Tag:Bobby Petrino
Posted on: August 4, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Whatever you think about preseason polls -- such as the USA Today Coaches version, released earlier today -- the one thing you cannot argue is that they don't matter. For Oklahoma and Alabama, the news became official today that if they win all their games this 2011 season, they will be in the BCS national championship game--no ifs, ands, or buts. And though they'll start the season No. 4, the same can now be said of LSU, since they'll face two of the three teams ranked ahead of them.

So with that fact about their importance in mind, it's time to break down where each of the SEC's 12 teams landed in (or outside of) the first Coaches Poll of the year, and decide whether the pollsters placed them too high, or too low, or just right:

ALABAMA (No. 2): So much for defense winning championships, apparently. The Tide allowed a full half-yard less per-play than the Sooners did in 2011 (ranking seventh in the FBS to Oklahoma's 33rd) and return 10 defensive starters, while Oklahoma has said good-bye to All-American safety Quinton Carter and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Beal. There's also the little matter of Nick Saban's recent defensive pedigree over the much, much iffier Sooners'.

Given that Saban is still deciding between two inexperienced quarterbacks while the Sooners return Heisman candidate Landry Jones, we can understand the coaches' thinking here. But we don't agree with it.

Verdict? Even at No. 2, too low.

LSU (No. 4): It's not often you see the nation's 86th-ranked offense rewarded with the No. 4 ranking the following season, but such is the buzz surrounding the Tigers after their bludgeoning of Texas A&M in last year's Cotton Bowl.

But until Jordan Jefferson proves he's as improved as he appeared to be that night in Dallas and the new (and, unfortunately, newly reshuffled) offensive staff prove they're genuinely capable of putting all the Bayou Bengals' weapons to use, we're still foreseeing a lot of tight, competitive, coin-flip-style ball games. And as excellent as Les Miles is in those kinds of contests, that's still not the recipe for the one-loss season required to finish in the final top-five.

Verdict? Top 10 makes sense, but top 5 is too high.

SOUTH CAROLINA  (No. 12): There's no question that with Stephen Garcia back in the fold, the Gamecocks have the talent to live up to this lofty billing. And the schedule, while difficult, isn't that difficult; no LSU or Alabama means trips to Georgia and Arkansas are the trickiest dates on the slate. If Carolina can survive the week 2 trip to Athens, a 10- or even 11-win season beckons.

Of course, the Gamecocks have also been the kind of program that traditionally loses trap games like their roadies at Mississippi State or Tennessee, so it's also possible they drop three or four regular-season games and wind up nowhere near No. 12. Splitting the difference seems reasonable.

Verdict? About right.

ARKANSAS (No. 14): We'll make this simple: a talented, veteran defense opposite a Bobby Petrino offense featuring his long sought-after plowhorse running back and the nation's best wide receiving corps? They're going to be really, really good. 10-2 good, second straight BCS bowl berth good, we're thinking.

Verdict? Too low.

AUBURN (No. 19): As we mentioned earlier today, the old adage that you shouldn't drop the previous No. 1 until they lose might suggest the Tigers have been slapped in the face being as low as No. 19. And indeed, no defending national champion has been ranked this low to start the season since Minnesota went unranked in the 1961 preseason top 20.

But almost none of those defending national champions have faced either the kind of talent exodus the Tigers do or the savage slate that sees Auburn face all seven of the other SEC teams in the poll. If Gene Chizik can win the nine games that are likely necessary to finish the season in the top 20, he'll have done nearly as good a job as he did in 2010.

Verdict? It's a nice gesture towards the defending champs. But performance-wise? Too high.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (No. 20): Dan Mullen's Bulldogs will be good enough (and will have enough opportunity, with home dates against Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina) to impact the SEC race and make the top 25. They don't seem to have enough horses (particularly in a graduation-damaged front seven) to actually challenge for a title in a division as completely stacked as the West. 20 is jus tabout where we'd have them, too.

Verdict? About right.

GEORGIA (No. 22): Mark Richt's Bulldogs, on the other hand, are the SEC's biggest 2011 wild card. They might start 0-2 and collapse in an under-.500, Richt-finishing heap. They might start 2-0 and ride the league's cushiest schedule all the way to an undefeated regular season. (Seriously. Look at their slate and tell me which game after the Carolina tilt they won't be favored in if they can get past the Gamecocks.)

That would suggest a cautious 22 might be about right, but we're betting Richt has turned the tide with this spring's "Dream Team" recruiting class and the focus that comes with a make-or-break season.

Verdict? Too low. We think. Maybe.

FLORIDA (No. 24): It's easy to forget that for all of the disappointment and frustration of Urban Meyer's final season in Gainesville, the Gators still won eight games--and could have even snagged a few more if not for some unfortunate bounces against teams like LSU and Mississippi State. So even though we're firmly in wait-and-see mode where the John Brantley-Charlie Weis shotgun marriage is concerned, having the SEC's second-best defense from a year ago getting the added boost of Will Muschamp's arrival seems like reason enough to take a flyer on the Gators at the bottom of the ballot.

Verdict? About right.

THE OTHER FOUR (n/a): Tennessee pulled seven voting points to land in the "Others receiving votes" category at "No. 41" overall, with none of the other three SEC teams receiving even a token vote. We're surprised the Volunteers didn't get a little more love -- after their late-season surge in 2010, there was some measure of buzz pegging them as 2011 sleepers -- but after Tyler Bray's up-and-down spring, we don't blame the pollsters for their skepticism.

Verdict? About right.


Posted on: July 20, 2011 3:28 pm
 

Bobby Petrino at SEC Media Days

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was the first SEC coach to be subjected to the throngs of reporters at the SEC Media Days on Wednesday in Birmingham, and here are a couple highlights of his session.

On why he's had so much success with quarterbacks wherever he's been - "I think when you look at our success in coaching quarterbacks, one thing I really believe in is it's our job to find out what they do well and then ask them to do that.

It's our coaches' job, my job, to find out what our quarterback does best. Let's take this nice, fancy playbook we have, set it to the side, and develop the offense around the quarterback and give him a chance to be successful. I think the other thing that helps a lot is when you get the other ten guys to play real well around him." 

On Tyler Wilson's performance in spring practice this year - "Tyler and Brandon [Mitchell] were the two guys taking reps with the ones. I really believe that those reps, they really tried to take advantage of them. I think Tyler also really understood that 'I just need to settle down, relax, and play the game the way I know how to play the game.' Not try to be Ryan Mallett. In [spring 2010 when Mallett was injured] at times he tried to do things that were out of his element and I thought this spring that was something he really understood 'Hey this is what I do well, this is what I have to work on, and I'm going to continue to do what I know how to do to move the ball.'"

On how Arkansas having so much depth at RB and WR helps the quarterback - "I think it'll really help our new QB, Tyler or Brandon, whoever it is. The fact that  I have to distribute the ball according to what the defense is doing. There's been years when you're on offense and you know who your number one receiver is, your number two receiver is and sometimes, particularly when you're inexperienced, you try to force the ball into that guy. Our quarterbacks understand that we're very talented. I have to read the defense, understand what's going on and distribute the ball. Get it to my players and let them make plays for me. I think that's something we will rely on, and it'll really help us if you can turn around and hand it to Knile [Davis] 20 to 25 times a game and get to the proper third downs. That's what really helps there."

On Knile Davis and what he means to the team - "I think the first thing you look at when you look at Knile Davis is you look at his work ethic. Here's a young man that, in the weight room, has continued to get stronger and faster. In fact, he just did a great job in the weight room this past week.

"He's a young man that, in the winter, when we had our testing days, he went in there with every group. He didn't have to, but he was in there cheering them on, spotting guys. The offensive line came in after the running backs, he stayed and spent time with the offensive lineman. So it's become extremely important for him to show how much he cares, and how much he encourages his teammates.

"As far as his ability to run the football, you can see he can run with power, speed and has very, very good vision. I'm excited to see him take a step forward and make improvements in what he did from a year ago. He understands what he needs to do to do that."

On Arkansas' defensive line and how important defensive line play is in the SEC - "I'm excited for our defense this year because I really feel like it's the first time where we're physically where we need to be on the defensive front. Our guys will be big and physical and athletic. We've got speed on the edges which matches what we see every week in the conference.

"I've always believed since I was in the conference as an assistant and then coached in another conference as a head coach that the thing that separated the SEC from everybody else in America was the defensive front. The speed and athleticism on the edges and the athleticism and size on the inside. I found out when I came back into the league as a head coach that that was true."

On playing in a division as tough as the SEC West - "It's tough, you're going against guys that are very, very good players. Tremendous coaching staffs. That's what makes it hard is everybody is going to be well-prepared, understands how you play the game and has the talent to win the game. I think it's real important for us that we're disciplined, we understand how to play on the road and how to find a way to win in the fourth quarter."

On the high expectations at Arkansas - "I'm not afraid of high expectations. I'm excited with the fact that two years in a row now we have very high expectations....It's fun to approach the year that way."

On Ryan Mallett sharing Arkansas' hand signals with Jon Gruden in an ESPN special - "Yeah, they're changed. We already changed them. I wasn't real happy with him, by the way, when I was informed that he did that. He called me up and apologized, but he gave us a few ideas for some new hand signals, so that always helps."

On whether he considers 2010 to be an 11-win season rather than a 10-win season after Ohio State had to vacate the Sugar Bowl - "It's a ten-win season, we were 10-3. We had every chance in the world to win that game but were beat on the field."
Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 5:12 pm
 

Big Ten not spending enough on assistants?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

By now, anyone who follows college football has seen enough "BREAKING: Football coaches somehow earn lots of money in billion-dollar enterprise" headlines to last us a lifetime. So at a glance, this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article -- "Assistant coaches' salaries soar in college football" -- doesn't appear to be one we haven't read plenty of times before.

But there's one highly interesting nugget from the Post-Dispatch's math that's worth paying closer attention to:
The SEC paid its assistant coaches an average of $276,122 in 2010, according to figures compiled by St. Louis attorney and agent Bob Lattinville of the firm Stinson Morrison Hecker.
The Big 12 was second at $232,685 and the Big Ten a distant fourth, behind the Atlantic Coast Conference, at $187,055. In each instance, the averages do not include salaries at private schools such as Baylor, Penn State and Vanderbilt.
It's no surprise to see the conferences of Gus Malzahn and the Manny Diaz-Bryan Harsin tag team topping the list, but ... the Big Ten? Fourth? Really?

They may not actually be a distant fourth, in fact -- Penn State probably pays better than the likes of Indiana, and Lattinville's salary-based figures don't appear to take into account Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's unusually structured $750,000 contract -- but it's baffling why the conference that distributes more money to its members than any other in the FBS should lag so badly behind anyone in coaching salaries. Some of that is Big Ten schools' insistence on spening their cash on crazy ideas like, say, men's soccer teams, but it's hard to see why the conference's highest-profile sport should be getting the short end of a stick this lucrative.

It's so hard, in fact, we won't speculate on the reasons. But we don't have any problem stating this for the record: the Big Ten's stinginess is hurting it on the football field.

Contrast the decisions from some of the SEC's and Big Ten's best assistants from 2010. Malzahn was offered the head coaching job at Vandy and had some interest (at least) from Maryland; he turned them both down when Auburn stepped up with its gigantic raise. In the end, the only SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason was Steve Addazio, who'd basically been dumped out of his Florida gig already.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was busy guiding Michigan State into the national top 20 in yards per-play, winning multiple games as MSU's interim head coach during Mark Dantonio's health-related absence, and generally being the nation's most underpaid assistant as the Spartans won 11 games. He left East Lansing to take the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio). Dave Doeren capped years of outstanding work at Wisconsin by coordinating the defense that took the Badgers back to the Rose Bowl (and nearly won it); he left to become Jerry Kill's replacement at Northern Illinois. (PSU's Tom Bradley, one of Joe Paterno's longest tenured-assistants, also did some serious angling for the Temple job that went to Addazio, you'll recall.)

It's not just retention that's a problem, either. How much better would Michigan have been under Rich Rodriguez* if they'd made Jeff Casteel a Mattison-like offer-he-couldn't-refuse to tag along from West Virginia, instead of subjecting themselves to Greg "GERG" Robinson? Would Tim Brewster still be around if he'd been able to hire one legitimately great offensive coordinator instead of subjecting Adam Weber and Co. to a revolving door of schemes? Even the newcomers aren't immune--it's yet-to-be-determined, but one has to wonder if Nebraska couldn't have done better in replacing exiled OC Shawn Watson than promoting running backs coach Tim Beck (especially considering the Huskers' head coach's expertise is on the defensive side of the ball).

As the Post-Dispatch article points out, it's not like the conference has to look very far to see the value of paying top dollar for assistants. After a miserable 2009, Ron Zook was thisclose to being fired at Illinois. So he went out and hired two top-shelf coordinators at salaries commensurate with the SEC's; in fact, one of them (Bobby Petrino brother Paul Petrino) was an SEC coordinator. Result: a job-saving 7-6 campaign and, in 2011, likely the program's first back-to-back winning seasons in 20 years.

It feels awfully awkward to tell anyone to follow Ron Zook's example. But when it comes to assistant salaries, it's high time the Big Ten at-large did exactly that.

*Rodriguez actually got the defensive coordinating hire right the first time, when he plucked away current Syracuse DC Scott Shafer from Stanford; Shafer's been a success everywhere else he's been, and his work with the Orange last year--the only team in the country to finish in the top 20 in total defense while also finishing in the bottom 20 in time-of-possession--was nothing short of remarkable. But RichRod and Shafer didn't appear to see eye-to-eye, and in came Robinson after just one season. You'll forgive Wolverine fans if they spend the rest of the afternoon banging their heads against the closest wall.


Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings show SEC stability

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When it comes to the SEC and coaching turnover, there's reputation, and there's reality.

The reputation is that with a heaping help of pressure from the nation's most rabid fanbases, the nation's most cutthroat conference hires and fires head coaches on the slightest of whims, for the most gentle of disappointments. And certainly, there have been some head-scratchers over the years, like David Cutcliffe's sudden dismissal from Ole Miss or Houston Nutt's tumultuous departure from Arkansas despite years of success.

But as illustrated by Dennis Dodd's CBS Hot Seat Ratings, since the 2008 season -- and the surprising exits of long-tenured Auburn and Tennessee head coaches Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer, as well as Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom -- the league that supposedly sees its head coaches change with the wind has in fact become a model of relative stability. Collectively, the SEC has fired just a single coach the past two seasons--Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell, himself only hired as a last-minute replacement following Bobby Johnson's retirement.

Four other coaches have left the league in that span, but all of them -- Urban Meyer at Florida, Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, Rich Brooks at Kentucky and Johnson -- did so voluntarily, and in Brooks's case the seamless transition to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips barely even qualifies as a "coaching change."

That newfound reticence to put coaches on the firing line is reflected in Dodd's ratings, which show just one current SEC coach rated above the median "on the bubble" 3. You get one guess who:

Alabama Nick Saban 0.0
Arkansas Bobby Petrino 1.0
Auburn Gene Chizik 0.0
Florida Will Muschamp 0.5
Georgia Mark Richt 3.5
LSU Les Miles 2.5
Mississippi Houston Nutt 3.0
Mississippi State Dan Mullen 0.0
South Carolina Steve Spurrier 0.0
Kentucky Joker Phillips 1.5
Tennessee Derek Dooley 3.0
Vanderbilt James Franklin 2.0

Assuming we don't have some unforeseen three-win meltdown with Nutt in Oxford, there's a very real possibility the SEC enters 2012 with the same 11 head coaches listed above. Richt is -- without question -- the SEC coach in the most trouble, but he's also a coach with an extremely favorable 2011 schedule, a wealth of talent on hand, and perhaps the most patient administration in the conference.

And if Richt's still here, who won't be? The Spurrier retirement rumors have been securely put to bed with the arrival of recruits like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. A big 2010 has Miles back on (mostly) firm footing; it'll take multiple down years (or a grass overdose) for him to earn a pink slip. Dooley has at least another couple of seasons with the benefit of the doubt (if we may quibble with Dodd's "3"). And while the aforementioned meltdown might do the trick for Nutt with the Rebels, between his track record and the back-to-back Cotton Bowls -- not something that happens on the regular in Oxford -- he almost certainly has another season of rope.

The most likely coach to keep the SEC from going 12-for-12 in the retention department isn't likely to be fired at all, in fact; it's Dan Mullen, who could be one more sterling season in Starkville away from getting the kind of megabucks, keystone program offer the Bulldogs just can't quite match.

But the guess here is that Dodd, overall, is entirely correct--if Mullen stays put and Richt can salvage eight or nine wins, there's not enough heat under the SEC seats to expect a coaching change anywhere in the league's 12 head coaching positions.


Posted on: June 1, 2011 5:44 pm
 

Coaches (and LeBron) respond to Tressel decision

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Since seemingly the entire college football world is talking about Jim Tressel's decision to step down at Ohio State amid the program's growing improper benefits scandal, it's no surprise that his contemporaries across the FBS are, too.

Perhaps most solidly in Tressel's corner is Texas's Mack Brown, who had this to say:
“He’s done a lot of great things in college football,” Brown told the [Austin] American-Statesman, “and I know he’ll be a hall-of-famer at some point.”

“Jim Tressel’s a good friend,” Brown added. “I hate it for him, and that he and Ellen (Tressel’s wife) are going through this.”
Tressel's rival at Michigan, Brady Hoke, was similarly supportive ... if not so supportive as to abandon his habit of not actually naming the school from which Tressel resigned:
“I have great respect for Jim Tressel and what he has accomplished during his coaching career. We enjoy competing in ‘The Game’ and have great respect for our rivals in Ohio. Our program looks forward to the last weekend of November.”
At the SEC spring meetings, Bobby Petrino wasn't quite as sympathetic, saying he "felt" for Tressel but also questioning why the "Buckeye Five" had been eligible for his Razorbacks' Sugar Bowl defeat to OSU. (A discussion of his demands that his players tell the truth also seemed to be a rebuke of Tressel's cover-up attempts.) Nick Saban, though, used a military metaphorto express his reaction (emphasis added):
"I guess if you were in the military, we would say we lost a fine comrade in this whole thing," Saban said Tuesday at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings. "He's a good friend. He's been somebody that I've had a tremendous amount of respect for for a very, very good number of years. We kind of grew up together in coaching. I'm from the Big Ten - Ohio and Michigan are places I've spent time in coaching, and we crossed paths quite a bit. I always had a tremendous amount of respect for Jim Tressel as a person and professionally - the way he sort of handled his business with a lot of class and character."
While we're talking about Ohio, though, we may as well mention the reaction of one of the state's most famous sons ... and most hated villains. Via our sister Eye on Basketball blog, LeBron James:
"He's done some great things for that university. It's unfortunate all the allegations and things that have come out in the past year," James said."Everyone in Columbus and Ohio knows how important, how great he was for the team and university ... "I wish him the best, and the organization. Hopefully the university will come back. It's one of the best universities we have in America."
That's a very nice thing for LeBron to say. The guess here is that he's still not allowed inside the state's borders.
Posted on: June 1, 2011 2:33 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:55 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 60-51

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

60. PHIL KNIGHT, head honcho/sugar daddy, Nike. He just might be the most passionate college football fan in the country worth $12 billion or more. Actually, Phil Knight is one of the most passionate college football fans in the country, period. The co-founder and chairman of Nike, Knight has an imprint on the sport unlike just about any other individual. In addition to Nike having contracts with all but a handful of schools, Knight has given millions of dollars to Oregon (his alma mater) and Stanford (where he went to grad school) athletics.

Knight has been ingrained as the poster boy for Oregon football the past few years, despite trying to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible. There's good reason for his status as one of the most powerful boosters in the country, though, whether it be having an athletic department official personally report news of a Duck recruiting commitment or listening in to play calls in his suite during games. His reach, through Nike, is even impacting college football fashion choices. While the Ducks have made the leap to BCS contender every year, they're also at the cutting edge of uniform design, and that's slowly filtering down to other Nike programs like Arizona State. Phil Knight might not be the most powerful person in college athletics ... but he certainly comes close. --BF

59. MICHAEL FLOYD, wide receiver, Notre Dame. At this point we don't even know if Michael Floyd will be playing football for Notre Dame this fall. After he surprised a lot of people in South Bend and decided to return for his senior season, Floyd was busted for a DUI - his third alcohol related offense since coming to Notre Dame. He could have been kicked out of school but survived the notorious ResLife board, though he's still under suspension from his head coach, Brian Kelly. Kelly has said that Floyd will either play every game for Notre Dame this season, or he won't play any, and that decision will have a huge impact on the Irish this year.

Odds are, Floyd is going to play. The fact is that he's one of the most important members of the Notre Dame offense, and his presence on the field could be the difference-maker between another 8-5 season and a possible return to the BCS for the Golden Domers. Floyd is one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the country, and may be the best red zone receiver in college football. His 28 career touchdown catches are a Notre Dame record and, if he plays, he'll likely break the school's records for yards and receptions as well. -- TF

58. MARQUEIS GRAY, quarterback/wide receiver (?), Minnesota. MarQueis Gray is something of an enigma in Minneapolis; the high school Army All-American quarterback was a recruiting coup for Tim Brewster and Minnesota back in 2008, but since then Gray has mainly spent his time at wide receiver for the Gophers, taking a backseat to the now-departed Adam Weber. Gray has lined up at quarterback a few times in his first couple years on the field, but it's usually been to execute a running play of some kind, as Gray's passing has been mostly disastrous--he's completed just 8 of 23 attempts thus far, and that includes a 5-of-6 performance against Ohio State. Take that out, and it's a surreal 3-of-17. (Only one interception in those 23 passes though, so at least when Gray misses, he misses everybody.)

Still, it's hard not to be tantalized by Gray's prospects as a quarterback. He has the size (6'4" and a strong 230) to play under center at the next level, his arm strength is legitimate, and he's plenty fast. All in all, he has such physical skills that Brewster had to get him on the field one way or another, and that's how his first two years played out at receiver. But at some point, someone with Gray's potential has to turn "on the field one way or another" into "on the field and leading his team," and if Gray can't make significant progress on that front in 2011, new head coach Jerry Kill's first season is going to be a long one. -- AJ

57. DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM, wide receiver, Hillcrest High School (Springfield, Mo.).  The nation's top high school football player according to MaxPreps analyst Tom Lemming, Dorial Green-Beckham is appropriately one of the most sought-after high school players in the country, if not the most sought-after player in the country. With his combination of speed and size, Green-Beckham has drawn comparisons to Randy Moss. Perhaps it's no surprise that one of the best photos in the MaxPreps database (at left) is of the star receiver is him making a leaping, one-handed grab.

Green-Beckham is considering schools closer to home, such as Missouri and Oklahoma, along with several SEC schools. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver does not have a timetable as to when he'll choose a school, but he is looking to make his choice known on Signing Day so this will be a process that lasts until February. Recruiting has taken a back seat for Green-Beckham at the moment, though, as his younger brother Darnell is going through treatment for leukemia. As Dorial and his entire family goes through this grueling ordeal with Darnell, it's an important reminder of life outside of the game of football. -- BF

56. CHARLIE STRONG, head coach, Louisville. When Strong finally got the tap to join the head coaching community, his peers were elated and Louisville fans were excited to see what the heralded defensive coordinator could do with the Cardinals. He was brought in to fix what Steve Kragthorpe had broken, and in one season he was able to deliver the program's first bowl win since the Bobby Petrino era. The 2010 team was loaded with veterans on defense, and anchored by Bilal Powell's 1,405 yards of downhill running.

With Powell and many starters gone from last year's squad, Strong will have to deliver a repeat performance with less tools in the shed. To make matters worse, his team was decimated by injury this spring. The plague got so bad for the Cardinals that the spring "game" was changed to a scrimmage; the only way to practice with the offensive line became sunrise sessions that worked with the class schedules of the few healthy lineman. The second-year head coach maintained a positive outlook, but was honest about the obstacles he faced with the already-inexperienced team this spring. The coaching challenge for Strong is even greater in 2011--unfortunately, after 2010's success, the expectations might be even higher. -- CP

55. E.J. MANUEL, quarterback, Florida State. The revival in Tallahassee has been one of the most prominent offseason stories in the ACC. Jimbo Fisher's first season at the helm brought an Atlantic Division title, a Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over SEC runner-up South Carolina, and their first 10-win season since 2003. Already pegged as the favorite in the ACC, and possibly a national title contender, the expectations are back at Florida State. And much of the weight of those expectations falls on the shoulders of quarterback E.J. Manuel.

Manuel is no stranger to leading the Seminoles. Frequently over the last two seasons he has stepped in for the oft-injured Christian Ponder. But the appearances near the end of 2010 (against Clemson, Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, and then the Gamecocks in the bowl game) showed a more mature and dangerous playmaker than Florida State fans had seen before. Manuel kept himself composed on the biggest stage, being called on at the last minute in both situations to step in and lead the offense. He didn't have a fantastic spring, but Fisher is confident in his starter's ability to lead this team all the way to the top. Now the pressure is on Manuel to prove him right. -- CP

54. HARVEY UPDYKE, accused tree poisoner, Dadeville, Ala. No, "Al from Dadeville" isn't about to suit up for his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide, isn't about to steal any signals from his hated Auburn Tigers, isn't about to do anything to impact events on the field. But his (alleged) destructive actions will resonate throughout the season off the field, as college football learns to confront not only its increasingly rabid fandoms, but the Internet soapboxes and radio call-in echo chambers that help turn the healthy love of a favorite team into something toxic. If 2011 proves to be the year where the sport takes a legitimate step towards hooliganism, Updyke will have been the tipping point.

And of course, that goes double in the state of Alabama. Updyke isn't in any way representative of the Tide fanbase as a whole, nor that of the Tide's rivals on the Plains; the outpouring of support from Tuscaloosa after the poisoning announcement (and -- though in a situation so much more serious the two perhaps shouldn't be mentioned in the same paragraph -- from Auburn after the tornado tragedy) is far more typical of the majority of the state's football fans. Still, the same mad passion for college football that helped make Alabama the sport's epicenter the previous two seasons also unquestionably helped spawn the likes of Updyke. As the Tide gears up for another potential title run, the specter of "Al from Dadeville" -- and the potential for harm its school spirit-gone-wrong represents -- will continue to linger over the Iron Bowl ... and all of college football. -- JH

53. TOM O'BRIEN, head coach, N.C. State. In his fourth year since arriving at N.C. State from Boston College, O'Brien was able to deliver just the Wolfpack's second season since 1994 with at least nine wins. His team even came within one victory of the ACC Championship Game berth, then made up for that disappointment with an impressive 23-7 victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. For the time being, O'Brien could do no wrong. Wolfpack fans said their goodbyes to baseball-bound star quarterback Russell Wilson, and O'Brien began focusing on repeating the success from 2010.

Then in late April, Wilson decided that he wanted to come back to college football. That's when O'Brien stood strong on his word and made one of the more unconventional (and possibly influential) coaching decisions in recent memory. He stuck by junior quarterback Mike Glennon as his starter, and Wilson was granted a release from his scholarship. With one year of eligibility remaining, Wilson could end up being the final piece to a BCS team looking to get to the next level, or he could end up the next Jeremiah Masoli--a round peg trying to quickly fit into a square hole. Glennon, meanwhile, could be the star gunslinger he was thought to be as a recruit, or maybe the three years on the sideline behind Wilson have made him rusty. There are many different endings to the Wolfpack's 2011 story, but it all started with O'Brien's decision to let Wilson walk out the door. -- CP

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52. DAN PERSA, quarterback, Northwestern. Persa had quite the eventful five seconds last November 13. He threw a game-winning touchdown to Demetrius Fields in a 21-17 win over Iowa, then came down awkwardly on his right leg and ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his season. And it was a stellar season, at that; Persa was in the top 10 nationally in passing efficiency, and at the time of his injury he was leading the Wildcats in rushing yards by a substantial margin. Northwestern would go on the finish 0-3 after Persa's injury (although that might have more to do with the 163 points they gave up in those contests than anything else).

Fortunately, Persa's rehab is on track, and he's probably going to be back under center for Northwestern come this September. Achilles injuries are tricky, though, and Persa's mobility is probably going to be affected to some extent. Doubtless, Pat Fitzgerald would like to rush his quarterback less anyway, seeing as how Persa's 2010 workload was more necessity than luxury, but that means someone in Northwestern's backfield is going to have to step up in 2011. Mike Trumpy, perhaps? They're probably hoping so in Evanston. -- AJ

51. TOMMY TUBERVILLE, head coach, Texas Tech. Not every red Raider fan was thrilled with the idea of replacing Mike Leach with Tommy Tuberville last season. It was kind of like Tech had traded in its Ferrari Enzo for a Ford Focus. There's nothing wrong with the Focus, as it'll get you where you want to go, gets nice mileage and is extremely dependable ... but it's not a Ferrari. Still, in 2010 at least, it's not as though the Texas Tech offense became a replica of Tuberville's conservative Auburn teams; the Raiders still finished seventh in the country in passing yards and 23rd nationally in points-per-game.

The problem -- as is normally the case in Lubbock -- was a defense that allowed over 30 points a contest. Tuberville got to where he is as a head coach by coaching defense, and as he enters his second season in Lubbock, we should start to see the defense improve. And if that starts to happen, fans may have to adjust to a less active scoreboard, but they may start seeing a lot more wins as well. Tuberville's track record at Texas A&M, Miami, Ole Miss and Auburn shows that Tech is going to be a better team long-term with him at the helm, a difference the Raiders should start seeing in 2011. -- TF

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71 and 70-61. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.




Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:56 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 80-71

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the 100 99 98 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

80. KIRK COUSINS, quarterback, Michigan State. Saying a team has "a lot to prove" after an 11-win season usually bodes poorly for how the season ended, and for Michigan State, that's no exception; the Spartans went 11-2, but those two losses were a 37-6 shellacking by Iowa and a 49-7 massacre in the Capital One Bowl against Alabama that didn't even seem that close. It was bad. Fortunately, MSU has the personnel to put together another strong showing in 2011.

The backfield hydra of Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will be the main focus of MSU's offense, but just like with Wisconsin's massive rushing attack last year, it's the senior quarterback at the helm that'll really keep defensive coordinators up at night. Not only that, but Cousins' arm is better than Scott Tolzien's. Significantly better. This'll be Cousins' third season starting, too, and though Mark Dantonio may not need his senior QB to average over 200 passing yards per game again, it'll be hard to keep Cousins' production down--especially when he's facing eight men in the box half the time. It's not a stretch to think Cousins could lead the Big Ten in passing efficiency in 2011--and even less of a stretch to think he could lead his men to double-digit wins once again. -- AJ

79. JOE PATERNO, head coach, Penn State. JoePa gets his own special Memorial Day weekend breakout entry; read it here.

78. BRANDON LINDSEY, defensive end, Pitt. The Pittsburgh defensive end had a stellar junior season in 2010, leading the Big East in tackles for loss (18.0) and finishing second in sacks (10.0). The Panthers have all new leadership up top, with Todd Graham in as head coach and Keith Patterson coming with him from Tulsa as defensive coordinator. Patterson is moving Pitt to a 3-4 defense that utilizes a hybrid "Panther linebacker," one often standing at the line of scrimmage.

The plan, according to Patterson and Graham, is to put Lindsey's explosiveness to use at that new "Panther" position. Graham compared Lindsey's role in 2011 to that of James Harrison--the ultimate playmaking linebacker in the city. Unfortunately, Lindsey missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. But the coaching staff is still counting on his frightening burst and ability to swarm to the ball in the backfield once fall camp opens. If Lindsey racked up 18 tackles for loss coming off the line, it would not be surprising to see the senior among the nation's leaders in his new role. -- CP

77. TRAVIS LEWIS, linebacker, Oklahoma. Travis Lewis's importance to the Oklahoma defense was already enough to warrant his inclusion on this list before the tragic recent death of fellow linebacker Austin Box. Now, not only will Lewis be looked to to lead the defense, but also help his teammates get over the loss of a teammate. He's the senior member of the Oklahoma linebacking corps, racking up an impressive 360 tackles (47.5 for loss), 6 sacks and 8 interceptions in his first three seasons.

As impressive as Lewis has been, though, he'll have to help improve one key part of Oklahoma's defense in 2011: stopping the run. The Sooners gave up 151.8 yards per-game on the ground last season, and while that number isn't terrible, it's not good for Oklahoma on the whole. Why? Because when teams are running on Oklahoma they're killing the clock, and every second that ticks away is a second that the Sooners' high-powered offense isn't on the field. As the leader of the linebacking corps, it will be up to Lewis to help stuff the run and get the Sooner offense back on the field. Whether he's able to do this or not could be the deciding factor between a Big 12 championship and a national championship in Norman. -- TF

76. "THE FLORIDA WAY," team code of conduct, Florida. So how, exactly, did one of the nation's most talented teams suffer five regular season losses in 2010, one shy of their total for the previous four years combined? As per usual with questions like these, it wasn't one factor but a perfect [deleted]storm for the Gators: poor coaching from the coaches, poor execution from the players, poor treatment from the football gods. (How many times out of 100 does LSU's accidental bounce-pass to their kicker on their game-deciding fake field goal actually wind up in the hands of the kicker?) But in retrospect, it appeared to be poor focus that cost the Gators more than anything. With Urban Meyer at the end of his coaching rope, Florida frayed in all kinds of directions: transfer rumors, sloppy fundamentals, petty arrests, Twitter embarrassments. The effort on gameday was there; the discipline needed for it to produce Meyer's usual results was not.

Enter Will Muschamp and the "Florida Way," his name for the team's new all-encompassing code of conduct. With most coaches and most teams, we'd call this sort of thing a P.R. sop for the coaching honeymoon, and move on to on-field matters. But when it comes to the Gators, 2010 proved this is an on-field matter. Before Charlie Weis's schemes can take root, before Muschamp can create his usual teeth-rattling D, the Gators have to rebuild the foundation of focus and discipline forged in the Tim Tebow days. If they do, though -- if the still supremely-talented Gators can follow through on the "Florida Way" -- expect them to follow it right back up the SEC East standings. -- JH

75. PRESEASON TOP 25'S, polls, mid-August.  To some extent, the polls will always be the most influential component of all college football--they're what ultimately awards that national championship everybody's after, after all. (Or do through the BCS middleman, anyway.) But it's also true that the polls, for the most part, respond to the events on the field rather than vice versa.

But there's one set of ballots that not only wind up shaping the narrative of the entire season, but can and do influence results between the lines. Those are the preseason top 25's, easily the most influential polls of the season. Not do only do they establish a blueprint that forms the basis for every ballot that comes afterwards, but seemingly every year they build a wave of hype and expectation that drowns some team's championship season before it even begins. Ask Ole Miss in 2009 (the most recent, striking example) about the latter phenomenon. Ask Auburn in 2004 -- and their inability to overturn the two teams entrenched at the the top of the polls since preseason -- about the former. In college football, polls matter; the preseason variety matter even more than most. -- JH

74. JEFF GODFREY, quarterback, UCF. How do these stats sound for a starting freshman quarterback? 168-294, 2,071 passing yards, 12 TDs, 122.9 passing efficiency, 17 rushing yards, and 5 rushing TDs. Pretty solid production overall for a freshman, no? Probably one of the best freshman seasons in UCF history, right? Yes, it was one of the best: that was Daunte Culpepper's freshman year at UCF. Godfrey's, meanwhile, was better across the board.

Here's what Godfrey put up: 159-238, 2,159 passing yards, 15 TDs, 154.3 passing efficiency, 566 rushing yards, and 10 rushing TDs. Godfrey's throwing motion needs work, but the arm strength is there; he's surprisingly adept at the deep ball. Then there's the rushing. Godfrey doesn't have Denard Robinson's level of speed, but he's still darn fast--fast enough to be a nightmare for opposing secondaries when he's scrambling. Put it all together, and Godfrey -- as a true freshman -- was a more efficient passer than super-sophs Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Robinson, Darron Thomas and even Godfrey's closest prototype: Robert Griffin III. Godfrey is already one of the brightest stars in Conference USA, and we have a feeling he's nowhere near done collecting accolades. -- AJ

73. KYLE WHITTINGHAM, head coach, Utah. One of two coaches to join the Pac-12 this year, Whittingham has been around the block before. He's got a BCS bowl win and undefeated season on his resume already, making him one of the most accomplished coaches in his new league from the get-go. His first task is trying to avoid the terrible stretch run the Utes had last season (losing three of their last five) and get them back to where they were earlier in the season.

The seventh-year head coach has plenty of weapons at his proposal and has brought in one of the school's most well known alums, Norm Chow, as offense coordinator to give the Utes a boost. Whittingham should be able to lean on Chow, who comes over from UCLA has has years of experience in the Utes' new conference. Whittingham is known more for his defensive instincts and he'll have to get the pass defense up to speed before jumping into league play and facing the Pac-12's the plethora of good quarterbacks. The schedule is manageable but most of the tough games are on the road. Welcome to the league, Kyle. -- BF

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72. GARRETT GILBERT, quarterback, Texas. It wouldn't be fair to pin the entirety of Texas' 5-7 season in 2010 on Garrett Gilbert, but it wouldn't be honest to say the young quarterback didn't have a substantial role in it either. It was never goign to be easy to just walk onto the field and fill the formidable shoes of Colt McCoy ... and Gilbert proved it. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, but he also completed quite a few to the wrong team, throwing 17 interceptions to only 10 touchdowns.

Obviously, if Texas is going to rebound in 2011 and get back to playing for a Big 12 title, then Gilbert is going to have to perform a lot better. Odds are he will. He has a year of experience under his belt now, and has a new offensive coordinator in Bryan Harsin, a coordinator that had quite a bit of success with quarterbacks at Boise State. If Gilbert can improve his grasp of the offense, be more efficient with his throws, and -- most importantly -- turn the ball over less, life should be a lot happier in Austin this fall. If not? Well, then heads are going to roll. -- TF

71. JAKE BEQUETTE, defensive end, Arkansas. Is it possible the fate of the SEC West -- a division featuring two consensus top-five teams -- could rest in the hands of a second-team all-conference end few fans outside the SEC (and even a good number in it) have ever heard of? It might not be likely; Alabama and LSU have the hype they have for a reason. But it's certainly possible, ironically enough because of the Razorbacks' offense.

Trust us: Ryan Mallett or no Ryan Mallett, no attack with arguably the nation's best receiving corps receiving, Knile Davis running, a veteran line blocking and (most of all) Bobby Petrino coaching will be less than outstanding. All the Hogs need to make a serious run at Atlanta is the top-drawer SEC defense they've lacked the last couple of seasons ... and Bequette, their most explosive pass rusher, is the key. The Hogs have loads of experience in the secondary and two rock-solid linebackers in Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin. If Bequette can more consistently generate the devastating bull rush he showed in flashes in 2010, the Hogs will have a defense that can look their SEC West rivals in the eye--and, when paired with that offense, take them right back into the BCS bowl hunt. -- JH

The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB Tuesday after the holiday. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91 and 90-81, and follow us on Twitter.

Posted on: May 18, 2011 5:14 pm
 

Slive to push oversigning legislation

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

That SEC standoff over oversigning we mentioned earlier this week? It's going to come to a head at the upcoming league meetings in Destin (Fla.), and it sounds as if if Mike Slive has his way, the conference is going to put some serious legislative brakes on the practice.

That news comes straight from Slive himself, who this week told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that a "package" of legislation aimed at regulating "roster management" would be on the table in Destin ... and that he's hopeful it passes:
"[I]t’s more than just the question of over-signing or grayshirting,” Slive said. “It’s a question of over-signing, grayshirting, early admissions, summer school admission. We’ve put together what we call a bit of a package to address these issues, that will give our people a chance to think about these issues in a more global fashion. So then it will be an important discussion item in Destin ...

"I think the goal is to make sure that our prospective student-athletes are treated in a way that is as they should be treated, like students our [sic] treated. And I think this package does that ..."

Slive indicated that more debate has gone on behind the scenes.

“Well, we’ve had some discussions to get the proposed legislation in place. I can tell you that the First Amendment in the Southeastern Conference is alive and well,” he said. “I have a view and not a vote. And I will certainly exercise my view. ... I like this legislation."
Whether he has a vote or not, that Slive will be pushing for reform should do plenty to boost the package's legislative chances.

It's not a surprise, though, that Slive is at the forefront of the issue. Whether fair or not, there's no debating that the SEC has become the representative face of oversigning thanks to the combination of oversized classes, high-profile grayshirting issues, and its prominence within college football. Already sensitive to accusations from the likes of the Big Ten's Jim Delany that the league doesn't take its classroom reponsibilities seriously enough, Slive must surely feel -- as the SEC's presidents must as well -- that the conference can't let the oversigning issue continue to stereotype it as a place where academic standards are trampled in the name of football.

Beyond that, Slive may also need to push the legislation through to prevent a full-on war of words between his conference's own coaches. When within a week of one making oversigning references to a rival coach so thinly veiled he can't even finish said reference without a fan spoiling it for him, another is straightforwardly exiling five players as part of a post-spring "scholarship evaluation," conflict is inevitable.

Slive should be commended for tackling the issue head-on. But if he can't get his proposed package through the voting process, he's going to have some serious damage control to do ... both in the public eye outside the league, and in the not-so-civil public discourse within it.

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