A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning.
FINDING ANSWERS IN THE SECONDARY
The only certainty in Florida’s secondary is that Vernon Hargreaves III is a lock to start at one corner. The other corner is up for grabs and so is the nickel, which, considering the preponderance of spread offenses in the SEC, is going to be on the field as much as the starters. Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson are battling it out at the corner opposite Hagreaves. Dawson is also in the mix at nickel where he’s battling with Brian Poole but neither one has locked it down, prompting Muschamp to try safety Marcus Maye. At safety, Marcel Harris, Nick Washington and Jabari Gorman have all had their moments but again, none of them have really locked anything down. It would certainly help the position if Keanu Neal could get healthy. The lack of certainty showed up in Saturday’s scrimmage when Will Muschamp said the Gators missed 22 tackles, most of them in the secondary. This is a position that must improve for the Florida defense to become dominant as it was in 2012.
CHRIS WALKER MADE THE RIGHT DECISION TO RETURN
Because the NBA Draft is all about potential, Chris Walker would have been drafted in the final stages of the first round or at least the early part of round two had he elected to leave school after his freshman ordeal at Florida. Walker is from extremely modest circumstances so no one could have blamed him if he had chosen to take the money and run, but he elected to do the right thing for his own future and for the future of the people he loves Wednesday when he made it public that he will be returning for his sophomore year. Walker needs to add about 20 pounds of muscle and learn to be a good position defender as well as the basics of pick and roll offense in the offseason. If he can do that, then he will help the Gators remain among the nation’s elite teams while preparing himself for a big paycheck down the road. Walker needs to think of the Florida practice facility like a bank. Every day he works out and gets strong; every day when he practices and learns in the offseason is like putting a check in the bank that he will be able to cash in the future when he elects to leave for the NBA. He’s got lottery potential.
FOUR YEARS A SLAVE
No, that’s not a new movie even though it has a rather catchy title. It’s Brandon Spikes, now of the Buffalo Bills, talking about his four years with the New England Patriots. The bitter feelings might have something to do with how Spikes’ season ended last year. Placed on the injured reserve list just before the playoffs began, it turns out that Spikes really wasn’t injured according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Mortensen says Spikes and the Pats agreed to the injured reserve ploy to avoid the embarrassment of an outright release. Spikes’ agent says that’s not exactly true. Spikes has moved on to the Bills where he’s got a new deal that will pay him $3.25 million next season. He had to struggle by on $870,000 last year. Those are indeed slave wages. (Huge hint of sarcasm)
SPEAKING OF SLAVE WAGES
The Pacific 12 Conference pays Larry Scott $3.1 million while the Big Ten pays Jim Delaney a base of $1.3 with total compensation totaling $2.8 million. Atlantic Coast Conference commish John Swofford rakes in a $1.6 million paycheck. Meanwhile the best commissioner in all of collegiate sports has to make ends meet on $1.2 million a year after his recent $200,000 raise. The SEC had gross revenues of $317.9 million in 2013 and this is without the SEC Network, which is Slive’s baby. Expect SEC revenues to spike starting in August. Mike Slive is cheap at twice the price.
MY HOW THE TIMES HAVE CHANGED
In 1954, Texas A&M hired Bear Bryant away from Kentucky to take over as head football coach and athletic director for the magnificent sum of $15,000 a year. In 1960, the University of Florida hired Ray Graves, the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, as head coach and athletic director at the high price of $19,000. In December of 1978, Charley Pell took the Florida head coaching job for $75,000. I’m not sure how those dollars actually translate to today but even if the dollar is worth 20 times more than it was then, that’s still a bargain compared to today’s salaries. Nick Saban will be paid $7.5 million this year. If the dollars were the same then as they are now, I wonder how much Bama would be paying Bear Bryant during the 1970s?
PHIL STEELE’S EARLY TOP 25
Phil Steele’s magazine won’t come out for several more weeks but he’s already offered up his top 25, which features Florida State at #1 and eight SEC teams but no sign of the Florida Gators. In the top 25 from the SEC are Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Steele has UCF in the top 25 but Miami, like the Gators, is conspicuously absent.
1. Florida State
6. Ohio State
8. Michigan State
10. South Carolina
14. Southern Cal
15. Notre Dame
19. Texas A&M
20. Ole Miss
23. North Carolina
NORTHWESTERN QB AGAINST THE UNION
Former quarterback Kain Colter is the guy behind the push to unionize the players at Northwestern. Current Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian says he’s voting no when the school’s players vote on forming a union on April 25. Siemian says there are issues that the NCAA should address when it comes to players but doesn’t think a union is the way to bring about the changes that are needed. If the Northwestern players agree with Siemian and shoot down the union, it’s going to be very difficult for Colter and his group to gain much traction in other places.
EARLY 2014 HEISMAN CANDIDATES
By any practical assessment, Tim Tebow SHOULD have won consecutive Heisman trophies. He won it in 2007 by putting up gawdy stats with a Florida team that lost four games. He didn’t have quite the stats in 2008 but he was a better quarterback and Florida was a far better team. In the national championship game against Oklahoma, there was no doubt that Tebow was a better quarterback than Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman, but the voting was a thing of the past by then. Florida State’s Jameis Winston is going to find out just how difficult winning back-to-back Heismans is this year. Although he is already considered the favorite to win it again, Winston is going to have to deal with heightened expectations that he didn’t have last year. He could be a better quarterback with less to show on the stat sheet. And, he will certainly get a challenge from the likes of Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Braxton Miller (Ohio State), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Todd Gurley (Georgia), Nick Marshall (Auburn) and Todd Hundley (UCLA). I would put my money on Mariota or Marshall. If he can stay healthy, I would also have Gurley on my short list.
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, #212
I started the Thoughts of the Day column back on September 10 and it has run non-stop for 212 consecutive days. The one thing I don’t want is for the column to get stale, so I’d like to get some participation from you guys in the form of questions. In addition to Music for Today, I’d like to add a Question for Today. If you’d like to add this feature, then send your questions to email@example.com and we’ll start tomorrow.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Deep Purple’s first album, “The Book of Taliesyn,” came out in the fall of 1968. The best song on the album was a remake of the old Billy Joe Royal song “Hush.” I heard Deep Purple do this in concert in the spring of 1969 down in Melbourne. I couldn’t hear for a week.