Thoughts of the Day: January 18, 2021

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:

FILE THIS UNDER NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS? Just this past Friday it was being reported that Florida linebackers coach Christian Robinson was northbound to Michigan and that former UF defensive coordinator and now Alabama analyst Charlie Strong was a done deal to join Urban Meyer’s staff with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Well, that was then and this is now. As of Sunday, Robinson may or may not be leaving and there has been no announcement coming out of Jacksonville regarding Strong’s status which means both could be part of Dan Mullen’s 2021 coaching staff or the reporting could be right regarding the landing spot for both.


It is a fact that Robinson has told players and recruits alike that he will be coaching linebackers for the Gators in 2021. That could have something to do with a reported raise in the works. Robinson made $290,000 in 2020, making him the lowest paid of Florida’s assistants.


The Strong situation seems a bit more complicated. Strong and Meyer have been buddies since they were assistants at Notre Dame for both Lou Holtz and Bob Davie. Meyer won two national championships at Florida with Charlie as his defensive coordinator and lockdown recruiter for the Tampa Bay/Polk County area. No one should be surprised if reports that Strong will be Meyer’s linebackers coach with the Jags prove true. But, there is also a bunch of shuffling going on at Alabama, where Strong and Nick Saban have become buds. Strong rents an apartment in Tuscaloosa owned by Saban. Alabama co-defensive coordinator Charles Kelly apparently is a finalist for the vacant DC job at Missouri so a spot on the defensive staff could be in the works.


And finally, there is the chance to come back to Florida to work for Mullen, which would be Strong’s sixth head coach to work for in Gainesville (the others were Charley Pell, Galen Hall, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Meyer). If he comes to Florida, Strong would be the co-defensive coordinator with Todd Grantham and, unless there is more shuffling of the defensive staff, would coach the safeties. It must be noted that Grantham will be in the final year of his contract extension at UF that pays him $1.81 million. Bringing Strong on board would make it a seamless transition of Grantham elected to move on following the 2020 season. The 2021 season will be his fifth with Mullen (2017 at Mississippi State), the longest he’s been with any coach in his career.


Do not expect any news on the coaching front until Tuesday at the earliest.


REESE LIKELY TO RETURN: There are reports that Stewart Reese, who came to Florida as a grad transfer from Mississippi State, will take advantage of the NCAA rule that gives everyone who played in 2020 an extra year of eligibility and return to Florida for a sixth collegiate season. The lack of summer conditioning hampered Reese in 2020 as he reportedly played at a biscuit shy of 370. If he can get his weight down to the 340-350 range, Reese could be effective at either guard position or at right tackle, where he started two seasons at Mississippi State.

Also among those expected back are Jean Delance, Jeremiah Moon and Brenton Cox Jr.


GATORS NEED SCOTTIE LEWIS BACK FOR TENNESSEE

It was painfully obvious on the defensive end in Florida’s 72-69 loss at Mississippi State that the Gators desperately need Scottie Lewis back. Lewis has missed the last two games due to health protocols. Against MSU, the Gators had all sorts of defensive and rebounding problems. Lewis is only 6-5, but he can lock down on the defensive end and he’s a fairly good rebounder. When Anthony Duruji was saddled with foul troubles, he was limited to 16 minutes and just four points and three rebounds. Even three or four more rebounds and a stop or two at the defensive end could have made a difference and Lewis could have been the difference-maker. Additionally, Lewis can get hot from the 3-point line and the Gators hit only 5-19 shots.


Tuesday night at the O-Dome, the Gators will be facing a Tennessee team that might be the best defensive team in the country. The Vols hold opponents to 57 points per game and 38.5% shooting. They’re also one of the soundest rebounding teams in the country. Offensively, Tennessee averages 77.2 per game and yet there isn’t a single player in the top 20 in the SEC in scoring.


SEC Tuesday night #10 Tennessee (10-1, 4-1 SEC) at FLORIDA (6-4, 3-3 SEC) South Carolina (3-3, 1-1 SEC) at #17 Missouri (8-2, 2-2 SEC) Ole Miss (6-6, 1-4 SEC) at Mississippi State (9-5, 4-2 SEC)

Alabama (11-3, 6-0 SEC) at LSU (10-2, 5-1 SEC)

SEC Wednesday night Texas A&M (7-5, 2-4) at Vanderbilt (4-6, 0-5 SEC)

Kentucky (4-8, 3-2 SEC) at Georgia (8-4, 1-4 SEC)

Auburn (8-6, 1-4 SEC) at Arkansas (10-4, 2-4 SEC)


IT PAYS TO GET FIRED IN THE SEC

Connor O’Gara of Saturday Down South dug up the numbers proving that it pays to get fired as a head football coach in the Southeastern Conference. By O’Gara’s numbers, since Nick Saban became the head football coach at Alabama, the other 13 SEC teams have paid out $177,880,000 to fire their coaches. Recently fired Gus Malzahn holds the individual record of a $21.45 million buyout followed closely by Will Muschamp, whose $21.3 million of buyout money came from Florida ($6.3 million) and South Carolina ($15 million). Auburn is the team champ at $34.03 million.


(Net totals for individual coaches are after offset money is factored in)

ARKANSAS ($25.5 million): Houston Nutt $3.5 million; Bret Bielema $12 million; Chad Morris $10 million, $7.795 million net

AUBURN ($34.03 million): Tommy Tuberville $5.08 million; Gene Chizik $7.5 million; Gus Malzahn $21.45 million

FLORIDA ($13.8 million): Will Muschamp $6.3 million; Jim McElwain $7.5 million

GEORGIA ($4.1 million): Mark Richt $4.1 million

KENTUCKY ($2.55 million): Joker Phillips $2.55 million

LSU: Les Miles $129 million, $9.4 million net

MISSISSIPPI STATE ($10.6 million): Sylvester Croom $3.5 million; Joe Moorhead $7 million, $6.1 million net

MISSOURI (2.85 million): Barry Odom $2.85 million, 1.55 million net

OLE MISS $16.45 million): Ed Orgeron $1.35 million; Houston Nutt $5.5 million; Matt Luke $9.6 million

SOUTH CAROLINA ($15 million): Will Muschamp $15 million

TENNESSEE ($19.6 million): Phil Fulmer $6 million; Derek Dooley $5 million; Butch Jones $8.6 million, $7.670 million net

TEXAS A&M ($20.6 million): Dennis Franchone $4.4 million; Mike Sherman $5.8 million; Kevin Sumlin $10.4 million


OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC ALABAMA: Tight end Carl Tucker announced for the NFL. After transferring in from North Carolina, Tucker played in seven games, almost exclusively on special teams … Backup offensive lineman Chris Owens, who played center in the national championship game after Landon Dickerson had surgery, will return for a sixth season … Running backs coach Charles Huff is the new head ball coach at Marshall. Huff’s departure means Nick Saban has lost four assistants from his 2020 staff.

ARKANSAS: Former Ole Miss QB Kade Renfro is walking on at Arkansas.

AUBURN: Defensive back Jamien Sherwood has declared for the NFL Draft.

GEORGIA: Corner Tyrique Stevenson is transferring to Miami ... Former UF assistant Charlton Warren is leaving Georgia to become the defensive coordinator at Indiana.

KENTUCKY: As expected, wide receiver/running back Wan’Dale Robinson is transferring in from Nebraska where he had 580 rushing yards and 914 receiving yards in two seasons.

LSU: Outside linebacker Ray Thornton is transferring to Texas … Scott Linehan, who was LSU’s offensive coordinator in 2020, is interviewing with Urban Meyer for the OC job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Offensive linemen Scott Lashley and LaQuinston Sharp are returning for 2021 along with wide receiver JaVonta Payton. Not returning is starting right guard Dareuan Parker, who is heading to the NFL.

MISSOURI: Wide receiver CJay Boone, who opted out for 2020, is transferring to New Mexico.

OLE MISS: Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has gotten a $500,000 pay raise to $1.2 million ... Former Florida and South Carolina assistant Coleman Hutzler is expected to join the staff as the special teams coordinator while working with defensive coordinator DJ Durkin with linebackers.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Director of personnel Drew Hughes is leaving for the same job working for Steve Sarkisian at Texas. Hughes was on the Florida staff in a personnel role from 2014-17 … The new D-line coach is Jimmy Lindsey, hired away from Illinois.

TENNESSEE: Former Auburn defensive end Big Kat Bryant is transferring to Tennessee … Tight end Austin Pope has pulled his name out of the transfer portal and will return for the 2021 season … Tight ends coach Joe Osovet is interviewing for the wide receivers job at UCF.

TEXAS A&M: Jimbo Fisher foresees a three-way battle for the No. 1 quarterback job this spring between Haynes King, Zach Calzada and incoming freshman Eli Stowers. King was Kellen Mond’s backup in 2020 while Calzada held that role in 2019 ... The Aggies are the favorite to land Tennessee left tackle Wanya Morris.


HOOPS DU JOUR

This is bad news for the coaches implicated in the college basketball cheating scandal. A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of James Dawkins, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins. This takes away a level of defense for coaches like Bill Self of Kansas, Sean Miller of Arizona, Frank Martin of South Carolina, Bruce Pearl of Auburn and Will Wade of LSU. When they finally get to their trials whether it before the NCAA Infractions Committee or the independent Accountability Resolution Process, they won’t be able to use dismissed charges or convictions to weasel out of their difficulties.


The best college basketball team in the country is unquestionably No. 1 ranked Gonzaga. The Zags can beat you inside, outside, with defense or on the backboards. Former Gator Andrew Nembhard is the perfect sixth man to a team that has future first round draft picks Corey Kispert, Drew Timme and Jalen Suggs.


My mid-January national player of the year would be Kispert (20.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 48.9% on 3-pointers). Joining Kispert on my mid-January All-America team would be Luke Garza (Iowa), Jared Butler (Baylor), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova) and Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga).


Every year, we hear the national media sing the praises of the Big Ten, this year no exception. There were six Big Ten teams listed in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. If the league is so good, then why is it Michigan State 2000 is the only team from the Big Ten in the last 30 years to win the national championship? (Maryland 2002 doesn’t count since the Terps were in the ACC at the time) Over that same stretch, the ACC has won 10 championships, Big East nine, SEC six, Pac-12 two, Big 12 one, Big West one and Big Ten one.


ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: I still wonder how it is that the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach a couple of years ago. In his time at Texas Tech he went 35-40 with only two winning seasons (8-5 in 2013 and 7-6 in 2015) despite the fact both Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes were among his quarterbacks. Kingsbury ran Mayfield off. He resurfaced at Oklahoma and won a Heisman Trophy. Mahomes started 25 games in 2015-16 and threw 77 touchdown passes in the two years but Texas Tech went 13-13. The two went head-to-head in 2016 when Mayfield threw for 545 yards and seven TDs to lead Oklahoma to a 66-59 win over Texas Tech. Mahomes launched 88 passes in that game, threw for 734 yards and five touchdowns.

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