Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:02 am
Edited on: February 23, 2011 8:54 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
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 Texas which begins its spring practice on Thursday.
Spring Practice Question: Is Garrett Gilbert really in danger of losing the starting job?
Last month, Texas head coach Mack Brown declared the Texas quarterback position to be wide open. It seems that after a less than stellar performance from Garrett Gilbert in his first season as a starter, along with plenty of coaching turnover in Austin, Brown isn't ready to hand the job over to just anybody.
Of course, whether he truly meant it or not, we'll begin to find out on Thursday when the Longhorns begin spring practice.
If I had to lean in one direction, I'd believe Brown, but only with the understanding that the job is still Gilbert's to lose. Whether or not Gilbert was successful in 2010, he still has more experience than either Connor Wood or Case McCoy. The true wild card in all of this, however, is the addition of Bryan Harsin as Texas' co-offensive coordinator (Major Applewhite being the other co-coordinator, though something tells me Harsin wasn't brought in from Boise to defer to Applewhite).
Harsin comes from Boise State, and has no favorites amongst the quarterback trio. Gilbert may have started all 12 games for Texas last season, but he did so under Greg Davis and with Greg Davis' plays, so in that sense he's on the same ground floor that both Wood and McCoy are.
Still, this spring could be the deciding factor for Gilbert. If he can show a strong grasp of Harsin's offense over the next few weeks, he can begin to put the job on lockdown. If he struggles, then things will be a lot more interesting this fall, as both McCoy or Wood could wrestle the job away from him.
The most important thing that Gilbert will have to do to earn Harsin's trust, and make better decisions in the pocket. While Garrett was able to make enough plays with his arm and legs last season to tally 3,124 yards and 15 touchdowns, it was the 17 turnovers that most people will remember.
17 turnovers that had an awful lot to do with Texas finishing the season 5-7 and missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 1997. That cost John Mackovic his job as head coach in Austin, and though Mack survived, that fate may still befall Gilbert.
There is reason to believe that Gilbert will be able to cut down on the mistakes. First of all, he'll be a junior in 2011, and with a year of experience under his belt, he'll be a smarter player. Plus, there's some history to look at with quarterbacks under Harsin.
In 2008, as a freshman, Kellen Moore started every game for Boise State and threw 10 interceptions. Over the next two seasons, Moore only threw 9.
Another reason to believe that Gilbert will improve in 2011 is that his receiving corps will get better as well. Mike Davis -- who caught 47 passes as a freshman -- will be another year older, another year better, and his play could go a long way in improving the performance of his quarterback. Whether that quarterback is Gilbert, McCoy or Wood. If Malcolm Williams and Darius White can start to reach their potential, life will be a lot easier as well.
At the end of the day, I think Gilbert will leave spring practice as the team's starter, and he'll be under center when Texas opens its season against Rice on September 3. He may have had a bad season in 2011, but the truth of it is that he's just more talented than both McCoy or Wood. So unless he has a flat-out awful performance this spring, I just don't see him losing the gig.
Of course, I didn't see Texas going 2-6 in the Big 12 last season, either. So who knows what will happen?
Posted on: January 10, 2011 6:32 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2011 6:34 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
One of the hottest names in college football, and one of the top choices for Stanford's next coach, is not going to be relocating before the 2011 season. Boise State head coach Chris Petersen announced Monday that he will be staying with the Broncos to "continue directing the football program." Petersen's name pops up on the radar of most major job openings, as different school's have hoped to win the coach with the allure of a big-time program.
Many believed that the school with the best chance to do that was Stanford, with the Cardinal looking to replace head coach Jim Harbaugh - now with the San Francisco 49ers. The Orange Bowl champions have a strong core returning in 2011, led by Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck. But Petersen is returning to his own Heisman finalist, Kellen Moore, and the Broncos will focus on competing for a National Championship again in 2011.
Boise State also announced that Indiana offensive coordinator Brent Pease would return to become the new offensive coordinator, and quarterback coach Ron Prince would move over to coach the wide receivers and serve as the pass game coordinator. Now, with a full coaching staff, the Broncos will go into tonight's National Championship evening ready to begin plans to make their own run in 2011. Pease returns to the Broncos after being hired away as Indiana's offensive coordinator just weeks ago. Pease, wide receivers coach at the time, accepted the promotion to OC when he moved to Indiana, but quickly answered when Boise State called him back to fill in for Bryan Harsin, who departed to join Mack Brown's staff at Texas.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 1:53 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Boise State overcame a sluggish first half to shut down the Utah Utes, 26-3.
Offense: The Broncos committed an uncharacteristic four turnovers tonight, and that doesn't count the blocked field goal or the dropped pass on a fake punt. And yet, Kellen Moore still threw for well over 300 yards and got over 200 yards on the ground from his running backs. Moore and Austin Pettis combined for 11 completions, 145 yards, and a score -- all of which were bigger numbers than the Utah passing game accomplished altogether (Pettis also threw a two-yard completion to himself, which was as silly as it sounds). And while Boise didn't convert 10 of its 18 3rd downs, only one resulted in a punt, and that was a masterful 47-yard directional punt out of bounds. Still, the low point total could have been disastrous. Grade: B-
Defense: Utah quarterback Terrence Cain struggled all day long against the Boise defense. While some of those struggles were exacerbated by mental mistakes by his receivers -- more on that in a bit -- he also faced constant pressure from the Broncos' front four, often forcing sacks or quick and errant throws. Utah would only manage eight first downs on the entire day, and even the Utes' short-field drives (five of which started past the Utah 40) were by and large fruitless. Grade: A
Coaching: At times, Chris Peterson was a little too cute with his playcalling, and it led to potential problems for the Broncos. Most notably, we're talking about Peterson's fake punt reverse pass that ended up being thrown to punter/placekicker/scapegoat Kyle Brotzman , who was open on the play but displayed zero receiving acumen as he tried to catch the pass with his stomach. There's a reason not to throw these guys the ball, y'know. But even after that dropped pass and all the groaning by people reminiscing about Brotzman's awful night against Nevada last month, Peterson never hesitated calling his kicker's number, and that's commendable. Grade: B+
Offense: It's hard not to fall into the familiar "A's for winners, F's for losers" model of game grading, especially when dealing with a starting quarterback who's seen limited action this year like Terrence Cain. Cain started in place of injured Jordan Wynn and underwhelmed, as his final numbers bear out: 10/24, 93 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT; 14 rushes, 19 yards, 0 TD, one fumble lost. And yet, Cain had several good throws come up empty; the announcers estimated that six of Utah's 14 incompletions were on dropped passes (some of which were unconscionable), a pass to inside the 5-yard-line was called back on a dubious illegal downfield receiver, and a touchdown pass was waved off after an easy holding call. Cain could have done better; his supporting cast didn't give him much help, though, and that's clearly a problem when facing a defense like Boise's. Grade: D+
Defense: Give the Utah D some credit; by and large, it held the Boise rushing attack in check. If it weren't for that 84-yard run by Doug Martin to open up the Broncos' scoring, Utah would have given up just 118 yard on 36 carries, a 3.3-yard average. That's ordinarily very good! It's just, Martin's run did happen, and it changed the momentum of the game. Boise State's 26-second touchdown drive to cap the first half didn't help Utah much either. But other than those two quick strikes, the Utes largely held the Broncos in check. Boise's 26 points, in fact, were the least it had scored in any game this year. Not a bad performance, and that doesn't include the turnovers forced. Grade: B-
Coaching: It's tough to hang too much of the blame for Utah's struggles on Kyle Whittingham tonight; after all, he wasn't the one out there committing penalties or dropping passes. Still, though, his playcalling left a little to be desired; too often, Cain would drop back on first down, something the Boise State pass rush and linebackers were routinely ready for. Matt Asiata , Eddie Wide III , and Shaky Smithson each had a rush for over 20 yards on the day, yet the three players combined for only the same amount of carries (14) as Cain had on the day. That's not putting the offense in position to make plays. Grade: C
This could have been a good game, but Utah spent so, so much time blowing opportunities in new and exciting ways (fumbling in Boise territory, committing backbreaking penalties, making Cain face over 10 yars on all but a couple of his third downs, etc.) that once Boise State was up 16-3, the game just felt over. That's a departure from Boise State's usual bowl play, which routinely features 60-minute, one-possession contests, but c'mon; the Broncos even tried handing the Utes a big lead in the first half and Utah couldn't capitalize. It's too bad such a high-profile game turned into such a snoozer (I have literally fallen asleep three times since starting this article), but Boise State is a very good team, and this is what very good teams do to sloppy teams. Grade: C-
Posted on: December 21, 2010 12:34 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Why to Watch: This is a no-brainer. We've got a Top-20 matchup between two teams that had spent time in the Top 5 late in the season, both of whom can put points up in bunches. Boise State has a lot to prove after seeing its BCS dreams fly wide of the uprights at Nevada, and what would be a better sendoff for Utah as it heads to the Pac-10 than to knock off a powerhouse like Boise?
Keys to victory for Boise State: It seems like this game would be a cakewalk for Boise State, and it might well be one at the end of the day, but one of the uncomfortable truths about the Broncos is that they don't exactly show up for bowl games on a consistent basis. They're 6-4 in bowl games, and those losses have come against some unspectacular competition: 11-1 Louisville , 9-3 Boston College , 8-5 East Carolina , and 11-2 TCU. Oh sure, Boise has also taken out an undefeated TCU and a loaded Oklahoma squad in that unforgettable 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but by and large the overall resume isn't that impressive -- especially when Boise's not playing on the home Smurf Turf in the Humanitarian Bowl. In fact, every bowl the Broncos have ever played away from Boise has been decided by seven points or less.
So with a feisty Utah squad facing it, Boise State needs to jump out early and bury the Utes. Kellen Moore has no shortage of weapons to make that happen, of course; Titus Young and Austin Pettis have been making cornerbacks look silly all season long, and Boise's troika of tailbacks gives the Broncos the ability to grind out touchdowns or take a simple halfback counter to the house.
Keys to victory for Utah: Everything that happened against TCU and Notre Dame? Yeah, Utah's going to need the opposite of that. Utah's two losses on the season were both disastrous blowouts, dropping a 47-7 home game to the Horned Frogs, then following it up with a 28-3 drubbing in South Bend that didn't even seem all that close. That's the type of collapse that can send a team reeling, but the Utes managed to win their last two games against bowl teams San Diego State and BYU -- both games where the Utes mounted double-digit fourth quarter comebacks. Which is to say, the fight's still there, and Utah's going to need it yet again in this bowl.
If the Utes want to stay in position to compete for all 60 minutes, they won't be able to do it by winning a shooting match with the Broncos. Boise's defense is too good for that, and Jordan Wynn isn't a good enough quarterback to hang 30 points on the Broncos yet. Therefore, Utah's going to need to at least slow down the Bronco attack, which is a lot easier said than done. Young and Pettis should be early deep targets, and Kellen Moore's deadly accuracy off play action means that simply staying with a seven-man front isn't going to be enough to neutralize the Boise passing game. Still, Utah's rush defense has been solid all season long, and if the Utes commit to taking away the pass (as best as one team can against Moore, anyway), the score should stay low enough that Utah could potentially make a game of it. Boise State's aforementioned habit of keeping bowl games close ought to work in Utah's favor. Or maybe Boise State's just overdue for a blowout. Time to see.
The Las Vegas Bowl is like: Vegas, baby. An entertaining, high-powered bowl with elite performers in the middle of the first week of bowl season is about as likely as an entertaining, high-powered city with elite performers in the middle of the desert in the Southwest. Of course, Las Vegas features gambling and we'd rather you didn't gamble on this bowl game -- just let the kids play ball, y'know? -- but there's no such thing as a perfect analogy so let's just let that detail slide and enjoy the game for what it is: the best December bowl of the season.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 12:20 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Terrelle Pryor hasn't made much of a secret of the fact he's felt a bit disrespected this season. He started the season as a Heisman contender, but quickly fell off the radar thanks to guys like fellow quarterbacks Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore. Heck, Pryor wasn't even named to the Big Ten All Conference teams, instead being passed over for guys like Denard Robinson, Scott Tolzien and Dan Persa. Which was something he's already voiced his displeasure over via Twitter.
It's obvious that this all bothers Pryor, whether he wants to admit it or not, because it seems like every chance he gets to tell somebody that he's better he takes it. This time Pryor was talking to the Chicago Tribune when the topic of those other quarterbacks came up, and he made sure to point out that if he was in a different type of offense than the one they run at Ohio State, he'd be dominating college football.
"I'll put it like this: You put me in any of their offenses — any of them — and I'd dominate," Pryor said. "I'd dominate the nation. What those guys do, that's what they're supposed to do in their offense.
"They carry the ball 30 times a game. I carry the ball maybe five times. There are times I didn't even run the ball in a game. You put me in any of their offenses, where I can run the ball and have a choice to throw, I would dominate college football."
This is where I point out to Pryor that he could have been in one of those offenses had he chose to. After all, he was being recruited at Michigan too, but chose Ohio State. Which Pryor is fully aware of, but at the end of the day he makes sure to point out that while he may not receive all the accolades that the others do, there's only one thing he really cares about.
"People get into the statistical thing, and at the end of the day, what's the statistic that really matters?" Pryor said.
"We could have done better, but I'm 30-4. I want nothing else but to win. If I was having a lot of stats and I was losing, I would really be kind of mad. My competitive nature wants just to win, by any means. By any means, win. That's all I really care about, to tell you the truth, man."
Which is nice to hear, but it's obviously not the whole truth. I'm sure Pryor cares a lot about winning, but if it's the only thing he cares about, why is he spending so much time complaining about everything else?
Posted on: December 9, 2010 8:45 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 9:51 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Sometime around the middle of the season, it became pretty widely accepted that the Heisman Trophy had been narrowed down to a two-man race. Oregon running back LaMichael James has looked unstoppable at times, leading the nation's most dominant offense to an undefeated season and now a spot in the BCS Championship Game. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, well, he's just been doing those Cam Newton things.
There were no surprises when the finalists were announced. On Saturday, James and Newton will be joined by Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore in Times Square for the addition of one more player to the storied history of the Heisman Trophy. Newton is considered to be the favorite, despite the controversy that has swirled since word of alleged solicitation by Cecil Newton came to light. With several writers being very vocal about leaving Newton off the ballot, what does the competition think?
"I don't care what happens off the field. Whatever that situation was, to me he's still the best player in the country,'' LaMichael James said Wednesday at the College Football Awards media session. "I would vote for him twice.''
James does not have a vote, much less two, but the point comes through loud and clear. The counter-argument to the Newton-hate is just that: he is the best player in the country. James has been phenomenal in Oregon's offense, but much of his success is a credit to that team. There have been times this season where Newton has just simply put the Tigers on his back and taken over a game. Without Newton, Auburn would not be in their current position.
Or perhaps James is hoping for a repeat of 2005. After Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy in New York he met his runner-up, Vince Young, in the National Championship. Bush got the Heisman, but Young led Texas to a thrilling last minute victory to win the title. Let Newton get the glory on Saturday, then James can get his revenge on January 10.
Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:20 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 10:10 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation's top senior quarterback, announced its 2010 winner today. Wisconsin signal-caller Scott Tolzien , who led the Badgers to an 11-1 record and a berth in the 2011 Rose Bowl, won the award today.
Now obviously, the pool for this award is always going to be diluted on account of it being limited to senior quarterbacks, and the tendency of high-level QB prospects to declare for the draft before their senior season only further weakens the available list of candidates. Tolzien won this award over a rather tepid list of finalists: Andy Dalton , Colin Kaepernick , Christian Ponder , and Ricky Stanzi.
Or, more to the point, Tolzien wasn't up against Cam Newton , Kellen Moore , Andrew Luck , Ryan Mallett , Dan Persa , or Brandon Weeden. And that's good for Tolzien, because his statistics and the context surrounding them are totally underwhelming. While Tolzien led all seniors with a 169.80 passing efficiency and 74.8 completion percentage, he was hardly the focal point of the offense or the main engine getting it into the end zone; Tolzien recorded just 16 passing touchdowns, compared to his team's otherworldly 46 rushing touchdowns (of which Tolzien had none). Tolzien's total yardage accounted for just 42.6% of Wisconsin's yards, which compares rather unfavorably to Colin Kaepernick's 57.7%. And yes, Wisconsin is ranked higher than Nevada and was involved in more blowouts in which Tolzien's services weren't needed ... but TCU just so happens to be ranked even higher than Wisconsin, was involved in many blowouts of its own, and Dalton's total yardage was still 51.6% of his Horned Frogs' total yards. Also, keep in mind Tolzien was facing a defense with eight men in the box basically all the time, thanks to Wisconsin's thundering ground game. That's a luxury Dalton and Kaepernick didn't enjoy, and they still outperformed Tolzien in every category except passing efficiency, where Tolzien's lead is utterly marginal.
Beyond this year, though, Tolzien's numbers scarcely fit the typical profile of a Unitas Award winner. Beginning in 1995, when noted option enthusiast Tommie Frazier won the award with Nebraska, the average passing touchdown total of the Unitas winner has been 32.5 TDs ... or basically twice that of Tolzien and his 16 touchdowns. The only winner in that timespan with fewer than seven more touchdowns than Tolzien was (no surprise) Frazier, and even he threw for 17 TDs his senior year.
It just seems, like John Clay inexplicably being named a Doak Walker finalist, as if Tolzien is being given this award in lieu of a team award, since Wisconsin is ranked fourth and hooray for that. And it's not as if Tolzien had a bad season, either; his performance against the Iowa defense, especially when he drove the team down the field for a touchdown in the third quarter with only Montee Ball healthy (and Ball lining up at wideout since Nick Toon was out, no less), was really a fantastic display of passing. But by and large, there's just no way Tolzien was a more deserving recipient of this award than Dalton or Kaepernick.
Tags: 2010 Unitas Award, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Persa, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Kellen Moore, Montee Ball, Nebraska, Nevada, Nick Toon, Ricky Stanzi, Ryan Mallett, Scott Tolzien, TCU, Tommie Frazier, Unitas Award, Unitas Award 2010, Unitas Award Finalists, Unitas Award Winner, Wisconsin
Posted on: December 6, 2010 6:38 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Heisman Trophy will be handed this Saturday in New York, and while there really isn't all that much suspense surrounding who is likely going to be taking home the hardware, until now there was some question as to which players would be making the trip. Well, that suspense is over.
The four finalists for the Heisman were announced on Monday, and they are as follows:
Now, if the votes were based solely on performance on the field this season, then there wouldn't be much doubt that Cam Newton was going to be walking out of New York with the trophy in his hands. Still, who knows for sure how the voters are going to vote considering everything that has taken place with Newton this season, and the fact that Reggie Bush just gave up his Heisman a few months ago.
Nobody wants to see that happen again, and according to some voters I've seen on Twitter, there are some voters who left Newton off of their ballot. Which means that there is a chance that somebody other than Newton will win the award, though I wouldn't bet on it.