Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day



There is a very good reason Dan Mullen is feeling confident these days. Those same guys who went 4-7 in 2017 turned things around in 2018, finishing with four straight wins and a final #6 national ranking, Florida’s first top ten finish since 2012. Not bad for a first year on the job.

What Mullen has to work with in 2019 is a darn sight more experienced and better coached than the roster he inherited when he took over in December of 2017. Mullen will start spring practice next month with 15 returning starters – seven on offense and eight on defense. While he loses a ton of experience on the offensive line where four starters depart, you have to remember this was the same group that gave up 37 sacks in 2017 (allowed only 18 while playing two more games in 2018) so O-line coach John Hevesy has a track record of productivity. The defensive losses are significant but coordinator Todd Grantham played a lot of young guys so Florida should elevate into one of the top units in the country.

So who will be the toughest guys to replace as the Gators continue to prep for the start of spring football? On offense, I would go with right tackle Jawaan Taylor and on defense, edge rusher Jachai Polite, both of whom are projected to go in the first round of the May NFL Draft.

Although the Gators lose both tackles – a 4-year starter in Ivey and a 3-year starter in Taylor – I believe Taylor will be the more difficult of the two to replace because he was such a dominant run blocker. If you recall, Florida improved from 156.3 yards per game on the ground in 2017 to 213.2 in 2018. The per carry average went from 4.3 to 5.27. It was the first time since 2009 that the Gators averaged more than 200 yards per game and more than 4.5 yards per carry.

Who replaces Taylor? Redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige (6-4, 303) seems likely to get the first shot although redshirt senior Noah Banks (6-5, 309) has the advantage of playing in 32 career games (10 at Murray State, 10 at Iowa Western CC, 12 at UF in 2018).

Polite went from 22 tackles and 2 sacks in 2017 to 45 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hurries and 6 forced fumbles in 2018. His spot in the lineup should be taken by grad transfer Jon Greenard, who had 15.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 6 quarterback hurries and 1 forced fumble as a sophomore in 2017. Greenard, who was injured in 2018, was recruited to Louisville in 2016 by current UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham so this is a natural fit. However, keep an eye on 4th-year junior Jeremiah Moon (6-6, 232), who has freakish athletic ability. Moon was in on 31 tackles in 2018 with 1.5 sacks and 6 quarterback hurries.


ALABAMA: Alabama loses 11 starters (5 on offense, 6 on defense) and nearly every one of them will be on an NFL roster next year. That’s the bad news. The good news is Bama won most of its games by blowout so the backups played almost as much as the starters.

Toughest to replace (offense): Ross Pierschbacher, C
Toughest to replace (defense): Quinnen Williams, NT

Junior Chris Owens (6-3, 310) backed up Pierschbacher, who started 42 games at left guard and 14 as the 2018 center in his career while making All-American. Sophomore Phidarian Mathis (6-4, 310) was in on 18 tackles as the backup to Williams, a first team All-American.

ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks will be replacing three starters on each side of the ball from the worst team (2-10) in school history.

Toughest to replace (offense): Hjalte Froholdt, LG
Toughest to replace (defense): Dre Greenlaw, LB

Junior Austin Capps (6-4, 311), a former D-lineman, was the backup last year to Froholdt, who gave up only one sack in 2018. Sophomore Bumper Poole (6-2, 233), who was in on 11 tackles last year, has to replace Greenlaw, who had 320 tackles in his career.

AUBURN: Auburn won’t lack for experience. The Tigers will only have to replace seven starters (4 on offense, 3 on defense) next season.

Toughest to replace (offense): Jarrett Stidham, QB
Toughest to replace (defense): Dontavius Russell, NT

Although junior Malik Willis (12-88 rushing for 1 TD; 5-7 passing for 24 yards) is next in line to replace Stidham, who left early for the NFL, most Auburn insiders expect freshman 5-star recruit Bo Nix to win the starting job at some point in 2019. Junior Tyrone Truesdale (6-2, 314) is expected to take over for Russell.

GEORGIA: Georgia will be replacing six starters on offense and five on defense including all three starting wide receivers and the starting tight end.

Toughest to replace (offense): Lamont Galliard, C
Toughest to replace (defense): Deandre Baker, CB

Sophomore Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 325), who spent the year as Galliard’s backup, is expected to start at center. Redshirt sophomore Eric Stokes or sophomore Tyson Campbell will battle it out to take over Baker’s starting job at corner.

KENTUCKY: The Wildcats will have only 10 seniors on the roster after running back Sihiem King, defensive end Kengera Daniel and corner Domonique Williams decided in the last several days to leave the program as graduate transfers.

Toughest to replace (offense): Benny Snell Jr., RB
Toughest to replace (defense): Josh Allen, DE/LB

Third-year sophomore Asim Rose (71-442 rushing, 5 TDs) is the likely replacement for Snell while redshirt freshman Alex King(6-3, 236) will get the first crack at replacing Allen.

LSU: The Tigers are going to have to replace their entire secondary and six starters overall on the defensive side of the ball. LSU returns eight starters on offense.

Toughest to replace (offense): Nick Brosette, RB
Toughest to replace (defense): Devin White, MLB

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (147-658 rushing, 7 TDs) will get the first crack at replacing Brosette, but he probably loses his job to stud freshman John Emery. Junior Patrick Queen (40 tackles) will have to fill the shoes of White, who had 123 tackles in 2018.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs only have to replace three starters on the offensive side. They take a hit on the other side, however, as that nationally ranked defense from 2018 loses eight starters including three who could go in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Toughest to replace (offense): Deion Calhoun, RG
Toughest to replace (defense): Jeffery Simmons, NT

Junior Dareun Parker (6-4, 325) has to replace Calhoun, who made second team All-SEC and started 35 games at right guard. Simmons was so disruptive so it will be tough for junior Lee Autry (6-2, 310), who had 11 tackles in 2018, to fill those shoes.

MISSOURI: The Tigers lose four starters on each side of the ball, one of whom is quarterback Drew Lock, who likely goes in the first 10 picks of the upcoming NFL Draft.

Toughest to replace (offense): Drew Lock, QB
Toughest to replace (defense): Terry Beckner Jr., DT

Clemson graduate transfer Kelly Bryant has the experience but can he make the throws that Lock (99 career touchdown passes) made routinely? Junior Kobie Whiteside (6-1, 310) was in on 8 tackles last year. He will have to replace a disruptive nose tackle in Beckner, who occupied two gaps.

OLE MISS: The Rebels have a new offensive coordinator (Rich Rodriguez) and defensive coordinator (Mike MacIntyre). RichRod has to replace eight starters. MacIntyre only has to replace three, which is actually bad news. He needs to burn all the film from 2018.

Toughest to replace (offense): Greg Little, LT
Toughest to replace (defense): Nobody, the defense was that bad

Junior Royce Newman (6-5, 301) is first in line to replace Little, who will go in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. MacIntyre might wish he could replace all 11 starters on defense.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks will have to replace 10 starters – six on offense and four on defense. Hardest hit were the O-line (2 senior starters) and secondary (3 starters).

Toughest to replace (offense): Deebo Samuel, WR
Toughest to replace (defense): Steven Montac, S

Sophomore Josh Vann (18-118 receiving, 1 TD) has the unenviable task of replacing Samuel, who caught 62 passes for 11 TDs in 2018. Junior Jamyest Williams (32 tackles) will have to replace South Carolina’s most productive member of the secondary.

TENNESSEE: With 18 starters returning (10 offense, 8 defense), the Vols will be one of the nation’s most experienced teams in 2019.

Toughest to replace (offense): Drew Richmond, RT
Toughest to replace (defense): Kyle Phillips, DE

The first shot at replacing Richmond, a 3-year starter, will be 4th-year junior Nathan Niehaus (6-6, 287) but the Vols might very well go with a true freshman, either Darnell Wright (6-6, 300) or Wanya Morris (6-6, 293). Juco transfer Savion Williams (6-3, 315) is expected to replace Phillips.

TEXAS A&M: Seven starters return on offense but the defense will have to be revamped to replace seven starters.

Toughest to replace (offense): Trayveon Williams, RB
Toughest to replace (defense): Daylon Mack, NT

The job of replacing Williams, who gained 3,515 yards in three years, will be the task for sophomore Jashaun Corbin (61-346, 1 TD) or true freshman Isaiah Spiller. Third year sophomore TD Moton (6-3, 305) will have to replace Mack, who had 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

VANDERBILT: Nine starters return on offense but the defense has been gutted by the loss of seven starters.

Toughest to replace (offense): Kyle Shurmur, QB
Toughest to replace (defense): Jordan Griffin, LB
Grad transfer Riley Neal (46 career TDPs) is the replacement for Shurmur although he might find SEC defenses a tad tougher than the ones he faced at Ball State. Sophomore Colin Anderson (6-2, 225), who made 4 tackles last year, has to replace Griffin, who made 119.

Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) once again remained at the top of both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls. The Vols, who have won 18 consecutive games, were #1 on 40 of the 64 ballots in the Associated Press poll, 30 of the 32 in the Coaches poll. The Vols have a chance to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the SEC this week if they can knock off South Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC) Wednesday night and #5 Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC) Saturday night at Rupp Arena.

The Vols are the highest scoring team in the SEC, averaging 85.4 points per game, and they lead the league in scoring margin (+18.1 points per game). Tennessee is hitting 51.6% of its shots from the field and 76.3% from the foul line. The Vols take fewer than 20 3-pointers per game and they lead the country in assists per game (19.9).

No team has a tougher schedule this week than Kentucky, but no team in the country stands to benefit more if the Wildcats can score wins at Rupp Arena over #19 LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC) tonight and #1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) Saturday night. The Wildcats have won 10 consecutive games and 13 of their last 14 largely because they’ve ramped up the defensive intensity. Kentucky is holding opponents to 65.2 points per game and just 40.6% from the field.

Florida doesn’t have a single player among the SEC’s top 20 in scoring (KeVaughn Allen, 12.8 per game) and top rebounder Kevarrius Hayes (6.2) is 18th in the league. Freshman Noah Locke is ranked third in the SEC in 3-point shooting (43.1%) while freshman Andrew Nembhard is tied for fourth in assists per game (5.6 per game). Allen ranks second in the SEC in free throw shooting (87.9%) and Hayes is third in the league in blocked shots (2.1 per game).

LSU point guard Tremont Waters was the SEC Player of the Week after averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 assists, 5 steals and 3.5 rebounds in wins over Mississippi State and Auburn. LSU freshman Naz Reid won Freshman of the Week honors after averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds in the two wins.

Tuesday’s games
#19 LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC) at #5 Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC)
Alabama (15-8, 6-4 SEC) at Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6 SEC)
Arkansas (14-9, 5-5 SEC) at Missouri (11-11, 2-8 SEC)
Georgia (10-13, 1-9 SEC) at Texas A&M (9-13, 2-8 SEC)

Wednesday’s games
Vanderbilt (9-14, 0-10 SEC) at FLORIDA (12-11, 4-6 SEC)
South Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC) at #1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC)
Ole Miss (16-7, 6-4 SEC) at Auburn (16-7, 5-5 SEC)

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Gabe Gubrund, who suffered an injury in the fifth game of the 2018 season at Eastern Washington, has been granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA. He will spend 2019 becoming Mike Leach’s next great QB at Washington State. In 32 games at Eastern Washington, Gubrund threw for 9,984 yards and 87 touchdowns … The woman who accused Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her, told friends that Duke basketball player Corey Maggette raped her in 1999, per a report from the New York Times … In 2018, 64 Division I football players applied for eligibility waivers from the NCAA with 51 gaining approval. Those numbers should explode this year since more than 1,000 players have their names in the NCAA transfer portal … The Cleveland Browns signed free agent running back Kareem Hunt, who was dismissed by the Kansas City Chiefs after a video surfaced showing him punching and kicking a woman last February. At the time of his release, Hunt had 824 rushing yards. He ran for 1,327 as a rookie in 2017.