A few thoughts to jump start Friday morning:
PRESEASON PRACTICE IS OVER, TIME TO BE A LITTLE NERVOUS Thanks to new NCAA guidelines, every coach in college football is probably feeling a bit nervous now that the 2021 season is upon us. The number of days with contact was cut back from 21 to 18, the number of days in full pads reduced to nine and full contact practices were limited to two consecutive days.
We will have to wait and see if this intended safety measure will result in fewer injuries once the season begins. And since targeting rules are going to be strictly enforced will the lack of physical practices where proper technique can be emphasized result in more penalties? Blocking and tackling require repetition in practice, but because every football team in college football has had to cut back we may see a season with the poorest blocking and tackling that we’ve ever seen.
Blocking and tackling is what has me nervous as the Florida Gators break camp and begin preparation for their season opener against Florida Atlantic next Saturday. With the Gators transforming from a team that threw the football 56 percent of all snaps last year to one that will likely run the ball 60 percent of the time in 2021, I am concerned about the lack of run blocking that was permitted in August. I don’t know of any way to improve run blocking except full contact in pads. Pass protection is more about finesse, moving your feet and getting your hands in the chest of the guy across from you. Running the ball on third-and-two at the opponent’s seven is mostly about brute strength.
During the 2020 season, a friend of mine texted me in the fourth quarter of the Gators’ 41-38 loss to Texas A&M asking if the Gators had reached the 100 mark yet. I replied 100? He texted back, 100 missed tackles. The text became a running joke. What we saw on the field wasn’t a joke. Missed tackles had plenty to do with Florida’s descent from the 9th-ranked defense nationally in 2019 to the 83rd in 2020.
I know Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham made tackling a priority in August, but will the lack of contact allowed by the NCAA mean we endure another defensive disaster like last year? I’m the eternal optimist, but I have to admit, tackling and run blocking have me feeling nervous.
WHERE WERE THEY RANKED IN HIGH SCHOOL?: RB
Here are the 10 highest ranked running backs in every recruiting class since 2010 as ranked by 247Sports.com. Not all that many had remarkable collegiate careers.
1. Michael Dyer (Little Rock, AR), Auburn; 2. Marcus Lattimore (Duncan, SC), South Carolina; 3. Dillon Baxter (San Diego, CA), USC; 4. Lache Seastrunk (Temple, TX), Oregon; 5. Storm Johnson (Loganville, GA), Miami; 6. Rod Smith (Fort Wayne, IN), Ohio State; 7. Jordan James (Corona, CA), UCLA; 8. Malcolm Jones (Thousand Oaks, CA), UCLA; 9. Brennan Clay (San Diego, CA), Oklahoma; 10. D.J. Morgan (Woodland Hills, CA), USC