Auburn Archives

Mississippi State gives Mullen monster extension

Mississippi State deserves a round of applause: They showed loyalty to a man who has shown absolutely no loyalty to them over the last few years….their head coach, Dan Mullen.

In the new deal, Mullen will receive $4.5 million per season for the next four years, starting this season.

Listen, we GET there are good things about Mullen. He started in 2009 and hasn’t left. During his tenure, his record has been nothing short of phenomenal – especially for a poor team, where he’s been bowl eligible for the last seven straight years and gone 5-2 in bowls. He has a 5-3 record in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss, and took the Cowbellers to phenomenal heights in the 2014 season.

He’s proved to be a bit of a ‘quarterback whisperer’ at the highest level, with Dak Prescott and now Nick Fitzgerald doing great things. Prescott himself has gone on to drop jaws at NFL level, which can’t have done Mullen’s credibility any damage. And his response to press questions about Fitzgerald in the aftermath of the last Ole Miss win was hilarious.

But I’ve got a problem. Where there seems to be a big job on the loose,  Dan Mullen seems to have no loyalty to the Land of Cowbell in the least. He’s been continually rumored for other jobs since taking over in Starkville, and he actually interviewed for the Miami (FL) job in 2015 before it was given to Mark Richt. Florida (2013) and Oregon (2017) were also thoughts. And although Mullen’s said that he’s happy where he is, the hiring of Jimmy Sexton – who is also the agent of a certain Nick Saban, who hasn’t shown any loyalty of his own in the least to programs – in October – doesn’t seem to indicate that.

I just can’t help thinking that the cowbell will toll for Mississippi State in this relationship. Then again, I might be wrong.

Tennessee star sees drug charge dropped

Tennessee star wideout Jauan Jennings got an early Easter present after Knoxville police dropped marijuana charges against him.

Jennings had been arrested on National Signing Day for driving down a road the wrong way, and could not give his social security number when asked….and did not have an ID. He arrested on pot charges.

Interestingly, the Knoxville police must have been feeling incredibly lenient – Jennings actually admitted possession of pot in his car, and there was a bag of weed in the back of his car, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Last season Jennings had quite the season, grabbing 40 catches for 580 yards and seven touchdowns.

Should Hugh Freeze lose his job?

The biggest question coming out of Oxford, MS at the moment is this: Will Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze be out of a job by the time the NCAA has finished with its investigations.

According to the NCAA’s filings, the school lacked insitutional control – which basically means that it turned a blind eye as boosters paid players, gave recruits thousands of dollars worth of money off from stores, paid electric bills, and let them hunt on property (which isn’t a big one). And even if Freeze himself didn’t know directly about what was going on under his nose, he darned well should have done.

Freeze has protected himself, saying: “Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

In other words, the first thing Freeze is doing? Deny all charges and say: “Boss, it wasn’t my fault”. Why? It means that if the school DOES decide to fire him, he will still walk out with a great part of the $4.3 million he’s paid by the school – especially if this includes a severance package if he decides to appeal.

For pure butt-covering, Ole Miss may well fire Freeze because it makes them look good. Ole Miss’ AD Ross Bjork may throw him under the bus so it saves the school even worse punishment than is already given.

But although there are rumors that Freeze actually set up meetings between recruits and boosters, no-one really knows if this is true. What we do know is that any meeting between Freeze and his recruits really didn’t go that well: They were 30th in the 24-7 rankings, and 12th in the SEC.

And if they fire Freeze on something that they don’t know whether it’s true or not, then Ole Miss doesn’t look very bright in the least.

 

Ole Miss gives itself 1-year postseason ban

Ole Miss has given itself a postseason ban for the 2017 season after the NCAA found that it had violated 21 different rules.

The NCAA has charged the SEC school with a lack of institutional control, which includes various payments to players – including paying recruits between $13,000 and $16,000 in cash payments.

Ross Bjork, the school’s AD said: “The additional allegations announced today are serious,” Bjork said in a video statement released by the university. “But we will vigorously defend the university against the allegations that we believe are not appropriately supported, including that we lacked institutional control and that our head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance or monitor staff in the football program.”

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ head coach said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed to learn that any member of my staff violated any SEC or NCAA rules, and as the head coach, I regret those actions. Any behavior by my staff that is inconsistent with that commitment to do things the right way simply does not reflect the emphasis I personally place on NCAA compliance. As the record will show, I am constantly communicating to our compliance office, the SEC office, and industry leaders to make sure we are using best practices when it comes to doing things the right way.”

However, what was interesting was how quickly Freeze went to cover his own behind, after allegations that he had helepd to cover up the whole process. “Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

Ole Miss had previously reduced their own scholarships, which includes 1 in 2015, 2 from 2016, and four from the 2017 and 2018 classes.

Worries to the possible future of the Rebels’ program hit Ole Miss hard in 2017: They were 30th in the 24-7 sports rankings.

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.

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 Who’s Going to Win The National Championship Game?

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.

 

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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