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2011: A look ahead

Carnac

What’s that you say?  It’s barely stopped raining confetti following Auburn’s BcS title game win over Oregon and we’re already talking about a 2011 season that won’t start for another eight months?

You damn right we are.  And you know why?  ‘Cause that’s how we roll.  Or something.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at how at how things may play out in 2011.  And, based on our look ahead to the 2010 season, you don’t have much to worry about if there’s anything negative about your school below.

FIVE COMPELLING STORYLINES

1. The Conference Shuffle
You may have forgotten, but several schools will be ditching long-time conference homes for some new league digs in the coming months.  Nebraska to the Big Ten from the Big 12.  Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 from the Big 12 and Mountain West, respectively.  Boise State from the WAC to the Mountain West.  Perhaps the most intriguing angles will come from the two BcS conferences with new additions; specifically, how will the split into two six-team divisions and the addition of a conference title games affect the leagues as it pertains to the BcS?   It’s hard to say at this point in time how this mini-expansion apocalypse will impact the various conferences, but it’s certainly a new frontier these leagues will be plowing.  And something that bears watching as conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12 continue to sniff around adding even more schools in the coming years.

2. Can the Big Ten Recover From New Year’s Day Bowl Embarrassment?
Last year at this time, we were asking if the Big Ten had displayed earnest growth based on their performance during the 2009-2010 bowl season or if it was merely just a one-year blip.  The 0-5 massacre on the first day of 2011 suggests the latter is the case.  We all know — or at least should know — that bowl performance is not indicative of conference strength one way or the other.  However, it’s a number that’s used to fuel national perceptions, and right now the Big Ten is back nationally to where they were two years ago: a sloth-like, middle-of-the-road conference that has a long ways to go before they climb even with the likes of the SEC.

3. Can Texas Two-Step Back to Their Rightful Place?
Any way you parse it, the 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Longhorns.  Not only was UT 5-7 overall, but they finished an unsightly 2-5 at home — including losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor.  Again, at home.  Following that disaster, Mack Brown overhauled most of his coaching staff either of his own volition or out of necessity, including bringing in new coordinators on both sides of the ball.  There’s simply too much talent on that roster for yet another disastrous year in what could very well be Brown’s swan song.  Oops, did we type that out loud?

4. Last Call for JoePa-hol… Maybe?
Despite rumors that were running rampant that Joe Paterno would be forced to step down due to health concerns, the legendary head coach will be back for his 147th season as Penn State’s head coach in 2011.  But, will it be his last?  Paterno is entering the final year of a three-year contract, and administration stated after a meeting with Paterno this past weekend that his future won’t be discussed until after the ’11 season.  He’s gotta go at some point; will this be the year?

5. The NFL Labor Issue
Based on the rhetoric coming from both sides of the NFL’s labor issue, there seems to be a very good chance that the players will face a lockout at the hands of the owners.  There’s also a very real possibility that the lockout could drag into the regular season, costing the NFL games… and leaving college football as the only “major” game in town.  We’ve heard from a couple of members of athletic departments that filling that football vacuum and sliding some games to Sunday “is something that has been talked about and will continue to be talked about if (the labor projections) continue” to look gloomy.  The NFL will always be king; college football, though, could very well be a big beneficiary of that league’s stupidity.

WAY-TOO-EARLY HEISMAN ROLL CALL

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford — The quarterback surprised some by returning to the Cardinal for another season.  It would be no surprise at all if he winds up in New York City in December holding the same stiff-armed trophy he finished runner-up for late last year.  With the coaching change at Stanford, this could be a dicey player to stick at the top of the Heisman list, especially if athletic director Bob Bowlsby decides to eschew the in-house approach for a replacement.

2. Darron Thomas, Oregon — The Ducks quarterback should’ve received more Heisman attention than he did in 2010.  That will be rectified in 2011 as the junior-to-be is too talented as a runner/passer to ignore much longer, the spotty play in the national title game notwithstanding.

3. Cam Newton, Auburn — After the way the quarterback dominated SEC defenses in 2010 on his way to winning the Heisman, why would he not start at the top of the 2011 list?  Simple: only one player has won back-to-back Heismans, and that happened way back in the seventies.  Of course, any inclusion of Newton is predicated on Newton returning — BIG if — instead of leaping to the NFL after just one full season as a starter at this level, which we will know no later than Saturday.

4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina — We believe it’s a federal law to throw a curve ball into the middle of these lists, so why not toss the talented soon-to-be sophomore running back into the early mix?  Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman.  Logic would dictate that Lattimore will receive even more of the workload after proving himself to head coach Steve Spurrier to be a reliable cog in the offense.  Logic would further dictate that, with a year of seasoning and three-fifths of a solid offensive line returning, Lattimore will be able to improve his 4.8 yards per carry from this past season.

5. Kellen Moore, Boise State — Based on Moore’s first three years with the Broncos, he would appear to be a mortal lock for at least another trip to New York City, provided he can remain healthy and the wheels don’t fall of the BSU freight train.  The senior-to-be has averaged 3,600 yards, 33 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his three years as a starter, all the while completing just over 68 percent of his passes.

6. LaMichael James, Oregon — The nation’s leading rusher in 2010, James, like Luck, decided to eschew a shot at NFL riches for another season of college ball.  For whatever reason, despite his productivity, James does not receive the hype and/or love from the media that he seemingly deserves.  Is he being viewed as a “system back”?  We’ve gotten that impression from some and, although we believe it to be unfair, it’s not likely to abate at any point in the near future.

Bonus Pick: Matt Barkley, USC — Call this one a serious hunch, but we feel that the USC quarterback is on the precipice of fulfilling all of his immense high school hype and throwing some serious numbers out onto the Heisman table.  Plus, it will make NBC Sports.com‘s college football editor very happy, and could potentially help curb his incessant whining over the state of the Trojans.

RICH RODRIGUEZ MEMORIAL COACHING HOT SEAT

1. Paul Wulff, Washington State
The man is 5-32 in three years with the Cougars and barely made it to a fourth.  If he doesn’t show marked improvement in the won-loss ledger, you can bet he won’t get a fifth year and will instead be thrown out on his Wazzu.

2. Mark Richt, Georgia
During his 10 years in Athens, Richt has only finished a season with a winning percentage below .667 twice.  Oddly enough, both of those seasons have come in the past two seasons.  The native Dawgs are getting restless and, with a new boss sitting in the athletic director’s office with a winning mandate for the football program, Richt had better win this season.  Or else.

3. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
Slick Rick returned to his alma mater with great fanfare… and has proceeded to defecate all over the bed.  All Neuheisel has done is wrap a pair of 4-8 seasons around a 7-6 second year during his three seasons with the Bruins.  Perhaps most disturbing is an utterly inept offense that spits and sputters despite the presence of a former quarterback in Neuheisel and an offensive genius in Norm Chow.  What it will take for Neuheisel to remain at UCLA beyond 2011 remains to be seen, but it sure as hell will have to be more than what Slick Rick has done thus far.

4. Ron Zook, Illinois
No coaching hot seat would be complete without the perpetually on-fire backside of The Zookster.  Zook bought himself a little bit of time with a seven-win season that included a bowl win, but he’s still just 28-45 in six years in Champaign.  Even more unacceptable is the fact that he’s 16-32 in the Big Ten and has finished above .500 in conference play just once — the Illini’s Rose Bowl season waaay back in 2007.  It appears Zook will get one more season to show the program is taking significant strides.  Then again, dude has the same number of lives as a couple of felines, so we’ll see.

5. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
The fourth-year coach was thiiis close to getting the axe following the 2010 season, but received a reprieve.  Based on what we’ve been told, it will be his one and only commutation, especially since the Sun Devils are the early pick by some to win the Pac-12 South.  In other words, Erickson might want to consider winning post-haste.

FIVE RISERS
1. Alabama
C’mon, this might be the biggest no-brainer of the bunch.  Is there really any explanation needed as to why the Tide, which finished No. 10 following the blowout of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, is very likely to find their way back into the Top 5 for the vast majority of the upcoming season?  Then again, the quarterback position…

2. Syracuse
Oh yeah; I went there.  Consider this my one flyer in this category.  And, no, I don’t see the Orange as a Top 10 team at any point during the ’11 season, but, given the strength — or lack thereof — in the Big East, Doug Marrone has the opportunity to do something special as early as this coming year.  Hell, UConn made a BcS bowl; why can’t the ‘Cuse?

3. Texas
Almost as big a no-brainer as ‘Bama.  Again, too much talent on that 85-man roster, and Mack Brown is too good of a coach, to allow yet another debacle to take place.

4. Mississippi State
OK, I lied; there’ll be two flyers in this category.  A 9-4 season that included close losses to Auburn and Arkansas, and a big blowout win in the Gator Bowl has the Bulldogs set up for a leap from perennial also-ran to legitimate contender in Dan Mullen’s third year in Starkville.

5. Florida/Florida State
A new head coach at UF seems to have reinvigorated the entire Gator football program, something we fully expect to carry over into a rebound ’11 season.  A first-year head coach at FSU has no doubt brought new life to Seminole Nation, as evidenced by a recruiting class that could easily finish in the top three in the country.  It’s a better sport when programs like these two are relevant.  Expect that to be the case in 2011.

FIVE TUMBLERS
1. Virginia Tech
Yes, Frank Beamer & Company seem to reload year after year, but losing one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Tyrod Taylor (no relation) as well as two of your top running backs to early entry is not exactly the optimal recipe for sustaining success.

2. Missouri
Blame this hunch solely on attrition.  When you lose your best player on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it’s at the quarterback position, and one of your best on the defensive side of the ball, there’s a very good chance for at least a brief step back for the Mizzou program.

3. Ohio State
Shocked at this one?  You shouldn’t be.  Four offensive starters suspended for, barring a successful appeal that results in a reduction, the first five games of the season does not portend well regardless of the schedule.  Down one-third of your starting offense, suddenly games against Miami (Fla.) and Colorado don’t look like such gimmes, and the game against Big Ten co-champ Michigan State gets that much tougher.

4. UConn
Randy Edsall was Huskies football.  As much as we didn’t like the hire for Maryland, we think his departure will have a very negative impact on UConn, which go only eight votes in the final AP Top 25 poll, at least for the short-term.  Then again, they do still reside in the Big East…

5. Michigan State
Personally, I thought the Spartans’ magical 11-2 run was a mirage.  They will prove me correct in 2011 as they have to go on the road to face Notre Dame — a team I nearly put in the Five Risers — Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as take on Wisconsin at home.

EARLY-BIRD TOP FIVE*

1. Oklahoma: I didn’t buy into the preseason Sooner hype last offseason; I’m ready to this year.  Wholeheartedly and unequivocally.

2. Oregon: Darron Thomas, LaMichael James & Company returning?  Something tells me that No. 2 might end up being too low.

3. TCU: Sure, the Horned Frogs lose some key performers — chief among them quarterback Andy Dalton — but the combination of a likely Top Five placement in the preseason polls, a “favorable” schedule and a helluva football program built by Gary Patterson has the private school poised to remain on the fringes of title contention for years to come.  Especially when their schedule really gets easy with the move to the Big East.

4. Stanford: Jim Harbaugh left a helluva foundation for whoever it is that takes over, especially if the Cardinal stays in-house — which they should — for a replacement.  Oh, and Andrew Luck somewhat unexpectedly returning for another year?  That’s enough to at least start them off inside the Top Five.

5. Boise State: The move to the Mountain West should help the Broncos’ “street cred”, even just a little and even with the loss of Utah from the conference.  Chris Petersen reaffirmed his commitment to BSU, and Kellen Moore returns for one more season on the blue turf.  What’s not to like about their chances of competing yet again for a BcS slot… and maybe a spot in the national title game in New Orleans a year from now.

(*With this Top Five, and unlike the early Heisman Roll Call, I’m going with the assumption that Newton will leave early; if he doesn’t, Auburn would be my No. 2)

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PHOTOS: Buckeyes flash title ring bling on Twitter

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Getty Images

To the victor goes the spoils, the old chestnut goes.  As does, in this case, the jewelry.

As you may have heard, Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20 this past January to claim the first-ever College Football Playoff championship.  Armed with new hardware for its trophy case, the Buckeyes kicked off spring practice earlier this month, with those sessions, as far as the general public is concerned, focused mainly on a quarterback competition that will ultimately feature three past/future Heisman Trophy contenders — probably.

In the midst of the ramp-up to the 2015 season, though, one OSU assistant, wide receivers coach Zach Smith, Twitter-modeled the bling he received for this past season’s CFP title…

… while head coach Urban Meyer and tight end Jeff Heuerman modeled there’s in a tweet from the latter’s account:

A tweet from OSU director of player personnel Mark Pantoni stated that the rings displayed by Smith, Meyer and Heuerman were from the CFP committee, adding “wait until you see the National Championship rings our players designed!”  In other words, the Buckeyes will be on the receiving end of a pair of championship rings, one from the CFP and one that they themselves designed.

Additionally, the players, as well as the coaches and other various members of the support staff, will receive Big Ten title rings at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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B1G issues statement on Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law

Jim Delany AP

As expected, the Big Ten has chimed in on the burgeoning controversy in the state of Indiana.

Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a bill that allows for private businesses to refuse service to — or discriminate against, as some would say — members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  The NCAA quickly issued a statement expressing concern over the new law, intimating that The Association, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, could sever its ties with the state.

Already, there’s a petition posted to change.org by a Wisconsin man demanding that the Big Ten move its conference football championship game out of the state, where it’s been contested since its inception in 2011.  Lucas Oil Stadium is also scheduled to host future B1G title games every year through the 2021 season.

In a statement, however, the conference stated that its presidents and chancellors will review the situation “and its impact” at its next scheduled meeting.  Just when that meeting will take place is unclear.

Here’s the Big Ten’s statement, in its entirety:

The Big Ten Conference and its member institutions believe in promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination. The conference is aware of the bill that was recently signed into law in the state of Indiana and will further review its impact at the next scheduled meetings of its administrators, presidents and chancellors.

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Archie Manning cedes CFP post, replaced by Bobby Johnson

Bobby Johnson

Not so unexpectedly, another change has come to the College Football Playoff selection committee.

In a press release Friday, the CFP announced that Archie Manning will not be able to rejoin the committee charged with both picking the four playoff participants and slotting teams in the other “New Years Six” games.  Manning was one of the original 13 members of the committee, but was forced to take a sabbatical related to health issues this past October.

“I was honored when I was chosen to be on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee,” Manning said in a statement. “It’s a great group of people and they did a wonderful job last year. But as I look ahead to the various commitments I have – to my family, numerous time obligations around the country and to other conflicting demands – I have concluded that I won’t be able to return to the committee. I particularly want to watch [NFL quarterback sons] Peyton and Eli play, in person when I can, and it’s hard to do that when weekends are devoted to watching college games. This is not an easy choice, but it’s the right choice for [wife] Olivia and me.

“The College Football Playoff is a big hit and I wish my colleagues the very best.”

Manning’s replacement has already been selected, with Bobby Johnson sliding into the open spot. After spending eight seasons (1994-2001) as the head coach at Furman, the 64-year-old Johnson spent eight seasons (2002-09) in the same position at Vanderbilt before abruptly retiring from coaching in July of 2010.

Johnson, a South Carolina native, played his college football at Clemson in the late sixties and early seventies.  He also spent one season (1993) as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.

According to the release, Johnson was selected unanimously during a March 25 conference call.

“I have tremendous respect for the selection committee and I am honored to join the group,” said Johnson. “As a former player and coach, I’m particularly happy about the opportunity to continue to serve the game.”

With Johnson onboard, there are now four former FBS head coaches on the committee: Johnson, Tom OsborneBarry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham.

Johnson is also the second new committee member announced this year.  In mid-December of last year, after the final CFP rankings came out, it was announced that Oliver Luck would be stepping down as West Virginia’s athletic director and taking a job at the NCAA.  Two months later, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt was announced as Luck’s replacement.

This likely won’t be the last shakeup as the terms of current committee members Mike Gould, Pat HadenMike Tranghese and Osborne expire next February.  As far as the other committee members go, the terms of Alvarez and Condoleezza Rice expire in February of 2017, while the terms of Willingham, committee chair Jeff Long, Tom Jernstedt, Dan Radakovich and Steve Wieberg are up a year later.

(Photo credit: Vanderbilt athletics)

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Nick Chubb impresses even the great Herschel Walker

Nick Chubb AP

I’ve made it perfectly clear during my time at CFT that Herschel Walker was the greatest college football player I’ve seen in my lifetime, so the former Georgia running back’s words carry a little more weight in my mind.  And Walker’s words on a current UGA running back?  Positively glowing.

Walker attended practice at his old stomping grounds Thursday, and spoke with the media about very Bulldog talking points.  Well, really, one talking point: Nick Chubb.

And when it comes to Walker on Chubb, well, insert an erection euphemism here.

“One thing I like about him, the game is over, practice is over, and the kid is still out there working out,” the College Football Hall of Famer said. “That’s just the sign of a good athlete. That’s a sign that he’s doing things he needs to get done. …

“This kid came on as a freshman and just think if he had started the whole season, what he would have done. That’s what’s so amazing.”

Walker has a very valid point when it comes to Chubb.

Backing up a healthy Todd Gurley, the true freshman Chubb rushed for a modest 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the first five games of the 2014 season. Gurley’s season was over after that fifth game thanks to a combination of a four-game suspension for NCAA violations and a torn ACL in his first game back, which allowed Chubb to absolutely go off: in the last eight games of the year, Chubb ripped off 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns. Included in that total was a school-record 266 yards in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville.

Extrapolate that production out over an entire regular season plus a bowl game, and Chubb’s statline would’ve read 2,150 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. The former total would’ve been good enough for second nationally this past season, behind only the 2,587 yards from Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

As it was, his 1,547 yards rushing were the second-most ever for an UGA freshman, behind only the 1,616 yards put up by, you guessed it, Walker back in 1980.

As impressive as those numbers are, it’s the workload Chubb shouldered that really stands out to Walker, especially in this day and age of passing offenses. In his eight games post-Gurley, Chubb had 25 or more carries four times, with three games topping the 30-carry mark.

“When you see football today, you see a choir playing at running back,” Walker said. “You see about 10 guys running in and out of the game. This guy (Chubb) carried the ball 30 some times. That is absolutely amazing. That shows you the worth that he is. I’m amazed.”

Given the shelf life of running backs these days, I’d be amazed if Chubb continued that workload throughout the entirety of the 2015 season.

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Michigan assistant confirms addition of Stanford transfer DB

UC Davis v Stanford Getty Images

While the school has yet to officially announce his addition, one of Jim Harbaugh‘s assistant let the personnel cat out of the bag when it comes to Wayne Lyons.

Speculation has been running rampant that Lyons, who announced earlier this year he would be returning for another season instead of leaving for the NFL, would be transferring from Stanford to Michigan for his final season of college football.  That speculation ratcheted up a notch or eight when, in early February, word surfaced that Lyons’ mother had taken a job in the UM football department.

Nearly two months later, the assistant who would be Lyons’ position coach confirmed the veteran addition to the Wolverines’ secondary.

“Our (cornerbacks room) has been told that there is going to be three (new) guys coming into the secondary,” Mike Zordich said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got a transfer from Stanford coming in, a true freshman (in Keith Washington) and a (freshman) safety who likes to play corner in Tyree Kinnel.”

Lyons was on campus this past weekend, with Zordich stating that “we spent some time with him and I’ve watched a lot of film on him. … From what I saw with him at Stanford, he did pretty well.”

Based on his time with the Cardinal, Lyons will get the opportunity to come in and compete immediately — he’s a graduate transfer — for significant playing time in UM’s defensive backfield.

Lyons played in all 41 games the past three seasons for Stanford, starting all 13 games in 2013. He shared the starting job in 2014.

Harbaugh had recruited Lyons to Stanford before he left for the San Francisco 49ers in January of 2011, a month before the player signed with the Cardinal.

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Fifth year for Husker WR Jamal Turner approved

Jamal Turner AP

While there was never much real doubt, Nebraska has officially learned that they’ll have a potentially important piece of its receiving corps back in 2015.

On his Twitter account Thursday, Jamal Turner announced that he has been approved for a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Turner received the extra season after missing all but two games during the 2014 season due to an Achilles’ injury.

He had started both of those contests prior to the injury.

As long as Turner can stay healthy, he should be a significant contributor to a Mike Riley offense that’s expected to put a greater emphasis on the passing game than his predecessor’s did.

Staying healthy, though, has proven somewhat elusive for Turner of late. In addition to missing nearly all of the 2014 season, he missed the last five games of the 2013 season because of a leg injury. In the 36 games in which he played the last four seasons, he totaled 64 receptions for 799 yards and four touchdowns.

His most productive season came in 2012. Playing in all 14 games — four starts — Jackson had 32 receptions, 417 yards and three touchdowns.

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Two Oregon reserves to transfer

Oregon v Washington State

Oregon offensive lineman Jamal Prater and wide receiver B.J. Kelley have elected to transfer, as reported by Andrew Greif of The Oregonian on Thursday evening. The Ducks are set to open spring ball on Tuesday.

Playing time seems to be the reason for both players seeking new opportunities elsewhere.

Prater saw action in nine career games, while Kelley caught six passes and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and saw his playing time decrease from there.

“A lot of times I could have had an opportunity and I felt like I just didn’t get it,” Kelley told the paper. “I don’t regret being here at Oregon. There will never be another opportunity from what I’ve experienced. They can never take that back.”

The defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions have also lost offensive lineman Andre Yruretagoyena, wide receiver Chance Allen, defensive backs Stephen Amoako and Isaac Dixon and defensive lineman Sam Kamp to transfer since the end of last season.

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Want your SEC spring game schedule? Here’s your SEC spring game schedule

Jeremy Johnson

ESPN announced the 2015 SEC spring game schedule on Thursday. You are aware of the business relationship between the SEC and ESPN, aren’t you? Anyway, all 11 remainingSEC spring games (Kentucky and Texas A&M will not hold spring games, Vanderbilt’s was on Saturday) will be shown on SEC Network properties but, interestingly enough, none of them will actually be on SEC Network properties.

Instead, SEC Network+ – the digital home of SECN, basically the network’s version of ESPN3 – will show most games while SEC Network Alternate – the network’s overflow channel – will provide whip around coverage. All games will be shown on replay on SEC Network throughout the following week.

Here’s the schedule:

April 11
SEC Spring Whip Around (noon-4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
South Carolina (noon ET) – SEC Network+
Florida (12:30 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Ole Miss (1 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Georgia (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+

April 18
Mississippi State (noon ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
SEC Spring Whip Around (2-5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
Auburn (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
LSU (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Alabama (3 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Missouri (5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

April 25
Arkansas (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
Tennessee (4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

Ironically, the creation of the SEC’s own conference-specific network has actually decreased the coverage of SEC spring games. In the past Alabama, Auburn, Florida and a few others regularly had their spring games shown on ESPN The Mothership or ESPNU. Now they’ll all be on the digital step-brother of a niche network.

Whatever. I’m sure the paychecks will help the SEC get over it.

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Stanford beats Harbaugh, USC for nation’s No. 2 QB recruit

KJ Costello

Here’s a fun dynamic playing out now that Jim Harbaugh is back in college football: the former Stanford head coach recruiting against his old program. It’s especially fun when the tug-of-war is over a quarterback. The inaugural battle completed Thursday with Harbaugh coming out on the losing end.

Stanford beat out Michigan and USC for K.J. Costello, a pro-style quarterback out of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Costello is a four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, rated as the nation’s No. 2 pro-style signal caller and the nation’s 25th-best overall player.

“I had to pick the one that was best for my future and that was Stanford,” Costello said after making his decision. “Stanford always felt like home for me from the beginning and I think it’s the best overall fit for me on and off the field.”I’ve been there three times and the last time I was there, I was really blown away. I got to spend a lot of times with all the coaches and sit down and get to know Coach Shaw really well. Coach Bloomgren and Coach Pritchard are great guys and coaches as well and I met a lot of the players and just really fit in and bonded with everyone.”

The hope here is that a Costello-led Stanford club meets a Harbaugh-led Michigan team in a future Rose Bowl. That one wouldn’t be interesting at all.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Mizzou to shell out nearly $5 million for guarantee games over next six years

DeJuan Rogers, Jimmie Hunt

The Columbia Tribune recently obtained the contracts for Missouri’s upcoming guarantee games and found that, like in every other walk of life, the cost of business is going up.

Here’s how the payments break down:

– vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 5, 2015: $385,000
– vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 10, 2016: $1.3 million
– vs. Missouri State, Sept. 2, 2017: $400,000
– vs. Idaho, Oct. 21, 2017: $1.3 million
– vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 21, 2019: $425,000
– vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 26, 2020: $1.1 million

Add it all up and you get $4.91 million for a half-dozen games.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that Missouri paid $700,000 total to bring in Murray State, Toledo and Arkansas State in 2013 (though the Tigers did make a return trip to Toledo the following year, likely keeping costs down). They’ll shell out nearly twice that just to bring Eastern Michigan to Columbia next season.

What’s pushing these prices up? Costs are going up for mid-majors from the MAC and Sun Belt. Oh, and they’re just as aware of the SEC TV deals as the rest of us.

“It’s indicative of the fact that your midmajor programs have greater needs from a financial standpoint,” Missouri executive associate athletics director Bryan Maggard told the paper. “And with TV, the revenues generated by all these networks that everybody’s aware of, it’s just driven the price up. I do believe the midmajor programs are looking to support their programs in the various needs — whether it be cost of attendance, things like that — through guarantee monies.”

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Ex-A&M Aggie Sebastian LaRue dismissed by Wazzu

Sebastian LaRue

It appears Sebastian LaRue‘s winding, twisting football path has taken yet another detour.

Wednesday, Washington State head coach Mike Leach revealed that LaRue has been dismissed from the Cougars football program, Rivals.com reported.  Other than the standard violation of unspecified team rules, no reason was given for Leach’s boot being applied to Larue’s backside.

Originally a four-star member of Texas A&M’s 2013 recruiting class, LaRue was rated as the No. 24 wide receiver in the country.  After playing in one game as a true freshman, and stating that he wanted to be closer to his home in Santa Monica, Calf., LaRue announced in January of 2014 that he would be transferring from A&M to Wazzu.

(For those curious, Pullman is roughly 1,150 miles from Santa Monica, while College Station is approximately 1,500)

LaRue ended up never playing a down for Wazzu as he was forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Entering the offseason, however, he was looked upon as a player who could’ve made a significant contribution to the Cougars’ defense after being moved to the secondary — perhaps even as a starter.

Wherever LaRue ends up next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Washington State athletics)

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Vols OL Coleman Thomas arrested on felony theft charge

Florida v Tennessee Getty Images

After relative quiet on the legal front the past few days, a member of the Tennessee Volunteers has broken that calm.

According to Jimmy Hyams of Knoxville WNML radio, UT offensive lineman Coleman Thomas was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to sell stolen property on the university’s campus.  No details, including the items involved or the specific charge or charges Thomas is facing, were divulged.

UT has yet to comment on what if any impact this will have on the sophomore moving forward.

As a true freshman last season, Coleman started five of the 11 games in which he played.  All five of those starts came at right tackle.

Coleman was a three-star member of the Vols’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 10 center in the country coming out of high school in Virginia.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Wes Rucker)

UPDATED: 4:33 p.m. ET: According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thomas was arrested on a felony theft charge after he allegedly stole an Xbox and three Xbox games from a fellow student.  The victim alleged that the theft occurred March 13.

From the News Sentinel:

Authorities discovered that the items had been sold later the same day to the Game Stop store at 6731 Clinton Highway. The cost to reimburse Game Stop was $176 according to the arrest report.

The stolen items were valued at $640 according to the report.

Coleman took part in UT’s first practice of the spring Tuesday, and even spoke to the media. It remains unclear if UT officials were aware of the incident prior to the reports surfacing.

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‘Jacked’ Hugh Freeze to serve as Talladega pace-car driver

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Once again, the biggest track in NASCAR is embracing the state’s love of college football, although this time with an individual outside of its boundaries.

According to Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will serve as the driver of the pace car for the May 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway. To say that Freeze, who is good friends with NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, is excited about the opportunity to lead the 43 stock cars to the green flag at 120 mph would be an understatement.

I am so jacked about that,” Freeze said according to Magee. “You have no idea, man. I love golf, fishing and NASCAR outside of my job and my family. That’s the three things I spend time doing.”

Freeze will be somewhat returning the favor to one driver in the field as Magee writes that “Stenhouse spoke to the Ole Miss football team prior to the 31-17 victory over Mississippi State on Nov. 29 in Oxford and helped Freeze lead the team onto the field.”  The photo in the upper right of the post shows Stenhouse, left in the white jacket, running alongside Freeze in leading the Rebels out prior to the Egg Bowl.

Freeze’s appearance in a couple of months continues a Talladega tradition that’s grown over the years.

In 2014, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn served in the same capacity as his SEC West counterpart will this year.  During the 2013 May race, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron served as the pace-car driver as well.  In 2012, Alabama legend Bear Bryant rode shotgun at the spring race.

And, while I’m here and given the subject matter, I’ll remind you that you can keep abreast of all of the latest racing news at both NASCARTalk and MotorSportsTalk. One other reminder? NASCAR will return to NBC Sports with the telecast of the race at the famed Daytona International Speedway Fourth of July weekend.

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NCAA ‘concerned’ over Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

When it comes to the state of Indiana, the NCAA and some of its membership have extensive ties to the area.  The Association is headquartered in the state, while the Big Ten annually holds its football championship game in Indianapolis.  This year, as it has in the past, the same city will host the men’s basketball Final Four.

How long those relationships with the state will continue, though, remains to be seen.

Thursday, CNN.com wrote, “Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law… a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of ‘religious freedom.'” The website went on to write that “[i]n a statement explaining his decision, [Pence] pointed to President Barack Obama‘s health care law — which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn’t required to cover birth control through its employees’ health insurance plans.”

Regardless of the motives behind the decision, the move to sign the bill has caught the attention of the NCAA, which in a statement attributed to president Mark Emmert suggested that its future dealings with the state could be in jeopardy.

The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.

The Big Ten has yet to issue a statement on the development, although one is expected in short order, perhaps as early as today.

The cry for sports at both the collegiate and professional levels to abandon the state has already started, however.  From Outsports.com:

The members of the LGBT Sports Coalition join a growing chorus for the NFL, NCAA, Big Ten, USA Diving, USA Gymnastics and others to move major sporting events away from Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence legalized discrimination.

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Harbaugh, UM staff to ‘guest coach’ at Alabama, Texas camps

Jim Harbaugh AP

If it’s good enough for James Franklin and Brian Kelly, it’s apparently good enough for Jim Harbaugh.

In an attempt last May to increase Penn State’s recruiting footprint, Franklin utilized a loophole that allowed he and his Nittany Lion staff to serve as “guest coaches” at high school football camps in Georgia and Florida.  The move, which sidesteps an NCAA rule that prohibits coaches from hosting camps outside of a 50-mile radius around their respective campuses, didn’t sit well with coaches in the SEC and was quickly emulated by the Notre Dame head coach.  Kelly also added the fertile Los Angeles recruiting grounds to his camping to-do list.

Fast-forward to today, with mlive.com reporting that Harbaugh and his Michigan staff will serve as “guest coaches” at a camp not only in SEC country, but they’re set to invade Big 12 territory as well.  In June, Harbaugh & Company will attend a camp in Prattville, Ala., on the 4th and then follow that up five days later by working one in Dallas, Tex.

As the population continues to trend away from the Midwest and toward the South and Southwest, it makes sense for the Harbaughs and Franklins and Kellys of the college football world to take every of advantage of the “loophole” to get their hooks into recruits from those talent-rich areas of the country — regardless of how many SEC and Big 12 coaches they piss off in the process.

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