A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning.
WITH 30 DAYS UNTIL SPRING PRACTICE BEGINS …
Here are two questions that will have to be answered during the 15 days in March and April that the Gators are allowed to practice: (1) Assuming that Andre Debose is once again healthy and able to practice, will he be as fast as ever and will new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper be able to shake off the cobwebs of neglect to find a place where he can contribute? Other than a few kickoff returns, it has been since 2011 that Debose was able to use his speed to stretch defenses. If he’s healthy and if Roper can do what Brent Pease either couldn’t or wouldn’t do in 2012 (Debose was injured last year) then the Gators have the deep threat who can force safeties to back off the line of scrimmage. What a concept – playing with the safeties out of the box. (2) Who will emerge as a legitimate threat off the edge to take the pressure off Dante Fowler Jr.? He is the only proven pass rusher but if no one emerges on the other side or in the middle of the line then he won’t ever see another one-on-one situation with a tackle.
AND THESE QUESTIONS FOR THE REST OF THE SEC …
James Franklin brought attitude to Vanderbilt and convinced both players and fans that the Commodores could not only compete but win in the SEC. Will new coach Derek Mason be able to build upon Franklin’s success or will the Commodores begin a backward slide that will return the to the bottom of the SEC East … Missouri should transition from quarterback James Franklin to Maty Mauk rather seamlessly, but the defense lost its major playmakers in Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Can Missouri find a pair of pass rushers like that? If not the Tigers are going to go from outstanding to average defensively … While the focus at Texas A&M is who will replace Johnny Football, the biggest loss for the Aggies might be wide receiver Mike Evans. Anytime Johnny Football was in trouble he just flung the ball in the direction of Evans, who was big enough and strong enough to emerge from crowds with ball in hand. Evans was as good a playmaker on the perimeter as there was in the country. Do the Aggies have anyone even remotely close to Evans in ability?
THE CASE FOR SCOTTIE WILBEKIN AS SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Besides being the best lock down defender on the perimeter in the Southeastern Conference, Wilbekin has become Mr. Clutch for the Gators, who are now ranked second nationally. Once a liability at the foul line late in the game, Wilbekin has emerged as the guy opponents do not want to foul. Take a look at the numbers from the line in Florida’s five toughest SEC games: Arkansas 8-10, Auburn 6-8, Missouri 13-16, Tennessee (second game in Knoxville) 11-12 and Kentucky 10-12. That’s 83.3% in Florida’s five toughest games, 21-24 in the last two. It’s also clutch when you go on the road to Knoxville and Lexington, play 71 minutes out of a possible 80 and come away with zero turnovers. Wilbekin is the best player on the best team in the SEC and without him Florida would not be three games ahead of the rest of the pack with six games to go. He should be SEC Player of the Year.
BILLY DONOVAN ON WILBEKIN
Wilbekin’s six game suspension might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. Back in the summer Billy Donovan laid the law with Wilbekin, telling him he had to evaluate himself and decide if he was willing to make changes, otherwise he needed to go somewhere else to play his senior year. Wilbekin chose to stay and has become the consummate leader for the Gators. Speaking about Wilbekin Monday, Donovan said, “If he would have stayed like he was and would have stayed here and wouldn’t have changed, our team would not be in a position like this.”
THERE IS A RICHIE INCOGNITO ON EVERY NFL TEAM …
So says Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for seven seasons in the NFL. Tucker says that in every offensive line meeting room in the NFL there is an “ultimate alpha make in a room that is full of them.” Tucker said that on every team he played on in the NFL (five) there was a fine system in place much like the one that Incognito set up with the Dolphins and the fines ranged anywhere from $10 to $100 for missed assignments with all the money pooled for parties or dinners. Tucker does say that Incognito crossed the line with his treatment of Martin but adds, “I’ve already said what I thought about Incognito. I think he’s got bigger issues than just being a meathead goon of epic proportions. As for Martin, his issues and struggles were well documented in the Ted Wells report and it is rare that somebody with those self-esteem issues ever makes it to the NFL.”
NORTHWESTERN MAKES ITS PITCH TO THE NLRB TODAY
Northwestern’s football players take their case that they are employees before a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago today. The NCAA will argue that the players are primarily students while the players will state their case that they are employees and therefore have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. The players have powerful assistance in the form of the United Steelworkers, who have partnered with them but what they don’t have is legal precedent. Still former NLRB chairman William Gould told USAToday that he thinks the players have a chance to succeed because they work in employee-like situations under the supervision of a paid coaching staff and their work is not related to the overall academic mission of the school.
ANOTHER REASON TO HATE ALTERNATING POSSESSIONS
Not that I’m terribly surprised by this, but the officials in charge of the possession arrow in Saturday’s Maryland-Duke game failed to change the arrow in the second half. In the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke got two consecutive possessions on jump ball calls. It was the second one that was wrong. Duke got a possession that belonged to Maryland and scored on an Amile Jefferson layup. The Blue Devils went on to win the game, 69-67. The ACC has admitted the mistake and claimed it was “a miscommunication” between the zebras and the sideline officials. My two thoughts: (1) Duke doesn’t need anymore help than it already gets at Cameron from zebras intimidated by Coach K and the crowd and (2) this is another reason to have an actually jump ball instead of the stupid alternating possession rule.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I couldn’t wait for Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” album to debut in April of 1968. We had a teaser of what was coming with the soundtrack to “The Graduate” which featured “Sounds of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson,” which was on side B of “Bookends,” which did not disappoint. There were five legitimate hits on the album which stayed on the Billboard charts for 66 weeks and spent seven consecutive weeks as the number one album in the country. “Mrs. Robinson” was a great singalong song, but the two songs that really spoke to me were “America” and “Fakin’ It.” Since I was just a junior in high school and still shy around girls, “Fakin’ It” seemed to describe me perfectly.