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New DB coaches confident they can mold Florida’s young secondary

Florida-florida gators-florida football-cj henderson

Welcome to Chomp Chat, SEC Country’s  daily Florida podcast with reporter Zach Abolverdi and Gators broadcaster Jeff Cardozo.

The Gators lost three starters from last year’s secondary, but bring back a lot of talent and youth for the 2018 season.

In the latest edition of Chomp Chat, Zach Abolverdi and Jeff Cardozo discuss new secondary coaches Charlton Warren (cornerbacks) and Ron English (safeties) and their plan for Florida’s defensive backs.

You can listen to the  podcast on iTunes or below on SoundCloud.

Miss a previous edition? Find every episode of SEC Country’s daily Florida Gators  podcast right here.

The post New DB coaches confident they can mold Florida’s young secondary appeared first on SEC Country.

New DB coaches confident they can mold Florida’s young secondary

Florida-florida gators-florida football-cj henderson

Welcome to Chomp Chat, SEC Country’s  daily Florida podcast with reporter Zach Abolverdi and Gators broadcaster Jeff Cardozo.

The Gators lost three starters from last year’s secondary, but bring back a lot of talent and youth for the 2018 season.

In the latest edition of Chomp Chat, Zach Abolverdi and Jeff Cardozo discuss new secondary coaches Charlton Warren (cornerbacks) and Ron English (safeties) and their plan for Florida’s defensive backs.

You can listen to the  podcast on iTunes or below on SoundCloud.

Miss a previous edition? Find every episode of SEC Country’s daily Florida Gators  podcast right here.

The post New DB coaches confident they can mold Florida’s young secondary appeared first on SEC Country.

Tennessee podcast: Vols basketball at early crossroads, looks to hold position

Tennessee-basketball-Vols-Admiral Schofield

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s basketball season could be at a crossroads tonight when the Vols try to protect their home court against Florida.

The No. 19-ranked Vols (19-7, 9-5 SEC) are a 5-point favorite over the Gators in what has turned out to be the most balanced league season in 30 years.

RELATED: Tennessee basketball game time, TV channel, online info

Indeed, one has to go back to 1988 to see the last time all of the league teams had at least five wins in the SEC.

Florida (17-10, 8-6) enters tonight’s game coming off losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt, very much on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

If Tennessee loses, it would tumble out of sole possession of second place. A loss would represent the Vols third defeat in the past four games, something the team has avoided this season.

WNML’s Josh Ward talks with Florida beat writer Jake Winderman for today’s podcast.

Tennessee podcast

 

The post Tennessee podcast: Vols basketball at early crossroads, looks to hold position appeared first on SEC Country.

Johnny Manziel crushes NCAA: ‘I think they are just full of s—, to be honest’

Johnny-Manziel-Tom-Brady-Texas-A&amp;M-Super-Bowl-52-Super-Bowl-New-England-Patriots-NFL

The NCAA isn’t done with former Texas A&amp;M quarterback Johnny Manziel. In the eyes of the governing body, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is still causing trouble. Now, Manziel isn’t holding back in his criticism of the NCAA.

On Feb. 7, Manziel made it known through social media that the NCAA informed him that he needed to stop tweeting recruits, which the NCAA considers that a violation.

Johnny Football has a well-known and rather lengthy history with the NCAA, and Manziel was candid about his feelings toward the NCAA in a recent interview on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast. Here’s his answer when asked how much he hated the NCAA.

“Oh, man. Scale of 1 to 10? Probably like a 12,” Manziel said.

Manziel was asked about the NCAA’s recent issue with him tweeting at recruits and how he was informed about it.

“I get a direct message on Twitter the other day from Texas A&amp;M compliance, and I haven’t seen these messages since I was in college, and I’m kind of like, ‘What the f— is is this?’ I read it, and they’re like you pretty much can’t tweet at recruits. And I’m like what if I’m a fan of Texas high school football, and this guy caught my eye and I just want to say what’s up? They’re like, ‘No, you can’t.’

“I guess they’re officially calling me a booster or something like that. I think they are just full of shit, to be honest,” he said. “I think the NCAA is the biggest racket in the entire world.”

Manziel also discussed the NCAA’s probe into him entering his sophomore season, when he allegedly signed autographs for payment.

“They tried to end me. They tried to really ruin my college career. If it wasn’t for my family and being able to hire a really good attorney, do what I needed to do, the NCAA …” Manziel said before going  into detail about how tough it was to focus on football and legal matters.

He described a daily routine packed with practices sandwiched around preparation with his lawyers and advisors for a meeting with the NCAA.

Manziel was consequently suspended for the first half of the season opener against Rice.

“Every day for 5 hours to 6 hours a day for three weeks, I did nothing but prepare for this case and make sure they weren’t going to do to me what they have done to other people in the past,” Manziel said. “ I just wasn’t going to let it happen.”

The post Johnny Manziel crushes NCAA: ‘I think they are just full of s—, to be honest’ appeared first on SEC Country.

Stranger’s persistence has former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie in line for kidney transplant

Billy Gillispie-Ericka Downey-kidney transplant-Kentucky-Kentucky basketball-Texas A&amp;M-Texas A&amp;M basketball

She has never met Billy Gillispie. Until a few months ago, Ericka Downey didn’t know if he officially went by Billy or William. But as she scrolled through social media one day in mid-December, taking a break from cleaning her closet, she saw the story.

Gillispie needed a kidney.

Sitting on her closet floor, Downey, a stranger to the coach, started the process of becoming his donor.

“It just immediately hit me that I was supposed to do something,” Downey told SEC Country. “I call it a tug in my heart. I just felt it right away. I was hesitant to talk to my husband about it in the moment because I can be an impulsive person — spontaneous.”

Her husband, Mark Downey, is the men’s basketball coach at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. The Division II program is the latest stop in a career that has taken the Downeys from Division I assistant jobs at Fort Wayne and Bowling Green to Division II head coaching gigs at West Alabama, Charleston (W. Va.) and Arkansas Tech.

“His initial response was, ‘You’re crazy,’ ” Downey said of telling her husband. “Yes I am. He already knew that.”

Ericka Downey, 33, is in the medical sales field, so surgery doesn’t intimidate her.

She grew up a Razorbacks fan in Arkansas. She knew Kentucky and Arkansas played Tuesday night in Fayetteville, but Downey has no interest in Gillispie’s past or the places it took him. There are no hidden motivations. Gillispie, 58, needs a kidney transplant. Downey is a willing donor.

Gillispie’s career was a climb from UTEP to Texas A&amp;M, then from Texas A&amp;M to Kentucky. But his dismissal after a two-year stint (2007-09) in Lexington began the descent. There were well-chronicled philosophical differences at Kentucky. He was never the right fit. A gap, as Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said, that couldn’t “be solved by just winning games.”

Downey doesn’t care about any of that.

“If people only judged me off my past, I’d be screwed,” she said. “He has the right to life just like anybody else.”

And so the process began.

Gillispie, back coaching at Ranger College in Texas, told the Dallas Morning News in December that he needed a kidney transplant “ASAP.” Doctors told him he was experiencing kidney failure after years of high blood pressure. Gillispie was known for his long, grinding practices. He was a workaholic who struggled with alcoholism.

“I don’t even know that I would take [a kidney],” Gillispie told the Dallas Morning News. “I know that sounds stupid, but I wouldn’t take a donated kidney if it was going to have any kind of adverse [effect] on anyone. I just wouldn’t. I mean, I’ve had a great life. I would like to be around for whatever, but I’m not selfish in that regard. I’m selfish in some, but not that regard.”

Gillispie’s decision to go public raised awareness for one of the 116,000-plus people in the United States on the national transplant waiting list, according to organdonor.gov. Twenty people die every day waiting for a transplant.

Gillispie didn’t know it at the time, but after seeing his story, Downey submitted a health care questionnaire on the Mayo Clinic’s website. That was Step 1.

Step 2 was harder: waiting.

Downey didn’t have Gillispie’s phone number. The only information she knew was in the article and Gillispie wasn’t on the donor list.

“But I don’t give up easily,” she said.

On the health care questionnaire was a line: “Do you know your recipient?” Downey filled in the name of the man she’d never met. It asked for the recipient’s birthday. Downey found the date online.

She called the Mayo Clinic hotline, but no one could give her more information because of HIPAA — a privacy act that protects medical records.

“And so I just kept calling,” Downey said.

“Every week I would call Mayo Clinic and say, ‘Hey, just checking in.’ And at the same time I was active on social media trying to find a donor.”

Hey y’all. I’m a match for Coach Billy Gillispie as a kidney donor. I’m going to Mayo the week of the @FinalFour to make sure I’m healthy enough to give. We match with antigens and blood type. Please pray for us as we navigate the future. I will keep u posted. — Ericka Downey (@D2Diva) February 20, 2018

That’s when Josh Mills saw the posts. Mills worked as an assistant under Gillispie for two seasons at Texas Tech. He shared the story of Downey’s persistence to either be or find a donor for Gillispie with Gillispie himself.

“He’s blown away by your kindness,” Mills told Downey. “Here’s his cell phone number. Would you mind reaching out to him?” Mills asked. “He wants to thank you in person.” That was in early January.

So at this year’s Final Four in San Antonio, Downey and Gillispie will meet for the first time. Her husband and Gillispie are both attending the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) conference that weekend in San Antonio.

But Downey won’t be driving from Oklahoma. She’ll be flying out of Minneapolis.

Downey has two days of exams, March 26-27, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She’ll meet with the transplant team and with the doctors who’ll do the operation. She’ll take an 18-hour kidney function test.

All the calling worked. Gillispie was finally put on the donor list and the Mayo Clinic sent Downey a blood kit. Downey received the results two weeks ago, and they are a match.

The biggest hurdles have been crossed, but there’s still a chance Downey won’t get the go ahead for surgery based on her upcoming meeting with the transplant team.

“If that were to happen, we would start over and need another donor to step forward,” Downey said. “And that was kind of my thought process [of sharing her story]. We could build some momentum to have someone else ready to go as a Plan B because right now there isn’t anyone else, to my knowledge.”

Downey doesn’t know Gillispie, but she said college basketball is a family. She gives off the vibe that she’d donate a kidney to anyone — regardless of profession or background — but she noted the “black eye” on college basketball after the FBI investigation last fall.

Her selfless act won’t change the sport, but it could save the life of a coach whose career might always be seen as a medley of black eyes. But that won’t matter anymore. Now he’s just Billy, a man in need of a new kidney.

“He’s incredibly thankful, incredibly humble — just blown away” Downey said. “I really don’t feel on my end that it’s a sacrifice. I really don’t.”

The post Stranger’s persistence has former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie in line for kidney transplant appeared first on SEC Country.

Auburn’s loaded 2018 wide receiver class lessens need for big 2019 splash

Auburn recruiting-George Pickens-wide receiver-2019

Auburn wrapped up its 2018 recruiting class with 24 signees, which was the 12th-ranked class in the country and third best in the SEC, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Full attention now turns to the 2019 class. SEC Country will look at each position group on offense and defense for the Class of 2019. For the third installment, we look at wide receivers.

Current depth chart:  Ryan Davis (senior), Will Hastings (senior), Darius Slayton (junior), Nate Craig-Myers (junior), Eli Stove (junior), Sal Cannella (junior), Marquis McClain (sophomore), Noah Igbinoghene (sophomore), Matthew Hill (freshman), Seth Williams (freshman), Anthony Schwartz (freshman) and Shedrick Jackson (freshman).

Potential departures: Davis and Hastings, certainly. Slayton and Craig-Myers, potentially.

How many commits at position: 1 — 4-star George Pickens, Hoover, Ala.

How many more Auburn plans to take: 1 or 2.

Already offered: 21 — 5-star Jadon Haselwood, Ellenwood, Ga.; 5-star Dominick Blaylock, Marietta, Ga.; 4-star Theo Wease, Allen, Texas; 4-star Frank Ladson, Homestead, Fla.; 4-star Devonta Lee, Amite, La.; 4-star Arjei Henderson, Richmond, Texas; 4-star Marcus Washington, St. Louis, Mo.; 4-star Jashawn Sheffield, St. Simons Island, Ga.; 4-star Trey Palmer, Kentwood, La.; 4-star Jalen Curry, Houston, Texas; 4-star John Dunmore, Hollywood, Fla.; 4-star Dannis Jackson, Sumrall, Miss.; 4-star Maurice Goolsby, Dunnellon, Fla.; 4-star Ramel Keyton, Marietta, Ga.; 4-star Shamar Nash, Bradenton, Fla.; 4-star Trey Knox, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; 4-star Kenyon Jackson, Loganville, Ga.; 4-star Elijah Higgins, Austin, Texas; 4-star Quinton Torbor, Destrehan, La.; 3-star John Rhys Plumlee, Hattiesburg, Miss.

Other known potential targets: 4-star Jeremiah Payton, Neptune Beach, Fla.; 4-star TJ Sheffield, Thompson’s Station, Tenn.

Importance of more blue-chip additions (1-10): 3

What I think Auburn  will do:  Multiple Auburn wide receiver targets have told me that Tigers coaches only want one more wide receiver in this class. With Pickens already committed — and the massive 2016 and 2018 wide receiver hauls — the Tigers don’t have a glaring need at the position in 2019. In fact, the Tigers would be just fine going with a one-receiver class as it did in 2017.

But with Pickens already in the class — though still having to fight off plenty of other programs — Auburn sits in a position where it can continue to go after blue-chip receivers. If the Tigers want to take one, this could be a first-in-the-boat situation, where Auburn will accept the commitment from the first willing prospect with a committable offer.

It’s likely Auburn goes with one other wide receiver and tries to hold off Alabama and others for Pickens, who has been committed to the Tigers since last summer. That would be a solid duo whoever it is Auburn adds alongside Pickens.

What I think Auburn  should do:  Much like with the quarterbacks, Auburn’s decision to take more than anticipated will be dependent on draft-eligible underclassmen leaving early.

Two wide receivers will depart with Davis and Hastings set to graduate after their senior seasons. Of the potential early entries, Slayton and Craig-Myers are the only ones who fit into the  could category, though Stove, McClain and Cannella will be eligible to do so, in theory. Even Slayton and Craig-Myers would have to blow up during the 2018 season to shoot up draft boards.

If it becomes evident that will happen for Slayton or Craig-Myers, it would make sense to add a third wide receiver in the class, if coaches felt it could afford to sacrifice a scholarship spot elsewhere.

The post Auburn’s loaded 2018 wide receiver class lessens need for big 2019 splash appeared first on SEC Country.

Yahoo’s Pete Thamel: Alabama basketball assistant John Pelphrey expected to receive attention for head-coaching jobs

John Pelphery-college basketball-Alabama basketball-coaching carousel

College basketball’s coaching carousel will spin in a major way soon, and Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel expects one SEC assistant to receive attention for head-coaching jobs.

Thamel published a post that listed Alabama’s John Pelphrey among the 12 assistants expected to receive looks for top jobs. Pelphrey, who joined the Crimson Tide in 2016, has experience as an assistant as Oklahoma State (1993-94), Marshall (1994-96) and Florida (1996 to 2002, 2011-15). He also posted 149 combined victories as the coach at South Alabama (2002-07) and Arkansas (2007 to 2011).

Here’s how Thamel breaks down Pelphrey’s situation in the piece:

7) John Pelphrey (Alabama) – There’s a dearth of SEC assistants ready to take the leap to head jobs. Both Pelphrey and Tennessee’s Rob Lanier are former head coaches and cagey veteran hands who have helped surprising resurgences at their current schools.

It remains to be seen how many head-coaching jobs will open throughout college basketball. The SEC is guaranteed at least some turnover. Already, the Ole Miss job is available after Andy Kennedy parted ways with the school. Earlier this week, Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde wrote that Auburn’s Bruce Pearl and Georgia’s Mark Fox could lose their jobs in the coming months.

Thamel’s list includes many of the young, up-and-coming types. Still, Pelphrey could provide a veteran perspective for a struggling program in need of a reboot.

Entering a game against Auburn on Wednesday, Alabama is 17-10 overall with an 8-6 record in the SEC.

The post Yahoo’s Pete Thamel: Alabama basketball assistant John Pelphrey expected to receive attention for head-coaching jobs appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida Gators Fanatics Branded St. Patrick’s Day Emerald Isle Tri-Blend T-Shirt

In Stock – This item will ship within 3 Business Days.

Details Material: 50% Cotton/37% Polyester/13% Rayon Rib-knit collar Screen print graphics Crew neck Short sleeve Officially licensed Imported Brand: Fanatics Branded Description Sure you can go around and tell everyone how dedicated you are to the Florida Gators, but there is a much easier way to get your point across. Let everyone you pass know that you are a born and bred Florida Gators fan with this Emerald Isle T-shirt! This tee from Fanatics Branded boasts your team pride with Florida Gators graphics. There are many ways to show your spirit, but this way you won’t lose your voice. $29.99

The post Florida Gators Fanatics Branded St. Patrick’s Day Emerald Isle Tri-Blend T-Shirt appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida Gators Fanatics Branded St. Patrick’s Day Emerald Isle Tri-Blend T-Shirt

In Stock – This item will ship within 3 Business Days.

Details Material: 50% Cotton/37% Polyester/13% Rayon Rib-knit collar Screen print graphics Crew neck Short sleeve Officially licensed Imported Brand: Fanatics Branded Description Sure you can go around and tell everyone how dedicated you are to the Florida Gators, but there is a much easier way to get your point across. Let everyone you pass know that you are a born and bred Florida Gators fan with this Emerald Isle T-shirt! This tee from Fanatics Branded boasts your team pride with Florida Gators graphics. There are many ways to show your spirit, but this way you won’t lose your voice. $29.99

The post Florida Gators Fanatics Branded St. Patrick’s Day Emerald Isle Tri-Blend T-Shirt appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida recruiting: Top CB target Kaiir Elam talks Gators; 2 QBs land offers

Kaiir Elam-Florida recruiting-2019 class

Join us here on SEC Country for a daily recap of the  latest Florida recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.

Kaiir Elam likes Florida staff

One of Florida’s top targets in the Class of 2019 is 4-star cornerback Kaiir Elam.

His position is a priority for the Gators in this cycle and the 6-foot-2, 180-pound prospect is receiving the full-court press from cornerbacks coach Charlton Warren, whose relationship with Elam dates back to last year.

“Coach Warren recruited me at Tennessee,” Elam said. “He came to Florida and told me I was their No. 1 guy they’re going to recruit at corner. He likes me very much and recruits me very hard.”

RELATED: CB Kaiir Elam a priority target for Gators in 2019 class 

Elam is the nephew of former Gators safety Matt Elam and visited Florida last year for the Orange &amp; Blue Debut and Tennessee game. He plans to return to Gainesville soon and has been impressed with new coach Dan Mullen.

“Coach Mullen came to see me in school. We weren’t allowed to talk, but it was good to meet him,” Elam said. “He’s a great coach and I like what he’s doing with the program.”

Elam is ranked the nation’s No. 13 cornerback and No. 143 overall recruit in the 247Sports Composite. He holds more than 30 offers, including Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Florida State and Ohio State.

Elam plans to take some official visits in the spring, but still has to figure out those trips.

“I haven’t sat down and discussed it with my parents yet. Nothing really in stone,” Elam said. “But I’m going to definitely try to go out of state because I’ve never visited those schools.”

Gators offer 2 out-of-state QBs

Florida expanded its 2019 quarterback board on Tuesday, extending offers to 4-star QB Taisun Phommachanh (Bridgeport, Conn.) and 3-star QB Jacob Zeno (San Antonio, Texas).

Phommachanh is the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the 247Sports composite rankings, but 247Sports ranks him as the top dual-threat QB in the country. He also landed offers this month from Florida State, Penn State and South Carolina.

Zeno is ranked the No. 22 pro-style quarterback nationally. Florida is the second SEC program to offer Zeno this week after Missouri pulled the trigger on Monday.

Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson have now offered 10 signal callers in the Class of 2019. Some of their other targets include IMG Academy QB David Baldwin and former Mississippi State QB commit Jalon Jones.

DieHards‘ David Wilson contributed to this report. Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting  right here.

The post Florida recruiting: Top CB target Kaiir Elam talks Gators; 2 QBs land offers appeared first on SEC Country.

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