Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 19, 2019

ALL TOO EARLY SEC QB RANKINGS FOR 2019

THE STARTERS
(1) Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: His 2018 numbers were off the charts -3,986 passing yards (11.2 per attempt) for 43 TDPs and only 6 picks – and best in Alabama football history. He also ran for 190 yards and 5 TDs in a Heisman runner-up season. All his wide receivers return in 2019 and it’s Alabama. Expect him to get better.

(2) Jake Fromm, Georgia (6-2, 220, JR): Fromm took the Bulldogs to the national championship game as a freshman and actually improved as a passer as a sophomore. He’s thrown for 5,364 yards (9.0 per attempt), 54 TDPs and only 13 INTs in two seasons. He will be throwing to a brand new set of receivers in 2019 and he’s got a new offensive coordinator but he’s really, really good.

(3) Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (6-2, 210, JR): Mond went from an erratic freshman to an ever-improving sophomore who finished 2018 with 3,107 passing yards for 24 TDs (9 picks) and 474 rushing yards and 7 more TDs. As a freshman he threw for 1,375 yards for 8 TDs (6 INTs) and ran for 340 yards and 3 TDs. If he makes the same kind of improvement in 2019, he probably leaves early for the NFL.

(4) Feleipe Franks, Florida (6-6, 240, RJR): Franks went from 9 TDPs, 8 INTs and the most sacked QB in the SEC in 2017 to easily the most improved in the league in his first year under Dan Mullen. Franks threw for 2,457 yards and 24 TDs (6 picks, none in the last five games) while rushing for 350 yards and 7 TDs. With another year working with Mullen, Franks could put up off the charts numbers in 2019.

(5) Joe Burrow, LSU (6-4, 216, GR): Considering he arrived in Baton Rouge about a week prior to the start of August camp, Burrow had a really good season, throwing for 2,894 yards and 16 TDs while running for 399 and 7 more TDs. In the last four games of LSU’s 10-3 season, Burrow threw for 10 TDs with only 1 pick and ran for 156 more with 3 TDs. He has tremendous upside and could rise dramatically in the rankings in 2019.

(6) Jake Bentley, South Carolina: Bentley’s TD to INT ratio is not good – 54-30 – but he cut down on the picks in the second half of the 2018 season and finished with 3,547 yards and 27 TDPs (14 picks). If he can continue to throw it to the guys who wear the same color jersey as he wears, then he could have an outstanding 2019.

(7) Ben Hicks, Arkansas (6-2, 220, GRTR): Hicks started as a true freshman for Chad Morris at SMU in 2016 and then threw for 33 TDPs as a sophomore. He threw for 19 last season while Morris was enduring a 2-10 first season at Arkansas. Now that they’re reunited, there are experts who think the Hogs will go bowling in 2019. Hicks has 9,081 passing yards and 71 TDPs in his career. Nobody in the SEC has numbers like that.

(8) Kelly Bryant, Missouri (6-3, 225, GRTR): There will be a rush to proclaim Bryant as the next great thing at Missouri, all because Bryant started 18 games at Clemson. Remember this. There is no way Clemson could have won the national championship last season if Bryant had remained the starting QB. He’s good, just not the kind of QB who’s going to take you to the promised land. He averaged only 7.0 per attempt as Clemson’s 14-game starter in 2017 with 13 TDPs and 8 INTs. He averaged only 3.46 per carry … and he’s supposed to be a runner.

(9) Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee (6-4, 209, JR): Jim Chaney is the new OC which is why a lot of observers think Guarantano might show the most improvement of any SEC QB in 2019. He threw for 1,907 yards and 12 TDs last year and has 2,904 yards and 16 TDPs for his career.

(10) Terry Wilson, Kentucky (6-3, 205, JR): The big question about Wilson heading into 2019 is can he make the downfield throws. Without Benny Snell Jr. to carry the offense running between the tackles, the passing game will have to evolve from dinks and dunks to more of a vertical threat. In 13 games as the UK starter, Wilson threw for 1,889 yards (67.2%, 7.0 per attempt) and 11 TDs with 8 interceptions. He was an effective scrambler, running for 547 yards and 4 TDs.

(11) Keytaon Thompson, Mississippi State (6-4, 222, JR): As Nick Fitzgerald’s backup in 2018, Thompson threw for 458 yards and 6 TDs (1 pick) while averaging 9.42 yards rushing (226 total) and 4 more TDs. He quarterbacked Mississippi State to a Gator Bowl win in 2017 after Fitzgerald went down with an injury. He has 672 rushing yards and 10 career TDs and 846 passing yards for 8 TDs (3 picks).

(12) Riley Neal, Vanderbilt (6-5, 217, GRTR): The good news is that Neal threw for 46 touchdowns at Ball State. The bad news is he never averaged more than 6.7 yards per attempt. Translation: He’s a dink and dunker. But, he does have good feet with 1,353 career rushing yards and 15 TDs. Of course, that was against MAC defenses.

(13) Matt Corral, Ole Miss (6-1, 205, RFR): He played in four games in 2018 and averaged 10.9 per pass attempt (72.7% completions, 239 yards) with 2 TDPs (1 INT). He also ran for 83 yards on 13 carries and scored 2 TDs. Those running numbers are important because his OC this year will be RichRod, who wants a mobile quarterback who can run and throw.

(14) Bo Nix, Auburn (6-2, 204, FR): Malik Willis has been on campus for a couple of years, but it would be the upset of the century if Willis is still the starter four weeks into the season. Nix has the big arm and he has really good feet, too.

SEC BASKETBALL STUFF: Co-Freshmen of the Week in the SEC were Florida’s Andrew Nembhard and Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith. Nembhard averaged 15 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in Florida’s two wins, hitting 13-14 from the field including 9-9 in the win over Alabama. Nesmith averaged 25 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals in two Vanderbilt losses.

Just a week ago a lot of experts were touting Tennessee (23-2, 11-1 SEC) as the best team in the country. After the way Kentucky (21-4, 10-2 SEC) manhandled the Vols at Rupp Saturday night, Tennessee dropped from #1 all the way down to #5 in the Associated Press rankings while Kentucky moved up one spot to #4. LSU at #13 is the only other SEC ranked in the top 25.

Last year’s SEC Player of the Year and a candidate to repeat the honor, Tennessee forward Grant Williams, wasn’t happy with the way the Vols got tossed around like rag dolls by Kentucky. After the game, Williams said, “They out-physicaled us tonight. That’s not our identity. We have always been the tougher team. For that to happen, it shows we were phonies tonight.”

On WJOX in Birmingham Monday morning, Paul Finebaum shared a rumor that Alabama coach Avery Johnson might be looking to bolt. Finebaum said, “There is anxiety connected to [Johnson]. I’ll say this – and I don’t think this is going to happen but I think the fact that it was even discussed means there is a little uncertainty among some people where I am here at NBA All-Star Weekend – there was talk that Avery’s people had put out some feelers with the New Orleans team about the vacancy at the GM position.” Talking later about the unrest among Alabama fans who expect more, “I don’t think it’s at a Defcon level but there is a lot of uneasiness.”

With 13 consecutive losses, Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew is enduring the longest losing streak of his career.

Kentucky forward PJ Washington was selected SEC Player of the Week after averaging 21.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals in two games. He scored 23 in the Wildcats’ win over then #1 ranked Tennessee.

Tonight’s games
Vanderbilt (9-16, 0-12 SEC) at #5 Tennessee (23-2, 11-1 SEC)
Ole Miss (18-7, 8-4 SEC) at South Carolina (13-12, 8-4 SEC)
#4 Kentucky (21-4, 10-2 SEC) at Missouri (12-12, 3-9 SEC)
Alabama (15-10, 6-6 SEC) at Texas A&M (10-14, 3-9 SEC)

Wednesday’s games
FLORIDA (14-11, 6-6 SEC) at #13 LSU (21-4, 11-1 SEC)
Mississippi State (18-7, 6-6 SEC) at Georgia (10-15, 1-11 SEC)
Arkansas (14-11, 5-7 SEC) at Auburn (17-8, 6-6 SEC)

GATORS HOLD STEADY IN BASEBALL POLLS

The Gators (3-0), who travel to Tampa to play South Florida this evening, remained exactly where they were last week in the three college baseball polls released on Monday. The Gators are #4 in Baseball America, #5 in D1Baseball.com and #6 in Collegiate Baseball.

The Gators are expected to start sophomore righthander Hunter McMullen against South Florida (2-1).

Baseball America Top 10

(1) Vanderbilt 2-1; (2) LSU 3-0; (3) UCLA 3-0; (4) FLORIDA 3-0; (5) North Carolina; (6) Florida State 4-0; (7) Stanford 3-0; (8) Texas Tech 2-1; (9) Mississippi State 3-0; (10) Oregon State 3-0
Other ranked SEC teams: (13) Ole Miss 1-1; (15) Georgia 3-0; (17) Arkansas 3-0; (18) Auburn 2-1

D1Baseball.com Top 10

(1) Vanderbilt 2-1; (2) LSU 3-0; (3) Texas Tech 2-1; (4) UCLA 3-0; (5) FLORIDA 3-0; (6) North Carolina 3-0; (7) Oregon State; (8) Louisville 1-2; (9) Georgia 3-0; (10) Ole Miss 1-1
Other ranked SEC teams: (14) Mississippi State 3-0; (16) Arkansas 3-0; (22) Auburn 2-1

Collegiate Baseball Top 10

(1) LSU 3-0; (2) Vanderbilt 2-1; (3) UCLA 3-0; (4) Texas Tech 2-1; (5) Stanford 3-0; (6) FLORIDA 3-0; (7) Oregon State 3-0; (8) North Carolina 3-0; (9) Florida State 4-0; (10) Coastal Carolina 3-0
Other ranked SEC teams: (11) Georgia 3-0; (13) Ole Miss 1-1; (23) Arkansas 3-0; (25) Mississippi State 3-0; (26) Auburn 2-1; (29) Texas A&M 3-0

BARNHILL SEC SOFTBALL PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Senior Kelly Barnhill, who picked up two wins and two saves over the weekend at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Arizona, was named SEC Pitcher of the Week. Barnhill is 6-0 with three saves and an 0.88 ERA for the 11-0 Gators, who hit the road Wednesday afternoon to face Jacksonville.

OTHER GATOR SPRING SPORTS: The Gators rank #3 in the collegiate gymnastics poll, trailing #1 Oklahoma and #2 UCLA … the Gators (1-1) are #6 in the women’s lacrosse poll … Florida’s 8th-ranked women’s golf team moved up one spot to #4, 8 shots behind second round leader Texas at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate in New Orleans.

SEC FOOTBALL STUFF: Tyrone Nix is leaving Virginia Tech to become the safeties coach at Ole Miss. Tyrone was the defensive coordinator for Houston Nutt and was nominated for the 2009 Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach. Brother Derrick Nix has been a member of the Ole Miss staff in one capacity or another for 10 years … Alabama linebacker Chris Allen had minor surgery on his knee but is expected to be healthy enough to participate in spring practice … Auburn defensive support staffer Devin Ducote has taken a job on the Kansas special teams staff … The attorney for former Georgia (now Ohio State) QB Justin Fields says that Fields’ waiver request to the NCAA had nothing to do with a racial incident at Sanford Stadium … Kentucky starting LT EJ Price has withdrawn from school to pursue other opportunities.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: In four years at the University of Florida, Chris Thompson caught nine passes for 78 yards. In two games playing for Steve Spurrier with the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football, Thompson has caught 6 passes for 100 yards … Mississippi State has erected statues of baseball greats Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark at Dudy Noble Field … Trent Richardson is showing with the Birmingham Iron why he’s in the AAF and not on an NFL roster. Richardson didn’t have enough speed to make it in the NFL. Apparently he doesn’t have it in the AAF either. Through two games he’s carried 42 times for 99 yards, a pathetic 2.4 yards per carry. He does have 3 rushing touchdowns, however … Brace yourself. The PGA is going to allow its golfers to wear shorts in practice and in pro-am events. Maybe in 30 years they’ll be able to wear shorts in actual tournaments … Murray State point guard Ja Morant is worth the price of admission. He’s averaging 24.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game. After Duke’s Zion Williamson, he’s the best basketball player in the country.