Tag:Florida
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:52 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:55 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing early enrollees

Spring football is about to kick off for many more programs this week. That means we'll start to learn a lot more about which newcomers are ready to make an impact this fall. Here are the 10 most intriguing early enrollees to keep an eye on. (Note: I'm not included guys who were high school seniors in 2010 on this Top 10 list.)
 
1-Zach Kline, Cal, QB: 
It's been a loooooooong time since Jeff Tedford's team has had a really good QB. That last guy Aaron Rodgers left Cal after the 2004 season and it's been a bunch of misfires since. A lot of those quarterbacks who have had a shot at taking over, came to Berkeley with sizable credentials, but none of the other QBs Tedford has had since arrived more polished than the 6-2, 205-pound Kline. The Danville, CA native who has worked with former Cal coach Roger Theder for years, has good footwork, a quick release and is very accurate. Kline also seems to respond very well to competition. Zach Maynard, who had an up-and-down 2011, is the guy he'd have to overtake. Maynard, Tedford pointed out, did play better late in the season, but Kline is worth watching closely.

The Bears coach, whose teams have not finished in the AP Top 25 five years running now, has tried to temper some of the hype around Kline, by saying Maynard is still the program's starting QB. "I absolutely have concern about that," Tedford told reporters Monday about the lofty expectations on his young quarterback. "There's such a thing of putting too much on a kid early. I want him to come in here and be able concentrate on what he's doing and learn the offense and do his best without all the expectations."

2-Keith Marshall, Georgia, RB: Heading into the 2011 season, with the Bulldogs depth chart at running back depleted, the expectations on former blue-chip recruit Isaiah Crowell sky-rocketed. Crowell had some outstanding moments, but also was plagued by some issues of immaturity. If Crowell doesn't stay focused, he'll have a hard time keeping Marshall, a guy many recruiting analysts tabbed as the nation's top RB prospect in the 2012 class, off the field. Marshall is an explosive back with soft hands and great character (he had a 4.3 GPA in high school.) You just don't hear about many players these days whose GPA and 40-yard dash times are nearly identical.

3-Travis Blanks, Clemson DB: The last time we saw the Tigers defense it was getting shredded by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Going into the 2011 season, Clemson needed to replace three standout DBs who had moved on, especially All-American DeAndre McDaniel. The program really struggled in that capacity, finishing the season No. 81 in scoring defense and No. 74 in pass efficiency defense but help has arrived in new DC Brent Venables and this 6-1, 195-pound DB, who CBS Sports ranked as the country's No. 25 overall recruit and No. 2 defensive back.

4-D.J. Humphries, Florida, OT: One of two highly touted line recruits (Jessemen Dunker is the other) who has a legit shot to win a starting job this year on a Gator O-line that that was really, really shaky in 2011 and also has a new position coach. Humphries was a gem Will Muschamp's staff landed in North Carolina. He has long 6-foot-6 frame and nimble feet, making him a prototype left tackle as he continues to fill out. Humphries told Gatorzone's Scott Carter after Signing Day that he had already packed on 12 pounds since arriving in Gainesville.

5-Mario Pender, FSU, RB: Last year at about this time another early enrollee RB at FSU, Devonta Freeman was turning some heads. Freeman had a good season in 2011, but watch out for Pender. The guy is a blur, who is both quick and fast. In fact, sources at FSU say he's the fastest back the Noles have. In high school, he averaged 12 yards per carry.  

6-Tee Shepherd, Notre Dame, CB: Even though QB Gunner Kiel is the ND newcomer who has grabbed most of the headlines, my hunch is the 6-1, 186-pound Shepherd will make more of an impact for the Irish in 2012. He is a terrific athlete on a secondary that not only has to replace both corners but was sorely lacking in the play-making department. Shepard made 10 career INTs in high school despite sitting out his senior year due to transfer rules.

7-Amari Cooper, Bama, WR: Coming off a national title season, the Tide has a bunch of starters to replace and there are a handful of eye-catching newcomers already on campus. T.J. Yeldon, a tailback and Chris Black, a wideout are two guys who came to Tuscaloosa with a lot of buzz, but it's Cooper and OLB Ryan Anderson who probably have the best shot to make an instant impact. Cooper has great ball skills and figures to be an immediate upgrade for a receiving corps that needs a spark.

8-Arik Armstead, Oregon, DL: Many projected the Californian as a top offensive tackle prospect, but he signed on with the Ducks, where he's seen Nick Alliotti's D have a lot of success with its' towering D-linemen. The 6-7, 282-pound Armstead, also a terrific basketball player, has a chance to boost a defensive end rotation that needs to replace Terrell Turner.

9-Raphael Kirby, Miami LB: One of eight early enrollees in Coral Gables, Kirby arrived with a very impressive pedigree. A product of Ga. prep powerhouse Stephenson High that cranks out D1 players, the 208-pound Kirby is undersized especially as Al Golden tries to turn the Canes into a more physical team. But the Canes are short on proven linebackers and Kirby is fast, smart and instinctive--traits that figure to remind folks around Miami of former standout Sean Spence, who just moved on to the NFL. Another newcomer generating some buzz inside the program is agile OT Ereck Flowers.

10 (tie)-Bri'onte Dunn, Ohio State, RB: Tim Tebow provided Urban Meyer's offense at Florida a physical inside rushing presence, and the new OSU coach will be looking for a back to deliver that for the Buckeyes to take some of the pressure off young QB Braxton Miller. The 220-pound Dunn is a load. He also made many OSU fans take a big deep breath when he eventually picked the Buckeyes over Michigan.

10-(tie) Matt Davis, Texas A&M, QB: New OC Kliff Kingsbury has four options to be the Aggies new quarterback in the new A&M offense. The 6-1, 205-pound Davis is a gifted dual-threat QB, like two of the other three guys he'll be competing with when spring ball gets going at the end of the month. 
Posted on: February 28, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2012 11:29 pm
 

Top 10: The spring's most significant QB battles

Last year at this time, one of the more intriguing quarterback battles in college football was seeing which QB at Alabama would take over for the departing Greg McElroy. Turns out, the guy who won the job, A.J. McCarron, would help his team to the BCS title. It's probably a stretch to think that another first-year starting, scrapping to win some QB derby this spring will be able to lead his team to a national title, but you never know. This week's Top 10: the most significant QB battles of the spring in college football.

1-Oregon - Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota: Darron Thomas' surprising decision to jump to the NFL left a lot of folks scratching their heads. Some speculated that Thomas' move was prompted because he feared he might get overtaken in the spring by Bennett, who was impressive in his time playing while the Ducks starter was sidelined by injury. Thomas dismissed those rumors when I spoke to him a few days ago in Indy, saying there was no truth to them, and that he left because he was ready for competition at the next level. Thomas leaves behind an explosive offense with a dynamic group of backs and receivers, led by Kenjon Barner and budding star De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas praised both young QBs for their arms and their feet, saying both are good fits in Chip Kelly's system. Both are faster than Thomas and sources around the Duck program say both are more accurate than Thomas too. However, it's the experience and decision-making in this warp-speed attack that is hard to get a read on. Bennett, who completed 54 percent of his passes with a 6-0 TD-INT ratio and ran for 200 yards in a few games at midseason, is the favorite, but don't write off the 6-4 Mariota, a late-bloomer as a recruit, who has generated a lot of buzz among his teammates. He's seen as a guy who'll look to throw more than Bennett, we're told. This should be a legit BCS title contender if Bennett and/or Mariota are as advertised.

2-Boise State - Joe Southwick vs. Grant Hedrick vs. Nick Patti vs. Jimmy Laughrea: All Kellen Moore did was win more than any starting QB in college football history. But this program has proven to be bigger than one coach or one assistant or any player, but no doubt the four-year starter will be really missed. The guy was an all-time great. Southwick, a junior, who is about the same size as Moore, has been tabbed as the frontrunner by new OC Robert Prince. Hedrick is coming off knee surgery and also has been in the program for a while. The wildcard in this race is Patti, a shorter kid from Orlando with a very good arm and outstanding feet. Lots of coaches were impressed by his skills but just were turned off by his 5-11ish frame. He enrolled early and will be a factor here.

3-Notre Dame - Tommy Rees vs. Andrew Hendrix vs. Everett Golson vs. Gunner Kiel: The Irish should have their best front seven in years but how much more efficient can their offense be, especially without go-to receiver Mike Floyd? Rees has the most experience, but has struggled quite a bit and looks like he'll get overtaken this year. Hendrix saw some action last year as more of a change up because of his running ability. He also has a much stronger arm than Rees. As I've said a few times this off-season, Brian Kelly is sky high on Golson, a shorter QB from South Carolina, who redshirted in 2011. The 5-11 Golson, a dual-threat QB, could bring that much-needed spark to the ND offense. Kiel, an early enrollee, comes to South Bend with the biggest recruiting hype of the bunch, but several QB coaches who worked with the Indiana native last summer came away skeptical about how competitive he is and whether he has the moxie to be an elite QB.

4-Stanford - Brett Nottingham vs. Josh Nunes vs. Robbie Picazo vs. Kevin Hogan vs. Evan Crower:Andrew Luck arrived at Stanford while the program was among the worst in major college football. In his last two seasons, the Cardinal won 23 games. He was special. It'll be impossible to replace him. Stanford has a long list of guys vying for the job. Nottingham, a redshirt soph, is the frontrunner. I'm told he has the best arm of the bunch. He played in six games in 2011, although only threw eight passes. Nunes and Picazo are juniors while Hogan and Crower are freshmen. Coach David Shaw said at his pre-spring press conference he will try and divide reps in the first part of Stanford's spring session equally.

5-Wisconsin - Jon Budmayr vs. Joe Brennan vs. Curt Phillips vs. Joel Stave: Russell Wilson transferred in from NC State and had a terrific season for the Badgers. Whoever wins this job will have the luxury of a superb running game, led by Montee Ball. There will also be a new OC running the show with Matt Canada coming back to the Big Ten from NIU to replace Paul Chryst. Budmayr sat out last season with an elbow injury. If he's healthy, he'll have a good shot to win this job. Many figured he'd have been the starter had Wilson not transferred in and if Budmayr stayed healthy. Phillips, a former blue-chip recruit, has been plagued by knee injuries, offers good size and mobility despite two ACL injuries. There are two other names to remember for this vacancy come the fall: Bart Houston, a touted prospect from California who arrives in the summer and Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien, who is considering Wisconsin among several schools.

6-Oklahoma State - Clint Chelf vs. Wes Lunt vs. J.W. Walsh: Brandon Weeden leaves after the Cowboys had a fantastic season, just missing out on a shot to play for the national title. In two seasons, he went 23-3. Mike Gundy has said this thing is "wide open." The 6-1 Chelf is the only option that has played, throwing 69 passes in two seasons as Weeden's understudy. Walsh, a former blue-chip recruit, has been compared to ex-OSU standout Zac Robinson for his agility and dual-threat ability. But don't underestimate Walsh's arm. It's good too. Lunt, a lanky 6-5 early enrollee from Illinois, comes in with a strong rep as a passer. The staff wants him to bulk up, but he will get a shot to win this job.

7-Texas - David Ash vs. Case McCoy: The Horns should continue to improve after two disappointing seasons. They've had all sorts of problems trying to replace Colt McCoy since the UT great left Austin two years ago. It looks like it's Ash's job to lose. Last year, he was primarily a running threat. He was very raw as a passer, throwing four TDs and eight INTs. But he was pretty solid in UT's bowl win over Cal and that should give him some confidence to build on. Junior Case McCoy, Colt's younger brother, started five games in 2011 and will keep pushing Ash.

8-Florida - Jacoby Brissett vs. Jeff Driskel: The Gators have fallen fast since Tim Tebow left for the NFL. Charlie Weis spent one year in Gainesville trying to change UF from Urban Meyer's spread-option system. The results were not good as the Gator offense struggled mightily as an injury to upperclassman John Brantley forced the two true freshmen into action. Now new OC Brent Pease comes from Boise and inherits two big, athletic young QBs who have some game experience. Both have a lot of physical ability, but each needs quite a bit of polish and would be helped by improvement from what was a shaky O-line and inconsistent group of receivers. 

9-Auburn - Clint Moseley vs. Kiehl Frazier vs. Zeke Pike: Guz Malzahn left for the Arkansas State job and Scot Loeffler is taking over an offense that was 100th in total O in 2011. There were some rumors a while back that Frazier, who has known Malzahn since the 7th grade might be thinking of returning to his home state, but the dual-threat QB has dismissed that speculation. The sophomore is very talented. Moseley has the edge in experience and having started games at LSU and the Iron Bowl can't be overstated. This one will be curious to see how things develop under Loeffler. 

10-Texas A&M - Jameill Showers vs. Johnny Manziel vs. Matt Joeckel vs. Matt Davis: There is a lot of change going on in College Station as the Aggies make the jump into the SEC. With Kevin Sumlin bringing OC/QB coach Kliff Kingsbury, my hunch is that quarterback production is going to pick up over the next few years at A&M. What's really intriguing here is that three of these QBs are legit dual-threat talents with only Joeckel really more of a pocket guy. Showers, Ryan Tannehill's back-up, has a lot of talent. Keep an eye on Manziel though. He's only about 6-0 but something of a Texas prep legend. Manziel is a spectacular athlete who has a very live arm and is so athletic he can do 360 dunks.

Posted on: February 27, 2012 12:59 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Dontari Poe: More than just a Combine Freak?

Every year one prospect lights up the NFL combine by putting on a dazzling showing as the Freak of all freaks. Monday, Dontari Poe, a 6-4, 346-pound defensive tackle from Memphis, was That Guy. 

We've been touting Poe for a year or so now after being told about him by a Memphis staffer of his staggering athleticism. The guy squats over 700 pounds, bench presses over 500 and power cleans over 400, all jaw dropping numbers, but he's more than just weight room powerhouse. He was also a Tennessee state champion shot putter in high school, a testament to some of that explosiveness.

As expected, Poe was impressive in the weight room in Indy, benching 225 pounds 44 times, more than anyone else at the combine. But it was when he dug his cleats in to run the 40-yard dash Monday morning when jaws really dropped. Poe was unofficially timed at an unheard-of 4.87 seconds. And this was as the fourth-heaviest defensive linemen to weigh in at the Ccmbine since 2000. Later, the league announced his official time was 4.98, which is still remarkable for such a mammoth athlete.

Some immediately wondered if Poe is just a "workout warrior"? After all, he only was named to the second-team All-Conference USA team in 2011 with 33 tackles, eight TFLs and one sack for the nation's No. 115 defense. The year before, he was just an honorable mention all-league pick.

In truth, it's tricky to try to read too much into the stats of an interior defensive lineman. Poe, as one college coach who faced him this year pointed out to me Monday, was not surrounded by much talent. You shaped your game plan around him, the coach said. Plus, different defensive scheme dictate how "productive" certain D-linemen can be. Steelers star nose man Casey Hampton's been to five Pro Bowls and he barely registers on the postgame stat sheet.

I spoke to a veteran O-line coach who faced Poe several times during his college career. His take: "He's probably the best talent I've seen in several years. He took plays off and wasn't a great effort guy, but he is a freakish talent."

But don't all 320-plus pound D-linemen take some plays off?

"Yeah," said the coach, "but he took off more than most. He did get better last year than he was the year before. He just was never that productive, but I heard they didn't require him to do that much. He was definitely someone I took into account with schemes. ... I'm not at all surprised to hear that he's blowing up at the combine at all. He was never on the ground in college."

That last detail may actually be just impressive as the speed Poe displayed Monday, because as the O-line coach said, it shows the guy's great balance.

"It's the first thing I look at in recruiting linemen.

"He has definite first-round talent."
Posted on: February 25, 2012 7:12 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:48 am
 

Notebook: Matt Kalil goes from Bambi to bruiser

Eight things I learned from hanging around the NFL Combine media center at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday:


1-Matt Kalil, who was one of only two O-linemen who worked out Saturday to clock a 40 under 5.0 seconds and is projected as a top-three draft pick, apparently wasn't such a promising athlete when he was younger. Fellow USC product Chris Galippo has known the 6-7, 306-pound Kalil since they were eight years old. And even though it's the Trojan linebacker who is in the shadows now in scouts' eyes, you might not have expected things to turn out like they have for the two childhood buddies from Orange County. 

"I was always bigger and taller than Matt," said the 6-1, 241-pounder. "I was always kicking his butt. We'd go out and play two-on-two football and he couldn't catch. He couldn't throw. He was sort of like Bambi out there." 

Galippo said then one summer when both were students at Servite High, his pal sprouted from 6-1 to about 6-7 and, soon thereafter, Kalil grew into that frame. "That's what's so crazy about it," Galippo says.


Kalil became much more coordinated, Galippo said, as the kid who always had the huge hands and huge feet finally caught up to his body.

Somwhere along the way, Kalil also honed quite a nasty streak that is a stark contrast to his jokester personality off the field, Galippo says, when pointing out one of the big differences between the USC left tackle and his older brother Ryan, a Pro Bowl center. "Matt's one of the meanest O-linemen around. He plays really angry."


2-The Michigan defenders really, really like the focus Brady Hoke's staff brought back to Ann Arbor that, um, apparently was lacking previously under former coach Rich Rodriguez. In fact, standout nose tackle Mike Martin said defense "wasn't very emphasized" under Rodriguez.


"He didn't really spend too much time on the defense," Martin said of Rodriguez. "We were kind of a supplement. Just kinda there trying to help out the offense."

When I asked Martin what the biggest difference in how Rodriguez ran the program as compared to Hoke, the 306-pounder said, "It was such a big change. The amount of accountability he gave to the seniors in the leadership. Coach Rod like to be that guy. But Coach Hoke told us, 'If I have to lead this team, we're not gonna be where we need to be.'"

Martin went on to say that new UM DC Greg Mattison came back to Ann Arbor and "just set the bar at another level. We thought that we were doing the things that we needed to do to get better, but watching film and being more technically sound and doing all of the detail things that Coach Mattison really harped on made us better as a team."


3-All of the coaching chaos at Pitt took its toll on the players. Defensive end Brandon Lindsey said the program had six different head coaches in a calendar year and the only want to handle that is for the players to lean on each other. "It was really hard to stay focused," he said. "It's definitely hard to trust people when two years in a row, your coach is gone, but you just have to trust your instincts and trust your university to bring in the right people."


4-Olivier Vernon, a former blue-chip high school prospect, thought getting "special treatment" wasn't all that special. The Miami DE, who missed six games in the 2011 season for his involvement in the Nevin Shapiro scandal at UM, said he was "baffled" when Yahoo sports broke the story late in the summer on the former UM booster.  "I didn't know what was going on," Vernon said Saturday. "I didn't know my name was going to be mentioned."

The NCAA sidelined Vernon half the season for accepting $1,200 in benefits. 

"I should've known better. Some people come around and try to give you things? I should've known better. . . . I was in high school. I didn't think it was 'special treatment.' I thought that's how things work. I didn't know anything about compliance.

"I really felt like it wasn't actually as bad as it was made out to be."

Vernon also told reporters that the people who introduced him to Shapiro were (former Miami assistants) Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill. Hurtt is now the D-line coach at Louisville, while Hill is the receivers coach at Florida. According to the Miami Herald, Vernon told the NCAA of both coaches' involvement, and that he wasn't the only Hurricane who told the NCAA that the former UM assistants led the players to Shapiro, and that one current Canes player said that another former Miami assistant Joe Pannunzio (now a staffer at Alabama) led him to Shapiro.


5-The biggest difference to the Texas players between Will Muschamp's defense and Manny Diaz' D is the simplicity of current UT defensive coordinator's scheme. Linebacker Keenan Robinson said it took Diaz just a week to install his defense in training camp, which was much less than it took to get Muschamp's system in place. 


"It's much more simple," said UT LB Emmanuel Acho. "You also had more freedom within (Diaz) defense. He just lets us play the game."


6-Jamie Blatnick played against Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, three QBs who all may come into the NFL as top-five draft picks, but when asked who was the hardest quarterback to prepare for, the Oklahoma State DL answered K-State QB Collin Klein. "He's a great runner and is tough as nails."


7-Things were so bleak at Washington when Steve Sarkisian took over running back Chris Polk was contemplating giving up football.

"It's crazy how fast things changed," said Polk. "Coach Sark put everything into perspective."

Thanks to the attitude adjustment that Sarkisian made with the players, the team got better not only on the field but also in the classroom, Polk said. "It was night and day. My grades (improved) dramatically."


8-Iowa D-lineman Mike Daniels could have a future as a pro wrestler. Daniels was sitting by himself at a round table in the media room, about 30 feet from the podium where UNC star Quiton Coples was fielding questions from a big media group. 

I asked Daniels who else had recruited him out of New Jersey besides Iowa. "Nobody," he said. "Nobody wanted me."

We talked about his wrestling in high school, which he went on to say has been a great source of frustration. "I had a poor attitude. It eats at me every day. I didn't take it seriously."

Thinking back to the 'nobody wanted me' answer, I asked if he has a chip on his shoulder that drives him. "I got a HUUUGE chip on my shoulder. And, I'm gonna stay pissed. That's how you get better. Do Ray Lewis play nice? Does John Randle play nice?"
Posted on: February 21, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Top 10: Best bets to put on combine freak show

The NFL combine kicks off this week, meaning it's time for the league's annual freak show. This week's Top 10: The former college players with the best shot of lighting up Indy with their testing numbers. (Note: A few guys I had considered for this list, such as Stanford TE Coby Fleener, I didn't include because it has been reported that he is not working out in Indy. In Fleener's case that is due to an ankle injury.)

1-Robert Griffin III, Baylor, QB: The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner proved over the past year he's a lot more than just a guy who happens to have world class speed as a hurdler. RG3's exploits as a college QB are now well-documented. Griffin not only blossomed as a quarterback, often doing his damage as a pocket passer but he also has filled out quite a bit since coming to Waco and is a solid 6-2, 220. However, he still has wheels like few others at any position. QBs, especially ones with arms like Griffin has, almost never run sub-4.6s in Indy, RG3 should blow that away. Earlier this week RG3 told Dan Patrick there's a possibility he will go sub-4.4. Given his track credentials, it'll be surprising if he doesn't.

2-Zach Brown, UNC, OLB:
There will be many bigger linebackers in Indy but none faster than the Tar Heel. Brown is amazing athlete. Before arriving in Chapel Hill he had a 29-0 record as a prep wrestler with 17 pins. He also ran for over 1,500 yards as a high school senior. In his first time running the 40 as a Tar Heel, he started coaches by clocking a 4.28.

Brown has spent the past six weeks in South Florida working out with trainer Tony Villiani, who says the Tar Heel "will be bigger than people think he is. He's not going to be that small weakside linebacker. The goal is for him to be low 4.4s or under. People know about his speed but normally guys who are that fast hey may not be as agile too. People who watched him at the Senior Bowl know he's both."

3-Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB: The former 'Bama star has it all: size, power, moves and sprinter's speed. Pound-for-pound Richardson, who has benched almost 500 pounds and cleaned almost 400, might just be the strongest player in Indy. Don't be too surprised if he also proves to be one of the fastest and most explosive too.

4-Tommy Streeter, Miami, WR: After a few years of teasing 'Canes staff with his potential, the 6-5, 216-pound junior had a breakout season in 2011. Streeter opted to leave early after his one big year, and with his size and exceptional speed, he has the chance to shoot up draft board this week. Scouts don't expect to see a guy his height so fast, but remember he's been one of the fastest men in a very fast program from the day he arrived in Coral Gables. (Two other UM speeders, Lamar Miller and Travis Benjamin also could've made this list.) Those close to the UM program are expecting some big things this week from Streeter, who has a chance to shock scouts with just how fast he actually is. Last year's fastest man in Indy, DeMarcus VanDyke, a former Cane CB who got drafted by  the Raiders after he blazed the fastest 40-time at the Combine, told me a few weeks back that Streeter could duplicate his showing this year.

5-Janzen Jackson, McNeese State, DB: The former five-star recruit had some great moments as a Vol, but also was plagued by off-field issues at Tennessee. No one ever doubt his athleticism though. He finished his college career back in Louisiana at McNeese and will be looking to get back in scouts good graces with a big showing in Indy. Jackson's pre-combine workouts in Louisiana have impressed his trainer, former NFL player Wyatt Harris:
"I have trained some great athletes here at Sonic Boom. People like Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Tracy Porter, Jacoby Jones and Devery Henderson, and I have never had an athlete like him here," Harris told Houma Today. "He is the best athlete that's ever trained at Sonic Boom. His athleticism is freakish and his speed, quickness and ease of movement are at the very top of the athletic ladder. He applies all that athletic ability to the football field. He is just not a great athlete, but he can play a high level of football also. He is going to knock the socks off of these other safeties he tests against at the combine."

6-Mike Martin, Michigan, DT:
The former standout high school wrestler and shot putter has talked recently about besting Stephen Paea's 49 reps of 225 in the bench in Indy. Given Martin's rep in the weight room, it wouldn't be a shock if he did. Going into last season, he'd already put up impressive marks of benching 505, squatting over 700, power cleaning 430, hang cleaning 475 and run the 40 in the 4.9s.

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7-David Wilson, Va. Tech, RB: Everyone around Blacksburg has been raving about this guy's explosiveness for years. Some of that burst as well as his determination was evident in the 205-pounder breaking some 150 would-be tackles en route to rolling up almost 1000 yards after contact in regular season play in 2011. In training at Tech he's been clocked in the 40 at 4.29 and vertical jumped 40.5-inches, according to the school. Those kinds of jaw-dropping numbers often draw skepticism, but keep in mind this is also a guy who earned All-American honors in the triple jump. It's rare to see a guy broad jump over 11-feet in Indy, you'd have to think Wilson is primed to go long here.

8-Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT:
Another serious contender to put on a show when he gets on the bench press. Poe is a mammoth inside presence with surprisingly good agility, the 6-5, 350-pounder is a powerhouse in the weight room, having power cleaned over 400 pounds, benched 500 and squatted over 700 pounds.

9-(tie) Jarius Wright, Arkansas, WR:
The fastest Hog was also one of the most underrated receivers in the country. He has a good chance to create some more buzz if he can come close to the 4.27 40 time the Arkansas coaches say he clocked last spring. His times in the shuttles also could be head-turning.

9-(tie) Bruce Irvin, WVU, OLB-DE:
A pass-rushing specialist Irvin plays super fast. According to some of his teammates, he also times that way too. They swear he can run a sub-4.4 at 235 pounds. The question is how much heavier will he been in Indy and has he retained that speed?



Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

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

From @Philly_Sak Given all the circumstances, how do you feel Bill O'Brien did salvaging the PSU recruiting class?

As you mentioned, the circumstances around this class were so catastrophic, relatively speaking, people couldn't have expected too much after all that has been happening around State College of late. On top of all of that, you also had a new head coach without any head coaching track record having spent most of his time away from his new program while he finishes up with in the NFL. That is A LOT to overcome.


Recruiting analysts ranked the class around No. 50 nationally and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. That's actually better than what I would've expected given the circumstances. Of course, we try not to read too much into the team rankings especially. After all, a few years ago, Stanford signed a class that was ranked around No. 50 nationally and in retrospect the group with Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and others should've been no lower than No. 2 overall. 
 
  The downside is six prospects who had verbaled to PSU opted to go some place else. Many of them will play in the Big Ten but for Ohio State. They did hang on to touted WR Eugene Lewis, a local kid who all the recruiting sites are very high on. DL Jamil Pollard and Brian Gaia, an offensive lineman from Maryland, are two other coveted recruits bound for Penn State. 

While it helped that O'Brien immediately retained Larry Johnson who had been the program's best recruiter, I really think due to all of the above this was about as close to a lost class as a big-time program will ever have. 

On the bright side, there have been reports this week that many top 2013 recruits, including one of the top-ranked tight ends, Adam Breneman are high on PSU and O'Brien. You'd have to think O'Brien's work in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will help sell guys like Breneman, and if he can reel in a highly touted 2013 recruit early that will stir some much-needed momentum with the next wave of kids. But recruiting is going to be an uphill battle there for quite some time and Meyer and Brady Hoke having as much momentum as they do now is only going to make it that much harder. Beyond that, Wisconsin has never been stronger coming off consecutive Rose Bowl trips.

  From @ClintonOftedahl After USC/Barkley, which schools made out the best with players postponing the NFL Draft?

I agree that no program made out any better than USC sorting out which underclassmen stayed/left for the NFL. The Trojans did lose their best lineman in LT Matt Kalil and their top pass rusher, DE Nick Perry, but it was Barkley, who will be a four-year starter and has been the leader of this team the past two seasons, that was the pivotal guy. They also retained T.J. McDonald, one of the nation's top safeties, who is the leader of the defense. If Barkley bolted, I expect the Trojans would be an eight or nine-win team. With him, they are a legit national title contender.

At No. 2 in terms of schools that benefitted the most from the stay/go status, I'd put Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has to feel good about having LB Manti Te'o for another season and they also keep Tyler Eifert, one of the country's better tight ends. Eifert is a big plus for a team that lost its best weapon, WR Michael Floyd and has issues at quarterback. Having a legit go-to guy like Eifert for 2012 will be huge for whoever becomes the starting QB.

Right after them, I'd put Oklahoma, which retains Landry Jones, who three months ago, most observers figured was a lock to leave. Another fan base that should be breathing a big sigh of relief is Arkansas. The Hogs QB Tyler Wilson gave a lot of consideration to bolting for the NFL in the days leading up to the deadline, but he's going to be back as is RB Knile Davis.

For the fifth spot, I'd list Georgia. The Dawgs lost gifted tight end Orson Charles but didn't lose LB Jarvis Jones or DB Baccari Rambo. The last big "winner" here I'll mention is Wisconsin. Most top young running backs tend to jump to the NFL when they get the chance. Montee Ball, who just capped off a magnificent season, didn't jump, and that's surprising.

From @Falb7 Does Urban Meyer have a right to be upset with Bret Bielema's comments about his recruiting tactics?

As I said last week, it's hard to sift though much of the finger-pointing and backtalk we had in the aftermath of signing day. None of the guys involved ever come out looking better for being a part of that, although selfishly I do think it does spice up subplots to the games in the fall and sweeten potential rivalries or, in some cases, foster new ones. 

  No coach ever likes to get accused by a peer especially for shady business on the recruiting trail. The perception-is-reality stuff has to be frustrating but as long as it doesn't turn off recruits, and that sure doesn't seem to be the case with Ohio State, I doubt Meyer will lose any sleep over it. Rival coaches only tend to grouse about people's success. They never seem to pay much attention to anyone that isn't impacting their own success. Or the guy who is going 3-9 and signing all of the "two-star" kids. 

 

The one thing that doesn't sit well, and this was something a lot of Florida fans pointed out was that Meyer had been very outspoken as he left coaching for what he deemed unethical recruiting methods that had been increasing in recent years. Some of Meyer's critics, such as Mike Bianchi, have called him out on that.


"What I've seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession," Meyer said in one radio interview last year. "It's completely turned the other way. Right now, it's not good because the risk-reward is 'have at it, do what you've got to do to get the great player, go win games and at the end of the day we'll find out what happens down the road.' "


From @jgeer92376  A CFB question - which team of Stanford, Baylor, Oregon, Michigan State or Wisconsin will suffer the most for losing their QB?
 

It's a toss-up between Stanford and Baylor. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were as close to "Franchise QBs" or program-elevators as we've seen in the last 20 years. Even though both programs are in much better positions now than when before both QBs signed with them out of high school, there is going to be significant drop-off in 2012. After that, I'd put Michigan State next because of all Kirk Cousins meant to his program on and off-the-field the past four years. The program that loses the least: Oregon. Darron Thomas was a good QB, especially in that system, but Bryan Bennett was already nipping at his heels and redshirt Marcus Mariota is right there pushing him.

From @MR_SOUTH_BEACH where do you see mich being ranked in the preseason poll and can they beat alabama ?

I had them No. 11 in my early rankings for 2012. The program has some nice momentum coming off an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke's first year. And, the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, which is huge for their psyche in Ann Arbor. 

For the Wolverines to take the next step and be a national title contender, which is where they'd need to be to knock off Alabama this year, Denard Robinson needs to be much sharper as a passer. He actually seemed to regress in 2011. His completion percentage was way down (from 63 percent to 55 percent) and he threw four more INTs despite quite a few less attempts. He also got away with some jump balls that could've turned into more picks. You'd think the off-season with time to review his work in his first season with OC Al Borges would be a good thing in that regard. We'll see. There is plenty of talent around him (especially RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who after Montee Ball is near the top for running backs in the Big Ten), but they are going to miss center David Molk, who was solid anchoring the line.


They also need to find a way to get tougher on defense, which isn't going to be easy considering they have to replace NG Mike Martin. But there are a lot of very promising young players who got settled in last fall and should thrive with another off-season with Greg Mattison. Keep an eye on Jake Ryan, a budding star there.

Alabama is losing a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. However, they still may have the best O-line in the country and the back-ups Nick Saban had on D probably were better than anyone else's, save for maybe LSU. That Tide group also is better than most people's starters.  Hoke has his share of playmakers, starting with Robinson, and Mattison is one of the brightest defensive minds around. Bama also is going to be young in most spots, so it's not unrealistic to think Michigan could pull off the upset. Still, to see a Big Ten team beat the defending national champs, especially one that is NOT breaking in a new QB definitely would be a head-turner of major proportions.

From @cbhenn What's your pre-spring SEC East 1-7 predictions for 2012?

I have Georgia winning the East. The Dawgs have a very good, experienced D returning and a savvy QB in Aaron Murray. After that, I have South Carolina. I could see Tennessee coming in third as my surprise team. The Vols will no longer be a young team. They'll have a lot of three-year starters on what figures to be a potent offense. They will be counting on a lot of unproven guys on the D-line but my hunch is they have a shot to win nine this year. I slotted UF fourth ahead of Mizzou because they have a much deeper group of athletes on defense. After that, I have Vandy and UK rounding out the division.

From @Tavon4Heisman Does Geno Smith have a better shot at a Heisman now that WVU will be in the Big 12 as opposed to playing in the Big East?

No doubt. He and WVU finished the year with a strong statement, scoring 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. All of the key skill guys are back and should be even better with another off-season to fine-tune the timing of Dana Holgorsen's system. And now, Smith moves to a bigger stage in a much more high-profile league. Four of the past 10 Heisman winners came from Big 12 schools. That's more than any other conference can claim. If Smith has a big season, and he should, he will be right in the mix to get to New York and perhaps with the trophy. He is going to need some help though from his team's defense because no matter how eye-popping his stats are, if WVU is no better than 8-4, he won't win it.


From Matthew Parten in Auburn, AL: What, in your opinion will end up being the most important off season development for Auburn this year - the premature departures of Gus Malzahn, Barrett Trotter, and Michael Dyer, the hire of Brian Van Gorder, the decisions by Onterio McCalebb and Philip Lutzenkirken to remain at school for their Senior seasons, or the upcoming hire of an offensive coordinator?  

The hire of Van Gorder, who had so much success at Georgia, was a good move. His experience in the league will help a lot, but I'd say the most important development was the departure of Malzahn. Even though things dropped off dramatically in 2011, and much of that can be traced to Cam Newton and most of the O-line being gone, Malzahn is still one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. He's proven in recent years to be a very savvy play-caller and game-planner. Plus, you can also tie in the departure of a stud running back/workhorse such as Dyer and it makes it sting that much more.

From @cnichollHays  You've brought up a lot of interesting stats in the "Stats that Matter" feature...what is the most interesting stat uve seen


There have been a lot of them that I was really intrigued by the more we discussed them. Tom Herman, the new offensive coordinator at Ohio State, had a really interesting one called the "double positive"that was fun to track and Texas DC Manny Diaz willingness to embrace the Moneyball mind set was cool to write about as well.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

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

From @Philly_Sak Given all the circumstances, how do you feel Bill O'Brien did salvaging the PSU recruiting class?

As you mentioned, the circumstances around this class were so catastrophic, relatively speaking, people couldn't have expected too much after all that has been happening around State College of late. On top of all of that, you also had a new head coach without any head coaching track record having spent most of his time away from his new program while he finishes up with in the NFL. That is A LOT to overcome.


Recruiting analysts ranked the class around No. 50 nationally and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. That's actually better than what I would've expected given the circumstances. Of course, we try not to read too much into the team rankings especially. After all, a few years ago, Stanford signed a class that was ranked around No. 50 nationally and in retrospect the group with Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and others should've been no lower than No. 2 overall. 
 
  The downside is six prospects who had verbaled to PSU opted to go some place else. Many of them will play in the Big Ten but for Ohio State. They did hang on to touted WR Eugene Lewis, a local kid who all the recruiting sites are very high on. DL Jamil Pollard and Brian Gaia, an offensive lineman from Maryland, are two other coveted recruits bound for Penn State. 

While it helped that O'Brien immediately retained Larry Johnson who had been the program's best recruiter, I really think due to all of the above this was about as close to a lost class as a big-time program will ever have. 

On the bright side, there have been reports this week that many top 2013 recruits, including one of the top-ranked tight ends, Adam Breneman are high on PSU and O'Brien. You'd have to think O'Brien's work in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will help sell guys like Breneman, and if he can reel in a highly touted 2013 recruit early that will stir some much-needed momentum with the next wave of kids. But recruiting is going to be an uphill battle there for quite some time and Meyer and Brady Hoke having as much momentum as they do now is only going to make it that much harder. Beyond that, Wisconsin has never been stronger coming off consecutive Rose Bowl trips.

  From @ClintonOftedahl After USC/Barkley, which schools made out the best with players postponing the NFL Draft?

I agree that no program made out any better than USC sorting out which underclassmen stayed/left for the NFL. The Trojans did lose their best lineman in LT Matt Kalil and their top pass rusher, DE Nick Perry, but it was Barkley, who will be a four-year starter and has been the leader of this team the past two seasons, that was the pivotal guy. They also retained T.J. McDonald, one of the nation's top safeties, who is the leader of the defense. If Barkley bolted, I expect the Trojans would be an eight or nine-win team. With him, they are a legit national title contender.

At No. 2 in terms of schools that benefitted the most from the stay/go status, I'd put Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has to feel good about having LB Manti Te'o for another season and they also keep Tyler Eifert, one of the country's better tight ends. Eifert is a big plus for a team that lost its best weapon, WR Michael Floyd and has issues at quarterback. Having a legit go-to guy like Eifert for 2012 will be huge for whoever becomes the starting QB.

Right after them, I'd put Oklahoma, which retains Landry Jones, who three months ago, most observers figured was a lock to leave. Another fan base that should be breathing a big sigh of relief is Arkansas. The Hogs QB Tyler Wilson gave a lot of consideration to bolting for the NFL in the days leading up to the deadline, but he's going to be back as is RB Knile Davis.

For the fifth spot, I'd list Georgia. The Dawgs lost gifted tight end Orson Charles but didn't lose LB Jarvis Jones or DB Baccari Rambo. The last big "winner" here I'll mention is Wisconsin. Most top young running backs tend to jump to the NFL when they get the chance. Montee Ball, who just capped off a magnificent season, didn't jump, and that's surprising.

From @Falb7 Does Urban Meyer have a right to be upset with Bret Bielema's comments about his recruiting tactics?

As I said last week, it's hard to sift though much of the finger-pointing and backtalk we had in the aftermath of signing day. None of the guys involved ever come out looking better for being a part of that, although selfishly I do think it does spice up subplots to the games in the fall and sweeten potential rivalries or, in some cases, foster new ones. 

  No coach ever likes to get accused by a peer especially for shady business on the recruiting trail. The perception-is-reality stuff has to be frustrating but as long as it doesn't turn off recruits, and that sure doesn't seem to be the case with Ohio State, I doubt Meyer will lose any sleep over it. Rival coaches only tend to grouse about people's success. They never seem to pay much attention to anyone that isn't impacting their own success. Or the guy who is going 3-9 and signing all of the "two-star" kids. 

 

The one thing that doesn't sit well, and this was something a lot of Florida fans pointed out was that Meyer had been very outspoken as he left coaching for what he deemed unethical recruiting methods that had been increasing in recent years. Some of Meyer's critics, such as Mike Bianchi, have called him out on that.


"What I've seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession," Meyer said in one radio interview last year. "It's completely turned the other way. Right now, it's not good because the risk-reward is 'have at it, do what you've got to do to get the great player, go win games and at the end of the day we'll find out what happens down the road.' "


From @jgeer92376  A CFB question - which team of Stanford, Baylor, Oregon, Michigan State or Wisconsin will suffer the most for losing their QB?
 

It's a toss-up between Stanford and Baylor. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were as close to "Franchise QBs" or program-elevators as we've seen in the last 20 years. Even though both programs are in much better positions now than when before both QBs signed with them out of high school, there is going to be significant drop-off in 2012. After that, I'd put Michigan State next because of all Kirk Cousins meant to his program on and off-the-field the past four years. The program that loses the least: Oregon. Darron Thomas was a good QB, especially in that system, but Bryan Bennett was already nipping at his heels and redshirt Marcus Mariota is right there pushing him.

From @MR_SOUTH_BEACH where do you see mich being ranked in the preseason poll and can they beat alabama ?

I had them No. 11 in my early rankings for 2012. The program has some nice momentum coming off an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke's first year. And, the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, which is huge for their psyche in Ann Arbor. 

For the Wolverines to take the next step and be a national title contender, which is where they'd need to be to knock off Alabama this year, Denard Robinson needs to be much sharper as a passer. He actually seemed to regress in 2011. His completion percentage was way down (from 63 percent to 55 percent) and he threw four more INTs despite quite a few less attempts. He also got away with some jump balls that could've turned into more picks. You'd think the off-season with time to review his work in his first season with OC Al Borges would be a good thing in that regard. We'll see. There is plenty of talent around him (especially RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who after Montee Ball is near the top for running backs in the Big Ten), but they are going to miss center David Molk, who was solid anchoring the line.


They also need to find a way to get tougher on defense, which isn't going to be easy considering they have to replace NG Mike Martin. But there are a lot of very promising young players who got settled in last fall and should thrive with another off-season with Greg Mattison. Keep an eye on Jake Ryan, a budding star there.

Alabama is losing a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. However, they still may have the best O-line in the country and the back-ups Nick Saban had on D probably were better than anyone else's, save for maybe LSU. That Tide group also is better than most people's starters.  Hoke has his share of playmakers, starting with Robinson, and Mattison is one of the brightest defensive minds around. Bama also is going to be young in most spots, so it's not unrealistic to think Michigan could pull off the upset. Still, to see a Big Ten team beat the defending national champs, especially one that is NOT breaking in a new QB definitely would be a head-turner of major proportions.

From @cbhenn What's your pre-spring SEC East 1-7 predictions for 2012?

I have Georgia winning the East. The Dawgs have a very good, experienced D returning and a savvy QB in Aaron Murray. After that, I have South Carolina. I could see Tennessee coming in third as my surprise team. The Vols will no longer be a young team. They'll have a lot of three-year starters on what figures to be a potent offense. They will be counting on a lot of unproven guys on the D-line but my hunch is they have a shot to win nine this year. I slotted UF fourth ahead of Mizzou because they have a much deeper group of athletes on defense. After that, I have Vandy and UK rounding out the division.

From @Tavon4Heisman Does Geno Smith have a better shot at a Heisman now that WVU will be in the Big 12 as opposed to playing in the Big East?

No doubt. He and WVU finished the year with a strong statement, scoring 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. All of the key skill guys are back and should be even better with another off-season to fine-tune the timing of Dana Holgorsen's system. And now, Smith moves to a bigger stage in a much more high-profile league. Four of the past 10 Heisman winners came from Big 12 schools. That's more than any other conference can claim. If Smith has a big season, and he should, he will be right in the mix to get to New York and perhaps with the trophy. He is going to need some help though from his team's defense because no matter how eye-popping his stats are, if WVU is no better than 8-4, he won't win it.


From Matthew Parten in Auburn, AL: What, in your opinion will end up being the most important off season development for Auburn this year - the premature departures of Gus Malzahn, Barrett Trotter, and Michael Dyer, the hire of Brian Van Gorder, the decisions by Onterio McCalebb and Philip Lutzenkirken to remain at school for their Senior seasons, or the upcoming hire of an offensive coordinator?  

The hire of Van Gorder, who had so much success at Georgia, was a good move. His experience in the league will help a lot, but I'd say the most important development was the departure of Malzahn. Even though things dropped off dramatically in 2011, and much of that can be traced to Cam Newton and most of the O-line being gone, Malzahn is still one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. He's proven in recent years to be a very savvy play-caller and game-planner. Plus, you can also tie in the departure of a stud running back/workhorse such as Dyer and it makes it sting that much more.

From @cnichollHays  You've brought up a lot of interesting stats in the "Stats that Matter" feature...what is the most interesting stat uve seen


There have been a lot of them that I was really intrigued by the more we discussed them. Tom Herman, the new offensive coordinator at Ohio State, had a really interesting one called the "double positive"that was fun to track and Texas DC Manny Diaz willingness to embrace the Moneyball mind set was cool to write about as well.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:02 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Best assistant moves

As we try and size up the best and worst head coaching hires of the the past few months, I thought it was worth delving into some of the top in-the-trenches guys and staffers who made news but on a much smaller scale during "the silly season" that is the coaching carousel. This week's Top 10: best assistant moves:

1. Oklahoma hiring back Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator: Some Sooner fans have been lamenting the Mike Stoops Jinx for years now noting that OU football hasn't been as tough or as effective, especially in big games since Bob Stoops' fiery brother left for Arizona. On paper, the younger Stoops brother certainly left a mark, coaching OU to the top or near the top in almost every significant defensive statistic. He also sparked OU to a school-best 48 wins over a four-year stretch from 2000-03 that included a BCS national title. During that four-year stretch OU had three top-five finishes and produced 10 All-Americans on defense. In the eight years since he's been out of Norman, the Sooners have only had two top-five finishes and six All-Americans on D. 

2. Washington hires Tosh Lupoi as D-line coach: The Huskies had been atrocious on defense prompting Steve Sarkisian to make some tough changes. One of them meant breaking the bank for the 30-year old former Cal assistant, who helped mentor some really good defensive linemen for the Golden Bears with Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu both becoming first-rounders in recent years. However, Lupoi's biggest impact comes off the field, where his departure shook up the recruiting world in the past few months. Five-star DB Shaq Thompson took a late visit up to U-Dub and ended up signing with the Huskies. Lupoi also got long-time USC DE commit Pio Vatuvei to flip to Washington on Signing Day. If Lupoi doesn't bolt for Seattle, Cal probably reels in a Top 10 recruiting class despite the fact that it has a sub .500 record in league play the past three years. But the coach's exit torpedoed that, and yes, it was messy. Expect many more fireworks in the coming year and for U-Dub to be a player nationally on the recruiting scene as long as Lupoi is with the Huskies.

3. Michigan State retains DC Pat Narduzzi: Arguably the most underrated defensive coordinator in college football, Narduzzi was courted by Kevin Sumlin after the new Texas A&M coach arrived at the SEC program, but MSU was able to hang onto the Youngstown product. That's quite a coup for the Spartans. In 2010, Narduzzi led MSU to one of its better defensive seasons in years. But going into last season he had to replace four of the top five tacklers, including star LB Greg Jones. The result: the Spartans played even better. MSU was No. 6 in the country in total defense; No. 10 in scoring; No. 7 in sacks and No. 9 against the run. They won 11 games and finished in the Top 10 for the first time since the Nick Saban days in the late '90s.

4. UNC lands Vic Koenning as its defensive coordinator: One of the best moves Ron Zook made at Illinois was flipping the keys to Koenning to run his defense. Koenning transformed the Illini D from 91st nationally to No. 7 in one year. He also sparked a dramatic improvement in K-State's defense at his previous stop. In his last stint in the ACC, at Clemson, Koenning (pronounced "CONE-ing") did something no other Tiger DC ever could do:  Each of his four defenses from 2005-2008 finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense each season.

5. Urban Meyer reunites with Mickey Marotti as Ohio State gets a new strength coach: A huge key for Meyer in his run at UF was surrounding himself with a great staff. With the possible exception of Charlie Strong, no other assistant was more vital to UF's success in that time than Marotti, who goes back with Meyer to their days in Columbus in the late 80s when both were just beginning their coaching careers. When Meyer talked about his new staff at OSU, Marotti was the one he called his "most important hire." The one-time OSU grad assistant developed 22 All-Americans and eight first-rounders during his seven years in Gainesville.



6. Jim Mora recruits his ace recruiters: The new UCLA head coach had never really worked in college and there was a lot of skepticism about how the NFL lifer would acclimate to things like recruiting. Well, Mora wasted little time getting up to speed by landing a couple of assistants with deep California connections in O-line coach Adrian Klemm and Demetrice Martin, a pair of aggressive young assistants who grew up in the L.A. area. Martin helped snag Ellis McCarthy, perhaps the top defensive lineman on the West Coast, along with touted DE Jeremy Castro, while Klemm nabbed a bunch of other blue-chippers that included CB Ishmael Adams, WR Jordan Payton and OT Lacy Westbrook.

7. Paul Chryst brings O-line coach Bob Bostad to Pitt: The Panthers were beyond brutal up front. They ranked dead last in the NCAA in sacks allowed with an eye-popping 64-- 17 more than the next worst team. You almost never see such wide gaps in the pits of the NCAA ineptitude stats. That figures to get a whole lot better under Chryst and Bostad. The former Badger O-line coach developed four all-Americans in the past two seasons alone (Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz) as Wisconsin rushed for over 3,000 yards the past two seasons en route to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. Bostad's O-line actually allowed two few sacks in the past three seasons combined in 40 games than Pitt surrendered in 2011.

8. Rich Rodriguez finally gets Jeff Casteel back to run his defense: Rodriguez' biggest shortcoming from his time at Michigan was not being able to have his former WVU DC with him to run the Wolverines defense. Casteel has coached defenses that have finished in the top 15 in scoring D in four of the previous seven seasons. In 2010, the Mountaineers were third in the nation in scoring defense. Better still, Casteel is bringing a couple of WVU defensive assistants with him to Tucson who knew exactly what he wants and does. They will have plenty of work ahead of them in the most diverse offensive league as they inherit a team that was 107th in scoring defense and 116th in sacks.

9. Florida goes to Boise for its new OC: Charlie Weis had a very shaky season in Gainesville as the Gators stumbled in their transition season out of the Urban Meyer offense, finishing 105th in the country in total offense. Pease moves south after working with one of the most productive QBs in college history (Kellen Moore). The 47-year-old Pease also had a lot of success in his days at Montana in the 90s and had some good moments leading an undermanned Kentucky offense in the SEC before moving to Boise.

10. Mike Locksley is back at Maryland: No doubt Locksley had a disastrous run as New Mexico's head coach, going 2-26 and being at the center of a few off-field scandals. He signs on with second-year coach Randy Edsall, who had a disastrous beginning with the Terps going 2-10 with only one win over an FBS opponent. But never underestimate the recruiting juice Locksley has, especially in that part of the country.  He will get kids who would never get within sniffing distance of Edsall's program to give the Terps a long, hard look now. And the school made sure to sweeter Locksley's deal on that front. According to the Washington Post, if Maryland is ranked in the top 40 by either Rivals.com or Scout.com's recruiting rankings on National Signing Day, Locksley will earn $25,000. He'll also get an additional $20,000 if the Terrapins place in the top four of ACC teams in the Rivals.com or Scout.com's rankings on National Signing Day.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com