Few teams have the luxury of simply reloading during the spring in the transition from one year to the next like Alabama. Years of top-notch recruiting have allowed Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide to focus on restacking the deck rather than rebuilding on a regular basis. Alabama is still one of the betting favorites to win the SEC and will very likely be ranked highly in the preseason polls once again. Despite all of that, which has become the norm for the Tide under Saban, for the second straight spring Alabama will be faced with a question about the starting quarterback.
Who’s it going to be?
Among the candidates vying for the job of replacing Blake Sims starting this spring are Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Alec Morris and, yes, Jake Coker. Coker, a former transfer from Florida State, had many suspecting he would be the leading candidate for the starting job at Alabama last season, but Sims grabbed a firm hold of the job pretty early on and never let go. That worked out well for Alabama, Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Now the work begins to find the next starting quarterback for the Tide. Could Coker come back and be the leading candidate for the job this spring?
You can also throw in freshman early enrollee Blake Barnett, one of the top quarterback recruits Saban has recruited to Alabama. Although Saban may have a knack for not giving control of the offense on the field to a true freshman, Barnett has been eager to get started with his preparation for the spring and show he is capable of handling the job. While he may be considered the future quarterback for the Crimson Tide, even he realizes he may have to wait for his time to come.
Saban, perhaps in typical Saban fashion, is not ruling it out the possibility Barnett steps in sooner than you might think.
“I wouldn’t rule that out at all,” Saban said recently, according to ESPN.com. “If he’s the best player, why would we not play him? That’s like saying a guy is from California, so we should not play him because he’s from California.”
There is no question Saban will put the players he feels give Alabama the best chance to succeed on the field at any position. If Barnett puts together a strong spring, then the conversation will not take long to heat up in Tuscaloosa. With the new College Football Playoff format in place, Alabama and any other top program has a little extra breathing room to allow for some experimentation, but Saban is not going to take long to stick to his gut when it comes time to making a quarterback decision and he will likely stick to it. It worked out with A.J. McCarron and it worked out with Sims.
So who’s next?
Missouri may not have to leave the Ozark’s to find their next head coach according to one report tracking the school’s coaching search.
As per FootballScoop, Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson has emerged as a “strong candidate” to take over as Tigers head coach for the recently fired Barry Odom. Notably, the report also notes that the former has also hired powerful agent and noted SEC powerbroker Jimmy Sexton to represent him as well.
Anderson made headlines this past year for the way he dealt with the tragic passing of his wife, Wendy, in August.
The 50-year-old has coached all over the region and unlike Odom has an offensive background. He’s brought stability to the Red Wolves after they went through several coaches who stayed just one year and has posted a 46-30 mark over six seasons. He’s also won two league titles in the Sun Belt and made the program a regular in competing for the West Division.
It remains to be seen just who AD Jim Sterk will go with in Columbia but news of a select number of preferred candidates getting out is likely to be a good sign that the search is narrowing in on a handful of names as the pressure to close a deal before the rapidly approaching early signing period takes place.
There may be two head coach openings in the AAC eventually this offseason but for now, there’s just one at USF.
That’s the result of Tulsa confirming to the Tulsa World that head coach Philip Montgomery would return to the Golden Hurricane in 2020 despite going 4-8 this past season.
“This football program has enjoyed a lot of success over the last 15 years in particular — 10 bowl games in the last 15 years — but we haven’t been bowl-eligible the past three consecutive years,” AD Derrick Gragg said Thursday. “Everyone involved finds that unacceptable.
“Going forward, we do feel confident that Philip Montgomery is the coach who can get us back to championship-level football. He’s had the program at that level and competed for a division championship (in 2016). But we expect to be bowl-eligible at the base of it as far as a goal program-wise.”
While you famously are what your record says, there’s little doubt that Tulsa was way more competitive than their four wins showed. They were a few missed field goals away from knocking off both Memphis and SMU, each of which won 10 teams this year. They also upset UCF at home and thumped East Carolina to close out 2019 on a high note.
Montgomery has two seasons left on his contract and buying him out of those would have proven to be expensive for a school that generally doesn’t have a ton of money to spend. The stronger showing this season combined with the buyout figure likely made it a pretty easy decision to keep the coaching staff in place going forward.
As Gragg noted though, the bar has already been set for 2020 at a bowl game or bust going forward.
When you’re spending $17+ million to buyout the head coach, what’s another six-figures?
That’s the case at Florida State, where the school on Thursday released their contract with the search firm DHR International to reporters. As noted by the Tampa Bay Times, that includes a $100,000 flat fee as part of the deal and an interesting clause that states they’ll get a free search if, for any reason, the next head coach is let go within the two years.
The firm was retained by university brass last month to assist with the replacement of recently fired head coach Willie Taggart.
“Glenn (Sugiyama) has been outstanding in assisting with our coaching search,” FSU athletic director David Coburn said in a statement. “We appreciate his professionalism, and we have benefitted from the breadth of his relationships throughout the industry. His work has been invaluable.”
Unlike many of his peers going through searches, Coburn has little experience in athletics prior to taking his current position and the high profile nature of replacing Taggart makes the use of a search firm quite understandable — even with the hefty fee in place.
Various reports in and around Tallahassee have pointed to Memphis head coach Mike Norvell as one of the favorites to take over the program following the AAC title game on Saturday.
Most of the political world may be focused on the upcoming Democratic debates this month but for a slice of the college football world, no debate looms larger than the one concerning who gets the automatic Group of Five bid to the New Year’s Six.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been on a media blitz recently to sump for his league the past two weeks, appearing on a variety of outlets as diverse as Bloomberg to the regular national radio and talk shows that dot the landscape. His message is a pretty simple one that he backs up with plenty of strength of schedule arguments but is essentially: the winner of Saturday’s Memphis-Cincinnati game should get the invite regardless what happens elsewhere.
The Tigers have been the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s top-ranked Group of Five team recently and likely sit with a win-and-in scenario. The question is though, what happens if the two-loss Bearcats emerge victorious?
That’s what fans of Boise State and Appalachian State are hoping for as both, if they win their respective conference title games, will be positioned to grab the bit in a close race with the AAC winner.
Now it appears that both the MWC and Sun Belt commissioners are joining Aresco in getting their talking points out in hopes that they somehow make their way to the committee’s ears.
“I am disappointed that Appalachian State is not ranked higher,” Sun Belt commish Keith Gill told The Athletic this week. “They are 11-1, 6-0 on the road, the only Group of 5 team to beat two Autonomy 5 teams on the road, and I believe that their body of work deserves more respect.”
“We just let the results kind of speak for themselves,” MWC counterpart Craig Thompson added. “I think we’ve done enough. When it really gets down to it, it’s the people in the room at the Gaylord in Texas (the CFP committee) that’ll make the determination. So as long as we’re stating our case, everything else is kind of superfluous. It really doesn’t matter what others think. It’s those people that are raising their hand”
While neither are quite beating the drum like their AAC counterpart, it’s clear there’s going to be plenty of campaigning for the elusive spot — and the hefty revenue bump that comes with it — from now until Sunday.