THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; JANUARY 7, 2019
THE LATEST FLORIDA FOOTBALL ROSTER BREAKDOWN
The recruiting process isn’t only about convincing high school and junior college players that the University of Florida is the best place for them to develop their football skills while earning a meaningful degree from one of the top academic institutions in the country, but also about convincing some players already on the roster that it would be in their best interests to return for one more year. When you add the additions of Chris Steele (6-2, 187, Bellflower, CA St. John Bosco) and Arjeigh Henderson (6-1, 183, Richmond, TX Travis) with the decisions by Van Jefferson, Jabari Zuniga, David Reese, Adam Shuler and Lamical Perine to return for one more season, then remarkable is about the only way to describe the recruiting week that was for Dan Mullen. The combination of a veteran roster infused with a strong and talented recruiting class should result in Florida earning a preseason top ten ranking.
As of today, the Gators have 86 scholarships accounted for, one over the limit, but Mullen still has plans to sign two or three more players on National Signing Day. As we have seen in the past, there will be some roster movement between January and May so the numbers have a way of working out. Here is the January 7 roster breakdown including early enrollees, signees and commitments.
(* Early enrollee)
QUARTERBACKS (4): Feleipe Franks will go into the spring as the established starter after a season in which he threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for seven. Kyle Trask’s eligibility clock is running. He has the skills that will fit in someone’s system, not necessarily this one, however. Supposedly, Trask is on track to graduate in May, so don’t expect any announcement whether he’s staying or going until after spring practice. The Jones boys (Emory and Jalen) didn’t come here to sit so neither Franks nor Trask should feel even remotely comfortable.
Feleipe Franks (6-6, 240, RJR); Kyle Trask (6-5, 234, RJR); Emory Jones (6-2. 199, RFR); * Jalen Jones (6-3, 204, FR)
RUNNING BACKS (5): When Perine elected to stay for his senior year, it set the stage that he’ll be the #1 option in 2019 with Dameon Pierce as the second half of the 1-2 punch. A healthy Malik Davis would give the Gators a serious home run threat. Add in Iverson Clement and incoming freshman Nay’Quan Wright and UF will be rock solid at this position.
Lamical Perine (5-11, 227, SR); Malik Davis (5-11, 191, RSO); Dameon Pierce (5-11, 216, SO); Iverson Clement (5-11, 202, RFR)
Nay’Quan Wright (5-9, 195, FR)
WIDE RECEIVERS (12): With Jefferson returning, Florida will be deep and talented at wide receiver, perhaps the second best unit in the SEC behind Alabama. Expect an even bigger role in the offense next year for Kadarius Toney and for redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland to become that stretch the field guy. Of the incoming freshmen, Ja’Markis Weston is one to watch with his combination of size and speed.
Van Jefferson (6-2, 197, RSR); Josh Hammond (6-0, 194, SR); Freddie Swain (6-0, 199, SR); Tyrie Cleveland (6-2, 206, SR); Rick Wells (6-0, 202, RJR); Kadarius Toney (5-11, 190, JR); Trevon Grimes (6-5, 210, JR); Jacob Copeland (6-0, 198, RFR)
Dionte Marks (6-1, 180, FR); Ja’Markis Weston (6-3, 212, FR); Trent Whittemore (6-3, 187, FR)
Arjeigh Henderson (6-1, 183, FR)
TIGHT ENDS (5): Pitts and incoming freshman Keon Zipperer give the Gators a pair of flex guys who can go in motion, run deep routes and still do the things you expect of a tight end. Lucas Krull has a skill set that will bring out the creativity of Mullen to use him in so many different ways.
Lucas Krull (6-6, 255, RJR); Kemore Gamble (6-3, 246, RSO); Kyle Pitts (6-6, 246, SO); Dante Lang (6-5, 253, SO)
Signed�Keon Zipperer (6-2, 242, FR)
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17): Ideally, Mullen and O-line coach John Hevesy want to have 20 scholarship linemen but depth will be adequate for 2019. Nick Buchanan is the only returning starter and he will once again be the anchor of the line. A healthy Brett Heggie will start at one of the guard positions. Will T.J. McCoy slide over to guard or will he elect to transfer out rather than spend another season as Buchanan’s backup? Redshirt freshman Chris Bleich probably starts the spring opposite Heggie at one of the guard positions with Stone Forsythe and Noah Banks on the outside.
Nick Buchanan (6-3, 291, RSR); T.J. McCoy (6-1, 305, RSR); Noah Banks (6-4, 309, RSR); Stone Forsythe (6-7, 323, RJR); Brett Heggie (6-4, 314, RJR); Jean Delance (6-4, 313, RJR); T.J. Moore (6-5, 300, RSO); Richard Gouraige (6-4, 303, RFR); Chris Bleich (6-6, 321, RFR); Griffin McDowell (6-3, 295, RFR); * Kingsley Eguakun (6-4, 288, FR); * Will Harrod (6-5, 316, FR); * Michael Tarquin (6-6, 275, FR); * Ethan White (6-5, 390, FR)
Deyavie Hammond (6-4, 350, FR); Riley Simonds (6-4, 328, FR); Wardrick Wilson (6-4, 323, FR)
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (11): The big news over the weekend was that both Jabari Zuniga and Adam Shuler would be back, alleviating some concerns about depth with this unit. Zuniga, Shuler and nose tackle Kyree Campbell give Florida a quick, disruptive starting D-line. Mullen wants to add at least one more D-lineman to the recruiting class. He got the nose tackle of the future in incoming freshman Jaelin Humphries.
Adam Shuler (6-4, 275, GR); Jabari Zuniga (6-4, 257, RSR); Luke Ancrum (6-5, 264, RSR); Marlon Dunlap Jr. (6-3, 295, RJR); Antonneus Clayton (6-2, 255, SR); Elijah Conliffe (6-4, 317, JR); Tedarrell Slayton (6-5, 343, JR); Kyree Campbell (6-3, 304, JR); Zachary Carter (6-4, 277, RSO); Malik Langham (6-4, 286, RFR)�Signed�Jaelin Humphries (6-4, 314, FR)
LINEBACKERS (14): This will be the deepest the linebacker position group has been in years. There is plenty of experience and the incoming freshman group is one of the best in the country. Getting David Reese back was huge in the middle. He will be flanked by veterans on either side. Is this the year Jeremiah Moon becomes the scary edge rusher that keeps opposing offensive coordinators burning the midnight oil? A starting foursome of Reese, Rayshad Jackson, Kylan Johnson and Moon seems likely to start the spring.
Kylan Johnson (6-2, 232, RSR); Rayshad Jackson (6-0, 236, RSR); David Reese (6-1, 248, SR); Jeremiah Moon (6-6, 232, RJR); Ventrell Miller (6-0, 229, RSO); James Houston IV (6-1, 233, RSO); Lacedrick Brunson (6-1, 234, RSO); Nick Smith (6-2, 227, RSO); Andrew Chatfield (6-0, 245, RFR); * Mohammoud Diabate (6-3, 219, FR); * Jesiah Pierre (6-2, 217, FR); * Lloyd Summerall III (6-5, 209, FR)�Signed�Ty’Ron Hopper (6-2, 202, FR)�Committed
Diwun Black (6-4, 219, FR)
CORNERS (9): The return of Marco Wilson from injury will make this one of the four or five best units in the country. Wilson, second team All-SEC C.J. Henderson and Trey Dean III will all three play on Sunday someday. Adding three freshmen provides adequate depth although Mullen could add one or two more corners in February.
C.J. McWilliams (5-11, 194, RJR); Marco Wilson (6-0, 190, RSO); C.J. Henderson (6-1, 191, JR); Brian Edwards (6-2, 192, JR); Trey Dean III (6-3, 194, SO); John Huggins (6-1, 206, SO); * Jaydon Hill (6-0, 167, FR); * Chris Steele (6-2, 187, FR)�Signed
Chester Kimbrough (5-11, 172, FR)
SAFETIES (7): With seven experienced safeties on the roster, this is a deep and talented unit. Donovan Stiner and Brad Stewart Jr. will probably start the spring as the starters but DC Todd Grantham has six safeties with extensive playing time to work with.
Jeawon Taylor (6-0, 202, SR); Quincey Lenton (5-11, 207, RJR); Donovan Stiner (6-1, 203, JR); Brad Stewart Jr. (6-1, 200, JR); Shawn Davis (5-11, 202, JR); Amari Burney (6-1, 222, SO); David Reese (6-0, 221, RFR)
PUNTER (1): Tommy Townsend is back for his senior season after averaging 45.39 per punt in 2018. Mullen needs to get a commitment early from Townsend’s replacement.
Tommy Townsend (6-2, 183, RSR)
PLACEKICKER (1): In his freshman year, Evan McPherson connected on 17-19 field goal attempts and was 50-50 on extra points. Additionally, 55.56% of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. He’s only going to get better.
Evan McPherson (5-11, 227, JR)
ALABAMA VS. CLEMSON, CHAPTER IV
The two best teams from college football’s two best programs are meeting in the national championship game for the third time in four years tonight at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, where game time temperatures will be in the 50s and many fans will come disguised as empty seats. At least it’s not supposed to rain.
These are the same two teams everyone predicted would play for the national championship back in May when all the preseason magazines hit the racks. That they are playing for the championship (again) and they’re both undefeated should come as no surprise. They are the best because they (a) have exceptional coaches and (b) the commitment from administration and boosters to provide the resources it takes to field teams that play and compete for national championships. It’s not exactly rocket science what they are doing.
Talk radio and Twitter have been burned up by folks who complain about Alabama-Clemson overload, some of whom suggest that the way to ensure diversity when it comes to champions is to expand the playoff to eight teams. First off, there is a simple solution to Alabama-Clemson overload and it has nothing to do with playoff expansion. It’s called your team (a) getting better and (b) for the school and boosters to commit the resources it will take to compete with them.
As for expansion, it will happen one of these days and probably sooner than the 2026 that College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock stated was the earliest possible date. When the Big Ten and Pac-12 grow weary of their champions not making the final four and when ESPN (or some other network) forks over the cash to make everybody happy, we’ll see the playoff expand to either six or eight teams. Not before.
GATORS DROP SEC HOOPS OPENER
If you’ve watched the ending of Florida’s stunning, 71-69, loss to South Carolina until you want to heave a brick at your TV, then brace yourself for this fact. There is a reason why Felipe Haase made such a clean pass down the court to Chris Silva, who caught the ball over Kevarrius Hayes and then dunked to win the game.
Did you see anyone guarding Haase, making it difficult for him to launch such a pretty pass? The answer, of course, is no. And it’s not like Mike White didn’t tell his team someone was supposed to be guarding Haase, it’s just that no one seemed to get the message.
“We had a couple of guys running around at the 3-point line wondering who they were supposed to match up with,” White admitted after the game.
That was the most glaring error, but it was only one of many the Gators (8-5, 0-1 SEC) made as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. To say there were ample opportunities to win would be the understatement of the year and that’s even with big guys Hayes, Keith Stone and Dontay Bassett spending a good portion of the game warming a seat on the bench due to foul trouble. The Gators turned the ball over 15 times, launched 31 3-pointers (hit only 9 for 29%) and managed to make only one shot from the field in the final 11 minutes while blowing a 14-point lead.
With no inside game to speak of and a team that struggles to make shots from the outside, this is setting up as a season in which the Gators will struggle to make even the NIT.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: I’m still trying to figure out why Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t send Lamar Jackson to the bench in favor of Joe Flacco. Flacco has won a Super Bowl. He’s been there and done that. Jackson was deer in the headlights most of the game, won by the Los Angeles Chargers, 23-17 … The line of the day goes to NBC analyst and Gator great Cris Collinsworth, who described the missed 43-yard field goal that would have given the Chicago Bears a win over the Philadelphia Eagles as “a double doink” … North Dakota State is the Division IAA national champ again after its 38-24 win over Eastern Washington. That was the second straight national title and seventh in the last eight years for the Bison, who also won eight national titles when they were in Division II … Circle January 19 on your calendar. That’s when unbeaten Virginia (13-0) goes to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke (12-1). After watching Virginia defend and turn FSU into a very ordinary team, I think the Cavaliers have a very good chance to knock off the Dookies on their home court. I just hope and pray they don’t let Dick Vitale anywhere near the arena that night … The Tampa Bay Rays are eliminating upper deck seating at the Plastic Palace. That reduces capacity to 25,000. Here’s a novel concept. Build a brand new stadium in Tampa and people will go see the ball games. As long as the Rays play (a) in St. Petersburg and (b) in that dump of a stadium, they’re going to continue to finish last in the big leagues in attendance.