A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
One of my history professors told the story that in response to the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Mark Twain said, “Necessity is the mother of taking chances.” With his three leading receivers opting out of tonight’s Cotton Bowl game with Oklahoma and Jacob Copeland unable to play due to Covid-19 issues, Dan Mullen’s script for success might best resemble the Mark Twain quote. It’s a little late in the season to be reinventing the Florida offense, but it’s never too late to take a few chances.
Oklahoma has plenty of tape on the Florida offense but what it doesn’t have is enough to determine tendencies of Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer, who will get the tight end reps that Kyle Pitts would have had, or those of Justin Shorter, Xzavier Henderson, Rick Wells and Trent Whittemore, the wide receivers who will replace Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Copeland. Because he sees them every day in practice catching passes from Kyle Trask and backups Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson, Mullen knows what his guys are capable of doing. Without making any changes at all in the Florida offense, he can take a few chances that might catch Oklahoma completely by surprise.
The 2020 season proved once again that Mullen is one of the more creative play callers in the college game. The perfect example is the Georgia game when he caught the Bulldogs by surprise running Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright on wheel routes that were good for eight catches and 171 yards. When Pitts went down because of a vicious targeting hit, Mullen unleashed Gamble and Zipperer for four catches that were good for 90 yards and a TD. Georgia was certainly caught flatfooted, but Mullen already knew what these guys could do and wasn’t afraid to cut his guys loose on the unsuspecting Bulldogs.
In a perfect world, Mullen and Trask would have all the weapons they’ve been working with all year healthy and ready to attack but take into consideration that Mullen has been adapting his offense to fit the personnel all three years he’s been at Florida. Adapting on the fly is nothing new as we saw in 2020 when Mullen had to replace four receivers who are now playing for pay on Sunday. The Gators didn’t miss a beat and actually increased from 308.8 passing yards per game to 388.4 with Trask leading the nation in passing yards (4,125) and touchdown passes (43). That doesn’t happen with a coach who is afraid to take chances.
There are no guarantees the Gators will burn the Oklahoma secondary early and often tonight, but don’t think it’s out of the question, either. Just because he is lining up with new receivers don’t think Mullen will go conservative. And, what might appear to be taking a few chances against Oklahoma will probably be simply doing the things in a game that he sees every day in practice.
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF TAKING CHANCES, PART II When Mike White and the Florida basketball team (3-1) take the court in Nashville for their Southeastern Conference opener with Vanderbilt (4-2) tonight (9 p.m., ESPN2), the starting lineup will be minus Keyontae Johnson for the first time since January of 2019. With Johnson sidelined for at least three months after his collapse back on December 12 against Florida State in Tallahassee, White will turn to Louisiana Tech transfer Anthony Duruji, a 6-7, 220-pound junior who averaged 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 2018-19. While averaging only 11 minutes in Florida’s four games so far, Duruji is averaging just 1.3 points and 2.5 rebounds.
Replacing Johnson’s production (16 points, 4.5 rebounds) will be a tall task for Duruji, so the Gators will need increased productivity from the likes of Tre Mann (15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.75 assists), Scottie Lewis (12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds), Noah Locke (10.5 points, 47.6% on 3-pointers) and Colin Castleton (6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds). What White might do in Johnson’s absence is to try to turn the game into a full court track meet. Duruji is an excellent press defender who can run and jump (48-inch vertical) so it might be in the Gators’ favor to push the tempo in an attempt to disrupt Vandy’s already poor shooting (43.5% overall from the field, 32.5% from the 3-point line) offense while finding some points for the new guy in the lineup.
A word of warning: If you plan to watch the basketball game, you might choose to turn off the sound on ESPN2 and listen to Kyle Crooks handling play-by-play (Mick will be doing the radio broadcast of the football game) with Lee Humphrey doing the analysis. Beth Mowins will be handling play-by-play for ESPN2. Think fingernails running down a chalkboard if you’ve ever had to endure the announcing version of “40 minutes of hell.”
TUESDAY SEC BASKETBALL RESULTS
LSU (6-1, 1-0 SEC) 77, Texas A&M (5-2, 0-1 SEC) 54 Alabama (6-3, 1-0 SEC) 82, Ole Miss (5-2, 0-1 SEC) 64
WEDNESDAY’S GAMES FLORIDA (3-1) at Vanderbilt (4-2) Mississippi State (5-3) at Georgia (7-0) Arkansas (8-0) at Auburn (6-2) #7 Tennessee (6-0) at #12 Missouri (6-0)
THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER AND OTHER SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
Covid-19 issues at TCU have forced the postponement of the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth on Thursday, ending Arkansas’ season at 3-7. This will mark the fourth consecutive year the Razorbacks haven’t played in a bowl game, the longest streak since the pre-Frank Broyles drought years from 1955-58. It also puts an end to a record that saw every Arkansas senior since 1958 being able to play in at least one bowl game in his career.
Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith is the first wide receiver to win the Associated Press Player of the Year award. Runner-up was Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Smith, Jones, Florida QB Kyle Trask and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence are the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Tennessee linebacker DeAndre Johnson, who led the team with 4.5 sacks, has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal. He wants to transfer to a Florida school. He prepped at Miami Southridge … QB JT Shrout will be transferring to Colorado.
South Carolina DB John Dixon is transferring to Penn State … Former South Carolina starting QB Jake Bentley, who was a grad transfer at Utah in 2020, is on the move again. No new destination has been announced.
Auburn running back Mark-Antony Richards has officially placed his name in the transfer portal … Wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, safety Jamien Sherwood and DB Christian Tutt are apparently opting out of Auburn’s Citrus Bowl encounter with Northwestern.
Senior linebacker Lakia Henry will return to Ole Miss for the 2021 season, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted for every player on a 2020 roster ... CB Lakevius Daniel is entering the transfer portal.
QB Brock Vandagriff, one of Georgia’s most highly regarded signees for the 2021 recruiting class, is undergoing surgery for a torn PCL.
Center Michael Maietti and punter Grant McKinniss will use the extra year of eligibility to return to Missouri.
Kentucky corner MJ Devonshire is transferring to Pitt.
SOME NON-SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports says expanding to an 8-team playoff could help repair college football’s broken system. Wetzel proposes the five Power Five conference champs get automatic bids with a couple of at-large berths and a conference champ from the Group of Five. Quarterfinal games would be played on college campuses.
Kirk Herbstreit, the face of ESPN college football, has tested positive for Covid-19. Herbie will be working Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal between #2 Clemson (10-1) and #3 Ohio State (6-0) from his home.
Miami quarterback D’Eriq King suffered a potentially serious knee injury just before halftime of the Hurricanes’ 37-34 Cheezit Bowl loss to Oklahoma State Tuesday night. King announced this past weekend that he plans to return to Miami for the 2021 season.
ARIZONA BASKETBALL SELF-IMPOSES POST SEASON BAN FOR 2020-21
Arizona is the latest of the schools implicated in the college basketball corruption scandal to self-impose a post season ban. The Wildcats have already received a notice of allegations from the NCAA charging nine violations including five Level I (the most serious of all), lack of institutional control, failure to monitor and lack of head coach control by Sean Miller. Rather than face the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions which would likely insist that Miller be fired, Arizona has requested its case be heard by the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. This is basically a trial format in front of people who have no current affiliation with any school under the NCAA umbrella. By self-imposing, Arizona is trying to convince the people who will conduct the trial that they are ashamed of their bad behavior so they will go lightly on the sanctions.
Writes Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, the nation’s best basketball writer, “I hope the NCAA handles Arizona's self-imposed postseason ban the same way I hope it handle Auburn’s self-imposed postseason ban – by completely ignoring it and making it clear that the NCAA will decide how and when the programs are punished, not the other way around. When you're a teenager, you don't get to ground yourself for the weekend and get credit for time-served when the weekend appears to be lame relative to the weekends you hope to enjoy in the future. That's not left up to you. For similar reasons, this should not be left up to Auburn and Arizona. And I'd write the same about literally any other school.”
WEDNESDAY REQUIRES A FINAL PITHY COMMENT: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is catching all sorts of grief because he voted Ohio State 11th in the Coaches Top 25 poll and says he doesn’t think it’s right for the Buckeyes to make the College Football Playoff when they have played only six games while the other three teams played 11. This isn’t the first time Dabo has spoken his mind and it certainly won’t be the last. He sounds a lot like Steve Spurrier to me. Spurrier was always willing to say whatever was on his mind, didn’t care what anyone else thought and refused to back down when the media and opponents feigned outrage. Remember his Free Shoes U comment or the one about the Citrus Bowl being the winter home of the Tennessee Vols? College football has become all too predictable in everything from the same teams always making the playoff to expectations that coaches will speak softly and act humbly in every situation. I think college football needs more coaches who don’t necessarily follow the politically correct course. Keep on talking Dabo. College football needs more like you.