Thoughts of the Day: January 5, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:

MULLEN WATCH: DAY ONE

Amid all the talk that Dan Mullen might be headed toward New York to coach the Jets now that Adam Gase has been fired, the team has asked permission to speak to the following NFL assistants: Eric Bienemy (Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator), Brian Daboll (Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator), Arthur Smith (Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator), Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator) and Matt Eberflus (Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator). There is no mention of Mullen so far.


Jacksonville fired Doug Marrone Monday amid speculation that former Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will take the job if the Jaguars are willing to meet his demand of a $12 million salary. Meyer texted me that the NFL talk is all rumors, but $12 million and a chance to coach Trevor Lawrence might be persuasive. If Meyer turns down the Jags overtures, Mullen could be next on the list of prospects since he’s a noted quarterback whisperer.


Another job that is open is the Los Angeles Chargers, but that one could be filled by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who may return to the NFL if the Chargers pay him well enough but also give him the money he wants to hire a first rate staff. That is another job for which there has been no connection – at least so far – with Mullen.


Mullen could also be seen as the quick fix in Houston for quarterback Deshaun Watson although Joe Brady or Bienemy might have the inside track there. It is rumored that the Chicago Bears have a serious interest. Mullen has not interviewed for the vacant Atlanta Falcons opening.


If you are prone to wager on such things: As of Monday night, put your money on Mullen staying at the University of Florida and here is the reason why. If he were intent on leaving UF, he would not have gone ahead and fired Torian Gray and Ron English. Instead, he would have kept them on, taken an NFL job and left keeping or dismissing them to whoever is the new head coach. Now, things could change in a hurry but as of this moment, I think it’s likely Mullen will be staying at UF.


TRASK LONGSHOT FOR HEISMAN TROPHY TONIGHT For Florida quarterback Kyle Trask to win the Heisman Trophy when it is announced tonight, it will take a serious split among the three Alabama players who are top five – wide receiver Devonta Smith, quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris, who isn’t a finalist after a fifth place finish. Joining Trask and the three Alabama players is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.


A three-way split isn’t unprecedented. In 1973, John Cappelletti of Penn State won the Heisman when Ohio State tackle John Hicks, running back Archie Griffin and linebacker Randy Gradishar finished in the top six of the voting while splitting off enough votes for Cappelletti to ease past Hicks, who finished second.


Most of the betting money is on Smith to become the first non-quarterback to win the trophy since Alabama running back Derrick Henry won in 2015. The last time a wide receiver won the Heisman was 1991 when Michigan’s Desmond Howard came out on top.


GATORS CAN’T LET JOHN PETTY JR. HEAT UP FROM THE OUTSIDE

When Florida’s surprising Gators (5-1, 2-0 SEC) take the court at Alabama (7-3, 2-0 SEC) in a battle for the early lead in the Southeastern Conference, they will be fully focused on sharpshooter John Petty Jr. The 6-5 wing guard is a career 42.3% 3-point shooter who can heat up in a hurry as Tennessee found out last Saturday when Petty hit 3-4 from long distance while scoring 19 to lead the Crimson Tide to an upset win on the road over the then 7th-ranked Vols. Petty also scored 19 while hitting four 3-pointers a year ago when the Gators beat Alabama 104-98 in double overtime.


Not only do the Gators have to keep Petty from lighting them up from the outside, they have to find a way to score against a smothering Alabama defense that held Tennessee to 31.8% shooting overall and just 4-21 from the 3-point line. Tennessee’s vaunted 1-2 inside punch of 6-11 John Fulkerson and 6-6 Yves Pons combined for only 13 points on 3-11 shooting and just seven rebounds.


Critical for the Gators will be to get the ball inside to 6-11 Colin Castleton (43 points in the last two games) and 6-8 Anthony Duruji (27 in the last two including a career-high 16 in the Gators win over LSU). If the Gators can score inside, it opens the floor for Tre Mann (15.2 points per game) and Scottie Lewis (14.0).


TUESDAY’S SEC BASKETBALL GAMES FLORIDA (5-1, 2-0 SEC) at Alabama (7-3, 2-0 SEC)

Vanderbilt (4-3, 0-1 SEC) at Kentucky (2-6, 1-0 SEC) #13 Missouri (7-1, 1-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (6-4, 1-1 SEC)


RECRUITING, THE NFL DRAFT AND PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

It is no secret that Alabama not only recruits better than anyone else in the SEC but the Crimson Tide do the best job of developing their players. Here is a look at how the 14 SEC teams rank both in the SEC and nationally when it comes to recruiting but how well they develop players too. The ultimate test of development is how many players are getting drafted.


Here are the recruiting rankings since 2010 and the number of players drafted since the 2011 NFL Draft.

(SEC rank first, national rank second, number of players drafted, won-loss record from 2010-20)

1/1 Alabama: 93; 135-15 2/6 Georgia: 58; 108-38

3/7 LSU: 74; 108-33

4/8 Auburn: 37; 93-50 5/9 FLORIDA: 67; 89-50

6/13 Texas A&M: 35; 93-47 7/14 Tennessee: 18; 66-69

8/21 South Carolina: 34; 80-59 9/23 Ole Miss: 26; 65-69

10/25 Mississippi State: 35; 83-58 11/28 Arkansas: 33; 61-74 12/35 Kentucky: 15; 62-74 13/44 Missouri: 24; 81-57

14/48 Vanderbilt: 15; 53-81


Alabama’s dominance shows up in recruiting rankings, player development and the won-loss record. That’s no surprise. Among the bigger surprises are Georgia only sending 58 players to the NFL and a lack of drafted players at both Auburn (37) and Tennessee (18).


Florida suffered through losing seasons in both 2013 and 2017 but the Gators have won 29 games in the last three seasons under Dan Mullen and have had 12 players taken in the last two NFL Drafts, which are relevant to Mullen’s arrival in Gainesville.


FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL STUFF IN THE SEC ALABAMA: Alabama’s offensive line won the Joe Moore, which is given to the team with the best O-line in college football. Alabama is the first two-time recipient of the award, having won in 2015 which was Derrick Henry’s Heisman Trophy season.


ARKANSAS: Former Ohio State quarterback and now Colorado State wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton will join the Arkansas staff as the wide receivers coach … Arkansas basketball will be without Indiana transfer Justin Smith for 3-6 weeks following ankle surgery. Smith was averaging 11.6 points and 7.1 rebounds before his injury.

AUBURN: Auburn’s two best receivers in 2020 – Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz – have declared for the NFL Draft … Backup QB Cord Sandberg has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal ... Defensive tackle Coynis Miller is transferring to Jackson State to play for Deion Sanders.


GEORGIA: Trey Hill, a two-year starter at center, will forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft.


KENTUCKY: Amid the flood of seniors announcing they will return next season, quarterback Terry Wilson has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Returning for the Wildcats are the right side of the offensive line, tackle Darian Kinnard and guard Luke Fortner; wide receiver Josh Ali; corners Yusuf Corker and Brandin Echols; tight end Justin Rigg; D-lineman Josh Pascal; and defensive backs Quadre Mosely, Zach Johnson and Davonte Robinson.

LSU: With Glen Logan announcing he will return for 2021, LSU will bring back its entire defensive line. Already announcing they will return are Ali Gaye, Neil Farrel and Andre Anthony … Grad transfer linebacker Jabril Cox will enter the NFL Draft as will 30-year-old punter Josh Rosenberg, who is a former minor league baseball pitcher.


MISSISSIPPI STATE: No word yet on the fate of receiver Malik Heath, who bragged on a video about kicking a Tulsa player who was on the ground during the end-of-the-game Armed Forces Bowl brawl. Heath might be kicked off the team or at the very least suspended well into the 2021 season.


MISSOURI: Although they knocked off previously unbeaten Arkansas last Saturday, Missouri dropped one spot to 13th in the latest Associated Press and Coaches basketball polls ... Mizzou football defensive coordinator Ryan Walters has interviewed with Bret Bielema about the vacant DC job at Illinois.


OLE MISS: Defensive linemen Sam Williams and Tariqious Tisdale both announced they’re returning to Ole Miss for 2021.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Tight end Nick Muse, who caught 30 passes for 425 yards and a TD, is returning for his senior season ... New coach Shane Beamer retained Mike Bobo as his offensive coordinator. Bobo will be paid $1.2 million in 2021.


TENNESSEE: Despite dropping their first game of the season, Tennessee (7-1, 1-1 SEC) dropped only two spots to 9th in the Associated Press basketball poll, two spots to eighth in the Coaches poll … Wide receiver Velus Jones Jr., who transferred in from Southern Cal prior to the 2020 season, has announced he’s returning for 2021.


TEXAS A&M: Wide receiver Camron Buckley is returning for the 2021 season.


VANDERBILT: Barton Simmons is leaving 247Sports where he’s the lead recruiting analyst to become Clark Lea’s director of player personnel.


SOME MORE FOOTBALL STUFF

Doc Holliday, a legendary recruiter who won 88 games in 11 seasons as the head coach at Marshall, will not be retained by the school after a 7-3 season that included a Conference USA Eastern Division championship. Holliday’s contract expired and was not extended by the school president. Holliday coached safeties for Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida from 2005-07 and was the Gators’ chief recruiter in South Florida.

Former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan, who threw for 3,278 yards and 23 touchdowns as a two-year starter for the Badgers, is transferring to Notre Dame, where he will have a chance to take over for three-year starter Ian Book, who is off to the NFL.


Oklahoma wide receiver Charleston Rambo, who caught 76 passes for 1,180 yards and nine touchdowns in three seasons, has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Rambo caught two passes for 45 yards and a touchdown against Florida in the Cotton Bowl.


ESPN analyst Todd McShay has Florida tight end Kyle Pitts ranked sixth among all prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft. McShay ranks Florida QB Kyle Trask the 68th overall prospect and the 6th-ranked quarterback behind Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (BYU), Justin Fields (Ohio State), Trey Lance (North Dakota State) and Mac Jones (Alabama).


A PITHY PARTING SHOT ON TUESDAY: When I look at the defensive stats in the Southeastern Conference I can’t help but think of Jamie Newman, who opted out of 2020 rather than play for Georgia. He claimed he was afraid of Covid-19, but I seriously doubt it. I’m of the opinion he probably struggled against Georgia’s defensive backs in August and became fearful he would look even worse against the rest of the SEC so he took the easy way out. Judging by what we saw of SEC defenses, Newman might have lit up a bunch of teams and made himself a bunch of money. Then again, given the poor secondary play not only in the SEC but nationwide, Newman might have really cost himself by not playing. He will be a combine warrior but that’s not the same as playing real games against real competition. I will be surprised if he is picked before the fifth round.

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