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Tag:Kiehl Frazier
Posted on: August 18, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Auburn names Barrett Trotter starting quarterback

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Auburn
has announced which quarterback has won the battle to try and fill Cam Newton's oversized shoes this season. And that winner is ... Barrett Trotter.

While far from a household name outside the SEC, Trotter is in his fourth year as a redshirt junior and in his third year of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's system. Even with only nine career passes to his name, that was enough experience to fend off challenges from redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley and true freshman Kiehl Frazier.

"Barrett has worked extremely hard to earn the starting quarterback job at Auburn University," Gene Chizik said in a statement. "Barrett understands the huge responsibility that comes with being the starting quarterback at Auburn and we are confident in his ability to lead this team."

But if Trotter has to deal with the pressure that comes with that "huge responsibility" (not to mention the shadow still cast by Newton), he's also been handed one of the most gilt-edged opportunities an FBS quarterback could ask for. Going back to his days at Tulsa, Malzahn's quarterbacks have never failed to deliver the statistical goods; even Chris Todd (whose arm strength might be described as "pedestrian" only if you're feeling charitable) somehow wound up setting a school record for touchdown passes and finishing third in the SEC in passing efficiency in 2009 ... and he'd only practiced under Malzahn for the length of one fall camp.

So as long as Trotter remains upright and avoids making enough killer mistakes to get benched -- and given enough time to learn the offense, the more athletic Frazier will look awfully appealing -- he's likely been handed the keys to a statistical fortune. If Auburn can avoid the kind of sub-.500 collapse that afflicted Texas last season, it's a safe bet that many, many more college football fans will know his name by the end of the season.



Posted on: August 18, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Auburn names Barrett Trotter starting quarterback

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Auburn
has announced which quarterback has won the battle to try and fill Cam Newton's oversized shoes this season. And that winner is ... Barrett Trotter.

While far from a household name outside the SEC, Trotter is in his fourth year as a redshirt junior and in his third year of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's system. Even with only nine career passes to his name, that was enough experience to fend off challenges from redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley and true freshman Kiehl Frazier.

"Barrett has worked extremely hard to earn the starting quarterback job at Auburn University," Gene Chizik said in a statement. "Barrett understands the huge responsibility that comes with being the starting quarterback at Auburn and we are confident in his ability to lead this team."

But if Trotter has to deal with the pressure that comes with that "huge responsibility" (not to mention the shadow still cast by Newton), he's also been handed one of the most gilt-edged opportunities an FBS quarterback could ask for. Going back to his days at Tulsa, Malzahn's quarterbacks have never failed to deliver the statistical goods; even Chris Todd (whose arm strength might be described as "pedestrian" only if you're feeling charitable) somehow wound up setting a school record for touchdown passes and finishing third in the SEC in passing efficiency in 2009 ... and he'd only practiced under Malzahn for the length of one fall camp.

So as long as Trotter remains upright and avoids making enough killer mistakes to get benched -- and given enough time to learn the offense, the more athletic Frazier will look awfully appealing -- he's likely been handed the keys to a statistical fortune. If Auburn can avoid the kind of sub-.500 collapse that afflicted Texas last season, it's a safe bet that many, many more college football fans will know his name by the end of the season.



Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings: Happy marriages or honeymoons?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Dennis Dodd posted his annual list of Hot Seat Ratings today, so if you haven't perused them all, do so at once. At once, I say! Right now, let's focus on some of the untouchables, the 32 coaches who scored a 0.0-0.5 rating. Suffice it to say none of them are getting fired this year (or even next) without a major, unforeseeable catastrophe befalling the program. But past that, what coaches are truly untouchable, and who's just still on a honeymoon? Here's a look at 15 of those coaches, five for each category in the schools' alphabetical order, listed with Dodd's hot seat ratings.

THE HONEYMOONERS

Gene Chizik, Auburn, 0.0: Hear me out. Chizik is absolutely a 0.0 on Dodd's scale this year, and he would be even if the NCAA somehow finds a way to make Auburn vacate the 2010 BCS Championship (though that seems extremely unlikely at this juncture). But Auburn is expected to struggle this year, and while it's easy now to say that the title has earned Chizik a five-year grace period, what happens if Gus Malzahn gets a high-major head coaching offer and Kiehl Frazier doesn't pan out? If Auburn struggles through two straight .500 seasons and Malzahn takes off, that 0.0 turns into a 2.0 pretty soon.
Will Muschamp, Florida, 0.5: Muschamp is one of the most dynamic and promising new head coaches in the last decade or so, but the fact remains that he's a 39-year-old, first-year head coach at a "win right now" program. Oh, and John Brantley is still his quarterback. If Muschamp can't get his Gators back above the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC East pecking order, his seat's going to ignite in a hurry.
Chip Kelly, Oregon, 0.0: The other coach coming off a 2010 BCS Championship berth also has two things working against him: a track record of only two seasons as head coach, and the possibility of major NCAA violations. For Kelly, the worry is more the latter than the former, and depending on where this business with Willie Lyles and Lache Seastrunk's recruitment ends up, Kelly could find himself in way more hot water than a 22-4 coach has any right to be. That's all "ifs" right now though, so for now, the honeymoon is still on.
Doug Marrone, Syracuse, 0.5: Marrone enters his third year with the Orange after guiding the once-proud program to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State last year -- Syracuse's first bowl win since 2001. He's got a solid core of skill players back, but the overall talent level at Syracuse is still low enough that a moderate rash of injuries could be enough to plunge Syracuse back to the level of 3-5 wins in 2011, and that's a good way to snap fans back into remembering that the Pinstripe Bowl is just... the Pinstripe Bowl. Marrone's still got a lot of work to do.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 0.5: Like Marrone, Sarkisian has performed the rather remarkable feat of turning around a program that had been mired in sub-mediocrity for the majority of the '00s. But like Marrone, the program's talent level isn't BCS-caliber yet, and unlike Marrone, Sark has to contend with losing a first-round draft pick senior quarterback, Jake Locker. Further, Washington's road schedule is brutal this year; the Huskies'll probably have to win at least two home games between California, Arizona, and Oregon just to get back to .500.

HAPPILY MARRIED

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State, 0.5: That Bobby Bowden transition wasn't so bad after all, was it? That's because Fisher guided FSU to 10 wins in his very first year... unlike the last six years of the Bowden era. Seminole fans are going to start raising expectations to the levels of the mid-'90s, so four losses and an ACC Championship loss aren't going to cut it forever, but Fisher's recruiting well enough to restore FSU to glory quickly.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 0.5: How comfortably ensconced at Iowa is Ferentz? He's been coaching at Iowa for 12 years, and in seven of them, Iowa has suffered at least five losses. Ferentz runs a clean coaching staff, but there have been a couple isolated stretches of off-field embarrassments for the Hawkeyes -- and the rhabdo case certainly didn't help matters. But he's well-loved in Iowa City all the same, and the fact that he has turned down offers from Michigan and several NFL teams is not lost on Iowa fans or administrators. Moreover, his teams haven't been bad since his first two years on campus, and he's producing a double-digit win season once per three years; if he keeps that pace up, he'll be at Iowa for as long as he wants.
Charlie Strong, Louisville, 0.5: Strong has only been at Louisville for one season, but he's already got a winning season under his belt (unlike the disastrous reign of his predecessor, Steve Kragthorpe), and he's recruiting well enough (in particular, QB signee Teddy Bridgewater) to keep Louisville winning in perpetuity. If Strong leaves, it's because a powerhouse came calling; he's legit, and everybody at Louisville knows it. If he delivers a BCS win, you can move him into the last category here.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, 0.5: Dantonio has been more successful at Michigan State than Nick Saban was. Mark Dantonio is therefore a better coach than Nick Saban. QED. If Dantonio can avoid any more health scares and start routinely challenging for Big Ten (sigh) Legends division championships, he's set for life in East Lansing. Easier said than done with Nebraska coming to town and Michigan likely to rebound from the recent swoon, though.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska, 0.5: Bo Pelini has done a fine job in his first three years as Nebraska head coach, and on first glance, it appears the young coach is the perfect candidate to lead the Huskers into the Big Ten. There's been an odd sense of impermanence from Pelini's stay at Nebraska though; it's unclear whether it comes from his tempermental sideline behavior (and his brother's) or his itinerant career thus far -- this fourth season as Huskers head coach makes this the longest coaching job Pelini has ever held. Whatever it is, he seems to lack the stable, staid nature of his longer-tenured fellow coaches. That's not insignificant; if a coach can make his fans and boosters believe he's got everything under control when things go south for a year or two, his seat can stay nice and cool for longer. Pelini is respected, but he's not quite there yet.

YOU'LL HAVE TO PRY THEM FROM OUR COLD DEAD HANDS

Nick Saban, Alabama, 0.0: Saban delivered a national championship to Tuscaloosa in his second year there, and his Crimson Tide have finished with three straight AP Top 10 finishes. He's the highest-paid coach in college football for a reason: he earns it.
Chris Peterson, Boise State, 0.5: Peterson basically ruined the WAC for everybody else, going 61-5 as Boise's head man. Sure, you can wonder where he'd be without Kellen Moore, but Peterson did beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with Jared Zabransky behind center. Now that Utah and TCU are both running off to BCS conferences, expect Boise to dominate the Mountain West for as long as Peterson's there.
Chris Ault, Nevada, 0.0: If this scale could go into negative numbers, Ault would be at least a -10. He's a College Football Hall of Famer who has overseen Nevada's rise from Division II to the upper echelon of the FBS mid-majors. Ault is a true Nevada lifer: he played QB for the Wolfpack in the '60s, and he's on his 26th year as a head coach with the program (his 39th overall in some facet with the Nevada athletic department). He is never, ever, ever getting fired. 
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern, 0.0: Fitzgerald just signed a contract extension that has 10 years on it, but is a de facto lifetime contract. He'll probably be in Evanston for at least the next 20 years. Seems crazy to say something like that about Northwestern football, doesn't it? But here it is and here we are.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 0.0: The Hokies owe as much to Beamer as just about any program and current coach in the country (other than the aforementioned Nevada and Ault or Penn State and Joe Paterno, who might as well get the school named after him upon retirement). When the ACC realigned in 2005 to include a championship game, the divisions were set up to ensure the possibility of Miami and FSU meeting every season. Instead, it's been Virginia Tech dominating the conference, appearing in four of six championship games and winning three. The ACC is Frank Beamer's conference, so the very notion of a hot seat for Beamer is essentially unimaginable.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:06 pm
 

SEC Post-Spring Conference Call Recap

Posted by Bryan Fischer

All twelve SEC head coaches jumped on board a conference call to talk about their Spring Practices. Here's a few notes on what each coach said.

Les Miles, LSU

On senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson:

"He gets it out of his hand so quickly now and goes through his reads much quicker," Miles said. "There's much less hesitation in his decision-making process. I also think going into your senior year, there's a want to have a great senior year, and the leadership position is something your quarterback must embrace.

Miles also said that new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe has been a major help for all of the quarterbacks on the roster. Backups Zach Mettenberger and Jarrett Lee pushed Jefferson this spring and will continue to do so in the fall, which makes the team better.

Will Muschamp, Florida

On quarterback John Brantley this spring:

"I’m really pleased with his poise, leadership and habits off the field studying what we need to do to be successful,” Muschamp said. “He’s got the ability and we’re very pleased.”

On Brantley's tough spring game:

“I don’t think in the spring game John had much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “I was behind him and saw it coming pretty fast, too.”

Muschamp made Florida's policy on grayshirting very clear, in that they don't do it period. He also mentioned that Javares McRoy transferred because he wants to play with his brother and Chris Dunkley left because, "sometimes things don't fit." All the injured Florida players should be healthy and ready to go this summer.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

On oversigning:

"Well, we like the way the rule is now because we actually sign four or five guys that are on the bubble of qualifying. This year we've got about five that haven't quite done it and probably three that won't make it," Spurrier said. "We could not sign all of our guys which was embarrassing for us a little bit and for them. Sometimes time heals a lot of wounds. It appears that one guy in particular will be able to sign and come with us when all the freshmen report. Our state education is.. a lot of them are borderline of qualifying or not. It's helpful for the University of South Carolina to be able to oversign."

Spurrier touched on suspended quarterback Steven Garcia, which you can read more about here. It's the Old Ball Coach's 66th birthday today and he said he was teeing off with Boo Weekley at a pro-am this afternoon. Spurrier was upbeat on current quarterback Connor Shaw, even joking he "is from our planet," in contrast to Garcia.

James Franklin, Vanderbilt

On the challenge at Vandy:

"I love the word daunting. To me, it's an opportunity, it's a challenge," Franklin said. "Just like everything else in life, it's how you look at it and perceive the situation. The way myself, this staff and this program looks at it, we have a chance to really do something special."

Franklin said the team stayed healthy for the most part this spring which was key because of depth issues. The spring was mainly about laying a foundation and the head coach felt they did that.

Derek Dooley, Tennessee

On the fan base being more united with some stability in the program:

"I hope fans see a coach who wants to be here and appreciates the tradition and the history of Tennessee football and has a good systematic approach on and off the field," Dooley said.

The head coach also said his honeymoon was over with the fans and that it ended at kickoff of last season. Dooley dismissed some of the struggles of quarterback Tyler Bray in the spring game because of the way he performed throughout the spring. He briefly touched on the 'Dooley Rule' that was implemented requiring a runoff of time in the last minute of a game on a penalty and said that it makes the game better.

Nick Saban, Alabama

On meeting with players to evaluate their progress:

"We go over a player's strengths, weaknesses, things he needs to work on, academic circumstance, personal issues, problems, leadership things he can contribute," Saban said. "It's pretty comprehensive to sit down and talk, sort of develop a plan for what that person needs to do to be successful personally, academically and athletically." 

Saban discussed the quarterback battle between Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron, including the possibility of playing both. Saban mentioned walk-on defensive back Ranzell Watkins as one player who is in the competition for a starting job because of his hard work this spring.

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas

On the QB battle between Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell:

"I think they still have a long way to go," Petrino said. "They both have great leadership qualities but they have a ways to go to do their job well so they can lead by example first."

Petrino said the Spring Game was one of the most attended in history and was a big deal because it was televised. He was pleased with figuring some of his offensive line out this spring and thought his defense showed off the veteran unit's maturity. Petrino mentioned having four good receivers will help the offense tremendously no matter the quarterback.

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss

On QB Randall Mackey's spring:

"I thought Randall Mackey had an outstanding spring," Nutt said. "You can see why he was a junior college All-American quarterback. He can really spin the play and buy some time, he has some escapablity and is very accurate. We knew he could be in the shotgun but he got up under center much better."

Nutt said Mackey was ahead in the quarterback derby but nothing is finalized until this fall. He thought the few seniors on the team really stepped up and showed great leadership. Nutt also liked the way the defensive tackles got better as the spring went on and felt they also became more physical. He labeled Wesley Pendleton as the surprise of the spring.

Mark Richt, Georgia

On spring practice overall:

"I think we got better, we practiced with the right amount of intensity," Richt said. "We competed well, guys were competing for jobs, competing in offense versus defense."

Richt said the offensive tackle situation is fluid and still up in the air and the third guy could end up playing both left and right tackle. Richt said he wouldn't ban social media for his players because he knows it's such a big part of their lives. "They sacrifice enough with the amount of time they put in," he said. Richt did mention that it would be an issue if a guy is irresponsible with it. Richt wouldn't comment on the locker room thefts that occurred a few weeks ago.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

On the quarterback position:

“The competition, to me, is wide open right now,” Mullen said. “Chris Relf, obviously, did a great job this spring. I don’t know if he separated himself from all the other guys but he also has the experience and has played in the game and has done nothing to not be our top quarterback at this point going into the summer.”

Mullen didn't comment on any of the injuries on the team. He mentioned that since there were so many young players, it was good to get some practice time with them and they did a great job. He said the defense won't really change with the departure of Manny Diaz but that they would try a few new things. Mullen said he doesn't have a top-flight wide out but the group overall is very solid.

Gene Chizik, Auburn

On the all the distractions around the program:

"We only focus on one thing and that's what we can control,' Chizik said. "We know we're doing everything the right way and feel good about the direction of the program. We don't pay attention to any outside distractions."

Chizik thought there was an eagerness to learn from the younger players on the team but they have a long ways to go. He wanted the quarterbacks to be more consistency and will be a battle into the fall. Incoming quarterback Kiehl Fraizer will be in the mix as well.

Joker Phillips, Kentucky

On what he's gotten out of spring football:

"I've really been pleased with the progress of our team defensively," Phillips said. "I'm really pleased after 14 practices that we're getting the best personnel on the field and we're unitizing some of our better people."

Phillips liked the development of the quarterbacks and feels they can be a better passing team in the fall. He said they're in "desperate need" of somebody stepping up on the perimeter at wide receiver and being a playmaker.

Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows 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 Auburn , which started spring practice on Wednesday.

Spring Practice Question: Does Auburn have the playmakers to stay in contention?

In 2010, no team in America deserved the "big-play team" label more than Auburn. It's an easy argument, offensively speaking; the Tigers finished No. 1 among all BCS teams in yards per-play, first overall in yards per-pass attempt, and second overall per-rushing attempt. Cam Newton alone accounted for 46 plays of 20 yards or greater, or an average of more than three such players per game.

But it wasn't just the offense. The Tiger defense hemorrhaged yards and points at a rate far, far greater than any previous BCS championship-winning team, finishing a mediocre 60th in the FBS in total defense and 53rd in scoring defense. But led by Nick Fairley's constant presence in opposing backfields, the Tigers made up for it with an SEC- leading (and sixth nationally ) 99 tackles-for-loss. Combine that with a penchant for timely turnovers -- like Antoine Carter's famous strip-from-behind of Mark Ingram to keep Auburn alive during their first-half struggles against Alabama -- and the Auburn defense kept its head just enough above water (BCS title game excepted) for the offense to power its way to a crystal football.

Entering 2011, it's likely Auburn will need more of the same. The offense won't be built to grind out four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust drives, not with Newton's third-down magic gone and four offensive line starters representing nearly 200 career starts having departed. (Not that Gus Malzahn has ever designed his offenses to plug away Wisconsin- style, of course.) The defense may not be able to get a whole lot worse in terms of down-to-down success, but it may not get much better, either, with all three members of the late-season defensive tackle rotation graduated, six of their top seven tacklers gone, the top three safeties departed (following Mike McNeil's involvement in the recent four-player armed robbery embarrassment), two senior defensive ends, etc.

All of that means that to either move the ball or get stops, Auburn will have to stick to the same big-play formula that worked so well in 2010. But this begs the question that's going to hang over the Tigers throughout spring practice: who's going to make those big plays? No Newton, no Fairley, no Carter, no Darvin Adams, no Terrell Zachery (the underrated big-play threat at wideout who averaged better than 14 yards a reception), no Josh Bynes, no Zac Etheridge ... where are those difference-making plays going to come from?

There's an easy answer for Auburn at running back, at least, where Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb form what should be one of the better inside-outside running combos in the SEC, if not the country. (Though both will need to stay healthy; Auburn's third option at tailback is likely to be true freshman Tre Mason.) But everywhere else, the "Help Wanted" sign will be in the window. A few candidates that will need to prove themselves up to the job this spring:

Corey Lemonier: The only returning starter on Auburn's defensive line is redshirt sophomore end Nosa Eguae, but it's the hotly recruited sophomore defensive end from south Florida who's most likely to emerge as a pass-rushing force in the vein of former Tiger greats like Quentin Groves. In any case, it's the ends that will have to fill Fairley's disruptive shoes; with nothing but new tackles on the inside, they'll have their hands full focusing on plugging up opposing running games.

Trovon Reed: Another member of the Tigers' well-regarded 2010 recruiting haul, Reed was on track to play a sizable role last fall as both receiver and Wildcat quarterback before an injury in fall camp forced him to redshirt. Emory Blake is a nice start, but there would seem to be room in the Tiger receiving corps for a poor man's Percy Harvin- type rushing/receiving threat; if healthy, Reed needs to show he can fill that role.

Neiko Thorpe: One of the few bright spots in Auburn's disastrous 5-7 2008 campaign, Thorpe was expected by many on the Plains to develop into a lockdown, All-SEC corner after a freshman season that saw him hold down a starting job from Day 1 and make freshman all-conference. It hasn't happened, as Thorpe has spent much of the past two seasons getting beaten deep and watching other players (Walt McFadden, Demond Washington) emerge as Auburn's best one-on-one cover guys. Now Ted Roof has moved Thorpe to safety, both to take advantage of Thorpe's size (6'2", 185) and provide cover at one of Auburn's thinnest positions. If the position switch doesn't generate some big plays out of the Auburn secondary, it's not easy to see what will.

Spring Practice Primers
Then, of course, there's Barrett Trotter, the likely heir to Newton's throne after serving as the Heisman winner's backup last season. Though Trotter still has to fend off challenges from Clint Moseley this spring and highly-regarded incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier this fall,his mobility and knowledge of the offense should see him safely through to the starter's job ... if he can make the downfield throws that have been Malzahn's stock-in-trade since the day he moved to the college ranks.

Thanks to three years of savvy recruiting by Chizik and Co., there's no shortage of candidates for the playmaking roles Auburn so desperately needs. But it's one thing to put those candidates on a roster; it's another to see them perform on the practice field, the spring game, under the lights. If players like those above aren't putting their best foot forward this spring, it's hard to see how Auburn doesn't fall out of contention in their follow-up season in the most cutthroat division in college football.


Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:29 pm
 

5 Down: Potential 2011 disappointments

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).

So later today we'll name five more teams we think can crack Dodd's top 25 next season, and right now we'll name five that are in his top 25 that might slip out ... or, at least, fail to live up to where they're currently placed. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Auburn (15). Slipping from first to 15th already seems like quite a slide, but the Tigers' losses are so major they could easily fall even further. The offensive line loses four starters representing approximately 200 collective career starts; Nick Fairley's departure is only the capper for an entire defensive tackle rotation that must be replaced; Auburn's two best linebackers are graduated, along with the best corner and best safety; and, oh yeah, that Cam Newton guy will be replaced by either a redshirt junior who's never started a game (Barrett Trotter) or a true freshman (Kiehl Frazier). The schedule also turns nasty, with this year's home dates against South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia all on the road. Gus Malzahn's continued presence means Auburn will have a fighting chance of getting back to eight or nine wins, but a bad break here or there could leave Gene Chizik's bunch outside the top 25 entirely.

2. Michigan State (9). The Spartans lived on the margins somewhat in 2010, needing big late comebacks to beat teams like Northwestern and Purdue while stumbling badly against more talented teams like Iowa and Alabama. And now Mark Dantonio loses three senior offensive linemen, soul-of-the-defense All-American linebacker Greg Jones, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who took the vacant Miami (Ohio) head coaching position. For a team that may have already been not-quite-as-good as their record, those are big blows.

3. South Carolina (17). Their appearance on this list isn't necessarily about the Gamecocks themselves, though the losses of end Cliff Matthews on defense and guard Garrett Chisolm on offense will be larger than people think. It's about their SEC divisional rivals at Florida and Georgia bouncing back from subpar seasons, and a schedule that hands them tough road trips to Athens, Knoxville, Starkville, and Fayetteville. It's the sort of slate that likely has four losses on it lurking somewhere.

4. Northwestern (24). We love the plucky Wildcats as much as anyone, but the way the 'Cats were memorably run over at Wrigley by Illinois, it's hard to see them being physical enough to make that much headway in the new-and-improved Big Ten. Five of their seven 2010 wins came by a total of just 15 points, and for a quarterback whose underrated running skills are as much a part of his success as his throwing accuracy, Dan Persa's Achilles injury is a killer.

5. Oklahoma State (7). OK, so with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon back and the Big 12 South not yet back to its 2008 glory days, it's not likely for the Cowboys to slip all the way out of the top 25. But the Cowboys haven't always done well with the kind of expectations they'll be dealing with in 2011, the defense still needs major work, and without Kendall Hunter the Pokes will have to work to ensure the running game can keep opponents from simply blanketing the Weeden-to-Blackmon connection. But the biggest loss by far is Dana Holgorsen, without whom the 2009 Cowboy offense was shut out by Oklahoma even with weapons like Hunter and Zac Robinson around. If Mike Gundy doesn't find a quailty replacement, the Cowboys may wind up as 2011's most overrated team.

Posted on: November 2, 2010 3:08 pm
 

Newton considering leap to NFL?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Given the Heismanesque (and probably Heisman-winning) junior season he's enjoying and his NFL-ready physique (did you know he's 6'6", 250? Have you heard that mentioned anywhere?), the question was inevitable: could Cam Newton go pro after his one and only season at Auburn ?

When asked that very question Tuesday, Newton demurred in his typically press-savvy fashion , but also left the door decidedly open for a potential early departure:
Newton, one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, said he will come to a decision about whether he returns for his senior year once this season is over.

"There's a time and place for everything," Newton said Tuesday. "I'm not sitting up here and giving you a definite decision on how I'm feeling right now. How I'm feeling right now is UT-Chattanooga" ...

"I'm trying to partake and trying to grasp something that hasn't been done here in a long time," Newton said. "And we have a chance right now to seize the moment and we can't have those type of selfish thoughts to run through our mind, because it can be contagious and we don't want that around here."
Citing the need for team focus is a skillful rhetorical dodge (even the week of a homecoming game against an FCS punching bag), but reading between the lack of comments makes it clear Newton sees the NFL as an option, at least. That's also the situation as detailed by Auburn quarterback commitment and frequent Newton contact Kiehl Frazier of Springdale, Arkansas, who spoke to the Sporting News and confirmed the NFL is definitely on Newton's radar:

After Newton leaves, Frazier is expected to be a serious candidate to start at quarterback – whether it’s as a true freshman in 2011 if Newton leaves for the NFL after this season — or as a redshirt freshman or sophomore in 2012.

“(Newton and I” talk after just about every game, and he tells me the highlights are every game and his situation and what he’s thinking about the NFL,” Frazier told Sporting News over the weekend. “He’s not definite about anything yet. There’s definitely a chance that he’ll go. If he wins the Heisman, that would probably increase his changes of leaving. Right now I think he’s more focused on getting to the national championship.”

None of this is a surprise, of course; given the potential for Newton to earn megabucks as a first- or even second-round choice, the increased difficulty of returning to a 2011 Auburn team without huge chunks of its offensive line and starting defense, the wear-and-tear of running the ball as often as he does in the SEC , and inevitable emotional comedown in the event Newton's season ends in a Heisman Trophy and conference or national championships, he'd be a fool not to at least take a good long look at the NFL.

As Newton himself said, there's still so much information to gather before making a decision that now would not be the time even if he felt so inclined. But Auburn fans will have to live with the fact that, at the minimum, there will be a decision to be made when Auburn's exhilarating 2010 run is finished.

 


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