Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, MAY 27, 2019

GATORS SHOULD HEAR GOOD NEWS FROM NCAA AT NOON

Unless a lot of experts miss their enlightened guesses, Florida’s streak of NCAA Baseball Tournament appearances will expand to 12 when the full field of 64 teams is announced at noon today on ESPNU. With a strength of schedule at #4 nationally and an RPI of 27, the Gators (33-24) should get into the tournament as some regional’s #3 team. As of Sunday night, d1baseball.com had the Gators as the #3 team in the Morgantown Regional along with host #1 West Virginia, #2 Indiana and #4 Army.

Florida’s cause is helped enormously by the strength of the Southeastern Conference, which has six host teams and is expected to place 10 teams in the tournament. Hosting from the SEC are Georgia (44-15, #3 RPI), LSU (37-24, #16 RPI), Arkansas (41-17, #6 RPI), Ole Miss (37-25, #22 RPI), Vanderbilt (49-10, #1 RPI) and Mississippi State (46-13, #4 RPI). In addition to those six teams, Florida, Tennessee (38-19, #14 RPI), Texas A&M (37-21, #15 RPI) and Auburn (33-25, #19 RPI) are expected to make the tournament. Of the 10 SEC teams expected in the tournament, Mississippi State has the worst national strength of schedule at #30.

UF RETURNS TO WCWS FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR

It was a fitting final game at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium for seniors Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz Sunday afternoon. Barnhill held Tennessee to one run and four hits and Lorenz ignited Florida’s winning rally in the bottom of the eighth with a double to left field then scored the game-winner on a hard single to left by Jamie Hoover. Florida’s 2-1 victory over the Lady Vols sends the Gators (49-17) to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series for third straight year and the tenth time in Tim Walton’s 14 years as UF’s head coach.

The 5th-seeded Gators will face Oklahoma State (44-15), winner of the Tallahassee Super Regional, Thursday night in the first round of the WCWS in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma State is coached by former Florida assistant Kenny Gajewski, who was on the UF staff when the Gators won back-to-back national championships in 2014-15.

In getting the win Sunday, Barnhill (34-12, 1.45 ERA) put down the last six UT hitters she faced after allowing a game-tying home run to lead off the top of the seventh. Barnhill shut out the Vols on three hits Friday night, took the loss in Saturday’s 9-inning thriller and then came back Sunday to strike out seven and walk only one. In all, Barnhill used 383 pitches in the three weekend games. Since the SEC Tournament, Barnhill has pitched 56-1/3 innings, allowed 26 hits and five runs while walking 19 and striking out 60. She is 7-1 with a 0.62 ERA in postseason play.

Barnhill did her part and with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Lorenz drove a double down the left field line on an 0-1 count to start a rally. Following an intentional walk to Kendyl Lindamin, Hannah Adams grounded out sharply to first base, moving the runners up a base. That set the stage for Hoover, who had struck out three previous at bats, to line a single over the shortstop’s head to send Lorenz racing home, punching the Gators’ ticket to Oklahoma City. Lorenz scored Florida’s only other run Sunday in the first inning when she was driven home on a single up the middle from Sophia Reynoso.

THE LIST FOR MONDAY

Although it’s only May and nearly three months until the first game of the college football season, it’s not to early to line up the top ten Heisman hopefuls.

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220, SO): If he had been eligible for the NFL Draft back in April he would have been the first player selected and there would have been no debate about it. Having led Clemson to the national championship as a true freshman he will shoulder a lot of pressure, but so far he seems oblivious to the hype and simply seems focused on getting better. Better than he was in 2018? That’s scary.

2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (6-1, 218, JR): Tua would have probably won the Heisman last year if not for that subpar game with Georgia in the SEC Championship in Atlanta. The memory of the Georgia and Clemson (national championship) games are still etched on everybody’s minds so Tua may need to start spectacular and hold steady to overcome perceptions. If you need spectacular it helps to be throwing to the nation’s best and most explosive group of wide receivers.

3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (5-11, 221, JR): When he won the Heisman Trophy in 1988, Barry Sanders gained 2,628 yards in only 11 games. Bowl games didn’t count in the stats as they do today. Taylor has gained 4,171 yards in two seasons and Wisconsin is good enough to win the Big Ten West, which would give Taylor 14 games to pack the stat sheet. Could he become the first back in college football history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a single season? It’s not out of the question.

4. Grant Delpit, S, LSU (6-3, 203, JR): Because he’s a defensive player, he’s a longshot, but the Heisman is supposed to go to the best football player regardless of position. With the exception of Trevor Lawrence, Delpit is probably the best football player in the country but unless LSU wins the SEC championship the odds are against him winning the Heisman. Getting on the podium is not out of the question, however.

5. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia (6-2, 220, JR): Fromm has won 24 games in two seasons and he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country. To win the Heisman, however, three things have to happen: (1) Georgia has to win the SEC; (2) Fromm has to put up better numbers than Lawrence or Tua; and (3) Lincoln Riley doesn’t turn Jalen Hurts into the second coming of Kyler Murray.

6. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (6-2, 225, GR/SR): Lincoln Riley is 2-for-2 on Heisman Trophies (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) as a head coach. Can he make it 3-for-3 with Alabama grad transfer Jalen Hurts? We know Hurts can run but it’s the arm that’s questionable. If Riley can turn Hurts into an exceptional passer, then he could find himself in the thick of the Heisman race.

7. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (6-6, 234, SR): Herbert probably would have been picked in the first round of the NFL Draft but he wanted to win a Pac-12 championship and thought he could be a better QB with another year of college experience, so he’s back for his senior season. To win the Heisman, Herbert will have to be spectacular since he plays a lot of late night games on the west coast that nobody will see. It would help his cause greatly if Oregon would win all of its games.

8. Sam Ehlingner, QB, Texas (6-2, 230, JR): The last Texas Heisman Trophy winner was Earl Campbell back in 1977. That streak is likely to continue this year unless Ehlinger can (a) put up Star Wars numbers, (b) outduel Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout and (c) put Texas squarely in the College Football Playoff picture.

9. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State (5-10, 214, JR): Ohio State QB Justin Fields is already being overhyped as the greatest thing since the invention of the flush toilet but he’s never started a college football game. Judging by what we saw in the spring, Fields is a work in progress, which brings us to Dobbins, who probably is going to have to carry the Ohio State offense, at least through the first six or so games. By then he might have some serious Heisman mojo going.

10. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (6-1, 187, JR): Tua gets the headlines since he plays QB at Alabama but Jeudy might very well be the best player on the team. He is the best deep threat in the country and he has no fear going across the middle. Is there anyone in the country capable of covering Jeudy one-on-one? Probably not.

Tuesday: All 14 SEC teams: Better or worse in 2019

SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR A MONDAY

From Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic on Army’s phenomenal success converting third and fourth down translated into a big season in 2018:

“Last season, Army led the nation in fourth-down conversion rate at 86.1 percent. The Black Knights attempted 36 conversions, fourth-most in the nation, and were significantly more successful than any of the teams that attempted more. Army also led the nation in third-down conversion rate, at 57.1 percent.

Not coincidentally, Army won 11 games for the first time in program history last fall.”

From David Hale of ESPN.com on 67-year-old Mack Brown returning to coaching at North Carolina after a 5-year absence from college football:

“Brown’s past is his introduction. It’s what piques everyone’s interest. But now that he’s here at North Carolina, he’s eager to move on, to showcase all he has learned from five years in the broadcast booth, visiting Lincoln Riley’s practices and sitting in Scott Frost’s meeting rooms. He has returned with a new offense — a spread with a power running game he likens to Oklahoma’s. He brought in Jay Bateman from Army to coach the defense. It’s complex, but it comes with a proven track record of elevating the talent on the field.”

From Sporting News, Michigan 2021 quarterback commitment J.J. McCarthy ripping and shredding Ohio State HBC Ryan Day for being untruthful during the recruiting process:

“I get it’s a business, but it always sucks being lied to. And that’s kind of where the rivalry started for me. And the hatred. But what are you going to do? It’s a business and they have to do what they have to do. They lied to my face, but it’s all good now.”

SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF

Long time Auburn play-by-play radio announcer Rod Bramblett and his wife Paula were killed Saturday in a two-car collision. Rod was a pro’s pro and one of the best in the business at defining the moment. He will be missed.

Russ Bjork is leaving Ole Miss to become the athletic director at Texas A&M. There will be a lot of questions about this hire since Bjork oversaw an Ole Miss scandal in which the Rebels had to vacate 33 wins between 2010-16 for using ineligible players. He did, however, raise the money for the beautiful Ole Miss Pavilion (brand new basketball arena), more than $65 million in improvements and expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and the Manning Center. Athletic department revenue expanded from $57 million to $117 million while he was AD. If you spend any time in the Twitterverse then you know that Ole Miss fans aren’t exactly crying over the loss.

Georgia early enrollee freshman QB D’Wan Mathis had emergency surgery to remove a cyst from his brain. No recovery time was announced so for the moment, at least, his status for 2019 is in limbo. If Mathis can’t play in the fall Georgia will have only two scholarship quarterbacks: 2-year starter Jake Fromm and juco transfer Stetson Bennett.

After securing a 3-game series with Alabama, South Florida proceeded to troll UCF, whose AD basically said UCF is too good for a 3-game series that requires two roadies. The USF official twitter said, “To be THE BEST you have to play THE BEST anywhere … anytime. USF also has a future 3-game series with Florida. UCF refused a 3-game series with the Gators.

Juco corner Elijah Blades completed his academic work at Arizona Western College and has been cleared to enroll at Texas A&M. The path to eligibility was dicey, but Blades has cleared both A&M, SEC and NCAA hurdles.

Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr, who played collegiately at Alabama for the legendary “Ears” Whitworth (I’m not making that up), died Sunday morning in Birmingham. Starr was a 17th-round draft choice out of college and was stuck in neutral in the NFL until Vince Lombardi became the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. With the Packers he won five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Baylor football coach Art Briles has been hired as the HBC at Mount Vernon High School in east Texas. The most famous resident in Mount Vernon’s history is former Dallas Cowboys QB and Monday Night Football icon Dandy Don Meredith … Otis Washington, who was a coaching legend at St. Augustine in New Orleans, died Friday. He won three state championships and compiled a 113-17-1 record at St. Augustine … NCAA commissioner Mark Emmert was paid $3.9 million in 2017. That seems about $3.8 million too much … Adam “Pacman” Jones retired after 13 NFL seasons. I wonder how long it will be before he’s in serious trouble … Clemson tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella, who were suspended before the College Football Playoff, have lost their appeals to be reinstated and are ineligible for the 2019 season.