The excellent Gridironnow.com website has come out with its post-spring practice power rankings for the 14 Southeastern Conference teams. Alabama, as you would expect, was ranked #1 but surprisingly, the site lists Florida as its #3 team.
Here are the post-spring practice rankings for the SEC:
6. Texas A&M
8. Mississippi State
10. South Carolina
12. Ole Miss
Opinion: It’s difficult to disagree with the choice of Alabama Inc. at #1. Nick Saban is 119-19 in 11 years at Alabama and 76-8 since that “disastrous” 10-3 team in 2010 ... Auburn is probably a safe pick for #2 but the Tigers are going to have to score a lot of points to compensate for the loss of a lot of defensive talent. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham will probably be the preseason All-SEC quarterback … Florida is a very safe pick at #3 and if Malik Zaire is allowed to transfer in (expect the SEC to change the rule that will allow him to transfer at the spring meetings in Destin in three weeks), Florida might be a strong #2. Even with seven defensive players drafted, don’t expect much of a dropoff with Randy Shannon coordinating that side of the ball … LSU is somewhat of a mystery and not because of Coach O but because no one believes Danny Etling can get the job done at QB. If Etling or one of those stud freshman QBs can make the offense two-dimensional (we know the Tigers can run the ball), LSU could challenge Alabama for the top spot … I can’t see Georgia, Texas A&M or Tennessee doing any better than 8-4. An 8-4 at Tennessee and Texas A&M could result in regime change. Vol fans aren’t happy with Butch Jones and anything less than 10 wins probably jettisons Kevin Sumlin at A&M … If Mississippi State can find a defense, Dan Mullen will surprise everybody. Again. He’s got a stud QB in Nick Fitzgerald … I like South Carolina to continue to improve and be more middle of the pack. QB Jake Bentley is going to wow folks this year … Kentucky will have a hard time repeating last year’s bowl success as will Vanderbilt. Kentucky has no defense and Vandy has no offense … Arkansas and Missouri are probably going to be improved but by how much? Figure they’ll go to a bowl but you can do that with a 6-6 record … That brings us to Ole Miss. If Hugh Freeze survives the date with the NCAA Committee on Infractions this summer, the Rebels will be very good but they have self-imposed a bowl ban. Ole Miss seems to be going with the Tammy Wynette (“Stand by Your Man”) defense. There are no indications they will fire Freeze unless the NCAA threatens some seriously harsh penalties if he remains on the job.
Here is Gridironnow.com’s all too early preseason top 25 for the nation:
1. Florida State
3. Southern Cal
4. Ohio State
6. Oklahoma State
8. Penn State
18. North Carolina State
20. Kansas State
23. South Florida
24. Washington State
GATORS TAKE DOWN FAMU, 8-7
Since dropping the first two games of the weekend series to lowly Tennessee back in early April, Florida has turned things around. The 7th-ranked Gators (31-13, 13-8 SEC) have won 11 of their last 13 games and five in a row after Tuesday night’s 8-7 win over Florida A&M at McKethan Stadium.
Freshman Garrett Milchin was the player of the game Tuesday night. As the designated hitter, he hit a 3-run homer as part of Florida’s 5-run fourth inning and then hit a sacrifice fly in the 2-run seventh for what proved to be the game-winning run. Additionally, Milchin came on to pitch in the ninth inning in relief of Frank Rubio and though he gave up a couple of hits and a wild pitch, managed to work his way out of a jam to record the first save of his career.
The Gators will be home again tonight when they face Jacksonville. JU beat the Gators 3-2 back on February 21.
ROBINSON INVITED TO NBA COMBINE
Devin Robinson is one of 60 players invited to the NBA combine, which will be held in Chicago May 9-14. Because the NBA Draft lasts only two rounds, an invitation to the combine is considered a sign that a player is being strongly considered by more than one team.
It’s unlikely that Robinson would go in a first round that will be loaded with freshman one-and-dones and a strong group of international players, but scouts have taken note of the fact he can guard three positions defensively and has above average ball handling skills which will improve his chances of going in the second round and sticking with a team. If undrafted, Robinson would be a prime candidate for an NBA two-way contract that would allow him to play in the Developmental League while being subject to call up to an NBA team for as many as 45 days during the season. That contract pays substantially better (approximately $275,000) than a straight D-League deal ($12,000-24,000).
BARNHILL SEC PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Kelly Barnhill is SEC softball’s pitcher of the week after a 2-hit, 12-strikeout shutout of Tennessee that raised her record to 21-0 and dropped her nation-leading ERA to 0.16. With the 7-inning complete game, Barnhill extended her scoreless streak to 50-1/3 innings. Barnhill has thrown 11 shutouts this season and has been named SEC Pitcher of the Week five times.
The #1-ranked Gators (46-4, 20-3 SEC) won their third straight SEC championship over the weekend. Tonight they travel to Tallahassee to face #2 Florida State (47-3).
MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT THE DRAFT
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly won the Mr. Irrelevant title when he was the very last player selected in the 2017 draft but he might have the last and longest laugh of all. The two quarterbacks on the Denver roster are Trevor Siemian, who didn’t wow anyone last year, and Paxton Lynch, who some question whether he has the mental makeup to be a starting QB in the NFL. And then there is Kelly, who is more athletic than either Siemian or Lynch and certainly has more big play ability. There are health and character concerns but if Kelly stays healthy and puts those off the field issues distant in his rear view, then Denver might have its quarterback for years to come. This is a guy who lit up Alabama three straight seasons.
Since we’re on the subject of quarterbacks, I think Houston has its guy for the future in Clemson Deshaun Watson and I think the Cleveland Browns will still be looking for a QB next year. Watson consistently beat the best competition in college football. Kizer should have stayed in school and hasn’t proven much of anything.
Jacksonville has its running back of the future in Leonard Fournette. No one doubts Fournette has the ability to be a star in the league. The doubts are all with the offensive line. Alabama’s Cam Robinson was taken in the second round and he will benefit from coaching by Pat Flaherty, who Tom Coughlin brought in when he took over running the team.
Don’t be surprised if LSU wide receiver Malachi Dupre ends up being a star in Green Bay. He was taken in the seventh round largely due to questions about his willingness to fight for the football. Word is he’s very coachable, however, and there are very few teams that coach up their wide receivers better than the Packers, who have a habit of turning obscure guys into very productive pass catchers for Aaron Rodgers.
The Tampa Bay Bucs certainly helped Jameis Winston by adding tight end O.J. Howard of Alabama and Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin to go with established receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. The question for the Bucs is who’s going to run the football? Doug Martin is suspended for substance abuse the first four games and draft pick Jeremy McNichols of Boise State is underwhelming.
The draft was over Saturday. I’m still miffed that the San Francisco 49ers took Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard in the third round. I still remember him being picked off three times by the Gators in the Outback Bowl.
Other than Oklahoma, which simply reloads every year, the Big 12 Conference has some real problems with talent as the draft proved. The conference had only two more draft picks in seven rounds than the SEC had in the first round alone. The SEC had 53 overall picks. The Big 12 had 14.
SABAN SIGNS 3-YEAR EXTENSION
Nick Saban signed a 3-year extension to his contract that will keep him at the University of Alabama until 2025. With the $4 million signing bonus he received, Saban will make more than $11 million next year which means he will be paid 92 times more than the governor of the state of Alabama. Saban’s base pay is $6.75 million but it’s loaded with performance bonuses and completion bonuses. Simply by coaching to the end of the season the next two years, he’ll get a $400,000 check each year. That raises to $800,000 the two years after that and if he completes the 2021 season he’ll get a $3.6 million completion bonus. There are all sorts of other bonuses mixed in.
This was also payday for Alabama’s assistant coaches, who collectively make nearly $6 million. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a raise to $1.3 million and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will make $1.2 million. Linebackers coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi got a $400,000 raise to $950,000. That salary would rank #73 nationally if Lupoi were a head coach. Wide receivers coach Mike Locksley, who made $35,000 as an administrative assistant last year, will be paid $600,000 and has a 2-year contract.
What happened at Fenway Park Monday night was disgraceful. Boston Red Sox fans hurled racial epithets at Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and later threw a bag of peanuts at him when he was standing near the third base dugout. Approximately 30 fans were ejected from Fenway. Jones said by no means is this the first time something like this has happened in Boston. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, speaking to ESPN, said, “When you go to Boston, expect it … I’ve never been called the ‘N-word’ anywhere but Boston.”
It is entirely possible Kentucky will finish recruiting for 2017 on an 0-4 streak. The Wildcats whiffed last week on Mark Smith (6-5, 220, Edwardsville, IL), who signed with Illinois and they could very well lose out on Kevin Knox (6-9, 220, Tampa, FL Catholic), Mohamed Bamba (7-0, 210, Harlem, NY Westtown School) and Pitt graduate transfer Cameron Johnson (6-7, 215). Kentucky and Missouri have allegedly been eliminated by Knox, who still has North Carolina, Duke and FSU on his radar. Bamba was once thought to be a mortal lock to UK but he’s considered a very strong lean now to Shaka Smart and Texas. Johnson is the veteran shooter the Wildcats need and has two years of eligibility remaining but he still has visits planned to Ohio State, Arizona, UCLA and Oregon. Think Arizona. Johnson’s dad was a college teammate at Pitt of Zona coach Sean Miller.
Tennessee quarterback Sheriron Jones has received his release so he can transfer out. Jones finished the spring third behind Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Gurantano.
Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield was arrested for marijuana possession after a resident assistant called campus police after smelling smoke coming from a suite which Holyfield shares with two other football players. When police arrived and knocked on the door, Holyfield claimed he had no idea what they were talking about. A search warrant was obtained and a bong pipe was found along with a box containing marijuana. Holyfield claims he had no idea how marijuana found its way into his room.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Where would you rate the Gators in the post-spring practice SEC power rankings and where would you rank them in an all-too-early national top 25?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Tuesday I needed something mellow to listen to and there’s no one more mellow than James Taylor. Today’s music is his concert at the 2013 North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands. The festival has taken place annually since the 1970s. I went there when it was held in The Hague, but it has since been moved to Rotterdam. If you’re ever going to Europe for the summer and want to take in great music, then I highly recommend North Sea and/or Montreux in Switzerland. This year’s North Sea (July 7-9) will feature Steve Winwood, Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Van Morrison among others.