A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning.
SPRING REVIEW: CENTERS AND GUARDS
This is a good news/bad news review. The good news is that the interior of Florida’s offensive line looks like the best collection of maulers the Gators have had since 2008 when the Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey and Carl Johnson were flattening anything and anybody that got in their way. An interior of Max Garcia at center and Tyler Moore and Trenton Brown at the guards has the look of three pounders who can impose their will. The bad news is that (a) they haven’t really proven anything yet and (b) Garcia and shotgun snaps are an adventure looking for a place to happen. Moore was a disaster at tackle last year before he broke his arm, but he is a very good run blocker and should thrive on the inside where his lack of lateral quickness won’t be a hindrance. Brown is an eclipse – 6-8 and 361 pounds – whose size and strength should win most of the interior battles. Garcia is certainly smart enough to play center and he was Florida’s most consistent blocker last year when he played left guard, but can he figure out how to deliver a waist high snap to Jeff Driskel? The backups are Cam Dillard at center and Trip Thurman and Drew Sarvary at the guards. In the spring game, there were only two false starts, both by newbies at guard, and no holding calls, so it’s obvious that discipline is better under Mike Summers than it was under Tim Davis. If they can not only look the part but play the part and do it without penalty flags, this unit could invigorate Florida’s running game and put an end to the notion that the Gators can be blitzed up the middle. But it all starts with the snap and until that issue is resolved it will be hold your breath time. Trending: Treading Water
BROOM TIME FOR FLORIDA BASEBALL
There isn’t a hotter team in the Southeastern Conference than 18th-ranked Florida (27-13, 12-6 SEC), which has won six games in a row while taking command of the East Division. Florida completed its sweep over Georgia Sunday with a 10-3 win that kept the Gators two games ahead of South Carolina in the East while tying Alabama (28-12, 12-6 SEC) for the best record in the league. Harrison Bader’s two-run triple in the bottom of the first and a two-run homer by Casey Turgeon in the fifth paced the win over Georgia. Danny Young (5-0) got the win for UF with relief help from Justin Shafer and A.J. Puk. The Gators face Jacksonville Tuesday night and Florida A&M Wednesday in non-conference games before playing host to Missouri (17-21, 6-12 SEC) for a three-game SEC set starting Friday.
600 WINS FOR TIM WALTON
Stephanie Toft homered for the third straight game and Hannah Rogers (20-6) pitched a one-hitter as the 5th-ranked Gators extended their winning streak to nine games with an 8-0 win over 21st-ranked Texas A&M in College Station. The win was the 600th in Tim Walton’s coaching career. Walton is 600-174 overall in his career, 477-110 at Florida, which means he is responsible for 56.9% of the wins in the program’s history. Kelsey Stewart led off the game with a homer to right field and after Kirsti Merrit reached on an error, Toft launched her ninth homer of the season, her third straight game with a homer. Stewart raised her batting average to .416 with a 4-4 effort, while Toft had three hits and three RBI and Lauren Haeger went 2-3 with two RBI. Florida (40-8, 11-7 SEC) is starting to once again play like the team that for several weeks was ranked #1 nationally. The Gators return home to face USF in a non-conference matchup on Wednesday before hosting Missouri (35-12, 12-6 SEC) in a critical 3-game SEC weekend series starting Friday.
ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP FOR BRIDGET SLOAN
Florida sophomore Bridget Sloan captured the NCAA uneven bars championship Sunday when the individual event champions were crowned. Sloan, who was last year’s NCAA all-around and balance beam champ is now the career leader at Florida with individual national titles. Florida’s Alaina Johnson finished sixth on the bars and finished her career by making it to the event finals all four seasons. Mackenzie Caquatto, who finished fourth on the bars for the second straight year, advanced to the bars finals the last three seasons. The Gators earned their second straight NCAA gymnastics title Saturday night in Birmingham when they rallied to tie Oklahoma for the championship.
ELSEWHERE IN FLORIDA SPORTS
The men’s tennis team made it to the championship match of the SEC Men’s Tennis Tournament but couldn’t pull off a third straight win. Texas A&M (25-6), the #2 seed, knocked off the 4th-seeded Gators (15-9), 4-2, in Nashville to take the championship. Florida waits now to find where it will be seeded and where it will play in the NCAA championships … The women’s golf team finished in a tie for 10th with Missouri in the SEC championships in Birmingham. The Gators finished at +49, 34 strokes off the pace of Vanderbilt. Maria Torres had the highest finish among the Gators with a 3-over par 219, good for third place.
REST IN PEACE, HURRICANE
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died in his sleep Sunday at his home in Toronto. He was 76. A former petty thief who turned to boxing, Carter fought for the middleweight title in 1965, losing a unanimous decision to Joey Giardello. A couple of years later, three white people were shot by two black men outside a bar in Paterson, New Jersey. Carter and friend John Artis were arrested and convicted of murder by an all-white jury that believed the testimony of two thieves who later recanted. Given a new trial in 1976, Carter was convicted again. He spent nine more years in prison before he was released after a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds of that the murder conviction was predicated on racism was granted by US District Court in New Jersey. Carter’s case gained national and international attention when Bob Dylan co-wrote “Hurricane” after reading Carter’s autobiography. Denzel Washington played the part of Carter and won a Golden Globe for the movie “Hurricane” in 1999.
THE LATEST STATUE
Baltimore Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh is the latest to get a statue on the plaza at Miami University in Ohio. A 1984 graduate of Miami, Harbaugh’s statue joins those of Col. Red Blaik, Paul Brown, Carmen Cozza, Paul Dietzel, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, John Pont and Bo Schembechler. All those other coaches had long, distinguished careers. Harbaugh has been a head coach in the NFL for six years but he did win a Super Bowl in 2012. Harbaugh’s a very good football coach, but it seems a bit premature for him to get a statue at Miami when the likes of George Little, Woody Hayes and Sid Gillman, who are all in the College Football Hall of Fame, have not been honored.
TALKING POINTS AT NORTHWESTERN
An internal document from Northwestern University obtained by CBSSports.com shows that Northwestern University is circulating anti-union talking points to the players ahead of Friday’s National Labor Relations Board vote on whether or not to unionize. This is a 21-page document broken down into player questions, parent questions, staff questions and background questions. It’s clearly an effort by the university to sway current Northwestern players from voting to join the College Athletes Players Association. Probably the critical talking point involves a question if a player that votes no has to join the union if the union gets a majority of the votes. Northwestern answered “yes” and went further to say the player would be “stuck with whatever the union negotiates.” The pressure coming from both sides is going to intensify between now and Friday with the outcome of the vote capable of changing the entire dynamic of college football and don’t think for one second that if Northwestern votes no that this is the last you’ll be hearing of unions.
QUESTION FOR TODAY
Today’s question comes from Gary Davis, who asks, “Even though the Seminoles have this beautiful new indoor practice facility for football, I guess Foley doesn’t think we need one. Why do you think that isn’t a priority with him? Do you ever see us getting one? And, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are all adding seats to their stadiums. Do you think Foley expands The Swamp?”
To answer the first question, I think Jeremy Foley’s first priority is to keep as much of the athletic complex as possible in and around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, so first off, where would you put an indoor football practice facility? There is no space without tearing a building down and that’s not going to happen. Second, I think Foley wonders if it’s a prudent use of money since there are no practices lost for snow and only a handful lost for thunderstorms. I always thought that the O-Dome could be gutted and turned into a terrific indoor track/indoor football practice facility, but then you would have to build a new basketball/events center somewhere else. University Corners would have been my ideal place to put it or else behind the Hilton on SW 34th Street, but again, is building a new facility the best use of money. Foley is a fiscal conservative who keeps the debt low and there is something to be said about that. As for Swamp expansion, I always wondered if and when they would put sky boxes on the east side of the stadium but to do that Florida pool and Florida gym would have to go and where would you relocate those facilities. So to answer your two last questions, no and no are my answers.
Each day one question will be chosen as Question for Today. Submit your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
MUSIC FOR TODAY
There can only be one song for today and that’s “Hurricane,” Bob Dylan’s song about the murder conviction that put Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in prison.