A few thoughts to jump start your Valentine’s Day.
WHERE’S THE KICKER?
Am I the only one concerned that the Gators didn’t sign a kicker in their 2014 recruiting class? Considering the Gators went from almost automatic anytime they were within 55 yards in 2012 when Caleb Sturgis was doing the kicking to an almost automatic miss for anything beyond 30 yards in 2013 when the job was being passed from Austin Hardin to Brad Phillips to Frankie Velasquez, I would have thought that adding a kicker to the recruiting class would have been a priority. I have no question that the offense and offensive lines are going to improve significantly with the additions of Kurt Roper and Mike Summers to the coaching staff, but I have to think that unless new special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler minored in religion and is a certified football exorcist, that I’ll be holding my breath in the fall.
WHERE’S THE KICKER? PART II
Think back to the last second of regulation in the Auburn-Alabama game. Remember the missed 57-yard field goal that was run back for a game-winning touchdown by Auburn’s Chris Davis? That missed attempt is the one that evokes the bad memories for Bama fans, but lest we forget, prior to that last attempt Alabama had missed from 44, 33 and 44 yards. Make any one of those three and Davis would have never had the chance to become an Auburn legend. Alabama also had a punt blocked in the game. One would think that signing a placekicker would have been high on Nick Saban’s priority list for the most recently concluded signing class but Alabama either whiffed or didn’t think it was enough of a priority.
100 YEARS OF FLORIDA BASEBALL
It is the 100th season opener in Florida baseball history when the Gators open their 2014 baseball season at McKethan Stadium tonight against Maryland. This is a young Florida baseball team but as Gator Country’s baseball guru Nick de la Torre says, there is absolutely no lack for talent. There is no shortage of live arms that can throw hard and throw strikes, more speed than there was last year and substantially more pop in the bats. Nobody on the planet was more dismayed by last year’s 29-30 record than head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who, by all accounts, spent the entire offseason driven to ensure that nothing remotely close to that ever happens again. I’m looking for Karsten Whitson to come back in a big way from shoulder surgery to dominate on the mound this year and for third baseman Josh Tobias to harness all that talent and turn it into a seriously productive season.
A STRING OF TENS
That Florida’s gymnastics team is ranked #1 nationally is no surprise to anyone considering the Gators return much of the lineup that brought home the 2013 NCAA championship. What is a surprise is that the Gators have had at least one perfect 10 in each of the last three weeks – four in all – and they are still nowhere near their peak. Bridget Sloan and Kytra Hunter have both scored two perfect 10s but don’t be shocked if another one of Rhonda Faehn’s talented gymnasts hits that level of perfection tonight when the Gators host #11 Arkansas. If you’re planning to go to the O-Dome, get there early. The crowds for the two previous home meets have been huge.
THIS WOULD BE A BAD RULE
There is a proposal that would hold prevent a snap within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock to allow the defense to substitute except in the final two minutes of each half. The rules committee says it’s enhancing safety by allowing the subs, but who are they fooling? The people lobbying for this rule are the ones who not only play a lot of teams that run hurry-up offenses but don’t have the athletes to defend it. I think it’s a dumb rule proposal for two reasons: (1) What happens when a team falls behind by two or three touchdowns and feels that it has to go no-huddle to make a comeback? (2) Spreading the field and going no-huddle can even the playing field for a team that might not have as much talent. I think this would be a very stupid rule if implemented.
In their recently concluded recruiting classes, Tennessee signed 33 players, creating a bunch of questions about the NCAA cap of 85 scholarship football players. The Vols have 14 early enrolled to count against last year, but that still leaves them two – or three depending on whose count is accurate — over the cap, meaning either two will have to leave the program in the spring or else they will have to gray shirt. SEC commissioner Mike Slive has been railing against oversigning for the past three or four years and with good reason. I’m not saying that UT coach Butch Jones was untruthful with the kids he signed – he might have been perfectly honest and told them they might not be allowed to enroll in the summer – but it’s rare when there is oversigning that some kid isn’t hurt by the practice. Either some kid gets told his scholarship won’t be renewed or is told that he will have to sit out the whole fall and enroll in January. I’d like to see the SEC adopt rules that would eliminate the practice.
IF YOU HAVE THE #1 NFL PICK, WHO DO YOU TAKE?
Houston has the top pick for the May NFL Draft and it’s not an easy decision. On one hand, there is South Carolina’s stud defensive end Jadeveoon Clowney, whole on the other hand, there is Johnny Manziel from nearby Texas A&M. If it’s Clowney, the Texas have a bookend pass rusher to go with J.J. Watt, which could transform their defense if Clowney elects to play at a high level every single game. If it’s Manziel, you’ve got an X-factor playmaker who can drive opposing defenses crazy with his ability to turn busted plays into touchdowns or big gainers. If I had the pick, it’s a no-brainer and I take Johnny Football. I think Clowney has incredible talent and freakish athletic ability, but I’ve seen him take plays, quarters and full games off. I’ve never seen Johnny Football go in the tank and everything I read about him tells me that teammates would take bullets for him.
MINOR LEAGUERS SAY THEY ARE THE WORKING POOR
The minimum wage for Major League Baseball is $500,000 a year. Minor leaguers don’t have it quite so well. The typical minor leaguer makes $3,000-$7,500 a month for a five-month season, but some make much less. Since 1976 the average MLB salary has increased by 2000%. During the same time minor league salaries have only increased by 75%. Three minor leaguers have taken it upon themselves to sue Major League Baseball for higher wages, stating that MLB violates both wage and overtime laws. This is going to be interesting because baseball has the protection of anti-trust laws, which unilaterally allows it to set wages and working conditions. The minor leaguers are basing their suit on the Fair Labor Standards Act. If they win, it could force baseball to pay back wages for overtime, etc. to thousands of current and former minor leaguers. Stay tuned for this one. It should be quite interesting.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Valentine’s Day demands appropriate music and in my book, nothing is more appropriate than “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. Paul McCartney called this “the greatest song ever written.” This was the song that inspired McCartney to write “Here, There and Everywhere.”