Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day


If you take away that 5-7 record in his first year as head coach at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen averaged 8-5 for the next eight seasons. Nobody does that at Mississippi State, particularly when you have to scour the boonies for talent that the likes of Alabama and the SEC bluebloods are going to overlook. What Mullen proved in the nine years he spent selling Starkville as the SEC’s hidden gem is that he not only can coach but he’s a superb evaluator and developer of talent. How else could he have done something no one else has done by going to eight straight bowl games at Mississippi State?

When he was hired as Florida’s football coach in December of 2017, common sense told you that if Mullen could elevate the Mississippi State program well beyond respectability that it was just a matter of time before he’d get the Gators back on a track toward championship contention. At UF, Mullen has resources and access to players who wouldn’t think about taking an official visit to Mississippi State. That has shown in two recruiting classes – a #14 ranking with a hastily put together class of 2018 and a 2019 class that ranks #8 with Rivals, #9 with both ESPN and 247Sports.

Consider the 2019 class rock solid although it certainly could have earned a higher ranking without a couple of key misses in the December early signing period and a couple more on Wednesday. Had the Gators landed 5-star running back Trey Sanders and/or 5-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux in December and then added 4-star defensive end Charles Moore and 4-star athlete Mark Antony-Richards Wednesday, UF certainly would have ranked higher, but even with those misses Mullen brought in a class that more than meets Florida’s needs in terms of both quality and quantity. The 25-man class includes 17 4-stars and it brings Florida’s scholarship numbers to 88, which means there will have to be some attrition before next August to get to the NCAA limit of 85. If it’s a typical spring, figure attrition will claim anywhere from 4-6 players whether by transfer, dismissal or academics and that will leave some wiggle room for Mullen to perhaps add an experienced graduate transfer or two on the offensive and defensive lines.

So consider this recruiting class a few large steps closer to elevating Florida’s talent level to where it was from 2006-09 when the Gators went 48-7 with two national championships and three 13-win seasons. Mullen was the offensive coordinator for the 2006 and 2008 national championship teams. He knows what kind of talent it takes to get to that level which means these first two classes are down payments on the return to championship football.

“If you go back and look at the championships in the mid-2000s here, there was an awful lot of talent on those rosters so recruiting is a major part of it,” Mullen said Wednesday. “Developing, coaching, all of that is a big part of it, but also having the talent and a lot of that comes into recruiting so I think that’s huge for the program and it just shows the direction that we’re headed to as a program.”


(* Early enrollee)

QUARTERBACKS (4): 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): 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): 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): Lucas Krull (6-6, 255, RJR); Kemore Gamble (6-3, 246, RSO); Kyle Pitts (6-6, 246, SO); Dante Lang (6-5, 253, SO); Keon Zipperer (6-2, 242, FR)

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16): Nick Buchanan (6-3, 291, 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 (12): Adam Shuler (6-4, 275, GR); Jonathan Greenard (6-4, 263, GR)/TR); 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); Jaelin Humphries (6-4, 314, FR)

LINEBACKERS (15): 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); Ty’Ron Hopper (6-2, 202, FR); Diwun Black (6-4, 219, FR); Khris Bogle (6-4, 215, FR)

CORNERS (10): 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); Chester Kimbrough (5-11, 172, FR); Kaair Elam (6-1, 182, FR)

SAFETIES (7): 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, 200, SO)

PUNTER (1): Tommy Townsend (6-2, 183, RSR)

KICKER (1): Evan McPherson (5-11, 227, JR)


1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Texas A&M
4. Oklahoma
5. Texas
6. Oregon
7. LSU
8. Michigan
10. Clemson
The Rest of the SEC: 11. Tennessee; 12. Auburn; 17. South Carolina; 22. Ole Miss; 23. Arkansas; 24. Mississippi State; 33. Missouri; 35. Kentucky; 62. Vanderbilt
1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Texas
4. Texas A&M
5. LSU
6. Oklahoma
7. Oregon
8. Michigan
10. Clemson
The Rest of the SEC: 11. Auburn; 12. Tennessee; 19. South Carolina; 22. Ole Miss; 23. Arkansas; 24. Mississippi State; 34. Kentucky; 36. Missouri; 57. Vanderbilt
1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Texas A&M
7. Oregon
9. Clemson
10. Michigan
The Rest of the SEC: 12. Tennessee; 13. Auburn; 17. South Carolina; 20. Arkansas; 22. Ole Miss; 24. Mississippi State; 30. Kentucky; 32. Missouri; 50. Vanderbilt


ALABAMA: Nobody understands that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league quite like Nick Saban and it showed in the 2019 recruiting class which featured five offensive linemen and seven defensive linemen. Offensive tackle Evan Neal (6-8, 360) and defensive end Antonio Alfano (6-4, 285) are 5-stars while the other 10 linemen are all 4-stars. Quarterbacks in the class are a pair of 4-stars, Taulia Tagovailoa (5-11, 214) and Paul Tyson (6-5, 217).

ARKANSAS: Of the Hogs’ 25 signees, 13 were linemen – six on the O-line and seven on the D-line. Five receivers were signed including a pair of 4-stars, Trey Knox (6-5, 215) and Treylon Burks (6-3, 225). Arkansas already has a grad transfer QB enrolled in Ben Hicks. Wednesday, Arkansas signed 4-star QB KJ Jefferson (6-3, 211).

AUBURN: The Tigers’ 21-man class is headed by 5-star QB Bo Nix (6-2, 207) and 5-star linebacker Owen Pappoe (6-0, 210). Auburn came up big on Wednesday when it landed 4-star DE Charles Moore (6-4, 268) and 4-star athlete Mark Antony-Richards (6-1, 195).

GEORGIA: Georgia landed five 5-stars – DE Nolan Smith, LB Nakobe Dean, C Clay Webb, DT Travon Walker (6-5, 285) and WR George Pickens (6-4, 190). Pickens was a signing day flipper from Auburn. Quarterbacks in the class were 4-star Dwan Mathis (6-4, 197) and 3-star juco transfer Stetson Bennett IV (6-0, 185).

KENTUCKY: Twelve of the 22 in the UK recruiting class were on the defensive side of the ball – four D-linemen, three linebackers and five DBs – led by 4-star LB Jared Casey, 4-star DE JJ Weaver and 4-star S Moses Douglass (6-2, 200). The Wildcats signed a pair of 3-star quarterbacks – Amani Gilmore (6-2, 200) and Nik Scalzo (6-0, 175).

LSU: The Tigers’ 25-man class features three 5-stars – CB Derek Stingley (6-1, 188), RB John Emery (5-11, 206) and LB Marcel Brooks (6-2, 195). The quarterback in the class is 4-star Peter Parrish (6-1, 198).

MISSISSIPPI STATE: A 25-man class that includes five O-linemen and four D-linemen is headed up by 5-star OT Charles Cross (6-5, 270) and 4-star DT Nathan Pickering (6-4, 286). The QB in the class is 4-star Garrett Shrader (6-5, 215).

MISSOURI: Missouri’s 22-man class includes five D-linemen and seven DBs including 4-star S Jalani Williams (6-2, 170). Mizzou has Clemson grad transfer QB Kelly Bryant already in school. Wednesday, Missouri signed 4-star QB Connor Bazelak (6-3, 207).

OLE MISS: The big news was signing 5-star running back Jerrion Ealy (5-10, 200), who had de-committed from Ole Miss in December. The Rebels have 31 signees including seven O-linemen and three quarterbacks. The QBs are 4-star John Rhys Plumlee (6-1, 185), who de-committed from Georgia on Tuesday, 4-star Grant Tisdale (6-1, 204) and 3-star Kinkead Dent (6-5, 205).

SOUTH CAROLINA: Zach Pickens (6-6, 285), a 5-star DE, heads up a 6-man D-line class. The Gamecocks also signed five O-lineman. The quarterback in the class is 4-star Ryan Hilinski (6-4, 237).

TENNESSEE: The Vols’ 21-man class was headed by 5-star offensive tackles Wanya Morris (6-6, 312) and Darnell Wright (6-6, 320). The Vols signed three other O-linemen and four D-linemen. The QB in the class was Ocala’s Brian Maurer (6-3, 199), a 3-star recruit.

TEXAS A&M: Fourteen of the Aggies’ 25 signees are on the defensive side of the ball (5 D-linemen, 5 linebackers and 4 DBs). DeMarvin Leal (6-4, 289) is a 5-star DT. The other 5-star in the class was OT Kenyon Green (6-5, 322). The quarterback in the class is 3-star Zach Calzada (6-3, 195).

VANDERBILT: Nine of Vandy’s 21 signees are on the defensive side of the ball (four D-linemen and five DBs). Vanderbilt didn’t sign a quarterback on Wednesday but has a grad transfer QB from Ball State (Riley Neal) already enrolled.


Wednesday’s games
#21 LSU (18-5, 8-1 SEC) 92, Mississippi State (16-6, 4-5 SEC) 88, OT
Ole Miss (15-7, 5-4 SEC) 75, Texas A&M (8-13, 1-8 SEC) 71
Alabama (14-8, 5-4 SEC) 89, Georgia (10-12, 1-8 SEC) 74

Saturday’s games
FLORIDA (12-10, 4-5 SEC) at #1 Tennessee (21-1, 9-0 SEC)
#5 Kentucky (19-3, 8-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (16-6, 4-5 SEC)
Ole Miss (15-7, 5-4 SEC) at Georgia (10-12, 1-8 SEC)
Auburn (15-6, 5-4 SEC) at #21 LSU (18-5, 8-1 SEC)
Arkansas (14-8, 5-4 SEC) at South Carolina (11-11, 6-3 SEC)
Texas A&M (8-13, 1-8 SEC) at Missouri (11-10, 2-7 SEC)
Alabama (14-8, 5-4 SEC) at Vanderbilt (9-13, 0-9 SEC)

RANDOM THOUGHTS: The New England Patriots are expected to add former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to their defensive staff. Schiano is also the former HBC at Rutgers and Tampa Bay in the NFL … Arizona has suspended assistant coach Mark Phelps indefinitely and is in the process of terminating him due to an NCAA rules violation. The university said that the Phelps matter is in no way related to the federal investigation into college basketball corruption that has resulted in former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson taking a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit bribery … If you’re already looking into a March Madness dark horse that is capable of making the Final Four, take a long look at Nevada (21-1) of the Mountain West Conference. They’re one of the most athletic teams in the country and they play lock down defense … The dismissal of quarterback Deondre Francois earlier in the week was a tough blow for Florida State, made even tougher Wednesday when 4-start quarterback Lance Legendre flipped his FSU commitment to sign with Maryland. This is the second straight year FSU’s recruiting class hasn’t signed a QB. James Blackman is the only scholarship QB currently on the FSU roster.