Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send your questions via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @Mark Johnson w SEC the best conf who do you think is the 2nd best after realignment?
There is a big drop-off between the SEC and the next-best conference. Having won six BCS titles in a row is quite an accomplishment and with four or five SEC teams expected to open the season in the top 12, it doesn't seem like anyone is close to make a move to overtake Mike Slive's league.
Going forward, I'd lean to the Big Ten in who I'd list as the next toughest conference. A big reason for that is Urban Meyer's arrival giving Ohio State and really the rest of the Big Ten such a jolt. On top of that you have Michigan now surging back on track, coming off a BCS Bowl win; Wisconsin coming off back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances; Michigan State coming off its best season in over a decade and Nebraska joining the league in 2011. The downside of it is the uncertainty of the direction Penn State is headed.
The other conferences I had right there with the Big Ten are the Big 12 and the Pac-12. From an off-the-field component the Big 12 still seems fairly unstable given all of the uncertainty around it and its recent history. On the field, you've had Oklahoma State rise up with consecutive top 10 finishes. We'll see if Mike Gundy's program can sustain it. Same for Bill Snyder at K-State. Baylor had a fantastic season but figures to backslide some with RG3 gone. OU had a "disappointing" season yet still finished in the top 15 and now gets Mike Stoops back to run the defense. Texas appears to be on the way back up after two woeful seasons.
The Big 12 also added two programs in WVU and TCU that are poised for big debut seasons because they both return a lot of young talent although the Horned Frogs, given this week's events and key player dismissals, definitely don't look as strong as they did a few days ago.
Larry Scott's league is on much more solid footing than the Big 12 big picture, but it's still coming off a season where one of the teams that played in its title game, UCLA, finished with a 6-8 record. That doesn't speak well of the league when something like that happens. Chip Kelly just led Oregon to perhaps its best season ever, but the Ducks still have the Will Lyles recruiting mess hanging over the program. Stanford lost Andrew Luck and a couple of other top 15 draft picks and the Cardinal are likely to drop out of the top 20, although with the way David Shaw has recruited, it doesn't seem like this program will plummet off the national radar. USC is poised for a great 2012, but after Matt Barkley's senior year, the Trojans will have to deal with the meat of the NCAA's scholarship sanctions. After these three teams, the rest of the conference is in scuffling to get to be Top 25 caliber.
From @Drew Conrad what do you think about University of Utah promoting a 25-year-old to OC?
No question it's risky to flip the keys to a guy this young, but Brian Johnson has spent a lot of time around some very bright offensive minds, starting with Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen, going through Andy Ludwig and Norm Chow. That's a pretty interesting mix of coaches and styles. From the guys in the coaching world I've asked about Johnson, I've heard a lot of good things. Almost all of those guys keep talking about how focused and smart the former QB is.
His experience working with head coach Kyle Whittingham and knowing what he wants is also key for a new hire. Johnson's level of coaching experience isn't much less than what Kliff Kingsbury had when he took over play-calling duties at Houston, and that worked out great for the Cougars. The biggest difference there though is that Kingsbury's head coach Kevin Sumlin had been an OC before while Whittingham is a defensive guy.
The short-term concerns here are that the team lost two very good offensive tackles and on top of that a terrific O-line coach, Tim Davis just left the program for Florida. And obviously, they need to get better at QB if they're going to be serious contenders in the Pac-12 South.
From @GoonerAggieFan Thoughts on the Staff that Kevin Sumlin has put together at A&M, including his most recent addition Terry Price?
It is excellent. He brought one of the sharpest young offensive guys in coaching with him from UH in Kingsbury. That guy is going to be a star in this business very soon. He also brought one of his betters recruiters in the Southwest in Clarence McKinney, and landed USF D-coordinator Mark Snyder, who is one of the top defensive guys in the country. I'll have a lot more on the Aggies in a week or so. I'm heading to College Station in a few days.
From @marty roberts If FSU shores up OL, how far u think they can go this year? And where u think they start in rankings?
Given all of the youth and newcomers from the JC ranks they're adding into the mix, that is a pretty big if. I'd expect improvement, but can this group make such dramatic strides to go from being as shaky as they were last year to the caliber of being part of a BCS title contender? I have my doubts, especially when you consider after last season's hype, it's basically anything short of a top-five season will be seen as a major disappointment/underachieving yet again.
The line was a mess last year. FSU was 110th in sacks allowed and 104th in rushing. You can't be an elite team no matter how tough your defense is being so bad in both those stats.
The other big key is E.J. Manuel also needs to take a significant step forward and become much more consistent. Part of his struggles, no doubt, were due to the inexperienced O-line and to his injuries, but you look at just how much he and the Noles struggled in their regular season finale at UF and it's clear this is still a team with a lot of work ahead.
As far as where the Noles will open the season, I'd expect them to begin around No. 11 or 12. On paper, there is a lot of reasons for enthusiasm: returning QB coming off a pretty good first season as a starter with a gifted young group of receivers, an outstanding defense returning and the influx of (another) touted signing class. The problem: it seems like we've heard much of these same reasons why FSU is finally poised to compete for a BCS title again before, almost annually in fact, and for a variety of reasons, it hasn't came true and things fizzled out. And, why I used the word "problem" is that I suspect that notion isn't something only the media now believes, it's something players on the team hear about so much that it's a challenge to not let that mindset seep into the locker room: 'O.K., what's going to creep up and muck things up for us this time?'
From @Omer Subhani how good/bad was recruiting job by All Golden considering circumstances? TheU
The recruiting job Golden's staff at Miami did this year, considering the circumstances of the avalanche of publicity the Nevin Shapiro story got, and the fact that there is an on-going NCAA investigation still hanging over the program, was remarkable.
As I said on our Signing Day Central show, I think there were three big keys to this class: the first was having a local star hold firm on being very public about his desire to be a Cane as Duke Johnson, perhaps the most dynamic running back prospect in the country, did. The second was stocking up on depleted positions (WR, D-line and DBs) with scholarship restrictions looming. The third was finishing with a flourish to build up that momentum going forward, and by reeling in Tracy Howard, the nation's top CB recruit, Golden did that in a big way. Remember, Howard was a kid who just a few weeks earlier was said to be a long-shot for Miami. Highly touted DE Tyriq McCord was another big late pick-up who many top programs chased hard.
If Golden can land a class this deep and talented in the face of all of the Shapiro stuff/NCAA player suspensions, it'll be interesting to see what he can do at Miami once the NCAA's ruling finally is known.
From @djr98 wat do u think of arkansas for 2012?
I like the Hogs chances to be a top 10 team, but I don't like their chances to win the SEC West and compete for a BCS title. Reasons for a top 10 run: Tyler Wilson is back, along with Knile Davis and they do get LSU and Bama at home this year. Reasons why I don't think they can win the SEC: I'm not sold on the defense. It wasn't good enough in 2011 and they're losing most of the best players they had on that D to the NFL.
From @joe king Who's gonna be next years Sammy Watkins,An can Hugh Freeze recruit well enough after Mullin has dominated the State this yr.
I'll go with Dorial Green-Beckham being the biggest impact freshman wideout. He has freakish athleticism at 6-6, 225 and will play in a wide-open offense at Mizzou with a promising young QB (James Franklin) where they run the ball well enough to stress defenses. That should enable DGB to have a lot of big-play opportunities.
Freeze is an ultra-aggressive recruiter and a good salesman. He also knows the area around Ole Miss as well as any coach they could've hired. I suspect he'll probably end up offering more scholarships before the summer than any coach in the country. I have no doubts he will get some talented players to Oxford. He was able to nab a couple already.
The on-field product is going to be mediocre for a few years, though. Freeze inherited a complete mess from Houston Nutt. Recruiting there had really tailed off save for Nitt's final class there. The program was in disarray and that won't be mended overnight. Dan Mullen just put together a very strong class, especially on the D-line and at linebacker. There is a pretty sizeable gap for Freeze to try and close.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 1:19 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 2:03 pm
With spring football here this week (thanks to Army getting an early start on things), let's take a peek at some freshmen who redshirted last fall but have generated some buzz within their football programs. The Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing redshirt freshmen to remember this off-season.
1, Everett Golson, Notre Dame, QB: Brian Kelly's biggest headache in 2011 was due to shaky quarterback play. ND had some very capable weapons in Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert and Cierre Wood, but the Irish were inept in the Red Zone and prone to momentum-crushing mistakes at the worst possible times. Tommy Rees started most of the season at QB and is back. So is Andrew Hendrix, a more mobile option with a stronger arm. Touted freshman Gunner Kiel is already on campus, but don't underestimate Golson, a 5-11, 185-pounder from South Carolina. When we had Kelly on our Signing Day Central show a few weeks ago and the Notre Dame coach gushed when I asked him about Golson. You heard a completely different vibe from Kelly just as he started to describe the young QB who had led his high school to state championships in both football and basketball. While Golson does not have prototype size, he has a quick release, a strong arm and wonderful footwork. He also apparently has that presence about him that coaches love.
2, Dee Hart, Bama RB: The Tide has to replace the great Trent Richardson, but still has Eddie Lacy. Hart, one of the nation's top recruits last year, would've pushed for playing time had he not blown out his knee and needed surgery in July. The 5-9, 187-pound Orlando product will face more than his share of fellow blue-chippers also jockeying for carries since 2013 signee T.J. Yeldon already is on campus along with Jalston Fowler and Brent Calloway. Hart doesn't quite have the lower body strength that Lacy, Richardson and Mark Ingram have, but he is a very dynamic back with good burst and terrific hands, who should spark the offense and the Tide's return game.
3, Michael Holmes, Va. Tech, RB: The Hokies lost spectacular David Wilson to the NFL, and his production and tenacity is going to be tough to replace. Holmes is an intriguing option. Unlike a lot of players on this list, he was not a celebrated recruit. Scout.com ranked him as the No. 77 RB in the Class of 2011. ESPN had him as the No. 136 running back. Rivals didn't even rank him among backs, aside from listing him as the No. 25 overall prospect in the state of Virginia. Holmes doesn't have Wilson's explosiveness (almost no other back in college football did) but the 6-1, 200-pounder turned a lot of heads of the defensive coaches and players at Tech with his work on the scout team last fall. His position coach Shane Beamer told me he's just a back who plays really hard, has good vision and has a knack for making plays. Tech seems to have found more than its share of the latter over the past decade or so.
4, Michael Eubank, ASU, QB: Todd Graham inherits a very interesting prospect in the strong-armed, extremely mobile 6-5, 235-pound kid from Southern California. As talented and raw as Eubank was, he wasn't going to beat out Brock Osweiler last year, but with the former Gonzaga hoops recruit leaving early for the NFL, there is a big opportunity there. The new staff is familiar with Eubank because they tried to recruit him when they were at Pitt. There figures to be some growing pains with him, but if he can make smart decisions, he's going to be a guy worth remembering. This is a huge "upside" kid.
5, Kelvin Benjamin, FSU, WR: E.J. Manuel should have some very good options to throw to in 2012. The only target FSU loses is Bert Reed, but they gain the super-sized Benjamin in his place. Coaches say Benjamin is up to 245 pounds on his 6-5 frame and he still has the athleticism to get away from DBs and go up and make acrobatic catches in traffic.
6, Brett Hundley, UCLA, QB: Despite huge expectations (the Bruin fan base dubbed him "the Savior") and the team's spotty quarterbacking, Hundley was on the sidelines for 2011. The former coach Rick Neuheisel deemed that the Arizona product wasn't ready to play. Hundley's arm was inconsistent when he got his reps in practice, but he is bright and has good size and athleticism. Noel Mazzone takes over the offense and will try and sort out an interesting collection of QBs in 2012. Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, who have both played a lot, return for their senior seasons. Hyped QB recruits T.J. Millweard, who Mazzone personally reeled in from his previous stop, ASU, and dual-threat QB Devin Fuller, will also join the mix. Can Hundley win over the new staff this spring to help spark what has been a sputtering offense?
7, Jay Rome, Georgia, TE: Touted by many as the top tight end in the 2011 signing class, the 6-6, 253-pounder saw more action in Georgia basketball games than football games this year. His dad Stan was a two-sport star at Clemson and the younger Rome was an elite AAU hoops talent but it's football where he will make the biggest impact, especially since standout TE Orson Charles has opted to leave UGA early for the NFL. Rome told the AJC recently that the biggest aspect of his game he needs to work on is his blocking but with his size and athleticism he should be a welcome target for Aaron Murray in 2012.
8, Antwaun Woods, USC, DT: The Trojans return experience at almost every other spot but they are going to be pretty young on the interior of their defense. Only sophomore George Uko has played a lot in the middle of the D-line. Lane Kiffin redshirted most of his celebrated 2011 D-line signing class. Woods has reshaped his body considerably since arriving last summer, going from well over 330 down to under 310. Coaches really like his explosiveness but will challenge him to bring his effort on consistent basis. The improved conditioning no doubt will help on that front.
9, Jalen Collins, LSU CB: The Tigers have taken to call LSU "DBU" and the defensive backs I spoke to down in New Orleans around the BCS title game touted Collins as the next great one in the pipeline. He's a rangy 6-1, 195-pounder (up about 20 pounds since high school), who was a prep track star and really not that highly touted in the recruiting process. Teammates call him the most athletic guy on the team, which is obviously a mouthful. Don't expect him to overtake Tharold Simon in the race to replace Mo Claiborne, but Collins will be a big factor in a loaded DB rotation.
10, Greg Robinson, Auburn, OT: Gene Chizik redshirted a bunch of former blue-chippers in 2011 with the Louisiana product and Christian Westerman both sitting out. Classmate Reese Dismukes filled an immediate need, starting the entire season at center. Robinson, a nimble 305-pounder, who Westerman remarked moves like a tight end, has talked about working hard this past season to improve as a pass protector. He will have plenty of opportunity since the Tigers have to replace both starting tackles, Brandon Moseley and A.J. Greene.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:02 pm
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.
Posted on: January 25, 2012 10:23 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 10:36 pm
Pete Thomas, who started two years at quarterback for Colorado State, will transfer to NC State, his personal QB coach George Whitfield confirmed to CBS Wednesday night.
The 6-5, 225-pounder will be eligible for the ACC school starting in the 2013 season. He figures to battle for the vacated starting QB job since Mike Glennon, who blossomed in 2011, will be a senior next year. Thomas started as a true freshman in 2010, and does have his redshirt year still available, which he will use in 2012.
The El Cajon, Calif. native also considered Vandy and UCLA among others. He will visit N.C. State this weekend to check out the campus and meet with the coaching staff.
Whitfield, who tutored former Auburn star Cam Newton to get ready for the NFL draft last year, has been training Thomas since the QB was an eighth grader. The coach praised Thomas' work ethic, focus and his accuracy.
In two seasons at CSU, Thomas completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for over 4,200 yards. His TD-INT ratio was 18-21 and he was sacked a head-shaking 71 times.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 1:37 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 7:55 pm
Time for the Friday mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @PatrickSmith45 I keep hearing how good Zach Mettenberger of LSU is. If he was that good wouldn't he have pushed for playing time this past year?
The vibe around LSU right now is really, really intriguing. The Tigers were so close to punctuating one of the great seasons by a team, but then get dominated by Alabama in their own backyard. LSU's offense was atrocious. Before the game, whenever someone asked me where LSU would rank with the all-time great teams, I tempered my answer because for as outstanding as they were on defense and special teams, their QB play was nowhere near that level, and on Monday night, it really showed.
That said, almost everyone I talked to last week sounded convinced the Tigers were in the midst of a great run considering that they have so many key guys in the program who are freshmen and sophomores. They had 16 players on the two-deep, including seven starters who were sophs or younger. People knew they'd likely lose Mo Claiborne, their superb CB, early to the NFL. Both QBs were playing their last game Monday as well, but you have to wonder if that's such a bad thing given how the showing in the BCS title game. Jordan Jefferson looked completely lost and his back-up Jarrett Lee didn't even inspire enough confidence in his coaches to bail them out when things looked so bleak.
No one has ever questioned one-time Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger's arm, and after a season at Butler County CC in Kansas, where he had a 32-4 TD-INT ratio, the expectations around the 6-6, 230-pounder only grew. Many of the people inside the program are sold.
I spoke to Mettenberger and his teammates a lot a few days ago about how LSU goes forward after the BCS game. Mettenberger said he'd hoped he could've getting a shot at the starting QB job in 2011, but "Coach Miles didn't see it that way," he said. "It was tough at first but I couldn't get upset as long you're winning."
Mettenberger said he could hardly wait for Tuesday (the day after the BCS title game) because "that's when it's my team.
It's gonna be like getting a Maserati when you turn 16. I really think our offense can be special."
Obviously, the Tigers offense looked anything but special against Alabama the other night. Give a lot of credit to the Tide for that, but also there has been plenty of finger-pointing going on in the state of Louisiana. And, if you follow (former?) LSU WR Russell Shepard on Twitter, you see it's not just fans and media (and parents of Tiger players) doing it. Maybe Mettenberger will instill enough faith in his coaches to change that.
Listening to WR Odell Beckham Jr., one of those gifted young players in the program, that is the hope. "Me and Zach always talk about next year," Beckham said last Friday. "Zach wants to break a lot of records.
"One of the things I really about him is he's not afraid to take a risk. He also really does have a cannon for an arm."
Mettenberger said he's learned to become more of a passer than just a thrower. "I used to 'juice' everything." He also said he's realized he has to be quicker with his decisions thanks to his time on the Tigers practice field this year. "If you're a split-second too late on a timing route, (Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu) are gonna jump it."
As for the off-field issues Mettenberger had at Georgia, he said he's "changed my ways of life. You gotta learn to grow up."
We'll see if he is the answer for LSU in 2012. If not, there's dual-threat redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall, who Beckham says has an even stronger arm than Mettenberger, and blue-chip recruit Gunnar Kiel, arguably the No. 1 QB prospect in the country.
From @BruCam87 What can we expect out of Mora and UCLA next year? The talent level seems to be higher than any PAC 12 South team except SC.
That's been the problem with the Bruins over the past two, three, 10 years or so. The talent "seems" pretty high. They have loaded up on guys who look the part, but they've gotten bogged down by landing too many guys who simply don't love football and aren't as competitive as you need to have an elite program.
When I visited with Jim Mora a few weeks back he told me he was determined to make this a tougher team. If that's Mission No. 1, that will help right away, but a lot of that also will come back to recruiting and bringing in tougher, hungrier kids.
What you had in 2011 was a team that was really mediocre on both sides of the ball. I suspect new OC Noel Mazzone will improve the offense because his scheme will be a better fit to the talent than the pistol has been. It'll also help getting back stud LT Xavier Su'a-Filo from the LDS mission after two years away. This program has been so thin on quality O-linemen and Big X is the best that has been on that campus in a decade. And I do agree with you that, given all of the transition in the Pac-12 South, you won't have to be a top 25 team to finish second in that division.
From @hanleyf6 Sal Sunseri has accepted DC job at TN. Why leave Bama? Lots of uncertainty with Dooley's status and major rebuilding job.
Sunseri's already won BCS titles as an assistant at Bama, and while he's well-regarded as a recruiter, if he can help spark the Vols' resurgence after a dreadful 2011 at a time when that program seems in disarray, his stock will sky-rocket. Even though, there is increasing speculation that if Derek Dooley has another season like he did in 2011 or even close to as bad, he won't be the coach at UT in 2013, keep in mind that Sunseri is getting a reported three-year deal that'll be worth almost $2.5 million. There is stability in that.
On the back side of Sunseri's decision is this: if he stays at Bama, Nick Saban gets most of the credit and Tide DC Kirby Smart gets basically what's left over. By leaving, Sunseri is positioning himself for a much larger spotlight.
From Irishsox05 Is college football ever going to move in the hash marks to match the NFL?
Interesting question. Never really thought about it. The differing hash marks affect so much of the game in terms of scheming and the kinds of plays people run (wide-side versus boundary). It's also a big consideration for defensive "landmarks" for things such as plotting out coverage areas with the Cover-2, etc.
My hunch is the NCAA sticks with what they have because they'd like to keep things as unique for college and traditional as they can, rather than make another stop just to be more like the pros.
From @PaulPabst If we moved to a plus-one or playoff, best case scenario ... which season would it start?
It would start in the 2014 season with the Plus-One (playoff) games taking place in January of 2015.
From @RedKirby What's your prediction for Tx Tech next year?
My guess is the Red Raiders will make a bowl game in 2012 after missing out this past season. Seth Doege is back at QB. He had an inconsistent year as a first-time starter, but he figures to be better with another year of seasoning. Getting RB Eric Stephens back after missing half the season with a knee injury also will help a bunch. It'll also be interesting to see what they can get from a crew of WRs who didn't play in 2011: Derek Edwards, Tyson Williams and UF transfer Javares McRoy. The O-line did lose some solid players and will see how new coach Sam Pitman can bring them together.
The biggest question is on defense, where the Red Raiders have been among the nation's worst on D for the past two years. They don't lose much to graduation and Tommy Tuberville reshuffled his staff with some more experienced coaches. I expect things to be better on that side of the ball.
Big picture, this team should get at least seven wins since they have one of the better QBs in the conference and more experience in their top 44.
From @rbode17 Which of Florida's big 3 will have the best 2012 season?
I'll go with FSU. They finished 2011 with the most momentum, have the QB who is furthest along (E.J. Manuel) and have the best defense. They also have the most stability of the staffs among the Big Three.
From @Kentuckyclem how come the national media does not cover or do an exposé on over signing in the SEC? Seems to be the common denominator...
The national media has covered that topic. A lot. You can Google it and all the times we've talked about it in print. Not to mention all of the times many of us have been asked about it on the radio or on national TV shows.
From @DavidAnderson89 how come u didn't choose the CBS hat off the table when u made "the decision"?
That hat stuff is so 2008. Tweeting it made more sense. ... Better question, how come a man of your stature, didn't do something creative with your decision, like picking a Colorado State ski hat over a Boise State ski hat and a Stanford beret?
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:49 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 11:55 am
Late Wednesday night, Colorado School of Mines, a Division II school just down the road from the Coors facility in Golden, Co, was Trending nationally. The reason: Dana Holgorsen gave the school a sweet plug on national TV just a few minutes after West Virginia finished brutalizing Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Well, actually, it's really because Holgorsen gave his pal, 46-year-old Bob Stitt, the Mines head football coach, a really, really sweet plug.
Holgorsen was asked about the unique play that had devastated Clemson all night long, where WVU QB Geno Smith fields a shotgun snap and just flips it forward to a wideout motioning across the formation on a dead sprint. It's a variation of the Fly-Sweep that has caused defenses headaches for the past decade in major college football. Only in Holgorsen's play, the QB handles the ball for less than a heartbeat. Holgorsen explained to the country after the Orange Bowl that he learned that play from his buddy Bob Stitt from the Colorado School of Mines.
Back in Colorado, Stitt and his family were floored. "My 7 year-old just looked at me and his eyes were as big as saucers," Stitt told me Thursday morning. "My phone just starts blowing up with texts. I got about 30 in about 15 seconds."
Holgorsen calls the play his "Quick" game. Stitt calls it "Fly". WVU scored on it four times Wednesday night. "Every time they ran it, I told my wife, 'Yeah, that's the play that I showed Dana,'" Stitt said.
Of course, Stitt never expected to hear his name called out on national television.
I've heard Stitt "clinic" with other top offensive minds over the past few years at the One-Back Clinic, a small gathering of some cutting-edge coaches each off-season. Whenever the soft-spoken Stitt walks to the front of those rooms, in front of some 20 coaches, most from the most prolific FBS programs, the guy commands their attention.
"These guys from some of the small schools are great, because they'll tell you everything they do because they want you to hire them someday," new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone told me at last year's One-Back Clinic held at Houston a few minutes after Stitt talked about the pistol offense and back-shoulder throws.
To guys like Holgorsen and Mazzone and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Stitt is the real deal, a ball coach with some proven great stuff. For the newer guys in that room, Stitt was the guy from the one school they'd probably never heard of that plays in Division II's Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. But Stitt knew how to get their attention:"If this stuff works with our guys, it'll probably work with the guys you have," Stitt would tell them. "We're an engineering school, and we only have one major, engineering. Our average ACT score in math is 29." That line would elicit the biggest "Oooh!" of the day. Well, that and Stitt talking about how his team averaged more than 356 passing yards in 2010.
The Orediggers were 8-3 this season, finishing No. 8 in the nation in passing. They had a 1000-yard rusher and a 3000-yard passer. Three of Mines' last four quarterbacks have been finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division 2 Heisman.
Because his teams rarely have much speed, opponents often rush seven guys and play Zero-Coverage on them since they don't think Mines receivers can run by them. To counter that, Stitt resorted to the backshoulder passing attack. But, if he had to play against people afraid he's got the receivers who can run by em? Well, Holgorsen has 'em, as Clemson found out.
Stitt came up with his wrinkle on the Fly Sweep because he believed that it was more efficient than trying to have the quarterback hand the ball off after receiving the snap. Devoting all of the time to rep it to get the timing down seemed counter-productive to him.
One day at practice, it came to him, 'Why not just put it (the ball) in the air?' He stopped practice and had his offense do that, and it immediately worked. And yes, that is one of the perks of being a small-college head coach. You can experiment with something like that in the middle of practice.
"The challenge of the Fly Sweep is meshing the handoff with the motion," he says. "With this, the speed of it's faster because you don't have to mesh the handoff, so that 4.3 guy (WR Tavon Austin) is going 4.3 as soon as he gets the ball. And the people that have to try and stop it are the inside 'backers, so you get that kid with that quickness, where he can stick his foot in the ground and get upfield, it's deadly."
No kidding. Stitt first showed some of the FBS guys his play a few years ago at the One-Back Clinic when it was at UNLV. Hal Mumme, then at New Mexico State, loved it and installed it. Mumme probably loves it even more because, technically, the play counts as a pass, not a run in the stat sheet.
Holgorsen, though, didn't buy in until the spring of 2008. Stitt showed up at a UH practice after he'd flown down to Texas for fund-raiser. The Mines head coach was still in his golf gear and was checking out the Cougars practice from off in the distance. Holgorsen spotted him, 'See that fly sweep?'
"Why aren't you putting that thing in the air?" Stitt replied.
Holgorsen said he'd forgotten all about that idea, but brought Stitt over, in full golf gear, to confer with him and quarterback Case Keenum. As Stitt gave them some pointers on how to run it, he couldn't help but think he was someplace he probably shouldn't be. But, a few minutes later, during the Cougars "Team" portion of practice, Holgorsen broke out the play on the unsuspecting Cougars defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin was downright giddy. "Whoa, what was that?!?"
Houston got so good at it that Stitt smiled when he saw a few days ago in UH's romp over Penn State Keenum get a late snap and just 'volleyballed' it forward to the receiver without even controlling the ball.
As far as the specs of the play, Holgorsen and Stitt have different ways they dress it up. Stitt loves to run it out of a 3-by-1 (three receivers on one side of the formation) and run the play into the boundary side of the field. Holgorsen kept motioning one of his receivers into the backfield to set up in his diamond formation. The added benefit, Stitt points out, is what you can also do off the play. Holgorsen has taken that fly motion and run inside zone off it. "It is a great complement to the inside zone," Stitt says.
Stitt will run the fly motion and have his quarterback read the slot defender. If the guy doesn't cover that, they'll throw the bubble.
Just a hunch but you'll probably be seeing a lot more of this play in 2012.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 5:25 am
I had a chance to visit with new UCLA coach Jim L. Mora Wednesday afternoon. As you probably have heard, the former NFL head coach isn't a big fan of one of the Bruins' football traditions, the one where the players "go over the wall" and skip practice as they did right after their pre-practice stretching period on Tuesday in keeping up with something the upperclassmen of the program have been organizing for years in Westwood. It became obvious in the first 45 seconds of my sitdown with him that Mora is determined to change some things around the underachieving program and he didn't mince words.
"We'll honor the traditions here at UCLA that lead to us representing UCLA on the football field the way it deserves to be represented. Look at a guy like Troy Aikman or Kenny Easley or Maurice Jones-Drew and those great players, and we want to represent that history," Mora said, as he pointed to some of the pictures of Bruins greats on the walls surrounding him in his office. "There are also some traditions that are counter to that, and in my humble opinion, skipping practice is counter-productive to winning and its counter-productive to what we want to be as a football team.
"I'd heard about it but that has never been a part of my world. I've never been on a football team that would skip practice. I think it is disrespectful to the coaches. I think it's disrespectful to your teammates. I think it's disrespectful to your athletic director and I think it's disrespectful to the men that came before you.
Asked if someone tried to explain the tradition to him, Mora shot back, "I don't care about the explanation. All I know is that guys left practice unexcused. And it will not happen again. That is the last time that someone will go over the wall and be allowed back inside the wall.
"(UCLA athletic director) Dan (Guerrero) and I talked about how this football program needed 'a culture change,' and if that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be here. And that action by those players right there is indicative of the fact that it does need a culture change. It's my job to change it. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to happen over night. It's going to involve in a lot of hard work, but that is the task."
I'll have more on my visit with the new Bruins coach in the blog in a few days.
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.