Monthly Archives: January 2012

Musical palate cleanser, pre-signing day edition

Click here to listen to “Horse Back”, a new 30-minute jam from Neil Young and Crazy Horse.  (If you’re a Zuma fan, you’ll thank me.)

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Filed under Uncategorized

Is the SEC’s new 25-man cap having an impact?

Sometimes, the devil’s in the details, as Seth Emerson tells us.

… But programs also accept early enrollments — such as Georgia did with Keith Marshall and two other recruits earlier this month. Under the old rules, teams had back-counted early enrollments toward the previous signing class, as a way of signing more players. That is still allowed.

But the programs were also allowed to not count players who signed but failed to qualify academically or didn’t enroll for whatever reason. The SEC clarified Monday that the new rules prevent teams from doing that anymore.

“If a player signs, he counts without regard to whether or not he actually enrolls,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said in an e-mail Monday. “ ‘Back counting’ is only permitted for mid-year enrollees who are able to be included as an initial counter for the academic year in which they enroll. ‘Back counting’ is an artificial term for this discussion and not accurate as the question is about the signing limit.”

So essentially under the old rules, what mattered most was who actually enrolled. But the SEC’s new rules are directed at who signs.  [Emphasis added.]

If you’re a coach who takes chances with kids who haven’t qualified academically on signing day, that definitely makes the math trickier.  If you guess wrong, you don’t get a mulligan.  And even if you aren’t that aggressive, well… this stuff sorta sounds like rocket science:

The SEC rule — and the national rule next year — allows an annual exception for teams to sign more than 25. That is possible if one or more signees can be counted backward toward the previous year’s class. There must be spots available in the previous class to do so.

The maximum 25 new scholarship players who can enroll each academic year are called “initial counters.” Almost always, initial counters are players who were recruited to be put on scholarship upon enrolling for their first year.

How does counting backward work? If a team shows up in the fall and adds, for instance, 20 new initial counters to go with 65 returning players, it would be maxed out at the NCAA limit of 85 scholarships and there would be five initial counters the team didn’t use.

Come December and January, the team could add five mid-year enrollees who count back toward the previous class if there are at least five current players whose eligibility ended. The mid-year enrollees could be any combination of junior college and four-year college transfers or early graduates from high school.

If that team brought in a sixth mid-year enrollee, one of those six mid-year enrollees would have to be counted forward, reducing the size of the upcoming signing class from 25 to 24.

The new rule supposedly has its first poster child.

… Alabama’s handling of North Atlanta High School running back Justin Taylor, who committed to the Crimson Tide a year ago, is the most high-profile example of the signing cap working as intended. Taylor told reporters that Saban said he couldn’t sign with the 2012 class because of the new rule and Taylor’s torn ACL.

In the past, Taylor might have been a grayshirt who signed a National Letter of Intent and delayed enrollment. Alabama still has an offer to Taylor, who may eventually sign in 2013. But in the meantime, the SEC cap prevented Taylor from signing, which had he been able to do so would have taken away his leverage to still be recruited by other schools.

If Saban hasn’t figured an effective way to tap dance around the new cap, maybe it’s fair to say there’s something substantive to it.

As the article notes, this rule goes into effect nationally this August, so at least the conference won’t be at a competitive disadvantage with other conferences in the future.  There’s also another roster management rule from the NCAA coming down the turnpike:

… The NCAA also adopted the SEC’s proposal to count summer enrollees on financial aid toward a team’s scholarship numbers for the next academic year. That gives universities less freedom to remove a scholarship from a player after he attends summer school simply because a different recruit gains eligibility late. The SEC has not yet adopted the summer-school rule, which goes into effect next summer.

If it’s an SEC proposal, you’d have to think it’ll be adopted in time.  Grayshirting, while not prohibited, looks like it’s becoming more and more of a challenge.  We’ll see how the coaches adapt.

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Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football

Pay the price.

Welcome to your SEC, where everything other than the air you breathe is monetized.  And that which is not expressly permitted is forbidden:

… It seems that the 40 or so videos of old Bulldog games I had posted on YouTube over the last one-and-a-half years and embedded into my blog posts were committing copyright infringement.  XOS Digital – a division of XOS Technologies, Inc., and the group behind the SEC Digital Network – has apparently been on a mission to rid the Internet of any video depicting members of the SEC.  They finally caught up to me a few days ago, and in the process, got rid of every last one of my 40+ freakin’ videos that I spent hours cutting up and preparing!

Suddenly, without any sort of notification or warning of my wrong doing, my blog was temporarily removed, all of my videos were wiped out, and my YouTube account was suspended.

Look, I get the need for some of this.  The conference doesn’t want entire games posted on YouTube when it derives some financial benefit from controlling distribution.

But Patrick Garbin is posting clips from games more than a decade ago on a fan blog.  He’s not trying to generate commercial competition; he’s simply encouraging interest from a (relatively) small number of folks with a passion for a football program.  Hell, if anything, should he manage to whet somebody’s appetite with a post, with a little effort, that’s something SEC Digital Networks ought to be able to make a buck off of, as Gawd and Mike Slive intended.

You’d think that fan interest is something precious and worth nurturing.  But this is the SEC, which has a hard time seeing past anyone’s wallet now.  I may be disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

Chasing those stars

One of the more valuable services Matt Hinton provides is his annual reminder that, quite simply, “(t)he better your recruiting rankings by the gurus, the better your chances of winning games, against all classes.”

You want an illustration of what that means?  Okay, here’s a handy chart:

No, there are no guarantees in life.  There are plenty of five-star busts.  There are any number of unheralded recruits who turn out to be raging success stories.  But when your typical five-star player has a ten-times better chance of becoming an All-American than does your average three-star recruit (and a one hundred-times better shot than a two-star kid!), then you have to play the odds if you’ve got the opportunity to do so.  It’s simple math.

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Filed under Recruiting

Hell hath no fury like a momma scorned


Landon Collins’ mom definitely ain’t happy with Nick Saban.  Her heart belongs to The Hat.

In an interview with a website called MomsTeam.com, Justin expounded on her distaste for the Tide as Collins’ choice, saying that “[Alabama] want[s] to redshirt – or greyshirt – him and they want him playing nickleback instead of safety. He is the top safety in the country and he will never play a game his freshman year.”  At the choice of school for her son, LSU, “coach Les Miles is offering to play him as safety during his freshman year.”

She also claims that her son’s girlfriend has been offered a job in Saban’s office, the implication being that his school loyalty is following his little head around.  (Shocking to think that could happen, I know.)

But for all that, you have to wonder if the woman is a little clueless when she says things like this:

“His (Nick Saban’s) goals don’t meet the criteria of the family; they meet the criteria of Alabama,” Justin added.

She has to be the only person in America who finds that to be a profound observation.  And if she thinks Saban is unique in that way, she’s even more clueless than I already think she is.

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting

“Georgia never gave up on him.”

Marc Weiszer hits on something about Georgia’s 2012 recruiting that’s struck me as well.

Georgia’s remaining targets include more than its usual share of recruits already on commitment lists at other schools — Sandy Creek receiver JaQuay Williams pledged to Auburn, Tucker defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Dawson to Vanderbilt, Cedar Grove offensive lineman Brandon Greene to Alabama, Martin Luther King linebacker Kenderius Whitehead to N.C. State and Memphis defensive back Sheldon Dawson to Memphis.

Now, not every recruit Richt is trying to run down in the next two days has given a verbal commitment elsewhere, but it does seem like Georgia is trying to change more minds down the stretch that I’ve been accustomed to seeing.

I’m not really sure if this is a one-off thing – situations like Chester Brown’s don’t come down the turnpike every day, admittedly – or if there’s some structural adjustment in how Georgia is approaching recruiting.  If it’s the latter, I wonder if that’s in response to the oft-heard criticism that Richt is slower to offer than other coaches, or if there’s some change in his approach due to the new SEC signing rules.

I don’t have a damned clue, in other words.  Anybody out there got some thoughts on this?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Has the spread stopped spreading in the SEC?

I had a feeling reading Michael Elkon’s comments in response to this post of mine about Auburn’s hire of Scot Loeffler that he had a post of his own coming on the subject, and, sure enough, he did.  There’s a lot to recommend there, but this is the point of greatest interest for me:

Auburn’s transition from the run-based spread to a pro-style attack* brings up a somewhat disturbing trend in the SEC: Creeping Sabanization. When Saban joined the conference, the mix of offenses was fairly diverse. Florida was running the spread. LSU was running something with spread elements. Arkansas was relying healvily on the Wildcat. Within two years, Auburn and Mississippi state were also running the spread. Two national titles for Saban later, everyone is trying to copy him, but not necessarily in good ways. Florida is running a pro-style offense under a Saban disciple. Ditto for Tennessee. LSU is attempting a modern-day imitation of the Bo Schembechler offense. Now, Auburn is eschewing the offense that was a significant factor in the Tigers winning their first national title in 53 years.** Mississippi State is left as the only run-based spread team in the league (and no one is running the Air Raid that played a role in Clemson, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State all making BCS bowls). Chris Brown asks whether the age of the spread is in decline. The answer is clearly “yes” in the SEC.

I’m never totally comfortable with these “pro-style” vs. “spread” debates, because there’s no uniform definition for either term, but I think Michael’s point has some validity.  It’s clear that we’ve come full circle from HP’s grandiose pronouncements that Urban Meyer had changed life as we knew it in the SEC.

The question is why.  I’m not sure if there’s one specific answer to that, but there are more than a couple of theories about what’s going on that are worth digging into.

  1. Creeping Sabanization.  That’s Michael’s primary explanation:  “… Saban is an outstanding defensive coach, so his teams don’t need an offense to put up big numbers. In sum, Saban’s style of conservative risk minimization works with a talent advantage and a dominant defense.”  It’s had an enviable track record of success over the past five years.  That resonates with coaches (particularly ones who have a defensive background like Chizik or are naturally conservative with game planning, like Richt).  It also clicks with ADs, who have hired Saban acolytes at places like Tennessee and Florida.  I agree with Elkon that Saban’s way requires stellar recruiting, but, really, is that a big problem at schools like Florida or Auburn?
  2. Quarterback play.  I don’t think this gets enough attention, but I’d argue that great quarterback play is a bigger necessity in a college spread attack than it is in a pro-style offense.  And if there’s one thing worth noting, it’s that the conference isn’t exactly in a golden age right now when it comes to quarterbacks.  (They’ve even noticed that in Montana, although Stewart Mandel’s explanation for the current state of affairs doesn’t make the most sense.)  Urban Meyer won SEC titles with a Tim Tebow.  Auburn had Cam.  Chris Relf doesn’t cut it in the same way.
  3. College football, tactically speaking, is cyclical.  This is something I’ve hit on before.  Good coaches adapt, no matter what gets thrown at them.  Especially as they see more of the same and become familiar with it.  As Matt Hinton put it, “… as the optimal window begins to close on the subversive deception of the spread and spread option, the great talent-maskers of the last two decades, the pendulum will begin to swing the other way — while Texas, Florida, Michigan, Auburn a cavalcade of first-rate recruiting powers are taking the “defend the entire field and the running quarterback” concept mainstream, less talented teams that relied on surprising defenses with the unfamiliar week after week must begin looking for a new edge.”  Sure, a Tebow or a Newton can elevate a spread attack to a level that even a Nick Saban can’t control, but that’s the exception, not the rule nowadays.  The best SEC defenses are too talented and too well-coached to be surprised anymore.

So where does that leave things?  I’m not totally sure, to be honest.  First of all, Elkon is right that Sabanization isn’t a one size fits all solution.

… Thus, even though a well-coached pro-style offense can work (and Loeffler is as good a candidate as anyone to run that offense well), the rest of the SEC looking up to Alabama could still stand to use the basic premise of the run-based spread, which is to use the quarterback as a runner to create either a numerical advantage in the box of favorable throwing conditions down the field. If you want a succinct scenario for the end of SEC dominance, it’s the possibility of the rest of the conference taking the wrong lessons from Alabama’s success.

If you can’t keep up with the Tide on the recruiting front, playing the same game Alabama does isn’t a winning strategy.  And that’s not exactly a new situation in this conference.  (The question I don’t have an answer for yet is whether the new SEC and NCAA rules on roster management will have an impact on leveling the playing field for recruiting.  If they do, would that make emulating Saban a more sensible strategy?)

Second, not all schools have abandoned the spread, or at least spread (i.e., running quarterback) principles.  Connor Shaw had more rushing attempts last season than Relf did.  And Jordan Rodgers had over 100 rushes in 2011.  Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ new head coach, is importing an offense that saw its quarterback carry the ball 161 times and score ten rushing touchdowns in the process.  Also, James Franklin.  So we shouldn’t bury the spread; it’s not dead yet.

But you have to carry that over in the context that it’s Saban’s world and we’re living in it.  One of his coordinators took a head coaching job.  Smart is likely to get one very soon.  Sunseri will be talked up if he’s a success at Tennessee.  That’s a coaching tree still putting out branches.  (But notice I didn’t say spreading.)

There’s also the question of how well the new trend succeeds at Florida and Auburn.  Weis was a disappointment, to say the least.  And Pease isn’t at Boise State anymore.  As for Loeffler, it will be interesting to see how that shakes out.  It sounds like Chizik has some definite ideas on what he wants from his coordinator, as Malzahn found out last year when he was pushed to slow the pace of the offense down, so there’s a question about how much of a leash he’ll be put on.  And I can’t help but wonder why Muschamp didn’t take a look at a coach who was on the Florida staff when he came in and announced he was ditching Meyer’s offense to go pro-style.

Elkon makes a couple of Georgia-related points in a follow-up post:

… When Florida was at its full pomp under Urban Meyer, one argument that Georgia fans made was that the Dawgs would have a recruiting advantage in a spread-crazy conference because Georgia would be somewhat unique and could tout its superior preparation for the NFL.  Matt Stafford going at the top of the Draft provided evidence for this point.  That advantage goes away now that Florida, Auburn, and (to a lesser extent because they were never really a spread team) LSU are all running pro-style offenses.  Style-wise, Georgia is just another team in the SEC.  Yes, they can tout where Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, and AJ Green were drafted, but Auburn can cite to Scot Loeffler’s record sending quarterbacks to the NFL.

On the other hand, if you view the run-based spread as a slightly better way to skin a cat, then Georgia benefits from conference rivals adopting a sub-optimal offensive approach.  After the 2008 and 2009 Florida games and the 2010 Auburn game, Dawg fans will not be sad to see the return of stationary quarterbacks on the offenses of their two biggest conference rivals.

Eh, maybe.  If Auburn gets to point to Scot Loeffler’s record elsewhere, Mark Richt can do the same.  I suspect there are enough pro-style quarterbacks coming out of high school to go around in the SEC, considering the conference’s burgeoning reputation of going against the (spread) grain.  Recruits are going to care a lot more about the here and now than what Loeffler’s kids at Michigan did.

Michael’s on more solid ground with his second point, although Tebow and Newton aren’t the examples I’d use.  Georgia had problems with Vandy’s running quarterback this past year and really struggled with running quarterbacks in 2010.  Grantham’s definitely made strides dealing with that, but I can’t say I’ll shed many tears if Georgia sees more statues in the backfield.

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Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics