Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; March 7

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning...

If Monday’s NFL Scouting Combine was the last and only chance, then Jalen Tabor’s draft stock would be in serious trouble. His 4.62 time in the 40-yard dash was rather pedestrian at an event where Washington’s John Ross ran a 4.22 and scads of other DBs ran 4.5 or lower.

Slow 40 times aren’t unusual for Indianapolis. Lots of players with Olympic speed have gone there throughout the years and turned in very disappointing times. In the past common complaints have been that the track is a bit on the bouncy side. Obviously that didn’t hurt Ross or all the other fast guys who ran well and maybe it wasn’t the track that affected Tabor but something did.

But Tabor will get a second chance to run for the scouts at Florida’s pro day on March 28 and if he’s intending to stay in the first round when the NFL drafts in May then he needs to turn in something in the 4.55 range. While Monday’s time surely raised some eyebrows, scouts will give Tabor the benefit of the doubt because they’ve seen the film and the productivity for the past three years, plus they know they will time him again in three weeks.

Of greater concern for Tabor might be the 9 reps he had on the bench, lowest number of any of the safeties and corners. In a league where the wide receivers get bigger and stronger every year, weaklings who can’t people on the ground after they’ve caught the ball won’t last long.

Tabor’s slow 40 time and the poor showing on the bench will raise red flags for scouts who see no excuse for players who come to Indy in less than ideal shape and unable to perform at a high level. Tabor needed to arrive in Indy and perform as if a 7-figure paycheck depended on it and he was next to a no show. His poor bench press should also raise some eyebrows about Florida’s strength and conditioning but more on that in just a moment. 

Fellow Gator Quincy Wilson ran a 4.54 Monday, a rather good time when you consider he weighed in at 215. He repped 225 pounds 14 times, a middle of the pack number for defensive backs at the combine. Big corners are in vogue now that the league trends away from smurf wide receivers. Former UF safety Marcus Maye did not run nor did he lift (recovering from injury still) so he will get his chance to prove the scouts he belongs in the third round or sooner at pro day.

Now, back to the bench press numbers. Go back to Friday when offensive tackle David Sharpe compounded his slow (5.44) time in the 40 with only 19 reps. That was followed up Sunday by Caleb Brantley hoisting the bar only 21 times and both linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. both managed 16. Perhaps these guys just didn’t come to Indianapolis in good shape or maybe they just aren’t that strong.

Contrast the numbers of Brantley and Cox for example with a few other D-linemen from the SEC: Auburn DE Carl Lawson (35), Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett (33), Arkansas DE Jeremiah Ledbetter (29), Ole Miss DT D.J. Jones (25).

Now think back to the SEC championship game against Alabama the last two years and see if the dots connect. Alabama was definitely bigger, stronger and faster than the Gators. Especially stronger. Those Crimson Tide D-linemen tossed the Gators around as if they were they were foam filled blocking dummies.

Maybe there is a logical reason for all this. Maybe. But maybe the reason is Florida’s strength and conditioning people aren’t getting the job done. This is the Southeastern Conference. It is a league inhabited by real men and some of the freakiest athletes in all of collegiate sports. It is a league inhabited by future NFL studs and stars. This is a league where only the strong survive.

Florida’s football players need to look like and play like future studs and stars. They don’t need to get pushed around and they certainly don’t need to embarrass themselves by showing up weak at the NFL Scouting Combine.

END OF THE ROAD FOR AMANDA BUTLER

When she was a point guard for Carol Ross and the Gators back in the 1990s, Amanda Butler led the Southeastern Conference in floor burns. Nobody played harder than Amanda. Nobody wanted to win more than she did.

As Florida’s women’s basketball coach the last 10 years, Butler tried to pass along the fire that rages within her to her players and it worked with only moderate success. The Gators almost always played hard and if they gave a few extra points for effort for doing things like diving for balls on the floor or running fast as you can or showing no disregard for your body while fighting through a screen, then Butler would still be Florida’s basketball coach.

Effort and determination will take you only so far, however, and that’s where the Gators consistently came up short. They may have tried harder than any team in the league but the teams that consistently finished ahead of UF in the SEC standings always had more talent. This wasn’t a problem only Butler has experienced at UF. Before Butler arrived, both Carolyn Peck and even Ross never could get the Gators over the talent hump.

The potential for a big winner is here. If South Carolina can win three straight SEC titles and if Mississippi State can transform into a top five team nationally, then why can’t Florida compete at the highest levels of the SEC? With more than 20 million people, only Texas has a bigger population base than Florida in the SEC. There are states with more basketball talent than Florida, but that gap narrows every year but the state exports far too many outstanding players to top programs nationally.

Priority #1 for UF athletic director Scott Stricklin moving forward is to bring in a coach who can lure the home grown talent to Gainesville. Only four players on Florida’s 2016 roster were home grown.

Stricklin has two choices. He can write a big check and bring in a brand name coach that can add a strong measure of instant credibility. Although we’ve heard this statement used far too often in a negative way, it is Florida after all. There are plenty of reasons why a well known, established coach would be willing to see if it’s possible to do what no other coach in UF history has done – win the Southeastern Conference championship. Back when Butler was hired, Florida could have hired Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who has won two national championships, but Mulkey’s price was too high. She wasn’t the only high profile coach who would have come to UF and while their salary demands weren’t at the level of Mulkey, they were still higher than Florida was willing to pay at the time. Well, the time is now if Stricklin wants to hire that established coach who resolves the credibility gap but it will require showing someone the money.

The second choice is to go after a lesser known head coach or top flight assistant. That’s a gamble but Stricklin hired Vic Shafer at Mississippi State, who started out 35-31 in his first two seasons in Starkville but is 84-18 ever since. Shafer had a losing record as a head coach at Sam Houston State, but he spent 15 years working as Gary Blair’s top assistant, first at Arkansas and then at Texas A&M. Stricklin offered a second chance and Shafer made the most of it. Does Stricklin go after a coach like Shafer who is waiting for that big break while sitting in the number two seat at a high profile program?

Two names come to mind here. One is Shafer’s top assistant, Johnnie Harris, who was Blair’s top recruiter at Texas A&M and who has brought in the talent that has turned former also ran Mississippi State into a national contender. The other name is Gail Goestenkors, who racked up 7 straight 30-win seasons and 8 ACC championships as Duke’s head coach but was fired when she couldn’t duplicate that success at Texas even though she got the Longhorns into the NCAA Tournament all six years. She’s now an assistant coach in the WNBA, works college women’s broadcasts as an analyst for ESPN and could be lured back into the college game for the right offer.

GATORS DROP ONE SPOT IN COACHES POLL

Although the Gators (24-7, 14-4 SEC) lost twice last week, they only dropped one spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Florida is off until Friday when the Gators play the winner of Thursday’s Vanderbilt-Texas A&M game in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville.

The Top 25

1. Kansas 28-3

2. Villanova 28-3
3. UCLA 28-3
4. Gonzaga 20-1

5. Oregon 27-4
6. North Carolina 26-6

7. Arizona 27-4

8. Kentucky 26-5

9. Louisville 24-7
10. Baylor 25-6
11. West Virginia 24-7

12. Purdue 25-6

13. FLORIDA 24-7
14. Duke 23-8
15. SMU 27-4
16. Notre Dame 23-8

17. Florida State 24-7
18. Cincinnati 27-4
19. Saint Mary’s 27-3

20. Butler 23-7
21. Virginia 21-9

22. Wichita State 30-4

23. Wisconsin 23-8

24. Iowa State 20-10

25. Middle Tennessee 27-4

RANDOM THOUGHTS

The Raiders apparently will be leaving Oakland after all. They’ve found the funding partner they need for the new stadium that will allow them to move to Las Vegas in Bank of America.

North Carolina will stay within the Nike family but all Tar Heel sports will wear the Michael Jordan Jumpman line of athletic apparel from here on out.

Art Briles released a letter defending himself Monday. The former Baylor coach claimed he never covered up any sexual violence by his players and also states, “I did not obstruct justice on campus or off.”

Joining the field for the NCAA Tournament is UNC-Wilmington, which won the Colonial Athletic Association title by beating Charleston, 78-69. Look for UNC-W coach Kevin Keats to emerge as a leading candidate for the vacant Missouri job and at LSU, should Johnny Jones get the axe after the SEC Tournament.

Also joining the NCAA field is East Tennessee State, coached by former Tennessee assistant Steve Forbes, who lost his job when Bruce Pearl was fired a few years ago. After turning Northwest Florida into a juco terror (61-6 in 2 years, both times national runner-up), Forbes has won 51 games at ETSU (27-7 this year) and the Southern Conference championship. If some AD can get past Forbes’ association with Pearl at UT, then he will move on to bigger and better things this spring.

Colin Kaepernick is a free agent. He’s got enough talent to play for any number of NFL teams but I wonder how many are willing to take on the baggage he brings with him?

QUESTION OF THE DAY

With Amanda Butler gone, should Scott Stricklin spend the $800,000 or so it will take to lure a proven winner to UF or should he go after a top rated assistant or a former coach that can be had for substantially less?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Marcus King is 20 years old (for 4 more days) and on his way to real stardom. He’s being mentored by Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks and has two albums under his belt. He calls the music of the Marcus King Band “soul influenced psychedelic southern rock.” Listen for yourself. Today’s music is a January 20 concert in Philadelphia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsVowpXGCdA 


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