Tag:Jimmy Clausen
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:26 pm
 

SEC East 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. Yesterday, the West. Today, the East:

FLORIDA

2011: Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator, Dan Quinn defensive.

Departures: Weis famously left for the Kansas head coaching position.

2012: Weis has been replaced by Boise State coordinator Brent Pease.

Thumbs up/down? TBD. Weis had his moments (offensively speaking, anyway) at Notre Dame, but they nearly all came via the arms of Brady Quinn or Jimmy Clausen and the Irish's cadre of top-notch receivers--making him a terrible fit for both Will Muschamp's visions of an Alabama-like ground game and the Gators' pass-poor personnel. On paper, replicating the Broncos' balanced mix-and-match approach should be a much snugger fit. But Pease arrives with just one season of play-calling experience under his belt, and at that a season in which Boise ran the ball much more poorly than they had in recent years (34th in average yards per-carry, down from 10th in both 2009 and 2010). And thanks in large part to iffy quarterback play, Texas's 2011 attempt to import the Boise offense (via Pease predecessor Bryan Harsin) hardly set the world on fire--an ill omen for a team whose current QBs, sophomores Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, looked out of their depth as freshmen. Pease has promise, but the jury is very much out.

GEORGIA

2011: Mike Bobo offensive, Todd Grantham defensive.

Departures: Status quo.

Thumbs up/down? Up, obviously. Bobo managed the offense as well as could be expected given the injury-struck units at running back and receiver, and Grantham came into his own as one of the SEC's hottest coordinating commodities after piloting his young Dawgs to a top-five finish in total D. Richt has no reason to consider change at either slot.

KENTUCKY

2011: Randy Sanders offensive, Rick Minter and Steve Brown defensive.

Departures: Brown was fired after the 'Cats finished 10th in the SEC and 58th nationally.

2012: Minter has been promoted to full defensive coordinator.

Thumbs up/down? Down. Despite Brown's dismissal, Minter's role as play-caller and lead defensive game-planner means that Joker Phillips is keeping things almost entirely status quo--the entire 2011 offensive coaching staff will return, for instance, even after the hapless 'Cats finished a miserable 118th nationally in total offense and 117th in scoring. Phillips' loyalty to Sanders and the rest of his staff is admirable (and the upset of Tennessee was undoubtedly sweet), but if those kinds of numbers aren't enough to cause a shakeup, what would be?

MISSOURI

2011: David Yost offensive, David Steckel defensive.

Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Up. These are the Daves Gary Pinkel knows, and after several productive seasons in Columbia (if not spectacular where 2011 was concerned), there's no reason to make a change before testing their mettle in the SEC.

SOUTH CAROLINA

2011: Steve Spurrier is his own OC; Ellis Johnson ran the defense.

Departures: Johnson took the head coaching position at Southern Miss. 

2012: Spurrier promoted defensive backs coach (and "defensive coordinator" in title only) Lorenzo Ward to replace Johnson.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Ward spent three years leaning Johnson's schemes and already assisted with a similar 4-2-5 approach during his time at Virginia Tech; his promotion means the already successful Gamecock defense (fourth in FBS total D in 2011) won't change much -- if any -- from a schematic standpoint. The only question is if Ward can reproduce Johnson's adept in-game adjustments (see the Gamecocks' second-half shutdown of Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl) and excellent situational play-calling. If he can even come close, the Gamecock D shouldn't miss too many beats.

TENNESSEE

2011: Jim Chaney offensive, Justin Wilcox defensive.

Departures: Wilcox took the same position at Washington.

2012: Wilcox has been replaced by Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri.

Thumbs up/down? TBD. The Sunseri hire alone would get a thumbs-up, since it's doubtful the Vols could have done much better than the man who just helped put together one of college football's all-time great defenses--not to mention was widely believed to be being groomed to replace Kirby Smart when the current Tide DC finally takes a head job. While it's hardly guaranteed Sunseri can replicate the Tide defense in Knoxville any more than Pease can replicate the Boise offense in Gainesville, there's no arguing with attempting that replication after what the Crimson Tide D has accomplished of late. 

The question is if Derek Dooley should have also looked for a replacement for Chaney. Following Lane Kiffin's departure, Chaney's two years in sole charge of the Vol offense have produced a slide from 60th (in 2009) to 75th to an awful 104th in total offense. Chaney has without question been dealt a rough hand, having been forced to deal with widespread inexperience as well as catastrophic injuries, and a little bit of continuity on a staff already wracked by upheaval is a major positive. So we don't blame Dooley for standing pat in the OC's chair ... though if Chaney can't engineer a dramatic turnaround in 2012, we suspect there's plenty of Vol supporters who will.

VANDERBILT

2011: John Donovan offensive, Bob Shoop defensive.

Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Well up. The Commodore offense only ranked 81st in yards per-play, that was still a far sight better than the 111th they managed in 2010. Meanwhile, Shoop quietly pulled off one of the nation's most impressive coordinating jobs by pulling the 'Dores up from 76th to 14th in the same statistic. Clearly, there's no call for James Franklin to change things up at this stage.

For all of Eye on CFB's SEC coverage, click here.

Thanks to TeamSpeedKills' helpful "Coaching Carousel Scorecard." 
 

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Weis to Kansas: a good move for Florida?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When Will Muschamp took the podium at his Gator Bowl press conference Thursday evening reportedly looking less than "thrilled." Muschamp rarely looks happy in front of the press, of course, but in this case he had particular reason to be on edge: his offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, had left Florida for the Kansas head coaching position without reportedly even offering Muschamp the courtesy of telling him he was interviewing.

Muschamp did say he was "very happy" for Weis and "and clarified that running backs coach Brian White -- a holdover from the Urban Meyer staff -- will serve as the team's coordinator in the bowl game. The short term fit of Meyer's players with Weis's schemes has been awkward all season, and the short term situation between now and taking on Meyer's own future Ohio State Buckeyes is even more awkward.

Long term, though, we wonder if Weis didn't just do Muschamp a favor. Muschamp has stated repeatedly that what he wants out of an offense is the kind of offense his old bosses Nick Saban and Tommy Tuberville used when Muschamp was their coordinators; a pro-style, run-first, pound-it-out offense that milks clock, controls the game, and makes putting together a championship-quality defense that much easier. He reiterated in Thursday's press conference that he will be hiring another pro-style coordinator, someone "very similar schmatically."

But in retrospect, Weis certainly wasn't going to produce the smashmouth offense Muschamp wanted with Meyer's leftovers -- the Gators ranked 75th nationally in rushing with Muschamp openly coveting larger tailbacks by seaon's end -- and it seems likely Weis wasn't going to produce that offense in Gainesville, ever. He hasn't produced it anywhere, with the exception of a few games with the Kansas City Chiefs; his Notre Dame teams were centered on the arm of Brady Quinn first and then Jimmy Clausen second, with the running game an afterthought. The proof is in the statistical pudding: his five Irish teams finished 55th, 72nd, 115th, 105th, and 84th in FBS rushing.

Finding a new offensive coordinator is no doubt going to be a headache for Muschamp; along with White, the only candidate mentioned in the press conference was famous 1980s Gator quarterback and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell. (Another possibility: former colleague and current Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher.) Whoever Muschamp picks will have to do quick work to win over recruits before Signing Day, get his system into place in spring practice, and have things ready to roll with the Gators' new starting QB next fall. Upheaval is never easy. 

But given how little Weis's offense both this year and in past years resembled what Muschamp had requested of him, it's for the best for Muschamp and the Gators that the upheaval is taking place now, before Weis's failures in the ground game gobbled up any more seasons and particularly seasons with more promise than this transitional one ever had. Muschamp may not be thrilled at the moment. But if he makes the right hire this time around, he may be thrilled when he looks back on it some day.

Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: Draft reaches and steals

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're not NFL scouts. But we have watched most of the players taken in last weekend's draft for the past three or four years (or, in one particular high-profile case, one year). Based on what we saw during their college careers, which players do we believe were "steals" for the team that selected them? Which were "reaches" which went earlier than they should have?

Tom Fornelli: I'll start with the reach because this is an easy answer to me: the very first player taken, Cam Newton.

This is not a dig on Newton personally, or the player he was at Auburn last season. The fact of the matter is that there wasn't a single quarterback in this draft class that I felt was worth a first-round pick. Yes, there were a lot of quarterbacks in this class who were good college quarterbacks, but as we have seen through many examples before, being a good college quarterback doesn't make you an good NFL quarterback. And for me, with the first overall pick -- when I have the opportunity to pick anybody I want, and have that person help my team immediately -- Newton is not the player I'd pick. I'm not saying that I don't believe it's possible that Cam can develop into a good NFL quarterback one day, but I do feel the odds of Newton becoming a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback are pretty slim. And if I'm going to take a quarterback with the first pick of the draft, he needs to give me the impression that he has that kind of potential.

As for the steal, there were a few players who I thought were really good picks for teams in later rounds. There was Green Bay getting Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, Da'Quan Bowers slipping to Tampa Bay in the second, and Ahmad Black going to Tampa as well in the fifth round. The biggest steal to me of all, though, was Baltimore picking up Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss late in the fourth round. In my opinion, Doss may turn out to be one of the most dependable receivers in what was a very deep class this season. He does not have the size and wow factor that guys like A.J. Green and Julio Jones have, nor is he a burner, but he's got great hands and he's a very polished route runner. He's the type of receiver who isn't going to end up in the Hall of Fame, but should pick up a lot of big first downs, make some plays and be dependable for a lot of years. I watch Doss, and I see a player that can be what Hines Ward has been to Pittsburgh for so many years. To get that kind of player in the fourth round is the definition of a steal.

Adam Jacobi: I think to a large degree, Tom's right. I wouldn't go so far as to say there were no first-round QBs in this class, because guys like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and even Newton have all shown a great deal of potential. But let's be honest: this wasn't really a great draft class to begin with. I thought there were only 15-20 first round-caliber guys on the board. But the first round is still 32 picks, no matter what, and I don't think there were 32 better draft picks to make before you got to Newton (or any other quarterback).

That said, yes, Cam Newton was a reach. Right now, Carolina is not a team that has the tools to let a quarterback succeed. They have needs all over the place, and if all they do is give up on Jimmy Clausen after one year so they can plug in Cam Newton instead ... well, they're still a team that doesn't have the tools to let the quarterback succeed. (It's like the Detroit Lions drafting Chuck Long and Andre Ware as first-rounders 20-25 years ago. You really think their failures had nothing to do with the crappy players surrounding them?) I'm of the philosophy that the No. 1 overall pick should be spent on a player with the best odds of making a high-level contribution immediately and repeatedly. That means wide receivers and all but the most experienced, productive quarterbacks are out, as are safeties, guards and centers. That's why I would have preferred to see a guy like Texas A&M's Von Miller go first.

As for steals, I'm going to say Nick Fairley dropping all the way to Detroit, where he can be paired with Ndamukong Suh on the interior defensive line. There isn't an NFC North team left that isn't going to have to dramatically retool its blocking strategy now because of that setup, and even that might not be enough to avoid a franchise quarterback getting broken in half this season. How in the world does Fairley fall to No. 13, past Christian Ponder, the real reach of the first round? Fairley didn't dominate the NFL combine, but you know what? Freakish combine measurements don't really matter for defensive tackles. It's whether they can shed blocks reliably and repeatedly at the next level, and based on the way Fairley performed not only during the season but especially in Auburn's biggest games, he's got the ability to do that. If there's a character concern, you know what? Let the rest of the locker room take care of that. That's where the veteran teammates are supposed to step in, not the scouts.

Outside of the first round, I really like the Sam Acho pick in the fourth round by the Cardinals. At 6'2" and 260, Acho's sort of an OLB/DE tweener as size goes, and he's going to be playing OLB in the Cards' 3-4 system after lining up at end at Texas. But he's fast and disruptive, and was plenty productive with the Longhorns, so he could definitely end up being a James Harrison- type terror for the Cardinals in a year or two.

TF: Not to get too far off the subject, but Adam brought up something that drives me crazy when it comes to the NFL and the way teams draft. All too often it seems like NFL teams become enamored with how a player performs in the combine while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. That's the reason Ponder got taken so early; without linemen closing in on him, he's really good at throwing a football. But it seems like they forget about what these players did while they were actually on a football field.

For instance, look at Acho. NFL teams see his size and they're not entirely sure what to do with him. They don't seem to pay as much attention to the fact that Acho was a kid that did his job on the field at Texas and did it well. He made plays. It's why I think Tampa got a steal in Florida's Black. For the last few years, Black was one of my favorite players to watch because he just had that knack for making things happen. However, all NFL scouts seemed to see was that he didn't have top-notch speed. Nevermind the fact that he played in the SEC -- which I believe is the home of that ESS EEE SEEE SPEEEED -- and played well.

Jerry Hinnen: I agree that the draft over-rewards potential and underrates production, which is why I never thought I'd see the day when an NFL team reached for the occasionally erratic run-first quarterback out of the gimmicky option offense, and stole the rifle-armed pocket statue with a former NFL play-caller for a coach. But as the draft day fates of Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallett illustrate, there's a first time for everything.

Let me first say this about Kaepernick: as a college quarterback, he was under appreciated, having accumulated an incredible 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing over his four years at Nevada, the only quarterback in FBS history to do so. In 2011, he joined Tim Tebow and Newton as the only players in FBS history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Kaepernick was, simply, one of the most exciting, most fun, best college football players of his era.

But having watched him ever since he exploded onto the scene against Boise State in 2007's overtime classic, I can't say I ever saw him as a blue-chip NFL prospect. Kaepernick was always a substantially greater threat on the hoof than in the pocket, where his awkward throwing motion and come-and-go accuracy led to outings like his 12-for-23, 149-yard, two-interception clunker to open the 2009 season at Notre Dame, or the 14-for-26, 159-yard, four-turnover debacle at Hawaii that led to the Wolf Pack's only loss of 2011. The greatest strengths of Kaepernick's unique skill set -- his ball-fake jujitsu within the pistol, his surprising speed and agility as a ball-carrier, his ability to throw outside the pocket -- won't do much to make an already difficult transition from the pistol to an NFL offense any easier. Jim Harbaugh's right pinky knows more about quarterbacking in the NFL than I ever will, obviously, but I remain stunned Kaepernick went as a high second-rounder rather than a late-round flyer. (Which brings me to an aside in response to Tom: we can debate Newton all day, but if Kaepernick is the 36th overall pick, Newton -- in a different class athletically, more polished as a passer, proven in SEC competition -- is something akin to the negative-17th pick.)

But where Kaepernick never struck me as meant for NFL stardom (or even starterdom), Mallett is the sort of prospect whose very double-helixes probably unwind to spell out "PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACK" under the microscope. 6'7", possessor of likely the strongest arm in college football, with his two years under former NFL head coach Bobby Petrino yielding better than 7,400 passing yards, better than 9 yards an attempt, and a 62-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Mallett couldn't have looked the part of a future NFL signal-caller any better either on the field or on paper. But of course he looked like something else in the headlines and gossip factories, thanks to those pesky drug admissions and work ethic rumors. But the facts are that Mallett was arrested just once at Arkansas (for public intoxication), was never suspended, and by all accounts enjoyed the respect of his teammates. Yes, he's a character risk, but so were plenty of players who went in the first and second rounds.

Were I in a quarterback-needy NFL team's shoes, I'd worry more about his penchant for forcing the spectacular throw when the easy one would do--but that's not the kind of worry that would have caused me to pass him up twice.

AJ: I can't say New England taking Mallett is a steal. He's on a spectrum where the high end is Drew Bledsoe and the low is Ryan Leaf, and nowhere in-between is a Super Bowl ring.

Chip Patterson: I'm not sure if it was one of the biggest "steals" of the draft, but seeing how highly rated Robert Quinn was on many boards, the Rams had to have been happy to grab him at No. 14. Quinn just got things going at North Carolina before he was suspended for his junior season during the NCAA investigation of the football program; he'd finished second in the ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting as a sophomore in 2009, just two years after battling back from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Quinn continued to impress throughout different stages of the process, but according to reports he was not cleared by several team doctors. Many teams were likely on the edge about Quinn because of the off-field activity at North Carolina, and may have just needed one more reason to bypass the budding defensive end. Battling back from brain surgery to all-conference honors seems more like a positive intangible than a negative one to me, but I'm not the one making the million dollar moves. (Yet.)

My colleagues have covered a fair share of the quarterbacks, so I'll point out the very next pick in the draft: Mike Pouncey. The Dolphins didn't want this pick, and in fact they tried desperately to trade down. Pouncey addresses a need and will likely be an immediate starter, but there's little about Pouncey's performance at Florida that makes him seem like a No. 15 pick. He was the highest drafted center since 1993, the kind of accolade that's usually placed on a uniquely talented individual. Pouncey will help the Dolphins' running game, especially with his experience as a pulling guard, but he does not stand out to me as a "unique talent." The Dolphins didn't make a huge mistake by drafting him, but it just doesn't seem like the best talent for the pick.

JH: See, I tend to think the point of a mid-first-round pick is to simply not make that "huge mistake," so I thought drafting a solid future pro (if not a future Pro Bowler) like Pouncey was a smart move. But looking back over this discussion, we're clearly all haters of one stripe or another.

Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:06 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Still no transfer decision for John Brantley

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If the Urban Meyer spread-option regime was still in charge at Florida, no one would bat an eye at John Brantley exploring his transfer options. (There's probably no truth to the rumor they've added a picture of him running the zone read to the Dictionary of American Slang under "square peg in a round hole," but we wouldn't blame them if they had.) But with Will Muschamp heralding a new offensive era in Gainesville and Charlie Weis, the coach that turned Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen into first-round draft picks, now in the offensive coordinator's chair, you'd think that would be enough to placate Brantley, right?

It might be. But not just yet :

After a difficult first season as a starter and Urban Meyer 's resignation, the redshirt junior is considering leaving a school.

As of Wednesday morning, Brantley and his family hadn't made a decision.

"We hadn't talked and probably won't talk until Charlie Weis is here," said his father, John Brantley III. "I hadn't even talked to him."

That means the Brantleys might be waiting a bit; Weis isn't expected in Gainesville until after his season concludes with the Kansas City Chiefs .

Between Brantley losing a year of eligibility in the event of a transfer (assuming he stays within the FBS) and Weis's reputation for grooming quarterbacks, it still seems unlikely Brantley will bolt. But if he does, it will make things awfully awkward for Muschamp and Weis in their first season; the only other quarterbacks on the depth chart are Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, neither of which will be a good fit at all for Weis's dropback-passer schemes. That would likely make incoming true freshman Jeff Driskel the starter by default, and though Driskel is one of the most highly-regarded recruits in the country, asking any true freshman to step in and take the reins for an SEC team from Day 1 is asking for trouble.

So expect Muschamp and Weis to make their best sales pitch to Brantley as soon as they possibly can. Their first season with the Gators might just depend on it.
 
 
 
 
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