In most years, this would qualify as nothing more than fall practice happy talk…
… but in this Year of Living Dangerously (Depth-wise), I’d almost be worried if Richt wasn’t saying that.
Believe me, I get that there are legitimate question marks surrounding Georgia’s chances to get back to the SECCG this year… but seeing Chase Vassar’s suspension for the Missouri game as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? Eh, I dunno about that one.
… happy talk and drive-me-crazy talk. Here’s an example of the latter from Coach Richt yesterday:
On the new kickoff rules and whether it’s a disadvantage that other teams might have gotten a head start in spring practice…
“I don’t think it’s an advantage for the other teams or a disadvantage to us. If our kickers can knock it out of the end zone, I’m all for them knocking it out of the end zone. The bottom line is there will be days when it’s windy and sometimes it’s going to be at your back and sometimes it’s going to be in your face. When it’s in your face you probably won’t be able to knock it out of the end zone, so you better have a plan to place the ball where it needs to be placed and allow your cover team to get there. Not only place it where you want it, but give the type of hang time you need for your coverage team to get down there…”
I’ve never been in the arena, either as a coach or a weatherman, so forgive my ignorance here. But if a day is so windy that a kicker can’t knock a ball through the end zone, how much better is he going to fare against the elements with a high directional kick into the same wind conditions?
Believe it or not, this post isn’t about Georgia’s roster size. Nope, this number 70 is about a little problem the NCAA has made for this year’s postseason.
Once again there are 35 bowl games on the schedule this year, which of course requires at least 70 Bowl Subdivision teams to meet the minimum six-win threshold for eligibility. Trouble is, the pool is already a bit smaller than usual this season. Three schools — North Carolina, Ohio State and Penn State — are banned from the postseason because of NCAA sanctions. A fourth, Central Florida, was added to that list in an NCAA ruling this week, though that might not be in effect until the 2013 season if the school files an appeal as it has said it would. Last year, there were 72 bowl-eligible teams — barely enough — with Southern California finishing out its two-season bowl exile and Miami (Fla.) self-imposing a bowl ban for 2011.
But worry not, my friends. Necessity is the mother of invention. And since they’re not shrinking the bowl field, that leaves only one other way to invent. You guessed it. It’s waiver time!
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors acted Thursday to put waiver rules in place just in case the magic number of 70 bowl-eligible teams isn’t achieved, or if any conferences fall short of the number of eligible teams needed to fulfill contractual obligations.
First consideration would go to teams that are 6-6 but “would not normally be bowl eligible because they have a win against a Football Championship Subdivision team.” Next, 6-6 teams with two FCS wins could be considered.
Third, a team that finishes 6-7 with the seventh loss in a conference championship game (think UCLA in 2011). After that, 6-7 teams that played 13 regularly scheduled games could be considered. That often applies to Hawaii or any of the Warriors’ opponents who travel to the islands.
The next pool would consist of teams reclassifying from FCS — this year that includes South Alabama, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Georgia State — with at least a 6-6 record. If a sixth pool is needed, a bowl could invite a 5-7 team that has a top-five APR rating.
Hey, who says the NCAA can’t be flexible? At least when there’s money at stake…
Paul Myerberg, in his preseason piece on his No.34, Florida, has a villain for last year’s poor showing by the Gators. First, the historical context:
You can further encapsulate last season’s offense – the Charlie Weis year, you could say – in two points: Florida went 5-3 when holding opponent to 21 points or less and ranked 111th nationally in third down conversions. From 1990, Steve Spurrier’s first season, through 2010, Urban Meyer’s last, Florida lost only six games when allowing 21 points or less.
Then, there’s the Costanza-like advice for the new guy.
Pease will improve Florida’s offense by taking care of the little things. First, find a quarterback. Next, start running with consistency on first down. Set up play action; Boise’s offense is unstoppable when the run sets up the pass. Convert on third down. Don’t rely on the pass to convert on third down. Run in short yardage situations. Protect the quarterback. Get tougher, please. Don’t call for a six-yard out when you need seven yards. Be flexible. Whatever Weis did, do the opposite. Be the anti-Weis.
Okay, okay. I think we get the point here. And Myerberg is fair in pointing out that the change in coordinators isn’t likely to make Florida into an offensive powerhouse overnight for the usual reasons, namely identity issues (Pease is the Gators’ third OC in three years) and personnel ones. But I wonder about something else: how do we know that Muschamp has a clue about hiring a decent offensive coordinator? I mean, Weis was a name hire and nothing else. This time, it wasn’t about hiring a name. It was about latching on to a program’s (Boise State) offensive success.
Muschamp knows he wants to run his offense out of a pro set, but other than that, he seems to chase the shiny toy. Here’s something he has to say about his new offense:
He promised more “imagination” on offense with shifts and motions under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. He said about 50 percent of the strategy could be out of the shotgun format.
“We don’t see a lot of multiple motions and shifts … it creates issues defensively,” noted Muschamp of how Pease could be a challenge for SEC defensive coordinators.
Maybe he wasn’t paying attention to what Gus Malzahn was doing at Auburn when Florida lost to the Tigers last season. Motions and shifts, multiple or otherwise, aren’t exactly new to the SEC. And Malzahn’s own track record should perhaps serve as a warning for Muschamp: successful the first year with a quarterback who wasn’t the most gifted physically but who grasped the offense quickly and ran it well; off the charts the second year with the incandescent Newton; awful last year because none of Auburn’s quarterbacks could handle the responsibility. Florida, last time I checked, didn’t exactly display the kind of stuff at the quarterback position from which legends are made.
And if there’s a program that’s shown it doesn’t translate well to other places, it’s Boise State. College football is littered with former Bronco head coaches who couldn’t duplicate their success away from the blue turf. And Texas, which hired Pease’s predecessor last season to revamp its offense, didn’t exactly set the world on fire, multiple shifts or not.
Maybe this is the time it works, maybe not. But if you’re wondering why a team with Florida’s defense and Florida’s special teams isn’t more highly thought of in the preseason, maybe there’s more to it than Charlie Weis.
Yesterday, I noticed some commenters here, along with others on the Internet, claiming an understanding of the stance the NCAA was taking in not allowing Houston’s eligibility – Mark Emmert’s concern that making an exception for Houston “would undermine the purpose of the drug testing program.”
In response, I and others pointed out that the NCAA has exercised discretion in applying the spirit of its rules and not the letter when it felt circumstances warranted it, the Penn State sanctions being the most recent example of that approach. The thing about it is, though, that you don’t have to wander nearly that far afield to find such an example because the NCAA has already done so in Houston’s own case.
Houston, from Buford, Ga., was an early enrollee at Georgia in January 2010. He failed an NCAA drug test April 13, 2010, triggering an automatic one-year suspension. He failed a second NCAA drug test Feb. 2, 2011, and the organization initially handed him a lifetime ban from NCAA participation.
However, Georgia successfully won an appeal by proving with results of its own testing that the drug had never fully left Houston’s system and that “the second positive drug test demonstrated residual from the initial drug use rather than re-use,” Courson wrote in a July 9 letter to McGarity. “Fortunately for our student-athlete, we have our own institutional drug testing to protect him from an unfair and unsupported accusation.”
Not only did that exhaustive testing process help Georgia win its appeal, the school also touted its results as evidence that Houston has not taken any performance-enhancing drugs in the meantime.
So, to summarize: (1) the NCAA ruled that Houston should receive a lifetime ban due to a second positive drug test result; (2) the school appealed based on scientific evidence it compiled showing that Houston wasn’t taking steroids; (3) the school’s appeal was successful; (4) the school appealed again, asking for the player’s reinstatement based on scientific evidence it compiled that Houston wasn’t taking steroids and that the continued presence of the drug in his system doesn’t give him a competitive advantage… and (5) Emmert purports to be surprised by Georgia’s request.
Sorry, but one of those things doesn’t follow, and it’s not Georgia’s request for reinstatement. If in the NCAA’s eyes the continued presence of the drug in his system doesn’t automatically disqualify him for life, I find it hard to see how the same excused presence together with a showing that there is no competitive advantage from the drug in Houston’s system should keep him from playing now. Then again, I’m not Mark Emmert.
But maybe somebody should ask Mark Emmert exactly what the purpose of the NCAA’s drug testing program is these days, because in Houston’s case it seems to be more about justifying its own existence than being about protecting competitive balance.
UPDATE: What we could use right now is some really lazy thinking. Fortunately, that’s why we have ESPN’s bloggers.
Unfortunately, the NCAA can’t make an exception for Houston. He’s already escaped a lifetime ban after his second positive test, and while you have to feel for Houston, making an exception for him would open up a new can of worms for the NCAA. The NCAA doesn’t want to have to deal with similar cases each year because you never know which ones could be true or fabiricated.
I’m not saying Houston’s is fabricated, but if he were allowed to play, what’s to stop other athletes from experimenting to see if they can use a similar story to slip by the NCAA?
Umm… how about that they wouldn’t have their schools running multiple tests to confirm that no further steroid usage had occurred? And submitting data that was sufficient to allow the NCAA to withdraw a lifetime ban?