Daily Archives: March 9, 2008

“I kind of feel his pain.”

What to do if you’re Tommy Bowden and you’ve got more scholarship players than the NCAA allows?

Well, you could always hope for just the right amount of attrition, a la Nick Saban. Or you could simply get a little more proactive with matters.

Ray Ray McElrathbey is done with football at Clemson, and a teammate said it’s because the Tigers’ coaching staff decided not to renew his scholarship for the 2008-09 academic year.

Clemson announced Saturday that McElrathbey, a reserve tailback who gained national fame for taking custody of his younger brother, is no longer with the team. Team spokesman Tim Bourret said McElrathbey, who has two years of football eligibility remaining, will graduate in August and plans to attend graduate school or transfer and play elsewhere.

James Davis, a senior tailback for the Tigers, said McElrathbey told him he didn’t have a choice.

“He said something about how they weren’t going to renew his scholarship,” said Davis, who has been friends with McElrathbey since their high school days in Atlanta. “It really surprised me. But there’s a lot of stuff you can’t say. It’s something I guess everybody has to learn to live with.”

It sounds like nobody can say. According to Davis, McElrathbey ain’t talking because he “doesn’t want them to badmouth his name if he wants to play football somewhere else.” And Tommy’s hiding behind the veil of plausible deniability.

After Clemson wrapped up its first practice of the spring Saturday, which Ray Ray did not participate in, Coach Tommy Bowden did not confirm or deny that he initiated McElrathbey’s departure to free up a scholarship.

Will there be a backlash? Davis seems to think that’s a possibility.

Davis wonders whether all this will have negative recruiting repercussions for the Tigers.

“There’s a lot of guys they recruit in Atlanta,” he said. “People are going to ask: ‘What happened to Ray Ray?’ His high school (Mays High), they’ve got a lot of talented guys coming out of there.”

By “people”, I assume he means “coaches from other schools competing for Clemmins recruits”.

It’s probably a good thing for Bowden that Davis is a senior. I bet he’d be a helluva host for some of next year’s recruits.

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UPDATE: The Wiz has some more thoughts on this.

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UPDATE #2:  Orson at EDSBS has some good follow up on the story.  As he says, your mileage may vary.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Tommy Bowden: Male Model

The narrative arc of the single elimination tourney

Playoff thought from a political blog I like to read:

… This is another way of saying that playoffs, in any sport, have never been about “finding the best team”. Rather, they’re about building tension in the most effective way for the sport in question. In this, the NCAA Tournament is indisputably superior to the Bataan Death March that constitutes the NBA playoffs. Major League Baseball uses a playoff system similar to that of the NBA, but the seven game series is much more suitable to the rhythm of baseball than of basketball, and moreover it’s built into the structure of baseball that many of the best and most important players simply cannot play every day. In short, the capacity of a George Mason to reach the Final Four now and again is a feature, not a bug…

Forget the time constraints of an extended playoff for a minute: the biggest effect of a single elimination format is to provide a counter-balance to a lack of parity in a tourney pool.

As much as many pundits like Mandel want to argue that D-1 football has entered a new age of level footing, the fact remains that the sport is still one of the most imbalanced out there in terms of talent and resources. The truth is that the Boise and Appalachian States of the college football world as a general rule are going to lose to the Oklahomas and Michigans nine times out of ten, which is why (again, ignoring the time constraints for a moment) a best of three format would be a complete waste of time. It’s the “any given Saturday” factor that gives an extended tourney its spice.

Obviously in a four team setting, this effect is reduced – in some seasons (2007-08 ) more than others (2005-06). But the nature of the sport changes as the pool grows and the effect of the single elimination factor increases along with it. In the context of college football, this is what those of us mean when we worry about devaluing the impact of the regular season. Admittedly, this is a question of aesthetics, but I firmly believe that D-1 football would be the poorer for it if that were the path taken.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Sam I am.

I touched on this the other day – the withering away of the traditional role of the strongside linebacker in the age of the spread offense – and Josh Kendall has more on the subject in today’s Macon Telegraph.

First, Rennie Curran noticed.

Midway through the 2007 season, Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran started getting a little lonely.

More and more, Curran noticed, he was one of only two linebackers on the field rather than the traditional three. The strongside linebacker, called the Sam linebacker by the Bulldogs, was nowhere to be found, unless Curran looked to the sideline.

There was a reason for that.

… Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Willie Martinez noticed the trend before Curran did and began to plan for it.

“In our league, more and more people are spreading out (on offense), and I think it’s happening pretty much around the nation,” Richt said. “The more (offenses) spread, the less (defenses) play their Sam linebacker. You could play Sam and play a certain team and play maybe 15 snaps or something. And then if you have two Sams who are ready to play, you are splitting time like that.”

When offenses spread out their formation, defenses have to replace the Sam linebacker with a defensive back, a player who is expected to be faster and better in pass coverage. With a linebacker in the game against a spread offense, Martinez said, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators know the defense will be playing zone defense, giving the offense an advantage.

“They know a linebacker is not going to play man (coverage),” Martinez said. “He’s going to play zone.” [Emphasis added.]

So much for Tebow’s shoulder. It looks like there was another reason he hung on to the ball and took those six sacks.

The end result is that, while the strongside position won’t be completely eliminated in Georgia’s defensive scheme, what the coaches look for in a Sam linebacker will be different.

… Dent and Dewberry shouldn’t worry that their preferred position will be phased out, Richt said, but they should understand it is changing. From now on, the head coach said, Georgia’s strongside linebackers will have to be able to either play defensive end in passing situations or play more than one linebacker spot to ensure themselves playing time.

“You are going to see us more and more where that guy is a jack of all trades,” Martinez said. “No doubt, it’s a special kind of guy. You want the strength, you want the power, you want the size, but at the same time, you don’t want that guy out there in space, trying to defend the spread.”

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics