Posted on: January 6, 2012 8:58 pm
NEW ORLEANS -- Alabama Nation took its best shot at Jeremy Shelley. The Crimson Tide kicker survived.
“It wasn’t anything bad,” Shelley said of the social media barrage that hit the junior following the events of Nov. 5. “I’d tweet something and they’d say, ‘You shouldn’t be tweeting, you should be out practicing kicking.’ “
Shelley was. Diligently. It just so happened that his one-for-two performance against LSU in the first meeting was part of a horrid two-for-six performance by Bama kickers.
“If you’re a baseball player and hit .333, it probably gets you in the Hall of Fame,” Nick Saban.
At Alabama, it gets you scorn. The failure of the kickers against LSU revealed a hole in the seemingly impenetrable Saban force field. Alabama goes into Monday’s BCS title game 94th nationally in field goal accuracy. Since the LSU game, Bama kickers have missed three of seven down the stretch.
Shelley, from Raleigh, N.C., is more or less the regular kicker having made 16 of 20 this season and 28 out of 36 in his career. Sophomore Cade Foster, a Texas native, is the long-range specialist beyond 42 yards. He is two of nine this season and only nine of 18 in his career. Foster made only one of four kicks that night against the Tigers, all between 44 and 52 yards. The final miss in overtime, from 52 yards, allowed LSU to win it with a field goal on its possession.
“I think what we’ve tried to do with our guys is say, ‘Look, you had a bunch of low-percentage kicks in that game,” Saban said. “We are confident in your ability to just stay focused.”
With everything on the line, again, that could be a problem in a field-goal game. LSU is third nationally in accuracy with Drew Alleman, who has missed only two of 18 kicks all season.
Alabama didn’t do its kickers any favors that night two months ago. The offense penetrated the red zone only once. Prior to that overtime kick, Alabama was flagged for illegal substitution. In the plays prior to those six field goal attempts, 'Bama completed only two of five passes and AJ McCarron was sacked. Net yards: zero.
“We put them in situations they shouldn’t have been in,” tailback Trent Richardson said. “Everybody likes to blame their kickers. It’s our fault, it’s not their fault.”
The kickers haven’t been allowed to talk to the media since the first LSU game. Strange, they can kick in front of 100,000 people but are judged unreliable to express their feelings. That’s Saban. That still doesn’t make it right.
“We knew going into the game that we would have a chance to make that big difference in the game,” Shelley said. “With the teams being so close, neither team scored a touchdown. I would have never thought that. It came down to us.”
After Nov. 5, both kickers tried to stay away from their various social networks. They probably were not alone. Kicking snafus allowed Alabama to get here to New Orleans. A missed field goal was largely responsible for Boise State losing its only game to TCU. The same for Oklahoma State in its only loss to Iowa State.
The postseason has been ruled by clutch kicks gone wrong. Both Virginia Tech third-string kicker Justin Myer and Stanford’s Jordan Williamson missed overtime kicks in BCS bowl losses.
The virus, it seems, is catching.
“It [criticism] comes with the position,” Shelley said. “Whether it’s a game you have to hit three field goals to win or it comes down to your foot in the last second, you’re going to be in the spotlight. It’s a matter of, you’re going to be a hero a goat.”
Shelley played youth soccer growing up. He found out about the pressure of kicking [a different ball] playing international games in Spain, England, France and Scotland.
“It’s not nearly as big of a stage, but not being used to what I’m used to now, it was very cool,” Shelley said. “You could have up to 5,000 per game.”
He knows the reps of all kickers. While teammates bust their butts in practices, they … kick.
“We’re not busting heads all day,” Shelley admitted. “Maybe we don’t work as much. Maybe we don’t work as hard. You can’t kick for three hours every day. The value of kickers has gone up tremendously, especially this bowl season. How many games have to come down to the kickers’ foot?”
Perhaps one more.
“I have no problem with the game coming down to our foot,” Shelley added. “I have complete faith in Cade and myself being able to put this game away. With this second chance, there’s a chance for redemption.”
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:13 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 10:25 am
Tom Brady looks better every day. Every day, that is, an assistant gets hired away from the Patriots.
It’s a great thing to work for the Pats, at the top of your profession, chasing Super Bowls each season. A stark reality set in when Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels left. They don’t necessarily get better. Their former franchise just keeps chugging along.
Freeman: Penn State should quit whining over good hire
See a pattern here? No. 12. He’s still there winning games without them.
With that, we present Bill O’Brien as the new coach at Penn State. O’Brien is the Patriots offensive coordinator. He is most famous to a large part of the population at the moment for getting into a sideline spat with Brady. For that transgression he was allowed to live.
Now he goes to Happy Valley where his career could die.
Maybe that’s not fair, but the one conclusion we can draw from this convoluted coaching search is that Penn State didn’t have a clue. If there was ever a time to hire a search firm, this was it. It didn’t. Instead, it looks like there were warring factions inside the search. What did Penn State want? We’re still not sure.
At least the school made a swift, definitive and convincing statement. Swift if you consider it was 45 days between Paterno’s firing and O’Brien’s reported hiring. Definitive if you consider that everyone but Knute Rockne turned down the job/used it for a raise/laughed into the phone when contacted.
Convincing if you consider that O’Brien, 42, may be nothing more than a sacrificial door jamb in big, cosmic coaching-go-round -- a go-between while Penn State football rights itself and the next Urban Meyer comes along. It’s only been a couple of days since he passed but let’s not forget that it was the late, great Gene Bartow who taught us never to be the guy to follow the guy.
Until his unsightly downfall, Paterno was college football’s Wooden. Paterno’s legacy is stained forever. But when the dust and lawyers settle, O’Brien will eventually be asked match a long, successful legacy that produced a .749 winning percentage.
Contract details have not been announced but if O’Brien doesn’t get at least a seven-year contract, he should fire his agent. The job was toxic before O’Brien took it. It’s going to take a while to clean it up. O’Brien is not the sexy hire that is going to talk undecided recruits in off the ledge. But the school couldn’t afford a sexy hire image-wise. That would have been sending the wrong message for a program that obviously has been worshipping at the altar of Paterno for too long.
During these 45 days, Penn State aimed high, scoured low and came up with a guy who is supposed to do what? Deconstruct and rebuild the program? Win the Big Ten next year?
Penn State would prefer to win quietly, out of the spotlight. That, of course, is impossible.
Fans with thousands invested in personal seat licenses aren’t going to stand for a de-emphasis of football. Winning the Big Ten anytime time soon seems impossible, too. There will be a faction of recruits who stay away from Penn State for obvious reasons: They don’t want to shower in the same place where a youth may have been sodomized.
There is still another faction of recruits who will always go there because they believe they can get to the NFL. That may sustain the program. O’Brien will say the right things and try to restore faith in football, school and community.
Time, then, for introductions all around. O’Brien has been New England’s OC since 2008. He has 14 years college experience as an assistant but none as a head coach. The Duke teams he was associated with went 1-22.
There are cautionary tales all around him: Weis parlayed the promise of seven games at Notre Dame into a 10-year contract. He is currently at Kansas trying to rebuild the Jayhawks and rehab his coaching image. Crennel is 26-41 as an NFL head coach. McDaniels lasted less than two years as coach of the Broncos. Magini is doing TV analysis.
O’Brien’s future awaits. Ironically, he needs a quarterback at Penn State for starters. Suddenly, for him, there are no Tom Bradys in sight.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:44 pm
NEW ORLEANS -- The mystery that is Tyrann Mathieu continues to unravel.
On Thursday we learned of his place in one of the great defensive backfields. We learned of his humble background. We also learned that Mathieu’s birth father is serving life in prison for murder.
Formally adopted last year, Mathieu was raised by his aunt and uncle. It has been an incredibly complicated life. When I asked if he stays in contact with his father, Mathieu said, “I don’t talk to him anymore.”
Later, he said: “I think a lot of people had their input on the things that happened in my life. I’m not afraid of it. I’m not backing down from it.”
Here are other Badger Bits gathered from Thursday’s media session:
“He’s a shutdown corner … We joke around at practice all the time. You know, MoMo (teammate Morris Claiborne) got his own island. So I figured I’d have my own island in practice.”
“I just think mentally, in my mind, I was always a step ahead of the game. Not to take anything away from other players, I was just always confident in myself. I could make the best players.
“I was pretty much faster than everybody. I never played with guys in my age bracket. I always played with my older brothers and my older cousins so they were always taller than me. So I just kind of got used to playing against bigger guys.”
“I don’t think I can really say it … I research them. I find their mama’s name. Anything I can do to let them know, you know, that I kind of know what you know.”
“I don’t think I’d talk about anybody’s grandmother.”
Posted on: January 1, 2012 12:16 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 12:18 pm
Recapping 2011, anticipating 2012 (more or less) A-Z …
Meanwhile, the AFCA continues to rig a BCS system it profits from in the coaches’ poll. Before coaches demand accountability from media, players and assistants, they need to give up control of a poll that holds the purse strings to a multi-million system and awards its final No. 1 ranking to the BCS title game winner.
Michigan-Virginia Tech? (Where was Boise, Kansas State?)
Clemson-West Virginia? (Six combined losses?)
Oklahoma State-Stanford is nice in the Fiesta Bowl but there are those who believe the Cowboys should be playing LSU in New Orleans. A Plus-One wouldn’t totally fix things but we’d love to see one this season – No. 1 seed LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State.
Unfortunately, the next chance for change, 2014, looks to be more of the same. The Pac-12 and Big Ten aren’t likely to allow the Rose Bowl to become a national semifinal. Even a Plus-One wouldn’t account for No. 7 Boise, a team that was a missed kick away from playing for the national championship.
BCS trivia: Nick Saban (4-1) and Les Miles (5-2) have each beaten Alabama at least four times as SEC coaches.
BYU: Courted by the Big 12 and Big East (at least) during conference realignment, BYU stood strong and stayed independent in 2011. Whether the Cougars’ status stays that way remains to be seen. Glory is still elusive. A seventh consecutive bowl resulted in the world’s largest Mormon school beating the FBS school with the smallest enrollment (Tulsa) in the final 12 seconds in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Charlie Weis: Quietly, Notre Dame’s former coach accounted for the biggest recruiting day in the history of Kansas football. On December 22, Weis lured quarterbacks Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU) as transfers.
OK, it’s only Kansas and it’s a couple former five-star quarterbacks who underachieved. But as long as Weis is in Lawrence, Kansas will be worth our attention. The Big 12 is a quarterback league. Weis has his for at least the next three years. He and the Jayhawks will be a story as Weis tries to rehab his college coaching image.
Conference realignment: In the chase for money and automatic qualifying status, networks and commissioners couldn’t help themselves. They acted like businessmen at a strip club during happy hour, making it rain. The change was so fast and furious that we’re still not sure what conference West Virginia will play in 2012.
David Boren: Oklahoma’s president trashed the Big 12 and then-commissioner Dan Beebe one day. Then, after finding out 24 hours the Pac-12 wasn’t going to take his Sooners, he shifted stance and said he was actually trying to save the league.
Oklahoma’s former governor is a dangerous, manipulative, powerful, fascinating figure. Just don’t cross him. Boren ran Beebe out of the Big 12 in one of the great injustices of the year.
Death Cam: On the second-last day of 2011, there was a sobering warning for 2012. An ESPN SkyCam almost smashed an Iowa player Friday night during the Insight Bowl. Dear networks: Our desire to see every possible angle has been sated. We’ve got HD, blimps and replay. We don’t need a debilitating injury – or worse.
LaMichael James: Quietly – yes, quietly – “LaMike” became one of the era's most dangerous weapons and the best running back in Oregon history. If James stays for his senior season, which he is not likely to do, he would challenge Ron Dayne for the NCAAA career rushing record.
As it is, James will have plenty left for the NFL because of his efficiency (6.6 yards per carry, only 746 career carries). The question is, can the leading edge of Chip Kelly’s quick-strike offense survive as a pro at only 5-foot-9, 185 pounds?
Lane Kiffin: Before Todd Graham jilted Pittsburgh, Monte’s boy was bolting Tennessee after a season. Funny, how we’ve forgotten. Lane matured before our eyes in 2011 leading the probation-crippled USC to a 10-2 record, including a win at Pac-12 champion Oregon.
It looks like the Trojans are back. This time, Kiffin isn’t going anywhere.
LSU: Look at the roster. It’s so young. The SEC defensive player of the year is a sophomore (Tyrann Mathieu). There are 13 sophomores (or younger) in the two-deep. On defense. These Tigers were built to win in 2012. This season has been gravy.
No matter what happens Jan. 9, the Tigers are a good bet to start as the 2012 preseason No. 1.
Matt Barkley: Probation, what probation? USC’s blond, Hollywood-ready quarterback is returning for his senior season Leinart-style. After a 10-win season during a second consecutive bowl-ban season, the Trojans will likely start 2012 in the top five and be the Pac-12 favorites.
Mike Leach: He’s baaaack and that’s good for all of us. The talk turns from lawsuits to alignments again for The Pirate who has been out of the game too long. Things are about to get real interesting in Pullman.
What a emerged was a more accessible NCAA but one that, at times, was more interested in promoting itself than addressing the issues. That August summit was a great idea but moved too fast to the point that groundbreaking stipend and scholarship legislation was overridden. The decision to allow the Buckeye Five to play in the Sugar Bowl a year ago remains inexplicable.
Notre Dame: Weis recruited quarterbacks but couldn’t produce enough wins. So far, Brian Kelly can’t even get the quarterback thing straight. The Irish are becoming something they can never be – boring. After losing to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, ND is now 2-10 in its last 12 postseason games.
Its last two coaches have been decidedly offensive guys. Those Notre Dame offenses have, since 2005, finished 61st or worst more times (three) than they have in the top 10 (two). The 2007 unit under Weis was dead last. That’s an average of No. 46 in total offense since Weis arrived. That equates to the offensive standing of Virginia in 2011.
Before the Irish can return to national relevance, they have to become more exciting.
The average figures for points per game (28.3), passing yards (229.4), completions (19.2) are all on pace to finish second all-time. The current total offense mark of 392.75 is ahead of the record set in 2007, 392.64.
SEC: You don’t have to be told again … The SEC is so dominant that the best football conference is assured of both its sixth straight title and first title game loss.
The league has used the BCS to make an unprecedented run. Voters and computers are conditioned to give the SEC champion the benefit of the doubt each season. Not saying that’s wrong, it just is. It’s sort of like the next Jay-Z album shooting to the top of the charts in preorders.
Lyles reportedly sang to the NCAA in August. That followed allegations that Chip Kelly’s program commissioned after-the-fact recruiting info that it had already paid $25,000 for. There is still the unsettling feeling that Oregon could be in for major sanctions in 2012.
Posted on: December 19, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 9:39 am
Jacksonville Jaquars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has emerged as a strong leading candidate at Hawaii, according to a source.
His 66-44 career mark in college includes a 4-2 bowl record. For the past five seasons he has coordinated the Jags’ offense. From 2007-20010 Jacksonville’s offense ranked 13th in the NFL according to the team's website. In 2007, the Jags set a franchise record averaging 25.7 points. This year Jacksonville, 4-10, is last in the NFL in total yards.
In 2005, Arizona State finished second in total offense nationally under Koetter. He was fired at ASU in late November 2006.
Koetter was once known as a bright, young, up-and-coming offensive mind. Starting as offensive coordinator with San Francisco State in 1985, he moved up the ladder as OC with Texas-El Paso, Missouri, Boston College and Oregon before getting the Boise head coaching job in 1998.
Posted on: December 15, 2011 12:24 am
Edited on: December 15, 2011 10:41 am
Nick Saban could lose two staff members before the BCS national title game.
Saban has already lost offensive coordinator Jim McElwain who is headed for Colorado State. McElwain will stay through the bowl game. He has been with Tide almost four years.
Meanwhile, five names have emerged at Pittsburgh as the school rushes to find a coach for the second straight December. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads a possible front-runner. Rhoads was defensive coordinator for the Panthers under Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt.
Also, look for Samford offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to get serious consideration to join Gus Malzahn in the same position at Arkansas State. Lashlee formerly played quarterback for Malzahn in high school and was a grad assistant at both Arkansas and Auburn.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 5:12 pm
The clear losers today in the coaching carousel are SMU and Arizona State. That’s two schools with coaches under contract.
That’s part of the problem.
The SMU administration already has taken back June Jones who dumped his employer of four years and had all but left for Arizona State last week. The ASU administration apparently learned nothing. It “quickly” went out – well, six days – and hired Todd Graham from Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, Jones has told SMU through his actions that he doesn’t want to be there. He knows that. The school knows that. Yet it has taken him back.
At some point, administrators are going to start treating coaches like free-lance workers. There will be no-compete clauses where coaches can’t talk to a potential employer. Their salaries will be end-of-the year retention bonuses. If a coach leaves within three years he owes a buyout: You name it, $2 million, $5 million, $10 million. It’s already been done.
Yes, coaches are not loyal. You’ll be reading a lot of that over the next several days. It has turned into an offseason angle du juor. But what about the schools? A week after the season ended, Texas A&M Bill Byrne was forced to fire Mike Sherman. The school president and a booster wanted change. They eventually got their man in Houston’s Kevin Sumlin.
That’s why coaches have buyouts too.
Shame on administrations, though, for repeating their mistakes. It’s often cited that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. What, then, about either school’s conduct tells anyone that they have changed?
Pittsburgh is Graham’s second school where he spent one season before bolting to the next best thing. Except in this case, going to Arizona State is a lateral move. At best. ASU traded a 6-6 coach (Erickson) for a 6-6 coach (Graham). The difference in the two jobs is the weather. Both Pittsburgh and Arizona State have been a chronic underachievers for years.
At least in Tempe, it’s a dry mediocrity.
If I’m an SMU player I have a hard time playing for Jones at this point. A coach who asked his athletes for dedication and loyalty has shown none. Even worse, Jones came back after swinging and missing at another job. Still worse, the school took him back.
I recommend you start following Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street on Twitter (@D_Street_15) for a street-level view.
Sample: I'm literally sick.. That man [Graham] pulled me in his office one on one and lied to me.
The poor players are caught in the crossfire. The Todd Grahams of the world have absolutely no remorse when they reportedly inform players of their departure by text. If the technology had been available when Dennis Franchione left Alabama he still wouldn’t have used it.
Simple human decency clauses need to be inserted in some of these contracts.
And the vicious circle continues. Wednesday’s magic number was 4: That’s the number of jobs Charlie Weis has held since December 2009. Also, the number of coaches Pittsburgh will have since December 2010 when it gets around to replacing Graham.
This is lovely karma for those who despise the actions of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg. His name has been cussed in Big East circles for three months now. After once pledging loyalty to the Big East, Nordenberg led a surreptitious move to the ACC in September.
What comes around, Markie Mark.
As Hypocrite Week continued, someone tweeted these words an Arizona State administrator as Graham was introduced: "What we sought in a football coach was someone who would be in it for the long term at Arizona State"
And no one laughed.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:12 am
The near-term BCS fortunes of the once-again fractured Mountain West is now in the hands of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.