A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.
THE RECRUITS STILL BELIEVE
The commitment of cornerback Jalen Tabor (6-1, 186, Washington, DC Friendship Collegiate) is huge for the Gators on a couple of very important counts. First off, he’s so good that he could start from day one. If Tabor adapts to the college game easily – and he’s certainly got the talent to do it – then he and Vernon Hargreaves III could be the best tandem of cornerbacks in the SEC by season’s end. Secondly, that Tabor would flip to Florida tells you that top recruits are disregarding the 4-8 record of 2013 as a total aberration. There is star power in this class that Will Muschamp is assembling and there is room for more as we hit the final 3+ weeks until National Signing Day.
DICKIE V TAKES UP THE CHRIS WALKER CAUSE
In an ESPN-sponsored conference call on Wednesday, basketball analyst Dick Vitale took the NCAA to task for its slow handling of Chris Walker’s eligibility. Vitale said, “We’re not looking for a cure to cancer, we’re trying to find out whether a player can be eligible. I have a real problem over the years with the incredible delay it takes in determining eligibility.” Vitale went on to say, “I have a very, very tough time dealing with the NCAA and the unbelievable procrastination that affect so many people’s lives — players’ lives, teammates’ lives, fans, coaches, everybody involved.” It is indeed disgraceful that as long as the NCAA has been working with Chris Walker – it goes all the way back to last spring – that they still can’t declare him eligible. People keep waiting for the NCAA to reform but the only way that will happen is if the schools from the power conferences threaten to secede. If the organization with its bloated bureaucracy and all the little schools that leech off the money made by the big schools thought their cash cow was going to dry up, they would institute reforms quicker than the stuff that goes through a goose.
NINE STRAIGHT FOR UF WOMEN’S HOOPS
Amanda Butler and the Gators are one of the hot teams in the country right now. They got their second straight win over a ranked team Thursday night when they knocked off #25 Arkansas, 59-52 at the O-Dome. It was their ninth win in a row, raising their record to 13-3 while dropping Arkansas to 14-2. The Gators have very little in the way of size but they scramble all over the court playing this helter-skelter style of defense and once they get the ball in transition they do know how to finish. Point guard Jaterra Bonds is carving out All-SEC credentials. She’s as tough and gritty as any player in the league and she sets the tone for the entire team.
THE ALL-TOO EARLY LOOK AT 2014 SEC FOOTBALL
The last season just ended and spring football is nearly three months away, but it’s never too early to start taking a look at the Southeastern Conference top to bottom. Today is an overall look at the number of returning starters and players on the two-deep charts of every team in the league.
ALABAMA: 13 returning starters (7 offense, 6 defense, 0 special teams; 31 returning on the two-deep chart (16 offense, 15 defense, 1 special teams)
ARKANSAS: 14 returning starters (6 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams); 36 returning on the two-deep chart (17 offense, 17 defense, 2 special teams)
AUBURN: 17 returning starters (9 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams); 39 returning on the two-deep chart (17 offense, 17 defense, 2 special teams)
FLORIDA: 17 returning starters (6 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams); 34 returning on the two-deep chart (13 offense, 17 defense, 4 special teams)
GEORGIA: 17 returning starters (5 offense, 10 defense, 2 special teams); 41 returning on the two-deep chart (16 offense, 21 defense, 4 special teams)
KENTUCKY: 18 returning starters (8 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams); 38 returning on the two-deep chart (18 offense, 18 defense, 2 special teams)
LSU: 17 returning starters (8 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams); 38 returning on the two-deep chart (17 offense, 17 defense, 4 special teams)
MISSISSIPPI STATE: 18 returning starters (8 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams); 39 returning on the two-deep chart (17 offense, 20 defense, 2 special teams)
MISSOURI: 12 returning starters (6 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams); 33 returning on the two-deep chart (16 offense, 13 defense, 4 special teams)
OLE MISS: 16 returning starters (8 offense, 8 defense, 0 special teams); 34 returning on the two-deep chart (17 offense, 16 defense, 1 special teams)
SOUTH CAROLINA: 17 returning starters (8 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams); 40 returning on the two-deep chart (19 offense, 17 defense, 4 special teams)
TENNESSEE: 10 returning starters (5 offense, 5 defense, 0 special teams); 32 returning on the two-deep chart (16 offense, 14 defense, 2 special teams)
TEXAS A&M: 17 returning starters (6 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams); 35 returning on the two-deep chart (16 offense, 17 defense, 2 special teams)
VANDERBILT: 10 returning starters (6 offense, 3 defense, 1 special teams); 34 returning on the two-deep chart (17 offense, 14 defense, 3 special teams)
PETRINO’S LAST STAND?
Bobby Petrino’s second tenure as the Lousiville head coach began Thursday with promises that this will be the final stop of his coaching career. Petrino is a charter member of the Interview Hall of Fame. It didn’t seem to matter when he was coaching Louisville (first time), the Atlanta Falcons or Arkansas that he was under contract. If there was a job opening somewhere that interested him, he interviewed for it. Had Urban Meyer not taken the Florida job in 2005, Petrino would have been Florida’s football coach. Petrino asked forgiveness from Louisville fans, Thursday, claiming the worst decision he ever made was to leave Louisville in the first place. It sounds good, but until Petrino can resist the urge to interview the first time a big job comes along, I think most people are going to be skeptical.
THE ULTIMATE GRAVEYARD JOB IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
One of the first things Petrino did was announce the hiring of Garrick McGee as his offensive coordinator. McGee was the head coach at UAB. He’s leaving a head coaching job in Conference USA for a coordinator job at Louisville. What does that tell you about UAB? It’s a graveyard and I would consider it the ultimate graveyard job in all of college football. It’s a lousy campus in downtown Birmingham. The facilities are rotten and they play their home games in decrepit Legion Field. The school shares the same Board of Trustees with the University of Alabama’s Tuscaloosa campus. When they want something in Tuscaloosa, they get it pronto. When UAB asks for something, there’s a good chance the trustees vote it down. In 2007, Jimbo Fisher was set to become the head coach at UAB but trustees, led by Paul Bryant Jr. – yes, Bear’s kid – vetoed the hire because they wanted Jimbo to be Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator. In the past couple of years the trustees have vetoed an on-campus stadium.
JAMES FRANKLIN TO PENN STATE
The only reason it hasn’t been officially announced is the Board of Trustees has to approve the contract, but James Franklin is the new head coach at Penn State where he will coach a team that has two more years of scholarship and bowl restrictions due to NCAA sanctions. This is a great hire, not a good one for Penn State. Franklin won nine games two straight seasons at Vanderbilt. It’s easier to get stimulating conversation from a Trappist monk than it is to win nine at Vandy. With the resources and facilities he has at Penn State, Franklin will indeed win and he will win big.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I became a Ray Wylie Hubbard fan when he wrote “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” for Jerry Jeff Walker. Ray Wyle writes Texas country music, which is different than the Smoky Mountain, got so drunk that I can’t remember if I cheated on my wife in my pickup truck behind the Pentecostal church the night it rained and mama went into a coma music. Ray Wylie’s music is the kind that when it comes on the juke box in a honky tonk over in Bubbaland across the river from Austin, everybody knows the words and sings along. This is one of my Ray Wylie Hubbard favorites, “Cooler ‘n Hell.”