Tag:Washington State
Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:10 pm
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Friday Mailbag: The coach Penn St should pursue

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, if you have questions send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @Newberry75 Is PSU interviewing anybody? Seems pretty quiet for such a high profile search.

It's been kept very quiet if they have. Given all of the uncertainty with the leadership there and the cloud that will hang over that community for a very long time, it's a delicate situation. I can report that a hot rumor which was swirling in the past 36 hours is untrue that was linking former Penn State player Al Golden to the job. Golden, the rumor went, was picked up Wednesday in New York in a private plane and flown to PA to meet with Penn State officials. However, a source explained to me that the private plane that Golden was flying in is actually owned by a Miami donor and the coach was going around the northeast recruiting for Miami.

The guy who I think Penn State should target for this job is actually a different guy with Miami ties, Mario Cristobal, the head coach at FIU. As I wrote here a few months ago, Cristobal has done wonders taking over what was the bleakest, messiest, most screwed-up FBS program in all of college football. He is a high-energy, no-BS guy who knowns the northeast well from his time as Greg Schiano's top recruiter when they were trying to breathe some life into the Rutgers program. Cristobal knows what it takes to win both as a player and as a coach. He has shown he has great focus, which I think will be paramount for the next head coach there given everything that you will inherit.
 

If you're skeptical about Cristobal's tenacity and savvy to land such a big job with such unique problems,  click the link and look at the bottom of the column:

I said no coach in FBS took over a worse program. The reason: FIU was like no other program at that level. There was no infrastructure. They had no film library. They had no academic support system in place for the players. They had to build everything from scratch when Cristobal's staff arrived. "Our first month of official visits, we didn't show them the locker room or the weight room," said a former staffer. "We were running smoke and mirrors. Everything focused on the campus and the city of Miami. We'd just show them plans of what we were building."

The facilities were laughable. The program also had administrative issues where players had a hard time even getting their Pell Grant money. On top of that, Cristobal also inherited a dreadful APR rating and the program was going on academic probation, so they couldn't even go after full recruiting classes.



From @astubert Do you think Devon Still wasn't selected as an AFCA All-American because of the PSU scandal?


I'd hope that wasn't the reason behind it since Still had nothing to do with it. I was surprised to see him NOT on the team. If you were to ask which DT had the most impact on his defense and doesn't take a lot of plays off, Still would be the first guy I'd think of. He played on a top 5 defense, and he was the biggest reason why they were so tough. He had 17 TFLs, which is really impressive since most of the other top guys in tackles for loss are edge rushers, not guys who consistently see double teams and lots of traffic.

From @tperk54 why on earth did you not vote for Trent Richardson for the Heisman?
 

Richardson is an outstanding back. He was on top or near the top of my ballot for much of this season. He had some spectacular moments. Best example was that amazing run he had against that dreadful Ole Miss team. In a few games against some of the tougher defenses he played, he was good, although he only averaged a little over four yards per carry against Penn State and under four yards against LSU and his team didn't even score a touchdown. I feel like he's a better back that Montee Ball, but the Wisconsin back put up even more impressive numbers and he did so against some good defenses too. Both backs had very good years. I believe there are six or seven guys you could make a strong case for. I watched a lot of games on each of those guys. To me, it just comes down who had the best year in terms of making the most impact on his program and, as I detailed in the Big Picture column, that was Robert Griffin III.
 
From @SouthernJetNC Is Fedora a great, good or average hire for UNC?
 

I'd categorize him as a good hire. He's aggressive, has a sharp offensive mind and a really keen eye for talent. That last part is big. He helped land some very unheralded prospects at Oklahoma State who blossomed into stars. Obviously, a lot will depend on the caliber of assistants he can surround himself with, but I was impressed by the staff he assembled right away when he took over at Southern Miss. Those guys could really recruit.


From @T_Dwyer Is "Charlie Weis? Huh?" enough of a question or should I be more specific?

That one caught me off guard too. I can see why KU would consider Weis, although I wouldn't think they'd hire him over, say, a Gus Malzahn or even a Chad Morris, if they could've landed either. Weis isn't a first-time college head coach, but it's not like he was a big success at ND with a lot more resources there. His name will carry weight with some recruits, but so would those other guys.

As for the other side of it: Kansas is a really, really tough place to win at. Remember before Mark Mangino arrived, KU hadn't had a winning season in a half-dozen years before and hadn't been to a bowl since 1995. In 2007, when Mangino got KU into a BCS bowl, which they won, was arguably the best coaching job we've seen in the last 20 years. KU was 12-1 and finished No. 7. Amazing. KU isn't in a fertile recruiting state and it can't take many of the local JC players that other programs in that league can. Then they got rid of him and the program has bottomed out in two seasons with Turner Gill. They weren't even competitive. 

Weis, should attract some talent on offense. According to the New York Times, Dayne Crist, a former Weis QB at ND, will visit there this weekend. Landing Crist would be a good first step for the coach. Weis will inherit a talented young RB in Darrian Miller, but also the nation's worst defense. Crist would be a quick fix to try and help them get respectable in a hurry, maybe go 4-8, 5-7 to win over some skeptical recruits. But it is going to be a very uphill battle. Top recruits won't perk up for KU as they will listen if you're the head coach at Notre Dame. Now maybe some QBs and tight ends may given Weis' pedigree, but there are other coaches with strong NFL track records too and they're at bigger programs. When Weis was at ND, he was at the glamour school. Now, he'll be below OU, Texas, Oklahoma State and just about everyone else in the Big 12. 

From @MatthewLevi If Bama wins BCS, what are the odds that LSU still gets AP title since LSU beat Bama at Bama's house and had a stronger SOS?

My hunch is those are slim chances LSU would still get the AP title. Keep in mind if Bama won, they'd be beating LSU in the Tigers backyard. Also, people, by nature, are creatures of the moment. They tend to go with what they just witnessed and put heavy emphasis on it. By overlooking the BCS title game like that would make a farce of something (the BCS) that is already pretty dubious.

From @AnalogSports Is Mike Leach going to run his same offense up in Pullman? In the snow? Will he get the right kids for it?

They ran the Air-Raid system in Iowa, where the weather was brutal and had a lot of success with it under those conditions. It can get pretty windy in Lubbock and some parts of the Big 12 too. 
Sounds like he already has a few of those kids in the program right now with those two QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and Marquess Wilson, a great sophomore WR. The challenge will be for them to grasp the nuances of the system and rep it so much where they can get the timing down.

From @cdunk87 Who do you think would be better fit at Nebraska for DC Ron Zook or Mike Stoops?

Zook is a fantastic recruiter, but as a DC, I'll go with Mike Stoops. Ask OU fans about what they feel like the program has lacked since Mike Stoops left for Arizona. He is a very good coach. People I've spoken to who have worked with him saying he was an excellent tempo setter at practice and very good in the day-to-day. That said it would be interesting to see him on the same sideline with another up-to-the-edge intensity guy like Pelini, but since both go back I suspect they'd could play off each other pretty well if Stoops does end up in Lincoln.
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.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 8:08 pm
 

Leach taking over at Washington State

    As we first reported, Mike Leach is taking over as the head coach at Washington State. Leach, who was offered the position late Tuesday afternoon, agreed to a five-year contract. Leach will travel to Washington on Monday and be introduced at a press conference Tuesday, Dec. 6 at noon in Pullman.
 

"This is an exciting day for Washington State University and Cougar football," said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos. "I have spoken about the need to re-energize our fan base and take Cougar football to the next level. I believe the hiring of Mike Leach accomplishes both of those goals. His credentials speak for themselves." 
The 50-year-old Leach replaces Paul Wulff, who was dismissed Tuesday morning.  The hiring of Leach would seem to mesh with  Moos' comment earlier at the press conference where he announced Wullf's firing that he likes a "flashy, high-octane offense that lights up the scoreboard."


"First off I would like to express my appreciation to Paul Wulff for all his efforts and dedication to Washington State and wish him the best in the future," said Leach. "It's an honor to have the opportunity to work with Bill Moos, who is a legend in this business. To have the opportunity as a coach to work with someone like that is an experience few head coaches get. Along with Bill and Dr. Floyd, I'm excited about being a part of the future of Washington State.
 

"I have always admired the tradition of Washington State. It's a university on the move that is experiencing growth. I'm excited about what they are doing with the facilities and it's a team that has battled through some hard times and shows great promise in the future. I'm proud to be a part of this team."
 


Wulff was 9-40 in four seasons at Washington State and just 4-32 in league play. The Cougars program has struggled for much of the past decade. Washington State hasn't been to a bowl game in eight years. But prior to this stretch, there had been quite a bit of success, with two Rose Bowl appearances and four Top 10 finishes between the 1997 and 2003 seasons.
Under Wulff, a former Washington State offensive lineman, the Cougars did make strides in the past two years. They were 4-8 this season while being hit hard by injury. Still, the Cougars lost seven of their final eight games. They had to play three different quarterbacks, losing starter Jeff Tuel for much of the season. They ranked 48th in the country in scoring, but just seventh in the Pac-12. In 2010, the Cougars were 106th in scoring and dead last in the Pac-12. Most of the talent Wulff had assembled will be back in 2012, including Tuel and standout wide receiver Marquess Wilson. Both figure to be good fits in Leach's Air-Raid system.


In his 10 seasons at Texas Tech, Leach had a career record of 84-43 and was the architect of some of the most prolific offenses in college football history. Eight times in those 10 seasons, one of his quarterbacks led the nation in passing. The year before Leach arrived in Lubbock, the Red Raiders averaged 23 points per game. By Leach's second season, they averaged over 35 ppg and they never averaged less than 33 points the rest of his decade running the program. The Red Raiders finished in the top 25 rankings in five of his last six seasons at Tech.

His teams had Top 10 wins over No. 4 Cal (2004); No. 3 Oklahoma (2007); No. 1 Texas (2008) and No. 8 Oklahoma State (2008). In 2008, he won national Coach of the Year honors. The Wyoming native was the only coach in Texas Tech history to lead his team to bowl games every year.


At Texas Tech, Leach also inherited a program that had one of the lowest graduation rates in college football and was on academic probation. He eventually turned it into one that had the highest graduation rate of any public institution in major college football. However, he was fired from Tech in December, 2009 regular season after allegations that he had mistreated a player, Adam James, the son of ESPN announcer Craig James.


The controversy led to Leach to sue Texas Tech for breach of contract and file suit against ESPN and James for defamation. Both cases are still unresolved.

Full disclosure: I co-authored Leach's 2011 book Swing Your Sword, which details, among other things, his path into coaching, his offensive system as well as the circumstances surrounding what happened with him and Texas Tech in his exit from the Big 12 school.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:06 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 11:19 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Coaches on the hottest seats

As the BCS races becomes even more frenetic, a handful of other programs are just trying to salvage their seasons for respectability and establish some momentum for the future. Anything they can do in hopes of avoiding a coaching change to get more one season. It's not even Halloween yet and we've already had three head coaches losing their jobs. More turnover is coming. You can count on it. This week's Tuesday Top 10: The 10 coaches on the hottest seats in the FBS:

1. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA: The former Bruin standout QB has just not been able to get anything going in four seasons at his alma mater. He has tried virtually everything, from going all-in on the Pistol to turning over his coaching staff last off-season. But it's just not working out. On paper, he has recruited very well with three top-15 ranked classes in his first three seasons, however all he has to show for it is a record of 18-26 overall and 10-20 in league play. The most frustrating part for Bruin fans is that there has been opportunity to benefit from instability across town with USC coping with massive NCAA sanctions.

As I wrote in the Friday mailbag after the Bruins' dreadful performance on national television in their blowout loss to a reeling Arizona squad, UCLA still has a chance to win the Pac-12 South if it runs the table. But that seems like such a long shot after seeing its most recent showing that leads you to believe they are incapable of running off five consecutive wins. (Four of which would come against teams better than Arizona.) In fact, you wonder if they're even capable of winning three of those games to finish .500.

2. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss:
The pressure is clearly wearing on Nutt. Over the weekend, he lit into a reporter at a post-game press conference because the guy had predicted the Rebels were going to get blown out by Arkansas. The Rebels squandered a 17-0 lead, but "only" lost 29-24, stretching the program's losing streak in SEC play to 10 games, an Ole Miss record for futility. It was the first time in four tries that Nutt's team hadn't lost a conference game by at least two touchdowns. Then again, a few weeks earlier, that same reporter, Neil McCready, a writer for the local Rivals Ole Miss site, had predicted the Rebels would get thumped by Alabama. They did. Nutt never said anything about that. Earlier this season, Ole Miss got crushed by Vandy in a way the Commodores never beat another SEC program.

Nutt got off to a terrific start in Oxford with the Rebels winning nine games in each of his first two seasons, but recruiting has not gone so well and that has caught up with the former Arkansas coach. The talent level has fallen off. He's 1-12 in his past 13 SEC games and he may not even match last season's total of four wins. The Rebels are 116th in the total offense and 110th in total defense. It would cost the school at least $6 million to dump Nutt, but don't be surprised if both he and his AD Pete Boone both get the boot this year. It's gotten that ugly in Oxford.

3. Neil Callaway, UAB: Thanks to a big upset win over UCF last week, Callaway's team has finally gotten its first win of 2011, and with Memphis and FAU remaining, a 3-9 season is within reach. However in Year Five for him at the school, it'd seem like a mighty long shot that would be good enough. The Blazers are 118th in scoring and 95th in defense. Callaway is 16-43 all-time at UAB.

4. Paul Wulff, Washington State: The Cougars jumped out to a 3-1 start albeit those three wins did come against teams that are a combined 4-18, they have lost a lot of steam. They've been blown out the past two weeks, first by Stanford and then by an Oregon State team that came in 1-5. Wulff may need to win three of his next five to keep his job, and two of those are against ranked teams. The finale at Washington figures to be crucial for a guy who has seen his program getting a lot better over the past two years. Still, he is only 8-37.

5. Steve Fairchild, Colorado State:  He got off to a nice start, going to and winning a bowl game in his rookie season. Since then, its been really shaky. Fairchild's just 3-15 in the past three years of league play and 3-4 overall this year, and on a three-game losing streak. Worse still, one of those losses came against arch-rival CU, which is the Buffs (1-7) lone win this year. With five games remaining, but only one is against a team with a losing record (1-5 UNLV), Fairchild probably needs an upset or two to feel some security. Keep in mind this is a program that only had four losing seasons in 16 years under Sonny Lubick.

6. Tom O'Brien, N.C. State: The Pack just got a big road win at Virginia, which has to help O'Brien's prospects. With dismal Maryland and his former school BC still remaining on the schedule, he has a very good shot to get this team to a bowl game, but even that might not be enough. He is just 15-20 in ACC play and generating only one winning season out of five may be a tough sell for the NCSU brass to buy that he's the right guy to lead the program to bigger things.

7. Larry Porter, Memphis: It's hard to dump a guy after just two seasons, but Porter is dangling after a brutal first year and some stunning blowout losses, including a 47-3 loss to Arkansas State and 28-6 loss to a Rice team that is 2-5. Porter, though, got a much-needed W last week when the Tigers beat a Tulane team that just got rid of its head man Bob Toledo. The Tigers still have a home game with UAB remaining, so even though 3-9 sounds horrible, it may show enough growth for him to get a third season.

8. Frank Spaziani, Boston College:
The Eagles have been solid for decades and haven't won less than seven games since 1998, but they have really dropped off since Spaziani took over in 2009. BC had won 30 games the previous three seasons before he was elevated to head coach. Since then, it's been eight wins, seven wins and now they'll be fortunate to win three this season. Spaziani's career record is over .500 (17-16) but can he survive a horrible 2011, where BC is 1-7 and hasn't beaten an FBS program yet?

9. Turner Gill, Kansas: After doing a nice job at Buffalo, where he won a MAC championship, Gill is off to a disastrous start at KU. He's 1-11 in his first 12 Big 12 games and just 5-14 overall. Jayhawk fans left a lot of seats in last week's big rivalry game for K-State fans who watched the Wildcats smash KU, 59-21. They've been outscored in conference play by an average of 32 ppg. They're on a five-game losing streak, which could double by season's end with a trip to Iowa State being their best bet to end the skid.

10. Robb Akey, Idaho:
After leading the Vandals to a Humanitarian Bowl win in 2009, the program has backslide again, going 7-13 the past two years and winning just three league games.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:03 am
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