THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, APRIL 16, 2019
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THESE THREE THINGS
In the aftermath of Florida’s Orange and Blue Game, here are three takeaways:
(1) The defense is going to be spectacular. What you saw at The Swamp was all about entertainment. Dan Mullen wanted happy fans and he got them without offering a clue just how good that defense is going to be. Todd Grantham has players. Lots of them. And they are very, very fast, maybe as fast as any defensive unit in the Southeastern Conference. If you’ve been known to wager a dollar or two, then put your money on the Gators sacking opposing QBs somewhere around 50 times and forcing more than 30 turnovers.
(2) The offensive line will be very good. As good as last year? Maybe not, but Feleipe Franks will negate some of those issues because he will be getting the ball out of his hands faster and have a better idea where he’s supposed to go with it. That will be very important early on, but if you recall the 2018 season, the O-line kept getting better as the season progressed to the point they destroyed the vaunted Michigan front seven (UF ran for 257 yards). John Hevesy-coached offensive lines get better as the season progresses. That will happen this year, too. And do remember this: When last season began Nick Buchanan had played something like 29 snaps in his career. He started every game at center, consistently made the right line calls and by season’s end was one of the top tier centers in the SEC. If Hev can do that with Nick Buchanan, then you shouldn’t worry about 2019.
(3) The Gators might have the best collection of skill people since Steven Orr Spurrier was calling the ball plays. The depth and talent at wide receiver is absolutely ridiculous and the last time the Gators had this combination of speed and power at running back was when Stevie Wonder could call on Fred Taylor, Eli Williams and Terry Jackson. Last year the Gators averaged more than 400 yards (426.7) and at least 35 points per game for the first time since 2009. Even though the schedule is tougher this year, expect the Gators to rack up more yards and more points than last year. Feleipe Franks is going to be like a kid in a candy store with so many weapons to spread the ball around to.
WHITE, GATORS LAND TRANSFER FROM LA TECH
Louisiana Tech forward Anthony Duruji (6-7, 215) is transferring to Florida per Jeff Goodman. Duruji averaged 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. Unless the NCAA grants a waiver, Duruji will have to sit out the 2019-20 season.
The addition of Duruji will give the Gators 12 on scholarship. UF is very much in the hunt for a graduate transfer. Perhaps the two most likely candidates are Joey Brunk (6-11, 230), who leaves Butler with two years of eligibility remaining, and Matt Milon (6-5, 190), an Oviedo native who spent his first three years at William and Mary. Brunk averaged 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game but wasn’t a particularly good fit in Butler’s style. He is a very solid low blocks scorer. Milon averaged 13 points in each of the last two seasons and hit better than 40% of his 3-points all three years at William and Mary.
MASTERS AFTERMATH: MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT TIGER
Because he did what some thought was impossible by scoring a brilliantly-played win on golf’s biggest stage, the expectations for Tiger Woods are already several galaxies beyond realistic. Winning the Masters by staring down what seemed to be an army of snipers ready to pick him off ranks right up there with Jack Nicklaus winning his sixth green jacket at the age of 46. Some will say even better because Jack never had to endure the public humiliation of having his personal life exposed for the whole world to see or all those back surgeries to go with other injuries.
The win brings the old Tiger Woods intimidation factor into play and that is good for at least 1-2 shots per round because of the self-doubt it inflicts upon competitors who are good enough to beat mere mortals. But with the return of Tiger to golf’s forefront comes the reality that he might not be physically capable of consistently playing at the top of his game again. When Tiger was at his best in the past there wasn’t anyone capable of challenging him, but we just don’t know at this point what all the health issues have taken out of him. What we do know is that at the Masters, at least, he had figured out how to compensate for the physical problems that had us thinking he probably would never win another major.
At Augusta National we didn’t see the Tiger Woods who used to pound a course and the competition into submission because nobody else could hit the shots he hit. That’s not to say there weren’t some extraordinary shots, but this was as much about patience and maturity as it was about the brilliant shot. There was brilliance Saturday when he reeled off three consecutive birdies on the front nine and then birdied three of four holes on the back nine to send out fear factor waves that reverberated through the field. But take a look at what Tiger did on Thursday – 2-under 70 – which is also what he did on Sunday. He made some nice shots in those two rounds but nothing really spectacular. He didn’t have to be spectacular. Tiger simply stayed steady, forcing everyone else to try to stay with him. One-by-one they made critical mistakes that cost a stroke here, a stroke there, and in the end, the tournament.
If he manages to stay on top, this is most likely the Tiger that we will see. Not the one who overpowers both ball and opponents, but the one who understands that sometimes par is a very good score, especially when opponents are chasing you. He’s 43 years old now and anyone who’s had back surgery can tell you that you wake up every day hoping you aren’t living on borrowed time. The best way for Tiger to protect that back is to play smarter than everyone else and leave the 350-yard drives to Dustin Johnson and all the kids who kill it off the tee.
A friend of mine who marveled at Tiger’s win at Augusta made this comment Monday: “Enjoy Tiger while we have him. Maybe he’ll be the guy nobody can beat again but we don’t know that. You know how backs are. He could be feeling great one day and can’t move the next so just savor when he’s good.”
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
Alabama redshirt freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher has elected to enter his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Former Missouri QB Drew Lock, who could go in the first 10 picks on the NFL Draft called out Tennessee, which tried to induce Mizzou seniors to transfer after the NCAA issued a 1-year bowl ban. “If you’re calling and trying to steal players, I think you’re probably pretty nervous about who you’re about to play this year,” Lock said.
In South Carolina’s spring game, Jay Urich spent part of the time at quarterback and part of the time as a receiver. He completed 6-8 passes for 84 yards and caught 9 passes for 130 yards and a TD. Urich will be a backup QB but he will see the field as a wide receiver or H-back.
At Kentucky’s spring game, quarterback Terry Wilson completed 10-12 passes for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns while backup Gunnar Hoak went 23-30 for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman running back Kavosiey Smoke was 5-132 rushing with 87 yards on one run.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Joey Gatewood, who Auburn fans regularly compare to Cam Newton because of his size (Newton was 6-5, 240 while Gatewood is 6-5, 233), was a disaster as a true freshman last spring but he could be Auburn’s starter in the fall. “He’s a different quarterback than he was at this time last year,” HBC Gus Malzahn said. “He does have more confidence. He has really been focused and really desperate to win the job. So, he’s had a very good spring.”
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF
Paul Finebaum on LSU reinstating Will Wade as its head coach: “In some ways, it’s worse if he coaches. How is he going to scrape away? The only way to do it is to face it head on, and that’s to come on programs like this and others and say, ‘listen I’ve been mistreated. I’ve been mischaracterized.’ Not one time throughout the entire process has Will Wade ever stood up and said, ‘it’s not true. They’re lies.’ Not one time. He just said we don’t have the whole story.”
Dick Vitale on LSU reinstating Will Wade as its head coach: “I thought they were very fair, they sat back, eventually gave him the opportunity to come before them and obviously I wasn’t there, you weren’t there, we don’t know what transpired but I guess there’s total denial on his part and unless you can prove there was cash laid out, I guess legally he has an argument and they felt that way and they reinstated him.”
Auburn is getting a visit from Little Rock grad transfer Rayjon Tucker, who averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. With Bryce Brown graduating and Jared Harper opting for the NBA, Auburn is in serious need of a scorer so Tucker might be a good fit … Auburn big man Austin Wiley had surgery to repair a broken thumb. Wiley averaged 6.9 points and 4 rebounds per game last year.
JoJo Toppin, who played in 18 games as a freshman at Georgia last season, has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Kentucky freshmen Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro have declared for the NBA Draft but both are leaving the door open to return to school if they don’t get a good enough evaluation from the scouts. Johnson averaged 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds while Herro averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Missouri center Jeremiah Tilmon (6-10, 252) has declared for the NBA Draft. Tilmon averaged 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds as a sophomore last year. He also averaged 3.7 fouls per game and fouled out of 10 games in each of his freshman and sophomore years. He’s not planning to hire an agent, which is probably a very good decision on his part.
Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler declared for the NBA Draft. He averaged 10.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3 assists per game.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles raised his batting average to a nifty .089 with a 2-run homer in the 8thin a Monday win over the Boston Red Sox … Marquette, which had figured to be a preseason top 10 team next season, is losing the Hauser brothers to transfer. Sam Hauser (6-8 junior) averaged 14.9 points and7.2 rebounds while hitting 40.2% of his 3-pointers. Brother Joey (6-9 freshman) averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while hitting 42.5% of his 3-pointers. Unless the NCAA grants a waiver, both of them will have to sit next year … Virginia is losing point guard Ty Jerome and power forward De’Andre Hunter to the NBA Draft. Jerome averaged 13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the NCAA champs while Hunter averaged 15.2 points and 5.1 rebounds while hitting 48.3% of his 3-pointers. Hunter figures to be a lottery pick … Michigan safeties coach Chris Partridge ripped Greg Mattison and Al Washington for leaving the Wolverines to take jobs on Ryan Day’s staff at Ohio State. “Those guys left and it was another shot … it wasn’t okay,” Partridge said, vowing to coach harder than ever before against Ohio State this year. If you wager, put your money on the Buckeyes beating Michigan and Jim Harbaugh (again).