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 25, 2012 10:23 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 10:36 pm
 

Former CSU QB transferring to NC State

Pete Thomas, who started two years at quarterback for Colorado State, will transfer to NC State, his personal QB coach George Whitfield confirmed to CBS Wednesday night.

The 6-5, 225-pounder will be eligible for the ACC school starting in the 2013 season. He figures to battle for the vacated starting QB job since Mike Glennon, who blossomed in 2011, will be a senior next year. Thomas started as a true freshman in 2010, and does have his redshirt year still available, which he will use in 2012.


The El Cajon, Calif. native also considered Vandy and UCLA among others. He will visit N.C. State this weekend to check out the campus and meet with the coaching staff.


Whitfield, who tutored former Auburn star Cam Newton to get ready for the NFL draft last year, has been training Thomas since the QB was an eighth grader. The coach praised Thomas' work ethic, focus and his accuracy.


In two seasons at CSU, Thomas completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for over 4,200 yards. His TD-INT ratio was 18-21 and he was sacked a head-shaking 71 times.
Category: NCAAF
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.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 2:20 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Posted on: January 13, 2012 1:37 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 7:55 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Mettenberger's Maserati

Time for the Friday mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @PatrickSmith45  I keep hearing how good Zach Mettenberger of LSU is. If he was that good wouldn't he have pushed for playing time this past year?

The vibe around LSU right now is really, really intriguing. The Tigers were so close to punctuating one of the great seasons by a team, but then get dominated by Alabama in their own backyard. LSU's offense was atrocious. Before the game, whenever someone asked me where LSU would rank with the all-time great teams, I tempered my answer because for as outstanding as they were on defense and special teams, their QB play was nowhere near that level, and on Monday night, it really showed.
 
That said, almost everyone I talked to last week sounded convinced the Tigers were in the midst of a great run considering that they have so many key guys in the program who are freshmen and sophomores. They had 16 players on the two-deep, including seven starters who were sophs or younger. People knew they'd likely lose Mo Claiborne, their superb CB, early to the NFL. Both QBs were playing their last game Monday as well, but you have to wonder if that's such a bad thing given how the showing in the BCS title game. Jordan Jefferson looked completely lost and his back-up Jarrett Lee didn't even inspire enough confidence in his coaches to bail them out when things looked so bleak.

No one has ever questioned one-time Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger's arm, and after a season at Butler County CC in Kansas, where he had a 32-4 TD-INT ratio, the expectations around the 6-6, 230-pounder only grew. Many of the people inside the program are sold. 

I spoke to Mettenberger and his teammates a lot a few days ago about how LSU goes forward after the BCS game.  Mettenberger said he'd hoped he could've getting a shot at the starting QB job in 2011, but "Coach Miles didn't see it that way," he said. "It was tough at first but I couldn't get upset as long you're winning."

Mettenberger said he could hardly wait for Tuesday (the day after the BCS title game) because "that's when it's my team.

It's gonna be like getting a Maserati when you turn 16. I really think our offense can be special."

Obviously, the Tigers offense looked anything but special against Alabama the other night. Give a lot of credit to the Tide for that, but also there has been plenty of finger-pointing going on in the state of Louisiana. And, if you follow (former?) LSU WR Russell Shepard on Twitter, you see it's not just fans and media (and parents of Tiger players) doing it. Maybe Mettenberger will instill enough faith in his coaches to change that.

Listening to WR Odell Beckham Jr., one of those gifted young players in the program, that is the hope. "Me and Zach always talk about next year," Beckham said last Friday. "Zach wants to break a lot of records. 
 

"One of the things I really about him is he's not afraid to take a risk. He also really does have a cannon for an arm."

Mettenberger said he's learned to become more of a passer than just a thrower. "I used to 'juice' everything." He also said he's realized he has to be quicker with his decisions thanks to his time on the Tigers practice field this year. "If you're a split-second too late on a timing route, (Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu) are gonna jump it."
 
As for the off-field issues Mettenberger had at Georgia, he said he's "changed my ways of life. You gotta learn to grow up."

We'll see if he is the answer for LSU in 2012. If not, there's dual-threat redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall, who Beckham says has an even stronger arm than Mettenberger, and blue-chip recruit Gunnar Kiel, arguably the No. 1 QB prospect in the country.

From @BruCam87 What can we expect out of Mora and UCLA next year? The talent level seems to be higher than any PAC 12 South team except SC. 

That's been the problem with the Bruins over the past two, three, 10 years or so. The talent "seems" pretty high. They have loaded up on guys who look the part, but they've gotten bogged down by landing too many guys who simply don't love football and aren't as competitive as you need to have an elite program. 

When I visited with Jim Mora a few weeks back he told me he was determined to make this a tougher team. If that's Mission No. 1, that will help right away, but a lot of that also will come back to recruiting and bringing in tougher, hungrier kids. 

What you had in 2011 was a team that was really mediocre on both sides of the ball. I suspect new OC Noel Mazzone will improve the offense because his scheme will be a better fit to the talent than the pistol has been. It'll also help getting back stud LT Xavier Su'a-Filo from the LDS mission after two years away. This program has been so thin on quality O-linemen and Big X is the best that has been on that campus in a decade. And I do agree with you that, given all of the transition in the Pac-12 South, you won't have to be a top 25 team to finish second in that division.

From @hanleyf6 Sal Sunseri has accepted DC job at TN. Why leave Bama? Lots of uncertainty with Dooley's status and major rebuilding job. 

Sunseri's already won BCS titles as an assistant at Bama, and while he's well-regarded as a recruiter, if he can help spark the Vols' resurgence after a dreadful 2011 at a time when that program seems in disarray, his stock will sky-rocket. Even though, there is increasing speculation that if Derek Dooley has another season like he did in 2011 or even close to as bad, he won't be the coach at UT in 2013, keep in mind that Sunseri is getting a reported three-year deal that'll be worth almost $2.5 million. There is stability in that.

On the back side of Sunseri's decision is this: if he stays at Bama, Nick Saban gets most of the credit and Tide DC Kirby Smart gets basically what's left over. By leaving, Sunseri is positioning himself for a much larger spotlight.

From Irishsox05 Is college football ever going to move in the hash marks to match the NFL?  

Interesting question. Never really thought about it. The differing hash marks affect so much of the game in terms of scheming and the kinds of plays people run (wide-side versus boundary). It's also a big consideration for defensive "landmarks" for things such as plotting out coverage areas with the Cover-2, etc. 
  My hunch is the NCAA sticks with what they have because they'd like to keep things as unique for college and traditional as they can, rather than make another stop just to be more like the pros.

From @PaulPabst If we moved to a plus-one or playoff, best case scenario ... which season would it start?


It would start in the 2014 season with the Plus-One (playoff) games taking place in January of 2015.

From @RedKirby What's your prediction for Tx Tech next year? 

My guess is the Red Raiders will make a bowl game in 2012 after missing out this past season. Seth Doege is back at QB. He had an inconsistent year as a first-time starter, but he figures to be better with another year of seasoning. Getting RB Eric Stephens back after missing half the season with a knee injury also will help a bunch. It'll also be interesting to see what they can get from a crew of WRs who didn't play in 2011: Derek Edwards, Tyson Williams and UF transfer Javares McRoy. The O-line did lose some solid players and will see how new coach Sam Pitman can bring them together.

The biggest question is on defense, where the Red Raiders have been among the nation's worst on D for the past two years. They don't lose much to graduation and Tommy Tuberville reshuffled his staff with some more experienced coaches. I expect things to be better on that side of the ball. 

Big picture, this team should get at least seven wins since they have one of the better QBs in the conference and more experience in their top 44.
 

From @rbode17 Which of Florida's big 3 will have the best 2012 season? 


I'll go with FSU. They finished 2011 with the most momentum, have the QB who is furthest along (E.J. Manuel) and have the best defense. They also have the most stability of the staffs among the Big Three.


From @Kentuckyclem how come the national media does not cover or do an exposé on over signing in the SEC? Seems to be the common denominator...


The national media has covered that topic. A lot. You can Google it and all the times we've talked about it in print. Not to mention all of the times many of us have been asked about it on the radio or on national TV shows.


From @DavidAnderson89 how come u didn't choose the CBS hat off the table when u made "the decision"?

That hat stuff is so 2008. Tweeting it made more sense. ... Better question, how come a man of your stature, didn't do something creative with your decision, like picking a Colorado State ski hat over a Boise State ski hat and a Stanford beret? 
Posted on: January 12, 2012 2:18 pm
 

San Diego State lands Katz

Ryan Katz, the strong-armed former Oregon State QB, is transferring to San Diego State. The 6-1, 215-pound quarterback confirmed the move to CBS Thursday morning. As a graduate student, he will be eligible to play in 2012 for the Aztecs. 


Katz becomes the second former Pac-12 player to join Rocky Long's program this week, following the news that former USC WR Brice Butler is also heading south.


Katz, known for having one of the most powerful arms in college football to go along with good mobility, started 14 games for the Beavers in three years, but was benched early in the 2011 season and sat behind redshirt freshman Sean Mannion. Katz figures to take over for departing SDSU QB Ryan Lindley.


The Santa Monica, Calif. native says the move is a great opportunity to come in and play right away, adding that it's "close to home. Coach (Rocky) Long and Coach (Andy) Ludwig are great coaches. I want to help them win ball games next year."


Word is the Aztecs also may end up with another former Pac-12 player in ex USC RB Dillon Baxter, a San Diego native. If Baxter ends up at SDSU, though, he wouldn't be eligible until the 2013 season.
Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
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