Daily Archives: March 8, 2022

Geography and parity

Ari Wasserman ($$) suggests that something may be in play that might have an effect on leveling the playing field in terms of the recent severe disparity in recruiting.

And, no, it’s not playoff expansion.

… it has to do with geography and first-year head coaches.

Look around the sport right now. Lincoln Riley is at USC. Billy Napier is at Florida. Mario Cristobal is at Miami. Brian Kelly is at LSU. Brent Venables is at Oklahoma. Steve Sarkisian is in his second season at Texas. And the big hitters like Ryan Day, Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinney are still at their schools. Now look at the areas of the country that typically have the highest number of top-100 players. Where is the weakness? Southern California? Texas? Florida? Nope. Nope. Nope.

Let’s make some assumptions. Miami gets a few more players than it typically does from South Florida. Florida lands a few more five-star prospects than it did under Dan Mullen. USC locks down SoCal. The Lone Star State, among Venables, Sarkisian and Fisher, doesn’t have a ton of players left over for the traditional powers. Everyone does their part little by little, which means it’s much harder for the typical superpowers to assemble classes with 10 or 15 players ranked in the top 100.

This recruiting cycle is going to be so exciting because there are so many promising coaches at powerhouses in very advantageous geographical areas. If all of them meet or come close to meeting expectations, the talent will be more evenly distributed. And if that becomes a trend, you’ll see the competition on the field start to level out a little bit.

Those “if”s are — altogether now! — doing some seriously heavy lifting there.  But assuming for the sake of argument most of them in fact kick in, you know what?  One place where we’re not looking at promising coaches at powerhouses in very advantageous geographical areas is the state of Georgia.  If Miami and Florida up their in state recruiting results, that’s not good news for the likes of Saban and Swinney, who usually have to do a fair amount of shopping for recruits outside their home states.

But in Athens?  Recruiting should continue in its greased groove, because Smart wouldn’t face the same challenges.

36 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

“You know all the work that you put in was worth it.”

Matt Luke, who should know, had a pretty interesting take on his charges after the loss in the SECCG.

“Going through [the season] undefeated, I think everybody talks about the rat poison and the media and you know, you’re the number one team in the country, and that stuff is real,” Luke said. “I didn’t feel like we played with an edge, so that’s what we talked about the month of December: let’s be in great shape, let’s win the fourth quarter. Let’s be in great shape and let’s dominate the fourth quarter. So that’s what we talked about. We did a lot of extra conditioning, a lot of extra running.”

Judging from the team’s performance in the Orange Bowl, I’d say the lesson took.  And then came the fourth quarter of the national championship game.

“That was probably as proud as I’ve been was in the fourth quarter of that football game. All the stuff that we were talking about was coming to life on the field. OK, let’s be in better shape, let’s be a physical team in the fourth quarter, let’s go do this,” Luke said. “Who it was against and in the game it was against — to see that happen and to play with that edge in the fourth quarter, just as an offensive line coach and the message coach Smart was giving to the guys about the fourth quarter and winning the fourth quarter — I think that was a pretty cool moment.”

We’ll always latch on to the Ringo pick six as the moment in that game, but between Luke’s quote and something similar that Zamir White said, I do wonder if this team will look back and point to the way the offensive line took charge against ‘Bama when it mattered most as the key thing.  Of course, there’s no way of telling how Alabama’s defensive front might have fared had Williams and Metchie been available, amirite?

32 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Filling shoes at Clemson

Over at The Athletic, both Stewart Mandel ($$) and Bruce Feldman ($$) now rank Kirby Smart third on their respective Top 25 Coaches Lists.  Number One is obvious.  Number Two for both is Dabo Swinney, whom Smart bested last season.

I’m not here to mock the choice.  After all, as Feldman put it, “The Tigers just had a really down year and still won 10 games and finished No. 14 in the AP Top 25. Before that, Swinney led them two two national titles and six top four finishes in the past six seasons.”  Not exactly chopped liver, that.

It’s easy at times to throw snark in Dabo’s direction, but to give credit where credit is due, he has been an elite program manager.  He’s had remarkable staff stability over time and maximized returns from recruiting perhaps better than any other head coach in the country.

But… (you knew a “but” was coming, right?) he’s facing a big challenge in 2022.

After years of being mentioned as a potential target for head coaching positions, defensive coordinator Brent Venables was hired by Oklahoma to replace Lincoln Riley. Venables arrived at Clemson in 2012, and by 2014, he had the Tigers checking in as one of the best defensive units in the country. Swinney’s choice to fill the vacancy left by Venables came from internal options with Wes Goodwin being elevated to the position after 11 years in off-field roles across two stints. Goodwin will be the co-defensive coordinator along with Mickey Conn, who has served as both safeties coach and special teams coordinator since first joining Swinney’s staff in 2017. Another notable defensive adjustment was the hire of Nick Eason, a former All-ACC standout at Clemson, as defensive tackles coach to replace Todd Bates, who left with Venables for Oklahoma.

Tony Elliott similarly had been mentioned as a potential candidate for power conference jobs in the past, so it came as no surprise when he was introduced as the next coach for Virginia. Elliott is the third offensive coordinator since 2014 to leave Clemson for a head coaching position, and just like the previous instances, Swinney has elected to promote from within, elevating quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter to the OC role. The pipeline of home-grown coaching talent again provided for Clemson, as Thomas Austin moves into an on-field role overseeing the offensive line with longtime assistant Robbie Caldwell transitioning into an administrative role. Kyle Richardson, a member of the support staff from 2016-21 and a three-time state champion as a high school coach in South Carolina, takes over tight ends and serves as passing game coordinator.

That is one helluva bet to place on your program’s culture.  Sitting here right now, though, who’s to say Dabo’s right or wrong about that?  After all, he should know his own folks better than anyone on the outside does.  But, boy, does this have a certain potential to be a giant swing and miss.

Let’s just say I’ll be interested to see those two coaching lists next year.

63 Comments

Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake

A Montana misread

How it started ($$):

9. Dan Mullen, Florida (2020 — No. 8): I’ve been high on Mullen since his overachieving Mississippi State days, and his first three seasons at Florida have marked the Gators’ winningest run (29-9) since Urban Meyer. Florida in 2020 slew Georgia, ending the narrative about a huge “gap” between the two…

How it’s going ($$):

College coaching is cutthroat, man. Two of my top-10 coaches in the country this time last year, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Florida’s Dan Mullen, were out of a job before season’s end.

You may want to rethink that gap narrative thing, Stew.

22 Comments

Filed under Gators, Gators..., Media Punditry/Foibles

Bringing them all back home

This is pretty cool.

Consider the following:

  • There are seven prospects in the 2023 recruiting cycle with fathers that played football for UGA.
  • They were all scholarship players and major contributors at that.
  • Of those seven, the Bulldogs have extended scholarship offers to six of those young men.
  • Georgia already has commitments from two of those six and is a strong contender to various degrees in those other four recruiting stories.

At a time when Smart is welcoming back former UGA coaches seemingly in droves, this feels consistent.

9 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

You’re at Georgia Tech. You shouldn’t do this.

I have never typed the expression “WTF” and meant it more after watching… well, whatever the hell this is:

At least we get to see what his mom’s basement looks like.  And kudos for bringing back the Reggie Ball jersey, which seems strangely appropriate.

(h/t)

41 Comments

Filed under Georgia Tech Football