Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
"Headset Reset" is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the four new head coaches in Conference USA and the Sun Belt .
BILL BLANKENSHIP, Tulsa
Why him? Former Tulsa quarterback was promoted from running backs/special teams coach to maintain 10-3, top-25 status quo. For 2011, Blankenship needs to: find a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who took the same position at Clemson after being passed over the Tulsa head job; the right hire could turn Tulsa's nine returning offensive starters (including quarterback G.J. Kinne and all-purpose weapon Damaris Johnson) into another double-digit win season. By 2014, Blankenship will need to have: won a C-USA title. For all of the Golden Hurricane's offensive fireworks under Todd Graham, their only league championship came back in 2005 under Steve Kragthorpe. Chances Blankenship gets what he needs? Fair-to-middling. Tulsa's points-happy brand should be strong enough to keep them near the top of the league standings (provided Blankenship doesn't blow the OC hire), but will simply promoting a position coach really be enough to get them over the hump?
DAN McCARNEY, North Texas (pictured)
Why him? Far and away the most recognizable name among the new C-USA/SBC hires, the 57-year-old McCarney spent 12 successful seasons as Iowa State's head coach before supervising the defensive lines at South Florida and Florida. For 2011, McCarney needs to: just offer some kind of hope. The snake-bitten Mean Green (4 losses in 2010 by total of 13 points) have won only 13 games in six seasons. By 2014, McCarney will need to have: found some semblance of a defense. UNT hasn't had too many problems offensively, but they won't accomplish anything until one of the nation's worst defenses is brought up to code. Chances McCarney gets what he needs? Decent. McCarney may be a little too long in the tooth (and the program may have decayed too badly) to bring back the Mean Green's early-Aughts glory days, but the old pro should have the defensive chops to at least bring UNT back to respectability.
HUGH FREEZE, Arkansas State
Why him? Former Ole Miss assistant made famous by The Blind Side was promoted from offensive coordinator after leading Red Wolves to better than 400 yards per game, vaulting them from 95th to 43rd in total offense. For 2011, Freeze needs to: get to .500. Disappointing 4-8 records the last two seasons earned Steve Roberts a pink slip, but with Ryan Aplin back at quarterback and better luck due after going 1-5 in one-possession games in 2010, there's no reason (other than a revamped offensive line) Freeze can't get the Red Wolves back to 6-6. By 2014, Freeze will need to have: established ASU as an upper-tier Sun Belt program. Getting past Troy and up-and-coming FIU won't be easy, but there's nothing stopping the Red Wolves from joining in the SBC mix. Chances Freeze gets what he needs? Good. Freeze knows his way around the Arkansas and Tennessee recruiting scenes and has a sharp offensive mind; those traits alone should be enough to get the Red Wolves back to the postseason (for the first time since 2005) sooner rather than later.
MARK HUDSPETH, Lousiana (formerly UL-Lafayette)
Why him? Before taking a job on Dan Mullen's staff at Mississippi State , Hudpseth excelled as the head coach at Division II North Alabama, going 66-20 in seven seasons. For 2011, Hudspeth needs to: right the ship. A series of near-misses at a winning season under Rickey Bustle dissolved in a 3-9 disaster in 2010; a simple step in the right direction will be enough for one of the FBS's most tradition-deficient programs. By 2014, Hudspeth will need to have: earned a bowl bid. The Ragin' Cajuns have never taken part in FBS postseason play. Chances Hudspeth gets what he needs? Not bad. There's room to be upwardly mobile in the Sun Belt, and despite a relatively bare cupboard, Hudspeth has quality head coaching experience at only 42 years of age.
Tags: Arkansas State, Bill Blankenship, Chad Morris, Clemson, Conference USA, Damaris Johnson, Dan McCarney, Dan Mullen, FIU, Florida, G.J. Kinne, Headset Reset, Hugh Freeze, Iowa State, Louisiana, Mark Hudspeth, Mississippi State, North Alabama, North Texas, Ole Miss, Rickey Bustle, Ryan Aplin, South Florida, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Roberts, Sun Belt, The Blind Side, Todd Graham, Troy, Tulsa, UL-Lafayette
Posted on: January 12, 2011 11:51 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Before Auburn took on Oregon in the title game on Monday, the school had come to a "mutual agreement" with Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton, that he wouldn't attend the game. Considering what the NCAA told Auburn earlier this year, about limiting Cecil's contact with the school's football program, it seemed like the smart decision for the school to make.
Of course, as we all know by now, Cecil Newton was at the game. He may not have been found by cameras during the game, as he wasn't seated with his wife, but there he was hugging his son on the field after the game was over. Which, as you'd expect, has brought up the question of how Cecil got his ticket. Well, Auburn really wants you to know that it didn't give it to him.
So who did? I don't know. Maybe it was Mississippi State, maybe it was Kenny Rogers, or maybe he just bought the darn thing himself. The better question is who cares? I know that we may never know the total truth about what went on behind the scenes with Cam Newton's recruitment, or that we might find out everything in the coming years.
Do I think Cecil Newton violated NCAA rules when it came to his son? I do, but when it comes to this instance, I don't care. If he bought his way into the game, then he can do whatever he pleases. Let's try to get past the hypocritical values of the NCAA for a second here and just approach this as human beings for a second.
The man was already forced to miss seeing his son win the Heisman Trophy. Should he be denied the chance to see his son reach the college football apex as well? The man didn't kill anybody, he asked for money. Allegedly.
Posted on: January 6, 2011 3:07 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Dan Mullen was in the market for a new defensive coordinator last offseason, he surprised many by plucking away then-nearly-unheard of coordinator from Middle Tennessee State named Manny Diaz. Diaz's highly impressive single season in Starkville got him hired away by Texas yesterday afternoon, but this time Mullen isn't getting nearly so creative in naming a replacement:
There's lots of reasons to think this decision will work out just fine; Wilson is due to step up to a coordinator's chair after several highly productive years coaching the defensive lines at both Oklahoma and State, and his promotion will give the Bulldogs desirable continuity both in their defensive game-planning and late-cycle recruiting (which, at the moment looks dramtically shakier following Diaz's exit). Also, obviously, Mullen ought to know better than anyone whether Wilson is coordinator material.
At the same time, that Mullen had so much success last go-round looking outside his staff means he might be selling himself short by not even conducting a search. It seems much more likely for Wilson to succeed than not, but if he doesn't, some will wonder if Mullen didn't act a bit too quickly here.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 5:28 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Per the Jackson Clarion-Legder's Kyle Veazey, the speculation surrounding Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's possible move to the same position at Texas is over :
In the 36-year-old Diaz, the 'Horns are bringing in one of FBS's most exciting young coordinators, whose hyper-aggressive blitz-heavy schemes gave up the occasional big play but also took a lightly-regarded Bulldog defense all the way to 17th in the country in rushing defense. The last two times Mack Brown was in the market for a defensive coordinator he looked for an up-and-comer in the SEC West and struck gold hiring both Gene Chizik and, later, Will Muschamp away from Auburn; from here it looks like he's done so again.
As for State, losing Diaz this late in the recruiting cycle hurts, but that's life at their level of the college football food chain (and at least they can claim a modicum of sympathy from Auburn fans still bitter over the Longhorns' previous coaching raids). And hey, with Michigan in the market for a coach who could put Denard Robinson's unique talents to their best use -- someone like, say, Dan Mullen -- they may have bigger issues to worry about.
Posted on: January 1, 2011 8:00 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Mississippi State crushed an overmatched, undermanned Michigan defense, 52-14.
Offense: Quarterback Chris Relf wore #36 in honor of teammate Nick Bell , who passed away this season after battling skin cancer. He most certainly represented Bell admirably today, rolling up 281 yards on 18-23 passing and throwing three touchdowns. Michigan's secondary essentially had no answer for anything MSU wanted to do on offense. The Bulldogs' rushing attack was good for over 200 yards, even though it only gained 3.5 yards a pop. But above all else, MSU scored 52 points and gave Michigan its worst bowl beating ever. Grade: A
Defense: The MSU defensive performance basically defined "bend but don't break" today; Michigan gained 16 first downs and over 300 yards of offense, but only scored 14 points (all in the first quarter) and gave the ball up twice -- not including the partially blocked punt that gave TCU the ball on the Michigan 29. Only Ohio State held the Wolverines to fewer points this year. Grade: B+
Coaching: Dan Mullen went 5-5 on fourth downs in this game. 5-5! These weren't do-or-die situations, either; Mississippi State did beat Michigan by 38 points, after all. His team stayed aggressive even after it was garbage time, shutting Michigan out in the last three quarters. Right now, Mullen looks to be worth every penny of the $10.6 million he figures to make over the next four years. Grade: A
Offense: Michigan actually started the game on a roll, and led 14-10 at one point. Then Denard Robinson threw an interception, and things quickly went downhill. Robinson accounted for over 300 yards once again, but as per usual, the rest of the team didn't contribute much. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms both looked solid at receiver, and both figure to be weapons next year. The Wolverines definitely missed Tate Forcier (ineligible) in the second half, when passing became the highest priority. Grade: B-
Defense: Statistically, this is the worst defense in Michigan history. This was Michigan's worst defensive performance in a bowl game ever. Greg Robinson should not only be fired, he should never coach defense in college football ever again. Michigan's defense was awful, wretched, putrid, horrific, horrible, and horrendous in every respect of the game. Grade: A new, worse grade than F should be invented and given to Michigan's defense
Coaching: Rich Rodriguez may have gotten himself fired with this one game. There were a litany of problems associated with Michigan's preparation and execution, as the 38-point margin would indicate, but let's just point this out: Michigan went 0-5 on fourth downs. Denard Robinson threw an incomplete pass on all of them. Robinson is the most feared rushing quarterback in college football this year; why is Rodriguez making him stand still and throw on every single fourth down? Use his legs, for crying out loud! Grade: F
This was not a good game for anybody but Mississippi State fans. It's great to see Dan Mullen breathe life into the historically inferior program, but it became quickly apparent in the second half that Michigan is just a mess. If it's Rich Rodriguez's last game on the Michigan sidelines, it's disappointing, but fitting. Grade: D
Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:27 am
Edited on: December 31, 2010 9:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Basics: Michigan (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (7-5), 1 p.m. EST, Jan. 1
Why You Should Watch: For starters, outside of the national championship game, you're not going to see two better-coached run games than you're going to get from Dan Mullen and Rich Rodriguez. Both are masters of finding rushing yards out of the spread, with Mullen relying on the option behind Tebow Lite QB Chris Relf and Rodriguez -- after employing a similar style back in his Pat White-Steve Slaton glory days in Morgantown -- using a wide variety of screens, draws, and play-action passes to open lanes for the explosive Denard Robinson.
Speaking of, Robinson's season-on-the-whole didn't live up to his brief spell as the early-season Heisman frontrunner, as a parade of bumps and bruises (not to mention the teeth of a Big Ten schedule) robbed him of some of his blinding speed and much of his throwing accuracy down the stretch. But he remains the only quarterback in NCAA history to top 1,500 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards in the same season, and after the time off it's worth tuning in to see if he can restore some of that early-year magic.
But of course, neither of those storylines hold a candle to those hovering over Rodriguez, who could very well be coaching his final game as the Wolverines' head coach. Win or lose, fired or retained, the day promises to be a highly emotional one for both Rodriguez and his players.
Keys to Victory for Mississippi State: Defensively, the Bulldogs have to like the matchup presented by the Wolverines. State comes in with the nation's 19th-rated rushing defense, one powered by rugged defensive end Pernell McPhee and senior linebacker Chris White, a surprise All-SEC selection after a breakout season that saw him lead the Bulldogs in both tackles-for-loss (15.5) and sacks (6). Combine them with coordinator Manny Diaz's hyper-aggressive schemes and solid, no-nonsense defenders like tackle Josh Boyd and fellow senior LB K.J. Wright, and it's not likely you'll see Robinson run wild. The Wolverines are going to have to throw to win the game, and though their big-play passing game ranked 13th in the country in yards-per-attempt, much of that success came after the establishment of a running game the Bulldogs may deny.
Of course, with a young secondary that only ranked 90th against the pass and was frequently exposed by Diaz's love of the blitz, the Bulldogs may give up a handful of big plays through the air anyway. And the matchup on offense isn't quite as kind: for all of Mullen's trickery in the rushing game, Relf's skill at operating the option, and the emergence of tailback Vick Ballard (who rushed for 80 yards or more in six of the Bulldogs' last seven), Relf's scattershot downfield arm and an often-butterfingered receiving corps left MSU mired at 92nd in the country with only 177 yards a game. The Bulldogs don't look equipped to attack the Wolverine defense at its weakest point, the bottom-of-the-barrel secondary.
If Relf is on target and the Bulldog defense reduces Robinson and Co. to one airborne dimension, State will roll to an easy victory. But if Relf can't punish the Michigan secondary and Robinson finds enough running lanes to keep the MSU pass defense off-balance and vulnerable, it could be a long afternoon.
Keys to Victory for Michigan: As good as the State defense has been against the run, there have been times when the Wolverine running game (which finished the season 11th in the FBS in yardage and sixth in yards-per-carry at 5.67 a pop) has been good enough to run on anyone. While Robinson's legs and Rodriguez's schemes make it go, a veteran offensive line led by All-Big Ten center David Molk deserves plenty of credit, too, and should be heady and well-prepared enough to hand Diaz's unusual looks. With Robinson at 100 percent and Rodriguez having the extra time to study, expect the Wolverines to make some hay on the ground. If Robinson can make just enough throws to exploit the vulnerable MSU defensive backs, Michigan could put a bushel of points up on the board.
They'll need them, of course. The Wolverines finished a miserable 107th in the country in total defense, and there's little doubt that an offense as well-coached as Mullen's is going to put some drives together and score some points against a unit this weak. But the Wolverines can at least avoid the occasional meltdown that's marked their past two seasons if their run defense, buoyed by the full health of dynamic nose tackle Mike Martin and rise of mid-year starting middle linebacker Kenny Demens, can slow down the State running game and take some pressure off their woeful set of defensive backs.
If State executes offensively, the Wolverines don't appear to have the defensive talent necessary to keep up. But that's hardly guaranteed; State threw up a few clunkers this year, escaping UAB 29-24, getting pasted by LSU 29-7, etc. If they aren't sharp, Robinson alone gives Michigan enough firepower to make them pay ... particularly with as much as their coach has riding on the outcome.
The Gator Bowl is like: Cinderella, pre-slipper. It's easy to look at the two well-dressed stepsister Big Ten vs. SEC New Year's Day bowls and overlook the newcomer, and if Robinson can't get on track and the Wolverine defense doesn't play over its head, the Gaotr might just deserve to skip the ball entirely. But if Michigan plays with emotion, both offenses execute, and the Wolverines get enough stops to make it a game, this bowl could be the fairest Big Ten-SEC matchup of them all.
Posted on: December 29, 2010 12:16 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Earlier this season Mississippi State lost defensive end Nick Bell to cancer. Bell had been diagnosed with the disease in late September after experiencing headaches, and had surgery to remove a mass from his brain on October 1. Just over a month later, on November 2, Bell would lose his battle with the disease.
It's a tragic story for Mississippi State, but the team was able to overcome its grief and finish the season 8-4 to earn a trip to the Gator Bowl. A bowl game in which the team and quarterback Chris Relf will honor their fallen teammate.
During the Gator Bowl, Relf won't be wearing the number 14 he usually wears, but will don the #36 jersey instead. The same jersey that belonged to Bell.
Head coach Dan Mullen said he got the idea from numerous emails he received from fans asking the coach if Relf could wear the number during the game, and when he presented the emails to Relf, the quarterback was all too happy to agree.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 6:56 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After earlier compiling a database of all 120 FBS head coaching salaries for the recently completed 2010 season, USA Today today released a look at the salaries of the nation's assistant coaches, all 907 of which are available for comparison here . Your highest-paid assistant: Texas ex-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp at $900,000 per year. The lowest amongst coaches actually drawing a paycheck? Leon Lett -- you remember him ! -- who's being paid just $12,000 to coach defensive tackles at Louisiana-Monroe.
Inbetween on the scale are some 900 other coaches (not counting those working at private institutions whose salaries are not public information). Ignoring certain obvious choices (yes, Greg Davis was overpaid, yes, Dana Holgorsen was a bargain), looking only at 2010 results, and making allowances for coaches in their first year at a new school, here's three choices for the country's most underpaid and most overpaid assistant coaches:
MOST DUE FOR A RAISE
Don Treadwell ($235,250), offensive coordinator, Michigan State. Despite possessing few playmakers known to fans outside the Midwest, Treadwell guided the Spartans to a top-20 finish in yards per-play and offered his team an enivable balance with better than 2,000 yards rushing and 2,800 passing. He also took over for two games as interim head coach while Mark Dantonio dealt with a heart ailment, winning both. And he did all this for the cost of less than many SEC position coaches.
Jeff Casteel ($372,268), defensive coordinator, West Virginia. Casteel's not doing too badly for himself, salary-wise, but compared to what his fellow DCs are earning in the SEC, Big 12, etc., he's still a bargain. With virtually no nationally-recognized players and few star recruits, Casteel quietly put together the nation's third-ranked unit in total defense and third in scoring defense; the Mountaineers were the only defense in the country to allow 21 points or fewer in every game.
Tom Osborne ($220,000), special teams/tight ends coach, Oregon. Osborne put together arguably the best set of special teams units in the country, leading the Ducks to top 20 finishes in net punting and kickoff coverage, coaxing a 12-of-16 performance from his two kickers, and along with returner Cliff Harris creating the most dangerous punt return unit in the nation, one that racked up better than 18 yards per return and scored five game-changing touchdowns. The Ducks probably aren't in the national title game without him.
Honorable Mention: Manny Diaz ($260,000), defensive coordinator, Mississippi State; Pete Kwiatkowski ($259,520), defensive coordinator, Boise State; Al Borges ($205,000), offensive coordinator, San Diego State.
MOST DUE TO NOT RECEIVE A RAISE
Norm Chow ($640,000), offensive coordinator, UCLA. That figure includes a $250,000 retention bonus designed to keep Chow in Los Angeles, but maybe the Bruins would have been better off being spared paying the nation's eighth-highest assistant's salary for the nation's 109th-best offense.
Tyrone Nix ($500,000), defensive coordinator, Ole Miss. For Nix's salary, the Rebels could have had Gus Malzahn, who earned the exact same amount this season from Auburn. Malzahn will earn quite a bit more next year, obviously, but Nix won't after overseeing a defense that utterly collapsed in the embarrassing season-opening loss to Jacksonville State and went on to finish 105th in yards allowed per-play.
Stacy Searels ($301,200), offensive line coach, Georgia. Offensive line coaches do very well in the SEC, with several topping the $300,000 mark. If we ignore the low-hanging fruit that was Steve Addazio's season in Gainesville, none had a more disappointing season than Searels, whose Bulldog charges looked to have the makings of one of the nation's strongest ground games at the close of 2009 and entered 2010 with as much experience (and talent, arguably) as any line in the country. Instead the Dawgs finished 10th in the SEC in rushing and middle-of-the-pack in sacks allowed (despite ranking 9th in passes attempted) as Searels wound up forced to juggle his lineup late in the year. Searels has done outstanding work before and likely will again, but 2010 wasn't his best moment.
Dishonorable Mention: Chuck Long and Carl Torbush ($350,000 each), offensive and defensive coordinators, Kansas ; Nick Holt ($650,000), defensive coordinator, Washington; Greg Robinson ($277,100), defensive coordinator, Michigan.
Tags: Al Borges, Boise State, Carl Torbush, Chuck Long, Don Treadwell, Florida, Georgia, Greg Robinson, Jeff Casteel, Kansas, Manny Diaz, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nick Holt, Norm Chow, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pete Kwiatkowski, San Diego State, SEC, Stacy Searels, Steve Addazio, Tom Osborne, Tyrone Nix, UCLA, Washington, West Virginia