A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning:
THE YEAR OF THE INJURY
What is it about the University of Florida and injuries this year? First the football team was decimated and now Billy Donovan has been hit with another wave or injuries. Somebody call an exorcist or a faith healer. Whoever answers the phone first, bring him in. Although most of the injuries on the basketball team haven’t been of the season-ending variety (Dillon Graham will have hip surgery next week) it’s still annoying and potentially devastating. The Gators were going to have a hard enough time winning today in Fayette Nam against Arkansas with a full deck, but with Casey Prather out for sure and Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young doubtful, winning might be too much to ask.
ALL TOO EARLY LOOK AT 2014 SEC EAST QUARTERBACKS
FLORIDA: The Gators have a new scheme and a new quarterbacks coach/ offensive coordinator (Kurt Roper) to bring out the best in Jeff Driskel (6-4, 239), who threw for 477 yards and 2 touchdowns (3 picks) before he went down with a season-ending injury. Driskel has the talent but he’s never made it all the way through a season without missing at least one game with an injury. QB of the future is early enrollee freshman Will Grier. Given what Skyler Mornhinweg did in three starts, don’t expect Grier to redshirt.
Comment: If Driskel can stay healthy, he could have an outstanding season. He’s got the talent. They won’t force feed Grier but they won’t hold him back either if he picks things up in a hurry.
GEORGIA: Rising senior Hutson Mason (6-3, 202) started the Georgia Tech and Nebraska games after Aaron Murray went down with an ACL. For the season he threw for 968 yards and 5 touchdowns. The quarterback of the future is redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey (6-3, 205).
Comment: Mark Richt is loyal to the quarterbacks who have been in the program the longest, which means that Ramsey is going to have to have a lights out spring and August camp to move past Mason. If Christian LeMay doesn’t perceive he’s getting a fair shot will he transfer out? Dual threat freshman Jacob Park (6-4, 206) will likely redshirt.
KENTUCKY: Kentucky could split the time between juniors Maxwell Smith (6-4, 218) and Jalen Whitlow (6-2, 220). Smith is the better passer (1,276 yards, 9 touchdowns with only 1 pick) while Whitlow is a real dual threat. He passed for 1,033 yards and 5 touchdowns (5 picks) while running for 457 and 6 TDs.
Comment: Unless Smith or Whitlow has a dominant spring, expect the Wildcats to play two quarterbacks next year. Freshman Drew Barker (6-4, 217) chose Kentucky over Auburn. If he can pick up the offense he will get a shot.
MISSOURI: Maty Mauk (6-1, 200) was 3-1 as a starter when James Franklin went down with one of those wins over Florida in his first start ever. A third year sophomore in 2014, Mauk passed for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and 2 picks with 229 rushing yards and one touchdown. Eddie Printz (6-2, 215) and Trent Hosick (6-1, 225) will battle for the backup job in the spring.
Comment: Mauk is talented enough to emerge as the second best quarterback in the SEC next year behind Nick Marshall.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Dylan Thompson (6-3, 218) will be a senior with a chance to go out in style. He threw for 783 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2013 and for his career has thrown for 1,827 yards and 14 touchdowns with 5 picks. Spurrier is very confident that Thompson can make the reads and the throws. He will be pushed in the spring by sophomore Brendan Nosovitch (6-2, 220) and redshirt freshman Connor Mitch (6-4, 213).
Comment: Spurrier will give Thompson every chance to emerge as a starter but don’t be surprised if Mitch surpasses him in the spring. Mitch has the big arm, the size and is very intelligent. Spurrier also loves the mobility of Brendan Nosovitch, who got mop-up duty behind Connor Shaw and Thompson last year but was a dynamic dual threat in Pennsylvania in high school.
TENNESSEE: Justin Worley (6-4, 222) was given every chance to succeed last year but his numbers were very average (1,239 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and 8 picks) and he’s no threat to run with the ball. They really wanted to redshirt Joshua Dobbs (6-3 ,193), but when given a chance to start the last four games, he played well. He is a dual threat who threw for 695 yards and 2 touchdowns (6 picks) and ran for 189 and another score.
Comment: This will be Dobbs’ job to lose in the spring. Worley and Nathan Peterman (6-2, 221) will be battling for the backup job.
VANDERBILT: Patton Robinette (6-4, 212) got the start in the bowl game as a true freshman and led Vandy to its ninth win of the season. He threw for 642 yards with 4 touchdowns and 5 picks as Austyn Carta-Samuels’ backup until Carter-Samuels went down with an injury.
Comment: It’s Robinette’s job. Redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary will be the backup in the spring. Incoming freshman Kyle Carta-Samuels (6-2, 224) is the younger brother of Austin Cara-Samuels, who graduated.
PENN STATE WILL PAY FRANKLIN $4.5 MILLION
Penn State will introduce former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin as its new head coach at 4:15 today. Franklin will start out at $4.5 million a year, an estimated $2 million a year raise from what Vanderbilt was paying him. He will be the Big Ten’s second highest paid coach behind Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. At Vanderbilt, expect Chad Morris (Clemson offensive coordinator), Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana-Lafayette, began college career at Vandy) and Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason to emerge as the top three candidates.
KIFFIN TO ALABAMA: BAD NEWS FOR THE SEC
Lane Kiffin didn’t exactly endear himself to Florida fans during his one mercurial year in the Southeastern Conference at Tennessee. No matter what you think of him as a head coach or as a person, know this about him: he can flat out coach up a quarterback, understands how to call plays and can recruit lights out. There is a reason why Will Muschamp wanted him. At Alabama, he will have essentially a future NFL team to work with. Expect him to spend a couple of years at Alabama where he will thrive plus you can expect him to land at least one or two prime time quarterback prospects. Saban is a recycling bin for Kiffin. He can spend two years under Nick, where he will be seen and not heard, and then emerge as a head coaching candidate who will get a chance to start fresh at a Conference USA level job. He will be thought of as a mature coach after two years under Saban.
The latest coup for Under Armour is gigantic for the up and coming brand. Notre Dame will be dropping adidas at the end of this school year in favor of Under Armour. The deal with Under Armour is expected to top the $8.2 million annual deal that adidas has with Michigan, allegedly the highest price deal in all of college sports. Of course, it’s hard to measure these things. Nike CEO Phil Knight is a graduate of Oregon and the Ducks never seem to wear the same thing twice, not to mention the fact that Uncle Phil always seems to be donating something new to the athletic department. Also, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is a Maryland grad and the Terps have a similar situation to Oregon.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the truly great rock and roll songs of all time is “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” by Meat Loaf. The first time I heard it was on a chilly October morning in Richmond, Virginia in 1977. It was just after 6 a.m. and I was supposed to be in the office at the Richmond News-Leader at 6:15 but when the song came on the radio. I parked my car and let it keep on running because I had to hear the entire song. I went to the mall that afternoon and picked up my copy of the “Bat Out of Hell” album, took it home and played the song until I knew most of the lyrics so I could sing along. Every time I hear the song, I have to listen to it in its entirety.