The NFL Scouting Combine has begun in Indianapolis, a time when eight Gators will have a chance to impress the people who make final decisions on draft day. Essentially this is a cattle show as layers will be measured, timed, tested and interviewed only to repeat the process several more times before draft day.
Corners Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are considered locks to go in the first round. About the only thing that could hurt their status would be a 40 time in the 4.65 to 4.7 range. Linebacker Jarrad Davis, also thought to be a first rounder, won’t be running as he’s still completing rehab on a surgically repaired ankle but he will run on UF’s pro day. If, as expected, he runs a sub-4.7, he could move into the top 20.
Combine 40 times always are considered a big deal, but the 40 is just one of the things that can elevate or lower draft stock. With quarterbacks, size is always an issue. Although Drew Brees (6-0) and Russell Wilson (5-11) are legitimate stars despite their lack of stature, scouts tend to shy away from drafting any quarterback in the first round who isn’t a legitimate 6-2.
Back in 2003 when Gator quarterback Rex Grossman went to the combine, he noticed that players in Indianapolis were measured with their socks on and not barefooted. Just to be certain he measured out at 6-2, Grossman put foam in his socks to give himself an the extra quarter to half inch he needed. He measured something like 1/8th of an inch more than 6-2.
A few weeks later when UF held its pro day at The Swamp, Steve Spurrier was holding court in the south end zone of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. When the subject of Grossman and his height came up, Spurrier mentioned to the hoard of reporters that UF was measuring players in their bare feet.
When it came time for Grossman to be measured, Spurrier quipped, “Rexie said, ‘I’ll just take my combine height.’”
GATORS CAN SOLIDIFY A #3 SEED AT VANDY
Fresh off an impressive 12-point thrashing of Arkansas at the O-Dome, the Gators (24-6, 14-3 SEC) will have a chance to solidify their position on the 3-line of the projected NCAA Tournament bracketology at Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8 SEC) Saturday. The Gators have moved up to #3 in the RPI so a road win against a top 50 (Vandy is #49) would certainly make a statement that UF belongs as a #3.
Could the Gators move up to a #2? To do that, UF would have to win at Vandy then score a couple of wins in the SEC Tournament and perhaps win the whole thing. Florida is already assured of the #2 seed in the tournament, which means the Gators are opposite Kentucky, which can clinch the SEC regular season title with a win at Texas A&M. Should the Aggies score an upset, Florida would tie for the regular season SEC title but whether the Gators are tied for first or second in the regular season standings they will be opposite Kentucky in the tournament.
Ironically, Florida’s RPI is higher than Kentucky (#8).
To win at Vanderbilt, these three things have to happen:
1. Florida can’t let Riley LaChance (49.2%) and Nolan Cressler (45.7%) kill them from the 3-point line. Both have serious range so Florida’s defenders can’t give them any room to shoot.
2. Because 7-1 Luke Kornet can shoot 3-balls, the Gators are going play him with a smaller player who is capable of defending both in the paint and on the perimeter. Whoever guards Kornet can’t go for the head fake. UF’s defenders have to keep their feet on the ground.
3. Florida will have a serious quickness advantage. The Gators need to push the ball every chance they get and force the Commodores to run with them. When Vandy slowed the game down at Rupp Tuesday, they had a 19-point lead on UK. When UK finally got the Commodores out of rhythm and forced an up tempo game, the Wildcats came back to win by 7, a 26-point turnaround. Florida has to play up tempo and cannot allow Vandy to slow the game down.
Realtimerpi.com national top 10
1. Villanova 27-3
2. Kansas 27-3
3. FLORIDA 24-6
4. Oregon 25-4
5. North Carolina 24-6
6. Baylor 23-6
7. Louisville 23-7
8. Kentucky 25-5
9. Arizona 26-4
10. Butler 23-6
SEC in the national RPI: 3. FLORIDA 24-6; 8. Kentucky 25-5; 27. South Carolina 21-8; 29. Arkansas 22-8; 49. Vanderbilt 16-14; 51. Georgia 17-12; 77. Ole Miss 18-12; 80. Tennessee 14-15; 84. Alabama 17-12; 86. Texas A&M 16-13; 91. Auburn 17-13; 144. Mississippi State 14-15; 168. LSU 10-19; 255. Missouri 7-22
GOURLEY PITCHES PERFECT GAME VS. IOWA; GATORS WIN 2
Senior lefty Delanie Gourley, from nearby Lakeside, pitched only the fourth perfect game in Florida softball history Thursday afternoon, leading the #1 Gators to an 8-0 win over Iowa in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California. This was a run-rule game, called after 5 innings in which Gourley needed only 62 pitches to set down all 15 batters she faced. Gourley (7-1, 0.66 ERA) struck out 12 and the ball never left the infield – one pop-up to second and two ground balls.
Offensive support came from the Amanda Lorenz (2-2, 1 RBI0, Jaimie Hoover (2-2, 3 RBI), Jordan Roberts (1-2, 2 RBI) and Nicolle DeWitt (2 RBI).
In game two, Kelly Barnhill (7-0) pitched a 1-hitter and the Florida offense erupted for 6 runs in each of the second and third innings as the Gators (17-1) hammered Long Beach State, 17-0. Barnhill was perfect through the first 3 innings but after giving up a leadoff double in the 4th, she set down the final six batters in the run-rule win. Barnhill lowered her ERA to 0.16 while striking out 9.
Amanda Lorenz hit a homer and drove in 2 runs from her leadoff spot while Sophie Reynoso and Jaimie Hoover each had 2 hits and 3 RBI. Aleshia Ocasio had two hits and an RBI while Jordan Roberts had a hit and 2 RBI.
The Gators leave the cupcakes behind today when they face #18 California and #8 UCLA.
AGGIES ELIMINATE UF IN SEC WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
Held to 18 points in the first half, Texas A&M (20-10) erupted offensively in the second half to take a 67-49 win over Florida. While the Aggies pretty much cemented an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, the Gators finish with a 15-16 record.
This is the second losing season in the last three for Amanda Butler, who is 190-137 in 12 years. The two losing marks are a disappointment and eyebrows have been raised with key players transferring out, but Butler deserves a mulligan for the just completed season. It’s not her fault the O-Dome had to be renovated and UF had to play 22 of its 31 games on the road.
Florida has only made the NCAA field three times in Butler’s UF career and has never finished higher than 4th in the SEC so the program is at a crossroads. Butler should be back next year but it’s past time for her to get the Gators to a championship level.
GATORS NEED TO GET THE BATS GOING
Maybe what happened in the midweek games with UCF was hangover from the 3-game sweep of Miami. Florida got just enough hitting to support its exceptional weekend rotation to shutout Miami twice. Against UCF, the Gators managed only 4 hits in their 4-3 win over the Knights at McKethan Stadium, but they got only 6 Wednesday night when UCF pounded out an 11-2 win.
Hitting only .251 as a team, the 2nd-ranked Gators (7-2) play host to Columbia of the Ivy League for a 3-game set at McKethan Stadium this weekend. While the Gators have 9 games under their belts, this will be the first time out for the Lions, who last visited McKethan Stadium back in 2003 when UF hammered out a 24-3 win. Florida could use some games like that this weekend. With the SEC schedule set to begin in two weeks, the Gators have to get the bats going.
Alex Faedo (1-0, 2.70) will get the Friday night start while Brady Singer (2-0, 0.71) will get the call Saturday. Jackson Kowar (2-0, 1.59) will pitch the finale on Sunday.
Over the last 40 years you’ll find very few reporters who are as accurate as Jimmy Hyams, formerly of the Knoxville News-Sentinel and now a radio host at WNML in Knoxville. Hyams reported Wednesday that a member of the athletic director search committee called former UT football coach Phillip Fulmer, “leading Fulmer to believe he had the job.” Instead of Fulmer, however, UT selected Kansas State AD John Currie, who was an associate AD at Tennessee under Mike Hamilton, the man who fired Fulmer after the 2008 season.
Hyams reports that university chancellor Beverly Davenport was opposed to Fulmer since he has zero experience as an athletic director.
A couple of other notes about how Currie became the AD: (1) Not all the members of the search committee interviewed Currie although Davenport did when she flew out to Kansas; (2) Fulmer wanted the job badly to prevent Currie from getting it; and (3) billionaire Jimmy Haslam, who owns the Cleveland Browns, was the committee member who pushed Currie to Davenport.
Currie had contentious relationships with Tennessee coaches when he was in Knoxville and he’s one of the reasons Frank Martin left Kansas State for the South Carolina job. K-State football coach Bill Snyder also had a poor relationship with Currie.
Hyams says for all the praise UT has gotten nationally for hiring Currie, locals and boosters who know Currie from his previous time in Knoxville are extremely unhappy.
If you had to rate the most dysfunctional athletic department in the Southeastern Conference there is Tennessee all alone at the top and everyone else is a rank amateur. The department is more than $200 million in debt and has had a revolving door of football and basketball coaches in the last 15 years.
Since the subject of Tennessee has been brought up, time to talk about the Lady Vols. There was a time when the SEC Women’s Tournament was the Lady Vols Invitational. No more. The Lady Vols failed to win 20 games in the regular season and Thursday lost their first game in the SEC Women’s Tournament to Alabama. Tennessee will get in the NCAA field, not necessarily because the Lady Vols deserve it. They’re still riding the coattails of the late Pat Summitt. Holly Warlick was Summitt’s hand picked successor. She won’t get canned this year but the UT faithful are very, very restless. Another year like this one and the plug might be pulled.
No offense to Johnny Dawkins down at UCF, but he’s playing with the kids that Donnie Jones recruited. Donnie knew 2015-16 was going to be rough but knew this season would be different. The Knights are 20-10 after their win over USF Thursday night. Personally, I don’t think Dawkins is doing any better than Donnie would have done. And give 7-6, 325-pound center Tacko Fall another year and he’s going to be scary good. Donnie left a full cupboard.
The NCAA will consider tweaking the targeting rule this week. One possibility is that if video evidence doesn’t conclusively prove targeting that a player would be allowed to remain in the game. NCAA rules changes take place every two years (2016 was a rules change year) except when it comes to player safety and targeting is clearly a player safety issue.
All-American Braden Smith, who has made 27 consecutive starts at guard, could be moving to right tackle at Auburn.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When the Gators play at Vanderbilt, the benches will be in opposite end zones. This is the only place in the SEC – and maybe the nation – where the benches are in the end zone and for half a game that is a distinct disadvantage for a team that only has to play like that once a year. Should the SEC crack down on Vanderbilt and make them conform by putting the benches on the sidelines?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I came across this concert video of Carlos Santana performing with John McLaughlin in Switzerland, recorded back in December. This is an interesting combination. Santana is known mostly for his Latin inspired rock and roll, while McLaughlin is better known in jazz circles where he worked with Miles Davis on “Bitches Brew” and other albums. Both Jeff Beck and Pat Metheny have called the 75-year-old McLaughlin “the best guitarist alive.”