Kipp Branch

Jaguars Draft Needs

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL Draft will be the 87th annual meeting of National Football League franchises to select newly eligible players.

The draft is scheduled to be held in Paradise, Nevada, from April 28–30, 2022.

For the second year in a row the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the number one overall selection. The Jags are a team with many pressing needs. Let us look at the top two areas of need for the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Wide Receiver: The Jaguars have a potential franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who they selected first overall in 2021.

They must build the offense around him and keep surrounding him with more weapons. Their wide receiver corps is good but not great.

Jacksonville paid a pile of money to sign Christian Kirk form Arizona. Kirk was never the #1 option in Arizona, but Jacksonville gave him a #1 receiver contract. We shall see how this plays out. The top five receiving prospects in this draft are:

Garrett Wilson/Ohio State University/Projected top ten pick

Jameson Williams/University of Alabama/Projected top fifteen pick

Drake London/University of Southern California/Projected top fifteen pick

Treylon Burks/University of Arkansas/Projected top fifteen pick

Chris Olave/Ohio State University/Projected First Round

 

To get one of the top five rated wide receivers the Jaguars would need to trade down in the draft for a Garrett Wilson and collect draft capital in the process.

If the top five names above, go as projected in the first round where they are slotted could Jacksonville draft former Georgia WR George Pickens with the first pick in the second round #33 to address the need at WR.

Pickens is a stud who ran 4.47 at the combine 11 months removed from a torn ACL. Pickens is a top thirty rated prospect on many NFL draft boards. This is a position of high need for Jacksonville that needs to be addressed in the first two rounds.

 

Offensive Line: The Jaguars need to replenish the offensive line in 2022. Look no further than the University of Alabama’s Evan Neal.

 

Neal’s Draft Profile:

Rating: 92.93 (All-Pro)

Pro Comparison: Bigger Andrew Thomas

Strengths: Insanely large, impossibly twitched up for his size. Carries his weight extremely well. Loose-hipped blocker with effortless power, which makes him a tremendous asset at the second level. High-end recovery skills because of his suddenness. Creates huge arc for rushers to run around to the QB. Balance could use some work. All-Pro upside and is mostly NFL ready.

Weaknesses: Can get a little overanxious at the second level and lunge, and the same is true in pass protection. Anchor is not as sturdy as expected given his size. Occasionally, small speed rushers get the best of him.

Accolades: 2021- Consensus All-America (two sacks allowed in fifteen starts)

Forty career starts (2020 CFP national champion)

Neal has been projected anywhere from the first overall pick to the fifth overall pick in most mock drafts I have seen.

I think Jacksonville should take Neal with the number one overall pick and draft the best wide receiver on their board with the first selection in second round. Then draft additional wide receivers and maybe some help secondary help in the mid to later round.

To take the next step the Jacksonville Jaguars need to provide Trevor Lawrence with some weapons, or you are setting him up for failure.

The Green Jacket

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Spring is in the air as the world’s best head to Augusta National Golf Club for the 86th playing of the Masters Tournament.

Blooming dogwoods, azaleas, and the beautiful golf sanctuary of Augusta National tells you that Spring has officially arrived on the calendar.

Now news is breaking that Tiger Woods may play this year after a long grueling rehabilitation from an automobile accident that almost cost him a leg adds that much more excitement to an event that kicks off the most prestigious tournament in professional golf.

The weather forecast in Augusta is calling for sunny, cool, fall like temperatures for this year’s event.

Here are my thoughts on the favorites going in the 2022 Masters:

 

2022 Masters odds

 

Jon Rahm +1000: Rahm is considered the best golfer in the world. When his game is on, he dominates. Rahm seems to have conquered the mental side of the game over the past few years. Look for Rahm to be in contention for a Green Jacket in 2022.

Justin Thomas +1400: Maybe it is just me, but I am just not feeling like Thomas will be a factor in the 2022 Masters. Big name, big game, but it is just not his time yet.

Dustin Johnson +1600: Johnson has won at Augusta. With his length he should always be a betting favorite at Augusta. He should be in contention over the weekend.

Cameron Smith +1600: If you watched Smith make putt after putt at The Players Championship you should factor this guy in the mix for the coveted Green Jacket. The Players win has Smith peaking at the right time coming into the first major of 2022.

Scottie Scheffler +1600: Scheffler will be a non-factor which means he will be within two strokes of the lead on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy +1800: A Green Jacket would give Rory the career grand slam, but he has not finished in the top-20 in his last three starts at Augusta. Is Rory placing too much pressure on himself to win at Augusta?

Brooks Koepka +2000: Koepka only has one win since 2019. He has the game for majors, but he is in a victory drought and cannot seem to end it.

Patrick Cantlay +2000: I picked him to win The Players and it did not happen. Does not seem to be on the top of his game currently.

Jordan Spieth +2000: Always a threat at Augusta. Will be a serious contender to win in 2022. The 2015 champion always seems to play well in Augusta.

Viktor Hovland +2000: I know this kid is exceptionally good. Could be a factor in 2022.

Collin Morikawa +2000: Great all-around game. Two-time major winner plays well on all types of courses.

Xander Schauffele +2200: Finished 2nd to Tiger in 2019 at Augusta. He is due. Only a matter of time before he wins a major. Top ten finishes in all four major championships. Top three finishes in the Masters, US Open, and Open Championship. Xander could break through this weekend.

Will Zalatoris +2800: Will had a great run in 2021 finishing second at Augusta. The crowd will be going crazy if this kid is in contention on Sunday.

Bryson DeChambeau +3500: I love to watch Bryson hit the golf ball. Power golf is appealing to the masses.

 

My dream scenario would be for Tiger to compete in the tournament and be in contention on Sunday. That scenario ensures that I do not move out of my recliner on Sunday afternoon.

 

Predictions:

Winning Score: 274 (-14)

Winner: Xander Schauffele

Farewell Freddie

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Los Angeles Dodgers and All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman agreed to terms on a six-year, $162 million contract.

Earlier, Freeman sent this heartfelt message to Braves Country this week via Instagram:

Freeman wrote:

Braves Country,

I don’t even know where to begin. For the past 15 years I got to be a part of your organization. It was truly an honor. We went through the very highs together and some lows but those lows is what made last year so special. You watched me grow up from a baby faced kid to marrying my love @chelseafreeman5 and seeing us bring 3 beautiful boys into this world. I’m so glad my family got to be a part of yours! To Snit, my coaches, teammates, training staff, clubhouse staff, and everyone who made Turner Field and Truist Park so special for my family and I over the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been a blast to have you cheer for me and I hope I was able to bring smiles to a lot of your homes over the years. I gave everything I had day in and day out and I hope you guys saw that as well. Although our time has come to an end, I look forward to seeing and playing in front of you all again. When that time comes, I hope you remember all the wonderful memories we made together. I love you Braves Country! Champions Forever!

Love,

Freddie, Chelsea, Charlie, Brandon, Maximus

After the Braves won their first World Series since 1995 the thought process switched to ‘ok now it is time to resign Freddie Freeman.’ When the lockout hit Braves fans are thinking when this thing is over the first thing Atlanta will do is resign Freddie Freeman.

Once the lockout ended the Freddie watch began. A few days passed and Braves fans like me started asking the question “Will the Braves really let Freddie Freeman walk away?”

We got our answer earlier this week when the Braves traded away center fielder Cristian Pache, catching prospect Shea Langeliers, and pitching prospects Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes to Oakland in return for first baseman Matt Olson.

Olson, an All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, is considered a rising star in MLB circles. At 27 years old, Olson was then inked to an 8-year deal $168 million dollar contract with the Braves through 2030.

The Freddie Freeman era is now over in Atlanta. The realization that MLB is a brutal business comes to mind for the Atlanta fanbase. Here are Freddie’s career numbers as an Atlanta Brave:

At Bats: 5,767

Hits: 1,704

Runs: 969

RBI’s: 941

Batting Average: .295

Home Runs: 271

Freeman was putting together a Hall of Fame career in Atlanta. Now he is off to LA to play for the hated Dodgers.

Who for one second does not think Freddie will end up killing Braves pitching if these teams meet up in the playoffs?

Gone are the days where a player spends his entire career with one team. The sport is driven by money and analytics now.

Thank you, Freddie, for your service in Atlanta. You will be missed greatly. I hope the Braves retire #5 and that number is never worn again by an Atlanta Braves player. You came to Atlanta as a kid and left a decade or so later as a World Champion. Braves Country is eternally grateful to you.

Here is a question that never should have come to mind: If Freeman goes on and has an outstanding career in Los Angeles, does he go into Cooperstown as a Brave or a Dodger?

Can the money and analytic crowd answer that question?

The 5th Major

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are a week away from returning to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for The Players Championship.

The total purse of $20 million is a record for the tournament. The winner will take home over $2 million. Justin Thomas won the 2021 Championship with a score of -14 under par.

 

The Favorites:

John Rahm 10/1: Rahm is the current favorite to win the TPC. Rahm is playing exceptionally good golf so far this year with three top ten finishes.

He is coming into this tournament with his game peaking. At last year’s tournament, Rahm finished in a tie for ninth. He finished with a Sunday score of 73.

You must think if he can improve his play in the final round, he stands a good shot at winning.

Rahm is currently the top ranked player in the world. Rahm is the type of player that can dominate the competition if he gets hot.

Justin Thomas 14/1: Thomas comes in second to Rahm as betting odds go for this year’s tournament.

Since the event last year, Thomas has not won another tournament. Thomas currently ranked seventh in the World Golf Rankings and is still playing as one of the best players on tour.

He already has three Top-10 finishes this season, his latest coming at The Genesis Invitational. In the history of the Players Championship no player has ever won in back-to-back years. History is working against Thomas in this area.

 

Other Odds:

Collin Morikawa 16/1: The Open Champion plays well on tough golf venues.

Morikawa just seems to hover near the top of leaderboards in about every big event on the PGA Tour. If he is within striking distance on Sunday, then he will be a major factor in the outcome.

Patrick Cantlay 20/1: Cantlay is one cool customer on the golf course. Pressure does not seem to bother him at all. He has the mental makeup to win the TPC.

Do not be surprised if Cantlay is holding the TPC trophy at the conclusion of this year’s event. He is that good. Also do not be surprised if Cantlay does not win The Masters in April.

Will Zalatoris 50/1: Who does not want to see Will win the TPC?

Zalatoris will be a huge crowd favorite if he is in contention. This kid brings a ton of excitement to the game of golf. Players like Will Zalatoris provide a bright future for the PGA Tour.

The Course: THE PLAYERS STADIUM COURSE AT TPC SAWGRASS

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was built in 1980 to be the permanent home of THE PLAYERS Championship.

As the first true Stadium Course, it was designed to improve the overall on-site fan experience.

The signature island green on the par-3, 17th hole is one of the most recognized in golf and the course is consistently named among the best in the world.

My Pick: Patrick Cantlay. Cantlay is on track to becoming the number one player in the world in 2022.

Dark Horse: Will Zalatoris. The kid is a great ball striker, and would it not be impressive if the kid wins his first PGA tournament at TPC Sawgrass?

I hope golf gets a big shot in the arm after the negativity surrounding some comments made by Phil Mickelson recently.

Phil has had a brutal week with sponsorship losses after his controversial comments about Saudi Arabia.

Can we give Lefty a break? Society seems so unforgiving these days.

Prove It To Me

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is that time of the year that is dreaded and that is the official ending of football season.

Football, the greatest game on the planet, is in hibernation until August. However, it is never too early to discuss SEC football in the South. Here is a look at my top five teams in the SEC with the most to prove in 2022:

 

1: Texas A&M: All the talent money can buy. They need a good season this year, and need to prove they can win.

Can Jimbo get it done in College Station? Yes, they beat Alabama last season, but they found a way to lose 4 football games.

The Aggies must find a QB that can lead this team to the SEC title game. The new NIL landscape favors the Aggies, who have very deep pockets. If this team can’t win 10-11 games this fall, then the heat starts mounting on Jimbo Fisher.

 

2: LSU: When you think LSU, you think contenders.

LSU will have a new coach, and will have to prove they are making progress.

I think Brian Kelly is a pretty good hire. Talent is never an issue in Baton Rouge, but right now the QB position is a big question mark. If the Tigers can figure that out quickly, they could be factor in the West.

 

3: Tennessee: The Vols have not been relevant since 2007, when they last won the SEC East.

Tennessee has not won a national title since 1998.

Skill position talent is much improved, but Tennessee does not have the offensive or defensive line talent to be a serious SEC contender yet.

Tennessee has lost 15 straight to Alabama and is 1-16 against Florida in the last 17 years.

Since Philip Fulmer was forced out in 2008 the Vols have whiffed on 4 straight head football coaches. Josh Heupel hopes to reverse that trend.

Tennessee went 7-6 in 2021. In the last five years Tennessee is a combined 0-15 against Alabama, Florida and Georgia, which are the 3 biggest games on the Vol schedule. Tennessee needs to beat one of those three teams in 2022.

 

4: Florida: Florida also has a new head coach.

They must prove they can compete in the SEC East. The East is way better when Florida can challenge UGA for that top spot.

Billy Napier was a great hire for UF. There is talent on the roster, but it is undisciplined talent. If Napier can change that culture in Gainesville and recruit then Florida will be back soon.

If Florida can win 8-9 games in 2022 then things should take off quickly in Gainesville.

Since Steve Spurrier retired Florida has missed on 4 of its last 5 football coaches. Only Urban Meyer has had consistent success since 2001.

Florida has not won an SEC or National Title since 2008. Too much talent in the State of Florida for the flagship university not to be a national player and to top it off you just lost to UCF in a bowl game.

 

5 Ole Miss: Ole Miss surprised a lot of people last season by being a top 10 team. Was it a fluke? They must prove they can maintain solid seasons with Lane for years to come.

I don’t think 2021 was a fluke for Ole Miss. If Matt Corral can be replaced then I think this team will finish right behind Alabama, and Alabama does come to Oxford in 2022.

The defense is improving, and we know a Lane Kiffin offense will produce. I think this will be the surprise team in the SEC next year. I believe Ole Miss is here to stay and 2022 will prove that.

I did not mention Auburn because Bryan Harsin is dead man walking on The Plains of Auburn. Of course, it has all been self-induced by Auburn, who set this man up for failure.

Brunswick High Pirates Hire Garrett Grady As Football Coach

Brunswick High Pirates Hire Garrett Grady As Football Coach
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New Captain Coming

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

My friend Sean Pender will be the next football coach at North Hall High School in Hall County, Georgia.

I’m excited for Sean, Dana and the kids as they move to this next chapter in their lives.

I know Sean will be successful because the man is a winner and he has a passion for developing young boys into men. That, folks, is what life is about. Winning and losing football games matter to the casual fan, but building a top-notch football program is way more than that. Winning is a result of the foundations that have been built.

When Sean Pender took the BHS job in 2017 the program was pretty much at rock bottom. No discipline, academics were not up to par, and the list goes on and on.

Sean Pender went to work to reverse the sorry culture that had taken root at Brunswick High School and in 5 short years he built the program into a contender. The 2021 Pirates went 10-0 in the regular season and finished 11-1 in the best season in the program since 1999.

Sean Pender has left his mark on the program. Here is the proof:

Record: 35-21. A .625 winning percentage which stands currently as the best in school history.

Playoff Wins: 3. Prior to the Pender tenure the last playoff win for BHS was in 2010.

Region Championships: 2. Pender shared a region title in 2020 with two other schools and won it outright in 2021. BHS has 8 region football titles in its football history dating back to 1968. Pender produced 25% of those championships in 5 years.

Perfect Regular Season: 1. The 2021 Pirates went undefeated in the regular season. The school has 3 undefeated regular seasons in school history. Sean Pender accomplished that in his 5th season.

Coaching Staff: Sean Pender has developed the best coaching staff in this area in my opinion. A loyal dedicated staff. The program mission statement of “All About The Family” is as real as it gets. The kids and coaches love each other and go to battle like that on every Friday night.

Culture: Sean Pender turned a losing selfish culture into a championship culture in 5 short years that is on a solid foundation moving forward.

My wife, Sandra and I have a great friendship with Sean and Dana Pender that will continue despite the fact that they will be in North Georgia.

The best thing you can say about a football coach is did they leave the program in better shape than they found it? Well Sean Pender left BHS in 100% better shape than he found it. Sean Pender leaves a winning culture at BHS.

I’m going to miss my dear friend. I love him and his family. I will also will be eternally grateful for the impact the Pender’s had on the school I love with a passion the Brunswick High Pirates.

Well done my friend. Now go build a championship culture at North Hall High School.

You are one hell of a football coach! The 27th Annual Branch Camping Trip dates are January 11-15, 2023. The committee met and Sean Pender is now an official 5-Star Camper! That’s the equivalent of a State Title in football.

Wonder and Ponder

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

2021 has been a pretty good sports year in these parts. As we close out the year here are a series of sports questions that you can ponder.

  1. Why did UGA fans eat the “rat poison” before the SEC title game against Alabama? Everyone knows UGA has one of those head scratcher games every season.
  2. Stetson or JT? The media loves to create drama. Kirby knows what he is doing. Kirby is 11-7 in his career against top ten teams and 64-15 overall. Relax folks. January 10th is coming soon and then there will be no more 1980 jokes.
  3. Will Georgia finally beat Alabama once again in football? Tune in 0n January 10, 2022 Dawg fans.
  4. Does Dan Mullen think recruiting is important now? I’m thinking maybe so.
  5. How many times has Florida made the College Football Playoff? Tim Tebow seems so long ago.
  6. How will Urban Meyer and Jacksonville mesh? Oops we got that answer 3 weeks ago at 1AM in the morning.
  7. Why is FSU horrible in football? It has been a nightmare in Tally. I don’t see it ending soon either. Coach Prime is waiting by the phone Seminoles.
  8. Will Nick Saban retire soon? Damn I hope so.
  9. What in the world has happened to Auburn football? You fire Gus because you hated being 8-4 every season. Now you are sitting at 6-7 after losing to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl.
  10. Will Georgia Tech football ever recover? The 373 GT fans in state of Georgia want to know.
  11. Will the Jacksonville Jaguars finally hire the right head coach? Eric Bieniemy fans like me would like to know. Please get it right this time Jags.
  12. How did college football get so bad in the state of Florida? UCF is the best college football program in the state currently. Wow, just wow!
  13. Who blew the largest lead ever in the Super Bowl? The Atlanta Falcons haven’t been the same since that debacle. The Matty Ice era is over. It is time to draft a QB for the future.
  14. Why haven’t the World Champion Atlanta Braves resigned Freddie Freeman yet? Seems like they could have taken care of this right after the championship parade.
  15. Who is the third best team in the SEC currently behind Alabama and Georgia? The 10-2 Sugar Bowl bound Ole Miss Rebels would like to know.
  16. Who bailed out on the Gator Bowl this year? Nobody has heard from the 8-4fit Texas A&M Aggies lately. Jimbo is laughing all the way to the bank.
  17. Is the SEC overrated in football in 2021? Auburn lost to Houston, Mississippi State lost to Texas Tech, Missouri lost to Army, and Florida lost to UCF in bowl games. The evidence is strong in favor.
  18. Are the Brunswick High Pirates the premier high school football program in Glynn County, Georgia? Of course they are.
  19. Has AEW surpassed WWE? A resounding yes! Glynn County’s own Anna Jernigan will be the AEW Women’s World Champion before her 30th birthday. Take it to the bank.
  20. Why is John Willis not in the Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame? My football coach deserves to be in the local hall. It is way past time. Make it happen soon please.

Happy New Year to all. May all of your sports wishes come true in 2022.

 

Brunswick High Pirates Coach’s Show w Sean Pender November 24

Brunswick High Pirates Coach's Show w Sean Pender November 24
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Brunswick High Pirates Coach’s Show w Sean Pender November 17

Brunswick High Pirates Coach's Show w Sean Pender November 17
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