Make room: Urban joins Saban on the college coaching mountaintop

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Go ahead and make all of the “family” and “sabbatical” jokes you want; Urban Meyer will just continue winning football games and defying the detractors, thank you very much.

Entering the College Football Playoff title game, Meyer was already considered one of the best head coaches in college football. Exiting it, he’s cozied up side-by-side with the current king of college football coaching.

The resounding 45-20 win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff title game marked the third of Meyer’s career, with the first two coming at Florida.  The only other head coach in the history of college football to win national titles at two different schools?  Nick Saban, who’s won three at Alabama after winning one at LSU.

What sets Meyer apart from Saban, or anyone else for that matter, however, is this latest title.

Never once did Saban win a title at either school with a backup quarterback; Meyer’s third title came with his third quarterback of the year.  It was, simply put, one of the greatest coaching jobs in recent college football history.  Or ever.

And it wasn’t just overcoming the losses at such a key position.  There was the inexplicable loss on the field — double-digit defeat to Virginia Tech in Columbus — and an unbearable loss off of it — the suicide of walk-on Kosta Karageorge — that Meyer and his coaching staff were forced to navigate, each requiring different, nuanced approaches to get the team back on track and pointed toward what became an increasingly obtainable postseason goal.

Even coming into the season there were question marks, with the offensive line needing to replace four starters and the running game searching for a replacement for All-Big Ten running back Carlos Hyde.  At season’s end, OSU’s line was one of the best in the Big Ten if not the country while Ezekiel Elliott (76-696-8 in three postseason games) made fans say “Carlos who?”

Despite all of that tumult and turmoil, Meyer and the Buckeyes began the postseason by curb-stomping Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game, then beating the Nos. 1 (Alabama) and 2 (Oregon) playoff seeds to win the program’s first championship in a dozen years.  Viewed through the prism of a third-string quarterback, it was as epic of a run that you may ever see from a team that, from the inside, wasn’t really expected to do much even prior to Braxton Miller‘s injury.  As I wrote earlier, the scariest part for college football in general and the Big Ten specifically is that Meyer himself acknowledged during the early portion of the season this team was a year away from contending for a national title.

Instead, that internal plan was accelerated by a year in very public fashion, with Ohio State, given the copious number of returning talent, likely entering 2015 as the No. 1 team in the country.  And, after the way the 2014 season began, it’s astounding that statement can be made in anything other than jest.  After seeing the buzzsaw Meyer’s Buckeyes became, it’s anything but.

On the field, with the win in the semifinal, Meyer and Saban are now 2-2 in head-to-head meetings.  On the recruiting trail, where wins are nurtured and cultivated, Saban remains the king — but Meyer’s not far behind.

Provided this year’s class remains where it’s at, the Tide will pull in the No. 1 recruiting class for the seventh time in the last eighth cycles.  In Meyer’s first three years, the Buckeyes finished third (2014), second (2013) and fourth (2012); this year’s class is currently seventh, although it’s expected to be Top-Five in caliber by the time Signing Day rolls around next month.

Along with Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Meyer and Saban will continue to battle it out for years on the recruiting front.  How many years will that battle continue?

Saban is 63 years old, while Meyer is 50.  Both coaches are within reach of tying, or even surpassing, Bear Bryant‘s individual record of five national championships.  How long Saban wants to continue coaching remains to be seen, although it doesn’t appear that the desire will burn out anytime soon.  Perhaps, even, the ascension of Meyer and the Buckeyes will help that fire burn a little hotter.

Saban then Meyer, or Meyer then Saban?  I don’t really know; I’ll let others put one ahead of the other if that’s the tack they want to take.

What I do know is that they are both the best the game of college football has to offer right now, and are among the best in any sport.  Something else I know?  If I had a son, I’d want him to play for either coach.  That’s the highest compliment I can pay either man.

The coaching legacies will ultimately work themselves out, but there was one certainty prior to Monday night: if Meyer hadn’t caught Saban, he was nipping at his heels.  Post-Monday night? At bare minimum, Meyer has pulled up side-by-side with his former, current and future nemesis.

Let the debate rage.  Being nearly a decade and a half younger and after further bolstering the résumé to near-Nicktator proportions, though, it’s no longer a given that when somebody asks who the best coach in college football is, the name “Saban” is automatically blurted out.

Five-star Penn State WR Justin Shorter tweets transfer to Florida

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The Florida Gators football program is the latest to benefit from Ye Olde Transfer Portal.

In late November, Justin Shorter took the initial step in transferring from Penn State by entering the NCAA database.  Two months to the day later, the wide receiver took to Twitter to announce that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career as part of the Florida Gators football team.

As of yet, UF has not announced Shorter’s addition to the roster.

A five-star member of the Nittany Lions’ 2018 recruiting class, Shorter was rated as the No. 1 receiver in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of New Jersey; and the No. 8 recruit overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Only defensive end Micah Parsons was rated higher than Shorter in Franklin’s class that year.

Limited to four games as a true freshman in large part because of injuries, Shorter caught three passes for 20 yards in 2018.  In 11 games this season, Shorter caught 12 passes for 137 yards.

Barring the unexpected, Shorter will have to sit out the 2020 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.  He would then have two seasons of eligibility beginning in 2021.

World of college football reacts to tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, 13-year-old daughter in helicopter crash

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As is the case across the entire world of sports, college football is reacting to the devastating news involving Kobe Bryant.

Sunday morning, Bryant was one of nine people killed — initial reports had the number at five — in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on his way to a travel basketball event.  The former NBA superstar, who retired from the sport following the 2015-16 season, was 41.

Adding to the devastation, one of Bryant’s daughters, who was also a player on her father’s travel basketball team, 13-year-old Gianna Maria Bryant, was killed in the crash as well.

Kobe and Gianna are survived by wife/mother Vanessa and three daughters/sisters.  The oldest is 17, the youngest will turn one in June.

In the hours after the heartbreaking news was confirmed, the world of college football mourned the passing of Kobe Bryant. Below is just a sampling.

 

Georgia state rep. proposes pay-for-play legislation with a twist that will make no one happy

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Ever since California’s SB 206 passed last September, more than a dozen states followed with their own versions of the Golden State’s Fair Pay to Play Act, to go along with a number of concurrent pushes in Washington. No matter your stance on the pay-for-play issue or what side of the political aisle you sit on, it seems we can all agree that politicians are not the people to solve this issue, and yet the NCAA kept dragging its feet, and dragging its feet, and draaaaggging its feeetttt and, well, here we are. And Sandra Scott‘s bill a large reason why.

Scott, a state representative in Georgia (D-Rex) has introduced HB 766, a type of compromise bill that will make no one happy.

The appeal, at least from the outside, of California’s SB 206, is that it would allow college athletes to capitalize on their popularity during the lifetime of that popularity while costing the school very little money, since the money would come from third-parties.

Scott’s bill does neither. In fact, it goes out of its way to do the opposite.

According to HB 766, Georgia would require its schools to set aside a third of all monies earned in postseason play into an escrow account, which would then be given to players upon graduation.

Read for yourself below.

To recap, Scott’s bill would cost the schools millions of dollars and also shut out a lot of the players who generate those millions. Why should, say, Jake Fromm be barred from having a hand in the money he produced for Georgia just because he went pro?

In short, Scott’s (well-meaning) bill would anger both schools and athletes while continuing the overly paternalistic attitudes adults have adopted toward college athletes that applies to no other demographic in college sports.

Trey Holtz set to join father Skip’s staff at Louisiana Tech

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Coaching is the family business for the Holtz family, and now two of them will work under the same roof.

As first reported by Bleed Tech Blue, Louis Leo Holtz, Jr., better known as Skip Holtz, has hired Louis Leo Holtz III, better known as Trey Holtz. The younger Holtz will serve as Louisiana Tech’s wide receivers coach.

Trey Holtz played his college ball at Texas under Mack Brown and Charlie Strong. A reserve quarterback, Holtz appeared in 23 games as a holder in 2015-16.

He then moved into the family business at Ohio State, where he worked as a graduate assistant for the past three years. Holtz worked with the Buckeyes’ running backs and tight ends, but will now coach receivers for his father’s staff. He replaces Todd Fitch, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.

For the Holtz family, Skip hiring Trey is an act of history repeating itself. After serving as a GA at Florida State and Colorado State, Skip’s first full-time job came on his father Lou Holtz‘s staff as Notre Dame’s wide receivers coach in 1990. Skip was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1992 and became Connecticut’s head coach in 1994.