Thursday, December 22, 2011

Catching up doesn't mention Ohio State (oops)

It only took 39 years: Norm Chow is a head coach for the first time in his career. He's 65 and has been probably one of the five-ish most well-respected offensive coordinators in the country for close to 30 years. I can't even list his track record in this space because it would take 1,000 words. Long story short: He's coached a million awesome quarterbacks at a bunch of different places (although it was only BYU until 2000).

People used to talk about why nobody would hire him when his offenses were destroying the world at USC; word on the interwebz was that he wasn't a good interviewer and was kind of a quiet type who didn't really get into the hobnobbing-type stuff most major programs require. The debate went away the last few years given his age and the blah product on the field at UCLA. Like I pointed out in my Neuheisel-centric coachpocalypse post, that probably had a lot more to do with the complete lack of a competent quarterback than anything else. Utah's offense was also pretty crappy this year but was without Jordan Wynn for most of the year. So it's kinda hard to say whether (or how much) Chow has really slipped as an offensive mind since he's so quarterback-dependent (albeit in a pro-style way and not a June Jones way). His name alone and typical Hawaii OFFENSE EXPLOSION oughta get him some decent quarterbacks and skill-position talent, and I can't imagine he hasn't learned some things about running a program under (insert prominent head coach here).

I normally advocate NOT hiring guys in their 60s for the obvious reason, but Hawaii is kinda different in that it's never gonna be nationally relevant because of the inherent disadvantage of being 2,000 miles away from everything and having a recruiting base of Samoans and nothing. The job requirements are as follows: be locally supported, generate some interest and produce enough wins/offense to make the program relatively entertaining. Chow should be able to do all those things, even if he only does it for a few years (although that's not a certainty since he could kinda retire and still keep coaching at Hawaii).

In case you were wondering, Chow is from Honolulu (he's Asian-American) and coached high school ball in Hawaii before getting his first job at BYU. He obviously has some familiarity/comfort with the area and the culture and whatnot; he's basically going home. Good for him.

Matt Barkley wooo: Matt Barkley. He'll be back. Yay. I assumed his press conference would be of the "I've done all I can blah blah ready for the next step blah" type; it wasn't.
"I am staying so I can finish what I started," Barkley said.
USC could be really good next year. They were a couple fluky bounces away from 12-0 this year and will be bringing back enough talent that a national title isn't an unreasonable expectation. And I'm making Barkley the by-a-mile favorite for the 2012 Heisman right now. The hype is gonna be just a notch below "Andrew Luck" on the Ron Powlus Scale. Senior seasons FTW.

Akron doesn't hire Jim Tressel, still makes me laugh: Akron is in the process of hiring Terry Bowden (?!?) as head coach. Terry Bowden. The guy who hasn't been an FBS head coach since 1998, when he quit after Auburn started 1-5 following five straight good years (including the unbeaten 1993 season).


Anyway ... upon further review, Bowden isn't a totally inexplicable choice. He's been coaching at North Alabama (a de facto orphanage for D-I washouts), which went to the D-II playoffs in all three of Bowden's seasons after becoming a quasi-powerhouse under Mark Hudspeth. He also jumped to Auburn from Samford, where he went 45-23-1 in his younger years. In other words, most of his meaningful years have been spent at smaller schools that have more in common with Akron than Auburn. He clearly has some idea of how to handle programs of all sizes. The problems are in the program (more on that momentarily) and ability to recruit kids who won't know him as anything other than Bobby Bowden's kid. He's also been in the Southeast since before this year's high school seniors were born and probably has limited Ohio-area connections.

Akron has been awful the last two years, going a combined 2-22 under Rob Ianello. The offense has been embarrassingly bad (115th and 116th) and the defense has been just slightly less pathetic (98th and 99th). So everything sucks. Getting that mess back to respectability might be enough to get Bowden back on the head coaching map before he gets too old (he's currently 54) to be viable for a job with a real program.

Houston is banking on continuity: Tony Levine was promoted from associate head coach/special teams coach this week to replace Kevin Sumlin and keep Houston doin' what it does. Levine has never been a head coach; he's been almost exclusively a special teams coach at a handful of places, including Houston for the last four years, and also spent one year as director of football operations at Louisville under Bobby Petrino in 2003. Trying to translate that into head coaching is an exercise in futility and therefore won't happen here.

I can make a reasonable assumption, though: Levine (who's only 39) will try to keep as much of the staff intact as possible, especially on offense. Houston's passing game has been scorching the earth for most of the last decade under Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles, and the local talent base should be sufficient to keep that going even after the move to the Big East.

I'm a little skeptical that Levine was a better option in terms of continuity than current O-coordinator Jason Phillips, but there's also a reason Levine and not Phillips was promoted to interim coach after Sumlin bailed. Again, with zero relevant data to go on in terms of numbers or experience, I'm offering no predictions here. I will offer this: Houston should be a consistently competitive team in the Big East. Whether they'll be one is another matter that will depend on Levine and exactly how much of the current momentum he can maintain.

Kansas is inexplicably flush with quarterbacks: Dayne Crist announced Thursday after completing his tour of a bunch of random schools that he's transferring from Notre Dame to Kansas. He'll be a fifth-year senior (he's already graduated) and will be eligible to play next year, which will obviously give Charlie Weis a talented and reasonably experienced option right off the bat. This isn't particularly surprising.

What is surprising: Jake Heaps is also transferring to Kansas. Heaps was a big-time prospect a couple years ago and was very good as a freshman at BYU in 2010 before playing like poo early this season and getting benched. He could have gone anywhere; he picked Kansas. He'll have to sit out next season as a transfer (which is fine since Crist will presumably start) and then will have two years of eligibility left starting in 2013. Jordan Webb, who started most of this year and was decent, will be a senior then (assuming he's still around) and the only real competition.

Upshot: Kansas now has two former five-star quarterbacks, although whether either one is actually a good college player is still to be determined. The Charlie Weis gravitational pull is strong.

Ohio State hires Everett Withers: Sorry. I tried.

Anyway, Everett Withers. If I were an Ohio State fan (hahahahaha), I'd be somewhat less concerned about the defense than if Luke Fickell were running it on his own with zero playcalling experience. Withers is pretty good, as evidenced by North Carolina turning into an NFL-draft-pick-producing machine over the last few years and producing the following numbers in total defense ranking in his three years as D-coordinator: sixth, 30th, 40th (keep in mind that suspensions added a level of difficulty the last two years). He also was a defensive backs coach at Texas and with the Tennessee Titans and had one awful year as D-coordinator at Minnesota in 2007 that doesn't mean a whole lot because Minnesota is Minnesota.

Withers will nominally be co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, which presumably means he'll be imparting some of his defensive-y wisdom on Fickell and helping ... umm ... coordinate? He won't technically be calling plays but brings enough experience and whatnot to the table that the co-coordinator thing with Fickell and Withers probably won't constitute a massive drop-off from the co-coordinator thing with Fickell and Jim Heacock (who called plays for the last seven years). Point for Urban Meyer.

Marcus Coker suspended: I am shocked and appalled that an Iowa player has been suspended:
Iowa has suspended leading rusher Marcus Coker for the Insight Bowl for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. The school said the issue involves a violation of the Hawkeyes' student-athlete code of conduct. Coker will not travel with the team to Arizona to face Oklahoma on Dec. 30.
Derp. Coker ran for almost 1,400 yards and scored 15 touchdowns this year on about 23 carries a game. He IS the Iowa running game (I'm totally for cereal since nobody else has more than 18 carries). James Vandenberg is an underrated QB, but ... I mean ... yikes. This is not a team built to air it out or shut down down Landry Jones since the defense is currently ranked 75th nationally in pass efficiency). In other words, Iowa's chances of beating Oklahoma just went from slim to something less than slim.

Nebraska picks a D-coordinator: John Papuchis is 33 (!!!) and is now Nebraska's defensive coordinator after Bo Pelini passed up Mike Stoops and unknown other options to promote Papuchis from his previous roles as D-line coach, special-teams coach and recruiting coordinator. Impressive.

How that stuff translates to D-coordinator is pretty hard to say. The Nebraska D-lines and special teams have been pretty awesome the last couple years, so that's a good start, as is Pelini's blessing since he's kind of a Nick Saban Lite. Speaking of which, given Pelini's defensive background, it seems reasonable to wonder if he'll handle a little more in that area now that he's got a relative baby coaching it rather than his brother. We'll find out. Regardless, he's obviously got a metric ton of confidence in Papuchis given the guy's ridiculously meteoric rise, accumulation of meaningful job titles and promotion even as Mike Stoops was openly talking about his interest in the job.

Virginia Tech has some special-teams issues: Frank Beamer might be the greatest special teams coach in the history of ever but has some serious issues right now, specifically a punting game that's been so bad this year that receiver Danny Coale is now the regular punter (the other guys were terrible at 34.7 yards a kick). There's also this:
Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with breaking and entering.

Blacksburg Police say the 20-year-old Journell was one of three men charged Wednesday night after an alleged home invasion. Police said the men were arrested after officers responded to a report of a ''physical altercation'' at a house near downtown.

Journell, a redshirt sophomore from Ripplemead, Va., was 14 of 17 on field goal attempts this season.
Smooth. Backup kicker and kickoff guy Justin Myer is 0 for 2 on field-goal attempts in his career.

Va. Tech was 65th in FEI's special-teams rankings this year, and that was with Journell. With a kicker who's never made a field goal, a receiver punting (albeit pretty well at 44 yards a punt) and a nonexistent kick-return game (19.7 yards per return), that number is effectively even lower. Michigan's special teams have crept up from bad to about average (59th in FEI) and might actually be an advantage (!) in the Sugar Bowl unless Va. Tech blocks seven punts.

Gunner Kiel (probably) makes a logical decision: Gino Joubert is somehow connected with LSU/Southeast recruiting for Scout (his credibility is a matter of debate) and reports the following:
#1 QB Gunner Kiel from Indiana will pick LSU either today or Thursday according to one of my sources close to the Kiel family. If so, HUGE
Huge indeed. Kiel's recruitment has been totally bizarre: He was originally thought to be a Notre Dame lean, then narrowed his list to Oklahoma, Alabama and Indiana (?), then committed to Indiana (!!!), then decommitted when he realized Indiana is a tire fire, then took a few more visits. He's been basically off the grid since he decommitted last month.

LSU makes a ton of sense for the following reason: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson are both seniors. Zach Mettenberger is the apparent Next Guy after transferring from Georgia last year, but he'll be a junior next year and has all of 11 career passing attempts. Worst-case scenario for Kiel: He redshirts, sits as a redshirt freshman and starts for three years. Best-case scenario: He beats out Mettenberger and starts for four years for a program coming off what would be its third national title in eight years.

Again, that's all assuming the stereotypically named Gino Joubert is accurate.

Nice hair: I'm honestly not sure if I'm being serious or 100 percent sarcastic.

I'm leaning toward sarcastic.


DarKScoRpioN said...

USC quarterback Matt Barkley is NOT heading to the NFL and will be staying at USC for his SENIOR YEAR. Read more about Matt Barkey USC decision here.

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