Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

Late night Tuesday thoughts; August 28, 2018

A few late Tuesday evening thoughts:

1. Right now, Nick Buchanan is listed on Florida’s depth chart as the starting center with T.J. McCoy as the backup for the season opener with Charleston Southern. You’ll notice that the backup left guard is Brett Heggie, who missed all of spring football recovering from a broken ankle and then missed a couple of weeks of August camp with turf toe. Do not be surprised if Heggie is listed as the starting center when the Gators face Kentucky in game two, at the very latest game three against Colorado State. Heggie was Florida’s most consistent offensive lineman last year before he was injured and if he had been available in the spring, he would have gotten the reps at center. Heggie (6-4, 314) has a low center of balance and extremely strong legs, just what you need at the most important position on the offensive line. With Heggie at center, the Gators won’t need to double team the nose tackle. We’ve never seen Buchanan (6-3, 291) play center but he doesn’t have ideal size – or at least the kind of size that John Hevesy prefers his O-line anchor – but we have seen T.J. McCoy for two years. Great kid, yes. Can he handle a nose tackle without help? He hasn’t shown he can do it in the last two seasons.

2. The commitment of 2019 5-star point guard Tre Mann (6-4, 185, Gainesville, FL/The Villages Charter School) to Mike White and the Florida Gators is a huge deal, not just because White outrecruited North Carolina and Kansas but also because Mann is from the Each 1 Teach 1 AAU program, which hasn’t exactly been kind to the Gators. Among the E1T1 alumni who chose someplace other than Florida are Austin Rivers (Duke), Ben Simmons (LSU), Brandon Knight (Kentucky), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Joel Berry III (North Carolina), Tony Bradley (North Carolina), Antonio Blakeney (LSU), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State) and Kevin Knox (Kentucky). Mann, who shot an impressive 13-29 from the 3-point line at the Nike Peach Jam, told Evan Daniels of 247Sports, “I’m 100% committed to the University of Florida.” Mann plays long and is exceptionally quick.

3. The Gators have the full complement of 13 scholarship players on the 2018-19 basketball roster. They will lose three to graduation this year: KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson and Kevarrius Hayes. Hayes and junior Gorjok Gak are the only two true centers on the team, so White likely will invest those final two scholarships into a pair of big men. Florida is in the hunt for Jason Jitobah (6-10, 270, Lagos, Nigeria/Chattanooga, TN Hamilton Heights Christian Academy), C.J.Walker (6-8, 200, Orlando, FL, Orlando Christian) and Omar Payne (6-9, 215, Kissimmee, FL Montverde FL, Montverde Academy). Payne will visit UF for the weekend of the Kentucky football game, September 8. Walker is more of a stretch 4. Jitobah is a bit raw but he’s a physical specimen with great strength and potential.

4. Ninth-ranked Auburn opens its season in Atlanta against #6 Washington in Atlanta in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Classic at Mercedes Benz Stadium. There is a $4.2 million payout to each team for playing in the game but while money certainly factored into the decision for Washington to play the season opener in Atlanta in what will seem like a home game for Auburn, a bigger factor is its a chance for a Pac-12 team to be seen in prime time by fans and media east of the Mississippi River. The lack of exposure hurts the Pac-12 in recruiting but more importantly with national perception as well as strength of schedule. While the fine folks who run the College Football Playoff will say otherwise, that lack of a national presence does indeed hurt the Pac-12 when it comes time to pick the four teams that will play for the national championship. As for strength of schedule, Washington’s out of conference games last year were against Rutgers, D1AA Montana and Fresno State. A league that is perceived as weak from top to bottom isn’t helped at all by that kind of non-conference schedule. Only twice in the four years of the playoff has a Pac-12 team been selected. Last year, two SEC teams were in the playoff while the Pac-12 was shut out.

5. Here are the two worst non-conference schedules in the SEC. (1) Ole Miss: Texas Tech (6-7 in the Big 12); Southern Illinois (D1AA); Kent State (2-10 in the MAC); Louisiana-Monroe (4-8 in the Sun Belt); (2) Georgia: Austin Peay (D1AA), Middle Tennessee (7-6 in Conference USA last year), UMass (4-8 as an independent against one of the easiest D1 schedules last year) and Georgia Tech (5-6 in the ACC’s easiest division).

6. Rating the SEC quarterbacks from first to last: (1) Drew Lock, Missouri; (2) Jake Bentley, South Carolina; (3) Jake (from State Farm) Fromm, Georgia; (4) Tua Tagavailoa or Jaylen Hurt, Alabama; (5) Jarrett Stidham, Auburn; (6) Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State; (7) Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt; (8) Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss; (9) Joe Burrow, LSU; (10) Kellen Mond, Texas A&M; (11) Feleipe Franks, Florida; (12) Terry Wilson, Kentucky; (13) Cole Kelley, Arkansas; (14) Jarrett Guarantano or Keller Chryst, Tennessee.

7. Here is a look at all 14 SEC teams with their returning starters and lettermen:
Alabama (10): 7 offense, 3 defense; 52 returning lettermen
Arkansas (17): 9 offense, 8 defense; 58 returning lettermen
Auburn (13): 6 offense, 7 defense; 58 returning lettermen
FLORIDA (19): 10 offense, 9 defense; 53 returning lettermen
Georgia (13): 8 offense, 5 defense; 53 returning lettermen
Kentucky (15): 7 offense, 8 defense; 45 returning lettermen
LSU (10): 5 offense, 5 defense; 47 returning lettermen
Mississippi State (17): 9 offense, 8 defense; 49 returning lettermen
Missouri (16): 9 offense, 7 defense; 51 returning lettermen
Ole Miss (15): 8 offense, 7 defense; 57 returning lettermen
South Carolina (14): 8 offense, 6 defense; 55 returning lettermen
Tennessee (12): 6 offense, 6 defense; 47 returning lettermen
Texas A&M (16): 8 offense, 8 defense; 55 returning lettermen
Vanderbilt (12): 7 offense, 5 defense; 47 returning lettermen

8. Blake Barnett, who began his career as a 5-star recruit for Nick Saban at Alabama, will be the starting quarterback for USF Saturday when the Bulls face Elon in the season opener. Barnett went juco to Arizona State and now he’s at USF as a grad transfer … Vandy safety Zaire Jones, who was expected start, has been suspended after his arrest for assaulting an off-duty police officer … Central Michigan running back Jonathan Ward told the media he doesn’t think Kentucky tailback Benny Snell Jr. is nothing special. Let’s see, Snell has run for 2,424 yards and 32 touchdowns in two years against SEC defenses. Phil Steele says Snell is the third best running back in the country. Ward ran for 1,017 yards and 10 TDs last year against MAC defenses which isn’t bad, but it’s not like he did it against some of the best defenses in the country … Former Gator Antonio Morrison was traded to the Green Bay Packers where he should start as an inside linebacker … Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is trying to revive his career in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes where he’s 27-46 passing for 272 yards and 4 interceptions along with 5 rushing yards on 3 carries … Former Gator Chris Rainey could make All-CFL again as a reutrner. He’s averaging 12.4 per punt return with a 79-yarder for a TD and is averaging 26.8 yards per kickoff return with a longest of 74 yards. His 1,222 return yards are second most in the leagues. He has also run for 137 yards and has caught 16 passes for 166 yards … Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but ever since the St. Louis Cardinals traded Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays and made former Gator Harrison Bader their full time center fielder, they’ve been on fire. The Cardinals are 20-5 in the month of August. Bader is 25-79 (.316) with 3 homers and 12 RBI in August. For the season he’s hitting .281 with 9 homers and 27 RBI … Don’t be surprised if the New York Mets call up former Gator Peter Alonso in September. Alonso, who has split his season between AA and AAA, has a combined 33 homers and 111 RBI and a .277 batting average in 125 minor league games this year … Another September recall should be former Gator Bobby Poyner. The lefty reliever was 1-0 with a 1.22 ERA when he was with the Boston Red Sox earlier in the year. At AAA Pawtucket, Poyner is 6-6 on save opportunities with a 2.40 ERA. He is 46-50 on save opportunities in his minor league career.