No Manziel, but Texas A&M not lacking in QB options

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Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has been rather fortunate when it comes to his starting quarterback situation over the years. Since first becoming a head coach at Houston in 2008 through the 2013 season, Sumlin has had to go in to a spring practice wondering who his starting quarterback will be for the fall just twice. That is a luxury most coaches rarely get to enjoy, and it is one not found in College Station, Texas as the Aggies wrap up their first full week of spring practices.

So, just who will get the chance to fill in the spot left vacant by Johnny Manziel, who has left to perhaps be one of the top picsk in the 2014 NFL Draft?

“Life after Johnny Manziel seems to be the growing theme around here,” Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said earlier this week, according to AggieSports.com. “But, I’ve been fortunate enough to have good quarterbacks everywhere I’ve been. And I’m looking for the next guy to come in to be their own man and step up and make a name for themselves.”

Aren’t we all? The Aggies will not have another player quite like Manziel, this much should go without saying, but they do have options to work with this spring and again in the summer training sessions leading up to the first kickoff of the season. Three players will be competing for the opportunity, but only one has any real experience to rely on. Senior quarterback Matt Joeckel is a more traditional pro-style quarterback, so he would certainly be a 180-degree flip in offensive style for the Aggies. Freshman Kyle Allen could be another option if the Aggies choose to go with a pro-style approach to the offense. Allen was a part of the most recent recruiting class but is already enrolled at Texas A&M. Joeckel has the experience, but Allen has the long-term potential. Sumlin has shown he has not been too timid when it comes to starting a young quarterback. Take his last two starting quarterbacks for example, Case Keenum at Houston and Manziel at Texas A&M.

One thing we learned while watching Manziel at Texas A&M is that it can serve well to have a player who can move around and make plays happen out of nowhere, or adjust on the fly. Maybe Joeckel or Allen could be capable of that, but the quarterback who has the dual-threat tendencies already is sophomore Kenny Hill. Hill was the fourth-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2013. If Sumlin wants to have a player who can open things up a bit, Hill may prove to be the best option available.

Whoever gets the eventual nod, a decision that may not come until much closer to the start of the new season, neither should worry about replacing Manziel. They each must embrace what they can do and try to stay within their abilities.

“I know the next guy to play is not going to be the next Johnny Manziel, but who knows, he’ll probably bring a different aspect to the game and he’ll probably be pretty good at what he does,” Spavital said. “There is no panic with me, the best thing is you gotta put him in the best position to succeed.”

LSU opens as double-digit favorites on Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.

Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released.  LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.  No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship.  Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1.  Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.

Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners.  Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.

The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.

LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004.  Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.

Arkansas confirms hiring of Georgia OL coach Sam Pittman as head coach

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When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.

Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman.  A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.

“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.

“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”

The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.  He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.

The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.

Mizzou zeroing in on Eli Drinkwitz as next head coach

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Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.

Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”

An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.

The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football.  App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.

Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.

Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock reportedly suffered ACL tear in SEC title game loss

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A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.

As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.

Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.