Tag:Nick Fairley
Posted on: January 31, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Big 12, non-AQs lead the way in JUCO signees

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Certainly no team got more attention for going to the junior college well this year than Auburn, who rode their famous pair of JUCO transfers -- Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, arguably the best offensive and defensive players in the country, respectively -- to a perfect record and national title. The Tigers started former JUCOs at linebacker (Eltoro Freeman), cornerback (Demond Washington) and right tackle (Brandon Mosley) as well, as clear an example as you could get as to why major programs aren't going to stop looking at immediate JUCO help anytime soon.

But if a program like Auburn might sign the most influential JUCOs, which ones sign the most, period? That's the question asked and answered by this study by Jon Solomon at the Birmingham News , which tallied up every community college transfer signed in FBS football over the past four recruiting classes (give or take one or two here or there). Solomon found that the three conferences collectively bringing in the most JUCOs were all non-AQ leagues: the WAC at 17.2 signees per team per four years, the Sun Belt at 15.0 per team per four years, and Conference USA at 14.8.

At the BCS level, the Big 12 (13.8 per team per four years) is far and away the leader in JUCO signees, with the Pac-10 coming in runners-up (despite the SEC's JUCO-friendly reputation) at 11.6. (The addition of Utah won't help the future Pac-12's numbers, either; the Utes led the Mountain West in JUCOs with 22 over the four-year period studied.)

Why the Big 12? Though eight of the conference's teams finished in double digits, the runaway leader was -- you guessed it -- Kansas State, the notoriously JUCO-dependent program that lived up to every inch of its reputation by signing an FBS-most 39 junior college players from 2007-2010. Non-AQ teams took the next five slots as Memphis (35), UAB (34), Hawaii (31), Troy (29), and New Mexico State (28) were the only other schoosl to top 28 or more. The closest BCS conference team was Iowa State, with 26.

So does JUCO signing work? On the one hand, the success of teams like Hawaii and Troy -- not to mention Auburn and Oregon, who with 17 JUCOs in the four-year period actually took on seven more than their national title game opponent -- would suggest that taking on the right kind of two-year players can pay handsome dividends. The ongoing struggles of Memphis, UAB, and Bill Snyder's Wildcats -- who have gone just 12-20 in the Big 12 in this span -- would suggest, though, that it's not at all a sure quick-fix.


Posted on: January 25, 2011 4:10 pm
 

SEC linemen missing-in-action at Senior Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Senior Bowl is one of those unique events that draws interest from both NFL diehards and college football fanatics, the former scoping out the next wave of professional stars and the latter getting one last look at some of the college game's brightest stars. CBS is covering the event accordingly, with plenty of coverage over at our NFL Draft homepage .

But as of this afternoon, there's a pair of prominent names from the SEC 's lines-of-scrimmage you won't see appearing as part of that coverage. One of them is fearsome LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis, a first-team All-SEC selection this season who finished second only to Nick Fairley amongst league tackles in both tackles-for-loss and sacks.

That performance was enough to put Nevis on the first-round radar (if not into the first 32 picks in the current CBS mock draft ). But a "minor foot injury" has hampered his preparations for the draft and today he officially withdrew from taking part in the Senior Bowl. Nevis has continued to work out and will reportedly take full part in the upcoming NFL combine despite the injury, but he will not be able to improve his stock this week in Mobile.

The same will go for Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey, who after initially accepting his invitation to participate has now elected not to appear in the Senior Bowl or take part in the week's practices. His reasoning is unclear at this time, but after a disappointing senior season that saw the preseason all-conference selection struggle mightily with a conversion to center from his preferred guard position, it no doubt won't help his standing in the eyes of the scouts.

That doesn't mean he won't find an enthusiastic taker somewhere -- his brother Maurkice Pouncey was a first-round draft choice last year who'll take the field in the Super Bowl for the Pittsburgh Steelers -- but it nonetheless seems like a missed opportunity for the longtime Gator stalwart.

Posted on: January 19, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Record 56 underclassmen declare for draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Now that the deadline for college football underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft has passed, teams and fans know for sure who they'll be getting back for another season, and who they won't.  What we also know is that with the NFL releasing the official list of underclassmen who have declared on Wednesday, that we have a record class.

Fifty-six players have decided to leave college early this season and seek their NFL dreams.  The most ever to do so.

Which is pretty ironic, really.  The fact that their could be an NFL lockout next season is well known amongst football fans everywhere, even if those same fans are scared to admit it.  So you would think that with potential labor strife looming on the horizon, that college players would prefer to stay in school for another season.

Which makes sense on the surface, but there's another factor in play here.  Yes, there may not be an NFL season in 2011, but we don't know for sure.  What we do know for sure is that, 2011 season or not, by the time the 2012 NFL Draft comes around there's likely going to be a rookie salary cap.  So while a top pick like Da'Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley can come out this season and sign a deal with a huge signing bonus, he may only be eligible to make 20% of that if he returned to school for another season.

So it seems that the kids want to cash in while they still can.
Posted on: January 17, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2011 1:33 pm
 

Auburn's Darvin Adams declares for draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Auburn knew a top-five pick like Nick Fairley was as good as gone. They knew first-rounder (and NCAA investigation target) Cam Newton probably wasn't far behind. But they hoped that was as deep as the damage from the NFL Draft ran.

As of today, it turns out they hoped in vain, as leading receiver Darvin Adams has also declared himself eligible for the 2011 draft .

The move comes as something of a surprise, with Adams failing to make so much as honorable mention All-SEC (albeit in a loaded field at his position) this season, seeing his statistics take a slight across-the-board decline from his breakout 2009, and generally not expected to be a higher-round draft pick. At a spindly 6'3", 185 pounds, Adams may also need some quality time in the gym to be physically ready for the next level.

At the same time, there's something to be said for Adams' impressive consistency as Auburn's two-time No. 1 receiver: 60 receptions, 997 yards, 10 touchdowns in '09, and 52 receptions, 963 yards, 7 TDs in '10. His height, sure hands, and excellent body positioning could make him a quality possession receiver regardless of draft position. And it's worth asking, above all, whether another year would do anything for Adams' draft stock anyway; with a new quarterback, rebuilt offensive line, and ever-deepening pool of receivers, Adams could easily see his personal production drop even further in 2011. (Of course, it's also worth pointing out that where winning on the team level goes, there's nothing left for Adams to accomplish.)

So the declaration comes as a surprise, yes. But it's far, far too early for anyone to call Adams' decision a mistake.


Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:53 pm
 

Nick Fairley declares for draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Auburn made a living out of defying expectations this season, but unfortunately for them, expectations have finally won out when it's come to early draft declarations. Cam Newton announced he was taking his skills to the NFL last night, and today Lombardi Award winner and national championship game defensive MVP Nick Fairley made it official: he's forgoing his senior season on the Plains to go pro as well.

Though Fairley reportedly became emotional during the announcement and thanked the "Auburn Nation" for their support, the decision couldn't have really been all that difficult. An unstoppable force on the Tiger defensive line this season and one coming off of a dominating performance in the BCS title game, Fairley is the No. 1 defensive tackle in the draft according to many and could go as high as the No. 1 overall pick. Barring some kind of catastrophe in pre-draft workouts, Fairley is a mortal lock to go in the top five; our draft gurus here at CBS have him at No. 3 and No. 4 in their current mocks , respectively.

Combine that kind of payday with the facts that Fairley is already four years out of high school (having spent two seasons, one a redshirt, at a Mississippi junior college) and has won virtually every honor there is for a defensive lineman to win on both the team and individual level, and there was really only one choice for Fairley to make. Like his teammate Newton, Fairley was more blinding supernova than enduring college star -- he started only two games and recorded just 3.5 tackles-for-loss in 2009, before blowing up for 24 this year -- but that won't keep him from being remembered at Auburn (and in college football in general) for a long, long time.

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 13, 2011 9:06 pm
 

Cam Newton will now be paid to play

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Okay, get the "you mean he'll be paid more to play" jokes out of the way now.  In an announcement that should come as a shock to absolutely nobody who has paid an ounce of attention to college football this season, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is leaving school to enter the NFL draft.  Auburn released a statement on Thursday night confirming the news.

"This decision was difficult for me and my family," Newton said in the release. "After talking to Coach Chizik and Coach Malzahn, I think it is best that I make that next step in my career and forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft. It was a very hard decision for me, especially after coming off the great season we had at Auburn. I'm blessed to have been around an excellent environment and have great teammates, coaches and support from the Auburn family.

"It's been a blessing for me to be a part of something so great.  Any time you win games it's a big deal, but for this school to win a BCS National Championship, what a way to make people happy. Auburn is a special place that I can call home."

There was no reason for Newton to stick around Auburn.  He's already won the Heisman Trophy and a BCS title, and with that whole NCAA investigation looming over his head, why would he bother dealing with another year of the allegations? 

Of course, this does present a bit of a problem for Auburn.  Without Newton around, the Tigers aren't going to be ranked number one to start next season, and they may not even be in the top ten.  Especially when you consider that Auburn will likely be without its best defensive player next season as well.  Nick Fairley will be making an announcement about his draft status on Friday, and you generally don't hold press conferences at your high school when you intend on returning to college for another season.
Posted on: January 12, 2011 3:17 pm
 

What I Learned in the Pac-10: Bowl Edition

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Pac-10 goes 2-2 in its four -- yes, just four -- bowl games. Wrapping up:

1. Oregon still has to prove it can outfox teams outside the conference. For all of Chip Kelly's undeniable brilliance at the Oregon helm, the last three times the Ducks have stepped out of conference to face quality defensive opposition -- and frankly, we're being generous by even including Auburn in that discussion -- they've scored 8, 17, and 19 points (against Boise State, Ohio State, and the Tigers, respectively). Those totals are a far, far cry from the Ginsu job the Ducks have performed on the Pac-10 the past two seasons, and they beg the question: what kind of kryptonite do defensive coordinators outside the league have that those inside it don't?

To be fair, it may be a simple matter of preparation; all three of the above teams had far longer than the typical work week to watch film and prep for the Duck tempo. And the torrent of TV-dictated stoppages in bowl games didn't do anything to help Oregon's attempts to wear down the Buckeyes or Tigers from a stamina standpoint. But the root of Oregon's problems in these games doesn't have anything to do with either of those issues; it's that they've simply been destroyed at the line of scrimmage. Whether it's Boise's Ryan Winterswyk, OSU's Cameron Heyward, or now Nick Fairley, the Ducks have had no answer for the elite linemen on the other side of the ball.

No one will argue that the Duck offensive linemen aren't well-coached, athletic, quality players. They've been good enough to win two Pac-10 titles and 22 games in two years. But to take the next step and win Oregon's first national title, Kelly may have to find a way to upgrade his offensive front all the same.

2. If they can keep the staff intact, Stanford's not going anywhere. Or at least, not far. No one will argue that Jim Harbaugh wasn't the driving force behind the Cardinal's unfathomable rise to 12-1 and beyond-impressive 40-12 demolition of Virginia Tech (remember that despite their short-week loss to James Madison, the Hokies had ripped through an improved ACC without even being seriously challenged), but that doesn't mean he was the only force. Andrew Luck will return in 2011 as the hands-down, no-debate best quarterback in the nation. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has already drawn head coaching interest and has learned directly under Harbaugh the past three seasons. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio just finished overseeing the biggest single-season defensive improvement in the conference, if not the countr. And Harbaugh's recruiting prowess means the cupboard should remain well-stocked for the next few years.

2010 may be the high-water mark for the program all the same. But if both Roman and Fangio are retained -- and it seems likely they will be, if one or the other is named head coach -- don't expect much of a drop-off in the near future, even with Harbaugh in San Francisco. The team on display at the Orange Bowl was clearly constructed well enough to withstand the loss of a single pillar, even if it happened to be the biggest one.

3. Arizona doesn't really "do" that whole bowl game scene, man. The Wildcats' appeared to have taken an important step forward during the 2009 regular season, coming within one overtime loss against the Ducks of a Rose Bowl berth. But then they took a big one back with a 33-0 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. This year, Mike Stoops needed a solid performance in the Alamo Bowl to wash out the taste of the 'Cats' season-ending four-game losing streak, and instead his team laid another colossal egg, meekly succumbing to Oklahoma State 36-10.

With victories or even respectable performances in those two bowls, Stoops would still have his team firmly established as one of the "up-and-comers" in the Pac-10. As is, 2011 isn't a make-or-break year for Stoops just yet ... but another iffy regular season followed by a third bowl faceplent would mean 2012 certainly would be.

4. Washington had a winning season. OK, that's not really something we "learned" as much as something that simply happened, but it's as close as we'll get since we're not sure there really was anything to learn from the Huskies' 19-7 win over Nebraska in this year's edition of the Holiday Bowl. Certainly it was a thrill for Jake Locker and the other Husky seniors to go out with a win, and after a disappointing year for coordinator Nick Holt's defense, holding the Huskers to a measly 7 points -- after giving up 56 to them in Seattle during the regular season -- will provide some optimism for next year. But with the Huskers visibly unfocused and unmotivated for a bowl game they'd played the year before against a team they'd already flattened during the regular season (and Taylor Martinez still not 100 percent), it's questionable how much an accomplishment the win really is. And with the face-of-the-program Locker departed, it's equally questionable how similar next year's Huskies will look to this year's.

So: it's a nice story for Washington. But it doesn't tells us much, if anything, about the Huskies going forward.

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