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Category:NCAAF
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:21 am
 

Embree: new kickoff rules could be dangerous

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The NCAA adopted rule changes on kickoffs for the 2012 season with the hope of reducing injuries, but not everybody thinks that will be the case. Colorado head coach Jon Embree can see a situation where the new rules may lead to even more injuries on kickoffs than before.

The new rule has kickoffs coming from the 35-yard line rather than the 30, in hopes that more kicks will go through the end zone and lead to a touchback. Coverage teams will only be allowed a 5-yard head start in 2012 as well. Rules that, theoretically, should reduce injuries.

However, it's the fact that touchbacks on kickoffs have been moved from the 20-yard line to the 25 that Embree believes may lead to trouble. He told the Daily Camera that it will lead to coaches kicking short on purpose

"I think you high pooch it and cover it," Embree said. "What I think will happen is if you get effective at that, you're putting the other team even more at risk than what the rule intended because unless he fair catches it, he can really take a shot because everyone is closer obviously.

"It will be interesting to see how that plays out. If you get a guy who can kick it to the 7-yard line every time, you can mishandle it and then you will have collisions. It will be interesting to see if they tweak this rule over time. The returner has to have good judgment and a good feel. You're never used to fair catching kickoffs, even though that is something you can do. There are a lot of timing issues that go into a kickoff return that now you're going to have to figure out as a return guy."

It will be interesting to see if Embree's theory is right this fall, and whether or not coaches will adapt to the rule as he suggests they will, or if they prefer booting the ball through the end zone and taking the risk of a touchdown return out of play. 

Whatever the new kickoff rules lead to, we won't know for sure until, well, kickoff.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:46 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Purdue



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Purdue.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Eight on offense, seven on defense, one specialist

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Quarterbacks competing
. It wouldn't be a spring practice at Purdue if there wasn't a quarterback competition, would it? This spring there will be four signal-callers vying for the privilege, and all four of them have started at some point in their Purdue careers. Caleb TerBush started for the Boilermakers last season, but he's still going to have to hold off Robert Marve, Sean Robinson and Rob Henry. Marve was granted an extra year of eligibility and he won't want to waste it on a sideline. Then there's Henry who missed last season with an ACL injury (that ligament is the bane of Purdue football) after having a spectacular spring. He may have started for Purdue last season if not for the injury, and he'll want to shine again now that he's been cleared to return.

2. The offensive line. Purdue was one of the deeper teams in the Big Ten on the offensive line last season, but that won't be the case in 2012, and it will be interesting to see how it handles the situation this season. While replacing left tackle Dennis Kelly will be important, it'll be just as important to find competent backups at each spot on the line in case of injury. Purdue did have five offensive lineman as part of its latest recruiting class, and it's possible guys like Cameron Cermin, Joey Warburg and Jordan Roos are forced into action earlier than Danny Hope would like. So I'd expect to see them get a lot of work this spring.

3. Who is playing safety? While Purdue is no doubt happy to have both of its starting corners back in Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen, the Boilermakers lost both their starting safeties to graduation. The Purdue defense gave up a lot of big plays last season, and having to play two new starters as your last line of defense can't be the most comforting thought when you're trying to fix that. Max Charlot is likely to grab at least one of starting spots, but the second spot is wide open.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: USC


Posted by Bryan Fischer


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at USC.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 6.

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14.

Returning Starters: Nine on offense, eight on defense and both specialists.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Dealing with expectations.

USC safety T.J. McDonald and quarterback Matt Barkley are easy to tell apart if you see them walking around Heritage Hall or roaming around the Coliseum but they could not be more alike on paper after a remarkable run to close out last season. Both are captains, suit up in the cardinal and gold wearing number seven, each runs half the team and, most importantly to the Trojans in 2012, Barkley and McDonald announced they would return to school for their senior seasons on back-to-back days in late December. After two years without a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, the message both talked about was so clear that it's become the program's unofficial motto as they head into spring practice: unfinished business.

In many ways, this is about where everybody expects USC to be year-in and year-out given the program's history. A No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll to close out 2011 and, with 19 starters returning and a favorable schedule, expectations are running high for the first time since Lane Kiffin took over in Los Angeles.

"I really don't think it's expectations as much as it is being free - we kind of feel like we're being let out of prison," Kiffin said. "It's normal now. It's refreshing not to have the negative distractions. People will talk about expectations and all of that but the good thing is we have practice at dealing with that from our time here before."

USC will likely end up as the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country and despite scholarship limitations, will bring in ninth-ranked recruiting class with several five-star playmakers to supplement the group that will head out to Howard Jones field. It may be a return to normal with the national spotlight once again on Troy and Heisman candidate Barkley but for this group, it is something new. While the media will certainly be swarming like they did in the good old days and accolades and praise will come early and often, it's worth remembering that from the seniors to the freshman, this team hasn't faced anything like these expectations before. Will they play too loose or be wound too tight? It's something to keep tabs on.

"This is all about going out and preparing really well and practicing hard," Kiffin added. "It has been very refreshing to not deal with so much negativity and distractions, some of which was based on me and some on the sanctions."

2. New staff and new look.

For the first time in the Kiffin-era, the still youthful head coach has had to deal with some staff turnover. While the big stage the program provides has attracted more than it's fair share of coaches looking to boost their resume, the fact that two coaches left so close to spring practice definitely added a question mark or two to the team's outlook. Scottie Hazelton will take over as linebackers coach and was a surprise pick by many but he brings a solid resume that includes being the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State last season as they won the FCS national championship. It's not a flashy hire by any means and it will be interesting to see how Hazelton deals with the level of competition taking a leap but luckily for him he'll have most of last year's linebacking corps back.

USC hasn't had a full-time secondary coach since right before the 2011 season following the sudden departure of Willie Mack Garza due to NCAA issues. Kiffin took his time in landing a replacement but lured Marvin Sanders out West after he had just taken over as FAU's defensive coordinator. Mostly known for his time as Nebraska's secondary coach, Sanders has coached several top NFL draft picks and contributed to some very good Cornhuskers defenses. He'll take over a group that needs some development but is among the deepest on the team, especially at safety.

"It's going to be refreshing to have a spring with all these guys in place," Kiffin said. "There will be some growing pains but we'll be rolling by the time we get to the fall."

The final hire might have drawn the most press given new receivers coach Tee Martin's place in Tennessee lore. Though his group dealt with drops in his final season at Kentucky, Martin is known for being a good recruiter and helped turn Randall Cobb into an All-American the year before. He'll have the best group of wide receivers in the country to work with this spring, led by All-Americans Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to go along with former five-star George Farmer.

3. Line depth.

The biggest question marks surrounding the Trojans are centered on the trenches. Four of the five offensive linemen return but replacing a top three NFL Draft pick in Matt Kalil will be not be easy despite the unit becoming the biggest surprise of the team last year. The interior of the line is the strength with Marcus Martin and John Martinez solid at the guard spots and All-American candidate Khaled Holmes leading the way at center. Kevin Graf will get first shot at replacing Kaili at left tackle while Aundrey Walker will be on the other side. Both played those positions in high school and, with several starts under their belt already, should ease some concerns. Beyond that though, and depth is still an issue until the fall.

The outlook at defensive line is not so rosy, with three starters gone and the Pac-12 leader in sacks impressing everybody at the NFL Combine. Pencil in Wes Horton and Devon Kennard at the end spot but depth behind them and who takes over at tackle will be the reason Ed Orgeron is up late at night (and not just the Red Bull). Those inside the program expect a lot out of sophomore George Uko.

"I'm really looking at seeing how well these tackles, Aundrey and Kevin do," Kiffin said. "I also really want to seeing the continued development of our defense with so much experience coming back and with two new coaches. I really want to be a dominant defensive team like (USC in) '02 or '03. Big five turnover or seven sack games, the type where you have just a suffocating defense."

If the Trojans are going to live up to expectations, figuring things out along the lines will be paramount this spring.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:35 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 5:37 pm
 

SEC announces Media Days dates, schedule

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



For those of you who see SEC Media Days as the starter's pistol signaling the final dash to the end of another endless college football offseason, we have good news: that pistol is going to fire earlier than ever.

The SEC announced its schedule for the 2012 edition of Media Days Monday, which will run from July 17 through July 19 in its typical home at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. (Journalists in attendance should begin sharpening their complaints about the Wynfrey's notoriously difficult Internet access now.) That July 17 date stands as a full three days earlier than any of the past five year's editions, and if you don't think that's that big a deal, you've forgotten how it feels in mid-July when every scrap of football news is a delicious morsel to save. (Also, you may be sane.)

Here's the full schedule: 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1st session (approx. 1 – 3:30 p.m.) – South Carolina, Texas A&M
2nd session (approx. 3:20 – 6 p.m.) -- Missouri, Vanderbilt

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.) – Florida, Mississippi State
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Arkansas, Kentucky
3rd session (approx. 2:30 – 5 p.m.) – Auburn, LSU

Thursday, July 19, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.) – Alabama, Tennessee
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Ole Miss, Georgia

Our expected highlights from each session:

Tues., 1stSteve Spurrier casually joking about asking Kevin Sumlin where he might be able to find an old-school Fun N' Gun-style quarterback like Case Keenum, then afterwards seriously asking Kevin Sumlin where he might be able to find an old-school Fun N' Gun-style quarterback like Case Keenum.

Tues., 2ndJames Franklin being asked about James Franklin, followed by James Franklin being asked about James Franklin.

Wed., 1stWill Muschamp oh-so-subtly suggesting he might welcome Dan Mullen back to Florida if things don't improve this season in Gainesville; Dan Mullen oh-so-subtly suggesting he might go back to back to Florida if things don't improve this season in Starkville.

Wed., 2ndBobby Petrino being unable to stifle his chuckles from the back of the room as Joker Phillips outlines the steps forward he expects his offense to take this season.

Wed., 3rd: The stoic-at-a-molecular level in front of press Gene Chizik and the molecularly un-stoic in front of press Les Miles causing a press-conference antimatter explosion when they shake hands.

Thurs., 1st: Derek Dooley and Nick Saban singing a duet on the Dooley-penned bluegrass tune "Your Best Interests Have Tamed My Triflin' Heart." As it turns out, Saban plays the most technically proficient banjo you've ever heard.

Thurs., 2nd: Hugh Freeze asks Mark Richt if he arm-wrestle him for that "League's Nicest Guy" coffee mug he thought he spotted in his office.

The best news? The actual Media Days will likely be even better than our expectations. July 17 isn't that far away, and it still can't come soon enough.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:19 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:24 pm
 

Mathieu 'hopes' to go pro after 2012 season

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Whether on Twitter or in an interview, Tyrann Mathieu has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. And so when the topic of the 2013 NFL Draft came up in a radio interview Friday, Mathieu didn't mince words: he intends to be in it.

"I hope so," Mathieu said on Philadelphia's 97.5 "The Fanatic" when asked if 2012 would be his final year in an LSU uniform. "If I'm fortunate enough."

Mathieu was speaking from the Maxwell Athletic Club dinner in Atlantic City, N.J., where he was on hand to receive the Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player for 2011. Mathieu missed the opening day of LSU spring practice but is expected to participate in Monday's drills.

It's honors like the Bednarik that make Mathieu's pronouncement more surprising for its timing and honesty than for its content itself. After a sophomore season that saw him travel to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and earn him multiple All-American nods, a successful junior year -- particularly in the realm of one-on-one coverage, the one area where Mathieu could (in this blogger's opinion) stand to sharpen his skills -- would leave him with little left to prove on an individual level.

After his Tigers' embarrassing defeat in the BCS national championship, though, there's still plenty of unfinished business on a team level entering 2012. But Mathieu also said he expects big things from LSU this fall.

"We’ve got a pretty good team coming back next year, pretty much the same team from a year ago minus the quarterback, a few receivers and obviously Morris [Claiborne] and Brandon Taylor and Ron Brooks in the secondary," Mathieu said. "But we have a lot of guys that are going to step up and make a name for themselves.”

Mathieu's name was already big enough that a draft declaration was already more "when" than "if"--meaning we can't blame him for making it a non-issue at nearly the first opportunity.

For more Tiger football, follow Glenn Guilbeau's CBSSports.com LSU RapidReports.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:49 pm
 

Nebraska wants brains, BRAINS!

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Nebraska's athletics department will be teaming up a new lab located on the east side of Lincoln's Memorial Stadium. The school's Board of Regents unanimously approved the $5 million project on Friday, and the new lab will open in 2013.

Essentially, what Nebraska is looking to do is to study the effects of head injuries on the brains of athletes. Since my brain is only capable of discussing football-related information (and even that's debatable), I'll just quote the Omaha World-Herald's story to give you the details of the study.
On average, [developmental psychologist Dennis] Molfese said, a college football team suffers 20 to 22 significant head injuries each season. The 12 football teams in the Big Ten thus would create a pool of more than 240 student-athletes to study.

Molfese hopes to obtain baseline pictures of incoming athletes' brains to examine how they change through injury and recovery. He envisions developing iPad applications to diagnose concussions on the field. He wants to study athletes' brain patterns before and after a performance.

Molfese said the Committee on Institutional Cooperation — the Big Ten's academic arm — has received inquiries from the Ivy League, Pac-12 and other conferences about joining the effort. 
So not only could this study help football teams identify concussions faster, it could also help us understand the effects concussions and head injuries have on the brain.

Given what we've only just begun learning about concussions and their long-term effects, the more information that scientists, coaches and players can have at their disposal, the better off everybody is.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:27 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 2:33 pm
 

Pinkel: "No changes" to approach as SEC beckons

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We learned recently that Missouri has plenty of changes in store for their move to the SEC--higher ticket prices, new uniforms and helmets, even fielding a national No. 1 recruit. But in terms of their practical philosophy, both on the field and on the recruiting trail, Gary Pinkel says the Tigers are going to look the same way they have since his arrival in 2001.

"What we're going to do is do what we do and recruit the same players we recruit," Pinkel said in an extensive Q&A published Sunday in the Columbia Daily-Tribune. "Our recruiting evaluation is no different than what we did in the Big 12. We have our offensive and defensive schemes, and we'll do what we do there. For us, there's really no changes there."

Pinkel did say that the team's recruiting "areas" and "infrastructure" have "changed a little bit," but he added that despite the Dorial Green-Beckham breakthrough, the Tigers are pursuing the same kinds of players they've always pursued.

"You know, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska and those people were pretty good teams. They've just got more of them (in the SEC)," he said. "It's still about blocking and tackling. And the good news is our program is still the same. We just do what we do."

Pinkel saved his most extensive remarks, however, for the switch on Missouri's helmet from the more traditional block M to the newer Missouri Tiger head--a move he said he's personally "gotten some emails" about in opposition to the switch. But Pinkel said it was a necessary move from a branding standpoint.

The truth is this — and it's all marketing Nike has done — but we have facts for the University of Missouri and not just football, but our brand is Mizzou and that Tiger head. When people see that Tiger head they know there's only one like that in the world. And it's ours. And there's only one Mizzou in the world. 

That being said, on ESPN you can have Oklahoma's helmet up there and our M helmet and when you flash by it, a lot of people won't know who that is. Most people if they glanced at it probably thinks it's Michigan. Even though Michigan doesn't have an M on their helmets, that's what they'd think.
The Wolverines are flattered, Gary. Of course, shifting to an emphasis on the Tiger just as you enter a league with two other sets of Tigers already might create some of the same issues. But who are we to argue with Nike's army of professional marketers?

(Seriously, we aren't going to on this one. That new helmet is an improvement and we don't doubt Pinkel at all that casual fans might mistake the Mizzou M for a Michigan one. Not every tradition has to be maintained, especially when it "only" dates to 1971. Carry on, Gary.)

For more Mizzou football, follow Dave Matter's CBSSports.com Missouri RapidReports. 

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:42 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Illinois



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Illinois.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Six on offense, seven on defense, one specialist

Three Things To Watch For:

1. A brand new coaching staff. Ron Zook and just about his entire coaching staff is gone (defensive line coach Keith Gilmore returns) and Tim Beckman is now the man in charge of Illinois football. Which means that not only will spring practice be the first chance for Beckman and his coaching staff to see his new team at work, but also the time to begin implementing a new system on both sides of the ball. There's no way the team will learn everything over the course of a few weeks, but the process begins now.

2. The quarterback battle. Odds are Illinois won't know who its starting quarterback is until the end of the summer, but the battle will begin this spring. Nathan Scheelhaase has been the starter the last two seasons, but he regressed a bit in 2011, and now that there's a new playbook, he isn't guaranteed to retain his starting job. Scheelhaase will be competing with Reilly O'Toole for the job, though if Tim Beckman's time at Toledo teaches us anything, it's that he's not afraid to go with two quarterbacks if needed.

3. The Star Position. Tim Beckman brought in Tim Banks as his defensive coordinator, and Illinois will be running a 4-2-5 defense that includes the "Star" position. Which is a hybrid of a linebacker and a safety. It'll be an interesting battle to see who claims the position, though outside linebacker Ashante Williams is probably the favorite. Williams may get some competition from safety Supo Sanni and incoming freshman TaJarvis Fuller, a playmaker out of Florida. Those two would be well-served to make an early impression over the next few weeks.

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