Tag:Morning Surf Report
Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:31 am
Edited on: September 9, 2011 1:02 pm

Morning Surf Report: ASU still an enigma?

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.

According Will Muschamp’s statements, these impermissible benefits weren’t impermissable at all; they were righteous and good. They were not from agents or boosters who were affiliated with any university; they were from charitable people who were simply helping a kid with no parents who was essentially living on the streets of Philadelphia when he was in high school.

Usually prepared statements are carefully worded and crafted by the school’s PR department, but not this one. This one obviously came straight from Will Muschamp’s mouth — and his heart. Muschamp has been nicknamed “Coach Boom” and now we know why. In his prepared statement, he absolutely erupted on the NCAA’s ruling. . . . 

Let’s be honest, if Muschamp felt Floyd was a blatant cheater he wouldn’t have attacked the NCAA like he did. He would have quietly taken the two-game suspension against Florida’s first two humpty-dumpty opponents — FAU last week and UAB this week — and been thankful Floyd didn’t miss the Tennessee and Alabama games, too. If I’m reading Muschamp’s statement right, he is saying Floyd, a kid from a dirt-poor background who grew up without parents, was suspended by the NCAA for receiving handouts from charitable people and organizations while he was in high school.  I do not know if this is the case or not, but if it is then the NCAA has seemingly overstepped its bounds. How do you suspend a kid in college for accepting food, money and living expenses in high school while he was living with 10 other kids in his great grandmother’s basement apartment?

*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.

During his first game that fall, Colter heard a "pop" after throwing a post route. An MRI revealed a torn labrum and biceps, but he kept playing as a running back and receiver while rehabbing a shoulder that eventually needed surgery. Stanford originally stuck by him, but then their correspondences dwindled. They wanted his MRI results and claimed he would have to wait for clearance from the admissions office. Interesting for a kid who carried a 4.2 grade-point average.

Finally, Spencer said, "They just stopped calling. It was a bad situation. I wanted them to man up and talk to Kain."

"We're going to honor our commitment," NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "The coaches who punt on guys when they get hurt, it's pathetic. It's these kids' futures."

*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.

At this point, independence is looking like the end result. Why?

Ego and power.

Texas does not want to concede either. It doesn't want to give up its precious Longhorn Network, nor does it want its clout diminished by joining another established conference where it won't have as big a say. By clinging to their new toy — a valuable one, at that — and flaunting it, and insisting on uneven revenue sharing, the Longhorns have alienated the rest of the conference, created unrest and acrimony, and thrown their weight around so much that schools in their own league see them as a bully.

Yes, they are the Joneses.
*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.

During spring practice, Gayle had six sacks, including at least one in four of the team’s scrimmages. Then, last month, he exploded for four sacks in one preseason scrimmage. Gayle said Tuesday the light bulb went on during the spring, when the defensive scheme finally became second nature. He also won the team’s Excalibur award for his work in the offseason strength and conditioning program, where he bench-pressed 420 pounds and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash.  It’s important to note that Gayle, who’s now listed at 6 feet 4 and 257 pounds, has added close to 40 pounds onto his frame since arriving at Virginia Tech. Then again, the Hampton native has some good bloodlines, too.

Posted on: September 5, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 2:33 pm

Morning Surf Report: PSU QB battle clearing up?

With a visit from Bama looming, Penn State's QB situation is still unresolved. According to Walt Moody, JoePa should go with Matt McGloin:  

While Saturday’s 41-7 romp against Indiana State is not a perfect example to draw from, it’s clear that the offense is more productive with McGloin at the helm.

It was plain last season. It was plain Saturday against the overmatched Sycamores. McGloin led three touchdown drives in four series (we know one was a 21-yarder shortly after a fumble recovery). Bolden, who started, led just one, despite getting two more chances.

Yes, Bolden had a couple of good deep throws dropped, though Derek Moye’s miss did come during a drive the Nittany Lions later scored. Blame it on playcalling, drops or whatever, but McGloin moved the team better.
I don't expect PSU to beat Bama. I think Nick Saban's team is too tough on D and too physical up front for the Nittany Lions. The big key for Penn State in 2011 is to have one QB emerge by the Oct. 8 game against Iowa. Obviously, coping with the nation's best defense will be quite a litmus test for both quarterbacks.

I expect the Nittany Lions to be 4-1 by the time the Hawkeyes come to Happy Valley. Having one guy settled on will be pivotal to help rally the locker room because this kind of back-and-forth isn't ideal for a team trying to return back into the top 25. They can beat Temple, EMU and Indiana shuffling two guys, but after that stretch,  if one guy hasn't clearly separated himself--or been separated--from the other, it's a bad thing. *Michigan limited a respectable Western Michigan offense to three points in the final 36 minutes of the game, which is one of the promising signs of the transition from Greg Robinson's D to Greg Mattison's D, writes Mark Snyder: 

Safety Jordan Kovacs, who had the most productive game of his career with 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup, was a great example. Coaches in the past never considered him an impact player. Mattison turned him into a blitzing machine. 

  "It's a completely different scheme," Kovacs said. "We've got more blitz packages that give me the opportunity to come down in the box and make a play."

Mattison was the biggest single reason why I think the Brady Hoke Era will be a successful one. He knows exactly what it takes to win in the Big Ten and is a very underrated recruiter. There also are some capable athletes on both sides of the ball with experience now for this team to win at least eight games this year. I'm very curious to see how the Wolverines deal with a Notre Dame team coming off such a messy opener.

*Enigmatic ASU LB Vontaze Burfict spoke to his hero, Ray Lewis, a few months back about the line between being aggressive and out of control, reports Doug Haller:

"I just spoke with him about discipline and how you need to make up your mind in life and on the field," Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis said. "Make sure that you are doing the right things to be a productive player and more importantly, a productive person."

As Baltimore's Lewis knows, it's not always easy.

"Absolutely, it was hard to learn," Lewis said, "but it is possible for a middle linebacker with passion to do that. I had a ton of help from great coaches. Coach Randy Shannon was instrumental in helping me channel what I needed to do to be successful. You need to make the decision yourself, then your coaches can help you be the best you can be."

   No one has ever questioned Burfict's physical tools, but it's his maturity and focus that are at issue, which also are question marks that ASU has to resolve this season if the Sun Devils are going to live up to their lofty hype entering this season.

ASU and its star defender must finally show that they can be disciplined rather than getting tripped up by all the knucklehead penalties and being their own worst enemy, as they have been the past few years. Many coaches and players I've spoken to point out that focus is a actually a talent, not all that much different than those physical "tools" like quickness or strength. It'll be interesting to see if Burfict, like his hero, has that.

*While former NC State QB Russell Wilson put up impressive numbers (10-of-13, 255 yards, with three TDs including a 46-yard touchdown run) in a 51-17 rout of UNLV on national television Thursday night for Wisconsin, new Pack starter Mike Glennon's final numbers were more modest, writes J.P. Giglio:

He finished 18-of-31 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception, but he was sacked four times.
Glennon, the former blue-chip recruit, conceded he might've been trying to do too much. This will be a compelling subplot to the 2011 season if Wilson leads Wisconsin to a BCS bowl and Glennon doesn't thrive this fall in Raleigh and the Pack ends up not even making a bowl game.

The 62-year-old O'Brien enters his fifth season at State, 25-25 with a 14-18 record in ACC play and only one winning season in his previous four. Another mediocre season could be his last in Raleigh. He really, really needs Glennon to emerge this year.

*The ongoing conference expansion chatter at this point has focused on what Pac-12 head Larry Scott may do. Pete Thamel examines the landscape:

For Texas to come along this time, the Longhorns would have to fall in line with the blockbuster television deal that the Pac-12 agreed to this summer. That means that Texas would have to agree to equal revenue sharing and the so-called “Noah’s Ark” regional television networks. The new Pac-12 deal calls for six regional networks, pairing the league’s traveling partners (Arizona-Arizona State, Washington-Washington State and so on). That would mean that Texas would have to revamp its current network, the Longhorn Network, which is run by ESPN.

So if Texas were to go, Texas Tech — which is expected to follow the Longhorns like Oklahoma State is expected to follow Oklahoma — would have to be folded into the Longhorn Network. That puts some of the onus of Texas’ going to the Pac-12 on ESPN, which again finds itself in the uncomfortable situation, at least journalistically, of affecting and covering college sports. There is a strong feeling that the Longhorn Network is not an untenable impediment, as the Pac-12 and ESPN have brokered much more complicated deals. Dave Brown, the Longhorn Network’s vice president for programming, declined to comment Sunday.

*For the third time in the last six seasons, Duke saw Richmond stroll into Wallace Wade Stadium and leave with a win, this time by a 23-21 score. And, as Steve Wiseman writes, the Blue Devils are perplexed by how it happened:

“Maybe we spent too much emotion with the black uniforms,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We came back in and got excited. I don’t know.”

*Tweet of the Day: From LSU SID Michael Bonnette about sophomore CB Tyrann Mathieu

@LSUBonnette In 14 career games, T. Mathieu has 9 PBUs, 6 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 Ints, and he's scored 1 TD.

Category: NCAAF
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