Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JUNE 13, 2019

THE NCAA HAMMER ABOUT TO DROP

There are a lot of tight sphincters today at the highest levels of college basketball after the NCAA told CBSSports.com Wednesday that at least six Division I men’s basketball programs will be receiving a notice of allegations sometime this summer, all the result of the federal government’s recently concluded investigations and trials regarding corruption. So, if you’re wondering which programs have an NCAA electron microscope jammed up their proverbial orafices, look no further than Kansas, Arizona, LSU, Louisville, Creighton, Southern Cal, Alabama, Auburn and Oklahoma State for starters.

According to former Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox, vice president for regulatory affairs for the NCAA, two very high profile programs will be getting their notice of allegations no later than early July. If you’ve been known to wager a yankee dollar or two, then put your money on Arizona and LSU. And, since more than 20 Division I schools were mentioned in the federal probe, there will be plenty of nervous head coaches, assistants and athletic directors for the next 60 or so days.

It is important to point out that a notice of allegations is sent to a school AFTER the NCAA concludes an investigation. Basically it’s a detailed letter that says “guilty as sin and about all you can do is throw yourself at the mercy of the infractions committee and pray no one on the committee is holding a grudge against you or someone involved in your program.”

PREDICTION: Arizona coach Sean Miller and LSU coach Will Wade will be fired before Labor Day.

DIWUN BLACK TO GULF COAST CC

Linebacker Diwun Black (6-5, 220, Kissimmee, FL Osceola), who failed to qualify academically to attend the University of Florida, will spend the next two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston. Black didn’t play football at Osceola last fall but led the Kowboys to the state championship in basketball.

THE LIST FOR THURSDAY

The best offensive line units in the SEC:

1. Georgia: The Bulldogs have what is largely regarded as the best O-line coach in the country in Sam Pittman and probably O-lineman in the country in Andrew Thomas (6-5, 320, JR), who will hear his name called very early in the 2020 NFL Draft. Thomas is one of three returning starters, one of which is LG Solomon Kindley (6-4, 335, JR) an absolute road grader in the running game.

2. Auburn: The Tigers return all five starters from last season and this year they’ll be blocking for an offense in which Gus Malzahn is calling the plays. All five starters are seniors, the best of which is Prince Tega Wangho (6-7, 307, SR), who has an exceptional chance of being selected in the first round of the next NFL Draft.

3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide returns only two starters but they are exceptional. Jedrick Willis Jr. (6-5, 316, JR) returns at right tackle where he started every game last year and Alex Leatherwood (6-6, 310, JR) slides over to left tackle after starting every game last year at left guard. As for the interior guys, this is Alabama. They will be big, strong and very good.

4. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost a really good one in Erik McCoy (NFL) but they return four starters including tackles Dan Moore Jr. (6-5, 325, JR) and Carson Greer (6-6, 315, JR). What’s scary about the Aggies is all the O-linemen are underclassmen. If they return all five for 2020 – and they should – this could be as good a group as you will find in the country.

5. LSU: Probably the biggest question for the Tigers is can they keep their O-linemen healthy after a year when they needed a M*A*S*H unit on the sideline to deal with all the injuries. Four starters return headed by center Lloyd Cushenberry III (6-4, 309, JR), who ranks among the best in the country.

6. Missouri: They’re doing something quite right on the O-line at Mizzou where they’ve given up only 40 sacks combined in the last three seasons. Three starters return from 2018 headed by right guard Trevour Wallace-Simms (6-5, 330, SR) who didn’t give up a sack or commit a penalty all of last season.

7. Florida: Watch this group carefully. Yes, only one starter returns – C Nick Buchanan (6-3, 291, RSR) – but remember, Buchanan had less than 30 snaps in his UF career, none of them at center and John Hevesy transformed him into one of the better centers in the SEC in one season. There is talent at the other four positions so just because they lack starting experience doesn’t mean they won’t transform into a very capable unit as the season progresses.

8. South Carolina: If the Gamecocks can find a center and a left guard that can play at an SEC level, then this will be a very good O-line. Of the three returning starters, RG Donnell Stanley (6-3, 322, SR) is the best and a legitimate contender for All-SEC honors.

9. Mississippi State: Daryl Williams (6-2, 310, SR) has moved from left guard to center and Stewart Reese (6-5, 340, JR) has shifted from right tackle to right guard as Mississippi State shuffles the O-line. The left side has to be completely rebuilt and there are plenty of questions on that side.

10. Kentucky: Losing Bunchy Stallings to the NFL really hurt because he set the example for toughness. Center Drake Jackson (6-2, 313, JR) returns as does left guard Logan Sternberg (6-6, 322, SR), one of the best run-blockers in the SEC. Landon Young (6-7, 324, RJR) missed all of last season but he will be the left tackle. The right side is brand new.

11. Ole Miss: The Rebels lost their two best linemen (LT Greg Little and LG Javon Patterson) to the NFL. They return the right side of the line in RG Ben Brown (6-5, 315, SO) and RG Alex Givens (6-6, 303, SR) but the other three spots will be filled with newbies and lots of uncertainty.

12. Vanderbit: Graduation hit Vandy hard on the O-line, claiming three veteran starters. LT Devin Cochran (6-7, 315, JR) and LG Cole Clemons (6-4, 310, JR) return but the rest of the line will have to grow up in a hurry.

13. Arkansas: The Hogs return only two starters from last year so essentially, they’re starting all over again, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. LT Colton Jackson (6-5, 301, SR) is the best player on the O-line.

14. Tennessee: When LT Drew Richmond left for USC as a grad transfer, it was a huge blow, leaving undersized LG Jahmir Johnson (6-5, 270, JR) as the only returning starter. This is an undersized, inexperienced O-line that could be a sign of impending disaster in Knoxville.

Friday: The best defensive line units in the SEC

SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic talking about Coach O at LSU:

“Whether or not he’s entered Top 25 status yet, it should be abundantly clear by now that Orgeron’s 2005-07 Ole Miss stint is a distant memory. In his head-coaching stints since then at USC (interim) and LSU (both interim and full time) he is 31-13 with two New Year’s bowl wins (Citrus vs. Louisville and Fiesta vs. UCF). He signed the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class last year and is sitting on a top-three class for 2020. The guy knows what he’s doing.”

Seth Emerson of The Athletic on the demise of the fullback in today’s offenses:

“So, college coaches now figure why use one of those valuable 85 scholarships — the NCAA limit — on a fullback, when it could go to a 12th offensive lineman or a 10th receiver. Most NFL teams use the fullback at least some of the time, but with only 53 spots, few rosters carry more than one. And as high schools, facing shrinking rosters, watch and often copy the upper levels, the fullback is becoming a romantic notion.”

Eduardo Nunez of the Boston Red Sox speaking to ESPN’s Marly Rivera about the attempted murder of Red Sox great David Ortiz:

“Just thinking about the fact that this happened to him in the Dominican Republic, it is unimaginable. For us, as Dominican players, it’s a very bad image. It is an international shame.”

SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF

Speaking at a memorial for Alabama super fan Walt Gary, who passed away last week at the age of 36, Nick Saban said: “There have been so many days where Walt’s family has said, ‘Thank you for all you did for Walt.’ But Walt did way more for me than I ever did for him. There were many Thursdays where I came down those stairs and there was something on my mind — practice didn’t go the way it was supposed to, I was really worried with the opponent we had, how we were preparing that week, or something went wrong in my personal life, whatever it was — and when I got to the bottom of those stairs and I saw Walt and I saw that smile and I got that card. Incidentally, for 12 years, we were never the underdog. Sometimes the predictions were (shrugs), like, we’d be playing Johnny Manziel and the No. 1 offense in the country and it’d be 45-0, Alabama. The optimism was fantastic.”

Tennessee incoming offensive lineman Melvin McBride (6-3, 300) announced that he is giving up football for health reasons. A statement from UT HBC Jeremy Pruitt read: “Melvin is a great young man, and my heart breaks for him and his family. However, I’m glad that we have an outstanding medical staff that did a great job identifying the problem when Melvin first arrived here. We are always going to do what’s best for our student-athletes here at Tennessee. He is certainly a Vol for Life and will continue to be a big part of our program.”

Receiver Kendall Catalon is transferring from Southern University to Arkansas. Catalon caught 56 passes for 758 yards and seven TDs the last two years.

Auburn president Steven Leath has put together a working group to explore the possibilities of a stand alone football facility.

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson says he spent a good portion of the 2018 season playing through a leg injury.

US OPEN BEGINS TODAY

All eyes will be on Tiger Woods when the US Open tees off at Pebble Beach today and why not? Tiger played brilliantly to win the Masters back in April and he’s returning to a course where he won the US Open by 15 shots back in 2000. With Tiger having proven he’s capable of winning on the big stage again and playing a major on a course that almost caters to his game, there is no reason for him not to be considered the man to beat. Pebble Beach isn’t about blasting the ball off the tee so that will neutralize some of the bigger hitters. The course sets up for great iron play and putting. Woods is as good with the irons as anyone who has ever played the game and when he’s making putts he is extremely tough to beat.

While Tiger is clearly the favorite, nobody should discount the possibility that Phil Mickelson could win here. After all, he shot 19-under par back in February to win the AT&T Pro Am at this same Pebble Beach course. Lefty’s driver is what always gets him into trouble but here at Pebble he could almost put the driver away and play with his 3-wood.

I’m not sold on Rory McIlroy winning although he blistered the field at the Canadian Open with a 64-61 final two rounds. Rory’s strengths are the courses that require length off the tee. Brooks Koepka has won the last two US Opens (and the last two PGAs). I think he will be a real factor on Sunday.

My darkhorse is Jordan Spieth, who has played very well lately and whose strengths are his iron play and his putter. He’s not long off the tee so he should play well.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: The man who coordinated the attempted murder of former Boston Red Sox great David Ortiz was paid $7,800 to carry out the attack per Dominican prosecutors … Among those selected to the World Golf Hall of Fame were 2-time US Open champ Retief Goosen, LPGA 3-time major winner Jan Stephenson and former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne … The three teams Sports Illustrated experts say might struggle to meet expectations when college football kicks off in the fall are Texas, Texas A&M and Michigan. I definitely agree with Michigan … At the current pace, Major League Baseball is on track to break the all-time record for homers in one season (6,105 set in 2017) by more than 400 … The College World Series begins in Omaha Saturday. I am going with Arkansas and Mississippi State to meet in the championship series.