Tag:Atlanta Falcons
Posted on: February 22, 2012 3:12 pm
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Garcia hoping "honesty" helps him to shot in NFL

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Stephen Garcia is hopeful for a shot with the NFL despite his mistake-plagued, alcohol-hampered past. And part of earning that shot may be accepting that the responsibility for that past falls entirely on himself.

"I've learned how immature I really was," Garcia told Scout.com NFL reporter Aaron Wilson in a lengthy, detailed interview. "I just didn't know exactly how important everything was until after I made all of those mistakes. I was trying to be like every other college kid, but you can't do that as a starting quarterback for an SEC team. Looking back, it sucks. I have nobody to blame but myself."

A native of Lutz, Florida, Garcia recently played in the "Battle of Florida" all-star game and said he spoke to scouts from multiple NFL teams there, including one from the Atlanta Falcons. Garcia said he was as up front as possible with the scout about his time at South Carolina.

"I went down the list and he said he appreciated the honesty," Garcia said. "He told me to stay on that track, and I will. I just wish I had changed earlier. I didn't fully understand until it was too late. I'm doing everything I can to do things the right way."

Garcia's trying to impress the pros with more than his candor, though. He said he's been working out with former Arena League quarterback John Kaleo in preparation for the Gamecocks' pro day, sharpening his mechanics and improving his accuracy.

But Garcia still faces an uphill battle to be drafted -- CBSSports.com's draft ratings call him the No. 26 QB in his class, and expect him to have to sign as a free agent -- and any prospect who admits he will have to "prove that I'm not an alcoholic" isn't going to be one teams will beat down the doors to take a flyer on.

"It's kind of stressful because I don't know where the hell I'm going to be," Garcia said. "Hopefully, I'm playing in the NFL in the fall. Nothing's guaranteed. It's a waiting game. Nobody likes waiting around, but it is what it is. My head is clear. I'm more focused, and I'm ready to take on this next step in my life."

That step may or may not prove to be the step Garcia wants it to be. But if the remorse and maturation he expresses throughout the interview is genuine, that might be a bigger step than a chance at professional football would be anyway.

For more of Garcia's comments -- on Steve Spurrier, fatherhood, his insistence that he doesn't have "a drinking problem" -- read the full Taylor interview. It's well worth your time. 

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:15 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 5:17 pm
 

SEC West coordinator hires: thumbs up or down?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all 28 positions now filled, here's one team-by-team assessment of where the SEC stands at the two most important assistant coaching positions. First, the West:

ALABAMA

2011: Jim McElwain offensive coordinator, Kirby Smart defensive.
Departures: McElwain accepted the job as Colorado State head coach.
2012: McElwain has been replaced by Washington OC Doug Nussmaier.

Thumbs up/down? Firmly up. Some of that is the hire of Nussmaier, who -- once freed from trying to turn Jake Locker into the efficient college QB he was never going to be -- coaxed Keith Price into becoming one of 2011's breakout stars and the Huskies to a 24th-place finish in yards-per-play. (It doesn't hurt that Nussmaier cut his coordinating teeth in the same Fresno State program McElwain did.) But even bigger was that the Tide retained the services of Smart for another year, despite his having overseen a 2011 'Bama defense that merely ranked among the best the game has ever seen.

ARKANSAS

2011: Garrick McGee offensive, Willy Robinson defensive.
Departures: McGee took the UAB head coaching positionRobinson resigned after four up-and-down years in Fayetteville.
2012: Paul Petrino returns to his brother's staff as OC after two seasons at Illinois; Paul Haynes arrives as DC after seven years at Ohio State.

Thumbs up/down? Up. It's hard to imagine a snugger fit for the offense than the same person who ran it for two successful seasons in 2008 and 2009. Haynes is unproven as a defensive play-caller -- Jim Heacock handled those duties for the Buckeyes -- but there's no arguing with the overall defensive success OSU experienced during Haynes' stay in Columbus. Anything approaching a Buckeye-esque D in 2012 will be a big improvement on the Robinson era.

AUBURN

2011: Gus Malzahn offensive, Ted Roof defensive.
Departures: Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State; Roof avoided a potential dismissal by first taking the UCF DC's job, then rejoining old Duke colleague Bill O'Brien at Penn State.
2012: Temple OC and longtime Michigan/Florida QB coach Scot Loeffler will run the offenseAtlanta Falcons DC Brian VanGorder the defense.

Thumbs up/down? Up. VanGorder is a smash hire with a successful track record both in the NFL and the SECthe sort of coach who should return the Tigers' defense to respectability in a hurry. Loeffler is a young, highly respected up-and-comer who's been due for an OC gig like Auburn's, but his pro-style leanings and early talk about "helping our defense and special teams" signals a wrenching shift in philosophy from Malzahn's no-huddle spread. Is he sharp enough to overcome what could be some serious transitional hiccups?

LSU

2011: Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa offensive, John Chavis defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Up. Despite the horrorshow put on by the Tigers in the BCS national title game, after a 13-0 regular season (and 17th-place finish in scoring offense) Les Miles is entirely justified in looking to tweak the LSU play-calling rather than overhaul it. And Chavis, of course, continues to quietly roll along as one of the college game's most productive assistants.

OLE MISS

2011: David Lee offensive, Tyrone Nix defensive.
Departures: Both Lee and Nix, swept out along with Houston Nutt.
2012: Hugh Freeze brought Arkansas State DC Dave Wommack with him while hiring former Rebel OC Dan Werner out of college-coaching retirement.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively down, which is not to say there aren't positives. Freeze will have a heavy hand in running the Rebel offense, so Werner's time away from the game won't hurt much, and the veteran is highly familiar with both the Mississippi recruiting trails and the Rebel program. Wommack, meanwhile, enjoyed an excellent 2011 season overseeing a resurgent Red Wolves defense. But both coaches' resumes are more solid than spectacular; for a head coach (and a program) with plenty of question marks of his (and its) own to answer, a legitimate needle-moving hire would have been helpful.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2011: Les Koenning offensive, Chris Wilson defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Wilson's first season in charge of the Bulldog D (after a promotion from coaching the defensive line) was promising, with a rapidly-improving unit holding four of their final six FBS opponents under 4 yards per-play. But the Bulldog offense was a disappointment, finishing ninth in both total yards and yards per-play in conference games; though Dan Mullen's close oversight of the offense means Koenning can't be blamed for those struggles, you could argue a switch might have given the Bulldog O a spark this offseason ... even if we won't.

TEXAS A&M

2011: Mike Sherman as his own OC, Tim DeRuyter defensive.
Departures: The fired Sherman, obviously. DeRuyter landed on his feet as the Fresno State head coach.
2012: Kevin Sumlin brought Houston co-OC Kliff Kingsbury with him as play-caller and hired Mark Snyder away from USF as DC.

Thumbs-up/down? Up. Though the Sumlin/Kingsbury tag team may miss Jason Phillips (the Cougars' other co-OC, now at SMU), it's hard to argue with Sumlin over any plan for his offense, given what he (with Kingsbury's help) accomplished at Houston. Snyder, meanwhile, bolstered an often-sloppy USF defense into the FBS top 15 in yards-per-play each of his two years in Tampa and brings head coaching experience from his time at Marshall. Barring hiring someone like VanGorder for the defense, it's hard to see how Sumlin could have done much better for the kind of program he wants to build -- in either slot -- than he did.

Tomorrow: the East. For all of Eye on CFB's SEC coverage, click here.

Thanks to TeamSpeedKills' helpful "Coaching Carousel Scorecard." 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 3:30 pm
 

Auburn hires Falcons' Brian VanGorder as DC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Gene Chizik has ended his search for a defensive coordinator to replace Ted Roof, and the name is one that's already plenty familiar -- and plenty welcome -- to Auburn fans.

Per the Atlanta Falcons' official twitter feed, team defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has informed Falcons' head coach Mike Smith that he has accepted an offer from Chizik and the Tigers to take over the same position at Auburn. VanGorder will replace Roof, who left under pressure for the coordinator's chair at UCF after three up-and-down seasons on the Plains.

"I personally want to thank Brian for all the hard work he put in for our football team and Atlanta," Smith said

VanGorder and Auburn released a statement confirming the move:

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family at this point in my career, both professionally and personally, to become the defensive coordinator at Auburn. I’m looking forward to working at a school with the success and tradition of Auburn, and for a coach like Gene Chizik, who has led the program to a national championship. I’m very appreciative to the Atlanta Falcons and Coach Mike Smith for the experience of the last four years. It’s a great organization and will have continued success in the future.” 

"From the beginning of this process, I had one person in mind, and that was Brian," Chizik said in the statement. "He has achieved success at every level, both professionally and collegiately, which is a testament to his ability as a coach."

Though VanGorder has an extensive resume -- with assistants' stints for the Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, and one season as the head coach at Georgia Southern -- VanGorder is best-known to SEC fans for his four-year defensive coordinating tenure under Mark Richt, one that produced some of the finest defenses at Georgia during the Richt era. He was awarded the 2003 Broyles Award after coaching the Bulldogs to a fourth-place finish in total defense. After finishing 49th his first year in Athens, the Bulldogs would improve to 15th in 2002 (winning the SEC and the Sugar Bowl) and rank in the top 10 the next two seasons.

Though VanGorder enjoyed less success with the Falcons -- averaging a bottom-half 18th-place finish in total defense his four years as the team's coordinator -- Atlanta did improve all four years of his time in Flowery Branch, slowly moving from 24th to 12th.

In any case, VanGorder's Georgia tenure alone ensures that he'll be greeted warmly by Auburn fans frustrated -- even during their 2010 national title run -- by Roof's defense's struggles against the pass and general inconsistency. Those struggles hit a low point in 2011 as the Tigers set a school record for most points allowed in a season and ranked 11th i nthe SEC (in front of only hapless Ole Miss) in total defense.

VanGorder will have his work cut out for him in restoring the Tigers to the defensive heights scaled during the Tommy Tuberville era. But it's hard to see who Chizik might have hired that would have any better shot at accomplishing it than VanGorder. Chizik still has to hire an offensive coordinator as well, but this first step in his coaching staff reshuffling has been a hugely positive one. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: December 10, 2011 3:16 am
Edited on: December 10, 2011 2:14 pm
 

UCLA hires Jim L. Mora as head coach

Posted by Bryan Fischer

After letting go of head coach Rick Neuheisel and attempting to hire several big names, UCLA has finally found a head coach.

Former Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jim L. Mora will be the new coach in Westwood, the school announced Saturday morning. The Bruins had attempted to hire Boise State's Chris Petersen, Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Washington's Steve Sarkisian before Mora took the job. This will be the first time the Bruins have hired a head coach who has not been an assistant coach or player at the school since 1949. The LA Times first reported the news Friday night.

"As someone who has been around the game of football my entire life, I have always held the UCLA job in the highest esteem," Mora said in the release. "Given its location and its tradition, UCLA is truly a sleeping giant and I realize that an opportunity of this magnitude doesn't present itself more than once in a career, so I jumped at the chance to be a Bruin."

Mora has been out of coaching since 2009 after being let go by the Seahawks. He has been in the NFL since 1985, including stops in San Diego, New Orleans, San Francisco and Atlanta. In four seasons as a head coach, Mora compiled a 31-33 overall record and reached the NFC championship game in 2004 before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mora was serving as an analyst for the NFL Network the past two years before being hired by UCLA. Better known as Jim Mora Jr., he lived in Los Angeles when his father, Jim Sr., coached at the school in 1974. The 50-year-old also played defensive back at Washington in the early 1980's.

"UCLA has always been a place of high expectations, as it applies to our students, our faculty, our researchers and, not least of all, our athletic program. With more NCAA championships than any other university, the reality is that our fans count on us to be great. The hiring of Jim L. Mora as head coach of UCLA football proves that this is still a place where champions are made and integrity matters," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

The Bruins went 6-7 on the season under Neuheisel, losing 50-0 to crosstown rival USC and most recently to Oregon in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game last week.

UCLA will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 31 with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson serving as interim head coach.

Posted on: May 31, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 4:14 pm
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 70-61

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

70. AGENT X, compliance disaster in-waiting, Potentially Everywhere. He's out there right now. Lurking. Ready to provide student-athletes with extra benefits at a moment's notice. "He" is Agent X, the person keeping compliance officers and athletic directors up at night. 2010 saw Agent X burst on the scene as infractions cases at USC, North Carolina and Auburn dominated the headlines. X could be a number of people, from a runner looking to steer kids to a school to an agent hoping to sign players when they eventually head to the NFL to an uncle looking to make a quick buck of the football talents of a kid.

From high school 7-on-7 tournaments to college campuses, the NCAA has taken notice of Agent X as well. They were out in the spring trying to learn more about runners' methods and a few of the major players. Compliance seminars have talked about ways to spot the tell-tale signs. USC, who was impacted by shady third parties as much as any school, hosted a summit designed to come up with way to combat the problem. Agent X is still out there though--and highly liable to pop up in a headline or two sometime, somewhere over the next few months. -- BF

69. DABO SWINNEY. head coach, Clemson.
One of the reasons Swinney was promoted to head coach after Tommy Bowden's mid-season exit in 2008 was his reputation as a stellar recruiter. We saw those skills in action this past February, as the Tigers brought in multiple huge late commitments on Signing Day--enough to bring their class rank all the way up into the Top 10. It always takes a few seasons for a new coach to make the program his own, and this upcoming season could be a pivotal one for Swinney. After 2010's 6-7 record, Swinney swiftly made changes on the coaching staff, most notably bringing in Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris' fast-paced productive offense hopefully will alter last season's offensive struggles, but much of that will also depend on first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd.

The greatest challenge for Swinney in the upcoming season (or two) will be the personnel decisions with so much highly-rated talent coming into Death Valley. With so many players from the ACC being selected in the NFL Draft, the conference has come under fire in recent years for not being able to make the most of their talent while in school. Fans have drooled over Swinney's last two classes, and there will not be an acceptable excuse for another losing season. Swinney was fast to act after 2010 finished, now his decisions will either pay off or crash and burn. At 41, Swinney has a long career ahead of him in college football, but his length of time at Clemson could depend on how the next two to three seasons play out. -- CP

68. JARED CRICK, defensive tackle, Nebraska. It's pretty much impossible to win in a physical conference like the Big Ten without superior line play, so Jared Crick's decision to come back to Nebraska for his senior season bodes very well for the Huskers ... and very poorly for their opponents. Crick, a 6'6", 285-pound beast from Cozad, NE, was second in the Big 12 in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss--both ridiculous numbers for a defensive tackle. He's going to be drawing constant double-teams this season as a result, so look for his teammates up front to have even more opportunities to make plays than usual.

Of course, it's impossible to be a standout defensive tackle at Nebraska and not invite comparisons to Ndamukong Suh, Crick's former teammate. Both are terrifyingly powerful and athletic, and while Crick's production hasn't met Suh's level yet, Suh's junior stats (19 TFL, 7.5 sacks) are only marginally better than Crick's (14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). Crick may not meet Suh's senior-year level of performance this season, but that's really only another way of saying he probably won't be a Heisman finalist. Probably. He's a mortal lock for preseason first-team All-Big Ten, at least, and where he goes from there is up to him. -- AJ

67. CASEY PACHALL, quarterback, TCU. There was supposed to be a long, drawn-out battle to replace TCU's departiing quarterback and leader, Andy Dalton. After a few weeks of spring ball however, it was clear that the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Pachall would be the Horned Frogs signal-caller this season. With a strong arm and the ability to move around the pocket, the redshirt sophomore has more physical tools than Dalton did when he became the starter.

The redshirt year is important as it allowed Pachall to learn for a year behind Dalton and then receive some game action as the backup last season. Pachall has just nine career pass attempts -- which has to give you pause if you're a TCU fan -- but head coach Gary Patterson has raved about his performance as much as the typically understated coach can. It will be tough to fill Dalton's shoes after he won 42 games, but TCU believes Pachall will be able to fill them admirably as the school transitions from the Mountain West to the Big East. -- BF

66. 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11,  day of remembrance. The second Saturday of the 2011 season won't be just another college football Saturday. It will be the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Every generation has that one moment in their history they remember for the rest of their lives -- the Kennedy assassination, John Lennon's death, the Challenger explosion -- and while the players on the field this fall were anywhere between the ages of 8 and 13 on that day, they no doubt remember exactly where they were when they first found out about the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Much like in 2001, when sports like football and baseball helped restore a sense of normalcy to life in this country, this day's college football will help show how the United States has healed. Obviously much has changed since then, but on this particular Saturday, when we take the time to remember that tragic day and mourn all the lives that were lost, we'll also be able to turn on our televisions and watch a game -- together -- that was played long before 9/11 and will be played for a long time after. -- TF

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65. BRYCE BROWN, running back, Kansas State. Bryce Brown is a name that has been known to college football fans for a few years now, even if he hasn't spent much time on the football field. The nation's No. 1 prospect out of high school in 2009, Brown spent a season in Tennessee before asking to leave and eventually making his way home to Kansas State, where he sat out the 2010 season. Now Brown will find himself in a feature role in Manhattan and will likely be a deciding factor in whether or not Kansas State returns to a bowl game in 2010.

While Daniel Thomas left some big shoes to fill, the Wildcats offense is one that should suit Brown. Bill Snyder loves to run the football and Brown will get plenty of chances to show the Big 12 why he was such a highly rated recruit out of high school. If he can live up to the stars that were attached to his name, Brown could be the difference between another seven-win season in Manhattan or a New Year's Day bowl. -- TF

64. ZACH COLLAROS, quarterback, Cincinnati. When Collaros was the backup quarterback behind Tony Pike, Bearcats fans got to see glimpses of a talented gun-slinger who they believed could continue the success they had experienced under Brian Kelly. And when Collaros finally got the starting job for himself in 2010 under first-year coach Butch Jones, he put together a 2,902-yard, 26-touchdown campaign--good enough to lead the Big East in both categories. Unfortunately for Collaros and Jones, those numbers will not be what is remembered from last season. Instead, Bearcats fans are still on edge from the 4-8 campaign that led to the program's first bowlless season since 2005.

But Collaros shoulders just as much of the blame for last season's struggles as anyone else on the roster. In addition to leading the conference in touchdowns, he also led the conference in interceptions. There was a lot of attention on the struggles of the Bearcats' defense (which allowed 28 points per game), but as the senior starting quarterback of this team the responsibility for Cincinnati's return to the top of the conference will fall on Collaros. He'll have the talent around him to put up big numbers once again (top receiver D.J. Woods returns, and former Tennessee commit Kenbrell Thompkins is now eligible), but a restless fan base will only care about the numbers in the win column in 2011. -- CP

63. STEVE KRAGTHORPE, offensive coordinator, LSU. The mind still boggles: in 2009, just two years removed from a national title and with an attack featuring multiple blue-chip recruits and future draft picks, the Bayou Bengal offense finished dead last in the SEC in total offense. Last. 12th. Sub-Vanderbilt. With his job (quite understandably) on the line, now ex-LSU coordinator Gary Crowton led a revival last year that took the team's total offense ranking in-conference all the way up to ... 11th.

Exit Crowton. And enter Kragthorpe, who arrives on the job with as tricky -- and as pressure-packed -- an assignment as any new assistant in the country. He must streamline Crowton's overstuffed playbook. He must finally produce some consistency out of quarterback Jordan Jefferson, or make the highly-combustible transition to JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. He must overhaul a two-minute offense that in recent years has given Chinese fire drills a bad name. In short, he must make the LSU offense something much, much closer to what the LSU offense ought to be ... and if he does, the Tigers' terrifyingly athletic defense should be capable of doing the rest on the road to Atlanta. -- JH

62. BYU'S TELEVISION CONTRACT, independence-driving document, BYU. Why did the Cougars make the unprecedented decision to go football-independent in the era of the superconference? Because whether it's in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine, there's one thing you'll be able to do in both cities next year: watch BYU. That's the promise of the school's new-found independence and a Mountain West-free media contract that allows unprecedented access to BYU sports across the country. Nearly 140 events will air in high definition on ESPN or the school's own channel BYUtv. The rest will be available online as well as iPads, Xboxes and cellphones.

It's a new era for the school that is one of the few with a true national following. Every football game will be televised and the Cougars will see more exposure than they ever had in the MWC There's still work to be done as school officials responsible look to expand the reach of BYUtv but the promise of Cougar fans being able to finally watch their team without hunting around TV Guide is near. You might have heard about "TV everywhere," but be prepared for BYU everywhere with the new contract. -- BF

61. DENARD ROBINSON, quarterback, Michigan. Denard Robinson hardly needs an introduction. The man known by millions of fans as "Shoelace" set college football afire last year, leading the Big Ten in rushing yardage and rolling up a ridiculous 4,272 yards of total offense--good enough for second in the nation (only Bryant Moniz of pass-wacky Hawaii outpaced him). Robinson's one-man show was a delight to watch, but therein lies the problem: football is not a sport for one-man shows, especially when that man is just 193 pounds. Robinson got dinged up multiple times last season, enough to take him out of some games early, and that hammering's not going to stop any time soon.

Enter, then, incoming head coach Brady Hoke, who quickly named Robinson his starting quarterback but now must find a way to keep Robinson healthy for the span of the season. A tandem with Tate Forcier worked well at times last year, but Forcier has transferred after academic and personal issues. Devin Gardner is still around, but is he good enough to reliably spell Robinson for a few series every week? If not, Robinson's likely going to spend a lot more time in the pocket, and Atlanta Falcons fans who remember Jim Mora Jr.'s experiments in turning Michael Vick into a pocket passer probably have hair standing up on the back of their necks at the thought. No, nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get the football only to stand still. But nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get rocked 20 times a game and struggle to get back up, either, and that's the quandary Michigan faces in 2011. -- AJ

The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, and 80-71. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com