College Football

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The Defense Captains

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There has been somewhat of a de-emphasized value on linebackers in recent years but the NFL Draft class of 2021 features some of the most prominent under the radar prospects in this year’s draft.

Linebackers are always one of the most important pieces for a defense in the NFL. They hold the group together and many wear the “green dot” that has them become the voice of that eleven-man defensive squad.

They are the defensive quarterbacks that lead the team onto the field. They are asked to cover, blitz and attack the run game each and every down.

What is the prototype NFL linebacker? The answers depend on the scheme, but it all comes down to versatility. Each linebacker prospect offers something a little different with wildly different body types and plenty of intrigue.

1.Micah Parsons, Penn State, 6-3, 244: Parsons was a one-year starter at Penn State and played the off-ball spot or weak side linebacker.

He is a physical freak with impressive size, speed and athletic strength. Parsons has great vision and agility to hunt running backs from sideline to sideline.

He shows to be an NFL three down linebacker that has yet to scratch the surface on his talents. He is projected as the best linebacker in the class, but there is major concern about his character and immaturity. Grade: 1st Round.

  1. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame, 6-2, 215: Owusu-Koramoah is the most versatile linebacker in the draft. He can play both linebacker and nickel defender.

He has remarkable speed and closing burst to blitz, cover and mirror both tight ends or wide receivers across the field.

Owusu-Koramoah’s first step explosion, playmaking range, and intelligence gives his coach flexibility to play him at linebacker, safety, or nickel.

Major concern is what position fits his new team’s skill set, as well as his discipline at times.  Grade: 1st Round

  1. Jamin Davis, Kentucky, 6-4, 234: Davis is a rising prospect and some teams have him as their top linebacker in the 2021 Draft.

He had a phenomenal pro day workout that displayed incredible speed in the 40 and excellent explosion in the jumps.

Davis is a rangy player with a nose for the football, stretching out his stride to close against the run or drop coverage. Major concern is tackling technique, shedding blockers, and trusting his eyes.  Grade: late 1st-2nd Round

  1. Zaven Collins, Tulsa, 6-4, 256: Collins is a big, quick and versatile athlete who displays the ability to drop into coverage, make tackles in the run game, and rush the passer.

He is an ultra smooth mover in coverage with the awareness that leads him to football.

Collins has the hand power to dispose of blockers in the hole and find the ball carrier.  He has flashed untapped pass rush skills that have NFL defensive coordinators drooling.

Concerns are that he is not very physical and the scheme fitted to his playstyle are likely 3-4 systems.  Grade Late 1st-2nd Round

  1. Nick Bolton, Missouri, 6-0, 235: Bolton has terrific range and play personality as a run defender, trusting his read and vision to blow up plays at the line of scrimmage.

He lacks size, which reduces his margin for error taking on blocks and with his tackle radius. He is explosive through contact and is a reliable finisher. Concerns are lack of speed, size and athleticism. Grade 2nd Round

  1. Jabril Cox, LSU, 6-3, 233; 7. Baron Browning, Ohio State, 6-3, 241; 8. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina, 6-2, 277; 9. Dylan Moses, Alabama, 6-3, 235; 10. Pete Werner, Ohio State, 6-1, 235.

Once a highly regarded position, linebackers are seeing their stock take a bit of a hit over recent years, as coverage players or pass rushers tend to be more valued in today’s NFL, where passing is king.

Bark and Bite?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There is a lot of hype surrounding the 2021 University of Georgia football team; five straight years of top five recruiting classes, close calls with Alabama on the national stage and other heartbreaks.

The big question is this team ready to break through and win that first national title since Jimmy Carter was President of the United States?

Many say it’s now or never for UGA, but I don’t agree with that mentality. UGA, under Kirby Smart, has established itself as an annual contender for SEC Championships. SEC Champions typically get a bid to the College Football Playoff.

The news out of Athens, other than the George Pickens injury, has been positive this spring.

JT Daniels has developed into a leader both on and off the field.

With the loss of Pickens, the WR room is still very talented.

The defense could be the best in the country, and Georgia’s 2022 recruiting class is currently ranked in the top three in the nation.

A lot of things have to break your way to have a national championship season and that starts with a schedule that you can navigate through. Let’s rank UGA’s 2021 opponents from 12 to 1.

12.Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers roll into Athens late in the season sandwiched in between Tennessee and Georgia Tech. This one will be over before the coin flip.

11.Vanderbilt: Vandy will be in total rebuild mode with a new head coach and a roster that needs major upgrades. Vanderbilt bailed out of the UGA game in 2020, even after the game was rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Georgia will want to make them pay for that decision.

10.South Carolina: The Gamecocks are starting over with a new head coach also, but ruined UGA’s regular season in 2019 with an upset win.

Carolina spoiled UGA seasons in 2000, 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2019. UGA better be prepared.

9.UAB: UAB went 6-3 last season, and was invited to a bowl game before it got canceled.

8.@ Georgia Tech: UGA and Tech did not play in 2020, and the pandemic cost UGA a home game in the series.

Tech is improving fast and this game starts moving back up high in the opponent rankings in 2022 and beyond.

7.@ Tennessee: The Tennessee program is in maybe the worse shape at any point in the history of the program.

The NCAA is about to drop the hammer on major recruiting violations, and it make take a while for this program to recover.

6.Kentucky: At home in October the Dawgs will handle The Cats.

5.Arkansas: The Razorbacks travel to Athens on 10/2, and this will not be an easy game for UGA. We all watched the first half last year at Arkansas.

4.Missouri: Another program that is improving fast, and UGA better be ready to play the Tigers coming off the Florida game the previous week.

3.@ Auburn: New coach at Auburn, but look at Auburn’s history some of their best seasons ever have come with first year coaches in 1993 and 2013. This team has talent and this will be a war. This game has now been moved to October permanently.

2.Florida in Jacksonville: The SEC East will be on the line Halloween weekend. UF beat UGA 44-28 in 2020, won the East and ruined UGA’s season. Enough said.

1.Clemson in Charlotte: UGA opens the season on 9/4 with the Tigers and we will know right away if this UGA team is ready for primetime.

Clemson is as talented as anyone and is in the College Football Playoff annually.

The 2021 UGA schedule sets up nicely for a title run.

Bring The Beef

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL Draft’s offensive line class has depth and volume at the position.

The O-line class’s first three rounds are even better than the studs from a year ago.

All the players below are expected to be Top-50 picks, they include both tackles and interior blockers. Protecting franchise quarterbacks from harm is worth these big guy’s weight in gold.

This class features several first round prospects that are versatile enough to play as interior or bookend protectors in the NFL.

1.Penei Sewell, OT, 6-6, 325, Oregon; Sewell opted out the shortened Pac-12 season and is a better prospect than the four tackles who were high first rounders last April (2020 NFL Draft – Andrew Thomas, Jerdick Willis, Mekhi Becton and Tristian Wirfs).

Sewell is an excellent athlete with real quickness on the edge. He pops out of his stance, gets his hands into the chest of defenders and has quick feet for speedy end or LB blitzes.

He is dangerous when he slips to the second level and gets nasty with bullying linebackers and defensive backs. Top 10 selection easily.

  1. Rashawn Slater, OT/G/C, 6-3, 306 Northwestern; Slater is a quick and agile athlete.

Given his lack of height and length, he might be a better fit on the inside line at guard or center. Watching the 2019 tape versus Ohio State’s Chase Young (NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year), Slater did not give up a sack, a quarterback hit, or even a hurry. Top 15 selection

  1. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/G, 6-4, 315, USC; Vera-Tucker has versatility playing to left guard in 2019 and left tackle in 2020.

Vera Tucker is an easy mover with athleticism, quickness and agility. He can glide next to speed rushers with ease.

He is a natural knee bender, who maintains great leverage while avoiding bending at the waist. He does a nice job of scrapping and keeping his hands fighting to sustain blocks. Top 20 selection

  1. Christian Darrisaw, OT, 6-5, 314, Virginia Tech; Darrisaw has good size that fits his mean streak well.

He shows efficient slide quickness in pass protection as well as being a bulldozer in the run game.  While he shows the ability to manhandle defenders, he tends to take plays off.

Darrisaw needs to become a more consistent and disciplined finisher and improve his hand engagement. Mid to late 1st round

  1. Teven Jenkins, OT, 6-6, 320, Oklahoma State; Jenkins opted out in late November after suffering a lower back injury.

His Pro Day physical will be important for his draft position. Jenkins is a big edge protector who is extremely strong at the point of contact.

He doesn’t relinquish any engaged block until he either pancakes his opponent or removes them completely from the play. He has a nice, fluid, side to side kick slide and easily mirror’s edge rushers. Mid to late 1st

  1. Liam Eichenberg, OT, 6-5, 305, Notre Dame; Eichenberg is not viewed as the same caliber of athlete as the top 5 on my list, but he has NFL measurables and impeccable fundamental blocking skills make him a solid bookend offensive tackle.

Eichenberg has to expand his use of angles to defend speed rushers. He has accurate hand strikes and a demeanor to offset his lack of lateral mobility. Late 1st early 2nd,

  1. Sam Cosmi, OT, 6-6, 295, Texas; Cosmi is raw undisciplined talent that needs development, but athletically he is a freak, about on par with our top 5s ability.

Cosmi blocks with quickness and urgency in pass protection, usually marrying his eyes with his hands and maintaining a square base. Cosmi needs to get bigger and stronger to compete at the next level. Late 1st early 2nd

The 2021 NFL offensive line draft class has impact players at guard, tackle and center; the offensive line is one of the positions that stand out as a strength in this year’s draft.

Wide Open

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Starting with Wide Receiver 1, there won’t be a consensus on this group from team to team or scout to scout. The amount of talent at receiver rivals last year’s class, which set a record with 13 drafted in the first two rounds.

I don’t think this class will break that record but I believe this class will have 15 plus receivers drafted in the top three rounds. For me, ranking the top receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class has been a head scratching exercise.

1.Jaylen Waddle, Alabama, 5-10, 182: Waddle showed signs of becoming a more refined receiver before an ankle injury caused him to miss most of the year.

Waddle has dangerous speed and is a scoring threat anytime he touches the ball. Waddle’s speed and game changing ability has him as my number one receiver. I believe Waddle will be selected in the top 10.

  1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU, 6-1, 200:Chase decided to skip the 2020 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. I think it was a wise choice to protect his draft stock because he could not get any higher in the rankings.

Chase was the best receiver in college football in 2019, averaging 21.2 yards per catch with 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase is another top 10 pick.

  1. DeVonta Smith, Alabama, 6-1, 165: Smith dominated college football in 2020, showing he is a true wide receiver who does everything well.

If Smith was 20 pounds heavier, he would be top 3 in the draft. He is a touch receiver who has demonstrated quality, but not elite speed, excellent route running and superb ball skills. Smith is the final top 10 pick from the ranking.

  1. Kadarius Toney, Florida, 5-11, 189: Toney is a loose, elastic athlete that routinely makes the first man miss with special start and stop abilities that create explosive plays.

Toney improved his route running and remains a work in progress. I think Toney belongs in the second round but he is a dangerous weapon as a receiver and punt returner.

I see Toney going in the late first round, but not top 10.

  1. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota, 6-2, 210: Bateman opted back in after the Big Ten decided to bring back football, then played in five games before opting out the remainder of the season.

Bateman is a natural hand catcher with length and excellent route execution. He lacks the explosive burst that the top four displays, so he is a late first early second round pick in my prediction.

  1. Terrace Marshall Jr, LSU, 6-4, 200: Marshall played well in 2020 before opting out of the last part of the season. He had good size, length, speed and mismatch ability. Marshall is a vertical threat, but lacks explosion and first step quickness.

He is a day two selection late second or early third round pick.

  1. Rondale Moore, Purdue, 5-9, 180:Moore feasted on jet sweeps and quick game targets. While short, Moore plays stout with a fluid ease of movement and instant acceleration to force miss tackles.

He has elite speed and is an explosive playmaker with the ability to score on any touch. Moore is a day two pick mid second early third pick.

  1. Dyami Brown, North Carolina, 6-1, 195: Brown has excellent one cut acceleration and separation quickness. He is highly skilled at the double move (head fakes, quick settling of his feet, ect..), and he plays with strength to make a living on the outside versus corners.

Brown is another day two pick.

Here are the other receivers I think will go in the first three rounds: Elijah Moore, Ole Miss; Amari Rodgers, Clemson; Tutu Atwell, Louisville; D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State; Amon-Ra St Brown, USC; Cade Johnson, South Dakota State.

If your favorite pro team needs a receiver, this is the year to grab one in the first three rounds, but then again, there is talent in day three of the draft: with the deepest group in this year’s class.

QB1

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I’m starting off the positional ranks for the 2021 NFL Draft with the strongest positional groups in the class.

Quarterback prospects light the fires of fans and general managers more than any other position. This is especially true this year with six quarterbacks with first round potential, including four in the top 10.

Over the next eight weeks, workouts and the interview process will give teams a better idea of physical and mental development of these soon-to-be rookie quarterbacks. Whether it’s top end talent or depth, 2021 signal callers class stacks up favorably against any class this decade.

1.Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: The number one quarterback, the number one prospect and soon to be the number one pick.

As a three-year starter at Clemson, Lawrence has full command of the offense, setting the protection and running the show. He went 34-2 as a starter for the Tigers, including three straight playoff appearances and the 2018 National Title.

Lawrence stands six foot six inches, and weighs 213 pounds. I think Lawrence is a generational talent with size, athleticism, arm talent, processing speed, and intangibles.

  1. Zach Wilson, BYU: A three-year starter at BYU, Wilson was a productive starter doing a little bit of everything, including traditional, five wide and option plays.

Although the competition was underwhelming, he produced dynamically; setting records for single season completion percentage, and accounting for 43 total touchdowns.

Wilson doesn’t have an ideal NFL body, but his natural accuracy, off platform skills and ability to make spontaneous decisions translate to NFL talent.

  1. Justin Fields, Ohio State: A two-year starter at Ohio State, Fields was one of the top college football players the last two seasons.

With Jake Fromm blocking him at Georgia, Fields transferred to Columbus in 2019 and needed only 21 games to get number two in Ohio State’s career passing touchdown record book.

Fields is arguably the most accurate quarterback in the draft class. He is a legitimate threat as a runner and has the arm strength to flip a ball 60 plus yards without a slow wind up.

  1. Trey Lance, North Dakota State: A one year starter at North Dakota State, Lance is a dual threat quarterback, who is following in the footsteps of Carson Wentz.

Lance has a prodigious physical skill set. The ball shoots out of his hand differently than anyone else in this class. His accuracy is the lowest of any quarterback in this top ten by nearly 10 percent. When you have his level tools, that’s a project worth developing.

  1. Mac Jones, Alabama: A one year starter at Alabama, Jones was a prolific passer and set an NCAA single season record for completion percentage (77.4) and the first player in Alabama history to throw for 4,500 passing yards in a single season.

The tools are average at best. Jones will be the ultimate debate at the position on performance versus physical ability.

That being said, he was never a detriment to the offense.

  1. Kyle Trask, Florida: A two-year starter at Florida, Trask lit up the scoreboard this past season to 43 touchdowns in 13 SEC games.

He has ideal size at 6 foot 5, 240 pounds and NFL arm talent, but not quite on the level of the guys at the top of the class.

Trask understands where to go with the football and is at his best when he can loft throws into the window. However, his accuracy can’t be described as pinpoint, his lack of mobility troubles him against pressure and there is a noticeable lack of zip on his throws.

7-10: Davis Mills, Stanford, Ian Book, Notre Dame, Kellen Mond, Texas A&M, and Jamie Newman, Wake Forest/Georgia.

As recent history has proven, players don’t have to be drafted in the first round to be an NFL starting quarterback (Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and THE GOAT Tom Brady).

Knighted

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

UCF hired Gus Malzahn as its football coach on Monday, just two months after he was fired by Auburn.

Are the Knights getting a talented coach with experience winning in the SEC or a retread that was fired for not winning enough in the SEC West?

Malzahn went 68-35 at Auburn overall with a 39-27 SEC record.

He won nine or more games three different times and never had a losing record at Auburn despite playing in the toughest division in college football. Furthermore, he has never had a losing record at any level.

In recruiting, he finished with four top 10 classes and his lowest rank class was 14th. My big concern is his recruitment of offensive linemen, he tends not to recruit enough each cycle.

Malzahn had a $21 million buyout at Auburn that is not subject to an offset, meaning he will earn that money plus his salary at UCF.

Malzahn will receive a five-year, $11.5 million contract as UCF’s new head coach and add that to his $21 million buyout.

Malzahn replaces Josh Heupel, who took the Tennessee job last month, following former UCF athletic director Danny White to Knoxville. Because of the odd timing in the hiring cycle, UCF had to move quickly to hire Terry Mohajir as Athletic Director from Arkansas State.

During Monday’s press conference, Mohajir stated, “last Sunday prior to accepting the UCF job, I called Gus and asked if he was interested in coaching.” Mahajir then hired Malzahn, whom he worked with briefly in 2012 at Arkansas State.

Malzahn quoted during his press conference, “Definitely I’m going to call plays, I will call plays for the rest of my career. That’s what I love to do, that’s what I’m good at, and that’s what got me here.”

Knight fans say Gus Malzahn is a step or two up from Josh Heupel. Malzahn won the presser and his resume speaks for itself. Malzahn will recruit at an entirely different level, with his already established relationships in Florida.

Malzahn will be inheriting a UCF program that has the sixth best winning percentage in FBS since 2017. The five teams in front of the Knights have all made the College Football playoffs at least twice in the same span (Alabama .927, Clemson .911, Ohio State .900, Oklahoma .849 & Notre Dame .837), while the Knights have never once been selected to the CFP.

Terry Mohajir said, “He has won at every level, he has coached a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL draft picks. There has never been a better time for Coach Malzahn to lead a program than right now.”

Malzahn added, “I’m thrilled to be the head coach at UCF, and I’m truly looking forward to being part of Knight Nation. It’s exciting to be head of a program where the future is extremely bright. I will be hitting the ground running in terms of getting to know the team and everyone else connected with UCF. Our goal is to be ready to win championships.”

After watching the press conference, Gus Malzahn is a phenomenal hire. Hey Knight fans, time to hop on the Gus Bus.

The Knights under Coach Malzahn open the 2021 schedule at home on September 4th against Boise State.

I’ll be there and I already know the Bounce House will be Shaking with excitement.

 

 

Where Would You Be?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Another recruiting cycle is complete and the Georgia Bulldogs finished with another top 5 recruiting class.

Kirby Smart is one of the top football coaches in the business. The naysayers will say that Smart can only recruit. Well to those experts let me break a little secret to you, recruiting is the life blood to any successful college football program.

When Smart was hired in 2015, UGA was a football program that wasn’t living up to the expectations.

Expectations meaning competing consistently for conference championships and national championships.

The only time UGA was a legit contender for a National Title under Mark Richt was in 2012, they lost a heartbreaker to Alabama in the SEC title game. Alabama went on to crush an overrated Notre Dame team for a national title.

Georgia had developed a reputation of being a soft program. Soft meaning not physical enough along the lines of scrimmage. That weakness showed up in some of UGA’s biggest games late in the Richt tenure like 2015 Alabama and Florida games.

That lack of physicality led to Richt’s firing.

Enter Kirby Smart who immediately began to build the UGA program from the inside out, starting with a focus both lines of scrimmage.

Year one in 2016 he finished 8-5 and changed the culture surrounding the football program in Athens.

Then In the 2017 season, Smart led the Bulldogs to their first 9–0 start since 1982 and won the SEC East after a victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Smart coached Georgia to its first SEC title since 2005 and only the fourth 12-win season in school history.

Georgia was ranked No. 3 by the College Football Playoff Committee and played No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Georgia rallied from a 31–14 first-half deficit, ultimately defeating Oklahoma 54–48 in double overtime, completing the largest comeback in Rose Bowl history.

The Bulldogs went on to lose to the Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game 26-23.

The 2018 team finished 11-3, but ended the season on a two-game losing streak. The critics came out of the woodwork and started taking Kirby to task about how he handled the Jake Fromm/Justin Fields QB situation.

Fields ended up transferring to Ohio State. The 2019 team finished 12-2 with a win over Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

In the COVID-19 season of 2020 UGA finished at 8-2. The 2020 season was caught up in QB controversy, but after JT Daniels took over the job the UGA offense took off.

Now going into 2021, UGA looks to be a preseason contender for a national title. A season opening game with Clemson in Charlotte will reveal a lot where this program is on a national scale.

What Smart has done in five quick years is have UGA in the playoff discussion annually. His 52-14 overall record is one of the best in the nation. His 32-9 conference record is outstanding.

At only 45 years of age Smart should be in Athens for another 10-15 years minimum.

The UGA program is on a solid foundation currently the best foundation it has been under since the great Vince Dooley years of 1980-83.

It took Dooley 17 years to win a National Title at UGA. Kirby Smart has UGA on track now going into year 6.

Trust the process UGA fans. a National Title is very close. Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee would trade places with UGA in a heartbeat currently.

Kirby Smart has built a winning culture in Athens and the best is still to come.

Signing Day

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The most challenging year recruiters have ever faced is finally over as one of the most anticipated days for college football fans on National Signing Day came and went.

Alabama was once again able to grab the top ranked class followed by Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, and Oregon to round out the top-5.

Once again, the legendary Nick Saban brings in the top ranked recruiting class of 2021. Alabama was able to land arguably the best class of offensive linemen Tuscaloosa has ever seen.

Scary to hear those words coming off of a National Championship season as well as landing the third best running back in Camar Wheaton out of Texas.

It feels like Alabama is always grabbing the number one spot in anything football related, and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Saban’s protege, Kirby Smart, has modeled his program at Georgia to be much like the one he came from in Tuscaloosa back in 2016.

Since Kirby was hired, he has been nothing short of a great asset in recruiting for the Bulldogs and this year proves no different as they got their 11th top-10 recruiting class in a row.

The Bulldogs came in at number three this year with a lot of help from the late dual-threat QB commit Brock Vandagriff, who is the latest addition to the very talented UGA QB room.

The other name often mentioned along with Georgia in the SEC east are the Florida Gators.

However, I would say that Dan Mullen bringing in just the 10th best recruiting class this year is a little bit of a letdown.

The Gators had a phenomenal 2020 season through a tough schedule, earning the SEC east championship and a shot at Alabama in the SEC Championship game.

Many of those players have declared for the NFL draft bringing Dan Mullen and company back to the drawing board. However, with the 10th ranked class in this year’s recruiting race Mullen was able to reload in some key positions for the Gators.

Mullen Landed tight ends Gage Wilcox and Nick Elksins as well as bringing in Caros Del Rio and Jalen Kitna at quarterback replacing one of the most famous duos last year in Kyle Pitts and Kyle Trask.

As for the other national powerhouses, Clemson and Ohio State were able to make their presences felt once again by reloading what have been two great programs for the last five to seven seasons.

Lastly, many high school athletes dream of becoming a college athlete but few are able to achieve it. Each recruit signing on NSD is giving themselves an opportunity to make an impact at the next level, make your mark!

 

Congratulations to all of the 2021 signees on the Georgia Coast!

 

Brunswick High School

Amarion Whitefield – Georgia Military College

Tyrease Jones – Savannah State University

AJ Wilson – Georgia Military College

KJ Lee – Georgia Military College

Josiah Bess – Greensboro College

David Newbauer – Greensboro College

Keegan Carroll – Greensboro College

Kyle Rehberg – Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

Kaleb Hampton – Reinhardt University

 

Glynn Academy

Jordan Swain – Georgia Military College

Chase Gabriel – Florida International University

Marvin Dallas – Louisville University

Ryan Seay-Savannah State University

 

MCA

Trenton Johnson-Savannah State University

Ryan Burkhart-Savannah State University

Miles Wood-Washington and Lee University

Khay Loyd-Army

 

Camden

Darryl Williams-Georgia Military College

Deterias Glover-Austin Peay University

The Good Job

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Danny White left UCF to be the new Athletic Director at Tennessee and White didn’t go far in his search for a new head coach.

White hired Josh Heupel for the second time, having brought him down to the Sunshine State to coach UCF just a few years ago.

When Heupel left for Tennessee, UCF’s starting quarterback, Dillon Gabriel, made it known that he was not happy. Gabriel turned to social media to express his feelings.

Gabriel posted on his Instagram that he was surprised Heupel didn’t notify anyone on the team prior to his departure. “No goodbye? Not even a phone call? Crazy,” Gabriel posted.

Gabriel wasn’t finished throwing shade at his former coach, “This has been the best two days since I’ve been on campus! Tomorrow is gonna be a great day!”

It should be interesting to see who UCF will hire as their new head coach, but it is very clear who the players want. The players leading candidate among former and active players is Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Lebby was at UCF in 2018 and 2019 and was universally loved by his players.

The list of rumored names and interested parties needs to be narrowed by the preferences and plans of the A.D.

Here is an example: If you see Louisiana Tech’ Eric Wood hired, that might mean someone like Skip Holtz. Until the A.D. is hired, the field is too big to handicap.

That’s why UCF is one of the best coaching opportunities in recent memory and maybe the best in the 2020-21 cycle.

Yes, I know the 2020-21 cycle included Texas. No, I do not think UCF is a better coaching job than Texas, Auburn or Tennessee, but it is a better opportunity to win immediately and is considerably less stressful than any of those other places. A considerable reputation builder before being thrown to the Power 5 dogs.

Unlike many of its American Athletic Conference peers, UCF has an on-campus stadium, The Bounce House. UCF also built Florida’s first full size indoor practice field. In every manner of physical construction, UCF has outfitted itself like a Power 5 program.

UCF paid Heupel and Scott Frost a starting salary of $1.7 million, which at the time was considered to be big money for a non-Power 5 school.

Today, Houston’s Dana Holgorsen makes about $2 million a year and Cincinnati’s Luke Fickel is making $3.4 million annually.

I expect UCF to keep financial pace with their AAC rivals. I guess that UCF will exceed them immediately or structure an incentive-based contract to catch their next Head Coach. Also, expect UCF to lead the salary pool for assistant coaches.

You don’t have to win a national championship at UCF with these expectations from your fans, donors and the media: win a lot of games, win the AAC, and stay yelling from the rooftops of the Playoff debate.

How many Power 5 programs with unrealistic expectations can claim this? None.

It is not a realistic way to sell the job but imagine if you’re discussing UCF as the idea of being a P5 to potential coaches without the unrealistic pressure.

All UCF has to do is choose wisely from the group that wants the AD job, and then the person the Knights choose needs to select correctly from an even larger pool of football coaches.

If recent history is any indicator, even with a late coaching search, UCF will get the right guy.

Gator Grades

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2020 Florida Gators season has concluded and the team is about to go through some significant changes.

The Gators ended the season with an 8-4 record, which included a very disappointing three game skid (LSU, Alabama, and Oklahoma) at the end.

It is hard not to evaluate this season with mixed results.

Going into the season, the final results (ignoring the horrific performance in the bowl game) would most likely be considered a success. Florida beat Tennessee and Georgia and made it to the SEC Championship game.

On the other hand, they had a horrible showing against a terrible LSU team and an embarrassing on and off field showing in the bowl game.

To me this season was another step forward, but not as big of a step as it could have been.

Florida Gators Offense: The Gators ended the season ranked 4th in ESPN SP+ Metric with 509.8 yards per game (ranked 9th in overall yards per game) with 378.6 yards passing per game (ranked #1 in yards per game) and 131.3 yards rushing per game (ranked 97th in yard per game) and scoring an average of 39.8 points per game (ranked 13th in point per game).

It should go without saying, but the accomplishments that Kyle Trask achieved in 2020 is record setting. You see the numbers but what the numbers do not show is that they were achieved without a rushing game and a below average offensive line.

Kyle Trask ended the season with a Passer Rating of 180 and a QBR of 89.1. He threw for 4,283 yards with a completion percentage of 68.8% with 43 touchdowns and 8 picks. Playing 12 games against all Power 5 schools.

Kyle Pitts is a superstar and even with that I think he slightly outperformed expectations.

Pitts played in eight games in 2020. He caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished 10th in the Heisman voting (the first tight end to finish in the top 10 in 43 years), won the Mackey Award and unanimous first team All-American.

Kadarius Toney had a phenomenal year. Toney finished 3rd in the SEC in receiving yards (13th in the nation). He had a career high in catches with 62, receiving yards with 831 and all-purpose yards with 1,228.

With respect to the running backs, it can be hard to fully grade them because the offense remained one dimensional.

Not that PFF.com is the absolute data points, the offensive line ranked 76th out of 127 (based on multiple metrics).

When you consider the lack of a rushing game and the lack of clean pockets for Trask, this ranking seems painfully accurate. I’ve said it in the past, ‘stars matter’; the 3.76 average for the line produced an average overall performance.

Overall Offensive Grade: A+

Florida Gators Defense: The Gators ended the season ranked 33rd in ESPN SP+ Metric yielding 404.8 total yards per game (ranked 62nd in total yardage per game), with 258.3 passing yards per game (ranked 99th in yardage), and 146.5 rushing yards per game (ranked 48th).

Florida’s defense had three games where they limited the opposing offense to perform less than their season average (Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri).

Overall, Florida defense struggled with sound tackling, communication issues in the secondary and just getting lined up prior to the snap.

Unfortunately, none of these issues were corrected as the season went on.

Historically, this was the worst Florida defense ever! No matter what position group I reviewed, it was all the same: horrible.

Overall Defensive Grade: F

What started off as a promising season with CFP Playoffs aspirations, suffered a speed bump early with a loss to Texas A&M, but recovered with a major beatdown win over Georgia, only to end with a shocking loss to a very poor LSU squad.

Coach Mullen saw his share of hiccups after the Texas A&M game, a brawl on the field with Missouri, the appearance of Coach Vader and the post LSU shoe tossing comments. Mullens stuck his foot in his mouth more than once this season.

Team Grade: C+  

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