Tag:Jerry Hinnen
Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:15 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 5:17 pm
 

SEC West coordinator hires: thumbs up or down?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all 28 positions now filled, here's one team-by-team assessment of where the SEC stands at the two most important assistant coaching positions. First, the West:

ALABAMA

2011: Jim McElwain offensive coordinator, Kirby Smart defensive.
Departures: McElwain accepted the job as Colorado State head coach.
2012: McElwain has been replaced by Washington OC Doug Nussmaier.

Thumbs up/down? Firmly up. Some of that is the hire of Nussmaier, who -- once freed from trying to turn Jake Locker into the efficient college QB he was never going to be -- coaxed Keith Price into becoming one of 2011's breakout stars and the Huskies to a 24th-place finish in yards-per-play. (It doesn't hurt that Nussmaier cut his coordinating teeth in the same Fresno State program McElwain did.) But even bigger was that the Tide retained the services of Smart for another year, despite his having overseen a 2011 'Bama defense that merely ranked among the best the game has ever seen.

ARKANSAS

2011: Garrick McGee offensive, Willy Robinson defensive.
Departures: McGee took the UAB head coaching positionRobinson resigned after four up-and-down years in Fayetteville.
2012: Paul Petrino returns to his brother's staff as OC after two seasons at Illinois; Paul Haynes arrives as DC after seven years at Ohio State.

Thumbs up/down? Up. It's hard to imagine a snugger fit for the offense than the same person who ran it for two successful seasons in 2008 and 2009. Haynes is unproven as a defensive play-caller -- Jim Heacock handled those duties for the Buckeyes -- but there's no arguing with the overall defensive success OSU experienced during Haynes' stay in Columbus. Anything approaching a Buckeye-esque D in 2012 will be a big improvement on the Robinson era.

AUBURN

2011: Gus Malzahn offensive, Ted Roof defensive.
Departures: Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State; Roof avoided a potential dismissal by first taking the UCF DC's job, then rejoining old Duke colleague Bill O'Brien at Penn State.
2012: Temple OC and longtime Michigan/Florida QB coach Scot Loeffler will run the offenseAtlanta Falcons DC Brian VanGorder the defense.

Thumbs up/down? Up. VanGorder is a smash hire with a successful track record both in the NFL and the SECthe sort of coach who should return the Tigers' defense to respectability in a hurry. Loeffler is a young, highly respected up-and-comer who's been due for an OC gig like Auburn's, but his pro-style leanings and early talk about "helping our defense and special teams" signals a wrenching shift in philosophy from Malzahn's no-huddle spread. Is he sharp enough to overcome what could be some serious transitional hiccups?

LSU

2011: Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa offensive, John Chavis defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Up. Despite the horrorshow put on by the Tigers in the BCS national title game, after a 13-0 regular season (and 17th-place finish in scoring offense) Les Miles is entirely justified in looking to tweak the LSU play-calling rather than overhaul it. And Chavis, of course, continues to quietly roll along as one of the college game's most productive assistants.

OLE MISS

2011: David Lee offensive, Tyrone Nix defensive.
Departures: Both Lee and Nix, swept out along with Houston Nutt.
2012: Hugh Freeze brought Arkansas State DC Dave Wommack with him while hiring former Rebel OC Dan Werner out of college-coaching retirement.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively down, which is not to say there aren't positives. Freeze will have a heavy hand in running the Rebel offense, so Werner's time away from the game won't hurt much, and the veteran is highly familiar with both the Mississippi recruiting trails and the Rebel program. Wommack, meanwhile, enjoyed an excellent 2011 season overseeing a resurgent Red Wolves defense. But both coaches' resumes are more solid than spectacular; for a head coach (and a program) with plenty of question marks of his (and its) own to answer, a legitimate needle-moving hire would have been helpful.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2011: Les Koenning offensive, Chris Wilson defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Wilson's first season in charge of the Bulldog D (after a promotion from coaching the defensive line) was promising, with a rapidly-improving unit holding four of their final six FBS opponents under 4 yards per-play. But the Bulldog offense was a disappointment, finishing ninth in both total yards and yards per-play in conference games; though Dan Mullen's close oversight of the offense means Koenning can't be blamed for those struggles, you could argue a switch might have given the Bulldog O a spark this offseason ... even if we won't.

TEXAS A&M

2011: Mike Sherman as his own OC, Tim DeRuyter defensive.
Departures: The fired Sherman, obviously. DeRuyter landed on his feet as the Fresno State head coach.
2012: Kevin Sumlin brought Houston co-OC Kliff Kingsbury with him as play-caller and hired Mark Snyder away from USF as DC.

Thumbs-up/down? Up. Though the Sumlin/Kingsbury tag team may miss Jason Phillips (the Cougars' other co-OC, now at SMU), it's hard to argue with Sumlin over any plan for his offense, given what he (with Kingsbury's help) accomplished at Houston. Snyder, meanwhile, bolstered an often-sloppy USF defense into the FBS top 15 in yards-per-play each of his two years in Tampa and brings head coaching experience from his time at Marshall. Barring hiring someone like VanGorder for the defense, it's hard to see how Sumlin could have done much better for the kind of program he wants to build -- in either slot -- than he did.

Tomorrow: the East. For all of Eye on CFB's SEC coverage, click here.

Thanks to TeamSpeedKills' helpful "Coaching Carousel Scorecard." 

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 1:11 pm
 

Washington shells out $2.73M for assistant staff

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With hires like new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi (pictured), Steve Sarkisian has put together an overhauled Washington staff that -- on paper -- ranks as one of the best in the Pac-12, and maybe the country. But not surprisingly, that overhaul has come at a cost.

The Seattle Times reported this weekend that thanks to the substantial raise for coaches like Lupoi over their predecessors, the Huskies are now spending more than any other public school in the Pac-12 on their assistants' salaries. The total bill comes in at $2.73 million, more than any other league school save -- probably -- USC, which is private and not required to release salary information.

Wilcox will make $750,000 this coming season, with escalators in his contract that could pay him as much as $850,000 in 2014. (The salary is an increase on what even his previous SEC-based employer, Tennessee, was paying him.) New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will earn $375,000 and Lupoi $350,000--a staggering figure for a position coach outside of the cash-flush Big 12 or SEC, but one likely necessary to pry the coach considered by many the best recruiter on the West Coast away from Cal.

So where is all this cash coming from? In a release, Husky AD Scott Woodward doesn't shy away from the source (emphasis added):

"As we've done since (Sarkisian's) arrival, we are seeking and signing the nation's best coaches, and we are willing and able to do it at market value. Our student-athletes deserve the best leaders and the best facilities to create the best environment to win championships. The expenditure on salaries for football's assistant coaches is a prudent investment of that additional money from the Pac-12 new multimedia contract, into the program that gives the biggest return to all Husky athletes."

By snatching away Tupoi and offering weapons-grade money to Wilcox, the Huskies may have just fired the first shot in what could prove to be the same kind of Pac-12 salary battles the SEC -- see the there-and-back-again journey of Alabama assistant Lance Thompson -- has been waging for years. The only real question is which of their conference rivals is going to issue the next one. 

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Posted on: January 22, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Auburn hires Temple's Loeffler as new OC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Gene Chizik has made his choice to replace Gus Malzahn--and it's a name that won't be unfamiliar to SEC fans.

Auburn has announced that it has hired away Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Loeffler spent five seasons as the Michigan quarterback coach and also has stints with the Detroit Lions and Central Michigan, but is best known for having served as Florida's quarterbacks coach for two seasons--including their 2009 undefeated regular season with Tim Tebow

“Auburn is one of the special jobs and special places in college athletics with a tremendous amount of history and tradition," Loeffler said in a statement. "It’s an honor to be joining Coach Chizik’s staff and I’m very appreciative of this opportunity. I’m excited to get started and look forward to beginning recruiting, meeting the players and staff, and interacting with the Auburn family.”

"Scot is a rising star who has worked with some very good quarterbacks, and has achieved a tremendous amount of success," Chizik said. "He is a tireless worker, is an outstanding recruiter and knows the rigors of competing in this conference."

Chad Henne was one of multiple quarterbacks to have flourished under Loeffler's tutelage in Ann Arbor. 

Despite those qualifications, Loeffler, 37, remains an unproven quantity when it comes to running an SEC-level offense; his single year at Temple (having followed ex-Gator coordinator and current Owl head coach Steve Addazio) is his only one as a play-caller. The Owls finished 63rd in total offense but a much-better 35th in yards-per-play, with the ground game particularly impressive; behind Bernard Pierce's 1,481 yards, the Owls finished 7th in the FBS in rushing.

Between Loeffler's track record of quarterback coaching, his effective 2011 run-scheming, and an age and energy level that should play well on the recruiting trail, it's easy to see why Chizik would be interested. (That Loeffler may be able to install some of Urban Meyer's spread concepts along with his bread-and-butter pro-style running attack could help ease the transition from Malzahn's spread   philosophy.) But a coach with as little play-calling experience is a huge gamble all the same--and it's one that after an iffy 7-5 season, Chizik likely can't afford to lose. 

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Posted on: January 22, 2012 3:18 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2012 6:46 pm
 

The SEC responds to Joe Paterno's death

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Responses to the death of Joe Paterno have been pouring out from across the country, and the SEC hasn't been any different.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier issued a statement through the university, which reads:  

"I have the utmost respect and admiration for Joe Paterno. I've coached around 300 college games and only once when I've met the other coach at midfield prior to the game have I asked a photographer to take a picture of me with the other coach. That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the '97 season when we were playing Penn State. I had one of our university photographers take the picture with me and Coach Paterno, and I still have that photo in the den at my house. That's the admiration I have for Joe Paterno. It was sad how it ended, but he was a great person and coach."

Nick Saban spoke to ESPN Sunday morning about the loss of the Nittany Lion legend, and the Birmingham News transcribed his comments:

"Joe Paterno gave his life to college football ... He gave his life to the players and college football.
"Not just at Penn State, but when I was the head coach at Michigan State, we had a player who could get a sixth year because of an injury, and Joe was the head of the committee. He got it done for the player, and that player actually ran a touchdown against them that could have cost them the game later that season.
"But never I never doubted with him that he was going to do what was best for college football, and the players that played it, and I think that should be his legacy ..
"Probably as much as anything what we all try to get as coaches, a well-disciplined team that gives tremendous effort, plays physical, has the ability to execute down-in and down-out and play winning football.
"And when you played Joe's teams, that's exactly what you were playing against. They always had real good athletes, but to me it was the level they performed at that was indicative of the kind of program that he ran, the kind of influence that he had on the players."

Saban's counter at Auburn, Gene Chizik, also released a statement:

“Coach Paterno is one of the greatest coaches in all of sport, and his achievements in college football may never be surpassed. More important is the lasting impact he left with the countless players who played for him. I’m saddened of the news of Coach Paterno’s passing and my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Paterno family.”

Paterno also received a tribute from one of the conference's most respected former coaches, with retired Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks sending out the following tweet:

 

It's not just the SEC's coaches expressing their respects, either. Not every tweet issued by swaggering Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu could be called "respectful," but this one ...

 

... certainly can be.

During his 45-year head coaching career, Paterno squared off against the SEC's current 14 squads in 16 different bowl games, including two Sugar Bowl classics (1978 vs. Alabama, a 14-7 loss, and 1982 vs. Georgia, a 27-23 win) that stand as two of the most memorable games of his entire tenure. He finished with an 11-5 record in those 16 bowls.

Since Paterno's hire in 1966, the current 14 members of the SEC have been coached by 110 different head coaches (not counting interim coaches), an average of 7.9 coaches per team. 

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Posted on: January 22, 2012 11:37 am
Edited on: January 22, 2012 12:25 pm
 

Bill O'Brien issues statement on Joe Paterno

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Following the death of Joe Paterno Sunday morning from lung cancer, Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien issued a statement through the university in which he calls his legendary predecessor "a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure."

The full statement:

"It is with great sadness that I am compelled to deliver this message of condolence and tribute to a great man, husband, father and someone who is more than just a coach, Joe Paterno. First, on behalf of Penn State Football, we offer our sincerest condolences to the Paterno family for their loss. We also offer our condolences to the Penn State community and, in particular, to those who wore the Penn State colors, our Nittany Lion football players and alumni. Today they lost a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure, and we extend our deepest sympathies. The Penn State Football program is one of college football's iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno. There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno's immeasurable contributions." 
For more reaction from State College, follow CBSSports.com's Penn State RapidReports.
Posted on: January 21, 2012 6:25 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 4:38 pm
 

Georgia CB Commings arrested on battery charges

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Georgia starting cornerback Sanders Commings has been released from jail after being arrested overnight on charges of domestic violence/simple battery and booked Saturday morning

“I’m aware of the situation and in the process of gathering necessary information,” Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the university. “However, any time a student-athlete is arrested it is a matter of serious concern.” 

University police chief Jimmy Williamson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that officers had been "flagged down" by a group of five people in downtown Athens shortly after 1 a.m., a group that included the alleged female victim and four witnesses. Per the group's testimony, the victim and Commings -- who Williamson indicated have been "cohabitating in some way" -- had been involved in some kind of verbal exchange when Commings struck her in the face. The witnesses broke up the altercation and Commings then left the scene.

A warrant was issued for Commings' arrest and he was later taken into custody at his apartment. He was freed Saturday afternoon on $1,000 bond. Williamson indicated the complete public police report would not be available until Monday morning.

A rising senior, Commings started all 14 games this season for a Bulldog pass defense that finished the year 10th overall and fourth in opponent's passing efficiency rating. Commings led the team with 12 passes broken up. Assuming the arrest does not affect his return for 2012, he will be one of 10 returning starters on a Bulldog defense that will be -- easily -- the most experienced in the SEC.

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Posted on: January 20, 2012 7:13 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 7:28 pm
 

Report: Harvey Updyke rejects 13-year plea deal

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Accused tree-poisoner Harvey Updyke has rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 13 years and -- maybe more importantly where Updyke is concerned -- prohibited him from ever attending another Alabama sporting event. 

ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported Friday that Updyke declined the plea deal "earlier this month." Updyke is scheduled to go to trial for poisoning Auburn's beloved Toomer's Corner oak trees in the Lee County (Ala.) Circuit Court March 5, but current Updyke attorney Everett Wess has requested a delay in the trial, a change of venue, and a recusal from the presiding judge.

Wess is asking that the trial be moved out of Auburn and that judge Jacob Walker III step down over his participation in an Auburn season ticket pool.

Updyke was indicted last May on two felony counts of criminal mischief, two misdemeanor counts of desecrating a venerable object and two more felony counts of an Alabama law that prohibits vandalizing or stealing any property on or from an animal or crop facility. Updyke could face as much as 42 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Though Updyke has maintained his innocence, he has also admitted to being "Al from Dadeville," the Paul Finebaum radio show caller who boasted he had poisoned the oaks in late December 2010. Updyke has since called into the show multiple times to apologize for his actions, leading to a break with his fourth attorney, Glennon Threatt. 

The oaks are not expected to survive, forcing Auburn to search for options to keep the traditional rolling of Toomer's Corner intact. The most likely approach, as recommended this week by the Committee to Determine the Future of Rolling Toomer’s Corner, will be for the oaks to be replaced by similar-sized trees once the chosen saplings have grown large enough, and for a temporary object or objects -- like some kind of wire structure -- to be used as a temporary solution until the trees are ready.

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Posted on: January 20, 2012 4:34 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 2:31 pm
 

A first look at 2012's returning starters

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's never, ever too early to talk about the next college football season once the previous one has passed. But it's a lot less too early once the deadline for NFL Draft declarations has passed and teams can enjoy an accurate -- or at least semi-accurate -- gauge of what their returning talent will look like next season.

Thanks to data-cruncher Phil Steele, we can enjoy that same semi-accurate gauge. As he does every January -- among the teams predicted for big things at this time last year were Michigan, Alabama and Vanderbilt -- Steele has released a comprehensive list of FBS returning starters for 2012, ranking each team 1-123. Yes, 123, thanks to the arrivals of UT-San Antonio, Texas State and UMass; Larry Coker's UTSA Roadrunners even top the list with 23 total returning starters (11 offensive, 10 defensive, and both specialists) as they ready for their first WAC season.

But of course, UTSA has its work cut out for it to make an impact, no matter how experienced its players might be. Among programs college football fans are more familiar with, here's the numbers and teams from Steele's data that stand out:

  • Sharing the lead amongst all BCS programs are Texas Tech and Tennessee with 20 starters each, including quarterbacks Seth Doege and Tyler Bray, respectively. If Red Raider and Volunteer third-year coaches Tommy Tuberville and Derek Dooley can't turn that kind of experience into a better year 3 than their collective Year 2's, neither one should be surprised if they don't receive a Year 4.
  • Never say never with Chris Petersen still around, but this looks like the season Boise State's incredible run of dominance and top-10 finishes comes to a halt. The Broncos rank dead-last, rock-bottom, with just 6 starters coming back--3 offensive 2 defensive, and (infamous) kicker Dan Goodale. (Then again, in the newly TCU-less Mountain West, will anyone stop them regardless? The league leader in returning starters is Colorado State, with no other MWC program ranked higher than Fresno State at 29th.)
  • It's possible Badger fans will rue their back-to-back failures at the Rose Bowl even more than they do already; with just 10 returning starters, Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten and 116th overall. Big Ten fans should instead gear up now for an even-more-critical Ohio State-Michigan game than usual; the Buckeyes are second in the league behind Indiana with 18 starters, and the Wolverines are tied with Nebraska for third with 16.
  • The Vols, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt top the SEC list -- with 18 starters or more, all rank among the nation's 19 most experienced teams -- which means the league could see a more topsy-turvy season than usual; despite their cavalcade of young talent LSU returns just 5 defensive starters, national champions Alabama just 4. Despite major losses on the offensive line, Georgia looks poised to field the conference's best defense, with nine starters coming back for a unit already ranked fifth in the FBS.
  • Why is USC getting so much early preseason love? Pretty simple: of the 10 teams listed in Bruce Feldman's early-bird top 10, the Trojans are one of just two to have as many as 17 returning starters. The other is Oklahoma, and since the Sooners finished the year getting chewed up and spit out by Oklahoma State while the Trojans were busy upsetting Oregon in Eugene and annihilating UCLA, it's not hard to see why voters might go for the former.
  • Poor Al Golden: not only is his Miami team still laboring under the weight of the Nevin Shapiro allegations, not only do they rank 96th nationally and tie for next-to-last in the ACC with 12 returning starters, but according to Steele's data the Hurricanes are -- amazingly -- the only ACC team to not return its starting quarterback for next season. 
  • Gus Malzahn is going to be one of the FBS's most closely watched mid-major head coaches after his move from Auburn, and with six returning starters including QB Ryan Aplin on offense, the Red Wolves should be fine on that side of the ball. But with just three starters back on defense, ASU ranks 116th overall and last in the Sun Belt in total starters returning. Opposite Malzahn's punishing up-tempo attack, we'd like to place an early wager on the Red Wolves as one the nation's statistically weakest D's in 2012 ... and on Malzahn needing at least two years to return ASU to last year's championship perch.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com