2013 NFL Draft

Lather, rinse, repeat: SEC tops again in first-round draft picks

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By now, you know the drill.

With 12 players selected in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL draft, the SEC topped all conferences and tied the ACC (2007) for the most ever in the opening round.  The conference record had been 11 set in 2007.

The past three seasons, 32 of the 96 players selected have come from the conference that’s won the last six BCS championships.

Lagging well behind the SEC were the ACC (seven, which counts new 2013 member Syracuse), the Pac-12 (five) and  Big 12 (three).  Two players from football independents were taken, while the Big Ten, MAC (the No. 1 overall pick, with more on that below) and Conference USA had one player each taken.

The Big Ten, incidentally, narrowly avoided getting shutout in the first round of the draft for the first time since 1953 as Wisconsin’s Travis Fredericks (Dallas Cowboys) was selected with the second-to-last pick of the night.

The only conferences that did not have a player selected were the American Athletic Conference (née Big East), Mountain West and Sun Belt.

Of the 32 players taken last night, 14 were players who left collegiate eligibility on the table for early entry into the NFL.  10 of the 12 SEC draftees were early entrants, while four of the ACC’s seven fell into that category.

As far as individual schools go, Alabama from the SEC and Florida State from the ACC had three players apiece selected.  Florida, Georgia, LSU, North Carolina and Oregon were the only other programs with more than one player taken.

Just two of the 32 players selected came from non-BCS conferences (Central Michigan, Houston).

After the jump are some random notes and quotes sent out by the various sports information departments across the country regarding players selected in the first round of the NFL draft:

— Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher is the first-ever player from the MAC to be selected No. 1 overall; Marshall’s Byron Leftwich (the Herd didn’t move from the MAC to Conference USA until 2005) was selected with the seventh pick of the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, the previous high-water mark for a player from that conference.  The only other Chip selected in the first round was offensive lineman Joe Staley, taken 28th overall in 2007 by the San Francisco 49ers.

— Selected by the Oakland Raiders at No. 12 overall more than five months after nearly dying on a Houston Cougars practice field, cornerback D.J. Hayden became only the second Conference USA player selected in that spot or higher.  Memphis defensive lineman Dontari Poe was chosen at No. 11 by the Kansas City Chiefs last year.

— For the second time the past three years, a Texas A&M Aggie was selected No. 2 overall.  A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, taken by the Kansas City Chiefs, joined linebacker Von Miller (Denver Broncos, 2011) as Aggies selected in that slot.  All told, four Aggies have been selected second overall.  This draft also marked the first time in program history that an Aggie has been picked in the top-ten overall three consecutive years.

Ezekiel Ansah (No. 5, Detroit Lions) is the first BYU player selected in the Top Five since Jim McMahon was also taken No. 5 overall and also by an NFC Central/North club (Chicago Bears).

— With the selections of cornerback Dee Milliner (No. 9, New York Jets) and offensive lineman Chance Warmack (No. 10, Tennessee Titans), Alabama has seen a total of six of its players taken in the Top 10 of the draft the past three years.

— Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker was selected by the San Diego Chargers right after former teammate Warmack, marking the first time in NFL draft history that players from the same school had been selected with back-to-back-to-back picks in the first round (USC had three straight players taken in the seventh round of the 2011 draft).  Oddly enough, Alabama will be looking to become the first program in the BCS era to earn a crystal three-peat.

— Staying on the Tide tip, 14 players have been selected in the first round since Nick Saban took over in 2007, with 11 of those coming the past three years.

— North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper (No. 7, Arizona Cardinals) is the first guard picked in the top 10 since Colorado’s Chris Naeole was selected by the New Orleans Saints at No. 10 in 1997.

— Defensive lineman Dion Jordan (No. 3, Miami Dolphins) and offensive lineman Kyle Long (No. 20, Chicago Bears) are the first two Oregon Ducks selected in the same first round since 1972.

— Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is the first Clemson player to leave the school after his junior year and become a first round pick since Anthony Simmons was the 15th pick of the first round in the 1998 draft.  Trevor Pryce (1997) and Chester McGlockton (1992) are the other two Clemson juniors to come out early and be a first-round selection. At 20 years, 10 months and 13 days, Hopkins is also the youngest first-round draft choice in Clemson history.

— Saban, on adding to the Tide’s first-round legacy: “I think we are really proud of our players, first of all. We have had three first-round guys so far, and we have had three or four every year for the last few years. I am really proud of the coaches that helped develop them. It is great to be able to watch our player’s dreams come true in the draft.

— “While it took a while to find the right position for him to maximize his athletic potential,” Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said of Lane Johnson, who came to OU as a quarterback. “I have no doubt that he has a huge upside and will only get better with more experience playing tackle. Coach Kittle and Coach Patton did a tremendous job of quickly acclimating him to compete at a high level, while Coach Schmidt and our strength staff did an outstanding job of accelerating his physical development. Lane is a special individual and we’ll anxiously follow his progress this fall along with our many other Sooners in the NFL.

Stanford plucks Oklahoma defensive line coach Diron Reynolds

MIAMI - 2007:  Diron Reynolds of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2007 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart announced his retirement. On Wednesday, the Cardinal found his replacement.

Stanford hired one of its own according to reports from Sports Illustrated and FootballScoop (where I am also a writer), pulling former assistant Diron Reynolds away from Oklahoma after one season with the Sooners.

While Stanford has not formally announced Reynolds’ hiring, Oklahoma has already confirmed his departure.

“Diron did an excellent job for us here at OU,” head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This move is going to allow him to reunite with his wife and children. We appreciate the work he did and wish him the best.”

Reynolds was Stanford’s assistant defensive line coach in 2014, and prior to that spent five years in the same capacity with the Minnesota Vikings. He inherits a defense that ranked in the top 30 nationally in rushing defense and sacks.

For Oklahoma, 2016 marks the second straight season the Sooners will be on the hunt for a defensive line coach after Signing Day. OU’s hiring of Reynolds last year was necessitated when defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery left for the Green Bay Packers.

D-line coach Mark Hagen leaving A&M for Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 14:  Nate Sudfeld #7 of the Indiana Hoosiers runs with the ball against the  Michigan Wolverines at Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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There are two types of coaching moves: the ones coaches want to make and the ones they’re told to make.

It’s with that in mind we review the news that Indiana has hired Texas A&M defensive line coach Mark Hagen to coach the same position, the Hoosiers announced Wednesday. Hagen is a former Hooiser that coached at his alma mater in 2011-12 before leaving for College Station in 2013. And Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin coached with Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson for five years at Oklahoma. If you wanted to find a landing spot for an assistant you were looking to replace, this is the type of job you would look for.

Texas A&M insider Billy Liucci, as much an insider as one can be, certainly presented this move as the second type of coaching change.

When a head coach is feeling heat, it’s often his assistants that pay the price, and especially when a high-profile coordinator is brought in, as was the case with the hiring of John Chavis.

“It’s exciting to be able to come back home again,” Hagen said in a statement. “These last three years have been fun. It’s something I felt like I had to do a few years back, but being a part of Coach Wilson’s program again and getting on board on the front end with Coach Allen is something I could not pass up. I’m looking forward to the challenge of coaching the entire defensive line and building a championship defense.”

Hagen coached one of the nation’s top pass-rushing duos in College Station in the form of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall.

Rick Neuheisel is offended Jim Mora called his UCLA teams ‘soft’

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Head coach Rick Neuheisel of the UCLA Bruins gestures in the game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 50-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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After posting back-to-back 10-win, top-20 seasons, UCLA backslid to an unranked, 8-5 finish this season. Perhaps for that reason Bruins head coach Jim Mora decided to bring up the supposed state of the program he inherited during an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s show Tuesday.

“In our first interview, (UCLA AD Dan Guerrero) asked me, ‘When you think of UCLA? What do you think?’” Mora said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I’m thinking, what do I say here? Do I tell him the truth or something like it’s a great school and we can be great? I said, ‘I think you’re soft. I think the football team is soft.’

“Dan said, ‘That’s what I think, and we need to toughen it up.’”

Speaking on his own SiriusXM radio show Wednesday, Mora’s predecessor Rick Neuheisel took serious exception to that comment.

“All he did is go and paint the walls black and wear black on the sideline and think that that’s tough,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve been in the locker room. There’s all sorts of stuff about Sun Tzu and ‘The Art of War’ and pain and all that kind of stuff. He takes the team to Navy SEAL training. Congratulations, I’m glad you had the money to do it. But don’t talk about toughness with my football team.”

We’re not here to pick sides. In fact, our stance in the media is that we love all coaching wars of words — especially in the middle of February. But here are some facts to bring to the situation: since winning the Pac-12 South in his first season, largely with Neuheisel’s players, Mora has finished tied for second, tied for second and third in their own division. And against Stanford, the roughest, meanest team on UCLA’s schedule, Mora’s teams are 0-5, losing by an average of 35-19 — including a 31-10 blowout with a trip to the Pac-12 Championship on the line in 2014.

Nevertheless, it appears Neuheisel took the most umbrage with Guerrero’s supposed agreement with Mora’s assessment.

“We were 21-29, and I’m man enough to own that record. That’s the facts. That’s what we were, and I own it,” Neuheisel explained, via CBS Sports. “Jim Mora has done a nice job at UCLA, but to hear Dan Guerrero say that we were soft? That makes me bristle, because Dan Guerrero never came to practice. He never came to my office in four years. Not one time did he ever come and be a part of what was going on out there.

“I was told in my final year, ‘You make it to a bowl game, we’re fine.’ He knew we were bankrupt. He told me over and over, ‘Listen, we’ve got to lock arm and not make excuses. You make it through this, and we’re going to be fine.’ We knew what Brett Hundley was going to do. He ended up doing it. He just did it for Jim Mora. We go 6-6 and get to a bowl game, and I’m still let go. That’s business. No tears here. I understand the business. But the guy who was running the store knows for a fact we had nothing, and we were given nothing to get it done.”

Reports: Jake Spavital headed to Cal as offensive coordinator

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies chats with his quarterback coach Jake Spavital before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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It appears Jake Spavital won’t be out of a job for long.

A month and some change after “mutually parting ways” with Texas A&M, Spavital has reportedly found a new home out west. FootballScoop (where I also work) and Fox Sports reported Friday Spavital had found a new home at California, and on Wednesday Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman added that Spavital will receive a two-year deal in Berkeley.

Cal head coach Sonny Dykes and his new offensive coordinator have never worked together previously, but each hails from the same school of thought. Dykes rose the ranks while working under Mike Leach at both Kentucky and Texas Tech and under Mike Stoops at Arizona, while Spavital spent the past few years working for former Leach assistant Dana Holgorsen at Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia and with former Bob Stoops assistant Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.

Spavital earned just north of $486,000 in 2015 according to the USA Today salary database while the man he replaces, new Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, made $510,000.

Cal finished the 2015 season ranked seventh nationally in yards per play and 17th in scoring, but Spavital will be tasked with re-tooling the attack without future 1st-round pick Jared Goff at quarterback.