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Tag:LaMichael James
Posted on: July 9, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2011 1:03 pm
 

Cal, LSU paid less for Lyles' packages

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Oregon is not the only school that has paid Complete Scouting Services director Willie Lyles in recent years, though it appears the school was paying much more than the others that Lyles worked with.

According to a report in The Oregonian, Lyles sold similar packages to both Cal and LSU, though neither school paid nearly as much.

Lyles billed California $5,000 for what is described on the invoice as the Complete Scouting Services' "2010 National Package."

On the invoice, it appears nearly identical to the CSS "2011 National Package" for which Oregon paid Lyles $25,000.

The invoices indicate that both the 2010 and 2011 packages include game film and highlight film from the same 22 states.

LSU paid Lyles $6,000 for what the invoice detailed as the "2010 JUCO perState Package" that included game film from California and Kansas junior colleges.

Obviously, this is yet another revelation that doesn't look very good for Oregon. Lyles has already said that what Oregon was paying him for was his access and influence with highly recruited players like LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk, two players Lyles claims to have helped steer toward Oregon. The fact that Oregon paid five times as much as fellow Pac-12 school Cal did for essentially the same package gives Lyles claims a bit more weight behind them.

That is, unless we're supposed to believe that Oregon just tips really well. 

Posted on: July 2, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 12:47 pm
 

Oregon releases statement regarding Lyles

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Oregon football program took a beating on Friday when a Yahoo! report carpet bombed the entire program with allegations by scouting service owner Willie Lyles. Lyles went into detail about his relationship with the school and recruits he helped Oregon land, such as Lache Seastrunk and Heisman finalist LaMichael James. Lyles even addressed the infamous outdated scouting report that Oregon paid him $25,000 for. That report brought all this attention to the school and to Lyles.

As you'd expect, the school issued a statement about the story on Friday evening, though it didn't say much of anything.

“The University of Oregon athletic department has and will continue to fully cooperate with the NCAA inquiry,” athletic director Rob Mullens said in the statement. “Our department is committed to helping the NCAA in any way possible and until their work is complete, we are unable to comment further.

“Oregon athletics remains committed to operating a program of integrity.”

If Mullens and Oregon are really committed to operating a "program of integrity," well, I know of at least one step they can take.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 1:24 pm
 

Lyles talks about his relationship with Oregon

Posted by Tom Fornelli

If you're an Oregon fan you may want to pour yourself a drink and sit down before you continue reading any further.

In a report released by Yahoo on Friday, Will Lyles -- the "street agent" who has been the subject of an NCAA investigation at Oregon in recent months -- detailed his relationship with Oregon in helping the school land recruits like LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk amongst others with Yahoo's Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel. Amongst the things talked about is the $25,000 the school paid Lyles for recruiting reports that eventually turned out to be a few years old, and things don't look good for Oregon if Lyles' side of the story is true.
Embattled scouting service owner Will Lyles told Yahoo! Sports that University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly personally approved a controversial $25,000 fee that sparked an ongoing NCAA investigation and was in constant contact as Lyles provided the Ducks with recruiting assistance that may have violated NCAA rules.

In a wide-ranging, multi-day interview, Lyles said Kelly "scrambled" in late February and asked Lyles to submit retroactive player profiles to justify the $25,000 payment to his company, just days before the transaction was revealed in a March 3 Yahoo! Sports report. Lyles also provided details of his fledgling company – Complete Scouting Services (CSS) – as well as the extent of his relationship with numerous Texas high school stars and his role in Ducks' recruitment of certain prospects.

Lyles insists Oregon did not make a direct request or payment to steer recruits to Eugene. However, he now says Oregon did not pay him for his work as a traditional scout, but for his influence with top recruits and their families and his ability to usher prospects through the signing and eligibility process. That dual role as mentor to prospects and paid contractor to Oregon is believed to be a focus of the NCAA probe.

"I look back at it now and they paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits," Lyles said. "The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should … I made a mistake and I'm big enough of a man to admit I was wrong."
While Chip Kelly declined to comment on the story, Oregon spokesman Dave Williford said that the school's stance "hasn't changed from our original statement" and the the school believes "it did nothing wrong." A statement that is contradicted by Lyles saying that Oregon's assistant director of football operations Josh Gibson played a role in bringing Lache Seastrunk to Eugene.
Lyles said Oregon's assistant director of football operations, Josh Gibson, had direct knowledge – and played an ancillary role – in Lyles helping Temple (Texas) High School star Lache Seastrunk petition to have his grandmother, rather than his mother, sign his national letter of intent with the Ducks in February 2010. Seastrunk's mother, who expressed opposition to her son about attending Oregon, otherwise could have blocked the signing.

"Indirectly I played a pivotal role in [Seastrunk signing with Oregon]," Lyles said.
The report then goes on to detail how Lyles helped a number of players make their way to Oregon, including having LaMichael James transfer to a school in Arkansas during his final semester of high school so that he wouldn't have to take a standardized test that could have affected his eligibility to play college football. Lyles also said that Chip Kelly, who was then Oregon's offensive coordinator, believed the transfer was a "great idea."

All in all, there's a whole lot in the Yahoo report that does not shine a good light on Oregon and it's relationship with Lyles. I recommend heading over there to read the entire thing. That is, unless you're an Oregon fan. If that's the case you should probably just pour yourself another drink. 

As for the school's reaction to the story, athletic director Rob Mullens released a statement on Friday night.

“The University of Oregon athletic department has and will continue to fully cooperate with the NCAA inquiry,” said Mullens. “Our department is committed to helping the NCAA in any way possible and until their work is complete, we are unable to comment further.

“Oregon athletics remains committed to operating a program of integrity.” 
Posted on: June 21, 2011 1:49 pm
 

There's cause for concern in Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Drip, drip, drip.

That's generally how news comes out about NCAA investigations at schools and it appears Oregon fans are finding that out all too well this week. Monday night Oregon released several documents to the media as part of open records requests stemming from the NCAA's investigation into the scouting service run by Will Lyles. The biggest nugget to come out of the documents was the fact that the university paid $25,000 for a scouting report that was two years old.

Lyles' "2011 National Package" was full of recruits from the 2009 class and had, among the notable names, SMU's junior starting quarterback Kyle Padron. In fact, none of the 140 players in the booklet Oregon turned over were identified as recruits in the class of 2011. Lyles has been connected to current Oregon running backs LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk and former running back Dontae Williams, all of whom are from Texas.

So what's next?

CBSSports.com Senior Writer Dennis Dodd, who is in Eugene this week, wrote Tuesday morning that it's hard for him to believe Oregon could be this dumb. After all, paying $25,000 for something that pales in comparison to any other national package and paying that amount for old and relatively useless information is something they can smell all the way in Indianapolis.

While most Oregon fans can admit that the entire episode seems shady, it's hard to see what NCAA bylaws the school broke in paying Lyles $25,000 for his recruiting service.

There are four main bylaws that govern scouting or recruiting services: 11.3.2.5 (school personnel can't consult or endorse services), 12.3.3.1 (services can distribute student-athletes information but can't be paid a fee based on placing them at a school), 13.1.7.20 (coaches can't watch off-campus video of athletes provided by services) and 13.14.3, which is the main definition of a recruiting or scouting service.

Oregon needs to be concerned about 12.3.3.1 and 13.14.3 (below):

An institution may subscribe to a recruiting or scouting service involving prospective student-athletes, provided the institution does not purchase more than one annual subscription to a particular service and the service: (Adopted: 1/1/02, Revised: 1/16/10)

(a) Is made available to all institutions desiring to subscribe and at the same fee rate for all subscribers;

(b) Publicly identifies all applicable rates;

(c) Disseminates information (e.g., reports, profiles) about prospective student-athletes at least four times per calendar year;

(d) Publicly identifies the geographical scope of the service (e.g., local, regional, national) and reflects broad-based coverage of the geographical area in the information it disseminates;

(e) Provides individual analysis beyond demographic information or rankings for each prospective student-athlete in the information it disseminates; (Revised: 4/13/10)

(f) Provides access to samples or previews of the information it disseminates before purchase of a subscription; and

(g) Provides video that is restricted to regularly scheduled (regular-season) high school, preparatory school or two-year college contests and for which the institution made no prior arrangements for recording. (Note: This provision is applicable only if the subscription includes video services.)


Based on the documents turned over to the media by Oregon, Lyles' service he provided the school fails to fit (c) and (d) because he did not distribute reports at least four times per year and his geographical scope does not fit the definition of a national package. The "National" package Lyles sent was supposed to contain information on 22 states yet only contained information from five states and all but five players were from the state of Texas. A national package it was not.

According to George Schroeder of the Register-Guard, the media requested the video Lyles sent along but a school spokesman said 'Lyles delivered some video, but said the school had difficulty retrieving the video from its computer system, or separating it from video gathered by other means.'

While it is difficult to predict what the NCAA enforcement staff will do, it's very possible they will declare this an impermissible recruiting service. The staff could then argue that the $25,000 was - in essence - a payoff for delivering players and a violation of bylaw 12.3.3.1. This would place the players eligibility in question as well and could result in victories being vacated for playing ineligible players. It would also mean Oregon committed a major violation.

Oregon and the Ducks' coaching staff would certainly have to explain themselves (so far the university has issued a no comment). The Committee on Infractions would certainly want an explanation and would no doubt dare Chip Kelly and the compliance department to show how they could justify $25,000 for old information. Saying they were just defrauded by Lyles likely won't cut it and failure to answer the question truthfully or a failure to explain why they didn't raise the issue beforehand could result in a 10.1 violation for unethical conduct. Ask Jim Tressel and Ohio State what happens when they commit a 10.1 violation.

One BCS conference compliance officer told CBSSports.com that based on what they've read, "It doesn't look good but I won't predict how it plays out." Another said, "It's possible Oregon thought what they were doing was permissible but got it very wrong."

The school has not been issued a Notice of Inquiry, which marks the formal start of the investigation but the NCAA is certainly looking what has been going on in Eugene. Combined with an inquiry into the basketball program and the fact that Oregon coaches exchanged around 400 text messages and numerous phone calls with Lyles, things are starting to get very interesting.

No one knows how things might turn out for Oregon but there is cause for concern in Eugene.
Posted on: June 21, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: June 21, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Oregon and Willie Lyles played a lot of phone tag

Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Monday we learned that Oregon had paid talent scout Willie Lyles $25,000 for some recruiting reports that were apparently two years old. That discovery means one of a couple things. There was either a clerical error that resulted in Oregon getting the wrong report, somebody at Oregon is really stupid, or there's something funny going on here. Then there's a fourth option.

Maybe Oregon was paying Lyles' cell phone bill.

According to a report in The Register-Guard, over the last four years, Oregon coaches have exchanged around 400 text messages and numerous phone calls with Lyles.

Records released by the University of Oregon, in response to media requests, show that Oregon coaches made or accepted 70 calls in a fourth-month period that ended in March of 2010, when the football program paid $25,000 to Lyles for outdated recruiting information just a few weeks after Texas running back Lache Seastrunk signed with the Ducks.

Lyles had been serving as a mentor to Seastrunk.

The records of cell phone calls shows that Gary Campbell, the UO running backs coach, made 27 calls to Lyles during that time and received 11 more from Lyles, while Kelly’s cell phone showed only one call made to Lyles, for a three-minute duration.

The UO records also show some 400 text messages exchanged between Lyles and UO coaches over the past four years, the heaviest volume of those involving Kelly at a time when he was still the offensive coordinator.

Kelly traded 12 texts with Lyles on the two days before Jan. 17, 2008, when UO received a verbal commitment from LaMichael James, who has described Lyles as an advisor.

The report also goes on to detail a couple of specific incidents in which Chip Kelly and Lyles were in constant contact via text message, with one such instance coming the day before Chip Kelly was named as Mike Bellotti's successor at Oregon. Now, it's important to point out here that just because Chip Kelly and Willie Lyles were texting a lot before LaMichael James made his decision and before Kelly became head coach, that doesn't mean there was anything funny going on here.

For all we know, Lyles and Kelly were texting the night before James committed to talk about James coming to a decision. Unless a record of the text emerges from Kelly to Lyles' phone that says "Thanks, the check is in the mail" there's not exactly a whole lot anybody can prove here.

But you do have to admit, fresh off the news that Oregon paid Lyles $25,000 for two-year old reports, it does smell a bit fishy.

Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Inaugural Pony Express Award watch list released

Posted by Chip Patterson

The recent slew of NCAA investigations and scandal has brought the Southern Methodist narrative from the late 1970's - early 1980's back to the forefront. The dominance of Eric Dickerson and Craig James has now been re-told to a new generation of college football fans, as the many would consider the pair the greatest duo in college football.

So Dickerson and James have created a recognition to award the greatest pair in college football each year. The Pony Express Award "will look at two- and three-player tandems from across the nation, ultimately honoring the combination whose work ethic, desire, on- and off-field leadership and playmaking ability best fuel their team."

The award will be voted on by a blue ribbon panel of experts that will form the award's board of directors, and awarded at the completion of the 2011 regular season. The watch list for the inaugural award was released this week.

Alabama - RB Trent Richardson, WR Marquise Maze
Alabama - LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Nico Johnson


Alabama - S Mark Barron, S Robert Lester
Arizona - QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner
Arkansas - WR Greg Childs, WR Joe Adams, WR Jarius Wright
Auburn - RB Michael Dyer, RB Ontario McCalebb
Baylor - QB Robert Griffin, WR Kendall Wright, WR Josh Gordon
Boise State - QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin
Boston College - DE Max Holloway, LB Luke Kuechly
Clemson - DE Andre Branch, DT Brandon Thompson
Florida - RB Jeff Demps, RB/WR Chris Rainey
Florida State - QB EJ Manuel, RB Jermaine Thomas, RB Lonnie Pryor
Florida State - CB Greg Reid, CB Xavier Rhodes, LB Nigel Bradham
Georgia - G Cordy Glenn, C Ben Jones
Georgia - K Blair Walsh, P Drew Butler
Iowa - DE Broderick Binns, DT Mike Daniels
Kentucky - LB Ronnie Sneed, LB Danny Trevathan


LSU - QB Jordan Jefferson, WR Russell Sheppard


Miami - LB Sean Spence, S Ray Ray Armstrong
Michigan State - QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker, WR Keshawn Martin
Nebraska - LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard
North Carolina - WR Dwight Jones, WR Erik Highsmith
North Carolina - DE Donte Paige-Moss, DE Quinton Coples, DT Tydreke Powell
North Carolina - LB Zach Brown, LB Kevin Reddick
Notre Dame - LB Manti Te'o, LB Darius Flemming
Ohio State - RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey
Ohio State - OT Mike Adams, OT JB Shugarts, C Mike Brewster
Oklahoma - QB Landry Jones, WR Ryan Broyles, WR Kenny Stills
Oklahoma - LB Travis Lewis, LB Tom Wort, DB Tony Jefferson
Oklahoma State - QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon


Oregon - QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James, RB Kenjon Barner
South Carolina - QB Stephen Garcia, RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Alshon Jeffrey
South Carolina - DE Devin Taylor, DT Melving Ingram
SMU - DE Taylor Thompson, DE Margus Hunt
Stanford - QB Andrew Luck, WR Chris Owusu, TE Coby Fleener
Stanford - OT Jonathan Martin, G David DeCastro
Texas - LB Keenan Robinson, LB Emmanuel Acho, DL Kheeston Randall
Texas - S Christian Scott, S Blake Gideon
Texas A&M - QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray, WR Jeff Fuller
TCU - LB Tanner Brock, LB Tank Carder
Troy - DE Jonathan Massaquoi, LB Kanorris Davis
Tulsa - QB GJ Kinne, WR Damaris Johnson
USC - QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods
Virginia Tech - QB Logan Thomas, WR Jarett Boykin, WR Dyrell Roberts
Washington - RB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse
Washington - DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison
West Virginia - QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin
Wisconsin - RB Montee Ball, RB James White

What are your thoughts on the list? Any early favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.
Posted on: June 7, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:42 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 20-11

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun.

We're now down to the nitty-gritty: Nos. 20-11 below, 10-3 tomorrow, then No. 2 Thursday and our No. 1 unveiled Friday. Stay tuned.

20. OLIVER LUCK, athletic director, West Virginia. Luck's influence on college football is two-fold. The first (and most important) has been his effect as the athletic director of West Virginia. Recently, his role as the face of this athletic department has become much more challenging due to the ongoing Bill Stewart/Dana Holgorsen soap opera. In the next few weeks, Luck will have to clean up a he-said/she-said that could end up defining West Virginia football -- and the entire "coach-in-waiting" strategy -- significantly for the near future. If Luck decides that Stewart was trying to convince reporters to dig up dirt on Holgorsen after his hiring in December, he may be faced with the decision of promoting Holgorsen early or -- as some have suggested i- bringing in an entirely new head coach. Somehow, Luck will have to find a way to juggle all of this responsibility while instituting the first year of beer sales at West Virginia athletic events. Despite a negative reaction from many fans, Luck is convinced that the selling beer at the games is going to be the best way to discourage binge drinking before the games and at halftime. It is not entirely uncommon for schools to make this decision, but the logic is often difficult to explain to fans who disapprove of alcohol at college events entirely.

Oliver is also the father of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. The overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck shocked the professional ranks with his decision to return to Stanford for (at least) another season. His return shakes up the entire Pac-12 race, and with Terrelle Pryor's off-field issues has made him the frontrunner for next year's Heisman Trophy. The decision for a college player to come back almost always is a family one, and while the elder Luck has kept himself out of his son's affairs for the most part, his influence on Andrew's decision has no doubt changed the football landscape for next season. -- CP

19. THE NFL LOCKOUT, potential season-dissolver, NFL. Think the NFL lockout isn't hugely important to the college game? Watch what happens if/when college games are the only games in town. Watch what happens when all the "Monday morning quarterbacks" are still talking about Saturday instead of Sunday. The fact is that college football is uniquely positioned to siphon tens of millions of football fans from the NFL, even if it's just on a temporary basis. And unlike college basketball and the NBA, where the pro version is a vastly superior product to the amateur version (sorry, but it's true), college football can be every bit as enjoyable as the NFL.

Of course, the lockout situation is still fluid, and there's certainly a possibility that pro football will be "back" well before the college football season starts. And yet, the antitrust lawsuit filed by Tom Brady and friends has a hearing that's scheduled for September 12... four days after the NFL's regular season is supposed to start. The NFL is gearing up for a long work stoppage; college football teams should take full advantage. That means courting the newly disenfranchised fans and filling as many stadiums as possible with them, even if it means dropping ticket prices. That means openly promoting celebrating the fact that college football is never going anywhere, never relocating to another city 1,000 miles away, never locking players out and threatening to cancel a season, and never treating fans half as poorly as the NFL is treating its own right now. -- AJ

18. VONTAZE BURFICT, linebacker/eater of souls, Arizona State. Burfict has developed a bit of a reputation for being a cheap shot artist. It's not exactly an unfair label, as any search of his name on YouTube will provide the evidence of his work. Yet, having a linebacker on your defense that plays with a chip on his shoulder isn't exactly a bad thing, especially when that chip complements the heap of talent that comes with it. Through his first two seasons with the Sun Devils, Burfict has made 151 tackles, leading Arizona State with 90 last season.

Entering the season, Arizona State seems to be a trendy pick in a lot of preseason top-25 polls, and Burfict is one of the reasons why. (Our colleague Dennis Dodd named him the national Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.) While Arizona State's defense was middle of the Pac last season, the rush defense was third best in the conference, and an even better Burfict could make for even better numbers this season. If the Sun Devils are going to live up to the preseason and make some real noise in the Pac-12, the defense is going to have to do its part. And that defense will be led by Vontaze Burfict. -- TF

17. BUTCH DAVIS, head coach, North Carolina. When Davis arrived in Chapel Hill, his charge was to make North Carolina football relevant on a national level. In 2010 North Carolina football has had as many headlines as all the perennial powers--just for many of the wrong reasons. In a year that has been filled with NCAA-related scandal, the Tar Heels are preparing to finally wrap up an investigation on impermissible benefits and academic impropriety that began last summer with Marvin Austin and Greg Little. Throughout this entire process, Davis has remained steady and confident in his team and his job. One year later, Davis has dodged all of the attacks and still stands as the head coach in Chapel Hill.

But despite promises to right the culture of wrongdoing, Davis continues to catch criticism for his ignorance. Defensive lineman Quintin Coples is already a topic of interest after being spotted at a DC-based NFL Draft Party. Considering the "sign-out sheet" that was going to help keep tabs on players, Coples' misstep in judgement reflects poorly on Davis and the program leadership.

But unlike other head coaches in charge of troubled programs, there has been no hard evidence to show any kind of cover-up by Davis. When a player's eligibility has been put in question, the school has pulled the player from the active roster and relied on a "next man up" mentality until NCAA clearance. Not only have Davis and athletic director Dick Baddour been cooperative with the NCAA, but North Carolina won their first bowl game since 2001. With no hard evidence yet to surface, Butch Davis continues to avoid the pressures of investigation with ignorance and wins. As long as both factors continue, Davis will be on the sideline in Chapel Hill. -- CP

16. JIM DELANY, commissioner, Big Ten. The man who stands atop college football's most prosperous conference is back again, and he's got quite a production to unveil this year. The new-look Big Ten has a slew of changes, and all of them--from newcomer Nebraska to the newly named trophies and division names--have Delany's fingerprints all over them. As such, the success or failure of these changes are going to be laid directly at Delany's feet, for better or worse. We're banking on "better."

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So why is he only 16th on this list? Because when push came to shove and Ohio State (Delany's flagship football program) started to melt down in the wake of Jim Tressel's transgressions, Delany was nowhere to be found. Sure, he held a teleconference last Sunday, after Tressel was already gone, but remember that it took five months for the Ohio State brass to go from "notified of Tressel's problem" to encouraging him to resign. If Delany was truly upset about what happened in Columbus, shouldn't he have at least put a little public pressure on OSU to move on? Yes, Ohio State should be encouraged to deal with its own problems, but this is the conference of Legends and Leaders, right? Do those names actually stand for anything, or are they just meaningless labels? And if they do stand for something, shouldn't the commissioner enforce them a little more actively than Delany did with OSU? -- AJ

15. MACK BROWN, head coach, Texas. Since becoming the head coach in Austin in 1998, Brown's teams have gone 133-34, won a national title, and earned two Big 12 championships and six division championships. Brown has won the Bear Bryant Award, Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, and has been the Big 12 coach of the year twice. That's a lot of notches in the belt, but those accolades don't mean much in Austin right now, as a lot of Longhorns fans can't see past 5-7, Texas' record last season. It's hard to believe that a coach who has had as much success at Texas as Brown has could be considered on the hot seat, but if Brown doesn't turn things around this season, he will be.

Brown made the changes he felt were needed after 2010, firing Greg Davis and hiring Bryan Harsin, but he also lost the man who was supposed to replace Brown himself, Will Muschamp, to Florida. So in 2011 Brown will not only have to lead Texas back to its winning ways, but do so with two new coordinators. If he can, Texas will be back in the national title picture. If not, there may even be a job opening in Austin this winter--one that would have a seismic impact on the rest of the college football world. -- TF

14. RUSSELL WILSON, quarterback, free agent. Wilson is worth paying attention to, first and foremost, because he's a quality quarterback whose addition could single-handedly change the fortunes of whatever team he happens to join. But his situation is also worth watching because -- like some sort of sci-fi superhero experiment -- Wilson is the first and possibly last of his kind. Never before has a player of Wilson's impeccable on- and off-field credentials been available as a no-strings-attached, one-year free agent. And judging by the SEC's decision last week to eliminate single-season transfers like Wilson's and Jeremiah Masoli's, one may never be available again.

That alone makes Wilson one of the year's biggest stories. But the impact he makes on the field could be just as key. Wilson has already visited Auburn (reportedly) and is due to visit Wisconsin soon (reportedly). Given the ample (if unproven) offensive talent that would surround Wilson in either location, both teams would suddenly see their expectations rise another rung up the ladder and would become dramatically more dangerous threats to the favorites in their respective divisions. Wilson's free agent adventure might still come to nothing (returning to football from the minor leagues means giving back a huge portion of his Colorado Rockies signing bonus), but until it reaches its conclusion, we're going to be riveted all the same. -- JH

13. TRENT RICHARDSON, running back, Alabama. There's no polite way to say it, so we'll just say it: the state of Alabama has dominated the sport of college football for the past two years. Each of the last two Heisman Trophies are sitting in Cotton State trophy cases. They just happen to be a stone's throw away from each of the last two BCS championship trophies, also in those same cases. In 2009, Alabama gave us the sport's most complete, dominant defense in years. In 2010, Auburn gave us the sport's most dynamic, polarizing player in years. So what are they going to do for an encore?

Thanks to Trent Richardson, they might just make it three-for-three on both the BCS title and Heisman Trophy fronts. Even as Mark Ingram took home the famous stiff-armer in 2009, Richardson was bullying his way into the backfield (as a true freshman) all the same; he finished the season with 144 carries, many of them coming in critical situations in the season-saving comeback against Auburn and the national title tilt against Texas (where he topped the 100-yard mark). After a productive 2010, Richardson now has the starter's job to himself, one of the best offensive lines in the country opening holes for him, and a defense on the other side of the ball that could be the equals of 2009 (and should give Richardson ample opportunity to close out nationally-televised wins). Deja vu all over again, for both Alabama the team, and Alabama the state? Definitely possible ... and possibly even likely. -- JH

12. CHIP KELLY, head coach, Oregon. Chip Kelly hasn't been a head coach for long but he's already accomplished quite a bit. He's taken a program with only recent success and turned the Ducks into the Pac-12's flagship program after a couple of off-years from USC. With back-to-back BCS bowls under his belt and a high flying offense that he gets the lion's share of credit for, it's no wonder he was recognized by Fast Company and several other organizations for his creativity and genius on and off the football field.

2011 will put Kelly's coaching abilities to the test, though, as the Ducks look to finish what they couldn't last season. Oregon has to replace several starters along the offensive and defensive lines but returns starting quarterback Darron Thomas and Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James at running back. This will be the first year for the Pac-12 and Kelly would like nothing more than to have his name on the inaugural trophy. His reputation has taken a hit this offseason after allegations regarding payments to Will Lyles for his scouting service, and the head coach would like nothing more than to put those things behind them--with the same quickness with which Kelly attacks everything he does. -- BF

11. MARK EMMERT, president, NCAA. Since taking over less than a year ago as the NCAA's new president, Mark Emmert has barely had time to catch his breath. He walked right into a widening agent scandal at North Carolina, had to deal with the fallout from the severe sanctions at USC, and handled the controversial reinstatement cases involving Kentucky basketball's Enes Kanter and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Needless to say, Emmert has had a lot on his plate ... and that's not even getting to the mess at Ohio State.

Emmert has been criss-crossing the country lately, meeting with administrators, student-athletes and others to get a sense of what is going on in college athletics since he took over. He has a big year upcoming as he looks to finally make an imprint with a new NCAA legislative cycle. Emmert has constantly said the organization won't pay athletes under his watch but he has talked with the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and others about full cost of attendance scholarships, so that could be a significant push he makes this year. On top of that, he'll have to deal with an inquiry from the Department of Justice into why the organization doesn't run an FBS football playoff. With all that is on his plate, Emmert will continue to have a regular presence in the headlines. -- BF

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31 and 30-21. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: June 6, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:43 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 30-21

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

30. LAMICHAEL JAMES, running back, Oregon. Granted, it was just Oregon's spring game. But Duck fans had to like the fact that LaMichael James had only three carries (lest he gets hurt) and that one of them went for a touchdown--your simple, run-of-the-mill, back-and-forth 67-yard "scamper" as the Oregon media described it. The run was almost par-for-the-course for the reigning Doak Walker Award winner, but that's the thing about James: when you're a threat to score just about every time you touch the ball, 67-yard touchdowns happen sometimes.

On top of setting his sights on a host of Oregon and Pac-12 rushing records this season, James hopes to help lead Oregon back to the BCS championship game and finish what the team came so close to doing last year. The Ducks have to replace several offensive linemen, but that might not be a big issue for James, who can hit the tiniest of holes in split-seconds. Speed is the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back's greatest asset, considering he moonlights on Oregon's track team and anchors the 4x100 relay team (among other things). James will leave the track behind soon though, moving on to playing a game of "catch me if you can" and blowing past defenses come fall. A second trip to New York as a Heisman finalist -- and possibly more -- seems likely. -- BF

29. LUKE KUECHLY, linebacker, Boston College. The ACC has produced several dominating defenders in the last couple of years, but few have demanded the attention from day one like Kuechly. Tapped to replace Mark Herzlich in the BC linebacking unit in 2009, Kuechly stepped in and set an NCAA freshman record with 158 tackles on the season. When the two were on the field together in 2010, Kuechly led the nation with 183 tackles and was named a unanimous All-American by pretty much anyone with a publication.

Entering his junior year the expectations are as high as ever for Kuechly. He is widely considered a first-round draft pick in 2012, but will need another impressive season to cement that status. The good news for Eagles fans is that head coach Frank Spaziani and the rest of the staff believe that Kuechly has done nothing but improve. But with a much younger defense alongside him in the huddle in 2011, Kuechly will need to provide more than individual statistics to help Boston College get back to the postseason. The good news is the mere presence of the 6-foot-3, 235-pound playmaker on the field is a tactical advantage, with the opposition always having to keep an eye on No. 40. Considering the potential for Kuechly in 2011, it won't just be the opposition--we'll all have our eyes on No. 40 this fall. -- CP

28. BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, title tilt, Indianapolis. For years and years, the Big Ten stood apart from the rest of FBS college football in one very unfortunate aspect: it was the only conference that did not employ either a full round-robin conference schedule or a conference championship game. In other words, only in the Big Ten could two teams potentially go undefeated in conference play (or otherwise tie for the conference championship) and have no way to break the tie on the field. In fact, that's not just a pointless what-if; it actually happened in 2002, when Iowa and Ohio State both ran the table in Big Ten play. Iowa had one blemish on its non-conference record and OSU didn't, so the Buckeyes went to the BCS Title Game and won. But Big Ten fans had (and still have) the right to feel cheated out of what would have been an excellent conference championship game.

No more, no more, as the Big Ten is going to be invading Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Dome every December from now until 2015, settling the age-old controversy on whether being a Legend or Leader is better (more on that in a little bit). Purists are understandably chafed that the Big Ten--the conference that couldn't get more arctic or physical without literally employing polar bears as offensive linemen--is deciding its conference championship in a dome, but watching a game in horrible weather is miserable, and misery in the name of purity is still misery. It's good to see Jim Delany's still got something of a heart. -- AJ

27. THE SMURF TURF, home field, Boise State. It's rare for the actual field to be a school's most recognizable feature, but that's certainly the case for the love-it-or-hate-it blue turf at Boise State's Bronco Stadium. The only blue artificial turf in the world, it's rumored (though not confirmed, alas) that migrating birds sometimes mistake it for a giant lake and try to land on it. Like the birds that may or may not land flat on their face, opposing teams seem to nose-dive when they play on the turf, going 2-77 against the Broncos there since 1999.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the home team is perfect in conference games, going 40-0 on the Smurf Turf during WAC play. This is Boise State's first year in the Mountain West and they aim to keep that mark going, but it won't be easy. Looming large on the schedule is a game against departing MWC power TCU in the middle of November. The Horned Frogs aren't expected to be quite as good as they were last year (or in the teams' 2009 Fiesta Bowl meeting) but they do figure to be the Broncos' biggest road block to another BCS game -- and possibly even the national title game -- if they get by Georgia in their opener. With plenty of returning starters back from last year's 12-1 squad, don't be surprised if Boise proves unbeatable on the blue turf once again. -- BF

26. MIKE SHERMAN, head coach, Texas A&M. When Sherman was hired at College Station before the 2008 season, replacing Dennis Franchione, it wasn't exactly the kind of move that had Aggie fans celebrating impending national championships. A 10-15 mark through his first two seasons didn't help matters, and Sherman found himself on the hot seat even after signing a seven-year deal. That seat only got warmer when the Aggies started off the 2010 season 3-3 ... and then a funny thing happened. Sherman finally pulled the plug on Jerrod Johnson and went with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and after that all Texas A&M could do was win. The team finished the year 9-4 after losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, but by then the Aggies had already picked up their first share of the Big 12 South title since 1998.

So it's safe to say that Sherman's seat has cooled considerably in 2011. Of course, while he may not have come to College Station with the highest of expectations, now that Aggie fans have a taste for winning again, Sherman's biggest task will be to keep that momentum going. To do that he's going to have to make sure his defense continues to improve. After finishing dead last in 2008 and 2009 in the Big 12 in points-against, the Aggies rocketed up to second in the conference last season, allowing only 20.3 points per-game. If Sherman can continue leading the Aggies to improvement on both sides of the ball, as he did last season, the Longhorns won't be the only team from Texas to worry about in the Big 12 championship race. -- TF

25. MANTI TE'O, linebacker, Notre Dame. During his time in South Bend, Charlie Weis seemed to have a lot of success recruiting offensive players. On the defensive side of the ball, while Weis brought in some solid players, the game-changing playmakers you need to win were never seemed to be among them. That is, until Weis went to Hawai'i and landed Manti Te'o. Weis may be gone, but the "Hawaiian Hitman" remains and Brian Kelly is thrilled to have him. The biggest factor in Notre Dame's strong finish in 2010 was a defense that shut down opposing offenses, and Te'o was the driving force in that unit.

Through his first two seasons Te'o has racked up 192 tackles (129 of them in 2010) and 14 tackles-for-loss. Te'o can be counted on to fly to the ball on every play, and while he's not as polished in pass coverage, he can stuff the run with the best linebackers in the country. What should scare offensive coordinators this year is that with the stockpile of talent Notre Dame has built on its defensive line the last few years, Te'o should be free to seek and destroy all season long. And if that's the case, it may not be long until Notre Dame is back on a BCS stage -- with Te'o the face of its success -- and college football fans are forced to hate the Irish again instead of just laughing at them. -- TF

24. LES MILES'S COJONES, coaching decision-makers, LSU. Since Les Miles took over for Nick Saban at the Bayou Bengal helm in 2005, it's no secret that LSU has won its fair share of thrillers. But it's not just the selective memory of the charmed 2007 run talking; over Miles's six seasons, LSU has gone a stunning 22-9 in games decided by seven points or less. Since we're talking about games potentially decided by a single bounce of the ball, most teams' records in these situations naturally yo-yo back and forth year-to-year--look at Iowa's rise-and-fall over the past few seasons, for instance. But not LSU. Aside from a 2-2 mark in 2008, Miles has finished above .500 in this category ever year of his Baton Rouge tenure.

The majority of observers (including many within his own LSU fanbase) have chalked this up to blind luck, and sometimes--as in Tennessee's 13-players-on-the-field penalty that saved the Tigers from themselves last season--they're right. But Miles also hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for the ballsy, go-for-broke, correct decisions that have often turned the tide in such games. While it's easy to note how fortunate Miles was when last year's botched fake field goal pitch against Florida bounced straight into his kicker's arms, it overlooks the fact that playing for a game-winning touchdown is by far the superior choice to settling for a long-distance field goal that would only tie the game even if good. If Miles ignores the criticism and continues to let his cojones do his thinking for him, expect another year of success for the Tigers in the dying minutes--and given how much talent his team will wield, potentially another run at a crystal football. -- JH

23. TODD MONKEN, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State. Last season the Cowboy offense averaged 44.9 points and 537.6 yards per game. That, to keep the superlatives to a minimum, is rather good. Then Dana Holgorsen left Stillwater to become the head coach-in-waiting at West Virginia, and Monken was hired to replace him. Those are some high-octane shoes for Monken to fill, especially considering he hasn't been a play-caller since 2004, when he was working a previous stint in Stillwater for Les Miles. Since then, Monken followed Miles to LSU for a couple of years and then went on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

So there's going to be an adjustment period, but the good news is that Oklahoma State still plans to run the same system it ran under Holgorsen. Unfortunately Monken won't have the same command of the playbook right off the bat that Holgorsen did, but he does at least have Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to help cover him. Still, if Monken doesn't get the handle of things quick enough, Oklahoma State's top-10 season could already be "over" (and the immense potential of another year of the Weeden-Blackmon connection "wasted") by the time things are firing on all cylinders.-- TF

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22. "LEGENDS" AND "LEADERS," division names, Big Ten. One of the most dramatic changes in college football this year is the realignment of the Big Ten to a 12-team, two-division conference. Not only does that bring the aforementioned Big Ten Championship Game into existence, but it also introduces new and different conference tensions into play. Michigan and Nebraska as hated rivals? It sure could happen. Ohio State being more concerned with Wisconsin than the Wolverines? If a division title's on the line, absolutely.

But good lord, those names. It's one thing to deal with them over the course of an off-season, when they only come up once a month or so or whatever. Imagine what happens when they become part of the daily conversation. The derision will be deafening. Newscasters won't want to use them. Every time there's a slow moment in a football game, odds are pretty good that some bored color commentator is going to roll his eyes and casually call the division names stupid, and fans will laugh along with them. The Big Ten should be celebrating a brand new era and all of everything else that goes along with Nebraska's entry into the conference, and now instead it's going to have to defend the indefensible "LEGENDS" and "LEADERS" constantly. It's not too late to scrap them and just go with an admittedly imperfect-but-close-enough East-West nomenclature, right? Yeah, it's boring, but boring is good. It lets the on-field product speak for itself, and Big Ten football certainly can do that, right, Mr. Delany? Right? -- AJ

21. URBAN MEYER, television analyst/coaching free agent, ESPN. As we knew already and as Meyer spelled out for us just a few days ago, the most successful head coach of college football's previous decade won't be coaching anywhere in 2011. He'll be living the good life as a talking head at the "Worldwide Leader," offering what we hope will be pointed analysis and sharp X's-and-O's from one of the sport's shrewdest coaches.

But the shadow he'll cast over the college football coaching market will reach far longer than anything he does as a TV analyst. By specifically saying he won't be coaching "this fall," Meyer has all but announced he'll be looking for a new gig for next fall--meaning his name will be dropped into every conversation about currently vacant jobs (ahem), jobs that become vacant during the season, and even jobs that seem like they might become vacant if Meyer would show an interest. Like a prized NBA free agent, Meyer's influence is sure to be felt keenly in the narrative of the 2011 season ... even if he's not on the sidelines for a minute of it. -- JH

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41 and 40-31. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



 
 
 
 
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