Thoughts of the Day: April 23, 2020

GREENARD IN THE SECOND ROUND? IT COULD HAPPEN

When the NFL conducts its nearly silent draft beginning tonight in Las Vegas, don’t expect many first round surprises. Since pro days were at a minimum due to the shutdown due to COVID-19, teams will largely play it safe and go with what they saw at the combine and they’ll rely heavily on relationships they have with current college head coaches and assistants. For example, if South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw is still around when the Atlanta Falcons make their first round selection with pick number 16, don’t be shocked if he hears his name called. Quinn worked with South Carolina head ball coach Will Muschamp at LSU and then was Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida in 2011-12. Kinlaw can collapse a pocket from the inside and since there is an abundance of edge rushers in this year’s draft and not as many high quality interior guys, Quinn might go with a guy who played for someone he knows and trusts.


At the combine in Indianapolis back in February, Greenard wowed the scouts with his poise and presence during the interview sessions. He did just fine in the physical part of the combine but even though he’s not as quick or as athletic as some of the edge rushers, Greenard’s high character and potential as solid locker room presence, could very well move him into the second round. Dane Brugler, who writes about the NFL and draft-related matters for The Athletic, has Greenard going to Miami in the second round.


Brugler has Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson going mid-third round, which is entirely possible. Although Jefferson didn’t get to run at the combine due to a broken bone in his foot that required surgery, he’s the son of New York Jets wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. Van has been at NFL camps since he was a kid and he had a very productive week at the Senior Bowl, where every NFL team got a chance to see how fluid he is with his route-running, how unafraid he is to block people and how he uses his smarts more than his speed to set up DBs so he can be an open target.


C.J. Henderson, of course, will be Florida’s only first round selection. At least one mock draft has him going higher than Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah. That might be a surprise. What won’t be a surprise is if Henderson hears his name called among the first 10 picks. Jacksonville at pick number nine seems a likely landing spot.


Two non-Gators could be real surprises. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the first running back to go off the board. If I had a choice of Edwards-Helaire and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, I would take Edwards-Helaire because he (a) consistently played his best football against the best teams and (b) he’s the physically toughest running back in the draft. Swift may have more game-breaking ability, but he’s had injuries in his career.


My second non-Gator surprise will be Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. There are a lot of quarterbacks with stronger arms who are better runners, but Joe Burrow might be the only QB in the draft with a higher football IQ. It says a lot that Fromm beat out both Jacob Eason and Justin Fields for the starting job and both transferred out rather than watch Fromm go about his business doing whatever it took to win games. Brugler has him going to the Atlanta Falcons midway through the third round but I could see a team like New England or even Tampa Bay picking him earlier. New England needs a smart QB who can sit a year. Tampa Bay knows Tom Brady won’t play forever, so getting a smart QB to learn from the best there ever was would make a lot of sense.


Burrow will be the first player taken followed by Chase Young of Ohio State. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Detroit trade its third pick to the Dolphins with the Dolphins moving up from five to three to take Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. Detroit has its eyes on Okudah but they could trade down two spots and Okudah will still be there.


I wouldn’t take him in the first round, but if I needed a QB and he was on the board in the mid-to-late second, I would think seriously about taking Jalen Hurts. I think he’s a better passer than people give him credit for and though he’s not as electrifying a runner as Lamar Jackson, he’s smarter in that he knows when to go into a feet first slide.


My over/under for SEC players taken in the first three rounds of the draft is 38.


PAY CUTS, FURLOUGHS AND OTHER VIRUS-RELATED STUFF

Back in November, long before we knew anything about COVID-19 much less saw the entire world grinding to a halt with no end in sight, Florida State University made the choice to fire head football coach Willie Taggart, even though the buyout cost was a cool $18 million. FSU also had to spend somewhere between $2-3 million to buyout assistant coach contracts, then spent a bundle to hire Mike Norvell and a whole bunch of new assistant coaches and support staffers. FSU also paid Memphis $500,000 to buy out Norvell’s contract.


Is it any wonder that FSU athletic director James Coburn recently said, “God help us” when he was asked what happens at the school 150 miles to the west of Gainesville if football isn’t played this fall? Do you think if Coburn had a do-over that he would keep Taggart another year? The cost of virus induced salary reductions or furloughs would certainly be easier on an FSU athletic budget that feels the strain of keeping up with the Joneses in Gainesville than the cost of all these buyouts with so much uncertainty in the months ahead.


At Syracuse they’re reducing the salaries of football coach Dino Babers and Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Iowa State was the first to cut salaries and that was followed by Washington State. At Boise State, they’ve put every coaching staff in every sport on furlough. Louisville furloughed 45 of its athletic staff for a minimum of 60 days and eliminated 40 support staffers throughout the department. Every assistant coach earning at least $100,000, regardless the sport, will endure a 4% salary cut while every head coach has already taken a 10% hit. Expect almost daily announcements that athletic departments throughout the country will be lopping off salaries to save money because revenues are likely to fall far short whenever football cranks up again.


So far nobody in the Southeastern Conference has announced cutbacks but even in a league that distributed in excess of $45 million last year, budget tightening is likely, especially since it is becoming more and more likely that it will be a 10-game football schedule whether it’s fall or spring football. The decision-making process about which games get cut and which games stay on the schedule will be easier in the SEC and ACC where they play eight-game league schedules. In the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, they play nine-game league schedules.


Meanwhile, MIT professor Alex Pentland, who heads the school’s human dynamic lab, told ESPN that schools (and pro teams) can take steps that will make arenas “as safe as public parks.” Of course, this means reducing stadium capacities by half to enable social distancing, checking fans temperatures at the gate, fans wearing masks (makes eating hot dogs difficult and mandatory straws for drinks) and one-way aisles to reduce contact when entering and exiting the stadium.


SEC BASKETBALL STUFF

Alabama: Kira Lewis Jr. won’t be coming back to Alabama. He’s going to hire an agent and stay in the NBA Draft where he is projected as a first round pick. Still no word on whether John Petty Jr. intends to stay in the draft or return to Alabama for his junior year. Raymond Hawkins (6-9, 240) lasted one year at Alabama. He’s transferring to Long Beach State. Jaylen Forbes (6-4, 180), who was a 4-star recruit out of high school in 2019, is transferring to Tulane.

Arkansas: Vance Jackson (6-9, 220) has signed with Arkansas as a graduate transfer from New Mexico where he averaged11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last year. Also signing with Arkansas as a grad transfer was Northern Kentucky transfer Jalen Tate (6-6, 170), who averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds last year.

Kentucky: Needing a big man after Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery bolted for the NBA, Kentucky has hotly pursued Purdue grad transfer Matt Haarms (7-3, 250), but Evan Daniels of 247Sports predicts that Haarms will sign with Brigham Young ... Kentucky also struck out with Virginia Tech transfer Landers Nolley (6-7, 230), who averaged 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last year. Nolley is transferring to Memphis.

Vanderbilt: Akeem Odusipe (6-9, 220, Knoxville, TN Catholic), a 3-star class of 2020 center, has verbally committed to the Commodores.


RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Trey Burton signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Released by the Chicago Bears after an injury-filled 2019 in which he played in only eight games and suffered a season-ending calf injury, Burton will probably be the Colts motion and flex tight end … University of Buffalo basketball assistant Hunter Jenkins was slapped by the NCAA with a three-year show cause after he created a fake email account to submit supporting documentation to get a waiver to allow Texas Tech transfer Josh Mballa to play immediately (averaged 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game). Buffalo got a one-year probation but will not face a postseason ban since it was determined HBC Jim Whitesell was unaware what Jenkins had done ... Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffett McGraw, who won 936 games in a 33-year coaching career that included 842 wins at ND and NCAA championships in 2001 and 2018 … The Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski combination will live again in Tampa now that the Bucs traded with New England for the tight end, reuniting him with Brady. Gronkowski sat out the 2019 season. Would the Patriots have been able to make a return to the Super Bowl if Gronkowski had been in the lineup? And, does he still have the ability to be a big-time playmaker? … Major League Baseball gave the Boston Red Sox a slap on the wrist for their sign stealing in 2018 … Alex Rodriguez and fiancée Jennifer Lopez plan to make a bid to buy the New York Mets. They’ve retained the J.P. Morgan Bank to represent them.

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