THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, AUGUST 6, 2019
FIVE REASONS TO BE CONFIDENT IN THE O-LINE
In some respects it’s understandable that the national media seems focused on Florida’s offensive line and considers it the team’s weak link for 2019. However, there are at least five good reasons why Gator fans should feel a measure of confidence that John Hevesy’s O-line will get the job done.
1. Franks is ready to build on the strong finish in 2018: You can expect the Feleipe Franks who emerged from last year’s South Carolina game as a quarterback who understood how to see the weakness in the opposing defense and then take advantage of it to be the QB we will see this year. He no longer is indecisive, trying to figure out whether to run or hang in the pocket, and he doesn’t have happy feet. In the final four games last season, Franks was 63-97 passing for 862 yards (8.88 per attempt) with eight TDPs and zero picks while rushing 44-177 (4.02 per attempt) for four TDs. It can be noted that nobody in Florida’s offensive line had ever played in the Mullen system so there was quite a learning curve. As Franks got better, so did the O-line. He has emerged from those last four games and the offseason as a confident QB who has an entire team believing in him. The offensive linemen know if they get the job done Franks and the Gators can have a very special year.
2. Kadarius Toney levels the playing field: Kadarius Toney averaged 10.86 yards every time he touched the ball last season. Mullen has promised Toney is going to see the ball much more in 2019 and that’s a dilemma for an opposing defensive coordinator. Toney’s mere presence disrupts because he can be used in so many ways. Whether he’s in the slot, flanked out wide or in the backfield he takes someone out of the box, which not only opens things up for someone else but evens things up for the O-line. Because Franks has proven he’s a capable runner, opponents have to spy the QB. If Toney is in the game at the same time, the defense spreads out and loosens up and that means the O-line doesn’t get overwhelmed by numbers.
3. Perine will emerge as a true dual threat:Lamical Perine has always been a threat to catch the football, but this year will be his year to become a legitimate dual threat. Perine caught 13 passes for 170 yards last season when he was splitting carries (and catches out of the backfield) three ways. Also, the Gators didn’t throw the ball all that much to the backs last year but that figures to change, in part because it will put Perine in one-on-one situations but also because throwing to the backs neutralizes blitzers. You shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Perine catches 25-30 passes out of the backfield this year. Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis will get carries every ball game, but this is going to be Perine’s year to shine as a dual threat back. Oh, and he’s also a hard nosed blocker who can level a linebacker or a defensive end.
4. The safeties will have to play farther off the line: The Gators have the best collection of wide receivers they’ve had in years and that’s going to make very difficult for opposing defensive coordinators to play the safeties within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. The farther the safeties are from the line of scrimmage, the less likely you’ll see attempts to overwhelm the offensive line with sheer numbers. And, because of Florida’s speed, it will be very difficult to play bump-and-run. Play the safeties close and it only takes one quick pump fake and if Van Jefferson or Trevon Grimes or Josh Hammond beats the jam, then it’s six points. There isn’t a team in the country that is going to be able to cover Florida’s wide receivers one-on-one. They’re going to have to have help from the safeties and linebackers and that is only going to help the O-line.
5. History:Back in 2014, Mississippi State spent four weeks as the #1 team in the country, finished the season with 10 wins and instead of a trip to Shreveport or Birmingham, played in the Orange Bowl. The Bulldogs averaged 36.9 points and 513.8 yards per game, 6.67 yards per play. They averaged 233.08 yards rushing per game and 5.24 per carry. Dak Prescott threw for 3,649 yards (8.6 per attempt) and 31 TDs while running for 986 (4.7 per carry) and 14 more TDs. All that was with an offensive line composed of three guys (Justin Malone, Justin Senior and Blaine Causell) who were 3-star recruits coming out of high school, one 2-star (Dillon Day) and one former walk-on (Ben Beckwith). With a bunch of no-names who didn’t have many big time offers coming out of high school, John Hevesy coached them up to put up some really big numbers against a schedule that included six SEC West teams.
FLORIDA FLASHBACK: ELLENSON STRIKES AGAIN
On the night before the Florida Gators were to face Florida State in Tallahassee (September 27, 1968), the Gators stayed over at the Holiday Inn in Live Oak. Following a team meal, the Gators gathered in the conference room where coaches went over their next day assignments, after which Ray Graves gave a short speech then turned things over to defensive coordinator Gene Ellenson for the pep talk. Ellenson had become famous throughout the years for his inspirational talks and he wasn’t above bending the truth just a teensy bit.
This night was no exception.
Ellenson began his speech when there was a knock on the door. “Someone’s at the door!” he said, as if no one had noticed. One of the managers opened the door and was handed a box that was addressed to “The Florida Gators football team.” He brought the box to Ellenson who opened it and then feigning shock, lifted a Florida helmet out. The helmet had a hatchet buried in the crown.
“What’s this?!” Ellenson asked. Then he reached into the box and pulled out a note.
Someone shouted (probably an assistant coach), “What does it say?”
Ellenson read it silently. He shook his head. His hands shook.
Again, “What does it say, Coach?”
Ellenson slowly spoke, “We’re going to kill your quarterback. Signed, the FSU defense.”
You might think the Gators were accustomed to some of Ellenson’s pep talk shenanigans, but once again, they fell for it. The Gators screamed and shouted. They wanted the Seminoles on Friday night not on Saturday afternoon. Ellenson would later confide in me that he was afraid he had gotten them too fired up and that the Gators would expend all their emotional energy right then and there at the Live Oak Holiday Inn.
Fortunately, the emotion carried over to Saturday. This was an FSU offense that would average 280 yards per game through the air in 1968, an outrageous total for that era. Bill Cappleman would throw for 25 touchdown passes and Ron Sellers would go on to make first team All-America for a second straight year but they struggled against the Gators. The Seminoles threw for only 127 yards and Sellers caught only six passes for 50 yards largely because of Florida’s ferocious pass rush.
Jack Youngblood and Robert Harrell spent the day harassing Cappleman, combining for 10 sacks (sacks weren’t an official stat at the time). Youngblood also contributed a 30-yard field goal. Larry Smith ran for the game’s only touchdown on a day when the Gators managed only 129 rushing yards and 33 through the air.
The Gators moved up to #4 nationally the next week, but three weeks later lost 22-7 to North Carolina in the rain in Chapel Hill. The loss to Carolina was the beginning of a downhill slide that saw UF limp home to a disappointing 6-3-1 record amid a season-long quarterback controversy between Larry Rentz and Jackie Eckdahl that ripped the team apart at the seams.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Mike Sando of The Athletic regarding Tom Brady’s contract extension that will pay him $23 million in 2019:
“The storyline is relevant again amid reports that Brady and the Patriots will be extending the quarterback’s contract beyond the 2019 season, this time on a deal that ESPN’s Adam Schefter said would rank Brady sixth among NFL quarterbacks in average annual salary.”
From Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Drew Brees talks about his outstanding 2018 season:
“I’m smarter than I ever have been. I just know so much more. I think I have the ability to be as good as I ever have been. And I don’t think you can measure that with statistics. Last year, I didn’t throw for as many yards—I’ve thrown for more yards than I did last year probably 12 other times. And yet, I feel like last year was one of my better years overall. My decision-making and execution and just overall productivity, I feel like it was one of my better years, and that I can do it again.”
From Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, a look at Army coach Jeff Monken’s unconventional success:
“In a sport increasingly smitten with the passing game, he’s a magnificent anachronism. In every one of Monken’s five seasons at West Point, the Cadets have thrown the fewest passes in the nation — but the last two seasons, as his teams have gotten better, they’ve almost stopped throwing altogether. Army threw just 65 passes in 2017 and 98 in ’18, the only two times in the last seven seasons any team has attempted fewer than 100 passes. The Cadets’ record in that time: 21-5.”
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
Amid reports that he has been dismissed from the team, sophomore linebacker Brenton Cox has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Cox, who had 20 tackles as a true freshman for Georgia last year, was a 5-star recruit in 2018.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris confirmed that redshirt freshman offensive tackle Noah Gatlin has torn an ACL and will miss the 2019 season.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant (strained hamstring) and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (strained knee) left Missouri’s Monday practice early with injuries. Neither injury is considered serious.
Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz has undergone surgery on his hand and is likely to miss the start of the season. Another wide receiver – Eli Stove – injured his knee in Saturday’s practice but the injury isn’t thought to be serious and shouldn’t require surgery.
Mississippi State grad transfer QB Tommy Stevens says his teammates have “treated me like their own.” Stevens transferred to Mississippi State from Penn State. He’s currently in a battle with Keytaon Thompson for the starting job.
South Carolina D-line coach John Scott Jr., who used to coach with the New York Jets, says defensive end DJ. Wonnum compares favorably with some of the linemen he used to coach in the NFL. “I was with the Jets for two years and when I look at his [Wonnum’s] body type, when I look at his athleticism, he was better than some of the guys I felt like we had up there.”
DANNY SHERIDAN’S 16 WORST POWER FIVE TEAMS
It’s hard to disagree with the top seven teams. Please note the presence of three SEC teams: (11) Ole Miss; (13) Arkansas; (14) Vanderbilt.
(1) Oregon State; (2) Rutgers; (3) Kansas; (4) Louisville; (5) Colorado; (6) Maryland; (7) Illinois; (8) Georgia Tech; (9) Kansas State; (10) West Virginia; (11) Ole Miss; (12) North Carolina; (13) Arkansas; (14) Vanderbilt; (15) California; (16) Duke
RANDOM THOUGHTS:UConn football coach Randy Edsall told ESPN that college football has outgrown amateurism and will soon have to pay players. “When it is, I don’t know,” Edsall said, “but I really believe it’s going to happen” … TCU placekicker Cole Bunce had emergency surgery after he was knocked off his scooter in a traffic accident. Without going into details, TCU coach Gary Patterson said, “I don’t think he’ll be able to play the rest of the year” … Former Gator Pete Alonso hit a 7th-inning solo home run Monday to give the New York Mets a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and a sweep of their doubleheader. The home run was the 35thof the season for Alonso, who has driven in 80 runs, both figures tops among all rookies in Major League Baseball.