CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 5 Oklahoma

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-2 in Big 12 Conference (tied 2nd in conference)
2013 postseason: Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama (45-31 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 6/No. 6
Head coach: Bob Stoops (160-39 overall; 160-39 in 15 years at Oklahoma)
Co-offensive coordinators: Josh Heupel (9th year at Oklahoma) and Jay Norvell (6th year)
2013 offensive rankings: 18th rushing offense (223.9 ypg); 90th passing offense (199.1 ypg); 52nd total offense (423 ypg); 40th scoring offense (32.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: five
Defensive coordinator: Mike Stoops (eight years at Oklahoma)
2013 defensive rankings: 25th rushing defense (137.6 ypg); 30th passing defense (212.5 ypg);  20th total defense (350.2 ypg); 22nd scoring defense (22.1 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: nine
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Stadium: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82,112; grass)
Last conference title: 2012 (co-champions with Kansas State)

THE GOOD
The Sooners lay claim to the best defense in the Big 12 conference. The unit finished 20th overall in total defense last season, which is an impressive feat considering the wide-open offenses seen during conference play. The defense is led by outside linebacker Eric Striker. Striker is one of the most intimidating defenders in the country. Not only is the linebacker one of the most explosive edge rushers in college football, but the Sooners move him around throughout the game to keep offenses on their heels. It’s nearly impossible for an offense to key on a specific defender and set their blocking schemes if they don’t know where he’s going to be lined up on a down-by-down basis. The team’s linebackers as a whole are very talented. Leading tackler Frank Shannon won’t play this season due to suspension, but senior Geneo Grissom showed how dangerous he can be opposite Striker with 2.5 sacks against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. And inside linebacker Dominique Alexander was named the 2013 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Both starting cornerbacks return as does strong safety Quentin Hayes. The defense will also get a boost when the massive (6-6, 334) Jordan Phillips returns to the lineup as the starting nose tackle after missing the final 10 weeks of the season due to a back injury. The Sooners defense is talented, aggressive and experienced. Even if Oklahoma’s offense struggles during stretches, the defense is good enough to win games for them this season.

THE BAD
If the Sooners are going to be earn a spot in the first College Football Playoff, the team absolutely has to be more consistent at the quarterback position. Expectations are sky high for Trevor Knight (see: below) after his surprising and dominant performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Knight has to prove it wasn’t an one-game aberration. The most damning evidence against Oklahoma’s quarterbacks last year was finishing ninth (out of 10 teams) in the Big 12 in passing offense. The ability to stretch the field vertically opens up the rest of the offense, but Oklahoma was never able to do so last year until the bowl game. And for a quarterback to be able to open up the offense, he has to have reliable receivers. Junior wide receiver Sterling Shephard will have to develop into a No. 1 target after finishing second on the team last season with 51 receptions for 603 yards. The Sooners’ other projected starters at wide receiver, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods, combined to make 15 receptions for 205 yards. Consistency at quarterback and wide receiver will be the primary indicator of how successful the Sooners are in 2014.

THE UNKNOWN
The University of Oklahoma suspended two of the team’s most talented players in Shannon and running back Joe Mixon prior to the start of the season for the entirety of 2014 campaign. Plus, the team hoped Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham would be eligible to play this season. The NCAA denied Green-Beckam’s transfer waiver, and the wide receiver will have to wait until next year to make a mark with the Sooners…if he does at all. These are three very talented players that would have contributed plenty to the Sooners this season. Shannon was the team’s leading tackler in 2013. Sophomore Jordan Evans, who played in eight games last season as a true freshman, will take over for Shannon. The Sooners’ passing game will have to rely heavily on Shepard due to the lack of experience with the rest of the team’s wide receivers. Keith Ford and Alex Ross will split reps without the explosive Mixon being a part of the running back stable. Of the three, the junior linebacker’s suspension could prove to be the most problematic this season, while the team will simply have to wait another year to receive contributions from Mixon and Green-Beckham.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Tennessee
The scheduling within the Big 12 Conference is so underwhelming an one-loss Sooners’ squad might be the team on the outside looking in during the inaugural College Football Player. It’s quite possible Oklahoma will slip up at least once during Big 12 play. The reason the Tennessee game is so important is due to it being the team’s only non-conference game against a Power Five opponent. The Volunteers may have been 5-7 last season, but their affiliation with the SEC holds plenty of water. The game will be a test to see how Oklahoma stacks up against the best conference in college football. A resounding victory by Oklahoma will show the Sooners are superior to the SEC’s middle class. And it will leave a positive impression in the playoff committee’s collective mind as the Sooners attempt to navigate their treacherous conference schedule.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Trevor Knight
Knight made it look easy against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. The ball effortlessly flew out of the quarterback’s hand as he broke a Sugar Bowl record with 32 completions for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Knight’s performance in the bowl game leaves a lasting impression on Heisman voters and provides momentum as he enters his first season as a full-time starter. The reality, though, is Knight didn’t play well during the regular season. Knight won the starting job in fall camp last year only to hand the spot back to Blake Bell. Knight’s highest output in a single game before his explosion against Alabama was 171 passing yards. In fact, Knight only passed for 471 yards and five touchdowns during his previous eight appearances. But Knight’s Heisman candidacy is based purely on potential. If Knight can play at the same level seen against Alabama throughout the 2014 campaign, the Sooners will be one of the best teams in college football and the quarterback will be sitting in New York City waiting to hear his name called as the latest Heisman Trophy winner.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Syracuse mourns death of former head coach Frank Maloney, 79

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As too many programs have been doing of late, the extended Syracuse football family is mourning the loss of one of their own.

In a press release, Syracuse announced that former head football coach Frank Maloney has passed away, the family confirmed.  Maloney was 79 years old.

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Maloney died at his home in Chicago from complications of metastatic brain melanoma.

From 1974-1980, Maloney served as the Syracuse football head coach.  Maloney replaced Hall of Famer Ben Schwartzwalder, who retired after a quarter-century with the Orange following the 1973 season.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Maloney. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and former players,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement. “Coach Maloney led our football team during a time of transition, taking over the program after Coach Schwartzwalder’s 25-year tenure. He developed many young men, several of whom went on to very successful business careers and a number of talented players who went on to the NFL.”

Maloney played his college football at Michigan.  The West Virginia native’s coaching career began at his alma mater in 1968.  He spent six years at U-M before leaving to take over the Syracuse football program.

During his seven years with the Orange, Maloney went 32-46.

One fascinating aspect of Maloney’s tenure with Syracuse football?  The man Maloney replaced, Schwartzwalder, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.  The man who replaced Maloney, Dick MacPherson, was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 2009.

MacPherson was 86 when he passed away in August of 2008. Schwartzwalder died in 1993 at the age of 83.

‘The plan’ is for new Georgia OC Todd Monken to also coach QBs

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If there is a 2020 season, a new addition to Kirby Smart‘s Georgia football staff will have an additional title. As expected.

In mid-January, Georgia football confirmed reports that Todd Monken would be taking over as Smart’s offensive coordinator. Monken replaced James Coley, who remains with the program as assistant head coach.

Coley also served as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach. It was assumed, but never confirmed, that Monken would assume those duties as well.

During a conference call with Georgia football beat reporters Tuesday, Smart acknowledged that “the plan” is indeed for Monken, whose salary was also revealed Tuesday, to handle his squad’s quarterbacks.

The first — and only — time in Monken’s coaching career, which stretches back to 1989, that he coached quarterbacks was at Oklahoma State in 2011-12. He was also OSU’s offensive coordinator those two seasons.

Since then, Monken’s been a coordinator at two NFL stops (Tampa Buccaneers from 2016-18, Cleveland Browns in 2019) after he stepped down as the head coach at Southern Miss after three seasons.

If/when preparations for the 2020 season start back up, Monken will be working with a group of quarterbacks vying to replace Jake Fromm, the three-year starter who left early for the NFL. At the forefront of that battle will be Jamie Newman, who transferred into the Georgia football program from Wake Forest earlier this offseason. Barring something unexpected, Carson Beck, Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis will be fighting to be Newman’s backup.

Mathis, a touted 2019 four-star signee, missed all of the 2019 season because of a brain cyst. He was medically cleared to fully participate in spring practice.

Bennett served as Fromm’s primary backup in 2019, with the three-star 2019 signee completing 20-of-27 passes for 260 yards, two touchdowns and a pick as a true freshman. Beck was a four-star 2020 signee, rated as the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Georgia’s Dan Lanning becomes latest member of $1 million coordinator club

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Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is the latest member of college football’s $1 million coordinator club. And perhaps the news there is Georgia’s defensive coordinator was not — at least officially — in the $1 million coordinator club until Tuesday.

According to documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald, Lanning netted a $500,000 raise to $1.25 million per year. That nudges him ahead of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and his $1.1 million salary. James Coley made $950,000 in the same spot last year.

Lanning’s $1.25 million salary would place him 14th nationally among assistant coaches based on 2019 figures.

Georgia’s defense finished 2019 rated third nationally in total defense (275.7 yards per game), second in yards per play (4.29) and first in scoring (12.6) en route to a third consecutive SEC East title and a Sugar Bowl victory.

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity clarified with Tuesday’s news that all raises were agreed upon well before the coronavirus wrecked the economy.

“We were all making decisions like we were going to be full speed ahead,” McGarity said. “The key thing is from March 6, or whatever it was, forward, that to me is when the accountability really steps up. It could be, what does your horizon look like in the future? What happened before then I think is kind of irrelevant. It wasn’t in this world we’re in now.”

Additionally, co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann and defensive line coach Tray Smith will each earn $600,000 in 2020, while director of player development Jonas Jennings saw his pay grow by $100,000 to $406,000.

Lawsuit details Kansas’ plan to fire David Beaty, hire Les Miles well before 2018 season

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Though he was allowed to finish out the season, David Beaty was officially fired as Kansas’ head coach on Nov. 4, 2018. Turns out, he was effectively fired before the season even started.

According to testimony provided in an ongoing lawsuit brought by Beaty against his former employer, Kansas AD Jeff Long had determined before the 2018 season that he would fire Beaty and hire Les Miles.

In testimony obtained by the Kansas City StarMatt Baty, one of the chief fundraisers in the KU athletics department, testified Long had determined by that August he would can Beaty at the first opportunity, and the administration turned to rooting against the football team in order to execute Long’s plan:

“I think it would be — if the football program had success that year, it would make it — our jobs more difficult to fire David Beaty,” Baty said in sworn testimony.

The lawsuit also brought to light that Kansas began negotiations to create what became an ESPN+ series titled “Miles to Go” well before Miles was hired, and while Beaty was still employed.

Miles was hired Nov. 18, five days before KU’s 2018 finale.

Beaty’s camp has for months alleged Kansas attempted to find a “dead hooker” in Beaty’s closet in an effort to avoid paying his $3 million buyout, which is the genesis for the lawsuit and the source of Long’s dirty laundry.

The deposition detailed that KU deputy AD for external engagement Chris Freet was indeed tasked with digging up dirt of a possible extramarital affair against Beaty, but Baty testified that Long has more of a skeleton in his closet than Beaty. From the Star:

Baty also testified that he heard Long make inappropriate and inflammatory sexual remarks about an elderly female donor to whom Long was prepared to make “a generous ask” financially. Baty also testified that Long made a comment about wanting a hotel room adjacent to where a female school staffer was staying, which Baty in context understood to be a sexual remark.

“As a general rule, the university does not comment on pending legal matters. However, in this instance, we feel compelled to note that Mr. Baty’s deposition is full of outright fabrications, lies and false attributions,” said Dan Beckler, KU associate athletic director for public relations. “As we have said all along, we are confident this matter will be appropriately resolved in court.”

Aside from what did or did not go on in Long and Beaty’s personal lives, Long based his legal argument for denying Beaty’s $3 million buyout around supposed evidence the athletics department had that Beaty was aware his staff committed NCAA violations by having non-countable coaches perform official coaching duties. However, Beaty’s camp alleged that Long was aware of similar behavior committed by Miles’ staff but was not concerned.

Beaty’s lawyer Michael Lyons pressed Long repeatedly about video clips of game footage from the 2019 season, coached by Miles, showing Long numerous snippets of non-countable KU coaches interacting with players and coaches on the sideline.

The first was from KU’s third game against Boston College, which showed then-offensive analyst Josh Eargle flipping through Miles’ play sheet and pointing to something on it. An analyst, by NCAA rules, cannot “make or assist in making tactical decisions related to the sport during on-court or on-field practice or competition.”

Long stated he disagreed with the assumption that Eargle was committing a coaching act in the specific clip, and later claimed he instituted moves to prevent such confusion in the future.