Posted on: January 13, 2012 12:13 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The SEC West is going to be rather tough again in 2012. Arkansas, which found out earlier this week that running back Knile Davis would be returning from a knee injury next year, got some more good news on Friday. Quarterback Tyler Wilson will be returning to Arkansas for his senior season.
“I have decided to stay at Arkansas for the 2012 season because I am extremely excited for what this team has the opportunity to accomplish and to finish earning my degree," said Wilson in a release. "After the feedback I received, the decision was difficult to make. Ultimately, the chance to complete my academics and play one more season as a Razorback were compelling reasons for me to remain in Fayetteville. This past year was great for us with 11 wins and a top-five finish and we want to build on that. The group of players we have returning has high expectations and wants to work hard to compete for championships. Although my goal is to play in the NFL, I believe I can benefit greatly from another year of working with Coach (Bobby) Petrino and Coach Paul Petrino. I am excited to be able to spend one more season at a university where the leadership shows a tremendous amount of support and the passion of the fans is the best in the country.”
Wilson took over as Arkansas' starting quarterback in 2011 after Ryan Mallett left for the NFL, and had great season for the Razorbacks. He finished the year throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns for an offense that averaged 36.8 points per game.
Considering that Wilson will have a full year of experience under his belt heading into 2012 and the return of Knile Davis, an Arkansas team that finished the season 11-2 -- with those losses coming to Alabama and LSU -- and ranked fifth in the country will be a darkhorse candidate to be the SEC's newest national champion.
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Posted on: December 9, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 7:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Rich Rodriguez took over at Michigan, the transfer of Ryan Mallett left the Wolverines in a quarterback crisis that played a major role in dragging Rodriguez's first team into a 3-9 hole. Things should be different in Rodriguez's new job at Arizona, but all the same, Rodriguez can't like the historical echoes of this week's quarterbacking news in Tucson.
A pair of transfers have left Rodriguez's Wildcats with just one quarterback available for spring drills--senior Matt Scott, who spent a redshirt season in 2011 season behind star signal-caller Nick Foles. True freshman Daxx Garman asked out of the program the final week of November, while Rutgers transfer Tom Savage told Rodriguez this past week he would also be leaving the Wildcats in order to be closer to his family in Pennsylvania. A tweet indicated a family member coudl be ill.
"Tom has indicated to us that he wants to transfer closer to home for family reasons," Rodriguez said "He said it has nothing to do with football, schemes, or the University of Arizona. We certainly wish him and his family the best in the future."
That Savage's decision is unrelated to Rodriguez's spread schemes is one difference from Mallett's to leave Michigan, but there's still a much larger difference than that: Savage and Garman aren't leaving the cupboard bare. Scott is a highly experienced veteran with five career starts to his name and a few dandy performances; in a two-week stint filling in for Foles in 2010, Scott hit a combined 42-of-58 passes for 552 yards and 3 touchdowns in a pair of wins over UCLA and Washington. He should also prove to be an excellent fit athletically for Rodriguez's spread option attack, having collected 532 career yards on the ground.
"Everybody's been coming up to me this week, saying, 'Man, you're going to tear it up next year,' " Scott said recently. "I'm just trying to stay level-headed and stay calm. He has great credentials from where he's been (with) quarterbacks. That says it all. I'm happy for him to be here and ready to get to work."
So as long as Scott stays healthy, Rodriguez shouldn't be condemned to repeat his Michigan history. But if he goes down with an injury? It could be 2008 all over again.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:10 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Each week, the CBSSports.com college football staff offer their choice for the week's Expert Picks. But before we make our selections for Week 6, we spin the wheel o' games to select a handful of contests we want your take on.
Check the poll below to pick an outcome for the 10 games our wheel landed on, including Florida at LSU on CBS, Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Red River Rivalry, and Auburn traveling to Arkansas in a matchup of ranked teams. Also on tap: Southern Miss taking on Navy at 3:30 ET on the CBS Sports Network. To see the results of the poll, tune in to Inside College Football, 8 p.m. ET on CBSSN.
As a sneak peek of this week's Expert Picks, here's this blogger's early impressions of the week's slate:
Southern Miss at Navy: The Golden Eagles have recovered nicely from an early-season loss to Marshall, but still have to prove their defense is at all capable of stopping the Midshipmen triple-option. At home in Annapolis, Navy should have the edge.
Army at Miami (Ohio): It's been an up-and-down season for the Knights, who upset Northwestern but have been clubbed by a total of 50 points in two previous trips to MAC teams Ball State and Northern Illinois. With the Redhawks winless and going nowhere on offense, though, Army should be OK this time.
Missouri at Kansas State: The Wildcats are flying high after upsetting Baylor, but the Tigers promise to be much stingier on defense than the Bears and are coming off a bye. We like the Tigers to bring KSU back to earth a bit.
Iowa at Penn State: Kirk Ferentz has owned Joe Paterno's squad in recent years, and with the Nittany Lions seemingly going backwards on offense as James Vandenberg has woken up the Hawkeye attack, that may not change this season.
Georgia at Tennessee: All bets are off if Tyler Bray catches fire. But Mark Richt has always been an outstanding coach on the road, and until the Vols show some ability to get some push for the running game, we'll take the team with Isaiah Crowell.
Arizona State at Utah: The Utes got a rude welcome to the Pac-12 in their conference home opener against Washington last week, and the Sun Devils are a more complete team than the Huskies. An injury to Jordan Wynn won't help matters, either.
Texas A&M at Texas Tech: There's no more myserious undefeated team in the FBS than the Red Raiders, whose 4-0 record has been complied against an FCS tomato can, hopeless New Mexico, Nevada (in a nail-biter) and Kansas. We're not sure they've been impressive enough to take them over what should be an angry Aggies squad.
Florida at LSU: There's not a college football fan alive who wouldn't tell you the same thing, but it's true: the matchup of true freshman Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel against LSU's defense in Baton Rouge should not be pretty.
Auburn at Arkansas: Last year, Tyler Wilson ripped the Auburn defense for 330-plus yards and four touchdowns in relief of Ryan Mallett, and that was on the road at the defending national champions. At home vs. an even more wobbly Tiger defense, Wilson may make it 1,000 yards in two weeks.
Oklahoma vs. Texas: Ever since Garrett Gilbert went to the sidelines, the Longhorns have been scorching hot, roaring back against BYU and thumping UCLA and Iowa State on the road. The Sooners are still a bridge too far for a team this young, but the Red River Rivalry should me much closer than many expect.
Tags: Arizona State, Arkansas, Army, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, BYU, Conference USA, Florida, Garrett Gilbert, Georgia, ICF picks, Iowa, Iowa State, Isaiah Crowell, James Vandenberg, Jeff Driskel, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Paterno, Jordan Wynn, Kansas, Kansas State, Kirk Ferentz, LSU, MAC, Mark Richt, Marshall, Miamo (Ohio), Missouri, Navy, Nevada, New Mexico, non-BCS, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Pac-12, Penn State, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, UCLA, Utah, Washington
Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:46 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 2:54 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In which we break down the SEC's biggest games. This week: Tide and Razorbacks.
AT STAKE: Oh, not much, just a continued place in the national championship discussion and a seat alongside LSU as one of the conference's two true favorites. And maybe even more for Arkansas, who despite their Sugar Bowl appearance from a year ago still aren't popularly recognized as a true heavy-hitter on the national stage. Beat Alabama at Alabama, and no one will deny Bobby Petrino's team their place at the "potential crystal-ball hoisters" table any longer.
WHEN ARKANSAS HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: protect Tyler Wilson. Alabama's secondary is one of the most feared in the nation -- and rightly so -- but they have a dirty little secret: they can be beaten deep. Downfield threats like South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, the Razorbacks' Jarius Wright, and Auburn's array of pump-and-go targets all found plenty of success against the Tide defensive backs last season, due somewhat in part to the inexperience in the unit but also to a pass rush that got to Stephen Garcia just one and Ryan Mallett twice.
All the Tide defensive backs from a year ago return, but then again, so do all the Hog wideouts (Wright included). If Wilson is given the same amount of time Mallett (at least in the first half) and Garcia were in 2010, he and Petrino will find the space to hit a handful of potentially game-deciding big plays down the field.
The key for the Tide will be making sure Wilson doesn't have the time in the pocket necessary to make those kinds of long-developing throws. And Nick Saban has to love their matchup at weakside tackle*, where true freshman Mitch Smothers will be making his first SEC start opposite none other than Courtney Upshaw, the Tide's most explosive pass rusher. If Smothers can hold his ground against Upshaw and the rest of the Hog line can pick up Saban's tricky, terrifying blitz packages, Wilson and the receivers should be able to do their bombing-run thing.
If not? If there are no big plays in the passing game? And the Hogs are required to instead methodically drive down the field, without Knile Davis, via precise execution and careful mistake-free football, against that Tide defense? Forget it.
WHEN ALABAMA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: Not. Turn. The. Ball. Over.
Not much has gone wrong for the Tide so far this season. The offensive line has had some hiccups, but nothing that can't be fixed; Trent Richardson's slow start isn't an issue with Eddie Lacy running rampant, and may be behind him after the North Texas bludgeoning anyway; aside from one early drive against Penn State, the defense has been as flawless as expected; and maybe most importantly, AJ McCarron-to-Marquis Maze has given the passing game something to hang its hat on. But there is one fly in the ointment, and that's the Tide's seven giveaways, a number that puts them among the nation's bottom 20 teams in that department.
Maybe even more worrying than the number itself is that it hasn't been one issue. McCarron and backup Phillip Sims have thrown two interceptions apiece. McCarron has also lost a fumble. Receiver DeAndrew White put the ball on the ground twice against Kent State. And though he hasn't lost a fumble yet this season, Lacy's ball security has reportedly been an issue limiting his playing time in the past. Solving the problem may not be as easy as just telling McCarron to not throw picks.
Still, the Tide's offensive job is simple: hang onto the ball, and eventually Richardson, Lacy and the line should eventually be able to bulldoze their way past the Jake Bequette-less Hog front seven. Turn it over -- especially in the Tide's own half, negating the Tide's ability to force the visitors into attempting home-run balls, as above -- and the Tide could find themselves in the kind of hole McCarron and the non-Maze receivers aren't yet ready to pass them out of.
WHAT ALABAMA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: Punt returner Joe Adams. Adams already has two highlight-reel punt returns for touchdown this season and the Tide have had some minor struggles in coverage, only allowing three returns but allowing those three to average nearly 10 yards. (Kick returns could be interesting, too; they've been a sore spot in the past for 'Bama, and Hog freshman Marquel Wade already has a touchdown this season, too.)
WHAT ARKANSAS CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The brilliance of Richardson (left) and Lacy. The last time Arkansas came to Tuscaloosa, the Hogs had gotten off to a steady start until Richardson turned what should have been a three-yard loss into a twisting, shifting, tackle-breaking 52-yard touchdown run. Final result: 35-7, Tide. If Richardson and his (equally?) capable backup can provide similar fireworks in this meeting -- and they looked primed to do just that against UNT -- there won't be anything Arkansas can do.
AND IN THE END: Arkansas gets two first-half touchdowns and carries a slim lead into the fourth quarter, but a slim lead against the Tide ground game isn't lead enough. Alabama 23, Arkansas 20.
*Arkansas is one of the few teams that doesn't have "left" and "right" tackles, preferring instead to employ weakside and strongside tackles that flip back-and-forth depending on the play and formation.
Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Arkansas, Auburn, Bobby Petrino, Courtney Upshaw, DeAndrew White, Eddie Lacy, Jake Bequette, Jarius Wright, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Adams, Knile Davis, Marquis Maze, Mitch Smothers, Nick Saban, Phillip Sims, Ryan Mallett, SEC, South Carolina, Sugar Bowl, Trent Richardson, Tyler wilson
Posted on: July 20, 2011 3:28 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was the first SEC coach to be subjected to the throngs of reporters at the SEC Media Days on Wednesday in Birmingham, and here are a couple highlights of his session.
On why he's had so much success with quarterbacks wherever he's been - "I think when you look at our success in coaching quarterbacks, one thing I really believe in is it's our job to find out what they do well and then ask them to do that.
It's our coaches' job, my job, to find out what our quarterback does best. Let's take this nice, fancy playbook we have, set it to the side, and develop the offense around the quarterback and give him a chance to be successful. I think the other thing that helps a lot is when you get the other ten guys to play real well around him."
On Tyler Wilson's performance in spring practice this year - "Tyler and Brandon [Mitchell] were the two guys taking reps with the ones. I really believe that those reps, they really tried to take advantage of them. I think Tyler also really understood that 'I just need to settle down, relax, and play the game the way I know how to play the game.' Not try to be Ryan Mallett. In [spring 2010 when Mallett was injured] at times he tried to do things that were out of his element and I thought this spring that was something he really understood 'Hey this is what I do well, this is what I have to work on, and I'm going to continue to do what I know how to do to move the ball.'"
On how Arkansas having so much depth at RB and WR helps the quarterback - "I think it'll really help our new QB, Tyler or Brandon, whoever it is. The fact that I have to distribute the ball according to what the defense is doing. There's been years when you're on offense and you know who your number one receiver is, your number two receiver is and sometimes, particularly when you're inexperienced, you try to force the ball into that guy. Our quarterbacks understand that we're very talented. I have to read the defense, understand what's going on and distribute the ball. Get it to my players and let them make plays for me. I think that's something we will rely on, and it'll really help us if you can turn around and hand it to Knile [Davis] 20 to 25 times a game and get to the proper third downs. That's what really helps there."
On Knile Davis and what he means to the team - "I think the first thing you look at when you look at Knile Davis is you look at his work ethic. Here's a young man that, in the weight room, has continued to get stronger and faster. In fact, he just did a great job in the weight room this past week.
"He's a young man that, in the winter, when we had our testing days, he went in there with every group. He didn't have to, but he was in there cheering them on, spotting guys. The offensive line came in after the running backs, he stayed and spent time with the offensive lineman. So it's become extremely important for him to show how much he cares, and how much he encourages his teammates.
"As far as his ability to run the football, you can see he can run with power, speed and has very, very good vision. I'm excited to see him take a step forward and make improvements in what he did from a year ago. He understands what he needs to do to do that."
On Arkansas' defensive line and how important defensive line play is in the SEC - "I'm excited for our defense this year because I really feel like it's the first time where we're physically where we need to be on the defensive front. Our guys will be big and physical and athletic. We've got speed on the edges which matches what we see every week in the conference.
"I've always believed since I was in the conference as an assistant and then coached in another conference as a head coach that the thing that separated the SEC from everybody else in America was the defensive front. The speed and athleticism on the edges and the athleticism and size on the inside. I found out when I came back into the league as a head coach that that was true."
On playing in a division as tough as the SEC West - "It's tough, you're going against guys that are very, very good players. Tremendous coaching staffs. That's what makes it hard is everybody is going to be well-prepared, understands how you play the game and has the talent to win the game. I think it's real important for us that we're disciplined, we understand how to play on the road and how to find a way to win in the fourth quarter."
On the high expectations at Arkansas - "I'm not afraid of high expectations. I'm excited with the fact that two years in a row now we have very high expectations....It's fun to approach the year that way."
On Ryan Mallett sharing Arkansas' hand signals with Jon Gruden in an ESPN special - "Yeah, they're changed. We already changed them. I wasn't real happy with him, by the way, when I was informed that he did that. He called me up and apologized, but he gave us a few ideas for some new hand signals, so that always helps."
On whether he considers 2010 to be an 11-win season rather than a 10-win season after Ohio State had to vacate the Sugar Bowl - "It's a ten-win season, we were 10-3. We had every chance in the world to win that game but were beat on the field."
Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:56 am
By the Eye on College Football bloggers
To celebrate the 100 99 98 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.
80. KIRK COUSINS, quarterback, Michigan State. Saying a team has "a lot to prove" after an 11-win season usually bodes poorly for how the season ended, and for Michigan State, that's no exception; the Spartans went 11-2, but those two losses were a 37-6 shellacking by Iowa and a 49-7 massacre in the Capital One Bowl against Alabama that didn't even seem that close. It was bad. Fortunately, MSU has the personnel to put together another strong showing in 2011.
The backfield hydra of Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will be the main focus of MSU's offense, but just like with Wisconsin's massive rushing attack last year, it's the senior quarterback at the helm that'll really keep defensive coordinators up at night. Not only that, but Cousins' arm is better than Scott Tolzien's. Significantly better. This'll be Cousins' third season starting, too, and though Mark Dantonio may not need his senior QB to average over 200 passing yards per game again, it'll be hard to keep Cousins' production down--especially when he's facing eight men in the box half the time. It's not a stretch to think Cousins could lead the Big Ten in passing efficiency in 2011--and even less of a stretch to think he could lead his men to double-digit wins once again. -- AJ
79. JOE PATERNO, head coach, Penn State. JoePa gets his own special Memorial Day weekend breakout entry; read it here.
78. BRANDON LINDSEY, defensive end, Pitt. The Pittsburgh defensive end had a stellar junior season in 2010, leading the Big East in tackles for loss (18.0) and finishing second in sacks (10.0). The Panthers have all new leadership up top, with Todd Graham in as head coach and Keith Patterson coming with him from Tulsa as defensive coordinator. Patterson is moving Pitt to a 3-4 defense that utilizes a hybrid "Panther linebacker," one often standing at the line of scrimmage.
The plan, according to Patterson and Graham, is to put Lindsey's explosiveness to use at that new "Panther" position. Graham compared Lindsey's role in 2011 to that of James Harrison--the ultimate playmaking linebacker in the city. Unfortunately, Lindsey missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. But the coaching staff is still counting on his frightening burst and ability to swarm to the ball in the backfield once fall camp opens. If Lindsey racked up 18 tackles for loss coming off the line, it would not be surprising to see the senior among the nation's leaders in his new role. -- CP
77. TRAVIS LEWIS, linebacker, Oklahoma. Travis Lewis's importance to the Oklahoma defense was already enough to warrant his inclusion on this list before the tragic recent death of fellow linebacker Austin Box. Now, not only will Lewis be looked to to lead the defense, but also help his teammates get over the loss of a teammate. He's the senior member of the Oklahoma linebacking corps, racking up an impressive 360 tackles (47.5 for loss), 6 sacks and 8 interceptions in his first three seasons.
As impressive as Lewis has been, though, he'll have to help improve one key part of Oklahoma's defense in 2011: stopping the run. The Sooners gave up 151.8 yards per-game on the ground last season, and while that number isn't terrible, it's not good for Oklahoma on the whole. Why? Because when teams are running on Oklahoma they're killing the clock, and every second that ticks away is a second that the Sooners' high-powered offense isn't on the field. As the leader of the linebacking corps, it will be up to Lewis to help stuff the run and get the Sooner offense back on the field. Whether he's able to do this or not could be the deciding factor between a Big 12 championship and a national championship in Norman. -- TF
76. "THE FLORIDA WAY," team code of conduct, Florida. So how, exactly, did one of the nation's most talented teams suffer five regular season losses in 2010, one shy of their total for the previous four years combined? As per usual with questions like these, it wasn't one factor but a perfect [deleted]storm for the Gators: poor coaching from the coaches, poor execution from the players, poor treatment from the football gods. (How many times out of 100 does LSU's accidental bounce-pass to their kicker on their game-deciding fake field goal actually wind up in the hands of the kicker?) But in retrospect, it appeared to be poor focus that cost the Gators more than anything. With Urban Meyer at the end of his coaching rope, Florida frayed in all kinds of directions: transfer rumors, sloppy fundamentals, petty arrests, Twitter embarrassments. The effort on gameday was there; the discipline needed for it to produce Meyer's usual results was not.
Enter Will Muschamp and the "Florida Way," his name for the team's new all-encompassing code of conduct. With most coaches and most teams, we'd call this sort of thing a P.R. sop for the coaching honeymoon, and move on to on-field matters. But when it comes to the Gators, 2010 proved this is an on-field matter. Before Charlie Weis's schemes can take root, before Muschamp can create his usual teeth-rattling D, the Gators have to rebuild the foundation of focus and discipline forged in the Tim Tebow days. If they do, though -- if the still supremely-talented Gators can follow through on the "Florida Way" -- expect them to follow it right back up the SEC East standings. -- JH
75. PRESEASON TOP 25'S, polls, mid-August. To some extent, the polls will always be the most influential component of all college football--they're what ultimately awards that national championship everybody's after, after all. (Or do through the BCS middleman, anyway.) But it's also true that the polls, for the most part, respond to the events on the field rather than vice versa.
But there's one set of ballots that not only wind up shaping the narrative of the entire season, but can and do influence results between the lines. Those are the preseason top 25's, easily the most influential polls of the season. Not do only do they establish a blueprint that forms the basis for every ballot that comes afterwards, but seemingly every year they build a wave of hype and expectation that drowns some team's championship season before it even begins. Ask Ole Miss in 2009 (the most recent, striking example) about the latter phenomenon. Ask Auburn in 2004 -- and their inability to overturn the two teams entrenched at the the top of the polls since preseason -- about the former. In college football, polls matter; the preseason variety matter even more than most. -- JH
74. JEFF GODFREY, quarterback, UCF. How do these stats sound for a starting freshman quarterback? 168-294, 2,071 passing yards, 12 TDs, 122.9 passing efficiency, 17 rushing yards, and 5 rushing TDs. Pretty solid production overall for a freshman, no? Probably one of the best freshman seasons in UCF history, right? Yes, it was one of the best: that was Daunte Culpepper's freshman year at UCF. Godfrey's, meanwhile, was better across the board.
Here's what Godfrey put up: 159-238, 2,159 passing yards, 15 TDs, 154.3 passing efficiency, 566 rushing yards, and 10 rushing TDs. Godfrey's throwing motion needs work, but the arm strength is there; he's surprisingly adept at the deep ball. Then there's the rushing. Godfrey doesn't have Denard Robinson's level of speed, but he's still darn fast--fast enough to be a nightmare for opposing secondaries when he's scrambling. Put it all together, and Godfrey -- as a true freshman -- was a more efficient passer than super-sophs Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Robinson, Darron Thomas and even Godfrey's closest prototype: Robert Griffin III. Godfrey is already one of the brightest stars in Conference USA, and we have a feeling he's nowhere near done collecting accolades. -- AJ
73. KYLE WHITTINGHAM, head coach, Utah. One of two coaches to join the Pac-12 this year, Whittingham has been around the block before. He's got a BCS bowl win and undefeated season on his resume already, making him one of the most accomplished coaches in his new league from the get-go. His first task is trying to avoid the terrible stretch run the Utes had last season (losing three of their last five) and get them back to where they were earlier in the season.
The seventh-year head coach has plenty of weapons at his proposal and has brought in one of the school's most well known alums, Norm Chow, as offense coordinator to give the Utes a boost. Whittingham should be able to lean on Chow, who comes over from UCLA has has years of experience in the Utes' new conference. Whittingham is known more for his defensive instincts and he'll have to get the pass defense up to speed before jumping into league play and facing the Pac-12's the plethora of good quarterbacks. The schedule is manageable but most of the tough games are on the road. Welcome to the league, Kyle. -- BF
Obviously, if Texas is going to rebound in 2011 and get back to playing for a Big 12 title, then Gilbert is going to have to perform a lot better. Odds are he will. He has a year of experience under his belt now, and has a new offensive coordinator in Bryan Harsin, a coordinator that had quite a bit of success with quarterbacks at Boise State. If Gilbert can improve his grasp of the offense, be more efficient with his throws, and -- most importantly -- turn the ball over less, life should be a lot happier in Austin this fall. If not? Well, then heads are going to roll. -- TF
71. JAKE BEQUETTE, defensive end, Arkansas. Is it possible the fate of the SEC West -- a division featuring two consensus top-five teams -- could rest in the hands of a second-team all-conference end few fans outside the SEC (and even a good number in it) have ever heard of? It might not be likely; Alabama and LSU have the hype they have for a reason. But it's certainly possible, ironically enough because of the Razorbacks' offense.
Trust us: Ryan Mallett or no Ryan Mallett, no attack with arguably the nation's best receiving corps receiving, Knile Davis running, a veteran line blocking and (most of all) Bobby Petrino coaching will be less than outstanding. All the Hogs need to make a serious run at Atlanta is the top-drawer SEC defense they've lacked the last couple of seasons ... and Bequette, their most explosive pass rusher, is the key. The Hogs have loads of experience in the secondary and two rock-solid linebackers in Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin. If Bequette can more consistently generate the devastating bull rush he showed in flashes in 2010, the Hogs will have a defense that can look their SEC West rivals in the eye--and, when paired with that offense, take them right back into the BCS bowl hunt. -- JH
The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB Tuesday after the holiday. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91 and 90-81, and follow us on Twitter.
Tags: Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Austin Box, Big East, Big Ten, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Brandon Lindsey, Bryan Harsin, Capital One Bowl, CBSSports.com College Football 100, Charlie Weis, Conference USA, Darron Thomas, Daunte Culpepper, Denard Robinson, Denard Robinson, Edwin Baker, Florida, Garrett Gilbert, Iowa, Jake Bequette, James Harrison, Jerico Nelson, Jerry Franklin, Joe Paterno, Keith Patterson, Kirk Cousins, Knile Davis, Kyle Whittingham, Landry Jones, Larry Caper, Le'Veon Bell, LSU, LSU, Mark Dantonio, Matt Barkley, Michigan State, non-BCS, Norm Chow, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Pac-12, Penn State, Pitt, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Mallett, ScottTolzien, SEC, Texas, the Florida Way, Tim Tebow, Travis Lewis, Tulsa, Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin
Posted on: May 6, 2011 1:16 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is now with the New England Patriots where he'll serve as an understudy to Tom Brady. When you think about it, Ryan Mallett has a lot in common with Tom Brady. Both were drafted later than either felt they should be, and both are former Michigan quarterbacks. Of course, Mallett left Michigan to go to Arkansas, not the NFL, and according to Mallett's father, nobody really wanted Ryan to stay in Ann Arbor.
Mallett was recruited to Michigan by Lloyd Carr, but after Carr was fired and replaced by Rich Rodriguez, Mallett faced the question The Clash asked many years ago:should he stay or should he go? According to Jim Mallett, when he asked Lloyd Carr what Ryan should do, Carr made it pretty clear he should go.
"At the Capital One Bowl, we were trying to smooth things out, and we talked to Coach Carr,” Jim Mallett told the Boston Herald. “I asked him, ‘Coach, next to my dad, you’re the classiest person I’ve ever been around. What would you do if Ryan was your son? He said, ‘If I was in that situation, with a different offense, he needs to leave.’"
That's not to say that Lloyd Carr had the final say in the decison, though. As Ryan's father went on to say, Rich Rodriguez didn't exactly fight to keep Mallett in maize and blue.
“Ryan’s the one who called (Rodriguez),” Jim Mallett continued. “He said, “Can I talk about the offense?’ And then he told me, ‘Daddy, (Rodriguez) never looked me in the eye.’ He never visited with the family, he didn’t talk to us. I never met the man. But hey, it wasn’t a fit. Let’s move on.”
And everyone lived happily ever after. Ryan got to go to Arkansas and work with Bobby Petrino in an offense suited to his skills and Rich Rodriguez got fired after three sub-par seasons. Okay, so maybe things didn't go so happily ever after for Rodriguez.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:31 pm
By Eye on College Football Bloggers
Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:
We're not NFL scouts. But we have watched most of the players taken in last weekend's draft for the past three or four years (or, in one particular high-profile case, one year). Based on what we saw during their college careers, which players do we believe were "steals" for the team that selected them? Which were "reaches" which went earlier than they should have?Tom Fornelli: I'll start with the reach because this is an easy answer to me: the very first player taken, Cam Newton.
This is not a dig on Newton personally, or the player he was at Auburn last season. The fact of the matter is that there wasn't a single quarterback in this draft class that I felt was worth a first-round pick. Yes, there were a lot of quarterbacks in this class who were good college quarterbacks, but as we have seen through many examples before, being a good college quarterback doesn't make you an good NFL quarterback. And for me, with the first overall pick -- when I have the opportunity to pick anybody I want, and have that person help my team immediately -- Newton is not the player I'd pick. I'm not saying that I don't believe it's possible that Cam can develop into a good NFL quarterback one day, but I do feel the odds of Newton becoming a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback are pretty slim. And if I'm going to take a quarterback with the first pick of the draft, he needs to give me the impression that he has that kind of potential.
As for the steal, there were a few players who I thought were really good picks for teams in later rounds. There was Green Bay getting Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, Da'Quan Bowers slipping to Tampa Bay in the second, and Ahmad Black going to Tampa as well in the fifth round. The biggest steal to me of all, though, was Baltimore picking up Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss late in the fourth round. In my opinion, Doss may turn out to be one of the most dependable receivers in what was a very deep class this season. He does not have the size and wow factor that guys like A.J. Green and Julio Jones have, nor is he a burner, but he's got great hands and he's a very polished route runner. He's the type of receiver who isn't going to end up in the Hall of Fame, but should pick up a lot of big first downs, make some plays and be dependable for a lot of years. I watch Doss, and I see a player that can be what Hines Ward has been to Pittsburgh for so many years. To get that kind of player in the fourth round is the definition of a steal.
Adam Jacobi: I think to a large degree, Tom's right. I wouldn't go so far as to say there were no first-round QBs in this class, because guys like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and even Newton have all shown a great deal of potential. But let's be honest: this wasn't really a great draft class to begin with. I thought there were only 15-20 first round-caliber guys on the board. But the first round is still 32 picks, no matter what, and I don't think there were 32 better draft picks to make before you got to Newton (or any other quarterback).
That said, yes, Cam Newton was a reach. Right now, Carolina is not a team that has the tools to let a quarterback succeed. They have needs all over the place, and if all they do is give up on Jimmy Clausen after one year so they can plug in Cam Newton instead ... well, they're still a team that doesn't have the tools to let the quarterback succeed. (It's like the Detroit Lions drafting Chuck Long and Andre Ware as first-rounders 20-25 years ago. You really think their failures had nothing to do with the crappy players surrounding them?) I'm of the philosophy that the No. 1 overall pick should be spent on a player with the best odds of making a high-level contribution immediately and repeatedly. That means wide receivers and all but the most experienced, productive quarterbacks are out, as are safeties, guards and centers. That's why I would have preferred to see a guy like Texas A&M's Von Miller go first.
As for steals, I'm going to say Nick Fairley dropping all the way to Detroit, where he can be paired with Ndamukong Suh on the interior defensive line. There isn't an NFC North team left that isn't going to have to dramatically retool its blocking strategy now because of that setup, and even that might not be enough to avoid a franchise quarterback getting broken in half this season. How in the world does Fairley fall to No. 13, past Christian Ponder, the real reach of the first round? Fairley didn't dominate the NFL combine, but you know what? Freakish combine measurements don't really matter for defensive tackles. It's whether they can shed blocks reliably and repeatedly at the next level, and based on the way Fairley performed not only during the season but especially in Auburn's biggest games, he's got the ability to do that. If there's a character concern, you know what? Let the rest of the locker room take care of that. That's where the veteran teammates are supposed to step in, not the scouts.
Outside of the first round, I really like the Sam Acho pick in the fourth round by the Cardinals. At 6'2" and 260, Acho's sort of an OLB/DE tweener as size goes, and he's going to be playing OLB in the Cards' 3-4 system after lining up at end at Texas. But he's fast and disruptive, and was plenty productive with the Longhorns, so he could definitely end up being a James Harrison- type terror for the Cardinals in a year or two.
TF: Not to get too far off the subject, but Adam brought up something that drives me crazy when it comes to the NFL and the way teams draft. All too often it seems like NFL teams become enamored with how a player performs in the combine while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. That's the reason Ponder got taken so early; without linemen closing in on him, he's really good at throwing a football. But it seems like they forget about what these players did while they were actually on a football field.
For instance, look at Acho. NFL teams see his size and they're not entirely sure what to do with him. They don't seem to pay as much attention to the fact that Acho was a kid that did his job on the field at Texas and did it well. He made plays. It's why I think Tampa got a steal in Florida's Black. For the last few years, Black was one of my favorite players to watch because he just had that knack for making things happen. However, all NFL scouts seemed to see was that he didn't have top-notch speed. Nevermind the fact that he played in the SEC -- which I believe is the home of that ESS EEE SEEE SPEEEED -- and played well.
Jerry Hinnen: I agree that the draft over-rewards potential and underrates production, which is why I never thought I'd see the day when an NFL team reached for the occasionally erratic run-first quarterback out of the gimmicky option offense, and stole the rifle-armed pocket statue with a former NFL play-caller for a coach. But as the draft day fates of Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallett illustrate, there's a first time for everything.
Let me first say this about Kaepernick: as a college quarterback, he was under appreciated, having accumulated an incredible 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing over his four years at Nevada, the only quarterback in FBS history to do so. In 2011, he joined Tim Tebow and Newton as the only players in FBS history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Kaepernick was, simply, one of the most exciting, most fun, best college football players of his era.
But having watched him ever since he exploded onto the scene against Boise State in 2007's overtime classic, I can't say I ever saw him as a blue-chip NFL prospect. Kaepernick was always a substantially greater threat on the hoof than in the pocket, where his awkward throwing motion and come-and-go accuracy led to outings like his 12-for-23, 149-yard, two-interception clunker to open the 2009 season at Notre Dame, or the 14-for-26, 159-yard, four-turnover debacle at Hawaii that led to the Wolf Pack's only loss of 2011. The greatest strengths of Kaepernick's unique skill set -- his ball-fake jujitsu within the pistol, his surprising speed and agility as a ball-carrier, his ability to throw outside the pocket -- won't do much to make an already difficult transition from the pistol to an NFL offense any easier. Jim Harbaugh's right pinky knows more about quarterbacking in the NFL than I ever will, obviously, but I remain stunned Kaepernick went as a high second-rounder rather than a late-round flyer. (Which brings me to an aside in response to Tom: we can debate Newton all day, but if Kaepernick is the 36th overall pick, Newton -- in a different class athletically, more polished as a passer, proven in SEC competition -- is something akin to the negative-17th pick.)
But where Kaepernick never struck me as meant for NFL stardom (or even starterdom), Mallett is the sort of prospect whose very double-helixes probably unwind to spell out "PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACK" under the microscope. 6'7", possessor of likely the strongest arm in college football, with his two years under former NFL head coach Bobby Petrino yielding better than 7,400 passing yards, better than 9 yards an attempt, and a 62-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Mallett couldn't have looked the part of a future NFL signal-caller any better either on the field or on paper. But of course he looked like something else in the headlines and gossip factories, thanks to those pesky drug admissions and work ethic rumors. But the facts are that Mallett was arrested just once at Arkansas (for public intoxication), was never suspended, and by all accounts enjoyed the respect of his teammates. Yes, he's a character risk, but so were plenty of players who went in the first and second rounds.
Were I in a quarterback-needy NFL team's shoes, I'd worry more about his penchant for forcing the spectacular throw when the easy one would do--but that's not the kind of worry that would have caused me to pass him up twice.
AJ: I can't say New England taking Mallett is a steal. He's on a spectrum where the high end is Drew Bledsoe and the low is Ryan Leaf, and nowhere in-between is a Super Bowl ring.
Chip Patterson: I'm not sure if it was one of the biggest "steals" of the draft, but seeing how highly rated Robert Quinn was on many boards, the Rams had to have been happy to grab him at No. 14. Quinn just got things going at North Carolina before he was suspended for his junior season during the NCAA investigation of the football program; he'd finished second in the ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting as a sophomore in 2009, just two years after battling back from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Quinn continued to impress throughout different stages of the process, but according to reports he was not cleared by several team doctors. Many teams were likely on the edge about Quinn because of the off-field activity at North Carolina, and may have just needed one more reason to bypass the budding defensive end. Battling back from brain surgery to all-conference honors seems more like a positive intangible than a negative one to me, but I'm not the one making the million dollar moves. (Yet.)
My colleagues have covered a fair share of the quarterbacks, so I'll point out the very next pick in the draft: Mike Pouncey. The Dolphins didn't want this pick, and in fact they tried desperately to trade down. Pouncey addresses a need and will likely be an immediate starter, but there's little about Pouncey's performance at Florida that makes him seem like a No. 15 pick. He was the highest drafted center since 1993, the kind of accolade that's usually placed on a uniquely talented individual. Pouncey will help the Dolphins' running game, especially with his experience as a pulling guard, but he does not stand out to me as a "unique talent." The Dolphins didn't make a huge mistake by drafting him, but it just doesn't seem like the best talent for the pick.
JH: See, I tend to think the point of a mid-first-round pick is to simply not make that "huge mistake," so I thought drafting a solid future pro (if not a future Pro Bowler) like Pouncey was a smart move. But looking back over this discussion, we're clearly all haters of one stripe or another.
Tags: A, Ahmad Black, Andre Ware, Arizona Cardinals, Auburn, Blaine Gabbert, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Christian Ponder, Chuck Long, Colin Kaepernick, Da'Quan Bowers, Detroit Lions, Drew Bledsoe, Eye on CFB Roundtable, Florida, Green Bay, Hawaii, Hines Ward, Indiana, J. Green, Jake Locker, James Harrison, Jim Harbaugh, Jimmy Clausen, Julio Jones, Miami Dolphins, Mike Pouncey, Ndamukong Suh, NFL Draft, NFL Draft, Nick Fairley, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Randall Cobb, Robert Quinn, Ryan Leaf, Ryan Mallett, Sam Ocho, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay, Tandon Doss, Texas, Texas A&M, Von Miller