Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; April 11

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

Let the anxiety begin!

Now that spring football is over and done with and we once again steamroll into the summer months without a clearcut number one quarterback, anxiety season has officially begun for the Gator Nation. While our fine friends up in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Starkville, Oxford, Fayetteville, Columbia (twice), Nashville, Lexington and even Baton Rouge have settled on a quarterback, the Gators will once again torture even their most diehard fans for months as we await the start of a new football season.

They have quality quarterbacks everywhere else it seems but Gainesville. Florida’s quarterbacks are talented and quality kids but the guys we saw in the spring game have never taken a snap in a college game that counted and the only quarterback on the roster who has just had shoulder surgery. Not trying to knock Luke Del Rio here, but he didn’t exactly wow us with a bazooka of an arm last spring and fall and now he’s supposed to come back from shoulder surgery by August.

Don’t go pawning your grandma’s sterling silver and then wagering the cash on Del Rio being anywhere close to being ready to go anytime soon. That leaves redshirt freshmen Feleipe (Ball Park) Franks and Kyle Trask, early enrollee freshman Kadarius Toney and freshman Jake Allen, who won’t arrive on campus until Summer B. One of those guys could be THE guy. One of those guys could tear it up in August and then rip and shred once the season begins for real against Michigan.

But we don’t know that now. And so we wait out another anxiety season.

That nearly everybody else has settled on a quarterback and the Gators haven’t would make for a fine conspiracy story about how a once dominant college football program went from 57-10 (two national championships and only one loss less than national co-leaders Texas and Boise State) from 2005-09 to 56-34 in the years since, which is tied for 34th nationally and a full 30 fewer wins than Alabama and 22 fewer than Florida State in the same time frame. Bama, FSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson and Oregon – just to name a few – have had more than one outstanding quarterback. Florida, meanwhile, hasn’t produced a single decent QB even though Jeff Driskell and Jacoby Brissett now earn NFL paychecks. Neither of them tore it up at Florida. Both of them transferred out and both of them owe their rather nice incomes to the fact they left what has become a quarterback graveyard and got a chance to show what they could do in a decent offense.

Folks may laugh at the revolving door of quarterback transfers and offensive coordinators in Tuscaloosa but Nick Saban doesn’t start a new season without someone capable of winning anywhere from 10-12 games during the regular season or without someone in the booth who can dial up the right play at the right time. For every 5-star stud who dreamed of leading the Crimson Tide to a national title before transferring out, there are plenty of kids who would crawl backwards to Tuscaloosa for a chance. Who else but Nick Saban could fire a record setting offensive coordinator, lose the guy who replaced him after one game, hire a new OC who has never called a college game and still be favored to win the national championship? Why, because there is serious talent at quarterback.

When you’re winning it seems you rarely run short of talent. When you’re 56-34 over the last seven seasons and you haven’t had a single quarterback throw for 2,500 yards or 20 touchdowns, you’re treading water in the SEC.

The Gators have somehow managed to win the last two SEC East titles without decent quarterback play. There is an explanation for that and it has to do with the fact the rest of the SEC East hasn’t exactly been blessed with second comings of Tom Brady either. Smoke and mirrors on offense and the equivalent of an NFL defense got the Gators to Atlanta but that’s it.

To win in Atlanta have to have better quarterbacking than what we’ve seen the last seven years. Franks has the arm and raw athletic ability. Trask has an even better arm but he lacks experience since he didn’t even start in high school. Toney has such playmaking ability that he has to be on the field somewhere even if it isn’t at quarterback. We can’t expect anything from Del Rio except some coaching up of the other guys and Allen won’t arrive on campus until Summer B.

The upside in all this is that this is the best accumulation of talent and the deepest UF has been at quarterback in years so while the anxiety season may have begun, there is reason to believe that Jim McElwain is about to drive the Gators out of the quarterback rut.

Until the fall, however, it is the anxiety season. Continue to bite your nails.

BARNHILL, GATORS COMPLETE SWEEP OF GEORGIA

Kelly Barnhill (15-0, 0.22 ERA) pitched a 2-hitter and struck out 14 as the 3rd-ranked Gators (37-2, 13-1 SEC) completed their sweep over Georgia (27-13, 2-10 SEC) with a 3-0 win at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium Monday night. With the win, the Gators opened up a 2-1/2 game lead over second place Texas A&M in the SEC standings.

Justine McLean preserved the shutout for Barnhill in the third inning when she charged a single up the middle and came up throwing, heaving a strike to catcher Janell Wheaton who applied the tag to Courtney Emmanuel for the third out of the inning. That was as close as Georgia came to scoring. The Bulldogs managed only one hit the rest of the way and had only three baserunners the entire game.

All the support Barnhill needed came in the bottom of the third when Nicole DeWitt was hit by a pitch and Kayli Kvistad followed with a towering home run over the right field fence. In the bottom of the sixth, Chelsea Herndon added some insurance with a homer to right center on a 3-2 count.

With a walk in the bottom of the fifth inning, sophomore Amanda Lorenz extended her streak of reaching base to 57 consecutive games.

Next up for the Gators is 2nd-ranked Florida State (38-1-1) Wednesday night at KSP.

GATORS TRAVEL TO TALLAHASEE

Although they had to win Sunday to avoid being swept at home by Tennessee, the Gators (21-11, 6-6 SEC) only dropped three spots to #10 in the USA Today Baseball Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Gators travel to Tallahassee tonight for the final game in their series with Florida State tonight. The Seminoles have nosedived all the way down to #25 in the poll with a 21-13 record.

SEC FOOTBALL NEWS

Alabama: The running backs are like a M*A*S*H unit. Bo Scarbrough (leg) and B.J. Emmons (foot) are in non-contact jerseys. Josh Jacobs has been slowed wit a thigh injury and Damien Harris is working his way through a sprained foot.

Arkansas: If the first scrimmage of the spring is any indication, Arkansas is going to have some serious issues with its run defense. The defense gave up 456 yards on 79 carries with Rawleigh Williams III and Devwah Whaley combining for 275.

Auburn: The A-Day Game drew 50,000 to Jordan-Hare Stadium where quarterback Jarrett Stidham lighting up the defense, hitting 16-20 passes for 267 yards. Stidham scored a TD on a 1-yard run and finished with 17 yards on 5 rushing attempts.

Georgia: Standouts at Georgia’s scrimmage on Saturday were quarterback Jacob Eason and tailback Brian Herrien. Regarding Eason, HBC Kirby Smart said, “He’s more confident in the pocket, he’s more confident in protections, his decision making is better and his accuracy has been better.”

Kentucky: Coordinator Eddie Gran didn’t have many kind words to say about his offense after Saturday’s scrimmage. “I told them that I was very disappointed and that they were awful,” Gran said
LSU: Defensive end Arden Key, missing this spring while taking what Coach O calls a “personal leave of absence” was seen at LSU’s scrimmage last Thursday. Still no word on when Key will be back with the team.

Mississippi State: The highlight of the spring game at Davis-Wade Stadium was give interceptions by the first team defense, under the direction of new coordinator Todd Grantham.

Missouri: Coordinator DeMontie Cross believes the Missouri defense is beginning to turn the corner after a season in which the Tigers gave up more than 31 points and nearly 500 yards per game. The Tigers play their spring game Saturday.

Ole Miss: Shea Patterson cemented his hold on the #1 quarterback job with a spring game performance of 21-30 passing for 341 yards and 2 TDs including a 76-yarder to A.J. Brown.

South Carolina: Jake Bentley went 19-31 for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns in the South Carolina spring game even without top targets Hayden Hurst (TE) and Deebo Samuels (WR) held out of the game.

Tennessee: Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop says that injuries to safety Todd Kelly Jr. (ankle) and end Jonathan Kongbo (sprained knee) don’t appear serious.

Texas A&M: Quarterbacks Nick Starkel, Kellen Mond and Jake Hubenak connected on 22-53 passes for 335 yards in the spring game. Hubenak, the only veteran of the group, was probably the most disappointing of the three.

TROUBLE IN ATHENS?

For Georgia fans, Seth Emerson’s piece at SECCountry.com entitled “Special Report: Are Georgia’s athletic programs in a state of malaise” is about as close as you’re going to get to a panic button being pushed. Since Georgia’s last football national championship (1980) and Final Four appearance (1983), archrival Florida has won three national championships in football (1996, 2006 2008) and played for another (1995) and won two national championships in basketball (2006-07), played for the championship in 2000 and made it to the Final Four in 1994 and 2014.

The Bulldogs used to rule the NCAA in gymnastics, but since Georgia’s last title, Alabama has won a national championship and Florida won three in a row (2013-15).

Georgia’s baseball team is one of two in the SEC with a losing record and the Bulldogs are poised to make it seven straight years without making the NCAA field.

The entire article paints a grim picture for Bulldog fans.

https://www.dawgnation.com/football/dawgnation/georgia-athletics-state-of-malaise?_ga=1.97249247.1763290077.1477948246

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson will transfer out of Memphis, which has also lost guard Markel Crawford to Kansas. The Lawson brothers will transfer to Kansas which automatically becomes the likely landing place for younger brother Chandler, one of the studs in the 2019 basketball recruiting class.

San Diego State basketball coach Steve Fisher, who won the NCAA championship at Michigan, has decided to retire per Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

Former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, father of former Cal coach and now TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, died Monday. He was 79.

Multiple Las Vegas sports books call Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold the favorite to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy with 5-1 odds. He’s followed by Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (7-1), Louisville QB (and current Heisman winner) Lamar Jackson (8-1), Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett (10-1), Washington QB Jake Browning (12-1), Florida State QB Deondre Francois (12-1), Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph (15-1) and UCLA QB Josh Rosen (15-1).

With 16 days until the NFL Draft, the stock of LSU running back Leonard Fournette is on the rise. After he ran a 4.51 40 at the combine, Fournette showed up at LSU’s pro day having lost 12 pounds. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports that Fournette’s stock is rising rapidly and he could even supplant Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett as the overall #1 with the Cleveland Browns.

For his Masters championship, Sergio Garcia earned $1,980,000. It wasn’t until 1988 that Curtis Strange became the first golfer on the PGA Tour to earn more than $1 million in a single year. Arnold Palmer became the first to earn $1 million in career earnings in 1968.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Spring football is winding down all over the SEC. What is your all-too-early prediction for the SEC East?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Digging through some music today that I hadn’t listened to in awhile, I found an old Moody Blues album. I almost forgot how good these guys were for such a long time. Today’s music is a remastered version of their 1974 double LP “This Is the Moody Blues.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9piiahsxV8U


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