- A couple of Michigan alums got married in the Big House.
- This is fantastic. Les Miles with perhaps his best one-liner to date.
- Penn State will face punishment, just not from the NCAA, writes Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated. I wholeheartedly agree.
- Remember how a selection committee is supposed to be transparent? Well, here you go…
- How much will Boise State’s travel costs go up now that the Broncos are in the Big East? The Idaho Statesman crunches some numbers.
- Maryland coach Randy Edsall has hired a PR firm. Really.
Monday offseason one-liners
No matter how talented Ohio State may be on offense at the skill positions, without a solid offensive line providing protection none of it will matter. The Buckeyes lose four starters on the offensive line, returning just one, so this spring the focus on the offense should be starting up front.
“We’re not really worried about who we lost,” sophomore Pat Elflein said to The Columbus Dispatch. “We’re just worried about who we’ve got now. We’re just focused on getting better every day. We definitely have some big shoes to fill, but we’re capable of it.”
To recap, Ohio State is losing Jack Mewhort, Marcus Hall, Corey Linsley and Andrew Norwell to the NFL. They return junior Taylor Decker, who is moving from right tackle to left tackle. Ohio State will not be lacking in potential on the offensive line though. Ohio State just recruited four four-star offensive linemen in the Class of 2014 according to Rivals.com, and the Class of 2012 that is coming in to their own now also included three four-star recruits, including Decker. The offensive line has the individual talent to be one of the top units in the Big Ten, one that helps separate Ohio State from most of the rest of the conference, but as was put on display by Michigan State and Clemson in Ohio State’s two-game season-ending losing streak, it is far from being a dominant force that could compete for a championship.
Last season saw Ohio State give up 22 sacks, which was in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and a stat that is relatively common for a team with a quarterback who can make plays happen with his feet. But quarterback Braxton Miller has been roughed up in his time in Columbus. The Orange Bowl resulted in a lingering injury that sees Miller limited at best this spring as he rehabs following surgery on his throwing shoulder. If keeping Miller healthy is the biggest key to success this season for Ohio State, then consider the offensive line the key master (or are they the gate keepers?).
Finding an identity as a unit on the offensive line will be critical for Ohio State. That begins now.
Utah is coming off back-to-back losing seasons with identical 5-7 records, but this time of the year is all about positive energy no matter what happened last fall. Spring brings optimism in every college football camp, just as it does in every spring training camp in Florida or Arizona around Major League Baseball. The Utes have had a rough transition in to the Pac 12 but there is nothing keeping these players from having a little fun as they put in their work for the upcoming season.
Utah brought an end to their winter workout conditioning in grand style. To celebrate the end of a grueling workout schedule, the Utes cranked up the volume and busted out some dance moves. Some players were more graceful than others, as you might expect, but the important thing was the team released and had a good laugh together.
It all starts with defensive back Hipolito Corporan and features other players, but be sure to check out the moves of freshman quarterback Conner Manning (No. 17), who previously broke Matt Barkley‘s record for single-season passing yards as a high school junior in 2011. Turns out he may have some game on the dance floor as well.
Sadly there is no sight of Kyle Whittingham breaking it down.
Helmet sticker to Lost Lettermen.
Nebraska safety Corey Cooper is being held out of spring practices for the time being. Turf toe is to blame, leaving the returning starter moving around in a walking boot on his left foot. The injury is not one that is being considered too serious, although head coach Bo Pelini says now is not the time to push it.
There is no need for Cooper to rush back of course. because he has already established himself as one of the top returning players for the Huskers in 2014. Last season he recorded 91 tackles and came up with an interception early in the season. Not having him on the field during practices now will open up some playing time for some other players to improve the experience down on the depth chart. Nathan Gerry and LeRoy Alexander are expected to continue filling in with the first team defense until Cooper is able to get on the field.
Nebraska also got their new defensive backs coach in to the mix, Charlton Warren. Warren joined the Huskers coaching staff this year after nine years at his alma mater, Air Force. He apparently is making for an impression with his energetic in his first practice with the team.
“He was out there yelling, jumping around with us, running down the field with us,” senior cornerback Josh Mitchell said to the Lincoln Journal Star. ”I thought he was going to pull a hamstring.”
Among the roster changes this spring for Nebraska is the absence of safety Harvey Jackson. Jackson is not listed on Nebraska’s spring roster, a surprising development considering he would have been one of the most experienced players in the Nebraska secondary. There has been no word on why Jackson is no longer on the roster according to multiple reports.
Should the NCAA bring an end to the legal battle in the Ed O’Bannon case and settle, or should the organization challenges the plaintiffs in what could potentially be a landmark case favoring against the NCAA? That is the question that continues to be asked as the court battle officially begins in just a matter of months.
The opinions of some athletic directors on how the NCAA should handle the case at this point is a bit mixed, according to a survey of SEC ADs by Al.com. Settling now, before getting to court, could end up saving the NCAA and schools a big amount of money. It may be worth it considering the potential circumstances if the NCAA were to lose in court. But the all-or-nothing gamble seems to be something worth risking according to some. It all depends on who you ask.
“I’m a lawyer and there are times when you gamble and times you try to reach a settlement,” Vanderbilt Athletics Director David Williams said in response to Al.com’s question. ”But it seems to me this is one where you try to come to a solution and go on about our business because I do think it is a big gamble. The consequences could be very, very large.”
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has a different opinion. Per Al.com;
“I think the NCAA feels like they have a very good case, but who knows when you get in front of a court and judge?” Alleva said. “If star players could start selling their names themselves and making money off it — selling autographs, selling T-shirts — it could change the landscape significantly for those athletes. It would be market-place driven, obviously. I don’t know what the answer is going to be.”
The chips could be down on the table soon enough. Should the NCAA play it safe and just settle? Settling could open a door for a number of other lawsuits against the NCAA to gain some sort of legal advantage, as it would make the organization look weaker and serve as the organization conceding there is a financial incentive in its operations.
A record number of underclassmen are declaring early for the NFL Draft this year, and a good number of those players will not be drafted by an NFL team. Some may not even receive a contract offer after the draft wraps up. Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, penned a column suggesting college football’s star players resist the urge to enter the NFL Draft before completing their college eligibility. Some of Rooney’s comments are debatable, but considering Rooney’s respect level in the NFL, it is an interesting point of view expressed.
Rooney suggests that players are receiving four-year scholarships that pay for their entire college experience, which of course has been argued to be a blatant lie on a number of levels. Rooney also suggests that many NFL teams do not want players leaving early, although if that were truly the case would they not tend to stray away from the underclassmen? NFL teams will pluck the top juniors if they will help their team win, but Rooney is likely directing his comments to those underclassmen that hope to be drafted in the late rounds.
According to Rooney, the NFL Player’s Association has conducted a study that suggests players who play their full four years in college go on to have longer careers in the NFL. That is actually a pretty interesting point. Why is that? Rooney explains.
“Because those men are more prepared to be professional players, both on and off the field,” Rooney says. ”This is why the players union has always supported college players staying in school.”
Rooney may have his own league to blame in part for enticing more and more underclassmen to get in to the NFL. Or perhaps the agents are to blame. The way contracts escalate in the NFL, it is a financial incentive to get in to the league earlier and start making more money at an earlier age, as opposed to sticking around another year (or two) in the college game and fall behind in the payment structure of the league. Rooney challenges that idea as well and suggests the NFL has the best interests of the younger players in mind.
“College players should not be encouraged to make decisions contrary to their long-term interests by people who are motivated by a desire for short-term, and often illusory, gains,” Rooney says. “We will continue to work with colleges, the Players Association and others to encourage young men to stay in school. If they make it into the NFL, they have a better opportunity to enjoy long and productive careers and continue to live well for many years after their playing days turn into memories.”
You can read the full column from Rooney via Journal Sentinel.
In Lincoln, Nebraska we have a wide receiver playing quarterback. Down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana we have a quarterback playing wide receiver.
LSU has confirmed that quarterback Rob Bolden will make a position switch and is working out at wide receiver this spring. Bolden transferred to LSU in 2012 after Penn State was slammed with NCAA sanctions. Although he was allowed to have a free transfer, he did redshirt one year at LSU after making the switch. Bolden had split playing time as Penn State’s starting quarterback with Matt McGloin in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Bolden had not thrown a pass since arriving at LSU. In fact, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., running back Spencer Ware and punter Brad Wing each recorded more pass attempts the past two years than Bolden, a former highly-rated quarterback recruit out of Michigan.
Bolden’s move to wide receiver came as a bit of a surprise, but LSU head coach Les Miles appears happy with the early play and signs of progress by a couple other quarterback options competing for the starting job this spring.
“I felt both quarterbacks, Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings, have gotten stronger and more capable,” Miles said. “Brandon, in his short amount of time here, has gained some weight and strengths and looks a little bit better. [Redshirt freshman] Hayden Rettig’s lost some weight, looks better, and he had a nice practice today.”
Jennings is the only quarterback returning this spring with any playing experience, not including the two seasons Bolden played quarterback at Penn State before transferring prior to the 2012 season.
LSU also confirmed a few other position changes Saturday. Jalen Mills will move from cornerback to safety. Lamar Louis is switching from middle linebacker to the outside. Kwon Alexander is also switching linebacker positions from sam linebacker to will linebacker.
Nebraska may not have the same sort of quarterback competition other programs have this spring. With Tommy Armstrong in the fold, the Huskers look to have their starter already figured out at the start of the spring practice season. this is not stopping the Huskers from trying out some different things though, including wide receiver Jamal Turner getting back to his quarterback roots.
”This spring is the time for us to experiment and maybe take it to a different level,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. ”He likes it. He thinks he’s Russell Wilson. Jamal isn’t lacking for confidence.”
Turner was recruited to Nebraska as a dual-threat quarterback but with Taylor Martinez in Lincoln the Huskers had their dual-threat option pretty much in place. Now with Martinez gone, Turner is getting some reps as quarterback this spring to give the Nebraska coaching staff some things to think about heading in to the 2014 season. Armstrong will likely remain the top quarterback, but if Turner can pull off some plays and prove to be confident under center then Nebraska may have some tricks up their sleeves in the fall. That is the plan.
”It just gives us some other options, some wildcat things,” Pelini said. ”He has quarterback in his background, so it’s not new to him. We’re going to give him significant reps at quarterback this spring and see where it is.”
When the fall comes around, Turner is probably more likely to stick to his receiver duties. He had 13 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown last season, and he could have a chance to have more of an impact this season
The commissioners of the various collegiate conferences are planning to review the possibility of adding an early signing period to college football’s recruiting calendar, but not every coach seems to be in favor of it. Some coaches in the SEC are among those not in favor of the possibility. Add Stanford head coach David Shaw to the bunch.
“I might be alone in this, I think it’s terrible,” Shaw said Saturday, according to ESPN.com. “I think it’s terrible. The reason [for an early signing period], in my opinion, is coaches don’t like when kids commit and switch late.”
Shaw was notably vocal in his stance against the idea of an early signing period. As Shaw notes, an early signing day could be a detriment to some of the more academically driven schools, such as Shaw’s Stanford program, as a result of the early signing day process because many kids may not know if they will be eligible to enroll at an academic school until national signing day.
“We have a lot of kids that don’t know if they’re going to get into school until after that early signing day,” Shaw said. “So we’re going to punish the academic schools just because coaches don’t want a kid to switch their commitment.”
But that is why there would still be a national signing day, just as there always has been. An early signing period may have some problems along the way, but even with the current model in place there are always some hiccups somewhere to be found. The early signing day would be more for recruits who have been committed to a program for an extended period of time and are unlikely to switch their mindset between whenever the early signing period would be and national signing day. The early signing day is not for every player, and the odds are the number of players who take advantage of it would be small. Still, Shaw has his concerns.
“What’s going to happen is, if a kid wants to change his mind late after the early signing period, he’s going to appeal and that appeal is going to go through because the committees that decide those appeals, they always give in towards the student-athlete,” Shaw said. ”So you have a kid that might be 16 going on 17 that commits and then really has a chance to think about it and changes his mind and we’re going to try to and hold him to it.”
Recruiting is always going to have challenges, no matter if there is an early signing day or not. Details on the idea still have to be hashed out as well at a later time. The Conference Commissioners Association is expected to review the early signing day idea during a meeting in June.
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack became a bit of a national sensation last season when the Bruins chose to put him on offense for certain running plays, often with success. Texas Tech may be looking to reverse that idea in 2014. Kenny Williams, the leading rusher for Texas Tech in each of the past two seasons, is reportedly getting some practice time at outside linebacker this spring.
— Chris Level (@ChrisLevel) March 8, 2014
Well, that is interesting.
Williams rushed for a team-high 497 yards and eight touchdowns last season, but the Red Raiders may have enough talent to work with out of the backfield in 2014 with DeAndre Washington showing he is capable of carrying the football last season in split duty with Williams. Texas Tech also has Quinton White on the roster. White saw some limited action last season but appears to have potential to play his way in to the running game at Texas Tech this season. Williams moving to the other side of the football could help accelerate that path.
What makes the decision to try his hand at defense is the fact that Texas Tech has 12 linebackers on their roster, so depth is not appearing to be too much of a concern. The Red Raiders lose a pair of starters this season, but with 12 players on the roster for four linebacker spots (assuming Texas Tech sticks to a 3-4 defense), Texas Tech is not extremely thin at the position, but it could benefit from having another player to count on if needed.
At least one member of Penn State’s Board of Trustees has had second thoughts about how the board handled the decision to remove Joe Paterno as head coach at Penn State in November 2011. Al Clemens, who will be replaced on the board as a governor-appointed representative, issued a statement Friday explaining his regrets about the way Paterno was handled after the shocking revelations of the Jerry Sandusky scandal were revealed.
Paterno was ousted from his position of head coach of the football program on November 9, 2011. The decision was made swiftly by the board of trustees at Penn State, perhaps feeling the pressure to make a decision to take action against those tied to the Sandusky scandal in some capacity. Graham Spanier was also removed from his position as president of the university.
“On November 9, 2011, I and my fellow Trustees, voted to fire Joe Paterno in a hastily called meeting,” Clemens said in his statement on Friday. “We had little advance notice or opportunity to discuss and consider the complex issues we faced. After 61 years of exemplary service, Coach Paterno was given no chance to respond. That was a mistake. I will always regret that my name is attached to that rush to injustice.”
Paterno was fired with a simple phone call after being handed an envelope with a phone number to call was handed to him at his home.
In the heat of the moment, there was great media and national pressure for the school to make a statement by forcing Paterno out. Pterno had reportedly not done enough in responding to acts of sexual abuse being committed by his former assistant coach, Sandusky, on Penn State property. Paterno has said publicly he would step down at the end of the season hours before the board brought an end to his reign as head coach.
“We thought that because of the difficulties that engulfed our university, and they are grave, that it is necessary to make a change in the leadership to set a course for a new direction,” said John Surma Jr., the vice chairman of the board, said at the time.
Conference realignment has force the unfortunate end to a number of traditional college football rivalries, including Texas and Texas A&M. New head coach at Texas Charlie Strong has dropped the gauntlet the way many new coaches do today in attempting to fire up the momentum to see some of those rivalries resume. Unfortunately, Strong is somewhat misguided in how the series with Texas A&M should be brought back from the dead.
“You’d like to play it in a neutral site somewhere, where every year it’s in that spot, whether it’s Houston or Dallas,” Strong said in an interview with CBSSports.com.
A neutral site game? C’mon Coach Strong. Texas and Texas A&M deserves so much better than being played in a watered down pro football stadium, even if it were to be played in Arlington, home of one of the emerging super venues for college football.
Call me old-fashioned — I can take it — but it seems to me that if we were able to get Texas and Texas A&M back together again, then playing it in Austin or College Station should be the only way to go. Considering the tradition and passion that ignites when these two long time historic rivals get together, the sport would benefit much more from that than playing a game of this magnitude and hype in an NFL stadium. But hey, cash is king, right?
Consider it a compromise, or a last resort. The problem all schools face these days is expanded conferences are more and more looking to expand conference schedules and push conference schedules to nine games. The SEC is reviewing that possibility right now. Playing nine games makes it difficult for some teams to get in a preferred seven home games each season, which means sometimes some school is going to have to bite the bullet and budge. With the stadium sizes at Texas and Texas A&M, losing a home game any given year is noting either school would look forward to. But if a broadcast partner and the Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans got involved with the planning and organization (and the funding), then it is a different story.
Strong knows that nothing will happen until his bosses figure something out though.
“It’s all about the two ADs getting together and getting that figured out,” Strong said. “When you look at it, it’s been such a huge rivalry game. … I think at some point it will get worked out.”
Right now the fans at Texas and Texas A&M both appear to be fine having gone their separate ways. That is a shame. Egos have gotten the best of both sides, but over time that will calm down and the Longhorns and Aggies will play again. And that will be a good thing.
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has some awfully high hopes for the Illini in 2014.
As in, Cubit thinks Illinois can have the best offense in the Big Ten. As he told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Steve Greenberg:
“Last year we talked about going from worst to first in total offense in the [Big Ten]. We didn’t accomplish that; we got to fifth. But I think we’ve got a chance to be the best offense in the conference.”
Illinois indeed had a decent enough offense last year, finishing 60th nationally in scoring offense (29.7 points per game) and 46th in total offense (426.7 yards per game). And while they’ll lose four-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase, the leading candidate to replace him is Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt. Nearly the entire offensive line is back, too.
Is that good enough to be a better offense than a Braxton Miller-led Ohio State? Or Wisconsin’s always-potent rushing attack? Probably not. But Illinois could very well have a potent offense this season with the talent and scheme they have.
Now, about that defense…
Every Clemson football player could probably tell you exactly how many days, hours, minutes and seconds there are until his team’s next meeting with South Carolina. And he could probably tell you Clemson’s record against the Gamecocks in the last five years, too.
That’s because, seemingly as a motivational tool, Clemson has a countdown clock to its next game against South Carolina up in its football facilities.
— Lonnie Shull (@LNSIII) March 6, 2014
That’s a fine motivational tool and all, seeing as the annual game against South Carolina is a heated in-state rivalry. But coming off the program’s best finish in the AP poll since 1982, perhaps the reminder could be tailored more toward winning a second national championship and first since 1981.
Although to do that, Clemson will have to beat South Carolina. But surely Steve Spurrier won’t notice this and crack wise about it at any point this year. Nope, definitely not.
Texas Tech landing a verbal commitment from blue-chip quarterback Jarrett Stidham on Friday came as a massive win for Kliff Kingsbury, but it also represented a bit of a trend in recent years.
Stidham isn’t the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, nor is he rated by Rivals as a five-star prospect. But for Texas Tech, earning the verbal commitment of an in-state quarterback with scholarship offers from Texas and Texas A&M is just about unheard of. Not even Graham Harrell wasn’t offered by Texas or Texas A&M back in 2004.
Consider this, though: In three of the last four recruiting cycles, the nation’s top prep player has gone to a non-traditional power. South Carolina (Jadeveon Clowney), Mizzou (Dorial Green-Beckham) and Ole Miss (Robert Nkemdiche) all landed No. 1-rated, program-altering players in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Granted, that streak ended this year when Da’Shawn Hand signed his National Letter of Intent to play for Alabama. But in the Rivals era (2002-present), no No. 1 player had gone to a non-traditional power program until Clowney committed to South Carolina. The Gamecocks have had four seasons of 10 or more wins in program history; three came with Clowney on the team.
2015′s No. 1 recruit, defensive tackle Trenton Thompson (Albany, Ga.) seems like a good bet to wind up at a traditional power. But that a good number of these highly-rated recruits, No. 1 or otherwise, are winding up at Ole Miss or Texas Tech or Virginia (which landed 2014′s No. 5 overall recruit) perhaps speaks to the success programs can have in the digital/social media age, making in-roads with high schoolers that weren’t possible 10 years ago.
Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury will finally have his quarterback in 2015. Stephenville, Texas quarterback Jarrett Stitham has committed to playing for Texas Tech in 2015.
Stidham is the nation’s top ranked dual-threat quarterback, a four-star dual threat according to Rivals.com. He held offers from all of the big name programs around the country, including Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Clemson, Miami, Michigan. Two other big name programs worth noting are Texas and Texas A&M. The Aggies may be set on their quarterback situation in due time, and the Longhorns may have a developing situation as well, but this is a major recruiting victory for Kingsbury and the Red Raiders. It was Tecxas Tech’s early recruiting efforts that helped keep an edge on the competition.
“First of all, Tech was the first school to ever recruit me when Tommy Mainord and Neal Brown were back there,” Stidham said to Red Raider Sports. “So that kind of holds a special place in my heart just because they were the first ones to put themselves out there for me.”
Texas Tech has been battling all sorts of quarterback instability since Kingsbury was named head coach. If he can keep his head above water in 2014, then he will be rewarded in 2015 with one of the prize recruits in the Class of 2015. Not only that, but Stidham represents one of the highest rated recruits to commit to Texas Tech in years.
According to Red Raider Sports, Stidham hopes to be able to graduate high school in December, which would allow him to enroll at Texas Tech next spring. If he can do that, he will be able to get a jump on practicing with his new teammates and make a push for the starting job in 2015.