A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
FEELING THE PAYNE
According to reports, Omar Payne told Florida basketball coach Mike White that he intended to return for the 2021-22 season. Either the reports were erroneous or else there was a disconnect over the weekend because Payne announced Tuesday that he is putting his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Payne joins Noah Locke, Ques Glover and Osayi Osifo in the transfer portal. Tre Mann has declared for the NBA Draft and is going to hire an agent so he won’t be back. Colin Castleton will test his draftability but won’t hire an agent. His lack of a consistent 10-15-foot jump shot almost certainly means he won’t get a favorable draft grade and will return to UF. Keyontae Johnson’s status is unknown but getting a medical clearance to play again might be the longest of shots.
Although he hasn’t made his intentions known, Scottie Lewis is also expected to transfer out, perhaps announcing as early as today. Should Lewis go and Johnson’s status up in the air, White will have only seven scholarship players and that is only if no one else decides to leave. Expected to stay are Anthony Duruji, Tyree Appleby, Jason Jitoboh and most likely Castleton. Neither Samson Ruzhentsev nor Neils Lane have indicated whether they are staying or going but right now, it’s expected both will be returning. Kowacie Reeves is Florida’s only signee.
Right now the Florida program gives the appearance that the wheels are coming off. White needs to stabilize things in a hurry because he can’t go another month not knowing who will be here and who will be gone or else he will miss out on any remaining quality high school kids and most of the good transfer prospects.
Keep an eye on these transfers: Point guard Brandon McKissic (6-3, 195) averaged 17.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game at Missouri-Kansas City. He hit 50.8 percent of his shots, 42.9 percent from the 3-point line. He has scored 1,181 points in his career. In addition to the Gators, McKissic is being recruited by Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, LSU and Saint Louis … The Gators are in the hunt for Pitt small forward Au’Diese Toney (6-6, 200), a Jasper, Alabama native who averaged 14.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 46.4 percent from the field. Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Wisconsin are among the teams in the hunt.
SOMETHING TO PROVE AT UF PRO DAY TODAY
Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Trask are pretty well set for the NFL Draft no matter what happens today when Florida holds its pro day (11 a.m., SEC Network). Having a great pro day could be a real difference maker for several other Gators. Here are the guys who most likely will be on an NFL roster next year:
Kyle Pitts, TE: He has a chance to be one of the highest drafted tight ends in history. If he runs today and turns in anything close to 4.5 it could assure that he will be taken in the first six or seven picks.
Kyle Trask, QB: Everybody knows he can throw accurately. Scouts will be looking to see how poised he is with so many NFL head coaches in attendance, plus they’ll want to see how easily he processes information, conceptualizes and then implements on the field. If he has a good day he could cement himself as a first half of the second round.
Kadarius Toney, WR: Most projections have him last third of the first round. He runs well and has that make-you-miss wiggle to his game. He’s got slot written all over him, but if he shows he can make the catches downfield and run good routes, he could move up to rounds 10 through 20.
Trevon Grimes, WR: He’s got the size (6-5, 220) to be a mismatch on the outside. He needs to run well enough to project that he can get separation against NFL DBs. If he runs 4.55 or less, he could go 4th or 5throunds. If he’s closer to 4.6 he’ll be a 6th or 7th-rounder.
Stone Forsythe, LT: At 6-9, 315, Forsythe has ideal size for a left tackle. He needs to run well, get up 20 or more reps of 225 pounds and interview well. He could move up as high as the 4th round but he’s more likely to go 5th or early 6th.
Brad Stewart Jr., S: He’s a good tackler with decent speed but lacks ball hawk instincts. He’s got to run a sub-4.6. He figures to be a 7th-rounder or free agent.
Kyree Campbell, NT: Campbell doesn’t figure to be an NFL starter, but he’s got good size and plays the run well enough to get drafted in the 6th or 7th round. He has to run well and get a good number of 225-pound reps.
Tedarrell Slaton Jr., DT: His size alone (6-5, 350) will land him on an NFL roster next year. Whether that’s as a draftee or a free agent has to be determined. He needs good reps on the bench press and to run well.
Evan McPherson, PK: Basically, he’s trying to earn a free agent contract. Unless he goes into a kicker’s coma and nails a few from 55 yards or deeper, he’s not going to be drafted. He will have numerous free agent opportunities.
Marco Wilson, CB: He had a poor 2020 season and hurt himself with that stupid penalty that helped doom the Gators against LSU. He hasn’t made much progress since his freshman year. Needs to run something in the 4.45-4.50 range in the 40 to have a shot at getting drafted. Late rounds or free agency.
Brett Heggie, C/G: He has size (6-4, 330) and has played both guards and center in the SEC. There isn’t much he can do to get drafted today but he can catch the eye of several teams who are in need of a backup O-lineman. Heggie has a chance to make it on an NFL roster as a free agent.
Martez Ivey, G: He was on the Tampa Bay Bucs practice squad in 2019. He was out of football last season after the XFL suspended operations. He’s a long shot to get a free agent contract.
MEN’S TENNIS TEAM RANKED NO. 1 The Gators (15-1, 9-0 SEC) have taken over the No. 1 position in the Oracle/ITA rankings. Florida will take a 12-game winning streak on the road this weekend when they face Vanderbilt (5-11, 0-8 SEC) Friday and Kentucky (14-5, 4-4 SEC) Sunday.
Other UF spring sports: Softball: The 5th-ranked Gators (24-3) travel to Jacksonville for a non-conference game this evening.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL/HOOPS) Alabama: Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith caught passes from Mac Jones at Alabama’s second pro day. Also participating was running back Najee Harris. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle did not participate. All four are expected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Arkansas: The second scrimmage of the spring will be open to the public on Saturday.
Auburn: New defensive coordinator Derek Mason has Auburn operating out of a 3-4 base this spring with a 2-4-5 nickel package.
Georgia: Wide receiver Jermaine Burton, who caught 27 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman, injured his knee at practice Tuesday. The extent of the injury is unknown at this point … Juco center Braelin Bridges (6-10, 220) is transferring to Georgia from Northwest Florida State College.
Kentucky: Former starting quarterback Terry Wilson is transferring to New Mexico. Wilson had a 17-8 record as a starter, passing for 3,346 yards and rushing for 1,015.
LSU: HBC Will Wade expects Cam Thomas, Trendon Watford, Javonte Smart and Darius Days to all declare for the NBA Draft.
Mississippi State: A pair of transfers are standing out on Mississippi State’s defense this spring. Randy Charlton, who transferred in from UCF, is making a mark at tackle while former Texas DB Jalen Green has settled in at the hybrid safety/linebacker position.
Missouri: Point guard Mark Smith (6-5, 220) is transferring to Kansas State. Smith averaged 10.3 points and 4.0 rebounds while playing in 69 career games at Mizzou ... Edward Chang (6-8, 220), who never saw any playing time after transferring in from Salt Lake Community College, has put his name in the transfer portal.
Ole Miss: Jeremy James has been moved outside from right guard as Ole Miss tries to plug some holes in the offensive line.
South Carolina: Point guard Trae Hannibal (6-2, 217) has placed his name in the transfer portal.
Tennessee: Jeremy Banks, Tennessee’s top returning linebacker, is sidelined indefinitely with an unspecified injury. Banks has been in on 38 tackles in his UT career.
Texas A&M: Shooting guard Jay Jay Chandler (6-4, 183) is transferring to South Alabama … Wide receiver Demond Demas, who was arrested two weeks ago for possession of marijuana, has been cleared to return to the football team.
Vanderbilt: Power forward Ejike Obinna (6-10, 243) is transferring to Saint Joseph’s.
ZAGS, UCLA TO THE FINAL FOUR
Gonzaga (30-0) won its 27th consecutive game by at least 10 points, methodically destroying Southern California (25-8), 85-66, Tuesday night to win the West Region and punch their ticket to the Final Four. In getting to the 30-win plateau for the fourth consecutive year, the Zags shot an efficient 50 percent from the field and assisted on 23 of 34 made baskets.
Watching Gonzaga run its offense and fast breaks is like a clinic on spacing and unselfish passing. This is the best passing team in college basketball since the 2006-07 Florida back-to-back national champions. The Zags space so well and move the ball constantly, making it next to impossible to prevent them from getting clean, open shots. Gonzaga might be the best finishing team on the fast break since UNLV in 1990.
Saturday’s Final Four opponent for Gonzaga will be UCLA (22-9), which outlasted No. 1 seed Michigan (24-5), 51-49, to win the East Region. UCLA becomes only the second team (VCU in 2011 was the other) to make the Final Four after starting out with a play-in game. It is the first trip to the Final Four for UCLA since 2008. The Bruins have won more national championships (11) than any other team.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Currently, there are 19 women who have filed a lawsuit against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct. Houston GM Nick Caserio says the lawsuits are “certainly troubling” and says the Texans are taking the allegations “very seriously.” It is interesting that all 19 lawsuits have been filed by the same attorney, Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee. Did all these women just happen upon the same attorney? Or was this coordinated? It seems a bit strange, but either way, Caserio should be troubled when there are these kind of allegations against someone he’s paying more than $30 million per year.