Posted on: July 22, 2011 2:32 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 3:07 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This much we know about LSU wide receiver/athlete Russell Shepard: after being scheduled to appear at SEC Media Days this week, he has not made the trip to Birmingham. And that according to an official LSU statement, he is not suspended and is missing Media Days due to "personal issues."
That's the line repeated by Les Miles (via CBSSports' own Brett McMurphy):
But according to reports from longtime LSU beat writer Randy Rosetta of TigerSportDigest, it's more complicated than that. Rosetta's initial report:
And a follow-up:
It's that "future eligibility" question that makes this story potentially much more than just Shepard missing out on a visit to the Wynfrey. One of the nation's most sought-after prospects in the 2009 class, Shepard has yet to make the kind of impact expected after his arrival in Baton Rouge, but the former five-star retains a massive amount of potential which new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe is no doubt anxious to tap into.
Even if Shepard's "compliance issue" doesn't force him to miss any more than the season opener against Oregon, even that could be a big blow for a Bayou Bengal team whose roller-coaster offense needs all the weapons it can get. Stay tuned.
Posted on: July 22, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 11:37 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Will Muschamp took the podium at SEC Media Days Wednesday, he said he expected running back Jeff Demps to play for Florida this year rather than pursue a career in professional track. But he stopped short of guaranteeing it, saying Demps was currently in Italy for track reasons and he would have to meet with him "eyeball-to-eyeball" to know his plans for certain.
According to a report from ESPN, that eyeball-to-eyeball meeting should happen Friday. Demps is reportedly back in Gainesville, Fla., and prepared to talk to Muschamp face-to-face.
The expected result of those meetings?
Demps giving his pledge to play for the Gators in 2011. It would be a huge boost for Muschamp's wobbly offense, which finished 10th in the SEC in total offense a year ago and could ill afford to lose their leading rusher and best home-run threat -- particularly with John Brantley's competence as a passer still a matter of debate.
Demps still won't be the kind of inside-the-tackles power runner Muschamp and Charlie Weis will want, long term, for their physical pro-style offense. But where 2011 is concerned, he's still the best option Florida will have -- and if he does officially rejoin the Gators today, it's going to be a very good day indeed for Muschamp.
Posted on: July 21, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 8:07 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Asked about five-star Georgia running back recruit Isaiah Crowell on Signing Day, Mark Richt said he "wouldn't be shocked to see him running that rock in the dome against Boise State on the opening play." But even after losing top two rushers Washaun Ealey and Caleb King during the offseason, Richt declined to name Crowell the Bulldog starter Thursday at SEC Media Days and seemed to be making a concerted effort to keep a lid on the Crowell hype.
How concerted? Away from the main Media Days podium, Richt told Dawgs247 reporter Gentry Estes that entering fall camp, the Bulldogs' No. 1 tailback would be positional journeyman Richard Samuel:
“If anybody needed to be soothed a little bit, that will do it,” Richt said of Samuel. “He’s very mature physically, and he’s a mature man in the way he goes about his business. He has two years of experience within our system to know what to do.
“He’ll be in that meeting room, and he’ll be a great example of how to prepare and how to play the position.”
While we certainly don't doubt that Samuel (pictured) will indeed be "a great example of how to prepare," we won't blame Bulldog fans if they're less-than-soothed about Samuel's chances of being as great on the field as he is in that meeting room. Samuel spent all of 2010 and this year's spring camp at linebacker after two mildly productive years at tailback in '08 and '09. If he really is the Bulldogs' best option for "running that rock," it seems unlikely the Georgia ground game will have the teeth necessary to get them back to Atlanta.
Which is why Richt's putting Samuel in the preseason top slot is most likely his way of shielding Crowell from the pressure of statements like, well, his own on Signing Day. When asked directly about Crowell Thursday, Richt sang something of a different tune:
“We don’t expect Isaiah to save the program,” Richt said. “We don’t expect Isaiah to put the team on his back. We expect Isaiah to learn what to do and to do things the Georgia way and to try to do anything he can to help the team win as a freshman. We’ll see how far that goes.
“I’ve got a sense of anticipation. I’m curious to see what’s going to happen when we put the pads on for the first time and go live and just see what he does, see how he handles getting hit real hard, see how he handles the speed of the Southeastern Conference. … We won’t treat him whole lot different than any other player who is talented but we’re wanting to make sure he has success.”
Of course, Richt's elevation of Samuel may not be motivation for Crowell alone; redshirt freshman Ken Malcome remains in the mix, and Carlton Thomas is expected to return following his suspension for the Boise game.
But despite Richt's assurances, he does need someone to put the rushing attack on his back (if not the entire team), and Crowell remains the most likely candidate to do that. Samuel may start the fall at No. 1, but we not only won't be shocked if Crowell takes the opening handoff against Boise; we'll be shocked if he doesn't.
Posted on: July 21, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 7:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This isn't exactly news, per se; you could have read in this space first thing this morning that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had put a temporary hold on the Longhorn Network's plans to air Texas high school games and one Longhorn conference matchup. But with rumors about Texas A&M and Oklahoma's levels of discontent with the promised network continuing to swirl, Beebe issued an official league statement Thursday afternoon regarding the joint venture between Texas and ESPN.
The statement reads:
The Conference members are committed to working together to address issues in a manner that benefits all members. There are elements of our new television agreement, which take effect in 2012, that need clarification and the members will be working together to develop a process that will work to the benefit of the entire Conference. Until the members have a chance to consider all the issues and come to conclusion about how the Conference will manage the interplay between the Conference television package and institutional networks, no more than one live football game will be televised on any institutional network and no high school content will be televised on a branded member’s network.In other words: High school games and the promised Big 12 game aren't totally ruled out yet ... but until the Aggies and Sooners are satisfied that the Longhorn Network's policies are truly "benfitting all members" of the Big 12, don't expect them to get the OK any time soon.
But at the same time, that the Longhorns (and their television partners) appear to be willing to reach some kind of compromise might indicate that the rumored A&M/Oklahoma-to-the-SEC split might not be in the immediate future, either.
Posted on: July 21, 2011 5:34 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 7:13 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We've got all the important coaching comments highlighted here at Eye on CFB, we've got Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy on site, we've got Tony Barnhart weighing in as well.
But even we can't keep up entirely with the flood of quotes and stories coming out of SEC Media Days. So here's some more tidbits from college football's favorite annual media feeding frenzy:
Posted on: July 21, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 3:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
File it under "ideas we can't believe haven't been put into practice already."
LSU -- never exactly a school known for Ivy League decorum and teetotaling tailgates -- has announced that it will be partnering with a local brewery to brand and sell its own LSU beer.
Tin Roof Brewing Co. and Mockler Beverage will be working with a recipe created by LSU's own food science department, with the school reportedly working on logos and labels for the new brew. An LSU spokesman said he hopes to have the beer "on store shelves by fall."
Between this decision and West Virginia's to allow beer sales inside their stadium during Mountaineer games, it's been a good summer for institutionally approved beer. Now if we find out the LSU brew will carry Les Miles's face on the label as well of "hints of grass, sod, and last-minute victory," we'll be set.
Posted on: July 21, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 2:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
For a coach expected by many to be shown the door at the end of the 2011 season, Georgia's Mark Richt didn't exactly seem consigned to his fate during an upbeat appearance at SEC Media Days.
"If you go in to [athletic building] Butts-Mehre," he said, "there's not one sense of doom or gloom ... Expectations are just as high as they've ever been going into any season. Our goal is to win the Eastern division. That's just the way we think, every single season, and we believe we've got just as good a chance as anybody to do that."
The rest of the highlights from Richt's time at the podium, organized by topic:
The first two games. The Bulldogs start the year off with the most challenging of bangs, playing Boise State in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic and hosting SEC East favorite South Carolina in Week 2. About agreeing to play the Broncos, Richt said "What better way to send a surge of energy through our program than to schedule a game like that? There's risk in playing a team that can whip your tail. Because they might whip your tail. But to get back where we want to be -- highly ranked and highly thought of -- we need to play this game."
About the Broncos themselves, Richt called them "a special football team in the way they approach it ... I've probably never seen anyone play any harder than they do as a team, down after down."
As for Carolina, Richt said understanding the challenge the Gamecocks represent "energized the program in a big way ... everybody understands what it's going to take, preparation-wise."
Recruiting. The most animated Richt became was discussing the Bulldogs' efforts to recruit in-state, which he says was hampered by opponents willing to hand out scholarship offers they don't intend on honoring right away.
"That's our biggest problem at Georgia, is trying to make those evaluations properly," he said. "Because I'll say this: when we offer a kid at Georgia, we mean it. If we offer a kid and he wants to accept that offer, we're not gonna tell him 'Well, we offered you, but we don't want you to commit right now.' If we offer a guy and he commits, he's in ...
"Some out-of-state schools, they'll go blazing through the state offering everybody--not everybody, but a lot of guys. And so the high school coach is like 'Well so-and-so offered him, why didn't you offer him?' It does put pressure on us to offer a guy a little sooner than you'd like to."
Richt also criticized teams that would take an early commitment, and then sever ties with the recruit once they saw a prospect they liked better. "At Georgia, if he commits to us," he said, "we're not dumping him."
The 3-4. Richt expects a big step forward in his team's performance in second-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's system, for two reasons. One is the Bulldogs' familiarity with the defense. ""Our guys were spending a lot of time last year trying to figure out what to do, [asking] what's my assignment," he said, "and maybe not enough time on 'How do I do my job well.'"
But he also said the arrival of jumbo-sized JUCO nose guard Johnathan Jenkins would make a major impact, both in terms of Jenkins' ability and in motivating holdover Kwame Geathers into his spring MVP performance. "We think [Jenkins] can really do a great job of making the 3-4 go," Richt said. "If you don't have a nose guard that demands double-teams and maybe a triple team once in a while, you're not going to free up your linebackers to do the things that you want them to do."
Crowell? On Signing Day, Richt said that incoming five-star running back Isaiah Crowell might take the first handoff of the season against Boise. But Richt said little (if anything) specific about Crowell at Media Days, choosing instead to focus on running back-turned-linebacker-turned-runni
ng back Richard Samuel when asked about the Bulldogs' diminished running back depth.
"We're really only one guy shy of where we thought we'd be," Richt said. "[Samuel] knows the system, knows the plays, knows how to play the game. And he's a more mature man than he was a couple years ago ... I think we have plenty of depth at that position right now. Question is how productive will we be."
That Richt declined to discuss Crowell could be a signal that he's less confident in Crowell's abilities than he was at Signing Day ... or he could just be trying to keep a lid on the hype that's described Crowell as the next Knowshon Moreno.
Richt did add that the "starting lineup gives me a lot of confidence" and that he thinks center Ben Jones "is going to win the Rimington." He even got to reiterate that stance when Jones himself entered the media room to take the mic and ask if Richt "trusted" the offensive line. (Rich said he did.)
Jersey change. The Bulldogs already have a history with uniform experiments and will go to the well again against Boise, donning a set of Nike "Pro Combat" uniforms (as will the Broncos) the players saw for the first time this week.
"I think jersey change is a great idea if you win, and I think it's a bad idea if you lose," Richt said. "Our players are excited about it. A lot of energy in the room [on their debut] and a lot of excitement. They're going to enjoy wearing those jerseys .... Is that going to help us win the game? I promise it won't win the game for us. Boise's going to be wearing theirs too.
"But it's fun ... College football is a grind. A grind for the coaches, a grind for the players. We're not complaining. But any time you can have some fun with your guys, I think it's good to do that."
Muschamp. Richt drew a laugh with this reponse to a question about new Florida coach Will Muschamp, a Georgia graduate: "I'm sure he's going to tell everyone in Florida he's Florida through and through, but I guarantee there's a little bit of red and black in his veins."
Tenure. Asked about the difficulties of being at one SEC school for 11 years: "It's not difficult if you win."
Posted on: July 20, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 7:21 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After a few ho-hum seasons at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier had been turning in a few ho-hum performances at SEC Media Days the past few years -- ones nearly all observers agreed were a far cry from his charismatic, entertaining turns during his Florida salad days. Spurrier admitted as much in his appearance Wednesday. "I haven't won enough to be very talkative lately," he said.
But Gamecock fans have to be encouraged that, for the most part, Spurrier today was at his charming, engaging best. Here are the highlights from his comments, organized by topic:
Expectations. In his opening statement, Spurrier said "we feel like we've probably assembled maybe the best group of players we've had in the seven years now that I've been there."
But asked later about being the presumptive SEC favorite, Spurrier responded with a question of his own: "You know we lost our last two games last year? We're not sitting around patting each other on the back too much." He mentioned twice that the Gamecocks finished seventh in the conference in both total offense and total defense, so they were "not a great team by any means." In short: He doesn't believe egos or motivation will be a problem as the team looks to "win the game in Atlanta" for the first time.
"We've accomplished a few firsts," he said, referring to last year's SEC East title (among other accomplishments), "but there's still plenty more out there for us to go after."
Garcia. Spurrier said wayward quarterback Stephen Garcia had "done everything we've asked" and was still "set to return" come fall camp. Noting that Garcia's recent issues haven't been of a legal nature -- "no arrests, no DUIs" -- Spurrier explained his willingness to keep his troubled star on the roster by saying, "I guess we just don't want to kick him out for stupidity."
But Spurrier also defiantly refused to name Garcia the starter, saying he would "have a little competition" between the senior and 2010 backup Connor Shaw. "Whoever our quarterback is, he needs to go out and earn it in preseason practice," Spurrier said. (The number of people convinced that quarterback might be Shaw likely remains in the single digits, however.)
Scholarship proposals. Spurrier made it clear he is no fan of Mike Slive's reform proposals, even addressing his reponse to Slive when it came to offering multiple-year scholarships. "That's a terrible idea, Commissioner," he said.
He also slammed the proposed new standards for freshman eligiblity, saying he felt they were "pretty good the way they are right now." "For some reason," he added "we seem to want to try to make it more and more difficult for these young men who come from difficult backgrounds and difficult academic settings."
Clowney. When will No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney see the field at defensive end? "Early and often," Spurrier said. "We think he's really going to be a super player and a real good guy for us."
From the sound of it, he might even start. Addressing his defense, Spurrier said, "We're hoping with Devin [Taylor] coming on one end and Jadeveon coming from the other end or up the middle or somewhere, we're gonna have a good pass rush this year."
Spurrier credited his team's improvement in large part to better in-state recruiting, of which Clowney is a part -- between him, Marcus Lattimore and All-SEC corner Stephon Gilmore, Carolina has landed the last three South Carolina Mr. Football winners. According to Spurrier, Clowney's decision "sends a message" as the first No. 1 overall recruit to choose a program that has never won a national title.
Honesty. As usual, Spurrier (to his everlasting credit) answered questions with nothing less than his honest opinion. Lobbed a softball question about star receiver Alshon Jeffery being "underappreciated," Spurrier cited Jeffery's many accolades (including a first team All-American nod) in saying he didn't feel like Jeffery was underappreciated at all.
Asked what had made the difference between the 2010 Gamecocks and their previous editions, Spurrier discussed Lattimore and other factors -- but also started his reponse by saying his team benefitted from the East's "three top teams not having the years they usually have."
Spurrier was also questioned about the departure of Bryce Sherman, the former Gamecock walk-on whose 2010 scholarship was not renewed and who left the team in a flurry of angry Tweets. "We gave him a year and a half [of scholarship money], which I thought was pretty nice of us," Spurrier said.
Special teams. Spurrier revealed he was sorely disappointed in his special teams units, noting that they have yet to score a touchdown during his seven-year tenure. "Some day, I want to win a game with a blocked punt," he said.
Practice. Asked about the Ivy League's new policy limiting full-contact practices and whether it would work at the FBS level, Spurrier offered a surprising response for an SEC coach -- he said the Gamecocks would be fine with that policy in place.
"To me, it doesn't make any sense to get your own players hurt in practice," he said. "When the Army guys practice against each other, they don't use live bullets. Why do football teams use live hits?"
Money. Spurrier mentioned that the Gamecocks spend less on recruiting services than any other SEC school (just $12,000 a year), then spun that into a discussion of the massive amounts of money in the league these days ... and a dig at Mississippi State, with Dan Mullen waiting in the podium wings.
"Mississippi State's got a jet airplane," Spurrier said. "They've got all kinds of money at Mississippi State. Everybody's got a lot of money."