Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:
ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)
But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.
The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.
ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.
The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.
AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.
The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)
Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.
LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.
Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?
In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.
Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.
We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Bobby Petrino, Broderick Green, Cam Newton, Clint Moseley, Corey Lemonier, Cotton Bowl, Courtney Upshaw, D.J. Fluker, D.J. Shackelford, Dan Mullen, DeAngelo Benton, Dee Ford, Dont'a Hightower, Dylan Favre, Ferlando Bohanna, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, Ivan Nicholas, Jarius Wright, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Jefferson, Julio Jones, Kentucky, Knile Davis, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Michael Dyer, Mike Pelton, Mississippi State, Nathan Stanley, Nick Fairley, Nick Saban, Nick Saban state, Nosa Eguae, Ole Miss, Onterio McCalebb, Patrick Peterson, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Spencer Ware, spring practice, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, What I Learned, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: April 14, 2011 2:21 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Just one year ago, Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Nathan Stanley had springboarded from a relief appearance in the Cotton Bowl into the Rebels' starting signal-calling job. With potentially three years' worth of every-down snaps ahead of him, all surrounded by Houston Nutt's usual array of skill position talent, Stanley's future in Oxford couldn't have looked much brighter.
Fast forward a year, and Stanley won't even finish spring camp on the Rebels' roster, having told Nutt he intends to transfer after slipping all the way to (per the Clarion-Ledger) No. 4 on the Ole Miss depth chart. Nutt's public statement:
“After meeting tonight, Nathan has decided to leave the program. We wish him the best and are going to help him find a new school. I appreciate all he has done for Ole Miss and the type of student-athlete he has been.”How did Stanley go from heir apparent to afterthought so quickly? It started with the ballyohooed arrival last summer of Jeremiah Masoli --a move on the Rebel staff's part few could argue with given Masoli's talent, but no doubt one that also told Stanley the staff wasn't entirely comfortable with him as the unquestioned starter. Sure enough, Stanley received only one start -- the season-opening disaster against Jacksonville State which Masoli finished -- before watching the final 11 games from the sidelines. The Rebels then welcomed two more transfers (JUCO Zack Stoudt and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti) this spring and watched 2010 JUCO redshirt Randall Mackey take spring camp by storm.
Though Stanley publicly welcomed Masoli and the benefits of last fall's competition, at this stage it's worth wondering if his confidence (or motivation under the staff who'd worked to replace him) ever recovered; by all accounts Stanley made no impact whatsoever this spring and had seen his repetitions reduced significantly over the course of the past few weeks. A transfer at this stage was all but inevitable, and seems from this perspective like the best thing for Stanley.
As for Ole Miss, the program and Stanley going their separate ways is probably best on the Rebels' end too. But Brunetti will need an NCAA waiver to avoid sitting out his transfer year this coming season; if that waiver is denied, Mackey and Stoudt become the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Without Brunetti, it's dangerous living for Nutt. But of course, that's also the only way Nutt knows how to live.
Posted on: April 5, 2011 9:05 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 9:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Oh the things we've learned about the Fiesta Bowl and its former CEO John Junker in recent weeks. I mean, how the hell do you spend $33,000 on a birthday party and only $1,200 during a trip to a strip club? What kind of sense does that make? Of course, while I'd like an answer to those questions, there are other questions the NCAA would like answered about the Fiesta Bowl's hedonistic habits, and it'll have its chance to find out on April 28th.
That's when the NCAA subcommitee in charge of licensing bowl games will be meeting with Fiesta Bowl officials in New Orleans, and the meeting could result in some strong consequences for the bowl game.
Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president of baseball and football, told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday that the Fiesta Bowl had been invited to meet with the 11-member group.
He told the newspaper the Fiesta could potentially have its four-year license revoked, though in the past licenses had only been revoked because of financial or attendance problems.
The meeting is in response to a report commissioned by the Arizona-based game that led to the firing of its longtime president for alleged misuse of funds.The Fiesta Bowl also released a statement in response to the meeting.
"We look forward to meeting with the NCAA to answer any questions about the Special Committee report, and to discuss the new bylaws, policies and controls that the board of directors has put in place to prevent the activities described in the report from occurring again."
I'm not sure why the Fiesta Bowl would be looking forward to this meeting seeing what the consequences could be, but what has the Fiesta Bowl done lately to prove to any of us it knows what it's doing? Though, admittedly, I don't think there's any chance that the Fiesta Bowl will have it's license revoked. Odds are that if there is any real punishment, it would end up being something like a one-year probation, which would mean a season without the Fiesta Bowl.
According to NCAA bylaw 220.127.116.11: "The Football Issues Committee shall prepare licensing documents that require the management of each postseason bowl game to enter into a contractual agreement through the NCAA licensing program. This agreement stipulates that the bowl management agrees to comply with the NCAA's principles for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics, as set forth in Constitution 2 and relevant bylaws and interpretations, and with the restrictions on game negotiations in Bylaw 18.7 in consideration for receiving licensing of its postseason bowl game."
The NCAA could also decide to let the game be played and take 50% of the gate (pages 16-17 here). If the NCAA did decide to put the game on probation, then it would also be possible that the BCS would go ahead and replace the Fiesta Bowl with the Cotton Bowl, as some have speculated.
Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:47 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We noted in our LSU Spring Practice Primer that more than a few Tiger fans were hoping for big things, big immediate things, from JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee's results the previous three seasons ranging from "decent" to (most often) "mediocre" to "flat embarrassing," you could hardly blame them for crossing their fingers that Mettenberger's blue-chip arm and practice battles with Aaron Murray at Georgia would give their Tigers the consistent passing attack they've craved ever since the departure of Matt Flynn.
As it stands today, though, those fans aren't going to get their wish. In fact, unless Mettenberger finishes spring with a huge flourish, their wish is going to enter fall camp still stuck at third-string, according to Les Miles:
While Jefferson seems to be the clear-cut starter, Miles said senior-to-be Jarrett Lee has the edge on junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot.So for the fans in question, that's the bad news. And that the ever-wobbly Lee remains one injury away from full-time duty again is probably the worse news.
But there's good news, too, namely that Jefferson has been impressive enough to end the supposed quarterback battle even before it really began. Miles said the senior was making "much better decisions" and threw four touchdown passes in Saturday's scrimmage. If that's the case, it's possible Jefferson's MVP performance in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Texas A&M was a turning point rather than a one-off blip.
And if that's the case, the Bayou Bengals could very well make good on the championship expectations that have been percolating ever since the 2010 season ended. Even if Mettenberger's initial season in Baton Rouge proves to be more hype than substance, assuming Jefferson's continuing offseason momentum pays dividends on the field, LSU's quarterbacking glass is still more full than empty.
Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:08 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
In the wake of the Fiesta Bowl's investigative report released today -- and its immediate firing of CEO John Junker thereafter -- there's bound to be mountains of scrutiny on the Fiesta Bowl going forward. Today, BCS chairman Bill Hancock announced that the BCS would consider stripping the Fiesta Bowl of its BCS status.
"The BCS group takes this matter very seriously and will consider whether they keep a BCS bowl game, and we will consider other appropriate sanctions," Hancock told the Arizona Republic. "If the bowl does remain a BCS bowl its handling of thing [sic] will be closely monitored going forward."
There's no timetable for these sanctions, nor any indication that the BCS is actively pursuing that level of punishment as yet, but the fact that it's even on the table should be terrifying for Fiesta Bowl officials. This isn't an idle threat, either; George Schroeder of the Register-Guard is reporting that the BCS will establish a task force and is asking the Fiesta Bowl to demonstrate why it should remain a BCS bowl .
The obvious beneficiary of this uncertainty is the Cotton Bowl, which is currently located in Jerry Jones ' otherworldly Cowboys Stadium and has been looking to re-establish its former glory. A BCS bid would be enough to make that happen. The only major barrier to that bid, if the Fiesta Bowl does indeed have its bid stripped, is television; the Cotton Bowl is currently televised by Fox, while the BCS has a contract with ESPN . That can likely be negotiated away, though.
There's also the issue of what would happen to the Cotton Bowl Classic in its current state -- as in the January 7 game pitting the Big 12 No. 2 and the SEC's No. 3, No. 4 or or No. 5 against each other -- but that's about 12 steps down the line, and we're still waiting for step two.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:08 am
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 . Here's a look at LSU, who begins spring practice today.
Spring Practice Question: Can anyone be the quarterback LSU needs to win a championship?
As soon as the dust settled on LSU's comprehensive demolition of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the stakes for 2011 were set for Les Miles and Co.: it's some form of championship or bust.
The Bayou Bengals have been playing second fiddle and even third fiddle for three straight seasons, not only missing out on those three SEC West titles but missing by a combined ten games. Not only has LSU not gone to Atlanta since their magical run of 2007, they haven't even come close, as their divisional rivals at Alabama and Auburn have barreled their way to national titles. There's a reason (other than his clock management) Miles has somehow ended up in the annual "hot seat" chatter even as he's won 78 percent of his games at LSU.
There's a lot of reasons to think that changes this year. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has taken the Tigers to finishes of 26th and 12th in the nation in total defense his two seasons in Baton Rouge; even without Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis and the like, fearsome young defenders like end Sam Montgomery and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu should have his unit among the nation's best again. Jumbo senior guards Will Blackwell and Josh Dworaczyk should pave the way for a powerful running game, particularly if rising sophomore running back Spencer Ware can prove his explosive Cotton Bowl performance (102 yards on 10 carries) wasn't a fluke. With former five-star recruits Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard coming into their own as juniors, receiving talent is no problem.
So there's just one question: what's going to happen at quarterback?
OK, two questions, the first being who is going to be the quarterback; expect the overwhelming majority of headlines coming out of the Tigers' spring camp to breathlessly detail the three-way battle between incumbent Jordan Jefferson, his longtime competitor Jarrett Lee, and JUCO-by-way-Georgia- dismissal transfer Zach Mettenberger. It's Mettenberger who represents maybe the most intriguing option , coming in with NFL-quality size (6'5", 247 pounds), a 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio at Butler County (Kan.) Community College, and the endorsement that comes with having battled Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for the Bulldogs' backup quarterback job in 2009. Given the way Lee flailed his way through his 16-interception 2008 season and the roller coaster ride Jefferson's career has followed the past two seasons, you'll forgive LSU fans for hoping Mettenberger wins the job.
But what's more important than who emerges from the scrum is how that player -- or players -- performs. If spring practice shows that the Tigers have three quality options available at quarterback -- and given all three's combination of experience and talent, and the fresh start offered by the arrival of Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator, that's a distinct possibility -- then the team will be poised to potentially make good on what may be preseason SEC title projections. Jefferson, Mettenberger, or Lee, what's critical for LSU is that someone comes out of spring practice having cemented himself as an above-average SEC quarterback.
Of course, the possibility also exists that all three will show themselves to be lacking. Jefferson also had an outstanding Cotton Bowl but over the course of his two seasons has been entirely less than reliable; Lee has been Jefferson's backup for those two seasons; and for all his salivating potential, Mettenberger has yet to take a snap at the SEC level. If that's the case, well, we've seen already these past three seasons what happens when LSU has everything but a quarterback.
And it's a lot closer to bust than championship.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Auburn, Butler County Community College, Cotton Bowl, Drake Nevis, Georgia, Jarrett Lee, John Chavis, Jordan Jefferson, Josh Dworaczyk, Les Miles, LSU, LSU, Patrick Peterson, Rueben Randle, Russell Shepard, Sam Montgomery, SEC, Spencer Ware, Spring practice, Spring Practice Primer, Steve Kragthorpe, Texas A&M, Tyrann Mathieu, Will Blackwell, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: March 4, 2011 11:08 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
In college football, more than any other sport, the stadiums can be just as memorable as the games played within them. So as CBS Sports takes a look at the best stadiums that college football has to offer, the bloggers here at Eye On College Football share their three favorite stadiums in the country.
1. The Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX, capacity 92,100) When the fried beer, fried corndogs and fried oreos outside the stadium are just as good as the football inside the stadium, you know you've arrived at pretty special place.
Best known to most fans for hosting the annual Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma every fall, the Cotton Bowl has a rich and illustrious history with several teams. SMU's home for decades, it was Doak Walker who first brought tens of thousands of cheering fans down to Fair Park before the famous Dallas Cowboys started to call the place home. The Red River Rivalry - still called the shootout and not rivalry by most Texas and Oklahoma fans - is what makes the stadium special despite being one of the oldest in the country. Seeing the fans split right down the middle at the 50 yard line is a sight to behold, as is hearing the dueling 'Texas Fight' and 'Boomer Sooner' cheers. With the Texas State Fair going on outside, walking by the white facade with the 'Cotton Bowl' lettering gives every college football fan a few chills.
2. Kyle Field (College Station, TX, capacity 83,000) The state of Texas likes football. Go to a game at Kyle Field and you can see just how much Texas A&M really likes football.
A three deck, horseshoe design with the completion of "The Zone" over a decade ago, Kyle Field can pack over 10,000 more people in than the stated capacity. Dwarfing everything around it on campus, Kyle Field and the Aggie faithful form one of the loudest and most imposing venues in the country. Tradition states that fans will stand the entire game so they can be ready to join the team if called upon by the coach and as a result, the 12th Man is one of the most fervent and loudest group of fans in the country. There's no break at halftime either as the famous Fightin' Texas Aggie Band puts on one of the best halftime performances in the country.
3. Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, NE capacity 81.067) There's the Red Sea and there's Nebraska's sea of red on a game day in Lincoln. Both are imposing when you see them for the first time but only one will scream at the top of their lungs while being as nice as possible to you once the play is over.
The fans that make Memorial Stadium the third-largest city in Nebraska on game day are what makes going to Lincoln special. An NCAA record streak of 311 straight sellouts (since 1962) is still ongoing and should continue well into the future based on the passion the Big Red have for their Cornhuskers. Walking up to the imposing concrete structure and looking up, past the windows, to see the 'Memorial Stadium' lettering flanked by two giant red Nebraska logos is a special sight to see. Getting there early is a must because the stadium is often full well before pre-game introductions get the crowd's juices flowing. No matter what, win or lose, the fans are some of the classiest in college football so you can come for a game at a great stadium and often feel right at home as you're walking out.
Posted on: February 11, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2011 5:47 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Each year, preseason magazine guru Phil Steele releases what he expects to be the preseason AP top 10 come August. And so even though it's mid-February (or rather, because it's mid-February, and what else is a college football diehard going to talk about?), it's already time for the 2011 version, now available here .
The headline? Steele expects Oklahoma to open next season at No. 1 after the Sooners thumped UConn in the Fiesta Bowl and saw Ryan Broyles elect to return for his senior season. He writes (in his usual unique fashion):
This year OU will be ranked #1 in the pre-season by nearly everyone as they return 15 starters on off/def including QB [Landry] Jones, WR Broyles and LB [Travis] Lewis. Their schedule sets up nicely with a bye before their road trip to Florida State (a team they dominated [last year] 47-17). In Big 12 play naturally there is the Red River Rivalry game vs Texas who is coming off a 5-7 season and the only other huge hurdle could be the season finale at Oklahoma State but the Sooners have won the Bedlam rivalry 8 straight times and have an overall mark of 82-16-7 vs their in-state rivals. With their key returning starters back and a favorable schedule, the Sooners should get the nod as the Preseason AP #1 team!Following the Sooners are No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 Florida State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, and No. 10 South Carolina.
If Steele is accurate (and he predicted nine of 10 each of the past two seasons), that will be as about an outsider-dominated preseason top 10 as you could imagine, a fitting follow to a season that saw the lowest-ranked preseason team ever (Auburn) make the BCS title game. Sure, there's the Sooners, Tide, and LSU, but it's only been recently that teams like the Ducks and Broncos have become top-10 institutions, it's been years since Florida State or Texas A&M enjoyed that much hype, and it's more-or-less uncharted territory for the Cowboys, Cardinal, and Gamecocks.
Unfortunately, for the Cowboys, Cardinal, and Gamecocks, those kinds of expectations don't always pan out; just ask the Cowboys from two years ago, when the most heavily-hyped team in school history went a ho-hum 9-4, lost 27-0 to the Sooners, and fell to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. For their sakes, the fans at those three schools (not to mention A&M, which, seriously, hasn't seen these kind of expectations in a while ) had maybe better hope Steele's got this one wrong.