Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Oklahoma
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: February 24, 2012 11:19 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 11:31 am
 

Friday Mailbag: Sizing up Andrew Luck

Time for the Friday Mailbag. As always, if you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @nrwester anything to be said abt the fact Luck had 2 top-15-pick lineman at school? What happens when he see's pressure?

We see that the guy also has sub-4.7 speed and can run like an WILL linebacker and we'll see that he's about as savvy as any QB prospect coming out of college in a very long time.

Andrew Luck did have two very gifted O-linemen in front of him in 2011. It also should be pointed out that the other three starters were inexperienced guys. Here's a better point on Luck: He led Stanford to 23 wins in the past two seasons while his best deep threat was a tight end. Wait till Andrew Luck gets some wide receivers who can separate and make yards after the catch.

I think he is going to be outstanding in the NFL. People know he's gifted, but I'm not sure people really just how smart, accurate and athletic or big this guy is. I would never use the words "cant' miss" to describe any QB prospect, but Andrew Luck is about as close as you're going to get at making the transition to the NFL.

From @AHBick who's your pick to win the Big 12? Full disclosure, I'm wearing crimson shades

With both Landry Jones and Mike Stoops returning to Norman this year, Oklahoma is my pick to win the Big 12. I think Mike Stoops will provide a spark to a defense that hasn't been quite as salty as what it was during his first stint at OU. There is plenty of talent for him to take advantage of in the back seven. This is also a team that got rocked by injuries last year to not only a bunch of gifted players, but guys who were also leaders (Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis for starters). That adversity may help them in the coming year with how the young players were tested.

I expect Oklahoma State to take a step back this year given the losses of their stars on offense. Plus Bedlam is in Norman this season. Baylor is likely to take an even bigger drop without RG3 and Kendall Wright. I'm not sure if K-State can be as successful just because the Wildcats won so many close games in 2011. It's hard to do that kind of thing two years in a row.

On the other hand, Texas will be improved. UT was so shaky on offense last year. There is a lot of good young talent there, but I'm skeptical they can be good enough at QB in 2012 to go from being a fringe Top 25 team to a legit Top 10 team.

The toughest competition for OU in the Big 12 race this year may come from the two newcomers. And the Sooners have to visit both WVU and TCU in 2012. Both have talented returning starters at QB with dynamic receiving corps. The Mountaineers probably will have the most explosive offense in the league and playing up there especially in mid-November is never easy. I still see OU as the most complete team in the conference though.

From @IceCoLD53 Ohio and ND are spread teams now. Is that helping UM recruiting for Hoke?

I actually think that has little to do with Michigan's recruiting success right now. The only real position where Urban Meyer's scheme would affect Michigan as it relates to recruiting needs is at QB, and the Wolverines got a commitment from Shane Morris long before the Buckeyes hired the former UF coach. Notre Dame just signed a QB, Gunner Kiel, who is no running quarterback. In terms of skill set, Kiel isn't much different from what Michigan is looking for now.

The big reason why UM is hot in recruiting has to do with the vibe of the program: The perception is the Wolverines are on the rise. They just won the Sugar Bowl. Everyone around the place has bought in that Brady Hoke is exactly what Michigan needs and he "gets" Michigan. The fact that they finally beat Ohio State only hammered that point home even harder. Kids and their high school coaches are excited about Michigan.

From @ChrisMonti Rutgers '12 outlook, one step back, then forward?

I'm not overly optimistic about that because the Big East is going to be so watered down, the perception is the conference is gonna be even less relevant. My hunch is it'll be that much harder for RU to compete with schools from the Big Ten and others when they go head-to-head on top talent around the Northeast. Can Kyle Flood do much more than Greg Schiano did? We'll see. It has become a tougher spot because of the conference's situation.

From @jlwdiggs does gunner Kiel already have the starting qb spot locked down for the irish?

I doubt it. As I said a few weeks back, Brian Kelly is sky high on redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who just seems to have that mythical "IT" quality, something this program has been lacking for a while.

It's never easy for a true freshman to come in and take over at QB. The issue with Kiel is, how does he cope with grinding away and competing for this job? If you heard California-based QB coach George Whitfield (the guy who trained Cam Newton before the draft and is working with Andrew Luck now) on our Signing Day Central show, he voiced some concerns about that after working with Kiel and other touted QB prospects at last summer's Elite 11 competition.

From @donniejonesjr What are the State of Alabama chances of keeping the BCS title for a fourth year in a row?

I'd categorized it as decent. Expect Bama to open the year in the preseason top four. The Tide's number of returning starters on both sides of the ball is relatively low, but they have some key guys back in emerging QB A.J. McCarron, coming off his strong performance in the BCS title game, the nucleus of the O-line and a quality big back in Eddie Lacy. Plus, you can never underestimate Nick Saban. He is that good of a coach. But I'm skeptical because they did lose a lot of proven playmakers on defense; they have to visit both LSU and Arkansas, and because it is just so hard to repeat in college football, the odds are really against them.

Auburn's chances, given all the staff turnover and inexperience, makes them too much of a long shot.

From @shockjay Who will have more wins next year: Kansas (Big 12) or Missouri (SEC)? 

Considering how awful KU was in 2011, I don't see the Jayhawks making that big of a jump in Charlie Weis' first season, although ND transfer Dayne Crist will give the offense a needed spark. Anything more than four wins is overly optimistic, though because the defense is brutal.

Meanwhile, their archrival does go into a much tougher league, but Mizzou returns a good, young QB in James Franklin and brings in the best WR recruit in the country in Dorial Green-Beckham. They should be even better on offense than they were in 2011, and they were pretty formidable on O, ranking 12th in total offense and 30th in scoring. We'll get a much truer gage on how the Tigers fit with the transition on Sept. 8 when Georgia comes to Columbia. The Dawgs have a strong defense and an experienced QB.

>I could see Mizzou 4-2 by the time Bama visits, but then the schedule gets thicker. My hunch is they can win seven games, but beyond that it's a stretch.

From @crsegar What would it take for Edsall to be fired after this season?

I've always thought that it's crazy to hire a guy and then fire him after just two or three seasons. You're just not giving the guy a chance to recruit to his system and establish his program. It does take time, and in some cases more than others. Now, if there is a scandal or NCAA issues, it's a different story in regards to how much room a new coach merits. And, for as bad as the Danny O'Brien transfer saga looks, it's nothing that some wins can't remedy from the Terps standpoint. 

You almost have no choice but to ride this out for another two seasons if you're Maryland. Randy Edsall's far from a first-time head coach. Maryland knew, or at least should've known what it was getting. Short of another 2-10 season, I don't see how they'd fire him, and even then, I'm not sure they'd pull the plug. Financially, it'd be such a hit for the school, but obviously thus far it's been disastrous but they're on the hook now and they have to give him a chance to turn things around.

From @Brad_Freeman What did you think of your trip to College Station, and your impressions of the new coaching staff?

It was a good day there. Kevin Sumlin's staff is one of the biggest reasons why I think he was such a good hire for A&M. My story from College Station will run on the site in a week or so.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Big Ten ready to flex muscle?


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

From @Mark Johnson  w SEC the best conf who do you think is the 2nd best after realignment?

There is a big drop-off between the SEC and the next-best conference. Having won six BCS titles in a row is quite an accomplishment and with four or five SEC teams expected to open the season in the top 12, it doesn't seem like anyone is close to make a move to overtake Mike Slive's league. 

  Going forward, I'd lean to the Big Ten in who I'd list as the next toughest conference. A big reason for that is Urban Meyer's arrival giving Ohio State and really the rest of the Big Ten such a jolt. On top of that you have Michigan now surging back on track, coming off a BCS Bowl win; Wisconsin coming off back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances; Michigan State coming off its best season in over a decade and Nebraska joining the league in 2011. The downside of it is the uncertainty of the direction Penn State is headed.

  The other conferences I had right there with the Big Ten are the Big 12 and the Pac-12. From an off-the-field component the Big 12 still seems fairly unstable given all of the uncertainty around it and its recent history. On the field, you've had Oklahoma State rise up with consecutive top 10 finishes. We'll see if Mike Gundy's program can sustain it. Same for Bill Snyder at K-State. Baylor had a fantastic season but figures to backslide some with RG3 gone. OU had a "disappointing" season yet still finished in the top 15 and now gets Mike Stoops back to run the defense. Texas appears to be on the way back up after two woeful seasons. 
 
The Big 12 also added two programs in WVU and TCU that are poised for big debut seasons because they both return a lot of young talent although the Horned Frogs, given this week's events and key player dismissals, definitely don't look as strong as they did a few days ago.

  Larry Scott's league is on much more solid footing than the Big 12 big picture, but it's still coming off a season where one of the teams that played in its title game, UCLA, finished with a 6-8 record. That doesn't speak well of the league when something like that happens. Chip Kelly just led Oregon to perhaps its best season ever, but the Ducks still have the Will Lyles recruiting mess hanging over the program. Stanford lost Andrew Luck and a couple of other top 15 draft picks and the Cardinal are likely to drop out of the top 20, although with the way David Shaw has recruited, it doesn't seem like this program will plummet off the national radar. USC is poised for a great 2012, but after Matt Barkley's senior year, the Trojans will have to deal with the meat of the NCAA's scholarship sanctions. After these three teams, the rest of the conference is in scuffling to get to be Top 25 caliber.

  From @Drew Conrad  what do you think about University of Utah promoting a 25-year-old to OC? 

  No question it's risky to flip the keys to a guy this young, but Brian Johnson has spent a lot of time around some very bright offensive minds, starting with Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen, going through Andy Ludwig and Norm Chow. That's a pretty interesting mix of coaches and styles. From the guys in the coaching world I've asked about Johnson, I've heard a lot of good things. Almost all of those guys keep talking about how focused and smart the former QB is.

His experience working with head coach Kyle Whittingham and knowing what he wants is also key for a new hire. Johnson's level of coaching experience isn't much less than what Kliff Kingsbury had when he took over play-calling duties at Houston, and that worked out great for the Cougars. The biggest difference there though is that Kingsbury's head coach Kevin Sumlin had been an OC before while Whittingham is a defensive guy.

  The short-term concerns here are that the team lost two very good offensive tackles and on top of that a terrific O-line coach, Tim Davis just left the program for Florida. And obviously, they need to get better at QB if they're going to be serious contenders in the Pac-12 South.

From @GoonerAggieFan Thoughts on the Staff that Kevin Sumlin has put together at A&M, including his most recent addition Terry Price?

  It is excellent. He brought one of the sharpest young offensive guys in coaching with him from UH in Kingsbury. That guy is going to be a star in this business very soon. He also brought one of his betters recruiters in the Southwest in Clarence McKinney, and landed USF D-coordinator Mark Snyder, who is one of the top defensive guys in the country. I'll have a lot more on the Aggies in a week or so. I'm heading to College Station in a few days.

  From @marty roberts  If FSU shores up OL, how far u think they can go this year? And where u think they start in rankings?

Given all of the youth and newcomers from the JC ranks they're adding into the mix, that is a pretty big if. I'd expect improvement, but can this group make such dramatic strides to go from being as shaky as they were last year to the caliber of being part of a BCS title contender? I have my doubts, especially when you consider after last season's hype, it's basically anything short of a top-five season will be seen as a major disappointment/underachieving yet again. 

  The line was a mess last year. FSU was 110th in sacks allowed and 104th in rushing. You can't be an elite team no matter how tough your defense is being so bad in both those stats. 

The other big key is E.J. Manuel also needs to take a significant step forward and become much more consistent. Part of his struggles, no doubt, were due to the inexperienced O-line and to his injuries, but you look at just how much he and the Noles struggled in their regular season finale at UF and it's clear this is still a team with a lot of work ahead.

As far as where the Noles will open the season, I'd expect them to begin around No. 11 or 12. On paper, there is a lot of reasons for enthusiasm: returning QB coming off a pretty good first season as a starter with a gifted young group of receivers, an outstanding defense returning and the influx of (another) touted signing class. The problem: it seems like we've heard much of these same reasons why FSU is finally poised to compete for a BCS title again before, almost annually in fact, and for a variety of reasons, it hasn't came true and things fizzled out. And, why I used the word "problem" is that I suspect that notion isn't something only the media now believes, it's something players on the team hear about so much that it's a challenge to not let that mindset seep into the locker room: 'O.K., what's going to creep up and muck things up for us this time?'

From @Omer Subhani how good/bad was recruiting job by All Golden considering circumstances? TheU

  The recruiting job Golden's staff at Miami did this year, considering the circumstances of the avalanche of publicity the Nevin Shapiro story got, and the fact that there is an on-going NCAA investigation still hanging over the program, was remarkable.

As I said on our Signing Day Central show, I think there were three big keys to this class: the first was having a local star hold firm on being very public about his desire to be a Cane as Duke Johnson, perhaps the most dynamic running back prospect in the country, did. The second was stocking up on depleted positions (WR, D-line and DBs) with scholarship restrictions looming. The third was finishing with a flourish to build up that momentum going forward, and by reeling in Tracy Howard, the nation's top CB recruit, Golden did that in a big way. Remember, Howard was a kid who just a few weeks earlier was said to be a long-shot for Miami. Highly touted DE Tyriq McCord was another big late pick-up who many top programs chased hard.

If Golden can land a class this deep and talented in the face of all of the Shapiro stuff/NCAA player suspensions, it'll be interesting to see what he can do at Miami once the NCAA's ruling finally is known.

From @djr98 wat do u think of arkansas for 2012? 

  I like the Hogs chances to be a top 10 team, but I don't like their chances to win the SEC West and compete for a BCS title. Reasons for a top 10 run: Tyler Wilson is back, along with Knile Davis and they do get LSU and Bama at home this year. Reasons why I don't think they can win the SEC: I'm not sold on the defense. It wasn't good enough in 2011 and they're losing most of the best players they had on that D to the NFL.

From @joe king Who's gonna be next years Sammy Watkins,An can Hugh Freeze recruit well enough after Mullin has dominated the State this yr.

  I'll go with Dorial Green-Beckham being the biggest impact freshman wideout. He has freakish athleticism at 6-6, 225 and will play in a wide-open offense at Mizzou with a promising young QB (James Franklin) where they run the ball well enough to stress defenses. That should enable DGB to have a lot of big-play opportunities.

  Freeze is an ultra-aggressive recruiter and a good salesman. He also knows the area around Ole Miss as well as any coach they could've hired. I suspect he'll probably end up offering more scholarships before the summer than any coach in the country. I have no doubts he will get some talented players to Oxford. He was able to nab a couple already.

The on-field product is going to be mediocre for a few years, though. Freeze inherited a complete mess from Houston Nutt. Recruiting there had really tailed off save for Nitt's final class there. The program was in disarray and that won't be mended overnight. Dan Mullen just put together a very strong class, especially on the D-line and at linebacker. There is a pretty sizeable gap for Freeze to try and close.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

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

From @Philly_Sak Given all the circumstances, how do you feel Bill O'Brien did salvaging the PSU recruiting class?

As you mentioned, the circumstances around this class were so catastrophic, relatively speaking, people couldn't have expected too much after all that has been happening around State College of late. On top of all of that, you also had a new head coach without any head coaching track record having spent most of his time away from his new program while he finishes up with in the NFL. That is A LOT to overcome.


Recruiting analysts ranked the class around No. 50 nationally and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. That's actually better than what I would've expected given the circumstances. Of course, we try not to read too much into the team rankings especially. After all, a few years ago, Stanford signed a class that was ranked around No. 50 nationally and in retrospect the group with Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and others should've been no lower than No. 2 overall. 
 
  The downside is six prospects who had verbaled to PSU opted to go some place else. Many of them will play in the Big Ten but for Ohio State. They did hang on to touted WR Eugene Lewis, a local kid who all the recruiting sites are very high on. DL Jamil Pollard and Brian Gaia, an offensive lineman from Maryland, are two other coveted recruits bound for Penn State. 

While it helped that O'Brien immediately retained Larry Johnson who had been the program's best recruiter, I really think due to all of the above this was about as close to a lost class as a big-time program will ever have. 

On the bright side, there have been reports this week that many top 2013 recruits, including one of the top-ranked tight ends, Adam Breneman are high on PSU and O'Brien. You'd have to think O'Brien's work in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will help sell guys like Breneman, and if he can reel in a highly touted 2013 recruit early that will stir some much-needed momentum with the next wave of kids. But recruiting is going to be an uphill battle there for quite some time and Meyer and Brady Hoke having as much momentum as they do now is only going to make it that much harder. Beyond that, Wisconsin has never been stronger coming off consecutive Rose Bowl trips.

  From @ClintonOftedahl After USC/Barkley, which schools made out the best with players postponing the NFL Draft?

I agree that no program made out any better than USC sorting out which underclassmen stayed/left for the NFL. The Trojans did lose their best lineman in LT Matt Kalil and their top pass rusher, DE Nick Perry, but it was Barkley, who will be a four-year starter and has been the leader of this team the past two seasons, that was the pivotal guy. They also retained T.J. McDonald, one of the nation's top safeties, who is the leader of the defense. If Barkley bolted, I expect the Trojans would be an eight or nine-win team. With him, they are a legit national title contender.

At No. 2 in terms of schools that benefitted the most from the stay/go status, I'd put Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has to feel good about having LB Manti Te'o for another season and they also keep Tyler Eifert, one of the country's better tight ends. Eifert is a big plus for a team that lost its best weapon, WR Michael Floyd and has issues at quarterback. Having a legit go-to guy like Eifert for 2012 will be huge for whoever becomes the starting QB.

Right after them, I'd put Oklahoma, which retains Landry Jones, who three months ago, most observers figured was a lock to leave. Another fan base that should be breathing a big sigh of relief is Arkansas. The Hogs QB Tyler Wilson gave a lot of consideration to bolting for the NFL in the days leading up to the deadline, but he's going to be back as is RB Knile Davis.

For the fifth spot, I'd list Georgia. The Dawgs lost gifted tight end Orson Charles but didn't lose LB Jarvis Jones or DB Baccari Rambo. The last big "winner" here I'll mention is Wisconsin. Most top young running backs tend to jump to the NFL when they get the chance. Montee Ball, who just capped off a magnificent season, didn't jump, and that's surprising.

From @Falb7 Does Urban Meyer have a right to be upset with Bret Bielema's comments about his recruiting tactics?

As I said last week, it's hard to sift though much of the finger-pointing and backtalk we had in the aftermath of signing day. None of the guys involved ever come out looking better for being a part of that, although selfishly I do think it does spice up subplots to the games in the fall and sweeten potential rivalries or, in some cases, foster new ones. 

  No coach ever likes to get accused by a peer especially for shady business on the recruiting trail. The perception-is-reality stuff has to be frustrating but as long as it doesn't turn off recruits, and that sure doesn't seem to be the case with Ohio State, I doubt Meyer will lose any sleep over it. Rival coaches only tend to grouse about people's success. They never seem to pay much attention to anyone that isn't impacting their own success. Or the guy who is going 3-9 and signing all of the "two-star" kids. 

 

The one thing that doesn't sit well, and this was something a lot of Florida fans pointed out was that Meyer had been very outspoken as he left coaching for what he deemed unethical recruiting methods that had been increasing in recent years. Some of Meyer's critics, such as Mike Bianchi, have called him out on that.


"What I've seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession," Meyer said in one radio interview last year. "It's completely turned the other way. Right now, it's not good because the risk-reward is 'have at it, do what you've got to do to get the great player, go win games and at the end of the day we'll find out what happens down the road.' "


From @jgeer92376  A CFB question - which team of Stanford, Baylor, Oregon, Michigan State or Wisconsin will suffer the most for losing their QB?
 

It's a toss-up between Stanford and Baylor. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were as close to "Franchise QBs" or program-elevators as we've seen in the last 20 years. Even though both programs are in much better positions now than when before both QBs signed with them out of high school, there is going to be significant drop-off in 2012. After that, I'd put Michigan State next because of all Kirk Cousins meant to his program on and off-the-field the past four years. The program that loses the least: Oregon. Darron Thomas was a good QB, especially in that system, but Bryan Bennett was already nipping at his heels and redshirt Marcus Mariota is right there pushing him.

From @MR_SOUTH_BEACH where do you see mich being ranked in the preseason poll and can they beat alabama ?

I had them No. 11 in my early rankings for 2012. The program has some nice momentum coming off an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke's first year. And, the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, which is huge for their psyche in Ann Arbor. 

For the Wolverines to take the next step and be a national title contender, which is where they'd need to be to knock off Alabama this year, Denard Robinson needs to be much sharper as a passer. He actually seemed to regress in 2011. His completion percentage was way down (from 63 percent to 55 percent) and he threw four more INTs despite quite a few less attempts. He also got away with some jump balls that could've turned into more picks. You'd think the off-season with time to review his work in his first season with OC Al Borges would be a good thing in that regard. We'll see. There is plenty of talent around him (especially RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who after Montee Ball is near the top for running backs in the Big Ten), but they are going to miss center David Molk, who was solid anchoring the line.


They also need to find a way to get tougher on defense, which isn't going to be easy considering they have to replace NG Mike Martin. But there are a lot of very promising young players who got settled in last fall and should thrive with another off-season with Greg Mattison. Keep an eye on Jake Ryan, a budding star there.

Alabama is losing a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. However, they still may have the best O-line in the country and the back-ups Nick Saban had on D probably were better than anyone else's, save for maybe LSU. That Tide group also is better than most people's starters.  Hoke has his share of playmakers, starting with Robinson, and Mattison is one of the brightest defensive minds around. Bama also is going to be young in most spots, so it's not unrealistic to think Michigan could pull off the upset. Still, to see a Big Ten team beat the defending national champs, especially one that is NOT breaking in a new QB definitely would be a head-turner of major proportions.

From @cbhenn What's your pre-spring SEC East 1-7 predictions for 2012?

I have Georgia winning the East. The Dawgs have a very good, experienced D returning and a savvy QB in Aaron Murray. After that, I have South Carolina. I could see Tennessee coming in third as my surprise team. The Vols will no longer be a young team. They'll have a lot of three-year starters on what figures to be a potent offense. They will be counting on a lot of unproven guys on the D-line but my hunch is they have a shot to win nine this year. I slotted UF fourth ahead of Mizzou because they have a much deeper group of athletes on defense. After that, I have Vandy and UK rounding out the division.

From @Tavon4Heisman Does Geno Smith have a better shot at a Heisman now that WVU will be in the Big 12 as opposed to playing in the Big East?

No doubt. He and WVU finished the year with a strong statement, scoring 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. All of the key skill guys are back and should be even better with another off-season to fine-tune the timing of Dana Holgorsen's system. And now, Smith moves to a bigger stage in a much more high-profile league. Four of the past 10 Heisman winners came from Big 12 schools. That's more than any other conference can claim. If Smith has a big season, and he should, he will be right in the mix to get to New York and perhaps with the trophy. He is going to need some help though from his team's defense because no matter how eye-popping his stats are, if WVU is no better than 8-4, he won't win it.


From Matthew Parten in Auburn, AL: What, in your opinion will end up being the most important off season development for Auburn this year - the premature departures of Gus Malzahn, Barrett Trotter, and Michael Dyer, the hire of Brian Van Gorder, the decisions by Onterio McCalebb and Philip Lutzenkirken to remain at school for their Senior seasons, or the upcoming hire of an offensive coordinator?  

The hire of Van Gorder, who had so much success at Georgia, was a good move. His experience in the league will help a lot, but I'd say the most important development was the departure of Malzahn. Even though things dropped off dramatically in 2011, and much of that can be traced to Cam Newton and most of the O-line being gone, Malzahn is still one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. He's proven in recent years to be a very savvy play-caller and game-planner. Plus, you can also tie in the departure of a stud running back/workhorse such as Dyer and it makes it sting that much more.

From @cnichollHays  You've brought up a lot of interesting stats in the "Stats that Matter" feature...what is the most interesting stat uve seen


There have been a lot of them that I was really intrigued by the more we discussed them. Tom Herman, the new offensive coordinator at Ohio State, had a really interesting one called the "double positive"that was fun to track and Texas DC Manny Diaz willingness to embrace the Moneyball mind set was cool to write about as well.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:02 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Best assistant moves

As we try and size up the best and worst head coaching hires of the the past few months, I thought it was worth delving into some of the top in-the-trenches guys and staffers who made news but on a much smaller scale during "the silly season" that is the coaching carousel. This week's Top 10: best assistant moves:

1. Oklahoma hiring back Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator: Some Sooner fans have been lamenting the Mike Stoops Jinx for years now noting that OU football hasn't been as tough or as effective, especially in big games since Bob Stoops' fiery brother left for Arizona. On paper, the younger Stoops brother certainly left a mark, coaching OU to the top or near the top in almost every significant defensive statistic. He also sparked OU to a school-best 48 wins over a four-year stretch from 2000-03 that included a BCS national title. During that four-year stretch OU had three top-five finishes and produced 10 All-Americans on defense. In the eight years since he's been out of Norman, the Sooners have only had two top-five finishes and six All-Americans on D. 

2. Washington hires Tosh Lupoi as D-line coach: The Huskies had been atrocious on defense prompting Steve Sarkisian to make some tough changes. One of them meant breaking the bank for the 30-year old former Cal assistant, who helped mentor some really good defensive linemen for the Golden Bears with Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu both becoming first-rounders in recent years. However, Lupoi's biggest impact comes off the field, where his departure shook up the recruiting world in the past few months. Five-star DB Shaq Thompson took a late visit up to U-Dub and ended up signing with the Huskies. Lupoi also got long-time USC DE commit Pio Vatuvei to flip to Washington on Signing Day. If Lupoi doesn't bolt for Seattle, Cal probably reels in a Top 10 recruiting class despite the fact that it has a sub .500 record in league play the past three years. But the coach's exit torpedoed that, and yes, it was messy. Expect many more fireworks in the coming year and for U-Dub to be a player nationally on the recruiting scene as long as Lupoi is with the Huskies.

3. Michigan State retains DC Pat Narduzzi: Arguably the most underrated defensive coordinator in college football, Narduzzi was courted by Kevin Sumlin after the new Texas A&M coach arrived at the SEC program, but MSU was able to hang onto the Youngstown product. That's quite a coup for the Spartans. In 2010, Narduzzi led MSU to one of its better defensive seasons in years. But going into last season he had to replace four of the top five tacklers, including star LB Greg Jones. The result: the Spartans played even better. MSU was No. 6 in the country in total defense; No. 10 in scoring; No. 7 in sacks and No. 9 against the run. They won 11 games and finished in the Top 10 for the first time since the Nick Saban days in the late '90s.

4. UNC lands Vic Koenning as its defensive coordinator: One of the best moves Ron Zook made at Illinois was flipping the keys to Koenning to run his defense. Koenning transformed the Illini D from 91st nationally to No. 7 in one year. He also sparked a dramatic improvement in K-State's defense at his previous stop. In his last stint in the ACC, at Clemson, Koenning (pronounced "CONE-ing") did something no other Tiger DC ever could do:  Each of his four defenses from 2005-2008 finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense each season.

5. Urban Meyer reunites with Mickey Marotti as Ohio State gets a new strength coach: A huge key for Meyer in his run at UF was surrounding himself with a great staff. With the possible exception of Charlie Strong, no other assistant was more vital to UF's success in that time than Marotti, who goes back with Meyer to their days in Columbus in the late 80s when both were just beginning their coaching careers. When Meyer talked about his new staff at OSU, Marotti was the one he called his "most important hire." The one-time OSU grad assistant developed 22 All-Americans and eight first-rounders during his seven years in Gainesville.



6. Jim Mora recruits his ace recruiters: The new UCLA head coach had never really worked in college and there was a lot of skepticism about how the NFL lifer would acclimate to things like recruiting. Well, Mora wasted little time getting up to speed by landing a couple of assistants with deep California connections in O-line coach Adrian Klemm and Demetrice Martin, a pair of aggressive young assistants who grew up in the L.A. area. Martin helped snag Ellis McCarthy, perhaps the top defensive lineman on the West Coast, along with touted DE Jeremy Castro, while Klemm nabbed a bunch of other blue-chippers that included CB Ishmael Adams, WR Jordan Payton and OT Lacy Westbrook.

7. Paul Chryst brings O-line coach Bob Bostad to Pitt: The Panthers were beyond brutal up front. They ranked dead last in the NCAA in sacks allowed with an eye-popping 64-- 17 more than the next worst team. You almost never see such wide gaps in the pits of the NCAA ineptitude stats. That figures to get a whole lot better under Chryst and Bostad. The former Badger O-line coach developed four all-Americans in the past two seasons alone (Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz) as Wisconsin rushed for over 3,000 yards the past two seasons en route to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. Bostad's O-line actually allowed two few sacks in the past three seasons combined in 40 games than Pitt surrendered in 2011.

8. Rich Rodriguez finally gets Jeff Casteel back to run his defense: Rodriguez' biggest shortcoming from his time at Michigan was not being able to have his former WVU DC with him to run the Wolverines defense. Casteel has coached defenses that have finished in the top 15 in scoring D in four of the previous seven seasons. In 2010, the Mountaineers were third in the nation in scoring defense. Better still, Casteel is bringing a couple of WVU defensive assistants with him to Tucson who knew exactly what he wants and does. They will have plenty of work ahead of them in the most diverse offensive league as they inherit a team that was 107th in scoring defense and 116th in sacks.

9. Florida goes to Boise for its new OC: Charlie Weis had a very shaky season in Gainesville as the Gators stumbled in their transition season out of the Urban Meyer offense, finishing 105th in the country in total offense. Pease moves south after working with one of the most productive QBs in college history (Kellen Moore). The 47-year-old Pease also had a lot of success in his days at Montana in the 90s and had some good moments leading an undermanned Kentucky offense in the SEC before moving to Boise.

10. Mike Locksley is back at Maryland: No doubt Locksley had a disastrous run as New Mexico's head coach, going 2-26 and being at the center of a few off-field scandals. He signs on with second-year coach Randy Edsall, who had a disastrous beginning with the Terps going 2-10 with only one win over an FBS opponent. But never underestimate the recruiting juice Locksley has, especially in that part of the country.  He will get kids who would never get within sniffing distance of Edsall's program to give the Terps a long, hard look now. And the school made sure to sweeter Locksley's deal on that front. According to the Washington Post, if Maryland is ranked in the top 40 by either Rivals.com or Scout.com's recruiting rankings on National Signing Day, Locksley will earn $25,000. He'll also get an additional $20,000 if the Terrapins place in the top four of ACC teams in the Rivals.com or Scout.com's rankings on National Signing Day.
Posted on: January 27, 2012 2:08 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 9:50 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The fallout from Schiano's exit

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

  From @MRPRFCT why is Greg Schiano getting a pass from media for leaving his team just before signing day? This will wreck Rutgers for years.  
 
I think it's because he coached at Rutgers over a decade and he leaves that program dramatically better than when he accepted the job. Rutgers football was a punch line wen Schiano was hired there. He didn't turn the program into a powerhouse but he made it respectable, viable. They won five bowl games and had a top 12 season, when RU went 11-2 in 2006. They just went 9-4. They also had among the top graduation rates and APRs at the FBS level. Granted, he never did win a Big East title, and his 28-48 lifetime record in the middling Big East isn't one that will be touted in his Bucs bio, but let's not forget just how abysmal this program was a decade ago. 
 
Previously Schiano turned down chances to coach at Miami and Michigan, two much bigger programs to stay at home in New Jersey. I had heard from a Rutgers source a few years back how hard Schiano tried to get back in on the Michigan job after initially dismissing it once he heard the Wolverines were about to hire Rich Rodriguez. Those close to Schiano, and there aren't that many of them, say he wondered how much bigger Rutgers football could actually get. Was it tapped out? It didn't sit well with the coach that even when the program had significant Big East games, fan interest didn't mirror what the head guy expected he should see from a big-time football school.

Make no mistake, Schiano ran the place. There were a t-shirts made about the three bosses in New Jersey: Tony (Soprano), Bruce (Springsteen) and Greg. The school really upgraded facilities and made a big commitment to him, but ultimately a new challenge intrigued him.

One other note about this, and it relates to the Bucs' courtship of Oregon coach Chip Kelly: Schiano leaving his school feels different than if the Ducks coach left for the NFL. The biggest reason for that I think is because of the cloud of the NCAA investigation surrounding Will Lyles and Oregon. It would be no stretch for people (recruits especially) to infer that part of the reason Kelly was leaving was because there must be some hefty sanctions coming Oregon's way. Schiano and Rutgers wasn't connected to anything like that.

From @PaulPabst Off Rutgers...would you rather have a coach leave a week before or after signing day? 

  Before. No doubt, it puts the school in a worst spot, but at least the recruits know the head coach won't be there before they sign anything binding. Many of these kids still may be able to consider other options without having to sit out a season if they don't feel comfortable with the program they're committed to. 

I realize lots of people like to say that recruits should be signing with a school, not for a coach, but that isn't that realistic given how much time and how big a part of their college careers the coaching staff and the system they run is tied into how most of these kids will do in their playing career.

Obviously, such a shake-up is not going to be good for Rutgers recruiting. It will be interesting to see what AD Tim Pernetti does going forward. One of Schiano's buddies, Butch Davis bolted Miami close to signing day too, although not quite this close. The school, based in part on the lobbying of the upperclassmen, stayed in house and hired Larry Coker. The Canes recruiting classes lost one prospect (a wideout who never made an impact in college) and ended up getting a few other guys who proved to be stars. But that Miami team was in a much different situation than where Rutgers is.

  No question there is panic here among those around Rutgers given it is so close to signing day and Schiano was in the midst of landing his highest-rated class. An interesting subplot to this is that one of the blue-chippers RU had a good shot was QB/Athlete Devin Fuller, who by virtue of Schiano finally leaving Rutgers, may now end up being the top guy in Rich Rodriguez' first signing class at Arizona.

From @kacie_phillips  How do you perceive Big12 football in the upcoming season?

The conference has a good chance at a big year because the two traditional super-powers (Oklahoma and Texas) figure to be improved. The Sooners get Landry Jones back to help run the offense and Mike Stoops to amp up the defense. The Longhorns were really young in 2011. They now have had more time to grasp what that overhauled staff is looking for. The other big boost the conference gets is the two new programs: TCU and WVU are primed to hit the ground running. Both have experienced QBs and stacked offenses.

  On the flipside, it's hard to think Baylor, losing Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright, can be as good as the Bears were in 2011. Oklahoma State also lost a lot of key guys and will struggle to match last season's huge success. K-State, though, should still be a headache for the rest of the league.


From @timmcdsmc what do the gators need and what will they get for this years recruiting class?

  I think it's big for them to keep replenishing their O-line as well as upgrade the WR and RB positions. They seem to have done a really good job of the former with D.J. Humphries, Jessamen Dunker and Dante Phillips, and they still have a good shot at OT Avery Young and Jake Meador.


As for as the latter, Matt Jones is a really physical big running back and should be a great addition for Will Muschamp. But they still need to finish strong and land at least one of the elite wideouts they're really in the mix for: Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs. One other big thing for Muschamp is just like every other school is trying to get as many elite players into their program, he appears to be reeling in a whole bunch on defense and if he can upgrade the toughness and also bring in more good character guys who just love football, it will pay off sooner than later.

From @KaneSearch  where does shaq thompson end up?

My guess is he still ends up at Cal but I wouldn't rule out Washington.


From @George_Reta  how strong do you see Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, and co. finishing the class this year for the Trojans?
 
 
Despite not having many slots to fill, the Trojans' recruiting class is as up in the air, waiting for blue-chip talent to decide as perhaps any other program in the country, meaning a bigger percentage of how they do really does hang in the balance. The biggest area to keep an eye on is O-linemen: they are in the mix for three elite tackles: Zach Banner, Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat. My hunch is they reel in at least Banner. I'd say it's 70-30 they get one of the other two, with Murphy seeming a more realistic get. USC also is thin on numbers at receiver and is battling for Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor. I hear they have a better shot at Agholor.

Defensively, the biggest name guys they're in the mix for are DL Aziz Shittu, DE Tyriq McCord and DE Leonard Williams. Considering how many D-linemen they signed a year ago, getting any of these guys would be a bonus, assuming the Trojans are able to hang on to Pio Vatuvei to go along with DE Morgan Breslin, a JC player already signed.

From @AndoRez Where are the big QB battles at this spring? I know Auburn will have a new starter for the 6th year in a row.

As is usually the case, there are going to be a bunch of them. The Tigers definitely have one, which is spiced up by the arrival of Scot Loeffler, the new OC and the continued development of Kiehl Frazier. Oregon has an intriguing one with Darron Thomas jumping to the NFL. Bryan Bennett has some game experience and is talented, but people around the Ducks program are very high on redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota. Wisconsin and Michigan State both have good running backs to rely on, but could be top 15 teams again if they can find a QB almost as efficient as the guys they just had.



The battles to replace Andrew Luck at Stanford, Kellen Moore at Boise and RGIII at Baylor will also have a lot of eye balls on them. On the opposite side of things, the Texas QB situation is still cloudy although David Ash appears to have the inside track at taking over in Austin.
Another one I'll be interested to see play out is at Texas A&M. The Aggies have a new coach (Kevin Sumlin), a new, tougher conference (SEC) and a new more wide-open offensive system (under Kliff Kingsbury). Keep an eye on early enrollee Matt Davis, one of the most dynamic athletes to ever get a crack at running this scheme.



From @LeeHutson  Is there any indication as to when the NCAA will announce its findings and punishment regarding the UNC investigation?



Best guess any of us can offer is it should come out by the spring. I realize that is a big ballpark, but whenever people try to work off previous NCAA timelines, as was the case with the USC situation, it took much longer. The UNC case is very multi-layered because cases involving agents tend to be even messier than others that the NCAA has to sort though.
Posted on: January 27, 2012 2:04 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The fallout from Schiano's exit

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

  From @MRPRFCT why is Greg Schiano getting a pass from media for leaving his team just before signing day? This will wreck Rutgers for years.  
 
I think it's because he coached at Rutgers over a decade and he leaves that program dramatically better than when he accepted the job. Rutgers football was a punch line wen Schiano was hired there. He didn't turn the program into a powerhouse but he made it respectable, viable. They won five bowl games and had a top 12 season, when RU went 11-2 in 2006. They just went 9-4. They also had among the top graduation rates and APRs at the FBS level. Granted, he never did win a Big East title, and his 28-48 lifetime record in the middling Big East isn't one that will be touted in his Bucs bio, but let's not forget just how abysmal this program was a decade ago. 
 
Previously Schiano turned down chances to coach at Miami and Michigan, two much bigger programs to stay at home in New Jersey. I had heard from a Rutgers source a few years back how hard Schiano tried to get back in on the Michigan job after initially dismissing it once he heard the Wolverines were about to hire Rich Rodriguez. Those close to Schiano, and there aren't that many of them, say he wondered how much bigger Rutgers football could actually get. Was it tapped out? It didn't sit well with the coach that even when the program had significant Big East games, fan interest didn't mirror what the head guy expected he should see from a big-time football school.

Make no mistake, Schiano ran the place. There were a t-shirts made about the three bosses in New Jersey: Tony (Soprano), Bruce (Springsteen) and Greg. The school really upgraded facilities and made a big commitment to him, but ultimately a new challenge intrigued him.

One other note about this, and it relates to the Bucs' courtship of Oregon coach Chip Kelly: Schiano leaving his school feels different than if the Ducks coach left for the NFL. The biggest reason for that I think is because of the cloud of the NCAA investigation surrounding Will Lyles and Oregon. It would be no stretch for people (recruits especially) to infer that part of the reason Kelly was leaving was because there must be some hefty sanctions coming Oregon's way. Schiano and Rutgers wasn't connected to anything like that.

From @PaulPabst Off Rutgers...would you rather have a coach leave a week before or after signing day? 

  Before. No doubt, it puts the school in a worst spot, but at least the recruits know the head coach won't be there before they sign anything binding. Many of these kids still may be able to consider other options without having to sit out a season if they don't feel comfortable with the program they're committed to. 

I realize lots of people like to say that recruits should be signing with a school, not for a coach, but that isn't that realistic given how much time and how big a part of their college careers the coaching staff and the system they run is tied into how most of these kids will do in their playing career.

Obviously, such a shake-up is not going to be good for Rutgers recruiting. It will be interesting to see what AD Tim Pernetti does going forward. One of Schiano's buddies, Butch Davis bolted Miami close to signing day too, although not quite this close. The school, based in part on the lobbying of the upperclassmen, stayed in house and hired Larry Coker. The Canes recruiting classes lost one prospect (a wideout who never made an impact in college) and ended up getting a few other guys who proved to be stars. But that Miami team was in a much different situation than where Rutgers is.

  No question there is panic here among those around Rutgers given it is so close to signing day and Schiano was in the midst of landing his highest-rated class. An interesting subplot to this is that one of the blue-chippers RU had a good shot was QB/Athlete Devin Fuller, who by virtue of Schiano finally leaving Rutgers, may now end up being the top guy in Rich Rodriguez' first signing class at Arizona.

From @kacie_phillips  How do you perceive Big12 football in the upcoming season?

The conference has a good chance at a big year because the two traditional super-powers (Oklahoma and Texas) figure to be improved. The Sooners get Landry Jones back to help run the offense and Mike Stoops to amp up the defense. The Longhorns were really young in 2011. They now have had more time to grasp what that overhauled staff is looking for. The other big boost the conference gets is the two new programs: TCU and WVU are primed to hit the ground running. Both have experienced QBs and stacked offenses.

  On the flipside, it's hard to think Baylor, losing Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright, can be as good as the Bears were in 2011. Oklahoma State also lost a lot of key guys and will struggle to match last season's huge success. K-State, though, should still be a headache for the rest of the league.


From @timmcdsmc what do the gators need and what will they get for this years recruiting class?

  I think it's big for them to keep replenishing their O-line as well as upgrade the WR and RB positions. They seem to have done a really good job of the former with D.J. Humphries, Jessamen Dunker and Dante Phillips, and they still have a good shot at OT Avery Young and Jake Meador.


As for as the latter, Matt Jones is a really physical big running back and should be a great addition for Will Muschamp. But they still need to finish strong and land at least one of the elite wideouts they're really in the mix for: Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs. One other big thing for Muschamp is just like every other school is trying to get as many elite players into their program, he appears to be reeling in a whole bunch on defense and if he can upgrade the toughness and also bring in more good chancracter, guys who just love football, it will pay off sooner than later.

From @KaneSearch  where does shaq thompson end up?

My guess is he still ends up at Cal but I wouldn't rule out Washington.


From @George_Reta  how strong do you see Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, and co. finishing the class this year for the Trojans?
 
 
Despite not having many slots to fill, the Trojans' recruiting class is as up in the air, waiting for blue-chip talent to decide as perhaps any other program in the country, meaning a bigger percentage of how they do really does hang in the balance. The biggest area to keep an eye on is O-linemen: they are in the mix for three elite tackles: Zach Banner, Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat. My hunch is they reel in at least Banner. I'd say it's 70-30 they get one of the other two, with Murphy seeming a more realistic get. USC also is thin on numbers at receiver and is battling for Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor. I hear they have a better shot at Agholor.

Defensively, the biggest name guys they're in the mix for are DL Aziz Shittu, DE Tyriq McCord and DE Leonard Williams. Considering how many D-linemen they signed a year ago, getting any of these guys would be a bonus, assuming the Trojans are able to hang on to Pio Vatuvei to go along with DE Morgan Breslin, a JC player already signed.

From @AndoRez Where are the big QB battles at this spring? I know Auburn will have a new starter for the 6th year in a row.

As is usually the case, there are going to be a bunch of them. The Tigers definitely have one, which is spiced up by the arrival of Scot Loeffler, the new OC and the continued development of Kiehl Frazier. Oregon has an intriguing one with Darron Thomas jumping to the NFL. Bryan Bennett has some game experience and is talented, but people around the Ducks program are very high on redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota. Wisconsin and Michigan State both have good running backs to rely on, but could be top 15 teams again if they can find a QB almost as efficient as the guys they just had.



The battles to replace Andrew Luck at Stanford, Kellen Moore at Boise and RGIII at Baylor will also have a lot of eye balls on them. On the opposite side of things, the Texas QB situation is still cloudy although David Ash appears to have the inside track at taking over in Austin.
Another one I'll be interested to see play out is at Texas A&M. The Aggies have a new coach (Kevin Sumlin), a new, tougher conference (SEC) and a new more wide-open offensive system (under Kliff Kingsbury). Keep an eye on early enrollee Matt Davis, one of the most dynamic athletes to ever get a crack at running this scheme.



From @LeeHutson  Is there any indication as to when the NCAA will announce its findings and punishment regarding the UNC investigation?



Best guess any of us can offer is it should come out by the spring. I realize that is a big ballpark, but whenever people try to work off previous NCAA timelines, as was the case with the USC situation, it took much longer. The UNC case is very multi-layered because cases involving agents tend to be even messier than others that the NCAA has to sort though.
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.




 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com