Tag:Central Michigan
Posted on: July 6, 2010 11:38 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:47 pm
 

Son of fresh faces

Friday I offered up 10 fresh faces to watch for 2010. Here are 21 more ...


Nick Becton, OT, Virginia Tech -- This sophomore replaces three-year starter Ed Wang at left tackle.

Kolton Browning, QB, Louisiana-Monroe -- Redshirt beat out senior Trey Revell.

Clemson quarterbacks -- Depending on whether Kyle Parker signs a major-league contract. That means either fifth-year senior Michael Wade or redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd will take over.

Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn -- Alabama-Auburn is heating up again. Gene Chizik landed a top five recruit to go with new quarterback Cameron Newton.

Vidal Hazelton, WR, Cincinnati -- Transfer from USC could take over for Mardy Gilyard as the go-to guy.

Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State -- The progress of Florida State's defense under Mark Stoops will be one of the biggest stories going into '10. This redshirt sophomore is starting at rush end, a glamour position.

Skylar Jones, QB, Wake Forest -- Takes over for Riley Skinner. The junior won the job in the spring after not throwing a pass last season.

Logan Kilgore, QB, Middle Tennessee -- Transfer from Bakersfield (Calif). College, threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Dwight Dasher is the man but Kilgore could be the next man.

Dan Mason, LB, Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh's starting middle linebacker has been All-Big East first team each of the last five years. Will Mason make it six in a row as a sophomore?

Lamar Miller, TB, Miami -- With Graig Cooper rehabbing a knee hurt in the bowl, this homegrown redshirt freshman could be a savior.

Jason Peters, DE, Georgia Tech -- Al Groh was hired to install the 3-4. There is more pressure on the ends in that alignment. Peters was one of the stars of the spring.

Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina -- Overshadowed on one of the best defenses in the country.

Ryan Radcliff, QB, Central Michigan -- If you're asking who will replace Dave LeFevour, this is the guy. The redshirt sophomore threw 21 passes last season.

Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State -- This sophomore is replacing NCAA rushing leader Ryan Mathews in the Central Valley. Runs like Jacquizz Rodgers with similar measureables -- 5-foot-7, 185.

Rutgers Super Sophs -- Six-foot-five quarterback Tom Savage threw for 14 touchdowns as a freshman. Receiver Mohamed Sanu (51 catches) is one of the fastest players in the game.

Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois -- Redshirt freshman from high school power Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst was named starter by Ron Zook in the spring. Dual-threat guy needs to jump start Illini offense.

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia -- For the first time in five years, the Mountaineers don't have an experienced quarterback returning. Smith could be great (65 percent on 49 passes in '09) but will have to come back from a broken foot in the offseason.

Josh Snead, TB, Duke -- Early enrolling freshman is a home-run hitter for a program desperate for a bowl.

Tino Sunseri, QB, Pittsburgh -- The Panthers always seem to be a quarterback away from doing great things. Coming off a 10-win season, Sunseri could be the difference in Pittsburgh getting back to a BCS bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: February 23, 2010 11:13 am
 

Breaking down the ACC's 2010 schedule

(This is the first of an irregular offseason series breaking down the schedules of the BCS leagues.)

The ACC enters Year No. 7 since expansion still looking for an identity.

The league has won only two BCS bowl games sporting the worst winning percentage (.166) of any BCS league in those major bowls. Miami and Florida State haven't stepped up. In fact, each has shrunk from superpower status. Virginia Tech, an afterthought in the original expansion, has won the most titles (three) since 2004. While Clemson and Florida State are rebuilding, Maryland and Virginia have slipped.

Butch Davis has all the coaching chops but North Carolina hasn't made a dramatic move under him yet. The best stories will be Year One at FSU A.B. (After Bobby). Jimbo Fisher enters his first season as head coach with mounds of pressure on him.

Virginia Tech has the best program. Georgia Tech had last season's best team. Coach Paul Johnson is making everyone adjust to his option offense. In his second season, the Jackets broke through their first ACC title since 1998.

Game of the year:  (non-conference) Miami at Ohio State, Sept. 11. In a rematch of the 2002 national championship game, Miami puts its renovation project on  display against a national championship contender. Figure on this one being at night with 105,000 lubed up Buckeyes wanting blood. Why not? Ohio State has won 50 of its last 52 non-conference games at The Shoe. The winning team's quarterback could come out of this as one the Heisman frontrunner.

The Canes don't want to be pushed around by a second consecutive brawny Big Ten team. (see: the Champs Sports Bowl).

Game of the year: (conference) Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, Nov. 4. Does the new boss meet the old boss? Johnson has split his two meetings with Frank Beamer. Virginia Tech has played in four conference title games and won three ACC championships since expansion in 2004.  After winning the ACC in 2009, Johnson isn't going to stand still. Beamerball and PJ will likely come into 2010 with teams projected 1-2 in the league.

Team on the spot: Florida State. Fisher has to start producing right away. Recruiting was good. The defense needs to be overhauled. There isn't much room for error, not with Oklahoma and BYU back-to-back after a season opener against Samford.

If FSU negotiates that mine field, there are back-to-back road games at Virginia and Miami in October. Will a 3-3 start be tolerated?

Toughest non-conference schedule: Once again, Miami has doused itself with kerosene and is hoping no one lights a match. It worked, sort of, last season with a 5-1 start after opening with Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. But that ambitious start might have had something to do with a 4-3 finish.
This season, after an opening yawner against Florida A&M, the Canes go to Ohio State AND Pittsburgh before heading to Clemson. That's three potentially-ranked teams from three BCS conferences in 21 days. Oh, and if that isn't enough, Florida State comes to Miami on Oct. 9. South Florida comes to Land Shark/Dolphin/Sun Life/Joe Robbie for the season finale on Nov. 27. Try to find a tougher non-con in the ACC.

Easiest non-conference schedule: Virginia Tech. In a league where five teams are playing at least one SEC opponent, the Hokies follow a neutral-site opener against Boise State with home games against James Madison and East Carolina. The other non-con is a homer against significantly diminished Central Michigan. There are no true non-conference road games on the schedule and only two road games at all after Oct. 2.

Posted on: December 4, 2009 9:17 am
 

Gerhart wins readers' Heisman

Our armchair voters have spoken.
 
If it were up to our readers Stanford’s Toby Gerhart would get the Heisman. That’s the surprising result of the responses I got this week from approximately 150 readers.
 
I posted a request on my blog earlier this week asking readers for their five candidates.  What prompted me was perhaps the closest Heisman race in history looming with one big weekend left. Gerhart was the somewhat surprising winner, beating out Texas’ Colt McCoy. Alabama’s Mark Ingram was a distant third.
 
Gerhart will not be part of this weekend’s flourish to the finish. Stanford completed its regular season at 8-4 after a victory over Notre Dame. He finished with a flourish running for 205 yards and scoring four touchdowns (including one passing). Toby for Heisman seems to have captured the nation’s attention after the senior rushed for 1,736 yards and 26 touchdowns.
 
The tailback received 446 points and appeared on 116 ballots. He got first-place votes on 37 of those ballots. Gerhart has been a fast riser on other Heisman polls but is assumed to be at a disadvantage because his season is completed. The country may have fallen in love late.

He will still have to survive final statements from Tim Tebow, McCoy and Ingram in the SEC and Big 12 championship games.

Surprises: Tebow finished a distant fourth with only seven first-place votes … Houston quarterback Case Keenum was fifth … Nebraska defensive tackle finished seventh with more first-place votes (13) than Ingram or Tebow.
 
Thirty-four players received votes. Nine received first-place votes.
 
The top 10:
 
1. Toby Gerhart, Stanford, 446 points (37 first-place votes)
2. Colt McCoy, Texas, 398 (32)
3. Mark Ingram, Alabama, 194 (4)
4. Tim Tebow, Florida, 170 (7)
5. Case Keenum, Houston, 128 (7)
6. Kellen Moore, Boise State, 119 (4)
7. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, 113 (13)
8. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, 90 (8)
9. Golden Tate, Notre Dame, 22 (1)
10. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, 13

 

Posted on: September 16, 2009 12:28 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2009 8:09 pm
 

National notes leading with Russell Shepard

Is  Russell Shepard being hidden?

LSU’s freshman has Tigers fans’ mouths watering, but didn’t play in the opener at Washington. He played handful of snaps last week against Vanderbilt showing how good he can be and how young he is.

Operating in the Wildcat on LSU’s eighth offensive play, Shepard ran around left end for 13 yards. On the next play he caught an eight-yard pass from Jordan Jefferson, then immediately fumbled. Later, Shepard ran for eight yards on the option keeper.

“We’ve have to get him some more touches and some more experience,” Les Miles said. “The second time with the ball in his hands, he coughs it up. He didn’t understand how important it is to get the yards and go down. Going down is OK as long as you have the ball.”

Shepard has been compared to everyone from Tim Tebow to Percy Harvin. Miles still hasn’t been clear on how his prize  eventually will be used. There is still time to tinker against Louisiana-Lafayette this week before the SEC schedule starts against Mississippi State.

So is Shepard being hidden? More like getting used to hot water. LSU ran only 48 plays against Washington so there were few opportunities for him to get in. Against Vandy, he had three touches for 29 yards which was a tease for those who can't wait for more.
 
“According to people I’ve talked to, his (off-field) abilities are Tebow-esque … On the field what he can do is similar to Percy Harvin,” said CBS network analyst Tim Brando.

CBS game day analyst Gary Danielson said it would be a mistake to throw Shepard in at quarterback for any legnth of time: “If Russell Shepard is the leader of this team, they are not going to be a good football team. If Florida would have hung it on Tebow, Florida would not have been good the first year either.”

CBS’ Spencer Tillman added this: “His talent is literally off the charts. This kid is more gifted than Vince Young was at this point in time.”

Shepard has some of those Tebow qualities, agreeing to a magazine cover shoot in high school but not without teammates. After committing to LSU in June 2008, he then began recruiting other players for the Tigers. One was five-star safety Craig Loston, a cousin.

This is probably not the week to be raising Terrelle Pryor’s name but Shepard has been compared favorably to Ohio State’s quarterback.

“I admire the way Tim Tebow handles himself off the field,” Shepard told the New Orleans Times Picayune . “I took a liking to that. He says, ‘God bless you,’ after every interview. He’s amazing … I want to be known like that.”

You can read more about Shepard here .

 USC might have the best quarterback situation in the country if Matt Barkley doesn’t go on Saturday. It still has its most experienced quarterback on the bench. If Aaron Corp starts for USC against Washington, that puts the forgotten Mitch Mustain a tweaked ankle away from being under center. Mustain might the most talented No. 3 quarterback in the country. He was 8-0 as a freshman starter at Arkansas in 2006. Don't forget that Corp won the job coming out of spring.

 Loved this anecdote from the Michigan press box. Announcing Central Michigan’s upset win over Michigan State, the press box announcer at Michigan Stadium said, “No cheering in the press box, but we will make an exception right now.”

  Joe Paterno his team being ranked fifth in both polls: “Are we No. 5? I take the paper and go to the bathroom. I scan it. First, I see who died.”

 After two weeks, the Pac-10 has the best record (4-2) against the Big Six major conferences and Notre Dame. Not surprisingly, the Sun Belt has the worst mark (1-8). The MAC has played the most games against the major conferences, 14, and gone 2-12.

 If SMU beats Washington State this week it will be 3-0 for the first time since pre-death penalty days in 1984.

 Tulsa has allowed one defensive touchdown in its first two games. Get ready for that to change. The Golden Hurricane travel to Oklahoma.
 
 Just warning all those BCS lovers out there: Florida is 11th in the Sagarin Ratings. That’s not the worst of it. The Colley Matrix  has Florida No. 35 and USC No. 13. Wes Colley’s top five – 1. Pittsburgh, 2. LSU, 3. Wisconsin, 4. Texas, 5. UCLA.

You shouldn’t have to be reminded that those are two of the six computer indexes used in the BCS standings.

 


Posted on: September 12, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2009 8:13 pm
 

Early notes at 6:50 pm ET


It happens every year. Sometimes more than once.

Michigan State became the first official MAC sacrifice of the season. Central Michigan scored nine points in the final 32 seconds to beat the Spartans in East Lansing 29-27.

The Chips scored a touchdown to draw within one with half a minute to go. Game over, right? Central Michigan executed an onside kick was well as it can be run.  The Chips recovered and drove into field-goal position.

Andrew Aguila nailed a 32-yarder with three seconds left. Michigan State used its timeouts and allowed Aguila an extra chance after jumping offsides. Aguila had missed a 47-yarder but the right end jumped.

Central’s Dan LeFevour became the MAC’s career total offense leader. Going into Saturday LeFevour had 2,000-plus more career yards than one Tim Tebow (12,166-8,914).

  Carolina is the team with the goat as a mascot. But UConn’s Dan Ryan should be the one braying or naying or whatever goats do.

Ryan, a senior offensive tackle, was caught holding in the end zone with 1 ½ minutes left. The automatic safety broke a 10-10 tie and helped avoid another embarrassing ACC loss. Not that the Huskies don’t matchup with the Tar Heels, but UConn did lead 10-0 going into the fourth quarter.

“That's why you don't see any 100-year-old football coaches,"' Carolina’s Butch Davis said.

  There are two reasons why Chris Petersen might be a lifer at Boise State.

It’s not just the quality of life. Boise is a hidden gem. It’s not solely the lack of pressure. When you’ve beaten Oklahoma, you can live off that accomplishment for 10 years, or more. It’s not only because he coaches an Amtrak. What’s an Amtrak? A train, baby, and it’s rolling in Boise.

Recruiting, winning, adoring fans. It’s all in place for a program that could post its third undefeated season in the last four years.

But none of those reasons are the big one, the main reasons why Petersen stays in Boise despite having the chops to pull the ripcord and go get himself a golden parachute somewhere.

 They are named Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins. Both had similar success in Boise. Both cashed in at the top of their game for jobs at BCS conference schools. Koetter at Arizona State, Hawkins at Colorado.

The artificial grass isn’t always greener. Koetter was a mostly middling head coach, lasting six years with the Sun Devils (40-34). He is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Hawkins?

Colorado is off to an 0-2 start after an embarrassing 54-38 loss Friday at Toledo. Hawkins is now 13-26 at CU and the walls are closing in. CU AD Mike Bohn extended Hawkins a year ago so even if he wanted to fire him it would probably cost the school a prohibitive buyout.

Hawkins and Koetter were a combined 79-21 at Boise, 53-60 after leaving.

Petersen is safe, snug and successful in Boise. Why leave?

  Doubt that Joe Paterno is about to retire that all-time victories record? In the space of a week, Paterno went from leading Bobby Bowden by one (383-382), to three -- if only for a few hours.

Penn State got off to a 2-0 start after beating Syracuse 28-7. Florida State lost its opener on Monday before playing Jacksonville State on Saturday night. The race now stands 385-383 Paterno but that’s not counting the almost-certain vacating of those 14 Bowden victories by the NCAA.

  More Georgia Tech from Thursday night: The Ramblin’ Wreck was a wreck in special teams last year. The Yellow Jackets were in the bottom three in the ACC in net punting, punt returns, kickoff returns and field goals. 

It beat Clemson 30-27 with the help of a pass off a fake field goal from kicker Scott Blair.
 

  

Posted on: June 5, 2009 3:36 pm
 

Predicting the bling ...

We're all Heisman candidates in June. Mom, dad, the plumber, the cat. Well, maybe not the cat.

This is the time of year to salute every swinging hick who dares to dream of a trip to New York. With that in mind, here are my Heisman rankings.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas -- It's his time. Among the Three Amigos, it's his turn.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida -- Voters will be wary of making Superman a two-time winner. There has only been one.
3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma -- Back-to-back ain't happenin' either.
4. Jevan Snead. Ole Miss -- This year's Matt Stafford.
5. Jahvid Best, Cal -- No. 3 rusher last season, should be the nation's leading rusher in 2009.
6. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech -- The hoss in Paul Johson's option offense.
7. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State -- Cowboy No. 1
8. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State -- Cowboy No. 2
9. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State --  Cowboy No. 3
10. Case Keenum, Houston -- 5,000-yard passer.

The others -- Arrelious Benn, Illinois; Eric Berry, Tennessee; Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas; Daryll Clark, Penn State; Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame; Aaron Corp, USC; Noel Devine, West Virginia; A.J. Green, Georgia; Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma; Max Hall, BYU; Greg Hardy, Ole Miss; Tim Hiller, Western Michigan; Jerry Hughes, TCU; Colin Kaepernick, Nevada; Julio Jones, Alabama; Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan; MiQuale Lewis, Ball State; Jake Locker, Washington; Taylor Mays, USC; Kellen Moore, Boise State; DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma; Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State; Todd Reesing, Kansas; Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State;  Charles Scott, LSU; Brandon Spikes, Florida; Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; The Kobe and LeBron puppets; Zach Galifianakis; Conan O'Brien; Lassie; David Letterman; Iron Man; Alex Trebek, Tina Fey, shall I go on?

 

Bednarik/Nagurski Award (best defensive player): Jerry Hughes, TCU

Biletnikoff Award (best receiver): Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

Broyles Award (best assistant coach):  John Chavis, LSU defensive coordinator

Groza Award (best kicker): Kai Forbath, UCLA

Ray Guy Award (best punter): Derek Epperson, Baylor

Lombardi Award (best lineman): Greg Hardy, Ole Miss

Mackey Award (best tight end): Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback): Colt McCoy, Texas.

Butkus Award (best linebacker):  Brandon Spikes, Florida

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman):  Ciron Black, LSU

Rimington Trophy (best center): Kristofer O'Dowd, USC

Eddie Robinson Award (coach of the year):  Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Thorpe Award (best defensive back): Eric Berry, Tennessee

Doak Walker Award (best running back):  Jahvid Best, Cal

 

 

Posted on: May 21, 2009 10:54 am
 

Picking the MAC

Four wins over Big Ten teams. A 12-win team ranked in the top 12. Five bowl teams.

It will be hard to replicate the MAC's 2008 season. Even with all that success, five schools had to replace their coaches. Included in that group is 2008 (almost) BCS buster Ball State. Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo also changed coaches.

The storylines are overflowing again in 2009. It's almost guaranteed to be another record-breaking year. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour and Western Michigan's Tim Hiller are both chasing MAC career yardage and touchdown records.  The baby Bulls of Buffalo enter their 11th year in I-A as defending MAC champs.
Temple is, gulp, a factor. Ball State has won 14 regular-season teams in a row. And you've got to believe there is at least one more Big Ten victim ready to be knocked off.

How the mighty MAC stacks up in '09 ...

East Division

1. Temple -- What? Temple? Call me crazy but this is the Owls' time. They lost three games on the last play and were within a Hail Mary against Buffalo from winning the division last season.

Coming off a second-place finish and its most wins (five) in 18 years, Temple returns 21 players who started a game. Coach Al Golden has to find a new quarterback but redshirt junior Vaughn Charlton and redshirt sophomore Chester Stewart have experience.

If Golden, a former Penn State assistant, is going to replace Joe Paterno (someday), he'll have to win a conference title and go to a bowl. He might do both this season.

2. Akron -- J.D. Brookhart won a MAC title in 2005, his first season after leaving Pittsburgh. He hasn't had winning season since.

Either the Zips contend for the East this season or big changes might be coming. Akron has a new stadium, a new offensive coordinator (former Miami coach Shane Montgomery) and a powerful offense.

The defense was horrid (90th or worse in total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss), but defensive tackle Almondo Sewell is one of the league's best players. Third-year starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain will play behind four returning starters in the offensive line.

3. Bowling Green -- Dave Clawson at Tennessee was a bad fit, sort of like Rosie O'Donnell in the Miss America pageant. It wasn't going to work from the start.

Fortunately, being part of the train wreck of Phillip Fulmer's final season didn't sully Clawson's rep. Bowling Green was lucky to get this offensive mind on the rebound. Clawson inherits the league's most accurate passer Tyler Sheehan (66.8 percent, 20 touchdowns). That's a good place to start for the Falcons who won six and finished second in the East last season.

4. Buffalo -- That crash you heard was the Bulls falling back to earth. Lost in the gushing about coach Turner Gill was that his defense gave up the second-most points in the league. Gill had to almost totally rely on an offense winning four games by six or less.

Quarterback Drew Willy (3,304 passing yards) is being replaced by sophomore Zach Maynard (three attempts in '08). Three starters must be replaced on the offensive line.

In a good year, Buffalo is a tough project. It might never get as good for Gill as it was in 2008. Don't forget the Bulls did lose six last season.

5. Ohio --  It's been a hard slog for Frank Solich since winning the East in 2006. The Bobcats are 10-14 since then. At least Solich has a choice at quarterback. Seniors Boo Jackson (school-record 19 touchdowns) and Theo Scott (one before being injured) will continue to battle in the fall.

The Bobcats were terrible in turnover ratio while giving up almost four touchdowns per game.  If Ohio is going to a bowl, it's going to be on Jackson and/or Scott. Both are dual threats.

6. Kent State -- Golden Flashes everywhere are hoping that early enrollee Tyshon Goode can become a go-to receiver. Actually, just becoming an average receiver would acceptable. The eight receivers in the spring two-deep caught all of 29 passes last season.

7. Miami (Ohio) -- A first-time head coach (Mike Haywood) trying to improve the league's worst offense in a program that is coming off a 10-loss season. Not a good combination.


West Division

1. Central Michigan --  Flip a coin between Central and Western but I'll go with the Chips. Central has posted four consecutive winning seasons, the longest streak in the league. Butch Jones has 18 starters back from an eight-win team that tied for second in the West last season.

LeFevour is poised to become the MAC career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Best reasons to like the Chips? Jones already has won a MAC title (2007) and the program is shooting for its third in four years. Oh, and Central has won three in a row over Western.

2. Western Michigan -- Be in Kalamazoo on Oct. 17 for the Central game that might decide the West.

The two top players are Hiller and linebacker Austin Pritchard (17 tackles against Central). The receivers and the secondary are a bit lacking but after a nine-win season, the Broncos should challenge for the division title again.

3. Ball State -- Stan Parrish, the former offensive coordinator and mentor to Nate Davis, got the gig after Brady Hoke bolted for San Diego State. The Cardinals will score but can they win 12 again?

Doubtful. This is Parrish's first head coaching job since leaving Kansas State in 1988. In the interim, he has helped win a national championship (Michigan) and Super Bowl (Tampa Bay). Without Davis at quarterback, Parrish will rely heavily on a veteran defensive front and tailback MiQuale Lewis.

4. Northern Illinois --  Jerry Kill won six games and went a bowl with all-everything defensive end Larry English. What can the second-year coach do without him?

Sophomore tailback Me'co Brown hopes to take the pressure off quarterback Chandler Harnish who led the Huskies in rushing.

5. Toledo -- You're probably familiar with the words "scandal-ridden" coming before the Toledo name lately. The Rockets have played some football too in the middle of a point-shaving scandal.

Hopefully new coach Tim Beckman doesn't bring all of his mojo from Oklahoma State.  Beckman oversaw a Cowboys' defense that allowed the second-most points in the Big 12 South. Hybrid "Star" linebacker Barry Church will be all over the field.

6. Eastern Michigan -- If Ron English was just looking for a job, any job, he found it. The trick for him in Ypsilanti will be keeping it for any length of time. The Eagles have lost 77 games this decade and have become the MAC doormat.

English, Lloyd Carr's former defensive coordinator,  is right down the road from Ann Arbor. That won't help him to avoid the basement in his first year as a head coach.

Posted on: November 3, 2008 3:52 pm
 

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Phil Fulmer called me.

When an SEC head coach calls out of the blue he doesn't want to borrow a few bucks. It was a couple of years ago. The Tennessee coach had called about some mindless thing I'd written in a blog. It was during the seemingly endless run of the program's off-field problems at the time.

I had posted something flippant in a blog which, for me, wasn't surprising. What was surprising was Fulmer calling at that moment (I was in the Atlanta airport), at that time (it was in the middle of summer) to pick a bone.

I had no problem with it. In fact, I wish more coaches would call in person if they have a problem with a story. It can't hurt and keeps the lines of communication open. We hung up that day with whatever problem there was, resolved.

Still, I thought it was odd that a high profile, big-time SEC coach would call me about a blog. I'm no expert on blogs but, to me, you can get away with certain things in a blog that you might not in a regular story. As long as your name is on it, then it's just another way of communicating.

Anyway, it seemed that day that was Fulmer was cultivating a media "friend." Nothing wrong with that. I'm closer to some coaches than others. I wouldn't call any one of the I-A guys "friends". First, they're in a different tax bracket. Second, a guy like me is basically a bug smashed on their windshield.

Our common interest is between the lines. In this business, it's always nice if you can call or text a guy and just gossip. We're not all about ripping.

As we know now, Fulmer didn't have many friends in the media at the end. The only thing easier to beat up before Monday was a piñata.

That was unfair. Fulmer is one of the decent ones. He's not a crook. He's doesn't have a fundamental personality flaw that needs to be addressed by professionals such as one Robert Montgomery Knight. He is a son of the South, a proud Vol and a hell of a coach.

His sin was letting the program get stale. It happens. Everywhere. Former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer once said that after 10 years the average NFL coach gets stale no matter what. The message becomes old. The players stop listening. It's time to go.

Phil Fulmer lasted 17 years if you count his 4-0 record in 1992.  He delivered five SEC East titles, two SEC titles and a national championship. As recently as 11 months ago, Tennessee was playing for the SEC title.

Still, things were stale. The popular theory is that the loss of offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe contributed to the downfall.  I don't think even Cutcliffe could have made chicken salad out of Jonathan Crompton. That Tennessee -- once the cradle of quarterbacks -- couldn't find someone better Crompton was an indictment of Fulmer's recruiting.

I talked to a big-time offensive coordinator last week who had visited the Tennessee staff in the offseason. He had nothing but good things to say. Believe me, he would have ripped them if it was warranted.  This guy holds nothing back.


Still, things were stale. It was more than irony that the loss that finally got him out was to his old nemesis. The Old Ball Coach, lacking some of his old mojo, punked Fulmer one more time.

 Everything started to change for coaches everywhere at the beginning of this decade. Bob Stoops won a national championship in his second year at Oklahoma. He was followed quickly by Jim Tressel who won in his second season. Urban Meyer did the same thing in 2006.

Maybe Phil should consider himself lucky for getting this far. Fans have little patience, especially when three other SEC coaches have either gone undefeated and/or won national championships since Tennessee's in 1998.

The fifth-winningest active coach in I-A was only third in his own  conference. Patience? There is little left these days for coaches who don't deliver immediately, or enough. Fulmer's departure also makes it four I-A coaches this year who have either resigned or been fired during the season.

Things were stale, maybe, but how many ADs would like a .766 coach? That's why it will take something special for Fulmer to get into coaching right away. He is overqualified for most jobs. His star has dimmed, perhaps, in the SEC. His dignity would prevent him from going to non-BCS level for a job.

Shed no tears. The guy is walking away with at least $6 million from Tennessee. He still has a lot of energy left. I'm thinking he might resurface as an offensive line coach in the NFL. There's a lot less crap to deal with at that level.


Where does Tennessee go from here? First, whoever is hired must know that it's AD Mike Hamilton's neck on the line too. Hamilton got mouthy in Fulmer's final days, basically throwing his coach under the bus. The AD better deliver, big time. That means a coach capable of recruiting his butt off (Tennessee simply doesn't have many players), winning more than 75 percent of his games and, oh yeah, delivering a national championship.

Does that eliminate defensive coordinator John Chavis? He seems to be a popular choice. Mike Leach is going to be mentioned for every opening and then end up on the sidelines again next season for Texas Tech. Hamilton might go the up-and-coming route. Tulsa's Todd Graham and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly have been mentioned.

If it comes to that, I favor Kelly. Michigan dismissed him out of hand because he had once coached at Central Michigan. Bad move. Tennessee shouldn't be limiting itself. That includes at least a courtesy call to Steve Spurrier to see if he is interested.

After the laughing dies down, Spurrier might give Hamilton a couple of names.

Kelly, though, is the no-nonsense type who has won a Division II national championship and been able to succeed at two non-descript mid-majors (Central Michigan and Cincinnati).

Tennessee is a destination job. After being at three schools in six years, Kelly could retire in Knoxville. One other thing: Kelly knows how to develop quarterbacks.

At a program that is in decline but hasn't crumbled, that's a great place to start.

Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
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