Monthly Archives: February 2009

The art of oversigning, or too much is never enough

Andy Staples has a piece up about oversigning that will have you shaking your head about one Houston Nutt.  Everybody knows the Nuttster signed 37 kids to letters of intent with Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago, and while the general reaction is a little tut tutting along with some muttering about grayshirting and Jucos, perhaps his strategy deserves further scrutiny and criticism based on something that happened with last year’s class.

… Sometimes, however, the numbers don’t work. Nutt’s 31-player class in 2008 included a quarterback/defensive back from Sherwood, Ark., named Hunter Miller. Last summer, it became clear the Rebels had more qualified signees than they had available scholarships. Nutt asked Miller to grayshirt. Miller declined and asked to be released from his letter of intent so he could walk on at Arkansas. Reached this week, Miller’s mother, Dawn, said she would rather not comment except to say that there were no hard feelings and that “everything worked out best for Hunter,” who has since transferred to a junior college to play baseball.

Oops, sorry.  Best of luck to you, kid.

Maybe the Nuttster needs a mentor to sharpen his game.  Staples does a nice job of mapping the route Nick Saban took to clear space to get his 2008 class of 32 signees accounted for at Alabama.

… Two players (receiver Chris Jackson and kicker Corey Smith), enrolled in January 2008. Because Alabama has two scholarships left in the class for the 2007-08 academic year, Jackson and Smith’s scholarships counted back to that class. That brought the 2008-09 number to 30. Meanwhile, athlete Devonta Bolden, defensive end Brandon Lewis and receiver Kerry Murphy failed to qualify academically, bringing the number down to 27. Running back Jermaine Preyear, nursing a shoulder injury, accepted a grayshirt, bringing the number down to 26. During the summer, receivers Destin Hood and Melvin Ray signed professional baseball contracts, bringing the total of incoming freshman for the 2008-09 class to 24.

But that was only part of the equation. Alabama still needed to shed existing scholarships to stay under 85. During the offseason, the Tide lost defensive back Tremayne Coger (transferred to Jacksonville State), offensive lineman Patrick Crump (quit football), defensive end Jeremy Elder (arrested on a robbery charge), quarterback Nick Fanuzzi (transferred to Rice), receiver Tarence Farmer (transferred to Wyoming), linebacker Jimmy Johns (arrested on cocaine dealing charges), linebacker Zeke Knight (medical hardship) and cornerback Lionel Mitchell (medical hardship for back injury).

You can’t tell the (former) players without a scorecard.

On the other hand, Mark Richt gets a pat on the back from Staples.

… Georgia coach Mark Richt refuses to oversign for two reasons. First, he wouldn’t want to run out of scholarships for qualified players. Second, he would not want to run off current players who have eligibility remaining to keep the Bulldogs under the 85-scholarship limit. “We could always get into a situation where we oversign, but there’s no way I could look at a kid and his parents and say, ‘We had some room, but now we really don’t.’ I just think you have to be careful,” Richt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Signing Day. “I don’t want to oversign, then tell one of the kids we’ve already got, ‘You’ve got no value to us’ and toss him aside. I’m not going to do that.”

Yeah, that whole tossing-aside thing… if you get the feeling that there probably isn’t much margin for error for certain Rebel football players these days, it’s because there probably isn’t.  (Look out!  It’s the dreaded “violation of team rules”.)  Given that one of the Nuttster’s shiny new signees is a kid who got the bump from his previous school for using a dead person’s credit card, you have to wonder how nefarious was the behavior of those two non-starting miscreants to earn their coach’s wrath.

The answer, of course, is just enough.

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Filed under Recruiting

On the Plains, history is bunk.

There was a time when Auburn had a head coach who hired an offensive coordinator who ran an offensive scheme that was far removed from the Dye-esque, manly, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach that Tiger fans were accustomed to.  But the head coach had it all under control.  Remember those heady days?

Many people see the spread as being a finesse offense, but not Mr. “You’ve got to run the ball in the SEC”:

The biggest difference, Tuberville said of Franklin, “is he’s going to set up the run by passing the ball. We’ve set up the pass by running the ball. I don’t doubt it’s going to work, but we’re still going to be a physical team. We’re going to run the ball more than we’re going to throw it.

Auburn will remain a physical offensive team.

“I’m a defensive coach and I know you have to be physical in practice to help your defense,” Tuberville said. “You can’t get better in games on defense. You have to practice hard and practice physical. We’ll have a lot of two-back in our offense next year.”

Exit Tuberville.

And now, Auburn fans have another head coach and another spread attack genius ready to boldly go where no Tiger offense has gone before.

Eh, maybe not.

… As far as new coaches, the hiring of Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn might on the surface imply the Tigers are leaning toward an all-out spread passing attack, though Chizik is not so sure.

“Well, there are so many different versions of the spread and what that means,” said Chizik, who won the Frank Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant (defensive coordinator) when Auburn finished the 2004 season undefeated. “I really see us more of a run-the-football type of team, so I’m not sure what the appropriate name of the offense is. Obviously, we’ll do some one-back, two-back things of that nature. It’s still going to be a downhill, physical running game.”

Hey, that worked great last year.  Just ask Mississippi State.

And Malzahn ought to be hearing those alarm bells going off right about now – he’s got experience with his head coach overriding his offensive scheme.

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UPDATE: Over at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash, Jerry is hopeful that history won’t repeat itself.

3 Comments

Filed under Gene Chizik Is The Chiznit

Wednesday morning buffet

Morning, campers.

  • In case nobody told you, spring practice is already underway at three schools.
  • I’m surprised that this hadn’t been done already, but Jerry does an entertaining job with it.  Auburn’s staff takes the early lead in the duel, but we haven’t heard from the likes of Coach O yet, either.  Stay tuned for part two.
  • For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anybody cares about the NFL combine.
  • You’ve got to be vewy, vewy careful these days finding just the right patsy to fill in that twelfth game on the schedule.
  • And in case you hadn’t seen this, the GPOOE™ engaged in a little smack talk about our boys to raise some cash.  We can only hope it proves to be as bad an investment as what’s been in our 401Ks for the last year.

14 Comments

Filed under College Football, Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik Is The Chiznit, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, The Blogosphere, Tim Tebow: Rock Star

Missing you

Chris Low posted something the other day that made me think of a question.  Here’s what he wrote:

3. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford: As great as running back Knowshon Moreno was, strong-armed quarterbacks like Stafford, who’ve started since their freshman season, are invaluable. His leaving early for the NFL draft also means Georgia will be going with somebody at quarterback (whoever it is) that has little or no experience in SEC competition. With Stafford’s ability to make every throw, he kept defensive coordinators honest. He could beat you a number of different ways. Some of the Georgia fans got down on him at times because of untimely interceptions, but he led the SEC with an average of 266.1 passing yards per game last season and was second with 25 touchdowns, while completing 61.4 percent of his passes. Those numbers won’t be easy to replace…

So what I wonder is this:  who is Georgia going to miss more in 2009, Moreno or Stafford?

Low makes a good point about Stafford’s ability keeping defensive coordinators honest.  Gary Danielson, he of the admittedly severe man-crush on Stafford, gave a clinic during last year’s broadcast of the LSU game about how Stafford’s arm forced a complete change in the Tigers’ pass coverage.  Matt’s quick release and just-enough mobility in the pocket also saved his team from a few sacks.

But Moreno’s ability to turn nothing into something – Mark Richt talked constantly about Knowshon’s great three and four yard runs – can’t be underestimated.  And it was he, not Stafford, who provided the spark in 2007 when the team went on its run beginning at Vandy.

Low’s point about Stafford’s arm keeping defensive coordinators honest notwithstanding, I can’t recall a defensive game plan last year deployed against Georgia that didn’t start with trying to slow down Moreno.  Some of that was due no doubt to the Georgia offensive scheme which relies on the run to set up the play action pass.  But some of that was also a tribute to Moreno’s skill set.

But what those two brought to the table is only half the story.  The other half is what Georgia is able to deploy at quarterback and tailback this season.  And that’s a much tougher question to evaluate at this point.  Certainly on paper there’s plenty of talent at both positions, but it’s relatively inexperienced and it’s never been counted on to carry the team over the course of a season.

The X-factor is the offensive line.  Does it stay healthy and stable enough to allow the offense to coalesce around it?  Give Cox or whomever else may get the chance to play time to execute and you can make up for a lot of what you lose from Stafford’s off-the-charts arm.  Give the running backs solid blocking and you won’t miss as much Moreno’s uncanny ability to turn a two yard loss into a four yard gain (and maybe you can also pick some of what you lose from Moreno’s skill in blitz pick up, too).  With the emergence of a solid offensive line you also put the tight end position back into the passing game and provide Bobo and the quarterbacks with an option that was sorely lacking in 2008.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Going for broke

Does Chris Brown ever write a post that doesn’t have something of interest in it?

Here’s a good one about why in college football especially it pays for underdogs to take risks and why it makes sense for teams with talent advantages to play more conservatively.  He starts with the suggestion that some NFL teams may have thrown too few interceptions and winds up here:

… So in the NFL, where teams are almost all competitive (save, maybe the Detroit Lions), it’s likely the best strategy to simply maximize expected points and to go from there. But in other levels, with talent disparities of all sorts, it is trickier, as we have seen.

In the 1990s, Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators were undoubtedly some of the most talented teams of the decade. They were also some of the most aggressive. As a result, they absolutely destroyed some teams. Of course there were the seventy-point blowouts of Kentucky, but what about when they scored more than sixty against Phil Fulmer’s Tennessee Volunteers? Yet, Spurrier never once went undefeated with the Gators: his teams always seemed to drop a game or two that maybe they shouldn’t have. And those losses almost always had the same profile — too many interceptions, couldn’t run the ball at all, and too many big plays given up on defense. I can’t believe I’m inclined to say this, but maybe Spurrier should have been more conservative? He might not have won as many games by sixty or seventy, but maybe they would have gone undefeated and won more than one title?

You may not agree with him, but it’s definitely thought provoking.  Good read.

3 Comments

Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The Blogosphere

You say you want a revolution.

I’m not sure how I missed this story when it first surfaced last November, and I know it involves basketball, not football, recruiting, but still, think about the implications if this became commonplace.

… There is some debate as to whom is the best high school player in America, but I’m here to tell you that there is no doubt who is the smartest.

His name is DeMarcus Cousins.

You could also make a case that Cousins is the most physically talented player in the country. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, he possesses an NBA-ready body with shooting range that extends beyond the three-point line. Rivals.com ranks Cousins No. 2 in the class of 2009. Scout.com ranks him No. 10. Last March, Cousins, who attends LeFlore High in Mobile, Ala., announced his intention to stay near home and play for UAB.

Cousins is ready to put pen to paper and make his commitment to UAB official, but he’s adding one wrinkle: He wants UAB to put in writing that if Blazers coach Mike Davis is not at UAB next season, then the school will release Cousins from his National Letter of Intent (NLI).

“My whole point of committing to the school was to play for coach Mike Davis,” Cousins told me Monday. “If he gets another job offer or leaves for his own personal reasons, I want to be able to leave [UAB] without any problems. I need that in writing so there won’t be any issues. That’s real important to me.”

As far as I can tell, Cousins has stuck to his guns.  He hasn’t signed with any school to date and wants to see where former UAB coach Mike Davis lands before making a final decision.

But back to the main point.  Could the system withstand the shock of fairness here?  After all, the NCAA likes to perpetuate as a truism the myth that every recruit commits to the institution not the coach.  Riiiight.  That’s why Tennessee now has an athletic department display of football players who played for members of UT’s current staff at other schools and went on to NFL careers.  Good ol’ Rocky Top indeedy.

Basketball has an early signing date for recruits that football lacks.  If anything, that makes what Cousins asked for even fairer.  If college football ever goes down that early date road, I hope the NCAA concedes this little bit of control, although I doubt it would.  The irony is that it would indirectly benefit the coach on shaky ground who still managed to assemble a good class of commits (**cough** Fulmer** cough**).  Because there’s that other truism about recruiting being the lifeblood of a college program that might actually have some legs to it.

6 Comments

Filed under Recruiting, The NCAA

Tuesday morning buffet

Grab a plate and line up.

  • Here’s another reason why minority coaches may have an easier path in the NFL than in the college ranks – the trend in the pros to avoid the star coach hire.
  • Even dead celebrities prefer a D-1 playoff, it seems.
  • Logan Gray has to be the forgotten man of Georgia football.  Everyone seems to skip directly from Joe Cox to the incoming freshmen in reviewing the QB position.  Hopefully Gray can do something to refresh their memories.
  • Give him credit – Bernie Machen’s got one helluva shtick going.  He pitches a poorly thought out playoff proposal to his SEC peers, bails out and votes against his own proposal when the going gets tough and yet still gets cited as a go-to guy by the national media on playoffs.  Nice work if you can get it.
  • I guess some coaches would be opposed to an early signing period.  At least sometimes.
  • That leadership thing is still the subject of many posts in the Georgia blogosphere.  David Hale offered some follow up observations yesterday to his earlier post on the subject and Marc Weiszer reminds us that one of the departing players who kinda, sorta got a nudge, nudge, wink, wink thrown his way about leadership last year raised that issue himself before the Cap One Bowl.

2 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Recruiting, The Blogosphere