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Tag:USC
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 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 14, 2012 1:19 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 2:03 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing redshirt freshmen

With spring football here this week (thanks to Army getting an early start on things), let's take a peek at some freshmen who redshirted last fall but have generated some buzz within their football programs. The Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing redshirt freshmen to remember this off-season.

1, Everett Golson, Notre Dame, QB: Brian Kelly's biggest headache in 2011 was due to shaky quarterback play. ND had some very capable weapons in Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert and Cierre Wood, but the Irish were inept in the Red Zone and prone to momentum-crushing mistakes at the worst possible times. Tommy Rees started most of the season at QB and is back. So is Andrew Hendrix, a more mobile option with a stronger arm. Touted freshman Gunner Kiel is already on campus, but don't underestimate Golson, a 5-11, 185-pounder from South Carolina. When we had Kelly on our Signing Day Central show a few weeks ago and the Notre Dame coach gushed when I asked him about Golson. You heard a completely different vibe from Kelly just as he started to describe the young QB who had led his high school to state championships in both football and basketball. While Golson does not have prototype size, he has a quick release, a strong arm and wonderful footwork. He also apparently has that presence about him that coaches love.

2, Dee Hart, Bama RB: The Tide has to replace the great Trent Richardson, but still has Eddie Lacy. Hart, one of the nation's top recruits last year, would've pushed for playing time had he not blown out his knee and needed surgery in July. The 5-9, 187-pound Orlando product will face more than his share of fellow blue-chippers also jockeying for carries since 2013 signee T.J. Yeldon already is on campus along with Jalston Fowler and Brent Calloway. Hart doesn't quite have the lower body strength that Lacy, Richardson and Mark Ingram have, but he is a very dynamic back with good burst and terrific hands, who should spark the offense and the Tide's return game.

3, Michael Holmes, Va. Tech, RB: The Hokies lost spectacular David Wilson to the NFL, and his production and tenacity is going to be tough to replace. Holmes is an intriguing option. Unlike a lot of players on this list, he was not a celebrated recruit. Scout.com ranked him as the No. 77 RB in the Class of 2011. ESPN had him as the No. 136 running back. Rivals didn't even rank him among backs, aside from listing him as the No. 25 overall prospect in the state of Virginia. Holmes doesn't have Wilson's explosiveness (almost no other back in college football did) but the 6-1, 200-pounder turned a lot of heads of the defensive coaches and players at Tech with his work on the scout team last fall. His position coach Shane Beamer told me he's just a back who plays really hard, has good vision and has a knack for making plays. Tech seems to have found more than its share of the latter over the past decade or so.

4, Michael Eubank, ASU, QB: Todd Graham inherits a very interesting prospect in the strong-armed, extremely mobile 6-5, 235-pound kid from Southern California. As talented and raw as Eubank was, he wasn't going to beat out Brock Osweiler last year, but with the former Gonzaga hoops recruit leaving early for the NFL, there is a big opportunity there. The new staff is familiar with Eubank because they tried to recruit him when they were at Pitt. There figures to be some growing pains with him, but if he can make smart decisions, he's going to be a guy worth remembering. This is a huge "upside" kid.

5, Kelvin Benjamin, FSU, WR: E.J. Manuel should have some very good options to throw to in 2012. The only target FSU loses is Bert Reed, but they gain the super-sized Benjamin in his place. Coaches say Benjamin is up to 245 pounds on his 6-5 frame and he still has the athleticism to get away from DBs and go up and make acrobatic catches in traffic.

6, Brett Hundley, UCLA, QB: Despite huge expectations (the Bruin fan base dubbed him "the Savior") and the team's spotty quarterbacking, Hundley was on the sidelines for 2011. The former coach Rick Neuheisel deemed that the Arizona product wasn't ready to play. Hundley's arm was inconsistent when he got his reps in practice, but he is bright and has good size and athleticism. Noel Mazzone takes over the offense and will try and sort out an interesting collection of QBs in 2012. Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, who have both played a lot, return for their senior seasons. Hyped QB recruits T.J. Millweard, who Mazzone personally reeled in from his previous stop, ASU, and dual-threat QB Devin Fuller, will also join the mix. Can Hundley win over the new staff this spring to help spark what has been a sputtering offense?

7, Jay Rome, Georgia, TE: Touted by many as the top tight end in the 2011 signing class, the 6-6, 253-pounder saw more action in Georgia basketball games than football games this year. His dad Stan was a two-sport star at Clemson and the younger Rome was an elite AAU hoops talent but it's football where he will make the biggest impact, especially since standout TE Orson Charles has opted to leave UGA early for the NFL. Rome told the AJC recently that the biggest aspect of his game he needs to work on is his blocking but with his size and athleticism he should be a welcome target for Aaron Murray in 2012.

8, Antwaun Woods, USC, DT: The Trojans return experience at almost every other spot but they are going to be pretty young on the interior of their defense. Only sophomore George Uko has played a lot in the middle of the D-line. Lane Kiffin redshirted most of his celebrated 2011 D-line signing class. Woods has reshaped his body considerably since arriving last summer, going from well over 330 down to under 310. Coaches really like his explosiveness but will challenge him to bring his effort on consistent basis. The improved conditioning no doubt will help on that front.

9, Jalen Collins, LSU CB: The Tigers have taken to call LSU "DBU" and the defensive backs I spoke to down in New Orleans around the BCS title game touted Collins as the next great one in the pipeline. He's a rangy 6-1, 195-pounder (up about 20 pounds since high school), who was a prep track star and really not that highly touted in the recruiting process. Teammates call him the most athletic guy on the team, which is obviously a mouthful. Don't expect him to overtake Tharold Simon in the race to replace Mo Claiborne, but Collins will be a big factor in a loaded DB rotation.

10, Greg Robinson, Auburn, OT: Gene Chizik redshirted a bunch of former blue-chippers in 2011 with the Louisiana product and Christian Westerman both sitting out. Classmate Reese Dismukes filled an immediate need, starting the entire season at center. Robinson, a nimble 305-pounder, who Westerman remarked moves like a tight end, has talked about working hard this past season to improve as a pass protector. He will have plenty of opportunity since the Tigers have to replace both starting tackles, Brandon Moseley and A.J. Greene.

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: 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 24, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Best recruiting battles

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

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

The Guess: Arkansas


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

The Guess: Nebraska

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

The Guess: USC

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

The Guess: Florida

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

The Guess: Notre Dame


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

The Guess: FSU

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

The Guess: USC

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

The Guess: Stanford

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

The Guess: FSU

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

The Guess: Rutgers


Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

Time for the Friday Mailbag. As always, if you have a question, send it to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @cjdyal Is it possible for UF to make a Bama 08 type of jump, where both teams went 7-6 year one? UF returns 10/11 starters on D.


That Bama team had a lot more experience on offense with a very talented and seasoned O-line to lean on and a veteran QB in senior John Parker Wilson. They had 18 starters returning. The other big thing that had going for them was a really experienced coaching staff led by Nick Saban. And keep in mind, even though that Bama team had gone 7-6, all six of those losses were by a TD or less. Of UF's six losses, only two were by a touchdown or less. They were not as competitive and they're younger, both on the field and on the sidelines.

  The Gators should have a very tough defense, as you alluded to, but it's the offense that is the big unknown. It was awful last season and there are major question marks for new OC Brent Pease heading into 2012: Both young QBs are unproven and looked very shaky when they got the chance to play. There is no established tailback to lean on for those young QBs. There is no go-to guy at receiver to count on in the clutch. There is some experience on the O-line and they do have some speed, but this was still a group that was just 105th in the country in total offense. That's why Pease is one of the more intriguing hires of the off-season. There is a talent there but it seems pretty raw. Last season was a rough transition period, where things got worse before they got better. I feel like Pease is a much better fit here than Charlie Weis was.

I expect UF to be improved in 2012, but I wouldn't expect a jump that big from unranked to top six.

From @
DMcCallCU11  Top 5 sleeper teams not on the radar that may make noise in the BCS??

At this point, it's hard to get a great sense of who is "not on the radar" for 2012 and would be deemed a sleeper. I guess you could say anyone not in the SEC, USC, Oregon or Oklahoma might qualify as "a sleeper" these days. My two best sleeper candidates are both newcomers to the Big 12, TCU and WVU (assuming the Mountaineers can shed the Big East this offseason). Both teams were pretty young last season. The Horned Frogs especially so. Both should be explosive on offense. WVU, which just scored 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl, figures to be one of the top two or three scoring teams in the country. TCU should pile up points too and will be even better on D.


Three other sleepers who could make noise in the BCS (although I'm just saying could make a BCS bowl, not be a national title contender): BYU - 15 starters back, plus both specialists; FIU - 17 starters back, including 10 on D, lots of speed on offense and winnable non-conference games against Big East and ACC teams; and La. Tech, 14 starters back from a good team; they play in a weakened league and their toughest non-conference games are against a rebuilding Houston team and Virginia.
 
From @SilverCrushBlog What is Notre Dame missing besides stability at QB? It seems like 1988 was 100 years ago. 


Well, that is a very big missing ingredient. If you don't have an elite defense, and I'm talking about an Alabama or LSU-caliber defense or you don't have a very good QB, you can't be a top-five college team. You'd be fortunate to even be a top 15 team. Look at FSU, the Noles had a pretty tough defense, but they had issues at QB and finished No. 23.


When people say "the only difference between us and (so-and-so) is they have a good quarterback and we don't." Well, that's like saying the only difference between that Ferrari and my car is the engine. It is a very big deal. You're not talking about a tight end or a SAM linebacker.



The Irish, despite having a great WR and TE tandem, were shockingly inept in the Red Zone and had way too many meltdowns. That lack of efficiency, much of it goes back to shaky QB play, really holds a team back because it mangles any effort you have to sustain momentum and crush an opponent's will. Now maybe that's change since Tommy Rees/Andrew Hendrix have more experience or Everett Golson is ready to step out or maybe we'll find out that Gunner Kiel is mature enough and talented enough to overtake the others and be The Guy. Until that happens, there is skepticism for a program that hasn't lived up to the hype for a very long time.


Back to the other side of the ball: Notre Dame's defense was improved in 2011, but it's still nowhere near elite. ND's secondary really struggled to make plays on the ball and was still lacking when it came to facing capable offenses (Michigan, USC and Stanford). Beyond that, the Irish have some really athletic players, but not enough of them.


From @
Brentboyles  why is everybody on the band wagon with USC for next year?


I can give you seven very good reasons:


1. They are led by arguably the best QB in college football who has a ton of experience, Matt Barkley.

2. They have the best 1-2 WR tandem in the country, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

3. They return their entire back-seven on D that includes their top tacklers who were freshmen in 2011 (Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard) and perhaps the top two DBs in the Pac-12 in safety T.J. McDonald and CB Nickell Robey.

4. They bring back four starting O-linemen and now actually have some quality depth behind those guys.

5. They return a 1000-yard rusher, Curtis McNeal.

6. They get the two most talented teams on their schedule, Oregon and Notre Dame, in the Coliseum.

7. No team will be hungrier.



From @chrisasims Hey Bruce, here's a question for you: How do you expect Oregon to fare next season without Darron Thomas and LaMichael James?

  As long as Chip Kelly's running the show there, the Ducks should be fine. Despite those players moving on, Oregon is in really good shape. I had them in my Top 5 that I posted the other day
 

Kelly has some very talented people ready to step up. Bryan Bennett is faster and a more accurate passer than Thomas, but lacks his experience while Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and a more physical young back, Tra Carson, should ease the loss of James. Another name to remember with the Ducks in 2012 is redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota, who has coaches very excited in Eugene. The O-line also should be better.



  From @danielmcfadin How do you think Gus Malzahn's first season at Arkansas State will compare to HughFreeze's?

I don't expect Malzahn to match Freeze's 10-win total this year. ASU lost almost its entire defense and that was a surprisingly solid group that was top 25 in most categories and No. 13 against the run. Malzahn does inherit a good triggerman in Ryan Aplin, who should put up big numbers, but there are probably too many quality guys to replace to expect more than eight wins in Year One, especially when you consider the Red Wolves have to visit Oregon and Nebraska in the first three weeks of the season.
 

From @galdog33  reading Swing Your Sword now...great read so far...do you think Coach Leach can start as fast at WSU as his other stops?

  Thanks! I don't see the Cougars overtaking Oregon in the Pac-12 North this year after finishing in the basement of the division. They were 4-8 in 2011 but were competitive. Paul Wulff certainly did not leave the cupboard bare. Leach walks into a decent situation. They have some good pieces on offense with two talented QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and one stud WR (Marquess Wilson). The down side: The O-line is very shaky. They were 116th in sacks allowed. They also really struggled on D, ranking 95th in scoring defense.
 
 

Leach, though, never has had a losing season at Tech, and I doubt he has one in his first year at WSU. I'm not sure he can double last year's win total, but I'll be surprised if the Cougars aren't a bowl team. It will be an interesting first month in Pullman. They have a challenging opener against his alma mater, at BYU. After that, they have EWU, at UNLV and Colorado. My hunch is they should be 3-1 when they face Oregon in Seattle.  


From @365ROLLTIDE even though Bama loses a lot, do you think the SEC west will come down to the Bama/LSU game next season? Thanks

I do. While I think Arkansas is a dangerous team and the Hogs get both LSU and Bama at home in 2012, I still feel like they don't have enough big-time guys on defense to win that division. Bama may only return a handful of starters but the Tide gets back the nucleus to perhaps the best O-line in the country and has a proven winner at QB to go with Eddie Lacy, who would've started probably for 100 other teams were it not for Trent Richardson.

  From @mckdaddy1 what kind of gig would Houston Nutt get if/when he gets back into coaching?

Nutt has had a lot of success in his coaching career and is still only in his mid-50s. He won SEC Coach of the Year three times, which is impressive. But it is intriguing where does a guy like this go after his stint at Ole Miss? The broadcast booth? As an assitant to the NFL?

After a great start in Oxford, things fell apart in a huge way with the worst season in school history last year. From what I've been told by sources in Oxford he left a real mess behind. I wouldn't expect Nutt to go from that to land another SEC head coaching job. Maybe next season a Conference USA job opens up or perhaps somewhere in the Sun Belt. I'd be surprised if Nutt took a job as an assistant at a bigger school since he's been a head coach for so long.
 
 
 
 
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