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Posted on: December 16, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: New UCLA staff starting fast

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, if you have a question, send it to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @ChuckMuselwite what are you thoughts on the start Jim Mora got at UCLA and his new staff?

I really like the hires Mora has made so far targeting aggressive recruiters (Adrian Klemm, Steve Broussard and Demetrice Martin) who know the California recruiting scene well. And, that aggressive, high-energy attitude can carry over to the practice field, where the Bruins really could use it. His new OC Noel Mazzone did a very nice job at ASU. Mazzone is an experienced play-caller who has continued to evolve over the past decade, from his time in the NFL with the Jets to his time studying up on the one-back offense variations. 

  Those three recruiters had really done so damage to UCLA at their previous stops and now they have a bigger brand to sell locally. They will now work to battle USC for a handful of blue-chippers the Trojans either had committed or were closing in on. What transpires over the next six weeks will be very intriguing.

  A few battles to keep an eye on: CB Kevon Seymour, who goes to the same school (Muir HS) that Martin, a former USC staffer, went to. Many recruiting insiders figured Seymour was heading to USC. UCLA wasn't even a factor. Well, the Bruins are a factor now.

Klemm had developed a relationship with OL Jordan Simmons while the coach was at SMU. Simmons is committed to USC but now Klemm is working hard to flip him to UCLA.

Ellis McCarthy is the best D-linemen on the West Coast. His father had wanted him to go to UCLA but the Bruins struggled to make a favorable impression with the 295-pound DT from Monrovia, CA. Martin, though, has a good relationship with the big man and his family and is working hard to get him to Westwood.

The Bruins also have a shot now with Arik Armstead, a one-time USC commit and one of the top line prospects in the country.


I'll have a lot more on Mora and the evolving battle in Los Angeles in the next few weeks.


From @GGutierrez01  I know bowls haven't started, but your guess of preseason No.1 going into next year? Thanks

 
It all depends on which underclassmen jump to the NFL and which remain in college for another season.  If Matt Barkley opts to remain at USC for his senior season, the Trojans, I think, will be the No. 1 team going into the fall despite the news that standout left tackle Matt Kalil is leaving early.

With Barkley, USC would arguably have the best QB in the country to go along with the top duo of wideouts in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee; a 1000-yard back in Curtis McNeal, an improving group of athletic linemen on both sides of the ball, their top two tacklers were both freshmen linebackers (Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey) and the Pac-12's best CB, Nickell Robey, who was just a sophomore. Plus, Oregon and ND have to visit the Coliseum in 2012.
  If Barkley doesn't come back, my hunch is LSU would get that spot. The biggest question mark for them would be at QB but folks inside the Tigers program are high on Zach Mettenberger and he going to have a terrific group of running backs returning. We'll see if WRs Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle come back. The D-line should be even scarier next year; Tyrann Mathieu will be back. My guess is lockdown CB Mo Claiborne might not. Rangy CB Tharold Simon, though, would start for 90 percent of the teams in the top 25 and would be a good replacement if Claiborne does leave.

  From @YoAustin310 why is the south carolina scandal not getting ANY press?

I think it has a lot to do with the timing of when this all came down. It is a very crowded news-space in college sports right now. First, you have the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal, which, quite frankly has redefined what we see as a college "scandal" as compared to Willie Lyles/Oregon recruiting; Ohio State tattoos or Nevin Shapiro and Miami. You also have the constant tug of the coaching carousel news/gossip which has been especially hectic. You have BCS fallout too. 

  The mess with South Carolina is significant though as it deemed the three NCAA violations "major and serious."   In the Notice of Allegations sent to South Carolina, the NCAA alleged Gamecock athletes or prospective athletes received $55,000 worth of extra benefits from representatives of the school’s athletic interests and that the university failed to properly monitor two potentially improper situations. For more on this, you can read this story by Josh Kendall. 

We'll see if the NCAA buys that the Gamecocks' move of forfeiting six football scholarships over the next three years is a harsh enough punishment. Given the money involved, you wouldn't think it would be. Then again, the NCAA is so unpredictable with this stuff because it's just making things up as it goes along.



From @Bushwood41 PSU has lost some commits recently. Could they have prevented this if they would have hired a new coach already?


Probably, but do you risk rushing to just have a head coach in place in hopes of keeping a few commits rather than make sure everyone there is convinced you have the right head man for the long haul? I don't think so. Besides, if they find and can land the right head coach, he'll probably have a shot to be able to sway back some kids who were on the fence.

From @SilverCrushBlog why hasn't Delaware HC KC Keeler gotten any shots at a premiere FBS school yet? He'd be perfect at PSU. He already recruits PA.
 

I agree that he'd make some sense at Penn State. The guy has done a superb job at Delaware, especially since he replaced a legendary coaching figure there in Tubby Raymond. I've heard he'd love for the chance to take over at Penn State. They could do a lot worse.


From @PaysonRealtor  Do you have anything good to say about ASU's hire of Todd Graham?


He's got a lot of Texas ties. That should help give a jolt to recruiting in an area ASU can and needs to take advantage of.

From @BillBoettcher Claiborne is presumed the better pro prospect but if you had to re-recruit you would take the honey badger for college right?

I'd take em both. The risk with Mathieu is coaches see so many undersized, but productive, "instinctive" guys in the recruiting process where they debate just how well their ability will translate at the next level. And, to be fair, they can cite a lot more examples of those guys getting overwhelmed and lost in major college football than they can for the ones who shine. When I spoke to Frank Wilson, the LSU assistant who had been recruiting Mathieu for a long time, he said the kid's competitiveness and quickness were off the charts and he was sold. LSU is fortunate to have Mathieu. He is a special talent.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:58 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing bowl matchups

We're just a few days away from the official start of bowl season and I'm pretty fired up about that. This week's Tuesday Top 10: the match-ups I'm most intrigued by:


1- BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9: LSU vs. Bama: I realize many of you don't want to see a rematch of a game that didn't have a single TD the first time out. To me, Les Miles is always Must-See TV and I'm very curious to see how Trent Richardson does against the LSU D the second-time around. Also, curious what the Honey Badger does on a stage this big. Pregame


2-Rose Bowl, Jan. 2: Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Chip Kelly's team will try and end its little two-game BCS bowl skip against a physical Badger team. The Ducks have had a hard time against top teams who have had plenty of time to prepare for their scheme. Wisconsin comes into the the game with the nation's No. 6 scoring defense. Pregame


3- Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: So, you're looking for a BCS bowl where you'll see plenty of offense? This is your game. OSU is No. 2 in scoring nationally. Stanford is No. 5. I'm very curious to see how Andrew Luck handles the country's most opportunistic defense (42 turnovers forced this season.) Pregame


4-Outback Bowl, Jan 2. Michigan State vs. Georgia: The Spartans got embarrassed by Alabama last year in the bowl after a strong regular-season and come into this riding a four-game bowl losing streak under Mark Dantonio. Are they good enough to make a statement for the Big Ten this time around? Pregame


5-Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: Baylor vs Washington: If RG3 is playing, I'm watching. . . . Oh, and if you're looking for defense, this really ain't it. Washington ranks 99th in scoring defense. Baylor is 109th. Pregame


6-Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: Clemson vs. WVU: A pair of cutting-edge offensive minds in Clemson's Chad Morris and WVU's Dana Holgorsen. Both have QBs primed to get a jump on some 2012 Heisman hype, especially since each is working with gifted receiving crews. Pregame


7-Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Va. Tech vs. Michigan: I know both of these programs looked brutal in January bowl games a year ago, but I'm curious because of the match-ups: Bud Foster's D against Denard Robinson sounds like fun. Same for Greg Mattison's improved Wolverines defense against David Wilson. Pregame


8-TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Houston vs. Penn State: Kevin Sumlin is already at A&M leaving his righthand man Tony Levine to get the Cougars ready for a very tough Penn State D, by far the best defense Case Keenum has seen all year. The Nittany Lions are No. 5 in the country in scoring defense and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency D. Pregame


9-Gator Bowl: Jan. 2: Florida vs. Ohio State: Hard to get excited about two 6-6 teams that have had such down years? Normally, that'd be the case, but given the Urban Meyer factor hanging over this game, you'd think there's a lot more pressure on Will Muschamp than on the OSU sidelines. Then again, how about the Buckeyes looking to impress their new boss? I'm in. Pregame


10-Champs Sports, Dec. 29: Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Two programs with rich histories who had duds of seasons amid a lot of lofty speculation. Winner can make the claim that they finished strong and were really "just a year away." Pregame



Posted on: December 12, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Miami's Miller jumping to the NFL

Miami RB Lamar Miller is leaving early for the NFL draft, a source told CBS.


Miller had a breakout season for the Canes this fall, rushing for 1272 yards (the third-most in UM history in a single season) and nine touchdowns. He leaves UM with two seasons of eligibility remaining. The 5-11, 216-pound back with sprinter speed blossomed this year after learning to become a more patient runner. Miller explained before the season that because he was in such a rush to trying and make something happen that he struggled to let plays develop. The difference in his performance was dramatic. He went over 100 yards seven times this season as UM's feature back. In 2010, he ran for 646 yards and six TDs as a redshirt freshman, while also shining as a kick returner.

Miller is expected by many draft analysts to be a first-round pick. He figures to test very well in the pre-draft workout settings. He is considered one of the fastest players in the Miami program and is expected to clock in the 4.3 range in the 40.


Miller is the third underclassmen to declare early for the NFL draft, joining WR Tommy Streeter and DT Marcus Forston.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Sumlin accepts Texas A&M coaching job


Kevin Sumlin has accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Texas A&M, a source confirmed Saturday to CBS Sports. The 47-year-old Sumlin, a former Aggies offensive coordinator a decade ago, led Houston to a 12-1 record this season. He replaces Mike Sherman, who was fired after coaching the Aggies, ranked preseason No. 8 in the AP poll, to a 6-6 record this year. Sherman was 25-25 in four seasons at A&M and just 15-18 in Big 12 play.


Sumlin, 35-17 in his four seasons at Houston, takes over at A&M as the Aggies are making the jump into a much deeper conference in the SEC. It is a A&M proud program with top facilities and great resources, but has only finished ranked one time in the past dozen years.


Having worked under Bob Stoops, R.C. Slocum, Joe Tiller, among others, Sumlin has long been pegged as "a rising star" in the business. Staffers who have worked with him gush about what a great motivator he is, saying that he is "a player's coach" yet a real discipline guy at the same time. The Birmingham, Ala. native is also regarded as a great closer with recruits and their parents, according to colleagues.  


Sumlin's name had come up in connection to other vacancies at UCLA, ASU and Illinois this year, but from the moment Sherman was fired on December 1, it appeared likely College Station would be the place he ended up. Sumlin did wonders there in his first time on staff. He took over the Aggies offensive coordinator role three games into the 2002 season and the team went from averaging 16 points per game to 33 points per game. They even upset No. 1 Oklahoma, 30-26 using a back-up freshman quarterback (Reggie McNeal). After two seasons at A&M, Sumlin moved on to OU before eventually getting hired to take over at Houston in December of 2007.


At UH, Sumlin built on what Art Briles had done. He gave an unheralded Texas Tech assistant Dana Holgorsen the chance to call plays. That proved to be a shrewd move. The Cougars turned into one of the country's most prolific offenses. After Holgorsen moved on, the UH attack continued to pile up points as Sumlin picked Kliff Kingsbury to run the offense. This year, the Cougars averaged 51 points per game and 599 yards of total offense, both are No. 1 in the nation. Houston made it up to No. 6 in the BCS rankings before being upset by Southern Miss last Saturday in the Conference USA title game. They will face Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas on Jan. 2. Sumlin will not coach UH in the bowl game.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:10 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The coach Penn St should pursue

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, if you have questions send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @Newberry75 Is PSU interviewing anybody? Seems pretty quiet for such a high profile search.

It's been kept very quiet if they have. Given all of the uncertainty with the leadership there and the cloud that will hang over that community for a very long time, it's a delicate situation. I can report that a hot rumor which was swirling in the past 36 hours is untrue that was linking former Penn State player Al Golden to the job. Golden, the rumor went, was picked up Wednesday in New York in a private plane and flown to PA to meet with Penn State officials. However, a source explained to me that the private plane that Golden was flying in is actually owned by a Miami donor and the coach was going around the northeast recruiting for Miami.

The guy who I think Penn State should target for this job is actually a different guy with Miami ties, Mario Cristobal, the head coach at FIU. As I wrote here a few months ago, Cristobal has done wonders taking over what was the bleakest, messiest, most screwed-up FBS program in all of college football. He is a high-energy, no-BS guy who knowns the northeast well from his time as Greg Schiano's top recruiter when they were trying to breathe some life into the Rutgers program. Cristobal knows what it takes to win both as a player and as a coach. He has shown he has great focus, which I think will be paramount for the next head coach there given everything that you will inherit.
 

If you're skeptical about Cristobal's tenacity and savvy to land such a big job with such unique problems,  click the link and look at the bottom of the column:

I said no coach in FBS took over a worse program. The reason: FIU was like no other program at that level. There was no infrastructure. They had no film library. They had no academic support system in place for the players. They had to build everything from scratch when Cristobal's staff arrived. "Our first month of official visits, we didn't show them the locker room or the weight room," said a former staffer. "We were running smoke and mirrors. Everything focused on the campus and the city of Miami. We'd just show them plans of what we were building."

The facilities were laughable. The program also had administrative issues where players had a hard time even getting their Pell Grant money. On top of that, Cristobal also inherited a dreadful APR rating and the program was going on academic probation, so they couldn't even go after full recruiting classes.



From @astubert Do you think Devon Still wasn't selected as an AFCA All-American because of the PSU scandal?


I'd hope that wasn't the reason behind it since Still had nothing to do with it. I was surprised to see him NOT on the team. If you were to ask which DT had the most impact on his defense and doesn't take a lot of plays off, Still would be the first guy I'd think of. He played on a top 5 defense, and he was the biggest reason why they were so tough. He had 17 TFLs, which is really impressive since most of the other top guys in tackles for loss are edge rushers, not guys who consistently see double teams and lots of traffic.

From @tperk54 why on earth did you not vote for Trent Richardson for the Heisman?
 

Richardson is an outstanding back. He was on top or near the top of my ballot for much of this season. He had some spectacular moments. Best example was that amazing run he had against that dreadful Ole Miss team. In a few games against some of the tougher defenses he played, he was good, although he only averaged a little over four yards per carry against Penn State and under four yards against LSU and his team didn't even score a touchdown. I feel like he's a better back that Montee Ball, but the Wisconsin back put up even more impressive numbers and he did so against some good defenses too. Both backs had very good years. I believe there are six or seven guys you could make a strong case for. I watched a lot of games on each of those guys. To me, it just comes down who had the best year in terms of making the most impact on his program and, as I detailed in the Big Picture column, that was Robert Griffin III.
 
From @SouthernJetNC Is Fedora a great, good or average hire for UNC?
 

I'd categorize him as a good hire. He's aggressive, has a sharp offensive mind and a really keen eye for talent. That last part is big. He helped land some very unheralded prospects at Oklahoma State who blossomed into stars. Obviously, a lot will depend on the caliber of assistants he can surround himself with, but I was impressed by the staff he assembled right away when he took over at Southern Miss. Those guys could really recruit.


From @T_Dwyer Is "Charlie Weis? Huh?" enough of a question or should I be more specific?

That one caught me off guard too. I can see why KU would consider Weis, although I wouldn't think they'd hire him over, say, a Gus Malzahn or even a Chad Morris, if they could've landed either. Weis isn't a first-time college head coach, but it's not like he was a big success at ND with a lot more resources there. His name will carry weight with some recruits, but so would those other guys.

As for the other side of it: Kansas is a really, really tough place to win at. Remember before Mark Mangino arrived, KU hadn't had a winning season in a half-dozen years before and hadn't been to a bowl since 1995. In 2007, when Mangino got KU into a BCS bowl, which they won, was arguably the best coaching job we've seen in the last 20 years. KU was 12-1 and finished No. 7. Amazing. KU isn't in a fertile recruiting state and it can't take many of the local JC players that other programs in that league can. Then they got rid of him and the program has bottomed out in two seasons with Turner Gill. They weren't even competitive. 

Weis, should attract some talent on offense. According to the New York Times, Dayne Crist, a former Weis QB at ND, will visit there this weekend. Landing Crist would be a good first step for the coach. Weis will inherit a talented young RB in Darrian Miller, but also the nation's worst defense. Crist would be a quick fix to try and help them get respectable in a hurry, maybe go 4-8, 5-7 to win over some skeptical recruits. But it is going to be a very uphill battle. Top recruits won't perk up for KU as they will listen if you're the head coach at Notre Dame. Now maybe some QBs and tight ends may given Weis' pedigree, but there are other coaches with strong NFL track records too and they're at bigger programs. When Weis was at ND, he was at the glamour school. Now, he'll be below OU, Texas, Oklahoma State and just about everyone else in the Big 12. 

From @MatthewLevi If Bama wins BCS, what are the odds that LSU still gets AP title since LSU beat Bama at Bama's house and had a stronger SOS?

My hunch is those are slim chances LSU would still get the AP title. Keep in mind if Bama won, they'd be beating LSU in the Tigers backyard. Also, people, by nature, are creatures of the moment. They tend to go with what they just witnessed and put heavy emphasis on it. By overlooking the BCS title game like that would make a farce of something (the BCS) that is already pretty dubious.

From @AnalogSports Is Mike Leach going to run his same offense up in Pullman? In the snow? Will he get the right kids for it?

They ran the Air-Raid system in Iowa, where the weather was brutal and had a lot of success with it under those conditions. It can get pretty windy in Lubbock and some parts of the Big 12 too. 
Sounds like he already has a few of those kids in the program right now with those two QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and Marquess Wilson, a great sophomore WR. The challenge will be for them to grasp the nuances of the system and rep it so much where they can get the timing down.

From @cdunk87 Who do you think would be better fit at Nebraska for DC Ron Zook or Mike Stoops?

Zook is a fantastic recruiter, but as a DC, I'll go with Mike Stoops. Ask OU fans about what they feel like the program has lacked since Mike Stoops left for Arizona. He is a very good coach. People I've spoken to who have worked with him saying he was an excellent tempo setter at practice and very good in the day-to-day. That said it would be interesting to see him on the same sideline with another up-to-the-edge intensity guy like Pelini, but since both go back I suspect they'd could play off each other pretty well if Stoops does end up in Lincoln.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 11:26 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of 2011

Coming into the season there was so much optimism at different programs, but fast forward three months and there's been a lot of disappointment. This week's Top 10 list: biggest duds of the 2011 season. (I'm leaving off the BCS, which you could make a strong case for deserving to be on this list every year.)

1. Maryland: Randy Edsall's first season in College Park was a disaster of the highest order. The Terps got off to a nice start, edging a seriously depleted Miami team that was gutted by NCAA suspensions, but then things completely fell apart. They didn't beat another FBS program the rest of the way. They got blown out at home by Temple 38-7. They lost to a bad BC team by 11. They blew a huge second-half lead against NC State. The stunning part in all of this was it's not like Edsall inherited the FAU squad. They were 9-4 last year and had the best young QB in the conference in Danny O'Brien. However, the sophomore quarterback regressed in a big way under Edsall. The team was 111th in passing efficiency. In the final eight games of the season, the Terps managed to scored more than 21 points twice. Somewhere, Ralph Friedgen is probably still laughing at his bosses who ran him out of his alma mater after winning ACC Coach of the Year honors.

2. The State of Florida: The Noles were preseason No. 6 and slogged their way to an 8-4 record where they didn't even make it to the ACC title game. At one point they had a three-game losing streak. In mid-November, they lost at home against unranked UVA. ... The Gators, No. 22 in preseason, fizzled on offense and went 6-6 by dropping six of their last eight games. . . . Miami's hopes were torpedoed on the eve of the season by the Nevin Shapiro mess that would sideline a bunch of key players early. The Canes never recovered, losing six games by eight points or less before opting out of what figured to be a mediocre bowl game in hopes of appeasing the NCAA down the road. Their final game: a home loss to a 3-8 BC team. ... USF got off to a fast start, beating a ranked Notre Dame team on the road, but then Skip Holtz team flopped, losing seven of their final eight. ... UCF, which despite having the No. 11 D in the country, failed to even get bowl eligible, going 5-7. Last year UCF was 11-3. Now there is much uncertainty and who knows if sophomore QB Jeff Godfrey, who had seemed to be the centerpiece of the upstart program, will be back in Orlando in 2012?

3. Texas A&M: The Aggies, preseason No. 8, had way too much firepower to go 6-6. Even 8-4 would've felt like a big let down. Statistically, they were a very hard team to figure out. They were seventh in the country in total offense, first in fewest sacks allowed, first in sacks, 13th in rushing defense but they also were 100th in turnover margin. They blew a ridiculous amount of games in the second half. They ended up losing four of their last five and Mike Sherman lost his job because of it.

4. Ole Miss: A lot of people pegged the Rebels for the bottom of the SEC West, but no one would've expected they'd have the worst season in school history. Houston Nutt's lackluster recruiting at Ole Miss really caught up with him. His team got thumped by Vandy in a way that the Commodores never beat another SEC program. The Rebels also lost by 17 to lowly Kentucky and then get crunched by La. Tech 27-7 at the their homecoming game. The 2-10 season cost Nutt his job and was punctuated with another blowout loss to arch-rival Miss. State, 31-3.

5. Oklahoma: [Note: The Sooners were a bad omit on my part when I initially published this list.] They were preseason No. 1 and sputtered badly in the season half of the season, losing three of their last six. The first loss was home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that would end up having its worst season in almost 20 years. The Sooners finished off the season getting drilled by rival Oklahoma State, 44-10.


6-UCLA defense:
Few teams look better on the hoof, but the Bruins just never could get it done under Rick Neuheisel. Despite a defensive unit were more than its share of former blue-chippers, the Bruins were 112th in sacks and 96th in scoring defense. They surrendered 38 or more six times this season.

7. Mississippi State: They were a long shot to win the incredibly stacked SEC West, but the Bulldogs were still a preseason top 20 team but they never got much of anything going. They went 6-6. The only team with a winning record they beat was 8-4 La. Tech. Their other four wins over FBS opponents went 12-36 combined.

8. Notre Dame offense: The Irish were ranked a respectable 43rd in scoring, but given the weapons Brian Kelly had (led by WR Michael Floyd) ND should've been a lot more dynamic. They were held to 20 points or less five times this season. They also were brutal when it came to taking care of the football, tying for third-worst in the country in turnover margin.

9. Kansas: Turner Gill was fired after just two seasons because the Jayhawks were so overwhelmed this season. They beat an FCS program and then knocked off the eventual MAC champs (NIU) in Week 2 and it was all downhill from them on as it was one epic blowout loss after another. They ranked 106th in total offense and 120 in total defense. Of their final 10 losses to finish the season, only two were decided by less than double-digits. They lost six games by 30 points or more.

10. Illinois offense: Things set up so well for Ron Zook this season. They had a dynamic young QB (Nate Scheelhaase) and some talented backs and receivers. The Illini jumped out to a 6-0 start and then the bottom drops out. They lose the next six, failing to score more than two TDs in any other game. They managed just seven points against a Minnesota D that was 102nd in scoring defense. They scored 14 on a Michigan, which is 51 points fewer than they scored on the Wolverines on a year ago. The Illini finished 91st in scoring, dropping 59 spots from where they were at mid-season. They also ended up 106th in sacks allowed.

 
Posted on: December 4, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 8:32 am
 

Freeze to become Ole Miss head coach

After leading an Arkansas State program that hadn't had a winning season since 1995, to a 10-2 record this year, Hugh Freeze informed his players at a Monday morning meeting that he has accepted the head coaching job at Ole Miss, a source told CBS. 

Freeze takes over a Rebels program that is coming off a brutal 2-10 year, its worst season in school history. He replaces Houston Nutt, who was fired after four seasons at Ole Miss. The Rebels are in the midst of a school-record 14-game losing streak in SEC play. They were hammered by Vanderbilt, lost 30-13 to Kentucky and blasted 27-7 by Louisiana Tech at the Rebels homecoming weekend. They were 11th in the SEC in scoring offense and 12th in the league in scoring defense. Under Nutt recruiting had lagged, where many of the top signees he landed either never made it to Oxford or fizzled and ended up leaving the program.

Freeze, known for running his up-tempo offensive system, will return to Oxford, where he coached for three seasons while he was an assistant on Ed Orgeron's staff. He had been the Rebels interim head coach in the transition after Orgeron was fired, but was not kept on staff after Nutt was hired.

In 2010, Freeze sparked a big improvement after joining the Red Wolves as offensive coordinator, turning a unit that had been 95th in scoring and turning it No. 43 nationally. Still, the team only went 4-8. Head coach Steve Roberts was fired, but Freeze stayed on, getting promoted to head coach. Prior to coming to the Sun Belt school, he spent two seasons at NAIA Lambuth, where he went 20-5.

Before getting into college coaching, Freeze coached for 13 years at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. At one point, his teams went to six consecutive state championships. A Senatobia, Miss. native, Freeze did not play college football, but did graduate with a mathematics degree from Southern Miss.

Expect several of the members of Freeze's staff from Arkansas State to come with him to Oxford.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:21 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The changing face of the Pac-12

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

From @Jdangelo4404  what do you think of the pac12 hiring all of these offensive minded coaches and how does it affect the perception of the conf?

The perception of a conference's merits change when it wins big games against other top teams from other leagues. Best thing that happened for the Pac-10 was when Pete Carroll's USC teams went to Auburn and Arkansas and hammered them and when the Trojans drilled Oklahoma in the BCS title game. Don't forget Carroll was fortunate to have some really sharp offensive minds with him (Norm Chow, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian). Jim Harbaugh was a home run hire for Stanford but you'd have to peg him as more of an offensive guy. Mike Stoops was a defensive guy but never could get Arizona to be a consistent winner. Point is, it's way too easy to generalize about "offensive" and "defensive" head coaches.

Urban Meyer was thought of as an offensive guy and that worked out quite well for the SEC. Same for Steve Spurrier. Bobby Petrino's an offensive guy and his hire at Arkansas is looking very good. There isn't only one way to build a powerhouse.

Obviously, hiring the right guys to run your defense if you are an "offensive" guy is vital though. Meyer had Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong. Rich Rodriguez who is a superb offensive mind didn't have those types of guys as his DC at Michigan. It'll be interesting to see who Rodriguez and Mike Leach land to run their defenses this time around and what UCLA and ASU end up doing. I do think what's interesting here is you're seeing these programs hire guys who both have very unique schemes and a lot of head-coaching experience in big conferences, not guys who are learning to be head coaches on the fly.

It is a very intriguing time for the Pac-12 right now. USC is hot again, but after 2012, they may feel at least some of the effects of the scholarship sanctions. Oregon is likely headed to its third BCS bowl in a row, but still has a sizeable NCAA cloud hanging over its head. Stanford has to replace a true franchise QB in Andrew Luck. Cal and Oregon State, which had been stronger in recent years, appear to be tailing off. The two new additions, Colorado and Utah showed they're still a ways from being able to compete for a league title. Then you have four programs going through coaching transitions. 

From @jeremyarc7 Do you feel a&m fired Sherman too soon? 

Nope. They'd given him enough time. Texas A&M is a big job and 25-25 and just 15-18 in Big 12 won't cut it, especially as the Aggies go into the SEC. This is Texas A&M, not an Iowa State, Baylor or Kansas, where they haven't traditionally had a lot of top 25 seasons. This team lost too many games in the second half, and it got to the point where if they'd finished 8-4, not 6-6, it still would've felt like a clunker of a season. Truth is, it looked like the Aggies took a backwards step this season. Sherman couldn't afford it in Year Four. He hadn't shown enough to warrant the confidence that he could get this program back into the top 10.

If the A&M brass feel like there are coaches out there that are better to get things cranked up (such as a Kevin Sumlin), they were smart to cut ties now and make that move.

From @RobGiffin how bad has the TN situation under Dooley gotten?

Much worse than I think anyone around the program would've anticipated if you'd asked them honestly three months ago. It's true they are young and they were stung by injuries, but I doubt anyone there truly believed they wouldn't even get to a bowl game. Remember, former UT AD Mike Hamilton backed out of a game against North Carolina and the Vols ended up with Buffalo instead. Even if the Vols beat Kentucky to go 6-6, I still think the year would've been a dud, but to lose to such a bad UK team playing a WR at QB was embarrassing for many Vols fans. It not only cost a young team more bonus bowl practices they won't get, but it leaves the program in a bad light on the recruiting trail.

I get that there is reason for some optimism because they have some gifted sophomores and freshmen, but can anyone really point to a reason for optimism about Derek Dooley running this team? Given his track record, I don't see how at this point.

Having said that, short of more NCAA trouble, I don't believe they could pull the plug on Dooley after just two seasons given all of the turnover from the end of Fulmer -- through Kiffin -- to now. He has to get least get a third season. They hired him and he does have a hefty buyout. But it is looking very obvious that Dooley is in fact in over his head here.

This is a guy who didn't even have a .500 record in the WAC, so for him to take over an elite SEC program looked really curious. I suspect there will be more turnover on the Vols staff this offseason than just WR coach Charlie Baggett. Dooley's 0-17 against ranked teams all-time. If he doesn't beat one or even two ranked teams next year, I have a feeling it won't matter if he gets UT bowl eligible. It's Tennessee. The Vols have a proud tradition, a huge stadium and a staff getting paid a lot of money. They're also in the much easier side of the conference right now. They shouldn't be content with bowl eligible.

From @Robherbst are you surprised that leach didn't hold out for a seemingly better job and are you surprised washington state coughed up the money to pay him?

Not really. I think realistically aside from Washington State, the other school that seemed to be genuinely interested in Leach was Kansas. He has been close to their AD for a long time. But Washington State made a lot of sense to him because it's in a stable conference (Pac-12) which now is reaping the benefits of a robust TV deal; he's at a program where they've had a lot of success not that long ago (having been to a few Rose Bowls in the past 15 years); have a rich history of prolific offenses and he inherits a nice group of young players. However, the biggest thing that Wazzu's program had going for it was the AD Bill Moos, who is a straight shooter (when asked about the search committee on Tuesday, Moos said 'you're looking at the Search Committee") -- stuff like that is huge to Leach. The politics and number of people involved makes the job that much more appealing. And they were stepping up making a big financial commitment to him and to his staff.

From @spry23  NCAA basketball tourney makes $ why can't college football find a way wouldn't it make more sense

Because when it comes to college football, it is really about power and control more than money, and the power brokers of the sport aren't ready to relinquish that.

From @Jus10Sarabia Who seems to be a logical replacement for Houston if Kevin Sumlin leaves? Co-offensive coordinator Jason Phillips?

I could see UH keeping things in house to try and minimize the transition. Tony Levine, who is the special teams coordinator and assistant head coach, may get a long look. As I wrote a few weeks back, Levine's a guy who has worked under some excellent coaches in college and the NFL. Phillips, given his ties to the program as a player, will get consideration too. Keep in mind, the guy who really runs the offense is Kliff Kingsbury, who in a few years figures to be ready to run his own program. My hunch is Kingsbury goes with Sumlin wherever he goes. UH also may consider Clemson OC Chad Morris as well given the former Texas HS coach's background.

From @melchrestmanjr after spending time with Coach Orgeron, what makes the Ole Miss job so tough?

The biggest hurdle has been the politics of the place and the leadership around you. The outgoing AD Pete Boone was a big headache/stumbling block. He treated football more like a C-USA program than an SEC program. The other big challenge is you have to bust your butt to find promising recruits and get on them before everyone else does because in all likelihood if that same kid gets offered by LSU, Alabama or Florida, you'll miss out or if you're not hustling, you'll never get in the front door. Orgeron was very good at connecting with recruits early in the process. Some times it was rewarded (Dexter McCluster for example); sometimes it still wasn't good enough (Drake Nevis). Houston Nutt, from what I've been told by people who were around the Ole Miss program, never really went as hard, treating it more like Arkansas than Ole Miss, and you can't get away with that in Oxford.

Ole Miss' facilities are pretty good, but by SEC standards, they're still below average, especially when you compare stadiums.

They do have a solid recruiting pool around them, especially in terms of JUCO talent and there is the flexibility to get some of those good, borderline academics recruits admitted. But many others still can't get into major four-year colleges. There's also a delicate racial history that in some cases, makes it very tough to recruit players to Ole Miss. I know from talking to assistants who have coached at Ole Miss they've run into several situations where the kid's parents or some grandparent or relative won't allow them to go to Ole Miss because of the perception they have of it, which is something the football staff has to work hard to combat. 

From@Drofdarb23  What kind of an impact does the coaching rumor mill have on recruiting?

It certainly doesn't help, but unless you're talking about later in the process, like in late January, the coaching staff should be able to overcome it.
 
 
 
 
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