Thoughts of the Day: January 20, 2020

Updated: Jan 21, 2020


When Dan Mullen gets back to Gainesville after spending the weekend in South Africa for Tim Tebow’s wedding, he will arrive to the seriously good news awaiting that Kadarius Toney will be back for his senior season at the University of Florida. Toney, Trevon Grimes, Kyle Pitts and Jacob Copeland give the Gators four experienced playmakers on the outside to go with quarterback Kyle Trask and a running game that should be substantially better with a more experienced offensive line.

With Toney, we’ve seen the potential since the Orange and Blue Game after he was an early enrollee in spring semester in 2017. He’s averaged 13.15 yards every time he has touched the football whether on running plays or receptions so it’s obvious he knows what to do with the ball in his hands. He just has to see the ball more often.

We saw what he’s capable of doing when he scored Florida’s first touchdown of the 2019 season by taking a bubble screen 66 yards against Miami, but he hurt his shoulder in game two, missed six straight games and showed only flashes of his ability once he got healthy again. He dazzled with two carries for 39 yards against Vandy and his five receptions against Missouri and FSU were good for 113 yards. Imagine that kind of production week in and week out.

If Toney can stay healthy in 2020 he should have the kind of breakout senior season that will make him attractive to the NFL. I would like to see him become more of a downfield threat in the passing game and get the ball on running plays in something other than a jet sweep. I would also like to see him get a chance to throw the ball. We tend to forget he was a high school quarterback. His 20-yard touchdown pass against Mississippi State in 2019, if you recall, proved to be the game-winner.

MAYBE THE GATORS HAVE TURNED THE CORNER A week ago it seemed as if the Gators had taken some giant steps backward, but after Saturday’s 69-47 win over Auburn coupled with last Tuesday’s 71-55 win over Ole Miss, there is reason to believe that the Gators have either found the maturity that has been missing or they’re awfully close. Based on the quality of defense, the way they handled stretches of adversity in the first half of both games and then adjusted to dominate the second halves, I tend to think they are very close to becoming that dangerous team nobody is going to want to play in the final month of the season and moving forward in March.

When the Gators defend at a high level, they’re going to have a chance to win every single game. Now that Mike White has found a winning combination of Kerry Blackshear Jr. at the high post with Omar Payne down low and Keyontae Johnson able to split time between small forward and playing a stretch four, White has a nice group that can defend, rebound and score. Last year, the Gators not only lacked size but had all sorts of problems getting any kind of scoring from the front line. If these three guys can continue to develop, it’s going to carry the Gators deep into March.

Saturday’s scores FLORIDA (12-5, 4-1 SEC) 69, #4 Auburn (15-2, 3-2 SEC) 47 #10 Kentucky (13-4, 4-1 SEC) 73, Arkansas (14-3, 3-2 SEC) 68 South Carolina (10-7, 2-2 SEC) 81, Texas A&M (8-8, 2-3 SEC 67 Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC) 88, Missouri (9-8, 1-4 SEC) 74 Tennessee (11-6, 3-2 SEC) 66, Vanderbilt (8-9, 0-4 SEC) 45 LSU (13-4, 5-0 SEC) 80, Ole Miss (9-8, 0-4 SEC) 76 Mississippi State (11-6, 2-3 SEC) 91, Georgia (11-6, 1-3 SEC) 59 Tuesday’s games FLORIDA (12-5, 4-1 SEC) at LSU (13-4, 5-0 SEC), SEC Network Georgia (11-6, 1-3 SEC) at #10 Kentucky (13-4, 4-1 SEC), ESPN Texas A&M (8-8, 2-3 SEC) at Missouri (9-8, 1-4 SEC), ESPNU Ole Miss (9-8, 0-4 SEC) at Tennessee (11-6, 3-2 SEC), SEC Network Wednesday’s games South Carolina (10-7, 2-2 SEC) at #4 Auburn (15-2, 3-2 SEC), ESPNU Arkansas (14-3, 3-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (11-6, 2-3 SEC), SEC Network Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt (8-9, 0-4 SEC), SEC Network

MONDAY MEANDERINGS (1) Feleipe Franks paid a visit to Arkansas over the weekend. Given the quarterback situation (the three scholarship QBs are Jack Lindsey, John Stephen Jones and KJ Jefferson who are a collective 40-87 passing for 324 yards and five touchdowns in their careers) and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who had great success at Houston with D’Eriq King and at FAU working for Lane Kiffin, Arkansas seems more and more like the place Franks will spend his grad transfer season.

(2) With the anticipated addition of Houston grad transfer D’Eriq King, Miami will have six scholarship quarterbacks competing this spring including two – N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams who have started. All things considered, Perry and Williams might as well start thinking about where they can transfer because neither one can hold a candle to King. It would be quite surprising if Tate Martell’s name isn’t entered in the NCAA transfer portal by Monday. King is a serious upgrade at the position but his transfer also makes what he did at Houston this year an absolute head-scratcher. King elected to redshirt after four games even though he was healthy. Originally, the idea was by redshirting this year, he would be back a year later and Houston would be better off for it. Did King betray the trust Dana Holgorsen placed in him at Houston? Or is there some sort of rift that we don’t know about? King is a grad transfer so he has the right to transfer wherever he wants without having to sit, but this seems like an unintended circumstance of the redshirt and transfer rules.

(3) Attendance at the New Year’s Six and national championship games decreased by an average of 6,069 fans this year. The biggest losers were the Sugar (Georgia-Baylor drew only 55,21) and Cotton (54,828). The Cotton Bowl was the smallest attendance in 31 years. The national championship game, meanwhile, drew a sellout crowd even with the cheapest tickets on the resale market at more than $1,000. Bill Hancock, the director of the College Football Playoff, acts rather nonchalant about the decline at non-playoff New Year’s Six bowls and the outrageous prices for tickets to the semifinals and championship games. Maybe that’s because ESPN TV rights guarantee the bowl games will cover their costs. What I would like to see is for the College Football Playoff to ensure that tickets can be had by people who don’t have unlimited amounts of disposable income and for the bowl games to find a way to get decent matchups that will make people want to attend in person.

(4) Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was ejected from Saturday’s game with Arkansas in Fayette Nam after he protested an illegal screen call on E.J. Montgomery. Replays showed Montgomery was standing still and that the call was bogus, which doesn’t surprise me considering the zebra crew was Anthony Jordan, Patrick Evans and Brian Shey. Following the two free throws for the ejection of Calipari, Kentucky went on a 17-2 run and ended up winning the game, 73-66. Here is what bothers me about the officiating I’m seeing this year. They’re letting defenders hand check, push and shove all over the place and they’re calling touch fouls. There is something seriously wrong with this and yet the more I watch, the more I see the same old, same old.

(5) One more thought about officiating in college basketball and then I’ll shut up – well, at least for one night. Any time I see Bart Lenox (he was the crew chief at the Florida-Auburn game), I know it will be a poorly officiated game. He has as much business calling basketball games as I have of performing brain surgery. I’ve watched his officiating career and I’ve yet to see anything that would make me believe he has any potential whatsoever to become even halfway decent.

(6) Vanderbilt’s string of 1,080 consecutive games with a made three-pointer came to an end Saturday night when the Commodores lost to Tennessee, 66-45, in Nashville. The Commodores were 0-25, the worst three-point shooting game in SEC history and the second worst in all of Division I in the last 20 years (Northwestern State went 0-26 in a 2012 game). Since we’re on the subject of three-pointers, I have to wonder how much of the poor three-point shooting that we’re seeing throughout college basketball this year has something to do with the line being moved back a foot? Or is it just that there are fewer good shooters playing the college game? I know one thing, the line being moved back hasn’t affected Florida’s Noah Locke in the least. Since the Long Beach State win, Locke has hit 17 of his last 34 three-pointers.

GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY All-American Travis Etienne’s statement on why he’s returning to Clemson for his senior season rather than moving on to the NFL: “When I arrived at Clemson in 2017, I was a kid from Jennings, La., with a dream of becoming the best football player and the best man I could be. Speaking of dreams, I have long dreamed of competing at the highest level and getting the chance to compete in the NFL. But I’m not done dreaming here at Clemson, either, which is why I’m announcing that I’ll be returning for my senior season. I look forward to earning my degree from this great university and continuing to fight with my brothers on the team to make you proud during the 2020 season.”

From Elliott Almond of the San Jose Mercury-News, Richard Sherman of the San Francisco 49ers on the fractured relationship he has with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh – who encouraged him to transfer from Stanford – and whether it can be mended: “There is nothing to mend. The bridge was burned down, torn down and built another bridge at another place. But the bridge in this particular relationship will never be rebuilt. I don’t think he is interested in it, and I’m not interested in it.”

Flashback quote of the day from Alfredrick Hughes of Loyola-Chicago who went 1-21 shooting against Bradley in 1984, missing his first 20 shots before a tomahawk dunk on his final attempt: “You see me stick that last one?”

RANDOM THOUGHTS: The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969. The Chiefs, behind Hall of Fame quarterback Lenny Dawson and Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, beat the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings (by 12-1/2 points), 23-7, in a game that finally made people grudgingly admit that the American Football League (the two leagues didn’t merge until 1970) was every bit the equal of the NFL … Following their 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans to claim the AFC title, the Chiefs have been established as a 1-point favorite over the San Francisco 49ers, who dominated the Green Bay Packers, 37-20 … It is being reported that Tom Brady will be talking to teams other than the New England Patriots regarding where he plays football in 2020. If you are prone to gamble on such things, put your money on (a) Brady signing with the Patriots and (b) the Patriots drafting a QB such as Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

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