Each week during the off-season I will be doing this feature that will simply be called "This Week In College Football". We will cover the biggest news and stories of the past week and give some opinions and analysis.
Most of the interest this off-season in coaching has been in Head Coaching positions. We've covered some of these like Brady Hoke, Will Muschamp, Steve Adazzio and Kevin Wilson. But now that the Head Coaching dust is settling maybe just as interesting a topic is assistant coaches. Having the right assistant coach that is the yin to your yang can be vital for a coach. Just ask Gene Chizik how much he values Gus Malzahn and what he did with the Auburn offense and Cam Newton this year. We've touch on some of these assistant coaching changes in our "Exit Surveys" already like Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State. Did I mention that I really like the addition of Dana Holgerson to the West Virginia staff? I don't know how great it will work in the first year with Bill Stewart still in charge but watch out for West Virginia in the next few years. With one exception I really like what Mack Brown and Texas has done with his staff. Of course, Mack has the advantage of being Texas which is a destination job. Mack went out and got Boise State's offensive coordinator (Bryan Harsin) and also got Mississippi State's defensive coordinator (Manny Diaz). Let's take a look at Diaz really quickly. Mississippi State's defense reduced it's points allowed by 7 points in his only year in Starkvegas, had 10 more sacks than last year, 29 more tackles for loss, and decreased opponents red zone performance by nearly 10%. I think Diaz will be a very capable replacement for Will Muschamp. The hire I question, as a biased Georgia fan and alum, is why Mack Brown would hire Stacy Searles as his OL coach. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Georgia gets a fresh start without him but this was strictly a "reputation" hire and nothing more. The last two years the Georgia offensive line has been pitiful. In my opinion it was the most under-performing unit in all of college football. Georgia QB Aaron Murray was running for his life and RBs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey grew accustomed to getting blown up by the defense immediately after receiving the hand-off (which often times resulted in disaster for Georgia). Good luck with that Texas, but I think Harsin and Diaz should more than compensate for the Searles hire.
Another very interesting hire is Steve Kragthorpe at LSU as Offensive Coordinator. Les Miles already has a great defensive coach in John Chavis so now he just needs to figure out the offensive side of the football. Kragthorpe is probably most well known for his tenure at Louisville, where he only won 5 Big East games in 3 years. He has NFL experience as a QB Coach and college experience as an OC but it's been a while since he's been in that position. The main reason that it looks like Kragthorpe was the guy hired is that Miles valued someone who could develop QBs. It is going to get really interesting in Baton Rouge to see if Jordan Jefferson can fend off exiled Bulldog Zach Mettenburger for QB1. In our "Way To Early" Top 10 for 2011 we've got LSU at #4 (don't tell anybody though because we haven't posted it yet. This is just a secret between me and you). If the LSU offense gets it going this year they will contend for the National Title. Even though this could be the pivotal coordinator hire of the year I still wish Les Miles would have hire Mike Leach to run the offense. Could you imagine the hijinks that would have ensued? It would have been reality TV worthy and I think it probably would have worked on the field too.
Recruiting and Oversigning
With NSD (National Signing Day) fast approaching recruiting is really heating up. The big news this week was former Texas commitment, 5-Star OL Christian Westerman, flipping his verbal commitment to the National Champion Auburn Tigers. Another big winner this week was Mark Richt and Georgia gaining commitments from teammates (and 4-Star prospects) TE Jay Rome and WR Malcolm Mitchell. We also had some indecision from ESPNU 150 (#90) DE Stephon Tuitt who flipped his commitment from Notre Dame to Georgia Tech and then back to Notre Dame. I'm sure he won't be the last guy to flip a commitment before NSD.
While recruiting is a crap shoot, there are still uncommitted guys that can come in and make an immediate impact for their teams and some fans made some noise this weekend to let these guys know that they are wanted. The first is ESPNU 150 #1 prospect DE Jadeveon Clowney. He's 6'6", 240 and looks like a monster on film. His list of finalists is Miami (Fl), Alabama, South Carolina, FSU and LSU. Clowney was at the South Carolina basketball game this weekend and the fans there treated him to some "We Want Clowney! We Want Clowney!" chants. Another uncommitted prospect is RB Isaiah Crowell. Crowell is down to Alabama and Georgia. Georgia just recently beat out Bama for Rome and Mitchell so it would really be an upset for Georgia to win out on 3 straight prospects from them (although Bama did land DE Xzavier Dickson, who was also considering Georgia, earlier this month). Crowell took his official visit to Georgia this weekend and he watched the Dawgs romp the Mississippi State Bulldogs in basketball and was treated to some chants of "I...sai ... ah!!" Some of my blog mates will tell you that recruiting is way too hyped and while I agree with them I also think that there are impact guys out there who can turn a program (just ask Auburn). I was born and raised in the south so college football is a 365 day sport here and we need something to talk about!
While we are on the subject of recruiting let's talk for a minute about oversigning. Teams are allowed to have 85 scholarship athletes on their team, with no more than 25 scholarship players enrolled per season (teams are allowed to have early-enrollees count against the previous year if the team was under 25 for that year). Despite these limits teams still over-sign and find ways to get themselves under the limit. Some athletes don't make the grades, some might flip their commitments at the last minute (see also: Da'Rick Rogers) and some are gray-shirted (which means that the recruit waits to enroll until December and then counts against the next year). Yet some teams are already over the limit of 25. Right now South Carolina is at 30 commitments and Arkansas is at 28. Others, like Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU are currently scheduled to be over their 85 scholarships by around 10. I will use an example to illustrate the big problem I have with oversigning. Last year OL Elliot Porter committed to LSU only to be told, WHEN HE ARRIVED ON CAMPUS, that they did not have a scholarship for him and they asked him to gray-shirt. Porter had committed to LSU in July and then didn't find out that they didn't have room until August of the next year. It's situations like this that make oversigning a big issue. The NCAA already has a limit of 25 so what they should do is just simply enforce that rule. Any team that signs over 25 recruits will have that number subtracted from the next years total. So if they sign 28 then that means that they only get 22 next year. Each team would also have the ability to "petition" the NCAA if something unforeseen happened (ex: coaching change, excessive injuries) that opened up extra scholarships and they could get an exemption to go over the 25. Those are just my thoughts on the issue.
A Farewell to Michigan
We found out this week that former starting QB for Michigan Tate Forcier will indeed transfer. You guys remember him, right? He was the starting QB for RichRod in 2009 (threw for over 2,000 yards as a freshman) before being passed by Denard Robinson. He was declared academically ineligible and missed Michigan's bowl game, but I don't think he was the reason the Wolverines got utterly destroyed by Mississippi State. Then there was a tug-of-war with whether he was going to transfer or not. Well, this week Tate tweeted his intentions saying that he wanted to stay but it was clear Michigan gave up on him. So now the questions are how quickly he can get back in good academic standing and where he will transfer to. In 2010 he was rated by ESPNU as #144 on their ESPNU 150. Ole Miss pops up in my head immediately. Houston Nutt loves him some transfer QB (see also: Jeremiah Masoli) so that could be a possibility (Ole Miss is +10 in oversigning right now but that doesn't seem to matter to Mr. Nutt). Stories are popping up that Montana is a potential landing spot for him but I'd prefer he stay in D-1 (Montana flirted with moving up to the FBS but decided not to do so) to see what he is capable of and if he can become a good starting QB for someone. He's from San Diego so somewhere on the left coast would be the most likely option (his brother Chris previously transferred from UCLA to Furman and before that his brother Jason transferred from Michigan to Stanford). If I was a coach in the WAC or the MWC I would seriously be looking at this kid.