Posted on: September 6, 2011 11:08 am

Morning Surf Report: Questions for Miami remain

Maryland and UnderArmour did do Miami a big favor Monday night. Thanks to their hideous unis, it had the Twitterworld riveted and talking about something other than the Nevin Shapiro scandal that has rocked the Canes program. Well, at least for an hour or two.

    The Miami-Maryland game was one of the more entertaining games of WK 1. I was impressed by Terps QB Danny O'Brien who showed why he's one of the better young quarterbacks in college football. He did make a big mistake in the Red Zone early when he threw a pass, where it seemed he could've trotted into the end zone and ended up getting picked by safety Vaughn Telamaque. However, O'Brien responded by making many more sound decisions and several excellent throws albeit against a severely depleted Canes D. Former MD coach Ralph Friedgen did a really nice job with O'Brien, who goes through his progressions very well and unloads the ball quickly. He plays like a senior, not a sophomore.

  As for Miami, there were many encouraging signs for a program dealing with some key suspensions and huge distractions. QB Stephen Morris played, for at least about 55 minutes of action, pretty well, showing newfound savvy. A few weeks back I visited with Canes new OC Jedd Fisch who talked about how much he liked Morris' "gunslinger" mindset. There is good and bad to that for the young, strong-armed soph. The bad in that showed up later in the game, but there is still  a lot to build on there. 

Lamar Miller was the best player on the field, and he will be a star at UM. He's not only ridiculously fast, but he's worked hard to develop as a runner. He told me in mid-August that he's become a more patient runner since he now realizes he doesn't feel like he has to turn every carry into a long TD run since he knows he's going to get plenty of carries. That added discipline, along with more attention to detail, courtesy of new RB coach Terry Richardson is another big plus. Two other offensive weapons for UM, who people inside the program have been raving about for two years, wideouts Allen Hurns and Tommy Streeter, finally stepped up in actual games.

Going forward, there are two big questions about Miami: How much of a boost does this team get now that many of their best defenders get back on the field, along with speedy WR Travis Benjamin and QB Jacory Harris? Do they have the stuff--not just the "talent"--to compete for an ACC title? We'll find that out in their next time out when Ohio State visits. They obviously need help, but when you consider they almost beat a solid Terps team despite missing four of their top five defenders, they are intriguing.

The other question, and this one is going to take much longer to get an answer for, is beyond these player suspensions, what exactly will the Shapiro Scandal translate to in the NCAA's eyes?

I agree with my colleague Brett McMurphy who says the "best thing for Miami is for the NCAA to finish its investigation as quickly as possible. Then, and only then, will the Hurricanes finally know what penalties await them and they can deal with them and move forward. Until then, there's no way they can combat the endless speculation: Death penalty? Postseason ban? Massive scholarship hits? TV ban? Vacate all their wins for an entire decade? They might get all of those sanctions or a combination, but the truth is no one really knows -- and that's the worst thing for Miami right now: dealing with the unknown and the perception." 

The Shapiro Scandal looks horrible, and it looks even worse considering the arrogance of a guy like former UM AD Paul Dee after he wagged his beefy finger when he was the Chairman of the NCAA's COI. Beyond just the litany of allegations, you scratch your head wondering why the school didn't even distance itself from Shapiro after he attacked the school's compliance guy during a game in front of so many people.

  Miami's been a unique football program for years, and while UM is certainly not alone in having a shady, overzealous booster, they might be in having a shady, overzealous VINDICTIVE booster. My hunch is it'll be months after signing day before the NCAA comes down with its' sanctions against the program. For as good as Golden is as a recruiter, good luck closing on prospects with that hanging over you. The games in 2011 will actually be the easiest part of this job.

*Miller is one of two RBs poised for a breakout season in 2011. The other is Va. Tech's David Wilson. The Hokie showed in Week One he's more than just a speed guy. According to Darryl Slater, Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Monday that Wilson was credited with 15 broken tackles during the staff's grading of the film.

"Coach Hite feels like that's a record around here," Beamer said, referring to Billy Hite, who was Tech's running backs coach from 1980 through 2010, before moving into an administrative role. In his debut as Tech's top tailback, Wilson had 16 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns.

*Some interesting fodder on the realignment discussion from Jon Wilner, who reports that the Pac-12 does not want to expand, but realizes it probably has to given the climate around college sports.

 If Texas A&M becomes the SEC’s 13th team, that sets the superconferences in motion.

“The SEC won’t stop at 13, or even 14. And if the SEC is at 14 or 16, the Big Ten will do it,” a source said. ”At that point, (the Pac-12) would be crazy not to entertain the idea of expansion.”

(Multiple sources said the SEC’s 14th team would most likely be Missouri. Combine untapped TV dollars with geography, and the schools that make the most sense for the SEC are Texas A&M, Missouri and Virginia Tech.) Only if the SEC goes to 13 would the Pac-12 evaluate its options.It won’t take Oklahoma unless A&M leaves first, despite the accelerated timeline laid out last week by Oklahoma President David Boren. And yes, in all likelihood the Pac-12 would take Oklahoma and Oklahoma State even if Texas were off the table, multiple sources said.

*As Notre Dame gets ready for a trip to Michigan, Brian Kelly has a big decision on his hands about whether to keep Dayne Crist as his QB or go with Tommy Rees. It's clear Irish fans believe Rees, who has been connected with more wins, is their choice. Keith Arnold points out there is one big difference in the two QBs: 

If you want an easy way for Crist to be more productive, simply throw the ball to Floyd more. He’s by far the Irish’s best offensive player, yet in breaking down the tape, there were multiple times when Crist simply didn’t look to Floyd, a baffling thought process that I put more on Crist than the coaching staff, especially after watching the first half almost a dozen times. If you’re looking for a reason to give the starting job to Tommy Rees, look at this damning stat line:

Michael Floyd with Crist: 2 catches, 37 yards
Michael Floyd with Tommy Rees: 10 catches, 117 yards, 2 touchdowns

*UGA LB Christian Robinson, who normally enjoys engaging on the social media platform, vowed to stay off Twitter this week after being barraged with unwelcomed messages from fans reacting to the loss to Boise, reports Tim Tucker:

"I got some pretty nasty stuff," Robinson said Monday night. "Right after the game, my phone was lighting up with just some nasty things. I've gotten some bad things before, but it was just a different level where I said I'm not going to deal with this right now."

He said some of the messages were from Boise State fans, but others were from UGA fans.

"Some of them, they got the ‘G' on their picture," he said. "I've seen some [of the same people] tweet me before, positive things. And the moment you don't do well, they can turn on you. You're never as good or as bad as you think you are."

Posted on: September 5, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 2:33 pm

Morning Surf Report: PSU QB battle clearing up?

With a visit from Bama looming, Penn State's QB situation is still unresolved. According to Walt Moody, JoePa should go with Matt McGloin:  

While Saturday’s 41-7 romp against Indiana State is not a perfect example to draw from, it’s clear that the offense is more productive with McGloin at the helm.

It was plain last season. It was plain Saturday against the overmatched Sycamores. McGloin led three touchdown drives in four series (we know one was a 21-yarder shortly after a fumble recovery). Bolden, who started, led just one, despite getting two more chances.

Yes, Bolden had a couple of good deep throws dropped, though Derek Moye’s miss did come during a drive the Nittany Lions later scored. Blame it on playcalling, drops or whatever, but McGloin moved the team better.
I don't expect PSU to beat Bama. I think Nick Saban's team is too tough on D and too physical up front for the Nittany Lions. The big key for Penn State in 2011 is to have one QB emerge by the Oct. 8 game against Iowa. Obviously, coping with the nation's best defense will be quite a litmus test for both quarterbacks.

I expect the Nittany Lions to be 4-1 by the time the Hawkeyes come to Happy Valley. Having one guy settled on will be pivotal to help rally the locker room because this kind of back-and-forth isn't ideal for a team trying to return back into the top 25. They can beat Temple, EMU and Indiana shuffling two guys, but after that stretch,  if one guy hasn't clearly separated himself--or been separated--from the other, it's a bad thing. *Michigan limited a respectable Western Michigan offense to three points in the final 36 minutes of the game, which is one of the promising signs of the transition from Greg Robinson's D to Greg Mattison's D, writes Mark Snyder: 

Safety Jordan Kovacs, who had the most productive game of his career with 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup, was a great example. Coaches in the past never considered him an impact player. Mattison turned him into a blitzing machine. 

  "It's a completely different scheme," Kovacs said. "We've got more blitz packages that give me the opportunity to come down in the box and make a play."

Mattison was the biggest single reason why I think the Brady Hoke Era will be a successful one. He knows exactly what it takes to win in the Big Ten and is a very underrated recruiter. There also are some capable athletes on both sides of the ball with experience now for this team to win at least eight games this year. I'm very curious to see how the Wolverines deal with a Notre Dame team coming off such a messy opener.

*Enigmatic ASU LB Vontaze Burfict spoke to his hero, Ray Lewis, a few months back about the line between being aggressive and out of control, reports Doug Haller:

"I just spoke with him about discipline and how you need to make up your mind in life and on the field," Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis said. "Make sure that you are doing the right things to be a productive player and more importantly, a productive person."

As Baltimore's Lewis knows, it's not always easy.

"Absolutely, it was hard to learn," Lewis said, "but it is possible for a middle linebacker with passion to do that. I had a ton of help from great coaches. Coach Randy Shannon was instrumental in helping me channel what I needed to do to be successful. You need to make the decision yourself, then your coaches can help you be the best you can be."

   No one has ever questioned Burfict's physical tools, but it's his maturity and focus that are at issue, which also are question marks that ASU has to resolve this season if the Sun Devils are going to live up to their lofty hype entering this season.

ASU and its star defender must finally show that they can be disciplined rather than getting tripped up by all the knucklehead penalties and being their own worst enemy, as they have been the past few years. Many coaches and players I've spoken to point out that focus is a actually a talent, not all that much different than those physical "tools" like quickness or strength. It'll be interesting to see if Burfict, like his hero, has that.

*While former NC State QB Russell Wilson put up impressive numbers (10-of-13, 255 yards, with three TDs including a 46-yard touchdown run) in a 51-17 rout of UNLV on national television Thursday night for Wisconsin, new Pack starter Mike Glennon's final numbers were more modest, writes J.P. Giglio:

He finished 18-of-31 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception, but he was sacked four times.
Glennon, the former blue-chip recruit, conceded he might've been trying to do too much. This will be a compelling subplot to the 2011 season if Wilson leads Wisconsin to a BCS bowl and Glennon doesn't thrive this fall in Raleigh and the Pack ends up not even making a bowl game.

The 62-year-old O'Brien enters his fifth season at State, 25-25 with a 14-18 record in ACC play and only one winning season in his previous four. Another mediocre season could be his last in Raleigh. He really, really needs Glennon to emerge this year.

*The ongoing conference expansion chatter at this point has focused on what Pac-12 head Larry Scott may do. Pete Thamel examines the landscape:

For Texas to come along this time, the Longhorns would have to fall in line with the blockbuster television deal that the Pac-12 agreed to this summer. That means that Texas would have to agree to equal revenue sharing and the so-called “Noah’s Ark” regional television networks. The new Pac-12 deal calls for six regional networks, pairing the league’s traveling partners (Arizona-Arizona State, Washington-Washington State and so on). That would mean that Texas would have to revamp its current network, the Longhorn Network, which is run by ESPN.

So if Texas were to go, Texas Tech — which is expected to follow the Longhorns like Oklahoma State is expected to follow Oklahoma — would have to be folded into the Longhorn Network. That puts some of the onus of Texas’ going to the Pac-12 on ESPN, which again finds itself in the uncomfortable situation, at least journalistically, of affecting and covering college sports. There is a strong feeling that the Longhorn Network is not an untenable impediment, as the Pac-12 and ESPN have brokered much more complicated deals. Dave Brown, the Longhorn Network’s vice president for programming, declined to comment Sunday.

*For the third time in the last six seasons, Duke saw Richmond stroll into Wallace Wade Stadium and leave with a win, this time by a 23-21 score. And, as Steve Wiseman writes, the Blue Devils are perplexed by how it happened:

“Maybe we spent too much emotion with the black uniforms,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We came back in and got excited. I don’t know.”

*Tweet of the Day: From LSU SID Michael Bonnette about sophomore CB Tyrann Mathieu

@LSUBonnette In 14 career games, T. Mathieu has 9 PBUs, 6 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 Ints, and he's scored 1 TD.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 2, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 1:19 pm

Good test for Robert Griffin

There is no getting around that we had a pretty dismal slate of games on opening night, but Friday night things are heating up for the game down in Texas between TCU and Baylor. You have a Horned Frog team that always puts out a nasty defense thanks to coach Gary Patterson facing an intriguing bunch from Baylor led by their freakishly fast QB Robert Griffin. The Bears also have some good talent around Griffin too.

I realize there will be a lot of focus on the play of the Horned Frogs new QB Casey Pachall, the guy that once turned down a Florida offer and now replaces the ultra-efficient Andy Dalton. No doubt that'll be compelling to watch, but I really want to see Griffin's performance against Patterson's D led by those two stud linebackers Tank Carder and Tanner Brock. Those two are seldom in the wrong place. (Brock and Griffin were actually high school teammates.)

Griffin's production overall has been impressive: 41 TDs against 11 INTs in his career and his accuracy has improved each year, topping out at 67 percent in 2010. Good stuff, especially for a guy most think of first for his blazing speed. Let's see if he can elevate his game against the tougher competition, though. Last year, TCU hammered Baylor, 45-10, where he had just 21 yards on 14 carries and only 164 yards through the air. He wasn't that sharp later in the year when the schedule heated up again, throwing one TD against three INTs in three consecutive losses against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and OU. Let's see if Griffin is ready to now show that he is an elite college player, more than just an exciting one.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Big 12
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