Daily Archives: May 6, 2015

Lofty expectations in Urnge

As I posted yesterday, I’m a little puzzled about the elevated status being assigned to Auburn’s won-loss record in the preseason.  But you know what I really don’t get?  The breakout predictions for Tennessee.

Sure, Butch Jones has noticeably improved the talent base with his last two seasons of recruiting.  But that’s only striking because SOD left the Vols in such a deep hole, talentwise.

And it’s not as if other contending teams in the division have suddenly dropped down a hole.  Except for the post-Boom hiccup, Georgia and Florida recruit as well as UT.  Missouri is better coached.  (Okay, maybe the jury is out on South Carolina a bit.)

So jumping to the top isn’t an easy task, especially when you consider UT’s West draw, Arkansas and Alabama, isn’t as easy as some of the other East contenders.  Plus, there’s a rematch with Oklahoma on the schedule.

Then there’s the issue of depth.  Those last two classes may be shiny, but even UT isn’t going to fill the two-deep with freshmen.  Does that sound like Jones’ team may be more competitive this year?  Sure.  Does it sound like he’s holding the recipe for ten regular season wins?  Eh, not so much.

In other words, call this the Tennessee Conundrum:

I’m guilty of praising a Tennessee team with offensive line and linebacker issues too soon. This is a team that was the definition of thin this spring and hasn’t won more than seven games since 2007. While I think a healthy Tennessee team can certainly compete for the East title, Jones has to show that his highly-ranked recruiting classes mean something.

76 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

Culture clash in Athens?

So here’s an observation from Seth Emerson in today’s Mailbag:

I am a huge believer in the “culture” of football programs shaping success. That is largely led by coaching staffs and coordinators, and sometimes strong player-leaders. Have you noticed a big culture shift from the Bobo/Grantham era to Pruitt/Schottenheimer? If yes, in what ways are the inner workings of the program different than years past?
– Scott C. Davis

Well, the culture of the offense was just fine under Bobo, as the results show, and he and Pruitt were in sync on a lot of things. So thing can’t be quite grouped together like that.

But there was definitely a cultural change, along with big changes in how things were done behind the scenes, after Pruitt’s arrival. I think Bobo had wanted to do things a certain way – more the Alabama way, for lack of a better term – and Pruitt was able to reinforce that and push Richt that way. That meant some changes in the way practice was structured, the addition of more quality-control and recruiting staffers, and recruiting in general.

The bigger question going forward is how much Schottenheimer could change things, if at all. It’s still hard to get a read on him, as it’s early, plus he hasn’t been made available to the press since January. He comes from the NFL, as many years as Grantham. But unlike Grantham, Schottenheimer enters a situation where the emphasis is on him fitting in, rather than him changing the way things are done.

So far I’ve just seen small, subtle changes from Schottenheimer – such as double-repping quarterbacks at practice – while otherwise he’s doing his best to fit in, and Pruitt remains the bigger power behind the scenes.

We’ve all given Mark Richt his fair share of grief over the years for being slow to change things that obviously weren’t working right, and deservedly so.  But if he’s earned crap for not being nimble enough when things are crumbling, he also deserves credit for the times when he does finally adjust.  Firing Willie Martinez may have been the hardest thing Richt ever had to do as head coach, and he waited a year too long to pull the plug, but in the end, he did it.

And so now we seem to be in the middle of another key period in flux for the program, and Seth’s right that it’s not really about Schottenheimer, who’s not expected to be an agent of change.  Instead, it’s about consolidating the way the program started going about its business after the arrival of Jeremy Pruitt.  It’s noteworthy that Seth sees Pruitt as someone who was able to validate what Bobo wanted to do and that both were able to convince Richt (and Richt, in turn, to convince B-M) that it was worthwhile to chart a new course.

I get the feeling after reading Emerson’s observations that Bobo’s gonna do alright in his new gig.  But I wonder if Pruitt will be as convincing on his own as he was when he was part of a tag team act with someone who clearly had Richt’s confidence after being a part of the program for so many years.  My guess is that if this season goes well, when Pruitt talks, Mark Richt will have no problem listening.

In any event, it should make for an interesting program dynamic to watch play out this season.

31 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Bowling for dollars

College football is adding three new bowl games this season.  Now, I’m not complaining – when it comes down to it, college football is like beer; you can never have too much on hand – but I’m detecting a note of quasi-shame from the decision makers about it.

“I’ve quit worrying about numbers,” said Wright Waters, the Football Bowl Association’s executive director. But he and others in the bowl industry are aware they’re nearing a saturation point.

“There’s got to be one,” Waters told USA TODAY Sports, “but I don’t know where it is. Every time I meet a mathematician, I ask him to solve this problem for me. They all look at me and laugh.”

The math guys may laugh, but you know who isn’t laughing?  The bean counters at ESPN.

Disney’s cable networks reported 9% lower operating income to $1.8 billion. The decrease was caused by higher programming and production costs at ESPN, which had higher rights fees for the college football playoffs, an added NFL playoff game and the newly launched SEC network. Cable revenues were up 11% to $4 billion.

Add three new bowl games, and you offset the hit to the bottom line a little bit.  And every little bit helps.

“At some point this is gonna be a self-limiting thing,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told USA TODAY SPORTS. “It wouldn’t be responsible to have bowls beyond that certain point – but I don’t know where that point is.”

Brother, that’s something you need not worry about.  If that day ever comes, Mickey will let you know, for sure.

9 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

Amending the graduate transfer rules, a real feel good story

Now this is how you explain the need for a change that doesn’t benefit student-athletes:

… And last week in Irving, Texas, for the College Football Playoff management committee meetings, there was additional tut-tutting about the scourge of empowered college graduates moving freely from one school to the next.

“I don’t think it fits the core values of intercollegiate athletics,” said Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson.

When asked for specifics on the conflict with core values, Benson said, “It just doesn’t feel right.”

Well, hell.  Who can argue with that kind of logic?

16 Comments

Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA

Malcom Mitchell is buying what the coaches are selling.

Those of you who think the fix is in and that Ramsey is a lock to start this fall don’t have Malcolm Mitchell in your camp right now.  He’s on the same page with the coaches about the quarterback situation.

Staying healthy the past few weeks was key for Mitchell, who spent time working with a trio of quarterbacks vying to become Hutson Mason’s successor: Faton Bauta, Brice Ramsey and Jacob Park.

“You just have to get adjusted to their style of play, because they all play differently,” Mitchell said. “Whoever wins the job won’t come down to arm strength as much as the mental aspect.”

At the moment, I don’t think it’s Ramsey’s job to lose so much as it’s somebody’s job to win.  I’d just like to see a winner by the time they break camp for the season opener.

21 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

“Do our strengths outweigh our weaknesses? I don’t think we know right now.”

When last we heard from the intrepid Bob Bowlsby, Jeff Long had spooked him into a state of panic over the Big 12’s lack of a conference championship game – something totally unnecessary for a conference with a round robin schedule, unless you really want to make your best team beat your second-best team twice in the same season for kicks:

“What we heard is if we don’t go to a championship game we’re at a disadvantage,” Bowlsby said. “All things being equal, 13 games are better than 12 games. That’s what we heard. So that gives us clear enough direction that we’re coming in at least at a modest disadvantage. We need to do whatever we can to mitigate that.”

Upon further review, Bowlsby mitigated, alright.  He mitigated into full retreat.

“I think we all believe that one year is not a long enough trial to draw any conclusions,” Bowlsby said. “We may find ourselves in better shape than some other conferences as a result of our model rather than in spite of our model.”

Bowlsby met with league athletic directors Tuesday morning and coaches Tuesday afternoon during the league’s spring meetings.

He was probably reminded of the times a conference title game screwed the Big 12 over during the BCS era.  Or heard this pearl of wisdom from Gary Patterson:  “The less games I play, the better off I am.”

So was he guilty of rushing to judgment?  Well, sure.  But that doesn’t make him a bad guy.

When asked if he overreacted to Long’s interpretation, Bowlsby said, “Maybe I did. I’m not immune to that.”

And he’s paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to run a major college athletics conference.  What a country.

5 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football