Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Catching up transfers with amazing speed

Notre Dame names a starting QB: Redshirt junior Dayne Crist was picked Tuesday as the winner of the battle with sophomore Tommy Rees to be (in theory) Brian Kelly's next great quarterback. This was not a big surprise since Crist has way more experience, but Rees did go 4-0 down the stretch last year after Crist got hurt and seemed to get noticeably better as the season went on. Apparently that improvement didn't continue at an exponential rate (which isn't that uncommon for Kelly's quarterbacks) this offseason.

The questions with Crist are (a) whether his paper-mache knees, both of which have been reconstructed, will hold up over the course of a season and (b) whether he can take the big step forward from effective to elite, which is what Notre Dame needs for its offense to be what it should be. In Kelly's system, the running game is always going to be somewhat of an afterthought; it's the downfield passing game where the offense will live and die. Crist is reputed to have the stronger arm and -- at least at this point -- a better grasp of the fairly basic system, so he's the guy.

I've been touting Notre Dame as one of the handful of teams that can legitimately win the BCS title this year, and the only way that happens is if Crist (or possibly Rees if Crist's knees fall apart) takes The Leap and plays like a Heisman candidate. I'm sure Kelly sleeps better at night knowing that he has two already-established quality options, but one of them has to more than just "quality." Whether that actually happens is anyone's guess -- I'm just going with "yes" based on Kelly's ridonkulous track record with QBs, especially in the second and third years of his system.

Tennessee dismisses Janzen Jackson: Wow. Jackson was second-team All-SEC last year and probably Tennessee's best player, and after leaving school in February to deal with undisclosed "personal problems," he re-enrolled in June and was reportedly back with the team. Sadly, those personal problems were worse than expected:
Coach Derek Dooley announced Jackson's dismissal Wednesday. Dooley declined to divulge specifics, but sources told that Jackson has battled substance-abuse issues during his time at Tennessee and failed multiple drug tests.

"Our program has devoted a tremendous amount of energy, resources, support and care in an effort to help Janzen manage his personal challenges," the coach said in a statement. "I will always be there to help him as a person, but there comes a time when a player's actions preclude him from the privilege of playing for the University of Tennessee football team."
That pretty much says it all.

This is obviously terrible news for both parties: Tennessee just lost its best player and one of the most talented safeties in the country, and a guy with legitimate NFL aspirations is now an involuntary vagabond who apparently can't stay clean for a month at a time. Jackson's a little late for the supplemental draft -- that was held Monday, as you might have heard -- so at this point, all he can do is try to pull himself together so he can find a forgiving coach/program and play out his final two years (or at least his junior year). On a personal note, I know a couple people with similar problems and hope Jackson is more willing to get the help he needs than most of the people in his situation are.

As for Tennessee, I said this at the time of his re-enrollment:
Assuming Jackson's "personal problems" haven't robbed him of some amount of on-field ability, he returns as probably the second-best safety in the SEC (Mark Barron at Alabama being the best) and represents a massive chip in Tennessee's bid for a second straight uninspiring bowl game that won't mean anything other than big-picture progress.
Progress is tough when you have zero depth and are continually (for a variety of reasons) forced to rely on underclassmen with minimal experience -- you can trust me on that one.

Lache Seastrunk transfers to Baylor: That didn't take long: Four days after leaving Oregon, former five-star recruit and Texas native Lache Seastrunk signed scholarship papers with Baylor on Tuesday. Interestingly, Seastrunk said in a radio interview that he'll petition the NCAA to be eligible immediately because part of the reason for his decision to come home was the deteriorating health of his grandparents. But he also said this:
"I felt like God wanted me to be (at Oregon)," Seastrunk said. "But God will also pull you out of the storm before it happens. I felt like something was about to go down, and God wanted me to get up out of there."
It sounds ... ummm ... not good when a player bolts and says "something was about to go down," especially when that player is the integral figure in an ongoing investigation into some potentially devastating shenanigans. Assuming Seastrunk is as close to Willie Lyles as the initial reports indicated, he would probably know as well as anyone exactly what's been given/told to the NCAA and how damaging it might be.

On the flipside, even if Seastrunk hasn't quite lived up to his recruiting hype, this is another big get for Baylor. He's only a redshirt freshman and will have either three or four years of eligibility (depending on the NCAA's ruling) in a spread offense that's not significantly different from the one Oregon has been running. Put Seastrunk in the same backfield with Robert Griffin and you've got the talent to do some serious offensive damage.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Art Briles is building a legitimately solid program at Baylor.

Rob Henry out for the year with torn ACL: Like the headline says, Purdue starting quarterback Rob Henry, a redshirt sophomore, tore his ACL in practice Wednesday and is obviously done for the season. Henry was pretty bad as a passer last season -- 53 percent in Purdue's offense is not good, and anecdotal evidence from the games I saw was even worse -- but he's a decent athlete who ran for about 500 yards and accounted for 15 total touchdowns as a part-time starter.

I'm not sure if the fact that Henry was ahead of former Miami transfer Robert Marve says more about Henry or Marve -- Marve was clearly a better passer last year but threw three touchdowns and four picks in his three early starts before tearing his ACL (they do that a lot* at Purdue). This year, reports from camp were that Marve wasn't recovering as well as hoped and probably wouldn't be ready. So yeah ... anybody wanna play quarterback?

The realistic options are more-athlete-than-quarterback Caleb Terbush, who has thrown a whopping four passes in his three years, and sophomore Sean Robinson, who played a little last season when Henry went down with a broken finger and completed about 40 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and six picks (yikes). Unless Marve recovers in a hurry, the offense could be really ugly this year.

*Seriously, if you go to Purdue and play sports, your ACL will be destroyed (possibly several times if your name is Robbie Hummel).

Texas A&M probably headed to SEC ... eventually ... maybe soon: I'll be honest: I pretty much stopped paying attention to the A&M realignment talk after the SEC came out last weekend and said "no thanks." But this is from a story this week in the San Antonio Express-News:
Let's be clear: Everything is still a go for A&M to the SEC, no matter the vocal protests of Baylor or anyone else in the Big 12. It's just a matter of finalizing said details.

Ideally, the Aggies would like wrapping this up sooner than later — meaning by the end of this month — so they can start play in the SEC in 2012, and not drag out their remaining membership in the Big 12 over two years instead of one.

In terms of Big 12 exit fees, Nebraska's $9.25 million agreed upon last year, when the Cornhuskers announced they were bolting for the Big Ten, is perhaps in the ballpark of what A&M can expect. But that's all to be determined and a key part of the negotiations now taking place.

And this was tweeted this afternoon by Houston Chronicle beat writer Brett Zwerneman:

A&M to the SEC is happening, just nothing along those lines is apparently being announced today, including Aggies' Big 12 exit.

So ... I'm a little confused. Why did the SEC presidents vote heavily against expansion 11 days ago if negotiations with Texas A&M are in the "fine print" stage, as the Express-News says? And it's not even a "sources indicate this is still in the works"-type report; it's more like "this is definitely happening once the details get figured out." Maybe they didn't want to leave the media speculating and everybody in limbo while A&M worked out a Big 12 exit deal? Regardless, all indications are that the only thing left to be decided is the timeline. So come 2012 or maybe 2013, Texas A&M -- and presumably somebody else -- will be in the SEC, and an announcement is probably coming soon.

FWIW, Zwerneman has mentioned several times via Twitter that he thinks Houston is the most logical Big 12 replacement.

Iowa and Iowa State ditch the horrific Cy-Hawk trophy: The people at Iowa Corn apparently have a heart (those folksy Midwesterners):

"The overwhelming feedback has been negative," he said. "Because we've listened ... people want something different than what was proposed last week. And we as Iowa corn growers and the farmers we represent, we want people to be happy."

A temporary trophy will be designed for this year's game on Sept. 10. Fans will be able to suggest a design for the more permanent replacement.

I had a couple good ideas, but none that compared to MGoBlog's recommendation: "a hawk in an F16 shooting a missile at a tornado." As long as the hawk is eating corn, that's a winner.

Under Armour trying to out-ugly Nike: Somebody in the Under Armour design department thought it'd be totally awesome to give Maryland a turtle-shell helmet pattern since, you know, they're the Terrapins. The result is as bad as you'd expect:

Stop. Just stop.


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