A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning.
SPRING REVIEW: SAFETIES
We start with that dreaded word potential. We can’t talk much about experience when we’re talking about Florida’s safeties because other than Jabari Gorman, there isn’t a lot of it. Potential? That’s a different story because Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye, Marcell Harris and Nick Washington are big, physical guys with speed and ability. Neal is probably the best combination of size, speed and hitting ability if he’s healthy. He nursed bad hamstrings in the spring so he needs to get that issue resolved before fall practice begins. Harris has had to battle through knee injuries, but he was healthy in the spring and showed that he’s an enforcer in the middle of the field. Maye is another good sized kid who brings plenty to the table in terms of speed and physicality. Washington has good cover skills from his days as a corner. Gorman was solid although unspectacular last year. Like Washington, he’s a good cover guy. There is plenty to like about this group in terms of size, speed and athletic ability. The question is can they overcome their lack of experience as Florida’s last line of defense? Trending: Treading water.
RHODES DOMINATES, GATORS TAKE SERIES WITH MIZZOU
Aaron Rhodes (5-2, 2.08 ERA) gave up a two-out double in the second inning and that was all Missouri (19-23, 6-14 SEC) was going to get Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium as Florida (29-15, 14-6 SEC) extended its lead to three games over South Carolina (33-11, 11-9 SEC) in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference. Rhodes got plenty of offensive support from Casey Turgeon, who drove in two runs with a pair of singles, and Zach Powers, who hit a solo homer to right field in the seventh inning. The Gators maintained a one-game lead over Alabama (29-14, 13-7 SEC) in the race for the regular season SEC championship and the #1 seed in the SEC Tournament. Florida has won seven straight SEC games and with the win Saturday, clinched its third straight weekend series.
HE’S NOT ANOTHER AL, BUT HE CERTAINLY CAN HELP
It would be unfair to compare Jon Horford to older brother Al, who is one of the two or three best players in Florida basketball history. Al was the total package and almost an extension of Billy Donovan on the floor because he had such a high basketball IQ. Younger brother Jon, who will be transferring to Florida where he will be eligible to play immediately once he graduates from Michigan in a few weeks, has the high IQ but he’s doesn’t have Al’s skill set on the offensive end, nor is he a shot blocking presence on the defensive end. What Jon brings to the Florida table is an experienced defender who relies on positioning to play effectively and a guy who doesn’t miss block out assignments. Guys like that create as many rebounds for teammates as they get themselves. Horford may not ever start a game for the Gators, but he gives UF an experienced player knows and understands his role and the need to give effective minutes coming off the bench. You wouldn’t call this a home run transfer but you definitely would call it a solid addition.
BAMA DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OVERRATED?
Mel Kiper seems to think so. Speaking on an ESPN conference call last Wednesday, Kiper said, “There have been a host of players out of that Alabama defense that over the years have come in as high draft choices and, frankly, been major disappointments. Among the NFL Draft busts off the Alabama defense cited by Kiper were Rolando McClain, Kareem Jackson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Terrence Cody. Kiper says one of the reasons the Bama players might not be as good as advertised when they get to the league is because they’ve gotten such good coaching that they’ve hit their ceiling and “they’re as good as they’re going to get.” Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and C.J. Mosley are both projected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft in a couple of weekends.
A HINT ABOUT NORTHWESTERN
We don’t know the result of the vote by 76 Northwestern University football players on Friday, but team captain and center Brandon Vitabile has perhaps given us the best hint of how the team voted. Speaking to ESPN’s Darren Rove, Vitabile said, “I understand the assumption people make that all student-athletes are mistreated, but the majority of us realize we’re not in that group. What me and a lot of our teammates discovered is that the change wouldn’t happen here. It would happen on the broad landscape. So why would we sacrifice all the relationships we have here with the staff and the university that we love – a program and university that, as of a team, all of us have been given everything we were promised?” Vitabile also ripped the notion posed by former Northwestern quarterback Kane Colter that the coaching staff was pressuring players to vote no to the union. “No coach or anyone from the school has ever pressured us,” Vitabile said.
BIG TEN SCHOOLS WILL MAKE $45 MILLION FROM TV DEAL
The Big Ten’s new television deal is going to be monstrous. According to the Lafayette (IN) Courier and Journal, it will be worth $44.5 million to 12 of the 14 schools in the league in 2017-18. Rutgers, which comes over from the American Athletic Conference, and Maryland, from the Atlantic Coast Conference, won’t get full shares until the 2020-21 school year. The 2014 payout – scheduled to hit bank accounts on June 30 – will be for $27 million per school. The Southeastern Conference distributed $289 million to its 14 schools in 2013. Those revenues are expected to jump by at least 50% with the advent of the SEC Network, which kicks off in August, but it remains to be seen if the SEC can catch the Big Ten by 2018.
HAEGER TO THE RESCUE
Lauren Haeger got the job done with her bat and her arm Saturday to lead 3rd-ranked Florida (42-9, 12-8 SEC) to a 9-4 win over 15th-ranked Missouri (37-13, 13-7 SEC). Haeger (8-1, 1.88 ERA) pitched seven innings of 6-hit, scoreless relief after coming on in the first for Delanie Gourley, who gave up four runs without registering a single out. At the plate, Haeger hit two home runs and drove in five as the Gators evened the series at one game apiece. Brianna Little added a 3-run homer. The Gators go for the series win today at 11 a.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Elsewhere in Florida sports: The Gators improved 11 strokes and moved into 10th place at the SEC Championships at St. Simon’s Island. Florida is 13-over after two days, 35 shots behind Alabama, which has a 17-shot lead over Auburn and South Carolina, which are tied for second.
QUESTION FOR TODAY
The question for today comes from V. Schneider, who asks, “I know that it is impossible to try and determine all of the impacts of unionization, but I ask if it might be possible that college players could play longer than four years if they are still students/employees? The four-year eligibility limit could be argued as being something that is arbitrarily imposed on employees and the players (employees) may need to continue to earn their salary.”
You raise an interesting question that I had not thought about. I don’t know labor law, but it would seem that scholarships would become employment contracts that are valid for four years of eligibility. On the other hand, if a player has not completed his degree and wishes to continue playing, would it be a violation of his right to earn a living if he were refused more eligibility? If the National Labor Relations Board rules that college athletes are employees it is going to create untold problems. For example, if athletes are employees are the employers bound to have an equal number of men and women on the payroll? Will schools be able to say that only the athletes in sports that pay for themselves can be employees and eliminate scholarships in all the non-revenue sports? Will a ruling that athletes are employees put an end to Title IX? I can think of about 50 more questions off the top of my head.
Each day one question will be chosen as Question for Today. Submit your question to: email@example.com
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Carole King’s “Tapestry” remains one of my favorite albums of all time. The 1971 release won four Grammy awards – Album of the Year; Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”), Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”), and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. The album reached #1 and produced two #1 songs in “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move.” I always thought the two best songs were “You’ve Got a Friend” and “So Far Away.” Today’s song is “So Far Away” which is chosen after talking Saturday to a friend of mine whose husband is deployed overseas in the military.