HE'S BAAACCKK! TONEY ADDS ELEMENT OF DANGER TO UF PASSING GAME It started out as a simple little reverse with Kyle Trask pitching to Kadarius Toney, who picked up a little chip block from Lamical Perine as he made his way around the left end at the UF 21. Three yards past the line of scrimmage it seemed his shoulders went one way, his hips and feet the other, which split two Vandy defenders. Up at the 30, he juked his way into the Vandy secondary behind a nice block by Stone Forsythe and made a Vandy safety look silly as he cut back to the right side. At the 40 his body went horizontal as he slipped through the grasp of another diving tackler. That last move cost him a half step and that was enough for a Vandy defender to dive and catch one of Toney's ankles at the 43 but he kept enough balance to dive forward to the 47.
That one 26-yard run will keep Missouri's defensive staff burning the midnight oil in Columbia all the way until Saturday morning when 11th-ranked Florida (8-2, 5-2 SEC) takes the field with the goal of keeping the Gators faint SEC East championship hopes alive. It's tough enough dealing with a Florida passing game that spreads the ball around like few teams in the country – six different players have at least 20 catches and by season's end that number could grow by at least two more – but with Toney 100% healthy for the first time since he suffered a shoulder injury in game two, it is a nightmare scenario. The Gators have fast guys who can stretch a field like Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland. They've got guys with size, speed and flawless hands like Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes. They've got the big guy that nobody seems to know how to defend in Kyle Pitts.
But nobody can make people miss like Kadarius Toney. When he's healthy it adds another dimension to the Florida offense, the kind of dimension that can be a real difference-maker in a game like the one the Gators are facing with Missouri. Mizzou has one of the best secondaries in the country, but the Tigers have proven vulnerable to guys who excel in the open field and who are equal threats in the running and passing game.
“Move him into the backfield, throw him a reverse pitch, try to get him a screen, those type of things,” HBC Dan Mullen said Monday in describing how Toney could be used. “We saw the other day, when he gets the ball, exciting things happen.”
GATORS WILL TRY TO ESTABLISH BLACKSHEAR AGAINST TOWSON
When he watched the film of Florida's 63-51 loss to Florida State, it became perfectly obvious to Mike White that the Gators seemed to avoid their go-to guy like the plague. The ball was supposed to find its way on a consistent basis to Kerry Blackshear Jr. in or around the paint but for reasons White's not exactly sure of, Blackshear rarely saw the basketball in scoring position.
And he was in scoring position early and often.
'He was open the whole game – the whole game,” White said Wednesday before the Gators (1-1) began their preparation for tonight's matchup at the O-Dome (7 p.m., ESPN2) with Towson (2-1).
Blackshear scored 10 points in the FSU game, all of them from the foul line. White would be very happy if Blackshear could score 10 free throws every time out, but for the Florida offense to function properly, his big man has to get the ball where he has a chance to get a decent shot off. After seeing what happened on film and then meticulously pointing out the numerous times Blackshear was open for shots but never got a pass, White put some more structure in the Florida offense to ensure the ball goes to the right places.
Freshman Scottie Lewis, who pointed out that FSU “was a very winnable game,” noted that getting the ball in Blackshear's hands was priority emphasis upon watching the film.
“We have to capitalize on getting the ball to KJ (Blackshear) since he's our best player, trying to get him to create for the rest of the team,” Lewis said. “That was definitely a point for us.”
While getting the ball to Blackshear will be emphasized against a physical Towson team that has decent size, White says the Gators have to remember the offense works best when the ball makes it to whoever is open.
“We got to play together and take the right shots,” White said.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF (College Football Playoff Poll rankings) #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC): Nick Saban calls Tua Tagovailoa a “game-time decision” for Saturday's game at Mississippi State. Tua did practice Wednesday and Saban said he “made a lot of practice today … We'll see where he is tomorrow and go from there.” Saturday: at Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4 SEC)
Arkansas (2-7, 0-6 SEC): Former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has expressed his interest in returning as the head coach. Donkeys might fly before Houston gets anything more than a don't call us, we'll call you note from Arkansas. Saturday: Open
#12 Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC): Asked why Georgia's defense is so good on the SEC Coaches Teleconference, Auburn HBC Gus Malzahn said, “I think it starts up front with the depth they have. They play a lot of guys and there's not much drop off. They stop the run and make teams one-dimensional and that's what stands out to me.” Saturday: vs. #4 Georgia (8-1, 5-1 SEC)
#4 Georgia (8-1, 5-1 SEC): Kirby Smart says Georgia is treating the Auburn game just like any other SEC game. “It's no different than any game so far,” Smart said on the SEC Coaches Teleconference. “There's no difference in the last three-four games. We have a chance to win the SEC East and that's our focus.” Saturday: at #12 Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC)
Kentucky (4-5, 2-5 SEC): Asked about his interest in the vacant Florida State job, Kentucky HBC Mark Stoops said, “Let's worry about Vandy and that's where my concentration is.” Saturday: at Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5 SEC)
#1 LSU (9-0, 5-0 SEC): Coach O was a total bust at Ole Miss (10-25 record, but he's not at all bitter that he was fired after three years. Coach O said, “Ole Miss was a great opportunity for me. It was my first job. It was in the SEC. I learned a lot of things. I learned how to do things; I learned how not to do things. I don't like the results, but you know what, it prepared me for down the road. When you get your butt beat you're going to learn how to get better and I do believe that job trained me for the job that we're doing today. So I'm appreciative of it.” Saturday: at Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4 SEC)
Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4 SEC): What a difference a year can make. A year ago Mississippi State gave up 263.1 yards and 13.2 points per game. This season, the Bulldogs are giving up 389.2 yards and 30.2 points per game. Saturday: vs. #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC)
Missouri (5-4, 2-4 SEC): Since it's 38-27 win over Ole Miss, Missouri has lost three consecutive SEC games (Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia), scoring a combined 21 points in the three games. Saturday: vs. #11 FLORIDA (8-2, 5-2 SEC)
Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4 SEC): On the SEC Coaches Teleconference, HBC Matt Luke explained one of the chief reasons the Ole Miss defense under coordinator Mike MacIntyre is much improved from last year. “The scheme is not overly complicated and it's getting buy-in from the players,” Luke said. Saturday: vs. #1 LSU (9-0, 5-0 SEC)
South Carolina (4-6, 3-4 SEC): With some speculating that Will Muschamp is in very hot water with the South Carolina administration, school prez Robert Caslen, noting Muschamp's buyout that exceeds $18 million, commented, “There's so much more, as the president of a university, I could do with $18 million than to buy out a coach's contract. I could build a parking garage or I could revamp the stadium. There are so many more things you could do. So, why would I do that.” Saturday: at Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2 SEC)
Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC): Freshman defensive tackle Elijah Simmons, who has played in two games this season, will take a redshirt for 2019. Saturday: Open
Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2 SEC): South Carolina and the Aggies will play for the Bonham Trophy. Never heard of it? It would be shocking if you could round up five people who aren't in the A&M or South Carolina athletic department who could. Saturday: vs. South Carolina (4-6, 3-4 SEC)
Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5 SEC): It's hard to imagine Derek Mason surviving this season although stranger things have happened. But with speculation running rampant that Mason's days are numbered in Nashville, a couple of names that are being heard as replacements are Charlotte coach Will Healy and Tulane coach Willie Fritts. Saturday: vs. Kentucky (4-5, 2-5 SEC)
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF Wednesday's game VCU 84, #23 LSU (1-1) 82
Thursday games Towson at #15 FLORIDA (1-1) Louisiana-Monroe at Mississippi State (2-0) Vanderbilt (2-0) at Richmond
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on who he thinks would win a College Football Playoff matchup between #1 LSU and #2 Ohio State: “I'm going to surprise some people right now by saying that I think Ohio State might beat LSU. It would be a neutral site game but to me, if you look at LSU, as great as that win was the other day [Alabama] they've had a couple of narrow wins. I mean, they beat Auburn by three at home.They had a heavyweight fight vs. Florida. It went back and forth and back and forth before they won buy two scores. They also had a narrow win against Texas, which isn't a great team. [Texas is] barely a good team. Ohio State is just shredding teams. They have eviscerated teams. Right now, I would favor Ohio State in that game.”
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports on the Saturday workout of Colin Kaepernick, which will not be attended by many – if any – NFL head coaches or general managers: “Head coaches are with their teams and busy preparing for Sunday's game. They don't travel to scout during the season. If none went to LSU-Alabama last week, they aren't coming to this. General manager? Man of them don't spend Saturdays scouting either. Those that do may not be looking for a quarterback and are focused on a full slate of college games. Many (or all) of the teams that do come will likely be represented by lower-level front-office types – scouts, analysts, assistants to the assistants. It's not ideal for Kaepernick, but that's reality.”
Mike Sando of The Athletic on the workouts designed to showcase the quarterback skills of Colin Kaepernick: “This whole thing feels contrived, so I'm skeptical. If teams bypassed Kaepernick in the past because they questioned his skills, would those teams expect him to be better now, at age 32 and after not playing or practicing for two-plus seasons? If teams bypassed Kaepernick in the past because they disagreed with his political stances and/or feared negative public reaction, would those teams feel differently now? What's different, other than Kaepernick being older and probably even less likely to play the way he played early in his career?”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NCAA has suspended Ohio State stud defensive end Chase Young one additional game. Young, who missed last week's win over Maryland, will miss Saturday's game at Rutgers as well. Maryland and Rutgers? That doesn't sound like a suspension. That sounds like a vacation from boredom and potential injury ahead of the Penn State game next week … Florida State players have called for the school to hire interim coach Odell Haggins as the replacement for fired Willie Taggart … Former Georgia quarterback Zeke Bratkowski, perhaps best known as Bart Starr's backup with the Green Bay Packers, has passed away at age 88. Bratkowski was a two-time All-SEC selection who threw 24 touchdown passes and 68 – that's not a misprint – interceptions in his career.