THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: MARCH 13, 2019
SOME FIRST DAY SPRING PRACTICE NOTES
About the most exciting thing that happened at Florida’s first practice of the spring Tuesday afternoon was the appearance of Tony Gray, a former Ole Miss offensive lineman who chose the Rebels over the Gators back in 2017. Listed at 6-5, 311 last year when he was a redshirt freshman backup right tackle for Ole Miss, Gray elected to transfer out back in January. He’s in the NCAA transfer portal right now and making the rounds to prospective schools.
As for practice, the Gators were in shorts and there was no contact, which has plenty to do with why it was open to the public. Nothing earth shattering happened. Feleipe Franks was the #1 QB and he looked the part. He threw the ball well and looked as if he’s bulked up a bit over last year. Emory Jones took the second team QB snaps.
Here are a couple of other observations.
Opening day of spring practice O-line: LT Stone Forsythe (6-7, 321 RJR), LG Brett Heggie (6-4, 314, RJR), C Nick Buchanan (6-3, 291 RSR), RG Chris Bleich (6-6, 321 RFR) and RT Jean Delance (6-4, 313 RJR). The second unit O-line was LT Richard Gouraige (6-4, 303 RFR), LG Ethan White (6-5, 392 FR), C Tanner Rowell (6-2, 283 RJR), RG T.J. Moore (6-5, 300 RSO) and RT Michael Tarquin (6-6, 275 FR). It should be noted that Rowell is at center because Griffin McDowell (6-3, 295 RFR) is out for the spring.
At linebacker, Amari Burney (6-2, 221 SO) was working beside David Reese (6-1, 248 SR) as the two #1s at inside linebacker.
Freshman Chris Steele (6-1, 185 FR) worked with the first unit defense at corner. Trey Dean (6-3, 194 SO) is the replacement at nickel for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Kadarius Toney (5-11, 190 JR) looks scary good.
Health notes: CB Marco Wilson (6-0, 190 RSO), who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, and RB Malik Davis (5-11, 191 RSO), who broke a foot in game three and missed the rest of the season, were practicing at full speed and showing no signs of their injuries.
Not practicing were WR Jacob Copeland (6-0, 198 RFR) and RT Noah Banks (6-5, 309 RSR). Copeland is listed day-to-day with a hamstring issue. Banks was at practice but not suited up. He’s had some vertigo issues in the past and the UF medical staff is being very careful with him.
GATORS PLAY PARTY POOPERS FOR 20-7 WIN OVER FSU
The party was just getting warmed up in the top of the fifth inning Tuesday night when 5th-ranked Florida State’s J.C. Flowers hit a grand slam to right center field that gave the Seminoles a commanding, 6-0, lead over 4th-ranked Florida. At that point, there was absolutely no reason to think the Gators (14-5) had a comeback in them and the many FSU (13-2) fans that were part of a near capacity crowd at McKethan Stadium had every reason to believe a merciful end to their 8-game losing streak to UF would soon be over. Well, the Gators pooped the party and instead of a celebration, Seminole fans were largely in their cars and heading home by the time this one came to a merciful end.
Florida’s comeback from dead in the water couldn’t have happened without some timely help from the Seminoles, who came into the game leading the nation in fielding, having committed only 5 errors in their previous 14 games. They committed two errors in the bottom of the fifth and combined with three walks and a pair of wild pitches, the Gators needed only two hits to cut FSU’s big lead to 6-5.
When the Seminoles countered with a single run in the top of the sixth to stretch the lead to 7-5, FSU fans wanted to believe the worst was over and they had weathered the storm. What they didn’t know was the storm was just beginning. Florida countered with 8 in the bottom half and once again, the big inning couldn’t have happened without the Seminoles pitching in. Chase Haney hit the first two batters he faced and his replacement, Austin Pollock, threw Austin Langworthy’s sacrifice bunt into the right field corner. Kendrick Calilao, who had an RBI single in the fifth, had an RBI double in the sixth and Brady Smith hit a run-scoring triple as the Gators did their part with six hits in the inning.
Not too many Seminoles were around in the bottom of the eighth when Calilao provided the crown jewel on a 4-hit, 6-RBI night with an opposite field grand slam to right and Blake Reese hit his first homer of the season, a 2-run shot to right.
The Gators finished the game with 17 hits to go with 7 walks and 2 hit batters. FSU managed only 6 hits against Florida pitchers but benefitted from 8 walks and a pair of UF errors.
The Gators open the SEC portion of their schedule this weekend when 7th-ranked Mississippi State (15-1) comes to town.
SOFTBALL GATORS HOST UCF
The 7th-ranked Gators (22-4) need the momentum from Sunday’s 8-0 run rule win over Tennessee to carry over tonight when they host UCF (17-8) in a non-conference game at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators lost their first two against Tennessee last weekend before they came back behind a 2-hit, 13-strikeout pitching performance by Kelly Barnhill that was backed up by 2 homers and 5 RBI from Amanda Lorenz.
Getting this midweek win is imperative because the Gators travel to Baton Rouge Saturday to begin a 3-game SEC series with 8th-ranked LSU (21-5).
Lorenz leads the Gators with a .424 batting average to go with 8 homers and 24 RBI. Kendyl Lindamin (.368, 3 HR, 17 RBI) brings an 8-game hitting streak into the contest. The Gators are likely to start sophomore Natlie Lugo (6-2, 1.63 ERA) although freshman Elizabeth Hightower (1-0, 0.81 ERA) could see some innings coming off a strong performance in relief in game two against Tennessee.
GATORS IN THE RANKINGS
MEN’S INDOOR TRACK: The Gators won the NCAA title so obviously they’re ranked #1.
GYMNASTICS: The Gators remain #3 nationally behind Oklahoma and UCLA. They have a weekend off before the SEC meet.
BASEBALL: There are so many college baseball polls so here is where the Gators stand in all of them. The Gators are #4 in the Baseball America poll. The Gators are #5 in the D1Baseball.com poll and #6 in both the NCBWA and USA Today Coaches polls.
WOMEN’S INDOOR TRACK: The Gators had a nice #6 finish at the NCAA Championships.
WOMEN’S GOLF: The Gators remain #8 in the latest Golfweek.com poll.
MEN’S TENNIS: The Gators moved up one spot to #8 in the ITA Tennis poll.
LACROSSE: The Gators hold down the #16 national ranking.
WOMEN’S TENNIS: With a couple of SEC road wins last week, the Gators moved up 11 places to #34 in the ITA Tennis poll.
MEN’S GOLF: The Gators are currently ranked #39 in the latest Golfweek.com poll.
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF
When it comes to the Florida Gators and their chances to make the NCAA Tournament, there is disagreement between bracketologists Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. Lunardi has moved the Gators back into his bracket on the #11 line where he has them playing #6 Villanova in Tulsa in a first round game of the West Regional. The Gators are on Palm’s first four out.
One thing is certain. If the Gators (17-14, 9-9 SEC) can’t knock off Arkansas (17-14, 8-10 SEC) Thursday in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, they’ll be NIT bound. A win won’t guarantee the Gators will make the NCAA field, but a loss ensures they won’t.
From the SEC, Lunardi has Kentucky as a #1 seed in the South facing #16 Gardner-Webb, Tennessee a #1 in the East facing #15 Colgate, LSU a #2 in the West facing #15 Bradley, Auburn a #5 in the Midwest facing the winner of #12 play-in matchup TCU-Clemson, Mississippi State a #6 in the South facing #11Temple, Ole Miss a #9 in the East facing #9 Washington and the Gators.
Palm has Kentucky #1 in the South facing #16 Gardner-Webb, Tennessee #2 in the East facing #15 Colgate, LSU #2 in the Midwest facing #15 Bradley, Mississippi State #6 in the Midwest facing #11 Temple, Auburn #7 in the West facing #10 TCU and Ole Miss #8 in the West facing #9 Utah State.
Florida’s Andrew Nembhard was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team on Tuesday. He’s the only Gator to make All-SEC, All-Defensive or All-Freshman. I’m seriously surprised that Kevarrius Hayes wasn’t named All-Defensive. Hayes might be challenged on the offensive end but he’s as active and consistently good defender as there is among the league’s big guys.
First team All-SEC: Daniel Gafford, Arkansas; PJ Washington, Kentucky; Tremont Waters, LSU; Breein Tyree, Ole Miss; Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State; Chris Silva, South Carolina; Admiral Schofield, Tennessee; Grant Williams, Tennessee
Second team All-SEC: Bryce Brown, Auburn; Jared Harper, Auburn; Nicolas Claxton, Georgia; Tyler Herro, Kentucky; Skylar Mays, LSU; Terrence Davis, Ole Miss; Jordan Bone, Tennessee
All-Freshman: Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama; Isaiah Joe, Arkansas; Andrew Nembhard, Florida; Tyler Herro, Kentucky; Keldon Johnson, Kentucky; Naz Reid, LSU; Reggie Perry, Mississippi State; A.J. Lawson, South Carolina
All-Defensive: Donta Hall, Alabama; Daniel Gafford, Arkansas; Ashton Hagans, Kentucky; Tremont Waters, LSU; Chris Silva South Carolina
Coach of the Year: Kermit Davis, Ole Miss; Player of the Year: Grant Williams, Tennessee; Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Skylar Mays, LSU; Freshman of the Year: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky; Sixth Man of the Year: Hassani Gravett, South Carolina; Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Tremont Waters, LSU, and Ashton Hagans, Kentucky
LSU (26-5, 16-2 SEC) interim coach Tony Benford says freshman Naz Reid, who missed the Vanderbilt game with an undisclosed injury, is practicing and will play Friday night at the SEC Tournament. Benford says he has not received word that suspended freshman Javonte Smart will be able to play.
There is a lot of speculation that Texas A&M will part ways with HBC Billy Kennedy as soon as the SEC Tournament is over. Kennedy took the Aggies to the Elite Eight last year but the combination of a couple players leaving early for professional basketball and injuries this season have proven costly. The Aggies (13-17, 6-12 SEC) will face Vanderbilt (9-22, 0-18 SEC) in tonight’s opening round of the SEC Tournament.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin says a decision will be made Thursday on the status of injured freshman A.J. Lawson, who injured his ankle back on February 26. The Gamecocks (16-15, 11-7 SEC) won’t play until Friday afternoon in the SEC Tournament.
Auburn (22-9, 11-7 SEC) coach Bruce Pearl said it’s too early to comment on reports that assistant Ira Bowman was involved in a bribery scheme at his previous job as an assistant at Penn. Also, injured center Austin Wiley is listed day-to-day for the Tigers, who open the SEC Tournament Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Missouri and Georgia.
Tonight’s SEC Tournament games
Georgia (11-20, 2-16 SEC) vs. Missouri (14-16, 5-13 SEC)
Vanderbilt (9-22, 0-18 SEC) vs. Texas A&M (13-17, 6-12 SEC)
RANDOM THOUGHTS: David Beaty has filed suit for breach of contract and unpaid wages of $3 million against the University of Kansas. Beaty was fired after going 6-42 as the HBC at Kansas. He’s currently working as a consultant at Texas … The New York Giants have reportedly traded WR Odell Beckham to the Cleveland Browns for a first round pick, a third round pick and Jabril Peppers. Beckham has caught 390 passes for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns in his5-year NFL career … Southern Cal has fired senior women’s athletic director Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic for their part in the nationwide bribery scandal the FBI dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Heinel allegedly took $1.3 million in bribes … University of Texas offensive lineman Patrick Hudson, who suffered heat sickness in September of 2018 and didn’t play again, has elected to retire from college football … Gonzaga’s chances of a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament were probably crushed Tuesday night when the Zags were hosed, 60-47, by Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game … North Dakota State earned its way into the Big Dance by beating Omaha, 73-63, in the Summit League championship game … Former Gator Richie Martin is hitting .310 this spring for the Baltimore Orioles and looks to have the inside track as the starting shortstop … The New York Mets sent Tim Tebow down to their AAA camp.