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Tag:Heisman Trophy
Posted on: March 8, 2012 1:40 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Alabama

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Alabama.

Spring Practice Starts: March 9

Spring Game: April 14

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 specialists

Three Things To Look For:

1. Motivation level at low Tide? Ask Nick Saban what the difference was between his 2009 and 2011 national titlists on one side and his 2010 disappointments on the other (for a given definition of "disappointment," of course), and he'll tell you that the former teams were driven, focused squads that put everything into their practice time, and the latter was a little too happy with the previous year's championship. We'd argue the bigger difference was the mile-deep rivers of experience that flowed through the Tide defense in '09 and '11, rivers that helped convert Saban's frightening stockpile of talent into two of the better defensive units in college football history ... but that's neither here nor there, really, since that talent is still there in abundance. Even if the experience isn't, if the Tide adopt the work ethic of their recent champions, there's no reason they can't at least approach their success, too. Spring will give us our first glance if that's the case or not. 

2. How well are the defensive holes being plugged? Of course, no matter how many four- and five-star studs are waiting in the wings, losing Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Chapman, DeQuan Menzie and Jerrell Harris is still losing Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Chapman, DeQuan Menzie and Jerrell Harris; the Tide have their work cut for them. It's time to see if Jesse Williams can fill Chapman's shoes, Adrian Hubbard Upshaw's, Trey DePriest Hightower's, etc. The spotlight will be particularly bright on the secondary, where even the return of Robert Lester may not be able to mask losing players --and leaders -- the caliber of Barron and Kirkpatrick.

3. Is T.J. Yeldon the real deal at running back? While owning the nation's No. 1 recruiting class gives Alabama fans plenty of options when it comes to their favorite newcomer, there's probably an especially soft spot in the heart of the Tide faithful -- and a diamond-hard one in the chest of your average Auburn fan -- for early-enrolling freshman running back Yeldon, a five-star recruit who committed to Auburn early and stuck with the Tigers until mere days were left before his enrollment ... whereupon he switched to the Tide. The neutral observer might not blame him, given the opportunity presented to him: with Trent Richardson on his way to the NFL, de facto starter Eddie Lacy out for spring following surgery for turf toe, and one-time star recruit Dee Hart coming back from an ACL tear in spring 2011, it's possible Yeldon could exit spring as the Tide's No. 1 tailback. And given that the last two guys to hold that honor both wound up attending the Heisman Trophy presentation before their careers were out, that would be a very, very nice place to be.

To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 3:20 pm
 

Auburn to unveil Heisman statues at spring game

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Auburn fans treating themselves to the Tigers' "A-Day" spring game are going to be treated themselves to a one-of-a-kind ceremony involving the school's three Heisman Trophy winners.

The Tiger athletic department had announced previously that they would be commissioning and erecting statuses of Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton to be unveiled at a later date. A release from the school Tuesday established that date as April 14, when the statues will be dedicated in a special ceremony at 10 a.m. prior to the annual "A-Day" game.

According to the release, Sullivan (who won his Heisman in 1971), Jackson (1985) and Newton (2010, in case you've forgotten already) are all scheduled to be in attendance at the ceremony. The statues will be placed on the east end of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

In an interview with Auburn fansite The War Eagle Reader last April, statue sculptor Ken Bjorge said that the statues of Sullivan and Jackson had already been commissioned -- and completed -- when Newton's stunning Heisman season forced Auburn to ask for a third statue, and delay the unveiling of Sullivan's and Jackson's. In the interim, Florida became the first SEC team with a collection of Heisman statues, unveiling renditions of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow at their 2011 spring game. 

The delay also meant, of course, that Auburn avoided the awkwardness of either dedicating or not dedicating a statue of Newton, whose infamous NCAA investigation only wrapped up last October. Though going through with an order for $100,000 worth of sculpted steel was already a sizable vote of confidence on Auburn's part, there's little doubt the school is highly appreciative the statue won't have to be unveiled with a Julie Roe Lach-shaped monkey on its back. 

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: USC


Posted by Bryan Fischer


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at USC.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 6.

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14.

Returning Starters: Nine on offense, eight on defense and both specialists.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Dealing with expectations.

USC safety T.J. McDonald and quarterback Matt Barkley are easy to tell apart if you see them walking around Heritage Hall or roaming around the Coliseum but they could not be more alike on paper after a remarkable run to close out last season. Both are captains, suit up in the cardinal and gold wearing number seven, each runs half the team and, most importantly to the Trojans in 2012, Barkley and McDonald announced they would return to school for their senior seasons on back-to-back days in late December. After two years without a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, the message both talked about was so clear that it's become the program's unofficial motto as they head into spring practice: unfinished business.

In many ways, this is about where everybody expects USC to be year-in and year-out given the program's history. A No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll to close out 2011 and, with 19 starters returning and a favorable schedule, expectations are running high for the first time since Lane Kiffin took over in Los Angeles.

"I really don't think it's expectations as much as it is being free - we kind of feel like we're being let out of prison," Kiffin said. "It's normal now. It's refreshing not to have the negative distractions. People will talk about expectations and all of that but the good thing is we have practice at dealing with that from our time here before."

USC will likely end up as the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country and despite scholarship limitations, will bring in ninth-ranked recruiting class with several five-star playmakers to supplement the group that will head out to Howard Jones field. It may be a return to normal with the national spotlight once again on Troy and Heisman candidate Barkley but for this group, it is something new. While the media will certainly be swarming like they did in the good old days and accolades and praise will come early and often, it's worth remembering that from the seniors to the freshman, this team hasn't faced anything like these expectations before. Will they play too loose or be wound too tight? It's something to keep tabs on.

"This is all about going out and preparing really well and practicing hard," Kiffin added. "It has been very refreshing to not deal with so much negativity and distractions, some of which was based on me and some on the sanctions."

2. New staff and new look.

For the first time in the Kiffin-era, the still youthful head coach has had to deal with some staff turnover. While the big stage the program provides has attracted more than it's fair share of coaches looking to boost their resume, the fact that two coaches left so close to spring practice definitely added a question mark or two to the team's outlook. Scottie Hazelton will take over as linebackers coach and was a surprise pick by many but he brings a solid resume that includes being the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State last season as they won the FCS national championship. It's not a flashy hire by any means and it will be interesting to see how Hazelton deals with the level of competition taking a leap but luckily for him he'll have most of last year's linebacking corps back.

USC hasn't had a full-time secondary coach since right before the 2011 season following the sudden departure of Willie Mack Garza due to NCAA issues. Kiffin took his time in landing a replacement but lured Marvin Sanders out West after he had just taken over as FAU's defensive coordinator. Mostly known for his time as Nebraska's secondary coach, Sanders has coached several top NFL draft picks and contributed to some very good Cornhuskers defenses. He'll take over a group that needs some development but is among the deepest on the team, especially at safety.

"It's going to be refreshing to have a spring with all these guys in place," Kiffin said. "There will be some growing pains but we'll be rolling by the time we get to the fall."

The final hire might have drawn the most press given new receivers coach Tee Martin's place in Tennessee lore. Though his group dealt with drops in his final season at Kentucky, Martin is known for being a good recruiter and helped turn Randall Cobb into an All-American the year before. He'll have the best group of wide receivers in the country to work with this spring, led by All-Americans Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to go along with former five-star George Farmer.

3. Line depth.

The biggest question marks surrounding the Trojans are centered on the trenches. Four of the five offensive linemen return but replacing a top three NFL Draft pick in Matt Kalil will be not be easy despite the unit becoming the biggest surprise of the team last year. The interior of the line is the strength with Marcus Martin and John Martinez solid at the guard spots and All-American candidate Khaled Holmes leading the way at center. Kevin Graf will get first shot at replacing Kaili at left tackle while Aundrey Walker will be on the other side. Both played those positions in high school and, with several starts under their belt already, should ease some concerns. Beyond that though, and depth is still an issue until the fall.

The outlook at defensive line is not so rosy, with three starters gone and the Pac-12 leader in sacks impressing everybody at the NFL Combine. Pencil in Wes Horton and Devon Kennard at the end spot but depth behind them and who takes over at tackle will be the reason Ed Orgeron is up late at night (and not just the Red Bull). Those inside the program expect a lot out of sophomore George Uko.

"I'm really looking at seeing how well these tackles, Aundrey and Kevin do," Kiffin said. "I also really want to seeing the continued development of our defense with so much experience coming back and with two new coaches. I really want to be a dominant defensive team like (USC in) '02 or '03. Big five turnover or seven sack games, the type where you have just a suffocating defense."

If the Trojans are going to live up to expectations, figuring things out along the lines will be paramount this spring.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:19 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:24 pm
 

Mathieu 'hopes' to go pro after 2012 season

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Whether on Twitter or in an interview, Tyrann Mathieu has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. And so when the topic of the 2013 NFL Draft came up in a radio interview Friday, Mathieu didn't mince words: he intends to be in it.

"I hope so," Mathieu said on Philadelphia's 97.5 "The Fanatic" when asked if 2012 would be his final year in an LSU uniform. "If I'm fortunate enough."

Mathieu was speaking from the Maxwell Athletic Club dinner in Atlantic City, N.J., where he was on hand to receive the Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player for 2011. Mathieu missed the opening day of LSU spring practice but is expected to participate in Monday's drills.

It's honors like the Bednarik that make Mathieu's pronouncement more surprising for its timing and honesty than for its content itself. After a sophomore season that saw him travel to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and earn him multiple All-American nods, a successful junior year -- particularly in the realm of one-on-one coverage, the one area where Mathieu could (in this blogger's opinion) stand to sharpen his skills -- would leave him with little left to prove on an individual level.

After his Tigers' embarrassing defeat in the BCS national championship, though, there's still plenty of unfinished business on a team level entering 2012. But Mathieu also said he expects big things from LSU this fall.

"We’ve got a pretty good team coming back next year, pretty much the same team from a year ago minus the quarterback, a few receivers and obviously Morris [Claiborne] and Brandon Taylor and Ron Brooks in the secondary," Mathieu said. "But we have a lot of guys that are going to step up and make a name for themselves.”

Mathieu's name was already big enough that a draft declaration was already more "when" than "if"--meaning we can't blame him for making it a non-issue at nearly the first opportunity.

For more Tiger football, follow Glenn Guilbeau's CBSSports.com LSU RapidReports.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 1:34 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 1:48 pm
 

VIDEO: 1940 Michigan star Harmon dodges Cal fan

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The 1940 Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time All-American, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1941 draft, and the grandfather of NelsonMichigan's Tom Harmon is, without question, one of the giants of the game. The Cal Bears, meanwhile, are giants of a very different kind of game: somehow convincing spectators that they ought to take the field while the game is going on. 

For your Wednesday afternoon viewing pleasure, we present this video of those two unstoppable forces meeting in Berkeley in 1940. Harmon evades nearly the entire Bears team only to have to avoid one last tackler on the goalline ... a balding Bears fan named Harold Brennan. Enjoy:



As documented by Michigan history site MVictors, the play became famous enough for a shot-by-shot examination in the pages of Life magazine:



As part of the Life feature, Brennan provided an ... interesting account of his time on the field.

"I'm glad I did it," he said. "When the Michigan boys go home, they can't tell folks no one tackled Harmon ... I did."

Which just goes to show you: even in 1940, college football fans were already rabid enough to occasionally ignore what was actually happening on the field for the kinder, gentler version of things in their head.

HT: EDSBS.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:05 am
 

Blackmon, Luck go out with a bang in Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Justin Blackmon 
hadn't even left the University of Phoenix Stadium field yet. But there wasn't any point to delaying the inevitable; when asked as part of his postgame television interview if he had just played the final game of his outstanding college career, he answered straightforwardly. 

"I think I am going to go ahead and enter the NFL Draft," he said, "and see what happens after that."

We already have some idea what's going to happen "after that"--Blackmon will be selected among the very top picks in the Draft, sign a contract worth millions, and very likely go on to become an excellent professional receiver. But nothing Blackmon will do "after that" will better the excitement of what he's accomplished before that at Oklahoma State, where heading into Monday's Fiesta Bowl he had already rewritten the school's receiving record book and won a pair of Biletnikoff Awards as the nation's best receiver.

Likewise, we can already write most of the "after that" for Andrew Luck. The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up is about to go No. 1 overall in the draft and has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Peyton Manning -- maybe even at the same franchise -- as the kind of superstar pocket-passing quarterback NFL dynasties are built around. But before that, there was three seasons of pure All-American brilliance in which his Cardinal set a school record for scoring all three seasons.

For both players, the Fiesta was the final night of "before that," the final game in the collegiate careers of two of college football's most blinding stars. So it was only appropriate that with the rare chance to square off against a star of equal caliber -- in a bowl that employs the sun in its logo, no less -- both Blackmon and Luck went flat-out supernova.

Blackmon's team won, but no one would have blinked if Luck had been named the game's MVP. His numbers were phenomenal, of course:  27-of-31, 347 yards (11.2 an attempt), 2 touchdowns. He went 8-of-8 in the fourth quarter, expertly managing drives both fast (the 63-yard drive over the final 2:35 to set up Jordan Williamson's ill-fated 35-yard attempt) and slow (the 13-play, 69-yard TD march that ate up 7:21 of the final period). 

But most impressive was the 10.0 degree-of-difficulty throws Luck uncorked with regularity. Passes like the one delivered to Griff Whalen in the second quarter -- an over-the-shoulder "bucket" throw to a receiver sprinting down the sideline, made with Luck moving to his right -- are referred to as "NFL throws," but we're not sure half the League's starters could make them the way Luck does. You could say Luck showed off "the complete package" against the Cowboys, but that doesn't do justice to how expansive that package is.

And still, Luck might have been the second-best player on the field. Blackmon finished with 8 catches for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, but again, the stats don't do justice to either his physical dominance -- one-on-one coverage was a lost cause for the Cardinal -- or his knack for making those catches at the best possible time. 

With the Cowboys reeling from a lost first quarter and a 14-0 deficit, it was Blackmon who pulled in a pair of lightning bolt scores (one 43 yards, the other 67) to get his team back in the game. Facing a 4th-and-4 at the Stanford 32 and his team down again late in the second quarter, it was Blackmon who caught a short pass and brushed aside two Cardinal tacklers to set up a first-and-goal (and eventual touchdown). Down seven again after a disastrous third quarter, it was Blackmon scoring to tie it (again) to start the fourth. And finally, 4th-and-3 on OSU's own 40 with under 3:30 to play and the Cowboys in "touchdown or bust" desperation mode, it was Blackmon who again abused his defender for 21 yards.

The 2012 Fiesta Bowl would have been remembered for a long, long time even without Luck's and Blackmon's fireworks; 41-38 overtime shootouts between two top-five teams decided by a heartbreaking field goal miss have a way of sticking around the game's collective memory. But what elevated the contest to stone-cold classic status was seeing two players of Luck's and Blackmon's historic talent both grab the same game by the teeth and refuse for 60 minutes -- and beyond -- to let go. It's maybe not fair to the excellent Brandon Weeden or Stepfan Taylor to reduce the game to a mano a mano battle between that quarterback on that side and that receiver on that side, but Luck and Blackmon didn't give us much choice.

And at the end of each of their respective times in college football, that's exactly how it should have been. "After that" will be interesting. But for a night, Luck's and Blackmon's shared "before that" was as good as it's possible to get.

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Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:04 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 11:06 pm
 

Heartbreak finds Wisconsin once again

Posted by Bryan Fischer

PASADENA, Calif. -- Been there, done that.

It's a saying as common as a Wisconsin fan jumping around before the 4th quarter. The Badgers ended their second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl under head coach Bret Bielema much the same as they did their first - on the losing end.

For a team just two Hail Mary losses away from playing for the national title, this was supposed to be it. A hotshot transfer quarterback and a Heisman Trophy finalist running back playing behind him against a team that saw defense as outscoring their opponent. They held the lead early, held it late but ultimately didn't hold it when it mattered.

"This team never flinched, never wavered," said offensive lineman Peter Konz. "Against Michigan State we kept going, against Ohio State we kept going. It came down to winning all our last games, and we did that. We got here and we never gave up. In that reflection, it's unbelievable. As a man you can look back and go, 'I did all I could do.'"

"I'm kind of tired of tears of sadness," Bielema said. "I wanted to come out here and experience tears of joy at some point."

For a time, it looked as though Wisconsin was going to be great. Russell Wilson hit Jared Abbrederis for a 38-yard strike to cap off a 77-yard drive to open the game. Oregon answered.

Wilson responded with a 74-yard scoring drive. The Ducks took three plays to find the end zone. Back-and-forth they went on the perfectly cut grass of the Rose Bowl Stadium until Wisconsin was finally being tripped up. So close, once again, to a win but for one final time coming up just short.

"The game was basically 0-0 the whole game," Wilson said. "No matter if the score was 35-35 or 7-7, it's a 0-0 game. That's the way I look at it. There at the end it was 7-0, and we thought we could come back and score."

Success is a fleeting term for those who have tasted it because it is so easily lost. In the record books, this season will be looked at as a success. A win in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game, two candidates for the Heisman, scores of NCAA records to tell recruits about. Yet, the stinging feeling the players wearing red and white had walking off the field was not exactly the way they wanted to start the new year off.

"We'll rebound from this. I wouldn't trade in anything, anyplace in the world for that locker room that I have right now and the way that they continue to persevere," Bielema said. "I'm not going to apologize for a group that want to lead the division title, won a Big Ten title, and earned a chance to come out here and play a quality football team, and unfortunately came up a little bit short."

Bielema has built this program using size, strength and home-grown talent. He took a chance by luring Wilson to Madison and it paid off, not just with the titles but by the leadership he showed on and off the field. Ball ran himself into the record books, tying Barry Sanders' FBS-record.

But, in the final five minutes of the biggest game of the year, Abbrederis fumbled inches from going out of bounds and essentially gave away any chance the Badgers had of winning.

Heartbreak, it seemed, was the only thing that could stop Wisconsin this year.

"Well, it's never easy," the head coach said. "I'm not saying I'd rather lose by 40 points though. I mean, it just make it's that much more gut wrenching. But on the same account, you can hold your head high knowing the perseverance, and the challenge and response that our guys showed was truly amazing and a great credit to their character."

Abbrederis still finished with 346 all-purpose yards, good enough for a school bowl record. He caught a touchdown pass to give the team three players with at least eight on the season for the first time. Wilson edged out Heisman winner Robert Griffin III to set an NCAA pass efficiency record with 191.78 and extended his own record with a touchdown pass in his 38th-straight game.

"They're a great bunch of guys that have the determination," said Wilson. "We lost three games, basically, with a total of maybe within 40 seconds. It's pretty wild."

"What I brought from last year to this year is you have to capitalize on every play and every opportunity that is shown. Obviously, we fell short once again," said Ball. "We're going to approach this just like we did last year after the loss. Obviously, a little better, prepared a lot better, but the only way we can go with it is forward."

Wisconsin turned last year's heartbreak into another successful season. As the Badgers rebuild with Wilson and, likely, Ball moving on, perhaps they can do the same in 2012.

"That's neither here or there, what happens, happens," said Konz, reflecting about the game. "It's just too bad it had to end on another last-second drive.

"We left it all on the field, and to do that, there's very little to be sad about.”

Posted on: December 30, 2011 5:08 pm
 

Rose Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Rose Bowl. 

Chip Kelly vs. time to prepare

In addition to being a great matchup on the field, the Rose Bowl this season pits two head coaches who have experienced plenty of success early on in their careers as the men calling the shots. Both Bret Bielema and Chip Kelly have taken over for their respective mentors and taken their programs to new heights. Wisconsin is making a return trip to the granddaddy of them all while this is Kelly's third straight BCS game with an appearance in the national championship game to boot.

For Kelly though, this game presents yet another challenge to rise to the occasion and finally put Oregon over the top. He's lost just six games in three years running the team but, outside of a loss to USC this year, has found success fleeting against teams with weeks to prepare for the fast-paced offense that he signals in from the sidelines and is the biggest reason why they've been dominating Pac-12 conference play. Last season, Oregon was averaging 49 points per game but against Auburn's bend-but-don't-break defense they rushed for less than 100 yards and managed just 22 points. Boise State, Ohio State, LSU, the story seems to be a constant one. As much success as Kelly has had, it just hasn't come against teams with time to prepare.

When asked about that after the Pac-12 Championship game, Kelly noted that they were all pretty good teams Oregon faced. So is Wisconsin, with Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball and a top 10 defense. The Badgers won a down Big Ten this year but still will be a stiff test for the Ducks in Pasadena. They're big and physical and though it seems like the speed of the Oregon offense should be effective, history suggests that's no sure thing.

Kelly has plenty of weapons to use this game, with running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner able to score from anywhere on the field and freshman De'Anthony Thomas a dynamic playmaker in space. Darron Thomas has had to throw it more than Kelly probably likes but he can get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. For some reason, the head coach hasn't been able to figure out the adjustments opponents have made against what he does game-in and game-out. There's been plenty of success and big games with this program and it's up to Kelly to finally get them over the hump, regardless what Bielema and the Wisconsin defense throws at him.

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