Tag:Oklahoma
Posted on: September 3, 2009 12:01 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2009 2:27 pm
 

Jermaine Gresham out?

There is all kinds of cyberspace chatter about Oklahoma's tight end being out for Saturday's opener against BYU -- and perhaps beyond.

The latest is here from the Tulsa World which reported that Gresham damaged knee cartilage and could be out on Saturday.

OU's offensive line is having enough problems trying to incorporate four new starters. The loss of Gresham, though, could hurt on two fronts. He is arguably the nation's best tight end, probably Sam Bradford's No. 1 target and key member of that offensive line.

I'll keep you posted if I hear anything.

 Also, Jeff Jagodzinski just got fired as offensive coordinator of the Bucs. Talk about a guy who has blown it. A year ago he was one of the hottest coaches in the country having coached Boston College to back-to-back ACC championship games. Today, he is out of work.

Jags is the second offensive coordinator fired this week, less than two weeks from his team's NFL opener. Chan Gailey took the gas pipe from the Chiefs.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 28, 2009 12:17 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2009 8:17 am
 

Seven more "things" to consider this season

You've read "25 Things". Here are seven more also getting votes ...


Terry Bowden

Eleven years out of the game and unable to find a suitable job in I-A, Bobby’s boy settled in at Division II North Alabama.

It seems that the celebrated former Auburn coach (.675 winning percentage) isn’t planning on retiring in Florence. He has brought in 24 I-A transfers, seven from his dad’s program alone. Not that the Lions were about to fall off the edge of the earth. They reached the I-AA semifinals last season and have won at least 10 in the last four years.

The idea is to win fast, win a lot and maybe grab a I-A job. Among the notable transfers are former North Carolina State and Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck and FSU receiver Preston Parker.

Parker was kicked off Florida State in February after his third arrest since 2006. But he can play. Parker caught 104 passes in three seasons with the Noles. 



Mike Gundy is a man, he’s 42 but he’s no less paranoid

It hasn’t made much national news, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is up to his old media-baiting self.

Gundy recently cut off the team from media (practice, interviews, everything) saying the team needs to focus for its Sept. 5 opener against Georgia. That’s bad enough, but he hasn’t restricted all media. A couple of Cowboy-friendly types have been allowed in. Not surprisingly they are a guy who works on the Cowboys recruiting site and the radio color man.

So maybe “media” is too definitive a word in that case.

What grinds the legit media is that Gundy is a 27-23 coach bankrolled by a billionaire booster at a state institution. Where's the accountability? We don’t know if Gundy is beating players, denying them water breaks, hell, holding illegal tryouts.

Not saying it’s happening but with the doors closed, can’t say it’s not happening. It’s not just me talking. Read this excellent piece by the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten. Pay particular attention to the lead.

I remember catching up to Gundy 3 ½ years ago the day it was announced that Pickens had donated $165 million to Oklahoma State.  Coaches were kidding him at the American Football Coaches Association annual convention about getting a loan. Gundy was almost oblivious. Pressure? What pressure?

Pickens is now 81 and is perhaps wondering what happened to all that money. Where has Gundy’s three-year old rant and this stunt gotten him? Nothing tangible. He is a YouTube celebrity. Recruiting hasn’t been hurt. It’s like an old hat in the closet. You pull it out years later and remark, “Man, did that look silly.”

Now the Cowboys are no longer a curiosity. Oklahoma State has a top 10 ranking. It’s about time Gundy started winning big. Unfortunately, that ranking and a quarter will get you a bag of chips.

The problem for Okie State, as it always has been, is Oklahoma and Texas. Those powers form a cement ceiling above Stillwater every season. That hasn’t changed. Neither has Coach Clandestine. Maybe he is feeling the pressure of having to deliver on Boone Pickens’ investment.
 


Chill pill

In the middle of one of the hottest Southwest summers in recent history, Oklahoma and Texas can agree on one thing:

Taking a pill to monitor players’ core temperature is a good idea. The CorTemp capsule is about the size of a vitamin and ingested about five hours before practice. Players thought to be at high risk of heat-related maladies are selected each day.

Trainers pass a monitoring device over a player’s stomach (the pill  is somewhere in the intestines) to check body temperature. Texas trainer Kenny Boyd calls it an “ingestible thermometer.”

The $35 pill is too pricey for some programs but with heat-related illnesses killing players at a record pace this decade, no price is too high. Sickle cell trait (usually brought on my physical exertion) became the leading killer of Division I players this decade.

The Eagles, Vikings and Jags in the NFL use the pill as well as Nebraska and North Carolina on the college level.

If you’ve read this far you’re still wondering how the players get rid of a pill filled with electronics. It is, um, passed. No word on how, or why the pills are recycled.



… Or they could just forget the whole thing and let those state troopers fight it out

A proposal from the American Football Coaches Association calls for both coaches and ADs to accompany their teams on the field for a pregame handshake before each game. The initiative starts with next week’s opening games.

A thoughtful gesture, but college football isn’t exactly the Stanley Cup playoffs where teams form a handshake line at the end of playoff series. These guys are minutes away from tearing each other’s heads off. It’s hard to imagine Alabama and Auburn exchanging handshakes. More like haymakers.

Forced to confront Lane Kiffin on Sept. 19 in Gainesville, will Urban Meyer shake hands or whip out a taser?

AFCA executive director Grant Teaff says the association’s code of conduct calls for coaches to shake hands before the game. Is that the same code of conduct that Rick Neuheisel adhered to when he committed 50-plus secondary violations?

 

Possible bowl rematches

The bowls are loathe to stage regular-season matches in their games, but with the rash of TV-arranged non-conference games, rematches could become more frequent. The reason these games are being arranged in the first place is because the teams are TV draws.

And what are bowls looking for? These big regular-season games could be the first of a doubleheader to be completed in the postseason.

Sept. 5: Georgia at Oklahoma State, also in the Cotton Bowl.
Sept. 5: BYU vs. Oklahoma in Irving, Texas, also in the Fiesta Bowl
Sept. 19: Kansas at UCLA, also in the Insight Bowl
Oct. 17: Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, also in the BCS title game (don’t laugh, it could happen)
Oct. 24: Boston College at Notre Dame, also in the Gator Bowl



Technology meet the economy

It's possible now to go an entire season in the Sun Belt, Ohio Valley and Big Sky conferences without ever meeting another human coach.

Those conferences cancelled their in-person preseason media days as a way to save money. In the case of the Sun Belt, it went to video streaming its media days. You already know that several schools no longer print media guys, the assumption being that everyone has a large hard drive, a speedy processor and time to stop in the middle of a story, slip in a CD and look up something.

Now that human contact has been removed from the equation, can alien probes of various orifices be far behind?

Point being, the cost-saving excuse in some ways is a sham. Michigan is saving one-half of one percent on its budget. There are ways to save money, but once the boulder gets rolling down the hill there are a lot of copy cats.

These schools wouldn't be in this economic crunch if they weren't all operating under the same model. Remember, teams have been staying overnight in a hotel for years the night before home games.


Smelly, cussing guy in overalls? Text CNHSKRHELP

By allowing fans to text for help, isn't Nebraska admitting it has a problem?

Campus police say they will accept "citizen crime reports" in the form of texts from fans at games. Nice move. But when are they going to do something about that freakish mascot?

 

Posted on: August 21, 2009 9:44 am
 

Florida State upset at Oklahoma

There are some FSU types who are disputing that the school "blew the whistle" on Oklahoma in the Mike Balogun case.

Balogun is suing the NCAA and received a temporary injunction to continue practicing with the Sooners. The NCAA is looking into Balogun's eligibility. Association rules state that any player who plays semi-pro football loses a year of eligibility each he plays in a semi-pro league past the year of 21.

Court documents obtained by The Oklahoman state that Florida State contacted the Big 12 and "suggested the league investigate Balogun's eligibility." Court documents are court documents, frequently written like police reports. Cops want to make their busts look good. Lawyers want to paint their clients in the best possible light.

But the way I'm getting it is that FSU called Oklahoma directly and simply asked (paraphrasing): "We had a similar case and couldn't get our guy eligible. Tell us how you did it."

I'm also told the ACC called the Big 12 and the Big 12 replied that everything was fine with Balogun. It's a complicated case, involving exactly when Balogun stopped playing semi-pro. But it might a little sensational to conveniently blame FSU for dropping a dime on the Sooners. Doesn't Free Shoes University have enough of its own problems?

For more background on Balogun, read this story from the New York Times.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 28, 2009 4:47 pm
 

Five things I believe about the Big 12 ...

Word to your mother from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas.

One quarterback’s virginity is another man’s autograph book. Heisman-winner Sam Bradford admitted to hearing about the Tim Tebow virginity question last week at the SEC media days.

“To me that’s crossing the line,” Bradford said on Tuesday. “There’s a line that should be drawn.”

In an ironic twist, though, Bradford endured his own “gotcha” moment. This one involving the opposite of virginity. A couple recently asked Bradford to sign their baby.

“I never pictured that happening before,” he said. “We were having dinner one night in Norman. A couple came over with their baby and sat him down on the table, a couple of months old.”

Where, it was asked, does one sign a baby? Will Ferrell scrawled his name on an infant’s forehead in Talladega Nights.

“I signed (its outfit),” Bradford said.

Bill Snyder’s biggest opponent is himself. The 69-year-old Kansas State coach is back for his second term. Snyder obviously had been getting antsy about getting back into coaching about the moment he “retired” three years ago.

This time he is taking on his own legacy as well as the rest of the league. From 1989-2005, he created the Miracle in Manhattan leading the once moribund Wildcats to a Big 12 title and several bowl games. This season he is trying to keep K-State out of last place in the Big 12 North.

Nothing compares to how bad things were when Snyder arrived in 1989. Bob Stoops was there with Snyder during his first six seasons.

“We go into that first spring I bet we had 45 guys in the room. We had four total d-linemen, two non-scholarship. We would be practicing and we’d have to take a five-minute break to hose them off, give them some water. The rest of the team would just stand around. Seriously. That’s how bad it was.”

Meet the new triplets, same as the old triplets. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was part of the best offense in school history. Gundy was the quarterback, handing off to Barry Sanders and throwing to Hart Lee Dykes in 1988.

The best set of “triplets” since those days will lead the Cowboys this season. Zac Robinson is a sneaky-good dual threat quarterback. Kendall Hunter is a 1,000-yard back. Receiver Dez Bryant might be the nation’s best receiver.

“It’s hard to compare anybody to Barry Sanders to be honest with you,” Gundy said. “Kendall Hunter is very good but a future hall of famer is difficult to compare to. Hart Lee Dykes … don’t know if I’ve seen anyone like him.

“The quarterback spot, I’m not sure there’s much of a comparison. If I could go back and recruit, I’d recruit Zack Robinson and I wouldn’t Mike Gundy to be honest with you.”

This just might be the biggest Texas-Oklahoma game ever. Texas won the game last season but wants “revenge” for obvious reasons. The game used to be a window on the Big 12 and national championships. Last year’s screwy tiebreaker messed with everyone’s head.

With Oklahoma State in the mix this year, there is the possibility of another three-way tie. Meanwhile, we will wait until Oct. 17 in Dallas. Stoops was asked if Texas-OU can get any bigger?

 “I don’t know how it could,” he said. “The last eight, nine years it’s been as heated as it could be.”

The North must rise again … or risk further embarrassment. The Big 12 North Division won only three of 19 games against South Division opponents in 2008. That’s the second time that’s happened in the last five years.

Only once in that span has the North had an above .500 record – 2007 when it was 10-9 against the South. That’s the year both Missouri and Kansas won 12 games.

When the league was formed in 1996, most of the strength was in the North with Nebraska and Kansas State in power. The North was a combined 24-14 against the South in 1996-97. How far have things slipped? Last year, all three North victories were against Baylor.
 

Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:05 am
Edited on: July 22, 2009 12:49 pm
 

Mountain West scraps

MWC notes as the its media days wrap up Wednesday in Henderson, Nev. ...

After TCU's Gary Patterson, new San Diego State coach Brady Hoke is easily the most outgoing head man in the league. Hoke is one of those call-me-anytime guys. We've already bonded on one subject. Hoke is familiar with the annual San Diego bacchanalian ritual known as Over The Line. For those of you familiar with Indian Ball, it's Indian Ball played on sand.

With beer and bikinis and bands and all kinds of rude stuff.

Hoke hasn't been to OTL yet but something tells me he will.

 Wyoming was picked last in the nine-team Mountain West. First-year coach Dave Christensen knew what he was getting into when he took the job. Wyoming has had one winning season this decade.

"That's where I would have voted us too," Christensen said.


  Where do Sugar Bowl-winning quarterbacks go? In the case of Utah's Brian Johnson it's the United Football League. The UFL is a new pro franchise that debuts in the fall with a handful of franchises. Johnson went undrafted in the NFL but got taken by the UFL New York franchise.

That was after turning down a job offer from Kyle Whittingham.

"I offered him a job as a full-time job coach, but he wanted to try playing," Whittingham said. "Someday I want to get him back on the staff."

  The Utes aren't going to fall off the map without Johnson. Whittingham loves the three candidates lining up to replace Johnson -- junior Corbin Louks, juco transfer Terrance Cain and early enrollee Jordan Wynn.

Louks, who threw seven passes last season, runs a 4.42. Cain came in from Blinn (Texas) College, juco home of former K-State quarterback Michael Bishop. Whittingham says Cain, "reminds me of Alex Smith."

  Utah has the longest active bowl streak having won its last eight in a row.

 Since joining the league in 2005, TCU has the best overall record, 41-11. A case can be made, though, for it being the least accomplished of the big three (including Utah and BYU). Utah has won a Sugar Bowl and has that bowl streak going. BYU has won the league twice in that span and for a time had the nation's longest winning streak. When it trailed TCU in Fort Worth last year it was the first time in two years it trailed at halftime.

 TCU was the first non-BCS school to finish ranked in the top 12 despite two losses.

  TCU was picked to win the league in a preseason media poll. Patterson already is on record as saying he prefers to come from behind. The last time his team was picked to win in the preseason it finished fifth (8-5).

  Only four schools have won conference titles in the 10-year history of the Mountain West -- Utah, TCU, BYU and Colorado State.

  The league has the best winning percentage in bowls the last five years (14-7, .667). The SEC is second (24-13, .643).

  Only five other teams in the country have won more games than Utah (22) and BYU (21) the last two seasons.

  Bronco Mendenhall on christening Jerry Jones' new mega-stadium against Oklahoma. BYU and OU will play in the first college game in the new stadium on Sept. 5.

"Our coaches and players have earned the right to be selected to for the game,"  BYU's coach said. "I viewed it like a postseason bowl game where they earned their chance because of their body of work. I was willing to trade off possibly an undefeated season ... to continue to improve us over time."

Patterson took it further. His team beat Oklahoma in 2005 and, aside from one bad first quarter, played the Sooners off their feet in 2008. The 35 points allowed in that game were the second-fewest (next to Florida) allowed against OU's offense.

"If you don't play the Oklahomas or the Texases of the world you get a false sense of where you are as a program and how high you can play," he said. "Just playing well doesn't do you any good, if you've got to win those games.

"It has to get to a point where we're recognized enough as a group. Just like Florida loses one game it doesn't make any difference. People talk about Baylor improving, SMU improving. It won't do any of us any good, it doesn't do TCU any good for those programs not to be winning." 

 

Posted on: June 29, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 12:09 pm
 

Picking the Big 12


The Big 12 South Division race, the Big 12 title game, the Heisman race and the national championship hinged on the conference's three-way tiebreaker. We found out about the 11-year-old rule when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each tied at 7-1 in the South Division.

Oklahoma "won" the tiebreaker because it finished the regular season as the highest-ranked team in the division  -- by .0128 of a point in the BCS standings. Instead of reliving the Austin angst, let's just say that one Longhorn suggested that if the tiebreaker rule wasn't changed in the offseason his school ought to pull out of the Big 12.

What's changed? Not much. The rule wasn't changed and Texas is still in the league. At the spring meetings, the Big 12 ADs accepted the coaches' vote that the tiebreaker remain the same. Why?

 One theory is that Texas probably doesn't get much sympathy from the other coaches because ... it's Texas. The school is perceived to have the best of everything so it didn't get much sympathy from schools that don't. Yeah, jealousy sucks.

 There is nothing to be gained for schools like Missouri, Iowa State, Colorado, Baylor, etc., so why change? Hey, the league got two teams in the BCS. To the other schools it doesn't matter who plays in those games as long as the money keeps rolling in.

 The tiebreaker makes sense. Why wouldn't you want your highest rated BCS team to win the tiebreaker? There was some feeling that the SEC tiebreaker is fairer.

In a three-way tie, the SEC drops the lowest-ranked team and decides things head-to-head. But since you're chasing a BCS title, the SEC tiebreaker potentially keeps the highest-ranked team out of a title shot.

The tiebreaker would have been a footnote on the national scene had not Texas and Oklahoma been involved. The rivalry was bitter enough without having to explain why the Horns lost out when they beat the Sooners on the field. Yeah, Oklahoma's fortune might cause a bit of consternation in Austin.

"They got a huge break," Texas' Colt McCoy said.

Like I said, nothing has changed. Texas and OU still hate each other. There is a good chance we could have another tiebreaker train wreck at the end of this season. Only the teams will change.


Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could all start the season in the top 10. The Red River Shootout on Oct. 17 shapes up as one of the most intense in the history of the rivalry. Just for controversy's sake let's assume the Horns win in Dallas, they still have to play in Stillwater on Halloween. If the Cowboys win they could win out until a Nov. 28 date in Norman. If the Sooners win that one, we're looking at another three-way 7-1 finish.

Who wins it in the BCS tiebreaker? In that scenario, you'd have to like Oklahoma again. The Texas loss would be six weeks old by then and beating Oklahoma State impressively would be the emphatic final statement for the computers the pollsters. That same thing happened last year when OU blew out Texas Tech.

Closer to the field, for the second consecutive year the Large Dozen remains the conference of quarterbacks. It sports a Heisman winner (Sam Bradford), a runner-up (Colt McCoy) and well as 2009 Heisman candidate Todd Reesing of Kansas. You can add Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas Tech quarterback du jour Taylor Potts as difference makers.

Just giving you a fair warning, Texas fans. Grow your hair out now. You might be pulling it out in December.

Picking the Big 12 ...


North Division

1. Kansas -- If this were Miami, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Reesing would be on the cover of every preseason mag in the country. Meier is the leading returning receiver in catches per game (10.8). Briscoe is second in receiving yards per game (108.2). Reesing already has led the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl and is in line to become the school's best quarterback ever. Mark Mangino already has proven he can coach. If a new set of starting linebackers can tackle and if KU can beat either Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech (he is a combined 0-9 against the three) this could be a special season. The Jayhawks get the slight edge in the North because the Nebraska game is at home.

2. Nebraska -- Bo Pelini is slowly building Huskerville back to its usual standards. Slowly is the key word because defense is Pelini's thing and the D showed astounding lapses last year. Slowly, because Nebraska has not had a first-team All-American on the defensive line in 12 years. Tackle Ndamukong Suh could break the streak. Some draft boards already have him in the top five. There is little room for error where Pelini is a turned ankle away from having real problems at quarterback. Zac Lee is the guy after Patrick Witt, who was being counted on, left before the spring. A lot of folks think Nebraska has the advantage in the North because of its schedule. I see road trips to Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado, plus a home game against Oklahoma. Please tell me how that is favorable?

3. Missouri -- The Tigers will take a dip after back-to-back Big 12 North titles. Missouri knows it. The fans know it. The league knows it. The key is trying to make an 8-4 season seem like a success. Six-foot-five Blaine Gabbert takes over for Chase Daniel, only the greatest qb in Missouri history. He would be wise to spread the ball out to 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Washington and receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The Tigers will score, just not as often. If the defense is shored up at all this team could be on the fringes of contending in the North. At times, the secondary looked like a fire drill. Linebacker All-American linebacker candidate Sean Weatherspoon passed up the draft and will chase the school's career tackles record as a senior.

4. Colorado -- Has Hawk Love turned into Hawk Doubt? Entering his fourth season in Boulder, Dan Hawkins has won only 13 games. The pressure is on to produce (hint: Big 12 North contention and a bowl game). Hawkins isn't backing down, saying this at the senior banquet: "Ten wins, no excuses." The quarterback situation is unsettled with son Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen maybe sharing the job again. Freshman tailback sensation Darrell Scott was upstaged by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart who led the team in rushing. Here's the scary thing: In a league with unrelenting offenses, CU has lost six of its top 10 tacklers.

5. Kansas State -- This isn't the old Big Eight for Bill Snyder. Back in 1989, he was taking over Kansas State from a zero position. This time he is chasing his own legacy. Not to diminish what Snyder accomplished, but back in the early 1990s, Missouri and Kansas were jokes and Oklahoma was sliding. There was no Texas to play two out of every four years. The Big 12 has more depth and strength than the Big Eight as Snyder tries for Miracle In Manhattan II. Snyder got K-State from dregs to the brink of a national championship game in nine years. Will the 69-year-old have that much time this time around?

6. Iowa State -- Iowa State swapped coaches with Auburn. Gene Chizik went. Paul Rhoads came. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, seems like he wants to stay awhile. He'll be looking up at the rest of the Big 12 North for a while. Ripping Wally Burham from South Florida to be his defensive coordinator was a huge get for Rhoads. The offense will have a chance with dual-threat Austen Arnaud at quarterback


South Division

1. Texas -- Mack Brown smiled when I told I had his pregame speech ready for the OU game. "We beat the Sooners last year, boys. Now let's go out and get some revenge!" Yeah, it's about that and a lot of things for Brown and the Horns. Except for perhaps some suspect running backs, Texas is loaded. Brown has his best team since the 2005 national championship crew. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle should be this season's Brian Orakpo. McCoy is driven not only by the tiebreaker but also his second-place finish in the Heisman. Still, it all boils down to Oct. 17 in Dallas.

2. Oklahoma -- Sam Bradford won the Heisman, became the first quarterback to win back-to-back Big 12 titles and got the Sooners to the national championship game. What is there left to accomplish? Plenty for Bradford who listened to family and advisors and put off the NFL. His body can fill out a bit and it doesn't look like there will be a Matthew Stafford to compete with in the draft this year. Oklahoma's questions are at offensive line and receiver. If this were anywhere else but the Big 12 South, the Sooners would be prohibitive favorites to repeat. With a break here or there, they still might end back up in the national championship game.

3. Oklahoma State -- With apologies to Texas and Oklahoma, this could be the best offense in the Big 12, if not the country. Returning are a 1,500-yard rusher (Kendall Hunter), an All-American receiver (Dez Bryant), and a 65 percent passer with 25 touchdowns (Robinson). The problem remains defense. New defensive coordinator Bill Young is the Cadillac of his profession. Okie State will be better just because of his presence. Perrish Cox is developing into an NFL talent at corner and is one of the nation's best returners.

4. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders slip back to the 8-4 level this season. You know the drill: Potts will throw for eight million yards. There will be a 1,000-yard receiver or two. Mike Leach will be his usual quote-machine self. However, last season was a once-in-10-year event. There is payback waiting at Texas, at Oklahoma State and at Nebraska.

5. Baylor -- Does any Big 12 school have more upside? Joe Pawelek is an All-Big 12 linebacker. Center J.D. Walton anchors the offensive line now that Jason Smith is gone. But let's be honest, the moment quarterback Robert Griffin followed coach Art Briles to Baylor (from his commitment to Houston), things took off. A sprinter with Olympic aspirations, Griffin gave up the Big 12 track season to concentrate on what should be his breakout season in Waco. If there is a one-man team in the league, this is it. Griffin also was the team's No. 2 rusher. With more weight and more knowledge, Griffin should become the most elusive dual-threat in the Big 12 since Vince Young. At stake is a 14-year bowl drought. That ties for the longest active streak among BCS schools.

6. Texas A&M -- One former Big Eight coach said it during the offseason: This is A&M. It should be able to go over to the Houston high schools and scrounge up a couple of defensive linemen. In Mike Sherman's second season, d-line is a good place to start. The one-time Wrecking Crew was Charmin soft as one of the worst defensive units in the country. After the non-conference games, the Aggies gave up less than 35 once. Once! Nineteen players had surgery in the offseason. The Aggies better get fat early. The season ends with Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.
 

Posted on: June 29, 2009 11:45 am
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:51 am
 

NCAA finally recommends sickle cell trait testing

The NCAA doesn't often back down when it comes to court challenges. Like any large corporation, it is lawyered to the gills, and will often fight to the death in the courtroom even when it knows it is wrong. 

But it isn't Teflon. In fact, the NCAA's ability to exist was upheld by a narrow 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court in 1988. There have been devastating losses as well. In the infamous restricted-earnings case, the NCAA paid $54.5 million in damages after it tried to limit the salary of entry-level coaches. Last year, the NCAA settled an anti-trust class action suit for $10 million. The suit sought the full cost of attendance for scholarship athletes.

So when the NCAA settled with the family of Dale Lloyd on Sunday night it was a watershed moment. Lloyd was the former Rice player who died in 2006 due to complications from sickle cell trait. For more than three decades the NCAA's own medical handbook has stopped short of recommending of testing for the trait. As part of the settlement, the NCAA will now recommend testing.

Rice University, Lloyd's college, will lead an NCAA charge to make testing mandatory.

If I was able to help, I take some small amount of pride in moving the issue along. In May I reported that sickle cell trait had become the leading killer of Division I-A athletes this decade. What made it additionally ridiculous was that none of the deaths had occured in actual competition.

You wonder what took the NCAA so long. The association has formally acknowledged sickle cell trait deaths since 1994. Almost half of those deaths (seven out of 15) have occured this decade. Lloyd's case was one of three high-profile suits brought by the families of deceased players since 2006.

It took the Lloyd family naming the NCAA in its lawsuit to get some movement on the issue. That's when the NCAA finally relented. Experts say the association was concerned all these years about legalities (aka, being politically correct about singling out African-Americans) if it recommended testing. Meanwhile, players continued to die.

CBSSports.com recently talked to former Oklahoma All-American Curtis Lofton about the issue. Lofton tested positive for the condition at OU. With proper training techniques, he was able to play with sickle cell trait. He went on to become the Big 12 defensive player of the year in 2007 and made the NFL all-rookie team with Atlanta in 2008.

CBSSports.com: How did you find out you had sickle cell trait?

Lofton: "In grade school, I'd be in shape but I'd get tired. I'd ask myself, 'Why am I getting tired and everyone else keeps going?' So I took the test (at Oklahoma) and that's the first time I ever heard about sickle cell."

Q: Did it phase you?

Lofton: It didn't phase me because during the game you're not going constant. There are breaks here and there. The only time mine kicks in is when I'm going constant.

Q: Did teams downgrade you in the draft because you had the condition?

Lofton: I think some teams may have done that. When I was going through the combine, people didn't really know what sickle cell trait was. Everybody looks at it like a negative. It really doesn't come into effect when you're in a game. I had to explain to a lot of teams what it was.

Q: Was it troubling that you had to explain to them?

Lofton: Coaches didn't know what it was, so I really didn't have a problem breaking it down for them.

Q: Have you kept track of all the deaths this decade?

Lofton: I think sickle cell is the leading cause for collegiate deaths.

Q: This decade, it is.

A: The number one thing that I hope to get out of this thing is bringing awareness to others and hopefully being able to save some lives.










Category: NCAAF
Tags: Oklahoma, Rice
 
Posted on: June 26, 2009 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:00 am
 

Picking the ACC

It has been easy to take shots at the ACC since expansion.

The whole Florida State/Miami axis-of-excellence thing hasn't panned out. But there have been some stories worth reading. Wake Forest competes favorably representing one of the smallest schools in I-A. Everybody is waiting for North Carolina to break out under Butch Davis. Georgia Tech's option game has baffled opponents, at least in Paul Johnson's first season.

Virginia Tech has remained the only constant. The Hokies have won consecutive ACC titles and never seems to drop far off the grid. Frank Beamer could be anywhere. He has chosen to remain in Blacksburg and built an unlikely powerhouse.

The Hokies are prohibitive favorites to make it three in a row.

Atlantic

1. North Carolina State -- Invest in Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack's coach is as solid commodity as there is on Wall Street these days. Actually better, considering the state of Wall Street. For 10 years, he overachieved at Boston College. Now with more resources he is ready to deliver in Raleigh. When in doubt, I always go with a solid returning quarterback. Russell Wilson might have the most upside of any in the league. He enters the season with 249 passes without an interception, 22 short of Drew Weatherford's ACC record. During an injury-filled season Wilson still threw 17 touchdowns and only one interception. O'Brien will hit it big in his third season coming in with a four-game winning streak to end '08.

UPDATE: Linebacker Nate Irving was injured in a car accident on Sunday (6/28). Irving, when healthy, was one of the best linebackers I saw last season. If he isn't able to go this season, the certainly impacts the Pack's chances.

2. Florida State -- The bandwagon is not full. I'm intrigued why the Seminoles are most people's choice in this division. Bobby Bowden is back to having an established quarterback (Christian Ponder) for the first time in eight seasons. The offensive line is reflecting line coach Rick Trickett's toughness (left tackle Andrew Datko was a freshman All-American). But there aren't the dynamic athletes we're used to seeing. And there always seems to be some drama around the program. People have talked more about the loss of 14 victories in the offseason more than Ponder having some reliable receivers. Try to envision a nine-win season with road trips to BYU, North Carolina, Clemson, Wake and Florida. I can't. FSU could win the division and probably eight games but it will take a step back from '08 when it won nine. 

3. Wake Forest -- The Deacons have won 11, 9 and 8 games the last three seasons. It would be logical to assume the decline is going to continue. Most of the returning players are back on offense, which struggled. The defense loses eight starters. Four players were taken in the first four rounds of the draft. That's amazing but also troubling for this season. Wake will have to get those new defensive starters ready to contribute right away for it to be a factor in the division.
 
4. Clemson
-- The Dabo Swinney era goes into its first full season. A 4-2 finish by the former receivers coach was enough to raise hopes after the end of Tommy Bowden's 9 1/2-year reign. There is always the fear that Clemson is still Clemson. Since 1999, it has never won less than six or more than nine. The Tigers have had the talent to win the ACC each of the last three seasons but they always seem to disappoint. Kevin Steele was a huge get as defensive coordinator coming from Alabama. Tailback C.J. spillers is less than 1,000 yards away from becoming the ACC's career leader in all-purpose yards. Swinney will be reminded at every turn that the last ACC title was in 1991. 

5. Maryland -- We can see the end of the Ralph Friedgen era in College Park. Offensive coordinator James Franklin is the coach in waiting. The Terps should take a major dip after going 8-5. Twelve starters have departed including receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Friedgen loves Torrey Smith and redshirt freshman Kevin Dorsey as emerging talents at receiver. Franklin has done a good job shaping senior quarterback Chris Turner. 

6. Boston College -- Gene DeFilippo is my hero. Look, I liked Jeff Jagodzinski but I admire BC's AD for calling the former coach's bluff when Jags interviewed with the Jets. I admire DeFilippo more for replacing Jags with the guy who most deserved it. Frank Spaziani was d-coordinator for 10 years and had earned his shot. There is enough left over from the nation's No. 5 five defense to compete (linebacker Mark Herzlich was ACC defensive player of the year). You wonder, though, if the Eagles will be able to throw when they need to. Junior Codi Boek arrived as a quarterback, then was converted to fullback. He is now is back at quarterback. He is competing with freshman Justin Tuggle.


Coastal

1. Virginia Tech -- Beamer doesn't get enough credit. The Hokies have become the dominant program in a league that was formed showcase Miami and Florida State. In the last five seasons he has won 52 games and three ACC titles, including the last two in a row. Virginia Tech should go to a third consecutive BCS bowl. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor gets the job to himself after injuries and Sean Glennon blocked his way the past two seasons. Taylor's game resembles a certain legend whose name rhymes with "quick." Sophomore tailback Darren Evans rushed for most of his 1,265 yards in the second half of the season.  Coordinator Bud Foster might have his best defense ever. It is quick and mean. If the Hokies get past Alabama in the opener, they could be in the national championship hunt.

2. Georgia Tech -- You've got to love Paul Johnson's, um, confidence. When folks questioned whether his triple option could work in the big time he went out and won nine while beating Georgia in his first season with the Jackets. Things should be better this season Heisman candidate Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC's leading rusher, is complemented nicely by Roddy Jones in the same backfield. The defense finished in the top 25 nationally and held five teams to 20 points or less. The secondary is loaded with the addition of corner Jerrard Tarrant who was suspended for all of '08 fighting a rape accusation. The charges were dropped. The toughest stretch will be three weeks in October when the Jackets play at Mississippi State, at Florida State and Virginia Tech at home.

3. North Carolina -- Davis continues to recruit. The Tar Heels should continue to win. In Davis' second year the Heels jumped from four to eight wins. Often-injured quarterback T.J. Yates lost his two most reliable targets (Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate) to the NFL. Fortunately, the defense is loaded. If the Heels can win at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26 don't be surprised if they start 6-0.
 
4. Miami -- I don't care who is responsible. In fact, I don't want to know. The schedule, though, is a joke. Poor Randy Shannon is looking at 0-4 with the toughest first four games in the country -- at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. Shannon lost a quarterback (Robert Mavre) and had to change both coordinators. Mark Whipple came from the NFL to take over the offense. First-year d-coordinator John Lovett came from North Carolina. The defense is stout, but let's be honest. This is Miami and if they don't win big with flair, it will be a disappointment.  The progress of quarterback Jacory Harris will be on one of the major stories in the conference.

5. Virginia -- It has been a weird circle of life in Charlottesville. Al Groh's son Mike became offensive coordinator in 2006 after Ron Prince left to become Kansas State's head coach. Prince is back (as special teams coach) after being fired at K-State. Mike Groh was, um, let go after producing the sixth-worst offense in Division I-A last season. Gregg Brandon has installed a spread offense for quarterback Jameel Sewell. They should be thankful to work together. Brandon landed at Virginia after being fired at Bowling Green. Sewell missed '08 because he was academically ineligible.

6. Duke -- There won't be a more upbeat last-place team in the country. David Cutcliffe squeezed out four victories in his first season as coach. That ties for the most in Krzyzewskiville since 1994. Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis gets one last season to work under the guy who tutored Peyton and Eli. Last season's defense held three opponents to less than 10 points for the first time since 1976. Only four starters return including potential All-ACC defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase.

 

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