Tag:Kansas State
Posted on: February 25, 2012 7:12 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:48 am
 

Notebook: Matt Kalil goes from Bambi to bruiser

Eight things I learned from hanging around the NFL Combine media center at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday:


1-Matt Kalil, who was one of only two O-linemen who worked out Saturday to clock a 40 under 5.0 seconds and is projected as a top-three draft pick, apparently wasn't such a promising athlete when he was younger. Fellow USC product Chris Galippo has known the 6-7, 306-pound Kalil since they were eight years old. And even though it's the Trojan linebacker who is in the shadows now in scouts' eyes, you might not have expected things to turn out like they have for the two childhood buddies from Orange County. 

"I was always bigger and taller than Matt," said the 6-1, 241-pounder. "I was always kicking his butt. We'd go out and play two-on-two football and he couldn't catch. He couldn't throw. He was sort of like Bambi out there." 

Galippo said then one summer when both were students at Servite High, his pal sprouted from 6-1 to about 6-7 and, soon thereafter, Kalil grew into that frame. "That's what's so crazy about it," Galippo says.


Kalil became much more coordinated, Galippo said, as the kid who always had the huge hands and huge feet finally caught up to his body.

Somwhere along the way, Kalil also honed quite a nasty streak that is a stark contrast to his jokester personality off the field, Galippo says, when pointing out one of the big differences between the USC left tackle and his older brother Ryan, a Pro Bowl center. "Matt's one of the meanest O-linemen around. He plays really angry."


2-The Michigan defenders really, really like the focus Brady Hoke's staff brought back to Ann Arbor that, um, apparently was lacking previously under former coach Rich Rodriguez. In fact, standout nose tackle Mike Martin said defense "wasn't very emphasized" under Rodriguez.


"He didn't really spend too much time on the defense," Martin said of Rodriguez. "We were kind of a supplement. Just kinda there trying to help out the offense."

When I asked Martin what the biggest difference in how Rodriguez ran the program as compared to Hoke, the 306-pounder said, "It was such a big change. The amount of accountability he gave to the seniors in the leadership. Coach Rod like to be that guy. But Coach Hoke told us, 'If I have to lead this team, we're not gonna be where we need to be.'"

Martin went on to say that new UM DC Greg Mattison came back to Ann Arbor and "just set the bar at another level. We thought that we were doing the things that we needed to do to get better, but watching film and being more technically sound and doing all of the detail things that Coach Mattison really harped on made us better as a team."


3-All of the coaching chaos at Pitt took its toll on the players. Defensive end Brandon Lindsey said the program had six different head coaches in a calendar year and the only want to handle that is for the players to lean on each other. "It was really hard to stay focused," he said. "It's definitely hard to trust people when two years in a row, your coach is gone, but you just have to trust your instincts and trust your university to bring in the right people."


4-Olivier Vernon, a former blue-chip high school prospect, thought getting "special treatment" wasn't all that special. The Miami DE, who missed six games in the 2011 season for his involvement in the Nevin Shapiro scandal at UM, said he was "baffled" when Yahoo sports broke the story late in the summer on the former UM booster.  "I didn't know what was going on," Vernon said Saturday. "I didn't know my name was going to be mentioned."

The NCAA sidelined Vernon half the season for accepting $1,200 in benefits. 

"I should've known better. Some people come around and try to give you things? I should've known better. . . . I was in high school. I didn't think it was 'special treatment.' I thought that's how things work. I didn't know anything about compliance.

"I really felt like it wasn't actually as bad as it was made out to be."

Vernon also told reporters that the people who introduced him to Shapiro were (former Miami assistants) Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill. Hurtt is now the D-line coach at Louisville, while Hill is the receivers coach at Florida. According to the Miami Herald, Vernon told the NCAA of both coaches' involvement, and that he wasn't the only Hurricane who told the NCAA that the former UM assistants led the players to Shapiro, and that one current Canes player said that another former Miami assistant Joe Pannunzio (now a staffer at Alabama) led him to Shapiro.


5-The biggest difference to the Texas players between Will Muschamp's defense and Manny Diaz' D is the simplicity of current UT defensive coordinator's scheme. Linebacker Keenan Robinson said it took Diaz just a week to install his defense in training camp, which was much less than it took to get Muschamp's system in place. 


"It's much more simple," said UT LB Emmanuel Acho. "You also had more freedom within (Diaz) defense. He just lets us play the game."


6-Jamie Blatnick played against Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, three QBs who all may come into the NFL as top-five draft picks, but when asked who was the hardest quarterback to prepare for, the Oklahoma State DL answered K-State QB Collin Klein. "He's a great runner and is tough as nails."


7-Things were so bleak at Washington when Steve Sarkisian took over running back Chris Polk was contemplating giving up football.

"It's crazy how fast things changed," said Polk. "Coach Sark put everything into perspective."

Thanks to the attitude adjustment that Sarkisian made with the players, the team got better not only on the field but also in the classroom, Polk said. "It was night and day. My grades (improved) dramatically."


8-Iowa D-lineman Mike Daniels could have a future as a pro wrestler. Daniels was sitting by himself at a round table in the media room, about 30 feet from the podium where UNC star Quiton Coples was fielding questions from a big media group. 

I asked Daniels who else had recruited him out of New Jersey besides Iowa. "Nobody," he said. "Nobody wanted me."

We talked about his wrestling in high school, which he went on to say has been a great source of frustration. "I had a poor attitude. It eats at me every day. I didn't take it seriously."

Thinking back to the 'nobody wanted me' answer, I asked if he has a chip on his shoulder that drives him. "I got a HUUUGE chip on my shoulder. And, I'm gonna stay pissed. That's how you get better. Do Ray Lewis play nice? Does John Randle play nice?"
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 2:20 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Since this is the first Tuesday Top 10 list of 2012, I figured I'd start with the topic that'll get broached the most between now and September: my preseason top 10. My colleague Brett McMurphy wrote about his too-early rankings last week, but some things have cleared up with more top underclassmen announcing their NFL draft intentions since then. Anyhow, here goes:

1. USC: The Trojans finished 2011 with a bang, ending Oregon's long home-winning streak and thumping rival UCLA. Better still, they were the biggest winner in the NFL underclassmen derby with star QB Matt Barkley opting to remain for his senior season. Yes, they lost stud LT Matt Kalil, but the rest of the O-line, which was pretty young last year, is back and now it's a pretty deep group. Barkley also has the best 1-2 receiving tandem in college football: rising junior Robert Woods is an All-American, and there are some inside the Trojan program who think rising sophomore Marqise Lee is already surpassing him. Curtis McNeal, a 1000-yard rusher, returns, so does the entire back seven, including standout DBs T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey and their top two tacklers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, both freshmen in 2011. The D-line has some guys to replace, but does return three players with starting experience and a bunch of blue-chippers who redshirted. The schedule also breaks well: Oregon and Notre Dame, the two most talented teams they'll face, both have to visit the Coliseum. I realize that it probably seems foolish to list anyone other than an SEC team in the No. 1 spot, but if there's any college QB up for such an undertaking, it's Barkley, and he's got the weapons to pull it off.
 
2. LSU:
I was tempted to have Alabama in this slot after the way the Tide dominated the BCS title game and especially after seeing how sharp A.J. McCarron was last week, but the Tigers were younger and have more key guys back. They also get 'Bama in Baton Rouge in 2012. As I wrote the other day, there is a lot of enthusiasm about Zach Mettenberger taking over the team, spurring the staff to open things up more. They're going to be loaded at RB, and despite the loss of DT Michael Brockers and CB Mo Claiborne, the Tigers are still stacked at both positions. The youngsters to keep an eye on: DT Anthony Johnson and redshirt freshman CB Jalen Collins.

3. Alabama:
Nick Saban will have a legit shot to win his third BCS title in four seasons because he'll still have a stellar O-line and a proven QB (McCarron). Eddie Lacy is also ready to be a feature back. They will have to replace most of the defense, but there is plenty of talent ready to break out in the front seven, led by powerhouse DE Jesse Williams, who is still raw but an offseason of polish should make him a nightmare for SEC offenses. LB Xzavier Dickson is also a guy that has Tide coaches buzzing after a nice freshman year. They'll have a nice test in the opener in Texas against a good Michigan team. The bad news is they do have to go on the road to face the other two heavyweights in the conference: LSU and at Arkansas.

4. Oklahoma: Landry Jones is back after what had to be a disappointing season given expectations going into 2011. It certainly didn't help that OU lost its leading rusher (Dom Whaley) and star WR (Ryan Broyles) to injury near midseason. Jones has a good group of WRs led by Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds. They do have some sizable holes in the front seven to fill, but defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is back and that is a very good thing for the defense. The younger Stoops also has a lot of talent to work with in the secondary.

5. Oregon:
Even though it was a stunner that QB Darron Thomas bolted for the NFL, his understudy Bryan Bennett is even a bit faster and a more accurate passer, and he showed some of those skills in midseason when he was forced into action. Bennett still doesn't have the seasoning in this system, but that should come, although don't rule out redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, a raw 6-foot-4 QB who may have even better tools for this scheme. LaMichael James also is gone, but with De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, Chip Kelly still has so much speed at his disposal, you still feel sorry for rival defenses. The interior of the O-line returns intact, which is key, and safety John Boyett is back, along with LB Kiko Alonso, one of the stars of the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, to anchor the D. Interesting opener against Gus Malzahn's Ark State squad, but the real game to circle is when the Ducks visit USC Nov. 3.

6. West Virginia:
After a tumultuous year, the Mountaineers kicked off 2012 in grand fashion, obliterating Clemson in the Orange Bowl by hanging 70 on the Tigers. The scarier thought is that QB Geno Smith and the bulk of those skill guys are not only back, but now they'll have added reps to get even better at the timing of Dana Holgorsen's scheme. Most of the O-line returns, and that includes standout Josh Jenkins, a three-year starter on the line who had to redshirt the 2011 season. Look out Big 12 (assuming WVU is cleared for take off in time). If not, brace yourself Big East because an ornery bunch of Mountaineers probably will be trying to hang 100 on everybody in that league on the way out the door. The thing keeping this group from being top-five caliber: WVU's D has some very good players to replace and respected DC Jeff Casteel also is gone, off to re-join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Still, the offense is so explosive they should be able to outscore almost everyone they face. Almost.

7. Georgia:
The Dawgs won the SEC East thanks to an improved defense but still really didn't beat anyone of the caliber that you have to beat to show they're ready to overtake the powers of the SEC West. Losing to Michigan State in the bowl game didn't help either. However, there is still a lot of reason for optimism here. The defense returns almost everyone; QB Aaron Murray is very good; young WR Malcolm Mitchell is a budding star. Isaiah Crowell looks like he could be too if he can mature. The kicking game does have to be overhauled though. Maybe the best news of all is that Mark Richt's team has about as manageable a schedule as an SEC team can have, avoiding the top three teams of the SEC West and opening with four of its first five at home.

8. Arkansas:
Bobby Petrino gets back star RB Knile Davis to go with Tyler Wilson, his gifted QB coming off a terrific first season. The defense, which has been shaky for awhile, has some very good players it must replace. And there is a new DC running the show. I do like that the Hogs get both Bama and LSU at home this year, but it's the D that still has me skeptical.

9.  TCU:
The Horned Frogs make another conference move. This one is their biggest yet, over to the Big 12 to rejoin some old friends. No doubt it is a step up in competition. Do they have enough quality depth to handle the attrition that figures to come with that? Well see, but I think Gary Patterson's program is ready for the move. In 2011, the Horned Frogs had as many key freshmen and sophomores contributing as just about anyone. QB Casey Pachall had a very good first season replacing Andy Dalton. Now, the question is, can Pachall take the next step as a leader to elevate this team even higher and do all of the detail stuff in preparation that Dalton was so good at? The physical tools are certainly there. He also has a good supporting cast led by standout WR Josh Boyce and a deep group of RBs. LB Tanner Brock is back from injury to anchor the defense along with big-play DE Stansly Maponga and a more mature secondary.

10. FSU:
After the underwhelming season the Noles had following all of the hype they had entering 2011, I swore I wouldn't give in and allow myself to rank them in the top 10, so I had them at 11. Yet, here they are. This is something we in the media need to realize: The Noles are your preseason dirty addiction. They are that ex-girlfriend who still can put it together and show up at the other side of the bar and catch your eye. And then you give in, and not long after you feel foolish for it. Anyhow. Jimbo Fisher should have a nasty defense, led by a ferocious D-line. The O-line will be better with much-needed experience. Same for QB E.J. Manuel and a young group of receivers. They do have to go to Va. Tech this year and get WVU at home.  Just Missed the Cut: Michigan, South Carolina, Ohio State, K-State, Michigan State.




Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 12:51 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011


As we get close to the end of the regular season, it's time to get into our year-end awards. This week's Top 10: the best coaching jobs of 2011.

1. Bill Snyder, K-State: If the Wildcats beat Iowa State at home, they'll finish 10-2, which would be remarkable given there were such modest expectations for this team every place outside the KSU football complex. K-State was, after all, predicted to finish eighth in the 10-team Big 12 before the season began. Snyder's team had only two starters back on the O-line and uncertainty at QB, yet here they are in the Top 15. The Cats have had an absurd number of tight games and they've won a head-turning amount, going 7-1 in games decided by seven points or less. Before this year, the KSU program hadn't won more than seven games since 2003 when Snyder led them to an 11-3 record.

2. Les Miles, LSU: Yeah, I know his team may have more talent than any other squad in the country. But to make it through a season without a stumble, especially one with as many formidable opponents as they had is very, very impressive. Nothing seems to deter this guy or his damnfineteam. Lose the best defensive player in college football (Patrick Peterson)? No worries. Suspensions to key players? No big deal. Hostile road environments? No problem. Potential QB controversy? Who cares? The Tigers are steam-rolling their way to the BCS title game. They faced seven teams that were ranked in the top 25 when they played -- and only two of those games were in Baton Rouge -- and they won all seven with an averaging victory margin of 19 ppg.


Fans, you can voice your opinion for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year by voting HERE


3. Kevin Sumlin, Houston: This is the hottest coach in the country with a bunch of intriguing jobs coming open. Sumlin should be their first call. He has done a terrific job elevating this program. The Cougars, who only had 12 starters back, are 12-0 and in the top 10. He has made some brilliant coaching hires that are paying off in a big way on both sides of the ball. They are averaging over 53 ppg, but also are playing pretty solid defense, ranking No. 30 in scoring D and No. 3 in TFLs. The knock (because there almost always has to be some knock) is their schedule featured no ranked opponents, but the Cougars could only play who was on their schedule, and no one has been able to catch them.

4. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State: On the eve of this season, a member of Freeze's staff predicted this team would win the Sun Belt. Bold talk for a program that went 4-8 last year and hadn't had a winning season since 1995. The Red Wolves also only returned one starting O-lineman. But the assistant, D-line coach Chris Kiffin, had that much confidence in Freeze and what he was doing there. Monte Kiffin's younger son knew what he was talking about. ASU is 9-2 and 7-0 in Sun Belt play and Freeze's name is hot. He's either going to be the next head coach at Ole Miss, Southern Miss or Memphis. This is good offensive team and also only one of two squads that kept Va. Tech's great David Wilson under 5.0 yards per carry or under the 100-yard mark this season.

5. James Franklin, Vandy: I wrote in more detail about the transformation job the first-year head coach has done in Nashville in the Big Picture Sunday. In a nutshell, here's his case: A program that had won two games each of the past two years and then loses its best player to injury before the season (Warren Norman) yet still finds a way to go 6-6 in the SEC, and came very close to going 10-2. They lost games against Arkansas, Georgia, and at Florida and at Tennessee by a combined 19 points. If the Commodores win two of those, Franklin's No. 1 on this list.

6. Brady Hoke, Michigan: The Wolverines finally beat Ohio State after almost a 3,000-day stretch, and they won 10 games this season. Hoke deserves plenty of credit, although he did inherit a good situation with an explosive offense led by a dynamic QB and an experienced O-line. The biggest change came on defense where the Wolverines were lacking. His hire of Greg Mattison as DC is why Hoke's on this list. Mattison sparked a metamorphosis in this bunch, taking a unit that was No. 108 in scoring defense last season and turning it into the No. 9 D in the nation.


7. Willie Taggart, WKU: The former Jim Harbaugh assistant has transformed arguably the worst program in FBS to a respectable one this season. WKU, which had gone 4-32 the previous three years, looked like it was headed for more misery after the first month of the 2011 season. The Hilltoppers opened 0-4, even getting blown out by an average FCS team, Indiana State. But then they got rolling, winning seven of their last eight, which included wins over ULL and FIU, a couple of 8-4 teams.

8. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: A cult hero for his locker room speeches, Rhoads is emerging as a hot commodity, thanks in large part to his ability to contain potent offenses in big games and pull huge upsets. He was the architect behind the Pitt Panthers' stunning upset as a four-TD underdog of WVU when the Mountaineers were on the cusp of going to the BCS title game a few years ago. Earlier this month Rhoads' team did something similar by sparking the victory of another four-TD fav, Oklahoma State. In reality, it's a stunner this team is even bowl eligible if you asked Vegas experts before the season. Almost as impressive is his team's 5-0 record in games decided by six points or less.

9. Lane Kiffin, USC: At the mid-year point of this season, the people in Kiffin's corner seemed to be dwindling. The Trojans had looked shaky against some lowly opponents (Minnesota, Syracuse and Arizona) and got blown out at ASU. A road trip to Notre Dame was coming. ND played it up big. Outsiders talked about how Brian Kelly would out-coach Kiffin and the Irish would maul the Trojans. The opposite happened. Despite the shadow of the NCAA sanctions and no post-season bowl hopes, USC's been rolling ever since, picking up momentum. They ended Oregon's 21-game home winning streak, which had been the longest in the country. The Trojans finished the season hammering UCLA 50-0, meaning they beat their two archrivals by a combined score of 81-17.


10. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: I was close to putting UVA's Mike London in this spot but opted for Spurrier, who led the school to only its second 10-win season in Gamecocks history, despite losing his most valuable player, RB Marcus Lattimore early in the season, and on top of that had issues with his starting QB Stephen Garcia.





Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Honoring BC's tackling machine

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



From @kcflatlander Why doesn't Colin Klein get any pub for Heisman consideration?

There are three big reasons for that: first, Klein was completely off the radar before the season. No one knew or expected much from him outside of perhaps some folks in the state of Kansas. 

Second, he plays at a program that is far from a national name and gets obscured by having so many other Heisman hopefuls in his region. Going into the season, there were four such candidates at the Oklahoma schools alone. Then, Robert Griffin III at Baylor really flashed onto the Heisman picture in a big way over the first month. Klein and K-State really didn't start to get much notice until October. 

The third point is that for a QB to have a decent shot of getting into the Heisman race, he needs to either put up gaudy passing stats or play at a glamour program or, if he's a running QB, needs to put up big rushing numbers like an elite back to go with some highlight-reel runs. Klein's rushing totals are impressive. He's run for 1,009 yards (good for 26th in the nation) and has 24 rushing TDs. That last stat has prompted some Klein supporters to try and draw comparisons to Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman in 2007. The problem with that is Klein's passing numbers aren't close to Tebow's. 

Klein has a passing efficiency rating of 127 (ranking him 69th nationally) and a 10-5 TD-INT ratio. Tebow's rating was 172.5 (No. 2 in the country) to go with a 32-6 TD-INT mark, and his numbers came against tougher defenses in the SEC. Even if you use Denard Robinson's run last year, Klein's numbers are lacking. Robinson was in the top 20 in passing efficiency, was virtually a one-man offense and he still didn't win or get invited to NYC for the ceremony, and he plays at one of those few true glamour programs.


In reality, the off-the-radar guy I think deserves consideration in anything framed around the "Most Outstanding Player" talk in college football but has no shot at the Heisman is BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. He's leading the nation in tackles by three a game, which is a huge margin relatively speaking. But he plays defense and plays for a 3-7 team. Unfortunately, there is only so much a linebacker can do, even a great one. Kuechly's about the set the ACC career tackles record this weekend and it's fitting the team he's going to do it against, Notre Dame. His background is certainly worth sharing here though:


Kuechly
 was a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker at Cincinnati's St. Xavier High, a program that won a state title his junior year. He had a 4.0 GPA. He also was a lacrosse standout. "I kept telling every coach that came though here, this kid is special," St. X coach Steve Specht told me a while back. Ohio State though didn't offer Kuechly. Nor did Notre Dame or most of the top programs in the midwest. Duke was his first offer. The Blue Devils staff had a theory why other teams weren't sold: Kuechly, who wears glasses off the field, looked kinda, well, nerdy. And, he was soft-spoken. Coaches wants to see a guy who looks like Brian Urlacher, not like he could be writing computer programs. 

In his senior year, St. X was playing its rival St. Ignatius. Specht spotted Notre Dame defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta in attendance. "I'm here to see #3," Tenuta told Specht.

"My #3 (Kuechly)?" Specht asked.

"No, I'm here to see the other #3," replied Tenuta, referring to Dan Fox, a similarly-sized linebacker the Irish already had offered.

Kuechly caught a touchdown in the game and was all over the field on defense, but St. X lost in overtime and despite Specht's post-game-lobbying, the Irish still weren't interested. Kuechly opted to sign with Boston College. He was named the Eagles starting middle linebacker in his first game and has not come out of the line-up since. This year, Kuechly leads the nation in tackles for the second consecutive season and, at the very least, should take home the Butkus Award, honoring the country's top linebacker.


From @TheCBurns   Will Kevin Sumlin be coaching at Houston next year?

I'd be shocked if Sumlin is back at UH in 2012. The timing is too good for Sumlin not to make his leap to a bigger program now. The Cougars have a good shot to go to a BCS bowl this year. His QB Case Keenum is a senior and moves on after this season. Sumlin's name can't get much hotter than it is right now. There are some very intriguing jobs that are or are about to come open, which figure to court Sumlin: UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and UNC. My hunch is he ends up in the Pac-12 in 2012.



From @ixcuincle  will urban meyer coach in the near future?


  Yes, I'm convinced the temptation to get back into coaching is too great for Meyer. He was able to recharge his batteries for a year, spend some time with his family but knowing that one of the few jobs (Ohio State) that he sees as elite is open will drive him back to the sideline. I realize there have been some reports floated that it is a done deal. I'm told by a source those reports are premature, but look for him to be running the show in Columbus very soon.

From @
jhclay  in 07 everyone was against UGA for title as did not win div/conf even though #3 and top 2 lost. But now everyone wants Bama?

First, I'm not so sure that "everyone" wants Bama. There's a lot of people who have been vocal about Alabama not getting another shot at LSU. One of the reasons you hear is that viewers were bored by the lack of offense in a game where there wasn't a single touchdown. However, keep in mind pollsters are voting for the second-best team. They're not supposed to be doing so as programmers, seeking out potentially the most entertaining match-up.

There are some differences between that Georgia team and this year's Alabama squad. That was a two-loss Georgia team that had been blown out in the middle of the season by Tennessee by three TDs. No one has blown out Alabama. The Tide has the best defense in the country and hasn't allowed more than 10 points since September. They also have a potent running game, led by the best back in college football, Trent Richardson. They have one of the better wins of the season, crushing Arkansas 38-14. They also went up to State College and blasted Penn State. 

Another noticeable difference between 2007 UGA and 2011 Alabama is, at that point, the SEC hadn't been that far along on this run of BCS titles. That benefit of the doubt that the league is going to get wasn't really there. The run of five BCS titles in a row carries a lot of weight. To a lesser extent so does the fact that Bama just won a national title two years ago. That's still fresh in people's minds. The Dawgs, meanwhile, had gone unranked the previous season in the Coaches poll and had been upset by WVU in the Sugar Bowl the year before that.

From @
jasongrant19   please discuss the disaster that is ole miss football.

It is stunning how quickly that program has fallen apart in the past two years. To go from back-to-back Cotton Bowls and then to four wins and now to a year where they're looking at 2-10 is remarkable. Ole Miss has had some clunker teams over the years, and in the two years I was around Oxford, the Rebels were really mediocre, but those teams were at least competitive in most games. This team has been thumped by Vandy and La. Tech and lost by double-digits to a horrible Kentucky team. 

Houston Nutt walked into a decent set-up when he arrived at Ole Miss: lots of young talent that actually had plenty of SEC experience because those guys were forced into action probably sooner than they should'v been.  Dexter McCluster, Mike Wallace, Shay Hodge, Cassius Vaughn, Kendrick Lewis and Jonathan Cornell and some really good linemen became the nucleus of good, fast team. Nutt also inherited a gifted transfer QB (Jevan Snead) who was sitting out but poised to take over the offense as the program's best QB, by far, since Eli Manning left Oxford. Having that triggerman was crucial. You see how awful the program has been without it. That bunch of players that Nutt inherited had been coached hard by the previous staff. Nutt came in, eased up, threw them a bone and they responded well. 

The problems started to come because Nutt didn't recruit as hard as the old staff. You're able to get away with not recruiting as hard at Arkansas than you can at Ole Miss. His first few classes were huge, but loaded with misfires and guys who never made it to Oxford or didn't last long. He also allowed MSU to take over the recruiting in the state in his first few years. Eventually that caught up with him, as did the eased-up, players' coach mentality inside the program. The team had lost whatever edge was there in the early years of Nutt's tenure. Whoever replaces him will inherit quite a challenge. There is some talent, especially in a nice group of young receivers, but there are major questions about the QB and throughout the rest of the depth chart, especially on the lines. There also are APR issues the new coach is going to have to be very mindful of because they've had so much attrition the past few years there. It looks like this team has been mailing it in on the field so if you're the next coach you better hope they haven't been mailing it in off the field too by not going to classes.

Frrom @DatBoiMattyP Will you consider Geno Smith a top 5 QB next season?

  It really depends on which of junior QBs opt to return to college football for 2012. Remember, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones all have another season of eligibility remaining. The only ones I think of that quartet who may return to college are Griffin and Barkley.

Smith has had a good season in his first year in Dana Holgorsen's system which was a radical change from what he'd run previously at WVU. Smith's fifth in the country in passing yards (350 per game) and has a stellar 24-5 TD-INT ratio. The team has also soared from 78th in scoring last season to 16th. I expect a big jump from Smith again with more experience in the system and with added seasons from an already dynamic group of receivers who all are expected back in 2012: Tavon Austin, Steadman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. Smith will come into the season as a legit Heisman contender, not a darkhorse guy.

The other top QBs for 2012: Clemson's Tajh Boyd; Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Oregon's Darron Thomas, ASU's Brock Osweiler, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Iowa's James Vandenberg and Washington's Keith Price. Other young QBs closing in on that group: TCU's Casey Pachall, Illinois' NateScheelhasse, VTs Logan Thomas, FSU's E.J. Manuel and OSU's Braxton Miller.

From @DukeBlogMKline  probably not getting any DukeFB questions but how do you assess progress in year 4 of Cutcliffe. Closer or as far away as ever?

I realize the Blue Devils are in a 5-game losing, but Cutcliffe has things getting better in Durham. It's just that things had been so dismal there for so long, it's going to take a lot of time. Consider this: the current senior class at Duke has won 15 games in the past four years and they'll leave the school as the winningest group of seniors since 1997.

This program still doesn't have the depth to handle the wave of injuries that have hit. Some 20 players in their two-deep have missed at least one game this year. The bright side is Duke will return almost every significant player in the program save for one OT and a safety. They also redshirted most of their freshmen class. Team speed has definitely been upgraded. The Blue Devils should have a decent shot at getting to a bowl game in 2012.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com