Senior College Football Columnist

Mailbag: Auburn's Mason is latest example of flawed award policy

Despite worse numbers than last season, AJ McCarron has been picking up tons of awards. (USATSI)
Despite worse numbers than last season, AJ McCarron has been picking up tons of awards. (USATSI)

Here is the Friday Mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter to @BFeldmanCBS:

From @SnakeTaleJohnny: should individual awards wait til the end of the season to nominate finalists? (feel like Mason got snubbed by Doak Walker)

No doubt. My colleague Dennis Dodd has ranted about this topic a few times to me in recent weeks, and he's right. Committees scramble to get "semifinalists" and "finalists" and ballots in long before the season over at the expense of the award itself. So when a guy, like Auburn's Tre Mason, has an amazing finish to the regular season, it can't be factored in. It's ridiculous.

In the case of the Doak Walker Award, you had three excellent finalists: BC's Andre Williams (the eventual winner); Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Washington's Bishop Sankey. I used to be on the Walker committee, but am not any more. I would've voted Mason No. 1 if the voting took place at the end of the regular season. But the finalists were announced Nov. 25. Mason's team had yet to beat No. 1 Alabama (Nov. 30, 164 yards rushing) and No. 5 Mizzou Dec. 7, 304 yards rushing).

The award committees need to get better about this especially since now we have better technology to make these things happen faster, and it's not like trying to get little publicity bumps by putting out "Finalist" lists should trump the actual worth of the award.

From @Deathbeforedecaf: Are you surprised at the accolades McCarron has rec'd this year, when statistically it could be his weakest season?

AJ McCarron has a great career at Alabama and proved to be at his sharpest in big games, but yeah I'd agree with you. McCarron's numbers are actually slightly worse than last season. His yards per attempt has gone from 9.34 to 8.75. He's thrown less TDs (30 down to 26) and more INTs (three up to five).

That said, I am a little surprised, especially to see him win the Maxwell Award, honoring the nation's best player. Even McCarron himself was stunned. Keep in mind, the SEC's own coaches, guys who should be as well-versed in the merits of players in the league than anyone based on who they play and scout, didn't even vote him as the first-team all-conference QB. They picked Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

From @SteveAlbritton: Ball State HC Pete Lembo was supposed to be the hot commodity...yet all interviews and no bites...any insight?

Great question. Lembo, a 43-year-old former Georgetown Hoya, has a superb track record for improving programs. He took over a Ball State program that was 6-18 the previous two seasons before he'd arrived. In his second season, BSU went 9-4, beating teams from the Big Ten and the Big East and this fall, they went 10-2. Lembo's 25-12 in three seasons. He's also sparked Ball State to the highest APR in school history.

Before Lembo took over at Ball State, BSU was 1-23 against teams from AQ (automatic qualifier) conferences. After an October 48-27 thumping of host Virginia, Lembo's program is 4-3 in such games.

At Elon, his previous stop, the program had gone 14-42 he five seasons before he arrived and he led them to a 35-22 record, including winning seasons in his last four seasons there. His record at Lehigh before that: 44-14.

He was a finalist this week for both the UConn and Wake Forest job, but didn't get either. At UConn, the Huskies ultimately targeted two "defensive guys" in Pat Narduzzi and Bob Diaco. At Wake, the AD apparently was more comfortable with Dave Clawson, who despite a 32-31 record in the MAC, is coming off a 10-3 season where his Bowling Green team finished the year hot by blasting undefeated NIU in the MAC Title Game. If BG loses that game, who knows who Wake picks?

I've spoken to Lembo a few times. I'm almost positive he would've interviewed well, but it was more a case of an AD simply looking for something else. My hunch is it's only a matter of time before a bigger program snaps Lembo up. He's too smart and his track record as a head coach of winning everywhere is just too good. But for now, I'd make the case the two biggest winners of the Coaching Carousel season thus far (with the possible exception of Washington) are Ball State and Michigan State. BSU still has Lembo and MSU has hung on to Narduzzi.

What people often forget at this time of the year is coaches who are terrific candidates in general may not be ideal fits for the vacancies that are open at that time. In Lembo's case, I think he made a lot of sense for those two vacancies, but like a marriage you just never know what people are really looking for. But this leads me to two other questions that I got Friday morning.

From @gmmarks: where will Coach O land a job?

After going 6-2 as USC's interim head coach that included a 6-1 Pac-12 record highlighted by a win over No. 5 Stanford, Ed Orgeron's coaching stock got a boost. There were reports he had applied for the FAU and Wake Forest jobs, but he had told me those were inaccurate.

Orgeron, right now, is just thrilled to be back spending time with his family in the New Orleans area. He had been apart from them, living in hotels in his season at Tennessee and in the four years he was back at USC. His twin sons are good high school athletes in Louisiana with one of the boys being one of the best underclassmen wideouts in the state.

Orgeron sounded like he'd be comfortable getting to watch his games and be around his family in 2014 if an ideal coaching spot doesn't open up. Right now it doesn't sound like it'd be just any FBS coaching opening. On Thursday he said speculation that he was intrigued by the Arkansas State job was off-base and he wasn't interested. We'll see what else comes open.

From @MikeReddell: Why has Chad Morris name not come up more in HC discussion?

Like I noted above it has more to do with the particular jobs that have come open this winter. The only one that I thought was viable of what's been out there so far was Wake Forest. Other jobs (Miami, Ohio; Wyoming, FAU, EMU) wouldn't have made sense for him to pursue. I suspect Morris' name would be in much more demand and viable when jobs in the Southwest or Deep South come open.

From @Colesbeard: do u think Tre Mason has a shot to winning or is it Jameis Winston's to lose?

No, I think Winston has run away with the award. The biggest curiosity will be by how much did the Noles QB win the Heisman by and who actually gets second? After the way Mason and Auburn finished the regular-season, I could see him snagging second. (I voted for him in my top three).


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