Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, APRIL 17, 2019

FIVE GUYS TO WATCH IN 2019

Now that spring has sprung, here are five guys who should make significant contributions in 2019:

RT Jean Delance (6-4, 313, RJR): Richard Gouraige (6-4, 303 RFR) was expected to take over at RT this spring, but Delance played so well that he’s firmly entrenched as the starter. Now, Gouraige might put together an extraordinary summer and re-take the position in fall camp, but former Texas transfer Delance was not only consistent all spring, but showed constant improvement. He needs a great summer in the weight room with Nick Savage but if he puts in the work he will have a chance to start and play well at RT.

ILB Amari Burney (6-2, 222, SO): He was a DB as a freshman last year, but he moved to inside linebacker in the spring where he looked like a natural fit next to David Reese II (6-1, 248). Burney has big shoes to fill because the guy he’s replacing (Vosean Joseph) was Florida’s leading tackler last season and will be playing for pay on Sundays in the fall. Like Joseph, Burney has great speed, the ability to maneuver in traffic without getting picked off and he showed in the spring that he’s a consistent big hitter. That has plenty to do with why he will be the starter when fall camp cranks up.

BUCK Andrew Chatfield Jr. (6-0, 245, RFR): Looks can be deceiving. Chatfield doesn’t look like a guy who’s going to be a terror coming off the edge, but this is a guy who had 41 sacks in his high school career at American Heritage. He’s got a strong upper body and a knack for getting under the pads of offensive tackles. He might not start, but he will be on the field a lot in pass rush situations.

WR Tyrie Cleveland (6-2, 206, SR): When he came to Florida as a stud recruit out of Texas, it was expected Cleveland would be gone on to the NFL after three years but he’s still looking for that breakout season. Last year he had 18 catches for 212 yards and 3 TDs. His 3-year numbers are 54 catches for 920 yards and 7 TDs, about what he probably expected to have in a single season when he signed with the Gators. Florida oozes talent at the wide receiver position and the way the Gators spread the ball around, it might be difficult for any receiver to put up huge numbers, but Cleveland knows this is a contract year so it’s now or never. He played that way this spring.

RB Malik Davis (5-11, 191, RSO): It has never been a question of talent with Davis, but rather can he stay healthy? He played seven games in 2017 when he ran for 526 yards but only three in 2018 (13 carries, 61 yards) before he went down with a knee injury. He came back in the spring strong and healthy, looking better than he’s ever looked. He is a make you miss guy who has surprising strength despite his size. He’s also a terrific receiver out of the backfield who will get his touches in the fall.

BLACKSHEAR WILL TRANSFER FROM VIRGINIA TECH

That last remaining scholarship Mike White has at his disposal likely got a top priority on Tuesday when Kerry Blackshear Jr. (6-10, 252) announced he will leave Virginia Tech as a grad transfer. Blackshear also put his name in the NBA Draft hat, but he’s not being projected as a first rounder so would be far better off to finish his college career.

Because he’s an Orlando native (Evans grad), there is plenty of speculation that Blackshear will strongly consider the Gators where he would be an instant starter and a great fit alongside incoming freshman Omar Payne, a 6-9 power forward with a reported 7-2 reach. Blackshear was a 6-8, 210-pounder and a 3-star prospect out of high school so he’s filled out and developed nicely. His dad, who played professional basketball overseas for 10 years, is the all-time leading scorer in Stetson history.

Blackshear has the option to return to Virginia Tech to play for new head coach Mike Young, who led Wofford to a 30-win season and a near upset of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. Young has had an in-home with Blackshear and his parents that apparently went well. Blackshear could very well follow his former VaTech coach Buzz Williams to Texas A&M and Kentucky has already been in contact, but Florida is thought to be in very good shape.

At Virginia Tech last season, Blackshear averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists while hitting 55.3% from the field. In Virginia Tech’s 75-73 loss to Duke in the Sweet 16 game, Blackshear had 18 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal.

THE FUTURE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL?

James Kilkenny, formerly the Oregon athletic director whose best bud and confidant is Nike CEO Phil Knight, calls the current economic model of college sports unsustainable. He believes the top 100 football-playing schools should break away from the NCAA and consolidate their media rights, much the way the NFL works.

Under this plan, all 100 teams would make the same amount of money but by bidding as a single unit everyone would make more money in the long haul. The 100 schools would include the 65 schools from the five power conferences, Notre Dame, the American Athletic Conference, the Mountain West and a few others.

Kilkenny says, “The deficits they’re running on campuses isn’t sustainable, which means they have to raise the bar which means they have to aggregate.”

Although this might seem far-fetched, only a handful of schools operate an athletic program that actually makes money. It might take only a couple of major programs having to declare bankruptcy to force the top schools to break away from the NCAA, form their own organization and then work out new media deals, this time with the strength of 100 instead of splintered arrangements that benefit some conferences while cutting out others.

If the schools look at how prosperous NFL teams are, they might not think this is such an off the wall idea. It could happen.

GATORS DOUBLE UP JU, OFF TO LSU NEXT

Brady McConnell hit a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall for his team-leading 8thhomer of the season Tuesday night to lead off a 5-run first inning as the Gators (25-14, 6-9 SEC) took an 8-4 non-conference win over Jacksonville at McKethan Stadium. The win was Florida’s fourth in the last five games, setting the Gators up for a critical SEC series in Baton Rouge against 14th-ranked LSU (24-13, 9-6 SEC) starting Thursday night.

It was a big night for Florida’s freshmen. Jacob Young went 3-4 with 3 RBI, Corey Acton had a 2-run single and Jud Fabian had a run-scoring single. Junior Wil Dalton showed some signs of breaking out of his season-long slump with a 2-4 night including an RBI.

Getting the win was starter Nolan Crisp (3-1), who went the first three innings, allowing just one run. The remaining six innings were split up among freshmen Justin Alintoff (2-2/3 innings), Ben Specht (1-1/3 innings), Kris Armstrong (2/3 inning) and Nick Pogue (1-1/3 inning, got the save).

SEC FOOTBALL STUFF

If the depth chart at the end of spring holds up in August, Auburn will have one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country. The post-spring first unit O-line was LT Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. (6-7, 305, RSR), LG Marquel Harrell (6-3, 309, RSR), C Kaleb Kim (6-4, 300, RSR), RG Mike Horton (6-4, 323, RSR), RT Jack Driscoll (6-5, 296, SR).

One day after announcing he was putting his name in the NCAA transfer portal, Alabama backup QB Layne Hatcher announced that he’s leaving for Arkansas State. Hatcher is a redshirt freshman who will have to sit out the 2019 season.

South Carolina redshirt sophomore linebacker Zay Brown has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.

Arkansas, which has been playing on artificial turf since 2010, is switching back to natural grass. Arkansas is installing Tahoma 31 grass, which is said to be more tolerant to cold than Bermuda and is drought resistant.

SEC BASKETBALL STUFF

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has a new contract that will pay him more than $4 million next season and will escalate to $6 million by the time the contract is finished. Sounds peachy, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not because Tuesday Barnes told reporters that if UCLA had been willing to pay his $5 million buyout he would have pulled up stakes in Knoxville and headed west. Vol fans can’t be feeling giddy about Barnes knowing that he had one foot out the door. UCLA fans can’t feel good about new coach Mick Cronin, either, not after their esteemed athletic director Dan Guerrero offered John Calipari $8 million (he was making $9.8 million and wound up with a lifetime contract and a monster raise), wouldn’t pay the $8 million buyout it would have taken to land TCU’s Jamie Dixon and then wouldn’t pay the $5 million for Barnes.

Regarding Barnes’ flirtations with Tennessee followed by the big raise and contract extension, Paul Finebaum said, “It’s like you’re married and you flirt with leaving your wife or husband, and in the end, that person doesn’t really want you, so you go back and you admit, ‘I would have been gone, but we couldn’t quite pull this off.’ It’s a bad statement to make, and I don’t know how it’s going to play in Tennessee. It makes it look like you really wanted to leave. And if he wanted to leave, why did he want to leave?”

Tennessee combo guard Lamonte Turner had shoulder surgery Tuesday. Turner averaged 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.8 rebonds per game last season.

Alabama coach Nate Oats hired Josh Baker, a Michigan high school staff, as an assistant coach Tuesday. Baker was once one of Oats’ assistant coaches when he was a high school coach in Michigan.

Arkansas could be the landing spot for High Point graduate transfer Jahaad Proctor. Proctor averaged 19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds nad 3.3 assists last year.

Former Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy is in the running for the HBC job at Southern Miss.

Tyler Herro has shut the door on returning to Kentucky. He announced Tuesday that he’s going to hire an agent.

LSU’s Board of Supervisors held a closed doors meeting Tuesday evening to discuss basketball coach Will Wade, who was reinstated by AD Joe Alleva on Sunday. Wade’s reinstatement could be short-lived because wiretaps that allegedly have him discussing a payment to Javonte Smart with convicted wannabe agent Christian Dawkins will be introduced as evidence in federal court in the very near future.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Russell Wilson is now the highest paid player in NFL history after getting a $65 million bonus and a 4-year, $140 million contract to remain with the Seattle Seahawks. That is nice work if you can get it … Virginia’s hopes of repeating as NCAA champions have taken a severe hit this week. First De’Andre Hunter announced he was heading for the NBA and that was followed by point guard Ty Jerome. Tuesday shooter extraordinaire Kyle Guy announced he’s heading for the NBA and will hire an agent … St. John’s is still looking for a new basketball coach now that Porter Moser has elected to stay at Loyola … With the NFL Draft set for next week in Nashville, the Arizona Cardinals say they haven’t made up their mind who to take with the #1 overall pick or whether to trade down for more first round picks. Most of the mock drafts have the Cardinals taking Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the first pick then trading last year’s first rounder, QB Josh Rosen, for another first round pick. A few mock drafts have the Cardinals taking Alabama DT Quinnen Williams. If I were the GM, I might be tempted to trade down for multiple first round picks but I think I would go with Murray. I like quarterbacks who won in college and Josh Rosen didn’t exactly burn it up when he was at UCLA.