Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; JANUARY 30, 2019

1999: PERHAPS UF’S MOST UNDERRATED CLASS EVER

With National Signing Day a week away, Dan Mullen is closing in on the final pieces of the puzzle that is the recruiting class of 2019. It is likely the Gators will finish with a top ten class although anything higher than eighth is somewhere between improbable and impossible. Still, this is an excellent class and there is no need for widespread panic. Mullen is getting the people he wants and these are kids who (a) want to be Florida Gators and (b) believe championships can and will be won during their time at UF.

But, there will be those who look at the UF class and do their best Chicken Little impersonations. That happened in 1999 when Steve Spurrier put together a recruiting class that proved to be one of the most successful in UF history. It very well might go down as the most underrated.

National Signing Day 1999 started with Gator fans ready to impale themselves on recently sharpened steak knives from their kitchens. About an hour before he was to announce his college decision at Pahokee High School, quarterback Anquan Boldin told Florida football coaches he was going to be a Gator. An hour later, Boldin chose Florida State. That same morning up in North Carolina and 30 before he was to announce his decision, running back Nick Maddox told UF coaches he was a Gator and then, just like Boldin, announced he was going to FSU. Apoplexy broke out in the Gator Nation. FSU had Boldin. The Gators got Rex Grossman. FSU got Nick Maddox. Florida got Ran Carthon.

One of the reasons Boldin went with FSU was because he was sold the bill of goods that Steve Spurrier would never give him a chance to play quarterback and instead, would shift him immediately to wide receiver. Of course, he lasted about one day as an FSU quarterback before he was shifted to wide receiver where he caught 118 passes for 1,790 yards and 21 TDs. He was actually more productive as an NFL wide receiver. After a redshirt year, Grossman went on to become an All-American QB at Florida who should have won the 2001 Heisman Trophy instead of Nebraska’s Eric Crouch, who won by 62 votes.

As for Maddox, he looked a lot quicker on film and against North Carolina high school opponents than he ever did against Division I teams. Nick the Not So Quick was a plugger and that might be heaping praise on him. Florida signed Ran Carthon, who, when you add in the fact he could actually block, was far more productive than Maddox, who gained 1,221 yards in his 4-year career at FSU.

The FSU recruiting class in 1999 was small (12 signees) but because of 5-stars Boldin, Maddox and Darnell Dockett, it was considered vastly superior to the one Spurrier signed at Florida. Boldin panned out and Darnell Dockett had a productive career, but can you remember anyone else FSU signed? The Florida class lamented by Gator fans everywhere turned out to be more productive and better overall to the one at FSU.

MORAL OF THE STORY: All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Getting kids names on a signed LOI is just step one in a process. Players still have to be developed.

Here is a rundown of Florida’s 1999 recruiting class.

THE MVP: Rex Grossman

SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Jabar Gaffney

MAYBE THE BIGGEST RECRUITING BUST EVER: Tony Charles

READY TO GO AS TRUE FRESHMEN (2): Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard

STARTING BY 2000 (5): Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Clint Mitchell; Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard

STARTED AT LEAST TWO YEARS (9): Daryl Dixon; Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Bam Hardmon; Taylor Jacobs; Bobby McCray; Clint Mitchell; Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard

FIRST OR SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICA (3): Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Lito Sheppard

FIRST OR SECOND TEAM ALL-SEC (6): Daryl Dixon; Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Taylor Jacobs; Bobby McCray; Lito Sheppard

EARLY ENTRY NFL DRAFT (3): Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Lito Sheppard

DRAFTED OR FREE AGENT CONTRACTS (11): Ran Carthon; Daryl Dixon; Matt Farrior; Rex Grossman; Bam Hardmon; Taylor Jacobs; Tron LaFavor; Bobby McCray; Clint Mitchell; Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard

DID NOT QUALIFY (2): * Keiwan Ratliff; Roy Williams
* Ratliff signed with the Gators once again in 2000 and went on to be All-SEC and All-American

TRANSFERRED OUT/DISMISSED FROM THE TEAM (5): Tony Charles; Elgin Hicks; Roderick Royal; Marshall Schaap; Chris Stephens

THE CLASS BREAKDOWN

RAN CARTHON, RB: Career numbers: 1,353 rushing yards (5.0 per carry) and 11 touchdowns; 56-511 and 1 TD receiving. Signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.

TONY CHARLES, DT: Listed at 270 in high school, reported to UF at 237. Transferred during freshman year.

DARYL DIXON, S: Played in 49 games with 25 starts with 218 tackles, 7 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries and 15 pass deflections. Second Team All-SEC in 2003. Signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.

MATT FARRIOR, LB: Redshirted in 1999 then played in 39 games with 15 starts. Farrior had 117 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004.

JABAR GAFFNEY, WR: Gaffney was considered a legacy throw-in (two uncles and dad played at UF) and too slow to ever contribute. All he did was catch 138 passes for 2,375 yards and 27 touchdowns while playing two seasons after a 1999 redshirt. Gaffney was almost kicked off the team during his redshirt season but given a second chance he responded to become one of the best receivers in UF history. All-SEC 2000-01, Sporting News National Freshman of the Year in 2000; first team All-American in 2001. Second round draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2002.

REX GROSSMAN, QB: Grossman recruited Florida, not the other way around. He was a Parade All-American out of high school but had to convince Spurrier he would be a good fit in Gainesville. After a 1999 redshirt, Grossman was First Team All-SEC in 2000-01. He was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2001 when he threw for 34 touchdowns and 3,896 yards. Second Team All-SEC in 2002. Grossman threw for 9,164 yards and 77 TDs in his UF career. First round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 2003.

BAM HARDMON, LB: Played in 48 games in his career with 25 starts, making Second Team All-SEC in 2002. He finished his UF career with 257 tackles, 11 pass deflections, 3 interceptions and 2 sacks. Signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins in 2004.

ELGIN HICKS, WR: Redshirted in 1999, then transferred to South Florida.

DWRIGHT JACKSON, LB: Jackson battled knee and ankle problems throughout his UF career but played in 25 games and made 32 tackles.

TAYLOR JACOBS, WR: From Tallahassee, Jacobs wasn’t an FSU priority. He came to Florida, caught 133 passes for 2,097 yards and16 TDs. He was First Team All-SEC in 2002 when he caught 71 passes for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns. Second round draft pick of the Washington Redskins.

TRON LAFAVOR, DE/DT: Was in the defensive end rotation as a true freshman and moved to defensive tackle as a sophomore in 2000. He had a productive career, playing in 45 games with 13 starts, good for 112 tackles, 3 quarterback sacks and an interception. Drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Bears in 2003.

BOBBY MCCRAY, DE: McCray played in 36 games with 15 career starts. He took a redshirt in 1999. He was Second Team All-SEC in 2003 after tying for the SEC lead with 9.5 sacks. In his UF career he had 107 tackles and 14.3 sacks. Drafted in the seventh round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004.

CLINT MITCHELL, DE: Mitchell played in 26 games with 20 starts in his Gator career with 121 tackles, 5.8 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. After a redshirt year in 1999, Mitchell made Second Team Freshman All-America by Sporting News in 2000. Drafted in the seventh round by the Denver Broncos in 2003.

MIKE NATTIEL, LB: Nattiel was in the linebacker rotation from day one, playing in all 12 games as a true freshman with one start. During his UF career, Nattiel played in 48 games with 29 starts, good for 310 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. Drafted in the sixth round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2003.

KEIWAN RATLIFF, WR/DB: Ratliff signed with the Gators in 1999 but didn’t qualify academically. He signed again with the Gators in 2000 and went on to have an All-SEC/All-American career.

ARPEDGE ROLLE, DT: An undersized interior lineman, Rolle was a valuable reserve who played in 32 games with 38 tackles and 1 sack.

RODERICK ROYAL, LB: After a redshirt in 1999, Royal didn’t see the field in 2000 and transferred to McNeese State back in his native Louisiana.

MARSHALL SCHAAP, TE: After a 1999 redshirt season, Schaap transferred to Wyoming.

LITO SHEPPARD, CB: On National Signing Day, Sheppard was thought to be one of the few bright spots. He saw the field instantly and made Freshman All-American in 1999. He followed that up by making First Team All-SEC in 2000-01, First Team All-America in 2000 and Second Team All-America in 2001. He had 87 career tackles with eight interceptions including six in 2000. He also returned two punts for TDs in 2000. First round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002.

CHRIS STEPHENS, QB: The son of then UF O-line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens, Chris redshirted in 1999, didn’t play in 2000 and then transferred to North Carolina.

ROY WILLIAMS, DT: Never qualified academically.

GATORS WILL NEED TO HIT SOME SHOTS

When Mike White sends the Gators (11-8, 3-3 SEC) onto the O-Dome floor to face Ole Miss (14-5, 4-2) tonight (6:30 p.m., SEC Network), one thing that is abundantly clear is that UF can’t endure another shooting game like the one they had against TCU this past Saturday. The Rebels are one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country, averaging 77.7 points per game while hitting 48% from the field and 36.5% from the 3-point line. Typically, they’re going to bury their fair share of shots so it’s entirely possible the Gators will have to win a shootout. That worked last Tuesday when the Gators bombed away and hit 18 3-pointers to beat Texas A&M. Unfortunately, it was brick city against TCU as the Gators hit only 30.6% from the field and 29.6% from the 3-point line.

Florida played well enough defensively to beat TCU, but without any consistent shooting, it wasn’t enough. The Gators might be good enough to put the clamps on Ole Miss, but they better be able to knock down a few shots, too.

Key for the Gators will be stopping the Rebels’ 1-2 punch of 6-2 point guard Breein Tyree (17.3 points, 3.3 rebounds) and 6-4 wing guard Terrence Davis (15.8 points, 5.9 rebounds).

OTHER SEC BASKETBALL STUFF

Tennessee (19-1, 7-0 SEC) played like the nation’s #1 team with its 92-70 win over South Carolina in Columbia. The Vols played the game without star guard Jordan Bowden, who sat out with a sore knee. In his place, Jordan Bone went off for 19 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists. Grant Williams had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals while Admiral Schofield had 24 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Chris Silva had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks.

It was business as usual for Georgia (10-10, 1-6 SEC). Instead of real bounce from its win over Kansas State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, the Bulldogs went back to their rotten offense and fell to Arkansas (12-8, 3-4 SEC), 70-60, in Fayette Nam.

Basketball’s equivalent of the Iron Bowl was played in Tuscaloosa where Alabama (13-7, 4-3 SEC) won its seventh straight game against a top 25 opponent at Coleman Coliseum by knocking of #21 Mississippi State (15-5, 3-4 SEC), 83-79. Instead of rippling the nets, both teams consistently clanged the ball off the iron. Alabama shot a dismal 1-15 from the 3-point line. Mississippi State wasn’t much better, hitting 3-19. Neither team could hit anything from the foul line, either. Mississippi State was 12-22 while Alabama was 22-36.

Seventh-ranked Kentucky keeps looking like a Final Four team. The Wildcats (17-3, 6-1 SEC) moved into second place in the SEC by putting the defensive clamps on Vanderbilt, 87-52, while shooting 55.6% overall and 58.8% from the 3-point line. This was the seventh straight win for the Wildcats, who moved into sole possession of second place in the SEC.

Wednesday’s games
Ole Miss (14-5, 4-2 SEC) at FLORIDA (11-8, 3-3 SEC)
Missouri (10-8, 1-5 SEC) at Auburn (13-6, 2-4 SEC)
#17 LSU (16-3, 6-0 SEC) at Texas A&M (8-10, 1-5 SEC)

RANDOM THOUGHTS: It is being reported that defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski is leaving the Alabama coaching staff. His place on the staff is being taken by former Alabama D-line coach Brian Baker … Southern Cal has officially hired Graham Harrell as its new offensive coordinator. Harrell’s last two offenses at North Texas averaged more than 34 points and 450 yards per game. He is a former quarterback at Texas Tech who finished fourth in the 2008 Heisman Trophy race … They’re playing the Super Bowl on Sunday so here are a couple of facts you might not know. Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay is a graduate of Miami (Ohio), the same school that produced the likes of Paul Brown, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, and to a lesser extent, Ron Zook. Bill Bellichick is a graduate of that famous football factory Wesleyan College. No, not the women’s college in Macon, Georgia, but the school in Middletown, Connecticut. McVay was a wide receiver at Miami. Bellichick was a center at Wesleyan, where he also lettered in lacrosse.