Johnny Manziel helped put the Texas A&M football program on the map. Would he have had the same impact if he had gone to Oregon? Probably not.
As we lead up to the NFL Draft we are seeing NFL writers scramble to fill more time with draft preview content. Players are moving up and down draft boards for no real reason, but that is all a part of the game. In Philadelphia the idea of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly drafting Manziel has picked up some steam for one reason or another. By now the story of how Kelly once tried to get Manziel to attend Oregon has been documented so well even the most casual of Eagles fan in the Delaware Valley can probably fill you in on the details. To this day, Kelly says Manziel would have been perfect for Oregon.
“When I coached at Oregon he was tailor made for it,” Kelly said in a story by CSN Philly. “He broke my heart. I love the kid. I think he’s a hell of a football player.”
Kelly has a chance to finally get Manziel on his team, although the reigning NFC East champions have needs on defense they should probably focus on first. But it is one of those things that makes you wonder what would have happened if Manziel had gone to play at Oregon instead of Texas A&M? A lot, probably.
Manziel was a three-star quarterback when he was recruited according to Rivals. Manziel signed with Texas A&M in the Class of 2011. Oregon wound up with Marcus Mariota, who committed to the Ducks before Manziel’s verbal commitment to the Aggies. If Manziel had gone to Oregon, he likely would have backed up junior starter Darron Thomas, who put together 33 touchdown passes as Oregon won a Pac-12 title and defeated Wisconsin in a back-and-forth Rose Bowl. The competition to start would start in 2012 between Manziel and Mariota, assuming both ended up in Eugene. Would Manziel have won that competition? Manziel and Mariota each won starting jobs at their respective schools that season, but Manziel may have been the player to keep Oregon’s BCS title dreams alive. If you remember what Manziel and Texas A&M did to Alabama that season, do you think Manziel could have led Oregon past a defensively sound Stanford? Mariota and the Ducks lost to Stanford, 17-14, in mid-November.
Imagine if Manziel had led the Ducks past Stanford to stay in the BCS championship mix. Oregon would have gone on to play in the BCS Championship Game, against either undefeated Notre Dame or, perhaps, an undefeated Alabama. Oregon and Alabama would have likely been the BCS championship match-up, which means Manziel would have had a chance to topple Alabama anyway.
The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.
Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.
Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.
USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.
USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.
On Sunday the end of the line for Mark Richt at Georgia was finally reached. The Bulldogs and the head coach will go separate ways after a 15-season run in Athens, but this will not be the final stop for Richt as a head coach. On Monday, during a press conference with the media to address the coaching change, Richt was asked whether he will coach again.
“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Richt said in his response. “I’m going to listen to anybody that’s interested in talking to me,” Richt said when again asked about what’s next for the now former head coach of Georgia.
The press conference with Richt was a bit unusual for these types of settings. First, Richt continued to show his Georgia pride by wearing a black coat and red tie and had a Georgia pin on his coat. Second, he sat right next to Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who offered no insight whatsoever on what’s next for Georgia. When asked about the coaching search or the status for assistants, McGarity continued to shift the focus on Richt.
Richt expressed his enthusiasm for getting to coach one final game for Georgia. He will coach Georgia’s bowl game, wherever that may be, giving him one last chance to end a season with a bowl victory, which he has done nine times previously.
Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.
Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.
But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.
A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.
Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.
“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”
Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.
Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.
Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.