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Tag:Vanderbilt
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings show SEC stability

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When it comes to the SEC and coaching turnover, there's reputation, and there's reality.

The reputation is that with a heaping help of pressure from the nation's most rabid fanbases, the nation's most cutthroat conference hires and fires head coaches on the slightest of whims, for the most gentle of disappointments. And certainly, there have been some head-scratchers over the years, like David Cutcliffe's sudden dismissal from Ole Miss or Houston Nutt's tumultuous departure from Arkansas despite years of success.

But as illustrated by Dennis Dodd's CBS Hot Seat Ratings, since the 2008 season -- and the surprising exits of long-tenured Auburn and Tennessee head coaches Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer, as well as Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom -- the league that supposedly sees its head coaches change with the wind has in fact become a model of relative stability. Collectively, the SEC has fired just a single coach the past two seasons--Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell, himself only hired as a last-minute replacement following Bobby Johnson's retirement.

Four other coaches have left the league in that span, but all of them -- Urban Meyer at Florida, Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, Rich Brooks at Kentucky and Johnson -- did so voluntarily, and in Brooks's case the seamless transition to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips barely even qualifies as a "coaching change."

That newfound reticence to put coaches on the firing line is reflected in Dodd's ratings, which show just one current SEC coach rated above the median "on the bubble" 3. You get one guess who:

Alabama Nick Saban 0.0
Arkansas Bobby Petrino 1.0
Auburn Gene Chizik 0.0
Florida Will Muschamp 0.5
Georgia Mark Richt 3.5
LSU Les Miles 2.5
Mississippi Houston Nutt 3.0
Mississippi State Dan Mullen 0.0
South Carolina Steve Spurrier 0.0
Kentucky Joker Phillips 1.5
Tennessee Derek Dooley 3.0
Vanderbilt James Franklin 2.0

Assuming we don't have some unforeseen three-win meltdown with Nutt in Oxford, there's a very real possibility the SEC enters 2012 with the same 11 head coaches listed above. Richt is -- without question -- the SEC coach in the most trouble, but he's also a coach with an extremely favorable 2011 schedule, a wealth of talent on hand, and perhaps the most patient administration in the conference.

And if Richt's still here, who won't be? The Spurrier retirement rumors have been securely put to bed with the arrival of recruits like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. A big 2010 has Miles back on (mostly) firm footing; it'll take multiple down years (or a grass overdose) for him to earn a pink slip. Dooley has at least another couple of seasons with the benefit of the doubt (if we may quibble with Dodd's "3"). And while the aforementioned meltdown might do the trick for Nutt with the Rebels, between his track record and the back-to-back Cotton Bowls -- not something that happens on the regular in Oxford -- he almost certainly has another season of rope.

The most likely coach to keep the SEC from going 12-for-12 in the retention department isn't likely to be fired at all, in fact; it's Dan Mullen, who could be one more sterling season in Starkville away from getting the kind of megabucks, keystone program offer the Bulldogs just can't quite match.

But the guess here is that Dodd, overall, is entirely correct--if Mullen stays put and Richt can salvage eight or nine wins, there's not enough heat under the SEC seats to expect a coaching change anywhere in the league's 12 head coaching positions.


Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:46 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:44 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 40-31

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.

40. BRADY HOKE, head coach, Michigan. In the modern era of college football (a nebulous concept, but one defined here as "since the inception of the Heisman Trophy"), every Michigan head coach has stayed for at least nine years, with the exception of two: Gary Moeller, who coached for five years but resigned after an arrest for assault and battery in 1995, and Rich Rodriguez, who coached three years and was run out of town last January. Past them, Michigan has been a picture of stability over the years, and the concurrent success is no accident.

With that Rodriguez firing, though, the message from Michigan seems to be, "We'd like it if you stayed a while, but we'll tell you when to get comfortable." That's the power of high standards of success, and while Brady Hoke probably has a pass on getting results for the first year, he probably doesn't have that pass for two. Ohio State won't be reeling forever, after all, so this turnaround job that Hoke performed at San Diego State and Ball State prior to that needs to happen again, real quick. If Hoke makes progress down that road in 2011 -- and especially if he beats Ohio State -- he can start getting comfortable right away, and everything in Ann Arbor will be back to its normal, stable self. -- AJ

39. MATT BARKLEY AND ROBERT WOODS, dynamic quarterback/receiver tandem, USC. There's not a lot for USC fans to look forward to this year. They're out of the Pac-12 title race and can't go to a bowl game for the second straight season. But that's not a reason to stop watching, as the Trojans have one of the best quarterback/wide receiver duos in the country in Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. The latter was named Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year and was on just about every freshman All-American team after racking up a USC record for all-purpose yards. (And in case you didn't know, USC has had a few pretty good freshman play in their illustrious history.)

Then there's Barkley, the golden-haired signal caller who is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and someone many have pegged as a top 10 draft pick if he comes out after the season. Entering his third year as a starter, much is expected of him after posting 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last year. The Barkley-to-Woods connection was among the best in the nation last year and should be one to watch as they hook up for more than a few touchdowns in year two. -- BF

38. BRANDON WEEDEN AND JUSTIN BLACKMON, equally dynamic quarterback/receiver tandom, Oklahoma State. For all Barkley's and Woods' succes, there wasn't a quarterback-wide receiver combination in the nation quite as devastating as Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon last season. The duo hooked up 111 times for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns, as both players seemingly emerged out of nowhere and became nationally recognized names. Blackmon then surprised a lot of people at Oklahoma State and around the country when he decided to come back to Stillwater for another season, and now the two are ready to perform an encore.

The question is whether or not they'll be able to. Blackmon may have snuck up on some teams last season, but you can be sure that he'll be the focus of a lot of opposing defense's film sessions this season. It also won't help that Dana Holgorsen is in Morgantown rather than Stillwater. So it won't be easy, but if these two can match -- or maybe even improve on -- the production they had last season, this might be the season in which the Cowboys finally break through for that elusive Big 12 title.

37. ISAIAH CROWELL, running back, Georgia. We gave the most important incoming freshman in the SEC -- and maybe the country -- his own special weekend breakout entry. Read it here.

36. GUS MALZAHN, offensive coordinator, Auburn. No matter how many times you read it, the list of losses from Auburn's national title teams remains staggering: the Heisman-winning quarterback, the nation's best defensive lineman, six other offensive starters including the top two receivers, seven other defensive starters including the top two linebackers. With all due respect to head coach Gene Chizik (and his smashing successes in the recruiting and team-building departments), nearly all the hope Auburn has of retaining its top-25 perch and position near the top of the SEC West standings rests in Malzahn and his spotless offensive track record. If anyone can take what's left at Auburn (which does include some highly-talented pieces, like running back Michael Dyer and potential breakout receiver Trovon Reed) and fashion an attack that can still keep SEC coordinators up at night, it's Malzahn.

Malzahn's influence can be felt outside of just his impact on the Plains, though. Even as some major programs (like Michigan and Florida) revert to more conservative, pro-style schemes, the runaway success of up-tempo spread offenses like Malzahn's and Chip Kelly's has encouraged teams like Pitt and West Virginia to follow their fast-paced lead. College football offenses seem to be gravitating towards those two opposite poles -- pounding pro-styles and lightning spreads -- and Malzahn's tremendous accomplishments are a major part of explaining the move towards the latter. -- JH

35. THE NCAA's 2011 CELEBRATION RULE, scourge of all that is fair and good in this world, NCAA rulebook. We know it's coming; it's only a matter of the who and where. From the moment a player heads towards a clear endzone, every head coach out there will have his heart skip a beat hoping his player won't do something stupid like ... celebrate? No, thanks to a new NCAA rule, fumbles near the end zone won't be the thing players, coaches and referees will be on the lookout for this season ... it'll be a celebration.

The rule -- actually passed last year but taking effect starting this season -- says that if an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is committed during live play (say, a high-step into the end zone), instead of 15 yards assessed on the extra point or kickoff, the touchdown will be negated. The points will be taken off the board and the ball will be placed 15 yards from the spot of the foul. Remember the Reggie Bush somersault into the end zone? Though already illegal, if this rule had been in effect before, Bush would have been left with nothing to celebrate in the first place. So here come the pins and needles as everyone, fans and coaches alike, hope an 18-year old won't celebrate. Should be a fun season ... unless it's not. -- BF

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34. STEPHEN GARCIA, quarterback, South Carolina. Strange as it may sound, it's true: the Gamecocks are the legitimate SEC East preseason favorite. They have arguably the league's best running back in Marcus Lattimore. They have inarguably the league's best receiver in Alshon Jeffery. They have an experienced, well-coached defense that just added the nation's No. 1 overall recruit at defensive end. With massive advantages like those, you'd expect the fifth-year senior, third-year starting quarterback to be the final piece of a championship puzzle--and maybe not just a conference championship, either.

But the bad news -- or is it the good news? -- for Carolina is that that quarterback is Stephen Garcia. There's no doubt anymore; if Garcia behaves himself over the summer, he will be the Gamecocks' starting QB again this fall. That means he might uncork a whole season like his 17-of-20, three-touchdown masterpiece in Carolina's 35-21 2010 upset of No. 1 Alabama, and bring home the 'Cocks' first-ever SEC title. It also means he might get suspended the Saturday morning of the biggest game of the season or fumble four times in a loss to Vanderbilt. Because he represents the team's best chance of capitalizing on its best chance yet to claim a championship, Steve Spurrier and Co. will just have to take the good with the bad. How much of each Garcia gives them could (or maybe will) singlehandedly determine who represents the East in Atlanta. -- JH

33. THE ACC'S SEPTEMBER 17th, nonconference opportunity, ACC. When the ACC expanded in 2004-2005, the hope was that adding Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College and a championship game would raise the football status of the supposed "basketball conference." But thanks to a poor bowl record and a total lack of national title contenders over the past decade, the conference has quickly become the butt of many college football jokes. The conference produces nearly as much NFL talent as the SEC, but with such little impact on the national scene, it's assumed the ACC just can't hang with the other BCS conferences.

Well, if the ACC is going to make a statement in 2011, September 17 is their chance. Most notably, it is the date of the aforementioned Florida State-Oklahoma showdown. But the Seminoles are only one of five ACC teams hosting a major non-conference showdown that day. Clemson welcomes defending champion Auburn to Death Valley for a rematch of last year's 27-24 overtime thriller. The Miami - Ohio State showdown in Coral Gables has much less star-power than before, but that might only benefit the Hurricanes. In addition, Maryland hosts West Virginia and Georgia Tech looks for redemption from last year's upset against Kansas. The Seminoles and Tigers may take a loss, but Miami, Maryland, and Georgia Tech all have shots to win their non-conference game. If the strongest argument against the ACC is how they stack up against non-conference opponents, the conference can silence those critics with a strong showing on the third Saturday in September. -- CP

32. TAYLOR MARTINEZ, quarterback, Nebraska. It takes a lot of self-confidence for a grown man to unironically adopt a nickname like "T-Magic," but fortunately for Nebraska fans, Taylor Martinez isn't lacking for that confidence--nor for freakish athleticism. The freshman quarterback conjured up memories of Eric Crouch and Tommie Frazier as he ran for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for 1631 yards and 10 more TDs. That's even taking into consideration a right ankle injury that bothered Martinez throughout the second half of the season, keeping him out of two games and limiting him in others. A healthy, more experienced T-Magic for the entire 2011 campaign could be quite the weapon.

However, as both Martinez and Denard Robinson demonstrated just last year, football is not a sport that caters to the health of smaller quarterbacks with heavy rushing workloads. The defenses in the Big 12 are no picnic for opposing QBs, but they're even more physical in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the once-rocky relationship between Martinez and head coach Bo Pelini seems to have healed to some extent. Certainly, there aren't any reports of Martinez missing practices, and he had the chance to transfer this off-season but didn't. Once that first player-coach fight happens, contentment is usually relative and impermanent, but it seems like much more of a 2010 problem than a 2011 problem, and that's bad news for the rest of the Big Ten. -- AJ

31. BRYAN HARSIN, offensive coordinator, Texas. Earlier in the Top 100 we featured Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Well, if Gilbert is going to have a big impact on college football this season, odds are it will have a lot to do with his new coach, offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. Okay, so technically Harsin is the co-offensive coordinator, but I really don't think Mack Brown fired Greg Davis and then brought Harsin in from Boise State so he could share play-calling duties with Major Applewhite. No, Harsin will be grooming one current Longhorn quarterback and one former Longhorn quarterback.

Because if there's anything that Harsin proved himself able to do in his time at Boise, it was produce good signal-callers. Harsin's biggest influence at Texas this year will be to help Gilbert increase his touchdown passes and significantly reduce the turnovers. Over the last three seasons at Boise State, Harsin helped Kellen Moore throw 99 touchdowns to only 19 interceptions. He also put together an offense that averaged about 43 points per game the last three years, and while the defenses in the Big 12 are a bit better than the ones Harsin saw in the WAC, if he can get within reach of numbers like that with the Longhorns in just one season, the rest of the college football world will likely cower in fear. -- TF

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 and 50-41. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:54 am
 

CBS College Football 100, No. 37: Isaiah Crowell

A special weekend breakout entry for the CBSSports.com College Football 100. You can read the rest of Nos. 40-31 here.

37. ISAIAH CROWELL, running back, Georgia.



Entering 2010, you could find the occasional pundit (and more than the occasional fan) who'd tell you Mark Richt was on the hot seat. Clearly, they were a year early; any SEC coach (Vanderbilt's excepted) who's legitimately on the hot seat doesn't go 6-7 with losses to a miserable Colorado team and a Conference USA opponent and retain his job. Richt did.

But if he wasn't on the hot seat then, another year spent wallowing in mediocrity, another year losing to Florida, another year spent saying "wait 'til next year" has assured that Richt is most definitely on the hot seat now. Any fewer than, say, nine wins and at least a runner-up finish in the SEC East, and there's no way even a measured, patient program like Georgia will be able to bring him back. And so it's only natural that with his job in jeopardy like never before, Richt is spearheading his team's turnaround with ... a freshman?

Almost: freshmen, if we're being technical, the so-called "Dream Team" of primarily in-state prospects that gave Richt his strongest recruiting class in years and seemed to singlehandedly restore momentum to the program. But even the five-star likes of defensive end Ray Drew and defensive back Malcolm Mitchell won't be expected to become the centerpieces of the Bulldog defense overnight. Isaiah Crowell, though? No, he's not even on campus yet. But the true freshman running back from Columbus (Ga.) is no doubt already the foundation on which much of Richt's offensive plans are being laid.

Just ask him:
“Heavily,” Richt said on ESPNU when asked how Crowell would be used next fall. “I expect him to come right in and compete right away. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him running that rock in the dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do.”
For a publicly conservative-by-nature coach like Richt, an admission like that is tantamount to declaring Crowell the unquestioned starter ... and that was on Signing Day. Clearly, Richt believes Crowell to be the game-changer at tailback the Bulldogs haven't had since Knowshon Moreno departed, and he expects him to be that player from Day 1.

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But Richt almost has no choice to believe that, because the Bulldog offense needs him to be that player from Day 1. Aaron Murray put together a sensational freshman season at quarterback, but last season proved there's only so much he can do (even with the likes of A.J. Green around) without playmaking help elsewhere at the skill position. And with Green gone, the offensive line talented but in flux, the best remaining receiving target tight end Orson Charles, and Washaun Ealey finally exiled, Crowell looks to be far-and-away Murray's best bet to get that help. He might even be his only bet.

There's plenty of evidence, though, that Crowell is a bet that'll pay off in spades. Like current Heisman candidates Trent Richardson and Marcus Lattimore, Crowell arrives at Georgia not only with consensus five-star approval from the recruiting gurus but the honor of being the most sought-after SEC running back in his class. (Alabama and Auburn both fought tooth-and-nail for Crowell, to no avail.) At 5'11" and a solidly-built 210 pounds, Crowell already has the frame to deliver 25 carries a game and the power and speed to make those carries count.

In short, Crowell has both the opportunity and the talent to do for the Bulldogs exactly what Lattimore did for South Carolina last season. If he lives up to the hype, there's no reason Richt can't ride him right past a forgiving schedule (with no Alabama, LSU or Arkansas out of the West and no road game more difficult than Tennessee) all the way to Atlanta. If he doesn't? Most likely, someone other than Richt is patrolling the Bulldogs' sideline in 2012.

The guess here is that Crowell delivers, and the "Dream Team" momentum carries Richt into 2012 and beyond. But either way, Crowell enters 2011 as the most important true freshman in the SEC ... and possibly the country.

Posted on: May 31, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 4:14 pm
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 70-61

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.

70. AGENT X, compliance disaster in-waiting, Potentially Everywhere. He's out there right now. Lurking. Ready to provide student-athletes with extra benefits at a moment's notice. "He" is Agent X, the person keeping compliance officers and athletic directors up at night. 2010 saw Agent X burst on the scene as infractions cases at USC, North Carolina and Auburn dominated the headlines. X could be a number of people, from a runner looking to steer kids to a school to an agent hoping to sign players when they eventually head to the NFL to an uncle looking to make a quick buck of the football talents of a kid.

From high school 7-on-7 tournaments to college campuses, the NCAA has taken notice of Agent X as well. They were out in the spring trying to learn more about runners' methods and a few of the major players. Compliance seminars have talked about ways to spot the tell-tale signs. USC, who was impacted by shady third parties as much as any school, hosted a summit designed to come up with way to combat the problem. Agent X is still out there though--and highly liable to pop up in a headline or two sometime, somewhere over the next few months. -- BF

69. DABO SWINNEY. head coach, Clemson.
One of the reasons Swinney was promoted to head coach after Tommy Bowden's mid-season exit in 2008 was his reputation as a stellar recruiter. We saw those skills in action this past February, as the Tigers brought in multiple huge late commitments on Signing Day--enough to bring their class rank all the way up into the Top 10. It always takes a few seasons for a new coach to make the program his own, and this upcoming season could be a pivotal one for Swinney. After 2010's 6-7 record, Swinney swiftly made changes on the coaching staff, most notably bringing in Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris' fast-paced productive offense hopefully will alter last season's offensive struggles, but much of that will also depend on first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd.

The greatest challenge for Swinney in the upcoming season (or two) will be the personnel decisions with so much highly-rated talent coming into Death Valley. With so many players from the ACC being selected in the NFL Draft, the conference has come under fire in recent years for not being able to make the most of their talent while in school. Fans have drooled over Swinney's last two classes, and there will not be an acceptable excuse for another losing season. Swinney was fast to act after 2010 finished, now his decisions will either pay off or crash and burn. At 41, Swinney has a long career ahead of him in college football, but his length of time at Clemson could depend on how the next two to three seasons play out. -- CP

68. JARED CRICK, defensive tackle, Nebraska. It's pretty much impossible to win in a physical conference like the Big Ten without superior line play, so Jared Crick's decision to come back to Nebraska for his senior season bodes very well for the Huskers ... and very poorly for their opponents. Crick, a 6'6", 285-pound beast from Cozad, NE, was second in the Big 12 in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss--both ridiculous numbers for a defensive tackle. He's going to be drawing constant double-teams this season as a result, so look for his teammates up front to have even more opportunities to make plays than usual.

Of course, it's impossible to be a standout defensive tackle at Nebraska and not invite comparisons to Ndamukong Suh, Crick's former teammate. Both are terrifyingly powerful and athletic, and while Crick's production hasn't met Suh's level yet, Suh's junior stats (19 TFL, 7.5 sacks) are only marginally better than Crick's (14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). Crick may not meet Suh's senior-year level of performance this season, but that's really only another way of saying he probably won't be a Heisman finalist. Probably. He's a mortal lock for preseason first-team All-Big Ten, at least, and where he goes from there is up to him. -- AJ

67. CASEY PACHALL, quarterback, TCU. There was supposed to be a long, drawn-out battle to replace TCU's departiing quarterback and leader, Andy Dalton. After a few weeks of spring ball however, it was clear that the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Pachall would be the Horned Frogs signal-caller this season. With a strong arm and the ability to move around the pocket, the redshirt sophomore has more physical tools than Dalton did when he became the starter.

The redshirt year is important as it allowed Pachall to learn for a year behind Dalton and then receive some game action as the backup last season. Pachall has just nine career pass attempts -- which has to give you pause if you're a TCU fan -- but head coach Gary Patterson has raved about his performance as much as the typically understated coach can. It will be tough to fill Dalton's shoes after he won 42 games, but TCU believes Pachall will be able to fill them admirably as the school transitions from the Mountain West to the Big East. -- BF

66. 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11,  day of remembrance. The second Saturday of the 2011 season won't be just another college football Saturday. It will be the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Every generation has that one moment in their history they remember for the rest of their lives -- the Kennedy assassination, John Lennon's death, the Challenger explosion -- and while the players on the field this fall were anywhere between the ages of 8 and 13 on that day, they no doubt remember exactly where they were when they first found out about the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Much like in 2001, when sports like football and baseball helped restore a sense of normalcy to life in this country, this day's college football will help show how the United States has healed. Obviously much has changed since then, but on this particular Saturday, when we take the time to remember that tragic day and mourn all the lives that were lost, we'll also be able to turn on our televisions and watch a game -- together -- that was played long before 9/11 and will be played for a long time after. -- TF

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65. BRYCE BROWN, running back, Kansas State. Bryce Brown is a name that has been known to college football fans for a few years now, even if he hasn't spent much time on the football field. The nation's No. 1 prospect out of high school in 2009, Brown spent a season in Tennessee before asking to leave and eventually making his way home to Kansas State, where he sat out the 2010 season. Now Brown will find himself in a feature role in Manhattan and will likely be a deciding factor in whether or not Kansas State returns to a bowl game in 2010.

While Daniel Thomas left some big shoes to fill, the Wildcats offense is one that should suit Brown. Bill Snyder loves to run the football and Brown will get plenty of chances to show the Big 12 why he was such a highly rated recruit out of high school. If he can live up to the stars that were attached to his name, Brown could be the difference between another seven-win season in Manhattan or a New Year's Day bowl. -- TF

64. ZACH COLLAROS, quarterback, Cincinnati. When Collaros was the backup quarterback behind Tony Pike, Bearcats fans got to see glimpses of a talented gun-slinger who they believed could continue the success they had experienced under Brian Kelly. And when Collaros finally got the starting job for himself in 2010 under first-year coach Butch Jones, he put together a 2,902-yard, 26-touchdown campaign--good enough to lead the Big East in both categories. Unfortunately for Collaros and Jones, those numbers will not be what is remembered from last season. Instead, Bearcats fans are still on edge from the 4-8 campaign that led to the program's first bowlless season since 2005.

But Collaros shoulders just as much of the blame for last season's struggles as anyone else on the roster. In addition to leading the conference in touchdowns, he also led the conference in interceptions. There was a lot of attention on the struggles of the Bearcats' defense (which allowed 28 points per game), but as the senior starting quarterback of this team the responsibility for Cincinnati's return to the top of the conference will fall on Collaros. He'll have the talent around him to put up big numbers once again (top receiver D.J. Woods returns, and former Tennessee commit Kenbrell Thompkins is now eligible), but a restless fan base will only care about the numbers in the win column in 2011. -- CP

63. STEVE KRAGTHORPE, offensive coordinator, LSU. The mind still boggles: in 2009, just two years removed from a national title and with an attack featuring multiple blue-chip recruits and future draft picks, the Bayou Bengal offense finished dead last in the SEC in total offense. Last. 12th. Sub-Vanderbilt. With his job (quite understandably) on the line, now ex-LSU coordinator Gary Crowton led a revival last year that took the team's total offense ranking in-conference all the way up to ... 11th.

Exit Crowton. And enter Kragthorpe, who arrives on the job with as tricky -- and as pressure-packed -- an assignment as any new assistant in the country. He must streamline Crowton's overstuffed playbook. He must finally produce some consistency out of quarterback Jordan Jefferson, or make the highly-combustible transition to JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. He must overhaul a two-minute offense that in recent years has given Chinese fire drills a bad name. In short, he must make the LSU offense something much, much closer to what the LSU offense ought to be ... and if he does, the Tigers' terrifyingly athletic defense should be capable of doing the rest on the road to Atlanta. -- JH

62. BYU'S TELEVISION CONTRACT, independence-driving document, BYU. Why did the Cougars make the unprecedented decision to go football-independent in the era of the superconference? Because whether it's in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine, there's one thing you'll be able to do in both cities next year: watch BYU. That's the promise of the school's new-found independence and a Mountain West-free media contract that allows unprecedented access to BYU sports across the country. Nearly 140 events will air in high definition on ESPN or the school's own channel BYUtv. The rest will be available online as well as iPads, Xboxes and cellphones.

It's a new era for the school that is one of the few with a true national following. Every football game will be televised and the Cougars will see more exposure than they ever had in the MWC There's still work to be done as school officials responsible look to expand the reach of BYUtv but the promise of Cougar fans being able to finally watch their team without hunting around TV Guide is near. You might have heard about "TV everywhere," but be prepared for BYU everywhere with the new contract. -- BF

61. DENARD ROBINSON, quarterback, Michigan. Denard Robinson hardly needs an introduction. The man known by millions of fans as "Shoelace" set college football afire last year, leading the Big Ten in rushing yardage and rolling up a ridiculous 4,272 yards of total offense--good enough for second in the nation (only Bryant Moniz of pass-wacky Hawaii outpaced him). Robinson's one-man show was a delight to watch, but therein lies the problem: football is not a sport for one-man shows, especially when that man is just 193 pounds. Robinson got dinged up multiple times last season, enough to take him out of some games early, and that hammering's not going to stop any time soon.

Enter, then, incoming head coach Brady Hoke, who quickly named Robinson his starting quarterback but now must find a way to keep Robinson healthy for the span of the season. A tandem with Tate Forcier worked well at times last year, but Forcier has transferred after academic and personal issues. Devin Gardner is still around, but is he good enough to reliably spell Robinson for a few series every week? If not, Robinson's likely going to spend a lot more time in the pocket, and Atlanta Falcons fans who remember Jim Mora Jr.'s experiments in turning Michael Vick into a pocket passer probably have hair standing up on the back of their necks at the thought. No, nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get the football only to stand still. But nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get rocked 20 times a game and struggle to get back up, either, and that's the quandary Michigan faces in 2011. -- AJ

The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, and 80-71. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Gamecocks' Johnson no fan of no-huddle

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We don't expect defensive coordinators to like the current trend of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses like those favored by Oregon, Oklahoma, and Auburn. But we also don't expect them to be, well, bitter about them, either, or suggest that the NCAA step in with rules changes to stop what's still a small minority of college offenses.

So, yes, consider us surprised by the vehemence with which South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson attacked the trend in a recent radio interview:
“One thing that has gotten into it that I’ve been pretty outspoken, that I really think is starting to deteriorate some of college football is the hurry up offenses ...

“[W]hat’s happening now with the rules is that you can snap it as soon as you want to or you can sit on it for 40 seconds, and there is no in-between ... The NFL cut it out with Buffalo in the 90’s, they kind of put some cold water on it a little bit with the Colts not too many years ago. What they realized is they’re taking the game of football and turning it into soccer or lacrosse. There’s nothing wrong with those sports, but that’s not football.”

"What it's about now is who can snap the football before the other team lines up. You can’t hardly get your players on and off the field. You can’t get your signals in and out. It’s become who has the best signal system or verbiage system ... It’s not about blocking, tackling, running, route running, throwing, and so forth. It’s something the college football world needs to look at.”

“It sounds like sour grapes right now, but there is not a balanced playing field.”
Please don't take this the wrong way, Mr. Johnson ... but yes, right now, it sounds like sour grapes.

Because while a good "signal system or verbiage system" paired with an up-tempo offense can make things very difficult on a defense when run correctly, it's hardly some kind of college football cure-all. For starters, there's the trade-off of a greater strain on the no-huddle team's own defense; the defenses opposite Gus Malzahn's attacks at both Auburn and Tulsa took huge statistical hits as soon as he arrived. There's the subtantial increase in conditioning work that must be done for those offenses to maintain their stamina late into games. There's the risk of multiple high-tempo three-and-outs putting the no-huddle team at a huge time-of-possession disadvantage.

And then -- despite Johnson's implication that a collection of players who weren't any good at "blocking, tackling, running," etc. could thrive as long as they had the right "verbiage system" -- you've still got to have the right personnel. While the tempo has no doubt helped, the overwhelming talents of players like Sam Bradford, Cam Newton and LaMichael James have all played a far greater role in the success of their respective offenses.

As for what the no-huddle looks like without those kinds of players, Vanderbilt installed the no-huddle before the 2009 season, and even brought in Malzahn's Tulsa colleague Herb Hand for 2010; the results were still 109th- and 110th-place finishes in total offense, even worse than the Commodores' usual efforts.

So we humbly suggest that if Johnon wants the no-huddle offensess on the Gamecocks' schedule stopped, he prepare his team to do so -- not an impossible task even against the best of them, as Mississippi State (17 points allowed to Auburn) and Cal (13 points allowed to Oregon) proved last year -- rather than hoping the NCAA descends from on high to do his work for him.

HT: Get the Picture, which quotes a 2004 story to show that it wasn't so long ago the rulebook agreed with Johnson.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: preseason top 25

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

We've already talked about No. 1, but the end of spring has also meant a revision of the rest of the preseason top 25, like our colleague Dennis Dodd's. What teams do you feel like might deserve a better ranking at this stage (or one at all)? What teams do you feel like might be ranked too highly?

Jerry Hinnen: There always seems to be one team from the SEC that comes from outside the preseason polls and surprises--think Mississippi State last year, Ole Miss in 2008, etc. But Dennis's 25 already includes every SEC team but Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and I'm not sold on any of those teams as poll material. (There's a case to be made for the Vols, but only if Tyler Bray takes a major step forward, and his 5-for-30 spring game suggests that step may not be imminent.)

So I'll look elsewhere for a sleeper and mention how much I like San Diego State. The Aztecs have absorbed some heavy losses in their pair of NFL-bound wideouts and, of course, the head coach-offensive coordinator pairing of Brady Hoke and Al Borges. But Ronnie Hillman is an All-American running back waiting to happen, and senior Ryan Lindley is easily the best MWC quarterback this side of Kellen Moore. Together, they're one of the nation's best RB-QB combos, and new OC Andy Ludwig (the man behind Utah's undefeated 2008 attack) should know how to get the most out of them.

Defensively, the Aztecs should be much more comfortable in the second year of Rocky Long's unorthodox 3-3-5 scheme, and the schedule also offers the opportunity for two huge statement wins since TCU and Boise State travel to San Diego. Put it all together, and I don't think the departures of Hoke and Borges will be nearly enough to stop the program's momentum towards the polls.

Bryan Fischer: One team I think is a bit under the radar is Georgia. The Dawgs get the other division favorite, South Carolina, early in the schedule--that could be key if the Gamecocks are breaking in Connor Shaw, who has all of 33 passes to his name. I'm concerned about Georgia's running game but they have a good quarterback and the defense should be markedly improved in year two under Todd Grantham.

West Virginia is another team that can really make a move. They lose a lot from last year on defense but should be solid nevertheless. They might have one of the best offenses in the country with Geno Smith running the show and get their big non-conference game against LSU at home.

Chip Patterson: I agree with Bryan that West Virginia is a team that could cause some problems this fall. Dana Holgorsen might have done the coaching job of the year in 2010 with Oklahoma State's offense; the Cowboys did not return a single offensive lineman and his scheme resulted in the third-most productive offense in the nation anyway. Now he gets a stable full of athletes that, in many people's opinions, have been underperforming under Bill Stewart. Smith is the type of quarterback who can be a threat in Holgorsen's spread, especially once he gets familiar with the reads and changing plays at the line of scrimmage. The toughest challenge on the Mountaineers' slate is an early-season battle with LSU in Morgantown (as Bryan mentioned). I think that game is winnable, and could give them confidence headed into the back-loaded conference schedule.

Virginia Tech, though, is a huge question mark in my opinion. While I'm not sure whether they will end up higher or lower than 17, there's as much of a chance of them finishing the season unranked as getting to 10 wins. Their schedule does set up extremely well, with Clemson, Miami and North Carolina coming to Blacksburg and Florida State, Maryland and N.C. State avoided completely. But Logan Thomas needs to prove himself in a game situation, and running back David Wilson will have to work without Darren Evans or Ryan Williams to compliment him. Even if the Hokies finish the season strong, the eye test does not have them as "Top 20 good" just yet.

Adam Jacobi: After the first, oh, eight teams, I've got some major concerns about nearly every team on the list. Spring is the season for questions, of course, but it's like, "Michigan State at 11? Really? Wisconsin at 12? Really? Arkansas at 13? Really?" But you look at that list, and yeah, that's about right.

The one team that stands out to me is Notre Dame, who sort of creeps in under the radar at 19. I don't expect that sterling recruiting class to make much of an impact in Year 1, but there's a lot of talent coming back for Brian Kelly to build on. They have options at quarterback with Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees, the passing game basically only lost tight end Kyle Rudolph (who was injured for the second half of the season anyway), and four of five starting linemen return. The defense, meanwhile, is still led by Manti Te'o and returns its top eight tacklers. There's some retooling to do up the middle of the front seven, but the leadership and experience are there for the D to take a big step forward this year.

Lastly, I really like the Irish's schedule. The only truly worrisome game is the season finale at Stanford; the rest of the games are winnable. That's not to say the Irish are definitely going 11-1 in the regular season -- that's not happening without a ton of luck -- but it's a nice very-best-case scenario.

BF: I think the top 10 is pretty much standard for everyone. Sure, you can change the order and move teams around, but you can't argue with those 10 teams much.

After that, I have an issue with Auburn at 15. I know they're the defending champions, but they lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers have a very tough schedule where they could take some losses. I'm also not sold on Utah after watching them collapse down the stretch last year, and they've had a ton of guys sit out this spring with injuries. I'd swap them in the rankings with USC -- who has depth issues but also has Matt Barkley and Robert Woods throwing the ball around -- or UCF.

AJ: Here's something I want to know -- what do you do about Ohio State if you're a voter? Do you ding them since the Buckeye Five are suspended for five games? Do you un-ding them when they come back? How many spots does Jim Tressel's situation cost them? What's the protocol here?

Tom Fornelli: I would have them lower on my rankings, personally. Losing some of your best players and your head coach for five games is a big deal, even if those games are against MACifices that shouldn't prove much of a test to the Buckeyes. Either way, those players and Tressel aren't there to start the season, so we should treat Ohio State as if they're not there. And do you see Ohio State being a top-25 team with Joe Bauserman?

JH: Disagree. I don't think there's a "protocol" on how to deal with the Buckeyes' current (unprecedented) situation as it relates to preseason polls; your guess is as good as mine is as good as anyone else's. But I don't think dropping them out of the top 25 all together is fair. Until we hear otherwise from the NCAA, the Buckeye Five and Tressel won't miss any more than the first (mostly winnable) five games. Dropping them entirely -- under the mere assumption Tressel, Pryor, et al are a dead team walking -- seems to put the cart before the horse.

TF: Seriously, though, I need somebody to explain to me why Arizona State is suddenly the cool team to vote for. Do people just really like their new uniforms? Is Vontaze Burfict sitting over their shoulders as they fill out their brackets? This is a team that won six games last year, with those six wins coming against Portland State, Northern Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA and Arizona. Arizona is the only impressive win on that list, and it was a one-point victory in double overtime. This is a team that may have a lot of returning starters this year, but they're returning starters from a team that wasn't exactly a world-beater last season. Also, after losing quarterback Steven Threet to injury, the guy who has to lead that returning-starter-filled offense is still new.

JH: You didn't even mention their plague of torn ACLs this spring. I wish I could disagree -- the Sun Devils have had a ton of bad luck the last couple of seasons -- but they strike me, too, as a prime candidate to disappoint.




Posted on: May 6, 2011 3:01 pm
 

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), 5/6

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.

FOUR LINKS ...

1. It hasn't exactly been a state secret, since it's a matter of simple addition, but it wasn't until this post at SEC blog Team Speed Kills this week that we realized that Vanderbilt has seven quarterbacks legitimately battling for the Commodores' starting quarterback position (and six of them on scholarship). And we thought Notre Dame was overrun. (Though, like the Irish and Dayne Crist, we'll be surprised if the current favorite -- Larry Smith -- doesn't hold onto the job as expected.)

2. Since we spent so much time yesterday informing you of games re-scheduled to Fridays, how 'bout another? USC and Colorado will play their first-ever Pac-12 conference game Friday on ESPN2, Nov. 4, instead of Saturday Nov. 5. We're not sure the Trojans really need the boost in exposure of a Friday night Boise State special, but no doubt Larry Scott (and his billion-dollar quest to break his conference out of the regional-network prison they've been confined to the last few seasons) approves.

3. It seems perhaps a little ... tactless for Jim Delany to welcome Lincoln as the Big Ten's new Green Bay when his conference already includes such "charming smallish town" candidates as West Lafayette and Champaign, but no doubt the Huskers won't mind the comparions between their successes and the Packers'.

4. You noticed Oregon honoring the armed forces at their spring game last Saturday, right? If not, well, they did, but the highlight had to have been this speech from Chip Kelly after the game:



AND THE CLOUD ...

Nebraska looks poised to introduce a substantial pistol element to their new Tim Beck- directed offense, which should be good news for Taylor Martinez if the Huskers can make it work ... BYU receiver Cody Hoffman was arrested recently on failure-to-appear charges after he left a speeding ticket unpaid ... Also appearing in the police blotter was Colorado signee Nelson Spruce, arrested for marijuana possession ... former Navy players talk about the death of Osama Bin Laden ... receiver Brandon Felder has transferred from North Carolina home to Pitt to help care for his ailing grandparents; Felder redshirted last fall ... We're told by the first line of this story not to ask, but we're going to anyway: Why were Penn State's original uniforms pink and black? ... and for all the lonelyhearts in Gainesville, have we got the site for you.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC East

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC East, team by team. In alphabetical order:


FLORIDA: When spring began, we said the Gators might have the most interesting offense in the country. Urban Meyer's former spread-option death machine, destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, by none other than Charlie Weis, in the image of the steady no-frills pro-style attacks Will Muschamp saw work for old boss Nick Saban, as piloted by 2011-or-bust quarterback John Brantley? That's quite the storyline they've got going there.

But the Gators will have to hope it's a story that will be rewritten come the fall. While no one was expecting the offense to look like Weis's old New England Patriot attacks after three weeks of practice, no one was expecting it to put on a 13-10 spring game universally panned as a hideous eyesore, either. Brantley went an ugly 4-of-14 after missing his first six passes, the leading rusher was a walk-on defensive back, and the entire offensive output for the game amounted to 340 yards.

Much of that can be pinned on a wicked rash of injuries that took out most of the offensive line, an entire stable of running backs, multiple receivers, etc.; encouragingly, much of it can also be pinned on a rampaging defensive line led by Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, all members of Meyer's loaded 2010 class and all looking posied to make good on their five-star hype. But the bottom line is that much of it can also be pinned squarely on Brantley, who Muschamp and his other coaches universally lauded for an excellent spring but who showed little of that alleged improvement when playing in public.

Does it matter? Give him a solid summer and a solid fall camp, and it may not. But until Brantley proves he's something other than what he's appeared to be since the moment Tim Tebow left -- in over his head -- skepticism is in order.

GEORGIA: The biggest question entering the most critical spring of Mark Richt's spring tenure concerned the Bulldogs' biggest players: could their offensive line bounce back? When you have Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, a fleet of talented (if still unproven) receivers, and eventually Isaiah Crowell, if you have a line, you're going to have a heck of an offense.

There was good news and bad news on that front, the latter a devastating torn ACL suffered by fifth-senior and projected starting tackle Trinton Sturdivant. But there were positives, too, namely a terrific spring from potential All-SEC  center Ben Jones and guard-to-tackle position switch Cordy Glenn. G-day primary tailbacks Ken Malcome and Caleb King combined for 69 yards on 12 carries, a not-so-shabby 5.8 yards per-carry. Overall, the line was impressive enough this spring that senior Justin Anderson -- billed as a potential starter on the OL -- has been moved to defense.

The Dawgs had themselves a fine spring on the defensive front as well, with newly bulked-up nose tackle Kwame Geathers the talk of the Bulldogs' spring camp and converted safety Alec Ogletree providing a big boost the linebacking corps. The secondary is unsettled and one of those aforementioned receivers needs to emerge as a go-to target for Murray, but if the improvements in the front seven and offensive line aren't mirages, the Bulldogs wil be back in the thick of the East race all the same.

KENTUCKY: Consider it a successful second spring for Joker Phillips and the Wildcats. We noted that with nearly all of the major players from 2010's surprisingly effective Wildcat passing game gone, Phillips would want to make rebuilding that passing attack around junior quarterback Morgan Newton priority No. 1 in spring camp. And though we'll have to wait until fall to see the finished results, for now it looks like Mission Accomplished: Newton had a terrific spring, capped by a 23-of-44, 256-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' Blue-White Game.

Things weren't perfect: the Wildcat receivers were plagued by drops, and a defense still adjusting to new co-coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive schemes paired several big plays with several breakdowns. But with Newton cementing himself as a reliable option under center and a veteran line paving the way for new tailback Raymond Sanders to average better than 7 yards a carry, there's far more optimism for the Wildcat offense coming out of spring than going in.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever storyline you might have constructed ahead of time for the Gamecocks' spring, it was always going to overshadowed by the continuing Stephen Garcia circus. Until Carolina receives a definitive word one way or the other on Garcia's return (though as we wrote earlier today, that return seems likely), the team is going to be in something close to suspended football animation.  The lack of developments aside from Garcia was only enhanced by the fact that so many of Carolina's key players -- Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, an offensive line with four returning starters -- are known commodities.

That said, the Garnet-Black Game showed that if Garcia doesn't come back, the Gamecocks won't be totally lost at quarterback. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson combined to go a productive 23-of-40 for 344 yards (though Thompson threw a pair of picks), and on an offense with weapons like Lattimore, Jeffery, and tailback Kenny Miles (43 yards on just 6 carries in the spring game), "productive" should be enough.

The downside: those passing numbers came against a Gamecock secondary that got routinely torched in 2010 (FBS 97th in pass defense). Garcia or no Garcia, more improvement in that secondary will be necessary to take Carolina back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE: Entering spring, the road to improvement for the Volunteers was clear: get stronger, more physical, better along each line of scrimmage, then let the Vols' cadre of up-and-coming skill position stars -- led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray -- do the rest.

The Vols made plenty of headway on the first part of that equation; the White team earned a dominant victory over the more starter-heavy Orange in the Vol spring game thanks in no small part to a bruising run game led by second-string tailback Raijon Neal; defensive linemen on both squads were able to get consistent quarterback pressure; and offensive lineman Alex Bullard and defensive tackle Daniel Hood won the team's top awards for spring performance. Both lines remain so young that there's still a long way to go to SEC dominance, but it seems unlikely they'll be pushed around the way they were at times in 2010, either.

But as for the other part of the equation, stay tuned. Bray went a miserable 5-for-30 quarterbacking the defeated Orange side, with Derek Dooley suggesting afterwards that perhaps Bray had been overconfident. Bray is expected to take a major step forward in his first full season as the Vols' starter, but if that step winds up as minor as the spring game proposes it might be, all the line improvement in the world won't push the Vols back into relevance in the SEC East.

VANDERBILT: When you finished last season dead last in the conference in both total offense and total defense -- and you are Vanderbilt -- any kind of improvement in any area will be music to new coach James Franklin's ears. But fortunately for the 'Dores, they saw some green shoots in two positions that have been partocularly troublesome the past few seasons.

One is quarterback , where previously scattershot senior Larry Smith completed 16-of-26 for 233 yards and a touchdown, leading his Black side to a 19-7 win over the Gold. The other is the defensive line , where defensive tackle Colt Nichter recorded a pair of sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann collected a sack and an interception. But when you're Vandy, you'll take whatever you can get.

"The big thing," Franklin said, "is that we stayed healthy."

For the same review of the SEC West, click here.

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