Thursday, December 27, 2012

USC is having a real good time

So there was some rabble rabble a couple weeks back when USC safety Tony Burnett sent a bunch of tweets (which have since been deleted) about the Sun Bowl being pretty much the worst thing in the history of ever. The Sun Bowl's executive director unsurprisingly took the high road, responding like so:
“It doesn’t bother us what people are saying before they get here. It’s what they say after they leave, after they experience El Paso (and) after they experience the hospitality.”
USC has now experienced El Paso. Or El Paso has experienced USC. Or something.

A tweet from El Paso writer Duke Keith at the official Sun Bowl dinner:

Errrrr yeah. The USC Rivals site claimed it was all because of a half-hour flight delay earlier in the day; that'd seem reasonable except, according to Keith, Georgia Tech actually got to El Paso two hours after USC and still found time to practice, shower and show up for the dinner almost a half-hour early (hence the hour between Georgia Tech's arrival and departure with no sign of anybody from USC, which Rivals reported was only a half-hour late). And if USC had "kept the Sun Bowl officials apprised all the way," wouldn't somebody have, I dunno, mentioned something to Georgia Tech instead of letting it turn into a huge thing?

Actually, it still wouldn't have been a huge thing if not for the aforementioned tweets from Burnett and then this since-deleted tweet from defensive end Leonard Williams ...

... that amazingly was sent the day after the dinner shenanigans and therefore almost two weeks after Burnett had to apologize for doing pretty much the exact same thing. USC!

I don't even know whether I'm more amazed by USC's terrible-ness at public relations or the fact that USC is still favored by either, 9, 9.5 or 10 points, depending on your Vegas locale; I'm leaning toward the latter. Srsly. Just look at Lane Kiffin's face in the photo at the top of this post; at this point, I'd throw down $20 on USC not even showing up.

Best. Christmas present. EVER.

I debated posting a picture of that stupid shirt Jimmy Clausen's been tweeting about or the even-stupider variations of said shirt, which I won't bother linking to here, but prefer this as national championship game content-type stuff since ... I mean ... just watch it:

That hug? Yeah. I bet that guy (a) hadn't reacted to a gift like that since he was under the age of 10 and (b) won't remove that hat at any time until at least January 8 (and with good reason). Let this be a reminder that there are oases of heartwarming goodness in the vast ocean of awfulness that is user-submitted YouTube content. And in the spirit of giving, may Nick Saban not leave for the Browns until after the game.

Related revelation: Getting old means the kids are supposed to get you awesome, emotion-inducing gifts rather than the other way around. /forwards video to son's not-yet-existent email address postdated circa 2047

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

 I should have something poetic or witty to write here but don't because I apparently can't think coherently after engorging myself on approximately 37 dessert-type items in one evening. Enjoy your holiday (hopefully) filled with similar engorgement and gifts and family and whatnot; I'll do the same and be back at it later in the week.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Boise State indecision and Big Ten ginormity

So Boise State is considering not going to the Big East because obviously; CBS is reportedly willing to renegotiate the Mountain West's TV deal if Boise sticks around, and if the Mountain West can get a deal that's comparable to the Big East's, there's no reason to sign up to be part of a conference that's no longer any more relevant than the Mountain West, has the stability of plutonium and makes zero sense for Boise from a geographical/historical standpoint.

I kinda wrote about this last week. Really, the only new newsy-type stuff is as follows: (a) the Big East "is having a hard time putting together a long-term television contract" because it's a flaming pile of meh and (b) Boise is demanding ridiculous things like control of home-game TV rights to find out which conference is more desperate (that might be a push). The former item would seem to swing the pendulum toward the Mountain West, whereas the latter item would seem to swing the pendulum toward the conference that has no cojones (so probably the Big East). Other than that, nothing's really changed. If the financial situation looks better in the Big East, Boise will be in the Big East; if the financial situation looks better in the Mountain West, Boise will stay in the Mountain West. Honestly, I'm not particularly interested in the details of the negotiations..

What I am interested in is this, which has been pretty widely speculated about ever since the Rutgers/Maryland weirdness but is apparently being talked about openly among administrators at various schools:
The remaining Mountain West members are attempting to convince Boise State that it would have more security staying put rather than going to a conference that could still lose two key members in Cincinnati and UConn if there is more movement by the Big Ten and ACC. Cincinnati and UConn were public about their desire to join the ACC, but Louisville was chosen over the two rivals.

At this point, both schools have to stay in the Big East, but sources at Cincinnati and UConn are under the impression, even if it's not known to be true yet, that the Big Ten will raid the ACC for two more schools -- North Carolina and Georgia Tech.

Both Cincinnati and UConn sources have said they ultimately think their schools will be in the ACC. 
Wishful thinking? Maybe. Believable? Yes.

I don't think anybody really thinks the Big Ten is gonna stick with 14 teams since having 14 teams makes no sense, and since the goal is apparently to have an exclusive-to-nerds conference local to as many ginormous markets as possible (with expansion preferably venturing into SEC country since that's the one part of the East Coast the Big Ten has yet to annex), I'll be pretty surprised if Georgia Tech isn't part of the Big Ten at some point in the next few years. Pretty much all the same stuff that applies to Georgia Tech applies to North Carolina, although the administration there might be a little harder to persuade to give up the whole ACC/Duke/basketball thing. Something about the persuasive power of money goes here.

Whether this scenario would be good or bad for the Big Ten doesn't really matter. It'd be money. But from a not-an-accountant's perspective, it'd also allow for something closer to this and therefore be fine with me (going to 14 was a bastardizing of the conference that can't be fixed without MOAR EXPANSION):

Michigan State
Ohio State

Penn State
Virginia Tech
Boston College
Crossover games shmossover games.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just go to the Rose Bowl every year, hokay?

Wisconsin has a coach; that coach isn't Barry Alvarez. To the interwebz!
Utah State's Gary Andersen, who guided the Aggies to their first bowl victory in 19 years, will be named Wisconsin's new coach, sources told ESPN.

The earliest a state job in Wisconsin can be filled is two weeks after the job's posting, meaning Andersen can't be officially announced by the school until Thursday. Andersen interviewed with Wisconsin on Monday.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday that two sources close to the Badgers program said Andersen was athletic director Barry Alvarez's top choice to succeed Bret Bielema, who left to take the Arkansas job.
So that was unexpected. Andersen (a) withdrew from consideration for the Cal job like a week ago and (b) has no particular ties to the Midwest (or really anywhere other than the state of Utah), so the various lists of hypothetical candidates for the Wisconsin job definitely included a lot of dudes but a total of zero references to Gary Andersen.

BTW, it's worth mentioning that Andersen wasn't Alvarez's "top choice" in a literal sense: Mike Riley, Al Golden and Mel Tucker (the Jaguars' defensive coordinator and a former Wisconsin player) all were contacted but declined interest. Still, the reaction has been an amazingly positive one considering the guy has a 30-31 career record, probably in part because the Wisconsin fan base had accepted defeat (as in "who's left in the MAC?") before the Andersen news started leaking and in part because said 30-31 record isn't really a negative.

The reason for that: Holy hell Utah State was terrible when Andersen got there in '08. I mean terrible. Zero winning records since 1997, nothing better than 3-9 since 2002 (!), a 9-38 record under predecessor Brent Guy and an Idaho-esque .359 winning percentage since moving up to Division I about a decade ago. Terrible.

Andersen took the job after four years as Utah's D-coordinator -- he was promoted to take over for Kyle Whittingham after Whittingham was promoted to take over for Urban Meyer -- and went from 4-8 to 4-8 to 7-6 to 11-2, with this year's two losses by one to Wisconsin (oh hai) and three to BYU.

An amazing quote from a Utah State beat writer (those apparently exist):
"It's a program that was literally a dumpster fire for years until Gary Andersen got there and was able to turn it around," Graham said. "To take a program that went 19 years without a bowl win and in his fourth year there (finish) 11-2 and five points away from being in the BCS in Logan, Utah, which is really in the middle of nowhere — to be able to pull that off is something else."
Indeed. And the reason for that improvement was a comparable improvement on defense, hence Andersen, a former D-coordinator, being of interest to the Cals and Wisconsins of the world. Utah State's numbers in Andersen's four years were as follows: 113th in yardage and 107th in scoring in 2009, 100th and 101st in 2010, 50th and 68th in 2011 and 15th and eighth (!) this year, with only two teams on the schedule (San Jose State and Louisiana Tech, two teams that finished a combined 19-5) scoring more than 20 points. FWIW, Utah State also held Wisconsin to 16 points and 234 total yards, Wiscy's second-lowest output of the season (although that was in the dark days before Matt Canada and the O-line seemingly had any idea what was going on).

And going back a little further, Utah's defenses under Andersen finished like so: 47th in yards and 59th in scoring in 2005, 43rd and 37th in '06, 18th and fifth in '07 and 12th and 11th in '08. So yeah: Andersen knows how to develop a defense. Not disputable.

What makes him something other than the "home run hire" a lot of people are claiming him to be is the other stuff (or lack thereof). The meaingful portion of Andersen's coaching career has consisted entirely of four years at Utah State (he also had a year at Southern Utah), which is really not comparable in any way to Wisconsin. I mean, logic dictates that anybody who can succeed at Blah Program X can obviously succeed at Way Better Program Y, but it doesn't always work out that way in reality.

There are really two questions. The first: What's gonna happen with the offense? Utah State was running something resembling a spread, albeit a run-biased one, whereas Barry Alvarez said at his post-Bielema-WTF presser something along the lines of "haha spread no." So Wisconsin probably won't be doing what Utah State was doing, and with Utah State O-coordinator Matt Wells getting the head coaching job there and Canada going to NC State, Andersen will have to piece together a staff (probably based on Alvarez's recommendation) to run an offense somewhat unlike the ones he's overseen thus far in his career.

That said, Andersen is philosophically not unlike Alvarez/Bielema; he likee the run (just spreading to run instead of MANBALLING to run). Here's a useful chart that pretty well demonstrates the Wisconsin-ness of the Utah State offense:

The uncertainty lies in the implementation of that philosophy and the amalgamation of a staff. Rumor has is that Andersen is retaining his O-line coach from Utah State; whether that works with whatever the yet-unnamed O-coordinator wants to do remains to be seen. I'm somewhat skeptical that the Wisconsin running game will still be the Wisconsin running game (as it's recognized right now) a few years from now, if only because there isn't really any evidence that Andersen is totally committed to that type of power run game built around an O-line made up entirely of bear-sized humans. That doesn't necessarily mean it won't be good (Utah State's running game averaged a final ranking of 23rd nationally); it just means there'll be some systemic transition of some degree that may or may not go awesomely.

The second: Was Andersen's success over the last two years more a result of him being an amazeballs coach or more the result of him being a good D-coordinator in a craptacularly awful conference? Really, there's not a lot in the way of data to differentiate Andersen from the various hires of late who rebuilt their various MAC/WAC programs from crappy to decent to (relatively) very good. And it's one thing for Colorado to give a couple million bucks to the guy who built San Jose State into something respectable since doing the same at Colorado would represent improvement at this point; it's another thing for Wisconsin to do it since the standard at Wisconsin is, like, a lot higher these days. As I mentioned a few grafs ago, there's obviously a difference between turning a bad program into a pretty decent one and maintaining a borderline-elite program, especially one that might have already plateaued. I mean, even if Andersen is an amazeballs coach, three straight Rose Bowls might never, ever happen again for Wisconsin, so being the guy to follow the guy who literally just did seems suboptimal. And that's a real "if" given the small sample size of data (one excellent year of debatable relevance to Wisconsin) for that hypothesis.

There's probably something to be written here about Arkansas getting the guy with all the Rose Bowls and Wisconsin celebrating about getting the guy with the 30-31 career record. That something: You win, SEC. You always win. The money always wins.

As for Wisconsin, if nothing else, a defense that's been good to very good for most of my adult life should continue being good to very good (or better), and that alone should allow for some leeway in terms of figuring out an identity on offense and developing some recruiting connections outside the state of Utah and whatnot. So that'll help; it's just doubtful that it'll help enough to keep Wisconsin at a double-digit-wins-almost-every-year level since even the guy who had been doing that didn't particularly like his chances of continuing to do it at Wisconsin. Really, just doing something resembling that going forward would be pretty impressive considering the recruiting vacuums that are the Ohio State and Michigan staffs.

On the plus side, there's this, which probably doesn't really mean anything except that Andersen is a better person than most persons who do what he does:
On Tuesday, Andersen began calling his Utah State players, one by one. ... ince Utah State was on holiday break, most of the players didn't return to the Logan campus after the bowl game. So there was no opportunity for Andersen to address his status at a team meeting.

His biggest concern was "they're going to learn about it through ESPN.''

Although it was out of his control at that point, he didn't want them to hear it that way.

"So I reached out to them -- 107 times,'' he said of his individual calls to each player on the roster.
Upshot: Gary Andersen is 107 times more likable than Bret Bielema, so in the somewhat-unlikely event that he's able to continue doing what Wisconsin's been doing of late (or in the much more likely event that Wisconsin stays good but not quite that good), it will be slightly more palatable for me. And that's really the most important thing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Make it (and by 'it' I mean 'Dave Brandon') stop

Unsurprisingly, Michigan will be wearing UNIFORMZ in the Outback Bowl. Unsurprisingly, said UNIFORMZ will be the worst things ever since Michigan's alternate unis are required via the Adidas contract to always be the worst things ever.


Sigh. The details don't even matter anymore; I have no interest in trying to parse out whether these are the exact inverse of the terrible unis from the Alabama game or whether I'll actually be able to see yellow numbers on white jerseys or whether the helmets are tolerable.

As of the Outback Bowl*, Michigan will have worn eight different uniforms over the last two years. Eight. Eight! AAARRRGHGHGH. Basically everything that makes Michigan Michigan has been sold out in the name of selling some terrible, awful, no good, very bad jerseys, presumably to people who don't really care about whether Michigan is Michigan. I mean, what better way to build a brand than by doing everything possible to appeal to the people who don't care about the things that turned the brand into something meaningful in the first place and in the process doing everything possible to alienate the people who do? Wooooo business!

Michigan has arguably the best, most recognizable uniforms in existence. Wearing them would be f#%$ing swell. The end.

*Michigan is the designated home team and thus had the option to wear the blue jerseys that are, you know, identifiable as being Michigan's. Instead, these. HEAD ASPLODE.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Catching up hires ALL OF THE COACHES

You're hired, generic son of legendary coach: Amazingly, Skip Holtz might end up being the only coach among those fired this offseason to get rehired this offseason; Louisiana Tech picked him up Friday to replace Sonny Dykes (and coach in only the best-est bowl games).

All things considered, Holtz could have done a lot worse for himself since Louisiana Tech is an OK program (albeit in Conference USA, which is the new WAC since the Big East is the new Conference USA) that's generated big-time-ish jobs for both of its last two coaches. The question is whether Louisiana Tech could have done any better; Holtz is more of a manager type than a playcaller type, and his management at South Florida was terrible since USF went from pretty good when he took over to pretty awful by the time he got fired, going 2-14 in Big East play over the last two years with an offense that was flat-out unwatchable despite Holtz allegedly having been a Division I coordinator at one point. That said, he won two Conference USA titles at East Carolina right before going to USF and did reasonably well at UConn before that, and his overall record is a respectable 88-71. Also, Louisiana Tech is still Louisiana Tech, one 9-3 season notwithstanding.

An absolutely perfect quote from Louisiana Tech president Dan Reneau at Holtz's introductory presser:
"The success he has had throughout his career as a head coach is solid."
Solid. Buy your season tickets now! I'm pretty skeptical that Holtz will be able to maintain anything resembling an eight-/nine-win pace but don't see any reason Tech can't be a regular bowl team (insert joke here) in Conference USA as long as the offense is closer to the Dykes version than the Holtz-at-USF version.

Because why not: Temple has a coach (a new one for the third time in four years):
Temple has hired New York Giants assistant Matt Rhule as its next head coach.

Rhule, 37, an assistant at Temple before joining the Giants as assistant offensive line coach in March, was one of the final two candidates for the job. University of Miami defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio withdrew from consideration, according to The Associated Press.
Woo assistant offensive line coach! Really, what's way more relevant than what he was doing with the Giants is what he had been doing with Temple: Rhule was quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator for the previous six years before this one, and he actually interviewed for the head coaching job in 2011 before Steve Addazio somehow Red Bull-ed his way into getting hired.

Statistically, the numbers in that time were pretty uninspiring, but (a) Temple was TERRIBLE when Rhule showed up with Al Golden and (b) there was linear improvement from "holy hell" to "average," which means something given the terribleness.

A useful bit of information from ESPN's Andrea Adelson:
When (Rhule) spent time as recruiting coordinator during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Temple's classes ranked No. 1 in the MAC. In 2008, as well. There is nobody out there better acquainted with what it takes to win at Temple and what is needed to win at Temple.
The only thing: That was in the MAC. Temple's in the Big East now, which ... uhhh ... never mind. But still, Temple went 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Big East this year and has basically none of the things that inherently generate success. In that regard, Rhule at least knows what he's getting into; the question is whether he can do anything about it and keep Temple relevant-ish rather than whatever Temple was for the many years before Golden got there.

Ummm P.J. Fleck?!? Western Michigan likes 'em young:
Western Michigan has hired 32-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant P.J. Fleck, making him the youngest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Fleck has worked for Bucs coach Greg Schiano the past three years. Fleck was the receivers coach at Rutgers for two years before following Schiano to Tampa Bay this season to do the same job.

Fleck played receiver for Northern Illinois from 1999-2003 and spent two season in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers before starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel in 2006.
Great googly moogly. I remember P.J. Fleck. I'm so old.

Anyway, Western Michigan was pretty consistently one of the better programs in the MAC for the last decade under Bill Cubit; the problem was that being "one of the better programs in the MAC" yielded zero MAC title game appearances and obviously zero MAC titles, hence Cubit getting fired last month after a 4-8 season with an overall record of 51-47.

Fleck's obviously worked under some pretty decent coaches but has done so for all of, like, six years. He's basically the MAC version of Kliff Kingsbury except without the playcalling experience; he's done nothing other than coach receivers, although I assume he's amazing as a recruiter since he's basically the same age as the dude he's recruiting (which makes him the opposite of Cubit, who's 59).

Whether that translates to actual coaching-type stuff is unknown. I mean, there isn't even any data to parse through. And if it doesn't, he probably be at Western Michigan very long since the administration is setting the bar pretty high (like at "MAC title or bust"). So win some MAC titles, man who's basically the same age as me.

More MACtion: Kent State is replacing Darrell Hazell with a guy who looks a lot like Darrell Hazell:
Paul Haynes, who spent last season as Arkansas' defensive coordinator, will be named Kent State's coach Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Haynes is an alum of Kent State, where he walked on as a defensive back in 1987. He played four seasons and finished as the school's seventh all-time leading tackler.

Before joining Arkansas in 2011, he was an assistant for seven seasons at Ohio State as the Buckeyes' defensive backs coach from 2005-10. He also was an assistant at Louisville and Michigan State.
The Arkansas defense definitely regressed some this year, but whether that was more due to Haynes' playcalling inexperience or the general tire fire that was all things Arkansas is hard to say. I remember him being pretty highly regarded as a defensive backs coach, and I imagine that he's done a decent amount of recruiting in Ohio (obviously). In that regard, he's basically Darrell Hazell: Hazell was receivers coach and assistant head coach at Ohio State before getting the Kent State job, so I guess Kent State is just going back to the same well and hoping for the same awesomeness.

That said, anything resembling the same level of awesomeness is pretty unlikely; Kent State has won conference title ever (!), that coming in 1972, and really hadn't been good at any point in my lifetime prior to this year. Just finishing above .500 on a fairly regular basis would qualify as success and probably result in Haynes getting whatever random Big Ten/Big East job is open a couple years from now.

San Jose State has a coach: It's a guy you've never heard of:
San Jose State has hired Ron Caragher as its new head coach, the school announced on Monday via press release.

Caragher has spent the last six seasons as the head coach at the University of San Diego. He'll replace Mike MacIntyre, who left to take over at Colorado a week ago.
FYI, Caragher went 44-22 in five years at San Diego (the FCS one) after Jim Harbaugh left; he presumably has at least somewhat of a coaching/recruiting network in the California area, which along with his way-above-.500 record probably made him a relatively attractive candidate for a program that may or may not be in the FBS in five years despite being ranked right now. He also was a receivers coach at UCLA and a running backs coach at Kentucky before getting the San Diego job, so there's some FBS experience extant, which yay.

Beyond that, I have no reaction. It's San Jose State; Caragher will either do relatively well (anything above .500, basically) and get a better job in about three years or do poorly and go unnoticed since it's San Jose State.

Florida State has a D-coordinator: According to the internet, that D-coordinator is Jeremy Pruitt, currently Alabama's defensive backs coach. This is everything you need to know about Pruitt: He's 37, he's been at Alabama for two years (before which time he was a high school D-coordinator at powerhouse Hoover in Alabama) and he was hired in 2007 as "director of player development," aka "guy who doesn't really do anything except recruit because he knows all the high school coaches." There is one of these guys on every staff; trust me.

So whether he's actually a good coach is pretty hard to say. I mean, yeah, Alabama's secondary is awesome; Alabama's secondary also had about eleventeen All-Americans when Pruitt got there and is largely coached by Nick Saban. A very apt assessment from Tomahawk Nation:
There are a couple of ways one can view the promotion. One is that Saban has to trust Pruitt well enough to let him coach defensive backs.

Another view is that Saban is still very hands-on with the defensive backs, which are his specialty, as is Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, and that Pruitt might be on Alabama's staff to be a recruiter more than anything.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Alabama's defenses have been great while Pruitt has been there, but also great before he arrived. And there is almost no way to separate the play of Alabama's defensive backs and attribute certain things to Pruitt and not Saban.

What is a fact, however is that Pruitt has no experience as a defensive coordinator at any level of college or pro football. He does have experience as a defensive coordinator at a very high level of high school football, but the amount of game planning and complexity of attack changes a bit in college.
Considering the pure volume of talent at Florida State right now and the amount of money that was reportedly offered to Ellis Johnson (something like $800K a year) before he took the D-coordinator job at Auburn, I don't think there's any doubt Jimbo Fisher could have found somebody with, like, an actual track record if he'd wanted one. So hiring the 37-year-old with zero relevant experience seems ... I dunno .. risky? Nonsensical? Something?

It's unlikely that the guy's gonna be able to maintain the typical level of awesomeness Mark Stoops established, but there must be an assumption that he either (a) is so good as a recruiter that the increase in talent will make up for any difference in coaching ability (unlikely) or (b) gleaned so much from Nick Saban/Kirby Smart that he's become an elite D-coordinator despite not actually being one. I'm guessing it's more of the latter since Pruitt was allegedly in line to take over at Bama if Smart had gotten a head coaching job; an endorsement from Saban as being ready to be a D-coordinator is as good an endorsement as any, I suppose. So still risky but less nonsensical, basically.

I blame Lane Kiffin for no reason: According to the twitters, Tennessee has new helmets:

If this were Facebook, I would like that photo so, so hard. I'm all in favor of tweaking uniforms/helmets/whatever to incorporate more traditionally identifiable things like Tennessee's endzone checkerboard, which might be the most identifiable endzone thing in existence; basically, that helmet is even more units of Tennessee than the old helmet. What I'm not in favor of is randomly turning everything black/matte/chrome/whatever because black/matte/chrome/whatever is the coolest. That and whatever Maryland's been doing.

Wiscaansin problems: The problem with looking for a coach after everybody else has already hired one: You're also gonna be looking for most of a staff since the one you had will probably be pretty thoroughly picked apart. To be more specific:
Several Wisconsin assistants are making moves or considering them as the school's search for a head coach continues.

One of those assistants, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, has made his decision. He'll be joining NC State in the same capacity.

Canada reunites with Dave Doeren, whom he worked for at Northern Illinois in 2011.
So Wisconsin is now down both coordinators and four position coaches and apparently isn't that close to finishing its coaching search based on what Barry Alvarez has been saying. I don't really have anything else to add here -- obviously, finding the right coach is the most important thing, regardless of the time frame -- but here's a valid line from Tom Fornelli at CBS Sports:
The problem here is that even if Alvarez finds the guy he wants for the job, at this point in the game it could be harder for that new coach to find the assistants he wants. The coaching carousel only spins for so long before it's time for everybody to get back to work.
Indeed. On a related noted, there have been some credible interwebz reports that Barry Alvarez is intrigued by the idea of coaching again and would like to subscribe to its newsletter. But these words ...
"I have one more to visit with, and then we'll sit down and decide on the best person. I feel good about the candidates we've interviewed. ... I'll hire a good coach."
... doesn't sound like those of a guy who's considering hiring himself.

Nottingham be gone: Brett Nottingham apparently isn't a huge fan of sitting on the bench at Stanford behind a redshirt freshman:
Stanford football coach David Shaw announced Saturday that junior quarterback Brett Nottingham plans to transfer.

Shaw said during practice that Nottingham would be leaving the eighth-ranked Cardinal (11-2), who won the Pac-12 title and will play Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
Nottingham was the nominal backup last year behind Andrew Luck but got beat out by Josh Nunes and then Kevin Hogan this year despite a recruiting profile with many, many stars. All told, he's thrown 16 passes in his career, going 5 for 8 in each of the last two years. The sample size: It's small. Really, all that's known is that he was roughly the equivalent of the two other guys at Stanford who've been OK but not great (although Hogan might turn out to be pretty good based on his similarly small sample size).

He should have some options, though, based on his presumed awesomeness coming out of high school. Blockquote above notwithstanding, he's actually a redshirt sophomore, so if he goes the FBS route (which seems likely), he'll have to sit out 2013 and then will have one year of eligibility left afterward. No word yet as to whether that's what he intends to do; if it is, I assume Bret Bielema will be interested.

Errr what? A.J. McCarron's chest tattoo is more amazing than ever:

I don't even know, man.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Does the Big East still exist?

So the basketball-only part of the Big East is no longer part of the Big East; the Catholic schools withdrew from the conference (but did not entirely dissolve it) Saturday in maybe the only realignment-related thing that has made sense in the history of realignment. They're gone to some conference (which may or may not yet exist) in which basketball relevance isn't totally and completely meaningless in both financial decisions and every month other than March.

What's left: As of right now, Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida and Temple (and Louisville and Rutgers in the short term). That's it; those were the only football-playing schools left before today anyway. But as of next year it'll be those four plus Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, Memphis, Central Florida and SMU, and as of 2015 it'll be those 10 plus East Carolina, Tulane and Navy. So really, there are still gonna be 13 football-playing schools in the Big East, as there were gonna be before the basketball-related drama.

That's not so bad from a volume standpoint; there's no reason the Big East can't survive with 13 teams (or 12 or 14 or whatever). It is so bad from a quality standpoint, though. I've been saying for a while that the Big East is basically The New Conference USA, which ... like ... yeah, pretty much. Nine of the aforementioned 13 schools were in Conference USA as of five years ago, and Boise State and San Diego State have been in functionally equivalent conferences. And without basketball (which doesn't really matter in most cases but did kinda matter for the Big East given all the prominent programs in NYC/Washington/Philadelphia/Generic Large Metro Area), that steaming pile of mediocrity is even less desirable from a TV standpoint.

Does that matter? No and yes. It doesn't matter in a sense that the various schools included in that steaming pile of mediocrity have nowhere obviously preferable to go (the Mountain West, WAC, etc., are even less relevant at this point). It does matter in a sense that whatever revenue the currently-being-negotiated TV deal produces is gonna be so insubstantial compared to that of the five major conferences that (a) any team that becomes desirable in some hypothetical realignment scenario will be gone and (b) the geographical outliers -- Boise, specifically -- might prefer to get peanuts in the Mountain West rather than get peanuts in the Big East. Keep in mind that there'll be no competitive benefit to being in the Big East once the playoff-type thing gets implemented in 2014; the "group of five" not-really-relevant conferences (including the Big East) will collectively have one autobid for the highest-ranked champion, so being in the Mountain West might actually be better in that regard if it equates to a better chance to run the table.

Here's the money graf (or four money grafs) from The 700 Level:
There's little denying these schools stand to make more money as a group in a makeshift Big East than they would in their former conferences — C-USA, MAC, MWC, independent (Navy).

This is the only way to write it any clearer than (Temple athletic director Bill) Bradshaw said it Wednesday night: It's about money.

By no means do I aim to argue that the Big East is guaranteed success. It is very possible the conference will soon face the realization that having programs in and around major TV markets does not equate to a meaningful number of individual televisions in those markets.

But until Aresco comes back with a deal in hand, and until its clear just how much money each member school will receive, reserve judgment on the Big East.
According to CBS, at least a few of the pending members have out clauses in their contracts related to the amount of the Big East's new TV deal. If it's sizable (like somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million), yay happy times stability etc.; if it's not and some combination of Boise State/San Diego State/Houston/Navy think they can do better, not happy times (and definitely not stability).

One hilarious possibility:
Sources close to the discussions told Sporting News on Friday that one possibility to give the Bearcats and Huskies a home, which is at the early stages of discussion, would be a cross-continent all-sports league involving disenfranchised members of the Big East as well as the most prominent members of the Mountain West.

The proposed entrants would be UConn, Cincinnati, South Florida, Memphis, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and possibly BYU or Central Florida.
So Cincinnati and UConn basically wanna leave the Big East to form a marginally better Big East. Sucks to be you, East Carolina/Tulane/Navy. Whatever generates a little more money, I guess. This seems like the appropriate place to point out that the Big East turned down a $1 billion offer (srsly) from ESPN about 19 months ago. Yeah. That's all I got.

Just know that the Big East will probably be extant for the foreseeable future but probably won't ever be anything better than the bastardized version of Conference USA that it is right now. So adjust your mental interpretation/translation of the words "the Big East" accordingly.

From the oggling stage to the delirious stage

Kliff Kingsbury. Texas Tech. Googly eyes. Etc.
Texas Tech has hired former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury as its new coach, the school announced Wednesday.

Kingsbury, 33, was offered the Tech job on Wednesday afternoon, and athletic director Kirby Hocutt announced the news of him accepting it with a video posted on Twitter not long after.

"Wreck 'em Tech," Kingsbury said in the video, giving the school's "Guns Up" sign when the camera panned to him.
/all of Lubbock faints simultaneously

So that's that; everybody's happy and therefore Texas Tech will go on to win the next eleventy hundred straight Big 12 titles. Or something. I'm pretty sure that's how it works. But I'm contractually obligated (not really) to produce some words here anyway, so here goes.

Kliff Kingsbury is 33 and has a coaching resume only slightly longer than mine. Five years ago, he was making less than $30K as a quality control something something at Houston; he's now making just a little more than that every week ($2 million annually). Like ... I mean ... dang, dude.

Here's the extent of his job history: Houston quality control something something in 2008 and '09, Houston quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2010 and '11 and Texas A&M quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 2012. So he's had playcalling responsibilities for all of three years; he also was given playcalling responsibilities by one of the better offensive coaches in the country after two years of not even being a real assistant, which LOLWUT.

Here's a quote from Houston coach Tony Levine:
"The thing that stood out to me and that I don't know that everybody's aware of is how intelligent Kliff Kingsbury is. People talk about men and women in all different occupations at times as being brilliant, and Kliff has a brilliant mind. He's an outside-the-box thinker. He's extremely creative. And he's extremely organized. And he's got a memory as sharp as anyone I've been around." 
 /all of Lubbock swoons simultaneously

Of course, nobody outside than the Houston/A&M staffs really noticed any of that until OMG JOHNNY FOOTBALL HEISMANZIEL WOOO. But here are some numbers for context: 2010 Houston finished 11th in total yards, fifth in passing yards and 13th in scoring, 2011 Houston finished first in total yards, first in passing yards and first in scoring (swell) and 2012 Texas A&M finished the regular season third in total yards, 14th in passing yards and fourth in scoring (despite playing three of the top 11 scoring defenses in the country).

Given those numbers and the numbers Kingsbury put up back in the day under Mike Leach, who gives his quarterbacks a crapload of freedom at the line, it's probably reasonable to say this: Kliff Kingsbury is quite good at calling plays. Given the complete lack of all other potentially useful data, it's also reasonable to say this: There is absolutely no way to know if Kliff Kingsbury is any good at anything else related to being a head coach. Recruiting? No idea. Player development? No idea. System implementation? No idea. Game management? No idea. Staff assembly? No idea. He's never done literally any of those things anywhere. He's 33 and has been doing actual coach stuff for three years. Three years!

But he's a former player (and therefore can do no wrong, according to every fan base everywhere) and can do "Guns Up" like a mofo, so the celebration is nigh. A probably-not-really-serious tweet that's actually 1,000,000 percent correct:
@ralphDrussoAP: Tommy Tuberville has never been more popular in Lubbock.

Tommy Tuberville's problem was that he (a) wasn't a "Guns Up" lifer and (b) wasn't Mike Leach and therefore was Guy Who Follows Mike Leach And Eventually Gets Fired For Failure To Meet Unrealistic Goals; he just avoided the "gets fired" part by leaving of his own volition.

Leach coached at Tech for 10 years and had an average record of about 8-4, a median record of exactly 8-4 and an average record over the last five years of 9-4. Those numbers were all legitimately impressive because they were accomplished at Texas Tech, which (a) is nowhere and (b) isn't Texas or Oklahoma, the two programs that spent the entirety of Leach's tenure laughing at the rest of the conference. I mentioned this in my Tuberville post last week but will repeat it here: Spike Dykes made a career out of going about 7-5. At Texas Tech, that's ... like ... pretty decent.

Tuberville went 8-5 in his first year, 5-7 in his second year (which compelled him to bring in D-coordinator Art Kaufman, who put together a weirdly good defense) and then 7-5 this year. And that was cause for much rabbling; how much of that was pure win-loss rabbling and how much of it was he's-an-outsider rabbling is hard to say without being embedded in the war zone that is West Texas. At least Kingsbury won't have to deal with any of the latter. He will have to deal with the former, though, unless he literally is Mike Leach (or better), both in terms of philosophy and winning an inexplicable amount. Maybe he'll get a little leeway since he's Kliff Kingsbury; maybe he won't since being Kliff Kingsbury comes along with an assumption that the offense will be exactly as good as what it was when he was quarterback except with more wins (seven wins a year pffft).

I mean, Texas Tech finished the regular season second in the country in passing yards, seventh in the country in pass efficiency and 12th in the country in total offense (and in the top half of the conference in every relevant defensive stat); is significant improvement even possible? I dunno. Maybe it won't need to be if Kingsbury wins a decent amount and runs around doing stuff like this:

/all of Lubbock orgasms simultaneously

I mean, there is a hilarious lovefest going on right now at Tech blog Viva The Matadors. It's like Christmas morning combined with prom night combined with an explosion at the doughnut factory. For serious:
My kiddo refuses to say anything I ask him to say and I have asked him numerous times to say, “Wreck ’Em Tech.” I just played Kliff’s video with the sound up on the computer and my kid just said, “Wreck ’Em Tech.”
Even babies love him! There are (as of right now) 1,070 other comments, all of which are either similar to that or a celebratory gif. I guarantee that the reaction would've been less unanimously WWWHHEEEEE if Nick Saban had been hired since, I mean, will defense work in the Big 12?

And that's cool. He's basically Texas Tech's Brady Hoke, complete with press-conference teehees (Ohio!):
 "I was going to see if there's any way possible we can get Cincinnati on the schedule next year?"
/all of Lubbock fires real guns into air simultaneously

Except people were rightfully critical of Brady Hoke because of his relatively meh history that included only eight years of building something slightly better than decency at a couple programs that definitely weren't Michigan; nobody's critical of Kliff Kingsbury despite only three years of anything.

I actually like Kingsbury (he might be a genius and almost definitely knows how to run an offense) but have some valid concerns about whether he can do anything other than run an offense since the data is nonexistent. See about 10 paragraphs ago. If everybody loves him just because he's Kliff Kingsbury and regularly winning seven or eight games will be fine since he's Kliff Kingsbury, I'm sure he'll be fine. If everybody loves him because he's Kliff Kingsbury and therefore will make Texas Tech the most awesomest thing ever (even better than in the good ol' days but in a Big 12 that has nine legitimately competitive teams out of 10), I'm less sure he'll be fine. I guess it depends whether he can do all those things he hasn't had to do so far; in that regard, your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Meta: No content today because ugh

I dropped my 5-year-old off at kindergarten this morning. At almost the exact same time, a bunch of kids effectually the same as my son at a school effectually the same as his in a place effectually the same as where I live were getting brutally murdered for no fathomable reason. I can't even (or just don't want to) imagine. Words: There are none. None.

With that in mind, Kliff Kingsbury's introductory presser and the stability of the Big East just seem ... I dunno ... something. Unimportant? Yeah, I guess so.

So instead of writing I'm gonna get my work done, leave a little early, take my kids to ride the Christmas train and then put them to bed. And the latter part will be a little easier knowing that there are a lot of people out there right now who thought they'd get to do that tonight but won't.

What a sad, sad world. I don't even know, man.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Of course Greg Garmon is gone

Iowa running back yadda yadda you know how this sentence ends:
The running back exits continue for Iowa, as freshman Greg Garmon has decided to transfer from the team. There's nothing official from Iowa, but Garmon told multiple media outlets that he asked for and received his release from head coach Kirk Ferentz on Wednesday.
Garmon was a moderately highly touted four-star dude last year who ended up with 38 carries for 122 yards and eight catches for 57 yards, with most of those touches out of necessity since obviously. Recruiting rankings aside, he was the No. 3 option for most of the year behind walk-on fullback Mark Weisman and converted receiver Damon Bullock; interpret that as you will.

An explanation from Garmon via 247Sports:
"This had nothing to do with my grades or getting in to any trouble at all. I just didn't feel comfortable here anymore with the offense. It is a power offense and I am not a power type of a back. I'm more of a scat-back type guy. I can run, but I like to catch the ball out of the backfield and do different things."
Iowa runs a power offense? Surprise! It's almost like recruits don't really know anything about the systems they commit to play in. Or something. I dunno.

Anyway, seeing as how Weisman, Bullock and Jordan Canzeri (who made his first start in last year's Insight Bowl and played decently but then tore his ACL this spring) will all be back next year, Garmon was unlikely to be a significant part of the offense next year regardless. Except he undoubtedly would've been since those guys will all be struck down in inexplicably vengeful fashion. BHGP summarizes:
Garmon is the third running back to transfer out of the Iowa program in this calendar year, the fourth to leave the team. He is the sixteenth consecutive running back to leave the program early; the last Iowa running back to actually complete four years with the program remains Damien Sims, who graduated in 2007. In the last four years, Iowa has signed four four-star running backs. All four of them left the program before the beginning of their third year in the program.

The Hawkeyes' running back depth chart is now a converted two-star wide receiver, a walk-on fullback who transferred from Air Force, and a two-star scatback who spent the season recovering from a torn ACL.

Fun times in Babylon, indeed.
Indeed. But it's OK because Greg Davis will fix everything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Catching up will only work with Michael Lombardi

It's been real: So ... Marcus Lattimore. He be gone:
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore is finished with college football. Lattimore announced Wednesday he was giving up his final season to enter the NFL draft.

He was considered a can't-miss, first-round talent after his first two seasons. However, a horrifying right knee injury in October has dropped his draft stock, and it is unclear when Lattimore might return to action. Lattimore dislocated his knee and tore several ligaments when he was tackled against Tennessee. He had what doctors say was successful knee surgery and is off crutches.
Sigh. He's basically taking the Willis McGahee route, with the differences being (a) the desirability of running backs 10 years ago as compared to now and (b) McGahee's one major injury as compared to Lattimore's one major injury and one utterly devastating one. And I can't say I blame him; keep in mind that Lattimore probably isn't gonna play at all next year (the estimated recovery time for a total knee-ligament reconstruction is 12-18 months), meaning he'd have been looking at a year and a half away from football entirely followed by a senior-year return in 2014 that would've served almost no purpose other than to re-establish draftability. The alternative: leave school now, get drafted a little later than he probably would in 2015 (after a hypothetical return to South Carolina) and get paid some not-insignificant amount while rehabbing with NFL trainers/doctors.

So the choice probably wasn't really that hard from a what-makes-more-sense standpoint; it was definitely depressing for those of us who have enjoyed watching Lattimore be a manchild for the last three years, though. I'll try to remember the good times rather than the AAAHHHHH screenshots (don't click here) and accompanying sadness.

Southern Miss has a coach: It's Todd Monken, most recently Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator. As you may or may not recall, Monken was brought in (he had been quarterbacks coach and receivers coach for the Jaguars but had worked his way up as passing-game coordinator for Okie State and LSU) after Dana Holgorsen left for West Virginia and detailed a very specific plan to change nothing and learn the intricacies of the offense from Brandon Weeden; that obviously worked out pretty well for all parties involved since Okie State finished third in total yards and second in scoring last year and then fifth in total yards and fourth in scoring this year.

It's worth noting that Oklahoma State's O-coordinator before Holgorsen was Larry Fedora, who of course went to Southern Miss and did some pretty swell things before leaving for North Carolina last year. It's not unreasonable to think that the Monken offense will bear some resemblance to the Fedora one and therefore require less of an overhaul than in most coaching-change instances.

The problem: Fedora was one coach ago. Ellis Johnson took over before last season and promptly lit the program (one coming off a 12-2 season resulting in a Conference USA title) on fire en route to the only 0-12 finish in the country. Given the relatively typical number of returning starters from the 2011 team, it seems likely that this year's inexplicable awfulness had more to do with coaching than it did with talent (although the situation at quarterback wasn't a good one), so just getting the offense back to its typical level of production should be sufficient to get Southern Miss back to its typical level of production, which is to say 9-3 and the Liberty Bowl (or whatever Conference USA is affiliated with now). Really, based on historical success and recruiting locale and whatnot, Southern Miss is a pretty good job (probably one of the better ones) by non-BCS-conference standards; a couple years of success there could definitely make Monken the 2014 version of 2011 Larry Fedora.

Arkansas State has a coach: It's Bryan Harsin, most recently Texas' O-coordinator but probably known better as Boise State's O-coordinator for the five seasons prior to the past two, when Boise was putting up hilarious numbers and going 11-1 pretty much every year.

Harsin is 35, meaning he's been a big-time program's playcaller since the age of 28 (wow); he's also pretty highly regarded, in part because of what he did at Boise and in part because he was able to extinguish some of the Greg Davis dumpster fire and re-establish a respectable running game at Texas over the last two years. For statistical reference, Texas finished 21st nationally in rushing yards in each of the last two years while going from 54th in yardage and 55th in scoring in 2011 to 37th and 24th this year (despite the weird inability to find anything resembling consistency at quarterback). So he's probably a pretty good coordinator, and considering that he's spent the last 12 years under Mack Brown and Chris Petersen, he oughta have a pretty decent idea of how to assemble a staff, too.

The nice thing about Arkansas State is that the program's in pretty good shape right now: Hugh Freeze won a lot and got the Ole Miss job last offseason before Gus Malzahn won a lot in his one year and got the Auburn job this offseason. So the complete lack of historical success means little considering that the last two years have been full of pure Colombian awesomeness (by Sun Belt standards). FYI, Arkansas State wrote a massive buyout into Harsin's contract that makes it pretty much impossible for him to leave after next year and only slightly easier to leave after the 2014 season; still, if he can do what the last two guys did (stay around 9-3 and win a conference title or two) over the next two or three years, he'll probably have the option to leave and take over some program that (a) is in an actual conference and (b) isn't located in northeast Arkansas.

As for Texas, finding Harsin's replacement required about seven seconds of searching, and by "searching" I mostly mean "drafting a press release":
Applewhite, who has been Texas' co-offensive coordinator the last two seasons, was handed play-calling duties for the Texas bowl game and next season on Wednesday when co-coordinator Bryan Harsin left to become the head coach at Arkansas State. Applewhite will also tutor the Texas quarterbacks. Applewhite has held the co-coordinator title for the past two years while Harsin called the plays. 
FWIW, Applewhite has called plays before: He was O-coordinator at Rice in 2006, when the offense was pretty average at everything, and then at Alabama (?!?) in Nick Saban's first year in 2007, when the offense was pretty average at everything. Interpret that data as you will. If nothing else, Mack Brown's obviously got a lot of faith in the guy since his other coordinator hires over the last few years have been based on the mission statement "find elite coordinator, offer him lots of money, profit." Then again, Mack Brown also had a lot of faith in Greg Davis, so yeah.

UTEP has a coach: It's Sean Kugler, most recently the Steelers' offensive line coach and otherwise an unknown since his relevant college experience consists entirely of eight years at UTEP from 1993-2000 and one year at Boise State in 2006. He has never been a coordinator or head coach or anything other than an O-line coach at any level, although that apparently wasn't a concern for the UTEP administration/alumni:
"Sean is one of the most incredible people I could ever imagine taking this position," said former college teammate Philip Gabbard. "His knowledge and experience are unparalleled. His coaching style soaks into players, they play for him. So many people in El Paso wanted this."

After his hiring, UTEP released two pages of quotes from people who worked with and played under Kugler and all painted a similar picture of a man players love to play for and get better under.
Some of those references: Mike Tomlin, Chris Petersen, Steve Mariucci, et al. So that's nice; what's less nice is the aforementioned total lack of experience. Having coordinator experience isn't an absolute necessity -- Brady Hoke is doing OK for himself after having been only a D-line coach before getting the Ball State job -- but it's definitely helpful, especially without having the recruiting background or current network (at the college level) to readily build a staff.

That said, UTEP is UTEP; Mike Price did pretty well to finish 40-45 since no coach has left with a .500 record in 25 years. In that regard, getting a guy with legit NFL experience and legit UTEP connections probably qualifies as a win. Also a win: getting a guy who looks like this.

Kentucky has an O-coordinator: Unsurprisingly, that O-coordinator is Neal Brown, the former Kentucky receiver who's been doing the Air Raid thing as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech for the last three years:
As expected, Neal Brown will be the offensive coordinator on Mark Stoops' first football staff at Kentucky, the school announced Monday.

The 32-year-old Brown, a Louisville native who was a wide receiver at UK before transferring to Massachusetts, was the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech for the past three years.
In other news, what am I doing with my life?

Anyway, Brown did reasonably well at Texas Tech (even if he didn't get much credit for it since NOT MIKE LEACH RABBLE): Tech finished 15th in yardage and 23rd in scoring in 2010, 13th in yardage and 22nd in scoring in 2011 and 12th in yardage and 16th in scoring this year. The offense was slightly more run-biased than it was under Leach, but that was partially by default and perhaps partially by Tommy Tuberville mandate.

Regardless, what Brown's hiring means for Kentucky is that there is a philosophy on offense, and that philosophy is as follows:
"We’re going to have an offense you’re going to be proud of," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "We’ll get out there and rip it around a little bit -- we are going to throw it.”
That quote really shouldn't have come as a surprise considering what The Other Stoops have been doing for most of the last decade. It's still newsworthy, though, that Kentucky is apparently assembling a staff of actual coaches and therefore making more progress toward respectability than at any point in the Joker Phillips era.

Arkansas has two coordinators: SEC money, yo: It buys SEC coordinators.
Former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was hired to the same position by new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on Wednesday night, becoming Bielema's second assistant this week. Chris Ash was hired away from Wisconsin on Tuesday as Arkansas' defensive coordinator.
The Ash hiring was expected; Ash, who was Wisconsin's D-coordinator for the last two years after Dave Doeren left for the Northern Illinois job, was reportedly the only assistant asked to join Bielema at Arkansas. The Chaney one was definitely not expected (at least not that I'd heard of) since what Tennessee had been doing under Chaney in no way resembled what Wisconsin had been doing under Bielema. Details: In four years under Chaney, Tennessee averaged a ranking of 35th nationally in passing yards and 84th nationally in rushing yards, with both the 2010 and 2011 offenses finishing below 100th in rushing. BTW, Chaney was also Purdue's O-coordinator back in the Drew Brees days before spending some time in the NFL; he likee the pass.

An apt assessment from ESPN:
His hiring also shows Bielema, who was known for a power running attack while guiding Wisconsin the last seven seasons, is serious about being committed to a balanced offensive attack.

"Jim Chaney's approach will blend well with my ideas as we work to put together a plan for the team we have and over time develop our specific philosophy," Bielema said.
Given the talent that currently exists at Arkansas, having an O-coordinator with the ability to manifest a coherent passing-game will undoubtedly be beneficial (at least in the short term); the question is whether the playcalling on the whole will be coherent when the coordinator and the coach apparently have entirely different ideas about the best way to, like, score points and stuff. I'm intrigued.

This week in 'Nick Saban to the NFL': Via Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe:
According to the NFL sources, Saban has let it be known that if he returns to the NFL — where he previously flopped, going 15-17 with the Dolphins from 2005-06 — it would likely be with (Browns GM candidate Michael Lombardi) playing Pioli to his Belichick.

Saban could well be looking for his next/final NFL opportunity if he wins his fourth national championship next month in the BCS title game against Notre Dame. If the Browns (Saban is from northern West Virginia, played for and coached at Kent State, and was a Browns assistant under Belichick) and Lombardi are dangled, he may indeed take the plunge again.
/rest of SEC West nods approvingly

Rabble rabble tradition: Notre Dame will have names on its jerseys against Alabama:
Notre Dame will be wearing names on its blue jerseys for the Jan. 7 national title game against Alabama, continuing its bowl tradition under coach Brian Kelly.

The Irish had names on their away jerseys in the 2010 Sun Bowl win over Miami and on their home attire last year in the Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. 
Rabble rabble? Ehh. Notre Dame apparently used to do the names-on-the-jerseys thing in bowl games way back in the day under Ara Parseghian, then stopped doing it for a while until the 2008 Hawaii Bowl under Charlie Weis. So it's kind of a tradition; this isn't Penn State deciding to throw names on the back of the been-plain-forever jerseys just to do something different. Rabble-ness on a scale of 1-10: 2.

LOL jkjkjk: Marquess Wilson didn't really mean "abuse" when he said "abuse," obviously:
Washington State has completed its internal investigation into abuse allegations by former wide receiver Marquess Wilson, and athletic director Bill Moos concluded that no such abuses occurred. ...

Moos revealed in his memo that he received a text message from Wilson after the UCLA game "where he recanted the allegations of abuse made in a letter written by he and a relative and sent to the media earlier that evening."

Wilson's text to Moos was included in emails released by the school Wednesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Mr. Moos this is marquess ... With that letter I wasn't trying to accuse the coaches of hitting players or anything. I was just trying to put it in different terms and now everything is getting misinterpreted and I didn't mean it like that at all ... I simply was trying to get my story across and get my name cleared instead of having it say I'm suspended for breaking team violations ... That could mean like I did drugs or something."
I blame Craig James. #cjk5h

Colorado is kind of like Shoney's, I guess

Really, all that needs to be known about Mike MacIntyre is that he spent a year working at Shoney's right out of college and ended up as a Division I football coach, which ... ummm ... I don't really know what that means, but it probably offers some hope for all the employees of Shoney's who strive to one day get paid millions of dollars to take over crappy football programs.

And speaking of crappy football programs:
Mike MacIntyre turned around the San Jose State football program in short order and will be asked to do the same at the University of Colorado.

On Monday, MacIntyre signed a five-year deal to coach the Buffaloes. He will make $2 million a season. MacIntyre inherits a program that's had seven straight losing seasons, including a 1-11 record this year under Jon Embree that was the worst in the 123-year history of the program. 

Backing up a little, I wrote the other day that Western Kentucky was probably the worst program in the country when Willie Taggart took over given the 20 straight losses and general Sun Belt-ness and whatnot. San Jose State definitely wasn't that bad when MacIntyre got there but had gone 2-10 the year before and 25-35 overall under Dick Tomey, who had a 16-24 record in the WAC (which is the WAC).

MacIntyre (who had been Duke's D-coordinator after a couple NFL secondary jobs) took that hot mess and went from 1-11 in 2010 to 5-7 in 2011 to 10-2 (and 8-1 in the WAC) this year, which lolwut? If Utah State hadn't run the conference table, that 8-1 record would have been good for SJSU's first championship-type thing of any kind since 1991 (1991!). I know. Remember when Stanford was definitely headed for 7-5 after needed a fourth-quarter field goal to beat San Jose State 20-17 way back on the opening Friday night of the year? Not so much; in hindsight, that game said a lot more about San Jose State's progress than it did about Stanford's anything.

This is the part where I attempt to allocate credit for said progress (based on data and stuff) to determine whether it was actually related more to mad coaching skillz or general cyclical-ness of the universe or something else entirely. To the numbers (especially the defensive ones)!

Probably not coincidentally, San Jose State's defensive numbers coincide almost linearly with San Jose State's records over the last three years. The defense might have been worst in the country in Tomey's last year (109th in both yardage and scoring) and was similarly pathetic in MacIntyre's first year (117th and 105th), then improved to just regularly bad in 2010 (93rd and 86th) before becoming legitimately good this year (28th and 25th). Pretty much every relevant number was the second-best one in the WAC behind Utah State's. Offensively, the improvement was similar but built pretty much entirely around the passing game, with David Fales coming out of nowhere this year to finish second nationally in pass efficiency and 11th in yards. So progress: There was a lot.

And that's good since Colorado ... I mean ... holy hell.
And the problem wasn't really the lack of wins; the problem was that Colorado was terrible at literally everything to the extent that only a handful of games all year were even vaguely competitive, and one of those was a loss to an FCS team. The rest were just flat-out embarrassing: Oregon led 56-0 at the half, USC led 40-3 after three quarters, Fresno State (Fresno State!) led 55-7 at the half, Stanford led 45-0 after three quarters, etc. Colorado's average Pac-12 game this year was a 48-17 loss, and the only win required a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback against a Washington State team that was similarly awful and ended the year with one conference win.

Some more numbers: Colorado finished the season 116th in total offense, 116th in scoring offense, 108th in rushing offense, 118th in pass efficiency, 118th in total defense, 120th in scoring defense, 115th in rushing defense, 120th in pass-efficiency defense, 119th in turnover margin ... yeah. So Colorado was basically the worst BCS-conference team in literally every relevant statistical category. That is amazing.
Hence 1-11 this year and 4-20 in Jon Embree's two years as coach. And the Embree era was just sort of a continuation of the trajectory of the Dan Hawkins' era, when Colorado went from a pretty good program to a .500 one to a crappy one (probably in part due to the awkwardness at the end of the Gary Barnett era and the accompanying recruiting restrictions put in place afterward). Upshot: Colorado hasn't finished above .500 since 2005 and has been getting progressively worse ever since.

So yeah: Some serious rebuilding (like reassemble-after-a-freaking-earthquake-level rebuilding) is necessary. There's no way Colorado is close to being a good (read: winning) program right now based on the complete lack of talent that became more and more evident with every hilariously pathetic Pac-12 loss. I wrote this when Embree was mercifully let go:
The good news: There's nowhere to go but up. Seriously. The bad news: Having nowhere to go but up means the program currently is at rock bottom ... (but) I'm not that old and can still remember when Kordell Stewart was awesome and Rashaan Salaam was winning the Heisman and Colorado was regularly finishing in the top 10. The Gary Barnett era had some, um, uncomfortableness but was pretty respectable on the field, at least kinda/sorta maintaining some of Bill McCartney's awesomeness; since then, Colorado has regressed from "meh" to "ugh" to "gack." But based on tradition and facilities and alumni support and all that infrastructure-type stuff, there's no reason Colorado shouldn't be at least competitive in the Pac-12.
That's all true except the facilities part; I was thinking specifically of Folsom Field, which was renovated a couple years ago, but wasn't really taking into account the lack of a viable practice facility and other Oregon-esque palaces. That's undoubtedly somewhat of a hindrance in recruiting. An appropriate quote from Rick Neuheisel back when he left Colorado:
"Colorado has everything that money can't buy."
That's what I was trying to say. I've been to Colorado (the university and not just the state), and facilities aside, recruiting to Colorado shouldn't be that hard. Winning (at least some) at Colorado shouldn't be that hard, either.

The caveat (other than the total lack of talent, of course) is the division: Oregon is elite, Stanford is very good, Washington is good, Oregon State is typically good-ish, Cal is probably headed back toward comparable good-ish-ness and Washington State just hired Mike Leach a year ago. The caveat to the caveat: Chip Kelly could be gone by the time I'm done writing this sentence, Stanford has to start gravitating toward the historical mean at some point and none of the other aforementioned programs are consistently at a level that a normal version of Colorado shouldn't be at. The long-term ceiling in the Pac-12 North for both Colorado and Cal is located somewhere significantly higher than the ceiling that's located at "third place in the division" right now.

Actually getting to that ceiling would require a lot of things going right, obviously, and whether MacIntyre is the kind of guy who can make that many things go right is unknown. The San Jose State data seems sufficient for a positive hypothesis, at least, and that's more relevant data than Butch Jones would've provided after taking over two already-pretty-good programs and keeping them pretty good. But being better for Colorado than Butch Jones would've been isn't the goal going forward; the goal is actually getting Colorado back to competitiveness and then back to something better than competitiveness (basically just reversing the last 10 years of yuck). Doable? Yes. Likely? Depends entirely on whether MacIntyre is what his head coaching data indicates he is or whether he's closer to Dan Hawkins and/or Jon Embree.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bobby Petrino has a job (!)

Word on the interwebz Monday morning was that Bobby Petrino was on campus at Western Kentucky, presumably interviewing for an undetermined position with the women's volleyball program. A couple hours later, this happened:
Western Kentucky announced Monday that Bobby Petrino has been hired as the new Hilltoppers' football coach. The 51-year-old Petrino replaces Willie Taggart, who left WKU on Saturday to become South Florida's coach.
Chances Western Kentucky will be pretty good (relatively speaking) next year: good. Chances Bobby Petrino will be at Western Kentucky after next year: zero. Chances that will bother Bobby Petrino in any way: zero.

That is all. Commence internet asplosion.

/spends 10 hours in gales of laughter after googling "Bobby Petrino gif"

Shouldn't South Florida be good?

So South Florida has a coach. It's Willie Taggart, who was expected to be among the frontrunners for the Kentucky job way back when but didn't get serious consideration and then dropped off the face of the coaching-search Earth until Friday night:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Willie Taggart has been hired as South Florida's football coach after establishing himself as one of the nation's top young prospects by turning around a losing program at Western Kentucky.

The 36-year-old grew up in the Tampa Bay area before heading off to play and later coach at Western Kentucky. He replaces Skip Holtz, who was fired following the worst season in USF's 16-year history.

Taggart led Western Kentucky to a 7-5 record this season. The Hilltoppers will make their first bowl appearance against Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl.
Western Kentucky was quite possibly the worst program in the country when Taggart took over. I distinctly remember buying the Athlon preview magazines that had Western Kentucky on the very last page of actual copy, meaning, "It's OK if you don't read this page because this team is totally and completely irrelevant and awful." To be more specific, Western Kentucky had lost 20 straight games (!) as of the start of the 2010 season, at which point Taggart left Stanford (where he'd been running backs coach for Toby Gerhart, et al) to come back to the only other place he'd ever coached. Yes. The guy played at Western Kentucky, moved right into a job as receivers coach, then worked his way up to assistant head coach/offensive coordinator over the next seven years before getting a job on Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford (presumably due to a relationship established when Harbaugh was working as a consultant on his dad's staff at WKU after retiring as a player). Some basic addition indicates that he's now 36; dang.

Anyway, Western Kentucky went from 0-12 in 2009 to 2-10 in Taggart's first year to 7-5 last year to 7-5 this year, with one of those losses to Alabama and the other four by a combined 18 points. Granted, the Sun Belt is thoroughly terrible, but it's all relative.

And really, that's been South Florida's problem recently: Even in a terrible conference, USF has gone 2-14 in conference play since the middle of Skip Holtz's first season. I know: 2-14! In the Big East! South Florida went from 8-5 to 5-7 to 3-9 under Holtz, with the latter number being totally inexplicable for a team picked to finish either first or second by pretty much every coach/media-type person.

I will now Ctrl+C/Ctrl+P from my Holtz postmortem since I'm lazy and the stuff I wrote a couple weeks ago is all still relevant:
There was an almost-linear trend of regression under Holtz, who took over after the Jim Leavitt weirdness and inherited a team that had gone to five straight bowls and had finished with at least eight wins in each of the previous four seasons. So he got a good-ish program and went 16-21 in three years, won a total of five conference games and took a seemingly decent team straight to the bottom of the crappy Big East this year, which is to say he pretty much massively underachieved.

The Big East thing was really what mattered. I mean, there are some obvious inherent disadvantages at a not-exactly-tradition-laden school like USF, but those mean little in the Big East, where everybody is comparably mediocre and UConn can go to the Orange Bowl. Losing to Florida State? Whatever. Being not even vaguely competitive against Temple and Pitt? Not whatever.
Actually, USF doesn't even have the "inherent disadvantages" that are extant at the UConns of the world; there's the Tampa metro locale, the new-ish NFL stadium, the above-.600 all-time winning percentage, etc. Winning (at least winning to some reasonable degree) at USF isn't that hard; it can't be any harder than winning at Western Kentucky, anyway.

A related quote from Taggart at his hiring presser:
"I always said I wouldn't leave WKU unless I had a chance to go and win a national championship, and I truly believe that can be done here. It wasn't long ago USF was No. 2 in the country. It's been proven that we can get there."
He's right: South Florida was 6-0 and ranked second in the country just five years ago before losing three straight by a total of 15 points en route to a 9-3 finish. And considering that there were no unbeatens that year and only one viable one-loss team (Ohio State), South Florida unquestionably would have played for the national title by just beating Rutgers, UConn and Cincinnati. Again, that was five years ago. To be clear, winning a national title out of the Big East is gonna be a lot harder going forward since, I mean, the Big East is now Conference USA, but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility, nor is getting to the Orange Bowl on a semi-regular basis.

FWIW, Taggart is a pro-style guy all the way since he wants to be (philosophically and in every other way) Jim Harbaugh:
"I tell people today that ever since I met Jim Harbaugh, my life has been going nowhere but up. Ever since then, I've been trying to be like him -- a coach like him, a father like him, a brother like him, everything like him. And it's gotten me to this point."
Probably not a bad way to go from a coaching standpoint considering that Harbaugh's gone from an unpaid assistant at Western Kentucky to head coach at San Diego (the FCS one) to head coach at Stanford to head coach of the 49ers.

The stats don't necessarily demonstrate offensive amazing-ness, but keep in mind that (a) Western Kentucky and (b) pro-style offense. And there was notable improvement each year, with the rankings in total yards and points going from 98th and 90th in 2010 to 89th and 89th in 2011 to 71st and 67th this year and the rushing offense finishing in the top 40-ish each year. The defense improved in a similarly linear fashion, BTW.

Given South Florida's general awfulness on offense the last few years, even a respectable running game would be something and would probably yield overall decency, and in the Big East, that's really the only necessary step between crappiness and the Orange Bowl.

Whether USF can make that second step is another matter, but the data and anecdotal support from Tony Dungy and the Harbaughs and the like indicate that Taggart probably knows what he's doing in terms of program development. Is he Jim Harbaugh? Probably not. That "probably" is necessary, though; I don't see any reason USF can't do in the Big East what Stanford's been doing in the Pac-12, in which case USF and Boise State would probably play for eleventy straight conference titles. And in the much-more-likely scenario in which Taggart is just a pretty good coach who isn't Jim Harbaugh, USF will probably still be better (via the aforementioned consistency in the run game and on defense) and thus a contender-type entity in the Big East, as that program should be. Make it so, guy who's barely older than I am.
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