Posted on: February 21, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 6:03 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
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 Stanford, which begins spring practice this afternoon.
Spring practice question: Can the Cardinal keep up the momentum under new coach David Shaw?
Fresh off the best season in school history - punctuated by a 40-12 dismantling of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl - Stanford’s offseason was filled with something rarely associated with the program: drama. After a week of will-he-or-won’t-he declare for the draft, presumed number one pick Andrew Luck stunned everyone by announcing he would stay in school. A day later, after being courted by Michigan and the Miami Dolphins, head coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers.
When hiring a new head coach was only the third most interesting thing to happen on campus during the offseason, you realize just how far Stanford football came under Harbaugh. Trying to continue what he build up is Stanford alum David Shaw, who slides into the head coaching role after being the Cardinal's offensive coordinator the past four years.
What’s his deal? For all the talk about Luck's role in the offense, Shaw is a believer in a balanced offense for one. Despite not having Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart last season, Stanford still finished second in the Pac-10 in rushing at 214 yards per game. Though most of the backfield returns in 2011, the major storyline of spring practice is finding replacements for three starters on the offensive line, including All-American center Chase Beeler.
“From a personnel standpoint, we have a chance to be very athletic upfront,” Shaw said at his pre-spring press conference. “The question is will those guys be consistent and will they play at the same level as those who they are replacing from last year. Ability-wise, we'll be fine. This spring we'll see who is ready to step up and fill those roles. A lot of our success will depend on how we play upfront.”
Offensive line isn’t the only area of concern for the first time head coach. There are still open position battles at linebacker, defensive line, cornerback and backup quarterback. The Cardinal might need five players just to replace all-everything Owen Marecic.
“The best thing about spring practice is the pure competition,” Shaw said. “We have guys coming back who played well for us last year but will be pushed by others ready to make their marks. We've recruited very well the last couple of years and we have a lot of players who are ready to compete and fill some roles.
“The next year is always different - different players, different roles, different schemes. You always have to add, delete and change. That's where we are at right now.”
The first week or two of spring practice will be a bit of a learning experience for the new staff. Shaw named former New York Jets assistant Mike Bloomgren as offensive line coach/run game coordinator and elevated Mike Sanford to running backs coach last Friday. Bringing on coaches just four days before spring practice starts isn't ideal and is something to keep an eye on but staff continuity elsewhere should help ease the transition.
Defensively, Derek Mason and Jason Tarver will share the defensive coordinator title and attempt to fill the shoes of the highly regarded Vic Fangio. Mason will also coach the secondary and will be responsible for calling plays, while Tarver will also serve as linebackers coach.
The return of Luck, however, is key for building on the success of last year. Shaw shouldn't have too much trouble keeping Stanford’s offense from dipping too much from last year’s unit that set a school-record for points scored and finished ninth in the nation in scoring. Having the Heisman Trophy front-runner under center tends to help but running backs Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson and others will also contribute.
“With Andrew coming back, I've felt pretty good going to bed at night,” Shaw said. “I think he is comfortable with me in my role and I'm extremely comfortable with him. We have an established relationship that will only get better.”
With a manageable schedule (Oregon and Notre Dame at home to go along with just four road games) and lots of talent surrounding a future number one pick in the NFL Draft, Shaw could not have asked for a better situation to take over. With a little bit of Luck and a dash of good coaching, don’t expect a drop off from Stanford after using David Shaw's first spring practice to ease the transition from Jim Harbaugh.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Anthony Wilkerson, Chase Beeler, David Shaw, Derek Mason, Heisman Trophy, Jason Tarver, Jim Harbaugh, Miami Dolphins, Michigan, Mike Bloomgren, Mike Sanford, New York Jets, Notre Dame, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Owen Marecic, San Francisco 49ers, Spring Practice Primer, Stanford, Stepfan Taylor, Toby Gerhart, Vic Fangio, Virginia Tech
Posted on: February 11, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2011 5:47 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Each year, preseason magazine guru Phil Steele releases what he expects to be the preseason AP top 10 come August. And so even though it's mid-February (or rather, because it's mid-February, and what else is a college football diehard going to talk about?), it's already time for the 2011 version, now available here .
The headline? Steele expects Oklahoma to open next season at No. 1 after the Sooners thumped UConn in the Fiesta Bowl and saw Ryan Broyles elect to return for his senior season. He writes (in his usual unique fashion):
This year OU will be ranked #1 in the pre-season by nearly everyone as they return 15 starters on off/def including QB [Landry] Jones, WR Broyles and LB [Travis] Lewis. Their schedule sets up nicely with a bye before their road trip to Florida State (a team they dominated [last year] 47-17). In Big 12 play naturally there is the Red River Rivalry game vs Texas who is coming off a 5-7 season and the only other huge hurdle could be the season finale at Oklahoma State but the Sooners have won the Bedlam rivalry 8 straight times and have an overall mark of 82-16-7 vs their in-state rivals. With their key returning starters back and a favorable schedule, the Sooners should get the nod as the Preseason AP #1 team!Following the Sooners are No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 Florida State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, and No. 10 South Carolina.
If Steele is accurate (and he predicted nine of 10 each of the past two seasons), that will be as about an outsider-dominated preseason top 10 as you could imagine, a fitting follow to a season that saw the lowest-ranked preseason team ever (Auburn) make the BCS title game. Sure, there's the Sooners, Tide, and LSU, but it's only been recently that teams like the Ducks and Broncos have become top-10 institutions, it's been years since Florida State or Texas A&M enjoyed that much hype, and it's more-or-less uncharted territory for the Cowboys, Cardinal, and Gamecocks.
Unfortunately, for the Cowboys, Cardinal, and Gamecocks, those kinds of expectations don't always pan out; just ask the Cowboys from two years ago, when the most heavily-hyped team in school history went a ho-hum 9-4, lost 27-0 to the Sooners, and fell to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. For their sakes, the fans at those three schools (not to mention A&M, which, seriously, hasn't seen these kind of expectations in a while ) had maybe better hope Steele's got this one wrong.
Posted on: February 10, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 12:37 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Third down is one of the most routine, and also important, momentum-changing moments in a football game. Both sides of the ball get up for what could be one of their last downs on the field. After the play, one side will be deflated while the other will inject new life into their team. The crowd always gets into a third down, it's just a cool part of the game.
In 2010, third-down differential tended to be an indicator of success.
In a recent report from Sporting News, Dave Curtis analyzed the correlation between third-down differential and wins. To calculate third-down differential, you subtract defensive third-down conversion rate from the offensive third-down conversion rate. It's not an official NCAA statistic, but the logic behind it makes sense. He discovered that all five of the BCS bowl winners ranked among the top 13 in the nation in third-down differential.
Rose Bowl champ TCU led the nation with a plus-28.7 rating. The Horned Frogs converted nearly 53 percent of their third downs, and their defense allowed opponents to convert at a shade better than 24 percent.
One particularly interesting revelation from the report was the one major outlier: Connecticut. The 2010 Big East Champion Huskies finished dead last in the conference for turnover differential. Their -8.79 rating was bad enough to put them 106th nationally. It does seem appropriate looking back at the Big East in 2010. Connecticut was the outlier of the conference, sneaking away with the title thanks to a couple of key wins late.
That may not fly in 2012 when TCU, the nation's best third-down team, joins the party in the Big East.
Posted on: January 19, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 5:30 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
"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 the Pac-12 and Big Ten.
DAVID SHAW, Stanford
JON EMBREE, Colorado
JERRY KILL, Minnesota
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Big Ten, Bill McCartney, Bob Bowlsby, Boise State, Brady Hoke, Brent Pease, Chris Petersen, Colorado, Dan Hawkins, David Shaw, DeMarco Murray, FCS, Glen Mason, Headset Reset, Indiana, Iowa, Jerry Kill, Jon Embree, Kevin Wilson, Kevin Wilson, MAC, Minnesota, Mountain West, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pac-12, Rich Rodriguez, Southern Illinois, Stanford, Tim Brewster, USC, WAC
Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: January 18, 2011 10:56 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Florida State is an early favorite for 2011 - After dropping back-to-back games to North Carolina State and at home to North Carolina, Florida State looked like they had not completely shaken the consistency issues that have plagued the Seminoles in the last couple of seasons. In order to have a shot at the ACC title, Florida State would need to win out the final month of their ACC schedule. Not only did first-year coach Jimbo Fisher get his team to the ACC Championship Game, but they put up an impressive performance against Virginia Tech then followed it with a convincing win over South Carolina, the champions of the SEC East.
If one of the chief concerns for the Seminoles in 2011 is replacing Christian Ponder, then fans should feel very confident in their chances with E.J. Manuel at the helm. Manuel filled in for Ponder on three different occasions near the end of the season, culminating with his Chick Fil-A Bowl performance that helped seal the 26-17 win for Florida State. Additionally, all three of Florida State's top rushers (who combined collected 1,863 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns) are all returning next season. Florida State not only looks like an early ACC favorite, but perhaps a national favorite as well heading into the 2011 season.
2. If Russell Wilson is done, he went out in style - Russell Wilson was assumed to be as good as gone by many at the conclusion of the 2010 season. The junior quarterback has already been drafted by the Colorado Rockies, is engaged, and would be able to graduate in May if he chooses to do so. But after N.C. State's 23-7 victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl, Wilson hinted that he may have interest in playing football professionally as well.
"I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL one day, and I want to be a starting second baseman in Major League Baseball one day," Wilson said to reporters after the game. "No matter what, I work my butt off every day to try to be the best and that's my mindset."
The January 15 deadline to declare for the NFL draft has come and gone, and if Wilson decides he wants to rejoin the Wolfpack after participating with the Rockies in Spring Training he will still have that option. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker did the same thing heading into the 2010 season with the Tigers. However, if Wilson decides to join the Rockies and start cashing in on his baseball career, he will wrapped up his college football career with a nearly flawless 275 yard, 2 touchdown, 0 interception performance that earned him Champs Sports Bowl MVP honors.
3. Virginia Tech can't shake the big game curse - The Hokies have been incredibly dominant in the ACC since joining the conference in 2004, but they have struggled to match that superiority with big-time wins on the national level. Virginia Tech has won the conference title four times in the last seven years, and appeared in four of the six ACC Championship Games. But against teams ranked in the top 5 nationally, the Hokies are 1-27 all-time and 1-19 during Frank Beamer's tenure in Blacksburg. Many figured that the Orange Bowl would be a chance for the Hokies to shake the stigma of failing to perform against top teams, and at halftime it looked like they might have a chance to pull the upset.
But in the second half Andrew Luck picked apart Bud Foster's defense while Stanford held Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense scoreless while the Cardinal ran away with the 40-12 victory. However, it is important that Hokies fans don't dwell on the failures against the top 5 heading into 2011. With the kind of turnover Virginia Tech is expecting on both sides of the ball, defending their conference title will be a difficult task on its own.
4. ACC Coastal dropped the ball - This is more of a season-long lesson, but the ACC Coastal continued to be the less impressive division through the end of the bowl season. In the preseason polls, there five ACC teams in the Top 25, with four highest ranked teams (Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina) all coming from the Coastal Division. Not only did the balance of power appear to shift towards the Atlantic Division during the season, the bowl records from the postseason also indicate that the Atlantic may be the superior division.
Coastal teams went 1-3 during the postseason, with only North Carolina squeaking out their double overtime win over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. The Atlantic, on the other hand, saw Florida State, Maryland, and N.C. State all pick up impressive victories in their bowl games. With the talent that Florida State and Maryland are bringing back, it would be surprising to see the media side with a new division heading into the 2011 season.
5. Ralph Friedgen left Randy Edsall a winning squad - Friedgen had an emotion al final game as Maryland's head coach, as his team bludgeoned ECU 51-20 in the Military Bowl. The players dedicated the beatdown to their head coach on his way out, capping off an impressive finish to the season that saw the Terps climb one game away from an ACC Championship Game appearance. But the time has come and gone for Ralph Friedgen fans to be upset with his dismissal from Maryland. Former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall has been hired, and the Terps are moving forward. What Friedgen did leave was a young and talented Maryland squad that will be a real threat in 2010. Edsall was a safe hire for athletic director Kevin Anderson, and the former Huskies head coach brought in some firepower with offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.
The last couple seasons have not been pleasant for Crowton, catching the blame from LSU fans for an offense that ranked near the bottom of the SEC in 2009 and 2010. But he saw his most successful season in his first year with Matt Flynn under center, and Terps fans will hope that a talented quarterback like ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O'Brien will recreate that success of the 2007 LSU offense under Crowton's direction.
Tags: ACC, ACC Football, Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder, Clemson, Colorado Rockies, Danny O'Brien, EJ Manuel, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Gary Crowton, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Jimbo Fisher, Kyle Parker, NC State, NFL Draft, North Carolina, Ralph Friedgen, Randy Edsall, Russell Wilson, South Carolina, Stanford, Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, What I Learned, What I Learned Bowl Edition
Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
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).
1. Baylor - The good news for Baylor: dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III is back along with most of the offense, and while he loses starting tailback Jay Finley to graduation, Finley's backups Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi provide an intriguing balance of power and speed -- they both return. In addition, RG3 gets his top five receivers back (all of whom caught at least 40 passes this year), and three-year starting lineman Philip Baker will be the anchor at center for a mostly intact offensive line. Yes, Baylor still looks wretched at times on defense (53 points to Oklahoma and 55 to Oklahoma State aren't exactly solid efforts), so there's no telling whether the Bears' losses on that side of the ball are addition by subtraction or not, but one thing's for sure: there'll be points put up in Waco in 2011.
2. Illinois - This spot would likely go to fellow "Leader" Penn State if it weren't for the fact that PSU's replacing Evan Royster, two leading receivers, its two best offensive linemen, and there's really no telling who's starting at QB in 2011. Oh, and most of the Penn State defense -- including two of three starting LBs -- is graduating too. Contrast that with Illinois , who found a star quarterback in freshman Nathan Scheelhaase this year and returns four of five starting offensive linemen. The Illini won't miss early declarant Mikel LeShoure much with Jason Ford (who's basically a human truck) waiting to take over at tailback. The defense will definitely miss Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget on the interior, on the other hand; those guys were anchors of a stout rushing defense and their backups are unremarkable. Still, Illinois' 2011 schedule looks primed for some upsets, and nine wins is hardly out of the question. If Wilson and Liuget were returning, Illinois would probably be in Dodd's Top 25, but it's not as if no borderline-Top 25 team has ever exceeded expectations after losing two juniors to the NFL.
3. Utah - Everything's going to come crashing down once Utah joins a "real" conference, right? Maybe not. If QB Jordan Wynn recovers from December shoulder surgery in time for the season (which he should, but six months of rehab can turn into nine without the patient doing anything wrong), he'll be a third-year starter with a reasonable set of returning players. Senior wideout/returner Shaky Smithson is sure to be missed, but this is college football; so it goes. And while Utah's schedule looks daunting, it really could be worse; the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford in inter-divisional play, and neither BYU nor Pitt should be as tough of matchups as they'd have been over the past couple years. In addition, the schedule's pretty top-heavy, and it's easily possible that Utah wins at least five of six down the stretch. Head coach Kyle Whittingham keeps proving predictions wrong by not bolting for a paycheck elsewhere, and now he's got a chance to lead his Utes into battle in a real conference and destroy the "mid-major" label that's been dogging the program -- even through multiple BCS bowl wins! -- once and for all.
4. Oregon State - Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 North, the Oregon State Beavers have a chance to make noise. Yes, Oregon and Stanford are the class of the division and should remain so for the near future, but don't sleep on the passing skills of QB Ryan Katz , especially now that he'll have his first full season as a starter under his belt. With the game slowing down for him and with Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers both returning at WR (to say nothing of Joe Halahuni coming back at TE), Katz should be able to more effectively use his NFL-caliber arm to put some points up in Corvallis. The offense will miss Jacquizz Rodgers desperately, and while deserved, his jump to the NFL will likely cost the Beavers a win or two. So while the defense struggled in 2010 and stands to lose several seniors, it may not matter in a Pac-12 with several struggling offenses and an OSU attack that should set 30+ points per game as a goal. Scheduling a road date at Wisconsin might not have been the wisest idea, though. Still, look for a push from Oregon State to hit that eight-win mark, which against a schedule like this could mean a spot in the Top 25 when it's all said and done.
5. Tennessee - Dodd ranks eight SEC teams in his Top 25 (26, really, but whatever). We're not sure all will end up ranked at the end of the 2011 season, but one thing seems clear: of the four teams he left out -- Kentucky , Ole Miss , Tennessee , and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's the closest thing to a contender of the four. No, the SEC East shouldn't spend its entire season on fire like last year, where South Carolina took the division trophy in a five-loss season, but Florida 's going to be experiencing major upheaval and Georgia will be missing A.J. Green (again). With Tyler Bray coming off a successful freshman campaign and returning starting RB Tauren Poole and deep threat wideout Justin Hunter , we could see the Vols make some noise. On defense, the only major loss is leading tackler Nick Reveiz ; Herman Lathers made strides along with the rest of the defense down the stretch, and the secondary returns intact. If there's ever a time to make a run in the East, it's -- well, okay, it was 2010. 2011's not a bad opportunity for the Vols either, though.
Tags: 2011 College Football, 2011 College Football Sleepers, 2011 Sleepers, 2011 Top 25, A.J. Green, Baylor, BYU, Corey Liuget, Florida, Georgia, Herman Lathers, Illinois, Jacquizz Rodgers, James Rodgers, Jarred Salubi, Jason Ford, Jay Finley, Joe Halahuni, Jordan Wynn, Justin Hunter, Kentucky, Kyle Whittingham, Markus Wheaton, Martez, Mikel LeShoure, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nick Reveiz, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Philip Baker, Pitt, Pittsburgh, RG3, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Katz, Shaky Smithson, South Carolina, Stanford, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Terrance Ganaway, Utah, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin
Posted on: January 14, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Stanford hired David Shaw yesterday to replace Jim Harbaugh as the Cardinal head coach, we wrote that while Shaw's many positives no doubt outweight the negatives, selecting him over fellow Cardinal assistants Greg Roman and Vic Fangio dramatically increased the likelihood that one or both would follow Harbaugh onto the San Francisco 49ers' payroll.
And unfortunately for Shaw and the Cardinal, we've already gone past the point of "likelihoods" and onto "certainties." Where Roman is concerned, the Mercury News is reporting it's a done deal , with only an announcement from the Niners left to make it official. That news has been confirmed by the San Francisco Chronicle , who have added that a team source with the Niners believes Fangio "is the guy" where Harbaugh's defensive coordinator position is concerned. The only thing standing in the way, they report, is the hammering out of Fangio's contract.
Assuming Fangio (at right) does indeed join Harbaugh and Roman by the bay, the next question becomes: how badly does this damage the Cardinal's run at a Pac-12 championship (or more) in 2011?
Neither's departure qualifies as a surprise -- both have spent most of their coaching careers in the NFL and only came to Stanford at Harbaugh's request -- but with the coaching carousel starting to slow its spin, mid-January isn't the best time to go looking for both a new offensive and defensive coordinator. Roman and Fangio will leave behind some big shoes for Shaw to fill, too; while Shaw held the official title of "offensive coordinator," Roman (the "assistant head coach for offense") by all accounts had a great deal of input into the offensive game-planning, and Fangio only turned in one of the best defensive coordinating jobs in the country this season.
Finding coaches of their caliber at this late date is going to be quite the first test of Shaw's head coaching aptitude. Their departures won't be enough to slow down the freight train of hype that will carry the Cardinal into 2011 -- Andrew Luck will see to that all by his lonesome -- and as long as Shaw isn't a disaster, Stanford should have enough momentum to challenge for league honors regardless. But they won't help the Cardinal handle those expectations, certainly, and maintaining the foundation laid by Harbaugh beyond 2011 just got much more difficult.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 12:52 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After a season that ranks among the best -- if not the best -- in Stanford football history, and with a roster and staff that seems poised to repeat many of the feats of 2010 in 2011 and maybe beyond, it's not surprising that Cardinal athletic director Bob Bowlsby would look to maintain the status quo with his choice to replace the departed Jim Harbaugh. And so he has , as per the Mercury News, offensive coordinator David Shaw has agreed to become the Cardinal's next head coach. He will be announced officially later today.
The benefits to hiring Shaw (pictured at right, during his Cardinal playing days) are numerous and obvious: he's reportedly very well liked by the players, as a Stanford alum and long-time area resident he understands the institution and Palo Alto community, and at only 38 years old will bring about as much energy and enthusiasm to the position as Harbaugh did. If Shaw works out, he could be the head coach on the Farm for a decade or more.
The downside? Hiring Shaw over fellow Stanford assistants Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, both of whom were considered for the job, likely increases the chances that one or both will follow their former boss to the San Francisco 49ers. And though Shaw has several years of experience as an assistant both in the NFL and under Harbaugh, this will be his first head coaching gig at any level.
But when you're handed the keys to a kingdom as rich as Stanford currently is, success shouldn't be too hard to come by. If Shaw can convince either Roman or Fangio to hang around, don't expect to day's announcement to do anything to slow down the Cardinal momentum.