SOMETHING TO GRIPE ABOUT
The ESPN staff should be thoroughly embarrassed by its lame attempt at naming the 150 best players of all time to celebrate 150 years of college football. I’m sure they meant well, but their list is really off target, in some cases by the widest of margins.
Named from UF were running back Emmitt Smith (#70), quarterback Tim Tebow (#76) and quarterback Steve Spurrier (#91). There was no mention of quarterback Danny Wuerffel, defensive end Jack Youngblood or linebacker Wilber Marshall.
Tebow #76? Every credible list I’ve seen since he played his last game for the Gators in 2009 has him in the top five. Two national championships (2006 as a contributor, 2008 as the starting QB), a Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and a Heisman finalist as a junior and senior and he’s #76.
Wuerffel, who won a national championship (1996) and was the Heisman runner-up in 1995 and Heisman winner in 1996. And these people selected Peyton Manning #21. Yes the same Peyton who never beat the Gators, never won a national championship and never won the Heisman. Peyton Manning was a fine college quarterback but better than Wuerffel or Tebow? Who do they think they are fooling? John Elway #33 and he never even won a Pac-10 (there were only 10 in the league at that time) championship? I saw both Peyton and Elway play. Neither one of them was as good as Wuerffel. Peyton wasn’t even as good as his dad. They’ve got Archie at #50.
Wilber Marshall was a two-time national defensive player of the year (1982-83) and was the scariest player in the college game. I saw Lawrence Taylor in high school and in college. As good as he was, he wasn’t in Wilber’s class as a collegian. Yet Taylor is #42. Lawrence Taylor couldn’t sniff the jock of Derrick Thomas (#71) the only player I’ve ever seen who was as scary as Wilber.
Sacks weren’t a stat in Jack Youngblood’s day. If they were then he would have tallied at least 50 in his college career. I remember when got to Bill Cappleman of Florida State six times in a single game in 1969.
I could go on and on with these ridiculous rankings but I’ll point out four that absolutely make me shake my head: Roger Staubach at #11, Lee Roy Jordan at #73 and John Hannah at #79 and Ted Hendricks at #85. Roger should be in the top two. Any list that doesn’t have Lee Roy Jordan and John “Hog” Hannah in the top 20 has been compiled by people who are clueless when it comes to college football. Charlie Tate, who coached Hendricks at Miami, told me if sacks had been a stat Ted would have had more than 100 in his three years of eligibility. He sacked Spurrier seven times in 1996 the Saturday after it had been announced Spurrier won the Heisman.
UF BASEBALL #4 IN D1BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL
Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators will start the season with the #4 ranking according to the D1Baseball.com preseason poll. The Gators took their lumps last year (34-26) but still made the NCAA Tournament. With an influx of young talent and hard throwing pitchers to join weekend starters Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich, the Gators should be able to challenge for the SEC championship.
Florida opens its season February 14 against Marshall.
The D1Baseball.com Preseason Top 25 (1) Louisville; (2) Vanderbilt; (3) Miami; (4) FLORIDA; (5) Georgia; (6) Texas Tech; (7) Arkansas; (8) Auburn; (9) Arizona State; (10) Mississippi State; (11) LSU; (12) Florida State; (13) Michigan; (14) UCLA; (15) Duke; (16) North Carolina State; (17) Stanford; (18) Wake Forest; (19) Georgia Tech; (20) Texas A&M; (21) East Carolina; (22) Oklahoma State; (23) North Carolina; (24) Oklahoma; (25) Ole Miss.
NETFLIX AIRING SERIES ABOUT THE LIFE OF AARON HERNANDEZ I haven’t watched the docu-series on Aaron Hernandez yet. I am going to when I have time to sit and watch without distractions. I want to absorb everything and then put it into context of the Aaron Hernandez I knew when he was at the University of Florida.
While he was at UF, he was always polite with the media. He gave thoughtful answers and was often quite funny. There was nothing about that public persona to indicate there was a very dark side brewing. When I ran into the Pouncey Twins in the summer prior to the 2008 season, they dropped more than subtle hints that they were holding their breath because Hernandez had spent some time back home in Connecticut where he had more than his share of very shady friends. They didn’t exactly call them gangbangers, but the implication was clear. I was practically floored because nothing Hernandez had said or would say during the 2008-09 seasons would indicate anything like this.
In the years since Hernandez went to prison for murder and subsequently hanged himself in an elaborate suicide in his prison cell, I’ve thought back so many times to the polite kid who smiled so easy and often made us laugh. I wonder today what, if anything, could have been done to save him from himself.
AUBURN, KENTUCKY UPSET ON THE ROAD
Fourth-ranked Auburn (15-1, 3-1 SEC) suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night, falling 83-64 to Alabama in Tuscaloosa while 10th-ranked Kentucky took an 81-78 loss to South Carolina on a banked in three-pointer at the final horn by redshirt freshman Jermaine Cuisnard. If you happen to have a short memory, Florida beat Alabama in double overtime and South Carolina in Columbia in the Gators first two SEC games of the season.
The Auburn and Kentucky losses only hammer home the fact that at this point in the college basketball season, we still don’t have a great or dominating team. There are a lot of teams just like Florida, capable of beating anyone in the country on those nights when shots are falling, but just as capable of losing to anyone in the country on nights when the shots won’t drop or the defense took the night off. There are a lot of teams that still have much to figure out, which means that it’s probably going to be mid-February or after before a few teams start showing the kind of consistency and maturity it takes to go on the kind of roll that can carry deep into March.
Watching the way Auburn crashed and burned in Tuscaloosa Wednesday night, there is no doubt the Gators are quite capable of scoring a win Saturday afternoon when Auburn comes to town. The Tigers are vulnerable to any team with a point guard that can get to the paint with the ball and with the mindset to lock down defensively on the perimeter to run them off the three-point line. Andrew Nembhard will have to play at a very high level, make the right decisions once he gets into the lane and take smart shots. If Nembhard can beat his man off the dribble and get into the paint, he should be able to set up Kerry Blackshear Jr. for a huge scoring night.
This is a very winnable game for Florida and the rest of the schedule doesn’t look as daunting as it did last Saturday night when the Gators played their worst defensive game in the Mike White era.
SEC BASKETBALL SCORES/SCHEDULE Wednesday’s scores South Carolina (9-7, 1-2 SEC) 81, #10 Kentucky (12-4, 3-1 SEC) 78 Georgia (11-5, 1-2 SEC) 80, Tennessee (10-6, 2-2 SEC) 63
Arkansas (14-2, 2-1 SEC) 85,Vanderbilt (8-8, 0-3 SEC)
Alabama (9-7, 2-2 SEC) 83, #4 Auburn (15-0, 3-0 SEC) 64
Saturday’s games #4 Auburn (15-1, 3-1 SEC) at FLORIDA (11-5, 3-1 SEC), CBS South Carolina (9-7, 1-2 SEC) at Texas A&M (8-7, 2-2 SEC), SEC Network Missouri (9-7, 1-3 SEC) at Alabama (9-7, 2-2 SEC), SEC Network #10 Kentucky (12-4, 3-1 SEC) at Arkansas (14-2, 3-1 SEC), ESPN Tennessee (10-6, 2-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt (8-8, 0-3 SEC), SEC Network LSU (12-4, 4-0 SEC) at Ole Miss (9-7, 0-3 SEC), ESPN2 Georgia 11-5, 1-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (10-6, 1-3 SEC), SEC Network
SOME RELEVANT AND IRRELEVANT THINGS TO TALK ABOUT ON THURSDAY
(1) LSU took a few more hits Wednesday when All-American safety Grant Delpit, winner of the Thorpe Award, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, linebacker Patrick Queen, center Lloyd Cushenberry, linebacker Jacob Phillips and left tackle Saahdiq Charles all declared for the NFL Draft. That’s a lot of talent to replace, particularly when you throw in the fact that Joe Burrow has used up all his eligibility and co-offensive coordinator Joe Brady has accepted the offensive coordinator job with the NFL Carolina Panthers. Of the entire group, the one that’s going to be the hardest to replace is Edwards-Helaire. There weren’t many running backs in the country who could grind out yards between the tackles yet could get outside on sweeps and had the speed and hands to line up (and catch passes) as an outside receiver.
(2) The hire of Mike Leach has caused All-SEC running back Kylin Hill to reverse his decision to enter the NFL Draft and return to Mississippi State for his senior season in 2020. Hill, who will probably be the best running back Leach has ever coached, ran for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 180 yards and another TD. After a season of playing for Leach, Hill should improve his pass catching skills in such a way that he will move high up on most draft boards.
(3) It seems reports that the hire of Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente as Baylor’s head coach was imminent were a bit premature. As of Wednesday night, Baylor still hadn’t hired a new head coach although the Waco Herald-Tribune indicated that the decision was pretty much down to Fuente and Louisiana-Lafayette HBC Bill Napier. With all the players he has coming back (21 of 22 starters) and the fact he’s been interviewing assistant coaches, it would seem rather strange if Fuente were to leave Virginia Tech. Of course, Napier returns almost his entire team, too, but at Baylor he would double or triple his salary while Fuente moving would seem somewhat of a lateral move.
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY From Derrick Z. Jackson of The Undefeated, writing about the graduation disparity between white athletes and black athletes in Division I football: “The average racial disparity of 27.5 percentage points from the top teams is a reminder that no matter how much the overall graduation rates have improved over the years, the top-tier teams still turn a blind eye to their acrid academic atmosphere. It should be unacceptable that LSU and Ohio State graduate barely more than half of their black players while graduating most of their white football players.”
Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports, whose opinions are often taken with a grain of salt, on what he sees in LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who should be the first player taken in the NFL Draft this spring: “Joe Burrow is Tony Romo. He’s got a good arm, but it’s not special. He’s athletic but he’s not a freak. Likeable, smart, excellent leadership skills, willing to throw the ball up for grabs … he’s a risk taker. Burrow’s a risk taker and my kind of risk taker. He doesn’t play cautious football.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell will be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2020. Shell is the 10th Hall of Fame member of that Steelers team that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s … Others who will join Shell in the 2020 Hall class are coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson, O-linemen Duke Slater, Jim Covert and Winston Hill, wide receivers Harold Carmichael and Mac Speedie, D-linemen Ed Sprinkle and Alex Karras, safeties Bobby Dillon and Cliff Harris and contributors George Young (GM), Steve Sabol (NFL Films) and Paul Tagliabue (commissioner) … Not only have the Houston Astros (AJ Hinsch) and Boston Red Sox (Alex Cora) lost their managers due to evidence they participated in sign-stealing schemes in 2017-18, the New York Mets could lose Carlos Beltran even before he manages his first game. Beltran was listed as a central figure in the Astros sign-stealing scheme back in 2017.