Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:
ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)
But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.
The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.
ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.
The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.
AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.
The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)
Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.
LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.
Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?
In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.
Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.
We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Bobby Petrino, Broderick Green, Cam Newton, Clint Moseley, Corey Lemonier, Cotton Bowl, Courtney Upshaw, D.J. Fluker, D.J. Shackelford, Dan Mullen, DeAngelo Benton, Dee Ford, Dont'a Hightower, Dylan Favre, Ferlando Bohanna, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, Ivan Nicholas, Jarius Wright, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Jefferson, Julio Jones, Kentucky, Knile Davis, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Michael Dyer, Mike Pelton, Mississippi State, Nathan Stanley, Nick Fairley, Nick Saban, Nick Saban state, Nosa Eguae, Ole Miss, Onterio McCalebb, Patrick Peterson, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Spencer Ware, spring practice, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, What I Learned, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: April 1, 2011 2:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The whirlpool of scandal surrounding increasingly-notorious Texas recruiting scout Willie Lyles has gotten wider this week, as former Texas A&M assistant (and current Tulsa coach) Van Malone claimed that Lyles shopped the services of future All-American Patrick Peterson while Malone recruited Peterson (then called Patrick Johnson) to College Station.
That report has prompted swift denials from everyone involved except for Lyles, starting with Peterson yesterday and continuing through Texas A&M today. Aggie officials say that despite Malone's claims, he never passed that information along to A&M compliance or anyone else currently at the school:
A&M spokesman Alan Cannon said he talked earlier today with Aggies’ athletics director Bill Byrne and that school officials researched the possibility of a relationship with Lyles’ recruiting service dating back as far as the start of the Dennis Franchione era, which began in December, 2002. Cannon said no evidence was found and A&M officials consider this “a non-issue.”
It seems likely enough that with Peterson eventually going to LSU, A&M (unlike Oregon) won't be caught in Lyles' investigative wake. (Though could Malone? Failing to report Lyles' request to compliance could be a violation in itself, as Jim Tressel could tell you.)
But can the same be said for Peterson? The potential No. 1 overall draft pick claimed yesterday to have no relationship whatsoever with Lyles.
That statement, though, seems to have been contradicted by this 2007 recruiting story at Rivals, in which Peterson discussed an unofficial visit to College Station and mentioned a Houston-based "friend" of his father's he and his father visited. The writer of the story, Brian Perroni, has confirmed that the "friend" in question was in fact Willie Lyles. According to Malone, Lyles' request for $80,000 came shortly after that visit ... and after that request was denied, the official visit to A&M Peterson says he planed on making never occurred.
Was that anything more than coincidence? Recruiting visits both official and unofficial are often scheduled and unscheduled at a moment's notice, both Peterson and his father are clearly adamant they had nothing to do with Lyles' request, and of course at this time no one (Malone included) has yet accused the Petersons of having anything to do with Lyles' alleged solicitation. Unless something much more concrete emerges, neither Peterson nor LSU will be in any danger from the NCAA.
But given that the Petersons likely had some sort of relationship with Lyles, it's not time to be certain just yet that that something isn't out there.
Posted on: March 31, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2011 3:02 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In the latest headline of what's been a solid week of scandal in college football, reports broke last night that now-notorious trainer/scout Will Lyles -- already under investigation for receiving a $25,000 payment from Oregon for his services -- had told assistant coach Van Malone of Texas A&M that the Aggies would need to "beat" $80,000 if they wanted a commitment from eventual LSU All-American Patrick Peterson, then one of the country's hottest high school prospects.
Today, Peterson responded to those allegations by speaking to a Baton Rouge radio station , calling them "baloney" and claiming that he had never even visited Texas A&M. "Why would I jeopardize my future over going to Texas A&M and $80,000 when I knew that my future was playing football," Peterson reportedly said.
There are two problems with these denials, though. First, no one has publicly accused Peterson of asking for any amount of money, much less accepting any; Malone's statements refer to Lyles and Lyles alone, and in the report Peterson's father (while calling businesses like Lyles' "escort services") specifically denies the family having ever requesting money in exchange for Peterson's signature. Peterson appears to responding to implications drawn from the report rather than the report itself, which doesn't claim he had done anything wrong.
Second, Peterson almost certainly did visit College Station; this Rivals article offer multiple details on Peterson's surprise visit (from the days he was using the last name Johnson) and his father himself said Peterson had enjoyed a "good visit" to A&M (one that included meeting up with Malone).
Neither of those issues mean that Peterson's denials aren't perfectly valid; the only real thing they probably indicate is that the interview was more off-the-cuff than carefully planned out.
But it also shows that it's an issue that Peterson and his family are taking seriously, and that despite his and his father's responses, it's one we haven't heard the last of yet by a long shot.
UPDATE: LSU has released an official statement from Peterson, which reads:
“I have never had any type of relationship with Willie Lyles and he had no influence on my decision to attend LSU, or any other school for that matter. He had no involvement with my recruiting process and I resent the fact that my name has come up in these allegations. I chose LSU because it’s a great school with a great football program. I never received nor was I offered anything to go to LSU and anyone saying otherwise is being dishonest.”Unlike Peterson's previous statements on the radio, there's nothing much confusing or contradictory about that. Assuming Peterson is being truthful, expect the NCAA's microscope to focus even more intensely on Lyles than it already is.
HT: @Year2 .
Posted on: March 30, 2011 11:05 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
While the college football world hung onto every word of the Wednesday night's episode of Real Sports on HBO, there was another recruiting bomb dropped on the SEC. A report on ESPN.com indicates that a former Texas A&M football coach was told that the Aggies would need to "beat" $80,000 to sign former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Von Malone, the former defensive backs coach at Texas A&M and now recruiting coordinator for Tulsa, told ESPN.com that Willie Lyles contacted him in 2007 to let the Aggies know that in order to sign Peterson they would likely have to pay for his services.
"A few days after the kid's visit, Will calls and says, 'If you want this kid, there are other schools that want this kids as well. They're willing to pay a certain amount of money, around the $80,000 mark,'" Malone said. "He said that was something we were going to have to beat as a university to be able to obtain the services of this kid."
Lyles runs a Texas-based recruiting service that is currently the center of an NCAA investigation regarding their relationship with Oregon and running back Lache Seastrunk. Oregon has confirmed that they paid $25,000 to Lyles' company for the recruiting services, not for Seastrunk - who ended up committing to the Ducks.
LSU officials have not made a comment, the SEC was too busy handling the HBO special to make a comment. However, Peterson's father Patrick, Sr. did make a comment to the WWL.
"This is my first time hearing this. This is a shocker," Peterson Sr. told ESPN. "It could have happened. It could have come out of [Lyles'] mouth, that's what happens. These guys try to make money on their own, they are kind of like escort services. That's what I call them, escort services."
This can't be good for Les Miles and LSU, who are picked by many to be favorites to reclaim the SEC West in 2011. The school has confirmed earlier they paid $6,000 for a scouting DVD from Complete Scouting Services, a company that employs Lyles.
At this point, any association to Lyles is going to come under the microscope. This report from Malone only starts another small fire in his network. The last 12 months in college football have been filled with cases regarding improper associations. This latest development suggests we are nowhere close to the end.
Keep it here with CBSSports.com for more news and analysis as this story develops.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:08 am
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 . Here's a look at LSU, who begins spring practice today.
Spring Practice Question: Can anyone be the quarterback LSU needs to win a championship?
As soon as the dust settled on LSU's comprehensive demolition of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the stakes for 2011 were set for Les Miles and Co.: it's some form of championship or bust.
The Bayou Bengals have been playing second fiddle and even third fiddle for three straight seasons, not only missing out on those three SEC West titles but missing by a combined ten games. Not only has LSU not gone to Atlanta since their magical run of 2007, they haven't even come close, as their divisional rivals at Alabama and Auburn have barreled their way to national titles. There's a reason (other than his clock management) Miles has somehow ended up in the annual "hot seat" chatter even as he's won 78 percent of his games at LSU.
There's a lot of reasons to think that changes this year. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has taken the Tigers to finishes of 26th and 12th in the nation in total defense his two seasons in Baton Rouge; even without Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis and the like, fearsome young defenders like end Sam Montgomery and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu should have his unit among the nation's best again. Jumbo senior guards Will Blackwell and Josh Dworaczyk should pave the way for a powerful running game, particularly if rising sophomore running back Spencer Ware can prove his explosive Cotton Bowl performance (102 yards on 10 carries) wasn't a fluke. With former five-star recruits Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard coming into their own as juniors, receiving talent is no problem.
So there's just one question: what's going to happen at quarterback?
OK, two questions, the first being who is going to be the quarterback; expect the overwhelming majority of headlines coming out of the Tigers' spring camp to breathlessly detail the three-way battle between incumbent Jordan Jefferson, his longtime competitor Jarrett Lee, and JUCO-by-way-Georgia- dismissal transfer Zach Mettenberger. It's Mettenberger who represents maybe the most intriguing option , coming in with NFL-quality size (6'5", 247 pounds), a 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio at Butler County (Kan.) Community College, and the endorsement that comes with having battled Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for the Bulldogs' backup quarterback job in 2009. Given the way Lee flailed his way through his 16-interception 2008 season and the roller coaster ride Jefferson's career has followed the past two seasons, you'll forgive LSU fans for hoping Mettenberger wins the job.
But what's more important than who emerges from the scrum is how that player -- or players -- performs. If spring practice shows that the Tigers have three quality options available at quarterback -- and given all three's combination of experience and talent, and the fresh start offered by the arrival of Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator, that's a distinct possibility -- then the team will be poised to potentially make good on what may be preseason SEC title projections. Jefferson, Mettenberger, or Lee, what's critical for LSU is that someone comes out of spring practice having cemented himself as an above-average SEC quarterback.
Of course, the possibility also exists that all three will show themselves to be lacking. Jefferson also had an outstanding Cotton Bowl but over the course of his two seasons has been entirely less than reliable; Lee has been Jefferson's backup for those two seasons; and for all his salivating potential, Mettenberger has yet to take a snap at the SEC level. If that's the case, well, we've seen already these past three seasons what happens when LSU has everything but a quarterback.
And it's a lot closer to bust than championship.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Auburn, Butler County Community College, Cotton Bowl, Drake Nevis, Georgia, Jarrett Lee, John Chavis, Jordan Jefferson, Josh Dworaczyk, Les Miles, LSU, LSU, Patrick Peterson, Rueben Randle, Russell Shepard, Sam Montgomery, SEC, Spencer Ware, Spring practice, Spring Practice Primer, Steve Kragthorpe, Texas A&M, Tyrann Mathieu, Will Blackwell, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:19 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Pop quiz, hotshot: who had the higher (public )* vote total in the 2010 Heisman Trophy balloting, Stanford fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic or DaQuan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson ... combined?
Since we're asking the question in the first place, you can probably guess that the answer is Marecic, who collected three first-place votes and 16 points, while arguably the three best defenders in the country totaled just one confirmed second-place nod and a smattering of third-place votes. This post isn't about Marecic (though we would like to take a moment to condemn his attention-seeking supporters like David Whitley , who decided that thanks to Cam Newton, they were justified turning the voting for "most outstanding" into a holier-than-thou morality play), since the question that needs answering isn't Why did Marecic get so much support? but Why do even the best defenders in college football get so little Heisman love?
It appeared things might be changing in 2009, when Ndamukong Suh finished fourth , coming as close as any defensive player since Charles Woodson to claiming the award. But after a year in which even a Lombardi Award- winner playing for the national champions couldn't get more than a few token mentions, it appears that defenders aren't actually any closer to full Heisman citizenship.
That point was driven home by the 2011 Heisman watch list released today by popular Heisman-tracking site Heisman Pundit. No one will argue that superstars like Andrew Luck or LaMichael James don't deserve their status as front-runners, or that superb skill-position talents like Alabama tailback Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon haven't earned their spots on the list. But of the 22 players mentioned by Heisman Pundit, every one is a running back, quarterback, or wide receiver. Given the Heisman's track record, yes, those are probably the 22 most likely candidates for the coming season, but shouldn't the conversation surrounding the game's "most outstanding" player at least consider those guys on the other side of the ball?
So in that spirit, we offer five defensive players that deserve to enter 2011 as part of the Heisman talk, our own defense-only "Watch List":
Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: The senior ably filled Suh's shoes as the central anchor for one of the nation's best defenses in 2010, and will likely begin this fall bearing "the country's best defensive tackle" billing.
Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Barron's already been dotting All-American teams for two seasons, and as the highest-profile player on a loaded Tide defense that should keep Nick Saban and Co. in national title contention throughout the season, he'll have plenty of opportunity to put his name in the Heisman hat.
Tank Carder, LB, TCU: Like Barron, Carder (pictured) should benefit from being the best, most-recognized player on a defense itself widely recognized as one of the nation's best; his MVP performance in the Rose Bowl defeat of Wisconsin won't hurt him, either.
Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon: The only defender to ever win the Heisman did so not only blanketing receivers at corner, but returning punts and kickoffs for highlight reel-touchdowns; if Harris can continue doing the same for Oregon as the Ducks win a third straight Pac-12 title, he'll draw his fair share of attention.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: A wildcard, but if the Fighting Irish (and specifically, the Fighting Irish defense) take the quantum leap forward many expect, the former five-star recruit and budding star could find himself the media-friendly face of the Irish's latest "Return to Glory."
Honorable mention: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State; Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma; Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall; Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College.
*The Heisman only makes official the ballot totals for the top 10 vote-getters, but the site StiffArmTrophy.com compiles all available public votes, including (in this case) those few cast for Peterson, Bowers, or Fairley.
Tags: Alabama, Andrew Luck, Boston College, Brandon Jenkins, Charles Woodson, Cliff Harris, DaQuan Bowers, Florida State, Heisman Tropy, Heisman Watch, Jared Crick, Justin Blackmon, LaMichael James, Lombardi Award, Luke Kuechly, Manti Te'o, Mark Barron, Marshall, Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, Nick Fairley, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Owen Marecic, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Quinton Carter, Stanford, Tank Carder, TCU, Trent Richardson, Vinny Curry
Posted on: January 10, 2011 12:29 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Those sure are some interesting looking planes in Baton Rouge this week. If you're into the fun trend that is tracking flights across this country, then you'd already know that the plane belonging to Michigan booster Richard Rogel has been in Baton Rouge for a few days now. It's also been rumored that Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon took a plane of his own to Dallas over the weekend to meet with Les Miles during the coaches convention. Whether or not Miles has already had contact with Michigan, we don't know. What we do know is that it looks like the interview process is about to be made official, as the Detroit News reports that Miles will officially interview with Michigan this week.
Miles is back in Baton Rouge this morning to attend the press conference for Patrick Peterson, who will be announcing that he's entering the NFL Draft. After that, sources tell the Detroit News that Miles will interview with Michigan on Tuesday.
Which means one of two things. Either Les Miles will be the new head coach at the University of Michigan before the week is over, or Les Miles will have a nice little pay raise from LSU by the end of the week. We know that Michigan has already said it won't spare any expense in finding a new coach, and Miles already makes $3.75 million annually at LSU. We've also heard that LSU will try and keep Miles in Baton Rouge.
So no matter where he ends up, Les Miles' wallet is going to win.
Posted on: January 10, 2011 11:28 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
While Florida may be getting Janoris Jenkins back for another season, another SEC cornerback, who many consider to be the best in the country, won't be following the same path. At a press conference on Monday afternoon, LSU cornerback and return specialist Patrick Peterson will make the announcement that he won't be coming back to Baton Rouge for his senior season, but will be entering the NFL Draft.
"I have to make the decision that's best for me," said Peterson. "It was a pleasure the years I was here. When that decision comes down, I believe they (LSU fans) will still be Patrick Peterson fans."
It's a smart decision for Peterson to make. Now that Andrew Luck has decided to stay at Stanford for another season, Peterson's draft stock has only risen. Our own Rob Rang envisions the Carolina Panthers taking him with the first overall pick. Just about every mock draft you'll see has Peterson going in the top five.
Peterson had 42 tackles, 10 passes defended, and four interceptions for LSU this season. He also returned two punts for touchdowns.