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Tag:David Cutcliffe
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: April 26, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:04 pm
 

What I learned this spring: ACC Coastal

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Coastal Division.

DUKE: Head coach David Cutcliffe exits his fourth spring practice with the Blue Devils with as much optimism as ever, but knows that the 2011 Blue Devils have some work to do before kicking off the season against Richmond on Sept. 3.

"A successful day," Cutcliffe said after the spring game. "But I told them this is just the beginning. In college football now, [you have] the remainder of the spring term to work on weights and conditioning. And a summer that's going to very important to a young team."

Almost two-thirds of the Blue Devils roster is made up of freshman and sophomores. While youth can easily breed optimism, there is also a realistic expectation that this group needs to put in more work on the fundamentals this summer. Duke does have the benefit of returning both pieces of their quarterback rotation from 2010. Junior Sean Renfree will remain the starting quarterback, coming off a pleasantly surprising 3,131 yard, 14 touchdown season. Sophomore Brandon Connette will continue in his role as a run-first quarterback in rotation with Renfree, but the spring has shown some improvement in Connette's passing game. Defensively, we didn't learn much about Duke this spring due to widespread injuries across the unit. If anything the injuries made a talented Blue Devils offense look spectacular at times. Duke will likely not be able to escape a similar bowl-less fate in 2011, but at least now they have the athletes on the roster to remain competitive.

GEORGIA TECH: Georgia Tech set out to improve defensively this spring and try to focus on special teams. The good news is that the Yellow Jackets defense finished spring practice looking much better than the offense. Which might actually reveal more issues with the offense than it does compliment the defensive improvement. At different times this spring, both Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days have struggled in scrimmage situations against the first-team defense. Both quarterbacks have struggled to find a rhythm, and as head coach Paul Johnson said, they have been "running for their lives" on the field.

The defense was highlighted this spring by players like defensive end Jason Peters and inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who entered spring practice as a backup. Nealy, a redshirt freshman, has seen time with the first-string this spring due to injuries to Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond. He has made the most of the opportunity, capping off his spring by leading the Yellow Jackets in tackles during their annual T-Day game. Paul Johnson also wanted to increase the mistakes in the special teams after last season. Unfortunately that is not completely solved as Georgia Tech's kickers combined for misses from 28, 47, and 49 yards in the T-Day game.

MIAMI: Miami's spring has been much publicized due to the arrival of new head coach Al Golden . Therefore it should come as no surprise that we learned just as much (if not more) about Golden's vision for the Miami football program this spring than we did about the actual players on the roster. In following the Hurricanes this spring one word stands out to describe Golden's brief time at Miami: demand.

Golden demands that Miami play, practice, and think at a fast pace. He demanded that the Hurricanes get in better shape, and instituted a rigorous winter conditioning program. He demanded that players need to earn starting positions, and that is obvious with the unusually fluid final spring depth chart.

But will all these demands and the implementation of a new attitude around Miami catch on in time for the 2011 season? There are still plenty of question marks on the field, most notably the ongoing quarterback battle between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. The Hurricanes have a stable of running backs and a solid offensive line that should provide stability to the offense, and take some pressure of whichever signal-caller ends up as the starter. If nothing else, Golden has brought hype back to "The U." More than 300 former players showed up for the Hurricanes' spring game in Ft. Lauderdale, a who's who of active and retired NFL players.

Something else I learned from Miami this spring? I really need to get a Michael Irvin alarm clock.



NORTH CAROLINA: - While several former North Carolina defenders are preparing to hear their name called this weekend in the NFL draft, many of the stars from 2010's defense are still in Chapel Hill preparing for next fall. If anything, the spring showed us that the heart of of the Tar Heels' defense will be on the defensive line. The Tar Heels will be able to rotate 8-9 defensive lineman, highlighted by Quinton Coples, Jared MacAdoo, and Donte Paige-Moss. Much of the depth and added experience on the defensive line is due to the suspensions of Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn forcing players into positions unexpectedly before the season started. One of the things that makes North Carolina's line especially dangerous is the ability of several players to play multiple positions. Both Coples and MacAdoo are able to play inside or out, and that versatility can benefit a team when injuries hit during the long season. One of the biggest surprises on the already deep defensive line has been the play of junior college transfer Sylvester Williams. Williams has been building buzz since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and could end up challenging Jordan Nix for a starting defensive tackle job by next fall. North Carolina's secondary is a concern once again, making it even more important for the defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback to prevent opposing wide receivers from getting space down the field.

Offensively much of the focus will be on quarterback Bryn Renner, who is taking over for four-year starter T.J. Yates. Renner showed promise at times this spring, but he is still getting accustomed to his new role as leader of the offense. Thankfully he'll have Dwight Jones and Erik Highsmith to throw to, and an experienced offensive line to give him time to operate. Ryan Houston was a touchdown machine in 2009, but after redshirting last season and undergoing shoulder blade surgery this summer the depth at running back will be a concern heading into the fall.

VIRGINIA: Earlier this year, head coach Mike London made headlines by pulling in yet another unexpectedly strong class on National Signing Day. Unfortunately, these small victories will take some time before they translate into more marks in the "W" column for the Cavaliers. This spring did not answer many of the questions that existed near the end of last year's four-win season. Defensively, the Cavaliers return seven starters from a unit that finished only better than Duke and Wake Forest in both scoring and total defense. Improvement from those numbers will be necessary considering the lack of offensive firepower.

Virginia rotated through four different quarterbacks during their spring game (Michael Rocco, Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss, and David Watford), but no candidate stood out among the group. The offensive line has been porous, and the Cavaliers still lack an answer at running back as well. What did I learn about Virginia? Greener pastures may lie in their future, but unless someone steps up to make the Cavaliers a threat on offense they will have a difficult time keeping up with opponents in 2011.

VIRGINIA TECH: Not to drone on about new quarterbacks, but when a sophomore takes over for the ACC Player of the Year it is going to turn some heads. Logan Thomas has looked impressive this spring, grabbing most of the positive notes out of Blacksburg across the last several weeks. He finished spring practice as the star of the spring game, throwing for 131 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the Hokies in rushing with 46 yards on just five carries. However, Thomas' impressive performance did showcase some depth issues for the Hokies on offense. With starting running back David Wilson away with the track team, backup running backs Daniel Dyer, Josh Oglesby, and James Hopper struggled against the Hokies' defense in the spring game. Last season head coach Frank Beamer had the benefit of three NFL-caliber running backs to choose from, right now it looks like Wilson is the only competent option. The backup quarterbacks did not fair well either, with second-string Ju-Ju Clayton completing just three of his ten passes, and tossing two interceptions.

Defensively, Virginia Tech's returning talent seems charged up by the 40-12 lashing they took from Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Orange Bowl. The competition on the field has been aggressive, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster has not backed down from calling his team's performance in that game "unacceptable." Players to keep an eye on heading into the fall include linebacker Tariq Edwards and defensive end James Gayle, who was voted the spring defensive MVP. For those still curious, wide receiver Danny Coale did punt in the spring game and is still considered in the running for the job come fall.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 12:16 am
Edited on: February 16, 2011 12:19 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Duke

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Anyone will tell you that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Duke - the first FBS team to open Spring Practice.

Spring Practice Question: Can David Cutcliffe finally make the Blue Devils a contender for bowl eligibility?

For the second year in a row, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils on the field earlier than anyone in the ACC. He doesn't do it to steal any thunder from Mike Kryzewzski and the men's basketball team, but in order to start answering the many questions heading into the 2011 season.

The bar was set pretty low when Cutcliffe took over in 2007. Duke had only won four games in their last four seasons under the direction of Ted Roof, and the coach of SEC fame at least brought some excitement to Durham. But eventually excitement will turn into expectations and in order to put a mark on his time at Duke, David Cutcliffe needs to get to the postseason. It's something that Duke has not done since 1994, and the closest they came was their 5-7 record in 2009.

That was the last season that Duke's career-passing-leader Thaddeus Lewis played for the Blue Devils, and the focus for 2011 begins with his replacement. Sean Renfree showed great promise at times in 2010, throwing for 3,131 yards and 14 touchdowns. Unfortunately the sophomore signal-caller also tossed 17 interceptions, though he only threw two in the final five games. There was a steady improvement throughout the season, as Renfree became more comfortable with Duke's crop of talented wide receivers - led by All-ACC junior Conner Vernon. But the passing game is not the number one concern for Duke's coaching staff here in spring practice.

“It all starts in the line of scrimmage right now for us,” Cutcliffe said about his focus for spring practice.  “Our capabilities up front allow us to make all the decisions on what we’re going to do.  If we can’t stop the run and hold up defensively, it’s very difficult to play quality defense.  That’s been the biggest challenge.  We are reloading a group that we think runs better and is going to be bigger and more talented, but they’ve got to show us this spring.  And offensively, first is to settle on the right five.  For the first time, we really have some competition in the offensive line.  With the mix of younger and older guys, it’s going to be pretty interesting.  My absolute focus is going to be more on the interiors of both lines.”

Rebuilding that defense will be especially difficult without graduated senior linebacker Abraham Kromah, the ACC's second leading tackler in 2010. Safeties coach Jim Knowles moves up to defensive coordinator, trying to turn around a unit that ranked 109th nationally in scoring defense, and 104th in rushing defense.

Despite all the poor statistics looking back at Duke's 2010 campaign, a few bounces in conference play could have significantly changed their season. Duke lost four ACC games by six points or less last season, leaving revived Blue Devils football fans shaking their heads once again.

There was bound to be a drop-off from 2009, but with a rebuilding year behind them it is time for Duke to make their move in the ACC. Excitement has turned into expectations in Durham, and if Cutcliffe can't deliver in 2011 there will be several more questions for 2012. Most notably: how many more losing seasons can the head coach last?

Duke will play their annual Spring Game on March 26 in Wallace Wade Stadium

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: October 23, 2010 11:55 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2010 12:02 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Oct. 23)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. Miami can step up when they need to - There was a dismal attendance, they were favored by less than a touchdown, and North Carolina was on a four game winning streak, but the Miami Hurricanes still played up to the expectations of a primetime game in Sun Life Stadium.  Things looked bleak for the Hurricanes down 10-3 in the second quarter after a 76 yard Johnny White touchdown run, but 'The U' turned it on from there.  Jacory Harris and running back Damien Berry anchored a 30-0 run for Miami after the White's touchdown to put Miami ahead and away with the 33-10 victory over the Tar Heels.  Jacory Harris increased his career TD total to 50, good enough for second all-time in the Miami record books, and Berry added 109 yards on the ground to lead the Hurricanes.  The atmosphere in the stadium did not live up to the hype of the division rivalry, but Miami delivered with the first Hurricane victory over Butch Davis since he took the North Carolina job in 2007.

2. Attention College Fooball Nation: Andre Ellington is the real deal - Ellington has been piecing together one of the most dominant rushing seasons in the conference this season, and done so under the radar for the most part.  Against the Yellow Jackets, Ellington rushed 20 times for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added a touchdown reception to lead the Tigers in their 27-13 victory.  Without much hype, Ellington has been one of the most efficient runners in the conference.  He is in the top five in yards per game and leads the conference in rushing touchdowns.  The 5-10 sophomore has a long way to go before the NFL becomes a legitimate discussion, but the kind of home run threat that he possesses will be a skill that is desired by many at the next level.

3. It doesn't have to pretty, just have to win - Don't look now, but Maryland is just a game away from being bowl eligible.  After the media predicted that the Terrapins would be near the bottom of the conference come seasons end, Maryland has proved the critics wrong with a 5-2 start that has them sitting tied for second place in the Atlantic Division.  Quarterback Danny O'Brien completed 26 of 29 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Terps in the 24-21 victory over Boston College.  Their wins have not always been pretty, but they have found ways to pull out a victory week after week regardless of the opponent.  Say what you will about strength of schedule, but in the ACC sometimes you just need to find six wins.  Head coach Ralph Friedgen entered the season as good as fired in the eyes of many, but has held off the critics yet again with a timely winning season.  
 
4. Duke's scheduling has not worked out well - On the flip side of the Maryland situation, you have Duke.  The Blue Devils entered the season with high hopes and expectations for a breakout season under David Cutcliffe.  Scheduling big-name non-conference opponents, Duke hoped to enhance their pigskin reputation by building on last year's improved season with more success and hopefully a bowl bid.  Unfortunately, the Devils are all but cooked at the midpoint of the season, having dropped six in a row since defeating Elon in the season opener.  Heads up Duke, if you want to increase your win total - schedule winnable games.

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