JUST CALL THIS GRAD TRANSFER U
Perhaps the only thing missing from the Florida basketball complex is a flashing neon sign that reads “Grad Transfer U: Open for Business.”
Mike White grins at the mention of the success he's had with two previous graduate transfers. Canyon Barry was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year while helping the Gators make the Elite Eight in the 2016-17 season and Egor Koulechov led the team in rebounding and finished second in scoring in 2017-18. Both Barry and Koulechov made the Gators a better basketball team in their one year in Gainesville and they remain close to White – “two of my favorite guys that we've had.”
The latest member of the Florida Graduate Transfer Club could very well be the best yet and could take the Gators to places they haven't been since the Billy Donovan-coached 2013-14 Gators reached the Final Four. Kerry Blackshear Jr. arrives on campus with second team All-ACC credentials after a season in which he averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds at Virginia Tech, which was a missed shot at the buzzer from knocking off Duke and making the Elite Eight last year. Blackshear is a 6-10, 250-pounder with dancer's feet and the ability to score from the foul line on in. When he announced that he was leaving Virginia Tech, Blackshear was viewed as a near guarantor of a very deep run in the NCAA Tournament in 2019-20, which is why schools like Kentucky and Michigan State went so hard after him.
He chose Florida, in part because Orlando is his home town and he grew up a Gator fan, but also because he had inside information regarding the Florida coaching staff, future teammates, the school and the social environment. As he was narrowing down his choices, Blackshear spoke regularly with former Virginia Tech teammate Jalen Hudson, who spent his final two seasons of eligibility playing for the Gators.
“He told me this was a great opportunity,” Blackshear said at Florida's media day. “He told me what I would be getting into and how it's different than what I experienced at Virginia Tech. He's a really good guy who is in a good place. I leaned on him for advice and he was someone who helped lead me to a very good place.”
If Blackshear's one-and-done year at Florida gets the Gators to the NCAA promised land, it might make this the ideal landing spot for the next great grad transfer.
“Grad Transfer U, put that out there!” White says. “See who's available in the spring!”
BALANCE IS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
If you go strictly by yardage, then you might think Dan Mullen is channeling his inner Mike Leach. Through four games the Gators are averaging 294.75 yards per game through the air and just 136.8 on the ground, but a closer examination shows it is nearly 50-50 balance. The Gators have actually run more plays (130) than passes (127) so the yardage discrepancy is a bit deceiving.
We've heard so much talk that Florida's offensive line is young (four new starters) and hasn't gotten to a point that it can dominate in the run game for four quarters, but for all their youth, they've only given up five sacks in four games. Last year's O-line, which had four veteran starters, gave up 18 sacks in 13 games. That's 1.38 sacks per game last year, just 1.25 per game this year.
Because opponents run such sophisticated pass rushing and blitz schemes, pass protection takes up far more practice time than is devoted to run blocking. Given Florida's talent, speed and depth at wide receiver, it only figures that Mullen is going to emphasize timing and protection throwing the ball far more than he does the running game in practice.
It might also be noted that the Gators have had more success running the ball in the fourth quarters of the last two games. That might have something to do with the fact that opponents are worn down after spending so much time rushing the passer, but it might also mean that after spending so much effort pass protection that the O-line is ready to do some mashing and mauling in the fourth quarter.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
#2 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Deonte Brown, back from NCAA suspension, has been practicing with the second team O-line. He started last year … Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis (hyperextended knee) participated in some drills. Nose tackle DJ Dale (strained patellar tendon) was seen going through drills with the D-linemen. Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-0 SEC)
Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 SEC): Running back T.J. Hammonds will return from a four-game suspension this week when the Hogs play Texas A&M. Saturday: vs. #23 Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Arlington, TX
#7 Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Last year Auburn gave up 349 rushing yards to Mississippi State. This year the Tigers are allowing only 89.5 per game and they're coming off a game against Texas A&M when they allowed only 56 yards. Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (3-1, 1-0 SEC)
#3 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Georgia is resting defensive end David Marshall (foot) all week with the hope of getting him back in time for the Tennessee game.
Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC): It's still day-to-day on quarterback Sawyer Smith and his injured shoulder. If he can't go Saturday at South Carolina, Walker Wood, who was the #4 quarterback during spring practice, will get the start. Saturday: at South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
#4 LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Coach O on the future of offense in the SEC: “I don’t know if we will go back to the wishbone, those days are over … the spread, the tempo, it’s the defense that has to catch up. We have to make adjustments.” Saturday: Open
Mississippi State (3-1, 1-0 SEC): Quarterback Tommy Stevens could be back in the lineup Saturday at Auburn. HBC Joe Moorhead said, “He threw in practice yesterday like he had been throwing in camp. I don’t want to say he’s completely healed, but this is as good as he’s looked since the injury.” Saturday: at #7 Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Missouri (3-1, 1-0 SEC): Left tackle Yasir Durant is still trying to come back from a neck injury suffered a couple of weeks ago against Southeast Missouri State. He didn't play against South Carolina last week but has been practicing in the last couple of days. Saturday: Open
Ole Miss (2-2, 1-0 SEC): HBC Matt Luke is hoping quarterback Matt Corrall will be healthy by the time the Rebels make the trip to Alabama Saturday. Luke said, “We are trying to get him back, he was very limited yesterday. We are trying to get him ready, John Rhys (Plumlee) is very different, so we would like to have both ready to play and make them prepare for them both.”
Saturday: at #2 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC): Asked if he has any doubts about HBC Will Muschamp and staff, athletic director Ray Tanner said, “I believe in them now as much as when they came here.” Saturday: vs. Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Three more players have left the team – wide receiver Jacquez Jones and linebackers Will Ignont and Shannon Reid. Five players have left the team since the start of the season. Saturday: Open
#23 Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC): It is being reported that redshirt freshman quarterback James Foster entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal only to withdraw it approximately one hour later.
Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Arlington, TX
Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-2 SEC): During the first half of their loss to LSU last week, LSU fans had apparently drunk Vanderbilt Stadium dry. When beer trucks arrived at halftime, the delivery men were given a standing ovation. Said Vandy coach Derek Mason, “This is Nashville. No stadium should run out of beer.” Saturday: vs. Northern Illinois (1-2)
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY
From Jim Bowden of The Athletic, New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen talks about the impact of rookie first baseman and former Gator Pete “Polar Bear” Alonso:
“Pete challenges himself and his teammates to get better each day. He is not content with what he has done; rather, his focus is on what he can do next. With all of his accomplishments and personal pursuits, it is clear the helping his team win remains his priority. These are all qualities of a leader, regardless of age or service time.”
From Dan Patrick, Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin (formerly Alabama offensive coordinator) speaks about what Tua Tagovailoa would have done if he hadn't been inserted into the 2017 national championship game with Georgia in the second half:
“If this second half doesn’t flip like this, and Alabama is moving the ball and doesn’t change (quarterbacks), people that really know what’s going on would tell you that Tua was leaving. Because Tua thought that he should be the starting quarterback and had outperformed him in practice and coach never gave him an opportunity.”
From Adam Rittenberg of ESPN on if Michigan is disgruntled enough with Jim Harbaugh to fire him:
“Harbaugh isn't getting fired. While the dismissal door is never completely closed for coaches, Michigan doesn't seem eager to boot a decorated alum who still boasts a 40-15 record, not to mention an eight-figure guarantee if fired this season. A more likely outcome is Harbaugh leaving on his own, as he annually receives NFL overtures. But the prospect of departing his alma mater without a Big Ten title or a win against Ohio State would permanently blotch his Michigan legacy.”
From Bob McGinn of The Athletic on the six quarterbacks that were taken ahead of the New England Patriots' Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft:
“The six quarterbacks taken ahead of Brady – Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn – are all out of the league. Besides Brady, nine quarterbacks from 2000 (six draft choices, three free agents) started at least one game. They totaled 233 starts, 36 fewer than Brady.”
From Shalise Manza Young of Yahoo Sports on Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield responding to criticism by Rex Ryan, who got fired from his last NFL job back in 2016:
“In the wise words of [Browns head coach] Freddie Kitchens, if you don’t wear orange and brown, you don’t matter, and Rex Ryan doesn’t have any colors right now for a reason.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: It is being reported that Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon will end his holdout and report to the Los Angeles Chargers … Zac Clark, a 16-year-old high school football player in Ohio saved the life of one of his neighbors when he lifted a Volkswagen off the man's chest …Urban Meyer says that if he were to return to coaching football there's no way it would be at Michigan. Meyer says he has no plan whatsoever to return to coaching because he likes what he's doing as a Fox Sports college football analyst and as an assistant athletic director at Ohio State ... Former Gator Pete Alonso padded his Major League leading home run total Wednesday night with a three-run blast in the bottom of the second against the Miami Marlins that traveled a mere 437 feet. Alonso his 51 homers and 118 RBI this season. He's got one more game to hit another homer to tie Aaron Judge for the all-time rookie record for home runs in a season.