Posted on: December 16, 2011 2:01 pm
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 2, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:21 pm
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.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:26 pm
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: October 16, 2011 2:46 am
EUGENE, Ore.--After Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler burned the Oregon defense in the first half , and the Sun Devils came out for the third quarter and rumbled 67 yards to take the lead 28-24, it sure looked like they had the Ducks reeling.
The rain was pouring down. Star running back LaMichael James was already out for the game with an injury, so when starting QB Darron Thomas was knocked out of the game with a leg injury, things seemed pretty shaky for the Ducks. Unproven redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett entered the game to face a defense that had already forced 19 turnovers in its past five games.
However, Bennett, a fantastic athlete who was a standout prep triple jumper in Southern California, deftly handled Chip Kelly's spread-option attack. An Oregon running game which had sputtered for just 58 rushing yards on 16 carries, with no run longer than 16 yards in the first half, got into a rhythm rolling up 168 third-quarter rushing yards as speedsters Kenjon Barner and freshman sensation DeAnthony Thomas and Bennett blazed through the ASU defense for one big play after another. Oregon with its back-up QB responded with consecutive TD drives totally two minutes and 55 seconds and the Ducks cruised to a 35-24 lead while their D clamped down on Osweiler, limiting him to just four yards of passing in the third quarter.
For Bennett, shining in a relief appearance is nothing new. Back in his high school days at Crespi High, he once stepped into the line-up when starting QB Kevin Prince (now at UCLA) went down with a knee injury. Bennett would go on to lead Crespi to a win over local powerhouse Mater Dei, quarterbacked by Matt Barkley. After the game Saturday night Bennett told me that experience helped him "so much" to handle this situation, saying it taught him the importance of staying poised.
Oregon moves to 5-1, while ASU, drops to 5-2 and suffers its first loss in conference play.
Posted on: September 14, 2011 1:05 am
For those of you who had read my old blog, you probably remember some of the staples. One of them was the weekly Top 10 list. This week's version: The 10 most exciting players in college football.
1-Denard Robinson, Michigan, QB: He was spectacular last year, shouldering a staggering amount of the Wolverines offense in 2010. The offense has been revamped with the coaching change in Ann Arbor, but Robinson he proved, once again, how spectacular he is when he sparked Michigan's dramatic comeback against Notre Dame last week. In that frenetic rally, Robinson accounted for a mind-boggling 226 of his team's 229 yards in the fourth quarter. As amazing as that was, we have come to expect the spectacular from him. And this is why he is 'Must-See' TV no matter who the Wolverines play.
2-T.Y. Hilton, FIU, WR-KR: No longer the best-kept secret in college football, Hilton, who almost signed with WVU, promised that he'd 'take one to the house' the first time he touched a ball in a college game (he did) and he's been making big plays for the Panthers ever since. Just ask Louisville or anyone watching their Friday night game about this guy's burst. Hilton made a team from a much bigger conference look like they were high schoolers as he blew past them.
3-De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, RB: Chip Kelly's big get out of Southern California has been a big name in L.A. football for years on the prep scene. Thomas had a rocky debut against LSU, but bounced back in remarkable fashion, burning Nevada for two plays of 60-plus yards in Week 2. I know that LaMichael James and Cliff Harris have done more, but it's Thomas and his blazing speed and dizzying moves who is generating some buzz as we just begin to get a sense of what he is capable of and how he'll be used there. He is going to be a scary weapon in Kelly's offense for the next few seasons.
4-David Wilson, Va. Tech, RB-KR: An NCAA All-American in track as a triple jumper, Wilson isn't just a little speed back. He's a 205-pound headache for rival defenses, having broken, by VT coaches account, 29 tackles in two games while rolling up 300 rushing yards. (I'll have much more on Wilson and Tech in the blog on Wednesday.)
5-Vontaze Burfict, ASU, LB: Arguably the hardest-hitter in college football, Burfict's battle to straddle the edge has been fascinating the past few years. He and his teammates have been prone to being self-destructive, but there have been some signs of maturation. Thus far this season, he already has four sacks in two games.
6-Justin Blackmon, OK State, WR: Not the fastest receiver, the 6-1, 215-pound Blackmon plays even bigger than his frame would indicate. A former high school basketball star, he is in the mold of Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant and just makes plays and big catches and looks unstoppable, toying with smaller DBs. His numbers in 2010 were fantastic: 111 catches, 1,782 yards and 20 TDs.
7-Lamar Miller, Miami, RB-KR: A decorated prep sprinter, Miller doesn't look like he's slowed down since muscling up to 216 pounds this offseason. He was a blur when he bolted through the Maryland defense for a 41-yard touchdown run in UM's opener. In the past year, Miller has learned to be more than just a speed back, becoming more patient as a runner since he now knows he'll get plenty of carries and doesn't feel like he has to hit a home run every time he touches the ball. He's also a dangerous kick returner and is #3 in the nation in all-purpose yards per game at 222.
8-Greg Reid, FSU, CB: A little guy who packs a wallop, as South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore learned in the bowl game last year when the 5-8, 186-pound DB blasted the 235-pound back. Reid picked off three passes last season and was one of the ACC's best return guys too.
9-Kendall Wright, Baylor, WR: Robert Griffin is Baylor's Heisman contender, but Wright is his go-to guy and quite a spark. The 5-10, 190-pounder who has the frame of a tailback and sports a 42-inch vertical, ate up Gary Patterson's TCU D in the opener for 12 catches and 189 yards and two TDs. The former Bears basketball player, a high school QB, also connected on 2-2 for 55 yards as a passer with one TD throw.
10-Chris Rainey, Florida, RB: I was tempted to go with Tennessee's freakish young 6-5 wideout Justin Hunter here, but I'll go with Charlie Weis' new toy. Rainey and his buddy Jeff Demps give the new Gator OC more speed than he's ever had to work with. In two weeks against a pair of overmatched opponents, Rainey is averaging over 7.3 ypc and 99 rush yards per game.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:31 am
Edited on: September 9, 2011 1:02 pm
One of the most intriguing teams in 2011 steps into the national spotlight tonight when Arizona State hosts #21 Missouri. Yeah, it's a chance for the country to see the Sun Devils new unis with the new pitchfork logo, but the real curious part will be seeing just how much things with this bunch have changed on the field, if at all.
No question that coach Dennis Erickson is on the hot seat. ASU has not had a winning season since way back in 2007, Erickson's first year there. They're 0-10 in their last 10 games against ranked teams.
To say the Sun Devils have had a propensity for melting down in crucial situations would be an understatement. Still, they come into the season as the team most experts feel will come out of the Pac-12 South division thanks to a nasty defense, led by a talented D-line and ferocious MLB Vontaze Burfict.
As I said last night on "Inside College Football" on CBS Sports Network, the big questions with this team are these: can Brock Osweiler play like a big-time QB, and can the Sun Devils finally knock off all the knucklehead penalties?
Osweiler, the surprisingly nimble 6-8 one-time Gonzaga hoops commit, is talented and is very confident, but it's nights like tonight: national TV against a ranked opponent that will define him. I spoke to ASU OC Noel Mazzone Wednesday night about his young QB. "Let's see how he handles adversity," the coach said. "Now everybody expects something."
Last year, Osweiler had two starts late in the season and played well, and ASU won both. But Mazzone pointed out that Osweiler really struggled early against Arizona. Osweiler was 2-10 in the first quarter and just 8-23 in the first half. Osweiler went 9-13 though in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes in the 30-29 win.
"He was kinda rattled to start," said Mazzone. "He has to play a whole game."
I expect Osweiler to respond well. The other question about ASU is more complicated. In Week One, ASU's ringleader Vontaze Burfict put up an eye-catching stat line: three sacks, zero penalties. But as the competition level rises, can he and his teammates keep their focus? Earlier in the week, I wrote about Burfict's conversation with his idol Ray Lewis, who prodded him to make better decisions as the young linebacker tries to straddle the line between playing with an edge and being out of control. For some, that line is much more narrow than others. And, as I wrote, that level of focus is actually a talent not that much different than speed or strength. We'll soon find out if ASU has that in them.
*I was really impressed by Oklahoma State last night. The Cowboys jumped on Arizona right away. Brandon Weeden was smokin' hot, hitting on 14 of his first 15 passes. He was in total control, playing like a talented QB in his late 20s against inexperienced college kids. RB Joseph Randle, who packed on 10 pounds of muscle this off-season, showed he's become a more physical runner to go with being a superb receiver and is an emerging star. Better still, the OSU D didn't allow Zona to have any semblance of a running game. This is a very dangerous OSU team.
Meanwhile, Arizona, plagued with inexperience on both lines, now faces games against Oregon, Stanford and at USC up next and is staring at the possibility of a 1-4 start.
*In all my years of covering sports, I’ve never seen a prepared statement like the one new Gators coach Will Muschamp released Thursday night after the NCAA suspended UF defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd for two games for accepting impermissible benefits, writes Mike Bianchi.
*TCU could be without two key starters for the Air Force game due to injury: LB Tanner Brock (foot) and RB Ed Wesley (shoulder), reports Stefan Stevenson.
*Recruiting is a cold business, as this Teddy Greenstein story about Northwestern QB (and one-time Stanford commit) Kain Colter illustrates.
*The prospect of Texas going independent is a daunting one and one that could alienate UT from the rest of the college sports world, writes Kirk Bohls.
*Nebraska OC Tim Beck said true freshman right tackle Tyler Moore was "probably our most consistent linemen throughout the course of the day. We probably played Tyler too much in the first game because it's a long season and we're going to need all those guys," Beck said, according to the Journal Star.
*James Gayle, a redshirt sophomore got Va. Tech's lone sack in the season-opening win over Appalachian State, continuing his emergence as VT’s most dangerous, and consistent, playmaker along the defensive line, writes Mark Giannotto.