1. I don’t want to get on a soapbox, but …

Dan Mullen officially announced the next starting quarterback at Florida who won’t throw more than 12 touchdown passes in a season.

And just when you think you can’t stomach any more about the sorry state of the Florida offense for the past eight years, consider what Mullen has walked into for Year 9 and the carnage former coach Jim McElwain left behind.

Mullen’s starting quarterback is Feleipe Franks, who threw 9 touchdown passes last year and looked utterly lost as a redshirt freshman. Why Franks, you ask?

Because there’s nothing else.

“We looked at who would give us the best opportunity to win now,” Mullen said Monday afternoon. “A lot of it we felt Feleipe, and some of the ability to extend plays, some of his athleticism, right now will give us the best opportunity.”

Let me translate: The guy I recruited (Emory Jones) isn’t ready, and the other guy I inherited (Kyle Trask) hasn’t played a down of college football.

It is here where we remind you in the eight years since Tim Tebow’s last season at Florida, the Gators haven’t had a quarterback throw more than 12 touchdown passes in a season. But what began as a quarterback development problem under former coach Will Muschamp, became a full-blown recruiting and evaluation problem under McElwain – one that will have ramifications for years to come.

McElwain didn’t recruit a quarterback in his first class in 2015, and over the next two years added Franks, Trask and Jake Allen. In that time, he also added a walk-on (Luke Del Rio) and a two transfers (Austin Appleby, Malik Zaire).

Not one of those players is an SEC-caliber quarterback.

Del Rio was an overachiever whom players loved, and McElwain ran off the most talented quarterback at Florida since Tebow (Will Grier) to play him. When Del Rio was injured, the job went to Appleby, who couldn’t win the job at Purdue but somehow became a starting quarterback in the SEC.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Take Grier’s six games in 2015 out of the equation (he was suspended by the NCAA for taking a banned supplement and later transferred to West Virginia), and McElwain’s quarterbacks at Florida combined for 37 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

If you think that’s bad, consider this: Florida could have had Lamar Jackson, Louisville’ record-breaking, Heisman-Trophy winning quarterback, who grew up in South Florida and dreamed of playing for the Gators.

Jackson told me two years ago he nearly chose Florida in 2015, despite the fact that McElwain recruited him late and wasn’t exactly the most personable guy.

“In the end, it just didn’t feel right,” Jackson said. “And every time I talked to the Louisville coaches, something kept telling me it was the perfect fit. They made me feel wanted.”

Meanwhile, McElwain kept developing average quarterbacks at Florida — and now Mullen is paying for it.

2. The McElwain Bust, Part II

Quarterback wasn’t McElwain’s only problem at Florida. His offenses were among the worst in the nation because they lacked the one variable that supersedes all: good players.

In three recruiting classes, McElwain and his staff landed 18 skill players (quarterback, running back, wide receiver), and not one has been named to an All-SEC team. The best of the group (WR Antonio Callaway) was a talented head case, suspended all of last season and constantly running into trouble off the field.

Of the remaining 17, only three have made any noticeable impact: WR Tyrie Cleveland (36 career catches), RB Malik Davis (526 yards in seven games as a freshman in 2017) and RB Jordan Scarlett (suspended all of last season).

As bad as Florida’s quarterbacks have been, McElwain recruited nine receivers over three years: Callaway is gone to the NFL, and four others either transferred, retired or haven’t been good enough to play.

Of the remaining five, none has more than 36 career catches or four career touchdowns. There’s a reason Mullen added two wideout transfers this offseason: one (Van Jefferson, Ole Miss) is the team’s most dynamic player, and the other (Trevon Grimes, Ohio State) is among the first five receivers.

3. Mac’s impact, the epilogue

As bad as the cleanup is in Gainesville, McElwain left Mullen with one critical gift: zero expectations.

At least for season No.1.

Ticket sales are down 9,000 from last season, and any improvement on offense will seem like significant steps. When you’re wallowing in the 90s and 100s in total offense among 128 FBS teams over the past three seasons, completed passes are an upgrade.
Florida has one of the most experienced offensive lines in the SEC, and Jefferson should give the offense a legitimate deep threat and a receiver who can win individual battles and get open – a rarity at Florida under McElwain.

You want success for Mullen in Year 1? It might be as simple as completing passes and scoring in the 30s.

4. The return, and the impact

If you watch anything this weekend, check out the likely meaningless highlights of South Carolina’s pending rout of Coastal Carolina.

Because if Gamecocks WR Deebo Samuel looks better than he did last season before missing the final 10 games with a broken ankle, South Carolina will be an legitimate threat to beat SEC East Division favorite Georgia in Week 2.

“He changes everything,” says South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley. “We’re a different team with him. When Deebo is healthy, we feel like we can play with anyone.”

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Samuel had 19 touches through about 13 quarters last season, and scored six touchdowns (three receiving, two on returns, one rushing). He can stretch the field with deep speed, and South Carolina uses him in various sets to create mismatches.
While the Gamecocks won’t show much against Coastal Carolina, it doesn’t mean Samuel won’t get significant work. He hasn’t played since last September and needs game reps, and South Carolina could use the emotional juice he provides heading into next week’s game in Columbia.

5. The Weekly Five

Five picks against the spread:

  • Alabama vs. Louisville (+24.5)
  • Auburn (-1.5) vs. Washington
  • Tennessee (+10) vs. West Virginia
  • LSU (+3.5) vs. Miami
  • Ole Miss (+2.5) vs. Texas Tech

6. Saved by the NCAA

You know it’s going well in Tuscaloosa when an NCAA decision allows Nick Saban to avoid making the most difficult coaching decision of his career – and allows Jalen Hurts to save face.

Anything else we can do for an Alabama program that already has every imaginable advantage (see: best coach, best players)?

Here’s what the NCAA’s new redshirt rule – players can participate in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility – gives Alabama:

1. Saban can start his best quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa), and tell the quarterback who led his team to back-to-back College Football Playoff national championship games (Jalen Hurts) that he will play, too.

2. Hurts wants to graduate from Alabama, and is scheduled to do so in December. Hurts can play in four games, graduate and leave as a graduate transfer after the 2018 season – and still have two years of eligibility.

3. Saban doesn’t look like the bad guy running off a starting quarterback with two career losses as a starter (important for recruiting purposes).

And, bonus: Saban can still say it’s all the media’s fault.

What a world they’re enjoying in Tuscaloosa.

7. Big Orange revival

Look, I don’t want to put more pressure on Jeremy Pruitt before he coaches his first game at Tennessee, but this season opener against Big 12 heavyweight West Virginia sets up for the Vols.

If there’s one thing Tennessee did really well last season, it’s pass defense. If there’s one area where the Vols should feel comfortable with defense-first Pruitt, it’s a defense that returns eight starters and is loaded with experience from a unit that was No. 3 in the nation last year in pass defense.

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That doesn’t mean Keller Chryst or Jarrett Guarantano will make plays at quarterback or the offense won’t struggle and turn the ball over against WVU. What it means is Will Grier (above) and the Air Raid WVU offense must navigate a Vols defense that gave up an average of only 161.7 yards per game last year.

The neutral game site (Charlotte) is three hours from Knoxville, and there will be a heavy Tennessee presence. If the Tennessee offense protects the ball and doesn’t force the defense to protect short fields, the Vols will get the game to the fourth quarter with a chance to win.

8. Ask and you shall receive

Matt: I’m already depressed about my Tigers. Please talk me off the ledge and tell me Coach O. can get this thing turned around!

Spencer Johnson
New Orleans

Spencer: I had high hopes for Ed Orgeron when LSU gave him his dream job. A great recruiter and motivator, and a guy who proved at USC that he had moved beyond the fiasco that was his brief Ole Miss tenure. Everyone deserve a second shot, right?

Then the nightmare with offensive coordinator Matt Canada began. Then LSU underachieved. Then Orgeron fired Canada and instead of moving the offense further into the 21st century, he hired Steve Ensminger as his offensive coordinator.

There wasn’t one program in college football busting down the doors in Baton Rouge to hire Ensminger away from LSU. His long career had deteriorated to passing game coordinator at a high school in Alabama in 2009 before Les Miles hired him to coach tight ends.

Getting graduate transfer QB Joe Burrow was Orgeron’s most important move – and his biggest recruit — in two years. LSU has a legitimate SEC quarterback for the first time since Zach Mettenberger was throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry (remember those days?)

If it doesn’t work out, there’s always this: What if I told you the only university with stones to hire Urban Meyer after it all falls apart at Ohio State (that’s coming, folks) was LSU? Would that make you feel any better?

9. Numbers game

75 percent. Think of that number, Auburn fans, just in case the Tigers drop their third consecutive big game (this time to Washington) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Here’s the scenario: Auburn is one of three SEC teams (Alabama and Georgia the others) that can win the league and advance to the College Football Playoff. If Auburn doesn’t, and craters (like you’re not thinking this already, Mr. Plainsman), it would cost 75 percent of Malzahn’s remaining contract balance (around $31.5 million) to buy him out.

Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Malzahn agreed in principle to the 7-year, $49 million extension a day after Auburn was blown out in the SEC Championship Game, and officially signed it a few weeks after Auburn was roughed up by UCF in the Peach Bowl. Forget about a potential loss in another loss in another big game.

Malzahn is your coach, Auburn fans. For a long, long time.

10. Quote to note

Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead on the suspension of star QB Nick Fitzgerald for the season opener for a violation of team rules: “He understands, and he has the vote of the team because he was elected captain. He knows how to respond to this the right way. We will come back Kansas State week, and we will get the season rolling the way we planned.”