It was was busy weekend with training camp in full swing. So what did we learn?
1. Relax Tennessee fans. Kiffin said he did nothing wrong: Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton acknowledged at the end of last week that the school may receive a letter of inquiry from the NCAA. My experience is when the school says a letter is coming, it’s probably already in the mail. Tennessee has already self-reported six minor recruiting violations by Kiffin and his staff. NCAA investigators looked into actions by the school’s recruiting hostess program when Kiffin was head coach for 14 unforgettable months. Kiffin left for USC last Janaury but he is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving.
We now know that NCAA investigators were on campus last spring talking to Tennessee coaches who were part of Kiffin’s staff but remained in Knoxville when he bolted for the West Coast.
“I have great confidence in what we did there, that we didn’t do anything wrong,” Kiffin told reporters over the weekend. “Just because they’re looking into something doesn’t mean we did anything wrong.”
Well, if I’m a Tennessee fan I know I feel a lot better.
2. SEC West, ACC Coastal the best: I said in a speech last week that the two top divisions in college football this season would be the SEC West and the ACC Coastal. The first USA Today Coaches Poll proves that out. Four teams in the SEC West (No. 1 Alabama, No. 16 LSU, No. 19 Arkansas, and No. 23 Auburn) were ranked as were four teams in the ACC Coastal (No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 13 Miami, No. 17 Georgia Tech, No. 18 North Carolina). The round robin in those two divisions will be appointment football this season.
For those of you who are keeping score at home (and I know you are) the SEC had six total teams ranked (No. 3 Florida and No. 21 Georgia From the East) while the ACC had five (Florida State of the Atlantic Division was No. 20)
3. Give Nick Saban credit. He’s consistent: When I met with Alabama coach Nick Saban back in the spring, he made the case to me that Alabama probably shouldn’t be considered the nation’s No. 1 team in the preseason. He made a very logical argument based on the number of starters he would have to replace on defense (9) and the fact that his special teams were simply decimated and he would likely have true freshmen at both kicking spots.
When the coaches poll came out Friday Alabama received 55 of 59 first place votes. One of the four coaches who did not vote Alabama at No. 1 was Saban.
Note: I’m putting the finishing touches on my preseason Top 25. We will release it over five days–five teams a day–starting on Monday, Aug. 16. The top five will be released on Friday, August. 20.
4. Is “grayshirting” fair to the kids? Kevin Scarbinsky wrote a thoughtful piece on the practice of “grayshirting” players. It’s the practice of signing more than the allotted 25 players with the knowledge that it is a numbers game. If you sign 28 (which is the SEC limit) and all 28 qualify academically, three guys are going to get left without a scholarship. Those three have to pay their own way to school in the fall with the promise that a scholarship will await them in January.
Kevin believes that is not fair to the players and their families who sign in good faith. The counter argument is this is just part of doing business at this level of college football.
Seems to me that if the school is transparent and as long as everybody understands the risks involved up front, then the process is acceptable. If the player and his family are genuinely surprised when he doesn’t get a scholarship in August, then there is a problem. Read Kevin’s story and tell me what you think:
5. Be careful with that “we’re a better team” argument: I know what Florida’s Chris Rainey was trying to say when he told Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun that the Gators would be better off this season without all those “prima donnas” from 2009.
The point young Mr. Rainey was attempting to make was that this team does not have as many high-profile and NFL ready players as last season’s team, which lost quarterback Tim Tebow and five NFL draft choices from the defense. Because so many “name” players are gone this team has to bond in order to be better than the sum of its parts. I get that.
But also know that this was the argument that Georgia made in 2009 after quarterback Matt Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and running back Knowshon Moreno, the No. 12 pick in the draft, were gone.
Bonding and working together are very important in college football. But you can carry that argument to the extreme. There is no substitute for talent. It’s hard to have a good team without good players. It’s REALLY hard to have a great team without great players.
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