GET READY FOR THE NCAA VERSION OF THE WILD, WILD WEST
Maybe you think that the corona virus has let all the air out of the college sports balloon, not hard to do since we haven’t had any college sports in more than a month, but things are about to change on two fronts. First off, a week from tomorrow the NCAA council is going to open up discussions about granting a one-time waiver for all first-time transfers across the board in all NCAA sponsored sports. A vote expected on May 20 is thought to be a slam dunk. Second, there is that matter of scheduling as athletic directors have to start their planning now for who to lop off the schedule and who to keep if and when the NCAA decides to contract from 12 to 10 games whether in the fall or spring.
For Dan Mullen at Florida, May 20 can’t get here soon enough because once the vote is confirmed, he will have immediate eligibility for running back Lorenzo Lingard (transferred in from Miami) and wide receiver Justin Shorter (transferred in from Penn State). Both are former 5-star recruits who could provide instant impact to the Florida offense.
In that the O-line was a weak spot last year, it’s not difficult to imagine a successful tackle or center that would like a chance to play immediately for a team that has College Football Playoff potential to have Mullen and John Hevesy on speed dial.
The flip side to immediate eligibility of Lingard and Shorter could be a handful of Gators who see themselves buried on the depth chart might elect to find greener pastures somewhere else. That won’t just happen at Florida, but it will happen everywhere in the SEC and every other Power Five league. Transfers from schools like Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Clemson will be prized additions at places where wins have been hard to come by or somewhere there is a glaring need at a position. And, programs that win big in the SEC will be viewed as an ideal place to transfer for kids at smaller schools who need to prove they can get it done at a place where the competition level is several notches higher. LSU, for example, got a stud linebacker transfer from North Dakota State in Jabril Cox. Cox is a grad transfer but LSU lost enough players from last year’s national championship team that Coach O might find his phone ringing off the hook with interested players.
For example, Thursday quarterback JT Daniels announced he will be transferring out of Southern Cal. Daniels began the 2019 season as Southern Cal’s starting quarterback but when he went down with a knee injury that opened the door for true freshman Kedon Slovis, who threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns. After watching Slovis’ success and considering making a comeback from a knee injury, Daniels elected to bolt. There are plenty of schools needing a quarterback and lest we forget, Daniels was considered the #3 pro style QB prospect in the country in 2018. He will have his pick of prime landing spots.
Kentucky basketball lost five starters to the NBA Draft. John Calipari has brought in his usual outstanding freshman class plus grad transfer Davion Mintz from Creighton. Calipari already has the inside track on 7-3 Purdue grad transfer center Matt Haarms but the lure of immediate eligibility could be what seals the deal for Virginia Tech transfer Landers Nolley.
Figure it will be crazy in the next month, but no crazier than life in the athletic director’s office at every SEC school. Eliminating two games isn’t going to be easy and it’s going to be devastating for D1AA teams that rely on paycheck games to fund their non-revenue sports.
Scott Stricklin probably has it easier than most athletic directors when it comes to contracting his schedule. He axes D1AA Eastern Washington on September 5 and South Alabama on September 19, then moves Kentucky from September 12 to September 19. Kentucky would lop off Eastern Michigan on September 5 and Kent State on September 19 and open its season in Gainesville on September 19. Florida’s non-conference games would be New Mexico State (November 21) and FSU (November 28). Kentucky would probably try to land a Division I opponent to replace Eastern Illinois on October 10 with the other non-conference game the end-of-season matchup with Louisville.
Imagine the difficulty it will be for Alabama and Southern Cal, slated to open the season in Atlanta on September 5. Southern Cal plays nine Pac-12 games plus Notre Dame. That’s the 10-game schedule right there and while painful for prestige to lose a game with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, Southern Cal would drop Alabama in a heartbeat rather than lose the annual rivalry game with Notre Dame. For Alabama, dropping Georgia State on September 12 is an easy call, but how do the boosters feel about a non-conference schedule of Kent State (September 26) and D1AA Tennessee-Martin?
Georgia has a non-conference opener with Virginia on September 5 and the only week that game could be replaced would be October 24. Virginia would have to replace Old Dominion. Georgia has an open date prior to facing Georgia. Would the Bulldogs be willing to play a tough Virginia team the week before taking on the Gators in what might be a winner take all for the SEC East?
Those are just a few of the headaches that athletic directors will face. With transfers leaving and arriving in droves in every sport and schedules that have to be filled, the next five weeks are going to be the NCAA version of the wild, wild west.
Brace yourself. It’s going to get very interesting.
FLASHBACK QUOTE OF THE DAY
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach remembering when former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden told Paul Finebaum on why FSU chose the ACC over an offer to join the Southeastern Conference in 1991:
“I felt that it was too difficult to win through the SECC to win a national championship. I felt like our best route would be to go through the ACC and that did prove out to be correct. I don’t know if we could have made it through the SEC.”
BASKETBALL COMINGS AND GOINGS IN THE SEC
ALABAMA: Sam Okauru (6-5, 210, RFR) and Jaylen Forbes (6-4, 176, RFR) are transferring out.
ARKANSAS: Jaylen Tate (6-6, 170, GR/TR) transferred in from Northern Kentucky where he averaged 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game and was the Horizon League’s Defensive Player of the Year. Vance Jackson (6-9, 220, GR/TR) transferred in from New Mexico where he averaged 13 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Jaylin Williams (6-10, 215, Fort Smith, AR Northside) signed an Arkansas LOI.
AUBURN: Power forward JT Thor (6-9, 200, Anchorage, AK Norcross) has verbally committed to Auburn.
FLORIDA: First team All-SEC Keyontae Johnson (6-5, 235, SO) announced he will return for his junior year after averaging 14.0 points and 7.1 rebounds last season.
KENTUCKY: Joining Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey as NBA bound were Nick Richards (6-11, 247, JR), Immanuel Quickley (6-3, 188, SO) and EJ Montgomery (6-10, 228, SO). Transferring in from Creighton is Davion Mintz (6-3, 185, GR/TR), where he averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 2019-20. Jacob Toppin (6-8, 180, FR), the younger brother of Dayton’s national player of the year Obi Toppin, is transferring to UK from Rhode Island where he averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
LSU: Caleb Starks (6-4, 195, RJR), who transferred to LSU last year from a junior college, has put his name in the transfer portal. Starks took a redshirt last season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Andersson Garcia (6-7, 200, Santiago, Dominican Republic/Chattanooga, TN Hamilton Heights) signed a letter of intent. Garcia was a high school teammate of Florida signee Samson Ruzhentsev (6-8, 205, Moscow, Russia/Chattanooga, TN Hamilton Heights). Prince Oduro (6-8, 250, RSO) will transfer to South Florida. Elias King (6-8, 205, FR) will transfer to Middle Tennessee.
OLE MISS: Power forward Robert Allen (6-8, 200) is transferring to Ole Miss from Samford, where he averaged 14.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Dimencio Vaughn (6-5, 220) is transferring to Ole Miss from Rider, where he averaged 14.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
TENNESSEE: Jalen Johnson (6-6, 196) is transferring to East Tennessee State. He averaged 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game last year.
TEXAS A&M: Yavuz Gultekin (6-7, 201) is transferring to San Diego.
VANDERBILT: Oton Jankovic (6-10, 212, RFR) is transferring to Tulane.