Tag:Marcus Lattimore
Posted on: July 21, 2011 5:34 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 7:13 pm
 

SEC Media Days Notes and Quotes

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:
  • Don't expect this to be Mike Slive's final rodeo, or next-to-final, or even next-to-next-to-final. Even at the age of 71, he's planning on staying in his position for "some more years" beyond 2011-2012. "I have a couple of things I'd like to accomplish here before I retire," he said, declining to say what they were.
  • All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan (pictured) said he wants to return kickoffs for his Kentucky team. And he was serious--he handled return duties in high school and posted a 30-yard return in the Wildcat's spring game two years ago.



Posted on: July 20, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Steve Spurrier at SEC Media Days

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."





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 3, 2011 2:46 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:44 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 40-31

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.

40. BRADY HOKE, head coach, Michigan. In the modern era of college football (a nebulous concept, but one defined here as "since the inception of the Heisman Trophy"), every Michigan head coach has stayed for at least nine years, with the exception of two: Gary Moeller, who coached for five years but resigned after an arrest for assault and battery in 1995, and Rich Rodriguez, who coached three years and was run out of town last January. Past them, Michigan has been a picture of stability over the years, and the concurrent success is no accident.

With that Rodriguez firing, though, the message from Michigan seems to be, "We'd like it if you stayed a while, but we'll tell you when to get comfortable." That's the power of high standards of success, and while Brady Hoke probably has a pass on getting results for the first year, he probably doesn't have that pass for two. Ohio State won't be reeling forever, after all, so this turnaround job that Hoke performed at San Diego State and Ball State prior to that needs to happen again, real quick. If Hoke makes progress down that road in 2011 -- and especially if he beats Ohio State -- he can start getting comfortable right away, and everything in Ann Arbor will be back to its normal, stable self. -- AJ

39. MATT BARKLEY AND ROBERT WOODS, dynamic quarterback/receiver tandem, USC. There's not a lot for USC fans to look forward to this year. They're out of the Pac-12 title race and can't go to a bowl game for the second straight season. But that's not a reason to stop watching, as the Trojans have one of the best quarterback/wide receiver duos in the country in Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. The latter was named Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year and was on just about every freshman All-American team after racking up a USC record for all-purpose yards. (And in case you didn't know, USC has had a few pretty good freshman play in their illustrious history.)

Then there's Barkley, the golden-haired signal caller who is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and someone many have pegged as a top 10 draft pick if he comes out after the season. Entering his third year as a starter, much is expected of him after posting 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last year. The Barkley-to-Woods connection was among the best in the nation last year and should be one to watch as they hook up for more than a few touchdowns in year two. -- BF

38. BRANDON WEEDEN AND JUSTIN BLACKMON, equally dynamic quarterback/receiver tandom, Oklahoma State. For all Barkley's and Woods' succes, there wasn't a quarterback-wide receiver combination in the nation quite as devastating as Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon last season. The duo hooked up 111 times for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns, as both players seemingly emerged out of nowhere and became nationally recognized names. Blackmon then surprised a lot of people at Oklahoma State and around the country when he decided to come back to Stillwater for another season, and now the two are ready to perform an encore.

The question is whether or not they'll be able to. Blackmon may have snuck up on some teams last season, but you can be sure that he'll be the focus of a lot of opposing defense's film sessions this season. It also won't help that Dana Holgorsen is in Morgantown rather than Stillwater. So it won't be easy, but if these two can match -- or maybe even improve on -- the production they had last season, this might be the season in which the Cowboys finally break through for that elusive Big 12 title.

37. ISAIAH CROWELL, running back, Georgia. We gave the most important incoming freshman in the SEC -- and maybe the country -- his own special weekend breakout entry. Read it here.

36. GUS MALZAHN, offensive coordinator, Auburn. No matter how many times you read it, the list of losses from Auburn's national title teams remains staggering: the Heisman-winning quarterback, the nation's best defensive lineman, six other offensive starters including the top two receivers, seven other defensive starters including the top two linebackers. With all due respect to head coach Gene Chizik (and his smashing successes in the recruiting and team-building departments), nearly all the hope Auburn has of retaining its top-25 perch and position near the top of the SEC West standings rests in Malzahn and his spotless offensive track record. If anyone can take what's left at Auburn (which does include some highly-talented pieces, like running back Michael Dyer and potential breakout receiver Trovon Reed) and fashion an attack that can still keep SEC coordinators up at night, it's Malzahn.

Malzahn's influence can be felt outside of just his impact on the Plains, though. Even as some major programs (like Michigan and Florida) revert to more conservative, pro-style schemes, the runaway success of up-tempo spread offenses like Malzahn's and Chip Kelly's has encouraged teams like Pitt and West Virginia to follow their fast-paced lead. College football offenses seem to be gravitating towards those two opposite poles -- pounding pro-styles and lightning spreads -- and Malzahn's tremendous accomplishments are a major part of explaining the move towards the latter. -- JH

35. THE NCAA's 2011 CELEBRATION RULE, scourge of all that is fair and good in this world, NCAA rulebook. We know it's coming; it's only a matter of the who and where. From the moment a player heads towards a clear endzone, every head coach out there will have his heart skip a beat hoping his player won't do something stupid like ... celebrate? No, thanks to a new NCAA rule, fumbles near the end zone won't be the thing players, coaches and referees will be on the lookout for this season ... it'll be a celebration.

The rule -- actually passed last year but taking effect starting this season -- says that if an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is committed during live play (say, a high-step into the end zone), instead of 15 yards assessed on the extra point or kickoff, the touchdown will be negated. The points will be taken off the board and the ball will be placed 15 yards from the spot of the foul. Remember the Reggie Bush somersault into the end zone? Though already illegal, if this rule had been in effect before, Bush would have been left with nothing to celebrate in the first place. So here come the pins and needles as everyone, fans and coaches alike, hope an 18-year old won't celebrate. Should be a fun season ... unless it's not. -- BF

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34. STEPHEN GARCIA, quarterback, South Carolina. Strange as it may sound, it's true: the Gamecocks are the legitimate SEC East preseason favorite. They have arguably the league's best running back in Marcus Lattimore. They have inarguably the league's best receiver in Alshon Jeffery. They have an experienced, well-coached defense that just added the nation's No. 1 overall recruit at defensive end. With massive advantages like those, you'd expect the fifth-year senior, third-year starting quarterback to be the final piece of a championship puzzle--and maybe not just a conference championship, either.

But the bad news -- or is it the good news? -- for Carolina is that that quarterback is Stephen Garcia. There's no doubt anymore; if Garcia behaves himself over the summer, he will be the Gamecocks' starting QB again this fall. That means he might uncork a whole season like his 17-of-20, three-touchdown masterpiece in Carolina's 35-21 2010 upset of No. 1 Alabama, and bring home the 'Cocks' first-ever SEC title. It also means he might get suspended the Saturday morning of the biggest game of the season or fumble four times in a loss to Vanderbilt. Because he represents the team's best chance of capitalizing on its best chance yet to claim a championship, Steve Spurrier and Co. will just have to take the good with the bad. How much of each Garcia gives them could (or maybe will) singlehandedly determine who represents the East in Atlanta. -- JH

33. THE ACC'S SEPTEMBER 17th, nonconference opportunity, ACC. When the ACC expanded in 2004-2005, the hope was that adding Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College and a championship game would raise the football status of the supposed "basketball conference." But thanks to a poor bowl record and a total lack of national title contenders over the past decade, the conference has quickly become the butt of many college football jokes. The conference produces nearly as much NFL talent as the SEC, but with such little impact on the national scene, it's assumed the ACC just can't hang with the other BCS conferences.

Well, if the ACC is going to make a statement in 2011, September 17 is their chance. Most notably, it is the date of the aforementioned Florida State-Oklahoma showdown. But the Seminoles are only one of five ACC teams hosting a major non-conference showdown that day. Clemson welcomes defending champion Auburn to Death Valley for a rematch of last year's 27-24 overtime thriller. The Miami - Ohio State showdown in Coral Gables has much less star-power than before, but that might only benefit the Hurricanes. In addition, Maryland hosts West Virginia and Georgia Tech looks for redemption from last year's upset against Kansas. The Seminoles and Tigers may take a loss, but Miami, Maryland, and Georgia Tech all have shots to win their non-conference game. If the strongest argument against the ACC is how they stack up against non-conference opponents, the conference can silence those critics with a strong showing on the third Saturday in September. -- CP

32. TAYLOR MARTINEZ, quarterback, Nebraska. It takes a lot of self-confidence for a grown man to unironically adopt a nickname like "T-Magic," but fortunately for Nebraska fans, Taylor Martinez isn't lacking for that confidence--nor for freakish athleticism. The freshman quarterback conjured up memories of Eric Crouch and Tommie Frazier as he ran for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for 1631 yards and 10 more TDs. That's even taking into consideration a right ankle injury that bothered Martinez throughout the second half of the season, keeping him out of two games and limiting him in others. A healthy, more experienced T-Magic for the entire 2011 campaign could be quite the weapon.

However, as both Martinez and Denard Robinson demonstrated just last year, football is not a sport that caters to the health of smaller quarterbacks with heavy rushing workloads. The defenses in the Big 12 are no picnic for opposing QBs, but they're even more physical in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the once-rocky relationship between Martinez and head coach Bo Pelini seems to have healed to some extent. Certainly, there aren't any reports of Martinez missing practices, and he had the chance to transfer this off-season but didn't. Once that first player-coach fight happens, contentment is usually relative and impermanent, but it seems like much more of a 2010 problem than a 2011 problem, and that's bad news for the rest of the Big Ten. -- AJ

31. BRYAN HARSIN, offensive coordinator, Texas. Earlier in the Top 100 we featured Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Well, if Gilbert is going to have a big impact on college football this season, odds are it will have a lot to do with his new coach, offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. Okay, so technically Harsin is the co-offensive coordinator, but I really don't think Mack Brown fired Greg Davis and then brought Harsin in from Boise State so he could share play-calling duties with Major Applewhite. No, Harsin will be grooming one current Longhorn quarterback and one former Longhorn quarterback.

Because if there's anything that Harsin proved himself able to do in his time at Boise, it was produce good signal-callers. Harsin's biggest influence at Texas this year will be to help Gilbert increase his touchdown passes and significantly reduce the turnovers. Over the last three seasons at Boise State, Harsin helped Kellen Moore throw 99 touchdowns to only 19 interceptions. He also put together an offense that averaged about 43 points per game the last three years, and while the defenses in the Big 12 are a bit better than the ones Harsin saw in the WAC, if he can get within reach of numbers like that with the Longhorns in just one season, the rest of the college football world will likely cower in fear. -- TF

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51 and 50-41. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:54 am
 

CBS College Football 100, No. 37: Isaiah Crowell

A special weekend breakout entry for the CBSSports.com College Football 100. You can read the rest of Nos. 40-31 here.

37. ISAIAH CROWELL, running back, Georgia.



Entering 2010, you could find the occasional pundit (and more than the occasional fan) who'd tell you Mark Richt was on the hot seat. Clearly, they were a year early; any SEC coach (Vanderbilt's excepted) who's legitimately on the hot seat doesn't go 6-7 with losses to a miserable Colorado team and a Conference USA opponent and retain his job. Richt did.

But if he wasn't on the hot seat then, another year spent wallowing in mediocrity, another year losing to Florida, another year spent saying "wait 'til next year" has assured that Richt is most definitely on the hot seat now. Any fewer than, say, nine wins and at least a runner-up finish in the SEC East, and there's no way even a measured, patient program like Georgia will be able to bring him back. And so it's only natural that with his job in jeopardy like never before, Richt is spearheading his team's turnaround with ... a freshman?

Almost: freshmen, if we're being technical, the so-called "Dream Team" of primarily in-state prospects that gave Richt his strongest recruiting class in years and seemed to singlehandedly restore momentum to the program. But even the five-star likes of defensive end Ray Drew and defensive back Malcolm Mitchell won't be expected to become the centerpieces of the Bulldog defense overnight. Isaiah Crowell, though? No, he's not even on campus yet. But the true freshman running back from Columbus (Ga.) is no doubt already the foundation on which much of Richt's offensive plans are being laid.

Just ask him:
“Heavily,” Richt said on ESPNU when asked how Crowell would be used next fall. “I expect him to come right in and compete right away. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him running that rock in the dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do.”
For a publicly conservative-by-nature coach like Richt, an admission like that is tantamount to declaring Crowell the unquestioned starter ... and that was on Signing Day. Clearly, Richt believes Crowell to be the game-changer at tailback the Bulldogs haven't had since Knowshon Moreno departed, and he expects him to be that player from Day 1.

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But Richt almost has no choice to believe that, because the Bulldog offense needs him to be that player from Day 1. Aaron Murray put together a sensational freshman season at quarterback, but last season proved there's only so much he can do (even with the likes of A.J. Green around) without playmaking help elsewhere at the skill position. And with Green gone, the offensive line talented but in flux, the best remaining receiving target tight end Orson Charles, and Washaun Ealey finally exiled, Crowell looks to be far-and-away Murray's best bet to get that help. He might even be his only bet.

There's plenty of evidence, though, that Crowell is a bet that'll pay off in spades. Like current Heisman candidates Trent Richardson and Marcus Lattimore, Crowell arrives at Georgia not only with consensus five-star approval from the recruiting gurus but the honor of being the most sought-after SEC running back in his class. (Alabama and Auburn both fought tooth-and-nail for Crowell, to no avail.) At 5'11" and a solidly-built 210 pounds, Crowell already has the frame to deliver 25 carries a game and the power and speed to make those carries count.

In short, Crowell has both the opportunity and the talent to do for the Bulldogs exactly what Lattimore did for South Carolina last season. If he lives up to the hype, there's no reason Richt can't ride him right past a forgiving schedule (with no Alabama, LSU or Arkansas out of the West and no road game more difficult than Tennessee) all the way to Atlanta. If he doesn't? Most likely, someone other than Richt is patrolling the Bulldogs' sideline in 2012.

The guess here is that Crowell delivers, and the "Dream Team" momentum carries Richt into 2012 and beyond. But either way, Crowell enters 2011 as the most important true freshman in the SEC ... and possibly the country.

Posted on: June 2, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:54 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 50-41

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.

50. COWBELLS, traditional noisemakers, Mississippi State. On the one hand, yeah, it's just a bell with a stick attached to it and (usually) a State logo affixed to one side. But on the other, it's a huge reason why trips to Starkville have become a gigantic thorn in the side of SEC favorites since Dan Mullen took over the Bulldog helm. The cowbells create a tremendous amount of noise during their designated usage periods (touchdown celebrations, timeouts, etc.), but there's plenty enough State fans willing to use them during non-designated periods that Davis-Wade Stadium can become just as loud and disruptive as SEC stadiums with twice its capacity.

And in 2011, how loud Davis-Wade can get will matter. A lot. The Bulldogs will play host to both of the consensus SEC West favorites and the closest thing the preseason has to an SEC East favorite--LSU visits Sept. 15, South Carolina Oct. 15 and Alabama Nov. 12. A State victory in any one of those three games could immediately turn the entire conference on its head--and given that this is Mullen's most experienced team yet, the guess here is that thanks in part to those cowbells, the Bulldogs will come away with at least one of those scalps. -- JH

49. DOAK CAMPBELL STADIUM, home venue, Florida State. The Seminoles' home field will play host to one of the biggest non-conference matchups of the season--and it takes place on the third weekend of football. On September 17, Oklahoma -- expected to be one of the top-ranked teams in the nation -- will visit Doak looking to repeat last year's thumping of FSU in Norman. The Seminoles return 17 starters from last year's team that finished the season as the ACC runner-up and Chick Fil-A Bowl champion, though, leading many to tap Florida State as the 2011 ACC frontrunner. It's safe to say head coach Jimbo Fisher has brought the hype back to Tallahassee in just his second year.

So the two juggernauts will collide in Doak Campbell Stadium. A win for Oklahoma would be a huge confidence boost after struggling in a few crucial road games over the last couple years. A win for Florida State would not only bring the Sooners' title hopes to a screeching halt, it would transform the home team from ACC favorite to national title contender. The 'Noles also get Maryland, N.C. State and Miami all at home, making Doak not only a key destination for the national title picture but the key venue for the ACC Atlantic race. If the Seminoles can escape the month of September undefeated, it could be their race to lose down the stretch. -- CP

48. AL GOLDEN, head coach, Miami. The Hurricane coaching search was heavily publicized and tossed around flashy names like Jon Gruden and Dan Mullen, but the final decision was on the decidedly less-flashy, hard-nosed Golden. Since joining the program, Golden has talked about changing the "culture" of Miami football. After watching the team prepare for the Sun Bowl, Golden said he wanted to practice faster, hit harder, and increase the toughness up and down the roster. His winter conditioning program produced players' tales of being worked harder than ever, and his gritty demands continued well into spring practice.

But Golden needs to be more than a strength coach and philosopher for the Hurricanes. He needs to be the face of the program moving forward, and the team needs to believe in his word. There is a roster full of talent in Coral Gables that has not come close to sniffing a conference championship. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hurricanes have yet to produce so much as a Coastal division title. Golden's arrival has brought a lot of excitement back to The U, but also the expectations for winning. If Golden is going to get the trust of Randy Shannon's team, he will need to show them that his "culture" produces championship-caliber football. -- CP

47. THE BIG TEN THANKSGIVING DINNER, new-and-improved rivalry weekend, November 25-26. The Big Ten, for better or worse, has always been unusually staid about its traditions--that means Saturday conference games only, no conference games after November 25 (which usually ends the season before Thanksgiving), and Michigan-Ohio State to end the conference season, always. That has worked out pretty well for the Big Ten for the most part, although Buckeye fans in particular have long rued the six weeks of layoff between a pre-Thanksgiving conference finish and a January BCS bowl game (since the SEC and most other conferences would only have four weeks).

Say goodbye to that disparity, though, because the Big Ten has moved the end of its regular season to Thanksgiving weekend. That decision plus the conference championship game equals football in December in the Big Ten, just like everywhere else. And what a regular season finale week the Big Ten has lined up for its fans this year: Michigan-OSU is still there, as fans demanded en masse when scheduling was going on, but now it's not the only show in town. Iowa and Nebraska have set up a season-ending rivalry for the next four years (one expects this to be made permanent if fans respond well to the new rivalry), and breaking with all sorts of conference tradition, it'll be on Friday. There's also a key showdown with Penn State at Wisconsin, and if Ohio State's not in contention for the (sigh) Leaders Division title, PSU-Wisconsin will likely have heavy implications for that bid to the championship. Same goes for Michigan State at Northwestern in the Legends Division. That's a heck of a way to spend a Thanksgiving weekend, isn't it? -- AJ

46. KELLEN MOORE, quarterback, Boise State. Kellen Moore's career thus far seems to have taken an arc we usually only see in TV shows. Last season was the "championship run" season, where Boise State was as poised as it ever was to crash the BCS Championship before fate conspired to take down the heroes. And make no mistake, Moore was a hero last year, leading the nation in passing efficiency and racking up 35 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He may not have had a chance to overtake Cam Newton for Heisman consideration, but his fate was sealed in the Broncos' 34-31 loss to Nevada--even though Moore threw a downright miraculous 53-yard bomb to Titus Young that put Boise in position to win the game.

If last season was all about the team taking its best shot at the title, this year's all about Moore; his top two receivers, Young and Austin Pettis, are both off to the NFL now, and key reserve RB Jeremy Avery is also gone. The Broncos find themselves in a tougher conference, too, though they still look to be favorites to win the Mountain West championship. If there were ever a time for Moore to erase the last of the doubts about his ability to play quarterback, this'll be it, and with any luck, this season'll end on a much more crowd-pleasing note for Moore and the rest of his teammates. -- AJ

45. THE PAC-12 HOT SEAT, conference furniture, Pac-12. When Pac-12 media days roll around next year, there's a good chance there will be a few different faces from this year's edition. While every conference has their fair share of coaches on the hot seat, it seems as though the Pac-12 has a hot couch with so many people to fit on it. Washington State's Paul Wulff, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel, Arizona State's Dennis Erickson and Cal's Jeff Tedford are those that are feeling the heat ... and a bad year by USC's Lane Kiffin could find him starting to sweat as well.

The coach with the best chance to get off of the seat is Erickson, who has a team full of upperclassmen and is primed to make a run at the first ever Pac-12 South title. Erickson is just barely over .500 in his time in Tempe and has only finished in the upper half of the conference standings once. Needless to say, it's put up or shut up time. Wulff's winning percentage is well south of the Mendoza Line (.135 entering 2011) and he probably needs to get the Cougars close to a bowl game in order to get another year. Neuheisel and Tedford both have upset fan bases and a really bad year will likely mean they're out; financial considerations might be the only thing that could keep them around. The hot seat is crowded in the Pac-12 and it should be fun to see who gets off of it this season -- one way or another -- first. -- BF

44. OKLAHOMA'S BUMPY ROAD, scheduling hurdle, Oklahoma. Oklahoma seems to be the popular pick to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, which gives the Sooners an edge in its pursuit of a national championship. All it has to do is go undefeated -- that's it! -- and the Sooners will find themselves in the BCS Championship Game. Obviously, winning every single game on the schedule is not an easy thing to do, particularly when you've got that giant target on your back ... and things could be even tougher for Oklahoma when you look at their schedule.

Over the last two seasons, Oklahoma has played nine games on the road -- not counting neutral site games -- and the Sooners have gone a distressing 3-5. Last season the Sooners won two games on the road, against Cincinnati and Oklahoma State, but only won those games by a combined eight points. This season two of Oklahoma's toughest games will be on the road, as it travels to Florida State during the second week of the season and will finish the year against those same Cowboys in Stillwater. Then there's the neutral site battle with Texas. It wouldn't be a shock to anybody if the Sooners came away from those three games with at least one loss on the marker. And given that there's no longer a Big 12 title game that could help boost the Sooners' profile at the end of the year, that loss could singlehandedly derail the team's 2011 title hopes. -- TF

43. WILL MUSCHAMP, head coach, Florida. In some ways, Muschamp will have less pressure on him this season than the other two head coaches in the SEC East's "Big Three"; Mark Richt is firmly in win-or-else mode, and Steve Spurrier has to know his career won't last long enough to see talents like Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery come around again. Muschamp, meanwhile, may need a couple of seasons to get his favored pro-style offense working and his aggressive defense completely in place.

Then again, this is Florida. And Muschamp is replacing a coach with three SEC East titles and two national championships in the last five seasons alone; transition or no transition, a second straight year bumbling around the 7-5 mark with an offense barely fit to wear the same jerseys as the Spurrier Fun n' Gun or the Tim Tebow/Percy Harvin spread juggernaut won't go over well at all. The easiest way for Florida to improve, fortunately, is Muschamp's specialty: defense. The Gators have all the athletes needed to dominate on that side of the ball, and if Muschamp's going to extend his coaching honeymoon past the season's first month, they'd better. -- JH

42. BIG EAST CONFERENCE TIEBREAKERS, potential title-deciders, Big East. Since 2003, the Big East title has been split four times. Two of those times were between at least three teams, most recently last season when Connecticut won the tie-breaker over West Virginia and Pitt. As the conference's front office continues to eye expansion and the addition of a conference championship, the eight teams participating in conference play this fall will all be fighting for the BCS berth awarded to number one team in the standings.

With the seven game conference schedule (which is backloaded, for most teams), there are less games to separate the teams in the standings. Unless one team goes undefeated (West Virginia in 2005, Cincinnati in 2009), there is a good chance that there will be a tie at the top of the standings. In the final month of the season the Big East title hunt will become a wild collection of if/then scenarios, with each conference game carrying a tie-breaker significance. -- CP

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41. ROBERT GRIFFIN III, quarterback, Baylor. Last season the Baylor Bears finished the season 7-6 and played in their first bowl game in 16 years, a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the Texas Bowl. While there are plenty of reasons to help explain the turnaround in Waco the last few seasons, no person has had a bigger impact on the program than quarterback Robert Griffin III. The kid known as RG3 has not only been a star in the classroom, but on the field as well, accounting for 4,145 total yards and 30 touchdowns in 2010. Make no mistake about it: while the Baylor defense cost the team some games, Griffin kept the Bears in just about all of them with what he brought on offense.

As a redshirt junior in 2011, Griffin will be playing his fourth season with the Bears, and should be better than ever--a scary proposition for Big 12 defenses already struggling to stop him. While Baylor's defense will likely keep it from having a real shot to win the Big 12 this season, odds are that RG3 is going to have a big say in who ultimately does win the conference ... meaning that he could have a big impact on the national title picture as well before the year is finished. -- TF

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61 and 60-51. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: May 12, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Spurrier: Garcia's got a chance of being back

Posted by Chip Patterson

Suspended South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia spent last weekend celebrating his graduation in Columbia with family and friends. But a weekend of celebrating achievement has not erased the misconduct that has his future with the Gamecocks in jeopardy. Garcia was suspended April 6 for drinking before an SEC-mandated life skills event. After graduation, he met with head coach Steve Spurrier about his future with the program.

"Stephen Garcia's got a chance of being back," Spurrier told a group of fans gathered for his first "Fan Fest" address. "We'll see how the summer plays out and see if he can mature a little bit and quit acting immature-ish and childish and things like that."

Spurrier said the meeting with Garcia went "OK," and suggested that maybe Garcia will be allowed to join a group of "guys who know how to act responsibly and represent the University of South Carolina."

The Gamecocks have another chance to win the SEC East this spring, particularly with the pieces they return from last year's SEC Championship Game squad. Spurrier stands by backup Connor Shaw, but few believe that the Gamecocks can reach their potential with the sophomore under center. Sources have suggested to the Charleston Post and Courier that Garcia could be reinstated before summer workouts begin in June, and most expect him to return before the season starts.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC East

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC East, team by team. In alphabetical order:


FLORIDA: When spring began, we said the Gators might have the most interesting offense in the country. Urban Meyer's former spread-option death machine, destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, by none other than Charlie Weis, in the image of the steady no-frills pro-style attacks Will Muschamp saw work for old boss Nick Saban, as piloted by 2011-or-bust quarterback John Brantley? That's quite the storyline they've got going there.

But the Gators will have to hope it's a story that will be rewritten come the fall. While no one was expecting the offense to look like Weis's old New England Patriot attacks after three weeks of practice, no one was expecting it to put on a 13-10 spring game universally panned as a hideous eyesore, either. Brantley went an ugly 4-of-14 after missing his first six passes, the leading rusher was a walk-on defensive back, and the entire offensive output for the game amounted to 340 yards.

Much of that can be pinned on a wicked rash of injuries that took out most of the offensive line, an entire stable of running backs, multiple receivers, etc.; encouragingly, much of it can also be pinned on a rampaging defensive line led by Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, all members of Meyer's loaded 2010 class and all looking posied to make good on their five-star hype. But the bottom line is that much of it can also be pinned squarely on Brantley, who Muschamp and his other coaches universally lauded for an excellent spring but who showed little of that alleged improvement when playing in public.

Does it matter? Give him a solid summer and a solid fall camp, and it may not. But until Brantley proves he's something other than what he's appeared to be since the moment Tim Tebow left -- in over his head -- skepticism is in order.

GEORGIA: The biggest question entering the most critical spring of Mark Richt's spring tenure concerned the Bulldogs' biggest players: could their offensive line bounce back? When you have Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, a fleet of talented (if still unproven) receivers, and eventually Isaiah Crowell, if you have a line, you're going to have a heck of an offense.

There was good news and bad news on that front, the latter a devastating torn ACL suffered by fifth-senior and projected starting tackle Trinton Sturdivant. But there were positives, too, namely a terrific spring from potential All-SEC  center Ben Jones and guard-to-tackle position switch Cordy Glenn. G-day primary tailbacks Ken Malcome and Caleb King combined for 69 yards on 12 carries, a not-so-shabby 5.8 yards per-carry. Overall, the line was impressive enough this spring that senior Justin Anderson -- billed as a potential starter on the OL -- has been moved to defense.

The Dawgs had themselves a fine spring on the defensive front as well, with newly bulked-up nose tackle Kwame Geathers the talk of the Bulldogs' spring camp and converted safety Alec Ogletree providing a big boost the linebacking corps. The secondary is unsettled and one of those aforementioned receivers needs to emerge as a go-to target for Murray, but if the improvements in the front seven and offensive line aren't mirages, the Bulldogs wil be back in the thick of the East race all the same.

KENTUCKY: Consider it a successful second spring for Joker Phillips and the Wildcats. We noted that with nearly all of the major players from 2010's surprisingly effective Wildcat passing game gone, Phillips would want to make rebuilding that passing attack around junior quarterback Morgan Newton priority No. 1 in spring camp. And though we'll have to wait until fall to see the finished results, for now it looks like Mission Accomplished: Newton had a terrific spring, capped by a 23-of-44, 256-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' Blue-White Game.

Things weren't perfect: the Wildcat receivers were plagued by drops, and a defense still adjusting to new co-coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive schemes paired several big plays with several breakdowns. But with Newton cementing himself as a reliable option under center and a veteran line paving the way for new tailback Raymond Sanders to average better than 7 yards a carry, there's far more optimism for the Wildcat offense coming out of spring than going in.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever storyline you might have constructed ahead of time for the Gamecocks' spring, it was always going to overshadowed by the continuing Stephen Garcia circus. Until Carolina receives a definitive word one way or the other on Garcia's return (though as we wrote earlier today, that return seems likely), the team is going to be in something close to suspended football animation.  The lack of developments aside from Garcia was only enhanced by the fact that so many of Carolina's key players -- Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, an offensive line with four returning starters -- are known commodities.

That said, the Garnet-Black Game showed that if Garcia doesn't come back, the Gamecocks won't be totally lost at quarterback. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson combined to go a productive 23-of-40 for 344 yards (though Thompson threw a pair of picks), and on an offense with weapons like Lattimore, Jeffery, and tailback Kenny Miles (43 yards on just 6 carries in the spring game), "productive" should be enough.

The downside: those passing numbers came against a Gamecock secondary that got routinely torched in 2010 (FBS 97th in pass defense). Garcia or no Garcia, more improvement in that secondary will be necessary to take Carolina back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE: Entering spring, the road to improvement for the Volunteers was clear: get stronger, more physical, better along each line of scrimmage, then let the Vols' cadre of up-and-coming skill position stars -- led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray -- do the rest.

The Vols made plenty of headway on the first part of that equation; the White team earned a dominant victory over the more starter-heavy Orange in the Vol spring game thanks in no small part to a bruising run game led by second-string tailback Raijon Neal; defensive linemen on both squads were able to get consistent quarterback pressure; and offensive lineman Alex Bullard and defensive tackle Daniel Hood won the team's top awards for spring performance. Both lines remain so young that there's still a long way to go to SEC dominance, but it seems unlikely they'll be pushed around the way they were at times in 2010, either.

But as for the other part of the equation, stay tuned. Bray went a miserable 5-for-30 quarterbacking the defeated Orange side, with Derek Dooley suggesting afterwards that perhaps Bray had been overconfident. Bray is expected to take a major step forward in his first full season as the Vols' starter, but if that step winds up as minor as the spring game proposes it might be, all the line improvement in the world won't push the Vols back into relevance in the SEC East.

VANDERBILT: When you finished last season dead last in the conference in both total offense and total defense -- and you are Vanderbilt -- any kind of improvement in any area will be music to new coach James Franklin's ears. But fortunately for the 'Dores, they saw some green shoots in two positions that have been partocularly troublesome the past few seasons.

One is quarterback , where previously scattershot senior Larry Smith completed 16-of-26 for 233 yards and a touchdown, leading his Black side to a 19-7 win over the Gold. The other is the defensive line , where defensive tackle Colt Nichter recorded a pair of sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann collected a sack and an interception. But when you're Vandy, you'll take whatever you can get.

"The big thing," Franklin said, "is that we stayed healthy."

For the same review of the SEC West, click here.

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