A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.
WITH 27 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) D.J. Humphries came to Gainesville as one of the top offensive tackles in the country. He’s played two years on the left side even though he’s undersized. Is this the spring when he finally looks the part of an SEC tackle – 300 pounds or more – and starts performing like one? (2) Tyler Moore had what can only be described as a baptism by fire in the SEC last year when he often looked like a lost ball in the tall grass playing either left or right tackle. Can new O-line coach Mike Summers coach him up so that he’s no longer a liability at tackle or will he have to move permanently to the inside?
AND THESE QUESTIONS FOR THE REST OF THE SEC
New head coach Derek Mason was the defensive coordinator at Stanford, where the offense was a bit old school, i.e., line up and knock people off the ball. Vanderbilt has a promising quarterback in rising sophomore Patton Robinette and an impressive running back in Jeron Seymour, whose skills are a fit for a spread offense. Will Mason try to go old school with the Commodores or will he adapt to the talent on hand … Mississippi State is expected to be one of the most improved teams in the SEC West next year, largely due to quarterback Dak Prescott. The questions for the Bulldogs are on the offensive line and particularly at right guard where they have to replace All-American Gabe Jackson. Can the Bulldogs find a replacement for Jackson and put together the kind of offensive line that can protect Prescott? If they can, then Mississippi State has the potential to win 9-10 games next season.
FROM MATT BROWN OF SPORTS ON EARTH …
In a column entitled “Under the Gun” on the Sports on Earth website, Matt Brown says that Florida coach Will Muschamp “probably would have fit best on a Woody Hayes staff.” Brown asks the question how will new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper do without the security blanket of mentor David Cutcliffe? Writes Brown: “The question becomes how much freedom Roper really has and what he’ll do with it. Roper has learned from one of the best in Cutcliffe, but he’s also never been cast out on his own. He may not be the head coach, but for the first time, he’s the most expert offensive mind on a coaching staff, faced with a sink-or-swim situation in which he largely can determine the fate of his new head coach. Muschamp must trust Roper, and Roper in turn must trust his players.”
KNOCKING DOWN FREE THROWS
Allegedly, free throw shooting is the Achilles heel of Florida’s 2nd-ranked basketball team. There was a time when that might have been the case but have you checked out the last three games? In the last three, wins over Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn, the Gators are a combined 62-78, which is a very healthy 79.5%. Scottie Wilbekin has been a rock at the line, hitting 25-29 in the last three games as he continues to make a strong statement for SEC Player of the Year. He’s hitting 75.7% for the season and those numbers are on the rise. Even Patric Young is doing his part. There was a time earlier this season when Billy Donovan lifted Young late in games because he was a liability at the line but he has hit nine of his last 11 including 3-4 in the final 20 seconds against Auburn with the game on the line Tuesday night. Patric is hitting 59% right now, improvement that shows how committed he is to doing whatever it takes to win.
BATTLE OF THE TENS
Florida’s gymnastics team puts its streak of four straight weeks with at least one perfect 10 on the line tonight at the O-Dome against LSU, which has also scored a couple of perfect 10s this season. In the annual Link to Pink night at the O-Dome (meet starts at 7 p.m.), this will be a battle for supremacy in the Southeastern Conference as the Gators and Tigers are the two top-rated teams in the league. Florida’s Kytra Hunter has scored a perfect 10 on floor exercise twice and got her third 10 of the year last week on the vault. Bridget Sloan has perfect marks on the balance beam and floor exercise and has won five consecutive all-around titles. Sloan has an NCAA best 39.75 all-around this season.
GATORS GOING STRONG AT SEC SWIM CHAMPIONSHIPS
Three days into the SEC swimming championships in Athens, the Gators have had an impressive showing. The Florida men, ranked #1 nationally, are in first place, while the women, ranked #8 nationally, are in second place behind Georgia. The men have won seven of the nine events concluded so far, which is a pace that exceeds 2013 when they came home with the SEC title. They are in a strong position to come home with another SEC title. The women are solidly in second. One of the highlights of day three was Elizabeth Biesel capturing her fourth consecutive 400 IM title, becoming just the second swimmer in SEC history to pull that off. Biesel now has eight individual SEC titles in her career. On the men’s side, Marcin Ciesak won the 100 butterfly for the third time in his career. He now has seven SEC individual titles in his career.
SPURRIER SOUNDS OFF ON “SABAN RULE”
The most honest coach in college football has sounded off about the Nick Saban-backed proposal to force offenses to slow down by preventing them from snapping the ball until 10 seconds have run off the play clock. “He (Saban) took it upon himself to go before the rules committee and get it done,” Spurrier told USAToday. “They tried to change the rules. But I don’t think they’re gonna get away with it.” Spurrier said the no-huddle has always been available, which should indeed be construed as a dig against those who are suddenly opposed to it. If you recall Stevie Wonder’s first game as Florida’s head coach – 1990 vs. Oklahoma State – the Gators went no-huddle from the first play and marched down the field to score to ignite a 50-7 rout of the Cowboys. Spurrier noted that defenses get far more tired when an opponent runs a 14-play drive than they do against no-huddle attacks, and added there is a way proven way to defend the no-huddle: “Hopefully, your offense can stay on the field a long time, and all (the opposing offense) can do is sit on the sideline and look at each other.” The rules change proposal goes for a vote on March 6.
Although Ole Miss fans are still steaming that the school has replaced Colonel Reb with a black bear as the on the field mascot, they need to check their own history because there has been plenty of change throughout the years. In 1885 the school became the first in the southeast to hire a female faculty member and it went co-ed in 1892 (Florida didn’t go co-ed until 1947). The University of Mississippi is called Ole Miss because that was the name chosen for the school annual in 1897. Within a few years, it became the accepted nickname of the entire institution. Originally, the sports teams were known as the “Mississippi Flood.” They were renamed Rebels in 1936.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
“For the Love of You” was an unexpected change from The Isley Brothers in 1975. The Isleys were all about the funk but “For the Love of You” brought out a soulful, softer side that immediately reached the crossover audience and helped propel the album “The Heat Is On” to #1 on both the rock and rhythm and blues charts. The album also features the great funk classic “Fight the Power.”