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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

Florida v LSU

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Wisconsin in Capital One Bowl)
I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again: this could very well be Steve Spurrier‘s best and deepest Gamecock team since taking over in Columbia a decade ago.  The loss of starting quarterback Connor Shaw will certainly have some impact, but the fact that Dylan Thompson isn’t your typical first-year starter — he’s started three games and thrown passes in 17 others — should help soften the transition.  Losing a pair of defensive line starters and two secondary starters won’t help matters either, but USC has recruited well at those positions the past couple of years and should have the on-paper talent to fill the voids.  A total of 16 starters return, though, including workhorse running back Mike Davis.  The Gamecocks are clearly the class of the East, and it would be more than a little surprising to not see them in Atlanta in early December after qualifying for the SEC championship game.

2. Georgia (Last year: 8-5; lost to Nebraska in Gator Bowl) 
After watching uneven and subpar defensive performances not just last season but the past couple of years, Mark Richt looked to right that ship by going out and reeling in Jeremy Pruitt of the defending BCS champion Florida State Seminoles as defensive coordinator.  Combine that with the returning talent — nine starters on that side of the ball — and the defensive woes of the past should be a thing of the, well, past.  The loss of a four-year starting quarterback will sting, at least initially, but the fact that his replacement, Hutson Mason, started two games at year’s end to go along with Todd Gurley carrying the offensive load while Mason gets his starting sea legs should help in the transition to the post-Murray era.  Having to travel to East favorite South Carolina won’t help the cause, but getting past that early-season hurdle could set the Bulldogs up for a return trip to Atlanta after a one-year absence.

3. Florida (Last year: 4-8)
The Gators could very well be the third-best team in the SEC East — and that may not be enough to save Will Muschamp‘s job.  Beset with injuries and overall poor play — especially on offense — in 2013, UF tripped, bumbled and stumbled its way through the program’s worst season in nearly two decades.  The offense was simply abysmal, especially in the passing game, which served as the impetus for Muschamp to swipe offensive coordinator Kurt Roper from Duke in the offseason.  The early signs point to a rejuvenated offense in general and quarterback Jeff Driskel in particular under Roper.  The defense, as has been the case under Muschamp, will be just fine; if the offense can merely climb to respectable, it should be enough for the Gators to get closer to 2012’s 10-win season than last year’s eight-loss abomination.  The schedule is essentially a wash, with games at Alabama and Florida State offset by tough games against LSU and South Carolina in The Swamp.  UF could be staring an eight-win season square in the face — and that should be enough for Muschamp to get a fourth year on the job.  Anything less than that, and his future employment in Gainesville becomes dicey.

4. Tennessee (Last year: 5-7)
Surprise!!!  Yes, this one could — and quite likely will — come back and bite me square in the arse, but what the hell.  Call it a hunch. Or the fact that they finished with a better record than did the Gators, who I have listed above.  Or a bad case of (insert serious mental disorder here).  Whatever the case, I love what Butch Jones is doing in Knoxville and, while I might be a year early on this, I’m buying in.  How mental am I?  I’m predicting the Vols to finish fourth in the seven-team East, even as I’m fully aware of the fact that UT is the only team in the country that lost every starter on both the offensive and defensive lines.  And then there’s the schedule: the opener at home against an underrated Utah State; a road trip to Oklahoma in Week 3; and SEC away games at Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina.  Yep, I’m nuts.  But I do like the defense and the receiving corps, and think that Justin Worley is ready to take a step up to the next level in a conference riddled with questions at the quarterback position, especially as he’s now solidified his hold on the job.  Again, I may not be right, but I think I’m closer to that than wrong.

5. Missouri (Last year: 12-2; beat Oklahoma State in Cotton Bowl) 
The Tigers return just seven of 22 starters — three on offense, four on defense — from last year’s surprise SEC East championship squad.  Mizzou must find a way to replace its leading passer, rusher and three top receivers from a year ago, although the former is a little disingenuous as Maty Mauk showed he was the Tigers’ future at the quarterback position subbing for an injured James Franklin.  Losing Dorial Green-Beckham to a dismissal, though, was a huge blow for Mauk as he assumes the full-time offensive reins for the first time.  The good news is that, while Mauk is adjusting to his new role, Mizzou will feature a pair of running backs — Russell Hansborough and Marcus Murphy — who combined for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.  The schedule makers didn’t do Mizzou many favors, with road trips to South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee in the offing.  The Tigers surprised many most all observers by claiming a division title in just their second season in the conference; it’d be equally surprising if they came even remotely close to matching 2013’s success,

6. Kentucky (Last year: 2-10)
Despite just two wins last season, UK appears to be a football program on the upswing, especially if recruiting rankings mean anything.  The past two recruiting cycles, UK has pulled in the No. 17 (2014) and No. 23 (2013) recruiting classes, and are currently rated No. 20 for 2015.  Prior to Mark Stoops’ arrival, UK had just two recruiting classes — 2006 (No. 36) and 2009 (No. 41) — finish inside the Top 50 nationally since 2002.  How long before that success planted on the recruiting trail bears fruit on the field?  That remains unclear, although it could be 2015 before Stoops truly sees the fruit of his and his staff’s labor.  Until then, it could be another rough football season at the basketball school, even as doubling up on last year’s win total would seem to be a modest and attainable goal.

7. Vanderbilt (Last year: 9-4; beat Houston in BBVA Compass Bowl)
I’m fully aware that the Commodores finished fourth in the East last year and won nine games, including the program’s first-ever back-to-back bowl game.  I’m also fully aware that James Franklin was a huge part of that success, and Franklin and his coaching staff are currently in Happy Valley preparing for the upcoming season.  Do I think Stanford’s Derek Mason was a subpar replacement?  Most definitely not; he was one of the more underrated hires of the offseason.  Do I think he can do what David Shaw did after Jim Harbaugh left The Farm after laying the foundation?  No, because there’s simply not that type of foundation in place in Nashville.  Inexperience on the skill player side of the equation, especially at quarterback and wide receiver, could be Vandy’s undoing.

SEC WEST

1. Alabama (Last year: 11-2; lost to Oklahoma in Sugar Bowl)
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback?  Pffft, no problem for a Tide squad that boasts two Top-Five SEC running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry… and the SEC’s best wide receiver-tight end combination in Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard… and at least three returning starters along the offensive line… and a defense that, despite the return of  just four starters, is littered with four- and five-star recruits throughout the depth chart and will, again, be one of the most stout in the conference… and, hands-down, the best coach in college football in Nick Saban.  So, yes, the Tide will, as has ofttimes been the case over the past five-plus years, be the favorite not only in the division but in the conference, despite the presence of East/SEC title winner Auburn.  The Tide is locked and loaded to bounce back from two straight losses to end the 2013 season by a squad that was viewed by some, including its head coach, to be an entitled bunch.  A pissed-off Saban with a legitimate agenda and loads of talent at his disposal entering a season is a dangerous proposition not just for the SEC but for college football as a whole.

2. Auburn (Last year: 12-2; lost to Florida State in BCS title game)
There’s no way around it, no way to tap-dance whilst whistling past the biggest question when it comes to AU football in 2014: did the Tigers use a couple of years (decades?) worth of luck in their magical, unexpected, inexplicable ride to the BCS title game?  Even the biggest homer out on The Plains would have to admit that the Tigers were “fortunate” to end the season where they did.  Of their 12 wins, six were decided by eight points or less.  In four games — Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama — they were trailing with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Georgia (“Prayer at Jordan-Hare“) and Alabama (“Kick-Six“) wins immediately earned nicknames for the sheer improbability of the endings.  There’s little doubt that Gus Malzahn has, very quickly, turned AU around from the three-win embarrassment that was the final season of Gene Chizik in 2012.  How much was sheer luck, the kind of once-a-decade (or two) happenstance that simply can’t repeat itself?  Regardless of the answer — I’m guessing the talent is sufficient so as to make the question moot — Malzahn’s Tigers will be one of the more fascinating squads to watch throughout the 2014 season.

3. LSU (Last year: 10-3; beat Iowa in Outback Bowl)
Eight times in Les Miles‘ 10 season on the bayou, the Tigers have won at least 10 games.  Included in that total is a streak of five straight.  Don’t expect that skein to be broken in 2015.   Gone is starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, leaving LSU with arguably the biggest question mark in the conference at the most important position.  Gone also are the top two receivers and leading rusher.  Back, though, are four offensive line starters and seven defensive starters.  Entering the fray as well is Leonard Fournette, one of the most hyped freshman running backs since Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene as a true freshman in Norman a decade ago.  Fournette has the type of ability that will allow whomever emerges from LSU’s quarterback competition to ease into the job.  Well, that and a defense that will be as physical and stifling as it always is.  The schedule makers also smiled on LSU, with its toughest road trip likely proving to be a Oct. 4 date with Auburn at Jordan-Hare, although a regular season-ending trip to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field won’t exactly be a cakewalk.

4. Ole Miss (Last year: 8-5; beat Georgia Tech in Music City Bowl) 
I was almost — almost — tempted to put the Rebels ahead of the Bayou Bengals, but simply couldn’t pull the trigger.  Ole Miss is the “trendy” sleeper pick heading into 2014, and for good reason.  There’s really not a lot to not like about the potential of the 2014 version of Hugh Freeze‘s 2014 Rebels.  They will, once again, possess one of the best offenses in the SEC to go along with a defense that, quietly, is one of the best in a defense-heavy conference.  The biggest hurdle the Rebels have is something completely out of their control: the division in which they reside.  Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the Rebels are just 2-6 against those four programs — a three-point home win against LSU last season and a win in 2012 against an Auburn team that would ultimately win three games and fire its head coach.  And that’s without even mentioning that Ole Miss has lost four of the last five Egg Bowls against in-state rival — and divisional foe — Mississippi State.  How Ole Miss can crack the Top Three the way the West is currently constituted is unclear.  What appears to be clear is that they have the head coach who could do just that, whether it be in 2014 or in the coming years.

5. Texas A&M (Last year: 9-4; beat Duke in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Where do we start?  You lose Johnny ManzielMike Evans, one of the best receivers in the country… the best left tackle in the game in Jake Matthews… myriad defensive contributors due to suspension/dismissals/other forms of attrition from a unit that was really bad in 2013… all of that, and it could be quite the season in College Station coming off the success that was A&M’s first two seasons in the SEC.  One known amidst the question marks is that Kevin Sumlin always fields a Top-10 offense as a head coach; even as just five starters on that side of the ball return, that shouldn’t change as Sumlin’s system remains a big consistent for the Aggies.  That defense, though, needs to step it up a level or eight so that the offense doesn’t have to outscore its expected unevenness on that side of the ball.  Games at South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn — the Gamecocks contest is the season opener — doesn’t bode well for the young but talented Aggies.

6. Mississippi State (Last year: 7-6; beat Rice in Liberty Bowl) 
MSU’s placement of second-to-last is not an indictment of Dan Mullens‘ football program, but merely an indicator of just how deep the West is.  If the Bulldogs were in the East, they could very well be the third-best team in the division.  Given their current football lot, they’ll continue to struggle to get past their in-division rivals.  Since going 5-7 in Mullens’ first season in 2009, MSU’s win total has ranged from seven (twice, including 2013) to nine (2010).  With 16 returning starters back, including nine on defense as well as one of the most experienced returning quarterback starters in the conference (Dak Prescott), MSU could and should very well get in that very same win range for a fifth consecutive season.  Whether that’s good enough for the fans and the administration remains to be seen.

7. Arkansas (Last year: 3-9)
In Bret Bielema‘s first season in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks won just three games; two of those wins came against FCS programs, the other against a Southern Miss team that was in the midst of what would become a 23-game losing streak.  UA ended the season on a nine-game losing streak, finishing up Year 1 of the Great Bielema Southern Experiment at 0-8 in SEC play.  Six of those nine losses came by at least 10 points, with two of them coming by a combined 97 points.  It was a rough first season for Bielema and his charges; it doesn’t expect to get much better in 2014.  The good news for Bielema and his coaching staff is that his boss, athletic director Jeff Long, is committed to them for the long haul; whether the long haul is three years or four years or even five years remains to be seen.  One thing is certain: Bielema has a helluva tough job ahead of him, cleaning up the mess left by the controversy-stained departure of Bobby Petrino and the lost 2012 season under John L. Smith.  Oh, and all the while sweeping the broom in the toughest division in any conference in the conference.  Yeah, good luck with that.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Alabama over South Carolina

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Two Oregon reserves to transfer

Oregon v Washington State

Oregon offensive lineman Jamal Prater and wide receiver B.J. Kelley have elected to transfer, as reported by Andrew Greif of The Oregonian on Thursday evening. The Ducks are set to open spring ball on Tuesday.

Playing time seems to be the reason for both players seeking new opportunities elsewhere.

Prater saw action in nine career games, while Kelley caught six passes and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and saw his playing time decrease from there.

“A lot of times I could have had an opportunity and I felt like I just didn’t get it,” Kelley told the paper. “I don’t regret being here at Oregon. There will never be another opportunity from what I’ve experienced. They can never take that back.”

The defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions have also lost offensive lineman Andre Yruretagoyena, wide receiver Chance Allen, defensive backs Stephen Amoako and Isaac Dixon and defensive lineman Sam Kamp to transfer since the end of last season.

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Want your SEC spring game schedule? Here’s your SEC spring game schedule

Jeremy Johnson

ESPN announced the 2015 SEC spring game schedule on Thursday. You are aware of the business relationship between the SEC and ESPN, aren’t you? Anyway, all 11 remainingSEC spring games (Kentucky and Texas A&M will not hold spring games, Vanderbilt’s was on Saturday) will be shown on SEC Network properties but, interestingly enough, none of them will actually be on SEC Network properties.

Instead, SEC Network+ – the digital home of SECN, basically the network’s version of ESPN3 – will show most games while SEC Network Alternate – the network’s overflow channel – will provide whip around coverage. All games will be shown on replay on SEC Network throughout the following week.

Here’s the schedule:

April 11
SEC Spring Whip Around (noon-4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
South Carolina (noon ET) – SEC Network+
Florida (12:30 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Ole Miss (1 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Georgia (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+

April 18
Mississippi State (noon ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
SEC Spring Whip Around (2-5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate
Auburn (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
LSU (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Alabama (3 p.m. ET) – SEC Network+
Missouri (5 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

April 25
Arkansas (2 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
Tennessee (4 p.m. ET) – SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+

Ironically, the creation of the SEC’s own conference-specific network has actually decreased the coverage of SEC spring games. In the past Alabama, Auburn, Florida and a few others regularly had their spring games shown on ESPN The Mothership or ESPNU. Now they’ll all be on the digital step-brother of a niche network.

Whatever. I’m sure the paychecks will help the SEC get over it.

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Stanford beats Harbaugh, USC for nation’s No. 2 QB recruit

KJ Costello

Here’s a fun dynamic playing out now that Jim Harbaugh is back in college football: the former Stanford head coach recruiting against his old program. It’s especially fun when the tug-of-war is over a quarterback. The inaugural battle completed Thursday with Harbaugh coming out on the losing end.

Stanford beat out Michigan and USC for K.J. Costello, a pro-style quarterback out of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Costello is a four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, rated as the nation’s No. 2 pro-style signal caller and the nation’s 25th-best overall player.

“I had to pick the one that was best for my future and that was Stanford,” Costello said after making his decision. “Stanford always felt like home for me from the beginning and I think it’s the best overall fit for me on and off the field.”I’ve been there three times and the last time I was there, I was really blown away. I got to spend a lot of times with all the coaches and sit down and get to know Coach Shaw really well. Coach Bloomgren and Coach Pritchard are great guys and coaches as well and I met a lot of the players and just really fit in and bonded with everyone.”

The hope here is that a Costello-led Stanford club meets a Harbaugh-led Michigan team in a future Rose Bowl. That one wouldn’t be interesting at all.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Mizzou to shell out nearly $5 million for guarantee games over next six years

DeJuan Rogers, Jimmie Hunt

The Columbia Tribune recently obtained the contracts for Missouri’s upcoming guarantee games and found that, like in every other walk of life, the cost of business is going up.

Here’s how the payments break down:

– vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 5, 2015: $385,000
– vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 10, 2016: $1.3 million
– vs. Missouri State, Sept. 2, 2017: $400,000
– vs. Idaho, Oct. 21, 2017: $1.3 million
– vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 21, 2019: $425,000
– vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 26, 2020: $1.1 million

Add it all up and you get $4.91 million for a half-dozen games.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that Missouri paid $700,000 total to bring in Murray State, Toledo and Arkansas State in 2013 (though the Tigers did make a return trip to Toledo the following year, likely keeping costs down). They’ll shell out nearly twice that just to bring Eastern Michigan to Columbia next season.

What’s pushing these prices up? Costs are going up for mid-majors from the MAC and Sun Belt. Oh, and they’re just as aware of the SEC TV deals as the rest of us.

“It’s indicative of the fact that your midmajor programs have greater needs from a financial standpoint,” Missouri executive associate athletics director Bryan Maggard told the paper. “And with TV, the revenues generated by all these networks that everybody’s aware of, it’s just driven the price up. I do believe the midmajor programs are looking to support their programs in the various needs — whether it be cost of attendance, things like that — through guarantee monies.”

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Ex-A&M Aggie Sebastian LaRue dismissed by Wazzu

Sebastian LaRue

It appears Sebastian LaRue‘s winding, twisting football path has taken yet another detour.

Wednesday, Washington State head coach Mike Leach revealed that LaRue has been dismissed from the Cougars football program, Rivals.com reported.  Other than the standard violation of unspecified team rules, no reason was given for Leach’s boot being applied to Larue’s backside.

Originally a four-star member of Texas A&M’s 2013 recruiting class, LaRue was rated as the No. 24 wide receiver in the country.  After playing in one game as a true freshman, and stating that he wanted to be closer to his home in Santa Monica, Calf., LaRue announced in January of 2014 that he would be transferring from A&M to Wazzu.

(For those curious, Pullman is roughly 1,150 miles from Santa Monica, while College Station is approximately 1,500)

LaRue ended up never playing a down for Wazzu as he was forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Entering the offseason, however, he was looked upon as a player who could’ve made a significant contribution to the Cougars’ defense after being moved to the secondary — perhaps even as a starter.

Wherever LaRue ends up next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Washington State athletics)

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Vols OL Coleman Thomas arrested on felony theft charge

Florida v Tennessee Getty Images

After relative quiet on the legal front the past few days, a member of the Tennessee Volunteers has broken that calm.

According to Jimmy Hyams of Knoxville WNML radio, UT offensive lineman Coleman Thomas was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to sell stolen property on the university’s campus.  No details, including the items involved or the specific charge or charges Thomas is facing, were divulged.

UT has yet to comment on what if any impact this will have on the sophomore moving forward.

As a true freshman last season, Coleman started five of the 11 games in which he played.  All five of those starts came at right tackle.

Coleman was a three-star member of the Vols’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 10 center in the country coming out of high school in Virginia.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Wes Rucker)

UPDATED: 4:33 p.m. ET: According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thomas was arrested on a felony theft charge after he allegedly stole an Xbox and three Xbox games from a fellow student.  The victim alleged that the theft occurred March 13.

From the News Sentinel:

Authorities discovered that the items had been sold later the same day to the Game Stop store at 6731 Clinton Highway. The cost to reimburse Game Stop was $176 according to the arrest report.

The stolen items were valued at $640 according to the report.

Coleman took part in UT’s first practice of the spring Tuesday, and even spoke to the media. It remains unclear if UT officials were aware of the incident prior to the reports surfacing.

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‘Jacked’ Hugh Freeze to serve as Talladega pace-car driver

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptmxn2q5zjm0mdu0mzayotflmzy5m2i1zdbkmdc2mwq3 AP

Once again, the biggest track in NASCAR is embracing the state’s love of college football, although this time with an individual outside of its boundaries.

According to Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will serve as the driver of the pace car for the May 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway. To say that Freeze, who is good friends with NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, is excited about the opportunity to lead the 43 stock cars to the green flag at 120 mph would be an understatement.

I am so jacked about that,” Freeze said according to Magee. “You have no idea, man. I love golf, fishing and NASCAR outside of my job and my family. That’s the three things I spend time doing.”

Freeze will be somewhat returning the favor to one driver in the field as Magee writes that “Stenhouse spoke to the Ole Miss football team prior to the 31-17 victory over Mississippi State on Nov. 29 in Oxford and helped Freeze lead the team onto the field.”  The photo in the upper right of the post shows Stenhouse, left in the white jacket, running alongside Freeze in leading the Rebels out prior to the Egg Bowl.

Freeze’s appearance in a couple of months continues a Talladega tradition that’s grown over the years.

In 2014, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn served in the same capacity as his SEC West counterpart will this year.  During the 2013 May race, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron served as the pace-car driver as well.  In 2012, Alabama legend Bear Bryant rode shotgun at the spring race.

And, while I’m here and given the subject matter, I’ll remind you that you can keep abreast of all of the latest racing news at both NASCARTalk and MotorSportsTalk. One other reminder? NASCAR will return to NBC Sports with the telecast of the race at the famed Daytona International Speedway Fourth of July weekend.

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NCAA ‘concerned’ over Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

When it comes to the state of Indiana, the NCAA and some of its membership have extensive ties to the area.  The Association is headquartered in the state, while the Big Ten annually holds its football championship game in Indianapolis.  This year, as it has in the past, the same city will host the men’s basketball Final Four.

How long those relationships with the state will continue, though, remains to be seen.

Thursday, CNN.com wrote, “Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law… a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of ‘religious freedom.'” The website went on to write that “[i]n a statement explaining his decision, [Pence] pointed to President Barack Obama‘s health care law — which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn’t required to cover birth control through its employees’ health insurance plans.”

Regardless of the motives behind the decision, the move to sign the bill has caught the attention of the NCAA, which in a statement attributed to president Mark Emmert suggested that its future dealings with the state could be in jeopardy.

The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.

The Big Ten has yet to issue a statement on the development, although one is expected in short order, perhaps as early as today.

The cry for sports at both the collegiate and professional levels to abandon the state has already started, however.  From Outsports.com:

The members of the LGBT Sports Coalition join a growing chorus for the NFL, NCAA, Big Ten, USA Diving, USA Gymnastics and others to move major sporting events away from Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence legalized discrimination.

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Harbaugh, UM staff to ‘guest coach’ at Alabama, Texas camps

Jim Harbaugh AP

If it’s good enough for James Franklin and Brian Kelly, it’s apparently good enough for Jim Harbaugh.

In an attempt last May to increase Penn State’s recruiting footprint, Franklin utilized a loophole that allowed he and his Nittany Lion staff to serve as “guest coaches” at high school football camps in Georgia and Florida.  The move, which sidesteps an NCAA rule that prohibits coaches from hosting camps outside of a 50-mile radius around their respective campuses, didn’t sit well with coaches in the SEC and was quickly emulated by the Notre Dame head coach.  Kelly also added the fertile Los Angeles recruiting grounds to his camping to-do list.

Fast-forward to today, with mlive.com reporting that Harbaugh and his Michigan staff will serve as “guest coaches” at a camp not only in SEC country, but they’re set to invade Big 12 territory as well.  In June, Harbaugh & Company will attend a camp in Prattville, Ala., on the 4th and then follow that up five days later by working one in Dallas, Tex.

As the population continues to trend away from the Midwest and toward the South and Southwest, it makes sense for the Harbaughs and Franklins and Kellys of the college football world to take every of advantage of the “loophole” to get their hooks into recruits from those talent-rich areas of the country — regardless of how many SEC and Big 12 coaches they piss off in the process.

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Gator RB Adam Lane comes clean, embraces bowl infamy

Birmingham Bowl - East Carolina v Florida Getty Images

Adam Lane‘s entire football future is ahead of him, but it’s what was behind him that has, thus far, landed him the most notoriety.

Entering Florida’s Birmingham Bowl appearance armed with 72 career rushing yards, Lane ripped off 109 yards and scored his first career touchdown in earning MVP honors.  It was around the time of that score where Lane, ummm, made his mark as he, well, pooped his drawers — and not in the metaphorically scared sense either.

Yes, the running back literally soiled himself at some point before/during/after the first-half score.

 

Instead of running away from the infamy of such a very public evacuation, Lane has chosen to embrace the rather odd way celebrity slammed into him.  I mean, he’s really embracing it.  And owning the shi… hell out of it.

It was the best thing that could have happened,” Lane said according to the Orlando Sentinel. “It got a lot of attention and just put me in a place where I was out there publicly and people knew who I was. I really didn’t get a lot of grief from it. A lot of people were really more focused on how well I did in the game than anything. I feel like it was that way because I embraced it.”

Good for him. There’s no reason for him to feel like crap over something that was simply an accidental act of answering nature’s call.

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Arizona, FSU potential landing spots for transferring ex-Irish center

BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

After beginning his collegiate career in the Midwest, Matt  Hegarty could be headed back West.  Or down South.  One of the two, probably.

Earlier this month, Hegarty announced that he would be transferring from Notre Dame and playing his final season elsewhere.  Last week, Hegarty visited Florida State.  Wednesday, the Arizona Daily Star reported, the offensive lineman took an unofficial visit to Arizona.

Hegarty, a four-star 2011 recruit, held offers from both schools coming out of high school in New Mexico.

Hegarty is scheduled to graduate from Notre Dame in May.  Because of that, and provided he enters into a grad program not offered at his old school, he would be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Regardless of where Hegarty ultimately lands, that team would be getting an experienced player for the interior of their offensive line.

Last season, Hegarty started 11 games at both center and guard. The year before, and because of an injury to Nick Martin, he made his first career start in the regular-season finale against Stanford, then followed that up with another start in the Pinstripe Bowl.

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Photo: Michigan TE coach Jay Harbaugh’s recruiting letter to a prospect’s girlfriend

Jim Harbaugh

In our continued effort to chronicle every step the Jim Harbaugh regime takes while in Ann Arbor, we bring you the time tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh sent an enthusiastic recruiting letter to a prospect’s girlfriend.

First, the backstory. The Wolverines are chasing Nasier Upshur, a four-star 2016 tight end prospect out of Philadelphia. Since they are recruiting Upshur, they are also recruiting his girlfriend, Savannah.

To be clear, Michigan is far from the first program to “recruit” a recruit’s girlfriend. Every staff in America attempts to get close to the people whom hold sway in that prospect’s mind. But dadgumit if they aren’t the most entertaining doing it.

(Helmet sticker: MLive.com)

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USC responds – harshly – to latest Reggie Bush investigation drama

Pat Haden

On Tuesday, the NCAA released 500 pages of documents – including some damning internal dialogue – related to the Reggie Bush investigation as part of a defamation lawsuit involving former Trojans running backs coach Todd McNair. The documents revealed those involved stepping well beyond the bounds of normal investigation protocol – including value judgments on the program’s hiring of Lane Kiffin as head coach.

Said committee member Rodney Uphoff (via the Los Angeles Times):

“Paul Dee was brought in at Miami to clean up a program with serious problems. USC has responded to its problems by bringing in Lane Kiffin,” committee member Rodney Uphoff wrote in an undated memo to other members of the group. “They need a wake-up call that doing things the wrong way will have serious consequences.”

Mind you, Lane Kiffin was hired as USC’s head coach in 2010, a full five years after Bush last played for the Trojans. The Trojan community long argued that the school’s response to the allegations – and mainly the actions of former athletic director Mike Garrett - dictated the investigation, not whether or not Bush actually violated NCAA rules.

And it appears they may have been right.

USC released a statement Wednesday expressing disappointment in the NCAA’s handling of the investigation:

After an initial review of this first set of documents unsealed by the court in the McNair v. NCAA lawsuit, it is evident that the content confirms bias against McNair and USC by and on behalf of the NCAA and its Committee on Infractions. We are extremely disappointed and dismayed at the way the NCAA investigated, judged and penalized our university throughout this process.  USC hopes that the transparency in this case will ultimately lead to review and changes so that all member institutions receive the fair and impartial treatment they deserve. 

It seems likely that there are additional documents that will come to light.  Once USC has had the opportunity to review all of the documents unsealed by the court, we will determine what further action is appropriate. 

Added athletic director Pat Haden: “These recent documents confirm what we’ve believed all along, that we were treated unfairly in this investigation and its penalties. I think these documents are cause for concern about the NCAA’s own institutional controls. It should be concerning to all schools that the NCAA didn’t appear to follow its own rules.”

We are now nearly a full decade removed from Bush’s Heisman Trophy exceptionally good 2005 season. Somehow, someway this case will still be in the news when Bush’s kids go to college.

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Iowa QB Jake Rudock permitted to transfer with “no strings attached”

Jake Rudock

Jake Rudock‘s future at Iowa – or, more accurately, lack thereof – became apparent in January when the Hawkeyes released a depth chart with C.J. Beathard in the all-important QB1 spot. On Wednesday, head coach Kirk Ferentz all but gave him his bus ticket out of town, allowing the senior-to-be to transfer with “no strings attached.”

“He’s exploring some other options at this point, with our support. Not our encouragement, but certainly our support. We’ll work through the process,” Ferentz told the Associated Press. “Until he decides what he’s going to do definitively, we’ll just keep him outside the program.”

Rudock was not listed on the Hawkeyes’ 2015 spring roster. His imminent transfer has been in the works for a week now.

Where will he end up? The smart money is on Michigan, where the quarterback-challenged Wolverine roster meets quarterback-friendly coach Jim Harbaugh, seemingly giving Rudock a nice opportunity to extend his career beyond college football. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported last week Rudock was expected to visit the Wolverines.

In the meantime, Rudock is permitted to use Iowa’s facilities even if he’s not practicing with the team. “He’s not banned from the building by any stretch, yet,” Ferentz told HawkCentral.com. “I think right now he just kind of has to finalize what his plans are going to be, and we’ll move from there.”

Rudock has completed 417-of-691 passes (60.3 percent) for 4,819 yards (7.0 per attempt) with 34 touchdowns against 18 interceptions while adding 394 yards and eight scores on the ground.

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Carl Pelini files defamation suit against former assistant

Carl Pelini

Carl Pelini resigned as Florida Atlantic’s head coach on Oct. 30, 2013 after admitting illegal drug use, then rescinded that resignation a week later. No matter. Three weeks after that, Florida Atlantic repealed his resignation and fired its former head coach with cause, officially for failure to report a staff member for using illegal drugs. (Then-defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis also resigned for using illegal drugs.)

Now, Pelini is going after the former assistant that turned him in.

According to Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated, Pelini filed a defamation lawsuit against former FAU defensive line coach Matt Edwards, seeking damages in excess of $25,000. (Edwards is now the defensive coordinator at Tiffin University in Ohio; Pelini was hired earlier this month as Youngstown State’s defensive line coach.) Pelini alleges that Edwards turned his then-boss in for using cocaine and marijuana after Pelini confronted Edwards about an alleged inappropriate relationship with a woman close to the program named Allison Stewart.

“It’s been a very frustrating time,” Pelini told SI. “An embarrassing time. There’s a lot of false information and misinformation out there. Everybody seems to have a theory as to what happened. I feel like this is going to be an opportunity for me to go under oath and state the facts as they really happened.”

Stewart reiterated her claim in a phone conversation with SI that she witness Pelini using drugs.

Pelini said he waited until landing a job on his brother Bo’s staff to file the suit because he didn’t want it getting in the way of any potential job prospects.

“People wonder why I’ve stayed quiet and not been more aggressive, but ultimately, I wanted to be hirable again,” he said. “I wanted to allow Youngstown State or any perspective employer to have some input on how I went forward. Different employers may have looked at it differently. I wanted to make sure this was approved before I went forward.”

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