Maybe Jim McElwain rolled the dice when he closed the recruiting season short staffed, but Florida’s head football coach thinks there are no gambles when it comes to the replacement coaches.
At an introductory press conference where he rolled out his three new assistant coaches to meet the press Thursday, McElwain said new offensive line coach Brad Davis, secondary coach Corey Bell and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider) “chose to be part of something great” when they elected to join his staff. It’s fairly obvious that McElwain believes he’s got the Gators on the right track to get the Gators back to their glory years during the Steve Spurrier era and that 5-year period from 2005-09 under Urban Meyer. From 1996-2008 the Gators won three national championships. The Gators aren’t at a national championship level just yet, but after two straight SEC East titles, Florida’s first since 2009, Mac feels confident he’s got UF on the right track.
When filling the vacancies on his staff, McElwain had to find coaches who not only agree philosophically but have proven records both in recruiting and player development.
“In each of their cases we were looking for the right fit,” McElwain said. “That’s something we hit a home run on. They’re natural fits.”
When it comes to Bell and Seider, they are natural fits for recruiting talent-rich South Florida where athletic ability and speed as any area in the country. Bell is a former high school HBC in Miami and he needs no introductions down in Dade County. Seider, a high school teammate of former Gators Fred Taylor, Reidel Anthony, and Johnny Rutledge at Glades Central, is an outstanding recruiter in Palm Beach County but when he was at Marshall he also signed record-setting QB Rakeem Cato out of Miami.
Davis is the least known of the three but he comes to Florida with rave reviews about his ability to not only recognize talent but develop it. He’s already hit it off well with the current UF O-linemen and recruit who feel his instant energy.
After two years of success that still left the Gator Nation feeling empty, McElwain now has a roster that’s pretty much players he recruited and now he’s tweaked his coaching staff. It still remains to be seen how far the Gators are from being able to compete consistently with the big boys from the SEC West, but at least the program is getting closer to the vision McElwain has for the future.
FLORIDA BASEBALL OPENS UP TONIGHT; VETTEL AT THE MIKE
This isn’t just any season opener for Florida’s #2-ranked baseball team. It’s big enough that when the Gators take the field at McKethan Stadium tonight to face William and Mary, Larry Vettel will be at the microphone for the SEC Network+ broadcast. It is a very big deal to get Vettel out of Manhattan these days.
The Gators, who are coming off a second straight trip to the College World Series, will send ace Alex Faedo (19-4 career record, 13-3 last season) to the mound Friday night and follow that up with sophomore Brady Singer (2-2 last year) on Saturday with Jackson Kowar going on Sunday.
The Gators will back up what figures to be one of the nation’s best pitching staffs with six returning starters from last year’s 52-16 team including five preseason All-Americans in shortstop Dalton Guthrie, second baseman Deacon Liput, third baseman Jonathan India, first baseman/DH JJ Schwarz and catcher Mike Rivera.
GATORS MUST AVOID STARKVILLE AMBUSH
For the second straight game, Florida’s 13th-ranked Gators (21-5, 11-2 SEC) are facing a team on the road that desperately needs a signature win. Mississippi State (14-11, 5-8 SEC) is young and aggressive but the freshman-dominated Bulldogs have a habit of fading down the stretch. Mississippi State has played a bunch of close games and the closest thing they have to a signature win is an 84-78 victory over Arkansas on the road back in January.
Florida goes into Starkville without 6-11 center John Egbunu, done for the year after tearing an ACL against Auburn on Tuesday night. That leaves sophomore Kevarrius Hayes to do battle against a very young, but quite tall MSU front line that has a 1-2 punch of 6-11 bigs Aric Holman (8-6 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Schnider Herard (5.3 points, 5.4 rebounds). The Gators will also have their hands full on the wings where Mississippi State features Quinndary Weatherspoon (16.7 points, 5.0 rebounds) and 6-7 freshman Mario Kegler (10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds).
Ben Howland has assembled impressive young talent and MSU is going to be very good in the future if he can add a couple more pieces to the puzzle. Right now, they’re good enough to beat any good team that takes them lightly. The loss of Egbunu should be all the alert the Gators need to let them know they’ve got to play harder and better than they have at any point in this current 7-game winning streak.
Gator notes: Florida’s leading scorer is Canyon Barry off the bench for 13.4 points per game. In the six games he’s played during the current streak (he missed LSU with a sprained ankle) Barry has averaged 16.5 points and 3 rebounds per game. He’s also hit 33-34 free throws and is hitting 89.9% for the season … Point guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza are averaging a combined 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 3.4 steals per game. During Florida’s 7-game winning streak, Hill has a 12-assist game (vs. Auburn) and Chiozza has hit 10 assists twice (vs. LSU and Missouri).
SEC basketball news: Vanderbilt (13-13, 6-7 SEC) had four double figures scorers as the Commodores knocked off Texas A&M (13-12, 5-8 SEC), 72-67, in Nashville.
#1 UF SOFTBALL HOSTS AQUAFINAL INVITATIONAL
The Gators (6-0) figure to hold onto their #1 ranking this weekend when they host the Aquafina Invitational at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium. The Gators will play twice on Friday (FAMU at 3:45 followed by Northwestern State), twice on Saturday (Maryland at 11:45 a.m. followed by Northwestern State and once on Sunday against Florida International at 11:15 a.m.
Through their six games this season, the Gators have outscored opponents 39-3 and have outhit them 44-12. Florida pitchers have a 0.17 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 40 innings with only 6 walks.
Wednesday night, the Gators got a 2-hitter from Delanie Gourley (3-0, 0.0 ERA) who struck out 8 and walked only 1 in UF’s 6-0 win over Jacksonville.
#1 WOMEN’S TENNIS FACES TWO TOP TEN TEAMS AT HOME
Coming off the championship at the IAT National Team Indoor tournament in Connecticut in which the Gators (7-0) beat #2 North Carolina in the finals, UF plays host to #6 Oklahoma State Saturday followed by #5 Stanford on Sunday at the Ring Tennis Complex. Oklahoma State lost in last year’s NCAA championship match to Stanford so this is a chance for the Gators to knock off the two teams that played for last year’s national title on successive days. That’s never been done in UF history.
#3 UF GYMNASTICS TRAVELS TO #23 ARKANSAS
Pink will once again be the color of the day for Florida’s 3rd-ranked gymnasts, who travel to #23 Arkansas Friday night. Two weeks ago the Gators were involved in Alabama’s Power of Pink meet and last week the Gators hosted their annual Link to Pink meet as part of the SEC initiative to raise awareness for breast cancer research. Kennedy Baker (floor) and Alex McMurtry (bars) have scored perfect 10s this season.
#3 FLORIDA HOSTS #4 USC IN LACROSSE
After dropping a 13-10 decision to #1 North Carolina in last week’s season opener, the Gators will try to even their record at 1-1 when they take on #4 Southern Cal at Donald Dizney Stadium tonight at 6:30.
ESPN BLEEDING 10,000 SUBSCRIBERS PER DAY
Per MarketWatch.com, ESPN continues its slide and is losing as many as 10,000 subscribers per day. Higher programming costs and falling advertising rates combined with the loss of subscribers makes this hemorrhage a real nightmare for parent Disney, which is seriously considering ditching the network.
Clay Travis writes on his Outkick the Coverage webpage that “ESPN is losing millions of subscribers and viewers that add up to billions of dollars a year in losses and is on the hook for tens of billions of dollars in sports rights costs in the years to come. That’s a bad combination.”
ESPN pays the National Football League $1.9 billion a year to broadcast Monday Night Football and $1.47 billion per year to the NBA, $700 million to Major League Baseball and $608 million for the College Football Playoff. What is paid to the AC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 supposedly pales in comparison to what ESPN pays to the SEC.
So what’s the big problem?
Travis says it has a lot to do with ESPN becoming more and more left leaning political in its commentary.
He writes, “I’m all for political discussion but when you ally yourself with one political party and your business ostensibly is to talk about sports, you lose viewers who see what you’re doing. That’s why I call ESPN MSESPN now, the network is desperate to prop up its ratings and has decided that becoming a shill for the left wing in the country is its best option. Sadly, this is just going to lose more viewers. Not surprisingly, ESPN’s ratings are tanking … ESPN realizes its business is broken and it’s desperately floundering for a successful strategy. Only that strategy, becoming a left wing network is actually hastening it’s own demise. ESPN becoming MSESPN isn’t a strategy that will save the network, it’s just a method of choosing its own execution – death by extreme left wing liberalism.”
Michigan got approval for a $21 million expansion and renovation of its football weight room, which will be 32,000 square feet when finished. If you’re wondering that is 2/3 the size of a football field. There will also be a 5,000 square foot mezzanine level.
Former UM linebacker Jon Beason, who spent 10 years in the NFL, has donated $250,000 to Miami’s proposed indoor practice facility. The $34 million project needs another $3 million before ground is broken.
The feud between Charles Oakley and New York Knicks owner James Dolan isn’t about to end. “Some things can’t be solved,” Oakley told SI.com. The Knicks did lift the ban on Oakley attending games at Madison Square Garden.
New York Jets corner Darrelle Revis has been charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor by Pittsburgh police after a street altercation that left two men unconscious. Revis has been charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault, one felony count each of robbery and conspiracy and a misdemeanor count of terrorist threats.
It is expected that Nick Saban will name New England Patriots tight end coach Brian Daboll as his new offensive coordinator. Daboll, who was once a graduate assistant for Saban at Michigan State, has been an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Major League Baseball is considering putting “reasonable limits” on how long umpires in the replay center can take to make a decision whether to uphold or overturn a call. Should all sports put time limits on their replay decisions or are you comfortable with taking as much time as necessary to get the call right?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Three Dog Night played Jacksonville Thursday night. From 1969-75 they had a great run with three #1 songs and 7 others that made the top ten plus four top ten albums. Today’s music is the band’s “Live Around the World” album from 1973.