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Tag:Clemson
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 4:07 pm
 

The Tuesday Top 10: Best Freshmen


1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR/KR: There was hype around the five-star recruit, but no one could've imagined Watkins would be quite this much of a difference-maker this soon. He's been everything for Clemson. "He is a true freshman who plays like a senior," says Tiger OC Chad Morris. "He is such a student of the game." Watkins is fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards and tied for fifth in receiving touchdowns.

2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE: The biggest freak in the class, the former No. 1 overall recruit has been a force for a nasty Gamecock D-line, racking up five forced fumbles, five sacks and eight TFLs. Two of those FFs directly led to Melvin Ingram touchdowns. Hard to imagine Clowney being anything other than a three-and-out guy.

3. DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon, WR/KR/RB: After an up-and-down debut against LSU where the LA youth football legend had two fumbles but also flashed his blazing speed, the 5-9, 173-pound x-factor has quickly proven to be a great fit for the Ducks offense. Thomas is 16th in the country in all-purpose yards, averaging 150 per game to go with his 12 TDs.

4. Marqise Lee, USC, WR: Most people expected his old HS teammate George Farmer to be the rookie that generated the buzz among the newcomers this year for the Trojans. Instead, it's been Lee, a guy many figured would get switched to safety. The explosive 6-1, 190-pound Inglewood native has emerged as quite the weapon opposite another former Serra High star, Robert Woods, catching 25 passes for almost 300 yards and four TDs in the past three games for USC. I really try to avoid having two players from the same school on the Top 10s or else LB Dion Bailey, the team's leading tackler would be on here too.

5. Gio Bernard, UNC, RB: Only UCONN's Lyle McCombs has run for more yards among freshmen this season and Bernard (1,012 yards, 11 TDs) is averaging over than a yard more per carry than the Husky RB and has twice as many rushing TDs.

6. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia, RB: I was tempted to pick Malcolm Mitchell as the top Dawg freshman, but for as dynamic as he's been he's missed a bunch of games with a hamstring injury, while Crowell continues to pile up yards and give QB Aaron Murray a lot of support. Best thing about Crowell's impact: he's played in seven SEC games and gone over 100 yards in four of them.

7. Anthony Chickillo, Miami, DE: The Canes defense has struggled mightily after having been rocked by injuries and the NCAA suspension. Chickillo, a third-generation UM player, has been one of the biggest bright spots and is going to be a cornerstone for the rebuilding effort in Miami. He has started seven games, has made 34 tackles to go with 5.5 TFLs and four sacks.

8. Aaron Lynch, Notre Dame, DE: Notre Dame has been lacking impact D-linemen for a while, but they have a couple of young studs in South Bend now. Stephon Tuitt, who has started three games is another one, but for this list Lynch gets the nod. The guy is relentless and has lived up to his spring hype, notching four sacks and a team-best 11 QB hurries.

9. Brett Smith, Wyoming, QB: Going into this season it was fellow freshman Adam Pittser, a former Elite 11 QB that was the one people figured would take over the offense. Smith wasn't even ranked among the top 100 QB recruits, but the Oregon native has been very impressive for the Cowboys who are quietly having a nice season at 6-3. They've won three of their past four and Smith's thrown seven TDs and zero INTs to go with four more rushing TD and more than 200 yards on the ground.

10. (tie) Malcolm Brown, Texas, RB: UT is loaded with first-year studs and if WR Jaxon Shipley hadn't been banged up he probably gets a spot on here too. Like Crowell, you have a former blue-chip back who has made an impact early at a program that really needed a RB to step up. The bad news is he's battled turf toe problems that have limited him and Texas really missed him last week against Mizzou. Still, you had to be impressed with him running for over 100 yards in three of his previous five games before being sidelined.

10. (tie) Timmy Jernigan, FSU, DT: The Noles have a strong group of first-year players with TE Nick O'Leary, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Rashad Green and 17-year-old OT Bobby Hart, but I'll go with Jernigan who has really come on as FSU's gotten on a roll. Jernigan has 6 TFLs to go with 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hurries.


Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: MVPs of the season's first half

Over the weekend South Carolina got some devastating news: Star RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury. I brought up the point on Twitter that Lattimore, one of the real workhorses in the sport, might be the most valuable non-quarterback in college football. Where would he rank overall?  This week's Top 10 list: most valuable players of the first half of the 2011 season:



1-Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB: Yeah, his numbers have tailed off a bit since his incredible first month, but RG3 has still been phenomenal for what used to be such a dismal Bears program. Griffin has a 22-2 TD-INT ratio and is connecting on over 78 percent of his passes while accounting for, on average, 374 of Baylor's 550 total yards per game. Look at it this way: Griffin has been a franchise talent for this program that has been embroiled in the rough side of the conference realignment stuff. The Bears have spent several weeks in the Top 25 this season, have a shot at making a New Year's Day bowl and have been nationally relevant for more than a month despite having the 100th ranked scoring D in the country.


2-Andrew Luck, Stanford, QB: As advertised, Luck has been brilliant leading this top 10 team as it moves on without Jim Harbaugh. The Cardinal are unbeaten and no one has gotten closer than 26 points from them while they coasted past a bunch of teams that are mediocre at best. As impressive as Luck's passing numbers are: 71 percent completion percentage, 18 TDs, 3 INTs, something else is even more of a head-turner: Stanford lost three of its five starters up front from last year and they still only have surrendered two sacks all season. A lot of that is due to the big QB's guile and grasp of the offense. Luck makes it all look so easy.

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3-Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB: The current top guy on my Heisman list, Richardson has a better supporting cast than anyone out there. With as devastating as the Tide's defense is this season, Bama could be a top 25 team just with average talent on offense. But it's Richardson who makes the Tide such a force on this side of the ball too. He is a bruising back with outstanding speed and now everyone knows about how slick his moves are after the number he did on Ole Miss last week. Richardson is the engine of the Tide offense, which had to replace, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and QB Greg McElroy. Despite all of that turnover, Bama is actually still leading the SEC in scoring (39 ppg) and averaging almost six points more than it was at this point last year.


4-Denard Robinson, Michigan, QB: Last year at this time Robinson's act felt like a phenomenon. We've almost gotten used to it, but he is still arguably the most exciting player in college football. Robinson's performance in an amazing comeback win over Notre Dame in September was one for the ages. The Wolverines are much better on D this year, but actually not quite as prolific on offense. Robinson's passing game has regressed a bit from last year, but the load he carries is still remarkable. He is accounting for 312 of Michigan's 451 total yards of offense (69 percent). 


5-Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB: The SEC has a couple of great tailbacks. Whether Lattimore is actually better than Trent Richardson is debatable, but the loss of the star back on Steve Spurrier's team figures to be huge. Lattimore wasn't just a great physical runner, he also was a very capable receiver and the guy who kept the Gamecocks offense going.


6-Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB: The NC State transfer has fit into Badger football beautifully, taking this program to a new level. Wilson leads the country in passing efficiency and has thrown 14 TDs against just one INT. As the schedule picks up, Wilson's worth figures to continue to increase.


7-Kellen Moore, Boise State, QB: His yards per attempt and passing efficiency rating are slightly down from last year. Then again, he did have to replace two superb receivers, but Moore has still been his usual outstanding self, completing 76 percent of his passes for the Boise State powerhouse that looks like the safest bet in college football to run the table this fall.


8-Tyrann Mathieu, LSU,  CB/SLB/PR: The Honey Badger is the star of the dominating LSU D, lining up all over the field, blitzing, dropping, playing man, flying in for tackles while trying to rip the ball free. He just has a real knack for making big, momentum-swinging plays. The 5-9, 180-pound Mathieu leads the Tigers in solo tackles (29); forced fumbles (four), fumble recoveries (three) and is tied for second in INTs (two) and for third in TFLs (five).


9-Devon Still, Penn State, DT: A few years back Nittany Lion D-lineman Jared Odrick was such a handful for rival offenses that he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Still is playing at that level and might be in line for similar honors if he can keep this up. The Nittany Lions are No. 6 in the country in scoring defense with Still anchoring their front and barreling his way into the other team's backfields consistently. Stats often can't truly measure a lineman's merits, but Still makes more than his share of plays besides the ones he creates for teammates. His 10 TFLs are among the nation's leaders and his play on a good defense has enabled PSU to go 6-1 in spite of a dreadful offense, ranked 96th in the nation.

 
10 (tie)- Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR-KR: The most spectacular freshman in football, Watkins' worth was evident last weekend when he turned in big play after big play to bail the Tigers out of a tight situation as they rallied to overtake Maryland. In that game he set a school-record with 345 all-purpose yards. On the season, he already has five plays of 60 yards or longer.



10 (tie) Robert Woods, USC, WR-KR: The Trojan offense has sputtered quite a bit this fall, but Woods is the one USC player who consistently looks like the kind of stud that this program had when it was competing for BCS titles. Woods is on pace for 120 catches and almost 1600 yards receiving for a team that is 5-1, but might only be .500 if it weren't for the sophomore wideout.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:49 pm
 

Mailbag: Should Dooley be on the hot seat?


Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @JackParMa Is Derek Dooley the right hire for Tennessee?

  I'm skeptical at this point but I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone can say with much certainty one way or the other. I realize one of my friends who grew up a diehard Vols fan, Clay Travis wrote the other day about Dooley on the hot seat, but I really think it's too soon for that. 

On paper, you wouldn't have expected a guy with Dooley's record at La. Tech to have been able to land the UT job in the first place. He had a 17-20 career record at La. Tech and didn't even have a winning record in the WAC. But he is what they could get at that time and he deserves a legit chance to make it work. He inherited a very unstable situation that had seen two dramatically different coaching regimes in the previous two seasons that had basically torn up the fan base.

Publicly, Dooley has said and done many of the kinds of things that UT fans would like to hear and see from their head coach off the field. The issue has been he's yet to have anything close to a win that would show that he can coach and he's the guy to lead this program back into the top 15. The Vols are just 3-7 in SEC play since he took over and those three wins were against UK, Vandy and Ole Miss, teams that went 4-20 in league play. They've lost to every good team they've faced. They've also had a bunch of double-digit losses in these games: losing by 35 to Oregon; 14 to UF; 27 to UGA; 31 to Bama; 14 to South Carolina and by 10 this year against a young UF team. They did give a scare to LSU though. Before Mike Hamilton left, he even softened up the non-conference schedule even more to give the Vols and Dooley (his hire) a better chance by dumping a solid UNC team for woeful Buffalo.

All that said, this is still a sophomore-dominated team and now it's one that has suffered two injuries to its two best players, WR Justin Hunter and QB Tyler Bray. It is still only year two for Dooley. The Vols should keep getting better and be much improved in 2012. The question though is, can Dooley actually get them from being a fringe top 25 team to what we expect the Vols to be? A big leap is going to have to take place at some point. Who knows if he can do that? The one thing I do think you can say is that given all of the chaos this program has gone through, pushing the reset button at this point would only lead to more chaos. And who knows how good of a coach they may be able to get this time around? It's not like you're going to get Urban Meyer to take this job right now. UT hired Dooley. The school needs to give him at least two more years before we can begin to figure out whether he is the right guy there.

From @jasonrub  Washington Huskies are 4-1, Keith Price 7th in passing efficiency, Chris Polk 16th in yards rushing. Can Sark keep this going?

Yes, and because of those two guys (Price and Polk) the Huskies have been consistently good, scoring at least 30 in each of their first five games. They have a decent chance to be a top 25 team this year. Things are going to keep getting better for U-Dub with Sarkisian there. He's got them on the upswing. He's proven he can win big games. He's proven he can recruit. He's got a good product that he believes in and can sell, and with the instability at UCLA and USC (and Cal and Arizona for that matter), it gives the LA native an even better run to recruit in Southern California. The stock is going up for Washington football. Way up.

From @Lexvegaskid  should strength of schedule be factored back into the BCS?

It really already is a big component via the human polls. The voters factor in which opponents teams beat (or lose to) basically in how they fill out their polls. It's certainly more subjective than it is in some computer formula too.

From @ABThatIsMe  Thoughts on Mike Glennon's performance thus far.All we hear ab as State fans is Russell Wilson but our qb is playing lights out

Glennon's numbers are good: 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 64 percent completion percentage although he wasn't as sharp in the games against even close-to-decent competition: Wake Forest, Cincy and Ga. Tech (7-4 TD-INT). NCSU is averaging 25 ppg against those three and 39 ppg against Liberty, South Alabama and CMU. The Pack has also taken a lot of sacks, ranking 107th in sacks allowed. Even if Wilson was there, I'm not sure they'd be be that much better. You never know. 


Their biggest problem is on defense, where they're 89th in scoring D and the schedule only gets tougher from here.

From @gnewburn What does Muschamp need to do to right the ship after UF's recent beatdowns?

Just keep recruiting to fit his system and continue to keep preaching disciple, focus and toughness. UF is 94th in turnover margin and near the bottom of the country in penalties--things almost no team can overcome, especially not a young team in such a brutal league. But a lot of this should've been expected.

I didn't get where people in the preseason saw this UF team as a top 20 bunch. They had to replace almost the entire O-line, didn't have a proven QB and had a very young secondary. They did have speed, but speed alone isn't going to make you an SEC title contender. 

From @TjzyChocChzy  When will the media start giving some real attention to who the next coach will be at Oh. St?

Huh? The media's been talking about it quite a bit for months. I wrote a detailed list of candidates, leading with Urban Meyer back in May. Actually, I first mentioned the possibility of Meyer going to Ohio State back in Dec., 2010.

The reality is Luke Fickell has the job and nothing is going to happen till the season wraps up. OSU wanted to be fair to him and to their players because this program has had more than its share of distractions over the past year. 

From @DavidLeake Fielding college football questions for the Friday mailbag.

Defense carries more weight than offense if you look at the teams that have won BCS titles, starting with the first one Tennessee. UT didn't win anything with the great Peyton Manning, but he left and they had a fierce D and they shut down FSU in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, OU had a great defense and held FSU to two points in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Miami's defense, led by the great Ed Reed, had more stars than any D perhaps in the history of the college game, destroying Nebraska the following season. USC had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but it was really the Trojans defense that took apart Oklahoma. Florida's defense de-railed Heisman winner Troy Smith and Ohio State, and that run of BCS titles the SEC has gone on has been predicated by dominating defensive linemen and fast defenses.

From @Kilo1899 Mailbag question: Halfway through the season, who is your coach of the year? Player of year? Freshman of year?

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson.
  Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.

Freshman of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Mailbag: Should Dooley be on the hot seat?


Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @JackParMa Is Derek Dooley the right hire for Tennessee?

  I'm skeptical at this point but I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone can say with much certainty one way or the other. I realize one of my friends who grew up a diehard Vols fan, Clay Travis wrote the other day about Dooley on the hot seat, but I really think it's too soon for that. 

On paper, you wouldn't have expected a guy with Dooley's record at La. Tech to have been able to land the UT job in the first place. He had a 17-20 career record at La. Tech and didn't even have a winning record in the WAC. But he is what they could get at that time and he deserves a legit chance to make it work. He inherited a very unstable situation that had seen two dramatically different coaching regimes in the previous two seasons that had basically torn up the fan base.

Publicly, Dooley has said and done many of the kinds of things that UT fans would like to hear and see from their head coach off the field. The issue has been he's yet to have anything close to a win that would show that he can coach and he's the guy to lead this program back into the top 15. The Vols are just 3-7 in SEC play since he took over and those three wins were against UK, Vandy and Ole Miss, teams that went 4-20 in league play. They've lost to every good team they've faced. They've also had a bunch of double-digit losses in these games: losing by 35 to Oregon; 14 to UF; 27 to UGA; 31 to Bama; 14 to South Carolina and by 10 this year against a young UF team. They did give a scare to LSU though. Before Mike Hamilton left, he even softened up the non-conference schedule even more to give the Vols and Dooley (his hire) a better chance by dumping a solid UNC team for woeful Buffalo.

All that said, this is still a sophomore-dominated team and now it's one that has suffered two injuries to its two best players, WR Justin Hunter and QB Tyler Bray. It is still only year two for Dooley. The Vols should keep getting better and be much improved in 2012. The question though is, can Dooley actually get them from being a fringe top 25 team to what we expect the Vols to be? A big leap is going to have to take place at some point. Who knows if he can do that? The one thing I do think you can say is that given all of the chaos this program has gone through, pushing the reset button at this point would only lead to more chaos. And who knows how good of a coach they may be able to get this time around? It's not like you're going to get Urban Meyer to take this job right now. UT hired Dooley. The school needs to give him at least two more years before we can begin to figure out whether he is the right guy there.

From @jasonrub  Washington Huskies are 4-1, Keith Price 7th in passing efficiency, Chris Polk 16th in yards rushing. Can Sark keep this going?

Yes, and because of those two guys (Price and Polk) the Huskies have been consistently good, scoring at least 30 in each of their first five games. They have a decent chance to be a top 25 team this year. Things are going to keep getting better for U-Dub with Sarkisian there. He's got them on the upswing. He's proven he can win big games. He's proven he can recruit. He's got a good product that he believes in and can sell, and with the instability at UCLA and USC (and Cal and Arizona for that matter), it gives the LA native an even better run to recruit in Southern California. The stock is going up for Washington football. Way up.

From @Lexvegaskid  should strength of schedule be factored back into the BCS?

It really already is a big component via the human polls. The voters factor in which opponents teams beat (or lose to) basically in how they fill out their polls. It's certainly more subjective than it is in some computer formula too.

From @ABThatIsMe  Thoughts on Mike Glennon's performance thus far.All we hear ab as State fans is Russell Wilson but our qb is playing lights out

Glennon's numbers are good: 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 64 percent completion percentage although he wasn't as sharp in the games against even close-to-decent competition: Wake Forest, Cincy and Ga. Tech (7-4 TD-INT). NCSU is averaging 25 ppg against those three and 39 ppg against Liberty, South Alabama and CMU. The Pack has also taken a lot of sacks, ranking 107th in sacks allowed. Even if Wilson was there, I'm not sure they'd be be that much better. You never know. 


Their biggest problem is on defense, where they're 89th in scoring D and the schedule only gets tougher from here.

From @gnewburn What does Muschamp need to do to right the ship after UF's recent beatdowns?

Just keep recruiting to fit his system and continue to keep preaching disciple, focus and toughness. UF is 94th in turnover margin and near the bottom of the country in penalties--things almost no team can overcome, especially not a young team in such a brutal league. But a lot of this should've been expected.

I didn't get where people in the preseason saw this UF team as a top 20 bunch. They had to replace almost the entire O-line, didn't have a proven QB and had a very young secondary. They did have speed, but speed alone isn't going to make you an SEC title contender. 

From @TjzyChocChzy  When will the media start giving some real attention to who the next coach will be at Oh. St?

Huh? The media's been talking about it quite a bit for months. I wrote a detailed list of candidates, leading with Urban Meyer back in May. Actually, I first mentioned the possibility of Meyer going to Ohio State back in Dec., 2010.

The reality is Luke Fickell has the job and nothing is going to happen till the season wraps up. OSU wanted to be fair to him and to their players because this program has had more than its share of distractions over the past year. 

From @DavidLeake Fielding college football questions for the Friday mailbag. <more important for a championship team, offense or defense?

Defense carries more weight than offense if you look at the teams that have won BCS titles, starting with the first one Tennessee. UT didn't win anything with the great Peyton Manning, but he left and they had a fierce D and they shut down FSU in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, OU had a great defense and held FSU to two points in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Miami's defense, led by the great Ed Reed, had more stars than any D perhaps in the history of the college game, destroying Nebraska the following season. USC had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but it was really the Trojans defense that took apart Oklahoma. Florida's defense de-railed Heisman winner Troy Smith and Ohio State, and that run of BCS titles the SEC has gone on has been predicated by dominating defensive linemen and fast defenses.

From @Kilo1899 Mailbag question: Halfway through the season, who is your coach of the year? Player of year? Freshman of year?

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson.
  Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.

Freshman of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Stats That Matter: It's a snap for Chad Morris

The Clemson Tigers are the biggest surprise of the first half of the 2011 college football season. The Tigers were unranked in the AP preseason poll. They didn't even register a single vote. Twenty-three teams outside of the Top 25 even got one vote, including Maryland, N.C. State and Miami.

Entering the season, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was on the hot seat. In what what a rather bold move, Swinney handed the keys to his offense over to Chad Morris, a 42-year-old long-time Texas high school coach, who had all of one season of college experience, at Tulsa. To say the new Tigers offensive coordinator has had a huge impact would be an understatement. The 6-0 Tigers are 19th in total offense and 31st in scoring, up from 88th and 86th, which helps explain why they've already matched last season's win total. So for the latest installment of Stats That Matter, I figured it was a great time to find out what number Chad Morris really puts a premium on.

"Total snaps," Morris said without any hesitation as soon as I began to explain the concept of the column. "We want 80 or more. If can snap the ball 80 times or more, we've only lost one time since we put this offense in, back in 2004 and that one loss was in the first year of the system. We snapped it 99 times and got beat."

Morris' Stephenville High School team in Texas lost to Wichita Falls Rider High 63-56, he said.

Why 80?

"We feel like like it does a lot of things for us," Morris said. "By getting 80 or more, it tells us that we've had great tempo through the course of the game. We have a chance to wear down a defense. Obviously if you've had 80 snaps, you're having success because you look at your average scoring and it's about one out of every 15 to 18 snaps. Your conversion rates go up. All of that stuff. Everything works hand-in-hand. It's just something we target. We chart it every day. I know at halftime if we have 44 snaps, you double it, and I know we're on track."

The hand-in-hand part goes like this: The added pace that enables Morris' offense to get into a rhythm also takes a physical and emotional toll on the defense, which ups the frequency of the Tigers hitting more big plays as the game wears on. Defenders wilt, becoming more prone to busted assignments and just having trouble getting lined up before the ball is snapped and end up caught out of position. "There's no question about that," he says. "We've doubled the output of big plays in six games from what they had this time last year just because of what we're doing tempo wise."

Even though the Tigers seem to be thriving, they are technically about one snap per game on average below Morris' magic number. "We're averaging 79.1 snaps a game," he says. "We're pretty close to what we want."

In the Tigers first two games, the players, especially first-time starting QB Tajh Boyd, were still getting up to speed, literally. They ran off 72 snaps in each. But they followed up that by rolling up 92 snaps against FSU and Auburn. At Virginia Tech, they fell back to 67. 

"Well, 'OK, why didn't we get 80?'" asks Morris, who actually has a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a minor in statistics. "Then the next stat we look at is the number of three-and-outs. For every three-and-out that you get, you take three snaps away that we figure you probably would've gotten at a minimum. So at Virginia Tech, we had seven three-and-outs, which is 21 snaps for the game that we figure we didn't get. Or let's just say we cut that down to three three-and-outs instead of seven, that's 12 more snaps you pick up, which basically puts us at our number. 

"We talk to our players about this stuff religiously. It's 'Tempo! Tempo!' every day. We always talk to our quarterback and our center because they're the ones who control the tempo of the game."

Factored into Morris' math are plays that may not officially count because they get nullified by a penalty, but the coach still adds them to the tab.

Morris developed his system after spending time about a decade ago learning from another wildly successful coach in the Southwest, Gus Malzahn. "Eighty snaps is the targeted number that both Gus and I have talked about. It's something we've worked together on. He's been using it, and obviously he shared with me."

Other up-tempo guys may focus on a different key number. Former West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's barometer for his offense was first downs, and his target number was 25, because, he told me Tuesday, if you don't get those first downs, you can't ramp up tempo.

Asked what the biggest difference are between what Morris is doing and what Malzahn does now, the Clemson coach said:  I think there's a little bit of difference with what we do. Right now, he's running a little bit of more gap-scheme than we are. We're more of a zone-scheme. They run more counter and power. But the next year you may change it because that's the old high school coach in you because you have to adapt to what you've got."

In Clemson's case, it helps in their zone scheme to have a dynamic running back like 190-pound Andre Ellington, who is very suited to what they're doing. "It doesn't require you to have guys that just blow people off the ball up front," Morris said of the zone scheme. 

The comparisons between Malzahn and Morris, who clearly has benefitted from the path the Auburn coach has paved, are obvious. Of course, having the personnel to make things sizzle is key. Without Cam Newton and an experienced O-line, Auburn is ranked 80th in total offense and 64th in scoring, down from seventh in both in 2010. Morris, meanwhile, inherited a pretty gifted triggerman when he got to Clemson in sophomore Tajh Boyd, a 6-1, 225-pound former blue-chip recruit with good feet and a very quick release.

"He's a pleaser," Morris said. "Tajh is learning this system and having fun in it. He's flourishing in it and it fits him to a T. He's not having to think a whole lot. He's just going to play."

But there were some growing pains. "It was pretty difficult because it changes his thought process," Morris said of his QB, who is completed 63 percent of his passes with a 15-2 TD-INT ratio. "He was trying to think every play when he first started in this system instead of letting the system dictate itself. That's one thing I always stress to our players: 'I don't want you thinking. I want you reacting.' And right now he's doing a great job of just managing the game as far as when to move the chains with his feet, when to throw a ball away. He's also done a great job of not putting a ball in jeopardy."

The Tigers did have a big scare last week when Boyd went down awkwardly against Boston College. What initially looked like it could be a gruesome knee injury, proved to be a sprained hip that probably won't keep him out of this week's game against Maryland. 

"I was hoping it wasn't his knee," Morris said. "I didn't have a whole lot of thinking to do other than having my next guy calm and ready to go."

After all, being in a hurry is something Morris knows plenty about.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Auburn, Clemson, Tulsa
 
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 9:48 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

A month into the 2011 season and it's time to look back on the biggest surprises thus far. And by surprises I mean pleasant surprises, not disappointments. That's a list for another day.

1. Clemson: 
The Tigers who have been perpetual underachievers prone to teasing more than producing may just have turned the proverbial corner under Dabo Swinney this year. Swinney hired former HS coach Chad Morris to run his offense and Clemson is really getting results, going from 86th in scoring up to 33rd. After looking shaky early, the Tigers, led by QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins, have responded by knocking off three ranked teams in a row, highlighted by last weekend's win at Lane Stadium. That W was also quite a departure for a team that had lost four of its previous five road games.

1. Nordly Capi, DE, Colorado State: 
Talk about a shocker. Capi was thrown into action four snaps into the 2011 season after standout DE Broderick Sargent was lost of the year with an ACL injury. Capi, a 6-3, 249-pound sophomore from Florida, who had no sacks in four games last year, goes on to terrorize the New Mexico offense that day, forcing four fumbles, setting an NCAA single-game record. And, the kid hasn't really slowed down much since, going on a five-game sack streak, CSU's longest since Clark Haggins had one of the same length in the late 90s. Capi, who is said to have a really outgoing and fearless personality (he wants to be a fire fighter after his football career is over), leads the nation in both sacks (eight) and forced fumbles (five).

3. Michigan Defense: The Wolverines D would be even higher on this list if they've played a few more decent teams (although WMU, ND and SD State do have capable offenses), but the fact that this unit has gone from 108th in scoring defense to 4th is still remarkable and a big tip of the hat to new DC Greg Mattison who has replaced Greg Robinson. Finally, this D is more than just stud DT Mike Martin as DE Craig Roh has gotten healthy and given them some presence and Kenny Demens, Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovachs really have taken to the new system, which is a big reason why a unit that was 114th in pass defense has jumped 100 spots despite seeing some good passing attacks.

4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB:
RG3 has played out of his mind in the first month. The guy who arrived at Baylor with the rep as one of the fastest men to ever play QB in college football, has blossomed into a true passing threat. Griffin leads the nation in passing efficiency by a wide margin, has a sterling 18-1 TD-INT ratio and almost unfathomable 18-20 TD-INC ratio. For comparison, the No. 2 guy in passing efficiency Russell Wilson is 13-28 in TD-INC.

5. K-State: Bill Snyder is doing it again at Kansas State. The Cats went to Miami and took down a Miami team that was coming off a big win over Ohio State and then they took down a ranked Baylor team. Led by speedy Miami transfer Arthur Brown, K-State has gone from 78th in scoring defense up to 17th and this team has a decent shot of opening the year 7-0, matching last season's win total before OU comes to town in late October.

6. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB:
We knew the former NC State QB was good. His 3-1 TD/INT ratio in three seasons in the ACC was very strong, but it's been how quickly he has taken to this new system and his teammates and how accurate he has been that is so impressive. You'd think the timing with the new receivers wouldn't be as crisp as it has been. Remember this is a guy who had never completed above 59 percent of his passes. This year he's at 75 percent and is averaging a gaudy 12.5 yards per pass attempt, tops in the country and on pace to shatter Ty Detmer's NCAA record of 11.1 ypa. Just a part of the reason why RussellManiaXVI is running wild in Madison.

7. Ga. Tech offense:
Guess opponents haven't quite figured out Paul Johnson's offense after all. The 5-0 Jackets, 71st in scoring and 119th in passing last season, have been very sharp in 2011 behind QB Tevin Washington who has been burning defenses with the pass, sporting a 10-1 TD-INT ratio and a passing efficiency number of 260.7 (he'd be #1 in the nation if he had enough pass attempts). Tech is #2 in the country in scoring and up to No. 79 in passing offense.

8. Auburn:
The Tigers may have been in the preseason top 25, but they had many critics looking at all of the talent the defending national champs had to replace and were scratching their heads. Gene Chizik's team has looked pretty shaky at times, but this bunch is still finding ways to win close games. Their 16-13 win at No. 10 South Carolina last weekend earned them a place on this list as the young Auburn D kept Marcus Lattimore from running wild and limited Steve Spurrier's team to 2-10 on third downs.

9. The Big 12:
For all of the chaos with this conference off the field, the product on the field has been better than expected. Both Oklahoma schools look like potential BCS title game candidates. Texas is undefeated and showing some spark on both sides of the ball, while getting some plays from its young QBs. Baylor knocked off TCU early and has been turning heads. Texas Tech and K-State are both still undefeated. Even though A&M's second half troubles cost them a win over future SEC brethren Arkansas, the Big 12 is still 27-3 in games outside of the conference play and has six teams in the PA top 25, the same as the SEC has.

10. Vanderbilt:
James Franklin is generating a lot of buzz on the recruiting trail and that vibe is carrying over to the field, where the Commodores, a team that won four games the previous three seasons, is 3-1. Vandy's D has been very sharp forcing turnovers at an eye-catching rate (the school is No. 5 in turnover margin). Vandy absolutely dominated Ole Miss, 30-7 in mid-September in a way that jogged people's minds trying to recall the last time Vandy football demolished another SEC opponent the way they did the Rebs that day.

Posted on: September 28, 2011 11:56 am
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Daily Surf Report: The real bad Kiffin news


Just when it appeared the Trojans coach had broken free of his troubled reputation, Lane Kiffin was again tackled this week by his inescapable past, and now you have to wonder how it will ultimately shape his future, writes Bill Plaschke.

According to a report by Yahoo! Sports, former USC assistant Willie Mack Garza broke NCAA rules by reimbursing a talent scout to pay for a prospect and his mother to visit Tennessee when Garza was coaching there in 2009. Garza's boss at the time? It was, of course, Kiffin.

If there is one name that USC does not need associated with its program right now, it's Will Lyles. If there are two entities that USC does not want in the same sentence right now, it's Kiffin and the NCAA. Kiffin assured USC AD Pat Haden that he had no knowledge or involvement in Garza's alleged $1,500 repayment to Lyles for flying highly touted running back Lache Seastrunk and his mother from Texas to Tennessee for an unofficial recruiting visit.

"All I can say on that is that the alleged incident, I had no knowledge of, or no knowledge of a relationship at all," Kiffin told reporters Tuesday morning.

The other tough question involves Garza's season with the Trojans. If he was indeed a rogue recruiter for Tennessee, why would he suddenly become a clean one for the Trojans? Does USC have to worry now that its sincere two-year effort at compliance and cleanliness could be soiled with future revelations of past Garza messes? Are they sure nobody in Heritage Hall has Will Lyles on speed dial?
I am not at all surprised that some schools have gotten in hot water for using "recruiting services" as de facto shuttle services, meaning that if a school buys their service for $5,000 or $10,000, the service will do whatever it can to make sure that a group of the most coveted prospects in their area will get to campus for summer camp or unofficial visits.

The surprising part was that someone wired a payment to one of them. This stuff has been going on for a few years now and has been pretty common in the South. Who knows what this will ultimately mean for Lane Kiffin and whether he has plausible deniability.

I do buy Plaschke's point that stuff like this only whittles away the coach's margin for error. Truth is, of all the things that have been connected to Kiffin in the past week, the news of the Trojans losing at ASU was probably a lot worse for him than this latest sticky mess. Sanctions or not, he needs to convince people around USC that he can win games and not just against those with significantly inferior talent.

*Can Bud Foster slow down Chad Morris' high-flying Clemson offense, Mark Giannotto wonders.

Over the course of 17 games (13 at Tulsa last year, and now four with Clemson this season), Morris’s units have scored less than 28 points just once, not a bad track record for someone who spent the previous 16 years, and won three state titles, as a Texas high school coach. So when Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster sat down with reporters Monday night after practice, he seemed resigned to the fact that Saturday night won’t be a game in which his unit can hold the opposition to six rushing yards, like the Hokies did at Marshall, or 112 total yards, a feat Virginia Tech accomplished at East Carolina.

“You try to contain them. I don’t know if you can stop them,” Foster said. “Keep them to a minimum, but I don’t know what that minimum is. Can you keep them to 20 points? I don’t know. They’re just a talented group.”


Morris, meanwhile, tends to signal the play into Boyd once he’s at the line of scrimmage and an opponent sets up in their defense. Ultimately, Foster says, Clemson’s goal is to have so many moving parts and such a quick tempo that a defense is forced to simply play a vanilla base defense. So the most important battles Saturday could happen pre-snap, as Foster and the Hokies try to determine whether they have enough time to switch their coverages or change in-and-out of blitzes once Boyd is under center reading the defense for his keys.

I love this matchup of the two coordinators at different stages of their careers. Another great subplot will be how much VT's star CB Jayron Hosley matches up on Clemson's stud freshman WR Sammy Watkins. Hosley played a big role in Tech completely shutting down Lance Lewis, ECU's standout receiver. Lewis is averaging 10 catches and two TDs in the Pirates games aside from the one vs. Tech. In that one, he managed just three grabs for 17 yards.

*Even though Nebraska pounded Wyoming last week, it was painful for Jared Crick, the Huskers standout DT who was sidelined for the game, to watch, writes Steve Sipple.
"It sucked, man. It really sucked," Crick said Tuesday. "I was just wanting to be out there. Not just wanting to be out there for my 32nd start. I just wanted to be out there and play with my guys. That's the biggest thing for us, just being out there for each other. Me not being able to do that really hurt me.

"It definitely gave me an itch to get back out there. It definitely gives me a lot of motivation going into this week."

Crick, the preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year, took a nasty shot to the earhole on the final play Sept. 17 against Washington. The hit knocked him off his feet. Nebraska coaches haven't disclosed why he sat out of the Wyoming game, and Crick didn't want to address the topic with reporters. Despite missing practice all last week, he feels good about his conditioning.


*The nation's three most prolific passers, Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum and Geno Smith have one thing in common: all played for Dana Holgorsen in college.

I'll have a lot more about Holgorsen later today on the site.

*Korey Williams, Southern Miss' leading tackler broke news on Twitter Monday night that he will have knee surgery and indicated his senior season is probably over.

"Had dreams of making my senior season my best season," Williams posted on Twitter. "Just ready to get this surgery and start this rehab ASAP."

USM coach Larry Fedora, who announced several weeks ago he would not comment on injuries or his players’ health this season, did not return phone calls today seeking comment on Williams’ status, reports Patrick Magee.

Meanwhile, Williams, a senior, already appears focused on preparing for the NFL.

On his Twitter account, Williams posted: "Erin Henderson. Undrafted free agent because he tore his acl his last year of college. Now starting middle linebacker for the Vikings."

*In the shameless self-promo department, I'm on a podcast with Wes Bunting from the National Football Post about two intriguing QB prospects Ryan Tannehill and Weeden as well as the young but gifted LSU secondary.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Daily Surf Report: FSU's disappointing start

The Oklahoma loss was painful, but FSU's loss at Clemson is potentially and excruciatingly devastating, writes Mike Bianchi.

This heart-wrenching, nail-biting 35-30 defeat to Clemson hurts so badly because it puts a Florida State season of such promise and potential on life support. The national title is gone. The conference title is in jeopardy. "We were our own worst enemy," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said after his team committed 11 game-changing penalties for 124 momentum-sapping yards.

It's now official: Florida State is not back. Not even close. Can we agree upon that now?

I got loads of hate mail from FSU fans last week when I had the audacity to chastise the ridiculous concept that the Seminoles should be satisfied by keeping it close and "only" losing by 10 points to No. 1-ranked Oklahoma. I said it then and I'll say it again: Moral victories are for directional schools, not big-time college football programs.

I was on the Noles bandwagon coming into this season. I didn't think they'd win the BCS title, but I thought they'd be a top-five team. They still might be able to get there this year, but it does not look good right now. They're just 113th in rushing, 105th in sacks allowed and 87th in turnover margin despite opening against two woeful opponents. The biggest issues for them emerged in Death Valley on defense, where they really lost focus and committed back-breaking penalties and some assignment busts. They just couldn't get off the field on third downs as Tajh Boyd, a guy who had only a handful of starts, playing in a new system, carved them up.  On top of that, Greg Reid, their top CB, has had the kind of off-field problems you wouldn't expect from a junior trying to show he's a leader.

I know the Noles are killing it recruiting. Of course, they always seem to be killing it in recruiting. It's the focus on the field, which Jimbo Fisher said all off-season he was confident was getting there, that has been lacking. Up next for them is five straight games against teams they should pound before they host a Miami team that looks pretty shaky too. I'm not sure they can prove to anyone outside of FSU diehards that they are even close to back until the final week of the regular season when they visit the Swamp.

*One of Miami's top commits, Miami Norland High School LB Keith Brown visited Clemson over the weekend and "loved" it and told CaneSport that while he would still consider himself a very soft Hurricane commitment, he also says "most likely I won't be going to Miami."

Because Brown wants to know what NCAA sanctions UM faces before he graduates in December. He doesn't want to wind up on campus in January and find out about any punishment afterward. What would it take from the NCAA to keep him on board with Miami? "Probably no bowl games and no TV time and taking scholarships away," Brown said. "One year is no problem. Probably two or three (would cause him to go elsewhere)."

Thing is, Miami almost certainly will NOT know its fate with the NCAA by Signing Day, much less in December when mid-year signees would need to know.
*Mike Locksley was fired over the weekend. The move comes as no surprise. His time at New Mexico was a complete debacle. In fact, it was a tour de force for coaching ineptitude. He was 2-26 and, it wasn't like they were close. The Lobos were getting drilled by teams, not close to turning the corner. Worse still, he himself had all sorts of embarrassing issues off the field on top of that. I was stunned he got a third season. 

*The Randy Edsall Era at Maryland has begun with a thud and John Feinstein isn't buying that the former UCONN coach was brought in to rebuild a wreck of a program.

“This is a process we are in,” Edsall said after the Terrapins’ humiliating 38-7 loss to Temple on Saturday. “It was not going to get changed overnight no matter how much I want it to.”

Saturday was not a good day for Edsall on any level and, while he was candid in admitting that his team wasn’t ready to play (no kidding) it was a cop-out for him to fall back on the “this is a process” cliche. Al Golden, who took over at Temple in 2006 when the Owls had been kicked out of the Big East and had gone 38-151 under three coaches in 17 seasons, had a real process to go through.

Edsall needs to spend less time making announcements about uniforms and more time getting them ready to play in those uniforms.

Finestein makes a good point. Edsall inherited a team with the best QB in the ACC. Danny O'Brien is the kind of building block few others have. The Terps also have some pretty good talent on defense. There are some holes, but going into this season, this looked like an eight-win team. Now, after a dismal 1-2 start with a hefty ACC stretch coming in early October, you wonder if this team will even make it to a bowl game.
*After getting blown out in the fourth quarter at ASU, the USC offense merits a D+ grade, writes Michael Lev.
QB Matt Barkley missed Woods for a touchdown, threw two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and lost a fumble on a sack. … The offense converted only 1 of 9 third-down attempts and scored touchdowns on just 2 of 6 trips into the red zone.
Heading into the weekend, I'd received some Tweets from some Trojan fans grousing about why Barkley wasn't being included in more Heisman talk. My feeling was that despite some impressive stats, the jury was still out on whether Barkley should be in the discussion with other Heisman contenders. He has struggled late in games and in crunch time. He and this USC team also haven't shined in many big spots against tough competition. Those are the kinds of things you must do to be seriously in the Heisman mix in the end.

The way they fell apart Saturday night has become shockingly common with this USC program in the past few years now. They also seemingly have too much talent at their skill positions to be only 79th in offense. We'll see if they can get it sorted out. The Trojans have a very interesting October coming up with games at Cal, at Notre Dame and then against Stanford. Those are games that people will keep an eye on. Not against Syracuse and Minnesota.





 



Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
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