THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 10, 2018
IMPROVEMENT ON THE O-LINE
Call it the Hevesy Effect.
We haven’t seen a drastic change in personnel on the offensive line but Florida’s offensive numbers, while not great, are much improved over 2017. Four of the O-line starters (LT Martez Ivey, LG Tyler Jordan, RG Fred Johnson and RT Jawaan Taylor) have been in the lineup for at least three years while the fifth – center Nick Buchanan – has been around four years but in the previous three saw action in a total of three games. The difference maker is offensive line coach John Hevesy, who came with Dan Mullen from Mississippi State and like Mullen is in his second go round at Florida.
Here are some midseason numbers that bear out the Hevesy Effect:
The Gators are averaging 380.3 offensive yards per game in 2018. This is the most Florida has averaged per game since 2009, Tim Tebow’s senior season. Last year, the Gators averaged 335.9 per game. The Gators are averaging 6.22 yards per offensive snap, also the most since 2009. Last year the Gators averaged 5.19 per snap. The Gators average 5.24 yards per rushing play, not only the most since 2009 but also the first time the Gators have averaged more than 5.0 per carry since then.
The Gators are averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt. Florida averaged 7.5 per attempt in 2011 when Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator and 7.2 per attempt in 2015, the only years the Gators averaged more than 6.8 per attempt since 2009.
Through six games the Gators have allowed only seven sacks. At this pace the Gators could do better than they did in 2014 when they gave up 17 in 12 games with an O-line that featured five future NFL starters. That 2014 O-line is the only one since the 2008 season that allowed fewer than 20 sacks. Last season, Florida’s O-line gave up 37 sacks. They gave up 28 in 2016 and 45 in 2015.
Maybe Franks is the best example of Florida’s improved offensive line. Already at midseason he has thrown more touchdown passes (13) than last year (9). He threw eight interceptions last year in 229 attempts. He has only four this year in 159 attempts so he’s obviously taking better care of the football, in part because he’s got a lot more time to throw. Franks is averaging a full yard more per pass attempt (7.3 this year; 6.3 last) and while he won’t bring back any memories of Tebow on the loose when he breaks containment, he has gained 152 positive yards in 44 attempts (3.45 per carry). Last year, Franks was credited with 20 positive yards (0.34 per carry).
Billy Donovan used to say “Just because you’re a year older doesn’t mean you’re a year better.” These guys starting on Florida’s O-line are a year older and they are better. They’re better because they are getting much better coaching from Hevesy. Oh, they still make mistakes but the mistakes are fewer every game. No doubt Hevesy would love to see fewer false starts and fewer breakdowns that result in scrambles by Feleipe Franks, but ever since that disastrous game against Kentucky in week two, this group has shown improvement every single game. They are improving and no one is calling them soft anymore. Maybe the offensive line remains a work in progress, but the key word is progress. The Gators are making it and Hevesy is the reason.
MEANWHILE UP AT VANDERBILT: A survey of Vandy fans shows a majority are “embarrassed” by Vanderbilt Stadium, the SEC’s smallest venue (capacity 40,550) and the one with the worst amenities. The Tennesseean polled 901 fans and reports that an overwhelming majority are extremely unhappy with the stadium and want the school to start raising the cash to renovate. Vandy is averaging 26,110 in four home games this year. If you’re making the trek to Nashville to catch the game and don’t have tickets yet, you should be able to score them quite easily. Most years when the Gators play Vandy in Nashville there are nearly as many UF fans as Vanderbilt.
WHERE SEC OFFENSES RANK NATIONALLY
4. Alabama 567.5 yards per game (8.62 per play)
7. Ole Miss 540.8 yards per game (8.07 per play)
9. Missouri 530 yards per game (6.24 per play)
17. Texas A&M 496.7 yards per game (6.49 per play)
22. Georgia 485.2 yards per game (7.48 per play)
49. Mississippi State 430.7 yards per game (6.46 per play)
53. South Carolina 425 yards per game (5.77 per play)
74. (Tie) Vanderbilt 398.7 yards per game (6.07 per play)
80. LSU 392.2 yards per game (5.57 per play)
86. Florida 380.3 yards per game (6.22 per play)
97. Kentucky 369 yards per game (5.86 per play)
99. Auburn 364.2 yards per game (5.38 per play)
101. Arkansas 360 yards per game (5.68 per play)
102. Tennessee 358.2 yards per game (5.22 per play)
WHERE SEC DEFENSES RANK NATIONALLY
7. Georgia 283.2 yards per game (4.52 per play)
9. Mississippi State 289.7 yards per game (4.57 per play)
14. Kentucky 304.8 yards per game (4.58 per play)
19. Florida 321 yards per game (4.69 per play)
20. Auburn 323.5 yards per game (4.68 per play)
23. Texas A&M 327.3 yards per game (5.99 per play)
25. Alabama 332.2 yards per game (4.9 per play)
30. (Tie) 340.6 yards per game (5.73 per play)
34. LSU 343.3 yards per game (4.82 per play)
54. South Carolina 362.4 yards per game (5.19 per play)
76. Missouri 392.2 yards per game (5.89 per play)
81. Vanderbilt 398.5 yards per game (5.72 per play)
85. Arkansas 405.7 yards per game (5.82 per play)
123. Ole Miss 503.5 yards per game (6.1 per play)
WHERE SEC TEAMS RANK NATIONALLY IN SCORING
1. Alabama 56.0
15. Georgia 42.8
16. Ole Miss 42.3
26. Missouri 39.0
44. Florida 34.0
46. Texas A&M 33.3
58. LSU 31.3
60. (Tie) Mississippi State 31.0
67. South Carolina 30.0
70. Kentucky 29.3
73. Auburn 28.7
90. (Tie) 26.0
98. Vanderbilt 25.2
99. (Tie) 25.0
WHERE SEC TEAMS RANK NATIONALLY IN SCORING DEFENSE
1. Mississippi State 12.7
2. Georgia 13.0
5. Kentucky 13.8
6. Auburn 14.3
8. Florida 14.8
11. Alabama 16.0
15. (Tie) LSU 17.0
30. Texas A&M 20.2
45. (Tie) Vanderbilt 24.0
63. Tennessee 25.6
65. South Carolina 25.8
84. Missouri 28.8
106. Ole Miss 35.5
112. Arkansas 36.8
The four guys in front
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: For starters, Tua averages four incompletions and three touchdown passes per game for a team that almost yawns its way to eight offensive touchdowns a game. Last week against Arkansas Tua was 10-13 passing for 334 yards and four touchdowns. Through the midway point of the season, he is 76-101 passing (75.2%) for 1,495 yards (an astonishing 14.8 yards per attempt) and 18 TDs without an interception. He is also 23-122 rushing for two more TDs. He rarely gets even a single second half snap.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: If Tua weren’t ripping and shredding, Haskins would be the clear front runner. Against Indiana last week, Haskins threw for 455 yards and six touchdowns. Six games into the 2018 season, Haskins is 142-198 passing (71.7%) for 1,919 yards (9.69 per attempt) and 25 TDs (4 picks) while running for 43 yards and another TD.
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: If Murray had led the Sooners all the way back to victory last week – they rallied from 20 down to tie Texas but lost on a last second field goal – Murray might be neck and neck with Tua for the top spot right now. In the losing effort he threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns while running for 92 yards and another TD. His midseason totals are 96-135 passing (71.1%) for 1,764 yards (13.07 per attempt) and 21 TDs (three picks); 57-377 rushing (6.6 per carry) for five more TDs.
Will Grier, West Virginia: The three interceptions he threw against bottom feeder Kansas last week overshadowed his 332 yards and four TDPs. The last thing he can afford is another three pick game if he wishes to remain a serious contender even if the Mounties remain unbeaten. Grier is 126-177 passing (71.2%) in five games for 1,819 yards (10.28 per attempt) and 21 TDs (6 INTs).
The next three guys
McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF: Milton’s going to have Heisman-like numbers but he has to put them up in blowout wins to compensate for an American Athletic Conference schedule. The numbers have to be Star Wars and UCF has to run the table a second straight year for Milton to make it to New York. Through five games, Milton is 102-171 passing (59.6%) for 1,501 yards (8.78 per attempt) for 15 TDPs (4 picks); 37-215 rushing (5.8 per attempt) and five TDs.
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State: An open date was the worst thing that could have happened for McSorley’s Heisman chances. He had that monster game against Ohio State then didn’t have a game to build momentum. He needs a dominating game this week against Michigan State to regain momentum. For the season, McSorley is 73-138 passing (52.9%) for 1,049 yards (7.6 per attempt) and 10 TDs (2 interceptions); 66-410 rushing (6.2 per carry) for six TDs.
Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky: If you want to point a finger at someone responsible for Kentucky’s first loss, point it at offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, who called Benny’s number only 13 times in that 20-14 overtime loss to Texas A&M. You have horse. You ride him. Well, unless your name is Eddie Gran. For the season, Snell is 128-699 rushing (5.5 per carry) for eight touchdowns; 8-47 receiving. Kentucky is off this week so Snell will have to wait a week to reboot his Heisman chances.
Blips on the radar
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: In five games he has 126-849 yards rushing (6.74 per carry) for eight TDs. He can move up this week if he has a big game against Michigan.
A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College: Dillon missed last week’s loss to North Carolina State, which keeps him just a blip on the radar even though he has 652 rushing yards (6.15 per carry) and six TDs in five games.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis: The numbers are impressive even against a pansy schedule. Henderson has 934 rushing yards for a whopping 11.82 per carry and 12 touchdowns in six games.
Ain’t no way
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Against Arizona State in 2017, Love ran for 301 yards. He has 327 yards in the four games he’s played in 2018. He’s injured. Again.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: You don’t make it to the Heisman podium if you’re a defensive player on a team that’s giving up 29.6 points and 487.6 yards per game, especially if you don’t have a single sack in five games.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The latest testimony in the college basketball corruption trial alleges that just weeks after the NCAA vacated Louisville’s 2013 national championship and vacated123 victories, assistant coach Kenny Johnson was arranging cash payments to the father of prized recruit Brian Bowen Jr. So far, nothing has suggested that former head coach Rick Pitino had any direct knowledge of what was going on … Jerry Jones can thank the Lord that Dan Snyder owns the Washington Redskins. Otherwise, Jerry would be hands down the worst owner in the entire National Football League … The Boston Red Sox have eliminated the New York Yankees from the American League playoffs, setting up a best-of-seven series with the Houston Disastros to decide the AL championship. I’ve thought the Disastros would make it to the World Series all along and that hasn’t changed … In game three of the AL Divisional Series matchup between the Red Sox and the Yankees, umpire Angel Hernandez had three calls at first base reversed on replays. That’s what is called having a bad day at the office.