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Tag:Tim Tebow
Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC East

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC East, team by team. In alphabetical order:


FLORIDA: When spring began, we said the Gators might have the most interesting offense in the country. Urban Meyer's former spread-option death machine, destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, by none other than Charlie Weis, in the image of the steady no-frills pro-style attacks Will Muschamp saw work for old boss Nick Saban, as piloted by 2011-or-bust quarterback John Brantley? That's quite the storyline they've got going there.

But the Gators will have to hope it's a story that will be rewritten come the fall. While no one was expecting the offense to look like Weis's old New England Patriot attacks after three weeks of practice, no one was expecting it to put on a 13-10 spring game universally panned as a hideous eyesore, either. Brantley went an ugly 4-of-14 after missing his first six passes, the leading rusher was a walk-on defensive back, and the entire offensive output for the game amounted to 340 yards.

Much of that can be pinned on a wicked rash of injuries that took out most of the offensive line, an entire stable of running backs, multiple receivers, etc.; encouragingly, much of it can also be pinned on a rampaging defensive line led by Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, all members of Meyer's loaded 2010 class and all looking posied to make good on their five-star hype. But the bottom line is that much of it can also be pinned squarely on Brantley, who Muschamp and his other coaches universally lauded for an excellent spring but who showed little of that alleged improvement when playing in public.

Does it matter? Give him a solid summer and a solid fall camp, and it may not. But until Brantley proves he's something other than what he's appeared to be since the moment Tim Tebow left -- in over his head -- skepticism is in order.

GEORGIA: The biggest question entering the most critical spring of Mark Richt's spring tenure concerned the Bulldogs' biggest players: could their offensive line bounce back? When you have Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, a fleet of talented (if still unproven) receivers, and eventually Isaiah Crowell, if you have a line, you're going to have a heck of an offense.

There was good news and bad news on that front, the latter a devastating torn ACL suffered by fifth-senior and projected starting tackle Trinton Sturdivant. But there were positives, too, namely a terrific spring from potential All-SEC  center Ben Jones and guard-to-tackle position switch Cordy Glenn. G-day primary tailbacks Ken Malcome and Caleb King combined for 69 yards on 12 carries, a not-so-shabby 5.8 yards per-carry. Overall, the line was impressive enough this spring that senior Justin Anderson -- billed as a potential starter on the OL -- has been moved to defense.

The Dawgs had themselves a fine spring on the defensive front as well, with newly bulked-up nose tackle Kwame Geathers the talk of the Bulldogs' spring camp and converted safety Alec Ogletree providing a big boost the linebacking corps. The secondary is unsettled and one of those aforementioned receivers needs to emerge as a go-to target for Murray, but if the improvements in the front seven and offensive line aren't mirages, the Bulldogs wil be back in the thick of the East race all the same.

KENTUCKY: Consider it a successful second spring for Joker Phillips and the Wildcats. We noted that with nearly all of the major players from 2010's surprisingly effective Wildcat passing game gone, Phillips would want to make rebuilding that passing attack around junior quarterback Morgan Newton priority No. 1 in spring camp. And though we'll have to wait until fall to see the finished results, for now it looks like Mission Accomplished: Newton had a terrific spring, capped by a 23-of-44, 256-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' Blue-White Game.

Things weren't perfect: the Wildcat receivers were plagued by drops, and a defense still adjusting to new co-coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive schemes paired several big plays with several breakdowns. But with Newton cementing himself as a reliable option under center and a veteran line paving the way for new tailback Raymond Sanders to average better than 7 yards a carry, there's far more optimism for the Wildcat offense coming out of spring than going in.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever storyline you might have constructed ahead of time for the Gamecocks' spring, it was always going to overshadowed by the continuing Stephen Garcia circus. Until Carolina receives a definitive word one way or the other on Garcia's return (though as we wrote earlier today, that return seems likely), the team is going to be in something close to suspended football animation.  The lack of developments aside from Garcia was only enhanced by the fact that so many of Carolina's key players -- Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, an offensive line with four returning starters -- are known commodities.

That said, the Garnet-Black Game showed that if Garcia doesn't come back, the Gamecocks won't be totally lost at quarterback. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson combined to go a productive 23-of-40 for 344 yards (though Thompson threw a pair of picks), and on an offense with weapons like Lattimore, Jeffery, and tailback Kenny Miles (43 yards on just 6 carries in the spring game), "productive" should be enough.

The downside: those passing numbers came against a Gamecock secondary that got routinely torched in 2010 (FBS 97th in pass defense). Garcia or no Garcia, more improvement in that secondary will be necessary to take Carolina back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE: Entering spring, the road to improvement for the Volunteers was clear: get stronger, more physical, better along each line of scrimmage, then let the Vols' cadre of up-and-coming skill position stars -- led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray -- do the rest.

The Vols made plenty of headway on the first part of that equation; the White team earned a dominant victory over the more starter-heavy Orange in the Vol spring game thanks in no small part to a bruising run game led by second-string tailback Raijon Neal; defensive linemen on both squads were able to get consistent quarterback pressure; and offensive lineman Alex Bullard and defensive tackle Daniel Hood won the team's top awards for spring performance. Both lines remain so young that there's still a long way to go to SEC dominance, but it seems unlikely they'll be pushed around the way they were at times in 2010, either.

But as for the other part of the equation, stay tuned. Bray went a miserable 5-for-30 quarterbacking the defeated Orange side, with Derek Dooley suggesting afterwards that perhaps Bray had been overconfident. Bray is expected to take a major step forward in his first full season as the Vols' starter, but if that step winds up as minor as the spring game proposes it might be, all the line improvement in the world won't push the Vols back into relevance in the SEC East.

VANDERBILT: When you finished last season dead last in the conference in both total offense and total defense -- and you are Vanderbilt -- any kind of improvement in any area will be music to new coach James Franklin's ears. But fortunately for the 'Dores, they saw some green shoots in two positions that have been partocularly troublesome the past few seasons.

One is quarterback , where previously scattershot senior Larry Smith completed 16-of-26 for 233 yards and a touchdown, leading his Black side to a 19-7 win over the Gold. The other is the defensive line , where defensive tackle Colt Nichter recorded a pair of sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann collected a sack and an interception. But when you're Vandy, you'll take whatever you can get.

"The big thing," Franklin said, "is that we stayed healthy."

For the same review of the SEC West, click here.

Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:49 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Mark Ingram wins EA NCAA Football 12 cover vote

Posted by Adam Jacobi

For college football enthusiasts, there's no more anticipated video game than EA's NCAA Football series, released during the interminable off-season and resurrecting fans' anticipation for the upcoming season. The changes in gameplay have become more incremental over the years, but what people are most interested in are the ever-expanding dynasty mode and EA's updated rosters and ratings.

Oh, and then there's the prestigious honor of the annual cover athlete.

Unlike EA NCAA Football's pro counterpart in the Madden series -- made famous for its "Madden Curse," which routinely afflicts its subjects with terrible, injury-addled seasons -- the NCAA Football cover is usually a harbinger of upcoming pro success. Sure, it started off slowly with Tommie Frazier and Danny Wuerffel, and EA would probably like to take those Joey Harrington and Chris Weinke covers back, but it has also honored such luminaries as Shaun Alexander, Ricky Williams, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, and Tim Tebow, among others. Not bad company, really.

This year, EA Sports put the NCAA Football 12 cover role up to a vote between four athletes: Auburn DT Nick Fairley, Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray, Alabama RB Mark Ingram, and Washington QB Jake Locker. Unsurprisingly, the voters chose the only athlete of the four who won a Heisman trophy: Ingram.

Astute observers probably noticed a conspicuously absent name from that list: Auburn QB Cam Newton. Newton, of course, won the 2010 Heisman Trophy and won the BCS Championship with Fairley this past January. EA Sports didn't divulge why Newton wasn't among the four finalists for the cover -- a lack of popularity doesn't exactly seem plausible, as he'd probably have beaten Ingram for the top spot -- but endorsements are always tricky business, to say nothing of the as-yet unresolved situation with Newton's recruitment and the NCAA's investigation thereof. Suffice it to say the arrangement didn't work for at least one of the two sides, so it'll be Ingram and that's that.

Of course, nothing about the cover athlete affects anything about the game itself past the opening screen; remember, these guys are all off to the NFL, so they're not actually in the game. But college football, more than any other sport on any level, prides itself on its awards and honors, and the EA cover is no exception.

Thoughts on the cover? Great? Terrible? The right call?

Posted on: March 16, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Florida

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Florida , who starts spring practice today.

Spring Practice Question: What's going to be drawn on the blank slate of the Florida offense?

As spring practice 2011 opens, there may be no single unit in the entire country more intriguing than the Florida offense.

It's true. Consider that just three years ago it was the envy of college football, an unstoppable force led by the Heisman-winning Tim Tebow, featuring the most explosive receiving/rushing playmaker in the college game in Percy Harvin, drawn up and play-called by one of the best spread-option gurus in the nation in Dan Mullen, positively littered with future successful pros like Maurkice Pouncey and Aaron Hernandez ... it was the kind of offense custom-built to win a national championship, and it did. And then two seasons later, in the hands of Steve Addazio,  it was a crumbling heap that finished an unthinkable 82nd in total offense. That was an offense built to go 7-5, and it did, too.

So it's hardly surprising Will Muschamp decided to scrap the entire thing and start over. It's maybe somewhat surprising, though, he'd start over with something he's familiar with but Florida hasn't run in ages: a true two-back, under-center, pro-style system as run by the newly-contented Charlie Weis.

The result of that decision is that what we know about the new Gator offense is dwarfed by what we don't, the questions at this stage far outnumbering the answers. A sampling:

Is Weis's offense going to incorporate anything left over from the Meyer era? It's not what Weis knows or what Muschamp hired him for, so don't expect much different from Weis's offenses at Notre Dame or the Kansas City Chiefs. But with a collection of personnel recruited for (and in many cases, much better-suited) the Meyer spread, there must be the temptation to include certain elements of the old scheme here and there. We'll see if Weis gives in to that temptation this spring.

Can John Brantley's career be salvaged? If there's any former Meyer recruit who might have been happy to see the offense overhauled, it would have to be the pass-first Brantley, who was asked by Addazio to fill many of the running-game holes Tebow did without only the tiniest fraction of the success. Weis's system could make Brantley a star, but whatever offense he's running, Brantley will have to be substantially more poised this spring if he's going to hold off a challenge from early-enrolled freshman Jeff Driskel.

What happens to the heirs to Harvin? What success the Gator offense had in 2010 was frequently the result of getting the ball to Jeff Demps, the diminutive sprinter who took several handoffs the distance. But a pro-style tailback job doesn't typically go to backs of Demps's (or fellow veteran blazer Chris Rainey's) size, and Demps's history of nagging injuries won't help him convince Weis and Muschamp he or Rainey will be ready to be an every-down back. With one of those injuries sidelining Demps for at least the start of spring, the larger Mike Gillislee or Mack Brown may be able to stake their claim to the position.

Will the offensive line bounce back? Much of the disappointment of 2010 started with the disappointing play up front, as a veteran line began its year with Mike Pouncey memorably dribbling snaps back to Brantley in the season opener and never seemed to truly recover. Now the Gators enter spring with a new line coach brought in from the NFL in Frank Verducci, and just one healthy 2010 starter available. But the competition for open spots and fresh voice following the departure of Addazio could lead to better results all the same.

Will any playmakers step up in the receiving positions? Yes, the receivers were a problem last year too, as the entire corps of wideouts and tight ends totaled just eight touchdown receptions and as a team the Gators averaged barely more than 10 yards a completion. Deonte Thompson led the way by netting 15 yards per-catch and 570 yards total; a big spring should establish him as the team's clearcut No. 1 and a potential All-SEC candidate. But it will also be worth watching Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, top-drawer athletes who moonlighted as Wildcat quarterbacks a year ago and have been shifted into starting roles as a tight end and slot receiver, respectively. If Thompson's ready to take the next step and Weis can find the best way to put Reed and Burton to use, the Gators could come out of spring with plenty of optimism regarding their receiving corps.

With so many questions, it seems unlikely Florida will find the right answers to all of them. But with so many potential answers at virtually any position you choose, whatever Weis and Muschamp cook up, it promises to be fascinating viewing ... and at the least, a good bit more effective than the not-even-close-to-fascinating viewing the Gators offered last season.


Posted on: February 28, 2011 10:58 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Mississippi State

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Mississippi State , who opens its practice this Friday, March 4.

Your spring practice question: the Bulldogs are going to have something of a new-look defense. So how does it look?

For most college football fans, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the two-year Dan Mullen era in Starkville (well, if they don't think about how close Mullen came to landing Cam Newton) is the team's bruising, tricky spread-option rushing attack. Behind poor man's Tim Tebow Chris Relf at quarterback, a beefy and well-coached offensive line, and an assortment of physical running backs, the Bulldogs finished ninth in the nation in rushing in Mullen's first season and followed that up with a 16th-place finish in 2010. With the Bulldogs going over the 200-yard mark in eight of their last nine games and returning their top nine rushers -- most notably Relf and senior tailback Vick Ballard, whose late-season surge took him all the way to 20 rushing touchdowns, tying the aforementioned Mr. Newton for most in the SEC -- there won't be any reason not to expect the Bulldogs to boast one of the nation's best running games once again in 2011. And with Relf continuing to improve his touch and the Bulldog receiving corps returning virtually intact, the inconsistent passing game could offer enough balance to make State one of the most feared attacks in the SEC, if not the nation.

But for all of that, the not-so-dirty-secret of the Bulldogs' surprising run to their 9-4 2010 record was their defense. As directed by super-aggressive first-year coordinator Manny Diaz, the Bulldogs held potent attacks from Georgia to 12 points, Florida to 7, Michigan to 17, even Auburn to a season-low 17 ... all but the latter resulting in Bulldog wins. Leading the way was linebacker Chris White, who broke out of anonymity with 110 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss, and six sacks--good enough to lead the team in all three categories. Wright was joined in the linebacking unit by fellow veterans K.J Wright and Emmanuel Gatling (142 combined tackles), with the defensive line anchored by dynamic end Pernell McPhee and his 10 tackles-for-loss. McPhee and White each landed on an All-SEC first-team (McPhee the coaches', White the AP's), the only two Bulldog defenders to earn all-league honors.

The biggest problem of the Bulldogs' spring? All of the names in the previous paragraph have moved on. White, Wright, Gatling, and McPhee were all seniors; Diaz left Starkville after just the one season, agreeing to a hefty raise to replace Will Muschamp as Texas's new defensive coordinator. State will go into 2011 with an entirely new starting linebacking corps, a big question mark at one defensive end spot, a secondary that limped to a 91st-place finish in pass defense a year ago, and in promoted former defensive line coach Chris Wilson, a first-time defensive coordinator trying to fill those holes.

That seems like a lot of potential problems, but the good news for Bulldog fans is that State does boast several potential answers. Wilson did serve as co- coordinator last season and after several quality years of position coaching two excellent coordinators in Oklahoma's Brent Venables and Diaz, should be as ready as he's going to get. If McPhee's absence might create problems on the ends, the Bulldogs should be rock-solid in the middle of the defensive line with their pair of impressive junior tackles, Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox. And if the secondary was a sore spot a year ago, there's still room for optimism with all four starters returning, including freshman All-SEC safety Nickoe Whitley.

The linebackers look like a potential dilemma no matter how you slice it. But if Wilson can cobble together a unit that shows some kind of promise this spring -- and the defensive backs continue to develop, and Boyd and Cox are as good as advertised, and Wilson appears to be well in command -- it's going to be tough keeping a lid on the Bulldogs' preseason hype. Opposite Relf and the Bulldog steamroller on the other side of the ball, the only thing standing between State and a potential emergence as the biggest threat in the SEC West to Alabama and LSU is a competent defense; if that defense looks likely this spring, the ceiling will be higher than it's been in Starkville in ages.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 1:13 pm
 

Kansas recruit is greatest QB ever, just ask him

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Earlier this week Turner Gill and the Kansas football team got some good news as quarterback recruit Brock Berglund committed to the school.  Berglund, from Colorado's Valor Christian, is considered a three-star prospect by Rivals, and is considered the 13th best quarterback prospect in the country.  Though if there are 12 quarterbacks in the 2011 class better than Berglund, they must be insanely freaking awesome.

The Lawrence Journal-World caught up with Berglund this week, and when he was asked to describe himself as a quarterback, the kid set the bar rather high.

“I would say Tim Tebow, Michael Vick and Peyton Manning kind of all put together,” Berglund said. “I’m not comparing myself to those guys or anything like that, but if I had to say what my skill-set was like, I would say those three guys.”

I don't know about you, but if I were a college football coach, I'd take just one of those three quarterbacks.  A hybrid of all three?  I think it's time for a contract extension!  Now, obviously, it wouldn't be fair to take Berglund's description at his word.  He is just a high school kid, after all.  So I decided to do some research, and it turns out he has the skills to back up the bravado.

I unearthed some exclusive footage of Berglund's high school games.  Here's some of what I found.

On this play, following a kickoff, Berglund lined up at running back.

 

As if that run wasn't amazing enough, let's remember that Brock can throw the ball too.  Here he is just messing around during practice.



And he was doing it left-handed!  Kansas is never going to lose again!
Posted on: December 14, 2010 11:48 am
Edited on: December 14, 2010 12:51 pm
 

Applewhite not joining Gator staff

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The time between the announcement that Will Muschamp had become the new Florida head coach and the rumor that he'd be bringing fellow Texas staff member and former Alabama offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along as his offensive coordinator was so small you'd have to measure it in nanoseconds.

But like so many other assumptions made during the coaching carousel's silly season, it turns out a gun was being jumped , as the Gainesville Sun is reporting that Applewhite has either decided to turn Muschamp down -- with the departure of Greg Davis at Texas, he could be in line for a promotion in Austin -- or Muschamp has decided to go in a different direction. Either way, Applewhite won't be coming to Gainesville.

If that's despite overtures from Muschamp, the Gators might be receiving a blessing the disguise. Though Florida has enough raw offensive talent that virtually anyone who isn't Steve Addazio could turn them into a functional attack, Gator fans spoiled by the Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow years likely won't settle for "functional," and unless Muschamp's defense is truly terrifying, "functional" won't win the championships the Gators have become accustomed to, either. Applewhite already has a long and promising career as a position coach, but his turn at the Tide's wheel was anything but revelatory, as Alabama limped in at 75th in total offense that season and (by most accounts out of Tuscaloosa) was only saved from demotion by his move to a lower-rung position in Austin.

Though Applewhite may have learned enough from his one season as a play-caller and his last couple of years under Mack Brown to succeed in his next attempt in the coordinator's chair, there's no question he'd be something of an unknown quantity. This being Florida, the Gators likely don't have to settle for an unknown quantity. Though Dana Holgorsen may be looking elsewhere and Auburn has probably wrapped up Gus Malzahn for at least this offseason, Muschamp should just about have his pick of the rest of the nation's OC's. Applewhite may, in fact, be a good choice ... but from here, it still seems the Gators can do better.


Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:03 am
 

VIDEO: Rick Ross endorses Mark Dell for the NFL

Posted by Adam Jacobi

There cannot possibly be anything we can say to prepare you for this video, so here it is: rapper Rick Ross, feverishly praising senior Michigan State wide receiver Mark Dell for almost two minutes straight.

Yes, Ross did seriously compare Dell to Tim Tebow at one point, saying this about the two players:

"Every so often, we see certain players that really bring that energy, that light back to you. And you know, in recent years, Tim Tebow did that. And I think Mart at this wide receiver position can give you that same excitement as a receiver, you know what I mean?"

Now, the video was posted exclusively to Mark Dell's personal website (WARNING: some audio of him in interview sessions is on auto-play when you go to the site, and I couldn't find where to turn it off), so it certainly gives the impression that ol' Ricky Rozay here is doing a favor for a friend and little more; it's not as if this is actually going to boost Dell's modest draft stock at all. But let's back up -- are Rick Ross and Mark Dell actually buddies? If so, how random is that? Ross is based out of Miami, and while many college football players come out of southern Florida, um, Dell's not one of them; he's from Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit. So how ... why ... I don't get it.

Also, for the record, Mark Dell is currently rated 31st among wide receivers in CBS Sports' NFL draft rankings. He's projected to go either in the 7th round or as a free agent (though, for what it's worth, once you get past the first two or three rounds, projected draft position is little more than a crapshoot). And Rick Ross is hyping the guy like this? Tell you what: if Mark Dell makes an All-Pro team during his NFL career, we will -- without a hint of irony or reservation -- start referring to Ross as an NFL Draft Expert. All caps. "NFL Draft Expert Rick Ross released a new album today, and warned franchises not to overpay for veteran free agents with a history of knee problems," etc., etc. So for that reason, we are now pulling for Dell to succeed in the NFL. Wouldn't it be exciting to live in a world where Rick Ross is an authority on college football?

[Terrorist fist jab: The Only Colors ]
Posted on: December 8, 2010 6:19 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 6:23 pm
 

McGloin to start against Gators in Outback Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Outback Bowl became a lot more interesting on Wednesday with the news that Urban Meyer would step down as Florda's head coach following the game.  The true irony, of course, is that the opposing coach is Penn State's Joe Paterno, who still has not retired at the age of 83 [note: Paterno will turn 84 on December 21].  But while everyone spends the foreseeable future discussing the future of the Florida football program, the Nittany Lions will prepare to face the Gators of the present.

Step one in that preparation was naming a starting quarterback.  After the signal calling duties were split throughout the season between Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, but Paterno has named McGloin the starter for the team's bowl game on New Years Day.

“I think that Matt is the quarterback,” Paterno said in a bowl teleconference earlier this week. “Now the other kid (Bolden) has a lot of ability, but he is a true freshman in the truest sense of the word – he wasn’t even here for spring practice. He came in and unfortunately we had to start him a few games early until the other kid (McGloin) started to show some promise."

So talk all you want about Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen, Winston Churchill, or the Ghost of Tim Tebow, but the Outback Bowl will still be about the 2010 Gators against the 2010 Nittany Lions.  If anything, Penn State has gained a competitive advantage from the new off-field distractions out of Gainesville.  For a team that struggled in the big games this year, the Nittany Lions will take every advantage they can get.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com