A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
AT LEAST 13 TRANSFERS EXPECTED ON UF 2021 ROSTER There were no National Signing Day surprises for the Florida Gators Wednesday, no last minute decisions by some high school stud like the already signed Chief Borders to say he’s coming to Gainesville. About the only surprise was the announcement that Dylan Meeks, a 6-2, 250-pound defensive end who played three seasons at Akron will be a Gator next season. Meeks, who is an Orlando native, joins running back Demarkcus Bowman (Clemson), defensive tackle Antonio Shelton (Penn State) and defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk (Auburn) in a four-man transfer class announced Wednesday. All four are already enrolled at UF.
Not included in the announcement were tight end Arik Gilbert, who committed to Florida back on Sunday, and placekicker Jace Christmann, the all-time leading scorer in Mississippi State history who will be a walk-on. Gilbert won’t be enrolling until May.
If you take just the 21 high school kids and the one juco the Gators added in the early signing period, it’s a decent but not spectacular class. ESPN ranked the Florida signing class 10th while Rivals had the Gators 11th and 247Sports 13th. However, if you included the transfers, then Florida’s class would improve substantially. Both Gilbert and Bowman were 5-star recruits coming out of high school, while Newkirk was a 4-star and Shelton was a 3-star.
Dan Mullen has two available scholarships that he is expected to use and both will probably go to transfers either already in the portal or who will wait until spring has sprung to announce they’re heading to greener pastures. A wide receiver and an offensive lineman seem to be the most likely additions.
Counting the six transfers already signed, committed or walking on, the Gators will have at least 13 transfers on the roster in 2021: Brenton Cox, LB (former 5-star from Georgia) Lorenzo Lingard, RB (former 5-star from Miami) Justin Shorter, WR (former 5-star from Penn State) Demarkcus Bowman, RB (former 5-star from Clemson) Arik Gilbert, TE (former 5-star from LSU) Jean Delance, OT (former 4-star from Texas) Daquan Newkirk, DT (former 4-star from Auburn) Stewart Reese, OG/OT (former 3-star from Mississippi State) Antonio Shelton, DT (former 3-star from Penn State) Jordan Pouncey, WR (former 3-star from Texas) Noah Keeter, LB (former 3-star from UCLA, walk-on) Dylan Meeks, DE, (from Akron) Jace Christmann, PK (from Mississippi State, walk-on)
ONLY WAY TO DESCRIBE IT: A BAD, BAD LOSS The final 5:45 sums up everything for the Florida Gators Wednesday night. Over that stretch, the Gators were outscored 13-1 by South Carolina. Rather than play like the team that had beaten two highly ranked teams in their last four games, the Gators played as if they hadn’t practiced in a month as they turned a perfectly winnable game into a disastrous 72-66 loss to a below average South Carolina team that came to the O-Dome on the heels of a loss to lowly Vanderbilt.
This should not have happened.
The Gators struggled to make put the ball in the basket – 40.3% from the field overall, 28% from the 3-point line and a very poor 9-15 from the foul line – and while they were only charged with 12 turnovers, the ball handling and passing was borderline sloppy for long stretches. In the final ten minutes the Gamecocks played fairly good defense, consistently confusing the Gators by bringing traps and double teams from odd angles. By no means, was South Carolina’s defense what could be considered lock down. Rather, Florida’s lack of movement and willingness to take bad shots made the South Carolina defensive effort look much better than it really was.
And there was no excuse for it. The Gamecocks aren’t nearly as good as the West Virginia team the Gators beat in Morgantown back on Saturday, but on that afternoon Mike White’s team was fully focused, played with great energy on both ends of the floor and consistently made the extra pass to get good shots. Wednesday night, the Gators often resembled a team with a collective case of ADD. During the stretches of the game when they were focused, the Gators were easily the superior team but this was a one step forward, two steps backward kind of night. The focused stretches didn’t last long enough, eventually giving way to disasters like the first five and last five minutes of the game.
“I don’t think we were focused,” said Tre Mann, who led the Gators with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. “We were missing a lot of layups, a lot of open shots and then they were making everything that we were missing. They’re going to win if they make more shots than us, so that’s what happened.”
Go figure on that.
Led by Colin Castleton, who stuffed seven Gamecock shots, the Gators finished with 12 blocks, so how is it South Carolina outrebounded the Gators 43-35, outscored the Gators in the paint 50-30 and got 20 points on second chances? The Gators scored five layups the entire night. South Carolina attempted 25 and scored on 17.
The Gators have eight SEC games remaining in the regular season, five of which will be on the road including Saturday’s game at LSU. The loss to South Carolina almost certainly means UF will have to go 5-3 at a minimum down the stretch to make the NCAA Tournament field. Heading into the game with South Carolina, the Gators pretty much needed only to hold serve at home and steal one win on the road. With this loss, the Gators are going to have to go 3-0 at home and then find a way to win two road games. It’s not impossible but losing to South Carolina added an extra layer of difficulty to the month of February.
Keyontae update: As you might have already expected, Keyontae Johnson’s basketball season is over. Without going into detail about the mysterious collapse on the floor in Tallahassee back in December, Johnson’s family said in a statement that the collapse was not the result of anything related to a previous or current Covid-19 infection. Medical specialists from Harvard, Yale and Vanderbilt along with physicians at UF contributed to the diagnosis although nothing further was stated regarding the collapse.
Johnson will remain with the team and continue activities helping to coach the Gators. Anything further regarding his condition or perhaps his basketball playing future will come directly from Keyontae in the future.
Wednesday SEC scores
South Carolina (5-6, 3-4 SEC) 72, #22 FLORIDA (10-5, 6-4 SEC) 66 Alabama (15-4, 10-0 SEC) 78, LSU (11-6, 6-4 SEC) 60 #18 Missouri (12-3, 6-3 SEC) 75, Kentucky (5-11, 4-5 SEC) 70
Saturday SEC games #22 FLORIDA (10-5, 6-4 SEC) at LSU (11-6, 6-4 SEC) #10 Alabama (15-4, 10-0 SEC) at #18 Missouri (12-3, 6-3 SEC) Vanderbilt (5-8, 1-6 SEC) at Georgia (11-6, 4-6 SEC)
Mississippi State (10-9, 4-6 SEC) at South Carolina (5-6, 3-4 SEC) Ole Miss (9-8, 4-6 SEC) at Auburn (10-9, 4-6 SEC) Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC) at Arkansas (14-5, 6-4 SEC) #11 Tennessee (12-4, 5-4 SEC) at Kentucky (5-11, 4-5 SEC)
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL) ALABAMA: Alabama’s consensus No.1 ranked recruiting class is being called even greater than 2017 by many experts. When the NFL drafts in April, that 2017 class will have likely produced at least 13 players chosen in rounds 1-7.
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks recruiting class is ranked 21st by ESPN, 24th by 247Sports, 25th by Rivals … Arkansas will play Arkansas State for the first time ever in 2025 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The Razorbacks will face Arkansas-Pine Bluff (D1AA) on October 23. Arkansas will play UAB in Fayetteville in 2024.
AUBURN: Auburn’s recruiting class was ranked 29th by ESPN, 30th by 247Sports, 43rd by Rivals, the worst recruiting by Auburn since 2004.
GEORGIA: Georgia’s recruiting class finished ranked 3rd by both ESPN and 247Sports, 6th by Rivals … Former Florida/South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has been officially hired as an analyst. He’ll be the highest paid analyst perhaps in the entire country at $300,000. Muschamp got a $15.8 million buyout when South Carolina fired him … Defensive coordinator Dan Lanning got a raise in pay to $1.8 million.
KENTUCKY: The recruiting class was ranked 32nd by Rivals and 247Sports, 40th by ESPN … The Wildcats signed 4-star linebacker Trevin Wallace Wednesday. HBC Mark Stoops says, “Trevin is as talented an inside linebacker as we have recruited here.”
LSU: The recruiting class was ranked 4th by 247Sports, 5th by Rivals and 7th by ESPN.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mississippi State’s recruiting class was ranked 23rd by Rivals, 25th by 247Sports, 24th by ESPN.
MISSOURI: The Tigers had the 21st-ranked recruiting class by Rivals, 27th by 247Sports, 32nd by ESPN.
OLE MISS: The Rebels finished with a recruiting class ranked 17th by ESPN, 18th-by both Rivals and 247Sports.
SOUTH CAROLINA: The recruiting class was ranked 76th by 247Sports, 78th by Rivals … Former Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty, who coached wide receivers at Charlotte, is expected to join the South Carolina staff as the running backs coach.
TENNESSEE: The Vols finished with a recruiting class ranked 16th by 247Sports, 17th by Rivals, 19th by ESPN.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies finished with a recruiting class ranked 4th by Rivals, 6th by ESPN and 7th by 247Sports.
VANDERBILT: The recruiting class was ranked 33rd by Rivals, 49th by 247Sports, 57th by ESPN … The Commodores are expected to name Wyoming’s AJ Blazek as the O-line coach.
QUESTION OF THE DAY BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S ALBERT BREER While discussing the fact that Tom Brady is in the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs and Bill Belichick finished 7-9 coaching the New England Patriots without Brady for the first time since 2000, Breer asks:
“Is that validating for Brady? Does it kill Belichick?
BRADY VS. PATRICK MAHOMES, 2020 Here is the quarterback comparison for the quarterbacks for Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa:
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Bucs (11-5): 401-610 passing (65.7%) for 4,633 yards (7.6 per attempt), 40 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (14-2): 390-588 (66.3%) for 4,740 yards (8.1 per attempt), 38 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Before there was such a thing as the NCAA transfer portal and before the NCAA was on the verge of legislation that will make every Division I player a potential free agent for at least once in their collegiate careers, it was a lot easier to take recruiting rankings seriously. Oh, rankings are still important to a degree but consider the fact that there are more than 1,500 Division I players with their names in the transfer portal and nearly 1,000 of them were on scholarship somewhere in 2020. With rare exceptions, the 500 or so walk-ons in the transfer portal will be walking on somewhere else, that is, if there is a Division I program that will have them. As for the other 900-1,000 who were on scholarship, they can’t afford to be too choosy when it comes to finding a landing place because once the free agency legislation is passed, an already crowded marketplace is going to resemble Walmart when the doors open at midnight on Black Friday. As for the kids who signed Division I scholarships either back in December or Wednesday, you might not want to get too attached to them because odds are a reasonable percentage of them will do Senior Day somewhere other than the place they originally signed. Some of those outstanding recruiting classes will be decimated by transfers who abide by the immortal words of Ferris Bueller who said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”