ONLY THREE GATORS ON AP ALL-SEC FIRST AND SECOND TEAMS Tight end Kyle Pitts and defensive end Jonathan Greenard were the only Gators chosen first team All-Southeastern Conference by the Associated Press. Linebacker David Reese was selected to the second team. That’s Florida’s entire representation on the AP All-SEC, which was headlined by LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (Offensive Player of the Year), Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Defensive Player of the Year) and LSU corner Derek Stingley Jr. (Newcomer of the Year). LSU’s Ed Orgeron was selected Coach of the Year.
LSU, which is the top ranked team in the country and undefeated SEC champs, managed only four first teamers, the same number as Kentucky. Go figure that one. LSU safety Grant Delpit, who probably will make first team All-America made second team. No LSU offensive lineman made first team although guard Damien Lewis was chosen second team. I can’t argue that he’s not a second teamer, but he’s not even LSU’s best O-lineman. That’s center Lloyd Cushenberry, who’s better than either the first (Drake Jackson, Kentucky) or second team (Trey Hill, Georgia) centers.
EARLY BETTING LINES FOR SEC BOWL TEAMS
Peach Bowl (playoff semifinal): LSU -13 over Oklahoma Orange Bowl: Florida -13.5 over Virginia Sugar Bowl: Georgia -7 over Baylor Citrus Bowl: Alabama -7 over Michigan Outback Bowl: Auburn -7.5 over Minnesota
Belk Bowl: Kentucky +3 vs. Virginia Tech Gator Bowl: Tennessee pick’em with Indiana Music City Bowl: Mississippi State -3.5 over Louisville Texas Bowl: Texas A&M -5.5 over Oklahoma State
HAS GEORGIA PEAKED? If you are Kirby Smart, the news has gone from bad to worse. First, he was on the wrong sideline of a 37-10 beatdown in the SEC Championship Game Saturday. Sunday, offensive line coach Sam Pittman was hired as the new head ball coach at Arkansas and that probably means at least two Georgia starting O-linemen will announce they are leaving for the NFL. You can all but expect running back D’Andre Swift, stud linebacker Monty Rice and corner Richard LeCounte to go pro, too.
And then there is quarterback Jake Fromm. If Fromm has a functioning brain, he’s bolting to the NFL. The numbers tell you exactly why. As a freshman, Fromm was the 9th-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency in all of Division I. As a sophomore he was 5th. This past season? He was 55th. Fromm averaged 9.0 per pass attempt as a freshman and again as a sophomore. He averaged 7.4 in 2019. Georgia Kool-Aid drinkers are already trying to use the excuse that Fromm’s top receivers from the previous two years left for the NFL. While that is true, Fromm also had a better offensive line in 2019 (sacked only 12 times) yet the numbers across the board were down – a full 50 fewer rushing yards for example. Things will not get better in 2020.
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network commented Monday on WJOX-FM that “Kirby Smart is trying to run Alabama 2.0 and it’s not working.” Andy Staples of The Athletic wrote “Smart must make the same choice [LSU coach] Orgeron made, because you can’t win titles with a Les Miles philosophy in an Ed Orgeron world.”
Can Smart change? Will he change? Maybe but it’s dicey to suggest he actually would go that far out on a limb. It must be pointed out that Mark Richt won two SEC titles and three SEC East titles in his first five years, then never won another SEC championship although he won the SEC East in 2011-12. Richt was fired after 15 years and a 145-51 record at Georgia because he couldn’t win the big one. Smart has been at Georgia four years. He’s won the SEC East three straight times, the SEC in 2017 when the Bulldogs got a rematch against Auburn and he lost in the national championship game to Alabama in 2017. He’s lost the SEC Championship Game the last two years.
It can be argued that instead of Alabama 2.0 Kirby Smart is Mark Richt 2.0. Richt was a very good coach just not good enough. The door has swung wide open for the Florida Gators to reclaim the top spot in the SEC East.
Not that anyone is counting or anything, but it has been 14,222 days since Georgia’s last national championship.
SEC COACHING CHANGES AND OTHER STUFF
Arkansas: Sam Pittman was pretty much off the radar as media outlets paid more attention to head coaches with high octane offenses but the Razorbacks addressed the central issue to their demise over the past two years under Chad Morris and that was the line of scrimmage. As one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, Pittman understands that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league and that is where he will go about rebuilding Arkansas. He’s an exceptional recruiter. This is an A+ hire ... Pittman has hired former UF offensive line coach Brad Davis, who spent the last two years at Missouri.
Missouri: Eli Drinkwitz was an interesting hire although he’s viewed as a talented young coach with a great future. Mizzou struck out with its top target, Mike Norvell, and got nowhere with its second target, Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin. Willie Fritz, the Tulane coach, would have been a good fit given his longtime ties to the state, the fact he’s won everywhere he’s been and a proven track record of adapting his offense to the personnel but AD Jim Sterkel went with a 36-year-old who has only one year as a head coach and that was in the Sun Belt Conference. Can he handle the rigors of an SEC program? He’s getting a raise of $3,250,000 from the $750,000 he was making at Appalachian State. That’s more than Mizzou was paying former coach Barry Odom.
Ole Miss: At his introductory press conference, Lane Kiffin credited former boss Nick Saban with helping him mature and develop as a coach. Kiffin is hoping to bring Kendal Briles as his offensive coordinator. When the two worked together at Florida Atlantic in 2017, the Owls averaged 285.3 rushing yards and 40.6 points for an 11-3 team. Kiffin’s dad, Monte Kiffin, will work with the Ole Miss coaching staff as a defensive analyst … True freshman QB Grant Tisdale, who had placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal, says he’s staying now that Kiffin is the HBC.
Auburn: Gus Malzahn is getting serious about hiring fired Arkansas coach Chad Morris as his offensive coordinator. Morris set the world on fire as Clemson’s offensive coordinator a few years back but was so-so as the HBC at SMU and a total bust as the Arkansas HBC. Hiring Morris means Arkansas will probably sign Morris’ son Chandler, a four-star quarterback recruit who decommitted Arkansas when dad was canned.
South Carolina: Former Georgia OC and Colorado State HBC Mike Bobo is the new offensive coordinator for Will Muschamp. He got a two-year deal worth $1 million per year … Quarterback Jake Bentley will head to Utah as a grad transfer.
NON-SEC COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY STUFF Florida State: They struck out with the Brothers Stoops but landed the hottest available prospect from the Group of Five in Mike Norvell of Memphis who gets a five-year deal at $5 million per, essentially the same deal Willie Taggart had. Norvell’s new offensive coordinator is Kenny Dillingham, who was Norvell’s OC at Memphis before he bolted for Auburn. As expected Odell Haggins will remain on the FSU staff.
South Florida: Perhaps taking a cue from arch-rival UCF, which jump started its program four years ago by hiring a dynamic offensive coordinator in Scott Frost from Oregon and then followed it up by hiring Josh Heupel from Missouri, South Florida hired Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. Scott’s dad is former FSU offensive coordinator and South Carolina head coach Brad Scott, who is a USF grad. If the Clemson offense is the model, then USF should put fannies in the seats and that was a major concern.
Colorado State: Over the weekend it seemed that Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, one of the great players in CSU history, was going to be the new head coach. Something obviously changed because now CSU seems to be trending toward former Tennessee HBC Butch Jones, who was the backup plan to Greg Schiano at Rutgers. Jones has worked the last two years as a $35,000 a year analyst for Nick Saban while collecting a big buyout check from Tennessee.
Texas-San Antonio: Jeff Traylor, who was Charlie Strong’s tight ends coach at Texas and the running backs coach for Chad Morris at Arkansas, is the new HBC with a five-year deal that pays $800,000 a year.
UNLV: The new head coach is expected to be Marcus Arroyo, who was Mario Cristobal’s offensive coordinator at Oregon.
Florida Atlantic: It is expected FAU will pick Lane Kiffin’s successor from James Coley (Georgia offensive coordinator), Eddie Gran (Kentucky offensive coordinator) and Kendal Briles (former FSU and FAU offensive coordinator).
Old Dominion: Penn State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne is the new head coach at Old Dominion.
GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN on Dan Mullen’s ability to bring out the most in longtime backup quarterback Kyle Trask: “I think Dan Mullen … this is probably one of the best jobs he has done with a lot of great quarterbacks over the years.”
Brody Miller of The Athletic on how Coach O has gone from a questionable hire on the hot seat to a coach whose visionary approach to what had to be done to make LSU a national contender has the Tigers in the #1 position in the College Football Playoff: “Stop there and think about what’s happened. LSU is in the driver’s seat to make the national championship in New Orleans on Jan. 13. Imagine telling yourself that in the summer of 2018 as Orgeron’s name led hot seat lists. Imagine hearing it the moments following a 29-0 loss to Alabama last season. Three years ago LSU fired its coach for falling behind the times. Today, the Tigers have the best offense in SEC history and an expectation to win the national title.”
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on WJOX-FM explaining why he thinks Nick Saban hates it that Ole Miss has hired Lane Kiffin: “Getting rid of Lane Kiffin cost Nick Saban a national championship, but it just shows you how sick of Lane Kiffin Nick Saban was that he was willing to risk that a couple years ago. I’m convinced they would have won the national championship that year had Kiffin been calling the plays because he had that kind of relationship with Jalen Hurts. He’s just one of those guys, and those guys are out there, that are a nemesis and Lane knows Nick Saban better than any coach maybe other than (Bill) Belichick that I’ve ever encountered. It’ll be interesting to see who he [Kiffin] ends up with on his staff. You know he’s targeting people that are either at Alabama or have been cloe to Alabama over the years.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Joe Burrow of LSU will win the Heisman Trophy, the only question is by how many votes. Three others have been invited to New York where they’ll get to applaud politely when Burrow’s name is announced – quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Chase Young from Ohio State and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts … I typically don’t watch much of the NFL, but the San Francisco 49ers’ 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints Sunday put the fun back in the No Fun League. The two teams combined for 94 points, 53 first downs, 703 passing yards, nine touchdown passes and 278 rushing yards … Lynn Bowden Jr., who led Kentucky to a 5-2 finish once he switched from wide receiver to quarterback, will enter the NFL Draft where he is projected as a wide receiver … In their 23-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, the New England Patriots had two touchdowns wiped out by blown calls from the zebras. The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints also could have benefitted from the zebras making decent calls, but both lost.