Thoughts of the Day: September 10, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:

It’s two-and-a-half weeks before the Florida Gators open their abbreviated, 10-game, conference-only football schedule at Ole Miss, but already tight ends coach Tim Brewster is salivating over the mismatches that Kyle Pitts is going to create.

“A 6-6 245-pound guy like Kyle Pitts matched on a linebacker, matched on a safety?” Brewster said Wednesday night after the Gators finished practice. “You wanna match him with a nickel? You wanna match him with a corner? That’s not gonna be really good for you.”

Brewster, who worked for Dan Mullen at Mississippi State in 2012, left Mack Brown and the North Carolina staff to join Mullen on the Florida staff as the tight ends coach after the 2019 season. Brewster already knew that Pitts was very, very good, but what he’s seen since football practice began in August has been an eye-opener.

“He's as good a route-runner … I mean I'm talking about the ability to stick his foot in the ground and create immediate separation, his ability to stretch the, take the top off of defenses, run option routes,” Brewster said. “He has a great feel for the game, and he's one of them guys that I can teach him in the meeting room and he takes it right to the field and he doesn't need a walk-through. Football makes sense to Kyle Pitts, and that's the thing you ask as a coach, you ask as these kids, is does football truly make sense to them? And with Kyle it certainly does."

A season ago Pitts caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five touchdowns, a real breakout after a 3-catch freshman season in 2018. He was almost like having a brand-new toy for Mullen, who kept finding creative ways to incorporate Pitts into the offense. Pitts ran as many plays flexed out wide, in motion as an H-back or in the slot as he did with his hand on the ground as a traditional tight end.

Since there are 13 games of tape from 2019 to dissect, Pitts won’t be able to sneak up on any SEC defensive coordinator this year. That means Mullen will have to find even more ways to disguise how he’s using Pitts in the offense. It is that understanding of mismatches and how to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers that motivates Mullen, whose offense is one of the most difficult to prepare for in all of college football.

Brewster is the coach who turned former college basketball standout Antonio Gates into a future Pro Football Hall of Famer while working for Marty Schottenheimer. At Florida State while working for Jimbo Fisher, Brewster was the position coach for Nick O’Leary, who won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end. Here at Florida, Brewster is going to have a chance to bring out the best in Pitts because the offense is so tight end friendly and Mullen has such a mind for finding weaknesses in opposing defenses.

“This offense is a dream come true for tight ends,” Brewster said. “We can play with two tight ends. We can play with three tight ends. It's the thing I was so excited about to come to the University of Florida and get back with Dan in this offensive philosophy, in this offensive system.”

A FEW OTHER SEC NOTABLES

ALABAMA: Juco transfer cornerback Ronald Williams Jr. could wind up as the starter opposite Patrick Surtain II.

AUBURN: Caylin Newton, a graduate transfer and younger brother of Auburn Heisman Trophy winner (2011) Cam Newton and a former quarterback at D1AA Howard University, is making the transition to wide receiver. At Howard, Newton threw 41 touchdown passes and ran for 17 … Safety Jamien Sherwood says, "I feel like we can either be just as good or better than any defense that has played at Auburn before."

GEORGIA: Georgia will play it’s 2020 season without mascot Uga X on the field. The SEC has ruled only essential personnel on the sidelines and dogs aren’t considered essential.

LSU: Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Ray Parker has been suspended after he was arrested on charges of battery of a dating partner and simple criminal damage to property.

OLE MISS: Al.com is reporting that the sexual battery charges against lienbacker Sam Williams has been dismissed and that Williams is expected to rejoin the team this week.

THE ACC PROPOSES TO LET EVERYONE IN TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Every year in March, 68 Division I basketball teams hear their name called to play in the NCAA Tournament. That isn’t necessarily the 68 best teams that make it to the Big Dance, just the survivors of conference tournaments and at-large teams deemed worthy enough to have a shot at a championship. As flawed as the process is – there are always worthy teams that get left out – the three weeks of tournament play rivet the entire country and almost always, the team that emerges as the national champ is the best team.

Now the Atlantic Coast Conference coaches and athletic directors have proposed that every Division I team that is eligible to participate in the post season should be included in the NCAA Tournament. That’s 346 teams at present although that number could be sliced a bit if Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina State, Arizona, LSU, Auburn, South Carolina, Alabama, Creighton, Southern Cal, Oregon and a bunch of others who got caught up in the college basketball corruption scandal get kneecapped. But even if every one of those teams has to sit out the tournament it’s still more than 300 participants.

A far better idea would be to expand to 128 teams. The bottom feeders in any league shouldn’t have the chance to play in the tournament but there are deserving teams that get left out every year and this would go a long way toward rectifying that problem.

By adding the one more weekend to the tournament caused by expansion to 128 teams, it would pretty much eliminate the belly-aching by barely .500 in conference play from teams from the power leagues and the dismay from really good teams from the small conferences that might not have won their tournaments. I like the idea of giving some of these smaller leagues multiple opportunities to play the role of Cinderella. I always hear that same old excuse “how many Cinderellas have actually won the NCAA Tournament?” The odds of a small school winning the championship are infinitesimally small, but I love it every year when one of those teams seeded 13-16 stuns one of the top four seeds. Expand the tournament and you can bet there will be a lot more opportunities to pull off that stunning game that defines each year’s tournament.

While I think expanding the tournament is probably a very good thing, I’m not sure it could happen this year. Due to all the issues from the cancellation of 2020 spring sports and so many leagues deferring fall sports to the spring of 2021an expanded tournament would seem to be a logistical nightmare. I think the extra weekend could help with revenue but I’m not all that certain the NCAA and the networks have the necessary time to pull it off this year.

IF IT’S THURSDAY, I MUST BE FEELING PITHY: Recently, Stanford pink-slipped 11 scholarship sports including men’s and women’s fencing, men’s and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming and lightweight rowing. That sent the athletic purists who loathe football but adore Olympic sports into a mild state of apoplexy. Get used to it. More and more schools are whacking their non-revenue sports, all in the name of Covid-19, but is the virus the real culprit or just a convenient excuse? Greg Couch of Outkickthecoverage.com write Wednesday: “Major athletic departments were looking for a way to drop many non-revenue sports anyway. They are using Covid-19 as an excuse to do it. The pandemic isn’t creating the problem so much as revealing it.” Translation: The virus creates an excuse to do now what the schools couldn’t do in past years. I have no idea how I’ll make it through an entire year without a spellbinding collegiate fencing match or watching another water ballet. Ever since watching Caddyshack I’ve been hooked on water ballet. Is there anything more intense than a great sailing matchup? …  Ohio attorney general Dave Yost told the Columbus Dispatch that he’s ordered lawyers to make a case for a lawsuit to go after millions of lost revenue dollars from the Big Ten for cancelling the fall football season. As a conference the Big Ten goes follows the dictates of the 14 school presidents. I doubt they care a hoot in hell if the Ohio attorney general sues them but I bet if Mr. Yost were to find a legal way to withhold state taxpayer money unless football is played that would get Ohio State’s attention and the attention of 12 of the other 13 presidents (Northwestern is private) ... Football is a game of blocking and tackling. No matter how sophisticated the offenses and defenses get, winning and losing still comes down to those two things. Navy did very little blocking and even less tackling last week when the Midshipmen got their doors blown off by BYU, 55-3. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo says the reason the Middies fared so poorly is because he didn’t let them block or tackle much in practice due to concerns about Covid-19. Niumatalolo says the Middies will go back to blocking and tackling in practice this week. What a concept. You practice blocking and you practice tackling and you actually do that better in games. What will he think of next? … Dustin Johnson earned a cool $15 million for winning the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. He has one major among his 23 PGA Tour wins with $63.9 million in career earnings. Contrast that to Jack Nicklaus, who won 73 tour titles and 18 majors. He made $9.1 million in his career. I’d love to see an economist figure out what Jack’s earnings would be worth inflated to today’s standards. I think most of today’s golfers on the PGA Tour would wilt going against Jack head-to-head.

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