Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Oregon v Kansas State

With Kelly’s departure, ‘a recruiting class hangs in the balance’

17 Comments

In the immediate aftermath of Chip Kelly‘s stunning about-face departure for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oregon’s attention turned to two key questions — just who will replace the Ducks’ fourth-year head coach and what kind of impact it will have on the 2013 recruiting class.

As to the former, the answer could be relatively straightforward.  Barring an unexpected development and after the interview of a minority candidate to satisfy state law — the school has already posted the openingMark Helfrich is expected to be officially named as Kelly’s successor in short order.  Helfrich, who has served as Kelly’s offensive coordinator during all four of the now-former coach’s seasons at the helm in Eugene, has been described as a clone of his former boss when it comes to attention to detail and the like, making for a relatively seamless transition both on the field and, most importantly at the moment, on the recruiting trail.

It’s on that latter front, though, where things could get dicey for Helfrich — or, as Rivals.com breathlessly put it, “a recruiting class hangs in the balance.”

Already, two of the prized verbal pieces of UO’s 2013 recruiting class, twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson, have announced they have reopened their recruitment while still technically remaining committed to the Ducks.  USC, in particular, has already been in touch with the players in an attempt to get both to complete the flip three weeks ahead of National Signing Day.  Additionally, Ohio State is reportedly going after that same pair of UO verbals as well, with Notre Dame also named by one of the players as a possibility.

“This is crazy. I mean, [UO assistant John Neal] was just here yesterday up at school to watch me and my brother play basketball,” Tyree Robinson told DuckSports.com. “Everything was all good. Everything was all fine. It’s crazy. Right now, I have to talk to my family. I’m going to call my mom right now to talk to her about it.

It’s not all negative recruiting-wise for Oregon, though, as DuckSports.com reports that Thomas Tyner, a five-star running back rated as the No. 21 player at any position in the country, is expected to remain committed to the Ducks and follow through with a signature on signing day.  That “good news” comes with an asterisk, however, as Tyner has already decommitted from the Ducks once last October, albeit for just one day.

There’s also positive precedent on which the football program can fall back; in 2001, Butch Davis left Miami (Fla.) for the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns a week before signing day.  A little over 11 months later, with Davis’ replacement Larry Coker patrolling the sidelines, the Hurricanes staked their claim to the BCS title.  Coker had served as The U’s offensive coordinator the previous six seasons.

Certainly keeping Helfrich and maintaining some type of continuity on the coaching staff — how many assistants Kelly takes with him to the Eagles becomes another storm cloud looming off in the distance — will help keep intact a recruiting class that was, to be blunt, fair-to-middlin’ to begin with.

In fact, this class was shaping up to be the worst, rankings-wise, since Kelly’s first class in 2009.  The past three years, Oregon’s classes have been rated no worse than 16th (2012) by either Rivals.com or Scout.com and as high as ninth in 2011.  This year, the Ducks currently rank 44th (Rivals), 26th (Scout) and 25th (24/7Sports.com) with signing day looming the first Tuesday of next month.

“It hurts,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said of Kelly’s departure, “but it isn’t like they have a huge class to keep together anyways.”

That, then, would seem to make it much more imperative for Oregon to hang on to as many assistants as possible to keep an average class from slipping further.  As DuckSports.com writes, “most recruits do not build the relationship with a head coach. The head coach is not allowed the same number of contacts as his assistants so many prospective student athletes develop strong ties to assistant coaches.”

Many will ask why Kelly put Helfrich, his assistants, current/future players and the football program as a whole in such a predicament just 21 days before the college version of the NFL draft.

Some will point to looming NCAA sanctions as the impetus; if that were the case, Kelly wouldn’t have turned down both the Eagles and Cleveland Browns nearly two weeks ago, risking having that NFL door shut tight for the foreseeable future and closing his Pete Carroll-esque escape hatch.  Some will point to the opportunity for a significant increase in pay; if that were Kelly’s motive, he would’ve bailed on the Ducks for the Bucs and a boatload more money in Tampa Bay last January.

While those particular points may have played roles on some level, this appears simply to be the case of an innovator looking for a new challenge at the highest level of football and with an organization he (eventually) gained some degree of comfort.  After his flirtation last year… and after a two-pronged show of leg this year… and with a consistent itch to challenge himself, Kelly took the NFL “if” out of the equation and turned the “when” into the here and now.  In the end, that’s where most thought Kelly would be at some point in the future, especially as the NFL, thanks in large part to the out-of-the-gate successes of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, begins to absorb more of the college-level spread concepts.

Yes, it was not the optimal time for Kelly to bolt; the thing is, there almost never is.  At the very least, though, Kelly left a powerhouse football foundation on which Helfrich or anyone else could build — 46 wins, four BCS bowl games and three Pac-10/12 championships screams “reload” as opposed to “rebuild.”

“Next man up” and “next man in” have always been two of Kelly’s most identifiable mantras.  Helfrich is up, and he’ll be officially in at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Before he can get to building upon Kelly’s on-field legacy, he’ll need to fend off the pickers looking to pluck prospects from what will be his recruiting class.  Based on the number of vultures already circling, and with three weeks left in which to swoop, that might be easier said than done.

Alabama DL coach Bo Davis out after possible recruiting violation, report says

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 28:  Jonathan Allen #93, Tim Williams #56 and Rashaan Evans #32 of the Alabama Crimson Tide react after a defensive stop against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

As some of his pupils move on to greener pastures this weekend, it appears Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis is on his way out of Tuscaloosa as well.

Andrew Bone and Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News reported Thursday evening Davis is expected to resign or be fired after the school has opened an inquiry into possible violations on the recruiting trail. The nature of the violations was not revealed, but the NCAA has made “multiple” investigations into the matter and Alabama has opened its own corresponding inquiry.

Davis is a longtime Saban lieutenant, first working under him with the Miami Dolphins, then following him to Tuscaloosa as part of Saban’s original Alabama staff. Davis left for Texas in 2010 and spent a year at USC before returning to the Tide in 2014.

Alabama’s defensive line was nothing short of outstanding last season, providing the bedrock to Saban’s fourth national champion. The Tide led the nation with 52 sacks, ranked fifth with 108 tackles for loss and posted a national-best 75.73 yards per game rushing defense.

Davis’s contract runs through 2017 and pays him $475,000 annually.

 

Report: Conference USA football could return to ESPN this fall

HUNTINGTON, WV - DECEMBER 06: Remi Watson #8, Kevin Rodriguez #35, and Stefan Houston #3 of the Marshall Thundering Herd take the field before their game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Joan C. Edwards Stadium during the Conference USA championship game on December 6, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia. The Thundering Herd defeated the Bulldogs 26-23. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

It’s no secret that ESPN is the front door to the college sports world, and any league that doesn’t have a foothold on the Worldwide Leader faces a serious uphill climb for coverage. See: Conference USA.

C-USA currently splits its rights between Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network and the American Sports Network and, unless you happen to be a fan of one of the league’s 14 teams, you probably didn’t see a game before bowl season. But that could change soon.

The conference’s television deals expire at the end of June, and Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot reported ESPN has become a “late but serious bidder” for a portion of the C-USA package.

A change in partners would be well received by C-USA on two fronts. First, it’s ESPN. Second, the conference isn’t raking it in as is. Minium reported Old Dominion has planned for a drop in television revenue of $600,000 to $700,000 this fall — up from the originally anticipated fall of $500,000. And ODU only received $1 million last year to begin with. The drop can be attributed to the exodus of high-wattage programs — Houston, Memphis, East Carolina — to the AAC, allowing Fox and CBS to pay below the agreed amount. Exit fees had subsidized the loss in revenue, but those funds are running dry.

Conference USA declined to comment on the state of the negotiations, but five games have already been moved to weeknights — indicated back-channel negotiations are well under way.

That Old Dominion (and, presumably, other C-USA schools) could make only $300,000 on TV rights from an entire year is, in a word, shocking. In a world where the Big Ten could secure half a billion dollars over six years for half its package, this is a nice reminder that that world isn’t open to everyone.

LB Nick Holman makes ‘hard decision’ to transfer from USF

Nick Holman
Getty IMages
Leave a comment

A little over a week after the end of spring practice, USF has seen its depth at linebacker take a bit of a hit.

Calling it “a hard decision,” Nick Holman took to Twitter Wednesday night to announce that he has decided to transfer out of the Bulls football program and “pursue other opportunities” elsewhere. The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to transfer.

Barring something unforeseen, Holman would be forced t sit out the 2016 season if he moves on to another FBS program. He’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Holman came to USF as a three-star member of the Bulls’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 31 player at any position in the state of Alabama. After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Holman played in 11 games in 2015.

The Tampa Bay Times wrote that “Holman led the White team with five tackles in the April 16 Green and White intrasquad game, and was listed as the backup to senior Nigel Harris at weakside linebacker on the post-spring depth chart.”

In statement, SEC reaffirms league to rescind its satellite camp ban

Auburn v Mississippi State
1 Comment

The SEC had fought hard in pushing the NCAA’s Div. 1 Council to ban the practice of satellite camps, and then continued to push for The Association’s Board of Directors to reaffirm the ban.  In the end, though, that conference has taken the “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” tack.

Shortly after the NCAA confirmed that its Board of Directors had, at least for the foreseeable future, rescinded the ban on coaches taking part in football camps outside of their regions, the SEC confirmed that it will be rescinding its own ban on the practice.  That rescinding follows through on the “threat” made last year by the conference that it would, essentially, unleash its football programs on the rest of the country if a ban wasn’t enacted.

The SEC’s lifting of the ban on such camps is not effective immediately; rather, it will take effect May 29.  After that date, as outgoing commissioner Mike Slive said in late May last year, “our folks will be free to fan out all over the country and have at it.”

In a statement, Slive’s replacement, Greg Sankey, lamented the lifting of the ban while at the same time reaffirmed that “SEC coaches will be allowed to engage in summer camps as a result of Conference legislation approved during the 2015 SEC Spring Meetings.”

Below is the entirety of Sankey’s statement.

While we are disappointed with the NCAA governance process result, we respect the Board of Directors’ decision and are confident SEC football programs will continue to be highly effective in their recruiting efforts.

“We continue to believe football recruiting is primarily an activity best-focused in high schools during the established recruiting calendar, which has provided opportunities for football prospective student-athletes from all across the country to obtain broad national access and exposure but with appropriate guidance from high school coaches, teachers and advisors that focuses on both their academic and athletic opportunities as they decide where they will play college football.