Tag:South Carolina
Posted on: January 21, 2011 1:25 pm
 

More turnover for Tide as Cignetti takes D-II job

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

After Alabama followed up their national championship season with a disappointing -- by preseason No. 1 standards, anyway -- 10-3 campaign, it's no surprise that the Crimson Tide underwent some mild turnover on their coaching staff. Defensive line coach Bo Davis was hired away by Texas for the same position without what seemed like much resistance or counter-offering from Nick Saban and the Tide. And offensive line coach Joe Pendry retired, to be replaced -- immediately -- by former Miami assistant Jeff Stoutland.

If Davis and Pendry were fully committed to staying in Tuscaloosa, they probably still would be. But after the Tide arguably underachieved this season along both lines of scrimmage, and given how prepared he appeared to be for their departures, it's also doubtful Saban lost too much sleep over those changes.

But there's now fewer than two weeks remaining before Signing Day, and if losing two coaches might be useful to keep the staff fresh and motivated, replacing a third of your assistants in one offseason probably qualifies as a headache. And it's now a headache Saban will have to deal with as Tide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Curt Cignetti has taken the head coaching job at Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Unlike Davis and Pendry, Cignetti's motivations are perfectly transparent; IUP is the same school where his father Frank Cignetti coached for 19 seasons. But also unlike Davis's and Pendry's departures, Cignetti's decision leaves Saban scrambling (well, for a given definition of "scramble") to have the position filled before Signing Day. And though few coaches would say no to drawing a Crimson Tide salary and coaching Tide-grade talent, the lateness of the vacancy means the pool of candidates might be somewhat shallower than it would be otherwise.

Even those concerns would usually be trifling ones for Saban's well-oiled machine, but that machine is showgin some minor wear-and-tear on the recruiting trail for what might be the first time in Saban's Capstone tenure. Blue-chip in-state linebacker-slash-running back recruit Brent Calloway recently flipped his commitment from the Tide to Auburn. Major wide receiver recruit Malcolm Mitchell chose home-state Georgia over the Tide last night, despite speculation he had been an Alabama lean. And there are indications the Tide may be unable to pull the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, away from hometown South Carolina.

Arguably no program in the country is better-equipped to withstand those kinds of setbacks, or whatever other setbacks might arise as a result of Cignetti's exit. The Tide will be fine. But when the expectations are nothing less than annual contention for a national title, even minor stumbles can prove to be major developments.

Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: January 18, 2011 10:56 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Bowl Edition)

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.

Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
 

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

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).

So earlier today we named five that are in his Top 25 that might slip out or could otherwise disappoint, and right now we'll name five more teams we think can crack that Top 25 next season. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

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.



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: January 11, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 3:18 pm
 

What I learned from the SEC: Bowl Edition

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. The SEC is still the best conference in college football.  Yes, the conference may have only gone 5-5 in bowl games this season, and it may have included a couple losses against a Conference USA team and a Big East team, but here is the stat that actually mattered: for the fifth straight year, the national champion calls the SEC home.  Oh, and let's not just ignore the fact that a twelve team league had ten teams playing in bowl games to begin with.  Fans of other conferences around the country may have been hoping the conference would get knocked down a peg this postseason, but prepare yourselves for plenty more "ESSSS  EEEEEEE SEEEEEE" chants in 2011.

2. The 2010 season belonged to Cam Newton and Auburn.  Whether the headlines were good or bad this season, the college football world seemed to revolve around a tiny town in eastern Alabama and the quarterback that caught a nation's eye.  It's somewhat fitting that on the final drive of the season, the one that gave Auburn its national championship, the one player who put the team on his back for most of the season had to play a secondary role thanks to being banged up.  For once, Cam Newton 's defense and his offense decided to carry him to the finish line.  We don't know for sure what Cam Newton's future will hold, but odds are that Newton is bound for the NFL.  How will Auburn fare next season without its Superman?

3. Alabama is still really good .  Honestly, if college football did have a playoff system in place of the bowls, would any of you have been shocked to see Alabama make it to another title game?  The Tide suffered three losses this season.  They came at the hands of South Carolina , LSU and Auburn .  When the worst loss of your season is against the SEC East champion, you didn't have a bad season.  Then the Tide went out and put an exclamation point on the year by pasting Michigan State -- a team with one loss and ranked in the top ten -- by 42 points.

4. The SEC East should be better next season.  While the SEC may have gone 5-5 as a whole during the bowl season, the SEC East was responsible for four of those losses.  The good news for the division is that things should improve a bit next year, as Georgia and Tennessee aren't likely to suffer two losing seasons in a row, South Carolina will still have Marcus Lattimore and won't have Stephen Garcia , and Florida might actually have an offensive system suited for its quarterback.  Well, if John Brantley stays.  Plus, with all the key players that Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU will be losing to the NFL this spring, the West shouldn't be nearly as dominant.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:04 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 3:10 am
 

BCS Championship Bowl Grades: Auburn

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Offense

This is uncomfortable, so let's just get it out of the way right now: Cam Newton did not win this game for Auburn. Oh, he made some good plays, and his overall numbers -- 20-34, 265 yards, 2 TD, INT, 22 rushes, 65 yards -- are certainly respectable. The fact is, though, that this game was only close because Newton missed two wide-open first-half touchdowns that could have blown the game open, and neither drive ended in points. Newton then injured his shoulder during the second half, and turned into a shell of his normal self. While he doesn't deserve a ton of scorn for his late fumble that let Oregon back into the game -- if a ball gets punched out from behind like that by someone you don't even see, well, what were you supposed to do? -- if Newton weren't running tentatively to begin with on account of that sore shoulder, does Casey Matthews still catch him from behind?

No, if anyone on the Auburn offense deserves praise, it's true freshman tailback Michael Dyer. Dyer put the team on his back in the second half, and  finished with 143 yards (96 of which came in the second half) on 22 carries. Dyer wore Oregon's smallish defense down over the course of the game, and his roll over an Oregon defender on the last drive of the game led to a 37-yard gain that put Auburn in position to win the game. Again: he's a true freshman. That the SEC gets both him and Marcus Lattimore for two more years is, well, kind of unfair. Final Grade: B

Defense

Nick Fairley has a lot to learn about on-field maturity, but as a defensive tackle, he is an absolute nightmare to block. Fairley was instrumental in the Tigers' ability to control the line of scrimmage, registering three tackles for a loss, forcing numerous hurried throws, and opening up opportunities for his teammates when he drew double-teams. His draft stock skyrocketed today, even after a dumb (but not uncharacteristic) personal foul penalty for shoving LaMichael James in the facemask well after a play was dead.

Still, Oregon only rushed for 75 yards on 32 carries -- less than a quarter of the Ducks' rushing average coming into the game. It was the first time since last season's opener against Boise State that Oregon hadn't rushed for over 100 yards in a game. That is dominance. The 374 passing yards allowed? Not so dominant, of course, but Auburn spent the entire year getting shredded through the air and it never mattered. Same goes for tonight. Final Grade: B

Special Teams

Wes Bynum wasn't particularly challenged by his field goals, which is a good thing, and he put all his kickoffs to the goal line. Oregon got no free yards from poor kickoffs, and Auburn's punting was equally inhospitable -- Ryan Shoemaker put three punts inside the 20, had no touchbacks, and allowed only six punt return yards. In close games, details matter, and Auburn took care of the details on special teams tonight. Final Grade: A

Coaching

For all the follies that usually surround collegiate game management, Gene Chizik did a very good job today. He let Gus Malzahn call an aggressive game without trying anything insane on offense, and none of his playcalls were worthy of scorn -- even that botched 4th and goal was a great call, and nobody was anywhere close to Eric Smith. Newton just failed to get the ball to him, for whatever reason. Speaking of Smith, though, his cheap shot on Dion Jordan that left the Duck bloodied near his eye was an outright disgrace, and he shouldn't have been allowed back on the field by the referees or by coaches. Smith would be injured early in the second half, rendering the point moot, but he shouldn't have been out there anymore in the first place. That's really the only gripe, though. Final Grade: A-

Team Grade

Auburn is your 2011 BCS Champion, and it achieved that by playing a team game. The secondary got torched at times, but the defense stiffened up as a whole in the red zone. Auburn's gameplan evolved nicely over the course of the game, adjusting for Newton's aches on the fly without completely neutralizing him. The game was sloppy at times, and closer than it had any right to be, but it was also scintillating at its peaks and Auburn was obviously a big reason why. Congratulations to Newton, Fairley, and the rest of the perfectly imperfect Auburn Tigers for their national championship. Final Grade: B+


Posted on: January 7, 2011 11:46 am
 

Gators' Janoris Jenkins to enter NFL Draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In the flood of departures for the NFL Draft yesterday, featuring such luminaries as Ryan Mallett, Mark Ingram, and not Andrew Luck, there was one early entrant that seemed to be unjustly overlooked: Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who multiple reports stated would be declaring in the near future.

Jenkins doesn't have a whole lot in the way of stats -- three interceptions, a handful of tackles-for-loss, some mostly nondescript punt returns -- but being named first-team All-SEC by the AP reflects how dominant Jenkins was in man-to-man coverage, moreso than any other player in the conference that wasn't Patrick Peterson. (That the SEC's coaches selected South Carolina's wobbly Stephon Gilmore over Jenkins for first-team honors is maybe the worst case of preseason-accolade inertia we've seen that hasn't involved Adrian Clayborn.)

The consensus on Jenkins is that he'll go in the first round, possibly in the top 10 or 15 picks , and given the premium on top-level cover corners on the next level (as wel las the college one), that makes sense. Maybe he's not Ingram or Mallett in terms of star power, but there's a chance Jenkins could outshine both in the league.

Posted on: January 4, 2011 9:16 pm
 

Ponder doesn't remember play after hit

Posted by Chip Patterson

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder saw his fair share of injury issues this season.  Most notably, there was an elbow issue that kept him out of the Clemson game as well as the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech.  It has been a tumultuous season for the senior, who entered as one of the players to watch in the Heisman discussion.  Unfortunately, his final game in a Seminoles uniform was cut short in the second quarter when an 8 yard scramble ended with a concussion-inducing shot to the back the head.  E.J. Manuel entered the game and eventually led Florida State to a victory over the Gamecocks, but Ponder stayed in for one last play after the hit.  There's just one thing: he doesn't remember running the play.

The Orlando Sentinel spoke with Christian's father, David Ponder, who said that his son did not remember the 4th down conversion on the South Carolina 2 yard line following the hit.  On the play, Ponder dropped back and attempted a pass to Lonnie Pryor that fell well short.  Ponder looked dazed on the failed conversion, and did not return to the game.  

Ponder will play in the Senior Bowl later this month before preparations for April's NFL Draft.  Ponder is considered to be one of the top quarterback prospects in the senior class, despite his numbers dropping from his junior to senior season.  
 
 
 
 
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