Thoughts of the day: April 1, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning.


It should come as no shock to anyone that freshman Will Grier has established himself as the #2 quarterback midway through spring practice. Jeff Driskel has done nothing to unseat himself as the starter, but Grief has moved past incumbent backup Skyler Mornhinweg for the backup role. Given coordinator Kurt Roper’s penchant for dual threat quarterbacks in his offense, it was inevitable that Grier would move into the second slot. Mornhinweg hasn’t thrown the ball badly this spring, but he’s no dual threat and Grier does have good feet. It remains to be seen if Grier will hold onto that #2 spot long, however. When Treon Harris arrives in the fall, he has the skill set to challenge and might have a stronger arm, which would set up a decision by the coaches – which freshman quarterback to redshirt?


Over on the defensive side of the ball, the lights seem to have come on for tackle Darious Cummings, who made life miserable for center Max Garcia. Also, the non-contact jersey is off Nick Washington, who had a big hit on Adam Lane in run support from his safety position Monday. Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis continue to play well at inside linebacker.  Over on the offensive side of the ball, Demarcus Robinson had a great Monday lining up in the slot and creating a mismatch against the nickel and linebackers trying to cover him.


If there is a clearcut advantage for the Gators this weekend at the Familiar (Final) Four it is the combination of a coach who has been there and done that and a team that follows the lead of four seniors who have won 120 games in their time at the University of Florida. Donovan has been to the Final Four as a player and he’s taken three Florida teams to the championship game, coming home with the national title twice. He knows how to get the team ready to go. Monday, he said, “We’re not ready to play right now” but then added, “We don’t need to be ready to play right now.” Donovan will pace the Gators and bring them to the emotional and physical edge they need to be at on Saturday. He spent Sunday and Monday letting the team take care of business such as tickets (each of them get six) and Tuesday they will get down to business. With senior veterans like Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Patric Young and Will Yeguete, who have been workmanlike all season, Donovan won’t have to worry that the Gators won’t come to practice focused and ready to go. There isn’t another team in the Familiar Four with this kind of experience to get them ready. Advantage: Florida.


Scottie Wilbekin was named third team All-America by the Associated Press Monday, a well-deserved honor, but I have to wonder when the voting took place. Wilbekin has been on the big stage for the past three weekends (SEC Tournament, NCAA Tournament in Orlando, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in Memphis) where he has proven that he is clearly one of the best five players in the United States. If the voting took place prior to the SEC Tournament, where Scottie was the MVP, then perhaps I could understand, but if the voters put him third team after seeing these last three weekends, then that’s just wrong. Still, it’s quite the accomplishment for a kid who essentially was Florida’s eighth choice as a point guard recruit in 2010.


You have to be extremely happy for Casey Prather, who was named to the John Wooden Award All-America team Monday. Like Wilbekin, Prather is a tremendous feel-good story. He hardly played as a freshman, then spent his sophomore and junior seasons battling injuries. A lot of Gator fans questioned his ability and wondered if he would transfer out those first two seasons, but he had a great year coming off the bench in 2013 and this season, in his first as a starter, he leads the team in scoring (13.8 points per game). Prather has scored 496 points this season. He had 279 in his first three years combined.


Digging through the desk Monday evening, I came across the 2010 Nike EYBL handbook for the May 14-16 event in Houston. I went to that event to write about Bradley Beal and Scottie Wilbekin, who was about to forego his senior year at The Rock School and sign scholarship papers to the University of Florida. Brad Beal lit up everyone that weekend, but so did Wilbekin, who went scorched earth in clearly outplaying Shannon Scott (Ohio State), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse, Philadelphia 76ers) and Kyle Anderson (UCLA). Also at the tournament were Dorian Finney-Smith, who played for Boo Williams Summer League and 15-year-old Chris Walker, who played for the Georgia Blazers. There was no shortage of talent at this event. A few other notable players at that tournament were Trey Burke (Michigan, Utah Jazz), Nelens Noel (Kentucky, Philadelphia 76ers), Austin Rivers (Duke, New Orleans Pelicans),  Shane Larkin (Miami, Dallas Mavericks), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia, Detroit Pistons), Anthony Davis (Kentucky, New Orleans Pelicans) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky, Charlotte Bobcats).


At the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California, Laura Diaz became only the second player in LPGA Tour history to record a hole-in-one on consecutive days. She aced the third hold Saturday at the Aviara Country Club and followed that up with an eagle on the par-5 fifth. Sunday, she aced the sixth hole and followed that up with an eagle on the par-4 seventh. With shotmaking like that, you would think Diaz tore up the course, but she carded a 70 on both days and finished the tournament at 2-under par, 11 shots off the winning pace of Anna Nordqvist.


Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs became buddies when they were 12 years old at St. Mark’s School in Dallas. They tried college at the University of Wisconsin and then split up for awhile, with Miller heading to San Francisco and Scaggs to London. They hooked up again in 1967 and for the next two years, Boz Scaggs was the front man for The Steve Miller Band, whose second album, “Sailor” became a hit because of the song “Living in the USA.”

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. We’ll see in the fall if Cummings and Orr have really improved. We heard the same thing last year about how guys were “unblockable” and the like. It turns out that the reason for that was that UF’s offensive line was unable to block anybody. It’s the same guys on the line without Harrson and Halapio who were multi-year starters. It’s possible that Garcia is a poor center who’s being forced to play the position because there isn’t an alternative. I don’t believe in this mantra about a new offensive line coach making a difference. I’ll believe guys like Humphries, Moore, and the rest have improved when they play someone wearing different jerseys, otherwise saying guys like Cummings are better is to be taken with a grain of salt when you consider who they’re going up against in practice.