Posts Tagged 'kentucky'

Spurrier’s Righteous Football Program

Steve Spurrier runs a tight ship....unless you peform on the field (google images)

Steve Spurrier runs a tight ship….unless you perform on the field.  News broke yesterday that South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team.  The “Old Ball Coach”  really put his foot down and sent a clear message to his players–if you are going to have off the-field-problems, your statistics had better be there…otherwise, you’re gone.

Garcia had more than his share of off-the-field.  Although the NCAA doesn’t keep the stat on their main board, Garcia’s unprecedented five suspensions has to be some kind of record.

Despite those suspensions, including his last documented on last spring indefinitely for causing a disturbance in a mandatory SEC players meeting which, ironically enough, centered around life choices for student athletes.  Even after that suspension, Garcia was promptly reinstated by Spurrier–just in the time for the opening of the 2011 season.

The troubled quarterback undoubtedly received a fair amount of lieniency, largely due to his productive season on the field last season.  In that sesason, Garcia threw for over 3,000 yards, completed 64% of his passes and had 20 touchdowns against 14 interceptions and led the Gamecocks to a SEC Championship Game–the first appearance ever by South Carolina.

Fast forward to this season, where Garcia has struggled mightily, throwing only four TDs and 9 interceptions with an unattractive completion percentage of 51%.  Couple that with sophomore backup QB Connor Shaw’s stellar performance last weekend against Kentucky, where he threw for over 300 yards with 4 TDs and no picks, and all of the sudden, Garcia’s off-the-field antics were viewed as much more detrimental to the team.

Spurrier taught his troubled quarterback a valuable life lesson this week.  Win football games and put up good stats, and you’re untouchable.  Should you lose a step on the field, however, and Spurrier will run his program with an iron fist.  You have to love a coach who prepares his young men for the harsh realities of the world–well done, coach.

College FootBlog 3rd & 1: Week 8

For the second consecutive week, College FootBlog rolls out our 3rd & 1 feature, which breaks down three observations from the college football action from the previous weekend.  And we finish by giving one key match up to look for in the upcoming week.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

1st:  Another week, another set of hangover games.   Last weekend, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell at South Carolina after thumping the hated Florida Gators the week before.  This weekend, Kentucky returned the favor.  Steve Spurrier took his Gamecocks into Lexington, and the Wildcats shocked them 31-28.  Not to be outdone, Oregon State lost a double-overtime thriller to Washington, just one week after knocking off previously undefeated Arizona.   

2nd:  Michigan QB Denard Robinson cannot take the punishment of a full Big Ten schedule.  Although Robinson is the most explosive player in college football, Rich Rodriguez has no other legitimate weapons on offense, making Robinson a one-man show.  Robinson is on pace for around 250 rushes this year–if his body can take it.  They need more production and more carries from their running backs to take some pressure off Robinson (RB Vincent Smith is second on the team in yards and carries and currently has nearly half the rushes (70) that Robinson has accumulated this season.  More importantly, Robinson, who is listed 6’0″ and only 188 lbs. does not have the body to take that many hits in the thick of the Big Ten schedule.

Wisconsin's bruising running back, John Clay took it to Ohio State this past weekend (google images)

3rd:  John Clay is the real deal.  The Big Ten’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, along with Wisconsin’s massive offensive line smacked Ohio State right in the mouth this weekend, en route to this season’s biggest upset as they took dominated the Buckeyes 31-18.  Clay led the Badgers’ ground assault with 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries (5.0 yards per carry).  Behind arguably the most physical offensive line in the country, the 255 lb. junior proved to be too much for a Ohio State defense that features seven players who could be playing in the NFL in the very near future.  Clay and fellow tailback James White will get another opportunity to shine on national television this upcoming weekend when they travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes.  If he has a similar performance against Iowa’s stout defense, Heisman voters will be forced to take notice.

…and 1:  Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert will get his first major test of 2010 this weekend when Oklahoma comes to town.  At 265 yards per game, Gabbert ranks 20th in the country.  Statistically, the Sooners defense has been far from stellar this season, but a closer look shows that Bob Stoops’ squad has brought their A-Game in their only two legitimate contests so far this season.  The Sooners shut down Florida State in week 2 and rattled Texas QB Garrett Gilbert in the Red River Rivalry game a couple of weeks ago.  Look for OU to come after Gabbert, who has battled through a hip injury.  The Sooners will bring it this upcoming weekend, and they will look to ruin Mizzou’s homecoming weekend on the national TV game of the week.

2010 College Football SEC East Preview

In the last two weeks, College FootBlog has unveiled our Preseason Rankings for the ACC and the Big Ten.  This week, we take our shot at the SEC in another two-part breakdown.  We start with the SEC East and we will roll out our SEC West breakdown later in the week.  The SEC has long been known for being the best conference in college football, and this year should be no different.  Here is how we see the rankings going into the summer:

Florida QB John Brantley will put up big numbers this fall, but he will need a physical RB to join him in the backfield in the red zone (google images).

1.  Florida:  The loss of Tebow will certainly hurt the Gators’ chances, but Florida fans will quickly realize that John Brantley is a much more polished passer than their former Heisman Trophy winner at QB.  Brantley has more arm strength and more accuracy, and with UF’s speed at wide receiver, he will put up big numbers this fall.  There are two unknowns for Florida going into the fall that have been strengths of the team the last three years–talent and experience on defense and short-yardage plays on offense.  The Gators lost some key players on defense, including DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes and big-play CB Joe Haden.  Urban Meyer has recruited with the best of them, but replacing those three impact players will be extremely difficult.  The issue that could cost the Gators a game or two this season is that without Tebow, they have no proven short-yardage running back.  With the goal line defenses in the SEC, that will likely cost them dearly in 2010 unless they find someone by August.  If they solve that problem, they will again be the team to beat in their division.

2.  Georgia:  The ‘Dawgs struggled with a conference record of 4-4 last season, but they have a lot of reasons for optimism in 2010.  Head coach Mark Richt will have a new defensive staff going into the fall, as the Bulldogs try to take a page out of Nick Saban’s book and institute the 3-4.  Even though it is an entirely different system, new D-coordinator Todd Grantham has some great players returning, headlined by NT DeAngelo Tyson.  After the spring workouts, Richt announced that Freshman QB Aaron Murray is first on the depth chart, but his inexperience should be offset by All-American WR candidate AJ Green and sophomore RB Washaun Ealey.  With the departure of Tebow from Florida, solid skill players on offense and a revamped defense, 2010 should be a year that UGA challenges Florida for a SEC Championship.

3.  South Carolina:  Steve Spurrier’s “Fun & Gun” offense has never quite materialized since he took over in Columbia, and last season was an offensive season he would like to forget, and much of those issues were due to a very bad offensive line that surrendered more sacks than any team in the SEC and were also dead last in rushing in the conference.  Spurrier brought in Shawn Elliot from Appalachian State to coach the offensive line.  That should help an O-line that can’t get any worse.  The good news for the Gamecocks is that they have some very talented skill players on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, quarterback Stephen Garcia threw for over 2,800 yards and 17 TDs, despite the poor play on the line in front of him.  Look for those numbers to improve behind a better running game.  Defensively, South Carolina returns several players from a defense that finished 15th nationally in total defense.  That defense and an improved line will result in more respect in Columbia this season.

After just one season in Knoxville, Lane Kiffin departed for USC and left the Vols high and dry in the thick of the recruiting season (google images)

4.  Tennessee:  The Vols lost several key players on defense, including NFL first rounder Eric Berry.  The lone bright spot on offense was running back Montario Hardesty, and he has left for the NFL.  Former five-star prospect Bryce Brown announced this past spring that he was leaving the program as well, leaving little in the cupboard for what was already an anemic offense. The key losses on both sides of the ball, in addition to all the coaching changing leave the Vols with an uphill battle this fall.  Now for the bad news.  New head coach Derek Dooley must clean up the mess that former coach Lane Kiffin left behind when he abruptly departed the Vols for USC, just weeks before National Signing Day, which put a major strain on recruiting. The Vols should still have the talent to compete in the SEC, but they are at least another year away from being a serious contender.

5.  Kentucky:  Joker Phillips officially moves from assistant coach to running the show this fall, and he will have his hands full.  The Wildcats must replace four starters on the offensive line and several key players on defense, including linebackers Sam Maxwell and Micah Johnson.  Quarterback Matt Hartline returns this year from injury and should have the upper hand for the starting job, but Morgan Newton, who started seven games last season has a legitimate shot at taking the starting role away during two-a-days.  With all the losses on both sides of the ball, it could be a tough season in Lexington.

6.  Vanderbilt:  If last year’s 2-10 season was any indication, it could be another long season for the Commodores this fall.  It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  Running back Warren Norman returns after being named last season’s SEC Freshman of the Year.  Also on offense, quarterback Jordan Rogers (brother of Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rogers) comes to Vandy after leading his junior college team to a Juco National Championship last season.  Rogers is expected to battle Larry Smith for the starting job.  Regardless of who lines up under center, the Commodores must improve their offense, which finished 110th nationally last season,  if they want to have a shot at a .500 season.

Check College FootBlog later this week for our breakdown of the SEC West!

Is Tebow Deserving of All of the Heisman Hype?

If you check the latest rankings for the favorites for this year’s Heisman Trophy, the name at the top of the list is Florida’s Tim Tebow.  While that does not pose as much of a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to college football the last four years, the statistics for Tebow and many others who are not on the watch list may be a bit of a surprise.

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Going into the 2009 season, the three favorites to bring home the coveted award were the top three finishers in last year’s voting, Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford from Oklahoma, Texas Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy and Tebow.

Bradford’s chances at a repeat fell dramatically when he was knocked out of the first game of the year and subsequently missed the next three games with a sprained shoulder.  McCoy has again put up solid numbers, but he has seen a bit of a dip slightly from his stats from a year ago.  McCoy could make a strong impression this weekend in front of a national television audience in the Red River Shootout against the hated Oklahoma Sooners, but as of now, he is second on the Heisman list to Tebow, according to most experts.

A closer look at Tebow’s stats this season, however,  begs the question:  Is the Heisman Trophy supposed to go to the best player or the most popular one?  While the Florida Gators have been the number one team in America since the preseason, Tebow’s stats are a far cry from elite, not only in the country, but in his conference and even in his own state.

Tebow’s 155 passing yards per game rank him 96th in the FBS, and eighth in his own conference.  In fact, the only great statistical game Tebow has managed was against Troy, where he completed four of his seven touchdowns on the year.  If you take out both cupcakes, Troy and lowly Charleston Southern, and focus on the three SEC opponents the Gators have faced (Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU), Tebow is averaging 124 yards passing a game with two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

On the ground, he is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 79 yards per game.  There are 59 quarterbacks in the FBS that are averaging more than that just in passing yards.  That is an average of 203 yards of total offense. 

Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen has led an Irish team with a very average defense to a 4-1 record this season.  He is averaging 308 yards per game with 12 TDs and two interceptions, and he has kept the Irish in every one of their games, including the last second, heart-breaking loss to Michigan in week two.  

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Until this week when ESPN’s Robert Smith discussed it, very few experts had mentioned Cincinnati’s Tony Pike as a threat.  Pike has led the Bearcats to a 5-0 start and is averaging  just under 300 yards per game through the air with 13 TD’s and only three interceptions.

What may be the most surprising is that Tebow is statistically a far cry from the being the best QB in the state of Florida.  Miami’s Jacory Harris has quietly led the Hurricanes to a 4-1 start.  Harris has been great in every game except the monsoon in Blacksburg when the Hokies held him to 150 yards.  In that game, not only did Harris face one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Bud Foster, he also had to deal with Mother Nature.  The entire game was played in monsoon-like conditions with steady rain and gusting winds.  Still, Harris has 25th in the nation in yards per game.

The other QB that may surprise a lot of people due to his team’s record is Florida State’s Christian Ponder.  Through the Bobby Bowden retirement soap opera and the ‘Noles’ travesty of a defense this season, many outside of Tallahassee have not recognized what the junior signal caller has done thus far. 

Ponder currently ranks 11th in passing yards per game with 9 TD’s and only one pick.  He has added another 123 yards on the ground and more importantly, Ponder has kept his team in every game this season, despite an inconsistent running game and one of the nation’s worst defenses.

Finally, ESPN has Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike and Jacory Harris on their watch list, but they may want to check the stats before the put Tebow on top again.  Unfortunately, the very mediocre stats will be downplayed by ESPN and the rest of the media and Tebow’s leadership and charisma will be brought up. 

What should be considered instead is who is the best college football player in the nation.  Who does more for his team and does more in big games?  The stats don’t lie, but if the season plays out like it has and the Heisman race plays out like it looks like it may, ESPN’s Erin Andrews may want to see if she still has eligibility left.  Her popularity may make her next year’s Heisman front-runner.