Stephen Garcia, you're on the clock. Paula Abdul, you too.
The chase for the coveted Perrilloux Award has begun. Now that the former LSU quarterback is history, we might as well start the competition. The Perrilloux -- already nicknamed The Tardy Trophy or The Hippie Lettuce Heisman -- is given annually (starting right now) to the person who most monumentally screws up his/her career.
|Mark Sanchez appears to be ready to take control at USC. (Getty Images)|
So let's look over the early favorites for the '08 Perrilloux: You have to like Garcia, the South Carolina quarterback, who is barred from team activities until August. In 15 months on campus, Garcia has had three run-ins with the police.
Abduls' American Idol analysis is catching up with her dance moves. Both stink. Mix in a few adult beverages and/or mind-altering substances and you get this.
Reminder: Roger Clemens remains the leader in the clubhouse.
Yes, it's been a long, strange spring. Here are 25 things to take away from it.
• Mark Sanchez over Mitch Mustain at USC
• Justin Roper over Nate Costa at Oregon (tentative until the fall)
• ? over? at Michigan
• Jimmy Clausen over Slim Fast at Notre Dame (the quarterback gained approximately 18 pounds choosing to shed tacklers instead of pounds)
• Daryll Clark vs. Pat Devlin (still) at Penn State
Quarterbacks lost before the battles: So much for a rousing start to the Neuheisel era. UCLA's Pat Cowan and Ben Olson were injured on consecutive plays during the spring.
Cowan is out for the season with a torn ACL. The injury-prone Olson should be back in time for the fall. There are others behind him but basically one more UCLA quarterback made it to the college hall of fame (Troy Aikman) than made it out of spring practice.
The quarterback league: The Big 12 has 10 starters returning under center (assuming Nebraska's Joe Ganz keeps the job he took over after Sam Keller was injured). The list includes two Heisman candidates (Missouri's Chase Daniel, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell), one Heisman finalist (Daniel) the nation's leader in pass efficiency (Oklahoma's Sam Bradford), a Colt (McCoy at Texas) and a coach's son (Cody Hawkins at Colorado).
The Big 12 had six of the top 24 passers last season.
A quarterback, please! You have to wonder about the Ol' Ball Coach. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier has had to largely rely on his defense during his three seasons at South Carolina.
He comes into 2008 toting a career-long five-game losing streak and more uncertainty at quarterback. The battle boils down to police favorite Garcia and Chris Smelley, a part-time starter last season.
On the positive note, Spurrier did team with Sterling Sharpe to win the Chick-Fil-A Alma Mater golf tournament. At least the OBC's swing hasn't gone away.
Coach-in-waiting: Sounds a little medieval doesn't it? Until 2007 you never heard that term in college football. Now you can't smash a clipboard without hitting some betrothed coach or another.
• Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher will take over for Bobby Bowden at some future date.
• Joker Phillips will be the guy at Kentucky when Rich Brooks steps down.
• Former Eastern Kentucky head coach Danny Hope will assume the job at Purdue when Joe Tiller retires after next season. Hope joined Purdue as associate head coach for 2008.
Heisman candidates: These guys did nothing to hurt themselves in the spring:
1. Tim Tebow, Florida: Playing with the flu, the defending Heisman winner threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: Older and wiser after an amazing redshirt freshman season. Comfortable in the new no-huddle.
3. Chase Daniel, Missouri: Might have even more weapons this season. Wisely played only half of the spring game.
4. Pat White, West Virginia: The key to the Mountaineers' and Bill Stewart's kickoff season.
5. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia: Along with Caleb King, Knowshon forms a deadly backfield combination.
Don't need no stinkin' contract
We'll see how recruits react to Joe Paterno coaching without a contract after his current deal expires following this season.
The prospects don't look good.
• The 81-year-old coach made his first in-home recruiting visit earlier this year. Despite descending Mt. Nittany to recruit Terrelle Pryor, he did not land the super recruit. JoePa's 2008 class was ranked 43rd (by Rivals).
• Six players were suspended during the spring. That total included Chris Bell who was kicked off the team after pulling a knife on a teammate in the dining hall. (Quick, someone nominate this guy for the Perrilloux)
• Linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season after shredding his knee.
For the love of God, noooo ...: Yes, they're at it again, those pesky Buckeyes. Losers of two consecutive BCS title games, dominators of Michigan and the Big Ten. With 18 returning starters and a soft Big Ten ahead, how do you pick against them returning to a third consecutive BCS title game?
This year's Boise State or Hawaii is ...: It's hard to pick against BYU. Ten of 11 starters return on offense. Coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't shy, calling 2008 "The Quest for Perfection." For those of you too young to remember, BYU used to be a Top 25 team. This year, it might be an Orange Bowl team.
Gridiron Bash: Ticket refunds are available for the cancelled concerts starring ZZ Top, Kid Rock, Dwight Yoakum, Alan Jackson ...
The ill-conceived pep-rallies/concerts surrounding various spring games around the country collapsed onto themselves. The promoter failed to check with the NCAA when it intended to use players as part of the bash.
If you need John Parker Wilson to push an Alan Jackson gig over the top, something is wrong.
Matthew Stafford, superstar: The hype had barely died from the NFL Draft when Georgia's Stafford was named (by several outlets, including this one) as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in next year's testosterone party.
Are you kidding? After two seasons, Stafford has 26 career touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a 54.5 percent completion rate. His next 300-yard game will be his first. Put it this way: Stafford's own team is waiting for him to break out.
Let's wait until Stafford actually plays his third year before handing him a $30 million signing bonus.
Hot Seat: Washington's Tyrone Willingham is on one of those dead-man-walking forced marches. It seems inevitable that this season will be his last. The AD who hired him (Todd Turner) is gone. A booster offered $200,000 to the school if it fired Willingham. Aside from quarterback Jake Locker, the Huskies' prospects are dimmer than a 40-watt bulb.
The Big Douse: ... as in the doused hopes for Michigan this year a) winning the Big Ten b) beating Ohio State, c) getting to a Jan. 1 bowl, d) getting to any bowl.
Rich Rodriguez is trying to change the culture at Michigan. The last time that phrase was used Bill Callahan ripped up the carpeting at Nebraska. What followed was two losing seasons in the next four.
Hate to say this, but Michigan is headed that way. Rodriguez will ultimately succeed but it's going to be a long, slow, painful slog. The Big House is being renovated, now Rodriguez needs to go to work on the roster.
Rutgers feelin' it: Two years ago, Rutgers would have jumped at the chance to play Notre Dame at Giants Stadium.
When Notre Dame came calling about starting a series, AD Bob Mulcahy said he wanted to play Rutgers' home games at Rutgers. What a concept. The Scarlet Knights have been in three consecutive bowls for the first time in history. They are adding 14,000 seats to Rutgers Stadium. They don't have to rely on revenue from a Notre Dame gate at Giants Stadium to make their budget. They're also a better program than Notre Dame right now. Way to stick to your guns, Bob.
Not so fast, Nebraska: What does it say about Bo Pelini's turnaround efforts that he had to move tailback Cody Glenn to linebacker? Not much about a defense that gave up 38 points per game last season.
If Husker Heads are expecting an immediate turnaround they'd better check the lineup in the Big 12 North. Missouri and Kansas will both start in the top 15. Colorado is making its own push. It will be hard to slot Nebraska any higher than third in the suddenly competitive North. Which leads us to ...
... The most gutless move of the spring: Less than six months before kickoff, Kansas State's Ron Prince told Fresno State he wanted out of the September game with the Bulldogs.
Fresno State beat K-State in Fresno last season, but what kind of message does that send to K-State players? Prince couldn't handle playing a third-place WAC team at home, coming off a gimme against North Texas and with an off week to follow. Fresno State went out and picked up Rutgers. Kansas State will play Montana State. Prince will hope to compete in a North Division that is slipping away from him.
Emmanuel Moody Watch: The USC transfer reportedly struggled picking up Urban Meyer's spread offense. Not that there is any pressure. Meyer continually told Moody, "Boy, I hope you're really, really good."
The Pac-10's Freshman of the Year in 2006 transferred because he saw the depth chart stocked with talent at USC. Despite winning a national championship, Meyer is struggling to find that go-to tailback. Moody had problems picking up the intricacies of the spread.
If Moody develops, there will finally be some options in the backfield besides Percy Harvin end-arounds and Tim Tebow off tackles.
If not ...
... Watch for Chris Rainey: One of the nation's fastest players could be the new Harvin. As a redshirt freshman, Rainey is expected to play the slot receiver role and line up in the backfield.
The biggest star of the spring game ran 75 yards on one long run and scored on a 65-yard reception. Lined up against fellow students as part of a spring-game promotion, Rainey ran a 4.24-second 40. Wonder how fast he can go when pushed by SEC defenses?
The Tony Franklin System: When Auburn's Tommy Tuberville went looking for a replacement for offensive coordinator Al Borges, he found one of those savants who can figure the pass efficiency formula in his head.
The Tigers' new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin coached two future NFL quarterbacks while at Kentucky: Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen. In two seasons at Troy, Franklin led the Trojans' offense from near the bottom of the NCAA stats to No. 16 in total offense.
On the side, Franklin developed a lucrative consulting business. "The Tony Franklin System Seminar", is a copyrighted offensive system implemented by approximately 275 high schools nationwide. Given eight days to install his offense at Auburn before the bowl game, Franklin's "system" was able to produce 423 yards (in 90 plays) in a 23-20 victory over Clemson.
Pretty soon Tuberville noticed high school coaches descending upon the Tigers' offices looking for film, advice -- and Franklin.
"He's kind of a cult ...," Tuberville said, adding about his offense. "It's a cult."
Junior Chris Todd goes into the fall even with sophomore Kodi Burns to be the next star of Franklin's platinum-selling videos.
Pickin', grinnin' and play callin'
It's no longer a bulletin, it's a trend: Head coaches giving up play-calling duties. Here are a few of the notables:
• Notre Dame's Charlie Weis (to offensive coordinator Mike Haywood).
• California's Jeff Tedford (to new OC Frank Cignetti)
• Steve Spurrier (to son Steve Spurrier Jr. who will call some of the plays. Huh?)
• Maryland's Ralph Friedgen (to offensive coordinator James Franklin).
It's no surprise that those four coaches finished a combined 22-28 last season.
Saban Rule: It has nothing to do with mere mortals having to bow in Nick Saban's presence. It has to do with a new NCAA rule that Saban thought was aimed at him. The rule bars head coaches from visiting recruits during the key spring evaluation period (April 15-May 31). It doesn't prohibit assistants from going out and it doesn't prohibit Saban from more recruiting genius.
According to the Birmingham News, Saban had an assistant convince a recruit at Athens (Ala.) High School to log on to a web address. The recruit, using a webcam, was able to chat with Saban without the coach actually being at his school.
"You could see Saban's facial expressions and hand gestures just as if you were sitting across the desk from him," Athens (Ala.) High principal Allen Creasy told the News. "It's the next best thing to being there in person."
Do we have to say it? By now, every coach in the country is having a webcam installed on his office computer.
Attendance: Sure, Alabama packed Bryant-Denny last year the same way Nebraska filled Memorial Stadium this spring, but let's not get crazy. It seems that every school is suddenly setting spring game attendance records. Short of filing a Freedom of Information Act to obtain ticket stubs, we can assume there is a little papering of the house going on.
The next time we hear, " ... a new spring-game attendance record ..." someone is going to get slapped.
Best backfields: Clemson looks loaded enough to win an underachieving ACC. The backfield of quarterback Cullen Harper, James Davis and C.J. Spiller might be the best in the country.
Here are other backfields to consider:
Paul Johnson and the triple option at Georgia Tech : Can he succeed with it? The early line says yes. Johnson, the Yellow Jackets' first-year coach, has won 72 percent of his games as a head coach, developed the No. 4 passer in Hawaii history (Garrett Gabriel) and beat Notre Dame and Pittsburgh (both last season). All with the triple option.
Give P.J. two seasons, then stand back. Defensive coordinators will be tearing out their hair.
What about Bob(by)? In Jimbo Fisher's first season, the Seminoles were actually less productive than in Jeff Bowden's last season (80th in total offense vs. 69th in 2006). The difference is Fisher knows what he is doing. The offense actually got better by an average of 39 yards per game.
Yeah, it's baby steps but that's what FSU is taking these days. Backup quarterbacks Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson got time when starter Drew Weatherford went down with a knee injury. That should be perceived as a plus. Bowden is on his statewide tour saying all the right things about Weatherford but insiders say he loves Ponder's athletic ability.
Things were going along swimmingly until receiver Preston Parker was pinched for carrying a concealed weapon and having a small amount of marijuana. Six-to-eight players in the two-deep will miss the beginning of the season due to the academic scandal but, in general, optimism was breaking out all over this spring in Tallahassee.