THEY CALL HIM FLIPPER No I’m not talking about the TV show in the 1960s. I’m talking about Dan Mullen, maybe as good a flipper as there is in the world of college football recruiting. When the dust settles in the Early National Signing Period (starts at 7 a.m. today), Mullen should have no fewer than six signed letters of intent from players who were originally committed somewhere else.
The six: LB Derek Wingo (6-2, 215, Fort Lauderdale, FL St. Thomas Aquinas), who was originally committed to Penn State; CB Ethan Pouncey (6-1, 175, Winter Park, FL), who was originally committed to Texas; OT Issaiah Walker (6-4, 309, Miami, FL Norland), who was originally committed to South Carolina; DT Jalen Lee (6-3, 295, Watson, LA Live Oak), who was originally committed to LSU; OT Gerald Mincey (6-5, 300, Fort Lauderdale, FL Cardinal Gibbons), who was originally committed to Kentucky; and Joshua Braun (6-7, 335, Live Oak, FL Suwannee), who was originally committed to Georgia.
A seventh flip, safety Mordecai McDaniel (6-1, 190, Washington, DC, St. John’s College Prep), who was committed to Tennessee, may or may not sign today.
Mullen and staff are still trying to flip these guys: DT Timothy Smith (6-4, 320, Sebastian, FL Sebastian River), who is committed to Alabama; DT Clyde Pinder Jr. (6-1, 305, Seffner, FL Armwood), who is committed to North Carolina; LB Donnell Harris (6-4, 225, Miami, FL Gulliver Prep), who is committed to Texas A&M.
The Gators are very much in it for these guys who have decommitted from another school recently but likely won’t sign until February: S Avantae Williams (5-11, 175, DeLand, FL), who was committed to Oregon; and RB Henry Parrish (5-10, 190, Miami, FL Christopher Columbus), who was committed to Pitt.
There is an art to flipping players and typically it has everything to do with relationships. Mullen doesn’t let the relationship die just because a kid commits somewhere else. By sticking with a kid even after a kid has committed to another school, Mullen keeps the doors open since you never know when an official (or unofficial) visit is going to go bad causing a kid to start thinking about what he’s actually done or the reality of living far from mama begins to set in. Mullen isn’t known as high pressure or one to spend a lot of time dwelling on negatives. Instead, he keeps the relationship cordial and lets the kid know Florida is (a) still very much interested and (b) still a very good place to spend the next few years of your life, both in school and playing football. If you’ve heard Mullen speaking about recruiting, he’s always quick to point out that Florida is a top ten academic among the nation’s public universities. He can point out Florida’s 20 wins in the last two seasons, two consecutive New Year’s Six bowl games and an academic opportunity that will speak volumes later in life. He can also point to a program that is well on its way to re-establishing itself as an SEC and national championship contender.
By 5 p.m. today we should have a fairly good idea if Flipper has been at it again. If Mullen’s magic is working, Florida’s seventh-ranked class could move up a notch or two.
GATORS OVERCOME FOUL TROUBLE WITH GOOD SHOOTING, DEFENSE Mike White got a nice indication that his young Florida basketball team is starting to grow up a bit Tuesday night in Brooklyn when the Gators overcame the whistle-happy zebra crew of Mike Eades, Jeff Anderson and Lamar Simpson to score a decisive, 83-51, win over Providence of the Big East at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. Florida was whistled for 25 fouls, 15 on the big guys (four each on Kerry Blackshear Jr., Keyontae Johnson and Dontay Bassett; three on Omar Payne), forcing White to constantly juggle his lineup against the tall, physical Friars. There was one stretch when six straight Providence possessions resulted in a Florida foul.
Although Florida spent large portions of the game playing small ball it didn’t seem to affect the Gators on either end of the floor. The Gators shot 50.8% from the floor overall (29-57) and 44.4% (8-18) from the three-point line. On the defensive end, the Gators limited Providence to 10-30 shooting overall (33.3%) and a miserable 5.6% from the three-point line on 1-18 shooting. Florida forced 15 Providence turnovers which were turned into 17 points. The Gators got 30 points off the bench and outscored the Friars 38-26 in the paint.
Because of foul trouble, Blackshear played only 17 minutes and scored seven points to go with four rebounds but even with their leading scorer having a low production night, other Gators picked up the slack. Johnson finished with a double-double – 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with four steals – while freshmen Tre Mann (13) and Ques Glover (10) provided a real spark off the bench. For Mann, the 13 points represented a career high. Noah Locke scored 11, hitting 3-4 of his three-pointers. Andrew Nembhard scored nine points and had seven assists.
Florida never trailed in the game. The closest Providence came after the opening tip was 4-3 with 17:58 remaining in the first half and then 8-7 at the 14:07 mark. The Gators cruised to a 37-22 lead at the intermission. In the second half, Providence was never able to get closer than 17 points (64-47) but in the final 5:18 of the game, Florida went on a 19-4 run to make this a statement win.
The win improved the Gators to 7-3. They play Utah State (10-2) of the Mountain West Conference Saturday in Sunrise in the Orange Bowl Classic.
SEC (NON-RECRUITING) FOOTBALL STUFF
Arkansas: Sam Pittman has hired Hutchinson Community College head coach Rion Rhoades to an as of yet to be determined assistant’s position although he’s expected to coach linebackers ... Former Mizzou coach Barry Odom will be paid $1.2 million as the Arkansas defensive coordinator ... The new offensive coordinator could be either former FSU offensive coordinator Kendal Briles or former Houston head coach Major Applewhite.
Auburn: Both Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson have announced they will play in Auburn’s Outback Bowl game against Minnesota.
Georgia: The Bulldogs have lost both tackles to the NFL. First team All-American Andrew Thomas declared Tuesday and will skip Georgia’s Sugar Bowl game with Baylor. Earlier Tuesday, third year sophomore right tackle Isaiah Wilson declared for the NFL. He hasn’t declared his intentions regarding the bowl game. Running back D’Andre Swift won’t announce his intentions until after the Sugar Bowl although it’s almost a certainty that he’s leaving early. No word yet from quarterback Jake Fromm.
LSU: Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy acceptance speech has inspired more than $365,000 in donations to the Athens County (Ohio) Food Pantry.
Missouri: Former UAB recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Casey Woods has been hired to coach the tight ends for Eli Drinkwitz.
Ole Miss: Former Florida State offensive line coach Randy Clements is joining Lane Kiffin’s staff
South Carolina: Although he’s been demoted from offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will retain his $1 million per year salary … Former Ole Miss strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson has been hired to replace Jeff Dillman ... Former cornerback Jamyest Williams is transferring to Georgia State where he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Tennessee: Ryan Johnson, who started 18 games for the Vols, is transferring to Georgia Tech where he will be immediately eligible.
Texas A&M: With Cam Akers having declared for the NFL Draft, expectations are that Aggie running back Jayshaun Corbin will transfer to Florida State.
GOOD QUOTES FOR WEDNESDAY Dane Brugler of The Athletic on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm who is debating whether to return for his senior season or declare for the NFL: “Fromm might be the fifth quarterback drafted if he comes out in this class, but that could be an enormous positive if it means he is drafted by a playoff team outside the top-20 picks. On the flip side, he could return to school and improve his draft grade, only to be drafted into a worse situation. So while I understand that all angles must be considered for. Decision of this magnitude, the No.1 question Fromm needs to ask himself isn’t what is my draft grade, but am I ready? Or would another year of college experience make me a better quarterback? Is Georgia currently set up so I’ll get considerably better next year or have I learned all I can from this coaching staff? The NFL isn’t a developmental league and so it is certainly beneficial to put yourself in the best position possible for a long-term career. Being drafted higher is great, but that second contract should be the goal.”
Max Olson of The Athletic on the phenomenon of quarterbacks transferring to another school and then having great success: “This year’s College Football Playoff helps reinforce the line of thinking that winning a national championship requires finding an elite QB. These coaches recognized you’ve got to go get one, regardless of the attrition cost because the reward is too great. LSU lost backups Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse after landing Joe Burrow last year. Ohio State lost Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin after taking Justin Fields this year. Oklahoma gave up Austin Kendall to get Jalen Hurts this year. But all three programs made the Playoff, and all three QBs became Heisman finalists.”
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on why Alabama’s 10-2 season is a failure: “This season was a failure for one important reason: This season was about getting back to the national championship game and undoing what happened a year ago to Clemson. If you go back to August, there were two teams above everyone else: Clemson was No. 1 and Alabama was next. Every single pundit predicted they would meet again for the fifth straight year. This time, Alabama would get revenge. Well, it didn’t happen. Alabama’s measured by national championships. Fair or not, that’s the standard Nick Saban has laid down.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Brit Hume, who was at a White House Christmas party attended by former Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, says Meyer told him, “I think I’m done coaching. Indiana offensive coordinator Kalen Deboer is expected to be named head coach at Fresno State … New Mexico has hired Arizona State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales as its head coach … Graham Harrell turned down Texas to remain as Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator. Harrell got a new deal from USC that will pay $1.2 million for each of the next three years … Josh Gordon has been suspended by the NFL for the sixth time since 2013 for violating the substance abuse policy. How many chances is this guy going to get before someone in the NFL figures it’s like throwing money down a rat hole because he’s going to do drugs? … Major League Baseball owners approved a rule that will require pitchers to either face a minimum of three batters or complete the half-inning. Could this be the end of managers parading what seems like 10 pitchers out there every game?