Back in 2006, when the Larry Coker magic had pretty much run its course, the University of Miami defense kept the Hurricanes competitive. Randy Shannon’s crew allowed only 255.5 yards and just 15.5 points per game for a team that finished 7-6.
That’s the year that should tell you everything you need to know about Randy Shannon, who is now Florida’s defensive coordinator. With very little help from an offense that averaged only 313.5 yards per game, Shannon’s defense was playing in a hole most of the season yet the Canes were only outclassed once and that loss to then 12th-ranked Louisville had more to do with bad play at quarterback than poor defense.
Miami gave up only 67.8 rushing yards per game and got to the quarterback for 38 sacks.
What Miami did in 2006 is relevant to Florida in 2017.
Although it’s expected Florida’s offense will be vastly improved, we haven’t seen decent quarterback play in years. With a redshirt freshman almost certain to pilot the team, the offense could tank just as it did in 2015 and 2016 leaving it up to the defense to pick up the slack. For the past two seasons, Florida’s defense has been stout, largely because, for all practical purposes, Will Muschamp left behind an NFL defense. Just look at the former Gators who played in the league last year and then take a look at the upcoming draft where as many as eight Gators could hear their names called.
That means a revamped defense for 2017 and it comes in a year in which (a) Shannon is in is first year as UF’s coordinator and (b) we still don’t know if the offense will be that much better than it’s been the last two seasons. You should be far more concerned with the offense than the defense.
Just look what Shannon did with the UF defense in the Outback Bowl. Yes, I know that Iowa wasn’t one of the great offensive teams you’ll ever see, but that was a team with a pair of backs who combined for 2,000 rushing yards and it’s a team that did beat Michigan. The Florida defense was a M*A*S*H unit minus both starting safeties and all three starting linebackers.
Iowa managed only 3 points, 226 yards and 14 first downs. The Hawkeyes threw for only 55 yards and that was with a veteran quarterback who threw for 5,600 yards and 40 touchdowns in his career. C.J. Beathard still hasn’t figured out what defense the Gators were in. Yes, it was Iowa, but in these days and times, holding any team to 3 points and 226 yards is an accomplishment.
Consider the Outback Bowl a sign of things to come. Shannon’s calling card at Miami, especially in 2006, was a fast, unpredictable defense. That year nobody knew when the blitz was coming or where it was coming from and the Hurricanes were famous for showing man and playing zone or vice versa. The Canes were all about pressure, which is what you should expect of the Florida defense in 2017.
Be optimistic but concerned about the Florida offense next season but the defense should be the least of your concerns. Florida has the right guy calling the shots and his history tells you the Gators will be fierce.
UF GYMNASTICS NEED TOP THREE FINISH IN EVENING SESSION
This is how it works at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, which start this afternoon in St. Louis. Twelve teams – two from each regional – make the championships. There are two sessions on Friday with six teams in each session. The top three from each session advance to the Super Six on Saturday and that’s when the championship is decided.
The Gators go into the championships ranked #3 nationally (Oklahoma is #1 and LSU #2). The Gators will be in the evening semifinal with #2 LSU, #6 Alabama, #7 Michigan, #10 Georgia and #14 Nebraska. The afternoon session will have #1 Oklahoma, #4 Utah, #5 UCLA, #8 Oregon State, #9 Denver and #13 Washington.
OTHER UF SPORTS: Florida’s #1-ranked women’s tennis team (20-1, 10-1 SEC) can win the SEC regular season championship this weekend when they hit the road to face #13 Kentucky (Friday) and #5 Vanderbilt (Sunday) … Fresh off their 1-0 win over #2 Florida State, the 3rd-ranked Gators (38-2, 13-1 SEC) head to Lexington to face #22 Kentucky (25-11, 5-7 SEC) in a key SEC softball series ... Florida’s #3 lacrosse team (12-2, 6-0 Big East) is on the road for a Big East Conference game with Butler (1-13, 0-6 Big East) Saturday … The 16th-ranked men’s tennis team (14-8, 7-3 SEC) is home this weekend against Mississippi State today and Auburn on Sunday ... Ronni Williams, who led the SEC in scoring last season, was selected by the Indiana Fever with the 22nd overall pick in the WNBA Draft Thursday night.
SEC SPRING FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: As if another stud running back is needed, early enrollee Najee Harris has caught the attention of SEC Network analyst and former Bama QB Greg McElroy, who told Paul Finebaum that Harris is a “big, physical, bruising runner” who “looks like he’s 28 years old.”
Arkansas: Although new coordinator Paul Rhoads had to be concerned when his defense was gouged for 480 yards in last Saturday’s scrimmage, offensive coordinator Dan Enos was quite pleased that his line consistently opened gaping holes even without center Frank Ragnow, who has been held out of scrimmage situations as a precaution. In the scrimmage Rawleigh Williams III ran for 189 yards.
Auburn: Al Borges, who was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2004-07 has been hired as an offensive analyst by Gus Malzahn. Borges spent the last two years as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at San Jose State.
Georgia: Sophomore kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who threatened to transfer back in January, has locked down the job during spring practice and apparently is content with his lot in life. Preferred walkon kicker Mitchell Wasson, who chose Georgia over Alabama and redshirted in 2016, will transfer out.
Kentucky: Drew Barker has had a good spring but will be held out of Saturday’s spring game as a precaution. Barker was the starting quarterback last year until he injured his back and had to undergo surgery. Stephen Johnson, who took over at QB for Barker and led the Wildcats to their first bowl game in five years, is the unquestioned starter as spring football concludes ... Former UK wide receiver Jeff Badet (31 catches, 670 yards, 4 TDs in 2016) has signed with Oklahoma. He’s a graduate and will be eligible immediately.
LSU: Linebacker Donnie Alexander had successful surgery for a torn labrum. He’s expected to be back at full speed in the fall.
Mississippi State: The kicking game has been a constant source of stress for Dan Mullen. It might be for 2017 also but beyond that Mullen might have solved his problems. Committing to Mississippi State last weekend was Evan McPherson, who Kohl’s kicking regards as the best overall kicker in the nation and the ninth best punter.
Missouri: For J’Mon Moore, who caught 50 passes for 805 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2016, to have an All-SEC type of season in 2017, he’s got to find a way to cut down on the drops. Last year he dropped 12 passes, two of which wound up in the hands of an opposing defensive back for an interception.
Ole Miss: Starting left guard Javon Patterson has undergone shoulder surgery but is expected to make a full recovering in time for the season opener with South Alabama on September 2.
South Carolina: Defensive end Boosie Whitlow, who announced in February that he would be leaving, will transfer to Louisville where he will have two years of eligibility after sitting out next season.
Tennessee: Mike Vollmar became the third associate AD to leave UT now that John Currie has taken over the athletic program.
Texas A&M: Wide receiver Kirk Merritt has been reinstated to the team. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to two Texas A&M tutors within a 24-hour span back in October. Merritt admits he exposed himself but claims it was due to a severe case of jock itch. Merritt transferred to A&M from Oregon and sat out last season. This is a story that isn’t going to go away anytime soon and not exactly the kind of thing a coach on the hot seat (Kevin Sumlin) needs to be dealing with when many of the money boosters are calling for his head if he can’t improve on the 8-5 mark of the last three seasons.
Vanderbilt: Sean Auwae (6-4, 308) did enough during spring practice that he will be the lead candidate to start at center in the fall. Vandy is trying to replace Barrett Gouger, who was a three-year starter.
RATING THE SEC BASKETBALL COACHES
Shehan Jeyarajah of the seccountry.com staff came out with his rankings of the basketball coaches in the SEC Thursday. It’s no surprise that John Calipari of Kentucky and Frank Martin of South Carolina would rank 1-2, but the rest of his rankings are puzzling to say the least.
1. Calipari, Kentucky; 2. Martin, South Carolina; 3. Ben Howland, Mississippi State; 4. Mike White, Florida; 5. Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt; 6. Bruce Pearl, Auburn; 7. Mike Anderson, Arkansas; 8. Avery Johnson, Alabama; 9. Rick Barnes, Tennessee; 10. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss; 11. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M; 12. Mark Fox, Georgia; 13. Cuonzo Martin, Missouri; 14. Will Wade, LSU
Here is how I rate them:
1. John Calipari, Kentucky: Say what you will about all those one-and-dones, but he actually can coach.
2. Frank Martin, South Carolina: I’m not sure anyone gets his players to play harder for an extended period of time. South Carolina is here to stay.
3. White, Florida: He got the Gators to the Elite Eight WITHOUT John Egbunu. Enough said.
4. Rick Barnes, Tennessee: He inherited a mess but he can flat out coach.
5. Bruce Pearl, Auburn: See Rick Barnes. Auburn is on the verge of being very, very good.
6. Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt: I’m surprised he didn’t take the Indiana job. It was his for the taking.
7. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss: The fact that he wins 20 games every year at a school where it is virtually impossible to recruit to tells you something.
8. Avery Johnson, Alabama: After all those years in the NBA he’s just about got this college thing figured out and next year he will have players.
9. Mark Fox, Georgia: Considering Georgia plays in an absolute dump, it’s no wonder the good kids in Atlanta don’t even think about going to Athens. But, this guy really can coach.
10. Ben Howland, Mississippi State: He got run off at UCLA. How do you get run off at UCLA when you’ve got all that talent and 20 million people within a 100-mile radius of your campus?
11. Mike Anderson, Arkansas: He’s made it to the NCAA Tournament twice in six years. Sorry but I’m not impressed.
12. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M: He’s actually a really good coach, but he was a whole lot better when he had Rick Stansbury sitting in the #2 seat.
13. Cuonzo Martin, Missouri: The Tigers will be much improved in 2017-18 because Martin has the nation’s top recruit. But what happens after Larry Porter Jr. one-and-dones to the NBA? Mizzou will be a 20-15 team. That’s what Martin’s teams always do.
14. Will Wade, LSU: They’re excited about him at LSU and maybe he’ll be just the right guy, but I haven’t seen that he’s ready for prime time.
Dan Rooney died. He was class personified as the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If more owners would emulate Rooney, I doubt seriously that Roger Goodell would be the commissioner.
In his 3-round mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay has six Gators being selected: Jarrad Davis (first round, #23 overall to the New York Giants), Quincy Wilson (first round, #28 to Dallas), Marcus Maye (second round, #50 to Tampa Bay), Jalen Tabor (second round, #56 to Oakland) and Alex Anzalone (third round, #94 to Pittsburgh).
The NCAA Division I Council is expected to vote today on a package of rule changes that will address satellite camps, early official visits and the addition of a 10th assistant coach.
Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock is being treated for bone cancer. The 77-year-old Brock had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2015 due to complications from diabetes. As good as Rickey Henderson was, the most disruptive baserunner I ever saw in Major League Baseball was Lou Brock.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Who would you rate as the top 10 coaches in college football heading into the 2017 season?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I listened today to 10,000 Maniacs’ 1993 album “Our Time in Eden” which went double platinum. From 1981-93 when Natalie Merchant was the vocalist, 10,000 Maniacs put on a really great show. When Natalie left the band in 1993, Mary Ramsey took over on vocals but it has never been the same. Today’s music is a recording of a 1993 live performance at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.