Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; NOVEMBER 8, 2018

TRASK INJURED: DOES MULLEN BURN JONES’ REDSHIRT?

During Wednesday’s practice, Kyle Trask ran a trick play in which he ran out for a pass after handing the ball off. The throw was low, he reached to catch the ball and something popped in his foot. It has been diagnosed as a fracture that will require surgery that will end Trask’s season just before he was expected to get his first start at quarterback Saturday when the 15th-ranked Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) play host to South Carolina (5-3, 3-3 SEC).

The injury certainly means Feleipe Franks will get his 10th start of the season at quarterback, but it also means Dan Mullen has to be prepared to burn the redshirt of freshman Emory Jones, who is the only other scholarship quarterback on the Florida roster. Should Franks get temporarily dinged up or suffer an injury that could cost him a game or the rest of the season, Jones has to be prepared to step in and play.

Jones has already played in two games with seven rushing attempts for a net 8 yards. The only pass he has thrown (against Georgia) didn’t count since there was pass interference on the play. Under the new NCAA redshirt rules, Jones can play in two more games without losing his redshirt, but there are four games remaining on the Florida schedule – South Carolina, Idaho, (at) Florida State and a bowl game.

Obviously, since South Carolina is a Southeastern Conference opponent, Franks will likely go bell-to-bell barring something that would send him to the sideline. If it’s just an equipment problem or some sort of minor injury that requires quick attention, Mullen could insert Kadarius Toney, a high school quarterback who has completed his only pass of the season for a 20-yard touchdown while running for 148 yards mostly out of wildcat formations. But, anything more than a play or two would require Jones to play.

It is possible that Mullen will ask Jones if he’s ready to play and if the answer is yes, then the redshirt will be burned and Jones will have a chance to gain game experience that would certainly be helpful next season. Since by all accounts Jones is a serious competitor, he may have already asked Mullen to go ahead and play him. It seems more likely, however, that the decision will be to only use Jones in two more games to preserve the redshirt unless it’s an emergency.

COPELAND CAN PLAY WITHOUT BURNING REDSHIRT

Freshman wide receiver Jacob Copeland is finally healthy and with four games remaining, he could play in each game without burning his redshirt.

“He could play the rest of the way if he needed to,” Mullen said Wednesday, “but he also missed a whole bunch of training camp, so he would be limited to spot duty here or there, just learning and understand the offense and knowing what to go do and how to go do it.”

ALABAMA 2018 COULD BE ONE OF GREATEST TEAMS EVER

Nearly every discussion about the greatest teams in college football history ends with the debate which was greater: Nebraska 1995 or Miami 2001? If Nick Saban’s latest Alabama team runs the table, which it seems likely to do, Nebraska and Miami are probably going to have to settle for who was second best. The way Alabama is playing through the first nine games of the season there is very little doubt it’s Saban’s best team ever but if Bama goes unbeaten it’s going to be hard to argue that this isn’t the greatest college team of all time.

In those first six weeks of the current season, everyone agreed that this was the best offense Saban had ever put together at Alabama because the guy pulling the trigger – quarterback Tua Tagovailoa – was easily the difference-maker that had been missing. So the question that kept popping up was will Alabama’s defense ever catch up to the offense? The answer is a resounding yes.

For the sake of comparison, take a look at the three games prior to the recent tear in which Alabama has dominated on both sides of the football. In games 4-6, all blowout wins in which Tua completed 40-51 passes for 727 yards and 10 touchdowns, Alabama lit up Texas A&M, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas for 1,771 offensive yards and 166 points. The defense looked inconsistent in those same games, giving up 68 points and 1,086 yards, not what people expect from an Alabama team.

Now move ahead to the last three games. The offense hasn’t really slowed down at all – 126 points and 1,685 yards – but the defense has turned nasty and pursued like a pack of rabid hounds. Against Missouri, Tennessee and LSU, the Crimson Tide allowed a combined 666 total yards (only 113 in the three games combined on the ground, an average of 1.25 yards per carry) and 31 points. The Tide has forced five turnovers and sacked opposing quarterbacks 12 times for 92 yards in losses. Those are championship numbers. When you combine that kind of defense with an offense that seems unstoppable, you have to wonder is a team out there capable of hanging with Alabama?

Since the 2008 season when Saban’s plan for greatness began unfolding in a big way, we’ve grown accustomed to Alabama teams going beast mode in November. With five national championships since 2009, Alabama has become the most dominant program in the modern era of college football. The common theme of all five national championships was a power running game, adequate but not great play from the quarterback position and a scary good defense.

This team can certainly run the football but the quarterback play is vastly superior to any previous Alabama team and that includes the teams quarterbacked by future NFL Hall of Famers Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler. By the time he’s finished his Alabama career – he’s just a sophomore so there will be one more year – Tua might go down as the best to ever play the position in college football history. Alabama is averaging 51.3 points and 565.6 yards per game and you can only imagine what the numbers would be if Saban had allowed Tua and his first team receivers to play until the end of the third quarter. Chances are Alabama would be averaging an unthinkable 75 or 80 points per game.

So now here we are with three games to go in the regular season and the defense is getting in on the act as well. It’s as if the defense has been learning on the fly and now has figured things out, which is scary. If the late, great Jake Gaither were still alive, he would take one look at what Alabama has done the last three games and declare that defense worthy of being called hos-tile, ag-ile and mo-bile.

There are still three regular season games to go and an SEC Championship Game before the College Football Playoff. The unthinkable (for Bama fans, at least) could happen and the Tide could lose a game but donkeys might fly first. And since whoever Alabama would play in the playoff semifinals would have a month to get ready, it’s possible for an upset of monumental proportions but don’t count on it.

This is a team with greatness stamped all over it. If they run the table will they be considered the greatest of all time?

A NEW TWIST ON WILL GRIER’S TRANSFER FROM UF

Matt Hayes, the fine college football writer who plies his trade at Bleacher Report, has added a new twist to the Will Grier story. Grier, as you know, had thrown 10 touchdown passes while leading the Gators to a 6-0 record in 2015 when he was suspended by the NCAA for failing a test in which a banned substance was detected in his body. Following the suspension, Hayes writes that former UF football coach Jim McElwain told Grier “he shouldn’t be around the team for awhile” but when Grier went to see McElwain in November to discuss his future, McElwain told him “maybe it was time to move on.”

Hayes confirmed this story with former Florida assistants, one of whom told him “It had everything to do with Mac wanting to win with his own guy. Grier was [former Gators coach Will] Muschamp’s recruit. We were floored by it. You’ve got a guy that can win big in this league at that position? Those dudes are rare. Who cares if [Grier] liked hanging around his girl more than his teammates? That was the big knock on him; he wasn’t a team guy. Come on, man – because he liked spending tim with his girl? We scored 38 on that Ole Miss defense with all those NFL players! We knew right then it wasn’t just a big gamble – it was a decision that was going to bite us all in the asses.”

Hayes went on to write that when Grier took McElwain’s advice and moved on, his first choice would have been to play for Muschamp at South Carolina but SEC rules prohibited him from transferring within the conference so he made the decision to go to West Virginia.

In this his senior season at WVU, Grier is a Heisman candidate who has thrown for 2,618 yards and 28 touchdowns for the 7th-ranked Mountaineers.

MUSCHAMP ON WILL GRIER

In that same Bleacher Report story, Muschamp commented about Grier, who suffered a weight lifting injury prior to his true freshman season in 2014. The injury forced Grier to spend the season as a redshirt.

“We’d still be [at Florida] if he hadn’t got hurt,” Muschamp said of the injury. Muschamp was fired during the 2014 season, ironically after the Gators lost to South Carolina, 23-20.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator All-American defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has filed a $180 million lawsuit against Dr. James Andrews for allegedly botching a surgery in 2016. Floyd, a #1 draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, never played in the NFL again … The New York Mets new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen says former Gator Tim Tebow will start the 2019 baseball season in AAA. Before a broken hand ended his season in AA, Tebow hit .273 with 6 homers and 36 RBI in 84 games … Former Gator All-American catcher Mike Zunino has been traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a 5-player deal. Zunino is expected to take over as the starting catcher for the Rays … Federal authorities have given the NCAA approval to study evidence presented at the college basketball corruption trial. The evidence allegedly details payment plans to several players at Arizona, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Oregon as well as some others … A ballot measure in San Diego has approved a site for a 35,000-seat stadium for San Diego State. The $250 million stadium will be paid for by the school and will designed to possibly expand beyond 50,000 if San Diego could land an NFL franchise in the future … In fallout from the firing of head football coach D.J. Durkin at Maryland, trainers Steve Nordwall and Wes Robinson were dismissed. The trainers were accused of failing to diagnose heat stroke symptoms for Jordan McNair at a May 29 workout. McNair subsequently died … After Duke blew the doors off Kentucky in their marquee college basketball season opener, UK coach John Calipari noted, “They were just better” … We are halfway through the NFL season and I have yet to watch a game. I think I’ll hold out until the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.