The 2014 NFL Draft may be viewed as a down year for the Big 12, with just 17 players from the conference being called by NFL franchises. Unfortunately for the Texas Longhorns, none of those 17 players from the Big 12 are coming out of Austin. This marked the first time since before the start of World War II that Texas was without a player drafted by the NFL (1937 to be precise). With just three players drafted in each of the drafts in 2013 and 2012, should fans of the Longhorns be concerned about the state of the program?
Not for long.
Charlie Strong has already been hard at work in setting the tone for the future of the Texas program. He has gone on record saying Texas will not be a national title contender in 2014. He has said Texas needs to be the top program in the state, and he genuinely means it. Better yet, Strong is just the right kind of coach to be taking over a program that has been ditched and forgotten about by Texas A&M, pushed aside by Baylor and is witnessing Texas Tech attempt to build some momentum in Lubbock. Strong knows what it takes to make a program find a new level of toughness, and that is just what Texas needs right now. Texas still has plenty going their way but you can see why Mack Brown‘s career had seen better days at this point. Six draft picks in three years is representative of the quality of play on the field during that span, and that is not going to be good enough for Strong.
Texas fans should take solace in seeing what Strong’s most recent program did in this year’s draft. Louisville sent four players through the NFL Draft, three of which came in the first round. That is a tremendous credit to Strong and the staff he put together in Louisville, as this was the results of his first recruiting class going through a full four-year cycle. That resulted in the Cardinals sending a potential franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a late first round draft pick in addition to two defensive contributors (Calvin Pryor to the Jets and Marcus Smith to the Eagles).
Strong knows Texas needs to get tougher, and fortunately for the Longhorns this happens to be his speciality. This should be a temporary draft drought for Texas.
Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.
Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.
But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.
“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”
The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.
The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.
According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.
Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”
Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.
If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.
Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.
Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.
“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”
Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).
Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.
Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.
“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.
“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”
Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.
“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”
Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.
Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.
From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:
Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much. Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.
Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.
For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.
And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.