Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:57 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
My football playing experiences ended in high school, as I never went on to play the game in college. Still, even though I only played in high school, it was readily apparent to me that in order to play the sport, you have to love the sport. It's not the type of sport in which somebody can fake their way through, unless they're so talented that it just doesn't matter.
If you aren't devoting yourself to football, then it's time to stop playing football. Which is exactly what Mississippi State linebacker Michael Hunt did. Following practice on Wednesday, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen explained to the media that Hunt had left the team.
"He didn't like to play football anymore," Mullen said. "He lost his love of the game."
Mullen also said he doesn't expect Hunt to change his mind.
Hunt only played in 16 games during his first two seasons in Starkville, making 21 tackles in that time as a reserve linebacker. He was expected to become a starter in 2011, as he entered spring on top of the depth chart.
This news may bother some Mississippi State fans, but the fact is that Hunt is doing everybody a favor by leaving the team. If he no longer enjoys playing football, and doesn't want to be there, then he wouldn't be helping anybody to stick around.
Posted on: February 28, 2011 10:58 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 . Today, we look at Mississippi State , who opens its practice this Friday, March 4.
Your spring practice question: the Bulldogs are going to have something of a new-look defense. So how does it look?
For most college football fans, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the two-year Dan Mullen era in Starkville (well, if they don't think about how close Mullen came to landing Cam Newton) is the team's bruising, tricky spread-option rushing attack. Behind poor man's Tim Tebow Chris Relf at quarterback, a beefy and well-coached offensive line, and an assortment of physical running backs, the Bulldogs finished ninth in the nation in rushing in Mullen's first season and followed that up with a 16th-place finish in 2010. With the Bulldogs going over the 200-yard mark in eight of their last nine games and returning their top nine rushers -- most notably Relf and senior tailback Vick Ballard, whose late-season surge took him all the way to 20 rushing touchdowns, tying the aforementioned Mr. Newton for most in the SEC -- there won't be any reason not to expect the Bulldogs to boast one of the nation's best running games once again in 2011. And with Relf continuing to improve his touch and the Bulldog receiving corps returning virtually intact, the inconsistent passing game could offer enough balance to make State one of the most feared attacks in the SEC, if not the nation.
But for all of that, the not-so-dirty-secret of the Bulldogs' surprising run to their 9-4 2010 record was their defense. As directed by super-aggressive first-year coordinator Manny Diaz, the Bulldogs held potent attacks from Georgia to 12 points, Florida to 7, Michigan to 17, even Auburn to a season-low 17 ... all but the latter resulting in Bulldog wins. Leading the way was linebacker Chris White, who broke out of anonymity with 110 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss, and six sacks--good enough to lead the team in all three categories. Wright was joined in the linebacking unit by fellow veterans K.J Wright and Emmanuel Gatling (142 combined tackles), with the defensive line anchored by dynamic end Pernell McPhee and his 10 tackles-for-loss. McPhee and White each landed on an All-SEC first-team (McPhee the coaches', White the AP's), the only two Bulldog defenders to earn all-league honors.
The biggest problem of the Bulldogs' spring? All of the names in the previous paragraph have moved on. White, Wright, Gatling, and McPhee were all seniors; Diaz left Starkville after just the one season, agreeing to a hefty raise to replace Will Muschamp as Texas's new defensive coordinator. State will go into 2011 with an entirely new starting linebacking corps, a big question mark at one defensive end spot, a secondary that limped to a 91st-place finish in pass defense a year ago, and in promoted former defensive line coach Chris Wilson, a first-time defensive coordinator trying to fill those holes.
That seems like a lot of potential problems, but the good news for Bulldog fans is that State does boast several potential answers. Wilson did serve as co- coordinator last season and after several quality years of position coaching two excellent coordinators in Oklahoma's Brent Venables and Diaz, should be as ready as he's going to get. If McPhee's absence might create problems on the ends, the Bulldogs should be rock-solid in the middle of the defensive line with their pair of impressive junior tackles, Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox. And if the secondary was a sore spot a year ago, there's still room for optimism with all four starters returning, including freshman All-SEC safety Nickoe Whitley.
The linebackers look like a potential dilemma no matter how you slice it. But if Wilson can cobble together a unit that shows some kind of promise this spring -- and the defensive backs continue to develop, and Boyd and Cox are as good as advertised, and Wilson appears to be well in command -- it's going to be tough keeping a lid on the Bulldogs' preseason hype. Opposite Relf and the Bulldog steamroller on the other side of the ball, the only thing standing between State and a potential emergence as the biggest threat in the SEC West to Alabama and LSU is a competent defense; if that defense looks likely this spring, the ceiling will be higher than it's been in Starkville in ages.
Tags: Alabama, Auburn, Brent Venables, Cam Newton, Chris Relf, Chris White, Chris Wilson, Dan Mullen, Emmanuel Gatling, Fletcher Cox, Florida, Josh Boyd, K.J. Wright, LSU, Manny Diaz, Michigan, Mississippi State, Mississippi State spring preview, Nickoe Whitley, Pernell McPhee, SEC, Spring Practice Primer, Spring Preview, Texas, Tim Tebow, Vick Ballard, Will Muschamp
Posted on: February 25, 2011 2:45 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.
FOUR LINKS ...
1. Future scheduling is very much in the news today, with discussions about moving the new Big 12's biggest in-state rivalry games to Dec. 3 and the Big East finally releasing its 2011 slate. But maybe nowhere is it more in the news than at Nevada, which is desperately trying to work its way out of a brutal road stretch (at Oregon, at Texas Tech, at Boise State, all back-to-back-to-back) ... but still found the time to tentatively schedule a home-and-home series with Oregon State for 2017 and 2018. (Is there a way to schedule them for that far ahead that wouldn't be tentative?)
2. Yes, Virginia, when you would have already been the clearcut No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, you need some kind of insurance policy when you decide to go back to school. Andrew Luck's is worth $5 million already and could wind up being worth even more , depending on the new NFL collective bargaining agreement.
3. Your weekly Friday Four Links position coaching update: former Minnesota assistant John Butler is South Carolina's new special teams coordinator ; Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt will not be accepting Auburn's offer of the same position following Tracy Rocker's departure; which means former Butler colleague with the Gophers Tim Cross is, by process of elimination , the likely front-runner on the Plains; and well-traveled assistant Danny Barrett is the new running backs coach at UCF.
4. Despite saying the scandal that erupted around Cam Newton "kind of stained almost everybody" involved with it -- including himself, we presume -- Dan Mullen also said he had "no regrets" about his Mississippi State program's recruitment of Newton or its handling of the situation. No regrets aside from the part where Newton chose Auburn and went on to win the Heisman and a national championship, it's safe to assume.
AND A CLOUD ...
Tennessee junior cornerback Art Evans spoke publicly for the first time since being reinstated following a three-month suspension; Evans missed the last six games of 2010 after falling behind on his car payments ... In addition to his infamous call to the Paul Finebaum radio show, accused Toomer's Corner oak poisoner Harvey Updyke may have also bragged about committing the crime on an Alabama fan site ... More buzz is buzzing about Oklahoma countering Texas's "Longhorn Network" with one of their own ... Remember former Florida and Ole Miss defensive back Jamar Hornsby? If you do, it won't surpise you to learn he's currently in jail ... Without Nebraska, does the Big 12 have enough quality games for its television obligations?
Tags: Andrew Luck, Art Evans, Big 12, Big East, Boise State, Cam Newton, Clint Hurtt, Dan Mullen, Danny Barrett, Florida, Friday Four Links, Harvey Updyke, Jamar Hornsby, John Butler, Longhorn Network, Louisville, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Nevada, Nfl Draft, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Paul Finebaum, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, Tim Cross, Toomer's Corner, Tracy Rocker, UCF
Posted on: January 31, 2011 7:10 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Virginia Tech-centric blog Gobbler Country posted an interested study today, examining the breakdown of championship-winning coaches' ages in the modern era of college football. The question raised is "how old is too old," and excepting some obvious outliers, the answer is "younger than you think."
What's even more unsettling to programs with older coaches is the breakdown of championships by age bracket:
Not only is there a precipitous dropoff from the early 50s to 60+, those five titles were won by just three coaches: The aforementioned Bowden with two, Bear Bryant with two, and Joe Paterno -- the three most celebrated coaches of the modern era of I-A football. What's more, Bryant had won his first title at the age of 50, while Paterno won his first at 56. Bowden didn't win his first until he was 64, but that was after six straight top-five finishes in the final poll for Florida State. In other words, each of those three coaches firmly established his national championship bona fides before his 60th birthday, while every other coach who ever hit 60 in the last 50 years was quite evidently past his prime.
It's not really surprising, then, to have seen Maryland jettison longtime head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was 63 at the end of the 2010 and who clearly wasn't about to win a title at such a mediocre football school (no offense, Terps, but let's be honest). Incoming coach Randy Edsall will have just turned 53 at the outset of the 2011 season, and while one might joke that Maryland's only got two seasons of Edsall in his prime before it all goes downhill, it's not as if he's got 15 years in front of him with the Terrapins.
So with all this in mind, here are a few more notable coaches and their ages as of the start of the 2011 season. It would be incorrect to say there's a "new generation" of coaches on the move (seven years or so doesn't really constitute a generational gap) but it's pretty clear that a few of these guys aren't lasting much more than five years -- especially if they're not winning 10 games a year anymore.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 64
Now obviously, not all of these schools are going to win national championships in the next 5-10 years. But by and large, most of these schools do pay their coaches a gigantic salary -- to the point that the expectation of competing on a national level is inevitable. If a coach is struggling in his fourth or fifth year with a program, is an athletic director going to be more apt to fire the coach if he's 57 instead of 47? Is that age discrimination, or common sense?
Tags: Al Golden, BCS Championships, Bear Bryant, Bo Pelini, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Brady Hoke, Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly, Chris Petersen, College Football Coaches, Dan Mullen, Frank Beamer, Gary Patterson, Gene Chizik, Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno, Joe Paterno, Kirk Ferentz, Kyle Whittingham, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, Mack Brown, Mark Richt, Mike Gundy, Mike Leach, Nick Saban, Will Muschamp
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
"Headset Reset" is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the four new head coaches in Conference USA and the Sun Belt .
BILL BLANKENSHIP, Tulsa
Why him? Former Tulsa quarterback was promoted from running backs/special teams coach to maintain 10-3, top-25 status quo. For 2011, Blankenship needs to: find a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who took the same position at Clemson after being passed over the Tulsa head job; the right hire could turn Tulsa's nine returning offensive starters (including quarterback G.J. Kinne and all-purpose weapon Damaris Johnson) into another double-digit win season. By 2014, Blankenship will need to have: won a C-USA title. For all of the Golden Hurricane's offensive fireworks under Todd Graham, their only league championship came back in 2005 under Steve Kragthorpe. Chances Blankenship gets what he needs? Fair-to-middling. Tulsa's points-happy brand should be strong enough to keep them near the top of the league standings (provided Blankenship doesn't blow the OC hire), but will simply promoting a position coach really be enough to get them over the hump?
DAN McCARNEY, North Texas (pictured)
Why him? Far and away the most recognizable name among the new C-USA/SBC hires, the 57-year-old McCarney spent 12 successful seasons as Iowa State's head coach before supervising the defensive lines at South Florida and Florida. For 2011, McCarney needs to: just offer some kind of hope. The snake-bitten Mean Green (4 losses in 2010 by total of 13 points) have won only 13 games in six seasons. By 2014, McCarney will need to have: found some semblance of a defense. UNT hasn't had too many problems offensively, but they won't accomplish anything until one of the nation's worst defenses is brought up to code. Chances McCarney gets what he needs? Decent. McCarney may be a little too long in the tooth (and the program may have decayed too badly) to bring back the Mean Green's early-Aughts glory days, but the old pro should have the defensive chops to at least bring UNT back to respectability.
HUGH FREEZE, Arkansas State
Why him? Former Ole Miss assistant made famous by The Blind Side was promoted from offensive coordinator after leading Red Wolves to better than 400 yards per game, vaulting them from 95th to 43rd in total offense. For 2011, Freeze needs to: get to .500. Disappointing 4-8 records the last two seasons earned Steve Roberts a pink slip, but with Ryan Aplin back at quarterback and better luck due after going 1-5 in one-possession games in 2010, there's no reason (other than a revamped offensive line) Freeze can't get the Red Wolves back to 6-6. By 2014, Freeze will need to have: established ASU as an upper-tier Sun Belt program. Getting past Troy and up-and-coming FIU won't be easy, but there's nothing stopping the Red Wolves from joining in the SBC mix. Chances Freeze gets what he needs? Good. Freeze knows his way around the Arkansas and Tennessee recruiting scenes and has a sharp offensive mind; those traits alone should be enough to get the Red Wolves back to the postseason (for the first time since 2005) sooner rather than later.
MARK HUDSPETH, Lousiana (formerly UL-Lafayette)
Why him? Before taking a job on Dan Mullen's staff at Mississippi State , Hudpseth excelled as the head coach at Division II North Alabama, going 66-20 in seven seasons. For 2011, Hudspeth needs to: right the ship. A series of near-misses at a winning season under Rickey Bustle dissolved in a 3-9 disaster in 2010; a simple step in the right direction will be enough for one of the FBS's most tradition-deficient programs. By 2014, Hudspeth will need to have: earned a bowl bid. The Ragin' Cajuns have never taken part in FBS postseason play. Chances Hudspeth gets what he needs? Not bad. There's room to be upwardly mobile in the Sun Belt, and despite a relatively bare cupboard, Hudspeth has quality head coaching experience at only 42 years of age.
Tags: Arkansas State, Bill Blankenship, Chad Morris, Clemson, Conference USA, Damaris Johnson, Dan McCarney, Dan Mullen, FIU, Florida, G.J. Kinne, Headset Reset, Hugh Freeze, Iowa State, Louisiana, Mark Hudspeth, Mississippi State, North Alabama, North Texas, Ole Miss, Rickey Bustle, Ryan Aplin, South Florida, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Roberts, Sun Belt, The Blind Side, Todd Graham, Troy, Tulsa, UL-Lafayette
Posted on: January 6, 2011 3:07 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Dan Mullen was in the market for a new defensive coordinator last offseason, he surprised many by plucking away then-nearly-unheard of coordinator from Middle Tennessee State named Manny Diaz. Diaz's highly impressive single season in Starkville got him hired away by Texas yesterday afternoon, but this time Mullen isn't getting nearly so creative in naming a replacement:
There's lots of reasons to think this decision will work out just fine; Wilson is due to step up to a coordinator's chair after several highly productive years coaching the defensive lines at both Oklahoma and State, and his promotion will give the Bulldogs desirable continuity both in their defensive game-planning and late-cycle recruiting (which, at the moment looks dramtically shakier following Diaz's exit). Also, obviously, Mullen ought to know better than anyone whether Wilson is coordinator material.
At the same time, that Mullen had so much success last go-round looking outside his staff means he might be selling himself short by not even conducting a search. It seems much more likely for Wilson to succeed than not, but if he doesn't, some will wonder if Mullen didn't act a bit too quickly here.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 5:28 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Per the Jackson Clarion-Legder's Kyle Veazey, the speculation surrounding Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's possible move to the same position at Texas is over :
In the 36-year-old Diaz, the 'Horns are bringing in one of FBS's most exciting young coordinators, whose hyper-aggressive blitz-heavy schemes gave up the occasional big play but also took a lightly-regarded Bulldog defense all the way to 17th in the country in rushing defense. The last two times Mack Brown was in the market for a defensive coordinator he looked for an up-and-comer in the SEC West and struck gold hiring both Gene Chizik and, later, Will Muschamp away from Auburn; from here it looks like he's done so again.
As for State, losing Diaz this late in the recruiting cycle hurts, but that's life at their level of the college football food chain (and at least they can claim a modicum of sympathy from Auburn fans still bitter over the Longhorns' previous coaching raids). And hey, with Michigan in the market for a coach who could put Denard Robinson's unique talents to their best use -- someone like, say, Dan Mullen -- they may have bigger issues to worry about.
Posted on: January 1, 2011 8:00 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Mississippi State crushed an overmatched, undermanned Michigan defense, 52-14.
Offense: Quarterback Chris Relf wore #36 in honor of teammate Nick Bell , who passed away this season after battling skin cancer. He most certainly represented Bell admirably today, rolling up 281 yards on 18-23 passing and throwing three touchdowns. Michigan's secondary essentially had no answer for anything MSU wanted to do on offense. The Bulldogs' rushing attack was good for over 200 yards, even though it only gained 3.5 yards a pop. But above all else, MSU scored 52 points and gave Michigan its worst bowl beating ever. Grade: A
Defense: The MSU defensive performance basically defined "bend but don't break" today; Michigan gained 16 first downs and over 300 yards of offense, but only scored 14 points (all in the first quarter) and gave the ball up twice -- not including the partially blocked punt that gave TCU the ball on the Michigan 29. Only Ohio State held the Wolverines to fewer points this year. Grade: B+
Coaching: Dan Mullen went 5-5 on fourth downs in this game. 5-5! These weren't do-or-die situations, either; Mississippi State did beat Michigan by 38 points, after all. His team stayed aggressive even after it was garbage time, shutting Michigan out in the last three quarters. Right now, Mullen looks to be worth every penny of the $10.6 million he figures to make over the next four years. Grade: A
Offense: Michigan actually started the game on a roll, and led 14-10 at one point. Then Denard Robinson threw an interception, and things quickly went downhill. Robinson accounted for over 300 yards once again, but as per usual, the rest of the team didn't contribute much. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms both looked solid at receiver, and both figure to be weapons next year. The Wolverines definitely missed Tate Forcier (ineligible) in the second half, when passing became the highest priority. Grade: B-
Defense: Statistically, this is the worst defense in Michigan history. This was Michigan's worst defensive performance in a bowl game ever. Greg Robinson should not only be fired, he should never coach defense in college football ever again. Michigan's defense was awful, wretched, putrid, horrific, horrible, and horrendous in every respect of the game. Grade: A new, worse grade than F should be invented and given to Michigan's defense
Coaching: Rich Rodriguez may have gotten himself fired with this one game. There were a litany of problems associated with Michigan's preparation and execution, as the 38-point margin would indicate, but let's just point this out: Michigan went 0-5 on fourth downs. Denard Robinson threw an incomplete pass on all of them. Robinson is the most feared rushing quarterback in college football this year; why is Rodriguez making him stand still and throw on every single fourth down? Use his legs, for crying out loud! Grade: F
This was not a good game for anybody but Mississippi State fans. It's great to see Dan Mullen breathe life into the historically inferior program, but it became quickly apparent in the second half that Michigan is just a mess. If it's Rich Rodriguez's last game on the Michigan sidelines, it's disappointing, but fitting. Grade: D