09 August 2011

Coachin Carousel: Was It Worth It?











Each year the coaches come and they go much like the carousel. Round and round. In today's ever changing society it seems like things are more about what have you done for me lately. College football is clearly becoming more about money, winning and exposure. In fact, during this past year nearly 18 percent of all FBS schools made coaching changes. Thus, likely being phased out are the days when coaches would typically stick around for what seemed forever. Below are a few that happened. Was it worth it? Only time will tell in providing answers allowing fans to make their own decisions.

Colorado
In: Jon Embree
Out: Dan Hawkins
Last 3 Seasons: Won 13 Lost 23 Games
This past year the buffs reportedly made advances on others before settling on a hire of its own as it heads into the PAC10 in hopes to bring back the success of its past. Unfortunately, Embree and his staff no longer have any eligibility left. Adding to the challenge is a brutal schedule without even a bye week with largely the same student athletes that finished 5-7 last season.

Miami, FL
In: Al Golden
Out: Randy Shannon
Last 3 Seasons: Won 23 Lost 15 Games
Golden inherits a team with typically amazing talent but also was undisciplined in decision making (ranked 104th in TO margin last season with 27 INTs), penalties, etc. With so much hurricane rich tradition can he make something Golden happen?

Michigan
In: Brady Hoke
Out: Rich Rodriguez
Last 3 Seasons: Won 15 Lost 22 Games
Big blue certainly has some talent in the stable. Unfortunately, some glaring statistics must be altered and quickly. The wolverines ranked 109th in TO margin. They ranked 108th in scoring defense as well as were 112th against the pass. The wolverines allowed 458 points and 5860 yards. That won't win many games. The offense was 8th overall nationally but can't carry the entire workload. With some hardwork and discipline from Hoke there might be some growing pains in the short-term but the wolverines should soon be back in business.

Pittsburgh
In: Todd Graham
Out: Dave Wannstedt
Last 3 Seasons: Won 27 Lost 12 Games
Panther coach Graham brings an impressive resume. His teams have been full of energy and have been exciting to watch (his offenses at Tulsa were #1 nationally in 2007 and 2008). Can he find a way to do it again? The sky is the limit for his high octane offense.

San Diego State
In: Rocky Long
Out: Brady Hoke
Last 3 Seasons: Won 15 Lost 22 Games
Can the Aztec momentum continue under Rocky Long? The offensive cupboard certainly wasn't left bare. It ranked 16th nationally highlighted by senior caller Ryan Lindley and super soph Ronnie Hillman who rushed for 17 TDs and over 1500 yards. The aztecs might not win the MWC with Boise State and TCU in the mix but SDSU should absolutely compete and find themselves in yet another post season bowl game.

24 July 2011

Big Light Sophs: 10 To Keep An Eye On













Every year sports fans across the nation will often debate at some point athletes who might be rising or also might fail to live up to the hype of their first effort. It's always exciting to watch to see if they make the cut and live up to the hype of fans expectations. That's what makes sports so enjoyable. That valued time around the water cooler discussing everyone's viewpoints. Here's ten sophomore quarterbacks that certainly could be worth keeping an eye on this year.

Jake Heaps/BYU wasn't truly handed over the car keys to the offense until week 4 and never had full snaps like most in spring/fall camp. Jake finally has that repetition available now with an assistant staff overhaul. The offense should be settled and in sync ready to roll. The question remains was last season's last half of the schedule that easy or was there truly that improvement. Cougar fans should be able to answer that watching how the blue and white jerseys handle the front loaded 2011 schedule.

Keith Price/Washington hopes to be the next great Husky to take the reins behind center with Jake Locker taking his game to the Tennessee Titans. So, where does Price stand? Back in high school he had over a 70 percent completion ratio. Price was also selected in high school as the 33rd ranked dual threat QB prospect. Out of spring practice he was also essentially named the starter. The offense does have its share of playmakers which should help ease the "Price" of the transition from Locker which includes junior Chris Polk who rushed last season for 1415 yards (second most in school history).

Danny O'Brien/Maryland emerged last season as one of the nation's best promising young quarterbacks after throwing for over 2400 yards and 22 TDs including an efficiency rating of 134.5. O'Brien is only one of four players in school history to throw for over 400 yards in a game. With four returning OL starters O'Brien should be poised to have yet another successful season.

Nathan Scheelhaase/Illinois came into the 2010 season as a unproven redshirt freshman who emerged as a solidified starter. Scheelhaase threw for over 1800 yards and 17 TDs (even rushed for 868 yards with 5 TDs) in his freshman campaign. His aerial assault (TD to INT) ratio even is definately respectable 17 to 8.

Jeff Godfrey/UCF very well could be driving his way to yet another successful sophomore season. He has an entire OL returning with experience and the lineman have even promised not to give up a sack in 2011. Last season Godfrey threw for 2159 yards 13 TDs 8 INTs and a 154 efficiency rating while rushing for 566 yards and 10 TDs on the ground.

Casey Pachall/TCU was a four star athlete ranked in 2009 by recruiting services rivals as the 9th best best dual threat QB in the nation. The time to rise and shine is now. Dalton exhausted his collegiate eligibility heading to the next level and that mantle now falls squarely on the shoulders of Pachall. Yes, the horned frogs may have only one returning OL starter back but TCU also has an insanely favorable schedule with a defense which has been tops (or darn close to tops) the past three or four years to help ease any pressure.

Aaron Murray/Georgia may have lost wideout standout AJ Green to the Cincinnati Bengals but may have found some capable replacements in freshman Malcolm Mitchell and junior Tavarres King. In his freshman season Murray connected for 24 TDs and nearly 3050 yards with a rating a 154.5. If the dawgs OL can hold together to give Murray ample time there's no reason why Murray can't succeed. Although, the first week Boise State might have something to say about that.

Kolton Browning/UL Monroe might as well been selling pop corn in the stands last season. It's about all that was left out far exceeding all expectations of a normal incoming freshman. Browning amassed nearly 3000 yards of total offense (rushed for 385 yards and 4 TDs). He threw for 18 TDs with 2552 passing yards with nearly a 62 percent pass completion ratio. The warhawks definately need to rally around Browning but also need to raise the bar of performance considering considering some tough road games against Florida State, TCU and Iowa.

Corey Robinson/Troy couldn't have asked for a freshman season statistically. Robinson struck for 28 TDs covering over 3700 yards. Yes, 3726 to be exact. His offense averaged over 34 points on the scoreboard last yer (ranked 17th nationally). He even lit up Ohio at the New Orleans Bowl going 32 of 47 for 387 yards and 4 TDs.

Tyler Bray/Tennessee produced some rather respectable stats in a considerable early season substitutional role. In only 5 starts Bray threw for 1849 yards 18 TDs with a efficiency of 142.7 without the benefit of an effective ground game that finished basically dead last in the SEC (managing only 116 yards per game).

20 July 2011

Summer Heats Too Early Top 10

Rarely do the final college football polls ever resemble anything remotely similar to those all too early summer rankings. Who will be this years champ when the final whistle sounds? Will it be finally be someone not from the SEC? Or will it be some form of conference repeat? Until the games are played out it's often anyone's best estimate. Here's how the view from the other side of the lake saw things.

1-Alabama is poised for another run at the national title. All the necessary ingredients seem to be set in place. The offensive trenches return four out of five starters. The defense welcomes back nine of eleven starters that ranked #3 nationally holding teams to a stingy 13.5 points a game. Even the schedule looks inviting having Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU all at home.

2-Oklahoma has 9 of 11 offensive starters back in the fold for another run at the title including the dangerous combo of junior quarterback (and Sammy Baugh winner) Landry Jones and senior consensus All American widout Ryan Broyles. The sooner offense averaged 481 yards a matchup while the passing game ranked 3rd nationally. The SEC national championship winning streak has certainly got to come to an end soon. The sooners certainly have the capability to do just that.

3-Oregon returns the key components of last years top ranked explosive offense centered around juniors signal caller Darron Thomas and Heisman Trophy finalist in tailback LaMichael James. On the other side of the ball the ducks last season allowed opponents only 4.7 yards per play (11th best nationally). Yes, they might only return five defensive starters but Oregon also played a heavy rotation likely due to the pace of their style of play. The ducks won't have time to rest as its biggest test may lie straight out of the gates when play travel to LSU to open the season.

4-LSU finished with an 11-2 record despite an offense ranked 11th in the SEC triggering a change in offensive coordinators. Steve Kragthorpe was brought in to help restore the offensive swagger for the tigers which begins with a three year starter under center. Senior Jordan Jefferson returns as the winningest active SEC quarterback with a 20-7 record. Definately not too shabby to work with. Four out of the five offensive line starters are back. The defense ranked 3rd in the SEC and good enough for 12th overall. The tools are in the shed. Its just a matter of process in getting things done. Tests include Oregon at home and on the road against Alabama.

5-FSU and their decision to place Jimbo Fisher at the coaching helm is looking rather solid now revitalizing 'nole nation after successfully guiding the seminoles to 10-4 season (first 10 win season in 7 years) including a 26-17 Chick-fil-A victory over South Carolina. In fact, FSU still looks sound enough to likely grab the ACC title and a BCS bowl berth despite losing Christian Ponder to the next level. Plenty of talent and skill return for the fans to start practicing the tomahawk chop once again.

6-South Carolina returns two of its most explosive weapons in sophomore sensation tailback Marcus Lattimore and junior wideout Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore certainly looked like anything but a freshman in 2010 amassing 1197 yards and 17 TDs. Jeffery also compiled a more than respectable 1517 yards and 9 TDs. Despite the uncertainty at quarterback South Carolina learned how to win and make some serious noise in both the SEC and in the nation.

7-Oklahoma State has arguably the nations top aerial assault combination returning that dropped an average of 44 points a game on the scoreboard. Senior quarterback Brandon Weeden (who turned his back on the NFL) connected on over 4200 passing yards and 34 TDs with Justin Blackmon who racked up nearly 1800 receiving yards and 20 TDs. Last season the cowboys defense ranked 11th nationally in the TO margin but allowed over 26 points a game.

8-Nebraska could be entering the Big12 at the right time. Consider that Michigan is rebuilding under Hoke. Ohio State is scrambling dealing with the whole tattoo situation. Penn State isn't completely solidified in its quarterback situation. And so on. Thus the huskers certainly could make some noise. And yes, even the defense last season ranked 11th nationally. Could the huskers biggest challenge be the team chemistry? Coach Bo Pellini overhauled his staff with four new coaches. Should be interesting how all the pieces fall into place and somehow mesh together.

9-Texas A/M on paper looks strong to challenge BIG12 supremacy with possibly the best squad the aggies have fielded in more than a decade. The aggies return 9 starters from an offense that averaged nearly 442 yards. They know how to put points on the board averaging 31 led by a trio of seniors in QB Ryan Tannehill, TB Cyrus Gray (200 carries, 1133 yards and 12 TDs), and wideout Jeff Fuller (72 receptions, 1066 yards and 12 TDs). Yes, the aggies might have lost Von Miller but return (9 starters) enough talent from a defense that allowed opponents only 21 points.

10-Notre Dame finished strong last season winning its last 4 including a 33-17 waxing of the hurricanes in the Sun Bowl. Can they keep the momentum rolling? A sense of optimism surely would be prevalent with 16 of 22 starters available. The irish have a capable wideout in senior Michael Floyd who returns with 1025 receiving yards and 12 TDs. Notre Dame's defense was led by Manti Te'o with 133 tackles (most by an irish in 27 years). Those final 4 games the "D" only allowed an average of 9.75 points per game (which included Utah, Army, USC and Miami).

19 July 2011

Bringing Back The Domanator

Rewind back to 2001. As a senior the "Domanator" threw for 3542 yards including 33 TDs while leading the blue and white jerseys to a rather impressive 12-2 record. Fast forward to 2011 and today's reality. Brandon Doman is now the cougs new offensive coordinator leading the band of brothers as they venture boldly into independence charting their own destiny. He will be making the calls one whistle at a time.

What will it hold in store? What sort of things can cougar fans expect to see? Will there be many adjustments? Where much is given much will be required. Cougar fans expect to win and are used to putting points on the board. Many of these questions have likely been asked by cougar fans across the nation. Such are some of the examples that Doman will likely encounter and must handle.

Precise accurate receiving routes. Knowing how to get open and exactly where to be at any given time. This will surely be addressed. Get into a flow. The communication between Heaps and his weapons will be crucial in order to move the chains.

Player accountability on dropped passes. Last season it happened far too often. This cannot continue. Days of the past it was unacceptable. It was an absolute rarity. Often you get one shot. Its an absolute to take full and complete advantage of the opportunities as they occur. Heaps and his receiving crew have had ample of time for quality reps to be on the same page. Look for this to dramatically change and improve.

Get the tight ends involved. Somehow the TE action virtually was a distant memory from the past. Some of the cougs biggest plays in history have come through the tight ends. Whether it was Clay Brown. Whether it was Jonny Harline. Whether it has been Andrew George. No question they must be more heavily involved.

Open up the playbook. No more vanilla. Bring back the old school. Keeping opponents on their heels guessing. And guessing wrong. Far too often last season at times those plays were simply too predictable. Got to hit the opponent in the jaw early, often and coming from all possible angles. Teams can't have any clue where or when the cougs will strike next.

On the fly. Allow freedom for adjustments as they need to be implemented. Things will come up. Can't allow to get painted into a corner in the ever changing game. Every play will present new possible wrinkles. Giving all team captains more opportunities when needed for audibles as well as the player communication each down can only be a positive.

Synergy can certainly be a powerful word. Keep the band of brothers together strong as one. I believe it was Aristotle who said some serious truth which could be applied here. The whole is greater than sum of its parts. This season the cougs emergence into independence will be vital to this exact manner of thinking. It will take everyone working together on all levels as a collective unit. Together this band of brothers will certainly write history. What is says will only be known as we watch it play out one whistle at a time.
- - - -
AP Photo Credit: Isaac Brekken

15 July 2011

Defining Moments













Many years ago as a new country was in the process of declaring its independence a rather large signature was placed onto a piece of paper. According to legend it was written so large and clear that the individual wanted King George to be able to read it without the use his spectacles. That absolutely is a defining moment or signature in history. It is now a new day. A new dawn and a new season. The cougs are officially independent and able to define their own destiny.

Fans across the nation when asked what comes to mind first about BYU football many will say they know how to sling the pigskin around. No question it is an elite and visible group of members in the quarterback club. Each have had their own personalities, characteristics and defining moment in some form or another.

Ty Detmer had the killer instinct of never giving up despite whatever odds might have been in front of him. The former Heisman trophy winner finished a stellar career throwing for 15,031 yards and 121 TDs. Detmer's signature win cougar nation will recall was in LES back in 1990 when he Ty'd one on the Hurricanes leading the cougs to a 28-21 victory.

Jim McMahon might be known across the nation as part of a Superbowl shuffle but to cougar fans he likely will always be remembered for possibly staging one of the greatest college football comebacks ever slinging a hail mary to Clay Brown for a 46-45 victory over SMU.

Max Hall was able to best UCLA in the 2007 Vegas Bowl and destroyed the bruins the following year 59-0. He even beat Oklahoma 14-13 in Arlington Texas. The defining moment that fans likely to remember for Hall came from a 49 yard completion on a now famous fourth and 18 (or might as well been a fourth and forever) to Austin Collie with the final of 17-10 for cougs.

Robbie Bosco got things rolling early in the season against then third ranked Pittsburgh for a 20-14 victory. However, college football fans will recall what took place at the end of that season. Despite being injured he was able to help secure the cougs a 24-17 Holiday Bowl victory over Michigan to remain undefeated as the cougs now were able to claim the title of national champions.

Brandon Doman might be the offensive coordinator now but some fans will likely remember him as "The Domanator". However, most will recall Doman's defining moment how he was instrumental guiding Lavell Edwards last hurrah beating the team from up north 34-27.

John Walsh threw for 8390 yards and 66 TDs in his career but might be most remembered for helping the cougs end a 5 year bowl winning drought with a Copper Bowl victory over traditional power Oklahoma 31-6. Walsh finished the game 31 of 45 for 454 yards and 4 TDs.

Steve Sarkisian was part of what may have been one of the cougs best teams fielded collectively in 1996. Football fanatics will likely remember what took place on New Years Day for the 1996 Cotton Bowl. The 5th ranked cougs were led by Sarkisian throwing 21 of 36 for 291 yards and 2 TDs as Omarr Morgan intercepted the final pass from Kansas State QB Brian Kavanagh to secure the victory.

John Beck will be remembered with a number of solid wins including stunning TCU on their home field 31-17 as well as in 2006 a Vegas Bowl victory over Oregon 38-8. On the other hand cougar fans could argue his defining moment very well could be known by the play that lasted forever in the rivalry game known as "The Answered Prayer".

The names may change as they come and go through the program. This time its on the shoulders of Heaps. No longer is there any questions whatsoever who the signal caller is. Last season the training wheels came off. Jake grew up in a major way right before our eyes who rattled away 6 victories in its last 8 games. The bar has been set. What a difference a year makes. Cougar fans are clearly stoked with optimism for the upcoming season and ready to see Heaps of success. What will his defining moment be remembered as? Will it come this season against Texas? Or next year at Georgia Tech? Maybe some future bowl? Regardless what it will be fans will surely love the results.

13 July 2011

Sticks To Measure Success












Since 1906 football teams have needed 10 yards to gain a first down. Every team across the nation has their own method in moving the chains. In 1972 Lavell Edwards took the coaching reins and forever changed the game. Recently, the university of blue and white declared its independence. They took their own route to measure success. A new unchartered territory. A brand new horizon. As a fellow cougar fan each have their own measuring sticks. Things that they would like to see from the 2011 season.

Exposure. Long term vision and the tools to make it happen on and off the field. Allowing others to learn more about what the university is about. The things it represents and values. Having a renewed partnership with the world wide leader in sports. Yes, that would be ESPN. Look for minimum 10 games on a national stage network in 2011. No longer obscured by having to browse through craigs list to find a decommissioned satellite in order to find what might be viewing somewhere in the mountain range. It's now about a national range and the worldwide stage. How about also having a state of the art tv/media facilities at its fingertips? Definately couldn't ask for a better combo and recipe for success.

Teachers and Students. Coaching staff overhaul. Ben Cahoon. Rob Morris. Joe DuPaix. Those were some of the names and changes brought to this cougar staff. How will they affect the players? Is there a much better team chemistry? Numerous questions will certainly all be answered as the season progresses.

Heaps Next Throw. Jake set every freshman QB record throwing for over 2300 yards and 15 TDs. Is he ready for the next step? Heaps absolutely has an arsenal of weapons to work with and the skillset. As Bronco says its about executing at a higher level. The bar has been set. The cougar nation wants to know and will be anxiously watching.

Tradition, Spirit, Honor and Vanilla. Last season cougar fans became restless as the offense often seemed to be too vanilla. Opponents knew what to expect and often before things happened. Will the blue and white jerseys get back to the past? Is it finally time to look to the future? With Doman at the offensive coordinator helm will the new "O" keep teams on their heels? As fans will we see trickery from time to time to keep opponents guessing and playing it straight. Inquiring minds want to know.

Tight Ends In The House. Dennis Pitta. Gordon Hudson. Clay Brown. Jonny Harline. Chad Lewis. Those are only a few of the great names that cougar fans have heard make big plays over the years. Far too often last season the tight end situation seemed to be a completely invisible facet of the offensive game plan. Will cougar fans see a change in 2011? With names like Devin Mahina and Austin Holt in the stable the weapons are certainly available. What other sort of things as a cougar fan would you like to see? Would love to hear.

First Team Worth Watching











Its the cream of the crop. Bigger. Faster. Meaner. Stronger. Those that have the competitive edge who never give up. Its the law of the jungle. Who will remain at the seasons end as the best of the best? Time will tell. It's certainly worth a look at who to watch. This years picks as follows include...

QB Landry Jones/Oklahoma As a sophomore Landry threw for 38 TDs covering 4718 yards. With an arsenal of dangerous weapons fans can expect more of the same. Definately has some major ability. The sky is the limit.
RB LaMichael James/Oregon Last season was the recipient of the Doak Walker award as the nations top RB while leading the NCAA with 1731 rushing yards and 24 total TDs. Has surpassed 100 yards rushing in 18 of 25 games played. LaMichael has some serious wheels. Even has had nine games of 150 plus yards.
RB Marcus Lattimore/South Carolina Absolutely pumped up the South Carolina fans while compiling nearly 1200 yards rushing on 249 carries as a true freshman to help carry the gamecocks to the SEC east championship. The sophomore workhorse certainly won't be a surprise or sneaking up on anyone this season.
WR Justin Blackmon/Oklahoma State Definately did not encounter a sophomore slump last season leading the nation with 148.5 receiving yards per game (1782 total receiving yards) and 20 TDs while picking up some hardware as the Biletnikoff Award Winner. Blackmon even averaged 32.1 yards on his TD catches. What Justin put together was the sixth best receiving season in NCAA history.
WR Ryan Broyles/Oklahoma Probably stunned many coming back for a senior campaign after leading the nation with 131 receptions with 1622 yards (3rd in the NCAA) and 14 TDs. Broyles is just 51 grabs away from breaking the NCAA career receptions of 316 (previously set by Taylor Stubblefield) which easily could fall this season unless something dramatic happens.
TE Michael Egnew/Missouri The plainview Texas native led all TEs in the nation with 90 receptions 762 yards and 5 TDs. Egnew in 2010 was a Mackey Award Finalist who returns to give the Tigers possibly the best catching target in the nation at that position.
C Michael Brewster/Ohio State Up front and center is the centerpiece and four year starter with 36 career starts. Brewster could certainly end up starting as a rookie at the next level in the right situation.
OL Nate Potter/Boise State One of the leaders of a rather stingy OL that ranked 3rd nationally in 2010 allowing only an average of 0.62 sacks per game. Solid pass blocker who by all means should follow Ryan Clady into the NFL. Has already graduated (in May) with a bachelor's degree in business.
OL Matt Reynolds/BYU If Heaps were counting his blessings this would be a great place to start when it comes to football. Three year starter for the cougs. Helped BYU hold opponents to no sacks in four games and two or fewer in 11 matchups. Matt would positively be three time all conference again if the cougs were still in the MWC. Definately should receive some solid looks at the next level.
OL Barrett Jones/Alabama Was instrumental in helping Mark Ingram win the Heisman trophy in 2009. Set to embark on his third season on the Crimson Tide OL after winning first team all SEC honor as a sophomore.
OL David DeCastro/Stanford Smart dependable player from Bellevue Washington who will anchor the cardinal OL that has allowed only 13 sacks (26 starts) in two seasons.
K Blair Walsh/Georgia Senior school record holder for consecutive PATs (made first 119 of his career) returns who has made 40 of 45 FGs in the past two years.
P Quinn Sharp/Oklahoma State Junior with a huge leg (averages 46.24 yards which ranked 2nd nationally) and paced the nation with 53 touchbacks. As a sophomore Quinn had a punt of at least 50 yards in nine of eleven games (14 punts in excess of 50 yards).