Monday, February 27, 2012

Catching up won't miss Craig James

Oh hai we thought you forgot about that: Oregon got its first Willie Lyles-related notice from the NCAA over the weekend. There were some words in it:

The draft documents released Friday, which are heavily redacted, suggests Oregon's use of three scouting services "did not conform" with NCAA rules and the Ducks exceeded the number of coaches allowed to recruit.

The documents state that the scope and nature of the violations "demonstrate that the athletics department failed to adequately monitor the football program's use of recruiting or scouting services."

This is the unofficial "proposed findings" document and not the official notice of allegations, BTW. There's nothing particularly surprising there, although the use of the phrase "failed to adequately monitor" isn't a particularly good sign for Oregon since that would presumably imply an eventual "failure to monitor," which is by definition a major violation (it's second on the do-not-do list behind "lack of institutional control").

Oregon stipulates the facts but somehow believes/claims no violations occurred, which ... umm ... yeah. I'm really curious to find out how Oregon paid $25,000 for Lache Seastrunk got conned into paying double the listed price for totally out-of-date and useless information.

Y U WANNA BE LIKE NFL??? Kickoffs: They're moving up five yards. The intention is to increase touchbacks and cut down on kick returns to help minimize concussions and various other horrifying injuries, which is great on the surface but ... argh.

Here's my issue: If kickoffs are truly significantly more dangerous than other parts of the game, they should be hacked out entirely, tradition be damned. Greg Schiano actually suggested this last year after the Eric LeGrand thing, recommending a plan that would replace kickoffs with punting situations at the same spot on the field (the 30, not the 35).

My reaction at the time:

Overreaction to Eric LeGrand's horrific injury? Probably. Ever gonna happen? Probably not. But after two days of thinking about it, I can't still can't come up with any specific reason for the existence of kickoffs other than "they've always been there." And when the governing body is saying "how can we water these things down so people stop getting paralyzed and stuff," it's worth thinking about a superficially crazy change.

That applies even more now that changes are actually being implemented. I repeat: If the injury increase on kickoffs is shown to be statistically significant, kickoffs should just be removed in favor of something less physically traumatic to everybody involved. If it's not, get off my lawn and stop ruining my kick-return enjoyment.

In case you're wondering, the NFL says last year's identical change probably had a positive effect on concussions and concussions only:

The NFL succeeded in its goal of reducing head injuries by moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line last season as there were 50 percent fewer concussions on those plays.

Hunt Batjer delivered the good news Wednesday at Halas Hall during an NFL Health and Safety forum for coaches and players from nearly 50 area high schools.

"It looks to me like a decreased number of runbacks played a role. It did not affect a lot of the other injuries paradoxically."

The data is sadly lacking in that article. Going from, say, six concussions to four wouldn't be super-convincing evidence of a meaningful change.

The effect on the actually kickoff thingies was far more noticeable:

... through Week 13 last season, 18.8 percent of kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. This year, the figure is 45.9, well above the 30 percent the NFL expected when it changed the rule, and even above what special-teams coaches expected. Eighty-three percent of kickoffs have gone into the end zone, compared with 22.1 percent last season.
I doubt there'll be as much of an impact in college since most kickers just don't have the leg to consistently get it deep into the endzone; my guess is that the NCAA's touchback number will be closer to the NFL's 30 percent estimate than that 45.9 percent insanity. We'll find out, I guess.

Everybody LOL at Iowa: I didn't think the Greg Davis thing was serious. I was wrong:
Former longtime Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis has been named to the same post at Iowa, the Hawkeyes announced Monday.

Davis, who guided the Longhorns offense under Mack Brown from 1998-2010, replaces Ken O'Keefe, who resigned earlier this month after 13 seasons in Iowa City to take a job with the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
ESPN points out that Davis won the Broyles Award in 2005 for telling Vince Young to run around and be awesome and stuff; I'm not sure how meaningful that is. He did develop a pretty deadly short/underneath passing game starting in the early 2000s, but the running game slowly went from good to blah to complete nonfactor in the Colt McCoy era, which resulted in the offense collapsed entirely once McCoy was gone (58th in yardage in 2010) and Garrett Gilbert turned out to be suboptimal.

This does not sound much like Iowa's offense in and of itself, but the general distaste for his playcalling should seem familiar. This is from BHGP:
A thirteen-year coordinator with a solid resume, constantly under pressure from the fan base. A solid developer of talent at quarterback -- under his guidance, UT churned out Major Applewhite, Chris Simms, Vince Young, and Colt McCoy -- yet he was constantly criticized for his playcalling and in-game decisionmaking. While he embraced some of the spread passing game that enveloped the Big XII, Texas always remained steadfastly pro-style and conservative, especially against top-shelf opposition. Greg Davis was essentially the Texas-sized Ken O'Keefe, ostensibly more successful on the stat sheet and in the standings but rarely exceptional and constantly lampooned by a fan base that had seen more than enough to make its judgment.
The numbers-or-eyeballs debate is also somewhat complicated by the talent variable. From the same BHGP post:
From 2002 through his resignation in 2010, Davis and his staff recruited 92 offensive players to Texas; 59 of those players were given 4 or 5 stars by Rivals, and the average star rating of a Texas offensive players over that period was a tick over 3.7 (by contrast, Iowa is generally in the 2.8 neighborhood).
Yeeeaaahhh. Iowa =/= Texas in terms of talent. Keep in mind that O'Keefe just got promoted to an NFL job despite his offenses finishing an average of 76th in yardage over the last five years and never cracking the top 50.

Davis probably isn't as bad as his last couple years at Texas made him look but also isn't very good. He's a pretty good passing-game coach who's a crappy playcaller and is going to a place with significantly less talent than he had at his last stop. Exactly what that means for Iowa is hard to say since O'Keefe had been there for the entirety of Kirk Ferentz's tenure, but I'm expecting a bit of a shift toward the passing game and about the same offensive mediocrity overall (maybe a little worse statistically thanks to Greg Mattison, Bo Pelini, et al). Obligatory pictures:

That second picture could serve as my entire commentary. Glorious.

They are talking about talking about it: Jim Delany is "not a playoff guy." Shocking. He is apparently a plus-one guy, though, and since he and Mike Slive (probably the two most powerful guys that are relevant to this discussion) are on board with a plus-one and nothing else at the conference commissioners' meetings, that would seem to be the inevitable next step.

Interesting quote from Delany at said meetings:
"I would suggest that a 16-team, or an eight-team, or anything that is like that, is a negative. It is not good for the regular season. It's not good for the bowls and I don't think it's good for college football."
Jen Floyd Engel takes the opportunity to destroy him for protecting the bowls (fine) and the status quo (more on that momentarily), but he's right about the regular season; I really have no interest in seeing even an eight-team playoff that includes 9-3 teams with no business staking a claim to the title. Let's keep this thing reasonable, please.

As for the status quo, I think she and Delaney are talking about different things. A plus-one or four-team playoff or anything along those lines is a cataclysmic change to college football that can in no way be considered the status quo. What Delany's against is the "expansion" of that playoff to something larger along the lines of an NFL-style bracket with multiple weeks of competition and whatnot; I don't think that's necessarily "inevitable." I don't even want that, to be honest. A playoff does not have to be huge or eliminate the bowls in order to be a playoff that would satisfy most fans.

That said, here's an inspiring status check:
They are not talking about it. They are talking about talking about it.

“It may well be that a new system comes about. It may well be it doesn’t,” Delany said. “I couldn't handicap it. But I could tell you, if you think there is a presumption that it will happen, you are probably optimistic.”

I'll handicap it for you: There's a 99.9999 percent chance that some sort of playoff-ish system (almost definitely a plus-one) will be implemented for the 2014 season by this August. Everybody's for it (conceptually) and nobody's against it. Figuring out the logistical details will be the time-consuming and ANGAR-inducing part.

Nick Saban is so creative: This needs to be mentioned:

Alabama made national headlines when it mailed 105 recruiting letters in a day to a running back from Atlanta this week, Norcross High School junior Alvin Kamara.

Usually, Saban puts stamps on only about 4-6 letters per day to Kamara.

“Yeah, I got home and they were failing out of my mailbox,” Kamara said. “It was crazy but I liked it. ...

“It definitely caught my attention. But they’re not my favorite college yet or anything like that."

Takeaway: Alabama spent $47.50 on a single day's worth of mail to a single recruit. I'm not sure what else to say here. Nick Saban recruiting rabble rabble.

Yesssssssss: I repeat: Yesssssssssss.

In a brief statement to SbB today, ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz essentially eliminated the prospect of Craig James returning to the network.

“We have no intention of bringing Craig James back in the future.”

Everybody wins. Even Texas.

Just because: Joe Ayoob was the guy who replaced Aaron Rodgers at Cal back in the day and was not very good at football. He's apparently awesome at throwing paper airplanes, though:

On Sunday, inside a hanger at McClellan Air Force Base outside Sacramento, Ayoob threw a paper airplane 226 feet, 10 inches -- shattering the previous record of 207 feet, 4 inches.

"We made all 10 [official] throws. The record came on the fourth throw," Ayoob told Page 2. "I probably made 50 throws on the day. My body is still sore."

Verification for Ayoob's throw would seem to be a mere formality, especially since one of the official judges on hand was Stephen Kreiger, the previous record holder.
The plane was designed by some guy named John Collins who's "been pursuing the record in earnest for three or four years" and is apparently obsessed; these guys went all out. The video (of course there's video -- this is the internet):


No more Dr. Saturday

This is hard to believe and makes me a little sad:
Hello again friends, and goodbye.

Any rumors of my demise over the last two weeks have been greatly exaggerated, but only slightly: What began as a much-needed offseason hiatus on the heels of signing day is now permanent. After three-and-a-half years and upwards of 6,000 posts, this is my final entry for Dr. Saturday and Yahoo! Sports.

That's obviously from Matt Hinton, who started as Sunday Morning Quarterback way back in the days when blogs were just blogs and established himself as an intelligent-enough voice that he got picked up by Yahoo in 2008 and became Dr. Saturday. It's appropriate that he says in his farewell post that the goal was to "offer a steady signal amid the barrage of noise" since that's pretty much exactly how I would describe it. He runs the only non-team-specific site out there that (a) covers basically everything of note, (b) doesn't include the typical cut-out-all-the-thoughtful-stuff journalism filter and (c) still includes enough high-brow analysis and strategical stuff to be worth visiting (mmmm, Smart Football).

SMQ was much of the same except with even less of a filter, although there was also a lot less content since he wasn't getting paid to produce page views. I'm not sure that wasn't preferable; I've actually read Dr. Saturday a little less in the last year or two, in part because of the overwhelming amount of content that I didn't think was particularly important and in part because a chunk of that content was written by Graham Watson. I have nothing against Graham Watson, who came over to Yahoo via ESPN (I believe she was the MAC blogger there), but she's no Matt Hinton. Her posts just lack the same level of "this is what it means" insight and thoughtful research and overall knowledge from religiously reading various other sites, which I guess is no surprise since those are exactly the things that made Hinton worth reading.

I'm not sure what his mid-post monotribe on amateurism is intended to convey other than some discontent with what has become important in the college football world -- no disagreements here -- but this cryptic remark piqued my interest:
I'll resurface soon enough, and I shouldn't be hard to find.
The prevailing interwebz sentiment is that he's headed to Grantland, which would be outstanding since that's exactly the kind of site that would let his analytical awesomeness flourish. I'm a little skeptical because of that whole "future of college football" thing; maybe he's gonna work for a school (he's a Southern Miss grad) or do something entirely outside the scope of college football? I dunno. It's hard to envision the latter.

On a more personal note, SMQ was my first introduction to the idea that there was really good stuff out there in the blogosphere, stuff that was a lot better than the typical AP blah and one-sentence-paragraph-filled ESPN columns. I have no idea exactly when I stopped going to newspaper-type sites for my college football content, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that it was due to the discovery of SMQ and MGoBlog and EDSBS. This site was actually intended to be a lot like the SMQ/Dr. Saturday ones: interesting content from a relatively unbiased angle with some relatively insightful/learned analysis and an absolute lack of a filter (language notwithstanding since I do have a job and whatnot), with the combination somehow portraying the "essence" (or whatever) of college football. Whether I've achieved any of those things is another matter entirely.

Anyway, here's hoping Hinton turns back up in the college football world since Yahoo's coverage just got a lot less interesting. Maybe I can help fill the void for the hilariously small group of people who actually read this site.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Because it's the Big East

The Big East is not really a conference anymore as much as it is a loose affiliation of teams that want a moderately respected name to play under. It's a conference the way my rec hockey league is a league; the only difference is that the Big East has about twice as many fans (zing!).

I mentioned the additions of Navy and Memphis in my post the other day but didn't mention this kinda-important news item that came out about a week ago:

West Virginia will join the Big 12 for the 2012 season after a lawsuit settlement was reached with the Big East, the school and league announced Tuesday.

The Big East Conference board of directors voted to terminate West Virginia's membership, effective June 30. The vote is conditioned upon WVU fulfilling its obligations under an agreement that resolves the lawsuits between both parties.

West Virginia's obligation is basically just coming up with $20 million, which shouldn't be difficult (the Big 12 is chipping in about half) and isn't as important as what the settlement means: West Virginia football is officially part of the Big 12 and not the Big East. That seems really hard to grasp given all the history and whatnot.

The immediate-aftermath speculation was that Boise State could just accelerate its own realignment timeline and bail on the Mountain West a year early with an obvious opening in the Big East. Not so much:
"While we have had several discussions with the Big East and the WAC in moving our sports into those two leagues a year earlier than previously stated, the University feels there were too many obstacles to overcome to make the move at this time. While there certainly would have been advantages in making the move a year early, it became clear that it would not be fiscally responsible, as all of the expenses associated with early entry into the two conferences would not be covered."
A seemingly accurate estimate put the cost of trying to escape this year at about $10 million; apparently a year in the Big East isn't worth that much.

That leaves the Big East with the following teams for the upcoming season: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse and USF. That's a short list, yes? It has seven teams on it, which is not enough for a full conference schedule; everybody on the list is looking at six nonconference games (six!) this year, which is a ridiculous number and maybe not even doable for some schools without dipping into the FCS pool.

This nonsense ...
Rutgers could compensate for the lost conference football game by playing Syracuse twice next season — once at home, the other away — according to two people familiar with the contingency plans being discussed.
... appropriately demonstrated the ridiculousness of the Big East's current situation before getting shot down by Syracuse's AD. The exact quote:
No. Not an option, and I guess the simplest way to answer it is just no. It's just all wrong. It's not even an option.
I'm unclear on whether it's an option. Sounds like it might be.

Anyway, the Big East obviously has a problem: Six conference games is not sufficient. The logical thing would have been to take a chunk of that $20 million payment from West Virginia and help Boise State buy its way out of the MWC immediately, which of course didn't happen since lol logic.

The inexplicable alternative:
Temple is in talks with the Big East about joining the league as early as 2012, sources confirmed Wednesday. The New York Times first reported on the discussions to add Temple in all sports.

A Temple official said the Owls would not comment. Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a statement Wednesday that his league is "aware that Temple has been in discussions with the Big East regarding membership."
Nothing's official yadda yadda yadda, but it sounds like this is pretty close to official since the A-10 is already conceding the loss of its only nationally relevant basketball program:
"Temple is a valued member of the A-10. However we are well aware that finding the right home for its FBS football program will drive its future membership decision for all sports. The Atlantic 10 is a large, strong league and I will continue to work with our membership in the best interest of the conference."
So yeah. This is the program that was so awful that it got kicked out of the Big East in 2004 (I can't remember that happening to any other school in any other conference). I'm undecided about whether this is more awesome for Temple (which isn't so bad in the post-Al Golden era) or more embarrassing for the Big East; I'm leaning toward the latter and feel that this picture is an appropriate summary:

But here's the thing: Temple has a MAC exit fee of $2.5 million along with a two-year notice as well as a $2 million A-10 exit fee along with a one-year notice. The two-year football notice would be the real problem: If the Big East really wants another team for this year, somebody's gonna have to pony up a big pile of cash (I'd guess at least double the standard $2.5 million) to get Temple out of the MAC.

The possibility exists that Temple is so desperate to get its programs into a major conference that it'll come up with the $5-$10 million on its own, something Boise State wasn't willing to do. If not, the Big East is gonna have a really crappy decision to make: either buy Temple at a cost that could've bought Boise or play the 2012 season with seven schools, which would be extremely problematic for all seven given the scheduling hole West Virginia just created. Stream-of-consciousness thought: I can't believe we're talking about a nominal BCS conference buying Temple. Unfathomable.

Just to be clear, there is a reason other than the holy-crap-we-need-a-team-right-now issue for expanding. Minus West Virginia, the Big East will theoretically have 12 teams at the end of all this ridiculousness, which is the stated goal because of the desire for a conference championship game. But I say "theoretically" because Louisville has been cited by everybody as one of the two probable additions for the Big 12 if it wants to actually be the Big 12 again. Temple would really be serving as Big East insurance against the loss of a conference title game.

In that regard, I understand going to 13. But ... I mean ... Temple? Yeesh. I'd say something like "there's no way the Big East will still have a BCS bid blah blah blah" if the BCS were still gonna exist when this is all settled, but (God willing) it won't. What I will say is that when buying Temple seems like a reasonable option, you've officially reached the point where you're closer to Mountference UWestA than you are to the five real conferences.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Early candidates for Post of the Year

I stumbled across a couple utterly awesome things in the past few weeks that got filed away in my wildly unreliable memory bank and just popped back in. Both need to be shared; you'll see why.

The first is from EDSBS and ... I mean ... I don't even have a narrative here:

The video is exactly what it says it is. There's nothing I can add here.

Next is something that would fall into the "too soon" category for just about any publication other than The Onion, which is The Onion and therefore knows no limits. Enjoy:

Insert image/sound of uncomfortable necktie loosening. As always, The Onion is awesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Catching up points and laughs at Ohio

The TCU thing: You already know about this. Upshot: Four players, most notably linebacker Tanner Brock, were arrested as part of a massive on-campus drug sting, and three of the four have been charged with dealing weed. The fact that some high-profile football players are using and at least occasionally dealing should not be that shocking but was met with a lot of "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" responses, which just shows that people don't realize how rampant pot use is among the college-age population. Telling quote:
According to the warrant, Brock said that he wasn't worried because there "would be about 60 people being screwed." Brock is alleged to have said that he and Horn had looked over the TCU roster and concluded that only about 20 players could pass the test.
Yeah. I was less amazed by that statement than by the TCU statement a couple days later that only five players had failed a February 1 test, with 11 more having trace amounts that fell within the margin of error and therefore were disregarded. It was never specified whether that group of five included the four who were arrested (student privacy laws and all that), although there was presumably some overlap.

Regardless, all four players have been dismissed. You care about this mostly because Brock is/was very good; he was arguably the best linebacker in the MWC in 2010 (when he played next to Daryl Washington) but missed most of last year with an ankle problem. His loss is somewhat significant. Also gone are defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and safety Devin Johnson, both starters last year.

Here's Gary Patterson's reaction:
"There are days people want to be a head football coach, but today is not one of those days."
That pretty much says it all.

Iowa hires (kind of) a D-coordinator: All the talk about Mike Stoops (before Mike Stoops hooked up with Oklahoma) and Jim Hermann (???) apparently didn't amount to much since Iowa decided to go internal and promote linebackers coach Phil Parker to defensive coordinator a couple weeks back.

There's some logic to that: Norm Parker was there forever and had a lot of success with not-so-great athletes who understood exactly what they were supposed to do and did it really well. Iowa's defense has been irritatingly good for as long as I can remember despite being filled with the Tyler Sashes of the world. The new Parker (no relation to Norm) presumably will maintain the same terminology and structure and whatnot, which should help mitigate any drop-off in playcalling ability. Playcalling also might not be a huge issue since Norm Parker's motto was basically, "all Cover-2, all the time."

Anyway, the new Parker is highly regarded as a linebackers coach (given Iowa's pure volume of draftable dudes) and, according to ESPN, has had offers for lesser D-coordinator jobs before; I'm not sure where. He would seem to be an adequate if unexciting replacement.

Possibly more concerning for Iowa at this point is the vacancy at offensive coordinator created when Ken O'Keefe got a job with the Dolphins. Crazy tidbit: Iowa will now hire two coordinators in the span of a month after not having to hire one in 13 years. Think about that.

BHGP is already planning for the worst, and by "the worst," I obviously mean Greg Davis. Obligatory MS Paint illustration:


On a somewhat-related note, the hiring of Brian Ferentz as offensive line coach does not seem to have gone over particularly well among those who are (rightly) concerned that Kirk is turning into Lloyd Carr at a place with less talent. Read and be amused.

Navy and Memphis (?) to the Big East: The Big East's goal is clear: Assimilate every school that's good enough at football to generate a respectable TV contract, therefore ensuring the conference's financial survival, then find a 12th team (regardless of quality, hence Memphis) to ensure a craptacular conference championship game and the accompanying extra cash. Awesome.

Navy will join as a football-only member in 2015, at which point the conglomeration will be complete with 24 basketball schools (lol good luck with that conference tourney) and 12 football schools, almost half of which are nowhere near a place that could be considered "east." This is not particularly surprising anymore, especially given the debacle that is Mounference UWestA. It is what it is. The good news is that Navy will get to retain its rivalry games with Army (always on the second Saturday in December, thankfully) and Notre Dame. So that's nice.

Speaking of Notre Dame, this excerpt struck me as interesting:
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said scheduling games late in the season, landing desirable television deals and securing bowl bids will become a problem in the near future.

"Opportunities to exist as independents into the future are clearly in jeopardy," he said.

Insert "O RLY" owl here, preferably with Jack Swarbrick's head in place of the owl. A lot of people read that and -- between the Gladchuk quotes about independence and the understanding that Navy being in a conference could make Notre Dame's scheduling even more difficult than it already is -- jumped to the conclusion that Notre Dame will eventually have its independence blankie yanked away. The problem with that reasoning: Navy isn't Notre Dame. Gladchuk is right in a sense that conference-contract-generated TV money is too good to pass up for most schools, but Notre Dame isn't most schools since most schools can't negotiate their own national TV deals for roughly $15 million a year and schedule games in Dublin that people will actually show up to. Like it or not, Notre Dame unquestionably has a brand power that resonates everywhere and generates enough money that independence is still viable.

There's only one way Notre Dame football joins a conference in my lifetime: It's necessary to play for a national title in whatever postseason structure is implemented in the post-BCS era. If enough conference commissioners bitch and moan to the point that the new playoff-type thing only allows conference champions (highly unlikely given that the power conferences would kill to have multiple teams in said playoff), Notre Dame will sack up and find a home at the risk of becoming truly irrelevant. Assuming that there's some sort of at-large opening -- which seems just about impossible to avoid in any scenario -- independence wins.

Bonus points for "Sabanization" usage: When I wrote about Auburn hiring Scot Loeffler as O-coordinator a few weeks back, I made an out-of-my-ass comment about the possible reasons for moving toward a pro-style offense:
Maybe that's an Alabama-induced change or maybe it's just a desire to never see quarterback play as bad as what Auburn got last year; I dunno.
I didn't think much about the Alabama thing after I wrote that. Birds & Braves did, though, and brought up some really interesting points in a post that got published right after mine. Here's an excerpt:
Auburn's transition from the run-based spread to a pro-style attack brings up a somewhat disturbing trend in the SEC: Creeping Sabanization. When Saban joined the conference, the mix of offenses was fairly diverse. Florida was running the spread. LSU was running something with spread elements. Arkansas was relying heavily on the Wildcat. Within two years, Auburn and Mississippi State were also running the spread. Two national titles for Saban later, everyone is trying to copy him, but not necessarily in good ways. Florida is running a pro-style offense under a Saban disciple. Ditto for Tennessee. LSU is attempting a modern-day imitation of the Bo Schembechler offense. Now, Auburn is eschewing the offense that was a significant factor in the Tigers winning their first national title in 53 years.
The only true spread team left in the SEC: Mississippi State. That's pretty crazy given the state of the conference in, like, 2010. Anyway, here's the relevant part:
The problem with the entire league imitating Nick Saban's style is that it is hard to replicate what Saban does. Saban is an epic recruiter. ... Programs that try to imitate his method will typically find themselves doing so with less talent.
Talent is an issue but maybe not as much of an issue as coaching. Saban is better at coaching defense than maybe any other coach in the country is at coaching anything. He's also the best recruiter, which helps with the coaching part. There's a reason the guy's won three of the last eight national titles.

Specifics aside, the overall point is a good one: Trying to beat Alabama by doing what Alabama does 75 percent as well as Alabama does it is a really stupid plan. There are obvious benefits to differentiation that are getting ignored right now just because Nick Saban is winning so freakin' much.

Danny O'Brien wants to escape: Randy Edsall is clearly a sleeper agent. There is no other explanation at this point. Maryland went 2-10 (2-10!) last year and has had 12 (!!!) players transfer since the end of the season, including starting left tackle Max Garcia and now nominal starting quarterback Danny O'Brien, who wants to go to Vanderbilt to play for former O-coordinator James Franklin.

O'Brien was ridiculous as a freshman in 2010 and was named ACC Freshman of the Year, then wasn't so good last year (no surprise on a 2-10 team) and got kinda-sorta benched late in the season, which is why I called him the nominal starting quarterback. The guy has some ability, though: In two years, he's a 56.7 percent passer with 29 touchdowns and 18 picks. He also just graduated after three years and therefore won't have to sit out as a transfer, which is great except for this:
Maryland Terrapins coach Randy Edsall has decreed former quarterback Danny O'Brien can't transfer to a list of ACC schools and regional rivals that for some reason includes the Vanderbilt Commodores. Maryland and Vanderbilt don't play each other, so there's no competitive reason for Vandy to be on the list.
Nice. Amazingly, hiring Mike Locksley might not have been Randy Edsall's worst PR move this offseason.

O'Brien's high school coach has since told USA Today that O'Brien and his family plan to appeal for a release through the NCAA, as they should. The whole thing is stupid; there's no reason (other than pettiness) to stop the guy from going to Vanderbilt. None. Herein lies the problem with letters of intent and the power they provide schools over their signed athletes.

Anyway, if the Vanderbilt thing doesn't work out, the other schools on his list are reportedly Wisconsin (of course), Michigan State and Stanford. Notice a quarterback-related theme?

UPDATE: Edsall granted O'Brien a full release Wednesday morning ... and then immediately filed a tampering complaint against Vanderbilt. Note to coaches: Don't be a-holes about letting guys leave. It just leads to a bunch of negative press that's really unnecessary since you're gonna end up granting the release anyway after all the hand-wringing.

Nick Montana didn't last long: Nick Montana (the good one) was arguably the top QB in the country in 2010 and committed to Washington on the assumption that he'd take over for Jake Locker and be Steve Sarkisian's next awesome awesomeness. It didn't quite work out that way:

The University of Washington is confirming tonight that backup quarterback Nick Montana is transferring.

School officials say Montana has been granted his official release to transfer to another school.

Rumors of Montana's potential transfer have circulated for a few weeks, and there were specific reports late last week from a couple of media outlets in Texas that Montana will transfer to a junior college in Brenham, Texas, Blinn College.

Just to be clear, nobody's talking about Montana as a bust yet considering that he went 24 of 42 with three touchdowns and two picks last year as a redshirt freshman. He's obviously got some talent. The problem: the existence of Keith Price, who was ridiculous last year and has another two years of eligibility left. Montana apparently had little desire to sit around until his senior year and instead will go get a season of juco experience before transferring to a school of his choosing for his last two years. One dollar says it's Wisconsin.

Multiyear scholarships are happening: What the headline says. What's crazy is that the rule only allows multiyear scholarships rather than requiring them -- it's purely a voluntary thing -- and yet 207 of the 330 Division I schools voted against it. Two more votes would have been sufficient for an override. That means about 60 percent of the schools in Division I don't even want the option of offering scholarships for more than one year. This seems like a good spot to reference what I said above about Danny O'Brien and one-sided letters of intent.

Most of the Big Ten schools (Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State were cited in a bunch of articles) offered four-year deals to the recruits who just signed, as did Auburn, Florida and some others. That's progress. This is not progress but will probably make you laugh:
Alabama coach Nick Saban wouldn't say whether he provided multiyear scholarships. Saban said he resents the "cynical" attitude that coaches don't have the best interests of players in mind.
Pfffffft. Just click here. Saban and Derek Dooley spent most of Signing Day trying to convince everybody that having the option to oversign and then cut guys accordingly was somehow benefiting the student-athletes, which is a hilariously ludicrous argument. I mean ... like ... no. I don't think I even need to explain that.

The other apparently widespread argument against the multiyear deals is this:
... it drew formal objections from enough schools to force reconsideration. They argued, among other things, that coaches were using multiyear grants as a recruiting enticement.
I don't see the problem. If Alabama's offering a one-year scholarship and Michigan's offering a four-year scholarship, that's a legitimate enticement. I assume most of the "objections" actually came from schools like Indiana State ...
The "problem is, many coaches, especially at the (Football Championship Subdivision) level, in all sports, are usually not around for five years and when the coach leaves, the new coach and institution may be 'stuck' with a student-athlete they no longer want (conduct issues, grades, etc.) or the new coach may have a completely different style of offense/defense that the student-athlete no longer fits into," the school wrote. "Yet, the institution is 'locked in' to a five-year contract potentially with someone that is of no athletic usefulness to the program."
... that (a) are disturbingly blunt about things like "athletic usefulness" and (b) don't want to be "locked in" to paying for a few wasted scholarships. My response: If eating a scholarship or two each year is gonna be a serious financial problem for your program, you shouldn't have a D-I program to begin with.

Locking the school into a scholarship offer the same way the player is locked in is indisputably a good thing.

Northwestern is bringing in some serious talent yo: One of the odder (is that a word?) commitments in the just-finished recruiting cycle came from defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, a five-star out of Ohio who had offers from pretty much everybody and picked Northwestern. I know. Stanford and Notre Dame were his other finalists, which means there's apparently a guy out there who really does care about academics.

This might have nothing to do with academics but is equally good for Northwestern:
Former USC receiver Kyle Prater has transferred to Northwestern.He received his release from USC this month and also was reportedly considering Wisconsin and Illinois.
Prater was a big-time recruit back in 2010, a consensus five-star who picked USC but could've gone anywhere, just like everybody else who's gone to USC since about 2001. He's 6-foot-5, so that's fun. He'll also have two years of eligibility left after he sits out 2012 as a transfer.

In case you're wondering, he caught one pass last year as a redshirt freshman. His experience is somewhat limited.

Davonte Neal WTF? So ... that was interesting. Consensus top-100 receiver/corner recruit Davonte Neal scheduled a presser Tuesday morning as part of an assembly at the elementary school he once attended. I know this because I helped arrange the webcast of said event. The stream went on for an hour, which was an hour too long because Neal never showed up. He didn't cancel or make a comment on Twitter or anything; he just bailed. Word on the interwebz was that there was still debate among his family about where he was gonna commit to, with Neal wanting to sign with Arizona and his dad (who seems a tad on the controlling side) preferring Notre Dame.

We have a winner:
The protracted and peculiar recruitment of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral athlete Davonte Neal finally came to an end on Tuesday, with the four-star prospect, perhaps begrudgingly, signing with Notre Dame.
Rivals concurs with the Notre Dame/Arizona theory and also has a quote from his dad about some sort of "family emergency" at 2 a.m., which seems plausible but doesn't explain nobody informing the people running the assembly or the webcast (he's lying if he says he did).

Regardless, Neal's off to Notre Dame, presumably as a slot receiver. The guy's pretty good: He had 1,113 receiving yards, 1,317 rushing yards, 30 touchdowns and about a 40-yard kick-return average last year playing for possibly the best team in the state (albeit not in the highest division).

Michigan's hilariously awesome weekend: Michigan got eight (eight!!!) 2013 commitments in about a 30-hour span from last Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening. The '13 class went from three guys to 11 during that time via a group guys who are all in Rivals' top 200; three of them* are in the top 100. That's gotta be the best non-Texas-junior-day weekend in the history of recruiting. I'm pointing out this purely to gloat, BTW.

*That number doesn't include the guys who had already committed, specifically Shane Morris (arguably the best QB recruit in the country at No. 16 overall) and Dymonte Thomas (the fifth-rated safety who's 77th overall). It should also be noted that Michigan is considered the favorite for No. 2 running back Ty Isaac (18th overall) and No. 2 receiver LaQuon Treadwell (32nd overall). Wwwhheeeeeeeee!!!

Urban Meyer is clearly annoyed: Brady Hoke's habit of calling Ohio State just "Ohio" has gone from amusing to hilarious as it's become very clear that everybody at Ohio hates it. Urban Meyer's reaction has been to publicly display two prominent signs that refer to Michigan as "That Team Up North," which is both less amusing and not really correct since he's obviously referencing Woody Hayes and his "That School Up North" meme (Ohio fans/truckers on message boards have referred to Michigan as either "TSUN" or the amazingly clever "scUM" for as long as the internet has existed in my life).

Also not correct: the sign comparing majors at the two schools. The funny thing is that whoever created that sign bolded three majors (business, engineering and biology) to demonstrate a numerical advantage over Michigan when, in reality, Michigan has three scholarship players in those fields and Ohio has two. You don't get to include all your own walk-ons with impressive-sounding majors and none of Michigan's. Hat tip to MGoBlog.

I give him a B for effort and a D for execution. Brady Hoke FTW.

My meta disappearance

As you may have noticed (or not noticed, to be more accurate), I have produced a whopping zero posts in the last three weeks. That was not supposed to happen. A combination of an overwhelming amount of work, some day-off things that couldn't be delayed/avoided (like registering my kid for kindergarten and playing Battlefield 3) and a minimal amount of non-recruiting news should be blamed. Don't judge me.

Anyway, I'm back (hooray) and will do my best to avoid lengthy content chasms going forward. In other words: Suck it, work. Let the regularly scheduled posting resume.
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