Archive for April, 2010

NCAA got it right on taunting rule

 

The NCAA got it right on the change in the taunting/excessive celebration/unsportsmanlike conduct rule.

Yes, you read that right. I was as critical as anybody in the country last year with the horrendous excessive celebration call on Georgia’s A.J. Green against LSU. At the time I wrote that it was one of the worst calls that I had seen in 30 years of covering college football  because the call did not have to be made and that the official saw something that simply wasn’t there. The SEC agreed that there should have been no penalty on the play.

I was just as critical two years ago when Washington’s Jake Locker was called for flipping the ball over his head after a score in a game with BYU.

I still believe the rule, which is well-intentioned, is applied inconsistently from conference to conference. The SEC, to its credit, had some internal conversations about the way its guys were calling that penalty last season. I don’t want to abolish the rule. I want officials to call it …

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Can Alabama remain a hungry football team?

 

 Tuscaloosa, Ala.—Nick Saban likes golf analogies. He has two when he talks about the potential of the 2010 team at Alabama, which hopes to repeat as college football’s national champions.

“Look at Phil Mickelson,” said Saban. “It took him a long time (12 years) to win his first major. He found every way he could to lose the big tournaments. But he finally broke through (in 2004). Now he’s won four.

“Look at Tiger. He wins his first Masters when he’s 21 years old (in 1997). What does he do? He changes his swing because it’s not good enough. Now he’s won 14 majors.”

The point?  For great athletes, said Saban, success does not breed complacency. It creates a hunger for more success. That was the challenge Saban put in front of his team at the beginning of Spring practice, which ends on Saturday with the annual A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I asked them what was harder to do: Win a championship or repeat as champions? They all said ‘repeat.’ Why is that?”

Alabama’s …

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Quarterback questions abound in the SEC

I cannot remember the last time that the SEC had this many questions at the quarterback position as Spring practice draws to a close.

It’s just one man’s opinion, but:

**–There are only two solid locks returning at quarterback in this league.

**–There are four returning starters who I will call “on the bubble.”

**– There will definitely be six new starting quarterbacks in the SEC when the 2010 season starts.

Here’s the breakdown. Feel free to tell me where you agree or disagree:

THE LOCKS

These guys will go the distance if they stay healthy:

Greg McElroy, Alabama: Led his team to a national championship last season and is 29-0 as a starter dating back to high school. He completed almost 61 percent of his passes last season for 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Redshirt freshman AJ McCarron is the backup and is going to be very, very good.

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas:  Mallett, who is sitting out the spring while recovering from foot surgery, led the SEC in passing (3,624 …

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Can Holtz, USF challenge Florida’s Big Three in recruiting?

 Tampa—The billboard along Interstate-275 is huge, proclaiming a “Holtz New Era” for football at the University of South Florida (USF). The oversized photo of Louis Leo (Skip) Holtz, Jr., son of Lou and Beth, has a big smile.

“Don’t think you’re going to sell a lot of season tickets with that face,” said Holtz, just moments before practice.

But here is what Skip Holtz can sell. He can sell the belief that tomorrow is going to be better than today. He can sell his knowledge that there are four BCS schools in the state of Florida (Florida, Florida State, Miami, and USF) and that he is at one of them. He can sell the fact that he knows how to build programs and win games because he did at Connecticut, a program he built from scratch that is now a member of the Big East, and at East Carolina, where he took the Pirates to consecutive Conference USA championships (2008-2009). He posted seven winning seasons in 10 as a head coach before he left Greenville, N.C. to take the South …

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Sorry, Dawg fans. But Gators look like the class of the SEC East again

 It was a busy weekend of Spring Football. So what did we learn?

 1. SEC East opponents who are expecting—or hoping—for a huge drop off at Florida may be disappointed. Of course Florida will not be as good this season as the past two seasons when the Gators went 26-2. The personnel losses—QB Tim Tebow, CB Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez—are just too great. But Florida clearly has its quarterback in John Brantley, who completed 15 of 19 passes for 201 yards in the spring game. The Gators obviously have a lot of guys who can catch the ball like Andre Dubose, a big time recruit who sat out last season after hamstring surgery, Carl Moore and Chris Rainey. They have two options to run the “Tebow package” in Trey Burton and tight end Jordan Reed. Yes, there is a lot of work to do on defense. But when you look at the schedule, Florida will be favored in every game it plays except for an Oct. 2 trip to Alabama and possibly a Nov. 27 trip to Florida …

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Will Bama get relief from scheduling problem?

 It’s Friday which means the floor is open for discussion on any topic you choose, football or non-football. Here are some random thoughts to get the party started. You input is welcomed:

**–I’m not sure the SEC is going to be able to do a whole lot to give Alabama some relief from a huge scheduling hiccup. In case you missed it, Alabama is not very happy with its SEC football schedule for 2010 and with good reason. Alabama’s last six conference opponents, beginning on Oct. 9 against South Carolina, will all play the Crimson Tide after an open date. How does that happen? Actually it’s easier than you might think.

The SEC office puts together the conference part of the schedule and that process begins with several fixed points. Examples: Tennessee and Florida play the third Saturday in September; Tennessee and Alabama play the third or fourth Saturday in October; Georgia and Florida meet in Jacksonville on either the last Saturday in October or the first in November; Georgia, …

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Do you need a 5-star QB to win a championship?

In recent days I’ve been asked two very interesting questions related to the NFL Draft and the SEC. I was being interviewed for a radio show in Arkansas and the host, Bo Mattingly, noted that there had been very few five-star quarterbacks signed by SEC schools in the past five years. He wondered if this was going to eventually be a problem for the league.

Another person asked me that if Tim Tebow falls out of the first round and goes late in the second or early third, will that be/should that be a problem for Urban Meyer and his staff at Florida? Will it be said that Florida’s staff had somehow let Tebow down?

The answers are no and emphatically no. Let’s take them one at a time.

First of all, I’m not a big believer in player ratings—too many variables. I’ve seen too many players who allegedly had five-star talent but a one-star work ethic. And I’ve seen WAY too many players who were assigned five-star skill but had only a half-star at best when it came to competitive fire and …

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Can Phillips take Kentucky to the next level?

Last January Rich Brooks announced that he was retiring as Kentucky’s head football coach after seven seasons. He was replaced by offensive coordinator Joker Phillips, who had been the head coach in waiting for two seasons.

“There is no doubt that coach Brooks set the bar pretty high but our job is to take what he has done and build on it,” Phillips said on a recent visit to Atlanta. “He told me I was ready and I feel ready.”

Brooks left Kentucky with a record of 39-47 but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of what he accomplished In Lexington. Consider:

**–The University of Kentucky has two coaches (Paul “Bear” Bryant, Jerry Claiborne) in the College Football Hall of Fame. Another Wildcat coach, Blanton Collier, left Kentucky and won an NFL championship with the Cleveland Browns in 1964. None of those coaches ever took Kentucky to four straight bowl games. Brooks did.

**–Brooks inherited a program devastated by NCAA sanctions. He struggled for three seasons and in 2006-2007 …

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Some final thoughts from Indy

Indianapolis—Some final thoughts from Indy on football and basketball as we head home this morning.

 

**–I was fortunate enough to be in Albuquerque in 1983 to see Lorenzo Charles’ dunk at the buzzer give N.C. State a stunning upset of mighty Houston for the national championship. I was in Philadelphia in 1992 when Christian Laettner’s shot at the buzzer beat Kentucky in overtime and sent Duke to the Final Four. But if Gordon Hayward’s heave, which came just a little past half court, had gone in and given Butler the national championship, it would have instantly become the most famous shot in NCAA Tournament history. Milan’s Bobby Plump, whose shot beat Muncie Central in now famous 1954 Indiana state high school championship, would have given up his position of having hit the most famous shot in  the state’s basketball history. Plump was among the 70,000-plus at Lucas Oil Field. He would have happily given up that title because he also went to Butler.

**–Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski …

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What happens if the Big Ten goes to 16 teams?

 

Indianapolis—Yes, we are attending the Super Bowl of college basketball and tonight the story lines abound: Duke will go for its fourth national championship and its first since 2001, under Coach K against Butler. Rated rival North Carolina has cut down the nets twice (2005, 2009) since their hated rival won a title. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is in his 11th Final Four, which ties Carolina’s Dean Smith. One more for K and he passes the Dean for No. 2 on the all-time list.

Butler is playing six miles from its campus. Their playing facility, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was where the championship game in “Hoosiers” was filmed. CBS must be tempted to bring in Gene Hackman and let him walk onto the floor and measure the baskets like he did in the movie that is beloved by all hoopsters.

Understand this about Butler. This isn’t tiny Milan taking on Muncie Central for the Indiana state high school championship in 1954. Butler is really good and is well coached  by a guy who looks like he should …

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