The Sixth Man (6/22/10)

College basketball brought to you by the first man off the bench.
USF signee Waverly Austin has not qualified academically and will head to junior college instead.  The 6’10” center was unable to qualify and had to open up his options.  Although he could return to the Bulls in the future, that may be unlikely now.  Austin wasn’t expected to play much as a freshman, but was adding important depth as a big man.  Is it just me, or is USF’s roster turnover as high as any school in the nation?
The NBA draft is getting closer which means we are only days away from seeing former USF star Dominique Jones go in the first round.  There’s still a chance he could slip to the second, but based on everything you see, he should go somewhere in the second half of the first.  Analysts like Jones’ scoring ability and say he’s a better passer than they thought.  They believe he can contribute in the NBA and will have an opportunity to develop his game over the first few years.  The Bulls are looking for the NFL/NFL first round double as former USF football player Jason Pierre-Paul was selected early in this year’s NFL draft.
Don’t let your kid sign with Ball State.  At least not if you want him to actually play there.  In a classic case of he said he said, Ball State denied admission to signee Marvin Jordan.  Jordan’s high school coach is furious because he feels the school led the athlete along throughout the entire recruiting season.  Because he believed he was headed to Ball State to play, Jordan didn’t look at other schools as much as he could have.  In the end, the program dropped him and he had to settle on Niagara.  Ah the trials and tribulations of recruiting.
I’ll admit it.  I like UNC.  I think you pick a side in the Duke/UNC rivalry at some point in your life and ride it out.  Sure you can choose to hate them both, but I went for one to cheer for. So, yes, I do enjoy watching the Tar Heels.  And I’ll really enjoy watching Harrison BarnesThe kid really does have it all.

The Long Snapper (4/23/10)

Day one of the three-part NFL Draft came to an end and saw three Gators and a Bull go in the first 25 picks.  Hats off to Jason Pierre-Paul for becoming the highest former USF player ever selected.  Hats off to Tim Tebow for sneaking himself into the first round.  And, of course, hats off to Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey as well.  It was a good night for the Florida schools (even FSU snuck in a pick at the end) and a great day for the Gators and Bulls.  Consistently having first round selections only helps Florida when it comes to recruiting and USF continues to improve its name.  It’s the whole “why go to one of the big three and possibly fight for playing time for four years when you can come to USF and maybe get a quicker shot at showing what you can do?”  That might not always be the case (in fact, it definitely won’t always be the case), but for now, it’s certainly something recruits will consider.  On to day two.
In case you need a quick recap of exactly what happened last night during the first round of the NFL Draft, EDSBS put together a solid review.  It’s easy to understand and covers a variety of points that should be made.
Why does it continue to seem like the Big 12 is doomed if conference expansion eventually occurs?  The latest I’ve seen is the possibility of Missouri heading to the Big Ten and Colorado jumping to the Pac-10.  To be fair, both of those teams will continue to struggle against the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, and a rejuvenated Nebraska program in the Big 12, but they’ve also both had their moments too.  It seems to me the Tigers won’t fare any better in the Big Ten and the same goes for the Buffaloes in the Pac-10.  Then again, this isn’t about competing.  It’s about money.  The almighty dollar.  Forget about a jump to boost your program.  It’s a jump to boost your bottom-line.  In five years, the landscape of college football could look very different than it does today.
The BCS has released its formula for automatic qualification, but it really doesn’t mean much because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Something about the highest ranked team, regular season computer rankings, and number of teams in the top 25.  But that can’t be it.  The real reason has to be…wait for it…the almighty dollar.  See a theme yet?  As much as the Mountain West and the WAC think they belong, they don’t bring with them the fan bases or revenue-generating abilities the other conferences do.  Maybe one day that will be different, but it’s not currently the case.  During the 90s, you might see a fan in an FSU jersey on the other side of the country.  During the 2000s, you could walk by someone in the middle of Times Square wearing a USC hat.  Do you really think Boise State fever is going to spread the nation in the 2010s (have we decided if we’re going to go with 2010s or 10s yet?)?  It won’t.  Those schools don’t have the national appeal the BCS is looking for.  Look at formulas all you want, for now, the real reason is money.
We’ll call this the Friday Fifth.  Think of it as an added bonus.  This is being reported as the cover for the XBOX 360 version of NCAA Football 11:
The List: In case you can’t tell, I’m a video game player.  I’m not an addict (although I may have been pretty close at one point in my life), but I still find time to pop in the occasional sports game.  Here are some of my favorites over the years:
1. NHLPA ’93.  Obviously.
2. Super Tecmo Bowl.  Again, a no-brainer.
3. NCAA 2002.  Probably not considered one of the greats, but EA made a leap with the first PS2 release of the NCAA franchise.  Today’s game evolved directed from the 2002 version.
4. NFL2K and NBA2K.  Dreamcast, living in a fraternity house, Busch Light.  That pretty much sums up 1999 and 2000 for me, One Eyed Willy, and KP.
5. College Hoops 2K5.  There have been a lot of BAD college basketball games.  This was one of the few I was able to stomach.
6. T&C Surf Designs.  I guess you have to classify this as a sports game.
7. NHL ’10.  Yes, a new one.  You could say I’m addicted to this game.  First time since NHLPA ’93 I’ve actually enjoyed playing a hockey game.
8. FIFA 2001.  The first game I had for PS2 definitely got plenty of play time.
9. RBI Baseball, Bases Loaded, Baseball Stars.  Take your pick.
10. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
The Sixth Man: Many got their wish with the expansion of the NCAA Tournament although it probably wasn’t exactly what they wanted.  The Big Dance hasn’t gone to a 96-team field (thankfully), but instead will expand to 68.  Whoever decided to stop this at 68 deserves a medal.  Thank you for not watering down the tourney anymore than it already is.  Perhaps more important is a new television deal for the tournament that includes TBS, meaning every game from the second round on will be televised.  More tourney on television = more March fun (or madness, would madness be the right word to use there?).

The Long Snapper (4/22/10)

Think the SEC is in a good position to remain THE power conference in college football for the foreseeable future?  Think again.  With rumors continuing to circulate regarding a possible Big Ten expansion, the SEC is on guard.  Why?  Because the Big Ten may not be taking one team to give them the magical number of 12.  They may be looking at three.  Or, yes, even five.  The Big Ten is thinking super conference and the SEC isn’t going to wait for that to happen.  Now that doesn’t mean the SEC is definitely in line for an expansion, but if the others get serious, the SEC will be ready.  Ready for Clemson maybe?  Or what about Georgia Tech?  You can’t tell me either would turn down an invite.  If the Big Ten gains power (and raids the Big East in doing so) and the Pac-10 increases their membership, the ACC could take a step back just by standing still.  And that would be the first place the SEC would look.  The good thing is the SEC isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  While an expansion of the Big Ten could possibly crush the Big East, it doesn’t have the same effect on the SEC.  It may shift power, but the SEC would survive.  But SEC commissioner Mike Slive doesn’t just want to survive, he wants to remain at the top.
The Jacksonville Jaguars appear to have no interest in drafting Tim TebowAt least according to Bob Tebow.  The Jags have not worked out the former Florida star and aren’t showing that they may want to take him in this year’s draft.  But is it all just a smoke screen?  We can’t deny that Tebow in the NFL is a giant question mark.  So are half the players that will be selected in the first round.  Maybe not as much as it may seem with Tebow, but take a look over the last few drafts.  How many first rounders ended up being worthy of where they went in the draft?  Exactly.  With the first round of the draft you have can’t miss guys, guys labeled as can’t miss guys who end up missing for a variety of reasons (stupidity, injury, and bad evaluations of talent being the top three), guys who have the potential to solidly contribute, and those that have talent, but no one is really sure if they will succeed or fall flat.  Tebow falls into that last category, but is he worth the chance?  For the Jags, he probably is.  And that’s why I think Jacksonville showing no interest is merely them not revealing their hand.  Why let everyone know just how much they want Tebow?  Why not just sit where you are with the tenth pick and wait and see how the first nine unfold.  The Buffalo Bills have shown interest, but many don’t think they’ll reach for Tebow at nine.  If that’s the case, the Jags are in the perfect position.  At ten, they may get a solid player who can contribute to a franchise that seems to have more problems than we can count at the moment.  Or at ten, they could take a chance on a guy that may become the best thing they ever did.  He may not, but there’s that chance.  The Jags need to think long and hard about taking it.
Tebow won’t be at the draft, but he will be one of the players ESPN will have on a live feed during the night.  One of the 26 actually.  Tebow will be joined among the live feeders by Maurkice Pouncey (and I’m assuming twin brother Mike) and USF defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.  So even though you won’t see Tebow in New York in a nice, new three-piece suit, he will be among those we’ll get to spend an always somewhat awkward moment with when the time finally arrives and he is selected.  We should take bets on Tebow being the live feed ESPN shows the most.  Then again, that has to be a no brainer.
Rest in peace Dylan Meier.  Meier – who played quarterback at Kansas State from 2002 to 2006 – died after being injured during a hiking trip.  Meier comes from a football family.  Older brother Shad was a tight end with the Wildcats from 1997 to 2000 and younger brother Kerry was a quarterback and wide receiver at Kansas the past few years.  Thoughts go out to the entire Meier family.
The List: Might as well run down those guys who really are can’t miss NFL prospects this year.
1. Eric Berry.  Yup.  That’s it.  I’m going out on a limb and picking one horse and riding that horse until his career is over.  You could immediately point to a handful of other guys and say “there’s no way he doesn’t become a star,” but for me Berry is all I’m willing to get behind for that top category.  It’s not very ballsy of me.  In fact, it’s actually pretty weak.  I’ll admit that.  But that’s part of my point when it comes to Tebow.  How can any team guarantee any other guy will be better for them?  They can’t.  That’s not saying my draft order would go 1) Berry, 2) Tebow because it wouldn’t.  It’s just saying if I’m the Jags and I have the tenth pick and Berry is gone (which he will be) than I’m looking directly at Tebow’s name on my draft board.
The Sixth Man: The debate continues via channels not including this site (which is unfortunate because I would like to think there are a few others out there that have some strong opinions either way).  I’ll just say this, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you not involved in the discussion.  I love the Gators.  I want nothing more than to see them continue to realistically compete for a basketball championship year after year after year.  Now that that’s out of the way…Florida is not Duke.  Florida is not UNC.  Florida is not KentuckyBilly Donovan has put the Gators in a great position to compete with the big boys.  Florida will have its up years and its down years, but in the end, they are not among the pinnacle programs when it comes to college basketball.  Deny it all you want.  Argue it until you lose your voice.  It’s the harsh reality.

The Long Snapper (2/11/10)

ESPN.com’s Brian Bennett puts USF at fifth in his Big East power rankings.  He has the Bulls behind Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Connecticut and tied with Rutgers.  Bennett does however mention that USF may have been the hardest team for him to rank.  Although it won’t please Bulls’ fans, I have to agree with him.  USF is a hard team to predict every year and a new coaching staff doesn’t make that any easier in 2010.  Add that together with a tough road schedule and the Bulls could finish with three losses just as easily as they could finish with six.  Skip Holtz was a good hire and should do good things at USF, but let’s give him some time to get his system running in Tampa before expecting the world.

Is Jason Pierre-Paul that good?  He seems to have first-round talent, but #3 overall?  That seems like a stretch for a guy who played only one year of major college football.  Todd McShay (hate accordingly) has released his latest mock draft and has Pierre-Paul going #3 overall to the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  While the Bucs are in desperate need of a consistent pass rush, they would be reaching for the former USF defensive end at their current position.  If they are really dead set on Pierre-Paul (which they aren’t, McShay just thinks they should take him…of course he also thinks Tim Tebow would be better off forgoing the NFL altogether), this would be a perfect trade down scenario.  Then again, trading down from such a high spot isn’t nearly as easy these days.  McShay also has former Bulls’ safety Nate Allen being selected in the first round.
On Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals’ defensive backs coach Teryl Austin met with Urban Meyer to interview for the Florida defensive coordinator position.  Austin wants the job and the Gators seem very close to offering it to him.  It’s unclear whether Austin would be the sole DC if offered the job or if Chuck Heater will retain the co-defensive coordinator title.  Meyer has been rumored to want to hire an NFL guy to replace George Edwards (another NFL guy) and Austin could be his man.  If the feeling on both sides is mutual, a deal could be struck quickly.
Rumors are everywhere about Florida receiver Andre Debose possibly needing a second surgery on his hamstring.  That doesn’t appear to be the case though and Debose is said to be making good progress.  Though he’ll be limited throughout spring practice, Debose is working hard to get back to full strength and get to 100% by the time the 2010 season starts.  Debose is a talent the Gators desperately need to be healthy for the upcoming season.  If at full speed, he should provide an immediate spark for the offense.
As a new recruiting rule comes into play, Texas is not the least bit happy.  The new rule states a coach-in-waiting must abide by the same rules as the head coach.  What it boils down to is those named to be the next coach can now only make one off-campus visit with a prospect and can’t do it between April 15 and May 31.  Other assistants can have more, but the coach-in-waiting is restricted.  The Longhorns believe they have been singled out with the new rule and aren’t pleased with it.  Texas feels that way because they are one of only two schools who have such a designation at the moment (Maryland is the other).  The NCAA, however, views having a coach-in-waiting as an advantage those schools have over others.  If Mack Brown were to up and resign (ala Urban Meyer), there would be no transitional period leaving prospects to wonder who the next guy will be.  They already know.  So the NCAA is attempting to limit that coach’s exposure to recruits.

The Long Snapper (2/9/10)

USF will have more former players at the NFL Combine than any other Big East team.  Pretty impressive for a program still trying to establish itself as an NFL player provider.  The Bulls will send wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (an early entry), defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (also an early entry) and George Selvie, linebacker Kion Wilson, cornerback Jerome Murphy, and safety Nate Allen to the pre-draft event.  Pierre-Paul has a very real chance of being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in April.  A strong showing at the combine will solidify his status.
Skip Holtz will drop the puck at Thursday night’s Tampa Bay Lightning game.  Of course it’s ceremonial and doesn’t really mean the game begins with the drop.  Sports would be a lot more interesting if it did though.  Throwing out the first pitch should mean you’re really throwing out the first pitch.  None of this for fun crap anymore.  Let’s see Holtz drop the puck then attempt to get out of the way before being run over by angry Canadians.
ESPN.com’s Chris Low has made a list of the top five SEC players he believes will be the toughest to replace.  A top that list is of course former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.  Not necessarily because the highly-touted John Brantley can’t do it, but because of everything Tebow brought to the Gators.  Play on the field, leadership, attitude, etc.  Tebow was much more than another football player.  The offense will change under Brantley and he seems destined to be a great player in his own right, but it’s everything else people are wondering if he’ll bring.  Can he be the emotional leader Tebow was?  Those will be the shoes Brantley is expected to fill.  He’ll be able to win games, but can he get the rest of the team to rise up during the situations they need a leader most?
Low also has a top five list of the SEC newcomers to watch.  The top two on that list have Florida connections.  #1 is new Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton – someone Gator fans surely remember.  Newton is back in the SEC and has the tools to be a very good quarterback for the Tigers.  Look for him to help push Auburn closer to the top of the SEC West.  #2 on the list is Florida redshirt freshman do-it-all athlete Andre Debose.  Debose was one of the top players coming out of high school a year ago, but his hamstring wouldn’t let him get on the field in 2009.  He’ll suit up for the Gators for the first time in 2010 and could end up being one of Florida’s most dangerous offensive weapons.
Chris Leak made a statement before he ever suited up for the Gators.  Something about winning 3-4 National Championships and 2-3 Heisman Trophies.  Not to take away from Leak’s bravado (I was actually quite the Leak supporter during his time at Florida), but many wondered if he should have been so bold.  Leak did leave with a title, and two short years after he was gone the Gators won another, but didn’t reach the level he predicted.  This time around it’s defensive end Lynden Trail.  Trail has been very vocal in his support of Florida and his overwhelming desire to be a Gator (something I, for one, am very happy about) and recently said he believes Florida will win 2-3 National Championships during his time there*.  When Leak said it, it had been years since the Gators won their first title.  When Trail said it, Florida was only just over a year removed from hoisting the trophy and just came off a 13-1 season.  Although some may wish players weren’t so boisterous before stepping on the field, Trail’s prediction has a much better chance of coming true than Leak’s did.
* For your own good, avoid reading the comments left on most Swamp Things articles.