RATING THE SEC FOOTBALL COACHES
(1) Nick Saban: He’s won five national championships at Alabama. Is there any doubt who’s number one?
(2) DAN MULLEN, FLORIDA: If you want to know why he’s ranked this high, think Starkville. You go to eight straight bowl games at Mississippi State and you can flat out coach. Win 21 games in two years after taking over a train wreck left behind by the man with the yellow teeth and you serve notice that Florida is going to be back in a very big way.
(3) Ed Orgeron, LSU: How many coaches would go out on a limb like Coach O did last year when he scrapped his offense and turned it over to a young guy with new ideas how to stretch the field like it’s never been stretched before? Coach O did that and won a national championship. We always knew he could recruit. Scary to think that maybe he has a clue about coaching too.
(4) Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: He won a national championship at Florida State so he definitely knows how to take a program to the highest level. He’s in year three in Aggieland with all signs pointing to a team that is poised to seriously close the gap in the SEC West. If any former Nick Saban assistant is going to beat the old boss, this is the guy, particularly with a QB who’s a fourth-year starter (three years working with Jimbo). He’s got facilities that are as good as you will find anywhere in the country and whatever he needs Aggie boosters will pony up the cash to buy.
(5) Kirby Smart, Georgia: Yes, Kirby Smart is fifth and it stems from one basic fact – he didn’t inherit a sick program but one that was strong and deep due to superb recruiting by Mark Richt. It’s not like he had to rebuild the program from the ground up. He’s a great recruiter but leaves plenty to be desired as a game day coach. Let’s see how he does with a new offensive coordinator, new O-line coach, four new starters on the O-line and a QB not named Jake Fromm.
(6) Mark Stoops, Kentucky: If you can win at Kentucky, you can probably win anywhere. They’re amazed in Lexington that they’ve kept him this long. UK will win in the 8-10 range this year.
(7) Mike Leach, Mississippi State: If you can win and go to bowl games every year when you’re coaching in Pullman, Washington, Mississippi State should be a piece of cake. This is a serious upgrade from Joe Moorhead.
(8) Gus Malzahn, Auburn: His claim to fame is that he has beaten Nick Saban three times. There isn’t another coach in the SEC (or many other places) that can say that. At some point, the faithful in Auburn are going to grow weary of not making the college football playoff.
(9) Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss: This is going to be interesting. Lane can flat out coach but how long before he pisses the people off at Ole Miss. He’s got that kind of personality. He just can’t seem to help himself, but he does know how to put points on a scoreboard.
(10) Will Muschamp, South Carolina: It’s hard to win at South Carolina but the folks were spoiled by Steve Spurrier. The folks in Columbia would be happier than warm pigs in cool mud if Will could get them consistently to the 8-9 win mark.
(11) Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: Yes, the Vols won their last six games but the Kentucky win was the only one that was anything close to impressive. They lost a lot of moving parts. Let’s see if the Vols win eight for a second straight year.
(12) Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri: He won 12 games at App State with someone else’s players and that got him a $3,200,000 raise to coach Missouri. We’ll find out soon enough if this was a panic hire.
(13) Sam Pittman, Arkansas: When he left the Arkansas staff to coach at Georgia, the wheels came off for Bret Bielema. Now Pittman is back as the head ball coach and what he’s taking over is nuclear winter. But if they give him time he will win.
(14) Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt is a graveyard for coaches. No spring practice and losing all your quarterbacks and decent skill people isn’t exactly conducive to keeping your job. Figure this is the last train to Clarksville for Mason.
SOME BASKETBALL RECRUITING STUFF
Uncertainty about the NBA Draft due to the corona virus outbreak probably means the Gators will stand pat with what they’ve got. If not for the virus, Scottie Lewis, Keyontae Johnson and Andrew Nembhard all would have likely tested the NBA waters. That’s not to say they would have declared for the draft but they would have been allowed to go to workouts to determine if it is wise to declare or remain in school. Lewis and Johnson would have almost certainly been invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago, but that’s on hold now along with pre-draft workouts. Without the combine and the workouts, it’s improbable that any of the three would improve their stock enough to move into the first round or at least the first 10 picks of the second.
If any of the three decide to go, right now it would appear that Nembhard is most likely. He probably wouldn’t be drafted in either the first or second rounds of the NBA Draft but he has skills that are more suited to the European game, much like former Gator Nick Calathes, who makes a very nice seven-figure salary with plenty of perks playing in Greece. Supposedly, there are voices in Nembhard’s ear urging him to leave school and head to Europe, but we’ll have to see how that works out.
If Nembhard leaves, that would leave Florida with one vacant scholarship. If Mike White has an opening and chooses to use the scholarship for the 2020-21 season, it will likely be for a grad transfer. Given White’s success with grad transfers – Canyon Barry, Egor Koulechov, Kerry Blackshear Jr. – you have to know that Florida is on the radar for quite a few of those graduates who have indicated they want to move on. A few grad transfers that would make the most sense for the Gators are: Kevin Marfo (6-8, 250) who averaged 10.2 points and 13.9 rebounds per game for Binghampton; E.J. Anosike (6-6, 250) who averaged 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds for Sacred Heart; Jordan Bruner (6-9, 205) who averaged 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds for Yale; and ArnaldoTouro (6-8, 245), who averaged 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds for George Washington.
As it stands right now, the Gators won’t have any seniors on the 2020-21 roster, but figure the Gators will have at least three open scholarships for the 2021 recruiting class. Nembhard might not be back this year so that would be one, and it’s highly unlikely Lewis and Johnson will be around more than one more season.
Here are several names you might be hearing from in the months and weeks leading up to the early signing period in November:
Deebo Coleman SG/SF (6-6, 200, Callahan, FL West Nassau): A regular at Florida’s games this past season. He’s a slasher with serious hops who seems to get to the rim at will. Coached by his dad, Florida and Florida State are thought to be his leaders with Louisville, Wake Forest and Alabama working him hard.
Alex Fudge, SG/SF (6-7, 175, Jacksonville, FL Robert E. Lee): He’s a volume scorer who can play inside and outside. It’s said that he’s considering transferring to West Nassau so he can team up next season with good buddy Deebo Coleman. He played AAU ball for Chandler Parsons team and might be leaning Florida’s way. Clemson, Texas A&M and Iowa State are pushing hard for him.
Ernest Ross, PF/C (6-9, 205, Alachua, FL Santa Fe): He’s still growing and really starting to figure things out. He’s put on about 20 pounds in the last year and is starting to use his strength to his advantage. Really good around the basket. Florida, LSU, North Carolina State and Oklahoma State are recruiting him hard. It might be very difficult for anyone to steal him from the Gators.
Benny Williams, SF (6-9, 190, Bowie, MD St. Andrew’s Episcopal School): He reminds people of former Gator Devin Williams, long, lean and capable of playing both inside and outside. Right now this looks to be a three-team battle between UF, Maryland and Syracuse. Small forward who could grow into a hybrid wing/high post.
Ryan Nembhard, PG (6-1, 165, Aurora, Ontario/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy): He’s the younger brother of Andrew Nembhard. He’s not as tall but he’s quicker and a better shooter. He’s like every kid Kevin Boyle coaches at Montverde in that he knows how to play defense. Florida, Stanford and Seton Hall are showing him the love.
Matt Nunez (6-11, 230, Newport News, VA Woodside): He improved dramatically from his sophomore to junior year. His progress might be slowed a bit by the lack of AAU and camps, but he’s got three things you can’t teach – tall, good hands and good feet. Florida and Georgetown seem to have the early advantage.
Moussa Diabate (6-10, 215, Paris, France/Bradenton, FL IMG Academy): Seriously athletic. Long, athletic and great elevation which makes him a terrific shot blocker. It’s hard to figure where he’s leaning but he’s got offers from UF, FSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Louisville, Michigan, Maryland and Texas Tech.
Carter Whitt (6-3, 170, Raleigh, NC Leesville Road): He’s really come on strong in the last year and will have his pick of schools. Florida got in on him early but he’s got North Carolina State, Virginia, Texas A&M, Maryland and Ohio State working him hard.
Trey Patterson (6-8, 180, Somerset, NJ Rutgers Prep): He’s got size, range, quickness and grades, therefore no lack of offers. His top five at this point seem to be Florida, Auburn, Villanova, Indiana and UConn.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The exit turnstiles are busy in Starkville. Three players (Keyshawn Feazel, Elton Datcher and Elias King) have all put their names in the NCAA transfer portal leaving nine scholarship players counting the incoming freshmen … Former Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon will transfer to Ohio State. He’s a graduate so he can play immediately … A lot of NFL experts seem to think the New England Patriots will be the landing spot for Jameis Winston. I didn’t know Bill Belichick employs an exorcist. If he doesn’t he better hire one and I’m not sure even the best one in the business can clear all the snakes out of Winston’s head … Former Gator Quinton Dumbar has been acquired from the Washington Redskins by the Seattle Seahawks. Dunbar started 11 games last year and picked off four passes. He’s got a base salary of $3,250,000. Not bad for a guy who played wide receiver at UF.