Tag:Arkansas
Posted on: December 10, 2010 10:21 am
Edited on: December 10, 2010 11:12 am
 

Report: Vandy offers Malzahn"ballpark" $3M a year

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Given who's making the offer, this report from the Tennessean might say more about the upward spiral of college coaching salaries (particularly in the SEC ) than Nick Saban's contract at Alabama ever could. Why? Because it claims that Vanderbilt -- Vanderbilt! -- has just offered to pay Auburn's offensive coordinator some several hundred thousand dollars more per year in salary than his own league title-winning head coach earns :
Auburn coor­di­na­tor Gus Mal­zahn , who was in town Wed­nes­day, is thought to have recei­ved another offer from Van­der­bilt that approaches the ball­park of $3 million per year.
Say this much for Vandy: now that we know that the SEC's most downtrodden football program has the capacity to come up with this kind of scratch (though we're still not sure how ), it makes a lot more sense why they parted ways with Robbie Caldwell after only one season. When you can make this kind of play for a property as hot as Malzahn, there's no reason to hold on to a well-meaning-but-limited coach like Caldwell.

As for whether Malzahn will accept, both the report above and the one preceding it at the Tennesseean make clear that despite the chance to double and possibly triple his maximum salary at Auburn, he hasn't accepted just yet. (Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin has apparently moved up to second in the Commodore pecking order and would get the call if Malzahn declines.) He could be willing to wait out the falling dominoes at Florida and then possibly Mississippi State or Arkansas; they might not pay him as much as the Vandy offer and would be almost as difficult a job, traditionally speaking, but the latter would give him a chance to coach in his home state for a fanbase that is already wildly fond of him. That might be worth waiting on, though when we're talking about a ballpark $3 million bird in the hand, it also might not be.

In any case, it looks like Auburn will have to have those dominoes fall exactly right -- Malzahn waits on MSU/Arkansas, Vandy moves on to Franklin, Mullen goes to Florida, State can't make a strong enough offer or goes in a different direction -- to retain Malzahn's services for another year. The far more likely result at this stage is that he's gone, and that the bigger question for the Tigers now is simply keeping Malzahn as focused on the BCS National Championship Game as they can amidst the coaching storm.

 


Posted on: December 8, 2010 6:08 pm
 

Could Zach Mettenberger take LSU over the hump?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There's an argument to be made -- and you don't even have to break a sweat to make it -- that no single position in the SEC has had a greater negative impact over the past two seasons than quarterback at LSU .

In 2009, under new defensive coordinator John Chavis , the Bayou Bengals finished a strong 26th in the country in total defense and allowed the third-fewest points in the SEC; unfortunately, Jordan Jefferson finished eighth in the league in passing yards per-game and took enough sacks to place LSU 103rd in that category, and LSU lost four games in which their opponents scored 13, 24, 25, and 19 points, respectively. Chavis's unit has been even better in 2010, finishing eighth in the FBS in total D and ninth in scoring defense . It's a good thing, too; with Jefferson and Jarrett Lee combining for a dead-last finish in the SEC in passing and a next-to-last finish in QB rating, the Tigers managed to win games with scoring totals of 20, 16, and 24 points. The Tigers also lost when they scored only 17 points against Auburn's eminently flammable defense. It's fair to say that with competent-to-good quarterbacking, LSU is looking at at least back-to-back BCS bowl appearances, possibly an SEC title one year or the other, maybe even another national title game berth.

Which is why that even amongst the coaching hiring-and-firing-and-retiring mania, the news this week that JUCO quarterback Zach Mettenberger has elected to play for Les Miles and Co. shouldn't fly under the radar. Mettenberger was a consensus four-star recruit coming out of Watkinsville, Ga., and proved his bona fides as one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in his class by battling Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for first the Georgia backup quarterback's job in spring 2009 and then the starter's position this past spring. After being booted from the Bulldog roster (more on this in a moment), he landed at Butler County (Kan.) Community College and went 176-of-299 for 2,678 yards this fall with an impressive 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Mettenberger will arrive at LSU with more than a little baggage, earning his ticket out of Athens by pleading guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery following an incident at a Remerton (Ga.) bar, as well as a host of other minor offenses. But time and a JUCO stint often heals all wounds in the SEC -- just ask Cam Newton -- and at 6'5", 250 pounds, with Mettenberger's pro-grade arm, he'll arrive at Baton Rouge with a real chance at winning the starting job as soon as next season. Mettenberger cited Miles's immediate interest as one reason he chose the Tigers over Alabama, Arkansas, and others; that LSU pursued him as fervently as they did should say something about confident they are in his potential to start from Day 1.

Even if Mettenberger has to wait one season for his turn, both Jefferson and Lee are seniors. He'll get his shot eventually, and that's reason enough for the SEC to worry; given Murray's stunning first year at Georgia, Mettenberger's huge year at Butler, and his recruiting profile, the odds are very good that Mettenberger will be a quality SEC starter, and pairing a quality SEC starter at QB with Chavis's defense (not to mention the wealth of talent across the rest of the offensive board) could easily put LSU back on top of the SEC West.

In short, LSU's biggest Achilles heel these past two seasons may have been healed. Given how good they've been anyway, Mettenberger's commitment could prove to be a turning point -- not only for the Tigers, but for the entire SEC West. And if you don't think one JUCO quarterback can have that kind of impact, we'd ask you to take it up with Mr. Newton.

Posted on: December 8, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 12:10 pm
 

Sugar, Sun Bowls sell out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The economic slump has taken its toll on ticket sales and attendance figures for any number of bowls over the past couple of seasons -- no, John Q. College Football Fan does not want to spend his hard-earned cash visiting Detroit at the end of December to watch the Little Caesar's Bowl -- but that doesn't mean that with the right matchup in the right setting, fans still won't flock to their team's postseason destination.

Exhibit A: the Sugar Bowl has already sold out . It's the Sugar Bowl, sure, but getting to New Orleans from Columbus isn't the easiest of hikes, and while no one will accuse Arkansas fans of being any less fervent in their devotion to their football team than fans at their fellow SEC schools, they also simply don't have the numbers of an Alabama, Florida, or LSU. If it's taken less than 48 hours or so to sell out the Superdome, that's not bad.

But, yes, it is still the Sugar Bowl. And yes, it's the Hogs' first trip there in ages and the Buckeyes have one of the nation's largest followings. It's not bad, but it's not impressive. What might be, though, is Exhibit B: the Sun Bowl, in El Paso, Texas, has also sold out . It's even done so in record time, exhausting its ticket supply in less than 24 hours to break last year's mark by nearly nine days, and that's despite El Paso's less-than-desirable proximity to crime-ridden Juarez hampering its image as a tourist destination. (If you can't make it in person, remember that you can always watch the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. EST Dec. 31, exclusively on ... wait for it ... CBS!)

That's what having two name-brand teams in Miami and Notre Dame set to renew the most famous and consequential rivalry of the late 1980s will get you, we suppose. (That the Irish declined to play a bowl game of any kind last season probably helps, too.) What happens if you're not pairing the 'Canes and Irish? What happens if you're pairing, say, a 6-6 Pac-10 mediocrity with a Big 12 opponent that 1. just crushed its legions of fans with a devastating championship game defeat 2. played in that same bowl game last year 3. obliterated that same Pac-10 team in that team's stadium earlier this season?

What happens is you have the Holiday Bowl and its Nebraska-Washington matchup, and you are also not going to see all that many Husker fans there :
The Nebraska athletic ticket office still has about 5,000 tickets for sale to the public, something that probably wouldn't have been the case had the Huskers made it to another bowl against another team.

"Last year we had two planes full within our first four days," [travel agent Vicki] Grieser said. "There's not the same interest, and we think it's mainly because of the opponent ... When I first heard Holiday Bowl I said, 'Oh, that's not so bad. People love San Diego.' But when it was against Washington people are thinking twice about it."
In many cases, yes, the economy will be to blame for bowl struggles. But as the Holiday is proving, there's often a lot more to it than that.

HT on Holiday story: DocSat .


Posted on: November 29, 2010 1:27 pm
 

No coaching shakeup at Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's not often that an SEC team with an established coach goes 6-6 with a sub-.500 conference record and a loss to a wretched Colorado team winds up standing pat in the coaching department, but most SEC teams aren't as patient as Georgia and we've long since known that no coach in the league is as averse to change as Mark Richt . So it's not that much of a surprise that the moving vans may skip Athens entirely this offseason, at least if Richt has his way :
“Am I considering changes on the staff?” Richt said [Sunday]. “No" ...

Georgia has scored 30 or more points in seven straight games, something that Richt referred to when asked about fans’ criticism of offensive coordinator and play-caller Mike Bobo .

“All I can say, if I’m not mistaken, we broke some kind of school record of consecutive games of over 30 points and a lot of really good things happened offensively,” Richt said. “The bottom line is whoever calls plays is going to get critiqued, they’re going to get criticized. It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Richt has a point about Bobo, and you can make another one by making note of Bobo's quarterbacking-coaching duties and the wild success he had with redshirt freshman Aaron Murray , who wrapped up his regular season with a 15-of-19, 271-yard, 3 touchdown, zero interception masterpiece against Georgia Tech . Right now, Murray and the Bulldog passing game is the best thing the Dawgs have going; would replacing the quarterbacks' position coach and the architect of that passing game really be the best move?

We doubt it. Georgia's biggest problems this year were a nasty tendency to fumble at the worst possible time -- what coach do you blame for that? -- and a young defense that played lights-out against weaker competition but gave up 31 points to Arkansas , 34 to Florida , 49 to Auburn , etc. First-year coordinator Todd Grantham was installing a new 3-4 defense and wasn't given the prototypical defensive linemen needed for the scheme; firing him after a single season would be stunningly harsh and probably counter-productive.

With several other Georgia position coaches having been replaced just last offseason, Richt's best move probably is to stand pat. Given how perilously close he came to getting replaced himself after the Dawgs' 1-4 start (and how little margin for error he has entering 2011), that seems like a substantially larger gamble than looking for answers elsewhere in the coaching pool. But after a strange and often unlucky season, that's where Georgia stands.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 10:52 am
 

Take Houston Nutt rumors with a beach of salt

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Wherever there are head coaching openings in college football and wild unsubstantiated rumors about who will fill them, there will always be one name whose presence in those rumors and frequency of being "connected" to those jobs rises above all others: Houston Nutt .

Ever since his move from Boise State to Arkansas in 1998, Nutt has been linked with every conceviable opening, from a laundry list of SEC gigs to the Dallas Cowboys head coach to President Obama's "health care czar." (Only made up that last one, by the way; rumor had it before the Wade Phillips hire that since Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alum and enjoyed Nutt's time in charge of the Razorbacks, he would turn his franchise over to a guy with no NFL experience whatsoever that most of the pro football media have never even heard of.)

The reason for this is simple, and bears the name Jimmy Sexton . The most influential agent in the SEC, bar-none, one of Sexton's favorite longtime ploys for leverage has been to float rumors in the press that his clients could leave for other destinations, then using the apparent "interest" to help wrangle his client a new contract extension. This is exactly what Sexton ought to be doing, since it's a strategy that works and works well; when Auburn was in the market for a new coach after Tommy Tuberville 's departure in 2008 (a Sexton client who himself had reportedly been interetsed in jobs at Texas A&M, Arkansas, Miami, etc. over they ears), reports flew fast and furious that Nutt was the Tigers' top choice, and within a handful of days the Rebels had given Nutt an extension and a raise despite the fact that there's little evidence Auburn ever considered Nutt at all.

So when you read the now widespread "report" that Nutt has already accepted the Colorado job , remember that no one is better at conjuring "Nutt to new position X" stories out of thin air than Sexton.  (Especially when no one with a shred of credibility is lending the rumor any legs , Nutt himself included.) Admittedly, quotes like this one ...
Nutt added the intrigue when he was asked after the game what sort of items he wants to address after the season. “There’s a few things,” he said. “I’m going to get into that Sunday. I just — I want to talk to my team first before they read it. I want them to hear it first.”
... don't exactly help the "nothing to see here" argument, but it seems substantially more likely that Nutt's referring to staffing changes (maybe the dismissal of under-fire defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix ?) than any kind of change in his own job status.

Besides, a quote like that ensures Nutt can stay in the headlines for another couple of news cycles. No doubt Sexton is smiling somewhere over that.

HT: TSK .

Posted on: November 28, 2010 1:06 am
 

What I learned from the SEC (Nov 27)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Cam Newton is your Heisman Trophy winner.  Seriously, just give him the trophy now.  Don't even invite anybody else to New York because there isn't a point. After leading Auburn to that comeback win against Alabama, after falling behind 24-0 on the road, LaMichael James -- or any other contender -- would literally have to score 80 touchdowns in a game while saving a group of children from a burning building to take the Heisman away from him.  I'm not even sure I care if he did take money at this point. 

2. Hogs can smell sugar.  And they really seem to like it.  Arkansas took care of LSU on Saturday in Little Rock, and because of it, the Hogs still have a chance to go to the Sugar Bowl.  All they need is for Auburn to beat South Carolina next week and move on to the title game.  That would free the Sugar Bowl up to select an SEC team, and you have to think Arkansas would get a look.

3. Florida's nightmare season can get worse.  Go ahead, ask any Gators fan if they feel any better about 2010 after seeing the Gators get knocked around by Florida State on Saturday.  Honestly, I don't see how Urban Meyer can consider bringing Steve Addazio back next season unless his ultimate plan is to have Gainesville burn to the ground.

4. Georgia is going bowling after all.  It took longer than any Georgia fan was probably hoping for, but after beating Georgia Tech on Saturday night, the Bulldogs now have six wins and can get an extra two weeks of practice.  Considering how the season started, it's a small miracle.

5. Kentucky may never beat Tennessee.  Seriously, if there was ever going to be a season in which the Wildcats would finally knock off the Vols, this would have been the one, right?  Sorry, not the case.  Tennessee took care of the 'Cats and like Georgia, is now bowl eligible.  Which is an even bigger miracle than the one Georgia pulled off.
Posted on: November 27, 2010 5:41 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2010 5:46 pm
 

Big plays leading Arkansas against LSU

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Things have gone a little crazy in Little Rock between LSU and Arkansas this afternoon.  First there was this touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett to Cobi Hamilton.





















That wasn't the last of it, however.  With the score tied at 14-14 with six seconds left in the half, Arkansas had the ball at its own 20-yard line.  Well, Mallett and Hamilton decided that they liked throwing for 80-yard touchdowns so much, they might as well do it again.  Which they did on the final play of the half, as Mallett hit Hamilton over the middle of the field, and some nice downfield blocks led to a 21-14 Arkansas lead 80 yards later.

It's been pretty crazy, thus far, which you would expect in any game involving Les Miles and two rivals.

Stevan Ridley is responsible for LSU's two touchdowns, and has 79 yards rushing to lead the Tigers.

This is a pretty important game for both teams, even if neither has any conference title aspirations.  Should LSU win, with Boise State's loss, there's a possibility that the Tigers would move into the top 4 of the BCS rankings, which would guarantee them an at-large berth in a BCS game.  Should Arkansas win, they still have a chance to get to the Sugar Bowl if Auburn can beat South Carolina and move on to the national championship.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 11:42 pm
 

What I Learned from the SEC (Nov. 20)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. South Carolina learned its lesson. The last time Carolina won a game as big as last week's SEC East-clinching victory over Florida , they had downed No. 1 Alabama before going out the following week and laying their biggest egg of the season against Kentucky . Now, sure, the Gamecocks got a lot of help early on from a Troy team that for some reason played like a nervous team with lots to lose rather than the massive underdog with nothing to lose they were. But the previously-hapless Gamecock secondary held a statistically potent Trojan passing attack entirely in check, the Marcus Lattimore -led offense ruthlessly punished every Troy mistake, and by halftime it was already 56-7, 'Cocks . Not only did Carolina avoid the letdown, but they looked ready to give Auburn all they want and more when the SEC championship game rolls around in two weeks.

2. It's time to put the defense-first image of the SEC to bed for good. Maybe the SEC really is home to better athletes, maybe they really do hire better coaches, maybe they take defense more seriously than some other conferences ... but none of that, even if true, is making a lick of difference on the field at the moment. This week gave us only four games between SEC teams and FBS competition, and those four games produced 268 total points (in regulation) and as average score of 42-25. And that 's with Tennessee and Vanderbilt battling to a low-fi 24-10 Volunteer win, and the conference's best offense and ninth-ranked defense at Auburn taking the week off.

You get the point: very few teams in this league are playing defense. When even the consensus best unit in the league -- LSU's entered the weekend No. 1 in total defense at 274 yards per-game -- is getting gashed for 36 points and 420 yards at home against the conference's No. 5 offense, the SEC's image as a collection of grind-it-out attacks and impregnable defenses is officially as current as Bob Dole . If SEC fans want to argue their conference is superior, fine. If they want to argue their conference is superior because of the SEC's brand of defense, they need to acquire a clue.

3. LSU should be an underdog going to Arkansas. Full kudos to Les Miles for exorcising his clock management demons , but it's the Hogs who appear to be playing the better football at the moment after surviving what might have been Mississippi State 's best performance of the season on the road in Starkville while the previously stout LSU defense was busy getting gashed by the up-and-down Rebels. If Masoli and Co. can do that in Baton Rouge, what can Ryan Mallett and the suddenly scorching-hot Knile Davis do in Fayetteville?

(And while we're playing the transitive property game, the latest compelling evidence of how much stronger the West is than the East? The Razorbacks went to the East champion three weeks ago and rolled to an easy win. Then they went to the fifth-place team in the West tonight and were fortunate to escape with a double-overtime win.)

4. This Tyler Bray kid might just be one worth watching. Not that you'd expect it from his taste in tattoos , but the skinny kid from California has taken to SEC football like a duck to some very forgiving water. No, the pass defenses of South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt aren't the most intimidating the conference has to offer. But after another productive outing in Nashville (16-of-27, 232 yards, 8.6 yards-per-attempt, 2 touchdowns), Bray has collected some seriously impressive numbers in his last three league performances: 43-of-76 (57 percent completion rate), 714 yards (9.4 YPA), 7 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.

And he's a true freshman. If Derek Dooley can keep his head on straight and his brittle-looking body remains intact, Bray should be one of the SEC's best in due time ... and maybe as soon as 2011. (As for 2010,the Vols are one win against Kentucky away from scraping their way to a bowl berth. Not bad considering they stood at 2-6 not so long ago.)


 
 
 
 
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