Archive for June, 2012

Note to SEC: Texas A&M needs another Thanksgiving Rival

As y’all know by this blog, we love the SEC and we’re really happy that two teams have been added to the SEC schedule. Missouri’s going to be a  cold and difficult place for rivals to play in the East, and Texas A&M’s going to be a deafening place to play in the West.

But let’s be honest – when it became known that Texas A&M was not going to play Texas anymore, it ripped a lot out of college football’s soul.

For over 118 years, Texas and Texas A&M beat the crap out of each other. Even if both sides weren’t good, they were got off the turf for The Thanksgiving Game of All Thanksgiving Games.

Fanbases may not have liked each other (the Longhorn fanbase think of the Aggies as one-up from illiterate goat herders while the Aggies think the Longhorn fanbase is full of snobby you-know-whats who have never known hard work in their lives (interestingly Oklahoma and Arkansas feel the same), but when the Bonfire collapsed in 1999, they came together and treated each other with some love and respect in the face of a tragic accident.

Even though some people would like to see a SEC West rivalry played on Thanksgiving Day as an attempt to start up another rivalry, nothing’s going to be the same after Texas decided that they didn’t want to play the Aggies anymore.

Aggies athletic director Bill Byrne told The Birmingham News in March: “I’m very foolish. I assumed — and it was a rash assumption on my part — that our friends over in the state capital would want to continue playing us. It turns out they didn’t think we were as much of a rival as we thought of them.”

Of course, the reason why the rivalry was put on the bonfire after generations of fuel was Texas’ decision (backed by ESPN) to start The Longhorn Network. Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit must have quivered every time they had to tell Saturday Prime Time viewers what a wonderful thing The Longhorn Network was (thankfully they didn’t pitch it at the Final Game), because College Football and commentary’s about impartiality, and with the new network, it looked like anything but. Anyway, Texas A&M was absolutely furious by UT’s move and left the Big XII for the SEC. In response to that, Texas refused to schedule A&M as an out-of-conference opponent.

And now, we’re not joking.

Right now, the best thing for Texas A&M is to set up a ‘rivalry’ game with Arkansas on Thanksgiving, which at least has a little bit of history. The Arkansas rivalry already has a name called the Southwest Classic (which is kinda cool, in our view). The first game between the two was in 1903. They played from 1934 to 1991 as Southwest Conference Members, and renewed their rivalry in 1999 after eight years of trying to get another game going. Arkansas leads the current rivalry 41-24, but the last game in 2011 was an absolute classic, decided by three points after A&M’s defense once again dissolved. It would remain a home-and-home, rather than be at Jerry Jones’ Texas Stadium, where the last few games were held. This might annoy LSU (who currently play Arkansas at Thanksgiving), but the Tigers would probably be happy to play someone else then.

Jeez, we can still hear the Kyle Field crowd swaying and singing: “Saw varsity’s horns off…..” We really hope they’ll be singing it to Texas soon.

 

 

Scheduling: SEC games open ESPN’s CFB season

ESPN will be showing two SEC games on the first night of the season, the network announced.

South Carolina’s tricky trip to Vanderbilt and Texas A&M first game of its SEC existence – against Louisiana Tech- will be shown on ESPN and ESPNU respectively. We’ll go out on a limb and say that we expect the Aggies- yes, even with THAT defence – to win that one comfortably.

You should also keep an eye out for September 13th, when former Auburn offensive co-ordinator Gus Malzahn takes his Arkansas State team on the road to noisy Lincoln, Nebraska for a showdown with the mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers. Later that day, Mississippi State go to Troy (you can watch it online on ESPN3).

Here’s the full list. We’ll go as far as saying that thus far, it’s a little uninspiring.

BOTTOM LINE: The early season showdown between South Carolina and Vanderbilt’s going to be great for two reasons. One, it’s an early sighter to see if Steve Spurrier’s men are ready for to be a SEC/National Championship Contender. Two, it’s a way to see how good James Franklin truly is, and if his rating in our SEC Top-5 coaches is truly justified.

Recruiting: Alabama picks up QB from Georgia

It seems that if you’re a four and five-star recruit, you are either heading to Tuscaloosa, Ann Arbor, or Los Angeles these days.

Parker McLeod, the highly sought-after quarterback from Walton High School in Georgia, decided that he wanted to go to Tuscaloosa to play his football in 2013 – and so committed to Nick Saban and his Crimson company on Friday.

“Alabama was my dream school all along,” McLeod told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I got a firm offer from them on Wednesday and I committed on the spot. They wanted me to wait a little bit, or until Friday, until I went public with it.”

Saban had earlier whiffed on quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Johnathan McCrary, who went to Vanderbilt.

McLeod may well end up being a back-up for his career in a Crimson Tide shirt. After all, Saban picked up one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Cooper Bateman from Utah last month, beating Auburn, Florida and LSU to that commitment.

But McLeod isn’t bothered. He said: “I know there’s going to be competition wherever I go,” McLeod told the paper. “[Bateman] was not much a factor on my choice. The Alabama coaches told me that they would give us both an equal shot to compete. I’m just looking forward to competing and trying to get my spot.”

The AJC also noted that the Walton team-mate Tyren Jones, who ranked No.1 in the State of Georgia at tailback, had also committed to the Tide.

BOTTOM LINE: Great news for Alabama and McLeod, but let’s not be too surprised if McLeod doesn’t want to play second or third-string quarterback for his college career on a team that prides itself in running the ball, and either de-commits from ‘Bama before February, or transfers during his career. Harsh, we know.

Recruiting: Alabama adds four-star recruit

Nick Saban added his 15th commitment of the season when Texan cornerback Maurice Smith committed to play for Alabama, Al.com has reported.

According to the report, Smith announced the decision via press release. He said: “Maurice Smith II (Fort Bend Sugarland Dulles c/o 2013) has researched, evaluated, and visited and has reached his decision to commit to University of Alabama and play for Nick Saban’s defense.”

He added: “I knew this would be one of the biggest decisions in my life, and at 16 it seemed almost too big, and a lot of pressure. But someone told me that I would know when it was right. It just felt right, with no pressure, or expectation, it is just right for me. Roll Tide.”

According to the report, the Crimson Tide beat out both Florida schools, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas and Oklahoma for the services of Smith, who looks pretty useful on tape.

BOTTOM LINE: Alabama reloads every year, and the 2013 one will be no exception. Frightening, isn’t it?

Friday Special: Ranking The SEC’s Coaches

Before Missouri, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Arkansas fans get angry and upset as to why Mssrs Pinkel, Sumlin, Freeze and Smith aren’t on the list, it’s because none of them have had SEC coaching game under their belts so they are going in the N/A category.

But for the other 10, here’s the SEC Football Blog’s ranking of the conference’s coaches.

Tell us what you think – as we’re sure you will- if you disagree…

1. Nick Saban (Alabama)

There are those who love him (Alabama fans, his family) and those who hate him (Other SEC fans, Miami Dolphins fans), but there’s one thing for certain: Nick Saban is the best coach in the SEC – and in college football generally. Saban not only has won three National Championships, but he’s also won the SEC three times and the SEC West five times. The good players who play for him (the list is long and distinguished) generally go as high drafts in the NFL, and everyone will tell you that there’s a frightening drive towards success. And if you come against Voldemort as a recruiter, then be afraid. Oh, and he’s 5 ft 6, by the way.

2. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

Spurrier’s won as a player in the SEC, and he’s won as a coach in the SEC. He’s loved by fans from Florida and South Carolina, and hated by just about everyone else (because he beats them and taunts them – especially if you’re Florida State). Spurrier’s so good because his offensive schemes are fun and interesting, he’s not afraid to use a trick play or two or three (watch the Georgia vs South Carolina game in 2011 for details), and his teams win. If Marcus Lattimore hadn’t been hurt early last season, Carolina could well have won the SEC East and taken Georgia’s place. Oh, and he’s also one of the best recruiters in the land.

3. Gene Chizik (Auburn)

This was a toss-up between Chizik and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, but we gave Chizik the edge because in his first season, Chizik won the Crystal Trophy. Say what you want about Cam Newton (And no, we don’t think the arguing over this will ever be over), but Chizik and Gus Malzahn’s offense – backed by a healthy ‘D’ featuring one of the nastier players in college football in Nick UN-Fairley – didn’t ever give up in 2010, and to come back from deficits almost every week takes a good coach. Chizik – like Spurrier and Saban before him – has also recruited well, but the real test of his excellence will be the 2012 season, which will feature a new team and a new offensive co-ordinator now Malzahn’s at Arkansas State.

4. James Franklin (Vanderbilt)

His 6-6 record may not be anything special, but if you consider where Vandy teams have come from in the past, that’s pretty special. And if you look at the games Vandy lost last year, only the South Carolina and Alabama games would be considered blow-outs, while the other four could only be described as heart-breaking. We can only think that if the Commodores had more belief, they would probably have gone 8-4 last year. Franklin’s been a great seller of the school (his coaches must have amazing wives (we joke!)), and he’s got a steady list of recruits. And the better the school gets, the more good recruits he will get – if they can keep up with the bright students.

5. Les Miles (LSU)

Why so low for a National Championship-winning, unbeaten-in-the-regular-season-of-2011 coach? Firstly, you never know what you’re going to get with the ‘Mad Hatter’. Either you’re going to get the brilliant defensive and special teams performances that were the highlight of his 2011 teams, or you’re going to get  baffling sideline decisions and bad clock management. And Les Miles also rides his luck a lot – but it’s better to be lucky than good, sometimes.

6. Mark Richt (Georgia)

Last year’s 10-2 season (which included a 4-0 record against Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech) masked the fact that Georgia didn’t play well against good teams, and haven’t done for a while. That’s not players, it’s coaching. Look, we know that there’s no issue in the recruiting department – Richt can recruit with the best of them – but Georgia hasn’t won a National Championship since 1980 – but will simply winning the SEC a few years really going to be enough for the starved Dawg Nation?

7. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)

Slowly but surely, Dan Mullen’s turning this former footballing backwater into a viable project again. The Bulldogs hung with LSU for most of their game with the Tigers, and it was only at Arkansas that MSU was truly uncompetitive. As an offensive co-ordinator, we know how good Mullen was at UF, so we look forward to seeing the roll-out of Experiment Cowbell with him in charge. He’s already loved in Starkville.

8. Will Muschamp (Florida)

Texas’ favorite coach-in-waiting couldn’t wait around for Mack Brown to decide when to retire, so he opted Urban Meyer’s job at Florida. His first season was – we’ll put this kindly- mixed. While Muschamp’s team certainly retained its famous speed, the vaunted ‘D’ of the Meyer days wasn’t great, and offensively, the Charlie Weis experiment simply didn’t work out – even if his quarterbacks were injured. Listen, we know that Muschamp’s a good recruiter and this Florida experiment’s going to take some time, but if the Gators aren’t in the running for the SEC East, the Gainseville train will leave without him.

9. Derek Dooley (Tennessee)

For large parts of his time in Knoxville, Dooley has looked completely clueless, and there won’t be an outpouring of sympathy for him if he’s booted out of Neyland at the end – or even during – the 2012 season. Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter (who was injured mid-season) are going to have to play out of his skin if UT is going to get his coach out of this mess.

10. Joker Phillips (Kentucky)

Frankly, it’s going to be a race between him and Dooley as to who lasts the least long in their relative positions. Harsh to say, but when Kentucky fans are writing articles such as: “Three reasons to give Joker Phillips a break”, you know a coach is in trouble.

AND AS FOR THE REST….

1. Gary Pinkel (Missouri)

Two big, big, glasses of wine apart, Pinkel’s been brilliant for the University of Missouri. Under him, the Missouri Tigers have had just one losing season in 12 years, and Columbia is a frightening place to go to for an away game (SEC East rivals aren’t going to like the cold in November, we can tell you!). If James Franklin returns, Mizzou could be an outside bet for the SEC East.

2. Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)

In Kyle Field, Texas A&M has had a SEC-type stadium. But in 2011, A&M had a defense that we can only describe as being goddawful. Look, we hope the experiment goes well – Sumlin had an excellent track record at Houston – but will he be good enough for the most competitive division in college football in the SEC West?

3. John L. Smith (Arkansas)

If the ‘etiquette lessons’ are anything to go by last week, Coach Smith is trying to help the team do some right after a brutal off-season involving arrests of both players and Petrino. He knows Petrino’s system after being a special teams coach, so Razorbacks fans will be telling him: Don’t mess with anything!

4. Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)

In his first full season as a coach at Arkansas State, he scored a 10-2 record and scored his first Sun Belt conference. And although his love of Oxford is well-documented, how’s this going to translate into taking Ole Miss out of the SEC basement?

 

Recruiting: LSU grabs dual-threat QB commitment

LSU has grabbed a major out-of-state coup when four-star dual threat quarterback Anthony Jennings committed to play for the Tigers.

Jennings, who plays his football in Marietta, Georgia, was ranked as a four-star recruit by Rivals. He gained offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and the two Mississippi schools in the SEC as well as a number of other Big Ten and Big XII schools – including West Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraskas and Iowa.

Steve Kragthorpe did the recruiting.

BOTTOM LINE: Les Miles is a fan of dual threat quarterbacks and although Jordan Jefferson had his (many) problems, JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn could both run in the purple and gold – and both have gone on to the NFL. 

 

Recruiting: Atlanta media frets over Henry’s visit to Alabama

The Atlanta media is already fretting about Georgia recruiting, and it isn’t even football season yet.

On the AJC’s website, the paper says: “Derrick Henry: Should UGA be worried about 5-star tailback visiting Alabama?

Henry, you remember, was seen as one of Georgia’s biggest recruiting coups when he plumped for the Bulldogs in July.

But Alabama has four things in its favour. Firstly, the Tide have  just won a National Championship – its second in three years. Secondly, the school’s last two running backs were Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson – who ended up being quite good, by the way. We hear Eddie Lacy could be something special, too. Thirdly, they’ve got the best recruiter/ coach in the land in Nick Saban. No five-star recruit is safe in an opposing school’s stable if Saban’s about. Fourthly, If you’re good and you go with Nick Saban, it virtually guarantees you a big payday in the NFL. Just ask Richardson, Julio Jones, and the Alabama defense.

Henry told ESPN: “I’m very excited because I finally get a chance to see the campus, get the whole nine yards, see the players, talk to them and get their side of it, and meet with the coaches. I’m ready to get down there.”

BOTTOM LINE: No recruit’s safe with Saban about. Anyone in the SEC knows that. And if we’re honest, we think he’s going to flip and wear Crimson. 

 

Georgia extends Richt’s contract

The Georgia Bulldogs have extended the contract of their sometime under-fire coach, Mark Richt, the school announced today.

The three-year extension will mean that Richt – who still has two years running onto his contract – will stay with the Dawgs until the 2016 season – if he’s not let go (which is always a risk in the SEC).

Last year Richt led Georgia from a 0-2 hole to winning the SEC East. They played well in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta before dropped passes eventually got the better of them and LSU won handily.

Chip Towers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted on Twitter that the biggest bit of the story is “is no buyout for him if he chooses to leave on his own”, while Gentry Estes of Georgia24-7 noted that Richt would be paid out $4.8m if he’s fired at the end of the 2012 season, a number that falls to $800,000 each season thereafter.

Estes notes that Richt would have had to pay Georgia $2m if he’d decided to walk to another school.

“Mark Richt is not only the dean of SEC coaches, he is a person who has represented the University of Georgia extraordinarily well since he arrived in December of 2000,” said Georgia president Michael Adams.   “He has compiled a very strong record of wins and losses over that period. I am glad we were able to work out this contract extension which I believe is good for the University, good for football and good for Mark.”

Also signing a deal was Greg McGarity, Georgia’s athletic director, until December 2017. He will make around $500,000 per year.

BOTTOM LINE: This year Georgia is loaded and has recruited well, making it one of the favorites for the SEC East crown – although South Carolina and Florida will push them all the way.

Hiring News: LSU coach leaves

Got you, didn’t we?

LSU strength and conditioning coach Derrick LeBlanc has left the SEC giant to become the defensive line coach at Wyoming, the Cowboys said today.

“What a great opportunity to be here in Wyoming” said LeBlanc. “Coach Christensen has done a great job over the last three years. To be given the opportunity to come here and help build on the success that Wyoming has had over the past several years is something I know will be a great experience for me and my family.”

“I am extremely pleased we have been able to add Derrick LeBlanc to our coaching staff,” said Cowboys head coach Dave Christensen. “He comes to us from LSU where he was part of a very successful program. He has a lot of experience working with some outstanding football coaches. Among the coaches he has worked with is a gentleman by the name of Pete Jenkins (retired defensive line coach formerly with LSU and the Philadelphia Eagles), who we did some work with this past winter to school our defense. Derrick is a very strong family man with high morals, and adds another successful coach to our staff.”

LeBlanc worked for LSU since 2008, where he also worked as an on-campus recruiter. 

Recruiting News: Local WR commits to Tennessee

Local wide receiver Josh Smith has committed to the University of Tennessee, GoVolsXtra.com has reported.

The article says that the Vols leadership were impressed by Christian Academy of Knoxville receiver at a camp on Tuesday.

But Smith had impressed other schools, because Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Kentucky had all invited him to camps later in the summer, the report said.

The decision follows last week’s decision by offensive linesman Brett Kendrick – one of the Smith’s classmates at Christian Academy – to go to UT.

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