GRADING THE DEFENSIVE ENDS
We’re grading the 2016 Gators position by position. Today it’s the defensive ends.
Bryan Cox Jr.: Injuries curtailed his production and limited him to 10 games. He was a fine run stopper when healthy and was able to get pressure consistently off the edge. His problems had everything to do with health. Fifth-year senior. Regular season stats: 19 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss for -19 yards, 0.5 sacks for -2 yards, 6 QB hurries and 1 forced fumble.
CeCe Jefferson: Is he a DE or a DT? The answer is yes. On any given play he will line up at any one of the four positions on the D-line where he can be a mismatch because of his quickness. He’s the answer to what happens after Jon Bullard graduates. He has enough upper body strength to play inside against the run and enough quickness that it’s hard to get to the edge on him when he plays the outside. He should evolve into a first or second team All-SEC in 2017. Regular season stats: 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss for -21 yards, 1.5 sacks for -13 yards and 5 QB hurries.
Jordan Sherit: Injuries also limited Sherit but he was Florida’s most consistent DE against the run. Solid but not spectacular pass rusher. Fifth-year senior. Regular season stats: 38 tackles, 5 tackles for loss for -26 yards, 3.5 sacks for -22 yards, 2 QB hurries.
Justus Reed: A third year sophomore who played in 9 games in 2015, Reed spent most of 2016 injured. He saw action against Kentucky and North Texas and was credited with two QB hurries.
Keivonnis Davis: He is long on potential but has to grow some more. He’s very quick off the ball, but needs more upper body strength if he’s going to be consistent against the run. Has the ability to become an outstanding pass rusher. Regular season stats: 26 tackles, 2 tackles for loss for -19 yards, 1.5 sacks for -17 yards, 5 QB hurries.
Jabari Zuniga: As a redshirt freshman, he was one of the pleasant surprises on the defense where he was quick off the ball and the Gators most consistent pass rusher. He played at 245-250 in 2016. If he can add 15-20 pounds without losing quickness he should develop into one of the premier pass rushers in the SEC. Biggest problem right now is that he overruns plays because he’s so quick. Regular season stats: 24 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss for -39 yards, 5 sacks for -32 yards, 9 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick.
Antonneous Clayton: When the injury bug hit the Gators hard, Clayton was forced into action. He came to UF at 220 and will have to continue to gain upper body strength and add weight. Has the potential to be an elite pass rusher. Regular season stats: 3 tackles, 3 QB hurries
Jordan Smith: Redshirt in 2016.
Grade B+: Injuries hit the Gators hard at the DE position but overall, the unit played very well. There were some struggles against the run and too many games where they couldn’t pressure the QB. Of Florida 30 sacks, 21 came in four games and only 14 in the last nine. Adding strength and getting better consistency in the pass rush have to be priority items for the 2017 season.
GATORS HAVE #4 RPI NATIONALLY
There is a silver lining to Florida playing such a tough pre-SEC basketball schedule with its first 11 games away from Gainesville while the O-Dome is renovated. The Gators currently rank #4 nationally in RPI, trailing (1) Villanova; (2) Baylor; and (3) Xavier. The Gators have the #1 ranked strength of schedule in the nation.
Once the Gators get into the conference portion of the schedule, RPI isn’t going to change all that much as long as they continue to win at a reasonable pace. Should the Gators get to 20-22 wins in the regular season, an RPI in the top 20 is almost assurance they will make the NCAA field.
How the SEC ranks in RPI nationally (Realtime RPI): (4) FLORIDA; (9) Kentucky; (20) South Carolina; (26) Arkansas; (42) Ole Miss; (55) Texas A&M; (59) Georgia; (60) Auburn; (86) Vanderbilt; (90) LSU; (156) Tennessee; (166) Alabama; (207) Mississippi State; (253) Missouri.
How the SEC stacks up as a conference: (1) ACC; (2) Big East; (3) Big 12; (4) Big Ten; (5) Pac-12; (6) SEC; (7) West Coast Conference; (8) American Athletic; (9) Atlantic 10; (10) Missouri Valley.
SEC BOWL STUFF
Alabama: What everybody remembers about Alabama’s march to the 2015 national championship is the grind it out running game that featured Heisman winner Derrick Henry (2,219 yards, 28 TDs). Alabama averaged 199.93 yards per game last year. There isn’t that one dominant runner this year, but the Crimson Tide actually has a better running game – 245 yards per game and 3,185 yards in 13 games compared to 2,999 in 2015. This year the carries are spread around among Damien Harris (983 yards, 2 TDs), QB Jalen Hurts (841 yards, 12 TDs), freshman Josh Jacobs (551 yards, 4 TDs) and sophomore Bo Scarbrough (539 yards, 7 TDs).
Arkansas: The Razorbacks’ beleaguered defense will get some much needed help in the Belk Bowl with the return of corner Kevin Richardson and linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Richardson has been out since the season opener with a torn pectoral muscle while Greenlaw went down in the Alabama game with a broken foot … On a negative note, wide receiver Cody Hollister will miss the Belk Bowl after undergoing foot surgery.
Auburn: Even with the signing of former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham, it appears that John Franklin III will remain at Auburn. He’s such a good athlete that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move to the slot where he can get the ball on passes, fly sweeps and occasionally take over in the wildcat.
FLORIDA: If both Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis are good to go against Iowa, the Gators should fare much better against Iowa’s 1-2 running punch of LeShun Daniels Jr. (1,013 yards, 10 TDs) and Akrum Wadley (966 yards, 10 TDs). Anzalone is doing non-contact drills right now and a determination will be made about his status once the Gators get to Tampa next week. QB Luke Del Rio should be throwing again by the end of the week. He’ll be Austin Appleby’s backup QB against Iowa.
Georgia: For the second straight year, Georgia has lost a top running back commitment. Last year, Devwah Whaley dropped the Bulldogs for Arkansas. This year Toneil Carter announced he will go to Texas rather than sign with Georgia. Carter’s announcement came on the heels of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel announcing they were coming back for their senior seasons.
Kentucky: It only took Kentucky three days to sell out its 8,000-seat ticket allotment for its matchup with Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl. This is Kentucky’s first bowl game since 2011.
LSU: Leonard Fournette is not going to play in the Citrus Bowl, choosing instead to make sure his troublesome high ankle sprain has adequate rest prior to the NFL combine in February. Not that LSU will miss Fournette all that much. His place in the lineup will be taken by Derrius Guice, who ran for 1,249 yards (7.96 per carry) and 14 TDs … LSU’s on-again, off-again recruiting relationship with QB Lowell Narcisse is on again. Narcisse has recommitted to the Tigers … DB coach Corey Raymond will not only be retained by Coach O but he got a pay raise and a multi-year extension.
Mississippi State: Jeffery Simmons, who was the center of controversy after he struck a woman and was still allowed to enter Mississippi State as a freshman, finished his first semester in college with a 4.0 GPA, one of four MSU players (who actually play) who had a perfect classroom record. Mississippi State is playing in its seventh straight bowl game even with a 5-7 record because of strong academic and graduation performance. Simmons had 38 tackles as a true freshman and made SEC All-Freshman.
South Carolina: LB Skai Moore, who missed the season after surgery on a herniated disc, has been cleared to begin lifting weights and non-contact activities, but he will not be participating in South Carolina’s bowl preparations. Moore was second team All-SEC in 2015 and has 260 career tackles.
Tennessee: Tennessee isn’t expected to announce a new athletic director until after March 1 when new chancellor Beverly Davenport takes over. Most Tennessee people expect the new AD to be David Blackburn, currently the AD at Chattanooga …
Texas A&M: Unlike Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, who are skipping their bowl games to avoid injury before the combine, Aggie DE Myles Garrett plans to play against Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. Garrett is likely a top five draft choice.
Vanderbilt: What does a bowl game mean to Vanderbilt? Among other things, it’s one of the reasons the Commodores landed a commitment from 2018 stud QB Allan Walters (6-2, 205, Highstown, NJ The Peddie School), rated 4 stars by Scout.com.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
Here are median ticket prices for some of the more notable bowl games:
National championship game in Tampa: $1,300
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Penn State, $484
Peach Bowl: Alabama vs. Washington, $289
Fiesta Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State, $195
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Oklahoma, $172
Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Nebraska, $143
Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern, $117
Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Iowa $115
Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin, $35
Monday’s game: Tulsa 55, Central Michigan 10 in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Today’s game: Memphis vs. Western Kentucky in the Boca Raton Bowl.
After seeing the video of Joe Mixon striking a woman in 2014, Clay Travis of Fox Sports states, “Bob Stoops should be gone and so should athletic director Joe Castiglione.” Travis says Stoops has consistently shown that he cares more about winning than about victims of domestic violence.
As of January 5, 2017, for FSU to fire Jimbo Fisher or for some other school try to poach him as their HBC, the buyout number is only $44.4 million. To buy out all seven coaches in the SEC East it would cost a combined $58.7 million; $61 million to buy out all the SEC West coaches.
Former Gator Alex Murphy had a big hand in Northeastern’s upset of Michigan State Sunday night. Murphy hit a key shot down the stretch and finished the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot. Through 11 games, Murphy, who transferred from Florida after the 2015-16 season, is averaging 15.1 points, 6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Christian McCaffrey has elected to skip Stanford’s bowl game with North Carolina to prep for the upcoming NFL Draft. McCaffrey ran for 1,603 yards and 13 TDs and caught 37 passes for 310 yards and 3 more TDs.
Former Gator Quinton Dunbar continues to amaze in the NFL. He spent four years as a wide receiver in Gainesville and began his pro career with the Washington Redskins on the offensive side of the ball. He made the switch in training camp in 2015 and has become a mainstay in the secondary ever since.
More professional athletes should follow the example of the Portland TrailBlazers’ Damian Lillard. Lillard and his shoe company (adidas) are donating a nice chunk of money to refurbish the gym at his old high school in Oakland. Additionally, he’s putting in a new scoreboard and overhauling the weight room. He also donated money to refurbish the music room with enlarged space, computers, drums, turntables, production equipment and soundproof recording studio.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are skipping their bowl games to concentrate on the NFL Draft and to avoid an injury that could curtail their performance at the combine and affect their stock. Do you agree with their decisions or should they play for the school and teammates who have supported them for the previous three years?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When Mike Bloomfield left The Paul Butterfield Blues Band to form the Electric Flag with drummer Buddy Miles and keyboardist Barry Goldberg, Paul Butterfield added Elvin Bishop to his band and the first album was “The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.” The name refers to Bishop. This album also featured David Sanborn on the saxophone as part of a 3-piece horn section.