Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 8:08 pm
 

Leach taking over at Washington State

    As we first reported, Mike Leach is taking over as the head coach at Washington State. Leach, who was offered the position late Tuesday afternoon, agreed to a five-year contract. Leach will travel to Washington on Monday and be introduced at a press conference Tuesday, Dec. 6 at noon in Pullman.
 

"This is an exciting day for Washington State University and Cougar football," said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos. "I have spoken about the need to re-energize our fan base and take Cougar football to the next level. I believe the hiring of Mike Leach accomplishes both of those goals. His credentials speak for themselves." 
The 50-year-old Leach replaces Paul Wulff, who was dismissed Tuesday morning.  The hiring of Leach would seem to mesh with  Moos' comment earlier at the press conference where he announced Wullf's firing that he likes a "flashy, high-octane offense that lights up the scoreboard."


"First off I would like to express my appreciation to Paul Wulff for all his efforts and dedication to Washington State and wish him the best in the future," said Leach. "It's an honor to have the opportunity to work with Bill Moos, who is a legend in this business. To have the opportunity as a coach to work with someone like that is an experience few head coaches get. Along with Bill and Dr. Floyd, I'm excited about being a part of the future of Washington State.
 

"I have always admired the tradition of Washington State. It's a university on the move that is experiencing growth. I'm excited about what they are doing with the facilities and it's a team that has battled through some hard times and shows great promise in the future. I'm proud to be a part of this team."
 


Wulff was 9-40 in four seasons at Washington State and just 4-32 in league play. The Cougars program has struggled for much of the past decade. Washington State hasn't been to a bowl game in eight years. But prior to this stretch, there had been quite a bit of success, with two Rose Bowl appearances and four Top 10 finishes between the 1997 and 2003 seasons.
Under Wulff, a former Washington State offensive lineman, the Cougars did make strides in the past two years. They were 4-8 this season while being hit hard by injury. Still, the Cougars lost seven of their final eight games. They had to play three different quarterbacks, losing starter Jeff Tuel for much of the season. They ranked 48th in the country in scoring, but just seventh in the Pac-12. In 2010, the Cougars were 106th in scoring and dead last in the Pac-12. Most of the talent Wulff had assembled will be back in 2012, including Tuel and standout wide receiver Marquess Wilson. Both figure to be good fits in Leach's Air-Raid system.


In his 10 seasons at Texas Tech, Leach had a career record of 84-43 and was the architect of some of the most prolific offenses in college football history. Eight times in those 10 seasons, one of his quarterbacks led the nation in passing. The year before Leach arrived in Lubbock, the Red Raiders averaged 23 points per game. By Leach's second season, they averaged over 35 ppg and they never averaged less than 33 points the rest of his decade running the program. The Red Raiders finished in the top 25 rankings in five of his last six seasons at Tech.

His teams had Top 10 wins over No. 4 Cal (2004); No. 3 Oklahoma (2007); No. 1 Texas (2008) and No. 8 Oklahoma State (2008). In 2008, he won national Coach of the Year honors. The Wyoming native was the only coach in Texas Tech history to lead his team to bowl games every year.


At Texas Tech, Leach also inherited a program that had one of the lowest graduation rates in college football and was on academic probation. He eventually turned it into one that had the highest graduation rate of any public institution in major college football. However, he was fired from Tech in December, 2009 regular season after allegations that he had mistreated a player, Adam James, the son of ESPN announcer Craig James.


The controversy led to Leach to sue Texas Tech for breach of contract and file suit against ESPN and James for defamation. Both cases are still unresolved.

Full disclosure: I co-authored Leach's 2011 book Swing Your Sword, which details, among other things, his path into coaching, his offensive system as well as the circumstances surrounding what happened with him and Texas Tech in his exit from the Big 12 school.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 12:51 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011


As we get close to the end of the regular season, it's time to get into our year-end awards. This week's Top 10: the best coaching jobs of 2011.

1. Bill Snyder, K-State: If the Wildcats beat Iowa State at home, they'll finish 10-2, which would be remarkable given there were such modest expectations for this team every place outside the KSU football complex. K-State was, after all, predicted to finish eighth in the 10-team Big 12 before the season began. Snyder's team had only two starters back on the O-line and uncertainty at QB, yet here they are in the Top 15. The Cats have had an absurd number of tight games and they've won a head-turning amount, going 7-1 in games decided by seven points or less. Before this year, the KSU program hadn't won more than seven games since 2003 when Snyder led them to an 11-3 record.

2. Les Miles, LSU: Yeah, I know his team may have more talent than any other squad in the country. But to make it through a season without a stumble, especially one with as many formidable opponents as they had is very, very impressive. Nothing seems to deter this guy or his damnfineteam. Lose the best defensive player in college football (Patrick Peterson)? No worries. Suspensions to key players? No big deal. Hostile road environments? No problem. Potential QB controversy? Who cares? The Tigers are steam-rolling their way to the BCS title game. They faced seven teams that were ranked in the top 25 when they played -- and only two of those games were in Baton Rouge -- and they won all seven with an averaging victory margin of 19 ppg.


Fans, you can voice your opinion for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year by voting HERE


3. Kevin Sumlin, Houston: This is the hottest coach in the country with a bunch of intriguing jobs coming open. Sumlin should be their first call. He has done a terrific job elevating this program. The Cougars, who only had 12 starters back, are 12-0 and in the top 10. He has made some brilliant coaching hires that are paying off in a big way on both sides of the ball. They are averaging over 53 ppg, but also are playing pretty solid defense, ranking No. 30 in scoring D and No. 3 in TFLs. The knock (because there almost always has to be some knock) is their schedule featured no ranked opponents, but the Cougars could only play who was on their schedule, and no one has been able to catch them.

4. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State: On the eve of this season, a member of Freeze's staff predicted this team would win the Sun Belt. Bold talk for a program that went 4-8 last year and hadn't had a winning season since 1995. The Red Wolves also only returned one starting O-lineman. But the assistant, D-line coach Chris Kiffin, had that much confidence in Freeze and what he was doing there. Monte Kiffin's younger son knew what he was talking about. ASU is 9-2 and 7-0 in Sun Belt play and Freeze's name is hot. He's either going to be the next head coach at Ole Miss, Southern Miss or Memphis. This is good offensive team and also only one of two squads that kept Va. Tech's great David Wilson under 5.0 yards per carry or under the 100-yard mark this season.

5. James Franklin, Vandy: I wrote in more detail about the transformation job the first-year head coach has done in Nashville in the Big Picture Sunday. In a nutshell, here's his case: A program that had won two games each of the past two years and then loses its best player to injury before the season (Warren Norman) yet still finds a way to go 6-6 in the SEC, and came very close to going 10-2. They lost games against Arkansas, Georgia, and at Florida and at Tennessee by a combined 19 points. If the Commodores win two of those, Franklin's No. 1 on this list.

6. Brady Hoke, Michigan: The Wolverines finally beat Ohio State after almost a 3,000-day stretch, and they won 10 games this season. Hoke deserves plenty of credit, although he did inherit a good situation with an explosive offense led by a dynamic QB and an experienced O-line. The biggest change came on defense where the Wolverines were lacking. His hire of Greg Mattison as DC is why Hoke's on this list. Mattison sparked a metamorphosis in this bunch, taking a unit that was No. 108 in scoring defense last season and turning it into the No. 9 D in the nation.


7. Willie Taggart, WKU: The former Jim Harbaugh assistant has transformed arguably the worst program in FBS to a respectable one this season. WKU, which had gone 4-32 the previous three years, looked like it was headed for more misery after the first month of the 2011 season. The Hilltoppers opened 0-4, even getting blown out by an average FCS team, Indiana State. But then they got rolling, winning seven of their last eight, which included wins over ULL and FIU, a couple of 8-4 teams.

8. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: A cult hero for his locker room speeches, Rhoads is emerging as a hot commodity, thanks in large part to his ability to contain potent offenses in big games and pull huge upsets. He was the architect behind the Pitt Panthers' stunning upset as a four-TD underdog of WVU when the Mountaineers were on the cusp of going to the BCS title game a few years ago. Earlier this month Rhoads' team did something similar by sparking the victory of another four-TD fav, Oklahoma State. In reality, it's a stunner this team is even bowl eligible if you asked Vegas experts before the season. Almost as impressive is his team's 5-0 record in games decided by six points or less.

9. Lane Kiffin, USC: At the mid-year point of this season, the people in Kiffin's corner seemed to be dwindling. The Trojans had looked shaky against some lowly opponents (Minnesota, Syracuse and Arizona) and got blown out at ASU. A road trip to Notre Dame was coming. ND played it up big. Outsiders talked about how Brian Kelly would out-coach Kiffin and the Irish would maul the Trojans. The opposite happened. Despite the shadow of the NCAA sanctions and no post-season bowl hopes, USC's been rolling ever since, picking up momentum. They ended Oregon's 21-game home winning streak, which had been the longest in the country. The Trojans finished the season hammering UCLA 50-0, meaning they beat their two archrivals by a combined score of 81-17.


10. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: I was close to putting UVA's Mike London in this spot but opted for Spurrier, who led the school to only its second 10-win season in Gamecocks history, despite losing his most valuable player, RB Marcus Lattimore early in the season, and on top of that had issues with his starting QB Stephen Garcia.





Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Urban's back and with a potent triggerman

We'd sat in the meeting for some three hours and Urban Meyer didn't gush when any of the top 150 recruits' names came up. Well, at least not like he did when the name Braxton Miller was called out that day.

About a dozen of us were seated around one of those long rectangular tables in a cramped room in Charlotte last February. I was there to work with the former Florida coach, among others, on ESPN's 10-hour Signing Day show. The day before we had a three-hour production meeting where Meyer talked about, well, raved about having watched film on Braxton Miller. We'd gone thru ESPN's top 150 players one by one on that list and I recall Meyer, who always seems quite measured, didn't rave about any of them like he did when Miller's name came up.

Meyer and former Miami coach Randy Shannon were two of our expert former coaches on the personnel in the 2011 recruiting class since they've had first-hand knowledge of many of the prospects, not just about what they'd eye-balled on film, but also from being hands-on with some of these players in camps, on visits and having an actual read on them off the field and in the classroom. Meyer had been very matter-of-fact whenever there'd be a kid he was familiar with. He seemed so non-plussed. With Miller, it sounded different. He got a little fired up. The room, which had more than its share of side conversations, went silent when Meyer spoke about what he saw in Miller. He even used the word "special" when describing the QB from Huber Heights, Ohio, who had been rated as the 80th best prospect in the class. Of course, Meyer's recruiting class ended up with another blue-chip quarterback, Jeff Driskel, who was a promising local QB while Miller had been long committed to the Buckeyes and Jim Tressel.

Who could've ever imagined that less than a year later Meyer would have the chance to coach Miller at Ohio State?

About a month after that day, the tattoo mess that had surfaced in December of 2010 engulfed the Ohio State program and eventually led to the downfall of Tressel. The entire year became a nightmare for Buckeye football. Tressel was forced out in shame. His bosses, OSU AD Gene Smith and school president Gordon Gee kept tripping over themselves and each other every stumble of the way as the NCAA focused on the Buckeyes. On the field, things weren't much smoother. A program that had won or shared six Big Ten titles in a row and had gone to six consecutive BCS bowls plummeted to a 6-6 record after coming into the season ranked No. 18 in the preseason polls. Worse still, after 2,926 days, the Buckeyes were finally beaten by their archrival Michigan.

One of the few bright spots in Columbus, though has been the emergence of Miller, who appears to be an ideal fit for the spread option scheme that Meyer used to attack defenses for the previous decade. Miller went 14-25 for 235 yards with two TDs and one INT to go with 100 yards rushing and a third touchdown in the 40-34 loss at Michigan. It was his third 100-yard rushing game in the past four weeks, and he ran for 99 in a victory over Wisconsin a week before that.

Miller doesn't possess Tim Tebow's bulk so it's unlikely he can provide the same power-running component to the offense, especially in short yardage situations, but the 6-2, 210-pounder has a lot more burst and elusiveness than the Gators Heisman Trophy winner had. Miller is also much more than just a dynamic runner with superb feet. He's blessed with a powerful arm and a quick delivery. Special? Maybe so. If anyone can develop his skill set, it's Meyer.

Obviously the Ohio native isn't coming back just to coach Braxton Miller. He's openly spoke, with awe, about his feeling for the program for more than a decade.

That said, it's hard not to be cynical when you look back at the statements the coach made toward the end of his time at Florida. In December 2009, he said he needed to quit, saying he "ignored" his health for years, but " recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family.” However, in equally stunning news, the next day, after attending a UF bowl practice, he did a 180 and that would be reduced to a "leave of absence" and he was back on the sidelines for the season. Bizarre doesn't even begin to sum that whole 36-hour period up.

The Gators, without Tim Tebow and many other key players, struggled in 2010, though. They'd been ranked preseason No. 4, but went 8-5 and just 4-4 in the conference. They went from No. 6 in the nation in total offense in 2009 down to 82nd. And there was another bombshell, only it really wasn't such a shocker, Meyer, again, announced he was stepping down at Florida. His explanation was "it was time" to put his focus on his his family, yet not long after word got out that he he was undertaking an analyst role with ESPN, where he ended up criss-crossing the country to visit various colleges and also handle in-studio work in Connecticut.

As much as we've all tried to get inside his head the past 24 months, it's virtually impossible to know what he truly envisioned of his future as it related to foot, er, his life when he retired from the sport back then or unretired and then re-retired. Most of us flip-flop on big decisions in our lives. We get conflicted. We just don't typically have to have press conferences, huge contracts and hundreds of people hanging on our every word.

I've been told by people who know both Meyer and another notorious coaching grinder Nick Saban that the two are wired very differently. Coaches tend to try and control everything because they know or have learned that they can control so many things in their power, and their sphere of influence only expands as they win more and their profile and persona swell. Meyer, a coach pointed out, stresses over a lot of stuff that Saban doesn't care one bit about and that only makes things that much harder on him.

Meyer's life at Florida became increasingly more stressful as the chips on his side of the table piled up. Expectations and the spotlight got higher and hotter. More and more was made of his programs high arrest number. Talking to him a year ago he sounded like he had less and less patience for the drama that had become increasingly the norm from dealing with blue-chippers. He lamented what he called the "de-recruiting" process. It also didn't help that he had lost some vital assistant coaches over his time at UF, most notably trusted defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who Meyer said really had a read on the pulse of what was going on with the players inside his team. When Strong left to become the head coach at Louisville, Meyer's program internally took a huge hit.

I suspect there were times not long after Meyer made his "spend more time with my family" retirement speech that it flashed in his head that OSU icon Jim Tressel, who was in his late 50s, probably wouldn't be coaching the Buckeyes that much longer. Maybe, Meyer reasoned, Tressel would retire three or four years down the road and the timing might be right for him to return to his native Ohio, his roots. After all, Meyer would've had those years to spend more time watching his kids' games and hanging around the house with his wife. He'd have some, well, normalcy. But at the heart, he is a coach and coaches coach. That is their "normal" and some guys can cope without it. Some can't. It's no stretch to think that one of the reasons why Meyer was so successful is because he is so consumed by what being a coach means to him. This all might've been more manageable if everything with Tressel and Ohio State happened a year later and Meyer had more time. Maybe not. 

He is walking right back into a pressure cooker, taking over a program with a huge, passionate fan base after coaching in a league that has dominated college football and the Big Ten. Remember, it was Meyer's Gators that beat Ohio State in the 2007 BCS title game that launched the SEC on this epic run.

There also is uncertainty from the NCAA investigation hanging over Columbus. Meyer does inherit that promising young QB to build his team around, though. He also gets what looks like a loaded defense. This will be fun to see if Meyer now can help shake up the balance of power in college football as he did not that long ago.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Inside the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry

    This is rivalry time in college football. Earlier this month Travis Haney and Larry Williams’ book about the nasty Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, A State of Disunion was published. I caught up with the two authors to get their take on that game and what's unique about it. I also asked Haney, who has since left the South Carolina beat to cover Oklahoma, about the comparisons between covering Steve Spurrier and his former assistant Bob Stoops and spoke to Williams about the Tigers' intriguing 2011 season.

Question: You guys have covered other programs who all have had some arch-rival. What makes this rivalry unique?

Williams: This rivalry is different from others because it's such a small state and there are no major geographic strongholds for fans of either school. Seems like all the bigger cities have a good mix of representation. That leads to a lot of fans sharing the same neighborhoods, boardrooms, barrooms, churches, even families in a ton of cases. I suspect it's a good bit different in, say, Florida with Gators and Seminoles fans. Not saying that rivalry isn't bitter, but it seems there are more geographic enclaves that favor one school or another. That state is just so much bigger and more far-flung.

One other interesting thing: This rivalry hasn't been bitter since the start; it's been bitter since before the start. Clemson owes its very existence as an institution to strife and bad blood with the school in Columbia. In the late 1800s, the farmers in this state thought the state school provided a sham of an agriculture program that misused federal land-grant funding during Reconstruction. Clemson opened its doors in 1889, and seven years later they started playing football. So it was the perfect battleground for a lot of the hostilities and strife. I suspect a lot of rivalries are cultivated through time; this one didn't take much time at all to get really nasty and bitter. 

Haney: I was talking about this today with a friend. I believe it could be the most contentious rivalry between in-state, out-of-conference teams. (Florida-FSU in same ballpark?) But, well, that's probably just semantics, although it does make it unique. Larry made a nice point that the difference in Clemson-South Carolina and UF-FSU is that, well, those teams have historically been successful. Folks in South Carolina get amped up for a bigger game, like the 2011 game -- of course they do -- but they still care, a bunch, even if the teams flat-out stink. Could you say that in a lot of places? Geography is something I keep coming back to, also.

It's such a condensed state that everyone, alums from both sides, wind up living on top of one another. The kicker quote to the book is from Gamecocks defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, a native who has also coached at Clemson. He said he creates an emotional wake wherever he goes. Depending on their persuasion, fans are either thrilled with his employer -- or they loathe it. They even remind him of this ... at funerals. It's a 365-day rivalry. Unlike Florida-Georgia or Alabama-Auburn or Oklahoma-Texas, there is no other rival on the schedule. This is it.

Question: How did this rivalry change when Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina?

Haney: That's been sort of weird. I know I expected the Gamecocks to improve, and improve rapidly. I really thought he would signal a move toward success the school hadn't previously seen. I guess that's sort of happened the past couple of years, but I thought it would happen sooner and be more profound. He's done a nice job, relative to the program's historical mediocrity, but it hasn't gone to plan. He admits that, too. As far as the rivalry, it didn't initially change. For whatever reasons, Tommy Bowden had a stranglehold on South Carolina -- even if he couldn't win the ACC, when it was there for the taking. Whenever Bowden left, it's as if everything switched. Clemson sold its soul for the ACC (division) title, and now it's lost to South Carolina for the first time since the late 1960s. (Did you know it had been that long?) He does bring, even now, some national attention that it might not have if, say, Skip Holtz were coaching the Gamecocks. Spurrier will always provide that, as long as he's coaching.

Williams: I'm not sure it changed a great deal because the Tigers owned Lou Holtz when he was here, and Spurrier lost three of his first four against Clemson. People say Holtz placed far more importance on the rivalry game, and the conclusion is that it generated too much pressure on the players and they faltered in the game. I'm not sure I buy that. I believe the reason the Gamecocks have won the past two years -- they hadn't won back-to-back games in 40 years -- is because Spurrier upgraded the talent. They just became a better, more physically imposing team with horses they aren't accustomed to having traditionally. 

One interesting thing about Spurrier is you haven't seen him take many shots at Clemson during his tenure. Maybe a few subtle jabs here and there, but nothing like the stuff he'd say about FSU and Tennessee when he was in Gainesville. I think he respects Clemson's program and some of its coaches. Or maybe he hasn't felt confident enough in his own team to brag. Or maybe he's just older and more mellow. All of the above, perhaps.

Question for Haney: Having now covered Spurrier and Bob Stoops, what is one thing diehard fans probably would be surprised to know about each?

Haney: Man, that's a great question. I presume I'll learn more about Stoops as I go, but I am thinking right now about a story my colleague Berry Tramel wrote this fall about Stoops visiting an area hospital on a regular basis, to see sick children. He develops friendships with them. That's pretty inspiring, for a guy who's incredibly busy. Fans see this coach who looks grumpy and comes off gruff in the media ... but there's a heart in there.

As for Spurrier, I think there's a prevailing perception that all he does is play golf and he doesn't work hard. I don't think that's the case. He really cares about winning at South Carolina, even if some (a lot?) of that is based on his own pride. A lot of people think he will retire once he becomes the school's all-time winning coach. So, he's still driven. He might be the youngest 66-year-old I've ever been around. He was the butt of jokes after that shirtless pic surfaced last year, after I did the workout story with him for his 65th birthday. But, heck, he's probably in better shape than I am now. I'm not going to judge the guy. He's just as competitive as you'd think, too. I remember, during my first year, I got paired with him in his media golf outing. He was supposed to switch groups at the turn, to play with some other media members. But we were in contention, so he blew them off to stick with us. We actually played through the group ahead of us, too -- in a scramble. First and only time that's happened in my life. I just sort of waved as we sped past then-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix's group.

Question for Haney: How has covering Spurrier helped prepare you for covering Stoops?

Haney: I was curious to see the differences and similarities between the two, with the understanding that Stoops was likely a hybrid of Spurrier and Bill Snyder. He's a lot more like Snyder, I think, in terms of how he deals with us. But you see little similarities in nuances and organizational things he picked up from Spurrier. (Minute things like what day he does his presser. Or bigger things like how he manages the clock.) Ha, well, Spurrier probably has the biggest ego of any coach/manager I had ever covered previously (Bobby Cox, Pat Summitt, Phillip Fulmer, et al.), so perhaps he prepared me for other coaches who don't really give us media boys a second thought. Spurrier and Stoops both do their media responsibilities -- after all, it's part of their contracts -- but neither really seem to enjoy it on any level. They're no Mike Leach, right? They're itching to go the minute they get going with us, because they'd rather be focusing on their team. Can't blame them for that, can you? I'm sure it's a big reason why they've been so successful over the years.

Question for Williams: Did the Clemson fan base completely buy in this year, thinking 2011 would be different before the NC State game? And how has the reaction been since that blowout to such a mediocre team?

Williams: The Clemson fans were really optimistic during the offseason, and the optimism was weird to some distant observers because they were coming off a 6-7 season. But the acquisition of Chad Morris, plus the infusion of some elite talent (most notably Sammy Watkins) gave fans a lot of hope that things could be turned around quickly. I don't think anyone expected them to go 3-0 against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech, so when they swept those games and later went to 8-0 the people were really giddy.

The loss at Georgia Tech was jolting, and then people were really surprised that Wake Forest came within a whisker of snatching the Atlantic Division title from the Tigers' grasp at Death Valley. But last week's debacle in Raleigh really has people concerned about this team. It's starting to look like the epic collapse in 2006 (lost four of last five after 7-1 start), and that's a numbing possibility given that this team was the national media darling just last month.

If they win in Columbia and then win the ACC championship game for their first conference title in 20 years, I think all will be forgiven and the ugliness against N.C. State will be viewed as a mere blip. But if they lose to the Gamecocks for a third consecutive season, there's going to be a lot of heartburn and heartache in these parts. Remember: Dabo Swinney's predecessor (Tommy Bowden) went 7-2 against the rivals down the road.

Question for Williams: If Clemson loses this game against So Carolina, is Dabo back on the hot seat again?

Williams: I don't think he's on the hot seat, because the Tigers would still be a win away from a 10-win season and that hasn't been done here since 1990. Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips was the one who promoted Dabo and gave him the gig for good in December of 2008, and Phillips himself has acknowledged that his own fate as AD hinges on the fortunes of the football program. So Phillips definitely won't have a quick trigger.

Question for Williams: Who has more to lose this weekend?

Williams: It's a great question, and I've been asking myself the same thing. I think we could call this the "Forgiveness Bowl" because the winner atones for a lot. The Gamecocks haven't really done much this season, taking advantage of an uncommonly weak SEC schedule. Fans were really griping after the home loss to Auburn and the shellacking at Arkansas. But a win over Clemson gives the Gamecocks their second 10-win season ever, and they'd absolutely love rubbing three straight wins over Clemson into the faces of Tigers fans. 

Clemson has a lot to lose, but I'll give SC the edge in the answer to your question because the Tigers can still win the ACC even if they lose Saturday. That said, it's hard to imagine them going to Charlotte and winning the ACC coming off back-to-back spankings at the hands of the Wolfpack and Gamecocks.

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:45 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

As we reported Monday afternoon with the report about Rich Rodriguez getting the Arizona job, tis the season for coaching changes. Expect a lot more vacancies to spring up in the next few weeks. A few of them will get filled by first-time head coaches. This week's Top 10 list examines some of the best up-and-comers to keep an eye on:

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn, OC: The former Arkansas high school coach's rep sky-rocketed last season as Auburn rode Cam Newton to the BCS title. Things have been much, much tougher this year without Newton or most of last year's offensive line. The offense that was fifth nationally in scoring and sixth in total offense has plummeted to 78th and 93rd, respectively. But things should get a lot better next year as almost all of their key guys figure to be back. But will Malzahn? He is paid very, very well at Auburn, getting a reported $1.3 mil per year, and won't leave for just any coaching job, but word is that UNC's vacancy could be tempting.

2. Kirby Smart, Alabama, DC: Nick Saban's program has spawned a handful of future head coaches (FSU's Jimbo Fisher, UF's Will Muschamp and Tennessee's Derek Dooley among them), and Smart figures to be the next one up. Then again, Bama OC Jim McElwain, who could've also been on this list, will likely get some looks this winter too. Bama's defensive prowess will be quite a selling point for Smart. The Tide leads the nation in: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. That's quite a mouthful. The one downside for the former Georgia DB is that Saban is so hands-on with Alabama's defense it's perceived that the head coach is more responsible for the unit's success than most head coaches.

3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, OC: One of the more anonymous "top" assistants in college football, the 46-year-old Chryst, a former Mike Riley assistant, has done a terrific job for the Badgers for years. This season, he's put together an offense that has produced two Heisman candidates in QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. The Badgers are fifth in the country in scoring and 10th in rushing under the former Wisconsin QB.

4. Manny Diaz, Texas, DC: A first-year UT assistant, Diaz has proven to be the most effective of all of Mack Brown's new on-field coaches, turning a defense that had to replace most of the secondary into one that is 11th in pass efficiency D and 26th in scoring D. Last year, the Horns were 46th and 49th in both of those categories. Texas also has jumped from 31st against the run all the way up to No. 8. Diaz provided a similar boost at his previous stop, Mississippi State in 2010. The Miami native would be even higher on this list if his team was doing better than a 6-4 mark. But don't blame the defense. It's only a matter of time before Diaz is running his own program.

5. Chad Morris, Clemson, OC: Like Malzahn, Morris is a former high school coach who is cashing in on an up-tempo offense that has pumped life into a big, previously underachieving college program. As I detailed in a Stats That Matter a few weeks back, Morris learned a lot from Malzahn and has done wonders for young QB Tajh Boyd. Morris also has done wonders for Dabo Swinney's job security. The Tigers are 12th in the nation in passing, 18th in total offense and 21st in scoring. A year ago, before Morris arrived, they were 78th, 88th and 86th in those carries. With a handful of openings likely to come this winter in his native state of Texas, expect Morris' phone to be ringing.

6. Garrick McGee, Ark. OC: The Hogs are hot, having scored at least 44 points in their past three SEC games. McGee, a former OU QB, has learned well under Bobby Petrino, one of the game's sharpest offensive minds. Arkansas is No. 3 in the nation led by its potent offense, which had to deal with the loss of record-setting QB Ryan Mallett, a great tight end D.J. Williams and then, on the eve of the season, RB Knile Davis yet the Hogs still pile up the points. If McGee and the Hogs can light up the vaunted LSU defense on Friday, the young coach's stock will really rise.

7. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State, DC: Yet another Youngstown guy making it big in college coaching. Narduzzi and his boss Mark Dantonio have done another great job producing a ferocious defense. MSU is No. 3 in the country in total defense; No. 5 in scoring; No. 5 in pass efficiency defense and No. 10 against the run. Impressive? No doubt. But what really is amazing is that coming into this season, the Spartans lost four of their top five tackles from last year, including star LB Greg Jones.

8. Bud Foster, Va. Tech, DC: The Hokies again have a top-10 defense. Yawn. Foster seems to do this on an annual basis. This season, Tech has had to overcome a bunch of injuries to key guys in its front seven, but regardless of that, the Hokies are 10-1 and leaning on Foster's stifling defense. Trouble is, for all of Foster's success and the respect he has, the 52-year-old has been passed over many times for head coaching jobs and you have to wonder if he'll ever get his shot to run his own program.

9. Tony Levine, Houston, Special Teams Coordinator: Even though most head coaches get hired after being offensive or defensive coordinators, keep an eye on the 39-year-old Levine, a former wideout at Minnesota, who has proven to be one of the country's best special teams coaches and has learned under Kevin Sumlin, John Fox, Bobby Petrino and Tommy Tuberville in his time in college and the NFL. Since he got to UH in 2008, his teams have returned eight kickoffs for TDs and blocked 18 kicks. That's fourth-most in the country in that time. He's also been Sumlin's assistant head coach for what has become a very hot program these days. Having also been UH's inside receivers coach for the Cougars' record-breaking offense the past four seasons or exhibiting the organizational experience of being a director of football operation (Louisville) also won't hurt his cause either.

10. (tie) Frank Wilson, LSU, RB coach/recruiting coordinator: A New Orleans native, Wilson has emerged as arguably the nation's top recruiter. He has found and reeled in studs at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and now at LSU, but the guy has proven to be a lot more than just a recruiter. No assistant may be more respected by his players. And he has proven he knows how to run a program and be a leader. Back when he was 27, he took over a downtrodden high school program in New Orleans and turned the place upside down. In one year, the team GPA jumped from 1.5 to 2.5 and his team knocked off Louisiana powerhouse John Curtis HS with its first district loss in 25 years. By Wilson's third season at the school, they were playing in the state title game.

10. (tie) Tom Herman, Iowa State, OC:  The Mensa guy I wrote about last week had a big Friday night helping lead the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history, upsetting No. 2 Oklahoma State in double-overtime, 37-31 boosting ISU to 6-4. Iowa State's numbers on offense this season are far from head-turning: 44th in total offense and 75th in scoring, but remember this is a guy who produced top 10 offenses at Rice just a few years back and helped that program get to its first bowl game in over a half-century. Like Morris and Levine, if he gets a long look when a few of these jobs in the Southwest open up.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Arizona hires Rich Rodriguez as coach

Rich Rodriguez will be the next head football coach at Arizona, athletic director Greg Byrne has announced on his Twitter account.

He's expected to bring several of his assistants from Michigan and West Virginia with him to Tucson.

The 48-year-old Rodriguez, who was fired after three seasons at Michigan, had spent the past season working as a college football analyst for CBS. At Michigan, he went 15-22. Before his turbulent stint in Ann Arbor, he coached his alma mater West Virginia to a 60-26 record in seven seasons. His final three seasons, he led the Mountaineers to top 12 finishes and two BCS bowl games.

Rodriguez will take over an Arizona team that is 3-8. The school fired Mike Stoops at midseason.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Honoring BC's tackling machine

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.



From @kcflatlander Why doesn't Colin Klein get any pub for Heisman consideration?

There are three big reasons for that: first, Klein was completely off the radar before the season. No one knew or expected much from him outside of perhaps some folks in the state of Kansas. 

Second, he plays at a program that is far from a national name and gets obscured by having so many other Heisman hopefuls in his region. Going into the season, there were four such candidates at the Oklahoma schools alone. Then, Robert Griffin III at Baylor really flashed onto the Heisman picture in a big way over the first month. Klein and K-State really didn't start to get much notice until October. 

The third point is that for a QB to have a decent shot of getting into the Heisman race, he needs to either put up gaudy passing stats or play at a glamour program or, if he's a running QB, needs to put up big rushing numbers like an elite back to go with some highlight-reel runs. Klein's rushing totals are impressive. He's run for 1,009 yards (good for 26th in the nation) and has 24 rushing TDs. That last stat has prompted some Klein supporters to try and draw comparisons to Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman in 2007. The problem with that is Klein's passing numbers aren't close to Tebow's. 

Klein has a passing efficiency rating of 127 (ranking him 69th nationally) and a 10-5 TD-INT ratio. Tebow's rating was 172.5 (No. 2 in the country) to go with a 32-6 TD-INT mark, and his numbers came against tougher defenses in the SEC. Even if you use Denard Robinson's run last year, Klein's numbers are lacking. Robinson was in the top 20 in passing efficiency, was virtually a one-man offense and he still didn't win or get invited to NYC for the ceremony, and he plays at one of those few true glamour programs.


In reality, the off-the-radar guy I think deserves consideration in anything framed around the "Most Outstanding Player" talk in college football but has no shot at the Heisman is BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. He's leading the nation in tackles by three a game, which is a huge margin relatively speaking. But he plays defense and plays for a 3-7 team. Unfortunately, there is only so much a linebacker can do, even a great one. Kuechly's about the set the ACC career tackles record this weekend and it's fitting the team he's going to do it against, Notre Dame. His background is certainly worth sharing here though:


Kuechly
 was a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker at Cincinnati's St. Xavier High, a program that won a state title his junior year. He had a 4.0 GPA. He also was a lacrosse standout. "I kept telling every coach that came though here, this kid is special," St. X coach Steve Specht told me a while back. Ohio State though didn't offer Kuechly. Nor did Notre Dame or most of the top programs in the midwest. Duke was his first offer. The Blue Devils staff had a theory why other teams weren't sold: Kuechly, who wears glasses off the field, looked kinda, well, nerdy. And, he was soft-spoken. Coaches wants to see a guy who looks like Brian Urlacher, not like he could be writing computer programs. 

In his senior year, St. X was playing its rival St. Ignatius. Specht spotted Notre Dame defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta in attendance. "I'm here to see #3," Tenuta told Specht.

"My #3 (Kuechly)?" Specht asked.

"No, I'm here to see the other #3," replied Tenuta, referring to Dan Fox, a similarly-sized linebacker the Irish already had offered.

Kuechly caught a touchdown in the game and was all over the field on defense, but St. X lost in overtime and despite Specht's post-game-lobbying, the Irish still weren't interested. Kuechly opted to sign with Boston College. He was named the Eagles starting middle linebacker in his first game and has not come out of the line-up since. This year, Kuechly leads the nation in tackles for the second consecutive season and, at the very least, should take home the Butkus Award, honoring the country's top linebacker.


From @TheCBurns   Will Kevin Sumlin be coaching at Houston next year?

I'd be shocked if Sumlin is back at UH in 2012. The timing is too good for Sumlin not to make his leap to a bigger program now. The Cougars have a good shot to go to a BCS bowl this year. His QB Case Keenum is a senior and moves on after this season. Sumlin's name can't get much hotter than it is right now. There are some very intriguing jobs that are or are about to come open, which figure to court Sumlin: UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and UNC. My hunch is he ends up in the Pac-12 in 2012.



From @ixcuincle  will urban meyer coach in the near future?


  Yes, I'm convinced the temptation to get back into coaching is too great for Meyer. He was able to recharge his batteries for a year, spend some time with his family but knowing that one of the few jobs (Ohio State) that he sees as elite is open will drive him back to the sideline. I realize there have been some reports floated that it is a done deal. I'm told by a source those reports are premature, but look for him to be running the show in Columbus very soon.

From @
jhclay  in 07 everyone was against UGA for title as did not win div/conf even though #3 and top 2 lost. But now everyone wants Bama?

First, I'm not so sure that "everyone" wants Bama. There's a lot of people who have been vocal about Alabama not getting another shot at LSU. One of the reasons you hear is that viewers were bored by the lack of offense in a game where there wasn't a single touchdown. However, keep in mind pollsters are voting for the second-best team. They're not supposed to be doing so as programmers, seeking out potentially the most entertaining match-up.

There are some differences between that Georgia team and this year's Alabama squad. That was a two-loss Georgia team that had been blown out in the middle of the season by Tennessee by three TDs. No one has blown out Alabama. The Tide has the best defense in the country and hasn't allowed more than 10 points since September. They also have a potent running game, led by the best back in college football, Trent Richardson. They have one of the better wins of the season, crushing Arkansas 38-14. They also went up to State College and blasted Penn State. 

Another noticeable difference between 2007 UGA and 2011 Alabama is, at that point, the SEC hadn't been that far along on this run of BCS titles. That benefit of the doubt that the league is going to get wasn't really there. The run of five BCS titles in a row carries a lot of weight. To a lesser extent so does the fact that Bama just won a national title two years ago. That's still fresh in people's minds. The Dawgs, meanwhile, had gone unranked the previous season in the Coaches poll and had been upset by WVU in the Sugar Bowl the year before that.

From @
jasongrant19   please discuss the disaster that is ole miss football.

It is stunning how quickly that program has fallen apart in the past two years. To go from back-to-back Cotton Bowls and then to four wins and now to a year where they're looking at 2-10 is remarkable. Ole Miss has had some clunker teams over the years, and in the two years I was around Oxford, the Rebels were really mediocre, but those teams were at least competitive in most games. This team has been thumped by Vandy and La. Tech and lost by double-digits to a horrible Kentucky team. 

Houston Nutt walked into a decent set-up when he arrived at Ole Miss: lots of young talent that actually had plenty of SEC experience because those guys were forced into action probably sooner than they should'v been.  Dexter McCluster, Mike Wallace, Shay Hodge, Cassius Vaughn, Kendrick Lewis and Jonathan Cornell and some really good linemen became the nucleus of good, fast team. Nutt also inherited a gifted transfer QB (Jevan Snead) who was sitting out but poised to take over the offense as the program's best QB, by far, since Eli Manning left Oxford. Having that triggerman was crucial. You see how awful the program has been without it. That bunch of players that Nutt inherited had been coached hard by the previous staff. Nutt came in, eased up, threw them a bone and they responded well. 

The problems started to come because Nutt didn't recruit as hard as the old staff. You're able to get away with not recruiting as hard at Arkansas than you can at Ole Miss. His first few classes were huge, but loaded with misfires and guys who never made it to Oxford or didn't last long. He also allowed MSU to take over the recruiting in the state in his first few years. Eventually that caught up with him, as did the eased-up, players' coach mentality inside the program. The team had lost whatever edge was there in the early years of Nutt's tenure. Whoever replaces him will inherit quite a challenge. There is some talent, especially in a nice group of young receivers, but there are major questions about the QB and throughout the rest of the depth chart, especially on the lines. There also are APR issues the new coach is going to have to be very mindful of because they've had so much attrition the past few years there. It looks like this team has been mailing it in on the field so if you're the next coach you better hope they haven't been mailing it in off the field too by not going to classes.

Frrom @DatBoiMattyP Will you consider Geno Smith a top 5 QB next season?

  It really depends on which of junior QBs opt to return to college football for 2012. Remember, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones all have another season of eligibility remaining. The only ones I think of that quartet who may return to college are Griffin and Barkley.

Smith has had a good season in his first year in Dana Holgorsen's system which was a radical change from what he'd run previously at WVU. Smith's fifth in the country in passing yards (350 per game) and has a stellar 24-5 TD-INT ratio. The team has also soared from 78th in scoring last season to 16th. I expect a big jump from Smith again with more experience in the system and with added seasons from an already dynamic group of receivers who all are expected back in 2012: Tavon Austin, Steadman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. Smith will come into the season as a legit Heisman contender, not a darkhorse guy.

The other top QBs for 2012: Clemson's Tajh Boyd; Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Oregon's Darron Thomas, ASU's Brock Osweiler, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Iowa's James Vandenberg and Washington's Keith Price. Other young QBs closing in on that group: TCU's Casey Pachall, Illinois' NateScheelhasse, VTs Logan Thomas, FSU's E.J. Manuel and OSU's Braxton Miller.

From @DukeBlogMKline  probably not getting any DukeFB questions but how do you assess progress in year 4 of Cutcliffe. Closer or as far away as ever?

I realize the Blue Devils are in a 5-game losing, but Cutcliffe has things getting better in Durham. It's just that things had been so dismal there for so long, it's going to take a lot of time. Consider this: the current senior class at Duke has won 15 games in the past four years and they'll leave the school as the winningest group of seniors since 1997.

This program still doesn't have the depth to handle the wave of injuries that have hit. Some 20 players in their two-deep have missed at least one game this year. The bright side is Duke will return almost every significant player in the program save for one OT and a safety. They also redshirted most of their freshmen class. Team speed has definitely been upgraded. The Blue Devils should have a decent shot at getting to a bowl game in 2012.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 1:33 pm
 

Stats That Matter: The Mensa man making things go

For the latest Stats That Matter I caught up with a guy who is arguably the "smartest" coach in college football. Hyperbole? We'll get back to that later in the article.

In his third year as Iowa State's offensive coordinator Tom Herman's O is hardly wracking up gaudy numbers. The Cyclones are 59th in total offense and 85th in scoring, but they are 5-4. Not bad for a team that had only five starters back on offense and was picked to come in second-to-last in the preseason Big 12 media poll.

  Herman's big on preaching to his players about trying to win "the double positive," he explains of his biggest stat barometer.

"If you win the turnover battle and the 'explosive' game, stats say you win the game 97 percent of the time. We preach that to our kids daily. I think I read a study a few years ago about it and it's certainly held up in all of my years as a coordinator. I think there's maybe been one game where we lost them both and still won the game and that happened this year against Northern Iowa."

In that game, the Cyclones had three more turnovers and less explosive plays than UNI. They needed to score a TD in the final minute to beat the FCS team, 20-19. (Herman, by the way, defines "explosive plays" as any running play over 12 yards and any pass over 16.) 

Their four losses this season all came in games where ISU had less explosive plays than its opponent this year: Texas (5-12); Baylor (8-13); Mizzou (8-15) andTexas A&M (6-12). They had the same number of explosive plays against Iowa (6-6) and lost the turnover battle (3-1) but still managed to eek out a 44-41 win in overtime.

It is always interesting to talk with coaches such as Herman who work at the smaller programs (relatively speaking in terms of conference worth), especially when it comes to things like the explosive play component. The challenge at a place like Iowa State is that your often lining up against teams with better athletes, which means your margin for error shrinks because the defense can win more one-on-one battles, pursue better, close faster and turn plays that figure to be 20- and 30-yard gains into eight-yard and six-yard pick-ups.

  "Last year, I read a stat where we were the only team in 1-A not to have a pass over 40 yards," Herman said. "This year we've made an effort, not only as a play-caller and game-planning to say 'Hey, we've got to find a way as coaches to manufacture these things, whether that means through 'trick' plays or formations or whatever the case may be. We've got manufacture them as coaches but at the same time we've to preach to our guys, especially since the perimeter guys, the wide receivers are so involved in the pass aspect but also in the explosive runs where a great block by a wide receiver can turn an eight-yard run into a 20-yard run.' We really preach our downfield blocking.

"I talked ad nauseam during two-a-days about it. If you look at the teams that are getting 40-yard pass plays or more, they're not always chucking the ball 50 yards downfield. They're throwing the intermediate passes and getting the ball to their great athletes and they're making a guy miss or getting a great block. In our second game against Iowa, we had a 57-yard pass. I think it was the longest pass at Iowa State since 2004, and it came on a tunnel screen. We caught the ball one yard from the line of scrimmage. At Iowa State, the more you can recruit kids that can be dynamic with the ball in their hands, the more of those plays you're gonna get."

That 57-yard pass play came thanks in large part to the skills of Aaron Horne, a 5-9, 175-pound JC transfer from City College of San Francisco, who followed his QB Steele Jantz and arrived in Ames last off-season. "It was blocked great at the point, the two O-linemen did a great job of getting out and getting the play started," explained Herman. "I think (Horne) made one guy miss and took the play exactly where it was designed to go and was off to the races."

The turnover component of the Double Positive has been even more vexing for Herman and his colleagues. ISU is 110th in the country in turnover margin. Last year they were 30th, losing just seven fumbles and throwing 10 INTs. Through nine games, they're closing in on twice as many fumbles (12) as they had in 2010.

"The fumbles have been absolutely frustrating," he said. "We have 3rd-and-12 and we convert it against Kansas and our wide receiver fumbles going across the 50. Another time, we're on the 8-yard line going in. It's the 17th play of our drive that started at our minus-4 and we fumble it. I never once felt like we weren't in control against Kansas yet the score said different because we turned the ball over three times and all three were on the plus side of the 50 going in. 

"The crazy thing is we do ball-security drills every day. On the back of our shorts--and I got this from the Houston Texans--it says 'Protect the Ball.' In every meeting room there is a sign that says 'Protect the Ball.' Two years ago, we were doing the exact same ball security drills (when Herman was the OC at Rice) and I think we finished in the (top 10) in the country in turnover margin. (The Owls were seventh nationally.) But this year we've had an issue with fumbling. We've pulled our hair out trying to figure new improved ways to drill ball-security. It sounds like a cop-out answer, but it just happens. And you don't want to engrain it too much because you don't want to paralyze the kids so that they play scared. You don't want it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy either. It's a line we have to walk but it's our job as coaches to get it rectified."

If there is a way to find that solution, there's a good chance Herman would be the guy to figure it out. And, this gets us back to that "smartest" guy in coaching thing. Herman is literally a member of Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. O.K., technically, Herman might not be a member any more. He doesn't remember the last time he paid the organization's dues. And truth be told, he was pretty sheepish when I brought it up.

"That and a dollar will buy me a cup of coffee," he said of the Mensa membership, which he explained he qualified for after taking a test right around the time he was graduating from college at Cal Lutheran in 1997 at his mom's prodding. She said 'Take the test. If anything else it'll look good on a resume.' 

To qualify he had to score high enough on it to grade out in the top 2 percent of humans on the planet, he said. Herman likened the Mensa test to more like the LSAT than the SAT, saying it's heavy on "logic" questions. "There is a difference between intelligence and knowledge. These [IQ-type tests are trying to gauge your] ability to think and ability to learn and logically deduce answers from problems."

Herman, who grew up in Simi Valley, Calif., said he did get accepted into some Ivy League schools but since he was the only child of a single mom and didn't want to be a few hundred thousand dollars in debt after graduated. Instead, he opted for UC Davis and later transferred to Cal-Lutheran, where he was an all-league wide receiver.

His education as a coach has been on-going. He credits his time as a graduate assistant at Texas, working for Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis for a big role in his learning the game.

  "The best thing that ever happened to me was as a GA I worked with the offensive line for two years," Herman says. "I got to learn protections and how things are blocked. Everybody can draw up routes to get people open, but how does that tie-in to the protection and where the QB is hot? We've changed quite dramatically from what Coach Davis was simply because we didn't have the players of a what Texas can have." Herman's also picked up a lot from his time visiting with other coaches and is a big fan of Brian Billick's book, Developing an Offensive Game Plan. "That book changed my life in terms of quantifying everything you do offensively and putting a number and a goal to it."

The numbers Herman's offenses put up while at Rice caught a lot of people's attention in coaching circles. As the Owls emerged as an unlikely offensive juggernaut, setting almost 50 school records in his two years in Houston. Herman helped Rice win 10 games in 2008. That season the Owls went to their first bowl game in 54 years. Since coming to ISU, he's had to shift his scheme around quite a bit. At Rice he had a potent triggerman (Chase Clement), a record-setting receiver (Jarrett Dillard) and a dangerous tight end/H-back (James Casey), so they threw the heck out of the ball. At Iowa State, he inherited a gifted running back (Alexander Robinson, who ran for over 2,100 in two season with Herman before graduating) and a good Big 12 O-line.

"We were light years different at Rice," he said. "Here, we didn't try to fit a square peg into a round hole. While we have never wavered from being spread, no huddle and shotgun, we're going to have to run the ball. We became a run-first team as we slowly improve at the wide receiver position."

Even though Herman is goals-driven when it comes to numbers, he maintain he's tries to keep it in context:

"Our job is to score more one point than the defense allows," he says. "If our defense is playing great, then we're going to manage the game to the point where we don't screw it up on offense, so we don't lose the game. If our defense is struggling or the other offense is on a roll and it looks this could be a high-scoring game, then the playbook opens up a little bit. You start adjusting your mindset. We don't get hung up a whole bunch on rush yards, pass yards or even points per game. We've got five wins and that's probably three more than the guys in Vegas would've told you we'd probably have before the start of the year.

  "I think at a place like Iowa State it's important to just really manage the game and see how the game is unfolding and then tweak your play-calling to what you need."

So far, that seems to be working out pretty well for the Cyclones.
Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com