Star football recruit’s mom walks out after son picks Florida over Bama, Tennessee

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 4:51 PM

BREAKING  NEWS: GWOC to split - 10 teams to form separate league

On one of the biggest days of his life, Jacob Copeland, one of the top wide receiver recruits in college football, picked Florida as his school of choice, angering his mother, who walked out of the signing ceremony live on television.

Copeland, a Florida native, was dressed in red and announced the Gators were his team. His mom, wearing an Alabama sweatshirt and Tennessee hat promptly left the table and walked off as students cheered Copeland’s signing.

This wasn’t the first time a mom had issues with where their son chose to play football. Landon Collins earned the ire of her mom for picking Alabama over her favorite LSU. 

Mom was angry again two years later when little brother Gerald Willis picked Florida.

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If Alabama football players were Marvel characters, these would be best fits

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Alabama football-Marvel-Nick Saban-Damien Harris-Tua Tagovailoa-Tony Brown-Kirby
            Smart-Raekwon Davis

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you read the headline and thought, “Why the hell would someone waste time comparing Alabama football players to comic characters,” your guess is as good as mine.

But it’s the offseason and Black Panther just came out so here we are. We could write another depth chart piece, but why not have a little fun.

Damien Harris as Black Panther

This one feels right. After announcing that he would return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season, Damien Harris seemingly took the mantle as king of the University of Alabama.

Not only is he a great football player, but Harris isn’t your typical “stick to sports” athlete. Harris has been outspoken on social issues. He helped get an Alabama student who made racist remarks on video kicked out of school. That alone was enough to earn him the Black Panther spot. Shooting his shot at Demi Lovato was icing on the cake.

With a strong senior season, Harris has a chance to rewrite Alabama’s record books. He could become the first Alabama player to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. He’s rushed for 2,197 yards and 14 touchdowns during his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa. Harris is only 1,394 yards off the former king’s (Derrick Henry) career rushing record.

Raekwon Davis as the Hulk

With Tony Brown and Ronnie Harrison moving on, Raekwon Davis sits alone on the list of Alabama players you wouldn’t want to see in a dark alley.

The guy got shot and made a sack in a football game a week later. He’s an animal.

Davis exploded onto the scene as a sophomore last season, finishing third on the team with 69 tackles. He led the team with 8 1/2 sacks and finished second with 10 1/2 tackles for loss. He added an interception and a fumble recovery.

Another season like that could have Davis being mentioned as a NFL first-round pick.

Watch the video below and try not to imagine the Hulk tearing through everything around him. What the Hulk does to cities and buildings, Davis does to offensive linemen and quarterbacks. I repeat: The guy is an animal.

Miller Forristall as Captain America

My first thought upon seeing Miller Forristall when Alabama brought up its 2016 early enrollees for interviews was, ‘Wow, this kid looks like Steve Rogers before the Captain America transformation.’ Forristall has since bulked up during his two years in the strength and conditioning program.

Nick Saban as Nick Fury/Professor X

It was tough to settle on a role for Nick Saban because he has traits from both characters. He plays mind games like Professor X, but isn’t afraid to curse you out like Samuel L. Jackson — I mean, Nick Fury.

Kirby Smart as Magneto

This one just made sense. Like Professor X and Magneto, Saban and Kirby Smart were once good friends and colleagues before Smart/Magneto left to become a “bad” guy.

No matter how hard he tries, Magneto can never seem to get the best of his old friend Professor X. In their lone career meeting as head coaches, Smart appeared to have the upper hand on Saban until he unleashed a secret weapon (see next line).

Tua Tagovailoa as Spiderman

When you look at Tua Tagovailoa, you think “no way a freshman should be doing this on such a big stage.” Same goes for Spider-Man, a high school kid taking out bad guys in between school periods.

Tua’s game-winning touchdown to DeVonta Smith was delivered with the same precision Spidey uses to sling his webs.

Mack Wilson as Iron Man (remember, just a fun post)

Seriously, Mack Wilson must have a personal photographer or a group of interns stuck in a room finding photos of him online.

Like Tony Stark, Wilson does what’s best for the team, but he also has sort of a “look at me” attitude when he’s doing it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long it doesn’t get in the way of the overall goal.

Mac Jones as Hawkeye/Clint Barton

You kind of forget at times that Mac Jones is there because he’s overshadowed by teammates, but he plays an important role and deserves a mention.

Honorable mention: Tony Brown as Wolverine

A loner who kind of does his own thing, but will help the team when necessary. Doesn’t care how the job gets done as long as it gets done. Insanely ripped. Has massive chip on his shoulder because of people who have “lied.” (Thanks, Dabo and Hunter Renfrow).

The post If Alabama football players were Marvel characters, these would be best fits appeared first on SEC Country.

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Dayton women two spots out of top 25

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 2:17 PM

Dayton players huddle before a game against Duquesne on Jan. 31, 2018, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Staff Writer
Dayton players huddle before a game against Duquesne on Jan. 31, 2018, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff(Staff Writer)

A 15-game winning streak has moved the Dayton Flyers two spots closer to the top 25 in the Associated Press women’s basketball poll.

Dayton received 29 points in voting Monday. It’s two spots out of the top 25. It’s just behind Minnesota, the only other team receiving votes left out of the top 25. Both trail No. 25 Oklahoma State.

Dayton (21-4, 14-0) clinched the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship Sunday with a 79-54 victory against Fordham at UD Arena. Dayton plays George Mason in its final home game at 7 p.m. Wednesday and closes the regular season with a game at Saint Louis at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The 15-game winning streak is tied for the third longest in school history.  The Flyers won 18 games in a row in a streak that began in February 1980 and ended in November of the following season. Dayton has twice won 16 in a row, most recently in the 2007-08 season, and it has two other 15-game winning streaks, one coming in the 2012-13 season.

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Early look at 2018: Same questions for Florida OL, different voice for third straight season

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 9:12 AM

SEC Country is taking an early position-by-position look at Florida’s roster for 2018. So far, we’ve looked at the  quarterbacks,   running backs,   tight  ends  and wide receivers. Next up: the offensive line.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — John Hevesy knows that for most of Florida’s offensive linemen, he’s now their third different position coach in three seasons.

He addressed that upfront for the players he’s inherited while making it clear that he’s not interested in what has happened in the past — positively or negatively.

This is a fresh start for the Gators offensive line.

“They’re working. I think the great thing is I told them the first day, I said we’re going to check all the egos at the door. Mine and yours included,” Hevesy said. “… I said I was here whatever it was, nine years ago, I said I do have rings with them. It has nothing to do with now. Those rings were there, the tradition was here. The tradition was built long before even I was here before.

“The biggest thing is check your ego. Yeah, it’s another coach. Some of those guys are on their third offensive line coach. Great. I’m not saying anything they’ve done before is good or bad. It doesn’t matter. What we’re going to do is what I’m going to teach you. Be willing to take that, and I’m going to listen to what you have to say and we’re going to go from here.”

Hevesy was Florida’s assistant offensive line coach from 2005-08 when the Gators won their last two national championships. He spent the last nine seasons at Mississippi State with new Florida coach Dan Mullen.

Former Florida coach Jim McElwain made toughening the offensive line a point of emphasis last offseason, after former OL coach Mike Summers left for Louisville and Brad Davis was hired from North Texas.

Davis seemed like a strong motivator who resonated with the players, but the offensive line remained inconsistent week-to-week. Against better defenses, the Gators were often overmatched, while in other games they held their own.

Overall, though, it was not the season that was promised for the unit when McElwain proclaimed in late spring and into the preseason that the O-line might be the strength of the team in 2017.

Far from it.

The Gators gave up 37 sacks (3.36 per game) to rank 123rd out of 129 FBS teams. It marked the second time in three years they ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in that category (after ranking 121st in 2015).

Hevesy was asked how he planned to change the mentality of the unit.

Reiterating the tone set by Mullen for the program, Hevesy said it’s about approaching everything as a competition where outcomes matter — whether it’s in the weight room, on the practice field or in the classroom. For example, he said he considers it “embarrassing” to see poor GPAs from his players.

“I told them that [last week], it’s embarrassing. I said, ‘It shouldn’t be that way. Everything is competitive. Everything in your life is going to be competitive, whether it’s here or when you walk out of here. It hasn’t been through high school because you’re the biggest kid, and you played one time or two games a year in high school against a kid the same size as you or as competitive to you. Now you’re doing it every moment of your life, whether it’s in the classroom, whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s against yourself, whether it’s on the field on Saturday or at practice.’ I said, ‘It’s a competitive nature, it has to come out in everybody,'” Hevesy said.

“And I think that’s the biggest thing for us in the offseason is our agility days we do  on Tuesday and Thursday, whether it’s a workout we do on Friday morning, whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s in the meeting room, whether it’s in the classroom. I post every kid’s grades in our meeting room. ‘You two are in the same class and he gets an 85 and you get an 82, he beat you. It should bother you. It should bother you that you got beat.’ … If you lose, great, you know you gave everything you could give. That’s it. That’s all I can ask of you. You’re going to get beat. Very few teams in this world are going to go undefeated ever. The two times we won [national championships] here before, we didn’t go undefeated so somebody’s going to get you. But [be able to] put your head in your pillow knowing you competed and did everything you could do.”

So what does Hevesy have to work with in trying to elevate the Gators offensive line? Well, plenty of experience, but again, a veteran group that has had its struggles.

Martez Ivey (73) is back for his senior season as the most experienced lineman on Florida’s roster. (SEC Country/file photo)

The returning starters

Left tackle Martez Ivey (senior): Ivey has made 31 starts over the last three seasons, spending his first two years primarily at left guard and then moving out to left tackle last season. Hevesy was asked if Ivey would remain at tackle, and he said he believes he could play either spot. Once the new coaching staff goes through spring practice and makes its evaluations, it will be easy to project who fits where. Ivey’s versatility could be key if the next guy on this list is unable to start the season. Either way, he is a two-time second-team All-SEC honoree and his decision to put off the NFL to return for his final year at Florida was a big boost for the Gators.

Left guard Brett Heggie (redshirt sophomore): Heggie sustained a season-ending unspecified knee injury last November, and it remains unclear how far along he is in the recovery process. But Hevesy gave an encouraging report last week when he said he expected Heggie to be available for fall camp. Heggie played in eight games last year and started seven, earning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors after Florida’s win over Vanderbilt. Overall, he showed good potential in his debut season.

Center T.J. McCoy (redshirt junior): McCoy took over as a starter down the stretch of the 2016 season and continued in that role last fall. He also ended the season on the injury list, but there’s been no indication he won’t be available for spring practice.

Right guard Fred Johnson (senior): Listed at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, Johnson came to Florida as a raw prospect who hadn’t played extensively in high school. He’s started 20 games over the last three seasons, including 10 at right guard, but like the unit as a whole he has been inconsistent. With his size and strength, though, the potential remains.

Left guard/right guard/center Tyler Jordan (senior): Jordan was essentially a sixth starter for the Gators up front, playing across the line and drawing four starts. He’s started 14 games over three seasons and will again be in the mix somewhere along the line.

Right tackle Jawaan Taylor (junior): Taylor emerged as a bright spot for the unit as a freshman in 2016. He’s now a two-year starter and perhaps the most physical of Florida’s linemen, who could still have yet another level to his game. He moved to left tackle as Ivey slid to guard after Heggie went down late in the season.

The newcomers

Jean DeLance (redshirt sophomore): DeLance sat out last season after transferring from Texas, where he played in two games as a freshman. Listed at 6-foot-5, 314 pounds, he was a 4-star prospect ranked the No. 13 OT in the Class of 2017 by the 247Sports composite. He’s a very intriguing addition to the mix this year for the Gators.

Noah Banks (redshirt junior): Listed at 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, Banks joins Florida as a junior college transfer from Iowa Western College. A native of Pensacola, Fla., he played in 10 games for a team that averaged 240.3 passing yards and 275.2 rushing yards per game. He was rated a 3-star JUCO prospect, and his combination of size and experience could allow him to push for an immediate role in the rotation up front.

Richard Gouraige (freshman): Gouraige is one of the Gators’ most high-profile 2018 recruits. A 4-star prospect from Tampa ranked the No. 7 OT in this class by the 247Sports composite, he chose Florida over a late push from Clemson. Listed at 6-foot-5, 271 pounds, he comes to the Gators full of upside, but he won’t arrive on campus until the summer so it remains to be seen what kind of role he can earn as a freshman.

Chris Bleich (freshman): Listed at 6-foot-6, 313 pounds, Bleich is a 3-star prospect who is primarily a tackle, but has played some guard and will also get some work at center in spring practice. For that matter, Hevesy wants to a number of his linemen to get work at center. Bleich is a guy who the staff recruited when they were at Mississippi State as well, so he already has a strong connection with Hevesy.

Griffin McDowell (freshman): McDowell is another 3-star prospect who the coaches started pursuing back when they were at Mississippi State. McDowell, listed at 6-foot-4, 267 pounds, was committed to the Bulldogs before flipping to Florida. Mullen said he is a player “I always knew I wanted on my team.” McDowell is an interior lineman who should get reps at center and guard.

Other notable returners

Kavaris Harkless (redshirt senior): Harkless played in four games last season, making one starter at left guard. Among the rest of the returners, he has the most significant experience.

Stone Forsythe (redshirt sophomore): With Heggie and McCoy out with injury, Forsythe drew two starts at right tackle to end last season.

T.J. Moore (redshirt freshman): Moore was a 4-star prospect and is the only remaining OL signee from the Gators’ 2017 class. He redshirted last season, but he should get a chance to push for a role in 2018.

Nick Buchanan (redshirt junior): Buchanan played off the bench in one game last season and has appeared in three games in his career.

Outlook

Again, Florida has experience and intriguing pieces, but at this point, the unit has moved into wait-and-see territory.

If this is finally going to be the year the group becomes a more consistent positive factor for the offense, then it will have to prove it on Saturdays first. The disparity between preseason hype and in-season performance for the offensive line last year became a major point of frustration for fans.

The hopes is that Hevesy’s straightforward, no-nonsense approach can get the most out of the unit and start the process of re-establishing a presence up front. He certainly knows what the standard was for the Gators on the OL during those last two national championship seasons.

It will be interesting to see how ready Heggie is for the start of the season, and whether Ivey has to move back inside. How all the pieces fit will depend on what DeLance and Banks in particular show during spring and fall camp, while Moore, Gouraige, Bleich and McDowell all provide their own intrigue heading into 2018. While Bleich and McDowell were 3-star prospects, they were guys this coaching staff evaluated over a long period of time and were convinced could be assets at Florida so that might count more than recruiting rankings.

If the goal is to get Florida’s five best offensive linemen on the field in some combination, it would not be a surprise to see some established pieces move around depending on whether any of those aforementioned newcomers (DeLance and Banks in particular) proves worthy of a significant immediate role.

In general, there will be a lot to learn about this group when spring practice starts next month.

“They want to learn, they want to listen. I think they’re great kids so far, what we’ve seen in the weight room, in the offseason stuff, in the meetings we’ve had,” Hevesy said. “They’re willing to learn. They want to learn. So to me we just keep going every day and just keep pounding them with information and stuff to just teach them to be better.”

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WATCH: Former Alabama DL Da’Ron Payne shows off amazing strength by deadlifting more than 600 pounds

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 9:10 AM

Da’Ron Payne knows how to bring the pain in the weight room.

Think you’re strong? Chances are, you don’t have what it takes to match the muscle shown by the former Alabama defensive lineman. Recently, AL.com captured Payne working out in Gulf Breeze, Fla., as relayed by AL.com’s Wesley Sinor. The player is preparing for the NFL combine, which runs from Feb. 27-March 5.

Spoiler alert: Payne looks scary good.

As you can see in the AL.com video below, Payne deadlifted 405, 495, 545 and 635 pounds. The 635-pound feat, in particular, is a marvel to behold.

Payne is considered a possible first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after he totaled 53 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception as a junior last season. He was named the defensive MVP after the Crimson Tide’s Sugar Bowl victory against Clemson and their win against Georgia in the National Championship Game.

It’s clear Payne has the build and the strength to become a dynamic defensive presence in the NFL. He should become a name to watch on Sundays soon, as long as he can stay healthy.

Just don’t challenge him to any competitions in a weight room soon.

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