A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
Under normal circumstances, Dan Mullen might be looking to bring some of his freshmen along slowly since he has a veteran roster with 18 scholarship seniors and another 4-5 underclassmen who could declare for the NFL. These are anything but normal times, however. The Covid-19 virus has changed the way Mullen does business and he’s going with an all hands on deck policy in practice.
“Everybody gets a lot of reps and a lot of that is for these scenarios, to get as many guys ready to play as possible,” Mullen said earlier in the week. “And that could be a huge factor this season. I can’t tell you how many guys are going to have to play this year for us.”
All you have to do is look at what happened in Knoxville last Saturday when Tennessee HBC Jeremy Pruitt had to cancel a planned scrimmage because 44 players either had the virus or were held out because of contact tracing. While Florida hasn’t had the huge outbreaks, Mullen knows he has no choice but to get as many players as ready as possible for the Gators’ 10-game schedule that begins in two weeks on the road at Ole Miss.
Much of the credit for the lack of positive tests – only one so far in September – has to go to Florida’s outstanding medical staff which has put exceptional precautions into place but to some extent luck is also involved. All that could change in a matter of a day or two and Mullen might be faced with trying to get through practice minus a significant number of players for anywhere from a couple of days to an extended amount of time.
Heading into the weekend, the Gators have scrimmaged twice, both times without the kind of crispness Mullen would like to see but that might have something to do with trying to get as many reps as possible for all his scholarship athletes from the most to the least experienced.
“I am pleased after two scrimmages to see that you do see some young guys coming along,” Mullen said. “We talk a lot about that. Are we making sure we’re continuing to accelerate these guys because you don’t know when we might have to call on their number to get them into a game? Your travel squad for Week 1 and your travel squad for Week 5 could be a completely different roster, so we have to get as many guys ready as possible.”
Adding to the difficulty of getting as many players ready as possible has been the limitations on practice time.
"You're looking at training camp where it really goes from unlimited hours, with one day off a week, and that day you're allowed two hours of film to 20 hours a week,” Mullen said. “In a normal training camp you’re probably, you’ve got about half of what you normally would do. You had to really look at where you’re going to cut.”
The reduction in practice time, film sessions and strength and conditioning workouts have forced Mullen to change everything in the preseason training schedule.
“You’re looking at a normal day, maybe you practice in the morning and you have a recovery lift in the afternoon while you’re watching some film,” Mullen said. “All that time, a bunch of walkthrough times gets eliminated. A lot of little teaching and all that stuff. You went from having a training camp to basically have an in-season schedule. In season we’re 20 hours a week. Training camp you’re not. It essentially eliminated training camp altogether. That’s the easiest way to put it.”
SOME SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
ALABAMA: Evan O’Neal, who got 13 starts at guard last year as a true freshman is a shell of his former self. The 6-7 O’Neal tips the scales at 355, down 30 from his playing weight of 2019.
ARKANSAS: Per WholeHogSports.com, Florida grad transfer QB Feleipe Franks has become more of a vocal leader in the past few practices, much to the pleasure of HBC Sam Pittman. “Expectations of your team have to start with your head coach, but it has to trickle down, and one of those positions has to be your quarterback,” Pittman said.
AUBURN: Auburn is so inexperienced on the offensive line that Akron transfer Brandon Council is projected to start. Council is working out at both left guard and left tackle. The Tigers are hoping to get a good idea who their starters will be after Saturday’s scrimmage.
GEORGIA: Georgia will allow 23,000 fans into Sanford Stadium plus allow tailgating for ticketed fans. Let’s see how they enforce that rule.
KENTUCKY: Commonwealth Stadium will be limited to 12,000 this fall. Skyboxes will be limited to 10 fans. No tailgating will be allowed.
LSU: True freshman tight end Arik Gilbert is already turning heads in LSU practices. The 6-5, 260-pounder is called a “freak of nature” by wide receiver Terrance Marshall.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Stanford grad transfer KJ Costello, who is expected to be named the starting QB, was the third ranked pro-style QB in the 2015 recruiting class. Ranked ahead of him were Jacob Eason (signed with Georgia, transferred to Washington) and Shea Patterson (signed with Ole Miss, transferred to Michigan) … Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, who played QB for Dan Mullen from 2011-14, says when he was a high school senior in Bogalusa, Louisiana that LSU offered him a scholarship as a tight end. You think Prescott might have fared better than Zach Mettenberger (2011-13) or Brandon Harris (2014)?
MISSOURI: The 2020 captains will be running back Larry Rountree III, O-lineman Case Cook and linebacker Nick Bolton.
OLE MISS: Senior defensive back Jaylon Jones is the winner of the 2020 Chucky Mullins Award. Jones will wear Mullins’ #38 jersey this season.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Freshman center Trai Jones will be out for awhile after undergoing ankle surgery. Jones injured his ankle in a scrimmage last Saturday.
TENNESSEE: Georgia transfer offensive tackle Cade Mays, whose application for a waiver from the NCAA was denied, has hired an attorney to expedite the appeal process. Mays originally hired well-known attorney Tom Mars to represent him, but this latest appeal was filed by Greg Isaacson.
TEXAS A&M: Matt Zenitz of Al.com reports that quarterback James Foster has withdrawn his name from the NCAA transfer portal. Foster is a redshirt sophomore who completed two passes for 25 yards and ran for 17 yards as the third string QB in 2019.
VANDERBILT: The combination of a large buyout and the reluctance of Vanderbilt to fire coaches could be the saving grace for HBC Derek Mason. The Commodores, who don’t have a quarterback who has ever taken a Division I snap, could very easily go 0-10. Mason is 27-47 in his six seasons on the job.
BRADY SINGER FLIRTS WITH A NO-HITTER: If Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny hadn’t put on an infield shift with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday night, former Gator Brady Singer might have become the 36th rookie pitcher in the big leagues to throw a no-hitter. Right-handed hitting Austin Hedges fisted a 93-mph fastball for a single where the second baseman would normally position himself ending Singer’s bid.
That Matheny felt it necessary to put the shift on Hedges might qualify as one of the shortened Major League Baseball season’s biggest brain farts. Hedges is a .148 hitter who had two hits in his last 19 at bats coming into the game. His eighth inning hit off Singer would have been an easy out if the infield had been playing it straight up.
In the longest outing of his MLB career, Singer (2-4, 4.66 ERA) struck out eight and walked only one.
ALL SORTS OF FRIDAY PITHINESS: Earlier in the week Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated wrote that Jon Duncan, the NCAA Director of Enforcement, has in his possession information that implicates LSU basketball coach Will Wade offering or providing impermissible benefits including cash payments to “at least 11 men's basketball prospective student-athletes, their family members, individuals associated with the prospects and/or non-scholastic coaches in exchange for the prospects' enrollment at LSU.” Translation: A whole lotta cheatin’ going on at LSU. That Wade cheats isn’t anything the whole world doesn’t already know, but what makes this particularly juicy is there is an investigation going on regarding LSU football and a rogue booster. The basketball violations alone are enough to merit the dreaded Lack of Institutional Control but add football violations and LSU could be in a heap of trouble that it won’t get out of anytime soon … Ohio State football coach Ryan Day, who was a Florida grad assistant in Urban Meyer’s first two years on the job in Gainesville, put out a tweet that read: “Our players want to know: Why can’t they play?” Well, I have a theory about that. I believe that when the Big Ten elected to cancel fall sports idiot rookie commissioner Kevin Warren and 11 of the 14 school presidents thought the other four power conferences wouldn’t dare play football without the Big Ten. Memo to the Big Ten: The sun doesn’t rise and set with your conference, which, by the way, has won exactly two (count ‘em) national championships in football since 2000 … Maybe my older eyes are playing tricks on me but the Covid-19 virus-reduced crowd at Hard Rock Stadium last night didn’t look much different than the normal home crowd for the Miami Hurricanes … Skip Bayless, the sports radio talk show host that some call Skip Brainless, is catching plenty of heat for remarks criticizing Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott for talking openly about battling depression after the suicide of his brother. I would call Bayless a certifiable idiot but that would be an insult to every certifiable idiot I’ve ever known … Prior to the NFL opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans Thursday night, there were demonstrations during the playing of the National Anthem. The Texans elected to stay in the locker room while the anthem was played. I’m sure there will be similar demonstrations before every NFL game this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if record numbers of fans demonstrate against the NFL by turning off their television sets.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing 19 years ago today? I'm still almost moved to tears whenever I see the film and photos of those planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York City that morning. I have friends who lost their lives that day and other friends who had family members who died trying to save lives. I've had two moments in my life when life as I knew it changed dramatically: November 22, 1963 when John Kennedy was assassinated and September 11, 2001 when America was attacked by radical extremists.