A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning.
COACHING LESSONS FROM PROFESSOR DONOVAN
Florida’s 84-82 overtime win over Arkansas in Fayette Nam Saturday was a case of Billy Donovan taking Mike Anderson to coaching school. Donovan started the day without the 17 points that Casey Prather brings to the game and with Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young on the bench, slowed by injuries against an Arkansas team that came into the game with a 23-game home winning streak. Throughout the game, Donovan found ways to compensate for a short bench and Prather’s missing offense. He used his time outs as a defensive weapon to cool off potential scoring runs by the Razorbacks. He gambled late in the first half by inserting Patric Young and Michael Frazier into the lineup when they had two fouls, another defensive move that stuffed a Razorback run enabling the Gators to cut six points off a seven-point Arkansas lead before the half. He showed man defense and went zone with 20 seconds to go in the game, confusing Arkansas and forcing a bad shot that led to Wilbekin hitting the clutch pull-up jumper in the lane with two seconds to go to send the game into overtime.
What Donovan did Saturday was give the players he had available a chance to win in a hostile setting and it’s not like he has a bench full of future #1 draft picks in the NBA. That is what makes Billy the best college basketball coach in the country. When he has great talent he coaches it to a higher level. When he doesn’t have as much talent, he gets the most out of his players and then earns his pay by putting them in situations where they can be successful. There isn’t a coach in the country that runs more offensive sets nor is there a coach in the country who makes better in-game defensive adjustments. Florida does not have the most NBA talent nor does it have the most talent of any team in the country, but the Gators are a team with a legitimate chance to win a national championship because of the head coach.
ALL TOO EARLY LOOK AT 2014 SEC WEST QUARTERBACKS
ALABAMA: Lane Kiffin is the new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. He inherits junior Blake Sims (6-0, 202), who was 18-29 for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman (6-3, 215), Luke Del Rio (6-2, 203) and Alec Morris (6-3, 193) all have stronger arms that Sims, but the quarterback of the future is incoming freshman David Cornwell (6-5, 235), snagged out of Bobby Stoops’ back yard in Norman, Oklahoma.
Comment: Sims will get the first shot, but the guy Kiffin has been brought in to groom for the future is Cornwell. If he picks things up quickly, he may never see a redshirt.
ARKANSAS: Junior Brandon Allen (6-3, 210) threw for 1,552 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 picks. A.J. Derby (6-5, 240) was 19-36 for 178 yards with a touchdown and a pick as the backup. Austin Allen (6-1, 200) and Damon Mitchell (6-2, 200) took a redshirt last year. Rafe Peavey is a dual threat quarterback that the Razorbacks hope to redshirt.
Comment: Nothing to get excited about here. Allen doesn’t exactly have overwhelming talent and none of the backups have given anyone reason to be excited.
AUBURN: As good as Nick Marshall (6-1, 210) was last year, imagine how good he can be now that he knows the playbook. He arrived in August last year and spent the year learning on the fly, finishing with 1,976 passing yards and 14 touchdowns to go with 1,068 rushing yards and 12 more scores. Jeremy Johnson (6-5, 219) threw for 422 yards and six touchdowns in mopup duty as a true freshman. Rising junior Jonathan Wallace (6-2, 206) only threw for 24 yards last season but he has 744 career passing yards and four touchdowns.
Comment: Barring injury, Marshall should put up the kind of numbers that will have him on the Heisman podium. Gus Malzahn loves the big arm of Jeremy Johnson. Auburn will show a more sophisticated passing game in 2014.
LSU: As a true freshman, Anthony Jennings (6-2, 205) directed the 99-yard game winning drive against Arkansas then quarterbacked the Tigers to the Outback Bowl win over Iowa. He was 13-29 for 181 yards and a touchdown last season. The backup is Phillip Rivers’ younger brother, a 6-8, 230-pound third year sophomore. Also waiting in the wings is redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig (6-3, 205). All of them might be passed by freshman Brandon Harris (6-3, 190), who has the arm and 4.5 speed in the 40.
Comment: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has a mobile quarterback who adds a running dimension to the offense to work with in Jennings. Jennings inspires confidence in the huddle. Keep an eye on Harris and don’t be shocked if he ends up as the starter at some point during the season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Dak Prescott (6-2, 230) could emerge as the best quarterback in the league next season. As a sophomore he threw for 1,940 yards and 10 touchdowns, ran for 829 and another 13. He is the perfect spread option quarterback. The backup is Damian Williams (6-1, 215), who threw for 279 yards and ran for 112 in 2013. Dan Mullen is excited about incoming freshman Nick Fitzgerald, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns as a high school senior.
Comment: Prescott kept improving with every game last season. If Mullen can coach the need to try to do too much out of him, he could be scary good. Williams has to learn to be more decisive but he has all the tools to succeed.
OLE MISS: Bo Wallace (6-4, 209) will be a senior and a third-year starter. He has 6,340 passing yards and 40 touchdowns in his career and he’s run for 745 and another 14. There will be a new backup now that Barry Brunetti has graduated. Ryan Buchanan (6-3, 210) took a redshirt in 2013 as did dual threat quarterback DeVante Kincade (6-0, 200). Dual threat Kendrick Doss (6-2, 218) will get long looks in August but is expected to redshirt.
Comment: If Hugh Freeze can coach the bad plays at critical junctures out of Wallace, the Rebels have the pieces around him to win big next year.
TEXAS A&M: Heading into August two years ago Matt Joeckel (6-4, 234) was expected to be the starting quarterback. Then Johnny Football asserted himself and Joeckel spent the last two years doing mop-up. He gets the first shot in the spring. Joeckel has 335 yards and two touchdown passes in his career. Don’t expect him to run. Kenny Hill (6-1, 215) took a redshirt in 2013. As a prep star at South Lake Carroll he put up star wars numbers, 24 rushing TDs and 25 passing as a senior.
Comment: Joeckel will go into the spring as the #1 but will he finish the spring in the same spot? Hill has the kind of mobility that Manziel had and he can make every throw. Everybody’s 5-star recruit Kyle Allen (6-4, 200) has already enrolled and he’s capable of making it a very interesting spring.
EXPECT COACH O TO JOIN THE BAMA STAFF
Alabama defensive line coach Chris Rumph has accepted an offer to join Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas, which opens the door for Nick Saban to hire Ed Orgeron at Alabama. Orgeron is the best available, has NFL experience and fits the Saban mold, plus Coach O is probably the best recruiter of defensive linemen in the college game. With Lane Kiffin also new to the Bama staff, this is a logical move and it is not good news for the rest of the SEC. Remember this. The last two times Alabama has lost its last two games, Saban has taken his team to the national championship the next year.
THINGS ANNOUNCERS SAY THAT BUG ME
Heard on NFL broadcasts today: (1) The defensive secondary; (2) the big tight end; (3) the offensive center; (4) you can tell they really want to win this game today; (5) he’s letting his athleticism take over. There were more, but these are the big gripes. Is there such a thing as an offensive secondary? When has a tight end been described as anything but the big tight end? Offensive center as if there is a defensive center. Well, they get paid more if they win so why wouldn’t they want to win this game today. How do you let your athleticism take over? Either you are athletic enough to make a play or you’re not. Why not describe what you just saw instead of hiding a great play under the umbrella of athleticsm?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I had a lot of hope that The Little River Band was going to be around for a long time when they came out with their “Sleeper Catcher” album in 1978. The best songs on the album were “Reminiscing,” which was released as a single in 1978 and “Lady” which was released as a single in 1979. The band came out with a couple of very good albums after that but disappeared from the US scene in the early 1980s although they’ve remained relevant in their native Australia. This is “Reminiscing,” which I thought was the best song that came out in 1978.