Raymond Sanders

Can Kentucky gain running advantage vs Louisville?

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Sports information directors from around the country are constantly flooding my inbox. Game notes and press releases are constantly coming in to my inbox every day and I try to at least skim through each as they come in or when I have a chance to catch up. This evening I received one from Louisville and came across an interesting little stat about the series between Louisville and Kentucky.

According to Louisville’s records, the team winning the rushing battle has won each of the last 18 meetings between the bitter in-state rivals. This led me to quickly check the rushing numbers after two games and wouldn’t you know that Kentucky has been more productive on the ground out of the gates? Of course, Louisville also has a Heisman Trophy contender throwing passes for them, so perhaps this rushing stat is not quite as relevant this weekend.

Louisville has run the football 68 times for a total of 277 yards (averaging 4.07 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. They did this against Ohio and Eastern Kentucky, far from top-level competition. Though only accounting for a small sample size, Louisville ranks 83rd in rushing offense. Again, having Teddy Bridgewater playing quarterback helps overcome any perceived lack of a running game. Louisville ranks fifth in the nation in passing offense. Louisville added former Auburn running back Michael Dyer to their roster this season but is listed third on the depth chart this week. Louisville’s running game is instead led by Senorise Perry and junior Dominique Brown.

Meanwhile, Kentucky has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of their first two games, against Western Kentucky and Miami Ohio. Kentucky has rushed 71 times for 478 yards (averaging 6.73 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Kentucky ranks 32nd in run offense, again using a small sample size of just two games.

Can Kentucky find a way to get the ground game moving once again? Louisville held Kentucky to just 93 yards on the ground last year while rushing for over 200 yards on offense. Kentucky’s running game is spearheaded by senior Raymond Sanders and junior fullback Jalen Whitlow and adds some young blood with freshman Jojo Kemp. The Wildcats are looking to get back to playing competitive football, and there will be no better opportunity to make a statement than by utilizing a strength in the running game to their advantage if possible against Louisville.

If there is one stat you are keeping track of in this weekend’s game, perhaps that will be it.

Mike Locksley’s new role on Alabama staff will be co-offensive coordinator

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Mike Locksley of the Maryland Terrapins looks on during a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Point Solutions Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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Alabama took advantage of a staff opening on its coaching staff this week to promote Mike Locksley to a full-time offensive assistant’s role. Now, his role appears to be a bit more defined. According to a report from Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, Locksley will be taking on the role of co-offensive coordinator.

Locksley has previous offensive coordinator experience, of course. Locksley coached the offense at Maryland and Illinois prior to arriving at Alabama. Feldman reports Locksley turned down “several coaching offers” so he could remain a part of the Alabama coaching staff for the 2017 season.

Locksley was previously added to the Alabama football staff as an analyst. Now he will share the offensive coordinator duties with another recently promoted analyst, Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian was promoted to offensive coordinator in the week leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship game after Nick Saban made the decision to force Lane Kiffin out of the position and send his offensive coordinator to take on the full-time work of being the new head coach of FAU.

NCAA proposal to shut down spring break off-campus practices passes

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh calls for a flag in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Michigan and Florida both entered the season hoping to revive storied programs that had begun to look more pedestrian than they were accustomed to. Enter Wolverines coach Harbaugh and Gators coach Jim McElwain, who both brought their own style and approach to the sidelines in their first seasons on the job. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
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Michigan’s spring break trip to conduct spring practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida will be its last. An NCAA proposal to ban such trips outside of the college football season passed by a count of 58-22 on Friday.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh caught a lot of criticism for his decision to take Michigan’s spring practices down to Florida over Michigan’s spring break. The move was a bold strategy for Harbaugh and the Michigan program, but it ruffled the feathers of coaches from the ACC and SEC, leading to a move to ban such practice plans in the future. The debate over such a move was debated with similar intensity that satellite camps received, and now we await to see just how Harbuagh will respond, because he is known to chime in when something like this happens.

So no more trips to Florida for Michigan football players over spring break. That means Harbaugh will just have to go to the drawing board to find a new idea to find an edge.

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

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

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

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

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