Thoughts of the Day: February 3, 2021

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:

NATIONAL SIGNING DAY AND ROSTER MANAGEMENT Barring some sort of change of heart by a kid too good for Florida to pass up, Dan Mullen won’t be signing any high school kids to scholarships when National Signing Day officially gets under way at 7 a.m. Unless the NCAA changes its numbers dynamics later in the spring when it approves the one-time transfer legislation (it will happen), Mullen has three available scholarships and he is saving them all for transfers who can offer the Gators immediate help at critical positions.

In dealing with Covid-19, the NCAA decided that 2020 would not count against the eligibility of any player who was on a Division I roster. Seniors who would have normally graduated or simply run out of eligibility, can come back for what amounts to a do-over season. Nick de la Torre of Gators Territory reports that offensive linemen Stewart Reese and Jean Delance, wide receiver Rick Wells and linebacker Jeremiah Moon will be back in 2021. Those four won’t count against the 85-scholarship cap imposed by the NCAA but everyone else will.

The 23 kids from Florida’s 2020 recruiting class who were on the roster last season get what amounts to a bonus freshman year. Back in December, the Gators signed 22 players – 21 high school kids and one juco. That means the Gators could have as many as 44 freshmen on the 2021 roster and that will create serious roster management problems moving forward, not only at Florida but just about every Division I school. Adding to the problem is that this year’s record number of transfers is going to explode when the new legislation is passed.

In a well-written piece for Sports Illustrated, Ross Dellinger notes, “While teams can have 85 players on scholarship each year, they can sign only 25 new players a year. The 100 signees over four years leaves a 15-player wiggle room for natural attrition. New transfer legislation and the impending COVID-shirter wave is causing unnatural attrition.

“In the 2022 and 2023 recruiting cycles, coaches have one of two choices: retain their scholarship players and add fewer signees or push out scholarship players and sign a normal class.”

This is a problem that cannot be solved by raising the scholarship limit to 100 players as some might suggest. There is that teensy issue of Title IX and with the courts as we know them today, the only way there will be approval to add more football scholarships is to add more women’s sports. In these troubling financial times, that isn’t going to happen either. It says something about financial commitments to sports and how much money was lost due to the pandemic when a school like Stanford eliminates 11 sports. More will follow.

There are numerous proposals out there for how to deal with it, everything from an SEC suggestion of not counting the 85 scholarships until all the players who were on a 2020 roster have departed to allowing coaches to replace transfers and those who leave early for the NFL without counting against the 25-signee limit. There hasn’t been a single proposal that has resonated, however, so we’re going to have a major dilemma on our hands for at least the foreseeable future. Given the lack of leadership from Mark Emmert and the NCAA, we can expect chaos for at least the next two or three years and quite possibly far into the future. If ever there was a time when leadership for college football is necessary it is right now.

Unfortunately, Emmert and leadership are two ships passing in the night – a few hundred miles apart.

GATORS VS. SOUTH CAROLINA: NO TIME TO BE FULL OF THEMSELVES Now that they’ve won four straight games, knocked off a pair of ranked teams (then 6th-ranked Tennessee and then 11th-ranked West Virginia) and cracked the top 25 in both the AP and Coaches polls, it is no time for the Gators to be full of themselves. That’s particularly true with South Carolina coming to the O-Dome tonight (6:30 p.m., SEC Network). The Gamecocks have played only 10 games due to Covid-19 issues but they are more talented than a 4-6 record would indicate. They play good defense and like most Frank Martin-coached teams, they tend to bring opponents down to their level, which is one of the reasons Martin owns a 5-3 record head-to-head with Mike White.

At some point, it figures South Carolina is going to knock off some very good teams. The Gators have to make sure that isn’t tonight.

South Carolina doesn’t shoot the ball very well (43.2% overall, 33.8% on 3-pointers) but the Gamecocks hit the boards hard and they force 16.5 turnovers per game. The key matchup for the Gators will be 6-6 wing guard AJ Lawson, who is South Carolina’s most serious offensive threat, averaging 17.2 points per game while hitting 37.7% of his 3-pointers.

For the Gators to play well offensively, it has to start with getting the ball inside to Colin Castleton, who is coming off a 21-point, 7-rebound, 5-block game against West Virginia. If the ball is getting inside effectively, the outside game will open up for Tre Mann and Noah Locke. That’s the strategy that worked so well for Vanderbilt, which knocked off South Carolina for its only SEC win last Saturday. When South Carolina couldn’t stop Dylan Disu on the inside, it opened things up for Scotty Pippen Jr. and Maxwell Evans to combine for 52 points, hitting 8-13 from the 3-point line.

This is a game the Gators should win handily. It’s a game they must win to stay within striking distance of first place Alabama in the SEC standings.

Tuesday SEC scores Ole Miss (9-8, 4-6 SEC) 52, #11 Tennessee (12-4, 5-4 SEC) 50 Georgia (11-6, 4-6 SEC) 91, Auburn (10-9, 4-6 SEC) 86 Arkansas (14-5, 6-4 SEC) 61, Mississippi State (10-9, 4-6 SEC) 45 Wednesday SEC games South Carolina (4-6, 2-4 SEC) at #22 FLORIDA (10-4, 6-3 SEC) LSU (11-5, 6-3 SEC) at #10 Alabama (14-4, 9-0 SEC) Kentucky (5-10, 4-4 SEC) at #18 Missouri (11-3, 5-3 SEC) Vanderbilt (5-8, 1-6 SEC) at Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC), postponed

WHERE ARE FORMER UF BASKETBALL PLAYERS NOW Pros Not in the NBA or G League Mohamed Abukar: Averaging 9.6 points and 1.9 rebounds for Stiinta Bucaresti in the Romania Liga Nationala. KeVaughn Allen: Averages 12.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists for Kaarinan in the Finland Korisliiga. Kerry Blackshear Jr.: Averaging 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists for Hapoel Gilboa in the Israeli Winter League. Kenny Boynton: Averaging 10.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists for Shenzhen in the Chinese CBA. Nick Calathes: Averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists for Barcelona in the Spanish League. John Egbunu: On the roster of Varese in the Italian Serie A League. Brandone Francis: Averaging 4.1 points and 1.1 rebounds for Deltico Gipuzoka in the Spanish League. Kevarrius Hayes: Averaging 4.1 points and 4.1 rebounds for Asvel-Lyon in the French Elite Pro A League. Kasey Hill: Averaging 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists for Jena in the German Pro A League. Walter Hodge: On the roster for Al Zamalek of the Egypt Superleague. David Huertas: On the roster of Club Atletico Penarol in the Uruguay LUB. Kenny Kadji: Averaging 14.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists for Buraspor in the Turkey BSL. Egor Koulechov: On the roster of Unics Kazan in the VTB United League in Russia. Vernon Macklin: Averaging 1.7 points and 3.0 rebounds for Hyundai Mobis of the South Korean KBL. Alex Murphy: Averaging 13.4 points, 3.8 rebounds for Granada in the Spanish League. Erik Murphy: Averaging 16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists for Fukushima in the Japan B2 League. Casey Prather: Averaging 22 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists for Hapoel Eilat in the Israeli Winter League. Keith Stone: Averaging 19.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists for Musel Pikes in the Luxemborg Total League. Alex Tyus: Averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds for Real Madrid in the Spanish League. Eloy Vargas: Averaging 19.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists for Chemidor Tehran in the Iranian Superleague. Chris Walker: On the roster of Rilski in the Bulgarian League. Erving Walker: Averaging 19.3 points and 5.0 assists for Trepca/AS in the Kosovan Superliga. Scottie Wilbekin: Averaging 16.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Maccabi-Tel Aviv in the Israeli Winter League. Wil Yeguete: Averaging 4.6 points and 4.7 rebounds for Monaco in the French Pro A League.

Transfers Dontay Bassett, Weber State: Averaging 8.5 and 4.4 rebounds. Gorjok Gak, California Baptist: Averaging 12.7 points and 10.8 rebounds. Chase Johnson, Dayton: The ongoing problems dating back to his severe concussion at Florida have forced him to take a leave of absence. He was averaging 12.2 points and 6.0 rebounds when he left the team. Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga: Averaging 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Mike Okauru, UNC-Wilmington: Averaging 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL) ALABAMA: Former Tennessee running back and assistant coach Jay Graham was formally announced as Bama’s new special teams coordinator/tight ends coach.

AUBURN: Defensive lineman Jay Hardy tried to squelch the rumors that he’s transferring with an announcement on Twitter that said, “I’m not leaving Auburn.”

GEORGIA: Counting Jacob Eason, who he inherited, Kirby Smart has had four 5-star quarterbacks on his roster since 2017. Kirby ran Eason and Justin Fields off. JT Daniels transferred in but Smart played Stetson Bennett IV instead and mysteriously waited until the last four games to play Daniels. Daniels returns for 2021 and he will be joined by 2021 signee Brock Vandagriff. Will one of them transfer out? We shouldn’t be surprised if that happens. As Booger McFarland says, “Kirby has done less with more maybe than Mark Richt.”

LSU: Coach O says he’s planning to hold a couple of scholarships for transfers in the portal or grad transfers. The Tigers aren’t expected to sign more than 2-3 high school kids today.

MISSOURI: Former Auburn staffer Brett Whiteside has been hired as chief recruiting officer.

OLE MISS: Ole Miss will play Georgia Southern in 2030. Nothing like anticipating wins nine and ten years in advance.

TEXAS A&M: Jimbo Fisher says it’s time to expand the College Football Playoff. “I think, in my opinion, the Playoff has to expand,” Fisher said on the Paul Finebaum Show Tuesday. I think it has to go to eight teams and maybe more, whatever it becomes ... incorporate the bowls in it.”

VANDERBILT: David Raih, formerly the wide receivers coach of the Arizona Cardinals, is officially the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach for Clark Lea’s new staff.

ONE LAST PITHY COMMENT: Eric Bienemy, who is the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, interviewed for six head coach openings in the National Football League in recent weeks. He probably interviewed for a similar number of NFL jobs last year. He’s oh-fer the last two years and the real question is why? Bienemy has been smart to turn down a few of the jobs on his own, but there were quite a few that he should have landed. The one that comes to mind is Houston. The fact that Houston showed so little interest in Bienemy has everything to do with quarterback Deshaun Watson demanding a trade. Houston ended up hiring David Culley, a 65-year-old who has been an assistant coach his entire career dating all the way back to 1978. There is something very wrong with this equation.

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