Greg Schiano, Eric LeGrand

Rutgers’ Schiano wants to eliminate kickoffs


In October of 2010, Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down covering a kickoff in a game against Army.

Needless to say, that tragic accident had a profound impact on the football program in general and on head coach Greg Schiano specifically.  So profound, in fact, that Schiano wants to change the way the game’s been played for many, many decades.

In a story that appeared in Sunday’s Newark Star-Ledger but we’d somehow missed until today, Schiano revealed a plan that he had shared with his fellow coaches at the recently concluded Big East meetings, which is, in essence, to ban all kickoffs at the collegiate level.

“That whole time was a blur,” the coach said of the time he spent at LeGrand’s bedside. “I just remember thinking, ‘Why do we have to have kickoffs? Just because we’ve always had them?'”

While it may have been a blur, the blur resulted in a very detailed plan by Schiano that would eliminate kickoffs and thus, theoretically, reduce the risk of serious injuries in the sport.  Here’s Schiano’s plan, as written up by the Star-Ledger:

…Replace all kickoffs with a punting situation, including after the opening coin toss and to start the second half. So, as an example, when Team A scores a touchdown, it immediately gets the ball back on a fourth and 15 from its own 30-yard line.

It can punt it back to Team B — the most likely outcome and a safer play since the bigger collisions usually happen on kickoffs.

Or it can line up and go for the first down, essentially replacing an onside kick with an offensive play that would require more skill than luck.

Suffice to say, Schiano’s plan is a radical departure from the past 100 years or so, and will certainly be met with skepticism and criticism from people in the game that it’s too radical and completely changes a significant part of the sport.  As far as Schiano is concerned, however, lessening the risk of serious or significant injuries is more than worth it.

“It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position,” Schiano said.

“I don’t think we’d lose that much, and we’d gain a bunch for the welfare of the players.”

At the very least, Schiano coming out with the idea of eliminating kickoffs will spark serious discussion both inside and outside of the game, and, when it comes to the safety of players who become bigger/faster/stronger every year, maybe that would be a good thing.  It’s doubtful — but certainly not impossible — that Schiano’s plan would gain national traction, but if it leads to further discussion of player safety that also leads to improved equipment and further stressing proper tackling technique from the very lowest levels of the game we say good job, coach.

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton
1 Comment

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.

Will Mark Richt coach again? “Oh yeah, no doubt”

Mark Richt

On Sunday the end of the line for Mark Richt at Georgia was finally reached. The Bulldogs and the head coach will go separate ways after a 15-season run in Athens, but this will not be the final stop for Richt as a head coach. On Monday, during a press conference with the media to address the coaching change, Richt was asked whether he will coach again.

“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Richt said in his response. “I’m going to listen to anybody that’s interested in talking to me,” Richt said when again asked about what’s next for the now former head coach of Georgia.

The press conference with Richt was a bit unusual for these types of settings. First, Richt continued to show his Georgia pride by wearing a black coat and red tie and had a Georgia pin on his coat. Second, he sat right next to Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who offered no insight whatsoever on what’s next for Georgia. When asked about the coaching search or the status for assistants, McGarity continued to shift the focus on Richt.

Richt expressed his enthusiasm for getting to coach one final game for Georgia. He will coach Georgia’s bowl game, wherever that may be, giving him one last chance to end a season with a bowl victory, which he has done nine times previously.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.