Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day



In the early morning hours of National Signing Day 1999, Steve Spurrier got verbal assurances that quarterback Anquan Boldin of Pahokee and running back Nick Maddox of Kannapolis, North Carolina were going to sign with the Florida Gators. They were high school studs and everyone in the country wanted them. A couple hours later, Boldin postponed his press conference temporarily. An hour after the postponement, Boldin reappeared and signed with Florida State. Someone had convinced him that Steve Spurrier would never let him play quarterback at UF. About 90 minutes later, Maddox also called it for FSU.

Gator Nation recruit-a-holics went on suicide watch, convinced this was the greatest disaster since Pearl Harbor. Instead of Boldin, the Gators got someone named Rex Grossman, from Indiana of all places, not exactly a breeding ground of great quarterbacks. Grossman was a Parade All-American but was unknown in the south. He basically had to recruit Spurrier and Florida. Instead of Maddox, the Gators got Ran Carthon out of Key West. His dad was famous (former New York Giants fullback Maurice Carthon) but Ran wasn’t exactly a household name.

The star power in the UF class was thought to be corner Lito Sheppard (Jacksonville Raines), wide receiver Elgin Hicks (Punta Gorda) and defensive tackle Roy Williams (DeLand). Sheppard was a big time prospect, coveted by both FSU and Miami. Hicks transferred to South Florida but never developed into a star. Williams never qualified.

The rest of the class was thought to be pretty average. FSU folks laughed that the Gators signed wide receivers Taylor Jacobs (Tallhassee FAMU High) and Jabar Gaffney (Jacksonville Raines). The Seminoles put Jacobs on their B-list even though he made some All-American lists and was a local kid. Gaffney was thought to be a throw-in because he was Sheppard’s high school teammate and a UF legacy whose dad and two uncles played for UF in the 1970s. It was even reported that Jabar was too slow to play in the SEC.
As for Boldin, within a couple of practices in the 1999 fall camp, he was moved to wide receiver where he stayed the remainder of his career at FSU. He had one memorable season (2002) when he caught 65 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. Grossman, meanwhile, got jobbed out of the 2001 Heisman Trophy when he threw for 3,806 yards and 34 touchdowns. In his Florida career, he threw for 9,164 yards and 77 touchdowns.

FSU discovered that while Maddox was a high school superstar in North Carolina, he wasn’t exactly quick enough to set the college world on fire. He gained 1,221 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns in his FSU career while catching 61 passes for 628 yards and three more TDs. Carthon was every bit as productive, running for 1,353 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 56 passes for 511 yards and one TD. While Maddox was known to have never seen a blitzing linebacker that he couldn’t fail to pick up, Carthon was a fearless blocker.

Missing out on Boldin and Maddox didn’t hurt the Gators over the long haul. Spurrier would have given Boldin his shot to play QB but it’s highly doubtful he could have beaten out Grossman. Boldin was a fine runner but he never saw the day he could throw with Grossman’s accuracy and touch. Maddox couldn’t have taken playing time away from Earnest Graham and because he couldn’t block, Spurrier would have hesitated to put him on the field in passing situations.

So maybe this class lacked initial star power that signing Boldin and Maddox would have given it, but it turned out exceptional. Bobby Burton, considered one of the great recruiting gurus of all-time, once told me that any recruiting class that produces eight two-year starters and wins is truly outstanding. The Florida class of 1999 produced 10 players who started two or more seasons. There were seven players who made either first or second team All-SEC and four who made either first or second team All-American. Twelve players were NFL draft picks or signed free agent contracts.

The UF 1999 signing class:
Quarterbacks (2): Rex Grossman; Chris Stephens
Running Backs (1):Ran Carthon
Wide Receivers (3):Jabar Gaffney; Taylor Jacobs; Elgin Hicks
Tight Ends (1):Marshal Schaap
Defensive Linemen (6):Bobby McCray; Tron LaFavor; Clint Mitchell; Arpedge Rolle; Tony Charles; Roy Williams
Linebackers (5):Mike Nattiel; Bam Hardmon; Matt Farrior; Dwright Jackson; Rod Royal;
Corners (2):Lito Sheppard; Keiwan Ratliff
Safeties (1):Daryl Dixon
Starters within two years (6): Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Clint Mitchell; Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard; Keiwan Ratliff
Started two or more seasons (10): Daryl Dixon;Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Bam Hardmon; Taylor Jacobs; Bobby McCray; Clint Mitchell; Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard; Keiwan Ratliff
First or Second Team All-SEC (7): Daryl Dixon;Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Taylor Jacobs; Bobby McCray; Lito Sheppard; Keiwan Ratliff
First or Second Team All-America (3): Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Lito Sheppard; Keiwan Ratliff
Left early for the NFL Draft (3): Jabar Gaffney; Rex Grossman; Lito Sheppard
NFL Draft picks or free agents (12): Ran Carthon; Daryl Dixon; Matt Farrior; Rex Grossman; Bam Hardmon; Taylor Jacobs; Tron LaFavor; Bobby McCray; Clint Mitchell; Mike Nattiel; Lito Sheppard; Keiwan Ratliff
Did not qualify (2): Keiwan Ratliff; Roy Williams
Signed in 2000 after failing to qualify in 1999 (1):Keiwan Ratliff
Transferred or dismissed (5): Tony Charles; Elgin Hicks; Roderick Royal; Marshall Schaap; Chris Stephens


Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, now an analyst with the SEC Network, thinks the Gators aren’t worthy of the hype that has them ranked #8 in both the Associated Press and Coaches preseason polls.
Speaking on ESPN’s College Football Live, McElroy predicted the Gators will “regress a little bit from where they were last year,” and went on to say, “I have a hard time envisioning Florida, in an ever-improving SEC East, getting back to that 9-3 regular season mark which would probably land them in the top 10.” McElroy said on ESPN’s College Football Live.”
McElroy could be right. After all, the season hasn’t even kicked off, but a lot of highly respected people tend to believe that if the Gators stay healthy they could have a season to remember. And, let us not forget that McElroy used to regularly sing the praises of Old Yeller.


Former Vandy quarterback and now SEC Network analyst Jordan Rodgers on the school using academics as a crutch:
“I think oftentimes it’s a crutch for the ineptness and the inability, or the unwillingness, of the academia side to actually be okay investing into the football program to even start to invest like some other schools have done. I think in some ways, yes, it’s more difficult, but it’s not something like, ‘We can’t compete because of this.’ I think it’s used as a crutch.”

From Pete Sampson of The Athletic, Brian Kelly on how he perceives his role at Notre Dame:
“I didn’t take this job to be the greatest coach ever at Notre Dame. I took this job to bring Notre Dame football back to where it needs to be. Somebody had to do that. Somebody is always going to have a role in its long, long history of what did they do for the program. That’s been my skill set from the very beginning, to get it back on track. The big word that I heard early in my tenure is Notre Dame is not relevant anymore. I think we’re slowly ending that conversation. If that’s a legacy, so be it.”
Andy Bitter of The Athletic on the impact of Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who will be retiring at the end of this season after 25 years on the job:
“The Hokies lead all FBS programs in sacks and interceptions since Foster was promoted to coordinator. His defenses led the nation in a major statistical category nine times and placed in the top five 44 times. He had the country’s top-ranked defense in 2005 and ’06, winning the Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach in the latter, his fourth time being a finalist.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban on the decision to pass on offering Zach Smith a job as the Crimson Tide’s wide receivers coach in 2018:
“When we did a background check, we decided it was better to hire someone else.”


Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt reminded his players that he won’t accept excuses about the heat with this subtle reminder: “I’m sure it’s hot in Gainesville right now.”
Linebacker Eyabi Anoma, who raised eyebrows when he placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal, actually had good reason to leave Alabama. “He was dismissed by the university,” Nick Saban said. “That’s really all I can say about it.” Anoma announced that he is transferring to Houston.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason has placed quarterbacks Riley Neal and Deuce Wallace off-limits to the media throughout fall camp. Mason says he wants his QBs focusing on their jobs and not talking to the media.
Texas A&M wide receiver Kendrick Rogers is in a walking boot due to what is being described as a lower leg injury. Rogers caught 27 passes for 336 yards and five TDs last season.
Arkansas is down an O-lineman after redshirt freshman Noah Gatlin tore his ACL on Friday.
Kentucky edge rusher Josh Pascal, who missed all of 2018 with a malignant melanoma, will undergo his final cancer treatment and will be back at practice very soon.
The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has denied a sixth year of eligibility for graduate transfer punter Corliss Waitman. Waitman, who transferred to Mississippi State from South Alabama, missed his redshirt freshman season (2015) at South Alabama due to an injury. Let’s see … they give a transfer waiver to Justin Fields at Ohio State and one to Tate Martell at Miami, both on the flimsiest of excuses, yet won’t give a year of eligibility to a kid who had a legitimate injury? Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
RANDOM THOUGHTS:Former Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois has transferred to Division IAA Hampton where he will be immediately eligible. Francois was booted off the team at FSU after his girlfriend posted on Instagram that he had abused her … Okay, this is original. Georgia Southern QB Shai Werts was recently arrested for speeding. While police were in the process of arresting him, a white substance that tested positive for cocaine was found on the hood of his car. Werts claimed the white substance was bird poop that he tried to clean off at a car wash. Someone must believe him because he’s practicing. Georgia Southern says Werts passed a drug test … Tom Brady got a new deal for the 2019 season. He will have to make ends meet on a paltry $19 million. Patriot fans are probably considering a Go Fund Me page to help ease the pain … Wide receiver Jordy Nelson will sign a one-day contract so he can retire from pro football as a Green Bay Packer … Former Oakland Raiders great Cliff Branch, who turned 71 years old just this past Thursday,, was found dead in his hotel room in Bullhead, Arizona on Saturday. Police say he died of natural causes. Branch was a 3-time All-Pro wide receiver who caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career. He played on all three Raiders’ Super Bowl championship teams … The Golden State Warriors have signed Draymond Green to a 4-year, $100 million extension. Green was set to be a free agent after the 2019-20 NBA season … UTEP has reinstated quarterback Kai Locksley, who was suspended from the team back in June after being arrested for DUI, marijuana possession, unlawful carrying of a weapon and making a terrorist threat. UTEP athletic says the school thinks the charges will be reduced. I do not have to make this up! … Are the golfers really this good or are the courses on the PGA Tour being set up for low scores in the hopes of drawing larger crowds? Case in point J.D. Poston, who shot a final round 62 for an overall 22-under par to win the Wyndham Championships in Greensboro. Thirty-nine players finished 10-under for the tournament and not a single golfer who made the cut finished even par or worse.