Georgia star Roquan Smith declares for NFL

Georgia star linebacker Roquan Smith has declared for the NFL.

Unlike other SEC stars like Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and LSU’s Derrius Guice and Arden Key, Smith’s decision took until the deadline day for him to make up his mind.

Smith said: “I’ve had discussions with coaches and family and a lot of thought and prayer….The decision to leave is not easy but I know it is the right one.”

Smith won the Butkus Award last season for the Dawgs, who won the SEC Championship and came within overtime of winning the National Championship.

He will definitely be a first-round pick.

Smith recorded 137 tackles, 6-1/2 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries. He was also a mainstay in the Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma, when at times he buried the Sooners’ attack in the second half all by himself.

Kirby Smart said about Smith: “The accolades he has received are a testimony to his ability as a player,” Smart said. “But he has also demonstrated on and off the field the qualities of a great leader who has commanded the respect of all his teammates as well as our coaching and support staffs. As the head coach, it’s been a privilege to see him develop as a student-athlete and inspirational leader who has made immeasurable contributions to our team and to the program we are building.

Every year, it seems that Alabama’s looking for a big-time co-ordinator to go and work under Nick Saban.

But this year, it’s both of them.

After DC Jeremy Pruitt took the Tennessee job in November (but stayed all the way through the National Championship win), the Buffalo Bills announced Sunday that Crimson Tide OC Brian Daboll had been appointed to the same job in New York state.

While finding a good OC and DC shouldn’t be a problem for Saban – he’s managed to find competent people at both positions throughout his time in Tuscaloosa, it’s probably not good for recruiting – something that Nick Saban seems to crave more than winning Championships.

Some of the things that Saban can sell potential candidates are these:

  1. Depth: Alabama is deep at almost every position. A new star has been discovered at quarterback in Tua Tagovaiola, but he’ll have to battle a still-dependable Jalen Hurts. The offensive line and running back is seasoned. The wide receivers turn out prodigy after prodigy. On the defense, although Minkah Fitzpatrick is gone, things are fine.
  2. Pay: Not many people pay co-ordinators as well as Alabama. Brian Daboll was paid $1.2 million per year, while Pruitt was paid $4.2 million in 2017 before he left for Knoxville. That’s better than most coordinators. In other words, if you win for him, Saban will make sure you’re well-rewarded.
  3. Job Mobility: If you’re successful at Alabama, teams from the NFL and from colleges will come at you thick and fast to offer head coaching positions or NFL positions of similar titles. Saban’s not stupid: He knows that OCs and DCs of his will know that they aren’t going to be ‘coaches in waiting’, so they’ll get offers from other schools after one or two years, so he can definitely tell them that success with the Crimson Tide job will make them a strong candidate elsewhere. And if it doesn’t work out ‘elsewhere’, then that’s on them.
  4. Facilities: Alabama’s facilities for their players are the best in the land. So no OC and DC can complain they aren’t getting enough.
  5. Saban himself: You’ll probably hate working for him at the time, but there won’t be a guy that will teach you more about getting finite details right. If you’re prepared to learn, come to Alabama.

The sad thing for any OC and DC is the pressure. There’s the pressure to win National Championships immediately. There’s the pressure to get everything right all the time from Saban. There are time demands – Nick Saban owns your behind. Oh, and then there’s the Alabama fans, who are – in a new dimension of football fan – downright crazy.

UGA’s Eason to transfer to Washington?

Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason is to transfer to Washington, various media sources have reported.

Eason, who was the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs on Week 1 before he was injured against Applachian State, never got his role back thanks to the immense play of freshman Jake Fromm.

Now that Georgia has signed five-star QB Justin Fields, Eason – himself a five-star QB out of Washington – must have felt that there was no opportunity for him to succeed in the red and black. A move to Washington isn’t a bad one for him, either. He’s from Lake Stevens, WA, which is a short car ride from UW’s campus.

In 2016 Eason threw for 2,430 yards and 16 TDs, averaging at 186.7 yards/game.

 

Suck it, Ohio State. Suck it, Clemson. Suck it, Oklahoma. The SEC’s got two teams playing in the National Championship game.

That’s right – in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium fans all over America will tune into Monday to a game they most feared: An all-SEC Natty featuring Alabama and – to less an extent – Georgia.

Listen to the pundits, and they are hoping and praying that it won’t be boring. They hope it won’t be a 9-6 slugfest. They pray that Brian Daboll or Jim Chaney will come up with some offensive invention to stop that happening. They are hoping for end-zone celebrations and while craziness. They had a lot of that in two previous National Championships – and are praying for that to happen again.

The sad thing is is: It probably won’t happen.

Both Alabama and Georgia having amazing athletes. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are the best running back duo in College Football – although Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, Najee Harris are also great too. Alabama also has a quarterback in Jalen Hurts who can run the damned ball, too.

Alabama fans might be slightly worried about putting the game on Hurts. Although Hurts is one of the best scramblers in the game, and he led the team down the field against Mississippi State that was – retrospectively – a season-saver, he’s actually got worse in terms of completion-percentage terms from 2017 to 2016. His fumble against Clemson was only bailed out by the usual immense Alabama defensive performance (kept Clemson to 3 points). Now, it’s not that we think Jalen Hurts is a terrible quarterback by any means  – he could cause Georgia hell-on-earth with his legs, but he’s not a great thrower.

On the other side, Georgia’s Jake Fromm has been a sensation. He’s got a cool head, and by reports by students at Georgia we know, he’s a pretty humble, unassuming guy – a diametric opposite to Jacob Eason, who walked around Athens thinking he was God. Fromm has played like a leader all season long. But then again, he hasn’t faced a pass rush like Alabama’s. Has he? Oh wait, he did. In Jordan-Hare against Auburn….and had he had his worst game stats-wise for the Dawgs that day. Sure, he was better in the rematch, but this is a fresher, nastier defense than he’s faced for a while. If Georgia goes down by 14, Smart’s going to have to put the game onto Fromm’s back…..and we’re not hugely confident if he will be able to take it.

We might have outlined this, but both teams feature absolute beasts on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia has Roquan Smith, the Butkus Award winner who’s a beast.Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter – who blocked the kick in overtime in the Rose Bowl – is an immensely-talented tackler, and so’s David ‘Humble Yourself’ Bellamy and Jordan Ledbetter. If Bellamy gets run over by Scarborough, he’ll be humbled. The Georgia players HAVE to make tackles, or it’ll be a long day.

As for Alabama, they’ve got God in the backfield in Minkah Fitzpatrick who – like Smith – is amazing. Although there’s a story going around about Fitzpatrick’s bruised kidney, which the best corner in college football/future NFL Top 5 pick dismissed as a non-story, it shouldn’t stop Fitzpatrick. Georgia’s Dominik Sanders will try and be Fitzpatrick in the Georgia secondary. We think he’ll try and play man-to-man with Calvin Ridley (good luck!). Oh, and Rashaan Evans is a freak, and Alabama has all the depth in the world to stop Georgia if there are injuries, which sadly is a sure bet in what will be a hard-hitting bet like this.

Co-ordinators wise, Jeremy Pruitt is a genius. Mel Tucker ain’t bad either (look at his defensive adjustments against Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma in the second half of the Rose Bowl). Both of them will be the busiest guys of the night – especially if they are getting their ears chewed out by Smart and Saban!

Offensive line was, it’s hard to differentiate between the two. Talk to a Georgia fan who was practically suicidal after some of the efforts of the offensive line last season, they aren’t altogether happy with this one. If you think about, Georgia has had 2 games where they have been truly tested on the offensive line, and it’s 1-1. UGA comes into the decider facing a nasty defense that could get to Fromm faster than a Daytona racecar. For Alabama, Hurts has only been sacked all season long, and you don’t see opposition defensive players in the backfield very much. There’s a good reason for that. There’s some good news for Georgia in that 6-4, 324lb Bama guard Lester Cotton won’t be playing in Atlanta after getting injured against Clemson. Cotton started all 13 games for the Tide, but we expect Nick Saban to make the changes.

So what’s going to happen?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be a war. Alabama’s a 3.5 point favourite in Vegas, and to a lot of people, that looks about right. We think Alabama wins by 7 in a game that’s close, if not really exciting. Unless you like defense. Then this will be porn

The National Championship Drinking Game

Right, it’s the National Championship Game, and to keep you a little focussed on the game, we’ve got a drinking game for you.

You know the rules: If ESPN mentions this (through the sideline reporters, Chris Fowler or Kirk Herbstreit (we’ll let you off the College Gameday show if you’re too busy tailgatin’ the last day of the College Football season (sniff! sniff!)).

We aren’t expecting y’all to drink a shot-a-mention, because we don’t want to pay your hospital bills.

And make sure that your drink is alcohol, not water or soft drinks. So don’t cheat us on the fun.

So…..if ESPN mentions: 

—- This is an-all SEC National Championship Game — DRINK A SHOT

—- That tickets went for a minimum of $2,000 – ONE SHOT

—–That Kirby Smart was Nick Saban’s defensive co-ordinator — ONE SHOT

—- Ohio State, and how Alabama was 4th and used this as motivation — ONE SHOT

—- Davin Bellamy yelling ‘Humble Yourself’ at Baker Mayfield — ONE SHOT

—- Alabama’s strength coach smashing the National Championship Runners-Up trophy from last season —- TWO SHOTS

—- Any uses of the word ‘DeShaun Watson, Dabo Swinney, Clemson, Hunter Renfro” – ONE SHOT

—- Jalen Hurts and the screensaver of the Clemson loss that he uses as ammunition — TWO SHOTS

—- Jeremy Pruitt being the next coach of Tennessee — SHOT

—– ANY MENTION OF LANE KIFFIN — TWO SHOTS

—- That Jake Fromm started the season as a back-up to Jacob Eason —- ONE SHOT

—- Jake Fromm being referred to as a ‘game manager’ —-ONE SHOT

—- ‘Big Bo’ — ONE SHOT

—- If a Fat Guy Touchdown happens —- TWO SHOTS

—-Every Touchdown — A SHOT

—- If the game beats the O/U – TWO SHOTS

—- Camera pans to UGA Spike Squad —- ONE SHOT

—- Shot of bald UGA fan with Bulldog on his head —- ONE SHOT

—- Shot of Uga the Bulldog —- TWO SHOTS

—- Shot of Alabama fan you’re CERTAIN didn’t go to Alabama — TWO SHOTS

—- Mention of the Auburn loss for either Georgia or Alabama — TWO SHOTS

—- Mention of Mikah Fitzpatrick and anything related to NFL Round One Draft Pick —ONE SHOTS

—- Nick Chubb being a former track and field star — TWO SHOTS

—- Every time Jalen Hurts throws an INT — TWO SHOTS

—- Every time Jalen Hurts fumbles — TWO SHOTS

—- Any time any of the kickers misses a field goal or extra point — ONE SHOT

—- If the ‘Rammer Jammer’ song gets song either by Alabama fans or AT Bama fans — ONE SHOT

—- If Danny Kannell gets mentioned —- ONE SHOT

—- If Lee Corso picks Georgia — DOUBLE SHOT

—- If Lee Corso pick Alabama — SHOT

 

 

At the end of this, y’all should be ‘nicely oiled’. If  you’re not, you have the constitution of a rhino.

 

SEC fans of the year: The Tennesseee fans who stayed around

In 2017, it was easy to be an Alabama fan. It was easy to be a Georgia fan. It was easy to be an Auburn fan. Hell, at the end of the season, it was easy to be a LSU fan and a Missouri fan.

But it wasn’t an easy year for Tennessee fans.

This inaugural award doesn’t go to the Tennessee fans who started up the #EmptyNeyland campaign, aimed to show fans’ chagrin at Butch Jones. It doesn’t go to the people who jumped on the ‘No Schiano’ bandwagon, like my former priest, who claimed not to care about Tennessee – or any college football for that matter – because he was ‘too busy with kids, but managed to whack a sermon of Facebook telling everybody who would listen: ‘I don’t know who runs the decision making at the University of Tennessee, but this is a travesty. I’d never let any of my sons anywhere near a coach like this”, adding: “I’m absolutely appalled the University of Tennessee would hire anyone who was anywhere near that kind of horrific culture. It’s completely tone-deaf, and a giant middle finger to ethics, integrity, and wise program-building”. It doesn’t go to people who painted the rock with hate about former AD John Currie, Butch or Greg.

It goes to the Tennessee fans who stayed.

It goes to the Tennessee fans who kept going to games, even when they knew it wasn’t going to end nicely. It’s the fans who didn’t leave even when Georgia was up 42-0 with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. It’s the fans who went to both home and away games, and kept rooting for their team, despite the carnage on (and off) the field, led by the likes of Clay Travis, ESPN and Twitter (including yours truly, who really thought Butch Jones should have gone last season).

It goes to the Tennessee fans who didn’t sign up to the #EmptyNeyland campaign. Those Tennessee fans who said: “Hell, I don’t know who’s gonna be coach next year, but it doesn’t really matter, but I’m going to be rooting for them anyway”. Those Tennessee fans who care about the team that they were willing to take the verbal barbs from the Georgia and Alabama fans at work, because whether their SEC brethren liked it or not, they were gonna keep supporting their team.

The Tennessee Fan Who Stayed Around deserves to be supported, given a round of applause and a pat on the back. We hope for the Tennessee Fan Who Stayed Around that times will be better under new coach Jeremy Pruitt. While some Tennessee fans will demand an 9-3 or 8-4 year at the worst in the first two years of Pruitt’s tenure, the Tennessee Fan Who Stayed Around will acknowledge that some things take time, like the brewing process of the moonshine he had after hunting deer in the Appalachians.

And most of all, it goes to the Tennessee students, who stayed around to say that they still believed in the team at whatever cost. Whether the fanbase likes it or not, the students have to suffer, because random SEC fans will tell them over Thanksgiving or Christmas: “Tough Year”. They won’t be talking about Grandma’s illness or even the retirement of Dale Jr, but they’ll be talking about the football team. This is the Tennessee student who’s still got three years to go, because it may not be the easiest wearing orange.

Happy Christmas, Tennessee fans, you’re our fans of the year.

Note: Vanderbilt fans came close, and then we remembered that Vanderbilt’s win over Kansas State as well as eviscerating the Vols made them the second most-suffering fanbase in the SEC. 

Great hire: Tennessee hires Pruitt to be new head coach

It came at the cost of one athletic director and a lot of red faces in Knoxville. A lot of Volunteers fans were the butt of jokes about the social media. And then Tennessee hired a former head coach as an AD, and within a few days, the school had installed a new coach from hated rival Alabama – defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

While details on Pruitt’s contract are not known, Pruitt was hired over Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. All three had done fantastic jobs at their respective schools this season.

Of course, the hiring of Pruitt did not come without its controversy. Apparently Jimmy Haslem, the school’s powerhouse booster, wanted Tucker for the job, but Philip Fulmer – who was driven out in 2008 for not taking the Vols to the heights he took them in 1998 when he won Knoxville a National Championship – would have none of it. He plumped for Pruitt.

It’s hard to argue with Pruitt when it comes to his defensive numbers. Pruitt’s one of the best – if not the best – defensive coordinator in college football.

Working under Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher at Alabama and at Florida State before that (with a trip under Mark Richt at Georgia in between), Pruitt’s defenses were always in the top five in their respective seasons. The amount of defensive players who have left Alabama and Florida State after playing for him is staggering.

Pruitt is also seen as a fantastic recruiter, and with the name Alabama, Florida State and Georgia carried he was able to get talent from all over the country.

What’s interesting about Pruitt’s resume is that he’s never stayed anywhere for very long. He’s had five jobs at big schools (Alabama/Florida State/Georgia/back to Alabama) in 10 years. We don’t know whether that was his own hot feet or whether it was created by Jimmy Sexton, his agent who is renowned for placing his head coaches and their assistants in well-paying jobs.

It’ll be interesting if he’s loyal to Tennessee – or the people in Knoxville are that loyal to him.

This season he’s got quite the turnaround to do, with home games against Alabama as well as Florida (who will almost certainly be revitalised under head coach Dan Mullen), and evil road games at Auburn and Georgia. He also opens his Tennessee career with a tricky opening game against West Virginia in Charlotte. He’ll be happy it wasn’t Morgantown.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite all the stumbling around, Tennessee has made a fantastic hire on paper in Jeremy Pruitt. He knows the area, he’s a fantastic career, and he also knows the SEC as well as anyone in college football. Having said that, Tennessee’s schedule is hardly easy, so a bowl game would be a success for the Vols in 2018.

 

 

 

Home run hire: Jimbo Fisher is Texas A&M’s new head coach

After a week of speculation, the Texas A&M Aggies have their home run hire: Jimbo Fisher.

Former Florida State head coach Fisher came to a 10-year, $75 million agreement with the Aggies on Friday, in a deal that has Aggies fans abuzz with excitement.

Fisher will earn $7.5m per year at College Station, making him the SEC’s second-best paid head coach. Alabama’s Nick Saban is the best-paid.

Texas A&M fired Kevin Sumlin on Saturday despite Sumlin posting one of the best records the school has ever seen.

Fisher brings with him an excellent recruiting reputation, as well as a National Championship that he won while being the head coach in Tallahassee. Fisher will walk into Texas – one of the best recruiting territories in the country. Now, Agggies fans can expect A&M to beat SEC and Big XII rivals to coveted recruits in the Lone Star State – something that Sumlin was able to do at the start of his career but increasingly worsened.

Sumlin’s 2017 recruiting class was ranked 13th in the nation but only 6th in the SEC. Florida State’s was ranking 6th and No.1 in the ACC. It would not surprise anyone if Fisher took some of the 2018 class over to College Station from FSU – particularly as now Florida State is coachless, and that the Seminoles had to schedule a game against Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday to guarantee bowl eligibility.

Fisher’s job will not be easy. Texas A&M never beat LSU, only beat Alabama once, and had a losing record against Auburn under Sumlin. He will be expected to turn those around, as well as Sumlin’s awful recent home record (the Aggies haven’t won a SEC West home game since October 2015).

We think he will.

 

 

Ole Miss avoids death penalty, but not penalties

Ole Miss has avoided the feared ‘death penalty’ from the NCAA for its payment of recruits, but it hasn’t avoided damage.

The NCAA has said that Matt Luke’s team will be hit by another bowl ban in 2019, and also any senior player that wants to transfer from Oxford will be able to do so without needing to wait out a year to play again.

Also, Ole Miss has been given a scholarship reduction of 13 over a few years – which shouldn’t hit the Rebels’ depth chart as badly as it could have done.

The Rebels will also be hit with financial penalties, and all of Ole Miss’ staff will be given show-cause penalties, except for Luke.

The most pointless of the NCAA penalties was the ‘vacation of all regular-season and postseason wins in which ineligible student-athletes competed’, which hurts nothing except school pride. The fans will still remember being there…and so will the players.

It added: “The panel noted that the case was the result of a culture at the university where rules violations were acceptable in the football program and reminiscent of similar Ole Miss infractions cases in the past.

This is now the third case over three decades that has involved the boosters and football program,” the panel said in its decision. “Even the head coach acknowledged that upon coming to Mississippi, he was surprised by the ‘craziness’ of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program.”

 

 

 

Tennessee fires AD John Currie, replaces him with Fulmer

If there is a celebration to be had in Knoxville at the moment, then surely today is an early tonic: Tennessee has just fired John Currie, its athletic director.

They have now replaced him with Phil Fulmer, who was run out of Knoxvville as head coach in 2008, despite winning the Vols a National Championship.

Although Currie was regularly attacked for the Greg Schiano incident, where he reportedly offered the Ohio State DC the job, and then had VolNation throw it back in face with such force that he had to rescind it again, he really should have left his post some time beforehand.

Under his eight-month guidance, Tennessee football was a shambles. The Vols didn’t win a SEC game and finished the season with such style that Vanderbilt dropped more than 40 points on them at home in the ‘Battle Of The Winless’. Their head coach Butch Jones was a running joke throughout the season, and no-one seemed to tell him when to shut up. Oh, and the rock, which seems to paint slogans every five seconds in Knoxville, spat out hatred for Currie, for Schiano, and Jones.

Thanks to the Schiano incident – which could cost Tennessee millions if Schiano sues the school for slandering his ‘good’ name – the once proud Orange is now one of the most poisonous jobs to take in college football. The school is run by its boosters and by social media, and no longer by its head coach. The school must be looking at itself and saying: “We shouldn’t have gotten rid of Phil Fulmer”.

Currie’s choices (by social media) about who to appeal to have been head-scratchers. Davie Doeren of NC State and Jeff Brohm of Purdue has reportedly walked away from offers. There have been no discussions with Memphis head coach Mike Norvell, who is in charge of one of the most fun offenses in college football, and there have been no discussions with Tee Martin, who was the QB on the last National Championship Tennessee had.

If Currie had done is job properly he would have fired Jones after the Kentucky game. While it was excusable to get blown out by Alabama and Georgia, losing to Kentucky was not. He should have gone them – and it probably would have saved his job.

Aldso under his job, Tennessee athletics in general has been mired in failure. While it has always spawned good athletics, the school hasn’t won a National Championship in any sport since Women’s Indoor Track & Field took home victory in 2009. Currie’s job was to change that, and he failed to do so.

But for now, Tennessee fans can celebrate. Currie is out, and the school can move on. And will do with Fulmer at the helm.

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