Archive for December, 2015

Who will the SEC’s bowl games?

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year! We know that bowl season is in full swing, but we’ll be honest…..none of the bowls matter until SEC teams play in them. Here’s why: When the SEC does well everyone talks about SEC bias, SEC strength, and SEC godliness, and when SEC teams do badly, people are quick to jump down our butts and tell us how bad we are (and we’re honest — we were poor as hell as last year).

LSU’s going to kick off the SEC bowl season against Texas Tech, and Alabama – we hope  – will end it in the National Championship Game. Simple.

So here are our previews….

THE BIG ONE (College Football Play-Off Semi-Final @ Cotton Bowl, Dec 31): ALABAMA vs MICHIGAN STATE 

It’s interesting. The 2015 incarnation of the college football play-off has three teams who lost against teams they shouldn’t have done. Alabama lost to Ole Miss at home (special teams killed ’em), Michigan State lost to Nebraska (who won because the refs screwed ’em), and Oklahoma lost to Texas (they were awful). Ohio State will argue that they deserved a spot ahead of any of three teams, but Urban Meyer proved to be utterly indecisive both as a coach trying to work out who the best quarterback was (Nick Saban would have encouraged one of the three quarterbacks to transfer), and as a motivator (Ohio State thought they walked on water all season long, and suffered the consequence against Michigan State, only to rebound by actually playing like everyone thought they might by savaging Michigan at The Big House). So anyway, Michigan State and Alabama are in the game, and it looks like a defensive brawl. Both defenses have been rough to run on all season long. Both offenses have good-if-n0t-great quarterbacks in Jake Coker and Connor Cook, and we don’t know about Cook’s shoulder. It’s in rehab. It could ripped off by A*Shawn Robinson & Co if the MSU offensive line doesn’t do its job….and it didn’t exactly look like Mark Dantonio intended against Iowa. Offensively, Alabama’s got the upper hand because they’ve got a running back in Derrick Henry who could start in the NFL tomorrow (Cleveland could do with a good RB, by the way). He’s averaging a gadzillion yards a game and the only way you can put him down in the latter stages of a game is with an elephant gun. If Michigan State bottles up Henry (or downs him with an elephant gun early), then everything’s going to be on Coker to succeed. Which we would consider a better bet than an injured Cook against that Alabama defense. Alabama’s playing in its second home of the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, by the way.

PREDICTION: Alabama 28, Michigan State 14

And the other games (by game order):

TEXAS BOWL (Dec 29) – LSU vs TEXAS TECH

It’s pretty simple: Expect LSU to use Leonard Fournette a lot against Texas Tech’s almost historically-awful run defense, which was third-worst in the whole of college football. If he doesn’t get 400 yards, Les Miles should be fired on the spot and Cam Cameron won’t get back to Baton Rouge. If LSU’s defense plays well against Kliff Kingsbury’s high-powered offense, the seven-point line – LSU is favored – will be one of the best bets of bowl season.

PREDICTION: LSU 41, Texas Tech 30

BIRMINGHAM BOWL (Dec 30) – AUBURN vs MEMPHIS

One of our favorite songs of all time is Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis”. Auburn fans would love to see their team walk over Paxton Lynch and the Memphis Tigers – and it’s easy to see why they might now that Memphis’ coach Justin Fuente has taken his blue suede shoes up to Blacksburg to be Virginia Tech’s coach. However much Fuente will talk about being focussed on this game, his mind will be on Hokieland. But can Auburn stop him? We think it’s still unlikely – although Auburn’s a three-point favorite – unless Gus Malzahn has suddenly found a defense in the close season.

PREDICTION: Memphis 28, Auburn 23

BELK BOWL (Dec 30) – MISSISSIPPI STATE vs NC STATE

NC State really isn’t that good, and we love Dak Prescott. We anticipate Prescott giving a hell of a swansong to the Mississippi State faithful – after the not-so-good swansong against Ole Miss.

PREDICTION: MSU 31, NC State 14

MUSIC CITY BOWL (Dec 30) – TEXAS A&M vs LOUISVILLE

Bobby Petrino’s team had one vaguely good win this season, and that was the comeback-from-the-dead win against Kentucky. Otherwise, it was like watching a drunk frat boy try and convince everybody at the party he was sober, and then falling on his face. Repeatedly. Texas A&M could be accused of being the drunk frat boy too – especially as both their starting quarterbacks have decided to leave the frat house for “other options”, which Aggies fans must be pretty pissed about. The Aggies are going to have changes on their offensive line and at starting quarterback. They’ve also got Christian Kirk, who’s a livewire. On the other end, Louisville’s going to struggle to stop Myles Garrett. Louisville’s favored by 4.5 because of A&M’s QB problem, but we think that’s tough on the Aggies, who we still believe has a very good defense.

PREDICTION: Texas A&M 38, Louisville 20

OUTBACK BOWL (Jan 1) – TENNESSEE vs NORTHWESTERN

Northwestern may have had a great 10-2 year, but the highlight was really made at the start when they stopped Christian McCaffery and Stanford on Game 1. They were considered lucky to have beaten Penn State’s crapshow of an offense, and were beaten soundly by Michigan in what most considered their biggest match-up. Now, they come against a Tennessee side who’s got a ton of momentum after shooting itself in the foot against Florida, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Tennessee’s an eight-point favorite against a stout defense, but can Northwestern really score to keep up with the Vols? We think not.

PREDICTION: Tennessee 28, Northwestern 17

CITRUS BOWL (Jan 1)  – FLORIDA vs MICHIGAN

A lot of Florida fans still have the vomit in their mouths after watching Treon Harris play in the SEC Championship Game. A lot of Michigan fans are still wondering what in the hell happened to them after their team was eviscerated at home to Ohio State. The guy with the weird expression must still be standing in Ann Arbor, crying over the fumbled punt against Michigan State. Or he’s at home, getting prepped for his trip to Florida for the Citrus Bowl, where his team’s a four-point favorite. The reason why it’s four points rather than 10 points is that Vegas loves Florida’s defense, which was exceptional for most of the Alabama game until tiredness took over. Can they get up for Michigan game? We just don’t know. My firm prediction: This will be ugly.

PREDICTION: Michigan 17, Florida 10

SUGAR BOWL (Jan 1) – OLE MISS vs OKLAHOMA STATE

Ole Miss was just a 4th-and-25 from going to the SEC Championship Game, while Oklahoma State was just two good performances from going to the College Football Play-Off (they got spanked in both games). Oh, and Ole Miss has been pretty distracted this week with the news that heralded defensive tackle decided to go professional in weed smoking and skydiving before he decided to professional as a football player. In other words, this sugar ain’t tasting nice for either side. Ole Miss is a seven-point favorite in what should be a very entertaining game.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss 48, Oklahoma State 45

TAXSLAYER BOWL (Jan 2) – GEORGIA vs PENN STATE

If you speak to Georgia and Penn State fans, both fans would have opted for their teams NOT to play in a bowl game at all, put the season to sleep, and start again with new offensive co-ordinators. And for Georgia, a new head coach. There are rumblings amongst the Penn State faithful that James Franklin has been clueless at the helm this season. Both sides came out of 2015 with no banner wins despite having banner match-ups, with Georgia losing decidedly to Florida and Alabama while Penn State played Michigan close but was then thumped by Ohio State and Michigan State. We expect the stadium in Jacksonville to be 3/4 full for this one, that feels more New Year’s hangover than anything else. Georgia’s a 6.5-point favorite.

PREDICTION: Georgia 17, Penn State 10

LIBERTY BOWL (Jan 2) – ARKANSAS vs KANSAS STATE 

I looked at Vegas’ prediction that Arkansas will win by just 13 points, and laughed. Either they haven’t seen Kansas State at all this season, or they think that Bret Bielema will have too much respect for Bill Snyder to put the kind of beating on him that he did to Charlie Strong the year before. The big question: Who does Bret Bielema HAVE any respect for? That’s a slightly more ethereal question than I want to answer at this time of writing, because my biggest question right now is: “Why in the hell has my game prediction for this one gone on for so long?”

PREDICTION: Arkansas 48, Kansas State 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would the last Texas A&M QB to transfer turn out the light?

Texas A&M seems to have a problem with quarterbacks since Johnny Manziel won the Heisman.

This week we’ve found out that quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray have both transferred from the school, amid rumors that they couldn’t get on with Kevin Sumlin and offensive co-ordinator Jake Spavital. Spavital is already in the 12th Man’s spotlight after an uninspiring 2015 season.

So what’s the story of A&M’s awful quarterbacking story since Manziel left?

First of all the anointed Kenny ‘Trill’ Hill decided to transfer to TCU after he started incredibly in 2014 and fell off a cliff. You can probably blame a bit of player arrogance (after he threw for 511 yards and 4 TDs against South Carolina on the Opening Day of 2014 his parents decided to trademark the name ‘Trill’) and a fall-off of confidence. He may well start in 2015 now that Brandon Boykin’s graduated.

That was fine – A&M had Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. The Aggies had beaten Texas to Murray’s signature on National Signing Day. The QB from Allen was – you guessed it – the Gatorade Player Of The Year – after throwing for 4,713 yards and 54 TDs in Allen, TX.

Well, Kyle Allen started the show at Texas A&M, and everybody had a big smile on their face. The defense was playing well, and people were saying the words: “Texas A&M” and “Possible College Football Player/ SEC Champion”.

Then came A&M’s game with Alabama. Allen threw THREE PICK SIXES, and the bandwagon fell off the rails. Murray – who up to then hadn’t played very much (and still went 1:2 in the TD:INT ratio) started against Western Carolina. He was ordinary (he threw for four TDs and five INTs) during his time starting – which was certainly not what the Aggies fans – who had anointed Murray as the saviour of Kyle Field – had expected.

Anyway, what’s going at Texas A&M?

Here’s what we think has happened:

  1. Over-promising: Kevin Sumlin is a master recruiter. We know this. But for us, we think that Kevin Sumlin is also the master of over-promising quarterbacks that they will be future Johnny Manziels, start every game, and will win National Championships. Top recruit Tate Martell should probably watch out.
  2. Over-reaction from Aggies fans/The Media: Kyler Murray had a horrible start as a A&M quarterback and was immediately crucified by the Aggie faithful. They expect proven high school quarterbacks (Hill was brilliant at Southlake Carroll and Murray was equally awesome at Allen) to automatically become exceptional in the SEC. Or not throw six interceptions to the State of Alabama. The media happily jumps on the poor starts, and before you know it, everybody’s unhappy.
  3. Huge pressure on the players….from themselves: Imagine if you’re a former Gatorade Player Of The Year, who has thrown all the touchdowns you can imagine and slept with all of the high school hotties you can also imagine, and you walk into the SEC. You automatically think: ‘I am going to be incredible’. Then it fails. The fans boo you. You hate yourself. You decide you can’t handle the pressure. You blame Kevin Sumlin, Coach Spavital…..everyone but yourself. Because it was the receivers who weren’t running the right routes. It was the offensive line who didn’t block for you. You’re perfect, right? Maybe some other school and staff should see your perfection.
  4. Bad coaching? If you believe Aggies fans, blame Jake Spavital. It’s all his fault. And if things don’t work out, then blame Kevin Sumlin.

How Jacob Eason’s decision effects QB recruiting

After much tweeting, worry, overtweeting, photos, rumors, tears and gnashing of teeth, the news is out there: Jacob Eason, the high school quarterback with the very good arm, is staying with original commitment to Georgia and going to Athens in a couple of weeks’ time.

If you believe what Georgia fans have to say, Eason is the sort of program-changing quarterback that the Bulldogs need not to lose stupid games to Florida, Auburn and South Carolina and dominate college football from hereon in.

So, no pressure, Jacob…

Anyway, there was some worries that Eason might decide to go Florida (he visited Gainesville recently, as well as the University of Washington), which would have given the Gators not only a returning Will Grier (mid-season), but also Class of 2016 commit Feleipe Franks, who’s immense. According to 24-7Sports.com, Franks is the 3rd-best player at this position, the 7th-best player in Florida, and 37th player in the country. He committed to LSU before deciding to go to Florida on November 29th.

Franks was said to be very uneasy about the possibility of Eason coming to The Swamp, but now he’s going to UGA, the 6ft 6 Franks can now make his commitment. You know, if he doesn’t decide to change to another school. Florida State and LSU are said to still be in the hunt.

OK, so what happens to LSU? LSU has an awful quarterback in Brandon Harris, who’s been wildly inconsistent in 2014. LSU doesn’t know if Cam Cameron’s going to return in 2015 (although that looks increasingly likely bearing in mind that the school hasn’t fired him yet), and the school’s SEC West rivals are collecting good QBs like it’s going out of fashion.

According to The Advocate, Harris is expected to battle with Purdue transfer Danny Etling, who played his last game for Purdue on September 27th, 2014. Up to then in the 2014 season, he was wildly inconsistent.

So where does LSU go from here? First of all, LSU’s commit list is STACKED. But unfortunately, no quarterbacks. And if LSU fans are to remain happy with Les Miles, Cam Cameron or the team again in 2016, they had better find themselves a better QB.

 

 

 

Who wins the SEC NOT-Heisman Award?

Congrats to Derrick Henry on winning the 2015 Heisman Award. It was deserved (Note: If the award had been given to Stanford’sChristian McCaffery it would have been deserved too).

So now we were thinking about the SEC NOT-Heisman Award, given out to the Top Five SEC Players who have let us down the most this year.

And here’s ‘The Power 5’ on our list:

Duke Williams (Auburn) 

In 2014 he was something special, catching 45 receptions for 730 yards and 5 TDs in a breakout season. The hops he had was frightening. We all expected him to scare the life out of opposition defenses during 2015 en route to being the best wide receiver in the SEC, and maybe the country. However, that went downhill when Williams contributed just 147 yards receiving in 5 games and seemed to not care. Malzahn finally threw his hands (and visor) in the air and booted him. In a season of poor moves by Gus Malzahn, this might have been the best one.

2. Maty Mauk (Missouri)

Hey, this blog has loved Maty Mauk for a while, but his 2015 season made everyone who watched it very unhappy. Listen, the offensive line and Josh Henson’s horrific offensive playcalling certainly didn’t help, but when he had the time, the ground had more opportunity at catching the ball than his receivers. Mauk went 57-110 (51.8%) for 654 yards, 6 TDs and 4 INTs. Throw into that two suspensions during the season, and that’s a pretty big letdown from a guy who was meant to be the team’s leader.

3. Jeremy Johnson (Auburn)

A lot (negative) has been said about Johnson, and quite rightly so. Going hand-in-hand with Will Muschamp as the leaders for pomp and circumstance at the start of Auburn’s season (we were taken in, dammit!), Nick Marshall’s back-up threw like an inexperienced back-up. His interceptions weren’t ‘unlucky’ interceptions, they were BAD throws, and Malzahn dropped him for Sean White. White was so ineffective that Johnson came back for some snaps against Georgia, Idaho and Alabama, and threw for 3 TDs and 1 INT. He also threw 40% against Alabama, which isn’t surprising. But compared to what we were expecting, Johnson was a huge letdown.

4. Leonard Fournette (LSU)

You probably think it’s strange that we’ve put Leonard Fournette in this, but get this: After LSU rolled in the early part of the season, Fournette was given the Heisman by the media. By the end of the season he wasn’t even invited to New York City – mainly thanks to the fact that he never got more yards than he did against Florida on October 17, when he put up 180. He also had 31 against Alabama, which probably didn’t help either. And although he only had one game without a TD this year, it felt like a let-down. Maybe because we were expecting so much more…

5. Greyson Lambert (Georgia)

With a name like a SAE frat boy, Lambert rolling in from Virginia and immediately got the starting job at UGA. Lambert set a SEC completion record by going 24-25 and throwing for 330 yards and 3 TDs against South Carolina. Everybody was excited. And then against Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia it all fell to pieces. And by the Cocktail Party against Florida, he was dropped.

The Committee would also like to thank poor Offensive Co-Ordinators, who contributed to this award.

 

 

Who was the biggest letdown in the SEC?

We know about the SEC’s successes. Alabama’s in the College Football Play-Off, Florida unexpectedly won the SEC East, and Derrick Henry should win the Heisman.

But who were the biggest letdowns? We rank each SEC team by how much they let us down this year.

  1. Auburn — We stupidly called for them to win the SEC Championship Game, without thinking that Will Muschamp would revamp one of the country’s worst defenses in 2014, and Jeremy Johnson would take over easily from Nick Marshall. None of that happened. Auburn was awful all season long.
  2. Georgia – The offense looked AMAZING early on….and then they played Alabama. And then Nick Chubb got injured a week later. And it all fell apart. Mark Richt was fired at season’s end —  a move that some saw coming and some were surprised up. A bit like UGA’s season.
  3. Missouri – The defense was fantastic almost all season long. The offense was disgustingly awful.
  4. LSU – Before the season started we predicted that LSU wouldn’t be very good, throwing out shade against Brandon Harris and the fact that LSU’s schedule as the season went would find them out. We were right — but only after everyone had given Leonard Fournette the Heisman when he ran roughshod against an awful schedule. And when the second half of the season came along, LSU lost three in a row and the black clouds circled around Les Miles. Although LSU turned things around against Texas A&M and Les Miles kept his job, this was one hell of a letdown for the Tigers.
  5. Arkansas – We had the Razorbacks really ploughing the way with a 9-3 season, but we didn’t have them losing to Toledo at home. It wasn’t a good look.
  6. Texas A&M – After smashing Arizona State and looking good for a few games thereafter, people were talking about A&M and being potential play-off candidates, Kyle Allen then went crazy against Alabama, throwing INTs after INTs, and the Aggies couldn’t stop the run. A lot of people want to end the career of offensive co-ordinator Jake Spavital.
  7. Kentucky – We were quite excited after they beat South Carolina on the road, but then the Wildcats pretty much fell apart, falling to 5-7.
  8. Mississippi State – Kept Dak Prescott, but let down their fans hugely with heartbreaking losses to LSU and a letdown loss against Ole Miss.
  9. Tennessee– Vols fans are ready to put a statue outside Neyland Stadium for Butch Jones after they went 8-4 overall. The win against Georgia put a lot of smiles on Big Orange fans’ faces, but their losses of three games in a row while having the lead in the fourth quarter wasn’t a good look.
  10. South Carolina– Steve Spurrier leaving mid-way through the season? See this one coming?
  11. Vanderbilt – It was Vanderbilt. That’s all we have to say. They were predictably poor-to-below mediocre. Hardly a letdown.
  12. Ole Miss – Losing the SEC West because of a fluke 4th-and-25 was hardly a letdown, and Ole Miss’ monster win over Bama definitely made the fanbase feel better.
  13. Alabama – Won the SEC Championship. You couldn’t rush on them. Derrick Henry could win a Heisman. So the fans will allow the loss to Ole Miss? But really, really wasn’t a letdown.
  14. Florida – Went 10-2, won the SEC East – and looked legit right until Will Grier got himself suspended for PEDs. What a season.

Who wins the SEC Championship Game?

HERE IS THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW…….

WAIT FOR IT….

IT’S GOING TO BE HUGE….

ABSOLUTELY CRAZY…..

ALABAMA BY 14.

 

Atmosphere “horrible” in South Carolina coach chase

A South Carolina source close to the SEC Football Blog said that the atmosphere in Columbia has “been horrible” around the school’s coaching search. S

South Carolina’s top target was Houston head coach Tom Herman, but a big pay rise has meant he will stay in place. They also wanted Georgia defensive co-ordinator Jeremy Pruitt, although some boosters are unsure about him thanks to his adventures with the Bulldogs coaching staff, where he apparently caused a lot of disharmony.

The chase for the South Carolina head coach job hotted up on Friday as rumors began to swirl that Auburn defensive co-ordinator Will Muschamp was close to being appointed to the role.

Muschamp is reported to be supported by former head coach Steve Spurrier, who – according to the report from SB Nation – has “recommended Muschamp to South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner and has assisted Muschamp’s efforts to contact coaches affiliated with the Gamecock program, as well as key boosters.

The source did not understand the school’s move.

SI.com has also reported USF head coach Willie Taggart has interviewed for the job. Taggart will be a great offensive selection – his Bulls side winning six out of the last seven games after starting the season 1-3, and have put up 44 and 65 points in the last two games – the former on Temple’s defense, which was meant to be pretty vaunted.

Also interviewed was Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, who led Cal to a bowl game this year. He’s also credited with the excellent quarterbacking of Jared Goff, who is thought by many to be the No.1 QB taken in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has interviewed for the job – as has interim head coach Shawn Elliott, who took over from Spurrier after the Head Ball Coach resigned mid-season. Fox Sports has said Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is expected to interview, as is Greg Schiano and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.

 

 

Missouri announces Odom as head coach

Missouri has promoted defensive co-ordinator Barry Odom as the Tigers’ new head coach.

Odom, who has continuously helped to put together one of the best defenses in college football year in, year out was seen by many as a fantastic deal – particularly with the speculation that Odom may have jumped ship and gone to Memphis, who saw head coach Justin Fuente take the same position at Virginia Tech.

Former head coach Gary Pinkel left his post at the end of a 5-7 season after announcing he had contracted lymphoma.

The official announcement came just now.

Who’s gonna be South Carolina’s head coach?

We all know who USC’s head coach is going to be. But how about the OTHER USC, which sits in Columbia, South Carolina, far away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles?

There, things have been a bit of a struggle lately. And by ‘bit’, I mean ‘a lot’. To go with an horrific remnant of a hurricane that flooded the city for days, Steve Spurrier decided that head coaching wasn’t his thing anymore and promptly left mid-season. Oh, and at the end of the season, South Carolina had the ignominy of losing to The Citadel and Clemson in back-to-back weeks.

So who are the head coaching favourites for the South Carolina job?

  1. Lincoln Reily — Apparently the Gamecocks are very interested in Oklahoma OC Lincoln Riley – who’s done such as an excellent offensive job with the Sooners this year, taking them to a College Football Play-Off. He will bring with him a hell of an offensive mind – something that the South Carolina could dearly do with.
  2. Larry Fedora – Fedora’s offensive genius is doing wonders at North Carolina, and with the prospect of academic sanctions on the horizon for the North Carolina athletic system, you can see Fedora make the ACC Championship and a 11-2 season his crowning moment before leaving for a bigger challenge down South.
  3. Dan Mullen – Would be a blockbuster hire for South Carolina, particularly as it’s pretty well known that Mullen’s going to leave CowbellLand now that his four-year love affair with Dak Prescott is over and he’ll have to rebuild. Mullen’s an excellent offensive mind and was responsible for MSU’s rise from joke status to status over the last couple of years.
  4. Jeremy Pruitt – The Georgia defensive co-ordinator is apparently ‘highly interested’  in the South Carolina job. He’s been pretty good for Georgia since Todd Grantham left….if you forget the Alabama and Florida games. He’s also an excellent recruiter.
  5. Kirby Smart – Despite the news that Georgia was on the verge of signing with Smart, Carolina is still actively pursuing the Alabama DC. Expect fireworks in Carolina and Georgia if he ponies up more money.
  6. Shawn Elliott – Let’s not forget that the Gamecocks actually played a hell of a lot better with Elliott as head coach. But he still went 1-5. He’s a long shot.
  7. Will Muschamp – Probably wants another chance at head coaching after the debacle at Florida, but would anyone want to take a chance on him?

Kirby Smart to be named UGA head coach – reports

Georgia will name Alabama defensive co-ordinator Kirby Smart as its head coach as soon as Sunday or Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported. Multiple writers have now backed it up.

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The website, quoting “persons familiar with the negotiation”, said that the announcement will come after the SEC Championship Game, which will be played on Saturday between SEC West Champion Alabama and SEC East Champion – and huge underdog – Florida in Atlanta.

Although Smart has a lot of SEC experience, he doesn’t have any head coaching experience, and Athens – where he played defensive back – which is seen as a major risk by Georgia.

Smart will bring in his own staff but is expected to retain defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. What other coaches he brings is not immediately known but it will be of his choosing“, the report added, noting that Smart was college football’s best-paid defensive co-ordinator, earning $1.5m. Mark Richt was paid $4.1m as Georgia’s head coach. It is not known how much UGA will pay for Smart’s services, although a SECFootballBlog guesstimate would be around the $2.5m-3m mark, bearing in mind his lack of experience in the head coaching position.

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