Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 5:08 pm
Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @Feldyman15 Urban Meyer is a proven winner, however does his style of offense translate to the B1G? Will it be a smooth transition?
Nice to see a question from my favorite former FCS star football player. Meyer's had success everywhere he's been. He's proven he's willing--and capable--of tweaking his offense to suit the personnel he inherits. He's not rigid.
The key thing about him taking over in Columbus is the most important component to his system that he inherited (the dual-threat triggerman) happens to be an ideal fit for what Meyer loves to do. As I wrote a while back when Meyer got hired, he's been sky high on Braxton Miller since long before he took the job. That said, Miller's still a young QB and there are bound to be growing pains. A bigger challenge will be that OSU has to replace three very good O-linemen and there are no proven wideouts to rely on. There will be some rocky moments, but I expect this to be a top 25 team, in part because of Miller's talent, in part because of some playmakers on a seasoned defense and because Meyer's a great, not good, coach.
From @NYWolverine2 Do you think Urban Meyer's spread will work in the B1G since RR failed?
First off, RichRod's problems in the Big Ten weren't because of his offense. In his final season in Ann Arbor, when he finally had many of the pieces in place to run his system, the Wolverines were eighth in the nation in total offense (and first in the Big Ten). Rodriguez isn't still in Ann Arbor because he never got the right defensive coordinator.
If Meyer's system worked in the SEC, it can work anywhere. And if anyone's going to suggest that because of the challenges a program's defense faces on a daily basis at practice because you own offense, like Rodriguez hinders a D's development, keep in mind that Meyer's former defensive coordinator at Florida was Greg Mattison, the guy who has made the biggest difference in Brady Hoke's success at UM.
On top of that, Meyer is riding such a wave of good energy right now since he was hired. He is killing it in recruiting and finished the 2012 class with a flurry. And that heat is only intensifying. Earlier this week, OSU got a commitment from one of the top O-line prospects in the midwest, Evan Lisle, who picked the Buckeyes over, among others, Alabama and OU. Meyer already snagged a five-star guy in Cameron Burrows and Jalin Marshall was another Ohio kid who virtually everyone was after.
From @BrianTrageser What offense are you most excited to watch in 2012?
There are so many intriguing dynamics to look forward to this fall. The ones that most jump out at me as I went through a list of schools alphabetically via conference:
Clemson: Year Two for Tajh Boyd, Chad Morris and Sammy Watkins.
FSU: Can E.J. Manuel and an impressive group of young receivers live up to expectations.
Kansas: Curious how Dayne Crist and Charlie Weis will do reuniting in Lawrence after dismal 2011s.
Texas A&M: Kliff Kingsbury's system is very different from what Mike Sherman ran and the Aggies do have the luxury of an excellent O-line.
WVU: Similar to the Clemson team they destroyed in the Orange Bowl, this could be an even more explosive attack with an off-season of added reps and improved timing.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer loves Braxton Miller and probably has some wrinkles ready to break out on the rest of the Big Ten.
Penn State: Bill O'Brien had a lot of success with the Pats offense (then again, who doesn't?) and now gets a chance to fix the shaky Penn State QB situation.
Boise State: Life after Kellen Moore?
Arizona: RichRod inherits a QB (Matt Scott) who is a pretty good fit for his system.
Oregon: Because Chip Kelly's still there and he's got a gobs of speed.
Stanford: Life after Luck?
USC: Matt Barkley's back for his fourth year as a starter with most of the line in tact to go with two superb WRs and a 1.000-yard runner.
Washington State: Leach's offenses have always produced and there might be some Pistol flavor to spice up the Air-Raid. He inherits two capable QBs, one outstanding WR and a very suspect O-line.
Tennessee: They have a lot of thee-year starters and should throw for a bunch of yards.
FIU: Cristobal hired a Chip Kelly disciple from New Hampshire.
Hawaii: Norm Chow goes home to run his own show.
From @eric_hise Will Mack's reach into JUCO ranks pay off?...side note, look forward to seeing u n the ATX for SXSW!
From what I heard via coaches who tried to recruit those JC linemen, those guys should help boost what has been an underwhelming group over the past few years and provide depth on the D assuming they can grasp Bryan Harsin's system and Manny Diaz' scheme. That's one of the big mysteries with bringing in JC guys.
The Horns, though, have a couple of gifted, physical young backs, so I expect to see a big improvement in this running game. The thing most holding UT back from being a legit Top 10 team is a consistent passing game. My hunch is David Ash will be a lot better than he was in his first season, but this program is probably a year away.
I am also looking forward to getting to Austin for SXSW. (I tweeted earlier this week that I will be speaking there on a panel covering sports reporting and Twitter a week from Monday.)
From @Draft_Hub Top 5 exciting players for 2012
Three players immediately came to mind: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, Michigan's Denard Robinson and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. I was torn for the last two spots between Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, Wisconsin's former walk-on phenom Jared Abbrederis and WVU's Tavon Austin.
From @JohnHanson20 Does WVU have a legit shot at a Big12 title next year?
In terms of firepower and offense? No question. They have a legit shot because their offense is going to be so explosive, but I have my doubts whether they'll be good enough on D to overtake an Oklahoma. The team lost three of its best players off of what was a very average defense that ranked No. 61 in scoring. Jeff Casteel was a well-regarded DC and he's gone, off to join Rich Rodriguez in Arizona. The new defensive staff is younger and there's more uncertainty.
From @SlickOne716 Is WVU canceling of their game at FSU really going to hurt FSU's chance at the National Championship?
No. With FSU, it's not going to be about having enough impressive opponents. If FSU won out last year, the Noles would've been playing for the title. The pollsters are just salivating at that chance to say the Noles are back, but the team, of late, has had the tendency to shoot itself in the foot a time or three.
There's no doubt the non-conference schedule took a hit with them having to replace WVU with Savannah State, but at least UF is still on there with a road game at USF. There are a lot of top 25 teams that have a lot worse than that. FSU does need a few ACC programs to get out to fast starts and look viable (Clemson? Va. Tech? Miami?). It'd also help their cause a lot if the Gators knocked off a few top 25 SEC teams before they visited Tallahassee.
From @loubega1 how close is Notre Dame to fielding a dominant defense? Are there enough playmakers in the secondary?
It has been such a long time since the Irish have had a really good defense, much less a dominant one. I would say last season there were were only two truly dominant defenses, LSU and Alabama. Notre Dame is not close to what either of those teams had or did. Those teams were overflowing with playmakers, not just the starters by all over their two-deeps.
In 2011, the Irish made some strides, ranking 30th in total D and 24th in scoring defense. The downside was they were only 59th in sacks, 77th in tackles for loss, and worst of all, forced only 14 turnovers in 13 games. Only one team in all of the FBS that played in a bowl game forced less turnovers (Fresno State).
It has been years since ND has had the type of size and athleticism it has now in its front seven, but many of those guys are still pretty raw. Aaron Lynch, Prince Shembo, Ishaq Williams, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix need to mature fast and become more consistent. What is more a concern, as you point out, is their secondary. They had a lot of experience back there in 2011, and those guys just struggled to make plays on the ball. And many of these guys came to ND as celebrated recruits. We'll see if they can get it sorted out. Until that happens and the younger D-line guys show they can be consistent, they're still a bit away.
From @NMStefan can Illinois ever really recruit consistently good due to their geography with Northwestern and Notre Dame so close?
They should be able to but so much of that is on the new staff and the relationships they develop with the local high school coaches. Ron Zook's staffs landed more than their share of blue-chippers but many tended to be from outside the state. It's not Notre Dame and Northwestern that are the biggest thorns in the Illini's side in terms of in-state recruiting. It's Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State. And in terms of the 2012 recruiting class, it was Auburn that snagged arguably the top in-state prospect in OT Jordan Diamond. Just in 2012, Iowa landed four of the top 10 players. That has to change with the new staff.
From @JDubs88 Would you agree that Spencer Hall and Jason Kirk need a little more sun?
I don't think so. I'm not sure tan works with corduroy. It's kinda like mixing ascots and mullets. I think I learned that in one of my classes in junior college.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:49 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 11:55 am
Late Wednesday night, Colorado School of Mines, a Division II school just down the road from the Coors facility in Golden, Co, was Trending nationally. The reason: Dana Holgorsen gave the school a sweet plug on national TV just a few minutes after West Virginia finished brutalizing Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Well, actually, it's really because Holgorsen gave his pal, 46-year-old Bob Stitt, the Mines head football coach, a really, really sweet plug.
Holgorsen was asked about the unique play that had devastated Clemson all night long, where WVU QB Geno Smith fields a shotgun snap and just flips it forward to a wideout motioning across the formation on a dead sprint. It's a variation of the Fly-Sweep that has caused defenses headaches for the past decade in major college football. Only in Holgorsen's play, the QB handles the ball for less than a heartbeat. Holgorsen explained to the country after the Orange Bowl that he learned that play from his buddy Bob Stitt from the Colorado School of Mines.
Back in Colorado, Stitt and his family were floored. "My 7 year-old just looked at me and his eyes were as big as saucers," Stitt told me Thursday morning. "My phone just starts blowing up with texts. I got about 30 in about 15 seconds."
Holgorsen calls the play his "Quick" game. Stitt calls it "Fly". WVU scored on it four times Wednesday night. "Every time they ran it, I told my wife, 'Yeah, that's the play that I showed Dana,'" Stitt said.
Of course, Stitt never expected to hear his name called out on national television.
I've heard Stitt "clinic" with other top offensive minds over the past few years at the One-Back Clinic, a small gathering of some cutting-edge coaches each off-season. Whenever the soft-spoken Stitt walks to the front of those rooms, in front of some 20 coaches, most from the most prolific FBS programs, the guy commands their attention.
"These guys from some of the small schools are great, because they'll tell you everything they do because they want you to hire them someday," new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone told me at last year's One-Back Clinic held at Houston a few minutes after Stitt talked about the pistol offense and back-shoulder throws.
To guys like Holgorsen and Mazzone and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Stitt is the real deal, a ball coach with some proven great stuff. For the newer guys in that room, Stitt was the guy from the one school they'd probably never heard of that plays in Division II's Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. But Stitt knew how to get their attention:"If this stuff works with our guys, it'll probably work with the guys you have," Stitt would tell them. "We're an engineering school, and we only have one major, engineering. Our average ACT score in math is 29." That line would elicit the biggest "Oooh!" of the day. Well, that and Stitt talking about how his team averaged more than 356 passing yards in 2010.
The Orediggers were 8-3 this season, finishing No. 8 in the nation in passing. They had a 1000-yard rusher and a 3000-yard passer. Three of Mines' last four quarterbacks have been finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division 2 Heisman.
Because his teams rarely have much speed, opponents often rush seven guys and play Zero-Coverage on them since they don't think Mines receivers can run by them. To counter that, Stitt resorted to the backshoulder passing attack. But, if he had to play against people afraid he's got the receivers who can run by em? Well, Holgorsen has 'em, as Clemson found out.
Stitt came up with his wrinkle on the Fly Sweep because he believed that it was more efficient than trying to have the quarterback hand the ball off after receiving the snap. Devoting all of the time to rep it to get the timing down seemed counter-productive to him.
One day at practice, it came to him, 'Why not just put it (the ball) in the air?' He stopped practice and had his offense do that, and it immediately worked. And yes, that is one of the perks of being a small-college head coach. You can experiment with something like that in the middle of practice.
"The challenge of the Fly Sweep is meshing the handoff with the motion," he says. "With this, the speed of it's faster because you don't have to mesh the handoff, so that 4.3 guy (WR Tavon Austin) is going 4.3 as soon as he gets the ball. And the people that have to try and stop it are the inside 'backers, so you get that kid with that quickness, where he can stick his foot in the ground and get upfield, it's deadly."
No kidding. Stitt first showed some of the FBS guys his play a few years ago at the One-Back Clinic when it was at UNLV. Hal Mumme, then at New Mexico State, loved it and installed it. Mumme probably loves it even more because, technically, the play counts as a pass, not a run in the stat sheet.
Holgorsen, though, didn't buy in until the spring of 2008. Stitt showed up at a UH practice after he'd flown down to Texas for fund-raiser. The Mines head coach was still in his golf gear and was checking out the Cougars practice from off in the distance. Holgorsen spotted him, 'See that fly sweep?'
"Why aren't you putting that thing in the air?" Stitt replied.
Holgorsen said he'd forgotten all about that idea, but brought Stitt over, in full golf gear, to confer with him and quarterback Case Keenum. As Stitt gave them some pointers on how to run it, he couldn't help but think he was someplace he probably shouldn't be. But, a few minutes later, during the Cougars "Team" portion of practice, Holgorsen broke out the play on the unsuspecting Cougars defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin was downright giddy. "Whoa, what was that?!?"
Houston got so good at it that Stitt smiled when he saw a few days ago in UH's romp over Penn State Keenum get a late snap and just 'volleyballed' it forward to the receiver without even controlling the ball.
As far as the specs of the play, Holgorsen and Stitt have different ways they dress it up. Stitt loves to run it out of a 3-by-1 (three receivers on one side of the formation) and run the play into the boundary side of the field. Holgorsen kept motioning one of his receivers into the backfield to set up in his diamond formation. The added benefit, Stitt points out, is what you can also do off the play. Holgorsen has taken that fly motion and run inside zone off it. "It is a great complement to the inside zone," Stitt says.
Stitt will run the fly motion and have his quarterback read the slot defender. If the guy doesn't cover that, they'll throw the bubble.
Just a hunch but you'll probably be seeing a lot more of this play in 2012.