Skip to content

CFT Predicts: the ACC

ACC Championship - Virginia Tech v Clemson Getty Images

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the ACC.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig Ten, Pac-12

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat LSU in Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Tigers shook their ‘Clemsoning’ curse and previous Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia by going 11-2 and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
Offense, offense, offense. And some offense sprinkled in. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate Heisman candidate and he’ll have Sammy Watkins to throw to for a third straight year. Watkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012 — at least by his standards — because of a variety of issues, from a suspension to injuries, but he still finished second on the team in receiving yards. His touchdown production should rise again after getting in the end zone just four times.

Anything else?
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. With as good as the Tigers offense projects to be, there’s more wiggle room on that side of the ball. Also, can Clemson finally beat South Carolina after dropping four straight games?

2. Florida State (Last year: 12-2; beat NIU in Orange Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The ‘Noles won the ACC and beat NIU in the Orange Bowl. They also pulled their annual head-scratcher by losing to North Carolina State. The circle never ends, it seems.

So why are they ranked here?
Talent isn’t a question Tallahassee, but there are a lot of new faces. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has a ton of upside at the quarterback spot, it just remains to be seen at this point how he handles his first year as starter. Wide receiver depth is becoming an issue too. The defensive line loses two pass rushers in Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, but that’s an area stacked — almost unfairly — with capable players.

Anything else?
Florida State had a whopping 11 NFL draft picks in April, but Jimbo Fisher also had to replace roughly half his coaching staff. That’s a lot of turnover and it’ll be interesting to see how players and coaches jell this year.

3. Maryland (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Randy Edsall doubled his win total in year two with the Terps, but a linebacker was starting at quarterback by the end of the year because of injuries. Apparently, being a quarterback at Maryland can be equated to playing drums for Spinal Tap.

So why are they ranked here?
The quarterbacks are finally back with working knees and there is some talent on that side of the ball, namely wide receiver Sefon Diggs. Another running back will have to step up with Wes Brown being suspended for the year, though the running game in general needs to improve. The Terps also have to replace a sizable portion of their starting defensive front seven. Several of Maryland’s toughest games (Florida State, Virginia Tech) are on the road too.

Anything else?
It feels like wide receiver Deon Long has led the life of a traveled NFL veteran more than a college player, but he finally at Maryland. He was suspended this spring, but he should be a good addition to the passing game. He has the physical tools to make an impact, so he could be a player to watch.

4. Wake Forest (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was a tough season in hindsight for the Deacs when you consider they lost two games by an average of six points (against Maryland, Duke) that could have propelled them back into the postseason.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s some potential for this team, which returns a good portion of its starting 22 from a year ago. Tanner Price is a veteran quarterback and leading running back Josh Harris will be eligible to play in 2013. The problem is Wake Forest couldn’t find the end zone last year and were shut out twice. The defense wasn’t much better, but it does return eight guys from 2012.

Anything else?
There are plenty of manageable games on Wake’s schedule this year, including in the non-conference department. Getting back to a bowl is a realistic goal.

5. North Carolina State (Last year: 7-6; lost to Vanderbilt in Music City Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Though NC State hadn’t had a losing season since 2009, and despite upsetting Florida State, Tom O’Brien couldn’t keep his job. He’s replaced by former NIU coach Dave Doeren.

So why are they ranked here?
Turnover is rarely easy, and there’s a lot of it for the Wolfpack in 2013. In addition to a new coaching staff, this team loses quarterback Mike Glennon and, even though he had some disappointing moments in 2012, cornerback David Amerson. There’s plenty to be excited about with Doeren, but his first year could be rough.

Anything else?
If there’s one area of improvement to look for right away, it would be the ground game. NC State was among the worst rushing teams a year ago while NIU ranked 12th in the nation in that category. The offense does return its top two leading rushers from a year ago in Shadrach Thornton and Tony Creecy.

6. Syracuse (Last year: 8-5; beat West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Orange got off to a bit of a bumpy start, but won six of their final seven games in 2012. Two of those wins came in convincing fashion against Louisville and West Virginia.

So why are they ranked here?
The ‘Cuse lose coach Doug Marrone to the NFL and in comes Scott Shafer. The Orange are also entering a new conference with some key departures, including quarterback Ryan Nassib, wide receiver Alec Lemon and defensive back Shamarko Thomas — all leaders in their respective positions.

Anything else?
If there is one person to watch, it’s Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Though Shafer doesn’t plan on announcing a QB until the last possible moment, Allen is believed to be in a position to win the starting job. He played sparingly for the Sooners, but could be a key member of the offense for the Orange.

7. Boston College (Last year: 2-10)
What happened last season?
The Eagles won two games and Frank Spaziani got the long-awaited boot.

So why are they ranked here?
Former Temple coach Steve Addazio takes over and has, by all accounts, injected some energy into a program that desperately needs some. Whether that energy will turn into wins remains to be seen. This was an offense that couldn’t run the ball or score a year ago, but the passing duo of quarterback Chase Rettig and wide receiver Alex Amidon do give experience and play making ability to the passing game.

Anything else?
The front part of BC’s schedule is brutal, but there’s some room for the Eagles to make some noise toward the end of the year and build some momentum heading into 2014. The final two games against Maryland and Syracuse are on the road, but those aren’t impossible games to win.

Coastal Division

1. Miami (Last year: 7-5)
What happened last season?
The Hurricanes actually won a share of the Coastal Division, but they also self-imposed a postseason ban for the second straight year because of the ongoing NCAA investigation of the program.

So why are they ranked here?
Miami figures to have one of the more potent offenses in the entire conference thanks to the return of quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnsonwith the latter considered to be among the most exciting players to watch in the game. It’s the defense that has all the question marks for the ‘Canes. This was a team that was simply pushed around up front and gave up at least 40 points four times last year.

Anything else?
Give Al Golden credit. He’s identified the weakness on defense (not that it was too difficult) and recruited some immediate help. David Gilbert and Justin Renfrow join the team from Wisconsin and Virginia, respectively, and add an immediate boost along the defensive line.

2. North Carolina (Last year: 8-4)
What happened last season?
Like Miami, North Carolina had to watch the postseason from home thanks to a postseason ban. Unlike the Hurricanes, this was NCAA-mandated. Still the Tar Heels won eight games under first-year coach Larry Fedora.

So why are they ranked here?
There are two major departures from last year’s team: running back Giovani Bernard and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. Bernard received a bulk of the carries in the run game and had over 1,200 yards. So whether it’s one player — perhaps A.J. Blue – or a committee, that production will have to be replaced. But there are plenty of other playmakers on offense, including veteran QB Bryn Renner. Defense returns its entire secondary and should be an overall improved unit that fared well enough in Year 1 under Fedora.

Anything else?
UNC’s key stretch comes in the middle of the season. It starts with a road game at divisional opponent Georgia Tech and ends with another road game at North Carolina State. Get through that and a bulk of the Coastal Divsion contenders should be behind them by that point.

3. Virginia Tech (Last year: 7-6; beat Rutgers in Russell Athletic Bowl) 
What happened last season?
2012 was a disappointment by Virginia Tech’s standards. The Hokies needed overtime three times to pull out wins and there were some tough losses to Pitt and Cincinnati mixed in.

So why are they ranked here?
Primarily because health and depth are already concerns for Virginia Tech before a single regular season snap has been taken. Star cornerback Antone Exum will miss the season opener against Alabama and perhaps longer. The knee injury he sustained early this year was serious and there are few guarantees when it comes to a timeline for return. There’s been some attrition on both sides of the ball with various injuries and departures. If this team can get healthy as the season goes on, maybe it can make a run for the divisional title late in the season.

Anything else?
Scot Loeffler takes over as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Logan Thomas was, to say the least, inconsistent last year with just over a 50 percent completion rate and 18 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He’s shown at times he can make tremendous throws, but he needs to be able to do it without a handful of bad throws and decisions in between. With Loeffler calling the plays, Thomas doesn’t need to throw for 4,000 yards — he just needs to play smarter.

4. Georgia Tech (Last year: 7-7; beat USC in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Yellow Jackets backed their way into the ACC championship game, but embarrassed USC in the Sun Bowl. So, yeah. Georgia Tech came out ahead on that one.

So why are they ranked here?
Some key pieces of GT’s triple option are leaving, including Tevin Washington and Orwin Smith. But, Vad Lee moves in to take control of the offense, and he already saw plenty of game action last year. The defense ended up playing much better down the stretch last year after Al Groh was fired, so there’s definitely room to continue growing on that side of the ball.

Anything else?
Despite being a run-heavy offense, Georgia Tech has been known to have one big, physical receiver under Paul Johnson. Jeff Greene looked to be that guy until he left for Ohio State. Who will step up for the Yellow Jackets in that spot in 2013?

5. Pitt (Last year: 6-7; lost to Ole Miss in BBVA Compass Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Pitt got off to a tough start in Year 1 under Paul Chryst by losing to Youngstown State to start the season, but rebounded quickly by beating Virginia Tech in Week 3. The Panthers actually won and lost games in alternating pairs the entire way through the year before falling to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
After 14 years, 10 head coaches and 500 sacks, the Tino Sunseri era is finally over. Tom Savage, the former Rutgers quarterback who is also a veteran of the college game, enters 2013 as the starter. But there are a lot of concerns on offense, namely the running game. Ray Graham is gone and Rushel Shell, the running back figured to take bulk of the carries going forward, has moved on to West Virginia. Defense should be the strength of the team with defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming back along with a solid secondary that has safety Jason Hendricks, who led the team in tackles a year ago.

Anything else?
Pitt has the opportunity to make a huge first impression in the ACC if it can beat Florida State at home in Week 1. There are some tough games for the Panthers this season, including a road trip to Virginia Tech, and the Panthers are an unknown heading into ACC play.

6. Duke (Last year: 6-7; lost to Cincinnati in Belk Bowl)
What happened last season?
Duke became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 under coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils ultimately lost a close game to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, but there was a lot to be happy with in 2012.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s little concern on offense. Even though quarterback Sean Renfree is gone, there’s a lot of buzz on Anthony Boone. Boone is a mobile guy who gives Cutcliffe another dimension to add to the offensive attack. If the ground game can improve, this is a team that could be tough to stop. Defense is a concern as it ranked among the worst in the country a year ago. The Blue Devils will probably find themselves in more than a couple shootouts this fall.

Anything else?
No matter where Duke finishes in the ACC this season, there’s something to be said for what Cutcliffe is building there. He’s had other opportunities to leave, and he’s chosen to stay. He’s one of the most well-regarded X’s and O’s coaches in the game and the Blue Devils should be in a position at the end of the year to possibly make it to a second straight bowl game.

7. Virginia (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Virginia got an early season win against Penn State when the Nittany Lions were struggling, and a late-season win over Miami. In between was when things were rough.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike London went with a coaching overhaul that brings in former North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien and Jon Tenuta as defensive coordinator. Defense should be the greater strength for UVA this year with a seasoned secondary. It’s the offense that needs work. Two quarterbacks from 2012 – Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco – are gone, so this is a team that will probably have to rely on its run game.

Anything else?
It’ll be interesting to see if Virginia can make strides with a restructured coaching staff, but wins could still be hard to come by with a tough schedule. BYU, Oregon and even Ball State make up a difficult non-conference slate, and the last four games against Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech is a rough way to end the year.

———————————————

John Taylor’s Prediction:

ATLANTIC
1. Clemson
2. Florida State
3. North Carolina State
4. Wake Forest
5. Maryland
6. Syracuse
7. Boston College

COASTAL
1. Miami
2. North Carolina
3. Georgia Tech
4. Virginia Tech
5. Pittsburgh
6. Virginia
7. Duke

Ben’s ACC champ: Clemson
John’s ACC champ: Clemson

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Articles, Atlantic Coast Conference, Boston College Eagles, Clemson Tigers, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, Miami Hurricanes, NC State Wolfpack, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rumor Mill, Syracuse Orange, Top Posts, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Trojan Man: Cody Kessler named starting QB at USC

Cody Kessler

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian officially named Cody Kessler as the starting quarterback for the Trojans in 2014. The announcement was made via Twitter, although it is hardly a surprise.

The decision was probably not a hard one to make for the new USC head coach. Kessler played in all 14 games for USC last season (USC played a 13th regular season game at Hawaii, thus allowing them to play 14 games without playing in a conference championship game) and he led the Trojans with 2,967 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

Kessler was the perceived favorite for the starting job this fall anyway (he appears on the cover of USC’s spring prospectus), but once Max Wittek left the program it seemed like just a matter of time before the decision became official. Kessler was going up against redshirt freshman Max Browne this spring and USC will add one of the top quarterback recruits in the Class of 2015 with Ricky Town, a five-star quarterback according to Rivals.

USC’s spring game will be played this Saturday, April 19.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Report: Former Duke QB to visit Fresno State

Brandon Connette

Former Duke quarterback Brandon Connette is looking to move closer to his family back home for his final year of eligibility. Fresno State needs a starting quarterback. The two could be a match just waiting to seal the deal according to a report.

Connette will visit Fresno State next week and is expected to make a transfer official as soon as possible, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com. Connette will be eligible to play right away this fall if he transfers because he is scheduled to graduate from Duke this spring. After scoring 27 touchdowns for the Blue Devils in a season that ended with an appearance in the ACC Football Championship Game and Chick-fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M, Connette is simply looking to get closer to home after his mother underwent surgery in December to remove a brain tumor.

As far as football is concerned, Connette could benefit from getting a chance to play in Fresno State’s system as well. He may not be the next Derek Carr, who leaves Fresno State having rewritten the record book during his collegiate career, but a chance to open things up in the passing game in Fresno State’s offense could help improve in the passing game.

Connette appeared in 13 games for the Duke Blue Devils in 2013. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,212 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was intercepted six times but also was a solid contributor on the ground with 337 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He could bring some of that to Fresno State as well. Fresno State has just five offensive starters returning in 2014. Connette would not be a complete plug for the Bulldogs, but he would be a solid addition to an offense looking to replace big players at key positions on offense.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Louisville relaxes depth concerns with addition of safety James Sample

Bobby Petrino

Louisville is gearing up for the first season in program history as a member of the ACC. They will do so with a new face in the defensive backfield looking to lock down on opposing receivers. On Tuesday Louisville confirmed the addition of safety James Sample, previously of Washington.

Sample will come to Louisville and be eligible to play right away because he played at the junior college level in 2013. Sample played for Washington in 2011 and 2012 before leaving the program after two injury-riddled seasons. He was a four-star prospect when he was recruited by Steve Sarkisian at Washington, but things just never quite seemed to work out with the Huskies. At Louisville he hopes to be able to stay on the field and make an impact right away. New Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is happy to have Sample aboard.

“James is an outstanding football player who will help us fill a void on our football team,” Petrino said in a statement released by the university. “He has outstanding size at the safety position and will add immediate depth to this position on our football team.”

Louisville had a need to get deeper at safety, and Sample should help with that need. The Cardinals lose Hakeem Smith to graduation and Calvin Pryor declared early for the 2014 NFL Draft. Smith holds the school record for career starts and Pryor started 32 games, so starting experience in the middle of the defensive backfield is raw for Louisville. The Cardinals have some other options to work with as well. Gerod Holliman is a potential starter with veteran experience behind him. Redshirt freshman Chucky Williams is also expected to be competing for a starting job this fall. The Cardinals lost Terrence Ross to a knee injury last fall, but he could work his way back into the mix as well if healthy.

Sample will have two years of eligibility remaining at Louisville.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

NCAA to student-athletes: Eat up! It’s OK, we promise

All you can eat grunge blue stamp

All division one student-athletes will be allowed to have seconds, thirds and fourths if they so desire the next time they attend a banquet. The NCAA’s Legislative Council voted for a new rule allowing athletes to receive unlimited meals and snacks as long as they are associated with athletic activities. The rule is for all student-athletes in Division one whether they are scholarship players or walk-ons.

The NCAA will tell you this is to ensure all student-athletes meet nutritional needs, but really this is just a common sense decision to avoid further criticism in the aftermath of pastagate. The previous rule regarding food limits restricted athletes to three meals per day or  food stipend as part of the scholarship.

“Today we took action to provide meals to student-athletes incidental to participation,” Council chair Mary Mulvenna said in a statement released by the NCAA. “I think the end result is right where it needs to be.”

In addition, the Legislation Council also voted for some other rules of note. Per the NCAA, members also voted to:

  • Require strength and conditioning coaches to be certified from a nationally accredited certification body;
  • Require a school staff member certified in CPR, first aid and arterial external defibrillation to be present at all physical, countable athletic activities;
  • Reduce the penalty for a first positive test for street drugs during championships; and
  • Require football players to rest for at least three hours between practices during the preseason. Film review and team meetings will be allowed during this period.

The Division 1 Board of Directors must still approve the rules. The next meeting for the board is scheduled for April 24, and this should be a simple vote.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

Michigan State suspends second-leading receiver for violation of team rules

Macgarrett Kings Jr.

Michigan State has suspended wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. for a violation of team rules according to head coach Mark Dantonio. King will miss the rest of the spring practice season for the defending Big Ten champions, but he is expected to return to the Spartans in the fall.

According to MLive.com, Kings has not practiced all spring for the Spartan. This is just now coming out because Michigan State has a media policy that prohibit media covering the team from reporting what is witnessed in open sessions during practices. Because he has been inactive this spring, Dantonio says DeAnthony Arnett and R.J. Shelton have taken advantage of the extra snaps and each could be making a push to move up the depth chart at King’s expense. The two receivers combined for four catches and 13 yards in 2013.

Kings is the second-leading wide receiver returning to the Spartans in 2014. Last season he accounted for 42 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He also has played a role on special teams for Michigan State, returning 20 punts for 206 yards in 2013.

Michigan State’s spring practices will conclude with a spring game on April 26.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

Clemson names Cole Stoudt starting QB; big shoes to fill left by Boyd

Cole Stoudt, Chad Morris

Clemson’s heir to Tajh Boyd will be Cole Stoudt, head coach Dabo Swinney confirmed Tuesday. Stoudt will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers this fall after backing up Boyd each of the past three seasons and performing well in the recent spring game. FOX Sports was first to report the starting quarterback news.

“It should be pretty obvious that he won the job,” Swinney said. “He’s a great leader who is highly respected by his teammates. He never once complained. He was always ready when we needed him. He’s earned it and he will be named the starter.”

Stoudt appeared to be the easy favorite for the starting job at the end of the spring, and that decision became easier to make following the dismissal of troubled quarterback Chad Kelly on Monday. Kelly’s temper tantrum during the spring game was the last we saw of the nephew of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly, but even if he stayed on the roster it appeared Stoudt was going to be the likely starting quarterback anyway.

Stoudt will bring a pro-style approach to the offense, which should easily follow in the mold Boyd set during his time as starter. The Class of 2011 quarterback recruit has spent plenty of time as the understudy to one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC over the last few years, so as long as he was taking notes then the Tigers offense should have a confident passer leading the way. Will he put up the same numbers Boyd did? Probably not given this will be his first year starting and Clemson also has some big shoes to fill at other positions (Sammy Watkins at receiver, most notably). Either way, this is now Stoudt’s team.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Division 2 player charged with misdemeanor assault on opponent

Prior to the 2013 CIAA Championship Game in Division 2, Winston-Salem quarterback Rudy Johnson was assaulted by members of the Virginia State football team in the bathroom of a banquet hall hosting the conference’s end-of-the-season celebration. One of those players, Lamont Britt, pleaded guilty to a charge of simple assault and apologized to Johnson in a Winston-Salem court. Britt was sentenced to 45 days in jail and will be given probation as long as he continues to complete his college education.

As reported by the Winston-Salem Journal, Britt was accused of hitting Johnson in the face and head. Britt was the only player involved in the assault identified by Johnson. Britt was suspended from the team and will be put on probation once he returns.

This incident is not going away anytime soon either. According to the report, Winston-Salem State was not satisfied with a report conducted by Virginia State investigating the assault and will continue to push for the CIAA and NCAA to impose sanctions on Virginia State. The conference championship game was cancelled as a result of the assault at the banquet, and Winston-Salem State wants Virginia State to repay the school for lost revenue.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Smell like a Texas Longhorn with new cologne or perfume

Charlie Strong

If you have ever wanted to smell like a true Texas Longhorn, your wait is over. A brand new fragrance for men and women is now available so Texas fans of both sexes can enjoy.

The cologne and perfume each sell for $39.50 for a 1.7 ounce bottle. In an attempt to be witty, the theme for the fragrances is “Passionate, Triumphant & Strong.” Texas hired Charlie Strong from Louisville to be the new head coach of the football program in the latest round of the coaching carousel, so this may be playing off of the new face of the football program. Whether or not Strong will douse himself in this cologne in the future is probably best left a mystery.

The cologne and perfume are produced by Masik and are the newest additions to the college line-up. Other schools with their own fragrances by Masik include Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M.

Helmet sticker to The Oklahoman.

Permalink 7 Comments Back to top

Religious freedom group says Clemson football is too religious

Dabo Swinney

Some say college football is like a religion in the south. One activist group thinks Clemson is going a little too far with that idea.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has not fostered a culture adhering to the separation of church and state, the Freedom From Religion Foundation says. The group recently filed a formal complaint to Clemson suggesting Swinney leads the football program against the constitutional stipulations of the separation of church and state, The Greenville News reports.

“No one is required to participate in any religious activities related to the football program,” Clemson chief public affairs officer Cathy Sams told The Greenville News when asked about the complaint. “It’s purely voluntary. Religion and faith is a big part of Coach Swinney’s personal beliefs, but it is in no way required. There is no mandatory participation.”

The purpose of the foundation’s complaint is not necessarily to prevent Swinney from believing what he does, but instead to ensure Swinney is not preaching to his players, so to speak. Among the recommendations made by the organization to Clemson included removing the university’s chaplaincy position, a position the group says was used by Swinney to arrange Bible studies and share religious materials.

“What we have observed in the records is that the football coaching staff is doing a number of things to promote Christianity to their student-athletes,” foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said. “While student-athletes can pray, conduct Bible studies and engage in religious activities, the coaching staff, as public employees, should not be doing that with their student athletes.”

Whether Swinney is truly guilty of anything here may be up for interpretation. I am not a religious person, but even I would prefer the head coach of my team dabbling in promoting a faithful culture as opposed to one looking the other way when it comes to mischief and violations. If promoting a spirit of Christianity is crossing the line, it may not be the worst line to cross.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.

Permalink 60 Comments Back to top

Report: Orlando to host brand new bowl game in 2015

Connecticut v Central Florida

Orlando will be the host city for one more postseason college bowl game, because two just is not enough for the happiest place on earth. According to a report by The Orlando Sentinel, the Orlando Sports Foundation successfully pitched the concept for a new bowl game, the Cure Bowl, starting in the 2015 season. The game reportedly will be played in Bright House Networks Stadium, the home stadium for UCF and the mission for the bowl game is to raise funds for cancer-related charities.

A news conference is expected to take place Wednesday to unveil the bowl game, but The Orlando Sentinel reports the Sun Belt Conference and American Athletic Conference appear to have interest in aligning with the bowl game. Neith conference commissioner, Karl Benson of the Sun Belt or Mike Aresco of the AAC, has strayed far from the conversation. Aresco is expected to announce a new bowl partner for the American on Wednesday, so the timing fits the equation.

“It hasn’t been a secret that the Sun Belt has indicated a desire to be involved with a fourth guaranteed game,” Benson told The Orlando Sentinel. “I don’t think it’s been a secret that there’s been an organization in Orlando that has attempted to launch a game.”

The game will not be managed by the same group that runs and operates the Capital One Bowl and Russel Athletic Bowl, both of which are played in the Citrus Bowl, although it will be interesting to see how these three games overlap in the postseason schedule in future years. Florida Citrus Sports, the group that manages the two existing bowl games, has been hoping to improve Orlando’s standing as a postseason bowl destination in the age of the College Football Playoff. Improvements to the Citrus Bowl would be help, but any success this new postseason game brings to the table could eventually be a benefit for the city of Orlando’s chances of one day hosting a playoff game.

Permalink 10 Comments Back to top

Report: Mike Leach and Graham Harrell reunited and it feels so good

Gator Bowl - Texas Tech v Virginia

Mike Leach and Graham Harrell were meant to be together in the college football universe. Thankfully, on the night of a lunar eclipse, the stars appear to be aligned to bringing these two back together. According to a report by Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman Review in Spokane, Washington, Leach will add his former Texas Tech quarterback to the coaching staff at Washington State.

Because Washington State already has the NCAA maximum of nine assistant coaches, Harrell’s role with the team will likely fall an administrative title for now. Thorpe suggests an offensive quality control position is a possibility. The staff position has not been confirmed by Washington State, although it may just be a matter of clearing all the paperwork behind the scenes. An announcement could come later this week.

Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2004 through 2008. During his time at Texas Tech in Leach’s offensive system, Harrell racked up a number of awards and honors including the 2008 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, 2007 Sammy Baugh Trophy and multiple All-America honors. Harrell was also voted the 2008 AT&T All-American Player of the Year in a fan vote. Harrell ended his collegiate career with 15,793 passing yards and 134 touchdowns to 34 interceptions.

Permalink 11 Comments Back to top

As expectations rise, Tennessee coaches get contract extensions

Butch Jones AP

The Tennessee Volunteers have been in the process of breathing new life into the once dominant SEC East program since Butch Jones came from Cincinnati. Entering year two of the process, a little extra job security for the caching staff has already been provided in the form of one-year extensions. Each coach on Jones’ staff received a one-year extension on their respective contracts Monday and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen received a raise of $25,000 according to the Associated Press.

The contracts for Thigpen, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, defensive coordinator John Jancek, receivers coach Zach Azzanni, tight ends/special teams coach Mark Elder, running backs coach Robert Gillespie, strength coach Dave Lawson, offensive line coach Don Mahoney, secondary coach Willie Martinez and defensive line coach Steve Stripling were extended through Feb. 28, 2016. The extra year of job security allows Jones and his staff to sell recruits on the stability within the program, one that has suffered in a state of instability since dominating the SEC East at the height of the tenure of former head coach Phillip Fulmer.

Tennessee had the 12th highest paid coaching staff in 2013 according to a database of coaching salaries organized by USA Today, but that was only the eighth highest-paid staff in the SEC and third highest in the SEC East (Georgia, Florida).

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

Arkansas State sells spring game coaching job for $11,700

Blake Anderson

Georgia spiced things up by giving fans a chance to design a play for the spring game. Arkansas State stepped things up a notch and gave a fan a chance to coach a game. this rare opportunity came at a price, but all for a good cause. The Red Wolves Foundation raised $11,700 in an ebay auction, giving Nick Bhardwaj a chance to pad his coaching resume.

Bhardwaj is the founder and CEO of Beyond Games, a developer of mobile games based out of San Francisco. According to the terms of the ebay auction, he will get the chance to coach Arkansas State for the entire spring game, provide the pregame and halftime speech to the team and a whole lot more. Bhardwaj will get to call the shots on big plays.

He will also get a traditional postgame Powerade bath from the team.

Even head coach Blake Anderson, who is in no way in danger of losing his head coaching gig of course, is excited to step back and let someone else take control in the spring game.

This is a fantastic way for Arkansas State to get a chance to jump out and make some headlines with the spring game,r regardless of how it works out. Best of all, this could become something that continues to be a tradition at Arkansas State for years to come.

And if the mobile game plans do not pan out, Bhardwaj may have a chance to get into the coaching game.

Arkansas State’s spring game is scheduled for Friday night, April 18.

Helmet sticker to Dr. Saturday.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

Lawyer used by NCAA accused of ethics violations by Florida Bar

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference Getty Images

Maria Elena Perez assisted the NCAA in its investigation of alleged violations at Miami. The investigation was put on pause once the NCAA admitted to improper investigation tactics being used to acquire information and testimony. Those acts led to staff changes at the NCAA and have now perhaps pur Perez’s legal future in jeopardy. On Monday the Florida Bar charged Perez of a number of ethics violations related to the investigation at Miami.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Perez could face probation, a public reprimand, suspension or disbarment upon review by te Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Bar has been investigating Perez to determine if she received any financial incentives from the NCAA during the investigation process.

Also on Monday, the NCAA officially removed the interim tag from the job title of Jon Duncan as enforcement director. Duncan had been named the NCAA’s interim enforcement director following the NCAA’s admission of improper investigation tactics being used in the Miami case.

Permalink 6 Comments Back to top

Former Alabama QB “saw the writing on the wall” before transfer to Oregon State

Luke Del Rio

Oregon State quarterback Luke Del Rio recently learned he will be eligible to play immediately this fall for the Beavers after transferring from Alabama. That is good news for a quarterback who says he saw the writing on the wall in terms of his status on Alabama’s roster in the post AJ McCarron era.

Del Rio opened up about his departure from Alabama in an interview with The Oregonian Friday. While reflecting on the opportunity to play right away, Del Rio said it was not likely he would have had the same opportunity had he stayed at Alabama. According to Del Rio, Alabama’s caching staff led him to believing he would be receiving a scholarship if he stuck with the team, but eventually head coach Nick Saban made a business decision in deciding Del Rio would not receive a scholarship.

“(Saban) said, ‘We’re not ready to make that commitment yet from a business perspective,’” Del Rio said to The Oregonian. “He said if he had the numbers, then he would have done it. And I respected that.”

It was at that time Del Rio decided he wanted to try and find playing time elsewhere.

“But I sort of saw the writing on the wall, and I left,” Del Rio said. “I didn’t know who would still be interested.”

Oregon State was interested, of course, and the Beavers will allow him to compete for the back-up job behind incumbent starter Sean Mannion. Del Rio won an appeal with the NCAA to allow him to be eligible to play this season because he did not play a snap for Alabama in 2013. Normal transfer rules force a player transferring from one FBS school to another to sit out a season, but in this case the NCAA decided to give Del Rio a pass and let him compete right away.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top