Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; March 15

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

Jim McElwain called the surgery on quarterback Luke Del Rio’s (right) throwing shoulder minor at his Tuesday press conference. McElwain said he is optimistic that Del Rio will be ready to go when the Gators open fall camp, but shoulder surgery is tricky. Just ask any pitcher who’s had arthroscopic surgery.

Even healthy, Del Rio would be looking at an uphill climb to start in the fall, but this surgery all but assures that either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask will take the opening snaps when the Gators open the season on September 2 with Michigan. Both Franks and Trask have the kind of arms it takes to succeed at the SEC level while Del Rio has to rely on understanding where the ball has to go and getting rid of it in a hurry to compensate for a lack of arm strength. You not only have to wonder how strong Del Rio’s arm will be in August but just how far he will be behind Franks and Trask, who have the entire spring and summer months to perfect timing with UF’s receivers.

Both Franks and Trask both threw the ball extremely well in practice Tuesday although the receivers had a day they’d like to forget with a contagious case of the dropsies.

Neither Franks nor Trask are throwing in game conditions and even when the Gators put on the pads, they’ll be in non-contact jerseys, but they represent a serious upgrade at quarterback. Florida hasn’t had a quarterback who averaged more than 7.5 yards per pass attempt since 2011 when John Brantley averaged 8.5 per attempt with Charlie Weis calling the plays. If the Gators can’t average 8 yards or better per attempt in 2017 the offense is going to be quite pedestrian once again.

GATORS 2ND BEST NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD AMONG SEC TEAMS

Although Florida didn’t make its first NCAA Tournament until 1987, the Gators have made up for lost time. Only three SEC teams have won NCAA titles and Florida is the only school other than Kentucky with more than one. The Gators have made it to five Final Fours in their 19 NCAA appearances and their 42-17 record is the second best behind Kentucky, which has 8 national titles, 17 Final Fours and a 123-50 record all-time in 56 NCAA appearances.

The Gators (24-8) open NCAA play Thursday afternoon in the East Regional in Orlando when they face off with Southern Conference champion East Tennessee State (27-7) at the Amway Center.

Here is a look at all 14 SEC schools and their all-time records in NCAA play.

1. Kentucky: 56 NCAA tournaments; 8 national championships; 17 Final Fours; 123-50 all-time

Kentucky faces Northern Kentucky Friday in the South Regional.

2. FLORIDA: 19 NCAA Tournaments; 2 national championships; 5 Final Fours; 42-17 all-time

3. Arkansas: 30 NCAA Tournaments; 1 national championship; 6 Final Fours; 41-30 all-time

Arkansas faces Seton Hall Friday in the South Regional.
4. LSU:
21 NCAA Tournaments; 4 Final Fours; 24-24 all-time

5. Missouri: 26 NCAA Tournaments; 22-26 all-time
6. Alabama: 20 NCAA Tournaments; 21-20 all-time

7. Tennessee: 20 NCAA Tournaments; 19-21 all-time
8. Auburn: 8 NCAA Tournaments; 12-8 all-time
9. Mississippi State: 10 NCAA Tournaments; 1 Final Four; 11-10 all-time
10. Texas A&M: 13 NCAA Tournaments; 11-14 all-time

11. Vanderbilt: 14 NCAA Tournaments; 10-15 all-time

Vanderbilt faces Northwestern Thursday in the West Regional.

12. Georgia: 12 NCAA Tournaments; 1 Final Four; 7-12 all-time
13. Ole Miss: 8 NCAA Tournaments; 5-8 all-time
14. South Carolina: 8 NCAA Tournaments; 4-9 all-time

South Carolina faces Marquette Friday in the East Regional.

SEC IN THE NIT
Ole Miss (21-13) 91, Monmouth (27-7) 83:
The Rebels had five players in double figures led by 23 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots by center Sebastian Saiz in taking out Monmouth on the road in the first round of the NIT.

Richmond (21-12) 71, Alabama (19-15) 65: For a team that has lived and died with its defense, Alabama was a no-show Tuesday in Tuscaloosa. Richmond shot 53.8% from the field while Alabama couldn’t buy a shot down the stretch.

#5 GATORS BLANK #1 FSU, 1-0, IN JACKSONVILLE

A check swing single off the bat of Mark Koloszvary in the seventh inning scored Jonathan India from second base with the game’s only run and four freshmen combined to limit #1-ranked Florida State (D1Baseball.com poll) to 4 hits Tuesday night at The Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville. The 1-0 win improved the Gators to 13-5 this season.

Kevin O’Sullivan went with an all-freshman approach on the mound, starting Nate Brown, who pitched 5 innings of 3-hit baseball, followed by Kirby McMullen (1/3 inning, 1 hit), Andrew Baker (2-2/3 innings, 0 hits, 4 strikeouts) and Tyler Dyson (1 inning, 2 strikeouts). Baker got the win and Dyson got the save.

Next up for the Gators is a 3-game roadie to Auburn to start the SEC portion of the schedule starting on Friday.

Other UF sports news:

#1 Gators knock off #2 Ohio State in women’s tennis: The Gators continued their assault on ranked teams with a 4-1 win over #2 Ohio State in Orlando Tuesday. The Gators (13-0) have knocked off two #2s (North Carolina was the other), a #3 (Pepperdine), a #5 (Stanford), two #6s (Georgia and Oklahoma State), plus a #12 (Texas Tech) and a #13 (Michigan). The Gators host Georgia Friday in SEC play.

#1 softball Gators host North Dakota State: The #1-ranked Gators (22-1, 2-0 SEC) will be looking for their third straight shutout tonight when they play host to North Dakota State in a non-conference game at Katie Seashole Pressley Stadium. The Gators have the top pitching staff in the country with an 0.64 team ERA. The Gators have allowed only 20 runs all season (14 earned) and have 15 shutouts in 23 games. The Gators are also the top fielding team in the country with only 5 errors all season (99.2%).

#3 lacrosse whacks #5 Syracuse, 19-12: The Gators won their sixth consecutive game and third against a top 10 opponent Tuesday when they beat #5 Syracuse, 19-12, at Donald Dizney Stadium. The Gators open Big East Conference play Saturday when they travel to UConn.

SPRING FOOTBALL MEANDERINGS IN THE SEC

1. Is Nick Saban second-guessing himself?: The party line out of Alabama was that Lane Kiffin had a bad game against Washington and was distracted by his HBC job at Florida Atlantic. But was that the case? Washington played great defense and as we saw a week later, Clemson pretty much shackled the Alabama offense called by Steve Sarkisian. Was this a case of Nick outsmarting himself, thinking Clemson wouldn’t be able to adequately prepare for the way Sarkisian called the game? Sark bolted to the Atlanta Falcons less than a month later and now Nick has a brand new OC in Brian Daboll, who has never called the plays in a college game and who never produced an offense ranked better than 20th in four years calling the plays in the NFL.  

2. And speaking of Alabama …: That was supposed to be the greatest defense of all time, wasn’t it? You know, the one that Clemson shredded for 511 yards and 35 points. Was the Clemson game just a bad day at the office for DC Jeremy Pruitt or did Clemson expose some major flaws? Alabama will be missing a whole bunch of studs who will be playing in the NFL next fall. Can Alabama be nearly as good this year?

3. Brandon Harris down to three teams: The former LSU starting QB will make official visits to North Carolina, Texas and Arizona with UNC getting the first visit on March 24. Smart money is that Harris goes to UNC where Larry Fedora has a way with quarterbacks. Wherever Harris goes, if he succeeds it will just be one more indictment of how bad an OC/QB coach Cam Cameron was at LSU. Cameron was making $1.5 million. I guess $1.5 million doesn’t go quite as far or get quite the quality it used to.

4. Brice Ramsey transferring out of Georgia: There was a time when Ramsey was considered a can’t miss quarterback recruit, but after spending the last two years as the punter, he’s decided to spend his senior year somewhere else. Ramsey will graduate in May and be eligible immediately somewhere. He’s got Sun Belt or Southern Conference written all over him. Meanwhile, Georgia will have only two scholarship quarterbacks in the fall, one sophomore (Jacob Eason) and one true freshman (Jake Fromm).

5. Will Georgia get shut out on NFL Draft Day?: That’s a distinct possibility and a real head scratcher considering the Bulldogs’ 2012-14 recruiting classes were ranked 8th, 12th and 8th respectively. The best chance for a Georgia player to be drafted is Isaiah McKenzie, who didn’t exactly wow anyone at the Combine and measured only 5-7. The last time Georgia got shutout in the NFL Draft was 1941.

6. Another linebacker leaves Kentucky: Kobie Walker didn’t exactly set the world on fire while he was at Kentucky. He redshirted as a freshman and then was academically ineligible. When he finally got to play in 2016 he made it through three games before he was injured and lost for the season. Walker’s loss might not seem like such a big deal except that he’s the third linebacker to transfer out in the last three weeks. For a team whose defense is an SEC bottom feeder that can be good news or bad news. It’s either addition by subtraction or a sign that all is not right in the Commonwealth.

7. Don’t sleep on Arkansas: There wasn’t a lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball at Arkansas last year but the Hogs embarrassed themselves by giving up 426.6 yards and 31.1 points per game including that disastrous game against Auburn when Robb Smith’s unit gave up 543 rushing yards and 7 TDs on the ground. You have to wonder if Smith’s departure was voluntary or if he was asked to find gainful employment elsewhere. Meanwhile, Hog fans think they’ve got the right guy to head up the defense in Paul Rhoads, who was Auburn’s DC in 2008 before going to Iowa State as the HBC. If Rhoads can get stops, Arkansas can be the surprise team out of the SEC West. There’s no question Bret Bielema’s offense can put a lot of points on the board.

8. Vandy lands a 4-star (sort of): Alex Stump is transferring from Ohio State where he caught one pass last year to Vanderbilt. This is a huge get for Vandy considering Stump was a 4-star recruit out of high school in 2015. Vandy didn’t sign a single 4-star (per Scout.com rankings) for 2017 and has only signed two in the last three years. So what if Stump is unproven and the luster of his high school career has long since worn off? He’s a 4-star (sort of) and that’s a big deal in Nashville.

9. Is John Chavis the most overpaid assistant in the SEC?: Texas A&M will pay defensive coordinator John Chavis $1.6 million in this the third year of his contract. There is no shortage of talent on the defensive side of the ball in Aggieland, but that hasn’t equated to a dominating defense. Are the Aggies getting their money’s worth? And, how long will they stick with Chavis if there isn’t significant improvement next year?

10. Put up or shut up year for Butch Jones: There is no joy in Knoxville even if Butch Jones says the Vols are winning in the game of life. They aren’t winning enough on the field and last year’s 9-4 record didn’t come anywhere close to meeting expectations. Now a rash of injuries had plenty to do with Tennessee’s 4-4 finish in the SEC East but that doesn’t exactly appease a fan base that hasn’t seen an SEC title since 1998 or an SEC East championship since 2007. Nobody’s seat is hotter in the SEC than Butchie. If he doesn’t win the East this year, it’s hard to imagine him getting another year out of new AD John Currie, who wasn’t well-liked by UT coaches when he was an assistant AD from 2003-09 or by the K-State coaches when he was the AD there from 2009 until just recently.  

RANDOM THOUGHTS

DeVon Walker, who was a valuable reserve on Florida’s last team to make the Final Four in 2014, is in the NCAA Tournament for a second time. Walker is a starting small forward for Sun Belt champ Troy, a 15-seed which will face off with #2 seed Duke in an East Regional game on Friday. Walker is averaging 7.8 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Trojans.

With Indiana losing to Georgia Tech, 75-63, in the NIT Tuesday night, buzzards are circling over the basketball offices in Bloomington. Don’t expect a long, drawn out process in deciding the fate of Tom Crean. Indiana probably will announce Crean’s fate today or at the latest, Thursday.

Former Gator Percy Harvin is retiring. Again. His agent, Greg Barnett, says this time it’s for good. We’ll see.

The New York Jets need a QB in the worst way. They can try to trade for Tony Romo or they can sign the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler or Robert Griffin III. Right now it looks like Cutler will be the guy, which virtually assures the Jets won’t make the playoffs. Again.

Missouri forked out $80,000 to a search firm to hire a new basketball coach.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Looking back on the decision to fire Lane Kiffin and elevate Steve Sarkisian to offensive coordinator just days before the national championship loss to Clemson, do you think Nick Saban is having second thoughts and wondering if he may have acted hastily? And given the yards the Bama defense gave up to Clemson, do you think Saban is also second guessing Jeremy Pruitt as his defensive coordinator?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Whenever Eric Clapton tours, his first choice to play bass is Nathan East, who is a founding member of the jazz band FourPlay. East just released his solo album “Reverence,” which features guest appearances by Clapton, Phil Collins, Phillip Bailey, Kirk Whalum, Chick Corea and others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiYIYsf9A-c

 


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