A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
Bet the farm that Dan Mullen is going to be the football coach at the University of Florida next year. The flirtation with the National Football League was apparently just a chance to kick the tires for both Mullen and the NFL. There have been some now-debunked reports that Mullen either interviewed with or was scheduled to interview with the Atlanta Falcons. Nothing has materialized with speculation that the New York Jets or a handful of other NFL teams have a strong interest, either. Some of that could be because all the NFL teams are bound by the Rooney Rule and won’t be getting serious about a new hire until they’ve had employment chats with at least one minority candidate. Or it could a sure sign that either Mullen or the NFL has said thanks for the interest but not at this time.
Meanwhile, Mullen is going about his daily business gauging what Florida players have planned for the future. Linebacker James Houston IV announced he’s entered the transfer portal. Three other seniors will be back and at least three others seem to be leaning toward returning. Others could be announcing they will return in the next couple of days.
Penn State nose tackle Antonio Shelton will be enrolling as a grad transfer and there are several others from various institutions that have let it be known they’re available if Florida wants them. It is anticipated that Mullen may bring in another three or four, one of which could be an experienced wide receiver. With placekicker Evan McPherson declaring for the NFL Draft, it’s highly likely Mullen will be exploring possibilities in the transfer portal, where the hot names are Christian Zendejas of Arizona State and Chase McGrath of Southern Cal. Zendejas, who only had four field goal attempts in Arizona State’s four 2020 games, was 23-27 in 2019. McGrath was 32-42 on field goal attempts at USC from 2017-19 but didn’t kick in 2020 due to tendinitis in his knee.
On the coaching front, the reported “done deal” for Mullen to hire former South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson as his corners coach seems to have hit the skids with at least one site saying it’s a no-go for Florida. There is talk heating on a couple of fronts in Texas that Longhorns’ safeties coach Chris Ash, formerly the head coach at Rutgers and Ohio State defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, will be coming to Florida as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
IN HERE … Shelton is 6-2, 327 and excellent at plugging the middle so that linebackers can clean up behind him. He had 14 tackles in 2020 with 3.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
The elusive Lamar Goods, all 6-2 and 335 pounds of him, will be back in school on Monday.
From Jason Higdon … Seniors Rick Wells, Jean Delance, Stewart Reese are all yes. It’s also possible that Ventrell Miller, Jeremiah Moon and Marlon Dunlap will return.
OUTTA HERE … Houston has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal after a 37-tackle season in 2020. Houston had 103 tackles for his three-year Florida career with 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
From Jason Higdon … Stone Forsythe, Brett Heggie, Shawn Davis, Brad Stewart and Donovan Stiner.
Forsythe is probably an NFL mid-round draft pick. Heggie had a very solid year at center and he can play both guard positions. He’ll need a great pro day to be anything more than a sixth or seventh rounder. Davis has his problems in man coverage but he’s decent going after the ball in a zone. Free agency for him. Like everyone in the Florida secondary, Stewart was far too inconsistent. Unless he has a great combine he’s a free agent. Stiner might transfer somewhere if he intends to play football in 2021.
FOOTBALL IN THE SEC
ALABAMA: Ohio State has another Alabama weapon to worry about on Monday. Jaylen Waddle, who broke an ankle against Tennessee back in October, is practicing and looking very good. In the five games he played before his injury, Waddle caught 25 passes for 557 yards (22.28 per catch) for four touchdowns. In his Alabama career he has 103 catches for 1,965 yards and 17 touchdowns, three punt returns for touchdowns and one kickoff return for a TD.
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks got a transfer from offensive tackle Ty’kieast Crawford, a former 4-star who spent his freshman season at Charlotte ... Former Arkansas wide receiver Shamar Nash is transferring to Memphis.
AUBURN: Football Scoop is reporting that former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason will be named defensive coordinator for Bryan Harsin’s new staff. Boise State co-defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson will be joining the defensive line coach ... Harsin is reportedly making a play to lure South Carolina offensive coordinator to call plays at Auburn … Starting safety Smoke Monday will return in 2021. He had 73 tackles and two interceptions in 2020.
GEORGIA: Corner Tyson Campbell is leaving early for the NFL … Linebacker Nakobe Dean will miss spring practice after surgery to repair a torn labrum. Dean led Georgia with 71 tackles in 2020 ... Josh Brooks, who was once Mark Richt’s director of football operations and has been working for Greg Magarity as the senior deputy AD, has been promoted to athletic director. Magarity, formerly the associate AD at Florida, retired recently but has resurfaced as the director of the Gator Bowl.
KENTUCKY: Backup quarterback Nick Scalzo, a former 3-star recruit, is the second Kentucky quarterback to put his name in the transfer portal this week. Earlier starter Terry Wilson elected to transfer out.
LSU: Jake Peetz and DJ Mangus, who both worked for former LSU offensive guru Joe Brady with the NFL Carolina Panthers in 2020, will be in charge of the offense in Baton Rouge in 2020. Peetz, who has 10 years experience coaching in the NFL, will be the offensive coordinator while Mangus, who worked as an analyst for Brady during LSU’s national championship run in 2019, will be the passing game coordinator. Peetz worked in 2013 and again in 2018 as an analyst for Nick Saban at Alabama.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Cam Gardner, who caught 12 passes for 110 yards in 2020, has put his name in the transfer portal.
MISSOURI: The on-again, off-again news regarding defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is off-again, as in he’s leaving for Illinois where he will be Bret Bielema’s defensive coordinator.
OLE MISS: Linebacker MoMo Sango is the latest Ole Miss defender to announce he will be returning for 2021 ... Defensive back Jay Stanley is transferring to Southern Miss.
SOUTH CAROLINA: New HBC Shane Beamer is trying to lure Mississippi State’s Zach Arnett to become his defensive coordinator.
TENNESSEE: ESPN college football writer Chris Low is thinking Jeremy Pruitt’s days at UT might be numbered. Speaking on a Nashville radio show Wednesday, Low said, “It will be difficult for him to be the head football coach.” All seven of the Vols’ losses in 2020 were by 11 or more points. The 3-7 record is compounded by potential NCAA violations.
TEXAS A&M: Starting center Ryan McCollum is leaving for the NFL … Linebacker Ikenna Okeke has put his name in the transfer portal.
VANDERBILT: Norval McKenzie is leaving Louisville to join Clark Lea’s staff as the running backs coach.
BASKETBALL IN THE SEC
Tennessee was outshot from the field overall and from the 3-point line by Arkansas but the Vols still beat the Razorbacks 78-74 Wednesday night because they shot 26 free throws and Arkansas shot only 10. Such is life on the road in the SEC.
Auburn is still waiting for the NCAA to rule on the eligibility of 5-star point guard Sharife Cooper, who has missed 10 games and 72 days of practice.
In winning their second straight SEC game Tuesday night, Kentucky got strong performances from transfers Olivier Sarr and Jacob Toppin. Sarr scored 24 points in the win over Vanderbilt while Toppin’s second half defense on Vandy star Scottie Pippen Jr. helped the Wildcats come from behind to get the win.
WEDNESDAY’S SEC BASKETBALL RESULTS #9 Tennessee (8-1, 2-1SEC) 79, Arkansas (9-2, 1-2 SEC) 74 LSU (7-2, 2-1 SEC) 94, Georgia (7-2, 0-2 SEC) 92, OT Ole Miss (6-3, 1-1 SEC) 72, Auburn (6-5, 0-3 SEC) 61 South Carolina (3-2, 1-0 SEC) 78, Texas A&M (6-3, 1-2 SEC) 54
SATURDAY’S SEC GAMES Kentucky (3-6, 2-0 SEC) at FLORIDA (5-2, 2-1 SEC) Alabama (8-3, 3-0 SEC) at Auburn (6-5, 0-3 SEC) Mississippi State (7-4, 2-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (4-4, 0-2 SEC) #9 Tennessee (8-1, 2-1 SEC) at Texas A&M (6-3, 1-2 SEC) Georgia (7-2, 0-2 SEC) at Arkansas (9-2, 1-2 SEC) South Carolina (3-2, 1-0 SEC) at Ole Miss (6-3, 1-1 SEC) LSU (7-2, 2-1 SEC) at #13 Missouri (7-2, 1-2 SEC)
FOOTBALL ELSEWHERE BESIDES THE SEC
Big shock. Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Trevor Lawrence has declared for the NFL where he is expected to be the #1 pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jed Fisch, formerly a GA for Steve Spurrier at Florida and now the head coach at Arizona, will hire Don Brown as his defensive coordinator. Brown is formerly the defensive coordinator for Steve Addazio at Boston College and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
Memphis quarterback Brady White is the winner of the Campbell Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete. White threw for 3,380 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2020 while completing work for his masters degree and starting doctoral studies.
Former Rutgers head coach and current Alabama assistant Kyle Flood will join Steve Sarkisian’s Texas staff to coach the offensive line. In addition to working together the last two years at Alabama, Flood was an O-line assistant in 2017-18 when Sarkisian was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.
This is weirdness. One day after Ryan Pugh was announced as Baylor’s new offensive line coach, it was announced Pugh won’t be coming after all. HBC Dave Aranda said, “We are moving in a different direction … We wish Ryan well in his future endeavors.” No reason was given for the abrupt about face.
FROM MICHAEL ROSENBERG OF SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Writing about how the global pandemic has exposed the NCAA and college athletics for their hypocrisy:
“College sports will change radically over the next 20 years. The question is how? Rules allowing athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses are coming – rules that are both fair and overdue. But if 2020 is any indication, then without even the pretense of amateurism, athletic departments will continue to detach themselves from the central mission of their schools.
“The NCAA’s longtime model of using football and men’s basketball to fund other sports was always legally and morally suspect. But this pandemic-altered year showed it was also just a cover. Football will get bigger, because that’s what the marketplace demands. Everything else – rivalries, traditions, nonrevenue sports, academics – will fit around that fundamental truth.”
ONE LAST PITHY COMMENT: There’s that old saying “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.” Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young obviously didn’t get the message. He’s not backing down from his on camera rant, “Tom Brady, Tom Brady, I’m coming! I want Tom! I want Tom!” Let’s see. Young, who is a rookie, had 7.5 sacks this year. Young was all of two years old when Brady threw his first NFL touchdown pass. Twenty years later he’s thrown another 580 TDPs including 40 this season. Somehow I doubt Tom is sweating profusely over the thought that Chase Young would like to sack him.