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Tag:Utah
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Big Ten ready to flex muscle?


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: December 2, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:21 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The changing face of the Pac-12

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, send your questions via Twitter to BFeldmanCBS.

From @Jdangelo4404  what do you think of the pac12 hiring all of these offensive minded coaches and how does it affect the perception of the conf?

The perception of a conference's merits change when it wins big games against other top teams from other leagues. Best thing that happened for the Pac-10 was when Pete Carroll's USC teams went to Auburn and Arkansas and hammered them and when the Trojans drilled Oklahoma in the BCS title game. Don't forget Carroll was fortunate to have some really sharp offensive minds with him (Norm Chow, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian). Jim Harbaugh was a home run hire for Stanford but you'd have to peg him as more of an offensive guy. Mike Stoops was a defensive guy but never could get Arizona to be a consistent winner. Point is, it's way too easy to generalize about "offensive" and "defensive" head coaches.

Urban Meyer was thought of as an offensive guy and that worked out quite well for the SEC. Same for Steve Spurrier. Bobby Petrino's an offensive guy and his hire at Arkansas is looking very good. There isn't only one way to build a powerhouse.

Obviously, hiring the right guys to run your defense if you are an "offensive" guy is vital though. Meyer had Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong. Rich Rodriguez who is a superb offensive mind didn't have those types of guys as his DC at Michigan. It'll be interesting to see who Rodriguez and Mike Leach land to run their defenses this time around and what UCLA and ASU end up doing. I do think what's interesting here is you're seeing these programs hire guys who both have very unique schemes and a lot of head-coaching experience in big conferences, not guys who are learning to be head coaches on the fly.

It is a very intriguing time for the Pac-12 right now. USC is hot again, but after 2012, they may feel at least some of the effects of the scholarship sanctions. Oregon is likely headed to its third BCS bowl in a row, but still has a sizeable NCAA cloud hanging over its head. Stanford has to replace a true franchise QB in Andrew Luck. Cal and Oregon State, which had been stronger in recent years, appear to be tailing off. The two new additions, Colorado and Utah showed they're still a ways from being able to compete for a league title. Then you have four programs going through coaching transitions. 

From @jeremyarc7 Do you feel a&m fired Sherman too soon? 

Nope. They'd given him enough time. Texas A&M is a big job and 25-25 and just 15-18 in Big 12 won't cut it, especially as the Aggies go into the SEC. This is Texas A&M, not an Iowa State, Baylor or Kansas, where they haven't traditionally had a lot of top 25 seasons. This team lost too many games in the second half, and it got to the point where if they'd finished 8-4, not 6-6, it still would've felt like a clunker of a season. Truth is, it looked like the Aggies took a backwards step this season. Sherman couldn't afford it in Year Four. He hadn't shown enough to warrant the confidence that he could get this program back into the top 10.

If the A&M brass feel like there are coaches out there that are better to get things cranked up (such as a Kevin Sumlin), they were smart to cut ties now and make that move.

From @RobGiffin how bad has the TN situation under Dooley gotten?

Much worse than I think anyone around the program would've anticipated if you'd asked them honestly three months ago. It's true they are young and they were stung by injuries, but I doubt anyone there truly believed they wouldn't even get to a bowl game. Remember, former UT AD Mike Hamilton backed out of a game against North Carolina and the Vols ended up with Buffalo instead. Even if the Vols beat Kentucky to go 6-6, I still think the year would've been a dud, but to lose to such a bad UK team playing a WR at QB was embarrassing for many Vols fans. It not only cost a young team more bonus bowl practices they won't get, but it leaves the program in a bad light on the recruiting trail.

I get that there is reason for some optimism because they have some gifted sophomores and freshmen, but can anyone really point to a reason for optimism about Derek Dooley running this team? Given his track record, I don't see how at this point.

Having said that, short of more NCAA trouble, I don't believe they could pull the plug on Dooley after just two seasons given all of the turnover from the end of Fulmer -- through Kiffin -- to now. He has to get least get a third season. They hired him and he does have a hefty buyout. But it is looking very obvious that Dooley is in fact in over his head here.

This is a guy who didn't even have a .500 record in the WAC, so for him to take over an elite SEC program looked really curious. I suspect there will be more turnover on the Vols staff this offseason than just WR coach Charlie Baggett. Dooley's 0-17 against ranked teams all-time. If he doesn't beat one or even two ranked teams next year, I have a feeling it won't matter if he gets UT bowl eligible. It's Tennessee. The Vols have a proud tradition, a huge stadium and a staff getting paid a lot of money. They're also in the much easier side of the conference right now. They shouldn't be content with bowl eligible.

From @Robherbst are you surprised that leach didn't hold out for a seemingly better job and are you surprised washington state coughed up the money to pay him?

Not really. I think realistically aside from Washington State, the other school that seemed to be genuinely interested in Leach was Kansas. He has been close to their AD for a long time. But Washington State made a lot of sense to him because it's in a stable conference (Pac-12) which now is reaping the benefits of a robust TV deal; he's at a program where they've had a lot of success not that long ago (having been to a few Rose Bowls in the past 15 years); have a rich history of prolific offenses and he inherits a nice group of young players. However, the biggest thing that Wazzu's program had going for it was the AD Bill Moos, who is a straight shooter (when asked about the search committee on Tuesday, Moos said 'you're looking at the Search Committee") -- stuff like that is huge to Leach. The politics and number of people involved makes the job that much more appealing. And they were stepping up making a big financial commitment to him and to his staff.

From @spry23  NCAA basketball tourney makes $ why can't college football find a way wouldn't it make more sense

Because when it comes to college football, it is really about power and control more than money, and the power brokers of the sport aren't ready to relinquish that.

From @Jus10Sarabia Who seems to be a logical replacement for Houston if Kevin Sumlin leaves? Co-offensive coordinator Jason Phillips?

I could see UH keeping things in house to try and minimize the transition. Tony Levine, who is the special teams coordinator and assistant head coach, may get a long look. As I wrote a few weeks back, Levine's a guy who has worked under some excellent coaches in college and the NFL. Phillips, given his ties to the program as a player, will get consideration too. Keep in mind, the guy who really runs the offense is Kliff Kingsbury, who in a few years figures to be ready to run his own program. My hunch is Kingsbury goes with Sumlin wherever he goes. UH also may consider Clemson OC Chad Morris as well given the former Texas HS coach's background.

From @melchrestmanjr after spending time with Coach Orgeron, what makes the Ole Miss job so tough?

The biggest hurdle has been the politics of the place and the leadership around you. The outgoing AD Pete Boone was a big headache/stumbling block. He treated football more like a C-USA program than an SEC program. The other big challenge is you have to bust your butt to find promising recruits and get on them before everyone else does because in all likelihood if that same kid gets offered by LSU, Alabama or Florida, you'll miss out or if you're not hustling, you'll never get in the front door. Orgeron was very good at connecting with recruits early in the process. Some times it was rewarded (Dexter McCluster for example); sometimes it still wasn't good enough (Drake Nevis). Houston Nutt, from what I've been told by people who were around the Ole Miss program, never really went as hard, treating it more like Arkansas than Ole Miss, and you can't get away with that in Oxford.

Ole Miss' facilities are pretty good, but by SEC standards, they're still below average, especially when you compare stadiums.

They do have a solid recruiting pool around them, especially in terms of JUCO talent and there is the flexibility to get some of those good, borderline academics recruits admitted. But many others still can't get into major four-year colleges. There's also a delicate racial history that in some cases, makes it very tough to recruit players to Ole Miss. I know from talking to assistants who have coached at Ole Miss they've run into several situations where the kid's parents or some grandparent or relative won't allow them to go to Ole Miss because of the perception they have of it, which is something the football staff has to work hard to combat. 

From@Drofdarb23  What kind of an impact does the coaching rumor mill have on recruiting?

It certainly doesn't help, but unless you're talking about later in the process, like in late January, the coaching staff should be able to overcome it.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com