Tag:Clemson
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:52 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:55 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing early enrollees

Spring football is about to kick off for many more programs this week. That means we'll start to learn a lot more about which newcomers are ready to make an impact this fall. Here are the 10 most intriguing early enrollees to keep an eye on. (Note: I'm not included guys who were high school seniors in 2010 on this Top 10 list.)
 
1-Zach Kline, Cal, QB: 
It's been a loooooooong time since Jeff Tedford's team has had a really good QB. That last guy Aaron Rodgers left Cal after the 2004 season and it's been a bunch of misfires since. A lot of those quarterbacks who have had a shot at taking over, came to Berkeley with sizable credentials, but none of the other QBs Tedford has had since arrived more polished than the 6-2, 205-pound Kline. The Danville, CA native who has worked with former Cal coach Roger Theder for years, has good footwork, a quick release and is very accurate. Kline also seems to respond very well to competition. Zach Maynard, who had an up-and-down 2011, is the guy he'd have to overtake. Maynard, Tedford pointed out, did play better late in the season, but Kline is worth watching closely.

The Bears coach, whose teams have not finished in the AP Top 25 five years running now, has tried to temper some of the hype around Kline, by saying Maynard is still the program's starting QB. "I absolutely have concern about that," Tedford told reporters Monday about the lofty expectations on his young quarterback. "There's such a thing of putting too much on a kid early. I want him to come in here and be able concentrate on what he's doing and learn the offense and do his best without all the expectations."

2-Keith Marshall, Georgia, RB: Heading into the 2011 season, with the Bulldogs depth chart at running back depleted, the expectations on former blue-chip recruit Isaiah Crowell sky-rocketed. Crowell had some outstanding moments, but also was plagued by some issues of immaturity. If Crowell doesn't stay focused, he'll have a hard time keeping Marshall, a guy many recruiting analysts tabbed as the nation's top RB prospect in the 2012 class, off the field. Marshall is an explosive back with soft hands and great character (he had a 4.3 GPA in high school.) You just don't hear about many players these days whose GPA and 40-yard dash times are nearly identical.

3-Travis Blanks, Clemson DB: The last time we saw the Tigers defense it was getting shredded by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Going into the 2011 season, Clemson needed to replace three standout DBs who had moved on, especially All-American DeAndre McDaniel. The program really struggled in that capacity, finishing the season No. 81 in scoring defense and No. 74 in pass efficiency defense but help has arrived in new DC Brent Venables and this 6-1, 195-pound DB, who CBS Sports ranked as the country's No. 25 overall recruit and No. 2 defensive back.

4-D.J. Humphries, Florida, OT: One of two highly touted line recruits (Jessemen Dunker is the other) who has a legit shot to win a starting job this year on a Gator O-line that that was really, really shaky in 2011 and also has a new position coach. Humphries was a gem Will Muschamp's staff landed in North Carolina. He has long 6-foot-6 frame and nimble feet, making him a prototype left tackle as he continues to fill out. Humphries told Gatorzone's Scott Carter after Signing Day that he had already packed on 12 pounds since arriving in Gainesville.

5-Mario Pender, FSU, RB: Last year at about this time another early enrollee RB at FSU, Devonta Freeman was turning some heads. Freeman had a good season in 2011, but watch out for Pender. The guy is a blur, who is both quick and fast. In fact, sources at FSU say he's the fastest back the Noles have. In high school, he averaged 12 yards per carry.  

6-Tee Shepherd, Notre Dame, CB: Even though QB Gunner Kiel is the ND newcomer who has grabbed most of the headlines, my hunch is the 6-1, 186-pound Shepherd will make more of an impact for the Irish in 2012. He is a terrific athlete on a secondary that not only has to replace both corners but was sorely lacking in the play-making department. Shepard made 10 career INTs in high school despite sitting out his senior year due to transfer rules.

7-Amari Cooper, Bama, WR: Coming off a national title season, the Tide has a bunch of starters to replace and there are a handful of eye-catching newcomers already on campus. T.J. Yeldon, a tailback and Chris Black, a wideout are two guys who came to Tuscaloosa with a lot of buzz, but it's Cooper and OLB Ryan Anderson who probably have the best shot to make an instant impact. Cooper has great ball skills and figures to be an immediate upgrade for a receiving corps that needs a spark.

8-Arik Armstead, Oregon, DL: Many projected the Californian as a top offensive tackle prospect, but he signed on with the Ducks, where he's seen Nick Alliotti's D have a lot of success with its' towering D-linemen. The 6-7, 282-pound Armstead, also a terrific basketball player, has a chance to boost a defensive end rotation that needs to replace Terrell Turner.

9-Raphael Kirby, Miami LB: One of eight early enrollees in Coral Gables, Kirby arrived with a very impressive pedigree. A product of Ga. prep powerhouse Stephenson High that cranks out D1 players, the 208-pound Kirby is undersized especially as Al Golden tries to turn the Canes into a more physical team. But the Canes are short on proven linebackers and Kirby is fast, smart and instinctive--traits that figure to remind folks around Miami of former standout Sean Spence, who just moved on to the NFL. Another newcomer generating some buzz inside the program is agile OT Ereck Flowers.

10 (tie)-Bri'onte Dunn, Ohio State, RB: Tim Tebow provided Urban Meyer's offense at Florida a physical inside rushing presence, and the new OSU coach will be looking for a back to deliver that for the Buckeyes to take some of the pressure off young QB Braxton Miller. The 220-pound Dunn is a load. He also made many OSU fans take a big deep breath when he eventually picked the Buckeyes over Michigan.

10-(tie) Matt Davis, Texas A&M, QB: New OC Kliff Kingsbury has four options to be the Aggies new quarterback in the new A&M offense. The 6-1, 205-pound Davis is a gifted dual-threat QB, like two of the other three guys he'll be competing with when spring ball gets going at the end of the month. 
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 5:08 pm
 

Mailbag: Urban's smooth transition to the Big Ten

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS. 

From @Feldyman15 Urban Meyer is a proven winner, however does his style of offense translate to the B1G? Will it be a smooth transition?

Nice to see a question from my favorite former FCS star football player. Meyer's had success everywhere he's been. He's proven he's willing--and capable--of tweaking his offense to suit the personnel he inherits. He's not rigid.


The key thing about him taking over in Columbus is the most important component to his system that he inherited (the dual-threat triggerman) happens to be an ideal fit for what Meyer loves to do. As I wrote a while back when Meyer got hired, he's been sky high on Braxton Miller since long before he took the job. That said, Miller's still a young QB and there are bound to be growing pains. A bigger challenge will be that OSU has to replace three very good O-linemen and there are no proven wideouts to rely on. There will be some rocky moments, but I expect this to be a top 25 team, in part because of Miller's talent, in part because of some playmakers on a seasoned defense and because Meyer's a great, not good, coach.

From @NYWolverine2 Do you think Urban Meyer's spread will work in the B1G since RR failed?

First off, RichRod's problems in the Big Ten weren't because of his offense. In his final season in Ann Arbor, when he finally had many of the pieces in place to run his system, the Wolverines were eighth in the nation in total offense (and first in the Big Ten). Rodriguez isn't still in Ann Arbor because he never got the right defensive coordinator.

If Meyer's system worked in the SEC, it can work anywhere. And if anyone's going to suggest that because of the challenges a program's defense faces on a daily basis at practice because you own offense, like Rodriguez hinders a D's development, keep in mind that Meyer's former defensive coordinator at Florida was Greg Mattison, the guy who has made the biggest difference in Brady Hoke's success at UM.

On top of that, Meyer is riding such a wave of good energy right now since he was hired. He is killing it in recruiting and finished the 2012 class with a flurry. And that heat is only intensifying. Earlier this week, OSU got a commitment from one of the top O-line prospects in the midwest, Evan Lisle, who picked the Buckeyes over, among others, Alabama and OU. Meyer already snagged a five-star guy in Cameron Burrows and Jalin Marshall was another Ohio kid who virtually everyone was after.

From @BrianTrageser What offense are you most excited to watch in 2012?

There are so many intriguing dynamics to look forward to this fall. The ones that most jump out at me as I went through a list of schools alphabetically via conference:

Clemson: Year Two for Tajh Boyd, Chad Morris and Sammy Watkins.
FSU: Can E.J. Manuel and an impressive group of young receivers live up to expectations.
Kansas: Curious how Dayne Crist and Charlie Weis will do reuniting in Lawrence after dismal 2011s.
Texas A&M: Kliff Kingsbury's system is very different from what Mike Sherman ran and the Aggies do have the luxury of an excellent O-line.
WVU: Similar to the Clemson team they destroyed in the Orange Bowl, this could be an even more explosive attack with an off-season of added reps and improved timing.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer loves Braxton Miller and probably has some wrinkles ready to break out on the rest of the Big Ten.
Penn State: Bill O'Brien had a lot of success with the Pats offense (then again, who doesn't?) and now gets a chance to fix the shaky Penn State QB situation.
Boise State: Life after Kellen Moore?
Arizona: RichRod inherits a QB (Matt Scott) who is a pretty good fit for his system.
Oregon: Because Chip Kelly's still there and he's got a gobs of speed.
Stanford: Life after Luck?
USC: Matt Barkley's back for his fourth year as a starter with most of the line in tact to go with two superb WRs and a 1.000-yard runner.
Washington State: Leach's offenses have always produced and there might be some Pistol flavor to spice up the Air-Raid. He inherits two capable QBs, one outstanding WR and a very suspect O-line.
Tennessee: They have a lot of thee-year starters and should throw for a bunch of yards.
FIU: Cristobal hired a Chip Kelly disciple from New Hampshire.
Hawaii: Norm Chow goes home to run his own show.

From @eric_hise Will Mack's reach into JUCO ranks pay off?...side note, look forward to seeing u n the ATX for SXSW!

From what I heard via coaches who tried to recruit those JC linemen, those guys should help boost what has been an underwhelming group over the past few years and provide depth on the D assuming they can grasp Bryan Harsin's system and Manny Diaz' scheme. That's one of the big mysteries with bringing in JC guys.

The Horns, though, have a couple of gifted, physical young backs, so I expect to see a big improvement in this running game. The thing most holding UT back from being a legit Top 10 team is a consistent passing game. My hunch is David Ash will be a lot better than he was in his first season, but this program is probably a year away.

I am also looking forward to getting to Austin for SXSW. (I tweeted earlier this week that I will be speaking there on a panel covering sports reporting and Twitter a week from Monday.)

From @Draft_Hub Top 5 exciting players for 2012

Three players immediately came to mind: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, Michigan's Denard Robinson and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. I was torn for the last two spots between Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, Wisconsin's former walk-on phenom Jared Abbrederis and WVU's Tavon Austin.

From @JohnHanson20 Does WVU have a legit shot at a Big12 title next year?

In terms of firepower and offense? No question. They have a legit shot because their offense is going to be so explosive, but I have my doubts whether they'll be good enough on D to overtake an Oklahoma. The team lost three of its best players off of what was a very average defense that ranked No. 61 in scoring. Jeff Casteel was a well-regarded DC and he's gone, off to join Rich Rodriguez in Arizona. The new defensive staff is younger and there's more uncertainty.

From @SlickOne716 Is WVU canceling of their game at FSU really going to hurt FSU's chance at the National Championship?

No. With FSU, it's not going to be about having enough impressive opponents. If FSU won out last year, the Noles would've been playing for the title. The pollsters are just salivating at that chance to say the Noles are back, but the team, of late, has had the tendency to shoot itself in the foot a time or three. 

There's no doubt the non-conference schedule took a hit with them having to replace WVU with Savannah State, but at least UF is still on there with a road game at USF. There are a lot of top 25 teams that have a lot worse than that. FSU does need a few ACC programs to get out to fast starts and look viable (Clemson? Va. Tech? Miami?). It'd also help their cause a lot if the Gators knocked off a few top 25 SEC teams before they visited Tallahassee.

From @loubega1 how close is Notre Dame to fielding a dominant defense? Are there enough playmakers in the secondary?

It has been such a long time since the Irish have had a really good defense, much less a dominant one. I would say last season there were were only two truly dominant defenses, LSU and Alabama. Notre Dame is not close to what either of those teams had or did. Those teams were overflowing with playmakers, not just the starters by all over their two-deeps.

In 2011, the Irish made some strides, ranking 30th in total D and 24th in scoring defense. The downside was they were only 59th in sacks, 77th in tackles for loss, and worst of all, forced only 14 turnovers in 13 games. Only one team in all of the FBS that played in a bowl game forced less turnovers (Fresno State).

It has been years since ND has had the type of size and athleticism it has now in its front seven, but many of those guys are still pretty raw. Aaron Lynch, Prince Shembo, Ishaq Williams, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix need to mature fast and become more consistent. What is more a concern, as you point out, is their secondary. They had a lot of experience back there in 2011, and those guys just struggled to make plays on the ball. And many of these guys came to ND as celebrated recruits. We'll see if they can get it sorted out. Until that happens and the younger D-line guys show they can be consistent, they're still a bit away.

From @NMStefan can Illinois ever really recruit consistently good due to their geography with Northwestern and Notre Dame so close?

They should be able to but so much of that is on the new staff and the relationships they develop with the local high school coaches. Ron Zook's staffs landed more than their share of blue-chippers but many tended to be from outside the state. It's not Notre Dame and Northwestern that are the biggest thorns in the Illini's side in terms of in-state recruiting. It's Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State. And in terms of the 2012 recruiting class, it was Auburn that snagged arguably the top in-state prospect in OT Jordan Diamond.  Just in 2012, Iowa landed four of the top 10 players. That has to change with the new staff.

From @JDubs88  Would you agree that Spencer Hall and Jason Kirk need a little more sun?

I don't think so. I'm not sure tan works with corduroy. It's kinda like mixing ascots and mullets. I think I learned that in one of my classes in junior college.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Best recruiting battles

We're just a little more than a week away from National Signing Day (Shameless Plug Alert: Check out our NSD show next Wednesday, beginning at 9 AM ET here on CBSSports.Com) and there are still a lot of blue-chippers uncommitted. This week's Top 10: Best recruiting battles:

1. WR Dorial Green-Beckham --
 Arkansas vs. Alabama vs. Mizzou  vs. Texas vs. Oklahoma: Many of the national recruiting services have pegged this 6-foot-6, 220-pound Missouri product as the top overall prospect in the Class of 2012. He certainly looks the part and has the film to back it up. Just like last year's consensus No. 1 guy, Jadeveon Clowney, DGB is such a freak, it's expected no matter where he signs, into no matter how stacked a depth chart, he'll still force his way into significant reps. He's taken official visits to Texas (back in November) and to Arkansas last weekend. Unlike many recruits, DGB has been fairly quiet throughout the recruiting process, so it's even harder to get a read on how things are shaping up. Landing him would be a huge coup for any of these schools, especially home state Mizzou, where he'd team with a good young quarterback in James Franklin as the Tigers make the jump into the SEC. At OU and Arkansas, DGB would slide into the most advanced situations in terms of getting to play with a top QB as both OU's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson are more established guys running prolific passing games, whereas at UT, the QB situation is still quite murky. Arkansas and OU also both have sizeable holes at wideout given the fact that the Hogs lost three very gifted senior receivers and OU just lost the great Ryan Broyles.

The Guess: Arkansas


2. OT Andrus Peat -- FSU vs. Nebraska vs. Stanford vs. USC: The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Arizona native, who also is a pretty good basketball player, sparked quite a turnout in the crowd for one of his hoops games last week. In the stands: Lane Kiffin and a few USC coaches, the entire Nebraska offensive staff and a few Stanford staffers. His older brother Todd Peat signed with the Huskers last year, and given NU's tradition with O-linemen, it's no stretch to think that the No. 8 overall prospect in MaxPreps Top 100 could be headed to Lincoln.  

The Guess: Nebraska

3. WR Nelson Agholor -- FSU vs. UF. Notre Dame vs. OU vs. USC:
A smooth 6-1 receiver from Tampa, Fla., Agholor has an interesting backstory as detailed in this Tampa Bay Times story. The No. 13-ranked prospect overall has already taken official visits to Notre Dame, Florida, Oklahoma and just returned from a trip to Florida State that apparently went quite well. His final trip is to USC, which many insiders think is the leader for his services. Getting the last chance to make a big impression, especially with potential new teammates, is always preferred and the lure to catch passes from Matt Barkley may prove too tempting.

The Guess: USC

4. WR Stefon Diggs -- Auburn vs. Cal vs. Florida vs. Ohio State: The speedy wideout from Maryland, No. 14 nationally, just returned from a visit to Florida, which he described to reporters as "awesome" thanks in large part to his time around new Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease. The former Boise State assistant was able to detail how his offense will run in Gainesville. Diggs still has an official visit coming up this weekend to Ohio State, which has a ton of recruiting momentum since Urban Meyer took over. Never underestimate Urban Meyer. Then again, don't underestimate Trooper Taylor and Auburn either.

The Guess: Florida

5. OT Arik Armstead -- Auburn vs. Cal vs. Notre Dame vs. Oregon vs. USC vs. Washington: A talented two-way lineman who also could play college hoops as an imposing power forward, the No. 16-ranked prospect had been committed to USC for a long time but his recruitment got very cloudy once his big brother Armond's medical situation at USC took a curious turn. The elder Armstead, a former starter on the defensive line for the Trojans, has not been cleared by USC doctors and is looking at transferring to play his senior year someplace else, and there is a shot his brother could join him. There's also been added intrigue to the other colleges, with Chip Kelly almost bolting for the NFL and Cal's ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi leaving for Washington while Auburn also has had a big staff shake-upm too. Then again, so has Notre Dame. According to the Sacramento Bee, the family has been told Armond could play right away at Auburn as a graduate transfer, despite SEC rules and contrary to some reports. I am assuming that is based on his medical circumstances. He also could play in 2012 at Notre Dame.

The Guess: Notre Dame


More on Recruiting
Related links

6.  DT Eddie Goldman -- Alabama vs. Auburn vs. FSU vs. Miami: An athletic 300-pound DT from the DC area, there has been some speculation that the Maryland Terps had a shot here once they hired Mike Locksley as an assistant, similar to some buzz that swirled around Diggs a while back, but we're not hearing that much at this point. Goldman had a good relationship with former Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri, but he has since moved on to take a job to Tennessee. Will that really hurt the Tide's chances with the No. 17 overall recruit in the Class of 2012?

The Guess: FSU

7. OT  Zach Banner -- OU vs. Washington vs. USC: The tallest, at 6-9, 310, of an impressive group of offensive tackle prospects in this year's class, the Seattle area talent would be a huge pick-up for U-Dub and Steve Sarkisian, especially since the Huskies appear to be missing out on the other elite O-line recruit in the area, Josh Garnett. The Trojans had the last official visit and made a very good impression with the No. 21 overall prospect. It also doesn't hurt their cause that Lane Kiffin is pitching an opportunity to the nimble big man that he can compete for Matt Kalil's vacated slot at LT and be the missing piece for a loaded offense ripe for a BCS title run in 2012.

The Guess: USC

8. OL Josh Garnett -- Michigan vs. Notre Dame vs. Stanford: Speaking of that other blue-chip Washington O-linemen, the 6-5, 295-pound Garnett could probably play either guard or tackle and give some team a big boost. Reportedly, earlier this week Garnett trimmed his list to two, cutting Notre Dame. We'll see. Both David Shaw and Brady Hoke have plenty of momentum on the recruiting trail.

The Guess: Stanford

9. CB Ronald Darby -- Auburn vs. Clemson vs. FSU vs. Notre Dame: A Notre Dame commit since last spring, the speedy 5-11 180-pounder from Maryland de-committed in January, which looks like a tough blow for Brian Kelly's program. Every team covets speed, but the Irish has an even bigger need for guys with this kind of athleticism than everyone else he's considering. The 'Noles' top track program also is a big plus for Jimbo Fisher's school.

The Guess: FSU

10. DE Darius Hamilton -- Florida vs. Rutgers: Greg Schiano's program has done a much better job of keeping high-profile, in-state recruits at home the past few years, and the battle for the No. 29 overall prospect in the country would be a huge coup. Rutgers, coming off a bounce-back season, seems to be in the midst of pulling together a very impressive group. Hamilton might visit Miami still, but has told reporters his two big leaders are the Gators and the Scarlet Knights.

The Guess: Rutgers


Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:49 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 11:55 am
 

The man behind the hottest play in football

Late Wednesday night, Colorado School of Mines, a Division II school just down the road from the Coors facility in Golden, Co, was Trending nationally. The reason: Dana Holgorsen gave the school a sweet plug on national TV just a few minutes after West Virginia finished brutalizing Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Well, actually, it's really because Holgorsen gave his pal, 46-year-old Bob Stitt, the Mines head football coach, a really, really sweet plug.

  Holgorsen was asked about the unique play that had devastated Clemson all night long, where WVU QB Geno Smith fields a shotgun snap and just flips it forward to a wideout motioning across the formation on a dead sprint. It's a variation of the Fly-Sweep that has caused defenses headaches for the past decade in major college football. Only in Holgorsen's play, the QB handles the ball for less than a heartbeat. Holgorsen explained to the country after the Orange Bowl that he learned that play from his buddy Bob Stitt from the Colorado School of Mines.

Back in Colorado, Stitt and his family were floored. "My 7 year-old just looked at me and his eyes were as big as saucers," Stitt told me Thursday morning. "My phone just starts blowing up with texts. I got about 30 in about 15 seconds."
 
  Holgorsen calls the play his "Quick" game. Stitt calls it "Fly". WVU scored on it four times Wednesday night. "Every time they ran it,  I told my wife, 'Yeah, that's the play that I showed Dana,'" Stitt said.
Of course, Stitt never expected to hear his name called out on national television. 

I've heard Stitt "clinic" with other top offensive minds over the past few years at the One-Back Clinic, a small gathering of some cutting-edge coaches each off-season. Whenever the soft-spoken Stitt walks to the front of those rooms, in front of some 20 coaches, most from the most prolific FBS programs, the guy commands their attention.

"These guys from some of the small schools are great, because they'll tell you everything they do because they want you to hire them someday," new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone told me at last year's One-Back Clinic held at Houston a few minutes after Stitt talked about the pistol offense and back-shoulder throws. 
 

To guys like Holgorsen and Mazzone and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Stitt is the real deal, a ball coach with some proven great stuff. For the newer guys in that room, Stitt was the guy from the one school they'd probably never heard of that plays in Division II's Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. But Stitt knew how to get their attention:

"If this stuff works with our guys, it'll probably work with the guys you have," Stitt would tell them. "We're an engineering school, and we only have one major, engineering. Our average ACT score in math is 29." That line would elicit the biggest "Oooh!" of the day. Well, that and Stitt talking about how his team averaged more than 356 passing yards in 2010.


The Orediggers were 8-3 this season, finishing No. 8 in the nation in passing. They had a 1000-yard rusher and a 3000-yard passer. Three of Mines' last four quarterbacks have been finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division 2 Heisman.

Because his teams rarely have much speed, opponents often rush seven guys and play Zero-Coverage on them since they don't think Mines receivers can run by them. To counter that, Stitt resorted to the backshoulder passing attack. But, if he had to play against people afraid he's got the receivers who can run by em? Well, Holgorsen has 'em, as Clemson found out.
 
Stitt came up with his wrinkle on the Fly Sweep because he believed that it was more efficient than trying to have the quarterback hand the ball off after receiving the snap. Devoting all of the time to rep it to get the timing down seemed counter-productive to him. 
One day at practice, it came to him, 'Why not just put it (the ball) in the air?' He stopped practice and had his offense do that, and it immediately worked. And yes, that is one of the perks of being a small-college head coach. You can experiment with something like that in the middle of practice.

"The challenge of the Fly Sweep is meshing the handoff with the motion," he says. "With this, the speed of it's faster because you don't have to mesh the handoff, so that 4.3 guy (WR Tavon Austin) is going 4.3 as soon as he gets the ball. And the people that have to try and stop it are the inside 'backers, so you get that kid with that quickness, where he can stick his foot in the ground and get upfield, it's deadly."

  No kidding. Stitt first showed some of the FBS guys his play a few years ago at the One-Back Clinic when it was at UNLV. Hal Mumme, then at New Mexico State, loved it and installed it.  Mumme probably loves it even more because, technically, the play counts as a pass, not a run in the stat sheet. 
 
Holgorsen, though, didn't buy in until the spring of 2008. Stitt showed up at a UH practice after he'd flown down to Texas for fund-raiser. The Mines head coach was still in his golf gear and was checking out the Cougars practice from off in the distance. Holgorsen spotted him, 'See that fly sweep?'

  "Why aren't you putting that thing in the air?" Stitt replied.

Holgorsen said he'd forgotten all about that idea, but brought Stitt over, in full golf gear, to confer with him and quarterback Case Keenum. As Stitt gave them some pointers on how to run it, he couldn't help but think he was someplace he probably shouldn't be. But, a few minutes later, during the Cougars "Team" portion of practice, Holgorsen broke out the play on the unsuspecting Cougars defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin was downright giddy. "Whoa, what was that?!?"

Houston got so good at it that Stitt smiled when he saw a few days ago in UH's romp over Penn State Keenum get a late snap and just 'volleyballed' it forward to the receiver without even controlling the ball.
 
As far as the specs of the play, Holgorsen and Stitt have different ways they dress it up. Stitt loves to run it out of a 3-by-1 (three receivers on one side of the formation) and run the play into the boundary side of the field. Holgorsen kept motioning one of his receivers into the backfield to set up in his diamond formation. The added benefit, Stitt points out, is what you can also do off the play. Holgorsen has taken that fly motion and run inside zone off it. "It is a great complement to the inside zone," Stitt says.

Stitt will run the fly motion and have his quarterback read the slot defender. If the guy doesn't cover that, they'll throw the bubble.
 
Just a hunch but you'll probably be seeing a lot more of this play in 2012. 
Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:36 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 7:52 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Year's best/worst predictions

Time to revisit some of our best and worst predictions over the past year, which will serve as a double-barrel Tuesday Top 10 list.

The Worst

1. Oklahoma to win it all: The Sooners did sustain some big blows to injury, losing standout LB Travis Lewis before the season and then top receiver (Ryan Broyles) and top rusher (Dom Whaley) later. Still, the Sooners lost at home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that didn't even get to a bowl game and then finished the season losing by 34 to rival Oklahoma State. OU ended up the season tied with Baylor for third in the Big 12.

2. FSU is back and ready to play in a BCS bowl: The AP poll went all in on FSU putting the Noles sixth in the preseason poll. I was even more optimistic last April, placing them third in a poll I turned in. Instead, FSU, went 8-4 and just 5-3 in the ACC.

3. Maryland could go 8-4: I saw the ACC's top young QB (Danny O'Brien), a quality RB (Davin Meggett) and four returning starters on the O-line and said that 8-4 "seems viable." Um, not exactly. The Terps were a disaster, going 2-10 with one win over an FBS opponent, and that team Miami was a shell of itself due to NCAA player suspensions.

4. Texas A&M is a top 15 team: I bought into the hype around the Aggies with Ryan Tannehill, some gifted receivers and backs and a more mature O-line. Things fizzled in College Station so bad that Mike Sherman lost his job as A&M fell apart in the second half of games and finished 6-6.

5. Gus Malzahn - the hottest assistant in college football: It wasn't a surprise that the Auburn OC saw the Tigers struggle mightily without Cam Newton and most of the AU O-line from 2010, but you had to figure he could've gotten in on UNC or even the Kansas coaching vacancies, no? No? A video of an interview his wife gave certainly didn't help his cause. Regardless, from here it looks like Arkansas State was very fortunate to scoop him up.

6. Nebraska is going to win the Big Ten: The Huskers beat two top top 15 teams - No. 11 and No. 12 Penn State (those were the rankings when they met), but still only finished third in the Legends Division and were also blown out twice, once by Wisconsin, 48-17 and once at Michigan, 45-17.

7. Notre Dame will win 10 games and make the BCS: Once Brian Kelly signed off on embattled star WR Michael Floyd not missing any games, I figured the Irish had more than enough firepower to roll through their schedule. Trouble was, the team was far too mistake prone, committing 26 turnovers and had an underwhelming 8-4, going 2-3 against teams that finished with winning records this season.

8. At worst, Tennessee will go 7-5: Of course, it didn't help that the Vols lost QB Tyler Bray for half of the season and their best weapon, WR Justin Hunter for most of the season, but losing to that bad Kentucky team playing with a WR at QB to miss even becoming bowl eligible was indicative of a miserable season in Knoxville for the 5-7 Vols.

9. Clemson will struggle again and Dabo Swinney may be forced out: I figured new OC Chad Morris would help a lot but ultimately the Tigers would stumble too many times. Oh, they did have some problems in the second half of the season, losing three of their last five games but still thumped Va. Tech to win the ACC.

10. UCF would be a borderline Top 25 team: After watching the Knights win 11 games last season and beat Georgia in a bowl, I thought they'd have another strong season. So strong in fact that I had them as my No. 4 BCS bowl buster candidate behind Boise State, Houston and TCU. The Knights didn't even finish .500 in C-USA play, going 3-5 and 5-7 overall. They played six road games and lost all six.


The Best

1. Michigan will be a top 25 team this year: Brady Hoke inherited a team with 20 starters back and one of the top playmakers in the sport in Denard Robinson. Hoke was also smart enough to bring in Greg Mattison to shore up the defense.

2. Florida will not be ranked: I was surprised to see the Gators ranked in the top 25 given the fact that they had a dramatic transition in schemes and so much uncertainty on both sides of the ball. They also had to deal with back-to-back games against the best two defenses in college football, against Alabama and LSU. End result: 6-6, winning just one game in their final seven against FBS opponents.

3. Arkansas State will make a lot of noise in the Sun Belt: Well, I didn't buy that the Red Wolves were going to win the Sun Belt as ASU D-line coach Chris Kiffin told me they would before the season, but I bought in that first-year coach Hugh Freeze would lead the program to its first winning season since 1995. They ended up doing a lot more than that, winning the league and going 10-2.

4. Tony Levine -- fast-rising assistant coach: The former Minnesota wideout may never have been an offensive or defensive coordinator, but he's long been regarded as one of the top special teams coordinators in college football. He also had been a huge help for Kevin Sumlin in a variety of roles, so when A&M hired Sumlin, it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise that UH would turn to Levine, who has always been well-respected by those inside the Cougars athletic offices.

5. Mississippi State isn't a top 20 team: The Bulldogs lost a bunch of key pieces to their defense, in addition to DC Manny Diaz and that would be too much to overcome in the loaded SEC West. End result: 2-6 in SEC play.

6. Mike Locksley will be the first head coach fired this season: A brutal mix of on and off-field issues led to New Mexico canning Locksley before the end of September.

7. Georgia will win the SEC East: I wasn't sold that South Carolina, preseason No. 12, should've been the favorite in the lesser division of the SEC. I was sold that the Dawgs had the best QB, a good mix of young and old and the most manageable schedule (no LSU, Alabama or Arkansas) to emerge from the East. Of course, things got even harder for Carolina after standout RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury.

8. WVU to a BCS bowl: Despite all of the drama for this program in the off-season, I was pretty convinced Dana Holgorsen would spark a dramatic improvement for this team offensively. And, he did. They went from 78th in scoring last season to No. 19 this year en route to making it to the Orange Bowl.

9. Texas will be better, but not that much better: After going 5-7, Mack Brown made significant changes to the Texas coaching staff. I expected the moves to help but still was skeptical UT would be better than the fourth best team in the Big 12. They weren't. They went 7-5 and finished sixth in the conference but at least they were able to beat arch-rival Texas A&M. Then again, UT finished off the regular season with a loss to Baylor.

10. Urban Meyer to get the Ohio State job: Truth is, this one was pretty obvious. I floated that Meyer could be the next OSU head man at the end of 2010 before Jim Tressel was really in hot water. Then, once Tressel was forced out, Meyer became just about everyone's frontrunner for the Buckeye vacancy.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:58 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing bowl matchups

We're just a few days away from the official start of bowl season and I'm pretty fired up about that. This week's Tuesday Top 10: the match-ups I'm most intrigued by:


1- BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9: LSU vs. Bama: I realize many of you don't want to see a rematch of a game that didn't have a single TD the first time out. To me, Les Miles is always Must-See TV and I'm very curious to see how Trent Richardson does against the LSU D the second-time around. Also, curious what the Honey Badger does on a stage this big. Pregame


2-Rose Bowl, Jan. 2: Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Chip Kelly's team will try and end its little two-game BCS bowl skip against a physical Badger team. The Ducks have had a hard time against top teams who have had plenty of time to prepare for their scheme. Wisconsin comes into the the game with the nation's No. 6 scoring defense. Pregame


3- Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: So, you're looking for a BCS bowl where you'll see plenty of offense? This is your game. OSU is No. 2 in scoring nationally. Stanford is No. 5. I'm very curious to see how Andrew Luck handles the country's most opportunistic defense (42 turnovers forced this season.) Pregame


4-Outback Bowl, Jan 2. Michigan State vs. Georgia: The Spartans got embarrassed by Alabama last year in the bowl after a strong regular-season and come into this riding a four-game bowl losing streak under Mark Dantonio. Are they good enough to make a statement for the Big Ten this time around? Pregame


5-Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: Baylor vs Washington: If RG3 is playing, I'm watching. . . . Oh, and if you're looking for defense, this really ain't it. Washington ranks 99th in scoring defense. Baylor is 109th. Pregame


6-Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: Clemson vs. WVU: A pair of cutting-edge offensive minds in Clemson's Chad Morris and WVU's Dana Holgorsen. Both have QBs primed to get a jump on some 2012 Heisman hype, especially since each is working with gifted receiving crews. Pregame


7-Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Va. Tech vs. Michigan: I know both of these programs looked brutal in January bowl games a year ago, but I'm curious because of the match-ups: Bud Foster's D against Denard Robinson sounds like fun. Same for Greg Mattison's improved Wolverines defense against David Wilson. Pregame


8-TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Houston vs. Penn State: Kevin Sumlin is already at A&M leaving his righthand man Tony Levine to get the Cougars ready for a very tough Penn State D, by far the best defense Case Keenum has seen all year. The Nittany Lions are No. 5 in the country in scoring defense and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency D. Pregame


9-Gator Bowl: Jan. 2: Florida vs. Ohio State: Hard to get excited about two 6-6 teams that have had such down years? Normally, that'd be the case, but given the Urban Meyer factor hanging over this game, you'd think there's a lot more pressure on Will Muschamp than on the OSU sidelines. Then again, how about the Buckeyes looking to impress their new boss? I'm in. Pregame


10-Champs Sports, Dec. 29: Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Two programs with rich histories who had duds of seasons amid a lot of lofty speculation. Winner can make the claim that they finished strong and were really "just a year away." Pregame



Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Inside the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry

    This is rivalry time in college football. Earlier this month Travis Haney and Larry Williams’ book about the nasty Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, A State of Disunion was published. I caught up with the two authors to get their take on that game and what's unique about it. I also asked Haney, who has since left the South Carolina beat to cover Oklahoma, about the comparisons between covering Steve Spurrier and his former assistant Bob Stoops and spoke to Williams about the Tigers' intriguing 2011 season.

Question: You guys have covered other programs who all have had some arch-rival. What makes this rivalry unique?

Williams: This rivalry is different from others because it's such a small state and there are no major geographic strongholds for fans of either school. Seems like all the bigger cities have a good mix of representation. That leads to a lot of fans sharing the same neighborhoods, boardrooms, barrooms, churches, even families in a ton of cases. I suspect it's a good bit different in, say, Florida with Gators and Seminoles fans. Not saying that rivalry isn't bitter, but it seems there are more geographic enclaves that favor one school or another. That state is just so much bigger and more far-flung.

One other interesting thing: This rivalry hasn't been bitter since the start; it's been bitter since before the start. Clemson owes its very existence as an institution to strife and bad blood with the school in Columbia. In the late 1800s, the farmers in this state thought the state school provided a sham of an agriculture program that misused federal land-grant funding during Reconstruction. Clemson opened its doors in 1889, and seven years later they started playing football. So it was the perfect battleground for a lot of the hostilities and strife. I suspect a lot of rivalries are cultivated through time; this one didn't take much time at all to get really nasty and bitter. 

Haney: I was talking about this today with a friend. I believe it could be the most contentious rivalry between in-state, out-of-conference teams. (Florida-FSU in same ballpark?) But, well, that's probably just semantics, although it does make it unique. Larry made a nice point that the difference in Clemson-South Carolina and UF-FSU is that, well, those teams have historically been successful. Folks in South Carolina get amped up for a bigger game, like the 2011 game -- of course they do -- but they still care, a bunch, even if the teams flat-out stink. Could you say that in a lot of places? Geography is something I keep coming back to, also.

It's such a condensed state that everyone, alums from both sides, wind up living on top of one another. The kicker quote to the book is from Gamecocks defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, a native who has also coached at Clemson. He said he creates an emotional wake wherever he goes. Depending on their persuasion, fans are either thrilled with his employer -- or they loathe it. They even remind him of this ... at funerals. It's a 365-day rivalry. Unlike Florida-Georgia or Alabama-Auburn or Oklahoma-Texas, there is no other rival on the schedule. This is it.

Question: How did this rivalry change when Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina?

Haney: That's been sort of weird. I know I expected the Gamecocks to improve, and improve rapidly. I really thought he would signal a move toward success the school hadn't previously seen. I guess that's sort of happened the past couple of years, but I thought it would happen sooner and be more profound. He's done a nice job, relative to the program's historical mediocrity, but it hasn't gone to plan. He admits that, too. As far as the rivalry, it didn't initially change. For whatever reasons, Tommy Bowden had a stranglehold on South Carolina -- even if he couldn't win the ACC, when it was there for the taking. Whenever Bowden left, it's as if everything switched. Clemson sold its soul for the ACC (division) title, and now it's lost to South Carolina for the first time since the late 1960s. (Did you know it had been that long?) He does bring, even now, some national attention that it might not have if, say, Skip Holtz were coaching the Gamecocks. Spurrier will always provide that, as long as he's coaching.

Williams: I'm not sure it changed a great deal because the Tigers owned Lou Holtz when he was here, and Spurrier lost three of his first four against Clemson. People say Holtz placed far more importance on the rivalry game, and the conclusion is that it generated too much pressure on the players and they faltered in the game. I'm not sure I buy that. I believe the reason the Gamecocks have won the past two years -- they hadn't won back-to-back games in 40 years -- is because Spurrier upgraded the talent. They just became a better, more physically imposing team with horses they aren't accustomed to having traditionally. 

One interesting thing about Spurrier is you haven't seen him take many shots at Clemson during his tenure. Maybe a few subtle jabs here and there, but nothing like the stuff he'd say about FSU and Tennessee when he was in Gainesville. I think he respects Clemson's program and some of its coaches. Or maybe he hasn't felt confident enough in his own team to brag. Or maybe he's just older and more mellow. All of the above, perhaps.

Question for Haney: Having now covered Spurrier and Bob Stoops, what is one thing diehard fans probably would be surprised to know about each?

Haney: Man, that's a great question. I presume I'll learn more about Stoops as I go, but I am thinking right now about a story my colleague Berry Tramel wrote this fall about Stoops visiting an area hospital on a regular basis, to see sick children. He develops friendships with them. That's pretty inspiring, for a guy who's incredibly busy. Fans see this coach who looks grumpy and comes off gruff in the media ... but there's a heart in there.

As for Spurrier, I think there's a prevailing perception that all he does is play golf and he doesn't work hard. I don't think that's the case. He really cares about winning at South Carolina, even if some (a lot?) of that is based on his own pride. A lot of people think he will retire once he becomes the school's all-time winning coach. So, he's still driven. He might be the youngest 66-year-old I've ever been around. He was the butt of jokes after that shirtless pic surfaced last year, after I did the workout story with him for his 65th birthday. But, heck, he's probably in better shape than I am now. I'm not going to judge the guy. He's just as competitive as you'd think, too. I remember, during my first year, I got paired with him in his media golf outing. He was supposed to switch groups at the turn, to play with some other media members. But we were in contention, so he blew them off to stick with us. We actually played through the group ahead of us, too -- in a scramble. First and only time that's happened in my life. I just sort of waved as we sped past then-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix's group.

Question for Haney: How has covering Spurrier helped prepare you for covering Stoops?

Haney: I was curious to see the differences and similarities between the two, with the understanding that Stoops was likely a hybrid of Spurrier and Bill Snyder. He's a lot more like Snyder, I think, in terms of how he deals with us. But you see little similarities in nuances and organizational things he picked up from Spurrier. (Minute things like what day he does his presser. Or bigger things like how he manages the clock.) Ha, well, Spurrier probably has the biggest ego of any coach/manager I had ever covered previously (Bobby Cox, Pat Summitt, Phillip Fulmer, et al.), so perhaps he prepared me for other coaches who don't really give us media boys a second thought. Spurrier and Stoops both do their media responsibilities -- after all, it's part of their contracts -- but neither really seem to enjoy it on any level. They're no Mike Leach, right? They're itching to go the minute they get going with us, because they'd rather be focusing on their team. Can't blame them for that, can you? I'm sure it's a big reason why they've been so successful over the years.

Question for Williams: Did the Clemson fan base completely buy in this year, thinking 2011 would be different before the NC State game? And how has the reaction been since that blowout to such a mediocre team?

Williams: The Clemson fans were really optimistic during the offseason, and the optimism was weird to some distant observers because they were coming off a 6-7 season. But the acquisition of Chad Morris, plus the infusion of some elite talent (most notably Sammy Watkins) gave fans a lot of hope that things could be turned around quickly. I don't think anyone expected them to go 3-0 against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech, so when they swept those games and later went to 8-0 the people were really giddy.

The loss at Georgia Tech was jolting, and then people were really surprised that Wake Forest came within a whisker of snatching the Atlantic Division title from the Tigers' grasp at Death Valley. But last week's debacle in Raleigh really has people concerned about this team. It's starting to look like the epic collapse in 2006 (lost four of last five after 7-1 start), and that's a numbing possibility given that this team was the national media darling just last month.

If they win in Columbia and then win the ACC championship game for their first conference title in 20 years, I think all will be forgiven and the ugliness against N.C. State will be viewed as a mere blip. But if they lose to the Gamecocks for a third consecutive season, there's going to be a lot of heartburn and heartache in these parts. Remember: Dabo Swinney's predecessor (Tommy Bowden) went 7-2 against the rivals down the road.

Question for Williams: If Clemson loses this game against So Carolina, is Dabo back on the hot seat again?

Williams: I don't think he's on the hot seat, because the Tigers would still be a win away from a 10-win season and that hasn't been done here since 1990. Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips was the one who promoted Dabo and gave him the gig for good in December of 2008, and Phillips himself has acknowledged that his own fate as AD hinges on the fortunes of the football program. So Phillips definitely won't have a quick trigger.

Question for Williams: Who has more to lose this weekend?

Williams: It's a great question, and I've been asking myself the same thing. I think we could call this the "Forgiveness Bowl" because the winner atones for a lot. The Gamecocks haven't really done much this season, taking advantage of an uncommonly weak SEC schedule. Fans were really griping after the home loss to Auburn and the shellacking at Arkansas. But a win over Clemson gives the Gamecocks their second 10-win season ever, and they'd absolutely love rubbing three straight wins over Clemson into the faces of Tigers fans. 

Clemson has a lot to lose, but I'll give SC the edge in the answer to your question because the Tigers can still win the ACC even if they lose Saturday. That said, it's hard to imagine them going to Charlotte and winning the ACC coming off back-to-back spankings at the hands of the Wolfpack and Gamecocks.

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:45 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

As we reported Monday afternoon with the report about Rich Rodriguez getting the Arizona job, tis the season for coaching changes. Expect a lot more vacancies to spring up in the next few weeks. A few of them will get filled by first-time head coaches. This week's Top 10 list examines some of the best up-and-comers to keep an eye on:

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn, OC: The former Arkansas high school coach's rep sky-rocketed last season as Auburn rode Cam Newton to the BCS title. Things have been much, much tougher this year without Newton or most of last year's offensive line. The offense that was fifth nationally in scoring and sixth in total offense has plummeted to 78th and 93rd, respectively. But things should get a lot better next year as almost all of their key guys figure to be back. But will Malzahn? He is paid very, very well at Auburn, getting a reported $1.3 mil per year, and won't leave for just any coaching job, but word is that UNC's vacancy could be tempting.

2. Kirby Smart, Alabama, DC: Nick Saban's program has spawned a handful of future head coaches (FSU's Jimbo Fisher, UF's Will Muschamp and Tennessee's Derek Dooley among them), and Smart figures to be the next one up. Then again, Bama OC Jim McElwain, who could've also been on this list, will likely get some looks this winter too. Bama's defensive prowess will be quite a selling point for Smart. The Tide leads the nation in: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. That's quite a mouthful. The one downside for the former Georgia DB is that Saban is so hands-on with Alabama's defense it's perceived that the head coach is more responsible for the unit's success than most head coaches.

3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, OC: One of the more anonymous "top" assistants in college football, the 46-year-old Chryst, a former Mike Riley assistant, has done a terrific job for the Badgers for years. This season, he's put together an offense that has produced two Heisman candidates in QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. The Badgers are fifth in the country in scoring and 10th in rushing under the former Wisconsin QB.

4. Manny Diaz, Texas, DC: A first-year UT assistant, Diaz has proven to be the most effective of all of Mack Brown's new on-field coaches, turning a defense that had to replace most of the secondary into one that is 11th in pass efficiency D and 26th in scoring D. Last year, the Horns were 46th and 49th in both of those categories. Texas also has jumped from 31st against the run all the way up to No. 8. Diaz provided a similar boost at his previous stop, Mississippi State in 2010. The Miami native would be even higher on this list if his team was doing better than a 6-4 mark. But don't blame the defense. It's only a matter of time before Diaz is running his own program.

5. Chad Morris, Clemson, OC: Like Malzahn, Morris is a former high school coach who is cashing in on an up-tempo offense that has pumped life into a big, previously underachieving college program. As I detailed in a Stats That Matter a few weeks back, Morris learned a lot from Malzahn and has done wonders for young QB Tajh Boyd. Morris also has done wonders for Dabo Swinney's job security. The Tigers are 12th in the nation in passing, 18th in total offense and 21st in scoring. A year ago, before Morris arrived, they were 78th, 88th and 86th in those carries. With a handful of openings likely to come this winter in his native state of Texas, expect Morris' phone to be ringing.

6. Garrick McGee, Ark. OC: The Hogs are hot, having scored at least 44 points in their past three SEC games. McGee, a former OU QB, has learned well under Bobby Petrino, one of the game's sharpest offensive minds. Arkansas is No. 3 in the nation led by its potent offense, which had to deal with the loss of record-setting QB Ryan Mallett, a great tight end D.J. Williams and then, on the eve of the season, RB Knile Davis yet the Hogs still pile up the points. If McGee and the Hogs can light up the vaunted LSU defense on Friday, the young coach's stock will really rise.

7. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State, DC: Yet another Youngstown guy making it big in college coaching. Narduzzi and his boss Mark Dantonio have done another great job producing a ferocious defense. MSU is No. 3 in the country in total defense; No. 5 in scoring; No. 5 in pass efficiency defense and No. 10 against the run. Impressive? No doubt. But what really is amazing is that coming into this season, the Spartans lost four of their top five tackles from last year, including star LB Greg Jones.

8. Bud Foster, Va. Tech, DC: The Hokies again have a top-10 defense. Yawn. Foster seems to do this on an annual basis. This season, Tech has had to overcome a bunch of injuries to key guys in its front seven, but regardless of that, the Hokies are 10-1 and leaning on Foster's stifling defense. Trouble is, for all of Foster's success and the respect he has, the 52-year-old has been passed over many times for head coaching jobs and you have to wonder if he'll ever get his shot to run his own program.

9. Tony Levine, Houston, Special Teams Coordinator: Even though most head coaches get hired after being offensive or defensive coordinators, keep an eye on the 39-year-old Levine, a former wideout at Minnesota, who has proven to be one of the country's best special teams coaches and has learned under Kevin Sumlin, John Fox, Bobby Petrino and Tommy Tuberville in his time in college and the NFL. Since he got to UH in 2008, his teams have returned eight kickoffs for TDs and blocked 18 kicks. That's fourth-most in the country in that time. He's also been Sumlin's assistant head coach for what has become a very hot program these days. Having also been UH's inside receivers coach for the Cougars' record-breaking offense the past four seasons or exhibiting the organizational experience of being a director of football operation (Louisville) also won't hurt his cause either.

10. (tie) Frank Wilson, LSU, RB coach/recruiting coordinator: A New Orleans native, Wilson has emerged as arguably the nation's top recruiter. He has found and reeled in studs at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and now at LSU, but the guy has proven to be a lot more than just a recruiter. No assistant may be more respected by his players. And he has proven he knows how to run a program and be a leader. Back when he was 27, he took over a downtrodden high school program in New Orleans and turned the place upside down. In one year, the team GPA jumped from 1.5 to 2.5 and his team knocked off Louisiana powerhouse John Curtis HS with its first district loss in 25 years. By Wilson's third season at the school, they were playing in the state title game.

10. (tie) Tom Herman, Iowa State, OC:  The Mensa guy I wrote about last week had a big Friday night helping lead the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history, upsetting No. 2 Oklahoma State in double-overtime, 37-31 boosting ISU to 6-4. Iowa State's numbers on offense this season are far from head-turning: 44th in total offense and 75th in scoring, but remember this is a guy who produced top 10 offenses at Rice just a few years back and helped that program get to its first bowl game in over a half-century. Like Morris and Levine, if he gets a long look when a few of these jobs in the Southwest open up.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com