Tag:Pittsburgh
Posted on: December 10, 2008 12:44 am
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National notes

My Heisman ballot:

1. Tim Tebow
2. Sam Bradford
3. Colt McCoy

I can't give you a quantitative reason why Tebow is my No. 1. His numbers are down from '07. However, after watching him lead that fourth-quarter comeback against Alabama, it's more of a feel, an emotional reaction.

I go back to Sept. 27 when Tebow basically called his shot after the Ole Miss loss and then delivered! Nine wins in a row. Go back and at the quotes from that day. Tebow as Babe Ruth pointing his bad toward the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Until Saturday, Bradford was my guy. I had started hyping him for Heisman back when he was a freshman. How many players ever have led the country in pass efficiency two years in a row?

It's hard to vote Colt McCoy third when he took a team with a mediocre offensive line and led it in passing and rushing. The point is, I can't slide a piece of paper between the three of them.

The voters: John Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel; Tony Barnhart, CBS; Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe; Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman; B.G. Brooks, Rocky Mountain News; Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Brian Davis, Dallas Morning News; Mike DeArmond, Kansas City Star; Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Michael DiRocco, Florida Times-Union; Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle; Scott Ferrell, Shreveport Times; Anthony Gimino, Tucson Citizen; Herb Gould, Chicago-Sun Times; Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune; Mike Griffith, Knoxville New Sentinel; Eric Hansen, South Bend Tribune; Matt Hayes, Sporting News; Tommy Hicks, Mobile Press-Register; Ron Higgins, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Mark Janssen, Manhattan Mercury; Todd Jones, Columbus Dispatch; Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star; Ted Lewis, New Orleans Times-Picayune; Mike Lopresti, Gannett Newspapers; Tom Luicci, Newark Star-Ledger; Ray Melick, Birmingham News; Rodney McKissic, Buffalo News; Brett McMurphy, Tampa Tribune.

(Two voters did not want their names used)

The rest of the national awards, etc.


MVP: McCoy

There's a difference between the Heisman winner and MVP. McCoy did more with less. Texas wouldn't be in the conversation without him.

Best quarterback: Bradford

This is getting confusing so let's just drop it.

Best running back: Shonn Greene, Iowa

The nation's No. 2 rusher came on in the second half of the season to surpass Michigan State's Javon Ringer and UConn's Donald Brown as the most consistent ground force in the nation.

Best receiver: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech


Do back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards do anything for you? An NFL star in waiting.


Best tight end: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

This was tough. I recently shifted away from Missouri's Chase Coffman who was too injured at the end of the season to back up a spectacular first eight games of the season.

The 6-foot-6 inch Gresham gets opens, is hard to tackle and has speed. Need anything else?

Best offensive lineman: Andre Smith, Alabama.

He is what coaches look for when they recruit left tackles. A case can be made for Smith, the likely Outland Trophy winner, being Bama's MVP. Without him protecting John Parker Wilson and carving out holes for Glen Coffee, the Tide don't start 12-0.

Defensive player of the year: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC

From a troubled beginning, this voracious tackler became the foundation for one of the best statistical defenses in history.

Best defensive lineman: Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

Ask BYU's Max Hall what he thinks of the nation's sacks leader In their October matchup, Hughes sacked Hall three times.

Best defensive back: Eric Berry, Tennessee.

Lane Kiffin should be at Berry's house right now making sure he's happy, comfortable and ready to take 20 snaps a game on offense.

Best special teams player: Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati

You won't find many other All-Americans on the best Cincinnati team in history that won 11 games and the Big East. We'll give it to Huber who bombed 20 punts more than 50 yards and dropped 20 punts inside the 20.

Remember when Cincinnati used to be a basketball school?

Freshman of the year: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State

How did he get from Texas to Corvallis?

Coach of the year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Staff of the year: Penn State

The Broyles Award is doing a disservice to Penn State. The honor goes to the assistant coach of the year. Not only were there no Penn State assistants among the finalists, the Broyles folks didn't do the right thing and pick the entire Penn State staff.

With JoePa ailing, his staff basically took over and led the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title. Big ups to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. They were the glue.

Biggest disappointments: Georgia, Notre Dame, South Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, the ACC, the Pac-10.

Biggest surprises: Oregon State, Ball State, Alabama, Buffalo, East Carolina, Rice, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech.

Sometimes you just live right: Charlie Weis almost got run out of town after a 6-6 season. His reward? A trip to the Hawaii where he can continue to recruit linebacker Manti Te'o. 

Don't give me any of this stuff about a dead period. Te'o will be a captive audience as the Irish take over Oahu.

Best games: Texas 45, Oklahoma 35, Oct. 11 in Dallas.

The winner usually wins the Big 12 South and competes for the national championship. Right? Right?

Texas Tech 39, Texas 33, Nov. 1 in Lubbock.

Not to pick on the Horns here but the reason they are playing Ohio State instead of Florida is Crabtree's game-winning catch with one second left.

UCLA 27, Tennessee 24 (OT) Sept. 1 in the Rose Bowl.

Tennessee's defense held UCLA's Kevin Craft to only four interceptions in the first half. Then, in his best performance of a long, long season, Craft rallied the Bruins in the second half.

Rick Neuheisel led a post-game pep rally.

Florida 31, Alabama 20, Dec. 6 at the SEC championship game.

The BCS was smiling as the closest thing to a national semifinal was played out in front of the largest Georgia Dome crowd in history.

Whine of the year: Pete Carroll and USC

You lost to a team you weren't supposed to (Oregon State). You paid for it in the polls. Deal with it. Maybe the difference between that and Florida losing to Ole Miss? Urban Meyer has made a habit lately of winning the big ones <em>and</em> the little ones.

Best stories:

Six teams ranked No. 1 during the season (the most since 1984)

Alabama arriving a year early (at least) under Nick Saban

Utah, TCU and BYU making a huge statement by the Mountain West: The BCS doesn't belong to the six power conferences.

Notre Dame's collapse from 4-1 and Weis barely hanging on for another year.

Oregon State beating USC and chasing its first Rose Bowl in 44 years.

Coaches in waiting.

Coaches waiting in line ("resigning" in the middle of a season).

The end of a Bowden (Tommy).

The continuation of a Bowden (Bobby).

The longing of a Bowden (Terry, to get back in the game).

Joe's hip.

Charlie's knee.

Nate Davis' gloves.

Jay Jacobs' "shock" over Tommy Tuberville's "resignation."

Tennessee goes from old school to youngest coach in the country.

The (sad) state of Washington. (Combined records of the Huskies and Cougars, 2-22).

Big 12 quarterbacks.

Big 12 offenses.

Big 12 top 10 games each week.

The Big 12 surpassing the SEC, if only for a moment, as the best conference in the country.

The tie in the Big 12 South.

The cry that followed.

Politcking.

Text messages.

The high road.

Running it up.

Calling off the dogs. 

Flyovers.

"To me that's a little ridiculous," Bradford said.

That's a good way to end it, for now.

 

 

Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am
 

National notes at the halfway point

One of the best measures for an improved program is the games ahead/behind method. Look at baseball standings for an example. The NCAA includes a section in its statistics book each year that tracks the most improved teams from one year to the next. In 2007, it was Illinois which went from 2-10 in 2006 to 9-4 last season. That's an improvement of 6 1/2 games.

Hawaii holds the record improving by 8 1/2 games in 1999. Ironically, the Warriors might be on the opposite side of that stat this season.

At the halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea to figure the biggest improvements and biggest declines of the 2008 season. Remember, some of the numbers might be skewed because we've played only half a season. But this might be a good measuring stick for coach of the year candidates and provide a short list of coaches about to be fired.

Most improved

1. Minnesota +7 1/2 games (from 1-11 to 6-1)
2. Duke +5 1/2
3. North Carolina +4
4. Pittsburgh +3 1/2
5. several tied at +3

Biggest decline

1. Hawaii -5 1/2 games (from 12-1 to 3-3)
2. Central Florida, Tennessee -4
4. LSU, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas - 3 1/2

Most improved by conference: Baylor, +3; ACC, Duke +5 1/2; Big East, Pittsburgh, +3 1/2; Conference USA, Rice/Marshall, +3; Mountain West, Colorado  State/UNLV, +3; MAC, Ball State/Northern Illinois, +3; SEC, Vanderbilt/Ole Miss, +3; WAC, New Mexico State, +3: Independents, Notre Dame, +3; Big Ten,  Minnesota, +7 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida International/Louisiana-Lafayette, +3; Pac-10, Stanford, +2 1/2.

Biggest decline by conference: ACC, Boston College/Clemson/Virginia, -2 1/2; Big 12, Kansas, -3 1/2; Big East, West Virginia/Rutgers, -3 1/2; Big Ten, Michigan, -3 1/2;  Independents, Western Kentucky, -2 1/2; Conference USA, Central Florida -4; MAC, Bowling Green/Ohio/Miami (Ohio), -1 1/2; Mountain West, New Mexico, -3; SEC, Tennessee, -4; Pac-10, Arizona State -3 1/2; WAC, Hawaii -5 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, -3 1/2.

Storylines for the second half

Will anyone go unbeaten?: It looks like the SEC and Big 12 will cannibalize each other. That leaves a bunch of one-loss powers that also could include Ohio State, Penn State, USC and Utah or Brigham Young.

Heisman race: Tim Tebow won't repeat and the Big 12 looks like it has a lock on the 2008 winner. But which player?

JoePa In the Sky With A Headset: Can Penn State's venerable coach win a Big Ten title and national championship without setting foot on the field the rest of  the way? Physical problems continue to keep JoePa in the press box. When asked Tuesday if he needed a hip replacement, Paterno answered cryptically, "I don't  know." It isn't exactly Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds but anything Joe does the rest of the season is going to be followed closely.

The non-BCS challengers: TCU, BYU and Utah are all in the mix. If Tulsa can win at Arkansas on Nov. 1 the Golden Hurricane will be a factor. The MAC is  simply too tough for Ball State (7-0) to go undefeated but you have to root for the Cardinals. Their best receiver's career is over (Dante Love) and their quarterback (Nate Davis) wears gloves.

Biggest looming controversy: If a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 is edged out of the BCS title game by an undefeated non-BCS school.

Next coach to be fired: Given the swiftly declining situation at Auburn it might be Tommy Tuberville. Other than that, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and  Syracuse's Greg Robinson are locks. Keep an eye also on San Diego State's Chuck Long and Central Florida's George O'Leary.

Biggest upset looming out there: Not in terms of David and Goliath but watch the Texas at Texas Tech game on Nov. 1. If both teams keep winning you're looking at No. 1 Texas vs. a Red Raiders team that should be in the BCS top five. If Texas Tech wins try to wrap your mind around Mike Leach and his Pirate  Love jumping up to No. 1.

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

BCS title game: Penn State* vs. Oklahoma*
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Florida* vs. South Florida*
Orange Bowl: BYU^ vs. Virginia Tech*
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC*

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

  Remember last week when Washington State held open tryouts to find a scout team quarterback? The winner of that competition, Peter Roberts, suddenly finds himself a viable backup option with the Cougars headed into the USC game.

 Speaking of injuries, it's a shame that two stars at Kentucky and North Carolina recently saw their careers end. Carolina's Brandon Tate, the I-A career  leader in kick return yards, is finished because of a knee injury. Exciting Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons is done because of a knee ligament tear.

 

 Don't say I didn't warn you. I know what I said about Texas and Texas Tech above but indulge me: The way things are shaking out, a Kansas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game isn't out of the question. If Texas beats Missouri on Saturday then it becomes more likely. Kansas is playing better and has Texas at home later in the season. KU and Missouri meet in Kansas City on Nov. 29.

 

Oklahoma State is playing better than anyone in the conference (that includes Texas). That head-to-head game is Oct. 25.

 Remember this when you watch BYU and TCU on Thursday night. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall allows each special teams unit to name a captain. The captain then  names starters and backups for each unit. Wonder if that ever happens in the SEC?

 

 


Posted on: October 2, 2008 11:15 pm
 

Way to go, Wanny

You want to root for Dave Wannstedt. The Pittsburgh coach just hasn't been able to get it done at Pittsburgh. That season-opening loss to Bowling Green was wince worthy.

Then Wanny went back to his Pennsylvania roots and just worked, methodically beating Buffalo, Iowa and Syracuse before Thursday.  It finally paid off with a 26-21 victory over No. 10 South Florida.

"We needed this one so bad," Wannstedt said.

This might be the program-changing win that Wannstedt so desperately needed. He came into the game bowless in three seasons. The high from the West Virginia win quickly wore off at the beginning of this season. But the Panthers are 4-1 and on top of the Big East, ready to jump back into the polls.

There's some personality to these inconsistent Panthers. LeSean McCoy has now surpassed 100 yards for the second consecutive game and Phil Bennett's defense is showing some grit.

Nothing is ever easy for Pittsburgh but with Navy and Rutgers up next, the Panthers could go into the Nov. 1 game at Notre Dame, 6-1. For Wanny's sake let's hope it happens. He deserves the love.

 

Posted on: September 3, 2008 2:27 pm
 

National notes

It's early but the NCAA rules committee has seemingly gotten it right with the new timing rules.

Through the first weekend, teams are averaging 68.6 plays per game, down only 3.3375 plays per team from last season (6.6675 total per game). That's tolerable because the loss of plays is minimal and, despite that, scoring is up. 
Again, it's early but teams are averaging 30.84 points per game. If it holds up that would break last season's record of 
28.38 points per team.

The big difference is in length of game. So far games have lasted only 3 hours, 8 minutes on average. That's down 
from 3:22 last season. I've taken my shots at the rules committee in the past as being too meddling. So far its 
"fixes" have worked.  After covering two games I haven't noticed the quality or the pace of the game being disturbed.

 Everyone seems to be bashing the ACC, but what about the Big East? It went 4-4 in the opening weekend, including 
embarrassing losses by Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Louisville and Syracuse. Yes, Louisville and Syracuse. The Cardinals 
losing to Kentucky is no surprise but being run out of its own building is disgraceful. A lot of us thought the 
Orange would show better against Northwestern but Syracuse lost by 20.

 

Quoting comedian Jay Mohr: "Is that a football conference or France?"

Six of the seven teams in action this week are favored (Tennessee Tech-Louisville is off the board but we're still 
assuming the Cardinals as a favorite):

Upset alerts: Watch for West Virginia (-8) going to East Carolina and Pittsburgh (-13) at home against Buffalo. 

Also watch for Cincinnati (+21 1/2) traveling to Oklahoma. Bearcats coach Brian Kelly says this game is a measuring stick for the Big East 
season. Don't be surprised if the Bearcats play this one a lot closer than anticipated.

 This might be the mantra for the season: "The little guys are tired of being the little guys and the big guys are 
getting a little fat." That's Fresno State quarterback Tom Brandstater to The Sporting News after beating Rutgers. 
Not sure if Rutgers qualifies yet was one of the big guys getting fat but the quote works for me.

 

 That was Fresno's 13th victory since 2001 over a BCS conference school.

 

 Iowa State used 11 true freshmen in its season-opening win against South Dakota State. Not a big deal until you 
consider that the 11 accounted for 26 of the Cyclones' 44 points.

 


Posted on: August 31, 2008 5:39 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2008 8:53 pm
 

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

As long as I'm piling on the ACC couldn't resist this one ...

Well, it's not an ACC error per se but why not kick a mediocre league while it's down. It seems that Duke officials 
were shocked when parachutists descended into Wallace Wade Stadium with the game ball about an hour before Saturday's 
James Madison game. One problem. Duke hadn't ordered a game ball. However, North Carolina, eight miles away, did.

 Will we look back on this as the football equivalent of The Beatles playing the Cavern Club? In other words, the 
modest beginning for a monster talent? Terrelle Pryor looked more than capable in his career debut against 
Youngstown State, 35 yards passing, 52 yards rushing and a touchdown.

 

For up-to-the-minute updates go to Pryor's 24-hour webcam. You've got to see the archived stuff of him having the 
Caesar salad for lunch on Friday. Classic.

 Appalachian State won! The third quarter, 7-3 over LSU.

 

 Nothing like patience. This from a Detroit columnist: "(Michigan quarterback) Steven Threet needs to start based on his performance 
(against Utah)." After watching that mess in The Big House does it matter?

 

 Hawaii AD Jim Donovan is a smart, smart man. There are no more SEC teams on the Warriors schedule for the 
foreseeable future. The last two outings against the SEC have resulted in combined losses of 97-20 to Georgia and 
Florida.

 

 If you want to put a new name atop the hot seat list, feel free to add San Diego State's Chuck Long. We did get 
our designated I-AA upset late Saturday although it wasn't the earth shaker you might think. Cal Poly beat the Aztecs 
for the second time in three seasons. This time it was 29-27. A San Diego columnist the program "reached the bottom of its existence."

 

 Big 12 starting quarterbacks threw a combined 20 touchdown passes on Saturday. That's an average of 2.2 per man without two of the  nine starters throwing for a score. The breakdown:  Kansas' Todd Reesing (three), Missouri's Chase Daniel (three), Nebraska's Joe Ganz (four), Kansas State's Josh Freeman  (three), Texas' Colt McCoy (three), Texas' A&M Stephen McGee (none), Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (two), Oklahoma State's Zac  Robinson (none) and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (two).

 


 Five years ago to the day Dennis Franchione started his Texas A&M career with a 26-11 victory over Arkansas State. 
Franchione's replacement, Mike Sherman,wasn't so fortunate losing to the Red Wolves 18-14 in his first game as 
Aggies' coach. The usually staid Associated Press called it "one of the most embarrassing losses in A&M history."  


 Nebraska recovered a fumble against Western Michigan. That brings the Huskers to one-third of their total for all 
of 2007.


 Pittsburgh is now 5-13 since starting 6-1 in 2006. 

 How important are those Virginia Tech special teams? Huge. The Hokies had won 17 consecutive games when blocking a 
kick. Ironically, East Carolina's T.J. Lee blocked a punt and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 27-22 Pirates' 
victory. East Carolina became the only team below the BCS level that beat a top 20 team. The other teams 
with a win over top 20 wins on Saturday were Missouri and Alabama.

 

The Pirates became the first Conference USA team to beat back-to-back ranked teams. They had defeated Boise State in 
last year's Hawaii Bowl. That says more about Conference USA than it does East Carolina. Conference USA is 13 years 
old.

 Injury watch: Georgia's monster defensive tackle Jeff Owens is out for the season with a knee. How many more injuries can UGA stand?...There are varying reports about the severity of Jeremy Maclin's injury late Saturday. Missouri's all-purpose 
king apparently twisted an ankle (X-rays were negative).

 

 Novenas are being said in Columbus for tailback Beanie Wells. Ohio State's tailback has some sort of right foot 
problem. Again, X-rays were negative. Even if he is 100 percent look for Jim Tressel to seriously limiting Wells' 
playing time this week against Ohio. The Bucks need him healthy for USC in two weeks. We should know something on Monday.

 

 Most impressive on opening weekend? It had to be USC which slapped around Virginia. Pete Carroll looked like he 
was sandbagging us during the preseason. Three weeks after dislocating his knee, quarterback Mark Sanchez looks 
ready and able to become the new Leinart after throwing for a career-high 338 yards.

 

"Everything happened just right," Carroll said. "Too bad we let them score."


 If you're looking ahead to Tennessee-UCLA on Monday night consider UCLA's Kevin Craft. The juco transfer 
quarterback faces some uphill odds. The last juco transfer qb to lead a team to a Pac-10 title was USC's Tim Green in 
1984.

 Hurricane Gustav's impact is being felt all the way to Alabama. Tulane has already gone threat ahead of the storm 
in preparations for this week's game at Alabama. Troy goes over to LSU in a game that could be a prime candidate for 
cancellation. The Category 3 storm is expected to hit Louisiana on Monday.

 

 OK, so there is no Terrelle Pryor 24-hour webcam but if you got down this far believing it, gotcha!

 


Posted on: August 6, 2008 2:00 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2008 4:28 pm
 

Five things you should know about the MAC

Five things you should know about the MAC

1. Yes, Nate Davis is wearing gloves ... which is strange if you're a quarterback. Ball State's Davis was the MAC's top passer last season throwing for a conference-most 3,667 yards. No. 1 in MAC pass efficiency, Davis leads a return of the conference's top seven passers.

Ball State offensive coordinator Stan Parrish calls Davis one of the best he's ever had. That means something considering Parrish has both Super Bowl (Tampa Bay) and national championship (Michigan) rings. He worked with some guy named Brady while at Michigan.

Why the gloves? Davis, a shotgun quarterback in high school, had trouble taking the snap under center when he arrived at Ball State. Parrish suggested gloves for traction. Davis never took them off, playing some of his best games against BCS schools. Two years ago Davis threw for 250 yards against Michigan in an eight-point loss. Last season he threw for 422 yards and three scores in a one-point loss to Nebraska.

2. Postseason embarrassment. There's no doubt the MAC is better but it needs to get it going in bowls. In the last four years the league is 4-10. It lost all three bowl games, two by embarrassing scores: Rutgers beat Ball State 52-30 in the International Bowl and Tulsa laid an epic 63-7 whipping on Bowling Green in the GMAC Bowl.

3. Temple is no longer a joke. Al Golden went 4-8 in his second year with the Owls. The program hadn't won more than two games since 2002. Temple is believed to be the only I-A team with all 22 starters returning.

4. Ditto for Buffalo. In two short years, Turner Gill has led Buffalo to respectability. The Bulls were 5-7 last season, the program's best record this decade. Gill will be Nebraska's coach some day if the success continues.  He's just not ready yet. In the offseason his name came up for the Huskers vacancy.

5. Play up. It would be nice for the MAC to start winning some of these non-conference games against BCS schools. The conference went 5-37 against BCS-conference programs last season. Maybe the news is that Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Toledo and Kent State each actually beat one of the big boys.

Last year there were embarrassments like MAC champion Central Michigan's 52-7 loss at Kansas and Western Michigan's 38-point loss at West Virginia. Toledo did beat Iowa State but it also lost to Purdue and Kansas by a combined 60 points.

This season MAC teams play 10 games against teams currently ranked in the coaches' poll. Games to watch this season: Akron at Wisconsin, Aug. 30; Central Michigan at Georgia, Sept. 6; Western Michigan at Nebraska, Aug. 30; Northern Illinois at Minnesota, Aug. 30; Toledo at Arizona, Sept. 6; Bowling Green at Pittsburgh, Aug. 30; Vanderbilt at Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 28 followed by the RedHawks' trip to Michigan on Sept. 6; Boston College plays Kent State in Cleveland on Aug. 30.

There is hope: Five years ago MAC teams beat five ranked teams.

Posted on: July 29, 2008 8:24 am
 

Five things you should know about the Big East...

 

1. Can things get any better? Left for dead after the ACC expansion, the Big East has more than pulled its weight. 
It is 8-2 the past two seasons in bowls. It had four teams ranked in the AP 10 at various times in 2007. West Virginia is a national championship contender. The middle of the league is a strong as any league, except the SEC -- Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida and Connecticut. Commissioner Mike Tranghese deserves a lifetime achievement award in his final season.

2. Bill Stewart, come on down: The West Virginia assistant's surprising battlefield promotion after the Fiesta Bowl win was one of the more surprising developments of 2007. Now the former Rich Rodriguez assistant must produce. The Mountaineers are loaded this season with Rich Rod's leftovers. But Stewart has shown an ability to recruit too. West Virginia has 13 commitments and is actually slowing down recruiting in order to balance out the class. Too many skill players want to follow in the footsteps of Pat White and Steve Slaton. Stewart needs more linemen. His first recruiting class (2009) could provide the foundation for years to come.

3. The hottest of seats is at Syracuse: Along with Washington's Tyrone Willingham, Greg Robinson is considered one of the first coaches to be fired. He has won seven games in three seasons, never more than four in any year. There has been little improvement in a program that used to be a regular resident of the top 25. The only weak sister in the Big East has to play at Northwestern, West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers and Notre Dame as well as a home game against Penn State. Where should we forward your mail, Greg?

4. South Florida is not going South: That wasn't a fluke last season when the Bulls rose to No. 2 in the country. D coordinator Wally Burnham has built a crushing unit led by returning All-American George Selvie. Quarterback Matt Grothe doesn't fit in any category, he just wins. Don't be surprised if South Florida is undefeated going to West Virginia on Dec. 6.

5. Pittsburgh is headed ... You tell me: Up? Down? The upset of West Virginia provided momentum and Dave Wannstedt has recruited well but the world is waiting to see the Panthers take the next step. A second-place Big East finish is doable, especially with under-the-radar Heisman candidate LeSean McCoy at tailback.

 

Posted on: May 29, 2008 3:12 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2008 3:24 pm
 

Speed Inc.

Notes on the speed series that concluded on Thursday:

Mike Golden knows speed. However, you probably don't know Mike Golden. He is East Carolina's strength coach which in the college football world doesn't open many doors.

Golden quietly tutored one of the fastest players in the country the past three years. Chris Johnson led the country in all-purpose yardage last season, including a bowl record 408 yards in the Hawaii Bowl. Johnson was taken last month in the first round of the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.

"When we first got here, it was his sophomore year and he ran a 4.33 and (vertical jumped) 38 inches," Golden said. "When we got him he was down to 4.24 and jumped 43 1/2 inches."

Golden is not the only "speed" guy across the nation. Miami set the standard with speed coach Andrew Swayze. Ohio State has been using former Olympic sprinter Butch Reynolds. Every time you hear the designation "speed coach" it raises the age old question: Is it possible to teach speed. Swayze has helped develop a load of first-round draft choices. Reynolds says it's a combination of speed plus balance. Ohio State has been criticized for being slow when it comes to BCS title games.

Two things: Ohio State was good enough to get to the BCS title game and it hurts when your fastest player goes down. The Bucks lost Ted Ginn Jr. early in the 2007 BCS title game against Florida. It was downhill from there.

"A lot of people miss the fact that you've got to be strong to be fast," Golden said. "All they're worried about is stride length and stride frequency. We teach them how to run. We have a speed school. We show them from ground zero."

Golden says he "scours different things" -- DVDs, journals, articles -- for speed technique.

"I'm a good thief," he said.

Pirates coach Skip Holtz first hired Golden in 1998 at Connecticut, and then hired him away from South Carolina after coming to East Carolina in December 2004. While it's hard to quantify the results of speed, there is a basic indicator: Holtz' record the past two seasons (15-11) is the best for East Carolina since 1999-2000.

"Our first year and a half here we couldn't work on speed because we weren't strong enough," he said. "We would have blown hamstrings all over the place."

 Now he's crediting some of that speed training for the Pirates' Hawaii Bowl win over Boise State.

"When we went to that first bowl game (in 2006) we fell flat on our face," Golden said of a 24-7 loss to South Florida in the Papajohns.com Bowl. "It took us 18 hours to get to Hawaii, then we ran their guts off. We let them know we're on a business trip. That got their attention real quick. They thought we were going right to the hotel."

There are times Golden can determine in warm-ups if an opponent does speed work.

"I can tell how guys bend how fluid guys move," he said. "It's definitely an edge. Our kids will come to the sideline and say, 'These guys can't run.'

No one player will take Johnson's place this season. Junior running back J.R. Rogers will be part of a committee. He is the fastest Pirate at 4.32. Defensive end C.J. Wilson (6-foot-4, 271) ran a 4.55 at the program's recent NFL timing day. That would have been one of the fastest times at February's NFL combine.

  We only included 20 players on the fastest list on Tuesday. Here are a few others to consider (alphabetical):

Cam Baker, WR, Memphis, 4.35 40

Tim Brown, WR, Rutgers, 4.25

Rashard Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech, 4.38

Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia, 4.30

Dorin Dickerson, TE, Pittsburgh, 4.38

Brandon Dillard, WR, Virginia Tech, 4.28

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland, 4.23

Correy Earls, WR, Georgia Tech, 4.36

Patrick George, CB, Northern Illinois, 10.4 100 (high school)

Dante Lamar, DB, Memphis, 4.35

Emani Lee-Odai, WR, Maryland, 4.29

Scott Long, WR, Louisville, 4.24

Wopamo Osaisai, CB, Stanford, 10.39 100

Jock Sanders, WR, West Virginia, 4.33

Carlos Singleton, WR, Memphis, 4.37

Woodney Turenne, CB, Louisville, 4.33

Pat White, QB, West Virginia, 4.45

 

 
 
 
 
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