A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:
AN EARLY LOOK AT FLORIDA’S SPRING FOOTBALL ROSTER
(Since 2020 didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility, returning players are listed by their class from 2020 and by how many years in the system)
QUARTERBACKS (4): Emory Jones (6-2, 210, 4th-year SO); Anthony Richardson (6-4, 235, 2nd-year FR); Carlos Del-Rio Wilson (6-3, 215, FR); Jalen Kitna (6-4, 200, FR)
Looking ahead: Emory Jones will go into the spring as the starter and he will get every opportunity to establish himself as THE guy. Richardson has the ability to win the job, but he lacks the experience. If history is repeated, Mullen will do whatever he can to give a fairly even split of the spring reps between Jones and Richardson. The freshmen are enrolled and here to learn.
RUNNING BACKS (5): Malik Davis (5-10, 205, 5th-year JR); Dameon Pierce (5-10, 215, 4th-year JR); Lorenzo Lingard (6-0, 203, 4th-year SO); Nay’Quan Wright (5-9, 195, 3rd-year FR); Demarkcus Bowman (5-11, 195, 2nd-year FR)
Looking ahead: This is the deepest and best running backs room since Mullen took over. With the Gators expected to run the ball more, don’t be surprised to see at least two of the running backs to get work this spring in the slot where Mullen can use them both in the passing and running game. Expect the 1-2 to be Pierce and Bowman.
WIDE RECEIVERS (10): Rick Wells (6-1, 202, 6th-year SR); Jordan Pouncey (6-1, 212, 5th-year JR); Jacob Copeland (6-0, 203; 4th-year SO); Justin Shorter (6-5, 225, 4th-year SO); Trent Whittemore (6-4, 208, 3rd-year FR); Ja’Markis Weston (6-3, 215, 3rd-year FR); Xzavier Henderson (6-4, 191, 2nd-year FR); Ja’Quavion Fraziars (6-3, 211, 2nd-year FR); Daejon Reynolds (6-2, 210; FR); Markus Burke (6-3, 180, FR)
Looking ahead: Heading into the spring, Copeland will have every chance to establish himself as the go-to guy. Shorter needs to prove he can be a downfield receiver, plus he needs to show he’s got surer hands. Whittemore and Henderson are going to be in the rotation. Wells could be an X-factor based on what he showed late season in 2020. It’s time for Weston and Fraziars to step up.
TIGHT ENDS (6): Kemore Gamble (6-4, 248, 5th-year JR); Keon Zipperer (6-2, 240, 3rd-year SO); Jonathan Odom (6-5, 238; 2nd-year FR); Arik Gilbert (6-5, 253, 2nd-year SO); Nick Elksnis (6-6, 230, FR); Gage Wilcox (6-4, 228, FR)
Looking ahead: Gilbert won’t arrive until May so it’s going to be a huge spring for Gamble, Zipperer, Odom and Elksnis (Wilcox arrives in the summer). None of them have Gilbert’s athletic ability but it will be an opportunity to become the guy who’s going to play a lot in two tight end sets.
LINEMEN (16): Stewart Reese (6-6, 350, 6th-year SR); Jean Delance (6-3, 316, 6th-year SR); T.J. Moore (6-5, 300, 5th-year JR); Richard Gouraige (6-5, 316; 4th-year SO); Griffin McDowell (6-5, 300, 4th-year SO); Ethan White (6-5, 335, 3rd-year SO); Riley Simonds (6-3, 303, 3rd-year FR); Kingsley Eguakun (6-3, 322, 3rd-year FR); Michael Tarquin (6-5, 312, 3rd-year FR); Will Harrod (6-5, 330, 3rd-year FR); Josh Braun (6-6, 340, 2nd-year FR); Gerald Mincey (6-6, 337, 2nd-year FR); Richie Leonard (6-2, 347, 2nd-year FR); Yousef Mubharbil (6-5, 330, FR); Austin Barber (6-7, 300, FR); Jake Slaughter (6-4, 300, FR)
Looking ahead: Reese coming back for a sixth year will be huge if he is able to get in the conditioning he missed last summer and plays somewhere in the 340-350 range instead of 370. If he’s slimmer, he could play right tackle where he started 10-plus games at Mississippi State before transferring to UF. Gouraige probably moves outside to left tackle. If White plays center, that could shuffle the guard spots, but a real possibility will be Eguakun at center with White at left guard and Braun at right. Another possibility would be for Tarquin to step in at right tackle with Reese staying at right guard, White at center and Braun at left guard.
LINEMEN (14): Antonio Shelton (6-2, 327, 6th-year SR); DaQuan Newkirk (6-3, 317, 5th-year SR); Dylan Meeks (6-2, 250, 5th-year SR); Zachary Carter (6-4, 290, 5th-year JR); Dante Lang (6-5, 287, 4th-year SO); Jaelin Humphries (6-3, 325, 3rd-year SO); Gervon Dexter (6-6, 307, 2nd-year FR); Princely Umanmielen (6-4, 255, 2nd-year FR); Lamar Goods (6-2, 335, 2nd-year FR); Jalen Lee (6-2, 315, 2nd-year FR); Desmond Watson (6-5, 380, FR); Justus Boone (6-5, 250, FR); Tyreak Sapp (6-3, 255, FR); Christopher Thomas (6-6, 300, FR)
Looking ahead: Shelton and Newkirk transferring in was a huge addition. Both are excellent against the run and Shelton has a nice history of collapsing the pocket from the inside. Dexter will play both inside and outside. Carter starts on the outside. There is plenty of depth although not much in the way of experience so spring football will go a long way to figure out who’s ready to play in the fall.
LINEBACKERS (16): Jeremiah Moon (6-5, 250, 6th-year SR); Ventrell Miller (6-1, 230, 5th-year JR); Amari Burney (6-2, 230, 4th-year JR); Brenton Cox Jr. (6-3, 250, 4th-year SO; David Reese (6-2, 241, 4th-year SO); Andrew Chatfield Jr. (6-2, 248, 4th-year SO); Khris Bogle (6-4, 240, 3rd-year SO); Mohamoud Diabate (6-3, 221, 3rd-year SO); Diwun Black (6-4, 225, 3rd-year SO); * Noah Keeter (6-6, 240, 3rd-year SO); Ty’Ron Hopper (6-2, 225, 3rd-year FR); Lloyd Summerall III (6-6, 236, 3rd-year FR); Derek Wingo (6-1, 233, 2nd-year FR); Antwaun Powell (6-3, 260, 2nd-year FR); Chief Borders (6-5, 242, FR); Jeremiah Williams (6-3, 230, FR)
Looking ahead: If Moon can play healthy in 2021, it will be huge. Even though he won’t be here in the spring, Black is likely to start in the middle along with Miller with Diabate and Burney figuring strongly in the rotation. Cox will start on the outside and could have an All-SEC or All-America season if someone can get a rush off the other side. If Moon isn’t healthy, Bogle probably takes his spot. If Borders continues to grow and Summerall fills out his frame, both of them could shift to the D-line, particularly if Todd Grantham elects to play more of a 4-man front. This is an experienced group. The question is will one year older make them one year better?
SECONDARY (16): Trey Dean III (6-3, 200, 4th-year JR); Kaiir Elam (6-2, 193, 3rd-year SO); Jaydon Hill (6-0, 185, 2nd-year SO); Tre’Vez Johnson (5-11, 196, 2nd-year FR); Ethan Pouncey (6-1, 170, 2nd-year FR); Rashad Torrence II (6-0, 205, 2nd-year FR); Avery Helm (6-1, 170, 2nd-year SO); Kamar Wilcoxson (6-1, 183, 2nd-year FR); Jahari Rogers (5-11, 185, 2nd-year FR); Mordecai McDaniel (6-1, 207, 2nd-year FR); Fenley Graham (5-9, 174, 2nd-year FR); Jason Marshall (6-2, 180, FR); Corey Collier (6-2, 175, FR); Donovan McMillon (6-2, 193, FR); Jordan Young (6-0, 185, FR); Dakota Mitchell (6-0, 185, FR)
Looking ahead: There are two new coaches, which will hopefully translate into fewer blown coverages and better tackling. Elam should be All-SEC and potentially All-America this year. The Gators should be fairly strong at the corners with Hill or Johnson probably starting spring opposite Elam. Safety is the biggest concern where Dean has the most experience. Torrence had moments when he played very well in 2020. Freshmen Jason Marshall and Corey Collier are going to get a fair shot at the rotation along with all the others. The only scholarship player in the secondary who won’t be here for the spring is Young.
PUNTER (1): Jeremy Crashaw (6-4, 190, 2nd-year FR)
PLACEKICKER (1): * Jace Christmann (6-0, 195, 5th-year SR)
LONG SNAPPER (1): Rocco Underwood (6-4, 225, FR)
Looking ahead: Crashaw looked so good punting in the Cotton Bowl that Jacob Finn (46.27 per punt) transferred out. Christmann hit 32-42 field goals at Mississippi State. Underwood was signed to a scholarship as a long snapper. That means he’s expected to start from day one although he won’t be here for the spring.
UF BASKETBALL PUT ON HOLD; WEDNESDAY AT UT POSTPONED The Gators (10-5, 6-4 SEC) won’t be traveling to Knoxville to face 11th-ranked Tennesssee (13-4, 6-4 SEC) Wednesday as Covid-19 issues have forced the postponement of a second consecutive game. No makeup date has been offered either for the game with LSU (11-6, 6-4 SEC) or Tennessee.
SEC Tuesday games #10 Alabama (15-5, 10-1 SEC) at South Carolina (5-7, 3-5 SEC) Arkansas (14-5, 6-4 SEC) at Kentucky (5-12, 4-6 SEC) Auburn (10-10, 4-7 SEC) at Vanderbilt (5-9, 1-7 SEC) SEC Wednesday games #22 FLORIDA (10-5, 6-4 SEC) at #11 Tennessee (13-4, 6-4 SEC), postponed Georgia (12-6, 5-6 SEC) at Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC), postponed LSU (11-6, 6-4 SEC) at Mississippi State (11-9, 5-6 SEC) #18 Missouri (13-3, 6-3 SEC) at Ole Miss (10-8, 5-6 SEC)
RULE NO. 1: NEVER BET AGAINST TOM BRADY If there are any skeptics out there who question that Tom Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, Sunday night should have erased whatever shred of doubt that could possibly be living in their minds. From a statistical standpoint, Brady has had better Super Bowls than the one he had in leading the Tampa Bay Bucs to a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, but the stats only tell a fraction of the story. Brady was flawless, but more importantly, he continued to be the calm presence whose confidence overflowed to the rest of the team.
Brady was 21-29 passing for 195 yards and three touchdowns, hardly spectacular but on this night he didn’t need to be spectacular, just consistent enough to get the ball to the open receivers. His O-line rarely allowed him to be pressured and when the Chiefs took away the deep ball Brady was content to make the underneath throws or dump off screens almost effortlessly to keep the chains moving.
What was spectacular on this night was the Tampa Bay defense, which kept Patrick Mahomes out of the end zone, picked him off twice and sacked him three times. The Super Bowl and Tampa’s playoff run only furthered the notion that second year linebacker Devin White might be as good as it gets in the NFL. Sunday night, White had 12 tackles and an interception. In the two playoff games and the Super Bowl, he had 38 tackles and two interceptions.
Brady now has seven Super Bowl rings in 10 attempts with five MVP trophies. It was Tampa Bay’s second Super Bowl championship although it must be noted that the Bucs have the lowest winning percentage (39.3%) of any NFL team.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Georgia fans have already declared the poodles as the 2021 national champions in waiting. We’ve been hearing how next year is going to be THE YEAR for Georgia how many years? Not that I or anyone else is counting, but it has been a mere 14,647 days since Herschel Walker led Georgia to its last national championship. This year’s yet unburst bubble has everything to do with the presence of quarterback JT Daniels. Has anyone come up with a satisfactory explanation why Daniels didn’t play until November 21, 2020? He was medically cleared back before the Auburn game (game two) and he was obviously better than Stetson Bennett IV or D’Wan Mathis. So, why didn’t Kirby Smart play him against Alabama or Florida, the two games the Poodles lost in 2020? Inquiring minds want to know.