Thoughts of the Day: January 27, 2020

DAN MULLEN’S HOT ROLL CONTINUES

At halftime of Saturday night’s Florida-Baylor basketball game, Dan Mullen stood at center court and pitched football to a roaring crowd. Reminding the packed house at the O-Dome that the Gators have won 21 games the last two years, finished in the top ten in the final poll both years and that UF is the only school in the country with a top ten football team and a top ten school academically, Mullen said, “I promise you this: That’s just the beginning.”


The crowd, of course, went berserk as well they should. The Gators are going to be loaded next year and meanwhile, Mullen is continuing to load up the roster with stud recruits, the latest of which is Penn State wide receiver transfer Justin Shorter, a former 5-star who was ranked the top wide receiver in the country coming out of high school in New Jersey. Shorter has three years of eligibility remaining. In his redshirt true freshman and redshirt freshman years at Penn State, Shorter had 15 catches for 157 yards. He is 6-4, 235, with the size and speed to be an absolute mismatch nightmare for opponents.


Adding Shorter to the class was expected. Jason Higdon, the final word on Florida football recruiting from his 1standtenflorida.com website, indicates that Shorter to Florida has been in the works since he announced he was leaving Penn State. Adding Shorter to a wide receiver recruiting class that includes Jay Fraziers (6-4, 200, Dunnellon, FL), Xzavier Henderson (6-4, 180, Miami, FL Christopher Columbus) and Leonard Manuel (6-4, 212, Fort Lauderdale, FL Stranahan) along with Texas transfer Jordan Pouncey (enrolled) will mean the Gators have restocked a position that loses four to the NFL (Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland). It is also possible that Marc Britt (6-2, 190, Miami, FL Miami Christian) could play wide receiver when he comes to Florida although most expect him to play safety.


We knew Mullen could coach even before he came to Florida. What he’s done in two years at UF has only reinforced the fact that he ranks on the short list of the best football coaches in the college game. In his first two years at UF, Mullen filled in the blanks to the point the Gators will enter the 2020 season with a true SEC roster from top to bottom for the first time since 2009.


What Mullen has done lately is to go beyond just putting together an SEC-caliber roster. He’s putting a championship-level roster together and it makes it easy to believe it when he says it’s “just the beginning.”


BAYLOR WON AT THE 3-POINT LINE, BACKBOARDS

Two sets of numbers stand out from Florida’s 72-61 loss to Baylor Saturday night. Baylor outscored Florida 27-12 from the three-point line and outrebounded the Gators 37-26. Those numbers tell exactly why the Gators lost this game. Florida collapsed its defense to defend the paint, leaving the Bears open at the three-point line and they made the Gators pay. At the defensive end, the Bears were quick enough to double down in the paint and yet get back on the perimeter to defend the three where the Gators were 4-17. When it came to rebounding Baylor’s Mark Vital and Freddie Gillespie only scored 13 combined points but they dominated the boards (17 between the two of them). Of Baylor’s 37 rebounds, 13 came on the offensive end.

SEC BASKETBALL Tuesday’s games Mississippi State (12-7, 3-3 SEC) at FLORIDA (12-7, 4-2 SEC), ESPN2 Texas A&M (9-9, 3-3 SEC) at Tennessee (12-7, 4-2 SEC), SEC Network Georgia (11-8, 1-5 SEC) at Missouri (9-10, 1-5 SEC), SEC Network #16 Auburn (17-2, 4-2 SEC) at Ole Miss (10-9, 1-5 SEC), ESPNU Wednesday’s games Vanderbilt (8-11, 0-6 SEC) at #15 Kentucky (15-4, 5-1 SEC), SEC Network Alabama (12-7, 4-2 SEC) at LSU (15-4, 6-0 SEC), ESPN2

South Carolina (11-8, 3-3 SEC) at Arkansas (15-4, 3-3 SEC), SEC Network


A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT KOBE BRYANT Like everyone else, I’m still numbed by the death of Kobe Bryant. We see our sports superstars as almost invincible when they are competing without giving a second thought to the fact they face the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us. We know they’re going to die someday, just we don’t expect them go so suddenly and at such a young age (41). We certainly don’t expect them to die in helicopter crashes taking their 13-year-old daughters to basketball practice. That Kobe’s daughter Gianna died with him in that crash makes it all the more surreal.


I saw Kobe Bryant from a different perspective than most. I saw him play at the Adidas camp in between his junior and senior seasons in high school (1995) so I got to watch him grow from a skinny kid with a lot of ability into a workaholic determined to transform himself into one of the greatest players of all time. I saw him go from the brash, full of himself kid who won the slam dunk contest at the 1997 NBA All-Star Weekend to a humble guy who became the consummate teammate. He won five NBA championships, three with Shaquille O’Neal as his teammate and two (2009-10) without. I’m most impressed with the last two because Kobe had to carry the Lakers to both those titles.


In his post-Lakers career, Kobe became a fine family man who doted over his four daughters. He became heavily involved in philanthropic endeavors such as the Call of Duty Endowment that helps veterans transition from the military into real life.


When I heard the news today, I thought back to the death of Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash in 1972 while taking emergency supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. I felt numb that day, just as I feel numb now. Another sports superstar gone way too early.


SOME MONDAY MEANDERINGS (1) Coach O is now the fourth highest paid coach in all of college football after LSU gave him a six-year deal at $7 million a year. The deal includes a $5 million life insurance policy that ensures Coach O’s family will be taken care of in the event something tragic happened. It should be noted that all of LSU’s last three coaches have won a national championship – Nick Saban (2003), Les Miles (2007) and Coach O (2019).


(2) Vanderbilt, which desperately needs a quarterback after losing three to transfer, is trying to land former Clemson backup Chase Brice. Even though he’s only been at Clemson two years, Brice has already graduated so he will have two years of eligibility remaining. Brice says there are 5-7 schools with an outstanding opportunity to land him although he declined to offer a complete list.


(3) Jackson Muschamp, son of South Carolina HBC Will Muschamp, has committed to play football at Colorado State and former Boston College head coach Steve Addazio. This is an interesting choice since Addazio was the assistant head coach at Florida in 2009-10. Muschamp became the HBC at Florida in 2011. Muschamp recently hired former Colorado State HBC Mike Bobo as his offensive coordinator. Bobo was replaced by Addazio.


(4) Lane Kiffin always stirs the pot wherever he is. Since being hired at Ole Miss, he’s riled a few folks by hiring former Mississippi State assistants Terrell Buckley and Deke Adams. Buckley will coach the corners and Adams the D-line. Earlier last week, Kiffin lost D-line coach Freddie Roach to Nick Saban and Alabama.


(5) Since we’re on the subject of poaching coaches, Texas A&M was both poacher and poachee over the weekend. The Aggies poached TJ Rushing to coach the secondary from Florida State and then lost their personnel director, Austin Thomas, to Baylor. Rushing spent two years on Mike Norvell’s staff at Memphis and went with Norvell to FSU before hired by the Aggies.


GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY Matthew Guttierez of The Athletic with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who was an assistant on Team USA from 2007-12, on Kobe Bryant and how he set the tone with his effort: “He was amazing. He was the most competitive guy I have ever worked with. Michael Jordan is the only one in the same category as far as competitiveness. Kobe competed every play. He changed our whole Olympic movement with his effort, his work ethic. He was a one-of-a-kind player. They don’t make them like that.”


From Scott Rabalais ofthe Baton Rouge Advocate, former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva on the decision he made to keep Les Miles after the 2015 season when everyone thought he would be hiring Jimbo Fisher, then of Florida State, a move that would eventually lead to hiring Ed Orgeron:

“I have a lot of friends in the ACC. I talked to them, and after that I didn’t want any part of Jimbo. I would never have hired Jimbo. He was not on my radar. Now, fans and some people in the department wanted him, but I never wanted him. I could have made a change [at the end of the 2015 season]. I recommended not to because I would have been forced to hire Jimbo. I would rather have had Les (Miles). But if I didn’t hire him, the outcry would have been ridiculous. So we had that meeting during the [Texas A&M] game, and I made the recommendation to keep [Miles].”


More Rabalais with Alleva on why he (Alleva) regrets hiring LSU basketball coach Will Wade: “I got some bad recommendations on that guy. My perception on why I’ not the athletic director there is because some people used the situation with Wade.”


RANDOM THOUGHTS: The AFC beat the NFC 38-33 in the Pro Bowl Game in Orlando at Camping World Stadium before a crowd of more than 54,000. Did any of you watch the game? I know I didn’t. I had a choice of taking my 91-year-old mother shopping or watching the Pro Bowl. Shopping with my mom seemed like the more exciting of the two options … Players at the Pro Bowl are by and large opposed to the NFL adding a 17th regular season game. I can’t say that I blame them. Two or three exhibition games, a 16-game regular season and possibly four more games (wild card, divisional, conference and Super Bowl) if your team is really good. How much wear and tear on the body is what the players ask? How much must we endure as fans before we get to December when the games really start to count?

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