeing the field except in mopup time. Jacob Eason took every first team snap at QB in Wednesday’s practice. Kirby Smart still hasn’t named a starting QB but is there any doubt who it will be?
Kentucky: HBC Mark Stoops has seen the Wildcats start out 5-1 and 4-1 in the last two seasons only to fade down the stretch to finish 5-7 and out of bowl contention. Stoops says the Wildcats have to turn things around this year. Stoops told Tony Barnhart of gridironnow.com, “We’ve put in the work. We’ve recruited well. We’ve done everything you’re supposed to do to be successful. It’s time.”
LSU: Arden Key, a 6-6, 238-pound athletic freak, is expected to thrive in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense. Key, who will be a standup DE in some schemes and an OLB in others, has set a goal of 20 sacks this season. He had 5 sacks last year as a true freshman in Kevin Steele’s scheme that turned LSU’s usually stout defense porous.
Mississippi State: An off the radar player expected to make a huge contribution this year is diminutive slot receiver Keith Mixon (5-8, 175), described by HBC Dan Mullen as “electric” and WR coach Billy Gonzales as “explosive.”
Missouri: The Columbia Tribune is reporting that wide receiver Nate Brown has suffered a high ankle sprain that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. Brown caught 4 touchdown passes last season ... Freshman OL Darvis Holmes had shoulder surgery Wednesday. He could be back as soon as week 3 or week 4 of the season.
Ole Miss: Three freshmen stood out in Monday’s scrimmage – WR D.K. Metcalf, S Deontay Anderson and RB D’Vaughn Pennamon ... Breeland Speaks, who will replace Robert Nkemdiche on the D-line is hoping to play at 295 this year after a 2015 in which he was never below 300 pounds.
South Carolina: CB Rick McWilliams, expected to start, has missed the last three practices in what is being described as an excused leave of absence. There are no specifics … The Gamecocks start school today so there will be no practice. Practice resumes Friday.
Tennessee: The Vols have only 11 seniors on the roster and only four are holdovers from previous coach Derek Dooley – TE Jason Croom, LB Kenny Bynum, DT Danny O’Brien and DE LaTroy Lewis.
Texas A&M: Currently it’s running back by committee with James White, Oklahoma transfer Keith Ford and freshman Trayveon Williams, but OC Noel Mazzone is hoping one of the three will “step up and be the guy.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are expecting freshmen Kalija Lipscomb, Donaven Tennyson and Jackson Winrow to make immediate contributions. Vandy receivers averaged only 10.74 yards per catch last year and the Dores averaged only 5.5 yards per pass attempt.
BREAKING DOWN THE SEC
The still way too early power rankings based on a couple of weeks of practice:
1. Alabama: There are folks who think Alabama could be better than last year when a national championship was won. When you’ve won the big trophy four times in seven years anything less than another one is unthinkable. There is that teensy matter or roadies at Oxford on September 17, Fayette Nam on October 8 and Baton Rouge on November 5.
2. LSU: Ole Miss and Alabama have to come to Tiger Stadium. The real scary game could be at Arkansas on November 12. After Ole Miss and Bama back-to-back, Fayetee Nam could be Upset City.
3. Ole Miss: If the Rebels beat FSU in game one in Orlando, Alabama better tighten its jocks a notch or two on September 17 for that showdown in Oxford. The first month will either turn the Rebels into a real contender or doom them to 8-4.
4. Arkansas: With 28 returning lettermen and a real stud in DE Deatrich Wise Jr., the Hogs will be vastly improved on defense. If the O-line figures things out the offense could be scary good.
5. Tennessee: The doubts are already creeping in. There are folks who put the Vols on upset alert against Appalachian State in game one and in the Battle of Bristol against Virginia Tech in game two. If the Vols are even shaky in one of those two games, they’ll figure out a way to lose to the Gators on September 24, but for now, they are ahead of Florida and should be based on experience.
6. Texas A&M: It’s all on Trevor Knight’s shoulders. If he comes up big, the Aggies could actually finish top four in the league. If he can’t remember to throw the ball to people who wear the same color shirt he’s wearing, they will lose and Kevin Sumlin will be seeking gainful employment somewhere else. A long time SEC columnist whose predictions are usually spot on told me he thinks Sumlin will go from the endangered species list to life support very quickly with a real shot at the extinct species list prior to the last weekend of November.
7. FLORIDA: The distraction caused by Tabor and Lewis drops the Gators one spot and almost two. Florida’s margin for error is razor thin as it is. The suspension of Tabor and Lewis is not what the Gators need if they are to repeat as SEC East champs.
8. Georgia: The folks who are predicting the Bulldogs top 10 this year were probably dropped on their heads too many times when they were infants. Either that or they graduated from Georgia. There will be a true freshman QB and people who can come off the edge to pressure the passer are in short supply. A 6-6 or 7-5 is written all over this team.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are primed to surprise but for now this is where they ought to be. The offense will score points. That’s what Dan Mullen teams do. Will the defense stop anyone from scoring points?
10. Vanderbilt: The Dores won 3 in Derek Mason’s first year on the job and they won 4 with three close calls last year. The faithful think winning 6 isn’t an unreasonable figure this year. If Mason gets to 5 wins his job is safe. Less than that and he’s a candidate for the extinct species list.
11. Kentucky: If this were basketball, Mark Stoops would already be gone. Even one losing season in hoops will get you run out of Lexington. This is football, which is what you do when you’re waiting for basketball in the Commonwealth. Therefore they have more patience, patience that is enhanced by a more than $12 million, buyout. Stoops will get a mulligan this year even with a loser. If he gets the Cats to a bowl he buys three more years of patience.
12. Auburn: Gus Malzahn still hasn’t settled on a QB and he’s got Kevin Steele as his DC. Figure Gus will find his QB but that still doesn’t solve the problems that Steele will create for the boss. They need patience on The Plains and that’s a place where patience is usually in short supply.
13. South Carolina: Will Muschamp is having more success recruiting right now than he will probably have winning on the field once the games go live. They are patient at South Carolina. They need to be, but the powers that be are convinced that given time Muschamp can produce.
14. Missouri: They had one of the worst 2-3 offenses in Division I last year and that was with four seniors on the OL. This year the OL is starting over and there are no experienced receivers or much in the way of runners.
Medal count top 5 countries
USA 93 (30 gold, 32 silver, 32 bronze)
China 54 (19 gold, 15 silver, 20 bronze)
Great Britain 50 (19 gold, 19 silver, 12 bronze)
Russia 41 (12 gold, 14 silver, 15 bronze)
Japan 33 (10 gold, 5 silver, 18 bronze)
Brazil will face Germany for the soccer gold medal, which is probably what most people expected when the Olympics began.
I just can’t get excited that Justin Gatlin failed to beat Usain Bolt in the 100 meters or that he didn’t qualify for the 200 meter finals.
Team USA finally looked like a team that should win the gold medal the way it destroyed Argentina, 105-78. They still don’t play defense but they did a better job of sharing the basketball and playing like a team.
My over-under for the USA women’s basketball semifinal against France is 38. I’ll take the over.
Kerri Walsh Jennings won’t end her Olympic beach volleyball career with a gold medal but she and April Ross will appreciate that bronze after rallying from a first set loss to put away Brazilians Talita and Larissa
Aaron Rodgers gets it. When it comes to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his most recent power play, Rodgers says, “We have nobody to blame but ourselves” – we as in the NFL Players Association which essentially gave Goodell a free hand to become the dictator that he is.
Former Mississippi State QB Elijah Watts will spend the 2016 season at Tyler Junior College in Texas, which will leave him with two full years of eligibility.
The bowl formerly known as the Go Daddy Bowl, which was previously named the GMAC Bowl and before that the Mobile, Alabama Bowl, will be called the Dollar General Bowl. The game pits teams from the MAC and Sun Belt.
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson has a $5 million insurance policy to safeguard his professional football interests.
Russell Wilson says this is the most talented Seattle Seahawks team he’s played on.
Counting the $4 million loan he’s getting from the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh’s total income for 2016 will be $9 million.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Does the distraction of Jalen Tabor and C’yontai Lewis getting suspended and held out of practice until after the UMass game cause you concern about Florida’s ability to repeat as SEC East champions?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Last week at the Peach Music Festival in Pennsylvania Butch Trucks and other members of the Allman Brothers collaborated with String Cheese Incident for a memorable performance dedicated to Gregg Allman, who is under doctor’s care at the Mayo Clinic. They called themselves “The Allman Brothers Incident” and they delivered a performance to remember.