Phillip Sims, A.J. McCarron

HS coach: Sims lost Tide QB battle because ‘he was the out-of-state guy’

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That sound you might hear off in the distance?  It could very well be the blood of a certain Crimson & White head coach beginning to boil.

A quarterback battle between Alabama native AJ McCarron and Virginia native Phillip Sims that began in the spring of 2011 and extended into the early part of the regular season ended with McCarron playing a significant role in Alabama’s second BcS title in three years this past January.  Seeing the very clear writing on the wall, Sims announced after spring practice this year that he was transferring from the Tide.

In an interview with the Virginian-Pilot shortly after Sims’ transfer decision was confirmed, the player’s former head coach at Oscar Smith High School, Richard Morgan, claimed there was one reason and one reason only why McCarron received the nod over Sims.

“If it’s a close competition between an in-state guy and an out-of-state guy, the in-state guy is getting the job,” he said. “Phillip was in a situation where I thought he was the better quarterback, but he was the out-of-state guy. That’s just the way it works in college

As my six-year-old daughter is wont to say, what a crock of poo.  Say what you want about Nick Saban — and I’m quite certain many, many things will be said in the comments section below this post — but his singular focus when it comes to on-field matters is getting the best players into both huddles in order to give his team the best opportunity to win on any given Saturday.  It would be literally impossible, I believe, for the three-time BcS champion coach to care less from what city/state/country/continent/planet/universe a player hailed.

If Saban and/or his coaching staff thought Sims gave the Tide the best opportunity for a win, it would’ve been Sims under center when UA’s offense stepped onto the field for the season-opening series against Kent State last September.  Or the next week or the week after that or the week after that etc.

Right or wrong, Saban rolled the dice with McCarron — and said roll had nothing to do with the fact that McCarron played his high school football four hours from Tuscaloosa.

Third in the SEC in QB rating and a BcS title in his first year as a starter at the collegiate level?  Yeah, I’d say the coaching staff’s decision was more right than wrong, regardless of one outsider’s sour grapes over his former player getting geographically hosed.

The local-boy-makes-good story may be a consideration on a lot of campuses around the country, but not at any place where Saban is in charge, and not at arguably the most important position on the field.

In addition to placing one foot squarely in his mouth on the Tide’s personnel front, Morgan took his other one and crammed it into the same neighborhood when discussing the reason behind Sims’ transfer.

While it seemed obvious to most that the player decided to transfer because he had little chance of supplanting McCarron the next couple of years, Sims said in a parting statement that his decision was “nothing more than a personal matter” and that he “just need[s] to be closer to home to support my family at this time and that needs to be my priority right now.”  Such a public statement was likely the precursor to an appeal for a waiver from the NCAA that would allow the quarterback to play immediately, likely in his home state of Virginia with the ACC’s Cavaliers.

According to the coach, the move instead had a lot to do with personnel instead of something personal.

“McCarron still has two years of eligibility,” Morgan said. “If it was the case where (McCarron) was a senior and Phillip had to sit one more year and then have two years, he wouldn’t leave. Let’s face it, they did win the national championship. So you’re not going to bench the quarterback who won the national title. And (Sims) doesn’t want to sit because he feels he’s just as good. So he has to go somewhere where he can play.”

Sims and his new school will have a hard time arguing the hardship angle to the NCAA with public comments like the above from somebody that close to the player.

(Tip O’ the Cap: al.com)

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.