GRADING THE WIDE RECEIVERS
We’ve been analyzing the 2016 Gators position by position. Yesterday was the running backs, today the wide receivers.
Antonio Callaway: Callaway is Florida’s most explosive player but he has lapses when he runs lazy routes or breaks off the route too quickly. He was open a lot on deep routes this year but the ball rarely reached him when he was clearly behind the secondary. If he sharpens up his route running and learns to become a dependable blocker, he could go very high in the NFL Draft after next season.Regular season stats: 47-666 (14.17 per catch), 3 TDs; 4-26 rushing for 1 TD; 24-177 (7.38 per return) on punt returns; and 3-97 (32.33) on kickoff returns.
Brandon Powell: He’s a slot receiver who runs dependable routes and is an extraordinary downfield blocker, easily the best among Florida’s wide receivers. He’s open a lot on the crossing and drag routes but doesn’t get the ball enough. He’s quick and dependable but doesn’t have breakaway speed. Regular season stats: 43-372 (8.65 per catch), 2 TDs; 7-6 rushing; 5-23 on punt returns; 2-28 on kickoff returns.
Tyrie Cleveland: The potential for greatness is there. Cleveland has size and deep threat speed. A true freshman, he’s got to stay healthy and become a more precise route-runner, but he could become a scary gamebreaker in the future. If he can develop, he will give the Gators balance on the other side of the field and force the safeties to back off the line of scrimmage. Regular season stats: 13-282 (21.69 yards per catch), 2 TDs.
Josh Hammond: He played a lot as a true freshman but didn’t see the ball in four of Florida’s SEC games. He has speed, good hands and runs good routes, plus showed that he’s willing to stick a hat on somebody and block. Regular season stats: 14-177 (12.64 per catch)
Ahmad Fulwood: He came to Florida with so much potential but he has only 42 career catches for 499 yards and 3 TDs in four years. He rarely showed separation speed when running routes and that had a lot to do with why he had a lot of games without a single catch. Regular season stats: 7-112 (16 yards per catch) and 1 TD
Freddie Swain: He has a real future. He’s a very athletic receiver who might be UF’s best at coming down with 50-50 balls. As a true freshman he got off to a great start with 6 catches for 74 yards and 2 TDs in the first four games, but caught only 1 more pass the rest of the year. Regular season stats: 7-94 (13.43 per catch) and 2 TDs
C.J. Worton: He was supposed to have a breakout junior year but was injured and didn’t play the last six games of the season. Regular season stats: 4-45
Dre Massey: Got a medical redshirt after tearing an ACL in August.
Chris Thompson: Didn’t catch a pass as a senior but averaged 21.77 yards on kickoff returns, was in on 6 special teams tackles and forced 1 fumble.
Khalif Jackson: Redshirted in 2015 and didn’t catch a pass in 2016.
Rick Wells: Took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2016.
Grade B-: There is a lot of talent but too many poorly run routes, too many dropped passes and far too many missed blocks. Callaway had decent stats but they should have been much better. Some of it is his fault for either poor route running or forgetting assignments, but he got open a lot and the QBs missed him. He should be targeted 2-3 times a game on deep routes. Powell is underused but can move the chains on short routes and will throw his body around as a blocker. Cleveland has great potential and should emerge as a serious deep threat in the future but he’s got to stay healthy. Hammond and Swain should take quantum leaps as sophomores and if Dre Massey hasn’t lost a step due to his knee injury, he could be special next year. It’s easy to see potential, but these guys have to play better. Is it a matter of coaching? Bad scheming? Poor QB play? Lack of focus?
OVERPAID, UNDERPAID OR JUST RIGHT?
Here is a look at the coordinators at SEC schools and what they are being paid.
OC: Lane Kiffin $1,400,000
DC: Jeremy Pruitt $1,000,000
Alabama’s offense has set records since Kiffin took over three years ago. He’s won with a former wide receiver/running back as his starting QB, won a national title in 2015 with a guy who couldn’t beat out the WR/RB the year before, and this year is unbeaten with a true freshman. It’s Nick Saban’s defense, so no matter who the DC is, the numbers will be good. Pruitt makes $1 million a year and Nick likes him. That’s 80% of the battle right there.
OC: Dan Enos $725,000
DC: Robb Smith $825,000
There are no complaints with offensive coordinator Dan Enos, whose balanced offense produced 437.5 yards and 30.8 points per game in 2016. The Hogs had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and four receivers with 30 or more catches. Defense? That’s a different story. The Hogs gave up 428.7 yards and 30.8 points per game. More distressing, in SEC games Arkansas had one game allowing more than 600 yards, four with more than 500 yards and one with more than 400 yards. At this point, however, HBC Bret Bielema is sticking with Robb Smith, much to everybody’s surprise.
OC: Rhett Lashlee $600,000
DC: Kevin Steele $1,100,000
When Rhett Lashlee took over the playcalling duties from HBC Gus Malzahn, the Auburn offense took off. Auburn averaged 449.3 yards and 32.3 points this year. Last year, the Tigers averaged 370 yards and 27.5 points per game. The defense was a huge improvement directed by first year coordinator Kevin Steele. Auburn gave up 405 yards and 26 points per game in 2015 but Steele lowered those numbers to 348.4 yards and 15.6 points per game.
OC: Doug Nussmeier $526,500
DC: Geoff Collins $1,051,500
Collins’ value can’t be underestimated, not after producing the 6th-ranked defense (298.6 yards per game) in a season in which at times he was down as many as seven starters. The same can’t be said about OC Doug Nussmeier, whose offense ranks #115 nationally at 345.1 yards per game. The Gators averaged 23.4 points per game this year, just a slight improvement from last season when UF averaged 334 yards and 23.2 yards per game.
OC: Jim Chaney $850,000
DC: Mel Tucker $850,000
It was a mixed bag in HBC Kirby Smart’s first year on the job. The offense under Jim Chaney averaged 5 more yards but 2 points fewer than 2015. Georgia had a freshman QB so that might explain some of the offensive dip. The defense gave up 24.1 points after giving up only 16.9 per game in 2015 and 328 yards per game in 2016 after giving up 305 last year. Georgia had one of the most experienced secondaries in the country but the Bulldogs gave up nearly 30 yards per game more in 2016.
OC: Eddie Gran $650,000
DC: D.J. Eliot $575,000
Gran turned out to be one of the best, if not the best, coordinator hires in the SEC after he turned Kentucky formidable. The Wildcats averaged 372 yards and 24.7 points per game last year. Gran arrived and turned that around as UK averaged 31 points and 428.3 yards per game. Kentucky had two games with more than 600 yards and three with more than 500 with an increase of nearly 80 yards per game rushing. Eliot relinquished the defensive play calling duties to HBC Mark Stoops but the Wildcats still gave up 599 yards to Tennessee and 561 to Louisville in two of the last three games. Overall, the Wildcats gave up 439.5 yards and 31.5 points per game.
OC: Cam Cameron $1.21 million
DC: Dave Aranda $1,315,000
Cameron was fired by Coach O just a day after Les Miles was let go and the interim was Steve Ensminger, who did a better job but will not be next year’s OC. Aranda will stay on with Coach O and has signed a 3-year extension that will pay him $1.9 million per year. The LSU defense ranked 13th nationally at 323 yards per game while ranking 6th in scoring defense (16.4 points).
OC: John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales $400,000 each
DC: Peter Sirmon $635,000
Despite breaking in a new QB for the graduated Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs dipped only 3 points and 11 yards per game in 2016. Nearly everyone returns offensively so MSU figures to be formidable. New DC Peter Sirmon had to play far too many youngsters which helps explain an increase in 10 points and 70 yards per game.
OC: Josh Heupel $700,000
DC: DeMontie Cross $600,000
No offense in the nation improved more than Mizzou under first year coordinator Josh Heupel. The Tigers went from 13.6 points and 280.9 yards per game to 31.4 points and 500.5 yards per game. Mizzou had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. The defense was just the opposite. One of the nation’s best in 2015 when they gave up 302 yards and 16.4 points, the Tigers gave up 31.5 points and 479.7 yards per game. In SEC games, the Tigers gave up more than 400 yards three times, more than 500 yards three times and more than 600 yards twice.
OC: Dan Werner $670,000
DC: Dave Wommack $800,000
Dan Werner has been fired after the offense averaged 8 fewer points and 53 fewer yards per game. DC Dave Wommack has elected to retire after Ole Miss gave up more than 12 points and 76 more yards per game. So, it’s back to the drawing board for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels in 2017.
OC: Kurt Roper $700,000
DC: Travaris Robinson $750,000
The offense got better in the final six games after freshman Jake Bentley’s redshirt was burned. The final overall numbers in 2016 were slightly less than 2015 – 19.3 points after 21.9 points in 2015 and just 336.4 yards after 362 in 2015 – but there was improvement in the second half of the year. Defensively, the Gamecocks gave up fewer points (24.8) and yards (407.2) than in 2015 (27.5 and 429.8). Considering the overall lack of talent on both sides of the ball, this was a very good job.
OC: Mike Debord $500,000
DC: Bob Shoop $1.15 million
The offense improved in 2016 when it averaged 437.3 yards and 36.3 points per game but after boasting that nobody would run on the UT defense, first year coordinator Bob Shoop saw his unit give up more than 80 yards per game more than 2015. The Vols gave up 231.67 yards per game (#111 nationally) and 5.15 yards per carry. Overall, UT gave up 466 yards per game which ranked #109 in total defense.
OC: Noel Mazzone $965,000
DC: John Chavis $1,558,000
The offense improved under first year coordinator Noel Mazzone, going from 27.5 points and 424.7 yards per game last year to 35.4 points and 468.1 yards per game. That’s in spite of a brand new quarterback who was a graduate transfer. John Chavis, who is supposed to be a defensive guru, saw his unit give up a little more than 1 point per game in 2016 and 64 more yards per game. In SEC games, the Aggies gave up more than 400 yards three times, more than 500 yards once and more than 600 yards twice.
* Vanderbilt is a private school and doesn’t have to release its salary data.
There were reports Thursday morning that Lane Kiffin would be the new HBC at Houston, but as of Thursday night that was still up in the air due to Houston’s demands that whoever replaces Tom Herman will have a rather hefty buyout clause that will keep him from bolting just 1-2 years into the new job. Should Kiffin and the Houston folks fail to reach accord, the HBC will either be UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite or DC Todd Orlando.
Houston also offered the HBC job to North Carolina’s Larry Fedora but Fedora turned the job down.
Charlie Strong is in demand. Both South Florida and Temple are in contact about Strong filling their coaching vacancies.
Just a few days after he resigned at Cincinnati, Tommy Tuberville is in the running for the HBC job at Florida Atlantic.
Arizona State wide receiver coach and passing game coordinator Jay Norvell is the new head coach at Nevada. Norvell has also served as offisive coordinator at UCLA, Oklahoma and Texas.
Dan Werner, who has been the co-offensive coordinator and QB coach at Ole Miss the last five years, will not return in 2017.
South Carolina O-line coach Shawn Elliott, is the new HBC at Georgia State.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS
Coach of the Year: Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Maxwell Award (Player of the Year): Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Chuck Bednarik Award (Defensive player of the year): Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Davey O’Brien Award (QB): Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Doak Walker Award (RB): D’Onta Foreman, Texas
Outland Trophy (Interior lineman): Cam Robinson, Alabama
Fred Biletnikoff Award (Receiver): DeDe Westbrook, Oklahoma
Jim Thorpe Award (DB): Adoree’ Jackson, Southern Cal
Lou Groza Award (PK): Zane Gonzalez, Arizona Sate
Ray Guy Award (P): Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Disney Spirit Award (Courage): James Conner, Pittsburgh
Former Baylor head coach Art Briles is suing the school for libel and slander. I’m not making this up.
The winless Cleveland Browns have tried Josh McCown and rookie Cody Kessler. Now they are turning back to Robert Griffin III, who is healthy again after breaking his collarbone in the first game of the season, when he was 12-26 for 190 passing yards.
After bringing the first World Series championship to the Chicago Cubs in 108 years, two critical pieces to that title have moved on. Closer Aroldis Chapman signed a free agent deal with the New York Yankees for $86 million over 5 years and center fielder Dexter Fowler will sign with the St. Louis Cardinals if he passes a physical today.
Former Gator Al Horford has taken on the role of point center for the Boston Celtics. He’s averaging 5.3 assists per game, best of his career (2.8 per game on the average). Overall, Horford is averaging 15 points, 6.4 points and 2.6 blocked shots per game for the Celtics who are third in the Eastern Division behind the Cleveland Cadavers and Toronto Ruptures.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When you look at the coordinators in the SEC, who was the most overpaid and overrated and who was the most underpaid and underrated?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I started listening to Vince Gill when he was with Pure Prairie League in the late 1970s and have been listening to him ever since. He’s a tremendous guitar player who has been featured at Crossroads by Eric Clapton and was once invited by Mark Knopfler to join Dire Straits. You don’t have to be a country music fan to enjoy his songs. Today’s music is a live performance from Ryman Auditorium in Nashville from 1995.