THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: MARCH 29, 2019
STEP BACK FROM THE LEDGE: THE O-LINE WILL BE FINE
Here is what you can know after a Thursday scrimmage in which Zach Carter was an absolute monster off the edge and the running game struggled to make any headway up the middle: It is spring and the defensive line SHOULD be ahead of the offensive line at this point, particularly when you consider John Hevesy is trying to create a cohesive unit with four new starters.
Other than the quarterback position, nothing requires more repetition than the O-line so don’t expect this group (LT Stone Forsythe, LG Brett Heggie, C Nick Buchanan, RG Chris Bleich, RT Jean Delance) to be anything close to game ready by the end of the spring. What Hevesy is looking for this spring are the 8-9 guys who will be in his rotation when fall camp begins in August. That’s when the O-line will start shaping into one that can get the job done against SEC defenses in the fall.
So for now, step back from the ledge and remember that Hevesy took over an underachieving line last year and turned them into the best unit Florida has put on the field since 2009. Hevesy would be the first to tell you he’s no miracle worker, but he has a track record of success that’s based on teaching great fundamentals and outworking people. These guys will be all right in the fall. Count on it.
If Thursday’s scrimmage proved one thing it is that Feleipe Franks is distancing himself from redshirt freshman Emory Jones. Franks is looking smoother, more polished and more confident than at any time in his Florida career but the one thing observers told me that impresses them most is his leadership. This is his team and he’s doing everything necessary to be the guy everyone is happy to follow.
JASON JITOBOH COMMITS TO THE GATORS
On a week when the Florida basketball news has been dominated by three transfers, Mike White got a much-needed commitment from big man Jason Jitoboh (6-11, 270, Abuja, Nigeria/Chattanooga, TN Hamilton Heights Christian Academy). When Jitoboh signs his letter of intent the Gators will have 10 scholarship players.
Jitoboh won’t be expected to start right away for the Gators, but should be able to contribute, particularly in games that the pace slows down to a half court affair. The Gators were at a disadvantage last season (see Michigan in particular) against teams with overwhelming size so having Jitoboh gives UF a tall wide body who can bang with the big guys. He’s got good hands, decent feet and a soft touch at the rim, plus he tends to block shots without fouling. Two things to remember: You can’t teach tall and sometimes you need five big fouls in the paint. Jitoboh gives the Gators the size and the five additional fouls.
The updated roster for 2019-20:
Redshirt juniors (2): Gorjok Gak (6-11, 254); Dontay Bassett (6-9, 237)
Redshirt sophomore (1): Isaiah Stokes (6-8, 259)
Sophomores (3): Andrew Nembhard (6-5, 191); Noah Locke (6-3, 205); Keyontae Johnson (6-5, 225)
Freshmen (5): Scottie Lewis (6-6, 190); Tre Mann (6-4, 185); Omar Payne (6-9, 220); * Andrew Klatsky (6-4, 180); Jason Jitoboh (6-11, 270)
UF SPRING SPORTS: Although it’s just the third SEC weekend, the 22nd-ranked Gators (17-10, 1-5 SEC) find themselves in the unaccustomed position of bottom feeder in the SEC East. With Alabama (20-6, 2-4) coming to McKethan Stadium for a 3-game set, the Gators are in serious need of a sweep. Florida will go with Tommy Mace (4-2, 3.99 ERA) tonight with Tyler Dyson (3-1, 5.34 ERA) moving up from Sunday to Saturday and Jack Leftwich (4-2, 4.65 ERA) getting the Sunday start.
Florida’s softball team finds itself in a similar position as the baseball team. The Gators (28-6, 2-4 SEC) are ranked 7th nationally but they’ve lost both their SEC weekend series so far. Florida travels to 22nd-ranked Ole Miss (22-8, 3-2 SEC) this weekend.
After two days at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Austin, TX, the Gators are in fifth place with 76 points. California leads with 212 points.
The women’s golf team is in 11th place after one round of The Goodwin, a prestigious tournament at Stanford. The Gators are 10-over par and 12 shots behind first round leader Washington.
The Pepsi Relays are under way at the Percy Beard Track. If you want to catch real greatness, get out today and tomorrow to watch Grant Holloway.
SEC IN THE NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
South Regional at Louisville
#3 Purdue (26-9) 99, TENNESSEE (31-6) 94, OT: Tennessee was within a couple of seconds of an epic comeback win (down 18 in the second half) until Lamonte Turner fouled Carsen Edwards, who was shooting a 3-ball from the corner. Edwards hit 2-3 from the foul line to tie the game and send it to overtime. Once in overtime, Tennessee was gassed and Purdue regained its mojo to advance to the Elite Eight. Tennessee should look no further than the foul line for answers to why this one was lost. The Vols, who shot nearly 77% from the line for the season, were 14-28 against Purdue.
East Regional at Washington, DC
#3 LSU (28-6) vs. #2 Michigan State (30-6): The matchup that could very well determine the outcome of this one is LSU’s ultra-quick Tremont Waters vs. Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. Waters is the triggerman of the LSU offense (15 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game) but he might be an even better defender (3 steals per game). Winston goes for 18.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game while hitting 47.1% overall from the field and 40.1% from the 3-point line.
Midwest Regional at Kansas City
#5 AUBURN (28-9) vs. #1 North Carolina (29-6): Nassir Little (10 points, 4.7 rebounds per game), who has been one of North Carolina’s hottest players, might not play against Auburn tonight. He has been running a fever and hasn’t been able to eat so he is listed as questionable. That is a big plus for Auburn if Little can’t go.
#3 Houston (33-3) vs. #2 KENTUCKY (29-6): The story for Kentucky heading into tonight’s matchup with Houston is the same one it’s been all week – will PJ Washington play or will he remain sidelined with the foot injury that kept him out of UK’s first two NCAA Tournament games? Washington practiced Thursday but his status remains uncertain. “Right now, it’s up in the air,” Washington said.
MORE SEC BASKETBALL STUFF
Yahoo Sports says several unnamed but reliable sources claim Shannon Forman Sr., a longtime friend of Javonte Smart’s family, was the middleman in the deal caught on wiretap that resulted in LSU coach Will Wade’s suspension. Forman is somewhat of a Baton Rouge basketball legend who led Southern Lab to four straight state championships in the 1990s. He is named in emails that helped land wannabe agent Christian Dawkins an all-expenses paid vacation to Club Fed and he is the “Shannon” in the wiretaps in which Wade complained that he had made “a strong ass offer” to secure the services of Smart. Smart described Forman as “my mentor. He’s real close to me and he looks out for me.” Here is the link to the Yahoo article authored by Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel. https://sports.yahoo.com/yahoo-exclusive-sources-documents-…
In discussing the four players who have put their names in the NCAA transfer portal, new Alabama coach Nate Oats said, “Kid wants to put his name in the transfer portal he can put it in, that doesn’t mean he’s going to go. He can obviously come back and we are going to work hard to recruit the kids that we want back,” Oats said on Thursday. “Now, some of them we may not want all of them back.” Well, allrighty then.
One player Oats wants back at Alabama is point guard Kira Lewis Jr., who averaged 13.5 points and 2.9 assists as a 17-year-old freshman. Lewis has been contacted by Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek thanked the board of trustees for back his decision to fire basketball coach Mike Anderson. Yurachek is expected to offer the job to Houston’s Kelvin Sampson as soon as Houston’s season ends. Asked if he’s interested in the Arkansas job, Sampson said, “I’m not going to talk about my contract situation.”
Arkansas freshman Keyshawn Embery (6-3, 202) has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal. He averaged 4.1 points and 1.2 rebounds while playing in 33 games.
Jontay Porter, who missed all 2018-19 with a torn ACL, recently tore the same ACL while working out in Denver. Porter admitted that he was back on the court before he was cleared to play. Porter tweeted, “Word to the wise – never disobey doctor’s orders!”
NCAA BASKETBALL STUFF
West Regional at Anaheim
Gonzaga (33-3) 72, Florida State (29-8) 58: Trent Forrest hit a free throw to finish off a 3-point play with 4:10 to go, cutting Gonzaga’s lead to 60-56, but that was as close as the Seminoles came. Gonzaga scored the next 10 points to advance to the Elite Eight. The difference in the game was on the defensive end where the Zags held FSU to 3-20 (15%) shooting from the 3-point line. They also outrebounded the taller Seminoles 45-36.
#3 Texas Tech (29-6) 63, #2 Michigan (30-7) 44: Texas Tech put on a defensive clinic. Michigan missed its first 18 3-point shots before finally knocking one down with 24 seconds to go in the game. Texas Tech held Michigan to 16 first half points and 32.7% shooting (16-49) for the game.
South Regional at Louisville
#1 Virginia (32-3) 53, Oregon (25-13) 49: Virginia advanced to the Elite Eight against Purdue by grinding out a win over Oregon, which had won 10 straight games. This game was ugly! The score was10-10 with 8:59 to go in the first half before both teams started hitting a few shots.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
At Mississippi State’s pro day on Thursday, Nick Fitzgerald threw the ball but was asked to catch and block, too. Fitzgerald wants to play QB in the NFL and he’ll get a chance, but he’s a good enough athlete that if he can’t cut it at QB he will be given a shot as a tight end or H-back.
LSU running back Tae Provens, who placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal on March 21, has been accused of raping a blacked out woman per NOLA.com. Provens is being charged with third degree rape.
Cornerback Kristian Fulton, who missed the final three games for LSU last season after undergoing ankle surgery, returned to practice Thursday. It is unlikely that he will participate in any contact drills this spring.
Apparently there will be no quarterback controversy at Ole Miss, which is installing a new offensive system under coordinator Rich Rodriguez. Redshirt freshman Matt Corral is described by HBC Matt Luke as “way ahead.” In four appearances last year, Corrall was 16-22 passing for 239 yards and 2 TDs while running for 83 yards and 2 TDs.
Micah Wilson is making the switch from quarterback to wide receiver at Missouri. Wilson is a redshirt junior who has never played any position except quarterback.
Xavian Marks has been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA so the former Alabama wide receiver/kick returner has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Marks will graduate in May.
After two years as a rotational player, DE Big Kat Williams wants to become THE man on Auburn’s defensive line this year. He has 5.5 sacks in two seasons to go with a couple of forced fumbles and a pock six. “I’m going to take that next step next year – try to anyway,” Williams said.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Pete Alonso (New York Mets) and Richie Martin (Baltimore Orioles) were in the opening day starting lineups as the Major League Baseball season got underway Thursday. Alonso went 1-4 playing first base for the Mets while Martin went 0-3 at shortstop for the Orioles … File this under things that make you go hmmm: Just two months after accepting the job as the New England Patriots defensive coordinator, Greg Schiano resigned, citing “a need to spend more time on my faith and family.” Let the conspiracy theories begin! … You could call Miami “Transfer U.” Eight players have transferred in since Manny Diaz became the head coach … The Los Angeles Dodgers set a Major League Baseball opening day record with eight home runs in a 12-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.