Archive for March, 2009

Hokies have Alabama on their minds

 

 

As always, Ken Sugiura and Larry Harstein are doing a good job keeping you up to date on spring ball at Georgia Tech. But what is going on in the rest of the ACC?  Here are five things to ponder:

 

1. Virginia Tech begins with Alabama on its mind: Virginia Tech finished 10-4 last season, won another ACC championship, and beat Cincinnati, a slight favorite, in the Orange Bowl. With 15 starters from that team coming back, the Hokies are getting some early love as a potential dark horse for the national championship. Spring practice begins today in Blacksburg and coach Frank Beamer knows  that he won’t have to wait long to find out if he’s got a contender. That’s because the Hokies open the  2009  season in Atlanta against Alabama, which will be in everybody’s preseason Top 10.  “When you play a big game early—and we’ve done that in the past—it focuses you team better in the spring and in the summer,” Beamer told me when the Sept. 5 game at the Georgia Dome was put together. …

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Five things we learned about the SEC

Every team in the SEC is now up to speed with spring practice except Kentucky, and the Wildcats get started on Wednesday. Despite rainy conditions, a bunch of teams had scrimmages over the weekend. So what did we learn? Here are five things to ponder.

(Note: We’ll do the ACC on Tuesday).

 

1. Jonathon Crompton may be a serious QB contender at Tennessee after all: I’ll admit it, after watching Crompton struggle so much last season, I was totally convinced that he didn’t have what it takes, physically and mentally (especially mentality), to play quarterback at this level. I saw a guy with bad mechanics who didn’t make good decisions.  The reports I was getting back from Knoxville were that the offense of new OC Dave Clawson was simply too complex for him and that Crompton was simply being asked to do more than he was physically and mentally capable of doing. I believed that B.J. Coleman and Nick Stephens, when he got healthy, would quickly pass this guy. But based on the reports …

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Friday’s Five Burning Spring Ball Questions

 

 

It’s Friday and I know what you’re thinking. On a weekend that will be dominated by the NCAA basketball tournament, you need a little fix on spring football to get you to Monday. So here, at no extra charge, are Friday’s Five Burning Spring Ball Questions (P.S. If you have a burning question about spring ball, submit it here and it may get answered next Friday):

1. How badly is Steve Spurrier looking for a few good men on offense? So badly that he is starting to gaze in the direction of Ellis Johnson’s defense. Other than WR Kenny McKinley the Gamecocks really didn’t have anybody who could make big plays on offense last season. Spurrier has already called on defensive end Cliff Matthews at tight end to help with loss of Jared Cook (37 catches). Spurrier told Seth Emersen of The State Newspaper: “We’ve got to utilize all of our players, I think, better. Sometimes we’ve got guys out there that shouldn’t be out there, and we’ve got some of our most conscientious guys over …

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Congress: Leave college football alone

 

I just want you to know how much better I slept last night.

Yes, the economy is the worst since the Great Depression.

Yes, people are losing their jobs right and left.

Yes, our 401-Ks are now 201-Ks.

But I slept better last night knowing that Congress is again going to look into the BCS.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a man I greatly respect, obviously doesn’t have enough to do. His constituents in Utah are upset that the Utes, at 12-0, didn’t get into the BCS championship game ahead of Florida or Oklahoma. So Senator Hatch does what a good politician does when his constituents are mad—he pushes for Congressional hearings.

So we are going to get another dog and pony show where some members of Congress, who don’t know if a football is inflated or stuffed, ask questions and fawn for the cameras back home. They will blame everything from global warming to the fall of the dollar on the BCS. They will claim that the BCS violates antitrust law and is a classic cartel.

Before that …

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Kiffin takes page from Spurrier’s playbook

 

I don’t know if Lane Kiffin can coach a lick. We’ll find that out in September.

But to tell you the truth, right now it doesn’t matter if Kiffin can coach or not. For the new head coach at Tennessee, all that matters today, March 25,  is that people are talking about Volunteer football. It can be good or bad. Again, it doesn’t matter. In that respect, you have to give the 33-year-old Kiffin his due. Every media talking head in the country has weighed in on this guy. A bunch of them have ripped him. Again, it doesn’t matter.

We won’t go over the list of verbal “transgressions” by Kiffin since he took over as UT’s head coach. You know them by heart. That, in and of itself, is instructive.

We learned yesterday that Florida’s players are so incensed at Kiffin, who accused coach Urban Meyer of “cheating” during a speech to a Tennessee booster club, that they have posted his picture in their lockers. Michael Carvell did a great job of getting Kiffin on the phone and asking him …

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Five SEC quarterback battles to watch

 

I think we can safely say that Florida is set at quarterback in Tim Tebow. Ditto for Jevan Snead at Ole Miss. But just about everywhere else in the SEC there are questions at the quarterback positions. But for the sake of our discussion today, here are the five quarterback races I’m keeping a close eye on this spring. Any thoughts on these, or others you think are more noteworthy, are always welcomed.

 

Auburn: Chris Todd, Kodi Burns: Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s new offensive coordinator, was a very successful high school coach in Arkansas before he joined the college ranks. He coached against Auburn’s Burns, who played at Northside High in Fort Smith, Ark. Malzahn knows what Burns can do. More importantly, he knows what Burns cannot do—at least right now—and that’s throw the ball 30-plus times a game. Todd was the clear favorite last season when Tony Franklin was trying to install the spread. Franklin believed that Todd was the best combination of runner and passer. But Auburn …

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Can Virginia Tech beat Alabama? Is Georgia Tech just getting started?

As you can tell from the questions above, there is a lot that we know and we don’t know about the ACC’s Coastal Division. Today we complete our look at the SEC and ACC heading into Spring practice, 2009.

Virginia Tech has been the ACC’s best program since it joined the league in 2004. Alabama has returned to national prominence under Nick Saban. They will meet at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 5 in the second Chick-fil-A Kickoff. Should be fun.

Georgia Tech was the surprise team of the ACC a year ago as it won nine games. What does Paul Johnson do for an encore?

 

We address these questions and many more today as we look at the ACC Coastal.

 

DUKE (4-8, practice started March 9, ends April 18)

 What we know:  No starting lineup in the ACC was hammered quite as badly as Duke’s which lost six starters on each side of the ball. The Blue Devils are really going to miss LB Michael Tauiliili, who led the ACC in tackles and was third in the nation with 11.7 per game. His loss is eased by …

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What we don’t know about the ACC Atlantic

 

We’ve spent a couple of days looking at the SEC. Let’s spend today and Monday looking at spring practice in the ACC. We’ll start with the Atlantic Division.

 

BOSTON COLLEGE (9-5, practice started March 17, ends April 25)

What we know: The Eagles will be able to run the ball. Four of five starters return on the offensive line along with sophomore running back Montel Harris, who rushed for 900 yards in 2008, the most ever by a freshman at BC. OLB Mark Herzlich may be the best player you have never heard of. Herzlich, who has 28 career starts, had six interceptions last season, which tied for the most by a linebacker. He returned two of those for touchdowns. He was the ACC defensive player of the year. The Eagles return seven starters off the No. 1 defense in the ACC and the No. 5 defense in the country. BC will miss LB Brian Toal and DT B.J. Raji.

What we don’t know:  Frank Spaziani was a great defensive coordinator. How will he be as a first-year head coach?  Spaziani took …

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What we don’t know about the SEC West

Today we take a look at the SEC West as spring practice gets up to full speed. On Friday we will look at the ACC Atlantic.

 

ALABAMA (12-2, practice started March 13, ends April 18)

What we know: Greg McElroy will be the starting quarterback. How do we know that? Look at the schedule. Alabama opens the 2009 season against Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome.  Virginia Tech returns seven starters from a defense that finished No. 7 nationally. McElroy knows Jim McElwain’s offense and he has played in a Division I-A game. Star Jackson, the redshirt freshman, is talented but you can’t start him against a Bud Foster defense. We also know that Alabama’s defense, which finished third nationally last season (263.50 ypg) will be scary good. NT Terrence Cody has now been through an offseason program and will again be impossible to block. LB Rolando McClain is one of the best in the country.

What we don’t know: How quickly can the offensive line be rebuilt? Andre Smith, a three-year …

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What we don’t know about the SEC East

 

Yes, I know that March Madness cranks up in full gear on Thursday. But by the end of next week, every team but two in the SEC (Kentucky) and ACC (Virginia Tech) will be into spring practice. So we’re going to spend the next four days talking about what we know and what we don’t know about each division of those two conferences.

Now I need your input here. There is a lot that we’d don’t know and spring practice is about finding some answers before things heat up in August. If there is something you don’t know about a team that you think is important, let’s hear it.

We’re going to start today with the SEC East. On Thursday we’ll discuss the SEC West. These teams are in alphabetical order. Then we’ll move to the ACC.

 

FLORIDA (13-1, practice starts March 25, ends April 18)

What we know:  The defense is set. Of the top 22 players on defense in the BCS championship game against Oklahoma, 14 were freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and sophomores. Even the leadership returns as LB …

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