Should Alabama fans be pleased with their new OC?

What a few months it’s been for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

After coasting (most of the way) during the regular season, the Crimson Tide destroy Florida to win the SEC Championship. Then offensive coordinator/genius Lane Kiffin leaves for the bright lights of a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University. The Crimson Tide win their Play-Off semi-final against Washington convincingly to set up a monster clash with Clemson, who had hammered Ohio State 31-0 in its own semi-final. Lane Kiffin is told not to come to the National Championship Game. Steve Sarkasian is given the OC job for the National Championship Game. Clemson beats Alabama in the last second. Steve Sarkasian gets the OC job. Steve Sarkasian bolts for the Super Bowl-blowing Atlanta Falcons to be OC there, much to the annoyance to Bama Nation.

Nick Saban seemed to ignore all of that and still dominate the 2017 National Signing Day. We heard stories of kids that were offered scholarships by Alabama, but didn’t receive actual letters from the school, so went elsewhere. Such is the power of what’s happening down in Tuscaloosa.

Anyway, back to the offensive coordinator. There were rumors that he would join forces with offensive guru Chip Kelly, who did genius things at Oregon but not in the NFL. Instead, Saban went to his old friend Bill Belichick, and asked: “Who have you got on your coaching staff I can have?” So Belichick said to current tight ends coach Brian Daboll that he might want to go and have an interview down in the Southland. Daboll did, and now he’s the new offensive coordinator for the most demanding college football coach in the history of mankind (and that’s probably an understatement).

Daboll’s had 17 seasons in the NFL, which is fantastic longevity, and should be an excellent recruiting tool for Saban. Now he can bring someone to the party who can say to NFL players: “I know what NFL scouts are looking for! I spent 17 years in the NFL! If you come play for me, I can get you to the next level!”

For us, we can’t wait to see Daboll getting yelling at on the sideline.

 

Arkansas fans HATE the fact that the school has decided to move the 2017 season kick-off against mighty Florida A&M to a Thursday night in Little Rock, ARK to please the SEC Network.

Remarks from the school’s Twitter feed weren’t nice:

“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

“So no students will be able to attend because they have class the next day in Fayetteville”. 

“When money is more important than the fans and tradition….this happens”

Some went for Jeff Long, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ AD: “Can Frank Broyles come out of retirement as AD please?” as well as: “Further proof that Jeff Long only cares about NWA [Editor’s Note: We should think that’s not the rap band, but Northwest Arkansas] and not the entire Razorback fanbase.”

Tailgaters weren’t happy. “How do they expect to sell tailgate spots that people are required to be in by 10.30am on a workday? Horrible!”

The good thing for Arkansas fans is at least the Razorbacks – who have a small history of struggling with ‘below-par’ teams shouldn’t struggle with Florida A&M. The Rattlers went 4-7 last year, losing 70-3 to Miami (FL) in its season opener.

One thing they may struggle with? Attendance.

 

 

 

 

Brandon Harris is leaving LSU

Brandon Harris announced today that after LSU released him of his full scholarship, he’s going to leave LSU as a grad transfer – as one of the most disappointing recruits LSU has had in recent years.

He came into Baton Rouge as a four-star, dual-threat QB, after being recruited by the Tigers, Ohio State, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Baylor amongst others. He was the top QB in Lousiana and the seventh overall player in the state. Ahead of him were Leonard Fournette (LSU), Cam Robinson (Alabama), Malachi Dupre (LSU), Speedy Noil (Texas A&M), Gerald Willis III (Florida) and Hootie Jones (Alabama).  Only Willis III could not have been described as an outright success.

Harris wasn’t a bad guy – he was never arrested (unlike QB Anthony Jennings) – but he was a terrible QB.

In his first year in 2014, he went 25-45 for 452 yards for 6 INTs, 2 INTs, throwing for an average of a smidgeon over 56 yards per game. He also ran for 159 yards on 26 attempts with three TDs.

There was hope in LSU Nation. 

In his second year in 2015, he had a completion rating of 53.6% (148 for 256) for 13 TDs and 6 INTs, with a QB rating of 130, throwing for 179.8 yards per game. He also ran for 226 yards and 4 TDs.

The problem for Harris is that he was incredibly inconsistent. His electric arm seemed better – when he missed his wide receivers – at overthrowing them by miles or missing them when the chances were easier. It was excruciatingly bad at times, and laughable at others. 

In his third – and final year in 2016 – he was dropped after a dreadful performance against Wisconsin on the first game of the season, and was replaced by Purdue transfer Danny Etling. He played in a total of 4 games, with a 52% QB rating (13-25) for 1 TD and 2 INTs.

dAnd then Brandon Harris departed, stage left. LSU fans can either blame Harris’ lack of development squarely on now-departed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, or Harris himself. Frankly, we believe that it’s a lot of both.

Steve Sarkasian leaves Alabama for Falcons

Steve Sarkasian has left Alabama to be the new offensive coordinator at the Atlanta Falcons.

Sarkasian, who only took charge of Nick Saban’s offense just before the National Championship loss to Clemson, took over the Falcons role just after former OC Kyle Shanahan left to be the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

According to SB Nation, ‘the relationship between Saban and Sarkisian deteriorated amid disagreements in ‘system philosophy.’

It’s not unusual that Nick Saban should fall out with his offensive coordinators. His fall-outs with Lane Kiffin during his time at Bama are stuff of YouTube legend. What seems strange that Saban – who talks often about giving people ‘second chances’, didn’t seem too upset with Sarkasian’s decision to go to Atlanta.

‘We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here,’ Saban said. ‘He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. As always, when we have an opening on our staff, we will use it as an opportunity to go out and hire the best coach available.’

What’s interesting is that last month Mike Locksley was named co-offensive coordinator. He was an offensive analyst for Alabama and before that worked at Maryland.

Alabama fansite BamaHammer is already saying that Locksley’s going to be the new OC. ‘Book it’, the site says.

It seems to us that whoever the new OC at Alabama is is that they are going to have to obedient to Saban. Saban doesn’t like anyone who disagrees with him.

This could be interesting.

If Locksley doesn’t get the job, names of recently fired Oregon coaches like Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich have had their names thrown around.

Suddenly, this is the most intriguing battle of the offseason – particularly with the weapons that Alabama is bringing in from National Signing Day to help the new OC (and Saban) out.

LSU cuts nose tackle

LSU has cut nose tackle Travonte Valentine from the team.

“We wish him the best” said Tigers coach Ed Orgeron on Thursday, after announcing he was booted for a violation for team rules.

Valentine has been a thorn in the team’s side for a while. While he started the first five games of the season, his poor practice habits ensured he wouldn’t play in the next seven.

Ironically, it’s not the first time he was thrown off the team. Valentine was kicked off in the summer of 2015 for a violation of academic and behavioral issues, but was let back by former coach Les Miles after he played at junior college in Arizona – only to be booted off that team for being arrested for disorderly conduct.

Valentine was a three-star athlete from Mississippi.

Five SEC coaches on hot seat in 2017 – Fox Sports

Five SEC coaches are among the top 12 college football coaches who should be looking over their shoulder come 2017, FoxSports.com has said.

They are:

  • Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)
  • Gus Malzahn (Auburn)
  • Butch Jones (Tennessee)
  • Bret Bielema (Arkansas)
  • Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)

Among the things blamed were late season collapses in 2016 (all of these except for Freeze), and an atmosphere of uncertainty around the Ole Miss program – especially bearing in mind worries about the potential NCAA sanctions stemming from a string of alleged misbehaviours from the Ole Miss staff – including paying players.

Sumlin’s below-par performances at the back-end of the season and the inability of Texas A&M to beat big division rivals (ie Alabama and LSU)  lately has certainly warmed his seat, while Bret Bielema’s not exactly loved at Arkansas at the moment – especially after the season’s catastrophic loss to Missouri. Gus Malzahn is the

Gus Malzahn is the strangest for us. Fox Sports.com said: “Then the Sugar Bowl happened. Then his highly regarded offensive coordinator left for less money at UConn. It’s all setting up for the 2017 season to be just as rocky as 2016, and there’s no guarantee Gus will survive that ride.”  It wasn’t a surprise that Auburn lost to Oklahoma as it was Auburn losing to Georgia earlier in the season, which was perhaps a far bigger sin in our eyes. The fact that Auburn’s offensive co-ordinator Rhett Lashlee went to UConn seemed to be a strange decision. Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich was thought to be a contender, only for news to come through that he’s pulled himself out of contention.

 

So if you follow us on Twitter (@SECBlog), you’ll know that when we asked the simple question “Would non-Alabama fans root for Alabama in the National Championship Game?”, only one or two out of 40 replies said: “Yes”. Other answers ranged from rooting for terrorist factions before Alabama, or going through the punishment Mel Gibson went through in Braveheart before rooting for the Crimson Tide.

Well, here’s the fact, Alabama haters: The Alabama Crimson Tide are unbeaten, and back in their second National Title game in a row. They’ve won over 20 games on the bounce and this year’s batch looks absolutely frightening. This year the Tide are again playing Clemson, and Vegas has made them a 6-1/2 point favorite, going upwards from an open of six after they comfortably smothered Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl.

Here are our Top 5 points.

1. Clemson offensive line vs Alabama defense

The starting question’s normally about the stars, but actually, the biggest question is whether Clemson’s offensive line will be able to stop Alabama’s defense. If they don’t, then we might as well call this game over because DeShaun Watson’s going to be running like DeSean Jackson….to stop himself getting killed. The big deal will be whether Clemson can stop them long enough to help the team get into easier yardage situations to collect first downs – although it’s well-noted that 3rd and 4 against Alabama is like 3rd and 14 against normal defenses. Teams have converted 13% against Bama on 3rd and 4. That’s scary. Or scary good, if you’re Jeremy Pruitt. Alabama’s defense has the stars in Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster.

2. A tale of quarterbacks

Jalen Hurts is definitely an electric runner. We know that because he has 891 rushing yards and 12 TDs. He can also throw – 2620 and 21 TDs. But because he’s a freshman, you can always count on him making mistakes, and he’s done so with regularity, throwing 9 picks this season. And against Washington, he threw one awful ball that should have been picked off by Washington safety Budda Baker.

And although Deshaun Watson’s had a great season (4,173 yards, 38 TDs), he’s actually been a bit of downgrade since 2015, at times not looking the offensive dream that ripped the Tide to shreds in the 2016 Natty. And you know what’s really gotten worse? His interceptions. He’s thrown 19 INTs (as opposed to 13 in 2015), including 4 picks in the last three games (including two against Ohio State), and the four teams NOT to pick him off in 2016 were mighty South Carolina State, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Boston College. And in the ‘monster games’ (Louisville, Florida State and Ohio State), he threw for at least two picks in each game. The good thing for him is that he had a defense to bail him out. If he screws up like this against Alabama, arguably you see one go back for a pick six, and Alabama’s offense probably ending costing the Tigers.

But as runner, Watson is still electric – he’s run for 581 yards and 8 TDs this year – but that’s nearly half of the season before. Was that ACC defenses adjusting or was that simply that he wanted to prep himself for the NFL as more of a pocket passer? We haven’t a clue.

3. Alabama’s running backs should show

Alabama’s running back coupling of Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough (as well as Hurts too) are downright scary. Scarborough’s averaging 6.6 per carry and has scored 9 TDs, while Harris has gone over the 1,000 yard mark himself. Scarborough’s been big in the last three games of the  year, rushing for a nasty 90 yards, 91 yards and 180 yards against Auburn, Florida and Washington – all three of them very reputable rushing defenses who couldn’t deal with a man mountain hammering into them. We think Scarborough gets more of the ball than Harris against Clemson. Clemson gave up 123.1 yards per game in the regular season, and the way they reduced Ohio State to just 88 rushing yards will certaintly give them confidence. But Hurts will be a worry for Clemson – they gave up 273 yards on the ground to Lemar Jackson of Louisville, and we think Hurts – with the offensive line he has – could have over 100 yards on Monday.

On Clemson’s side, it would be foolish to run at Alabama, but Wayne Gallman will try it. Gallman had 85 yards against Ohio State and 82 against Florida State, but Alabama’s a whole other beast. This could be his worst day of the year (OK, he might outdo his 36 against Pittsburgh but still).

4. Alabama’s corners and safeties had better be ready for Clemson’s receivers.

As much as has been made of Alabama’s knack of grabbing INTs, with Minkah Fitzpatrick leading the way with 6, arguably they are going to face a different beast than they’ve faced all season long – especially with a better quarterback than they’ve faced all season long – in Clemson. Mike Williams is 6-4 and has 10 TDs, Deoin Cain is 6-2 and is fast, Hunter Renfrow has great hands, and 6-5 TE Jordan Leggett’s got great hands,  as a tight end, too (although we think Leggett will spend most of his time trying to stop Watson getting killed). You can expect Watson to go long on Fitzpatrick & Co to see if he can get an advantage early on, and push him back, leaving room for Leggett and Renfro to (maybe) give Alabama problems. That said, Alabama’s linebackers have great hands, too.

5. So who’s going to win? 

Alabama will stay perfect and win by 10. But it’ll be close until midway through the fourth quarter, when Alabama will pull away.

 

Who’s going to win Alabama vs Washington?

I sorted of jumped around in my seat when I saw that Vegas had narrowed the prediction of Alabama’s margin-of-victory to under two touchdowns before their College Football Play-Off game with Washington in Atlanta.

There are no doubts that Washington’s a good side. Their sole loss of the season – to a USC side that probably would be playing in its place if the Trojans had had any early season form (they were good for about a quarter against Alabama on Opening Saturday!) – wasn’t great, but otherwise, Chris Petersen’s side was effective.

All the odds stack up in Alabama’s favour. It’s defense – Nick Saban’s pride and joy – is the best in the country. Washington will give you a chance, but their secondary feasts on stupid decisions by quarterbacks. They had 19 interceptions in the regular (plus Pac-12 Championship Game) season. Alabama’s defense is downright FREAKY – its linebackers and secondary players seem to average a touchdown and a Pick-6 EVERY SINGLE GAME.

On  the offensive side, Alabama’s offensive line is – as we know – incredible, and everyone from Bo Scarborough – who’s going to battle it out for a Heisman in 2017 to Calvin Ridley to OJ Howard are frigteningly good. Washington has playmaker John Ross who can destoy a mistake-making secondary, but wouldn’t Nick Saban have focused on ways for him NOT TO GET THE BALL?

The question will be, then: Who is the quarterback to avoid those problems. Jake Browning, if we’re honest, hasn’t really been the same since he was torched against USC for two interceptions and safety, while Jalen Hurts has been convincing all season. Of course, there have been moments that he’s given up the odd stupid INT, but with the offensive line as it is, I sincerely doubt that Washington’s going to get the pressure.

PREDICTION: Alabama by 21 and the only reason why it’s that close is that Saban shows respect for Petersen.

And Ohio State vs Clemson is going to be a battle royale between two great teams. If it was on coaches alone, we’d take Urban Meyer every time, but Clemson  has a better quarterback, more talented receivers, and an attacking defense and more’s the case, has got a team that’s been there before. The problem with Clemson is that Dabo Swinney can see his team take a big lead, and then becomes far more conservative, which in fact ended up hurting him in the National Championship and several games this season. It would be wise of him not to do that against the Buckeyes.

PREDICTION: Clemson by 5 in AN INSTANT CLASSIC.

Georgia star RBs, LBs return for senior year

Georgia star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will return for their senior years, giving second-year head coach Kirby Smart a massive boost going into the 2017 season.

Added to that is the news that Smart’s defense will be boosted by the announcement that offensive linebackers Lorenzo Smart and Davin Bellamy will also return.

Last year Chubb had 988 yards and 7 TDs on 207 carries, averaging at nearly 5 yards a carry. Michel had 753 yards on 137 carries with 3 TDs.

Carter had 37 total tackles including 17 solo tackles, while Bellamy had 49 tackles and 4 sacks and one pass defended.

Lane Kiffin to leave Alabama, reports say

Lane Kiffin is to leave his job of offensive coordinator at Alabama to become the new head coach of Florida Atlantic, multiple reports have said.

Florida Atlantic will apparently pay Kiffin $1 million-per-year – a near-30% drop – from the $1.4 million-per-year he’s being paid by Nick Saban.

Kiffin was praised by legendary Miami and Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger who told Fox Sports: “He was a great player, himself, and a fine coach. He’s got a good track record and he’s qualified.

Kiffin will continue to coach the school during the College Football Play-Off – in which Alabama is an overwhelming favorite to take home the title. Nick Saban was supportive of the move.

We think this is a wonderful opportunity for him,” Saban said. “He’s done a great job here.”

It’s weird and wonderful that this news comes just a day after the SEC Blog wrote the article: Why can’t Lane Kiffin get a head coaching job?

 

 

 

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