A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
PITTS DOESN’T DISAPPOINT ON UF PRO DAY
The head coaches and scouts that came to Gainesville for Florida’s pro day expected Mackey Award winning tight end Kyle Pitts to make a good showing. If there were skeptics in the bunch, they left impressed because Pitts looked every bit the part of an kind of athlete who can become an instant star in the National Football League.
By no means was Pitts the only Gator who had a good day Wednesday. Here are some snippets of the top performers:
Kyle Pitts, TE: Pitts wowed the 58 NFL coaches and scouts with his measurables, speed, agility and the ease that he ran his routes and caught the football. He ran a 4.44 on both 40 runs, which only solidified him as the highest rated tight end perhaps in the history of the draft. Pitts had measured an 83-3/8 wingspan (just a shade under 7 feet) while checking in at just a hair under 6-6 and 245 pounds. His hands measured 10-5/8 inches. He posted a 33-5 vertical, benched 22 reps of 225 pounds, did a 10-9 standing broad jump and ran a 4.3 three-cone shuttle. To say he was impressive would be the understatement of the last decade.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus says, “He is the best tight end prospect to come along in years and has the skill set to win against cornerbacks in the slot or lined up as a true wideout. Pitts can be an impact player in the passing game, the likes of which we may not have seen before if he lands in the right situation with a coach capable of maximizing that impact.”
Kadarius Toney, WR: Toney’s straight-line speed of 4.39 probably surprised a few scouts, who know him more as a herky-jerky make you miss kind of guy. He did a 39.5 vertical and an 11-4 standing broad jump, plus showed he can run nice route and catch the ball. Barring something unforeseen and totally out of character between now and draft day, he’s solidly in the first round and probably going somewhere between picks 16-22.
Toney on showing off his athletic skills to the scouts: “I came in and handled business like I was really supposed to. I feel like teams got a better feel of the kind of person I am and the kind of skill set I bring to the table. Really, the feedback from teams has been very positive. They tend to have a high interest. First-round would definitely mean a lot to me because I feel like I worked hard enough to get there.”
Kyle Trask, QB: The 40 time wasn’t great (5.1) but a lot of quarterbacks don’t run sub-5.0. Trask measured out at 6-5, 236, but the scouts already knew he will stand tall in the pocket. The biggest thing Trask needed to do was show how he can throw accurately and quickly outside the pocket and grasp a concept and immediately implement it on the field. Mission accomplished on both ends. He solidified himself as a second rounder who, in the right situation, will have a chance to develop into a starter.
Trask on what he showed the scouts: “Really I just wanted to show that I'm not just a statue back there. That I can burst out of the pocket, have little movements within the pocket and still be able to deliver an accurate ball consistently, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that. I want to make sure they knew that I have a strong arm.”
Trevon Grimes, WR: He didn’t have blazing 40 speed but 4.49 to go with 6-4, 220 size is probably better than what was expected prior to Wednesday. He showed decent athleticism and average physical strength, but he ran good routes and caught the ball. The speed probably solidified him as a fourth round guy.
Grimes on running a 4.49 40: “I’m pretty sure I proved them [scouts] wrong. I’m excited with what I ran. What I’ve been working on is my 40 time. To get out here and get back throwing with the quarterback that got me through my college career [Trask] I’ll cherish this experience the rest of my life.”
Marco Wilson, CB: This was the surprise of the day. The official clock had Marco with a pair of 4.37s in the 40, the fifth best time for a corner since 1999. He had a 6.8 in the 3-cone shuttle, a most impressive 43.5-inch vertical and did 26 reps of 225 in the bench press. He made it a point to show off an NFL-ready body (a shade under 6-0 and 191 pounds) the entire workout. Depending on how he interviews, his draft stock is moving on up in a hurry.
Wilson on running a 4.37: “I wish I could have run a little bit faster in my 40. But other than that, I was really happy for what I did. The work doesn’t stop here.”
Stone Forsythe, LT: Forsythe measured 6-8 and weighed in at 307. His 5.14 40 time was average but he showed real agility with a 4.65 on the short shuttle and 7.47 on the 3-cone shuttle. His wingspan of 83-3/8 is an eye opener for scouts. That’s above average for an NFL left tackle. He is probably a fourth round guy who has the chance to move up to the lower half of the third.
Brad Stewart, S: His 40 times (4.68 and 4.59) weren’t all that impressive nor was his physical strength (11 reps of 225). He’s either a seventh round guy or a free agent in all probability.
Shawn Davis, S: Davis had an exceptional vertical (39.5) and broad jump (10-8) but he popped a hamstring during his 40 run, which is not going to help his draft stock. It might be difficult to get drafted unless he has a chance to do some private workouts. Most likely he will be a free agent signee.
Donovan Stiner, S: His speed wasn’t impressive (a pair of 4.59s) and he didn’t show much in the way of agility or athleticism. He has to hope for a free agent contract that will give him a chance to prove himself in training camp.
Tedarrell Slaton Jr., DT: He checked in a mere shadow of his Florida self at 6-4, 330. He ran a 5.09 in the 40 which is very good for someone his size and he did 27 reps on the bench. He’s a third day guy who might make it into the late fourth round.
Kyree Campbell, DT: He showed up at 287 pounds, and the lost weight (played at somewhere around 305-310 last season) didn’t equate into a better time in the 40 (5.46). He didn’t participate in the bench and his agility wasn’t very good. He may get a free agent contract.
O’SULLIVAN SHAKES UP THE ROTATION FOR OLE MISS The usual suspects won’t be on the mound for 10th-ranked Florida (16-8, 3-3 SEC) at least at the start of the first two games of the Gators’ three-game series with 3rd-ranked Ole Miss (20-4, 6-0 SEC). After the Gators’ abysmal showing on the road at South Carolina last weekend, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan elected to send out a pair of new starters for the Thursday and Friday night games. Instead of Tommy Mace (4-0, 2.91 ERA), O’Sullivan will send out Franco Aleman (0-1, 4.58 ERA) tonight. Getting the start Friday instead of Jack Leftwich (4-1, 2.23 ERA) will be Christian Scott (0-1, 1.35 ERA). Hunter Barco (3-2, 5.58 ERA) will remain the Saturday starter.
Although the Gators are just six games into the 30-game SEC grind, it’s a critical series as the Gators are already two games down in the loss column to SEC East tri-leaders Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky (all 5-1). The SEC is so competitive this season that losing a series at home is tantamount to disaster. The Gators will be on the road next weekend to face 9th-ranked Tennessee in Knoxville.
ADAMS LEADS GATORS PAST JU, 5-1
Hannah Adams continued her tear at the plate Wednesday night with a 3-3 effort that included a 2-run homer to lead the 5th-ranked Gators (25-3) to a 5-1 win over Jacksonville University (17-10) in Jacksonville. Adams is now hitting .472 on the season with five homers and 23 RBI. Natalie Lugo (7-1) got the win, allowing four hits and an unearned run in six innings while striking out five. Rylee Trlicek pitched a hitless seventh. The Gators travel to Athens to face 23rd-ranked Georgia in a three-game weekend series starting Friday.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL/HOOPS) Alabama: Football Scoop is confirming that Nick Saban will hire Drew Svoboda from Memphis to be his new special teams coordinator.
Arkansas: Desi Sills, who averaged 7.5 points per game for the Razorbacks who made the Elite Eight, has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Auburn: Former Arkansas head coach and last year’s Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris is the new head coach at Allen High School in Texas.
Georgia: Wide receiver Jermaine Burton’s injured knee will keep him out the rest of the spring but he’s expected to make a full recovery prior to the fall.
LSU: Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase ran a 4.38 40 to go with a 41-inch vertical and a broad jump of 11 feet at LSU’s pro day.
Missouri: Yet another Mizzou basketball player is transferring out. Reserve guard Torrence Watson became the fifth to leave since the end of the season. Watson averaged 1.8 points per game.
South Carolina: Redshirt sophomore guard TJ Moss has placed his name in the transfer portal. Playing in 18 games, Moss averaged 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He is the third player to transfer out since the SEC Tournament.
THINKING OUT LOUD ABOUT THE FINAL FOUR
Gonzaga (29-0): The Zags are prohibitive favorites to win the tournament and finish as the first unbeaten team since Indiana 1976. Gonzaga has been established as a 14-point favorite to upend UCLA in Saturday’s semifinal … Former Florida point guard Andrew Nembhard is fifth on the team in scoring at 9.1 per game. He averages 4.3 assists per game and has turned the ball over only 35 times in 29 games … As a team, the Zags are shooting 55.1 percent and averaging 91.6 points per game, winning by a margin of 23 per game. The Zags worst shooting game of the year was in their second round tournament win over Oklahoma when they hit a mere 49.1 percent.
UCLA (22-9): Johnny Juzang, the Kentucky transfer who leads the team in scoring at 15.5 per game, is averaging 21.6 per game in the tournament. He scored 28 of UCLA’s 51 points in the win over Michigan Tuesday night … In taking down Michigan, the Bruins scored 14 points off of 14 Michigan turnovers while holding the Wolverines to 39.2 percent shooting overall and just 27.3 percent from the 3-point line … UCLA is 5-0 in the NCAA Tournament. Heading into the tournament they had lost four consecutive games.
Baylor (26-2): Baylor has been established as a 5-point favorite to take down Houston in their Saturday semifinal … The Bears average 83 points per game while allowing just 65.5 … Baylor was the worst job in the country when Scott Drew took over in 2003. The school was on probation and was reeling from one of its players murdering a teammate … Mark Vital averages only 5.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, playing power forward at barely 6-5, but he may impact a game without scoring more than any player in the Final Four … Jared Butler is the leading scorer and a finalist for the Wooden Award, but Baylor’s two most important players are Vital and point guard Davion Mitchell.
Houston (28-3): Houston made its first Final Four since Guy V. Lewis was the coach and Phi Slamma Jamma was the calling card thanks to its defense, which allows opponents to hit only 37.3 percent from the field overall and 28.3 percent from the 3-point line … Houston ranks sixth in the country at 40.9 rebounds per game, third in the country in offensive rebounding at 14.48 per game … Leading scorer and MVP Quentin Grimes (18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game) started his career at Kansas ... Head coach Kelvin Sampson is 667-333 in his collegiate coaching career, 167-63 at Houston.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: The NCAA, which has a long and distinguished history of getting its butt handed to it on a platter in court cases, tried to argue that there is nothing wrong with its attempt to regulate the education-related benefits a student-athlete can receive and that amateur athletics will cease to exist if its model is overturned. From all accounts, the justices of the Supreme Court were unimpressed. If the NCAA loses – and it probably will – it will open the door for the schools in Division I to break away and form their own organization. It’s about time.