Posts Tagged 'tennessee'

College FootBlog Week 6 Recap

Mark Richt may have gotten himself off the hotseat last weekend (photo courtesy of blogs.ajc.com)

Week 6 of the college football season is in the books, and once again, College FootBlog brings you a complete recap of the week that was.  Check out our breakdown of five key bits of info you can’t do without as we continue through the 2011 college football season.

No Florida Schools in the Top 25: Florida State was supposed to be the bell cow of the ACC and the state of Florida in 2011, but after suffering their third straight loss to Wake Forest last weekend, the ‘Noles are out of the top 25.  Much hype was surrounding the Florida Gators, but back to back games against Alabama and LSU would be enough to drop anyone.  The Gators were hammered 41-11 by LSU, and the second-straight loss was too much to keep them in the rankings as well.  Miami, USF and UCF have all been mentioned in the top 25 at different points this season, but all have lost critical games this season, and all are on the outside of the polls looking in.

Red River Blowout:  Many (including myself) thought Texas was way overrated coming into this game–the Longhorns were ranked as the #11 team in the nation, but very few predicted the kind of beat down the Sooners would deliver last weekend.  The OU defense outscored Texas in this one, accounting for three touchdowns.  The fast-paced OU offense did their damage as well, on their way to a 55-17 blowout victory for Oklahoma.

Michigan off to the quietest 6-0 start in history: The dominance of Wisconsin and the implosion of Ohio State have been the main topics of discussion this season in the Big Ten.  That has overshadowed a fantastic start by first year head coach Brady Hoke’s perfect start in 2011.  Hoke has done a lot with very little, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but the Wolverines aren’t getting much love.  A win at rival Michigan State this weekend would not only make the Wolverines bowl eligible in mid-October, it would also serve as notice to the college football world that, while Michigan is still not a top 10 team, Hoke has cleaned up Rich Rod’s mess much faster than anyone could have imagined.

Mark Richt gets 100th win: After starting the 2011 season with a loss against Boise State and a heart-breaker at home to South Carolina in week 2, the Bulldogs won their third straight game last weekend at Tennessee.  The win was head coach Mark Richt’s 100th as a head coach in Athens.  Richt, who came into this season on the hot seat, has Georgia playing better than any team in the SEC East.  A win against rival Florida on October 29th could buy him an extra year and vault the Dawgs into an SEC Championship Game.

In a stunning revelation, Ohio State is the “poster child” of compliance:  I was under the impression that massive suspensions of key players, the untimely departure of a hall of fame coach amid controversy, inappropriate dealings with boosters and free tattoos and gifts from a known Columbus drug dealer were signs that an athletic program wasn’t keeping very good tabs on its student-athletes.  Fortunately, for people like me, who were completely misunderstanding the situation at OSU, their president Gordon Gee took the liberty of clearing up that slight misconception.  Gee informed the Ohio State faculty last week that OSU is the “poster child” of compliance.  In the wake of that announcement, Charlie Sheen is expected to announce that he is the poster child of child care, Lindsay Lohan is expected to announce that she is the poster child of sobriety, and Carrot Top is expected to claim he is the poster child of comedy.

Do Unto Others…

Do unto others what you would have them done to you–the Golden Rule.  It has applied and held true since the beginning of time, and continues to be a part of every day life to this day.  Just ask former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Bruce Pearl will no longer need his Tennessee Orange sport coat (google images)

Pearl was fired this week, amid an NCAA investigation that he lied and misled the NCAA.  Pearl admitted to lying to the NCAA and has been very up front with the media and fans that he was wrong and any punishment he incurs is due to his mistakes.

If you feel like Pearl got a bad wrap for this recent incident that ultimately cost him his job, think again.  While I have been (and will continue to be) critical of the NCAA and some of their rules and decisions, it could be argued that Pearl got a nice dose of karma over the last year.

To most basketball fans, Pearl is known for the charismatic coach that has a great relationship with the media and has embraced the success of legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt, even showing up at one game in body paint to cheer with the students for the Lady Vols.

A closer look at Pearl’s past, however, shows a completed different side of the former head coach.  Back in 1989, Pearl was an assistant coach at Iowa.  Pearl, known for being a great recruiter, was involved in the recruitment of blue chip recruit Deon Thomas, who was Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois.

When Pearl lost the prized recruit to rival Illinois, without Thomas’ permission or knowledge, Pearl recorded a phone conversation with Thomas that bordered on entrapment.  In the conversation, Pearl coaxed the star recruit into allegedly admitting that he was offered a Chevy Blazer if he signed to play for the Illini. 

Pearl promptly submitted the recorded conversation, along with a memo to the NCAA.  Thomas would later tell investigators that he said the things he said to get Pearl off the phone with him, and after going as far as taking a polygraph, it was determined that Thomas was telling the truth, when he told investigators that he was not offered the vehicle.

Still, the damage was done.  When the NCAA investigates nearly any major athletic program, they’re going to find something.  I mean, let’s face it–any team that is competitive at the major revenue-producing sports of football and basketball is, at the very least, pushing the envelope and testing the grey areas of the NCAA rules.  Illinois was no different.  Although the investigation into Illinois found no violations with this particular issue with Thomas, it uncovered other minor violations, and a major violation in 1990.

Fast forward twenty years.  In case you haven’t been following Pearl’s struggle with the NCAA for the last several months, we will fill you in on why he was questioned by the NCAA in the first place.  Recruiting violations.  

Do unto others….well, you know the rest, right?

NFL QBs: Here’s to the Underdogs

For the elite high school quarterbacks in the country, the opportunity to play quarterback at one of the bigtime college football programs is a dream come true.  One major factor in making the final decision on which program gets the signature on the letter of intent is the degree to which that individual player will be prepared for the next level (the NFL).

The high-powered programs like Florida, Oklahoma, Miami and USC are just a few of the major BSC schools that elite high school quarterbacks consider, and why not?  These teams are known for their juggernaut offenses, and they are consistently in the hunt for a national championship.  College FootBlog takes a deeper look into the progress of the top performing quarterbacks from the NFL and where those QBs played their college ball.

Drew Brees has continued to relish the underdog role in the NFL, much like he did when he played QB at Purdue (google images)

If you are a coach or a parent of an elite QB, the you may want to take a hard look at the numbers because you’ll probably be very surprised.  For a number of reasons, which we will cover later, the major programs typically do not groom their top-tier signal callers for the NFL.  Let’s take a look at the passer ratings from the last season.

Of the top ten quarterback ratings, only two, Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Tom Brady (Michigan) went to perineal BCS power houses, and Manning was ranked sixth, with Brady at #9. 

Purdue’s Drew Brees was the Superbowl MVP and the top-rated QB in the NFL last year, with a QB Rating of 109.6.  Brett Favre was a close second and is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and he played at Southern Miss.  

Phillip Rivers was the 3rd-ranked QB last year and has been a dominant player since his arrival in 2004, but NC State is not exactly known as Quarterback-U.  Aaron Rodgers was #4 and played at Cal, which doesn’t have the glamor of USC, but he outperformed his former rivals from LA last season.  Matt Schaub was ranked seventh and hails from the University of Virginia. 

The other three QBs in the top ten really dispel the idea that you have to go to a bigtime program to prepare for the NFL.   Fifth-ranked Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami–no, not that ‘Miami’…Miami of Ohio.  Eighth-ranked Tony Romo and 10th-ranked Kurt Warner played Division IAA (or FCS for those who are up on the new abbreviations) at Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa, respectively.

Now, let’s take a look at the lowest ranked QBs from last year’s NFL season.  Five of the worst eight QBs in the NFL last season were from major programs, including #32 (the worst) first-round bust JaMarcus Russell from LSU.  Former USC quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez were numbers 25 and 28.

Former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn came in at #27 and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled in his first season out of the University of Georgia, ranking 29th.

When digging into the numbers it really should not come as a huge surprise.  Afterall, the quarterbacks at the major programs typically have a bigtime advantage with their receiving corps versus the opposing secondaries.  For example, in Stafford’s last season at Georgia, he had 6’2″ and 2nd round pick Mohamed Massaquoi and soon to be first rounder AJ Green, who is 6’4″ and could be the best wideout in the country this year.

Even in the SEC, which is widely known for being the best conference in college football, the dominant programs have bigger, faster and stronger WRs, creating bigger windows to throw into and much more room for error. 

In the NFL, it is typically the cornerbacks that are the fastest players on the field, and while they may be at a disadvantage in size, the talent pool is much smaller, and those large windows to complete passes are not only smaller, but they also close very quickly.  In the NFL, a ball delivered a split-second too early or too late is the difference between a completion and a pick-six for the defense.

The QBs at the lesser-known programs have to deal with a more balanced and level playing field and often do not have this colossal advantage with their receivers, forcing them to make better reads and to thread the needle, instead of throwing to an area.

In the end, there are a few low-ranked QBs that could easily turn things around.  After all, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford were only rookies last season, but the trend is quite staggering when you take away all the glamor and simply look at production on the field.  For the time being (and seemingly for the immediate future), it is the underdogs that continue to lead the way.

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!

NFL Combine Big Winners and Losers

Each year, millions of dollars are at stake in Indianapolis, as top college players take part in testing and interviews at the NFL Combine.  Depending on their performances over the four-day period, these young men can literally make or lose millions of dollars based on what they show NFL scouts in this short amount of time.

This year was no different from years past as a few individuals improved their stock, while others likely took major hits to their wallets.  College FootBlog breaks down six of the biggest winners and three of the biggest losers based on their combine performances.

Winners

Jacoby Ford posted the Combine's top forty time at 4.28 seconds (google images)

1.  Jacoby Ford (WR/Clemson):  Ford stole the show on the wideout day, posting a ridiculous forty time of 4.28.  At 5’9″ and 186 lbs, many experts had him pegged in the later rounds of the draft.  Ford helped his stock even more by running very crisp routes, negating the criticism that he was just a return man.  With his performance in the receiver drills and his forty time, Ford is now drawing comparisons to Carolina Panther All-Pro Steve Smith.

2.  Taylor Mays (Safety/USC):  Mays was already tabbed as a first rounder, but his 4.43 time in the forty may have moved him into the top 10.  Mays has made a steady climb since the Senior Bowl, where he intercepted a pass in the game, showing critics that he is only a big hitter that he can also perform in coverage.

3.  Jahvid Best ( RB/Cal):  Best was right in the thick of the Heisman race before he was forced to miss several games due to a concussion.  His speed has been well-documented–Best was the California state champion in the 100-meter dash as a senior with a blistering time of 10.31 seconds.  That speed was on display for the pro scouts at the combine as Best posted the top time for all running backs, edging CJ Spiller by 0.02 seconds with a time of 4.35.

4.  Eric Berry (Safety/Tennessee):  Berry also showed out in the forty-yard dash, posting an official time of 4.47.  Like Mays, Berry was already considered a first rounder, but the versatile defensive back showed a lot of confidence and great hips and change of direction in the combine drills.  That, in addition to playing for defensive guru Monte Kiffin should result in a nice payday for him next month.

5.  Sean Weatherspoon (ILB/Missouri):  Weatherspoon continues to see his stock soar as he ran a 4.68 forty, which is very respectable for a middle linebacker.  He also did an unbelievable 34 reps of 225 lbs in the bench press.   This strong performance combined with his dominance in the Senior Bowl, where Weatherspoon showed cover skills to compliment his ability to close holes and make tackles will only help his stock.

6.  Dekoda Watson (Linebacker/Florida St.):  Watson ran a 4.52 forty and is now up to 240 lbs.  FSU’s defensive captain from 2009 battled minor injuries throughout his career, but his speed off the edge and his improved muscle mass should help the OLB move higher in the third round or potentially crack the late second round.

Losers

Joe Haden's slow forty time likely dropped him out of the Top 10 in next months draft (google images)

1.  Joe Haden (CB/Florida):  Haden was widely considered the to DB in the draft this year, but his stock took a major hit at the combine, as he posted a very unimpressive 4.57 and followed that time up with a 4.60.  Despite all the great film of Haden from his dominant days at Florida, this slow time will have a major impact on his stock. 

2.  LeGarrette Blount  (RB/Oregon):  Blount was already fighting an uphill battle due to his actions in the 2009 opener against Boise State when he KO’d Byron Hout and then had to be held back by coaches and teammates from going into the crowd to fight fans.  After a solid performance at the Senior Bowl, Blount showed up at the combine looking like he was carrying some extra, unnecessary weight. 

That proved to be the case when he clocked in at 4.62 and 4.69 in the forty.  His 241-pound frame should help his cause, but even for a big back, 4.62 is not a solid time.  Blount could have offset the less than stellar forty time with the bench press, but he managed 19 reps of 225 lbs, which is okay, but not spectacular.

3.  Tony Pike (QB/Cincinnati):  Pike was on a lot of scouts’ radar going into this season, but after a rather unimpressive performance at the Senior Bowl, he had a lot to gain going into the combine.  After the combine, he likely dropped even lower.  Pike took part in throwing drills and many scouts were unimpressed with his arm strength.  Pike, who is not a physical specimen, will have to hope for a third round selection.

Which Kiffin was the Biggest Hire?

Lane Kiffin is known for making headlines, often times for the wrong reasons.  He was cited for several minor recruiting violations last year at Tennessee.  USC has had their share of negative media attention since the departure of Reggie Bush and the suspicious events that surrounded his parents’ home and its connection with a sports agent.

Monte Kiffin will once again be roaming the sidelines with his son in 2010 (google images)

Even with the numerous allegations of possible violations from the NCAA, combined with the departure of legendary recruiter Pete Carroll, the USC Trojans still put one of the top (if not the top) recruiting classes in the country a few weeks ago. 

 Carroll was as good of a defensive mind that USC had ever seen, but with all due respect, Carroll does not have an entire defensive scheme named after him. 

Enter Monte Kiffin, who created the “Tampa 2” defense during his tenure as defensive coordinator for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The acquisition of his son, Lane Kiffin as the head coach was not nearly as impactful as Monte as the defensive coordinator. 

If there were any questions of whether or not the elder Kiffin could translate his success to the college level, there is no doubt now.  Monte’s defense at the University of Tennessee was not only one of the best in the SEC, it was among the nation’s elite, ranking 22nd in total defense and 12th overall against the pass.

Despite the loss of several key starters on defense, including four-year starter and projected first round draft pick Taylor Mays, the Trojans have plenty of talent and depth for Kiffin to work with. 

The inexperience and injuries to the linebacker corps really hurt the Trojans last year, and let’s face it–they placed three linebackers in the first day of the last year’s NFL Draft.  Even with the plethora of athletes that USC has, replacing three NFL players (all of whom saw significant playing time as rookies). 

If there was a silver lining to the departure of Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga did allow Chris Galippo, Devon Kennard and Malcolm Smith to get valuable experience last season.   If they can stay healthy, especially at linebacker, look for the Southern Cal defense to very good in 2010, but they could be downright scary in 2011, after the Kiffins have two recruiting classes under their belts.

When it’s all said and done, it could be Monte, not Lane, that puts USC back in the hunt for a Pac 10 title and a National Championship.

College Football National Signing Day Recap

College Football’s National Signing Day for 2010 is now officially in the books.  In this edition, College FootBlog will take a look at a few teams that were big winners and a couple teams who finished stronger than some experts initially expected.

Even with his future in limbo, Urban Meyer hauled in the nation's top recruiting class (google images)

The Texas Longhorns ranked second in most major recruiting polls, and again, it was not a surprise.  Signing Day is typically uneventful for Mack Brown, as he usually has his class locked up by August.  Although most of the Texas class was in tact before the holidays, the Longhorns added Jackson Jeffcoat to the class last week.  They also lured stud-linebacker Jordan Hicks away from the state of Ohio.

Auburn made a huge push this season, keeping the momentum for Gene Chizik.  The Tigers landed OL Shon Coleman, RB Michael Dyer, QB Cameron Newton and they were able to beat out Florida State for the services of the top-rated DE in the state of Florida, Corey Lemonier.

A couple of teams that finished strong, despite mediocre seasons and head coaching changes were Tennessee and Florida State.  Tennessee benefitted from eight prospects who were early enrollees, which included DE Corey Miller.  But the Vols managed to take one of the top players in the country out of Georgia by landing WR Da’Rick Rogers.

Florida State had big, big problems on defense last year, and they helped themselves a lot with this year’s class.  The Seminoles landed the #2 ranked outside linebacker in the country, Christian Jones, and the #1 cornerback, Lamarcus Joyner, and the #1 inside linebacker, Jeff Luc.

College FootBlog wants your feedback!  Let us know what you think of the posts, and let us know if there are any subjects you would like to see from us.