Michigan head coach Brady Hoke seems to have a knack for suggesting there is a battle for a starting job at positions that likely already have the starters figured out. After trying to suggest there is a competition at quarterback this offseason, Hoke is also setting the tone for the defensive backs despite having a pair of players that combined for 10 interceptions last season. The message is clear though; there is room for improvement across the board in Ann Arbor.
Fall camps in college football should always be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of a clean slate across the roster, but Michigan has senior cornerbacks Raymon Taylor and junior Blake Countess the likely starters for the upcoming season, whether Hoke confirms that or not. Hoke sees these two players as leaders but goes on the record of saying “they’ve got to play every day.”
“I think Blake and Ray, they’re both older guys, who have played a lot,” Hoke said Friday, according to MLive.com. “Then you’ve got (sophomores) [Jourdan Lewis] and [Channing Stribling], guys who have done a nice job (developing). The leadership from Blake is going to be important, and from Raymon. But there’s also great competition. They’ve got to play every day. … They all know, they’d better have a day, every day.”
Why would Hoke shy away from just leaning on his upper classmen, including one earning first-team All-Big Ten honors last fall (Countess)? Simple. Michigan’s pass defense needs to improve and cut down on big plays by opposing offenses. Everybody on defense needs to step things up this season in order for Michigan to improve in the win total and Big Ten standings. If Michigan State has a no-fly zone in effect, all air traffic appears to be seeing clearer skies in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines ranked seventh in the Big Ten in pass defense in 2013, the lowest conference ranking since Hoke was named head coach following the Rich Rodriguez era, which ended with Michigan ranked 11th (out of 11 teams at the time) in the Big Ten’s passing defense ranking. The 231 passing yards per game allowed last season by Michigan was the second highest total allowed dating back to 2007.
As for the quarterback situation, Hoke previously has said he plans to have a starter figured out early in camp. Spoiler alert: It will (most likely) be Devin Gardner.
The Pitt Panthers have filled out their non-conference slate for the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the addition of a home-and-home series with UCF.
The scheduling deal, announced Thursday morning, confirm UCF will host Pitt on September 19, 2018. The Knights will make the trip to Pittsburgh the following season on September 21, 2019. The two schools have faced each other just once before, with the Panthers taking a blowout 52-7 victory in Orlando on October 13, 2006.
As a member of the ACC, Pitt is required to play one power conference opponent each season in its non-conference schedule. As much as the American Athletic Conference would like us to all believe the AAC is indeed a power conference, the addition of UCF does not satisfy Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement. However, Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement is met in 2018 with a home game against Penn State and a road game at Notre Dame (as part of the ACC’s rotating Notre Dame schedule) and with a road game at Penn State in 2019. The Panthers and Nittany Lions will play each other in 2017 as well in State College.
For UCF, the addition of Pitt to the future schedule continues to tack on power conference opponents in future seasons. UCF will play Georgia Tech and Maryland this coming season and will play at UNC in 2018 in addition to the newly added home game against Pitt. UCF also has Stanford and Texas on future schedules in addition to more games against UNC and Georgia Tech.
Politicians will always look for ways to play to their constituents, and that sometimes means tugging at the heartstrings of local sports fans. There is no other reason why a lawmaker in Mississippi is proposing a bill that aims to fine the NCAA for taking too long to conduct any investigation of a school within the state of Mississippi.
Representative Trey Lamar is endorsing a bill that provides a one-year limit for NCAA investigations after notifying the school of a pending investigation. A notice of allegations must then be presented within six months from the initial notice of a pending investigation.
It is worth remembering that Ole Miss remains under NCAA investigation for potential violations of NCAA rules. The investigation has been going on since last January and has cast a bit of a cloud of uncertainty over the entire Ole Miss football program. No hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions is currently scheduled for the program, leaving many following the Ole Miss program a tad frustrated.
The problem with NCAA investigations is there is no current structure for forming a definitive timeline of the investigation process, and each investigation is handled on a case-by-case basis with a different outcome and different allegations and charges in each. Because of that, investigations can drag on for extended period of times before the NCAA feels comfortable in its resolution.
How the state can actually fine the NCAA for taking longer than a year to complete an investigation is unknown, and perhaps not likely. But hey, Lamar will get the Ole Miss vote the next time he is on the ballot.
LSU has dismissed nose guard Travonte Valentine. The dismissal for a violation of team rules was announced Thursday night with an emailed release with head coach Ed Orgeron sharing a brief statement.
“At this point in time, Travonte is no longer part of our football program,” Orgeron said. “We wish him the best.”
Valentine played in five games for LSU last season as a sophomore, but he did not play in the final seven games of the season. Valentine faced some academic troubles at LSU last year that put his eligibility in question over the summer, but he worked to meet the academic requirements to play for LSU prior to the start of the 2016 season. Valentine also had to work through NCAA issues regarding academic concerns that prevented him from playing his freshman season.
LSU did not announce or confirm the reason for Valentine’s dismissal from the program other than to say it was for a violation of team rules.
LSU has certainly invested in its coaching staff, now under the leadership of Ed Orgeron. New details about the contract for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada reveal LSU’s newest coordinator will be paid $1.5 million per year over the course of his three-year deal, according to The Advocate.
Canada came to LSU after serving as offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh under Pat Narduzzi. Canada’s contract details at Pitt have not been revealed or recorded in USA Today’s annual database of coaching salaries, but it is very likely he was not getting close to this kind of money at Pitt. Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis was the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach in college football last season, according to the USA Today salary database. No other coach hit the $1.5 million mark, although Clemson’s Brent Venables was close ($1.43 million), as was supposed LSU target Lane Kiffin at Alabama ($1.4 million). Canada was a Broyles Award finalist this past season, so he has earned a chance to be among the highest-paid coaches in the game given his recent success.
LSU is also paying top dollar to its defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda. Aranda was the nation’s fourth highest-paid assistant coach last season with a contract paying $1.315 million in 2016. Aranda has since been given a raise from LSU and is earning a reported $1.8 million per year under his new three-year deal. LSU was paying Cam Cameron $1.211 million last season as well. Cameron was fired during the 2016 season along with former head coach Les Miles.
Having the best assistant coaches money can buy is always a nice perk, and LSU will hope paying their coordinators better than any other assistant coach will help Orgeron take the Tigers back to the top of the SEC. Paying top dollar brings pressure to win though, and if LSU struggles to take those next steps then we could be right back to square one in a matter of time.
Expect top assistants to continue to be paid handsomely moving forward though. Media rights deals and revenue shares from such deals pays well, and is a big reason why LSU has been able to afford such high assistant contracts. Canada’s base pay from LSU is set at $500,000 but the additional $1 million comes in part from media rights compensation. This is why schools in the SEC and Big Ten will likely be able to stay ahead of the pack in the coaching game more often than not, and why some assistant coaches may find it more lucrative to remain a coordinator at a program rather than take on a head coaching gig at some other spots.