Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; May 10

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

The purpose of the newly enacted early signing period that run from December 20-22 is to take some of the pressure off kids by offering them a chance to end the recruiting hassles early. On paper it sounds really good. In real life it might have just the opposite effect.

Use the recruiting class of 2016 as the perfect example. ESPN reports that 189 kids de-committed one school and flipped to another in January of 2016. Some of those kids flipped from one Power 5 program to another but a whole bunch of them were committed to Group of 5 programs. For a variety of reasons – kids chose another school, kids were flipped, scholarship offers were pulled – there were unexpected openings and kids got an offer to a program they perceived as better than the one they were committed to.

It’s stuff like that which made January leading up to National Signing Day so much fun but with the newly enacted early signing period, a lot of the NSD luster will be gone. Not the pressure, though.

For some kids, the early signing period will be a chance to end all the phone calls and text messages. By signing that LOI in December, they’ll be able to move on with whatever is next without coaches playing one school against the other and questioning where they’re going to fit on the depth chart or if the coach they’re committed to will even be employed in a year or two. Early signing is a great idea for the kids who plan to enroll early so they can participate in spring practice.

But because so many kids are flipped every year, the pressure will ratchet up several notches to get kids to sign early. Once that LOI is signed, it’s too late to consider another school so there is likely to be a rush to get as many kids signed as possible. A crafty coach will try to get 18-20 kids signed early so he can concentrate on those 5-7 studs who are intent on taking all their visits and playing the hat game before the student body and on ESPN on National Signing Day.

Also, if a lot of kids sign early with the Power 5 schools, there will be fewer opportunities for kids committed to Group of 5 schools to get that last minute offer to sign with a school whose games are always on national television. You can bet the farm that the Group of 5 coaches will also be pressuring as many kids as possible to sign early to keep them from being flipped to a Power 5 school in January.

The new rule isn’t the end of the world and it won’t have a chaotic effect, but by no means is it going to eliminate the pressure on kids. If anything a new era of recruiting pressure is about to be ushered in.

One other rule worth noting is that starting April 1, 2018, kids will be able to take early official visits.

BARNHILL, WALTON EARN TOP SEC HONORS

Florida ace Kelly Barnhill (22-1, 0.33), the national leader in ERA, and head coach Tim Walton were honored Monday as the SEC handed out its annual softball awards. Barnhill, one of six Gators to earn first team All-SEC, was named Pitcher of the Year, and Walton, who guided the Gators to the SEC title and their ninth 50-win season in his 12 years at the helm, was named Coach of the Year.

Joining Barnhill on the first team were pitcher Delanie Gourley, first baseman Kayli Kvistad, second baseman Nicole DeWitt, left fielder Amanda Lorenz and designated player/utility Aleshia Ocasio, who plays right field and third base in addition to a spot in the Florida pitching rotation. The six first team selections was the most the Gators have had in any season in program history.

Named to the second team was center fielder Justine McLean. DeWitt was named to the All-Defensive team and shortstop Sophia Reynoso was named to the All-Freshman team.

The Gators earned a first team bye in the SEC Softball Tournament, which begins today in Knoxville. Thursday, the Gators will face the winner of today’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State game at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.

Even with their loss last week to Florida State, the Gators remained #1 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.  Also in the top 25 from the SEC are #7 Tennessee, #8 Auburn, #11 Texas A&M, #16 Alabama, #18 Kentucky, #19 Ole Miss, #21 LSU and #23 South Carolina.

WOMEN’S GOLF TEAM HOLDS SECOND ROUND LEAD IN REGIONAL

Emily Glaser has her very hot Florida women’s golf team peaking at just the right time. Heading into today’s final round of the NCAA Columbus Regional, the SEC champion Gators hold a one-stroke lead over host Ohio State and a seven-shot lead over third place Florida State. The Gators followed up a Monday best 9-over par with a 5-over 293 on Tuesday for a two-day total of 590.

Kelly Grassel carded three back nine birdies Tuesday to slide into a tie for fourth on the individual leaderboard at 146. Marta Perez (148) is tied for 12th, with Taylor Tomlinson (150) tied for 18th and Karolina Vickova (151) tied for 22nd.

#23 USF KNOCKS OFF #5 GATORS, 15-10

The Gators (35-14) saw their nine-game winning streak end Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium when #23 South Florida pounded out a 15-10 win. The Gators used seven pitchers, five of which were freshmen. South Florida used a six-run third inning to break out to an 8-1 lead and the Bulls kept adding to it the rest of the game. Florida rallied for two runs in the eighth and five in the ninth but it was too little, too late.

JJ Schwarz hit his seventh homer of the season and Jonathan India hit his fifth of the year, his second since returning last weekend from the injured list. 

SEC TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS BEGIN THURSDAY

The #2-ranked Florida men’s track and field team will be one of the favorites when the Southeastern Conference holds its outdoor championship meet in Columbia, South Carolina starting on Thursday. Texas A&M, whose men and women are both ranked #1, is the favorite to bring home both trophies. Florida’s women are ranked #8 nationally.

SEC BASKETBALL UPDATE

Florida has offered 2018 small forward Darius Bazley (6-8, 195, Cincinnati, OH Princeton). Bazley also has offers from Xavier, Ohio State, Purdue and Maryland.

LSU now has a vacant scholarship to offer to Lehigh graduate transfer Brandon Alston. A week after Kieran Hayward transferred out, opening up a scholarship for North Texas grad transfer Jeremy Combs, Branden Jenkins announced he will transfer out, putting the Tigers one under the scholarship limit. Alston (6-5, 200) averaged 6.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game last season.

Auburn has offered Mount St. Mary’s transfer Miles Wilson (6-5, 190). Wilson averaged 11.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. Wilson would have to sit next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Auburn is two under the scholarship limit and is looking to add a graduate transfer.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

CBSSports.com is currently ranking the 65 Power 5 football coaches. Tuesday, the rankings from 26-65 were released. Here are the SEC coaches: #27 Bret Bielema, Arkansas; #33 Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss; #37 Will Muschamp, South Carolina; #40 Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M; #48 Ed Orgeron, LSU; #53 Butch Jones, Tennessee; #53 Derek Mason, Vanderbilt; #54 Kirby Smart, Georgia; #56 Mark Stoops, Kentucky’ #63 Barry Odom, Missouri.

Coaches 26-65

Could we have a day without LaVar opening his very big mouth and inserting his foot? When told by Shannon Sharpe on Fox Sports 1 that “Michael Jordan couldn’t command [$495] for shoes,” LaVar answered, “Because he ain’t Lonzo Ball, that’s why. Did he have his own brand coming in? It’s a new era called the Ball Era.” This is the same LaVar Ball who once said he would have killed Jordan one-on-one when they were younger. When he played at Washington State, LaVar averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

Tim Tebow has signed a multi-year extension with ESPN. I have learned never to count Tebow out on anything, but I just can’t see that he will ever make it to the Major Leagues so having a fall back plan like ESPN seems like the smart thing to do.

Bristol County (MA) Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh followed precedent in her state by erasing the 2013 murder conviction of Aaron Hernandez. Defendants in Massachusetts who die before their appeal is heard generally have their convictions vacated. Since there is no longer a murder conviction, it might be impossible for the family of Odin Lloyd to collect on a wrongful death lawsuit against the Hernandez estate, which includes a $1.3 million house.

Here is an interesting fact for you. There were 24 players selected from the state of Texas in the recent NFL Draft. Only seven of them played at Big 12 Conference schools. Here is another interesting fact about the Big 12. In the last five years, only Oklahoma made the top 20 in the scout recruiting rankings every year but the Sooners’ only foray into the top ten was 2017. From the rest of the Big 12, Oklahoma State made the top 25 rankings twice in the last five years and TCU made it once.   

The Missouri Valley Conference pulled off a minor shocker on Tuesday when it replaced the departed Wichita State (bolted to the American Athletic Conference) with Valparaiso of the Horizon League. A lot of folks thought Nebraska-Omaha or Murray State might be added. There won’t be any expansion as the MVC has elected to stay at 10 teams.

Former University of Kentucky football player Leon Smith, who worked as the basketball program’s director of operations from 2001-06 has been charged with 14 counts of fraud after allegedly swindling current and former NBA players out of as much as $1.298 million. Smith was also charged with aggravated identity theft and money laundering. If he’s found guilty on all the charges, he could be sentenced to more than 30 years in Club Fed.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Actually, several questions. The NBA Playoffs are in full swing. Already the Cleveland Cadavers and Golden State Warriors have swept their series and they await opponents for their conference championships. Have you watched any playoff games so far? Is this the time of year when you start watching the playoffs? Will you wait until the championship finals, likely a rematch of the Cadavers and Warriors? Or will you be tuned in to something like The Property Brothers on Home and Garden TV because it’s more exciting?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

I got to see Sly and the Family Stone live in the early 1970s when they were still a hot R&B group. Even though their hey day is long gone, I still love their funky soul. Last year they were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and Sly Stone was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Today’s music is a 2008 video of a concert they did at the Tokyo Jazz Festival.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F8n9Tf2rMA


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