Texas Tech Spring Football

Top storylines heading into the spring


While we’re still over six months away from the start of the 2012 season, we’re not wandering through a football-less desert quite yet.

From Feb. 13 (Army first practice) through May 5 (UCLA’s spring game), all 124 Div. 1-A (FBS) football programs will utilize their 15 allotted spring sessions to begin preparations in earnest for the upcoming season.

Below are but a few of the storylines and issues we’ll be following over the next couple of months.

Conference change, it’s a comin’
Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the SEC.  TCU and West Virginia from the Big East to the Big 12.  Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada officially moving to the Mountain West from the WAC.  And four brand-new football programs moving up from Div. 1-AA (FCS) to Div. 1-A (FBS): South Alabama (Sun Belt), Texas State (WAC), UMass (MAC) and UT-San Antonio (WAC).  Hell, there’s even the very real possibility that Temple could be leaving the MAC for the Big East this year as well.

While the moves won’t become officially official until July 1, all of those schools will, in essence, conduct spring practice as members of their new respective conferences.  In particular, a lot of the “new kid on the block” attention will be paid to Missouri and Texas A&M — and new head coach Kevin Sumlin — because, well, it’s the SEC and the six-peat BcS champion conference always has more than its share of eyes upon it.

Sideline upheaval
More than one-fifth (27) of the 124 football program that will play at the Div. 1-A level in 2012 made a change at head coach at some point after the start of the 2011 season. From Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten to four new ones in the Pac-12 — the most of any BcS conference; Conference USA will have five new head coaches — to Texas A&M ahead of its move from the Big 12 to the SEC, none of the 11 conferences were spared at least one change at head coach from where its members were at the beginning of last season.

The spring sessions will be, for the most part, the first chance for those coaches and their coaching staffs to really get a good look at and begin the evaluation of the roster. The “real” work won’t begin until September, but laying the foundation of new schemes on both sides of the ball will begin in earnest. What happens during the next couple of months will determine how far ahead/behind/in step with the more entrenched programs lugging experienced staffs into the new year.  All eyes in particular will be on Bill O’Brien, who will not only take over the scandal-stained Nittany Lions program but will also be embarking upon his first season as a Div. 1-A head coach.  Well, all that and replacing a legendary icon who had been the face of Happy Valley for nearly half a century as well.

Needing Moore Luck at quarterback
For the first time in four years at Boise State and three at Stanford, the two top-ten programs won’t have the experience and talent of Kellen Moore and Andrew Luck, respectively, under center.

Who will they have?  Brett Nottingham will enter the spring as the odds-on favorite to replace Luck with the Cardinal, with Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes expected to provide the stiffest competition for the redshirt sophomore.  Outside of Moore, junior-to-be Joe Southwick attempted the most passes (30) for the Broncos last year and was listed as the co-backup along with sophomore-to-be Grant Hedrick.  How those two competitions shake out will go a long, long way in determining whether the two programs can maintain the on-field excellence and build upon the foundations laid by Luck and Moore.

Better this time around?
After winning its first BcS title under Nick Saban in 2009, Alabama “stumbled” through a 10-3 season the following year, with all three losses coming in SEC play. With a second crystal football in three years tucked under its arm, the Tide will attempt to become the first SEC program in the BcS era to repeat as champions. Two problems with going back-to-back, however. One, the Tide will be forced to replace half its starting lineup, including seven on a defense that ranked at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category in 2011 season. And, two, LSU — ya know, the winner of the Tide’s division and loser of the rematch — remains in the SEC West and returns a squad that not only should be at or near the top of the preseason rankings but will be better because of the attrition at the quarterback position.

Fun fact? The Tide has not lost to a non-conference foe since its two-touchdown beatdown at the hands of Utah in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 regular season.  This year, the Tide will get an immediate test of the rework and revamping begun in the spring as they face likely top-ten foe Michigan in a neutral site game to open the season.

Get those seats warmed, fellas
It’s never too early for some hot seat talk, is it?  Based on the offseason he’s had — nearly a dozen transfers and the Danny O’Brien fiasco — and coming off an abysmal two-win first season at Maryland, Randy Edsall should sit at or near the top of any list of coaches on the hot seat.  Given the significant amount of attrition on both the roster and the coaching staff — he will have new offensive and defensive coordinators — this spring will likely resemble his first with the Terps, sort of a feeling-out process all over again with the added bonus of vultures circling over the two-win carcass.  Edsall simply needs a solid spring to lead to vast improvement in 2012 or he could very well find himself on the outside of the program looking in 2013.

Other coaches who need a strong spring to translate into an immediate turnaround in 2012 include Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, UCF’s George O’Leary and Cal’s Jeff Tedford.

(Still to come: individual storylines for the six BcS conferences — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.)

Oklahoma jumps from fifth to third in latest AP poll

Sterling Shepard

A 35-point win on the road in a de facto conference championship game was enough to push Oklahoma past Iowa for the third spot in the latest Associated Press top 25.

Clemson and Alabama retained the top two spots, while a trio of Big Ten teams in Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State occupied numbers four, five and six. Stanford moved to No. 7 after its last second win over Notre Dame, who tumbled from fourth to ninth. Ohio State jumped from No. 8 to No. 6, while Michigan tumbled to No. 19 after a 42-13 Buckeyes win in Ann Arbor.

Florida State moved into the top 10 after a 27-2 blowout of Florida (who fell from 10th to 18th), while TCU past Baylor after its double overtime slop-fest win on Friday night.

Utah, USC, LSU and Wisconsin moved into the poll, while Washington State, Mississippi State, Toledo and UCLA fell out.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson – 1,511 total points (53 first-place votes)
2. Alabama – 1,469 (8)
3. Oklahoma – 1,367
4. Iowa – 1,345
5. Michigan State – 1,318
6. Ohio State – 1,197
7. Stanford – 1,137
8. North Carolina – 1,085
9. Notre Dame – 1,022
10. Florida State – 951
11. TCU – 927
12. Baylor – 842
13. Northwestern – 711
14. Oklahoma State – 699
15. Oregon – 616
16. Ole Miss – 584
17. Houston – 571
18. Florida – 566
19. Michigan – 518
20. Temple – 269
21. Utah – 244
22. Navy – 206
23. LSU – 199
24. USC – 189
25. Wisconsin – 124

Clemson, ‘Bama, Iowa remain top three in latest Coaches’ Poll

Dabo Swinney

Hey, how about some actual on the field football news?

The latest Amway USA Today Coaches’ Poll was released Sunday afternoon, with the top three remaining entirely unchanged. Oklahoma moved up from fifth to fourth, while Ohio State is now just one spot behind Michigan State at sixth.

Michigan was this week’s biggest loser, falling from 12th to 19th, while USC leapt from 32nd to 24th thanks to a big win over UCLA.

The full poll:

1. Clemson – 1,558 points (52 first-place votes)
2. Alabama – 1,508 (8)
3. Iowa – 1,412 (1)
4. Oklahoma – 1,408
5. Michigan State – 1,350
6. Ohio State – 1,252
7. Stanford – 1,155
8. North Carolina – 1,107
9. Florida State – 1,054
10. Notre Dame – 994
11. TCU – 931
12. Baylor – 836
13. Northwestern – 768
14. Oklahoma State – 688
15. Florida – 655
16. Oregon – 634
17. Ole Miss – 595
18. Houston – 526
19. Michigan – 515
20. Utah – 287
21. Temple – 276
22. Navy – 223
23. LSU – 207
24. USC – 164
25. Wisconsin – 148

Rutgers reportedly ousts AD Julie Hermann, head coach Kyle Flood

Kyle Flood
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Rutgers is reportedly heading into a Black Sunday fire sale, ousting AD Julie Hermann and head coach Kyle Flood on the same day.

The Ausbury Park Press reported early Sunday afternoon Hermann was fired at RU president Robert Barchi‘s house in a meeting that lasted all of 11 minutes. The first female athletics director in Big Ten history, controversy followed Hermann from her first day on campus, whether it was questions of possible mistreatment during her stint at Tennessee’s volleyball coach, to saying “it would be great” if Rutgers’ local paper went under, to making inappropriate statements about Jerry Sandusky to angering former Scarlet Knights player Eric LeGrand.

Shortly after the Hermann news broke, reports emerged stating Flood will follow Hermann out the door.

Flood began his tenure as Rutgers’ coach with a 9-1 start in 2012, but won just 18 of 41 games after that, including four of 16 games since joining the Big Ten.

In addition to stumbling on the field, Flood was suspended three games this season for academic violations and had multiple players suspended for crimes ranging from home invasion to assault.

Mike London resigns as Virginia head coach

Mike London
Associated Press
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Six unsuccessful seasons came for Mike London at Virginia came to an end Sunday, as the program announced its head coach had resigned.

From the school’s press release:

(AD Craig) Littlepage met with London this morning to discuss the future of the Virginia football program. At that time, Littlepage and London decided a change in leadership was in the best interests of the program. Littlepage has not specified a time frame for concluding the search, citing the fact that many of the possible candidates will be involved in postseason play. Littlepage will not make further comments until the search has concluded.

Hired away from Richmond after taking the Spiders to the 2008 FCS national championship, London went just 27-46 in his six years in Charlottesville. He appeared in only one bowl game — the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl, a 43-24 loss to Auburn — and won four of fewer games in four of his six campaigns.

Virginia considered ousting London after the 2014 season, but the Hoos thought a 5-7 campaign showed enough progress to retain him for 2015. That faith went unrewarded as Virginia went just 4-8 this fall, concluding with a 23-20 loss to Virginia Tech.

“I appreciate the opportunity to have been the head football coach at the University of Virginia and for the relationships that have been formed during my time in Charlottesville that will last for years to come,” London said in a statement. “I took this job to make a profound difference in the lives of young men and to re-establish Virginia football as one of the best programs in the ACC. While we were successful in the development of our players in many areas, I would have liked to have won more games for the student-athletes, coaches, fans and everyone that’s a part of the University of Virginia.”