A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
STRONG RECRUITING CLASS FOR FLORIDA
Give Will Muschamp and his staff a lot of credit for a solid finish to a very strong recruiting class. Coming off a 4-8 season in which Muschamp was rumored to be on the chopping block following an embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern, Muschamp needed to land an outstanding recruiting class and he came through. Maybe it isn’t the sexiest of classes – it lacked that wow factor athlete with blazing speed at one of the skill positions – but it more than meets the needs. By adding Treon Harris to go with Will Grier, Muschamp addressed a glaring need at quarterback and with six offensive linemen and five defensive linemen, he made sure the line of scrimmage for a line of scrimmage league is secure.
For as much effort as went into the recruiting class, that’s the easy part. The tough part will be developing the players and turning them into SEC capable performers. Just about every athlete the Gators signed was all-something or other, so we know that these guys performed at a high level in high school. But this is not high school any longer and they will all have to ratchet things up several notches if Florida is to compete at a championship level.
Of the recruits, keep a close watch on these five players who have a real shot at getting on the field early.
Jalen Tabor, cornerback: You can almost pencil his name in as a starter opposite Vernon Hargreaves III. Tabor and Hargreaves will give the Gators a pair of lock down corners who understand how to play the game very physically.
Thomas Holley, defensive tackle: He is still figuring football out but he’s got very quick feet and an explosive first step. At 303 pounds he already has the kind of size you better have to compete in the SEC.
J.C. Jackson, athlete: He’s a good enough athlete that he will find his own position. He can return kicks, catch the football, cover in the passing game and he’s not afraid to hit.
Brandon Powell, receiver/running back/returner: The way offensive coordinator Kurt Roper likes to use his backs in the passing game, figure he’ll have a chance to be Florida’s third down back. He could also excel in the kicking game either as a punt or kickoff returner.
Ryan Sousa, wide receiver: If you look at the 40 time you think he’s a plodder. If you look at what he did in one of the state’s most competitive districts you have to figure that his football speed is better than running in shorts at the crack of a gun. He caught more than 100 passes for 23 touchdowns as a high school senior. If you do that, then you know (a) what it takes to get open and (b) what to do with the ball once you catch it.
BIG DAY FOR THE SEC
Southeastern Conference dominance was never more evident than it was Wednesday when seven of the top nine recruiting classes belonged to the SEC. Thirteen of the 14 SEC teams finished in the top 40. Averaging the various networks together, the top 20 looks like this: (1) Alabama; (2) LSU; (3) FSU; (4) Ohio State; (5) Tennessee; (6) Texas A&M; (7, TIE) Florida and Auburn; (9) Georgia; (10) Notre Dame; (11, TIE) Miami and Southern Cal; (13) Oklahoma; (14) Stanford; (15) Texas; (16) Ole Miss; (17) South Carolina; (18) Kentucky; (19) Arizona State; and (20) UCLA. The other top 40 teams from the SEC were (30) Arkansas; (35) Missouri; and (38) Mississippi State.
To put it in even better perspective, the SEC got either the #1 or #2 player in the nation at every position per the ESPN ratings.
Pro style quarterbacks: The SEC landed four of the top ten including #1 Kyle Allen (Texas A&M); #2 Sean White (Auburn); #4 David Cornwell (Alabama) and #9 Drew Baker (Kentucky).
Dual threat quarterbacks: The SEC signed four of the top six in #2 Brandon Harris (LSU), #3 Will Grier (Florida), #4 Jacob Park (Georgia) and #5 Treon Harris (Florida). The #10 dual threat quarterback was Rafe Peavy (Arkansas).
Running backs: The SEC got five of the top ten including #1 Leonard Fournette (LSU); #2 Sony Michel (Georgia); #5 Racean Thomas (Auburn); Nick Chubb (Georgia) and Jalen Hurd (Tennessee).
Wide receivers: The SEC landed six of the top 10 with #1 Malachi Dupre (LSU); #2 Trey Quinn (LSU); #6 D’haquille Williams (Auburn); #8 Josh Malone (Tennessee); #9 Cameron Sims (Alabama) and #10 LaVon Pearson (Tennessee). Florida also landed the #27 wide receiver in Moral Stephens.
Tight ends: The SEC signed six of the top ten prospects at this position with #2 Jeb Blazevich (Georgia); #4 Kevin Crosby (South Carolina); #5 Jacory Washington (LSU); #8 Jakell Mitchell (Auburn); #9 DeAndre Goolsby (Florida) and #10 Sammie Epps (Ole Miss).
Athletes: The SEC landed five of the top 10 with #1 Speedy Noil (Texas A&M); #2 Bo Scarborough (Alabama); #5 Nick Harvey (Texas A&M); #6 Ronnie Clark (Alabama); and #10 Malkom Parrish (Georgia). Florida signed the #11 athlete in J.C. Jackson.
Centers: The SEC got the top two in Josh Casher (Alabama) and J.C Hassenauer (Alabama).
Guards: The SEC signed five of the top ten in #1 Garrett Brumfield (LSU); #2 Rod Taylor (Ole Miss); #3 Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama); #6 Isaiah Wynn (Georgia) and #9 Braden Smith (Auburn). Florida got the #20 offensive guard in Nolan Kelleher and #26 in Travaris Dorsey.
Tackles: The SEC landed four of the top ten in #1 Cameron Robinson (Alabama); #2 David Sharpe (Florida); #8 Andy Bauer (Missouri) and #9 Brian Wallace (Arkansas). Florida also got the #26 tackle in Kavaris Harkless.
Defensive ends: The SEC signed four of the top ten with #1 Myles Garrett (Texas A&M); #2 Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), #3 Lorenzo Carter (Georgia) and #9 Dante Sawyer (South Carolina). In addition, Florida got the #25 defensive end in Justus Reed.
Defensive tackles: The SEC signed seven of the top ten prospects at this position with #2 Gerald Willis (Florida); #3 Thomas Holley (Florida); #4 Lamont Gaillard (Georgia); #8 Garrald McDowell (Ole Miss); #9 DeShawn Washington (Texas A&M); and #10 Joshua Frazier (Alabama). Florida also got the #16 defensive tackle in Khairi Clark.
Inside linebackers: The SEC landed four of the top ten in #2 Clifton Garrett (LSU); #4 Tre Williams (Auburn); #6 Shaun Dion Hamilton (Alabama) and #10 Gavin Bryant (Tennessee).
Outside linebackers: SEC schools signed four of the top ten including #1 Christian Miller (Alabama); #2 Rashaan Evans (Alabama); #4 Dillon Bates (Tennessee) and #10 Bryson Allen-Williams (South Carolina).
Cornerbacks: The SEC scored with five of the top ten including #2 Tony Brown (Alabama); #4 Jalen Tabor (Florida); #5 Marlon Humphrey (Alabama); Stephen Roberts (Auburn) and Kalvaraz Bessent (Auburn). Florida also got the #16 corner in Duke Dawson.
Safeties: The SEC came away with five of the top ten in #2 Jamal Adams (LSU); #3 Laurence Jones (Alabama); #4 Edward Paris (LSU); #5 Todd Kelly (Tennessee) and #8 C.J. Hampton (Ole Miss).
Kickers: The SEC landed five of the top 10 kickers in #1 Aaron Medley (Tennessee); #2 Gary Wunderlich (Ole Miss); #5 J.K. Scott (Alabama); #6 Cameron Gamble (LSU); and #7 Cole Hedlund (Arkansas).
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Anita Baker has one of those voices that make me close my eyes when I listen, a good reason to never listen to her while driving! I don’t want anything to distract me when she’s singing. I got my first Anita Baker album in 1986. The best song on “The Songstress” was “Rapture” and that turned me into a fan for life. My favorite album is her 1994 release “Rhythm of Love” which features “Body and Soul” which won the Grammy as best R&B song in 1995.