Hard Knocks

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Since its premiere in 2001, the HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks” has given its’ viewers an inside look at the preseason preparations of an NFL franchise.

The behind-the-scenes show has given NFL fans an in-depth look at some memorable moments over the years, from Chad Ochocinco’s final moment as a professional football player to the sideshow that was Antonio Brown’s brief tenure with the Raiders to the MMA-esque atmosphere of the fight-riddled Atlanta Falcons training camp.

Regardless of the fact that the show is an Emmy-winning production, many NFL coaches and GMs aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to be given the Hard Knocks spotlight.

The intrusive presence of camera crews at every practice, meeting, and team activity is understandably seen by many as a distraction.

In fact, the show has gotten a bit of a reputation as a potential jinx with three Head Coaches being fired either during or after the season they were profiled on the show.

In fact, the tendency to avoid being selected for the show got so ingrained that the league had to take measures to make sure there would be a team for the show.

In 2013, NFL executives announced that if no team volunteered to participate in Hard Knocks, the league could force a team to participate, as long as the team was not exempted by three circumstances: they’ve already been on the show in the previous 10 seasons, they have a first-year head coach, or they reached the playoffs in either of the two previous seasons.

For the 2021 season, there are five teams that do not meet any of those criteria; the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, and those media darlings the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys would seem to be the odds-on favorite to be selected this year, since they’ve been absent from the show since 2008 and they still (for whatever reason) continue to get some of the biggest ratings in the league.

A compelling case could be made for the Jaguars, however.

Yes, they have a first-year head coach in Urban Meyer. Although that could allow them to be excluded, the Jaguars have volunteered several times to be on the show but have been turned down every time (that NFL Network spinoff in 2004 doesn’t count).

The team & its fans are starving for some prime-time exposure. This upcoming December will mark ten years since the Jags last Monday Night Football appearance, and the 2018 matchups against the Steelers were the first Sunday Night Football slots since 2008.

Jagnation just wants some prime time attention that doesn’t involve a dreaded Thursday Night Football appearance.

The 2021 season of Hard Knocks seems to be just what the doctor ordered.

How will Urban Meyer fare getting his feet wet by diving headfirst into the NFL pond?

What will camp look like for the worst kept secret of a #1 overall pick in Trevor Lawrence?

Which leads into the side-story of what happens to the Legend of Gardner Minshew II?

How will James Robinson follow up his history-making rookie season after notching the most yards from scrimmage by an undrafted rookie ever?

It all adds up to an intriguing preseason for a dismal 1-15 team.

Will the Jaguars wind up on HBO? NFL.com writer & host of the Around the NFL podcast Dan Hanzus seems to think so, even though he “doesn’t lean on any behind-the-scenes awareness of the decision-making process” but instead relies on his “broad institutional knowledge and an understanding of the shifting league landscape.”

In fact, he calls it a premonition that the 100+ cameras of the Hard Knocks team will be camping out on the St. Johns this year.

If past seasons hold true, we should know for sure one way or another at the earliest by the end of March.

The Truth

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been an interesting week in the crowded fish tank known as the local sports market in Coastal Georgia.

It is a crowded field indeed, where different outlets rush to be the first to claim journalistic “Gold”. I understand the marketing side of things, but is it really necessary in tiny Coastal Georgia?

Jeff Herron was recently named as the new head coach of Camden County. That story was broke by Jason Bishop live on K-Bay 106.3 FM in Kingsland on February 6th, 2021. Bishop also announced live last Saturday that an announcement was coming on Monday.

Another outlet claimed that they broke this story on Monday morning before the Camden school system made it official. That was just plain wrong.

Does it really matter who broke the story of Herron returning to Camden? Not really because it was the worst kept secret in Coastal Georgia since Christmas. I just wanted to set the record straight for those who think it matters.

I love local sports in Coastal Georgia, particularly my Brunswick High Pirates, especially BHS football.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to bring the call of Pirate football over the local airwaves for 151 Friday nights since 2007 with my broadcast partner Teddy Bishop, who has the Home Broadcast Booth in Glynn County Stadium named after him.

Many people have their hobbies. Many fish, hunt, ride bikes, etc. My hobby is Brunswick High football. Don’t believe me ask my wife Sandra, who files missing person reports on me during the fall football season.

This article I write every week for Southern Sports Edition is also a hobby for me to be able to give my opinions on a wide range of sports topics of interest to me in our area.

Nobody in Coastal Georgia is taking Stephen A. Smith’s spot on ESPN so let’s make it about the kids and the adults who make it their professional mission to help them develop.

Also, nobody in Coastal Georgia is going to be bringing us the SEC game of the week on CBS any time soon. Point being we take ourselves a little too serious at times in the tiny sports fish tank of Coastal Georgia.

And let me close with this once again. Jason Bishop broke the “Jeff Herron back to Camden” story live on K-Bay 106.3 FM in Kingsland on February 6th, 2021.

I heard it with my own ears. I can’t make this stuff up folks.

Tournament Time

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For college basketball fans around the country, we are just under two weeks away from the tournament season that each of us felt robbed from a year ago.

Thankfully, the sports world has been able to work around those obstacles and resume play.

With that time of year rolling around again the spotlight appears to be on the SEC Tournament more than recent years due to the fact there is a new frontrunner.

The SEC Tournament beginning March 10th, is held at Bridgestone Arena, in Nashville Tennessee and with Alabama leading the with a 13-1 conference record it is shaping up to be a good one.

Let’s take a look and see how each contender is looking heading into the last week of regular season conference play.

Alabama 18-6 (13-2): Ranked 6th in the country, The Alabama Crimson Tide has dominated the SEC in conference play only giving up losses to 18th ranked Missouri and 24th ranked Oklahoma team in the BIG12 vs. SEC Challenge.

Nate Oats and The Crimson Tide have relied on the “Three and D” play style (often shooting over 40% from three) and it paid off pretty well most of the season with a couple of hiccups recently.

The Alabama squad should be well rested coming off of a double by and not playing until noon on March 12th.

Arkansas 18-5 (10-4): Ranked 20th in the country The Razorbacks are on an eight-game conference win-streak currently with a huge test against LSU on Saturday.

Adding to their win-streak with an impressive victory Wednesday night over Alabama, the Razorbacks appear to be playing their best basketball confidently at the right time.

LSU 14-7 (9-5): This is an LSU team that can flat out score with Guard Cameron Thomas (Averaging 22.7 ppg) who leads the league in scoring, putting up 104 on the Auburn Tigers.

After their statement across the league against Auburn I think they have put the SEC on notice.

Florida 12-6 (8-5): After the unfortunate loss of the Gators key player Keyontae Johnson (Preseason SEC Player of the Year) back in December, many people wrote Mike White’s squad off.

Against all odds Florida has played themselves into maybe a four seed in the SEC Tournament and maybe an eighth seed in the national tournament.

Tennessee 16-6 (9-6): Currently ranked 25th in the country, the Tennessee Volunteers have been famous for their defense these past few years. However, in recent games the Vols are giving up over one point per possession while also being inconsistent with their scoring.

Ole Miss 13-9 (8-7): Considered a bubble team with some work to do, according to Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi, but the Rebels have been on the move recently.

Winning five out of their last six games has allowed Ole Miss to have the opportunity to use the conference tournament to add to their resume for an at-large for the national tournament.

Missouri 14-7 (7-7): This 24th ranked Missouri team is a team that is trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time losing four out of their last five games.

Missouri is another team that will look to try and add to their resume in the SEC Tournament but with quite a bit of work to do it seems nearly impossible.

Kentucky 8-13 (7-7): Obviously Kentucky is considered one of college basketball’s “Blue Blood” programs but has had an unfortunate year nonetheless.

With their only hope at a national tournament appearance is through winning the SEC Tournament, it is fair to say that goal is out of reach.

Teams that are eliminated from an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Better luck next year…

 

Georgia                  14-9 (7-9)

Mississippi State    12-11 (6-8)

Auburn                    11-13 (5-10)

South Carolina        5-11 (3-9)

Texas A&M              8-7 (2-6)

Vanderbilt                6-13 (2-11)

 

The SEC Tournament starts March 10th and although Alabama has seemingly run away with the regular season, the conference championship is up for grabs for anyone.

Only time will tell if we will get to see an SEC team appear in the FInal Four for the third time in four years.

Farewell

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When I was in high school my Dad wrote a weekly column for our local paper titled “The Way I See It.”

Each column revolved around our family and the topics ranged from visiting my aunt in Japan to rating movies based on how many bathroom breaks my youngest brother took.

Beside the columns being really well written (I believe he won a few awards for them over the years) I remember thinking how great it must be to write about something you enjoy; all I was writing were 8-page reports on books I didn’t want to read in the first place.

When I got a call six years ago, gauging my interest in writing a weekly sports column, I jumped at the chance. I was addicted to sports growing up. If I wasn’t at practice or playing pickup games I was watching them on TV.

My room was covered in posters with pennants outlining the tops of my walls, and almost all my clothes had some team logo or athlete on them. Sports have always been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember, but like with most things, interests change over time.

Over the past few years those weeknights spent watching games and ESPN shows have been replaced by hanging out with my wife of over 18 years. (I’m not sure how she put up with me for the first 16 years, but bless her for doing so.)

And those weekends spent gorging myself on football and basketball games, they are now spent watching my 10-year-old son make regional and state cuts in all his swimming events, or seeing my daughter play the French Horn at an All-State conference.

I’ve upgraded from memories I’ll forget in two weeks to memories that will last me a lifetime.

So, as I write my final column for the Southern Sports Edition there are two people I need to thank.

The first is Jason Bishop, owner of SSE, for making that call 6 years ago and allowing the teenager’s dream in me to become a reality. What Jason has built in the Golden Isles is something special that I hope people will continue to support.

Jason, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to write what I wanted to write, when I wanted to write it.

And of course, I need to thank you, the reader. Thank you for logging on every week to read the words of someone who openly despises Georgia football, roots against the Falcons, and doesn’t even pay attention to the Braves, all while tolerating my obscure pop culture references. Sometimes it felt as if I was the leader of the band. (And there you have it folks, a Dan Fogelberg reference!)

My hope is you’ve enjoyed reading my articles half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

I wanted to end this with some poignant words of wisdom, but like many mediocre writers before me, I came up with nothing. Instead, here are the life lessons one of my longtime, closest friends bestowed upon me in my 7th grade yearbook:

“You learn everything you need to know in kindergarten- playtime is for suckers; nap time is better when there’s someone else on your mat; never cross the monkey bars with your teeth; and never, NEVER, eat meatloaf.”

And that’s the way I see it.

 

The Return Of Jeff Herron

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Camden County Wildcat football program has found a new Head Football Coach and it is the man who built the program.

Bob Sphire resigned as Head Coach earlier in the month.

Sphire was coming off of a 5-6 season with the Wildcats.

In the 2020 campaign Camden suffered blowout losses to Coffee, Warner Robins and Colquitt in three consecutive games.

In the Warner Robins game, Camden was put on a running clock in the 4th quarter for the first time in the program’s history.

Sphire took Camden to 3 playoff appearances during his 4-year tenure. Those 3 playoff appearances ended up all being losses in the first round to Walton, Marietta and Parkview, respectively.

The former Camden Head Coach was 23-20 during his time at Camden, and 3-9 in the region.

Sphire went 0-8 against region foes and powerhouses Lowndes and Colquitt in his time as head coach.

And so, the page turns and enters the Camden new coach who is a familiar face, Jeff Herron.

Herron was the head coach at Camden from 2000-2012. During his tenure with the Wildcats he won 12 straight region titles and 3 state championships.

Jeff Herron comes back to the Georgia Coast after being on the Tennessee Tech staff this past year.

The legendary coach returns to Camden with a career record of 312-54.

Herron’s last head coaching job was at T.L. Hanna High School in South Carolina and in 2 years there he amassed a 25-2 record. A year before that he won his 5th state championship with Grayson in Atlanta going 14-1.

Herron was the Head Coach at Oconee High School from 1997 to 1999 and won his first state title there. He went 33-6 at Oconee. When Herron took over the Oconee program the school had won a total of 8 games in 4 years.

During Herron’s first stay in Kingsland, he had a record 154-18. At one point the Wildcats won 58 straight regular season games under Herron, which is a Georgia record.

Herron had the Wildcats ranked inside the top 25 nationally six different seasons and the Camden program was named the program of the decade in the state of Georgia in the 2000’s.

The Wildcat program is looking to become a consistent state power once again and have returned to their roots to do so.

Life Of A Dawguar

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Every fan has at least one moment in their sporting life that they remember precisely where they were and what they were doing when it happened. I have two.

The first is January 1, 1981. I was 9 years old, and I remember clearly watching my quiet, reserved, school teacher mom literally jumping up and down on our living room couch screaming “GO! GO! GO!” as Hershel Walker rumbled up the middle for 25 yards against some Irish dudes.

It’s the first Georgia game I can remember watching, and it’s when I first realized there was something special about this game called “football.”

Those were some good days. The three years of Hershel Walker between the hedges was enough to spoil a budding football fan. A national championship, a trip to a second championship game, and a Heisman Trophy?

One could get used to this! Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and pat early-80s me on the head and say “there, there.” Football life for the Dawg Fan was not sunshine & roses for large swaths of the coming decades.

Oh sure, there were some great moments – the 2018 Rose Bowl, the 2005 SEC Championship over LSU, the 2007 “storm the field” victory over Florida. But for every great moment like these, there’s a Prayer at Jordan Hare, a 2nd & 26, and pretty much any game against Florida in the Spurrier years.

The second defining sports memory in my life came on November 30, 1993. I was throwing darts with some fraternity brothers at a place called The Brick in downtown Milledgeville when I looked up to the TV over the bar to see the announcement that Jacksonville had been awarded the 32nd NFL franchise.

I let out a massive holler that literally left everyone else in the place silent. Under normal circumstances, I would have been mortified, but I was elated. My hometown was getting an NFL team! (Yes, I know. I’m from Brunswick, but as Jim Rome once said, Brunswick is just a suburb of Jacksonville that happens to be in another state. Again, tell me I’m wrong.)

Much like my early days as a citizen of Dawgnation, the early days of Jaguars fandom was the stuff of legends.

The AFC Championship game in our second year. Three consecutive trips to the postseason in the years following. That epic 14-2 season in 1999. And then, much like the post-1983 Dawgs, it all came crashing down. The Blaine Gabbert years. The Justin Blackmon debacle. Those damn tarps. The Tennessee &!%$*#@ Titans.

Yes, you could say I’m a glutton for punishment. Doubly so when you realize how few people fall into the Venn Diagram intersection of “Dawg fan” and “Jags fan” – “Dawguars,” if you will.

Most Dawg people are Falcon fans simply due to geography, regardless of how allegedly infrequently the Falcons draft UGA players  – three since 1995 by the way.

Three players, coincidentally, is how many UGA alums the Jaguars have drafted in that same span…and also how many North Avenue Trade School “players” have snuck their way onto the Jags roster as well.

All of those numbers are dwarfed by the massive 11 players from Gainesville that have gone on to wear teal & black.

Eleven hated amphibians that we booed on Saturdays that we now have to choke down the bile and root for on Sundays.

Players like Fred Taylor, one of the Pride of the Jaguars, that broke our heart for years at the WLOCP. First rounders like Taven Bryan & CJ Henderson. And now, after the Marrone era, we now welcome a former Gator to the Head Coaches’ office – Mr. Urban Meyer. Ugh.

Whether or not this winds up being another Pete Carroll success or another rare Nick Saban failure in the NFL is yet to be seen.

I hold high hopes that Urban will be able to take that “generational talent” headed our way from Clemson (really? I’ve gotta support a Clemson player now, too? Fine…) and return us to the halcyon days reminiscent of those first five years of our franchise history.

If he gets us our first Lombardi, this Dawg will be understandably ecstatic.

I’m just glad it’s not Spurrier. Even I have limits.

Hot Bed

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Glynn County Georgia has produced some phenomenal athletes in the past 40 years. Let’s take a look at a few that have put Glynn County in the spotlight:

Kwame Brown:  A graduate of Glynn Academy, Brown was the first overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards, and was the first number one draft pick to be selected straight out of high school.

Over the course of his 12-year career, he played for the Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers.

Not many counties in our country can say they had the first overall selection in any professional sports draft. Brown put Glynn Academy basketball on the map around the state, and carved out a nice NBA career.

Darius Slay: Big Play Slay of the Philadelphia Eagles is currently or was the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. Think about that for a second folks.

Darius Slay is the best athlete I have ever seen wear the blue and gold at Brunswick High.

Slay could do it all in high school. He returned kicks, played running back, game breaking wide receiver, and played defensive back when needed.

Slay got drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and developed into a Pro-Bowl CB. Slay is in his prime and has a few more years left in the NFL.

Davis Love III: DL3 has won 21 events on the PGA Tour, including one major championship: the 1997 PGA Championship. He won the Players Championship in 1992 and 2003.

He was in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking for over 450 weeks, reaching a high ranking of 2nd. He captained the U.S. Ryder Cup teams in 2012 and 2016. Love was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.

In the 1980’s Love did his part in establishing the Glynn Academy golf program as the premier golf school in the State of Georgia.

With a couple of breaks Love could have won the 1996 US Open, 2003 British Open, and the 1995 and 1999 Masters. I have sat at home on too many Sunday’s to count and lived and died on every shot DLIII hit.

Morgan Brian: Brian attended Frederica Academy and led the Knights to four consecutive soccer state titles.

Brian was also an All State Basketball player at Frederica. Brian ended her high school soccer career with 186 goals and 95 assists. She was a two-time Parade All-American and two-time Gatorade Georgia State Player of the Year.

In 2010, she was named an NSCAA High School and Youth All-American and was also the 2010 NSCAA Youth Player of the Year as well as the 2010 Parade National Player of the Year. In 2011, she was named Gatorade National Player of the Year. Brian was also the first soccer player to be honored as the Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year in 2011.

Brian has competed for the US in the FIFA World Cup and in the Olympics. Her married name is now Gautrat, Morgan Brian Gautrat is the face of Glynn County soccer.

Adam Wainwright: As my buddy Scott Spence asks in sports discussions how many people in Glynn County history have gotten the last out in a World Series clinching game? Answer Adan Wainwright.

Wainwright was the Gatorade player of the year in Georgia in 2000 and drafted in first round by the Atlanta Braves then was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Waino has spent his entire career with the Cardinals.  Wainwright has won 167 games, has three All-Star selections, two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and finished in the top three in the Cy Young Award balloting four times. Glynn Academy’s baseball field is named after him.

You still have Dee Jay Dallas, Justin Coleman, Tracy Walker, and potential other future professional athletes to discuss in the upcoming years. Glynn County is a hotbed for sports.

Descending Hawks

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Hawk fans across the country seemed to be optimistic about this season with Atlanta looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 when they played the Washington Wizards.

In order to reach those goals, Atlanta needs to win games and losing to the Knicks like they did recently 123-112 isn’t going to cut it.

Almost exactly a year ago the Hawks traded for Houston center Clint Capela but fans had to wait until this season to see him in action due to a heel injury.

However, so far this season Capela has averaged 13.9 ppg, 14.0 rpg, and 2.2 blocks per game which, to a team that ranked 27th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency, is a tremendous addition to a team with great shooting ability.

The Hawks appear to be a team stacked with a young talent, and with young talent in today’s NBA that usually suggests many jump shots.

Atlanta does fall into the stereotype but they do it quite well. Behind the fan favorites in Trae Young, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter, the Hawks have no shortage of shooting.

Hawks General Manager, Travis Schlenk even added depth for the shooters with additions of Gallinari and Bogdanovic, while also bringing in veteran leadership.

The numerous offseason moves made Atlanta look like they were going to be able to compete with everyone this season. The Hawks had people buying what they were doing early on while they were able to hang with the Nets on back-to-back games.

Now, with Atlanta sitting at 12-16 and third in the division (11th in the East), they are just a few spots out of the playoffs and Hawks All-Star hopeful Trae Young wants nothing less.

There is no doubt that Trae Young and company can sell tickets, but in a world where nobody can buy those tickets these consecutive losses seem much larger to the fans at home.

The Hawks are currently on a four-game skid beginning with their first nationally televised game of the season a week ago against the Mavericks.

Since then, they have taken losses from the Spurs, Pacers, and Knicks, all of which by more than 10 points. So, I think it is fair to say that Atlanta is in a slump and giving up 120 points a game isn’t going to make it any easier.

Although Clint Capela is having a career year, he can’t do it all. The Hawks need to have the veteran leadership from Gallinari and Rondo (who just won a championship last season) begin to assert themselves for the young and inexperienced players.

The three best defenders for Atlanta are Capela, Hunter, and Collins, all of which are consistently in the starting five for Head Coach Lloyd pierce. So, while the Hawks added many shooters to try and keep scorers on the floor, they have not been able to add depth and strengthen the defensive side of the ball.

I am not saying it is abandon ship mode in Atlanta, however, I am saying it is gut wrenching time. With the All-Star break a month away, teams and players will be putting their best foot forward to try and set themselves up to be in contention for a top eight seed within the conference while others will look to distance themselves from the pack.

If Atlanta cannot begin to turn things around, Hawks fans will begin to point a finger at someone here soon.

Draft Board

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL Draft will start April 29 in Cleveland, Ohio.

We have plenty of time to speculate how teams will address their needs leading up to that.

Let’s take a look around the NFC South and look at who these teams should select with their first-round pick.

Atlanta: The Falcons started the season with five losses and finished with a 4 – 12 record. Dan Quinn was fired after the slow start.

Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith was hired as head coach once their season ended. As OC for the past two years in Nashville Smith showed us that he knows how to force feed Derrick Henry.

Atlanta has the 4th overall pick and they have a decision to make. Should they move on from Matt Ryan and draft a young quarterback? Or do they believe in the offense and select a player to help on the porous defense?

If they want to keep Ryan, then Alabama corner back Patrick Surtain II is the best pick. I feel old because I remember his dad from Madden 2003. He’s the best corner in the draft and he would instantly help the secondary.

If they decide to go with a quarterback, they will have to choose from Trey Lance (North Dakota St.), Mac Jones (Alabama) or Zach Wilson (BYU). I think Wilson is the best out of these three and should strongly be considered if he’s still on the board.

Carolina: The Panthers were 5 – 11 in 2020 and have the 8th pick.

All-World running back Christian McCaffrey missed the majority of the season. They don’t have many offensive weapons other than McCaffrey.

They did add quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and speedy receiver Robby Anderson in free agency last year. Anderson did have 95 receptions, 1,096 yards and 3 scores but he’s not a number one receiver.

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts would be a great addition. Pitts is 6’6, 246 pounds and a very good athlete. In 8 games he had 43 catches, 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. He could have an impact like Travis Kelce does for the Chiefs.

Quarterback could also be an option if they like the players that will still be available.

New Orleans: The Saints (12 – 4) have the 28th pick. First ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees is expected to retire. They pick so late in the first round that quarterback is not an option.

Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins would be a good pick. He’s 6’4, 260 pounds and versatile. He blocked two kicks on special teams. He had a career high 14 tackles against an SEC team (Arkansas).

South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn could also be an option. His father Joe was a receiver for the Saints.

Tampa Bay: The Bucs (11 – 5) won the Super Bowl in Tom Brady’s first season with the team. They are strong on offense so they will probably draft a defensive player.

Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai would be a good pick. In 9 games this season he had 54 tackles and 5 sacks.

Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon might also be considered. He had 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 8 games.

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.

 

 

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