Neuheisel’s job security could be down to days

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Whatever it was that Rick Neuheisel‘s UCLA team showed in a 48-12 thumping by Arizona, it wasn’t a competitive football team.

The Wildcats, who had just one win this season (against 1-AA opponent Northern Arizona) and fired their coach Mike Stoops not two weeks ago, absolutely torched UCLA in every imaginable way tonight. Perhaps it was a much needed change of pace with Stoops gone, but Arizona came out and played a complete football game. Granted, UCLA is not very good and Arizona is not really that bad, but the Wildcats played with an inspired edge.

UCLA was flat from the get-go. They have been for the whole first half of the season. Amazingly, though, the Bruins were 2-1 in Pac-12 play heading into tonight and still controlled their South division destiny. Really, despite the hot seat rumors for Neuheisel, UCLA had a lot to play for.

They could play for a winning record; a bowl game; a Pac-12 South title; a Pac-12 championship even.

Or, hey, how about playing for their coach’s job?

But, they didn’t. About the only inspired football UCLA showed all night was in the last seven minutes of the game. And you know what? You can’t blame ’em. UCLA’s own athletic director, Dan Guerrero, didn’t even express confidence in Neuheisel in his most recent blog. How could he expect confidence from Neuheisel’s players?

“Returning to a bowl is just one of several steps we need to take to get this program to the level we all desire,” Guerrero wrote. “In order to compete on the national stage, we first must achieve success in the Pac-12 Conference.”

It’s not that Guerrero isn’t spittin’ truth — he is, and there’s no reason why UCLA can’t be better than they are — but there are short-term collateral damages that resulted from it. Among the numerous penalties, dropped passes, turnovers, terrible assignment defense and first-half brawl, one thing was clear: UCLA gave up tonight. Arizona got out ahead early and kept their foot down on UCLA’s throat, and the Bruins didn’t do a thing about it.

When Neuheisel opted to kick the field goal instead of going for the touchdown on fourth and goal with under five minutes left to play, he showed his players he had given up too.

Perhaps Neuheisel will be fired sooner rather than later. It might happen this week. Barring a miraculous turnaround, it’s hard to think of many ways the former quarterback can keep his job. A sub-.500 record, no Pac-12 titles and one bowl appearance won’t cut it in Westwood — not with the available local talent and the NCAA-wrapped gift handed to the Bruins in the form of sanctions to cross-town rival USC.

Neuheisel knows that, and as he stood at the center of Arizona Stadium waiting to shake the hand of Wildcats interim coach Tim Kish, the the body language said it all. He looked hurt, defeated. How his team responds next week against Cal will give us a more definitive indication if this team has really lost all hope.

If Neuheisel makes it that long. Judging by the look on his face tonight, a swift end might actually be a welcome relief.

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.

Edgerrin James’ nephew to transfer from Miami

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Last season, Jeff James was one of seven players  suspended for Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl game against West Virginia.  Nearly four months later, he’s gone.

In a press release, Miami announced that the defensive back “is no longer a member of the football program.” No reason was given for the nephew of former Hurricane great Edgerrin James deciding to leave The U.

“I talked to Jeff and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

James was a three-star member of UM’s 2016 recruiting class.  247Sports.com had the Orlando high school product rated as the No. 112 safety in the country and the No. 1,678 player in its composite rankings.

The defensive back played in one game as a true freshman, the season-opening win over FCS Florida A&M.