THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, APRIL 15, 2019
NO QB CONTROVERSY HERE: FRANKS IS THE MAN
All right, so it was the Orange and Blue Game. So there might not have been exactly 39,476 live bodies in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. And so there was no blitzing by the defense, no real attempt to pressure the quarterbacks and all the QBs knew what four basic defenses they would see. None of this mattered. This wasn’t supposed to be serious football. It was supposed to be a show that gave fans in attendance and those who will watch the replay this week a case of the warm and fuzzies.
For the most part, Dan Mullen got exactly what he was looking for. He didn’t want to give any secrets away but it was hard to hide Feleipe Franks. Last spring it was hard to hide the fact that Franks was indecisive, lacked confidence and had this annoying habit of throwing the ball (a) too high, (b) too low, (c) not on time and (d) to a receiver he spent what seemed like an eternity staring down. Saturday, what we got was the new and vastly improved version of Feleipe Franks, the one who has been on an upward spiral since his close encounter with rock bottom last November when the Gators got hosed by Missouri.
What we saw Saturday was the cannon of an arm we knew he had when Old Yeller convinced him to sign with the Gators what seems like a decade ago. While Franks never developed under the previous regime, he showed Saturday just how far he’s come in one year. Saturday we saw the guy who not only knew exactly where to go with the football, but got it there on time and in stride. Franks even put the proper amount of loft under the deep ball, allowing receivers to run under it instead of trying to set a world land speed record trying to catch up to one of his classic overthrows.
Granted this wasn’t a real game but even when it’s a dog and pony show it’s difficult to hide talent. It’s even more difficult to hide confidence and that was a confident quarterback Saturday, one who got to this point by making a decision to (a) believe in himself the way his coach believes in him and (b) electing to lead by example, making certain nobody but nobody outworks him.
So you can shelve the notion that Emory Jones or someone else is going to supplant Feleipe Franks as Florida’s starting QB. Not only is Franks firmly in control, but he’s got a chance to put up spectacular numbers throwing to the best set of receivers Florida has had in at least a decade. Last year’s numbers were really good – 2,457 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, 7 rushing touchdowns and 2,807 yards of total offense – but they’re likely to pale in comparison to what happens in 2019.
TIGER AT THE MASTERS: SEEMED LIKE OLD TIMES
What we saw Sunday when he won his fifth green jacket was the Tiger Woods who used to dominate the best golfers in the world. He made the critical putts, stuck his iron shots on Augusta’s normally slippery greens and when he strayed off the fairway showed he hasn’t forgotten why he might be the best scrambler there has ever been. It wasn’t a mistake-free round, but mistakes were at a minimum as he held off 10 other challengers who finished their four-day stroll through the Masters azaleas and pines at 10-under par or better.
Perhaps the surest sign that Tiger had a win in him Sunday was his ability to stay patient. He never took unnecessary gambles, leaving that instead to his competitors. He let them make the big mistakes while he played the percentages and once he got the lead the tables were turned. At that point he simply played for par and let the other guys try their best to catch him. It was vintage Tiger Woods.
By proving he can once again stare down the best players in the world to win on golf’s biggest stage, Tiger will once again raise expectations that he can dominate the game again. That might be a stretch because he is 43 years old and has a history of back surgeries as well as other health issues but even if he can’t consistently kick the competition to the curb the Tiger Woods that can still win a big one is good for the game of golf. If you don’t believe that, then you obviously didn’t see the size of his gallery or hear the roar every time he took one step closer to winning the Masters.
UF MEN’S TENNIS WINS SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
With their 6-1 win over 18th-ranked South Carolina (15-8, 5-7 SEC) Sunday, Florida’s 2nd-ranked men’s tennis team (20-2, 12-0 SEC) won the Southeastern Conference championship, capping an unbeaten season in league play. This was Florida’s first outright SEC championship in 16 years and also the first time since that 2003 championship season that the Gators finished unbeaten in league play.
Florida has won 14 consecutive matches dating back to a February 17 loss to Stanford indoors on a neutral court. The Gators host the SEC Championship Tournament starting Wednesday at the Ring Tennis Complex.
GATORS WIN SERIES WITH SOUTH CAROLINA
Was that Jordan Butler walk-off 3-run home run Saturday the spark the Gators (24-14, 6-9 SEC) need to get on a roll in the second half of the SEC portion of the schedule? Butler’s home run not only secured the series win over the Gamecocks but it also kept the Gators within four games of SEC East-leading Georgia (29-8, 10-5 SEC) and tied for fourth in the SEC East with Tennessee (26-11, 6-9 SEC).
Overcoming a four-game lead with 15 SEC games remaining is a tough but not impossible task, particularly if a dramatic, come-from-behind win like this can inspire confidence. The way the Gators lost all three games at Vanderbilt and Ole Miss had to shake their confidence down to the core, so a win like this could be a nice jolt of momentum. Maybe a realistic goal would be to get to 16 SEC wins, which would likely secure an NCAA regional.
One interesting takeaway from the Saturday win over South Carolina was Kevin O’Sullivan benching slumping Wil Dalton (.221, 3 HR, 17 RBI), moving freshman Kendrick Calilao (.324, 4 HR, 37 RBI) to right field and inserting Butler (.393, 2 HR, 10 RBI) at first base. Butler is Florida’s lefthanded long reliever but hits for power and might be too good to keep out of the every day lineup at this point. Calilao is also a better outfielder than first baseman, plus he might feel less pressure in the outfield.
The Gators play host to Jacksonville Tuesday night and then travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU (24-13, 9-6 SEC) on Thursday.
MUCH NEEDED SWEEP FOR FLORIDA SOFTBALL
Heading into a week in which they’ll face off with #3 Florida State (38-5) on the road and #5 Alabama (40-4, 10-4 SEC) at home, the 6th-ranked Gators (36-9, 9-6 SEC) extended their winning streak to seven straight with a sweep of Texas A&M (25-18, 3-12 SEC) in College Station. It was the second straight SEC sweep for the Gators, who moved into a tie with Auburn (33-10, 9-6 SEC) for fifth place in the league. With three SEC series remaining, the Gators need to go at least 7-2 the rest of the way to ensure hosting an NCAA regional.
At Texas A&M, bookend wins by Kelly Barnhill sandwiched a strong performance by freshman Elizabeth Hightower, who improved to 3-0, allowing 5 hits over 5 innings. Barnhill improved to 24-5 with her best game her Sunday 3-hitter.
Freshman Hannah Sipos had her best weekend as a Gator, going 7-10 with a homer, a double and 3 RBI. Amanda Lorenz had a 4-8 weekend while Kendyl Lindamin hit her 14th homer and had 5 RBI.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
Obviously, QB Jarrett Guarantano is adjusting well to new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Guarantano threw four touchdown passes in Tennessee’s spring game.
All three quarterbacks got to show off at Mississippi State’s spring game and all three had their good moments along with some they’d like to have back. Keytaon Thompson is the only one with experience but he was less than impressive. Redshirt freshman Jalen Mayden threw the ball well. Early enrollee freshman Garrett Shrader showed good feet and a strong arm, but lacks experience. Essentially, we won’t know until August who’s going to play QB.
Former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant completed 12-17 passes for 150 yards in Missouri’s spring game attended by several of Bryant’s former Clemson teammates.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops wasn’t pleased with the effort at the spring game. Stoops said, “Today was really the most sloppy day we’ve had … We’re looking for good, hard-nosed competitive football, but it was sloppy.”
Joey Gatewood took the first team quarterback snaps at Auburn’s A-Day. Gatewood completed 7-10 passes for 123 yards. Also taking snaps with the first team offense was early enrollee freshman Bo Nix … Linebacker Chandler Wooten injured his knee Saturday but there is no word how serious it is.
At the Texas A&M spring game, the defensive line was the big star with five sacks. Of course, that means the O-line had all sorts of problems blocking people.
Alabama held it’s A-Day Saturday. The most productive QB on the field wasn’t Tua Tagovailoa. Tua was 19-37 for 265 yards and a TD with one pick. Backup Mac Jones was 19-23 for 274 yards and two TDs and one pick. Meanwhile at Oklahoma, former Bama QB Jalen Hurts went 11-14 for 174 yards and a TD.
LSU REINSTATES HOOPS COACH WILL WADE
LSU has reinstated Will Wade as its basketball coach. A statement by LSU athletic director Joe Alleva read: “Coach Wade met Friday with University and NCAA officials. During those meetings, he answered all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting … Coach Wade’s explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU.”
Those last six words – “satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU” – are the ones to focus on. There are allegations that Wade was brokering a deal with convicted wannabe agent Christian Dawkins, apparently caught on an FBI wiretap but until they are submitted as evidence in court, they regarded as hearsay. If Wade doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing and LSU doesn’t have concrete evidence to the contrary that would stand up in court it’s either reinstate or face a wrongful termination lawsuit.
The NCAA was also at the meeting and one can safely assume that it heard Wade’s explanation of things. Maybe a few questions were asked, but unless Wade admitted to any wrongdoing – he didn’t – the NCAA isn’t going to do a thing. Why should the NCAA spend its resources tracking down what Wade may or may not have done when the FBI has wiretap recordings that will be submitted as evidence in Federal Court? This is exactly what the NCAA did way back in 2000 when it lowered the boom on Alabama in the Albert Means case. The NCAA simply waited for court transcripts and documented evidence then used that against Alabama.
For now, Will Wade is LSU’s basketball coach again. It’s not an ideal situation for LSU but it’s what has to be done for now.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: John Brannen, who played for Billy Donovan at Marshall and was an assistant to Anthony Grant at both VCU and Alabama, has been named head coach at Cincinnati. Brannen was 81-51 in four years at Northern Kentucky, 72-27 after a 9-24 first year on the job … One day after ending his Major League record 0-53 hitting streak, Baltimore’s Chris Davis is off on a brand new streak. Davis went 3-5 against the Boston Red Sox Saturday but Sunday he was up to his old shenanigans once again with an 0-4 effort against the Red Sox that dipped his batting average to .071 … Is it my imagination or did the Orlando Magic beat the Toronto Ruptures in the first game of their NBA Playoff series? I didn’t expect the Magic would make the playoffs this year much less win a game on the road in Toronto … Nevada gave Steve Alford a 10-year deal to become its new basketball coach.