GRADING THE GUARDS
We’re analyzing the 2016 Florida football roster position by position and today we grade the offensive guards.
Martez Ivey: Ivey made second team All-SEC, starting 11 of Florida’s 12 games at left guard. Although he’s played at a high level at guard, you have to wonder if and when he will move outside to left tackle, which seems to be his natural position. He’s got 19 career starts and is good enough that he could move on to the NFL after the 2017 season.
Tyler Jordan: Jordan is the most versatile player on the O-line, capable of playing all five positions. As a true sophomore, he started six games at guard and one at center while playing in 10. Jordan will take reps at both center and guard in the spring. He is one of Florida’s most mobile offensive linemen and probably better suited for guard.
Fred Johnson: Johnson started the season as the right tackle but moved inside when freshman Jawaan Taylor took over. He’s a much better fit at guard because he lacks the lateral quickness to be a consistent pass blocker against quick people coming off the edge. Johnson played in all 12 games and was in the starting lineup nine times. He had two starts in 2015 as a true freshman.
Antonio Riles: Riles missed the 2016 season with a knee injury. He started six games in 2015 and if his knee is healthy, he should compete for a starting job in the spring.
Andrew Mike: He will be a fourth-year junior in 2016. He played in all 12 games in 2016, all of them at guard. He has good technique but has to add strength to his upper body if he’s going to grind it out in short yardage situations.
Nick Buchanan: Buchanan has quick feet but needs more upper body strength. He saw action in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
Brandon Sandifer: Now that he’s slimmed down to 323 pounds from a freshman weight of 350+, Sandifer could emerge as a road grader type of guard. Still needs upper body strength. He saw action in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
Richard Desir-Jones: Due to depth problems on the defensive line, Desir-Jones could be moved to the other side of the ball. He was a standout DT during his high school days at St. Thomas Aquinas. He saw action in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
2016 Grade C+: Ivey certainly improved in 2016 and was one of the top O-linemen in the SEC. He’s a natural left tackle and you have to wonder if and when UF will move David Sharpe inside, where he’s likely to play in the NFL, and Ivey to the outside. Jordan is Florida’s handyman who can plug in at any position and that might be his ultimate role. Johnson is a better fit at guard than he was at right tackle. He needs to stay inside and play outside only if injuries necessitate the move. Riles is coming off knee surgery. He was poised to have a big season in 2016. If he has gotten stronger and hasn’t lost mobility, then the 2016 season lost to injury will not have been a waste. Mike played in every game but when injuries depleted the line, Kavarris Harkless moved down from tackle to guard instead of Mike stepping in as the starter. Buchanan and Sandifer have a lot of upside while Desir-Jones probably needs to make the move to defense.
WHO’S STAYING, WHO’S GOING AND WHO’S NEW IN THE SEC
Alabama: Alabama signed three jucos, offensive tackle Elliot Baker (6-7, 295), the #1 juco OL in the country, DE Isaiah Buggs (6-5, 280), the nation’s #1 juco DL in the country, and Jhavonte Dean, ranked among the nation’s top 3 juco DBs.
Arkansas: Center Frank Ragnow hasn’t decided whether he’s going or staying. He’s sent in his paperwork to the NFL and is waiting on his pre-draft evaluation before he makes a decision. There are some draft evaluators who say Ragnow is the most NFL-ready center in all of college football. On the recruiting front, Arkansas signed juco wide receivers Brandon Martin and Jonathan Nance along with TE Jeremy Patton. High school seniors Daulton Hyatt (QB), Kirby Adcock (OT), Shane Clennen (OT), Dalton Wagner (OT) and Korey Hernandez (CB) signed their financial aid papers so they can enroll in school in January. Wagner is 6-9, 315.
Auburn: Auburn has signed the #1 juco QB in the country in former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham, who has three years of eligibility remaining, and Salvatore Cannella, the #2 juco tight end in the country. Stidham will be practicing with Auburn during its preparation for the Sugar Bowl.
Florida: Former DC Geoff Collins got a 5-year deal worth $2 million a year to take over as Temple’s HBC.
Georgia: Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel announced that both of them will return for their senior seasons in 2017. Chubb gained 988 yards during the regular season and Michel 753. Chubb has 3,272 career rushing yards while Michel has 2,224 yards. Georgia will return all but two offensive linemen from its starting lineup. Over on the defensive side, linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy are coming back. With their return Georgia will have 10 defensive starters back in 2017 ... Georgia signed OT D’Marcus Haynes (6-6, 320).
Kentucky: Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran says he’s not pursuing head coaching jobs and is on the verge of signing a contract extension to remain at Kentucky ... Kentucky signed juco DB Lonnie Johnson, who can play either corner or safety.
LSU: Defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, who went through Senior Day in expectation that he would leave for the NFL, has elected to return for his fifth year. On the recruiting trail, QB Myles Brennan, who decommitted LSU when Coach O had the interim tag removed, he recommitted after talking to new OC Matt Canada … Wide receiver Jazz Ferguson announced he’s transferring out of the program.
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen landed eight juco transfers: safety Johnathan Abram, the top safety in the juco ranks; DT Lee Autry (6-2, 315); OT Tommy Champion (6-5, 330); S Brian Cole (6-2, 200); S Jaquarius Landrews (5-11, 190); OG Tyre Phillips (6-5, 355); DT Deion Pope (6-3, 300) and DE Montez Sweat (6-6, 240). All eight are expected to compete for starting jobs in the spring.
Missouri: Backup QB Marvin Zanders will graduate in May and transfer out with two full years of eligibility. Zanders is a dual threat originally from Jacksonville. He says he has been contacted by 20 or more coaches from Division I schools … Brick Haley, most recently Charlie Strong’s D-line coach at Texas, has joined the Missouri staff, replacing Jackie Shipp, who was fired back in November ... The Tigers signed OT Yasir Durant (6-7, 345) from the juco ranks.
Ole Miss: ESPN is reporting that Ole Miss has hired Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff. FootballScoop.com is reporting that Ole Miss will hire Phil Longo of Sam Houston State as the new OC … Ole Miss D-line coach Chris Kiffin will be joining brother Lane’s staff at Florida Atlantic as the defensive coordinator ... The Rebels signed three juco players: CB Javien Hamilton (5-10, 170); LB Brenden Williams (6-3, 224)l and DE Markel Winters (6-3, 260).
South Carolina: The Gamecocks signed juco corner Kalen Chalmers (5-11, 171) ... John Latina has been lured out of retirement to coach the Gamecocks’ defensive line in the Birmingham Bowl. Latina worked for South Carolina OC Kurt Roper when the two were at Duke. Latina spent 31 years coaching college football.
Texas A&M: Safety Armani Watts has elected to return for his senior season but junior defensive end James Lockhart has elected to transfer.
The Wakeyleaks investigation has expanded by at least one school now that Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock admits it accepted “game plan information” from former Wake Forest assistant coach turned radio analyst Tommy Elrod. Louisville AD Tom Jurich stated that offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway received “a few plays” from Elrod before the two teams played. Galloway and Elrod worked together on the Wake Forest staff in 2011-12. When Jim Grobe retired and Dave Clawson was hired as the new head coach, he chose not to retain Elrod, who moved to the radio booth. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino claims to have no knowledge of the situation.
NFL RATINGS CONTINUE TO PLUNGE
NFL television ratings are down no matter when fans elect to tune in to the broadcasts. Whether it’s Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, Monday night or Thursday night, the viewership numbers have dripped significantly. In a story at Yahoo Finance, Daniel Roberts states “New reports suggest that one factor dismissed by many has in fact had a definite impact: player protests during the national anthem, led by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.” Roberts claims that every time he’s brought the subject up, he’s been flooded with comments and tweets stating that Kaepernick has definitely impacted their decisions about watching NFL games.
Two weeks ago, the Denver Post ran an unscientific fan poll asking why fans weren’t watching as much NFL and the top three answers were (1) too many penalties, (2) off-field issues and (3) low quality of play.
In its ranking of the 10 worst games in the SEC’s worst season ever – 2016 – Gridironnow.com gave the Gators the #1, #2 and #8 positions. The #1 was the Gators’ 54-16 loss to Alabama while #2 was the Gators’ 13-6 win over Vanderbilt and #8 was the 24-10 Florida win over Georgia. I’m utterly shocked that Florida’s 31-10 loss to Arkansas failed to make the list. On a positive note, Florida’s 16-10 win over LSU ranked #3 in the top 10 games of the season.
Jim Harbaugh flatly denies he’s leaving Michigan to go coach the Los Angeles Rams, claiming this is a rumor started by coaches trying to affect his recruiting. Harbaugh says, “You know the top three I’m talking about. We know them as jive turkeys.” Is he talking about Urban Meyer (Ohio State), James Franklin (Penn State) and Nick Saban (Alabama)? If Harbaugh is picking fights with those guys maybe he should reconsider the possibility of returning to the NFL. Making enemies of those guys is going to come back at him in very negative ways.
Former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman, now part of the Fox Sports #1 NFL broadcasting team with Joe Buck, believes Jerry Jones is looking for any excuse to bench Dak Prescott in favor of Tony Romo. If Romo plays, count on the Cowboys failing to reach the Super Bowl … again. Jones, however, says Prescott is “unequivocally” the starting QB. Let’s see for how long.
Craig Sager lost his battle with cancer on Thursday. He was one of the truly good guys in the sports broadcasting profession.
Did you happen to catch the Los Angeles Rams-Seattle Seahawks game Thursday night? I tried to watch but I was blinded by those day-glo yellow-green uniforms the Seahawks wore.
Rollie Massimino is still coaching college basketball. The 82-year-old who coached Villanova to the 1985 NCAA title at Villanova earned his 800th coaching win Thursday night for NAIA Kaiser University in West Palm Beach.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Are you watching more or less NFL football on television these days? Have the player protests affected your decision? If you are watching less and it has nothing to do with Kaepernick and the protests, what is keeping you from watching?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Today is a little bit of a departure from yesterday’s video of a Van Halen concert. I’ve been a big Carly Simon fan since the 1970s when I first heard the song “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be” which was followed by “Anticipation.” Since then I’ve had a chance to hear her live in concert where she puts on an incredible show. The music today is a night club concert performance from 1990 that I listened to for the first time in a couple of years Thursday.