Posted on: January 4, 2011 10:50 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
UConn finds itself in unfamiliar territory at the moment, because for the first time in the school's FBS history, it has a coaching search to conduct. The problem is, with signing day not even a month away, somebody needs to take the program over now to keep things running as smoothly as possible while the school begins its search.
And that person is going to be assistant head coach Hank Hughes.
"Hank Hughes is the perfect choice to fill the role as interim head coach for our football program," said UConn AD Jeffrey Hathaway in a statement. "He has been a long-time member of our coaching staff and is extremely loyal to our university and our Division of Athletics. Hank will provide outstanding leadership to our football student-athletes and support staff during this time of transition."
Hughes will also be a candidate to take over the job full time, but he won't be alone in that department. While the school hasn't made any official announcement about who they'll be looking at, names that keep coming up as possibilities are Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, former Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, and Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe.
Ironically, another name being mentioned is the man who was supposed to be getting the Maryland job Randy Edsall left for, Mike Leach. In a way, Mike Leach has become the new Randy Edsall since his name comes up for every coaching job, but he never gets the job. Another possibility would be Rich Rodriguez should he be relieved of his duties at Michigan.
Posted on: January 3, 2011 12:30 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Here's how messed up the coaching situation has been at Pitt over the last few weeks. After basically forcing Dave Wannstedt to resign following the season, the school then hired Mike Haywood to take over the program. Haywood had the job for an entire fourteen days before getting arrested for domestic assault and consequently being dismissed from the job, setting the coaching search wheels in motion once more.
Well, did you know that Pitt still has a bowl game to play? Yeah, its the BBVA Compass Bowl and it's only a few days away. Did you also know that up until this morning, Pitt had no idea who would actually be coaching the team in that bowl game?
Dave Wannstedt informed his staff this morning that he won't be coaching the team against Kentucky, which means that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will handle the head coaching duties in the game.
Seriously, the Panthers are giving UConn a run for the money in the "Worst 2011 Ever" contest. Making matters worse for the Panthers is that they also found out on Monday that senior defensive tackle Jabaal Sheard just had surgery and won't be available to play against Kentucky.
The worst news it that the game is still five days away. Who knows what else can happen before then?
Posted on: January 3, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: January 3, 2011 12:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
One of the things you can never be sure about when you commit to a school for four years is whether or not the coach that spent all those hours in your living room recruiting you will be there the entire time you attend the school. The way that college football coaching works in this day and age, it's just a risk you have to take, and you have to remember you're committing to a school, not a coach.
Still, when that coach leaves, it could sting a bit. Especially if that coach handles it the way that Randy Edsall apparently did when he told his UConn team he had taken the job at Maryland. One anonymous player told the Hartford Courant how the team found out, and he doesn't sound very happy about it .
"We were on hold for a half-hour, with the operations manager telling us Edsall would be coming on in a few minutes. When Edsall came on he was like, 'I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry I can't do this in person, but due to circumstances ... I just want to let you know that it's not because of you guys. But it's an opportunity for my family. ... I can move on feeling like I've accomplished things here and I'm leaving the program in a good way.'
"A couple of coaches said that was BS. ... They didn't know about it. He hadn't told any of us.
"It really pisses me off because he made Jordan (Todman) address the team (Sunday) night to say he was leaving. And he isn't man enough to do it face to face to us?
"A lot of people were just really upset by the call. He made Todman get up and tell the whole team: 'Jordan, I think you have something to say to these guys.' He made him do it face-to-face. But he didn't do it face-to-face.
"I'm going to look [at other schools], not Big East or anything. ... When you bring in a new coach, the first three or four years [it's all developing the program)]. But these are Edsall's players, not the new guy's. ... Well, I'm going to get the (naughty word) out of here. But what happens with the incoming recruiting class? Are those guys still coming?
"The thing I'm concerned with is, am I going to get my release."
I understand that with all of the football players on break, it's hard to get the entire team together, and that Edsall is somewhat busy at the moment, but to do to it over the phone, after you made Jordan Todman do it in person seems pretty weak. According to the player, Edsall told the team that he just found about about the Maryland job and it was something that just suddenly happened.
According to reports, Edsall had been in negotiations with Maryland last week.
So if you're going to make Todman man up and tell the team he was leaving, why couldn't he have done so himself either before or after the Fiesta Bowl?
Posted on: January 2, 2011 4:22 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
You have to wonder if UConn may be regretting the fact that it was chosen to play in the Fiesta Bowl a bit right now. Forget about the fact that Oklahoma did what everybody expected Oklahoma to do to the Huskies on Saturday night, it's what's happened in the hours since then that have damaged UConn the most.
Now, even with the loss, getting the kind of exposure for the football program that being in the Fiesta Bowl brings is a good thing. Of course, national exposure for a program is a two-way street. Yes, people know who you are now, even if all they know about you is that you aren't as good as Oklahoma. The problem is that exposure not only works for the program, but the people in it.
Jordan Todman has been one of the best running backs in college football all season, but because of where he rushed for all those yards and touchdowns, not everybody knew about it. Now Todman had a chance to perform in the national spotlight, with the eyes of NFL scouts upon him. He didn't have the greatest game, but it's no coincidence that he's now going to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
He knew that the spotlight on him probably won't get any brighter in 2011.
Then there's Randy Edsall. The job Edsall has done at UConn can't be over looked. He took a program from the FCS and helped make it a contender in a BCS conference, and only needed seven years to win the Big East and get to a BCS bowl. It's because of this that Edsall's name has seemed to pop up in every coaching vacancy around the country the last few years, but it seems that one school finally couldn't resist passing up the opportunity to actually hire him.
Sunday brought the news that Edsall was going to be named the new head coach at Maryland. Now, less than 24 hours after the culmination of all the work Edsall put in at UConn, after the team finally reached a BCS bowl game, it's right back to where it started seven years ago.
Happy new year, UConn.
Posted on: January 2, 2011 2:23 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2011 6:46 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
[UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.: Maryland has officially announced the hiring of Randy Edsall tonight.]
After the unceremonious dismissal of Ralph Friedgen from the head coaching spot at Maryland , most people expected Mike Leach to be named the new head coach shortly thereafter. Leach was the only person named by Maryland AD Kevin Anderson at the press conference announcing Friedgen's departure, and he was the first person formally interviewed by Maryland earlier this week.
So, naturally, just hours after Connecticut 's 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Huskies head coach Randy Edsall was reportedly tabbed to run the Terrapins.
The Washington Post reported today that according to several sources, Edsall was at Maryland interviewing for the head coaching spot with the search committee. CSN's Chick Hernandez confirmed the report and said that "barring major setback," Edsall would be hired. Minutes later, Joe Schad reported on Twitter that Maryland had in fact tabbed Edsall, and here we are. The hire has not been confirmed by Maryland, and according to the Baltimore Sun, one source at the school insists Leach is still a candidate, but an announcement is expected within 24 hours.
If Terps fans are disappointed by the prospect of Edsall coming aboard, it'd be hard to blame them; bringing Leach and the Air Raid offense to Maryland would have been a breath of fresh air for the program after it took the hit of losing coach-in-waiting James Franklin in December. But a breath of fresh air isn't the same thing as a quality, long-term hire, and that's apparently the direction Maryland wants to go with this hire. Edsall built Connecticut from a I-AA power to a FBS BCS competitor (albeit arguably the worst ever) in just a few years, and Maryland could use that type of institutional quantum leap forward -- or, as Anderson put it, "from 'good' to 'great'." Whether Edsall can deliver on that scale, of course, is something that necessarily remains to be seen.
And if Edsall is indeed confirmed as Maryland's next top man, we can't help but wonder... Mike Leach to UConn?
Tags: 2011 Fiesta Bowl, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Connecticut, Fiesta Bowl, Kevin Anderson, Kevin Franklin, Maryland Coaching Rumors, Maryland Coaching Search, Maryland Mike Leach, Maryland Randy Edsall, Mike Leach Maryland, Oklahoma, Randy Edsall, Randy Edsall Hired, Randy Edsall Maryland, UConn, Who Did Maryland Hire
Posted on: January 1, 2011 1:35 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore to an early head injury and can't rally from a 13-0 hole, falling 26-17 to Florida State.
Offense: The Seminole offense rarely looked like a well-oiled machine, particularly after quarterback Christian Ponder left the game for good with a first-quarter concussion, and a few more touchdowns in place of field goals would have salted the game away sometime in the third quarter. But in a game defined by blown chances and mistakes on both sides, that the 'Noles managed not to screw up four potential (and eventually converted) Dustin Hopkins field goal opportunities counts for a lot, and backup E.J. Manuel's two clutch throws on FSU's game-clinching fourth-quarter drive -- one on third-and-eight to set up first-and-goal, the other to score the touchdown -- count for even more.
But what counts the most was the 218 yards rushing stunningly piled up on what had been the nation's eighth-ranked run defense. Even without any real passing threat once Ponder left the game, the Seminole line blasted hole after hole in the Gamecock front seven, and Chris Thompson took advantage to the tune of 147 game-changing yards. GRADE: B
Defense: When FSU corner Greg Reid -- the game's best player by a wide, wide margin -- walloped Lattimore on Carolina's first drive to dislodge the ball, end a Gamecock scoring threat, and (cleanly) knock Steve Spurrier's biggest weapon out of the game, the tone was set. Maybe the Seminoles were going to give up some yards here and there (414 in all by the time the whistle blew), but it wasn't going to matter as long as they had a big play waiting ... and they nearly always did. The 'Nole pass rush recorded only two official sacks but harassed Stephen Garcia into poor throws all game long; the defensive backs turned three of those throws into interceptions; and Reid, a demon all night, separated Alshon Jeffery from the ball as well late in the third quarter for another crucial turnover, Carolina's fifth of the game. In short: yardage allowed, schmardage schmallowed. GRADE: A-
Coaching: In a game where both teams appeared equally motivated and (almost) equally sloppy, the star of the game from a coaching standpoint was FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, whose blitz packages the Carolina offensive line never developed an answer for. But credit also goes to Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff for never asking the clearly-limited Manuel to do too much. GRADE: A-
Offense: Particularly considering they were forced to play nearly the entire game without the linchpin of their offense -- a situation that had already seen the Carolina offense roll over and die a couple of times this season -- the Gamecocks as a whole weren't that bad. 414 yards of offense ought to be worth a lot more than 17 points. But it's not when your quarterback has the kind of nightmare game Garcia had, throwing three picks-to-zero touchdowns, missing multiple open receivers, and generally looking every bit as lost as he'd looked in his previous two bowl starts (blowout losses to Iowa and UConn).
He didn't get a whole lot of help -- no Lattimore, Jeffrey's fumble, blown assignments in pass protection, etc. -- but it was Garcia's loose screws that first let the Gamecocks' wheels come off. GRADE: C-
Defense: There shouldn't be much shame in the Gamecocks' defensive performance; allowing only 308 yards of total offense should be enough to win most games, and if not for a whole series of huge stands from the Carolina D following offensive (and special teams) miscues, the game would have been well out of hand before the halftime whistle.
At the same time, there might have been more time for a Gamecock comeback if not for all the clock burned off by Thompson's runs, and allowing Manuel to go 7-for-7 on the deciding touchdown drive directly after the offense had scored to cut the lead to 19-17 will stick in coordinator Ellis Thompson's craw all offseason. The Gamecocks were good, but it's not true to say they were good enough. GRADE: B
Coaching: Spurrier's perenially lackadaisical approach to blitz protection caught up to him again, but aside from that, there's not much to take issue with in Carolina's coaching performance; the coaches can't be held responsible for Lattimore's sudden injury, Garcia having one of those games, the defensive line getting beat straight up in the running game, etc. Unlike the last two years, the Gamecocks at leats played like they wanted to be at their bowl game. GRADE: B+
FINAL GRADE: The 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl provided some drama in the late-going, but between the insistence on South Carolina's part to hand the game over to Florida State and FSU's insistence on politely kicking another field goal to keep the Gamecocks in it anyway, you can't call it a classic. And with the final five minutes an anticlimax following Manuel's final touchdown toss, this blogger isn't sure he'd even call it "good." Grade: B
Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:17 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 8:18 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Basics: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. UConn (8-4), Jan. 1, 8:30pm ET
Why You Should Watch: If you like those nature programs where a pack of lionesses hunt down and ruthlessly slaughter a gazelle, this is totally the bowl game for you. Probably. Possibly. Not if you go by Bob Stoops' prior track record in BCS games, admittedly; he and his Sooners have lost their last five. And that's the real reason you have to tune in, no matter how lopsided a matchup this might appear to be. If a UConn team that is totally overmatched on paper -- remember that the Huskies lost to Temple, were shut out by Louisville, and won the Big East despite being outgained by some 600 total yards in league play -- can pull off what might be the upset of the season, or even come close, Stoops might hitch the first plane to Gainesville just to avoid the tomato storm that would await him on his return to Norman. It's not likely, but like the first round of the NCAA Tournament in hoops, the potential is tantalizing enough that it's still a game you have to watch. Just know that no one will blame you for making other plans for the third and fourth quarters.
Keys to Victory for Oklahoma: The biggest one for the Sooners is pretty simple: just don't screw it up. Stoops' team has overwhelming matchup advantages all over the field, and if they can merely avoid making the handful of catastrophic mistakes that would keep the Huskies in the game, they should cruise. Start with the passing game, where Oklahoma will feature the nation's No. 4 air attack at 337 yards-per-game, one headed by quarterback Landry Jones and featuring one of the FBS's most dangerous receivers in overlooked All-American (if there can be such a thing) Ryan Broyles. They'll be facing a low-wattage UConn secondary that was shredded by the likes of Michigan (8.5 yards an attempt), Rutgers (11.4), and Pitt (7.9). If the Panthers' Tino Sunseri can do that kind of damage (he finished 20-of-28 for more than 220 yards) against the Huskies, there's no telling what Jones and Broyles might do. It doesn't get much better in the run game, where 1,100-yard All-Big 12 rusher DeMarco Murray will face a young front seven ranked 56th in the country in rush defense -- lower even than the Huskies' pass defense. If the Sooners don't turn the ball over (and their 16 total giveaways were the fewest in the Big 12), they should put up major yards and points without too much effort.
Defensively, though, the Sooners aren't quite as overpowering; they rank outside the top 50 in total, passing, and rushing defense. But they do have a penchant for big plays, having forced 30 opponent turnovers this year, good for the fourth-highest total in the country. The ball-hawking secondary tag-team of senior safety Quinton Carter and junior corner Jamell Fleming each picked off four passes, with a big assist to Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Jeremy Beal. The senior defensive end wreaked havoc on opposing lines all season, recording 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss. If Beal can force the Huskies into repeated third-and-longs or the Sooners' sticky fingers can negate a UConn drive or two with turnovers, the underdog won't stand a chance.
Keys to Victory for UConn: To actually win this game, UConn's going to have to catch a ton of breaks, and the bigger impact those breaks have, the better. Which is why they're going to need to make the game as low-possession, as short, and as break-dependent as possible, and that means a heavy dose of Jordan Todman. The nation's second-leading rusher, Todman gained 1,574 yards this season on an impressive 5.2 yards per-carry. Combine his toughness with a veteran line featuring a pair of first-team All-Big East performers in jumbo junior tackle Mike Ryan (333 pounds) and equally jumbo senior guard Zach Hurd (325 pounds), and you get what might be the Huskies' only real matchup advantage as they go up against a Sooner front that's allowed seven different teams to average 4.5 yards a carry or better. If Todman and the big Huskie front can grind out some big first downs, they'll take loads of pressure off the entire rest of the team: wobbly quarterback Zach Fraser (5.4 yards per-attempt for the season, 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio), a front seven that could be ground down by the Sooners' up-tempo attack if left on the field very long, a secondary that simply can't be allowed to face Jones, Broyles, and Co. with the burden of trying to salvage the game on their shoulders. For Uconn, it all starts with Todman and the line.
The good news is that if that start can keep the Huskies close going into the fourth quarter, they've shown an impressive ability to finish, winning tight games against West Virginia, Pitt, and South Florida with key late drives and clutch kicking from big-legged All-Big East kicker Dave Teggart. There's also little doubt that should the game stay competitive deep into the second half, all the pressure -- not only from this game, but from Stoops' previous BCS failures and Oklahoma's role as the overwhelming favorite -- will be on the Sooners, It won't be easy to get there, but if Todman can get rolling and the defense (notably all-league defensive end Kendall Reyes) can play far enough over its head to keep the Huskies in it, it might be the other team that makes the single game-deciding mistake.
The Fiesta Bowl is like: an inspirational underdog sports movie recast -- probably -- as a gritty indie drama. We've got a lovable, plucky underdog that's scraped and clawed to get its one shot at Goliath, a Goliath that by all rights should pound it into submission. (Big East or not, the Huskies are a far bigger underdog to Oklahoma than Boise State was four years ago in this same game.) If this was Rocky or The Mighty Ducks or something similar, the Fiesta would end with UConn executing some crazy trick play at the final whistle to pull out a shocking victory. Unfortunately for fans of those movies, it's far more likely that the Huskie heroes will be taught a cruel-but-authentic lesson about their inability to deal with powerful forces beyond their control. The critics might applaud if Oklahoma pulls away by three scores in the second quarter, but we're not expecting a crowd pleaser here.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2010 1:12 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Ask the Oklahoma Sooners what formations their Fiesta Bowl opponent from UConn like to use, what coverages they'll employ on third-and-long, what a specific bit of pre-snap motion from the Huskies means for the Sooners' alignment, and there's no question they'll know all of that.
But as for what they know about the actual UConn program, well, it looks like all that study of the opposing football team doesn't lead to a better understanding of the institution they represent, at least according to an impromptu quiz of Sooner players by the Oklahoman on the finer points of UConn information. For instance, when asked who the Huskies' head coach is ...
Randy Edsall needs a better publicist because nobody got this one right. Only [DeMarco] Murray ventured an actual guess with “isn't it like Al something?” which was actually not that far off. Al Golden , who last week took a job with Miami , coached Temple to victory over UConn this season. [Jonathan] Nelson declared he knew Edsall's face but couldn't place the name. [Kenny] Stills didn't know who coached UConn football, but correctly offered up the name of the women's basketball coach: “Geno Auriemma."The Sooners also struggled mightily to name where UConn is located, to name their best player (All-American running back Jordan Todman), and even UConn's nickname, with multiple players going with "Huskers."
None of which means a thing other than it being fairly amusing, of course; no doubt a similar quiz applied to similar teams preparing for similar bowls would yield very, very similar results. But it's interesting to see that once bowl practice begins, the players' focus can be laser-guided enough that even things like the opponent's head coach name aren't worth learning when compared to the X's-and-O's.