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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Geno Smith and West Virginia move to the Big 12 following this season (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)

No big six conference is undergoing a bigger overhaul in the next few years than the Big East. Three longstanding members have decided to part ways with the conference (West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse), while eight new teams (including one former member) will be added by the year 2015. Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville are the five schools that have decided to stay (for now). In an age of college football where holding on to a conference’s automatic BCS bid trumps the need for any logical geographical alignment, the Big East took a big step forward in ensuring a stable future. So what are they getting?

Temple Owls

Senior tailback Matt Brown and Temple will face a Big East schedule of defenses starting next season (philly.com)

Starting in 2012, the Big East will have two Philadelphia universities, Villanova and Temple. As you may remember, the Owls were in the Big East from 1991-2004 prior to getting booted in humiliating fashion for consistently poor play on the gridiron. They were sent to the MAC where coach Al Golden revitalized one of the worst programs in the nation and turned them into a conference champion. Golden has since departed to coach the Miami Hurricanes, leaving former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio in his stead. In Temple, the Big East is receiving a tough, physical football team that has been steady winners for the past few years. The ceiling of this program is still fairly low (no on-campus stadium, poor facilities, small fan base, etc.), but the floor is very high. The Owls will provide instant stability to a conference much in need of it.

Leading rusher Charles Sims is one of the few offensive stars returning for Houston in 2012/2013 (Nick De La Torre, Houston Chronicle)

Houston Cougars

Houston has certainly raised some eyebrows recently with their electric offense and the gaudy passing statistics of former quarterback Case Keenum. Starting in 2013, the Cougs will officially be members of the Big East. Next year will be a huge transition for the program as they attempt to rebuild after the loss of their head coach, quarterback, and the majority of their skill position talent.  However, recruiting improved drastically under former coach Kevin Sumlin and the athletic department has been showing a commitment to maintaining a successful football program. The city of Houston is a big television market and this Cougar football team should add a ton of excitement to the Big East.

The Big East dipped into Texas a second time and picked up SMU (Butch Dill, AP)

Southern Methodist Mustangs

SMU will become the second Big East team located in Texas when they join Houston as a full member in 2013. Football tradition is in no short supply for this Mustang program, as the likes of Doak Walker, Eric Dickerson, and Craig James have all walked on the Dallas campus. Coach June Jones brought his high-powered spread offense with him from Hawaii and it has had a big impact on the team’s success. Like Houston, recruiting for SMU has picked up tremendously in recent years, and it should only get better as the Mustangs move into a more prestigious conference. This is a big pickup for the Big East.

 

Central Florida Knights

Quarterback Blake Bortles had an impressive freshman season after taking over for the struggling Jeff Godfrey (Joshua Cruey, Orlando Sentinel)

In my opinion, snagging Central Florida was the biggest coup of the entire realignment process for the Big East; UCF is a sleeping giant in the world of college football. The University is devoted to its football program, their facilities are off the charts, and it sits in a legitimate recruiting hotbed. The Knights struggled with injuries last year and missed out on a bowl game, but the year prior they finished 11-3, won the Conference USA Championship, and defeated Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. UCF joins the Big East in 2013 and their potential for long-term success is definitely formidable.

 

Memphis Tigers

Nobody on Memphis is really all that great, so here’s what their stadium looks like (collegegridirons.com)

There’s not too much good that can be said about Memphis football. Dontari Poe was a first round pick in this year’s NFL Draft…and thats about all I got. This is clearly an addition designed to enhance the Big East’s already stellar basketball reputation, without worrying too much about football. There are a few positives though. The city of Memphis is a big television market and it also happens to be a pretty good recruiting area. So that should help, right?

 

 

 

Boise State Broncos (football only)

Bronco wideout Matt Miller should be a dynamic playmaker for many years in Boise (Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Wait, I thought this was the Big East? Boise’s in Idaho! Newsflash: No one cares. Boise State is a winning program and the Big East wants winners, no matter where they’re from. Chris Petersen and the Broncos have established themselves as arguably the best team not in a big six conference. That’s all about to change when they move to the Big East in 2013. This program has done all that can be accomplished while playing in the WAC and Mountain West, and it will be very interesting to see how much more Boise can grow now that they are in a BCS automatic qualifying conference.

 

San Diego State Aztecs (football only)

Former Aztec Ronnie Hillman was a 3rd round pick in this weekend’s NFL Draft after rushing for 1,711 yards last season (Kirby Lee, US Presswire)

Nothing about San Diego State screams the words “big east”, but once again, it really doesn’t matter. The Aztecs have had a pretty good program over the past few years, producing some big names such as quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman. Former SDSU coach Brady Hoke, now at Michigan, came in and infused a hard-nosed attitude on his players, and that appears to have carried over to new coach Rocky Long’s regime. The Aztecs have averaged 8.5 wins over the past two years playing in the Mountain West, and their newfound Big East membership should only provide them with better opportunities for success.

 

Navy Midshipmen (football only)

Navy will have to wait until 2015 before joining the Big East (Rick Schultz, AP)

Contractual obligations prevent Navy from joining the Big East until 2015, when they will become a football-only member. Despite being a service academy, the Midshipmen bring along with them an impressive nation-wide fan base which will be great for the Big East’s television ratings. Still, though, Navy will have a hard time improving their program in future seasons simply because recruiting is so much more difficult for them. However, their 8 win average over the past four years proves that winning at the FBS level is not impossible for Navy as well as the other service academies.

Editor’s Note: It is still VERY early in the recruiting process; Many teams still do not have a single commitment for 2013, and others have very few. These rankings are subject to significant change over the next nine months. If your favorite team is not listed do not worry! All player rankings are according to Rivals.

1. Michigan Wolverines

Total Commitments: 17 (13 four star, 4 three star)

Top Prospect: QB Shane Morris

Michigan Commit Shane Morris (Steve Johnson ESPNHS)

Brady Hoke is off to another ridiculous start in recruiting, this time striking gold in the state of Ohio, scoring seven commitments from the Buckeye state. The Detroit Cass Tech pipeline continues in 2013, with four star offensive tackle David Dawson and four star defensive back Jourdan Lewis pledging to the Wolverines. Michigan’s need for big offensive linemen has definitely been addressed, as 5 four star offensive linemen have already committed. The top player in this class, 6’3 southpaw Shane Morris, is a perfect fit for the new offensive system in Ann Arbor.

2. Texas Longhorns

Total Commitments: 13 (1 five star, 9 four star, 3 three star)

Top Prospect:  QB Tyrone Swoopes 

Texas Commit Tyrone Swoopes (247 Sports)

     As always, the Longhorns are off to a fast start in their home state. The offensive side of the ball has received the most attention thus far, with Mack Brown picking up commitments from 3 four star linemen, 3 four star wide receivers, and five star quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, all from the state of Texas. Receiver Ricky Seals-Jones (6’5 220) is the #1 rated receiver in the nation and is very likely to earn a fifth star later this year. He’s a stud. Meanwhile, Swoopes goes 6’5 220 himself and is a perfect example of a true dual-threat quarterback. The comparisons to another recent Longhorn quarterback are inevitable. (Hint: his initials are V.Y.) Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and linebacker Deoundrei Davis lead a solid group of defenders.

3. Florida Gators

Total Commitments: 15 (9 four star, 6 three star)

Top Prospect: HB Kelvin Taylor

Kelvin Taylor, Florida Commit and son of former NFL star Fred Taylor (Riku ESPNHS)

The big names aren’t there yet, but the perfect word to describe this Florida class is deep. Some bonafide playmakers have been added to benefit the young Gator quarterbacks, such as four star running back Kelvin Taylor, son of Fred Taylor, and Ahmad Fullwood, the #8 receiver in the country. 6’0 four star safety Nick Washington leads a trio of talented defensive backs and Daniel McMillan, the #2 inside ‘backer nationally, is one of four linebacker commits. The talent pool in the state of Florida is exceptionally deep this year, and the Gators could still add many players before National Signing Day.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

Total Commitments: 11 (1 five star, 7 four star, 2 three star, 1 unranked)

Top Prospect: LB Reuben Foster

Alabama Commit Reuben Foster (247 Sports)

     Surprised to see them here? Very funny. 6’2 outside linebacker Reuben Foster is simply a freak athlete and one of the best overall football players in the country. To make up for the departure of Trent Richardson and the eventual graduation of Eddie Lacy, the Tide have 2 four star backs committed: 5’11 Altee Tenpenny from Little Rock and 5’8 Tyren Jones from the state of Georgia. OJ Howard is the #2 tight end in the country, and at 6’6 226 should be a big factor in the middle of the field for ‘Bama. Three offensive linemen and a few skill position guys round out the current commitment list. Coach Saban is far from done, and expect a ton more guys, possibly including #1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche, to pledge to the Tide before it’s all over.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

Total Commitments 10 (1 five star, 8 four star, 1 three star)

Top Prospect: CB Cameron Burrows

Ohio State Commit Cameron Burrows (Scout)

After less than a year of recruiting, it’s safe to say that Urban Meyer hasn’t lost his touch since moving north to Columbus. The need for playmakers in the defensive secondary has certainly been taken care of by the acquisition of Cameron Burrows, Eli Woodard, and Jayme Thompson. Burrows is the #2 rated cornerback in the country and the #7 player overall, while the latter two are both four star prospects. The Buckeyes made a surprising dip into Texas and landed four star dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett from Wichita Falls. The December high school grad and early enrollee should eventually take the reins from current Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller. Four star athlete Jalin Marshall is another immediate impact type of player at the next level.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Total Commitments: 14 (6 four star, 8 three star)

Top Prospect: WR Derrick Griffin

Texas A&M Commit Derrick Griffin (Fox Sports)

Texas A&M’s decision to move to the SEC has been nothing but beneficial so far, as the Aggies are off to a red-hot start on the recruiting trail. 6’6 215 pound ballhawk Derrick Griffin is the #2 wide receiver in the country and is absolutely loaded with ability. Similar to Longhorn commit Ricky Seals-Jones, Griffin is likely due for a star upgrade in the near future. #10 pro-style quarterback Kohl Stewart from Houston, Texas is a big get as Coach Sumlin tries to replace Ryan Tannehill. Four star defensive tackles Isaiah Golden and Kerrick Huggins are studs and will definitely beef up an Aggie line that struggled at times last season.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

Total Commitments: 15 (5 four star, 8 three star, 2 unranked)

Top Prospect: RB Derrick Henry

UGA Commit Derrick Henry (Tom Hauck ESPNHS)

    Mark Richt reeled in a big fish out of the state of Florida when #1 all-purpose back Derrick Henry pledged to the Bulldogs. Henry in the backfield with current ‘Dawg Isaiah Crowell is definitely a scary thought for SEC defensive coordinators. #3 inside linebacker Johnny O’Neal is the best of a talented bunch of defenders also including four star safety Tray Matthews and the #21 defensive tackle recruit DeAndre Johnson.

8. USC Trojans

Total Commitments: 4 (2 five star, 2 four star)

Top Prospect: QB Max Browne

USC Commit Max Browne (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

 

    The Trojans may only have four commitments on board for 2013, but each one of them is a heck of a football player. Five star quarterback Max Browne of Sammamish, Washington stands 6’5 and is the #1 rated pro-style quarterback in the country. With Matt Barkley’s graduation following this season, Browne should step on campus and immediately compete for the starting job in L.A next fall. A pair of defensive ends are also on board, them being 5 star Kenny Bigelow from Delaware and four star Kylie Fitts from California. Bigelow has the potential to be the #1 overall player in the country before National Signing Day. 6’0 four star defensive back Chris Hawkins rounds out a small but impressive start to the Trojan class.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

Total Commitments: 8 (6 four star, 2 unranked)

Top Prospect: TE Adam Breneman 

Penn State Commit Adam Breneman (Curt Werner, The Sentinel)

What? Yes, Penn State is off to a hot start in recruiting. I actually talked about it here. The class is led by some talented big-bodied linemen. Four star offensive tackle Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson should be key cogs on the Penn State offensive line of the future. #2 rated strong-side defensive end Garrett Sickels and four star tackle Greg Webb are defensive studs. Breneman is a big-time talent and potential playmaker for a Nittany Lions offense that has been stagnant for the past few years. Four star quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be throwing the ball to Breneman in the near future.

10. LSU Tigers

Total Commitments: 9 (4 four star, 5 three star)

Top Prospect: ATH John Diarse

LSU Commit John Diarse (Under Armour)

   Not to be outdone by their SEC opponents, the LSU Tigers are off to a solid start in recruiting and round out our way too early top 10 rankings. A trio of four star athletes lead the way for LSU’s 2013 class, them being John Diarse, Tre’Davious White, and Jeryl Brazil. All could play a multitude of positions, but at least one is likely to end up at receiver. Jeremy Cutrer is a big defensive back at 6’3 and has the makings of a fearsome SEC safety. Michael Patterson and Tevin Lawson have great potential and could each earn their fourth stars very soon.

Just Missed the Cut: Notre Dame, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Stanford

2012 Review: Despite being banned from postseason play, the final year of the “Reggie Bush Scandal Era” at Southern Cal ended with a ton of momentum as the Trojans carry a 10-2 record into the offseason. When star quarterback Matt Barkley announced he would return for one final season as the USC signal caller, national title dreams for 2013 were born all over LA. Anyways, back to last season, the Trojans had one of the most prolific offenses in the country led by Barkley and All-Americans Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. The passing combo seemed to get better as the season went on, as the Trojans lowest single-game scoring output over the final eight games was a rather high 30 points. A young defense steadily exhibited progress and capped the year off with a 50-0 shutout of crosstown rival UCLA. 17 starters return in 2012/2013 and aspirations for this Trojan team are through the roof.

Trojan quarterback (and total bro) Matt Barkley put up Heisman-worthy numbers in 2011/2012 (Bobak Ha’Eri)

Offense: For Matt Barkley, the numbers tell the story. The 6’2 senior completed 308 of 446 passes (69.1%) for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. Barkley was clearly one of the top three quarterbacks in the nation last year; the other two are projected to go #1 and #2 in the NFL Draft. Barkley’s top three targets return: Robert Woods (111 catches, 1,292 yards), Marqise Lee (73 for 1,143), and tight end Randall Telfer (26 for 273). Sophomore George Farmer is oozing with talent and could have a big year in the slot for the Trojans. The USC backfield last year was mired with off-field controversy (see Marc Tyler & Dillon Baxter), and saw freshman Amir Carlisle transfer to Notre Dame. This unit enters 2013 with some much needed stability. 5’7 185 pound senior Curtis McNeal ran for 1,005 yards last year and seems to have the starting spot all locked up. His backup, D.J. Morgan, carried the ball 42 times himself last year and should see the field. Four starters return along a good offensive line, but projected 1st round pick Matt Kalil is gone. Sophomore Aundrey Walker is his probable replacement.

Senior safety T.J. McDonald passed on the NFL Draft and should anchor a stingy Trojan secondary (AP)

Defense: Seven starters return off a defense that ranked 54th in the country, giving up 374.75 yards per game. However, this poor number may be more due to playing in the explosive Pac-12 (Stanford, Oregon, etc.) than a real indication of talent level. USC has never lacked talent. The defensive line loses three starters, including all-everything end Nick Perry. The other end, 6’5 260 pound Wes Horton returns. Senior Devon Kennard, who has switched positions more than I can count, is expected to start in place of the departed Perry. Kennard is loaded with ability, and Trojan fans hope he can settle into a successful pass-rushing role this year. J.R. Tavai is expected to play nose tackle while George Uko should line up at the other tackle spot. Two starting linebackers return off a laughably young unit last season, and many played enough to be considered part-time starters anyways. Dion Bailey, Lamar Dawson, and Hayes Pullard should be the starters, and some talented backups such as Marquis Simmons and Anthony Sarao will get snaps. The secondary looks to be the strongest unit on the defense, led by three returning starters: cornerback Nickell Robey, and safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling. Isiah Wiley and Brian Baucham are listed as co-starters at the other cornerback spot as spring camp comes to a close. This defense should be improved next season as long as the new faces along the defensive line step up.

Incoming freshman receiver Nelson Agholor is simply too talented to keep off the field (Gator Country photo by Tim Casey)

Impact Newcomer: For a Trojan team that is so loaded at receiver, how is it possible that a freshman could come in and make an impact? Well, my readers, few freshmen are as talented as Nelson Agholor. The 6’2 180 pound 5 star prospect from Tampa who picked the Trojans over his hometown Florida Gators is simply a special player. He possesses the unteachable combination of size, speed, and fluidity and also has great hands. Woods and Lee are the guaranteed top two USC receivers, but look for Agholor to work his way onto the field, whether it being early in the season or down the stretch. The man is simply too talented to keep on the sidelines.

X Factor: Defensive line. Every other positional unit on this USC team looks dynamite. Technically, three starters are gone off the d-line (Kennard played both end and outside linebacker last year) and their production must be replaced; particularly that of Nick Perry. Former 5 star prospect Devon Kennard is finally locked into a starting position for the first time and has the potential for a big year. If Uko and Tavai are able to stuff the middle and free up lanes for the likes of Dawson and Bailey to fly to the ball, USC will be GOOD.

2012 USC Trojans Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Saturday
09/01/12
Warriors Hawaii Warriors
Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/08/12
Orangemen Syracuse Orange
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Time TBA
ABC/ESPN TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/15/12
Cardinal at Stanford Cardinal
Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/22/12
Golden Bears California Golden Bears
Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/29/12
Open Date
Thursday
10/04/12
Utes at Utah Utes
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/13/12
Huskies at Washington Huskies
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/20/12
Buffaloes Colorado Buffaloes
Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/27/12
Wildcats at Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/03/12
Ducks Oregon Ducks
Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/10/12
Sun Devils Arizona State Sun Devils (HC)
Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/17/12
Bruins at UCLA Bruins
Rose Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/24/12
Fighting Irish Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Los Angeles Mem. Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Friday
11/30/12
Pac-12 Pac-12 Championship Game
Hosted by team with best Pac-12 record.
TBA Buy
Tickets

LA Coliseum (photo credit to Bobak Ha’Eri)

Schedule Outlook: One word to describe this schedule? Favorable. Two cupcakes (mmmm..cupcakes) to begin the year set the table for a showdown with Stanford in Palo Alto. However, Luck is gone and Fleener is gone meaning this is not the same Cardinal team we saw last year. Games at Utah and at Washington could present some challenges, but the Trojans definitely have the firepower to overcome these games. Every other tough game on the schedule comes against a team with quarterback controversies: Cal, Oregon, ASU, UCLA, and Notre Dame. (Are you thinking what I am? Almost half of USC’s schedule doesn’t know who their quarterback is. Wow.) The question for this USC team is: How far can they go? The talent is there and the coaching appears to be there. As long as these kids have their heads screwed on straight, a national title is possible. Remember, though, many of the Trojans’ key players have never played in a BCS bowl game or a bowl game at all. Not saying they aren’t experienced or ready for the big stage, but it’s something to think about. I’m calling 12-0 through the regular season, and if two SEC teams don’t go undefeated, a BCS Title Game appearance is in store for this loaded Trojan squad.

Why are some teams always in the hunt for this trophy, while others are not? (Getty Images)

There are 120 FBS programs in college football. For every Alabama, there’s a North Texas. For every USC, there’s a New Mexico State or an Idaho. Not every school can achieve the perennial, historic success of the teams at the top of the football food chain. What makes these programs so great? Why are LSU and Oklahoma consistently ranked in the top ten every year? Certain elements regarding success in college football go beyond simply winning games between the white lines on Saturdays. FBS football is no longer just a game; It’s a business. Not suprisingly, the better business usually wins out.

Today I’m going to build a program of perfection. I’ll take the best characteristics of some of the top programs in the nation and combine them to form my own ideal program, which we’ll call “Perfection U”. What needs to be noted is that some of the examples I use in each category may belong to schools that are not considered elite programs today. This simply means that while these programs may possess one or more of these characteristics, it takes nearly all of them to build a consistent winner. Here we go.

Money 

This first element of success in college football is without a doubt the most important of the group and relates to many other elements listed below. It’s no fabrication that the best programs in college football are the ones with the most money. Money attracts the best coaches, allows for better recruiting, and allows for better facilities. Money is the building block and lifeblood of any successful program. Two great examples with a modern connection come to mind when talking about money in college football. The Oregon Ducks had nothing more than a decent program throughout its existence until Phil Knight, Oregon grad and founder of Nike, came in and donated enormous sums of money to the athletic department. Since then, the Duck program has soared. Oklahoma State was in a similar situation, until businessman T. Boone Pickens donated $400 million to the athletic programs in 2005. The Cowboys won the most games in school history last year en route to a Fiesta Bowl victory.

The Texas Longorns are the most profitable football team in the country. (Brendan Maloney, US Presswire)

For Perfection U, I want the money that the University of Texas has at their disposal. Texas is one of the biggest and most profitable universities in the country, they own their own TV network (Longhorn Network), they basically dictated the realignment policies of their conference, and brought in $94 million in football-related revenue in 2010. It’s no surprise that Texas also has some of the best athletic programs in the country, as their across the board success in football, basketball, and baseball is basically unmatched by any other university nationwide.

 

Fertile Recruiting Base

LSU seems to always sign the top in-state prospects, such as 2011’s Anthony Johnson (rivals.com)

Great players win big games, and great players need to be readily available in order to build a powerhouse. The southeast is the most densely packed region for elite high school football talent in the United States, and fittingly, the SEC has won six national championships in a row.  Other deep pockets of talent exist in Texas, California, the Maryland/DC area, and the Ohio/Western Pennsylvania area. Texas, USC, Virginia Tech, and Ohio State are mainstays in the national title picture because they take advantage of the talent they have in their backyards.

While not located in the most talented state in the U.S., LSU easily has the most simplistic recruiting situation in the talent-rich southeast, and I choose their recruiting base for my Powerhouse U. While Alabama battles with Auburn for the best in-state prospects, and Florida and Florida State slug it out in their own state, LSU has no major D1 in-state rivals. Therefore, plucking talented Louisiana prospects can be as simple as offering them a scholarship. Yes, some players do elect to leave the state for college, but LSU consistently pulls a majority of the top in-state talent. in 2011, LSU signed the top 5 prospects in the state, and 11 of the top 16.

Facilities

The best programs have the best athletic facilities. Of course, they are used for preparing the team to play, but their most important use may be on recruiting visits when they are a toured attraction for potential players. Facilities include weight rooms, indoor and outdoor practice fields, film rooms, locker rooms, training rooms, and the stadium itself. No top prospect likes working out in a run-down weight room, and big time schools make the effort to have the best facilities they can.

Phil Knight’s money helped create this impressive Oregon locker room

Powerhouse U will have Oregon’s facilities. The Nike money donated by Phil Knight helped overhaul every football building on the Oregon campus and they are now the definition of state-of-the-art.

Coaching

This category is absolutely vital to the success of a football program. National title victories are won by teams with elite talent and elite coaching; only having one or the other characteristic will not produce the same result. (ex. Clemson, early 2000’s FSU, Rich Rod Michigan) However, the duties of a coaching staff go way beyond the games on Saturdays. An elite coaching staff needs to have the right combination of elite game strategists and elite recruiters. Having too much of one and not enough of the other will not allow for perennial success.

Alabama has been the benchmark for success under the Nick Saban regime, and his coaching staff will be implemented for Powerhouse U. Saban is arguably the top recruiter in the country, Kirby Smart is one of the best defensive coordinators, and Mike Groh is a top recruiting coordinator.

Tradition

Notre Dame’s Touchdown Jesus (29DaysUntil29)

This element is most necessary for programs trying to resurrect past dominance. If a team isn’t currently seeing success on the field, it needs a dynamite recruiting pitch to snag some top players. This is where tradition comes in. A program can focus on the history of winning that exists within the program, and give players the opportunity to build it back up. Also, if a prospect grew up watching a team win year in and year out, he’ll be more likely to regard them as a top program even if they may not be. We see this happening currently with Miami, Notre Dame, UCLA, and pre-Hoke Michigan.

Notre Dame’s tradition is a nationwide phenomena. There’s Touchdown Jesus, “Play Like a Champion Today”, Rudy, singing of the Alma Mater, and so many more. Their past success lends itself perfectly to recruiting today, and we have seen the Irish continue to pull some big time prospects yearly. Powerhouse U’s tradition comes from South Bend, Indiana.

 

Fan Base

Michigan Stadium (Andrew Horne)

Big time teams have loud, rabid fans who also happen to donate a lot of money to the football program. Fans are attracted to winning, and winning teams seem to have the easiest time filling their stadium. Fan bases are important because they breed high expectations, increase the program’s profitability, and create great gameday atmospheres. Players are more attracted to playing in a full stadium than an empty one; its that simple.

“The Big House”, the largest college football stadium in the country, is seemingly always full. That’s because each Saturday, scores of Michigan fans pour in from all over the state to come see their Wolverines play. In 2010, Michigan ranked first in raw attendance, with almost 112,000 fans in the stadium each game. It’s no surprise that Michigan has an impressive winning tradition and always recruits very well. Powerhouse U will call the Big House home.


20120413-111504.jpg

Rising sophomore defensive end Aaron Lynch reportedly is leaving Notre Dame following the spring semester with intentions to transfer. The Florida native told Coach Kelly that he wants to move closer to his home in Cape Coral. USF appears to be his likely destination according to 247sports and TomahawkNation.

Lynch’s recruitment received national attention when he announced on TV that he was committing to Notre Dame. Three months later, after the Irish were going through some struggles on the field, Lynch flipped his verbal to Florida State. His commitment appeared solid until rumors began swirling that his mother was unhappy with his son’s choice and preferred him at Notre Dame. Soon thereafter, we saw Lynch decommit from FSU and commit and eventually sign with the Irish. The thought that he would have preferred to go to school in his home state and was pressured by his family to go to ND seems to be true now.

So what does this mean for Notre Dame? A lot. Lynch was one of the best players on the defense last year, and had big expectations for this season. His departure leaves an already thin defensive front with even more questions. The starting end position is wide open alongside fellow end Stephon Tuitt and nose tackle Louis Nix.

2012 Review: For the first eight weeks of the year, Clemson had the nation believing. This would be the year that the Tigers would reach their potential and play at a high level for the entire season. The offense was prolific, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, freshman sensation Sammy Watkins, and a veteran offensive line. This unit put up some gaudy numbers; 59 against North Carolina, 56 against Maryland, and 35 against Florida State. Then, in typical Clemson fashion, Dabo Swinney’s squad lost their bite down the stretch, losing four of their final six games to finish 10-4 after a promising 8-0 start. The descent began in Atlanta against Georgia Tech in which the explosive Tiger offense finally looked human. Clemson’s season ended in Miami as West Virginia racked up 70 points on the Tiger defense. Swinney responded to this embarrassing performance by buying defensive coordinator Brent Venables from Oklahoma, giving Clemson arguably the best pair of coordinators in the country in Venables and offensive mastermind Chad Morris.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sammy Watkins

Offense: Coordinator Chad Morris returns with a loaded group of skill position talent. Sammy Watkins, arguably the nation’s most dominant player, returns for his sophomore year after an 82 catch, 1,219 yard freshman campaign. His counterpart on the outside is junior DeAndre Hopkins, who had a 978 yard season himself. Three talented sophomores, Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, and Martavis Bryant, along with steady senior Jaron Brown round out a dynamic receiving corps. Andre Ellington is back for his senior season after rushing for 1,178 yards a season ago. However, Ellington recently underwent ankle surgery and is out for the spring. D.J. Howard  will get the majority of the carries until Ellington returns. Tajh Boyd returns under center after posting 3,828 passing yards and 33 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. Despite all the talent at Boyd’s disposal, Clemson must replace All-American tight end Dwayne Allen as well as four offensive line starters. As we saw last season, the Tiger offense began to unravel when Boyd was pressured. With only one o-line starter returning, the likely strategy for every Clemson opponent will be to blitz, blitz, blitz, and blitz again.

Defensive end Malliciah Goodman

Defense: The last time we saw the Clemson defense, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was throwing the ball under, over, and around them en route to 70 points. Enter Brent Venables. The former Oklahoma coordinator brings a basic 4-3 alignment with him, replacing Clemson’s scheming 4-3 (basically a 4-2-5). Seven starters are back from the nation’s 59th best defense, which was led by defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and a strong defensive front. However, only one defensive line starter is back, that being senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman. Not only are the starters gone, but the backups didn’t play much at all last year. SBnation’s Bud Elliot crunched the numbers and figured out that only 15% of Clemson’s defensive line production returns in 2012/13. Not a lot. A collective group of youngsters, led by Corey Crawford, DeShawn Williams, Grady Jarrett, Tavaris Barnes, and Josh Watson will attempt to fill the holes along the line. All linebackers of note return, including three starters Quandon Christian, Jonathan Willard, and Corico Hawkins. Hawkins appears to be at risk of losing his job in favor of sophomore and former 5 star Stephone Anthony, who has been taking the majority of the first team reps in spring practice. The secondary is experienced, with seniors Xavier Brewer and Jonathan Meeks returning as well as (basically) corner starter Bashaud Breeland. Darius Robinson played in 11 games last year and should assume the other corner spot.

Impact Newcomer: 6’1 195 pound safety Travis Blanks enrolled at Clemson in January and has gone through spring practice with the Tigers. The Tallahassee native and former 4-star recruit is currently listed as a second string safety behind Xavier Brewer and definitely has the skills to contribute next year. The experience he will gain from January thru September will be incredibly beneficial to his freshman year success.

X Factor: The word “line”. Clemson’s offensive line and defensive line are both undergoing a massive overhaul in personnel. The offensive skill position talent is basically unmatched across the country and the defensive back seven is good enough to win. However, two of Clemson’s biggest strengths from a year ago (hidden strengths, really) are gone, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the team responds. The Tiger defense played well in spurts last year but really was nothing special. Losing 85% off its top unit is a big blow. Meanwhile, we have yet to see how Tajh Boyd plays with an inexperienced group of linemen. He inherited a great situation last year with five seasoned veterans blocking for him; Will this season produce the same kind of offensive success? To be determined.

2012 Clemson Tigers Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Saturday
04/14/12
Tigers Orange-White Spring Game 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
4:00 p.m. ET
ESPN3 (live)
CSS (5 pm ET)
Saturday
09/01/12
Tigers Auburn Tigers 
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Time TBA
ABC or ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/08/12
Cardinals Ball State Cardinals 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/15/12
Paladins Furman Paladins 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/22/12
Seminoles at Florida State Seminoles 
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/29/12
Eagles at Boston College Eagles 
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/06/12
Yellow Jackets Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/13/12
Open Date
Saturday
10/20/12
Hokies Virginia Tech Hokies 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Thursday
10/25/12
Demon Deacons at Wake Forest Demon Deacons 
BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
Time TBA
ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/03/12
Blue Devils at Duke Blue Devils 
Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/10/12
Terrapins Maryland Terrapins 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/17/12
Wolfpack NC State Wolfpack
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/24/12
Gamecocks South Carolina Gamecocks 
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
12/01/12
ACC ACC Championship Game
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
TBA Buy
Tickets

Schedule Outlook: The Tigers play only four true road games next season, as well as playing Auburn in the opener at the Georgia Dome; A big coup. I’m sorry Clemson fans, but there are definitely losses on this schedule. Auburn’s young talent grows a year older and should be much improved. Playing Florida State at Doak Cambell will inevitably be a dog fight, but again, we go back to the issue of the Clemson lines. (FSU’s D line is stacked, Clemson’s O line is not. FSU’s O line and Clemson’ D line are both young.) Thankfully for Clemson, four of the Tiger’s toughest opponents have to travel to Death Valley: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, NC State, and South Carolina. If Dabo Swinney’s squad can pluck 2 or 3 wins from this group of games, a division title may be on the horizon. Will this Clemson team be as good as last year’s squad? Probably not. Good line play is so vital for success in college football, and Clemson’s lines do not appear to be close to what they were a season ago. However, Sammy Watkins, Andre Ellington and the rest of the skill position players are simply oozing with talent, and if the lines simply play solid football, nine wins would be a great season.

Editor’s Note: In celebration of my recent commitment to attend Georgia Tech in the fall, this article is a bit lengthier than the others. Therefore, I assembled it into smaller paragraphs to make it a bit easier to read. Enjoy..

The big play ability of Stephen Hill (5) played a big role in Tech’s early season success

2012 Review: When the triple option is working, it’s a work of art. For the first six games of 2011, Georgia Tech’s offense was humming. Quarterback Tevin Washington led the Jackets’ powerful ground attack to an average of 398 rushing yards per game through September, Tech scored at least 40 points on four different occasions, and the infamous wide receiver Stephen Hill made some incredible catches that helped raise his stock in the upcoming NFL draft (a 4.36 forty at the combine didn’t hurt his cause either). Then..the bottom fell out. The 6-0 start and #12 national ranking that had fans in Atlanta buzzing with excitement quickly was forgotten, as Tech limped to a 2-5 finish. The passing game was nonexistent, the defense was consistently getting torched, and the A-back sweep that was so deadly for the first six games suddenly wasn’t there anymore. Despite their second half struggles, a homecoming victory over previously #5 and undefeated Clemson put Georgia Tech in the driver’s seat for the ACC Coastal Division crown. That dream was spoiled soon thereafter by Virginia Tech 37-26 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, in which quarterback Logan Thomas tore up the Jackets defense for five total touchdowns. A home loss to rival Georgia followed by a Sun Bowl defeat at the hands of Utah left Georgia Tech with a bad taste in their mouth as we move into 2012/2013.

A-Back Orwin Smith returns for one final season on the Flats

Offense: Four starters return on the offensive line, including All-ACC guard Omoregie Uzzi. Depth along the line also looks strong, and this could be the best unit that Paul Johnson has had since coming to Tech. Leading rusher and A-Back Orwin Smith returns (615 yards, 11 TD’s), but fellow A-Backs Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples must be replaced. Their running ability can almost certainly be accounted for by a number of talented backs, such as B.J. Bostic, Tony Zenon, and Robbie Godhigh, but their blocking ability, which sprung Smith for some long runs last year, will be tough to match. At B-Back, converted quarterback David Sims leads a skilled group of backs into 2013, but coaches hope he will be pushed by sophomore Charles Perkins, a rare talent who may need another year of development.

Both starting wide receivers are gone, including big play man Stephen Hill, leaving Alabama transfer Chris Jackson and 6’6 redshirt freshman Jeff Greene in their stead. Both are very talented but rather inexperienced. Due to the ground-oriented offense that Georgia Tech runs, quality blocking and decent receiver play is all that is needed out of this group in order to be successful.

Quarterback Tevin Washington

At quarterback, Tevin Washington is the returning starter, but he will almost certainly be challenged by a tandem of talented backups. Washington is intelligent, experienced, knows the offense, and has built continuity with the majority of the Tech skill position players. Sophomore Synjyn Days is a powerful runner and one of the best overall athletes on the team, and many believe his skill set would be better utilized elsewhere. If Days does not win the job, he is likely in for a position change (to B-Back)*. The third quarterback is 6’2 redshirt freshman Vad Lee. An impressive specimen, the former 4 star prospect from North Carolina is a smooth runner and arguably the best passer on the team. Learning Paul Johnson’s intricate triple option, though, is quite difficult. Another year of seasoning for Lee is likely before taking over the quarterback job in 2013/2014. Another player to look out for in the future is 5’10 incoming freshman Justin Thomas. Thomas, a former Alabama defensive back commit, switched to the Jackets when Coach Johnson promised him a chance to play quarterback. An impressive athlete with blazing speed, Thomas will likely redshirt this season before getting a chance at playing time in 2013/2014.

*UPDATE: At practice on Monday, Days and Perkins took reps at A-Back.

Cornerback Louis Young leads a deep secondary into 2012/2013

Defense: Defensive Coordinator Al Groh enters his third year in Atlanta hoping for continued improvement from his players. Groh brought a 3-4 scheme with him from Virginia, which prompted a switch from Georgia Tech’s old 4-3 alignment. The Jackets finished a respectable 46th in total defense last year after finishing 62nd a year before, and another offseason of practice with the scheme should only benefit this unit. Six starters return off the Georgia Tech defense, led by an experienced secondary. Cornerbacks Louis Young, Rod Sweeting, and Jemea Thomas (3 interceptions) return and form one of the best position groups in the ACC. Safety Isaiah Johnson is back after an up and down sophomore season, and should be a leader and the main signal caller in 2013. Johnson will be assisted by the return of redshirt sophomore Fred Holton from injury. A punishing hitter, the 6’1 209 pound Holton sat out last year after tearing his achilles and should bolster this already strong secondary.

Georgia Tech suffered a massive blow when All-ACC linebacker and leading tackler Julian Burnett was ruled out for this season after suffering a likely career-ending neck injury in last season’s Sun Bowl. The rising senior was the heart and soul of the Jackets defense last year and will be tough to replace. In his stead, junior outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu should assume a bigger leadership role after a 59 tackle, 11.5 TFL, and 6 sack season last year. Junior Brandon Watts and sophomore Quayshawn Nealy should step into starting roles this season after playing a ton last year. 6’3 240 pound junior Daniel Drummond is the other returning starter at middle linebacker. Look for redshirt freshman Jabari Hunt-Days to make a big contribution at this position as well.

Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (photo credit to Josh D. Weiss)

Along the defensive front, nose guard Logan Walls and end Jason Peters have graduated, leaving end Izaan Cross (32 tackles), a senior, as the only returning starter. For Yellow Jacket coaches and fans alike, much is expected of massive 6’7 330 pound senior nose guard T.J. Barnes. Barnes, the projected replacement for Walls, is arguably the strongest Yellow Jacket, but has suffered from some conditioning issues throughout his career. Coach Groh needs Barnes to expand his role and production this season. Junior end Emmanuel “Too Tall” Dieke is the other projected end starter, while fellow junior Euclid Cummings and sophomore Anthony Williams will definitely see the field as well. Paul Johnson brought in multiple defensive linemen in his 2012 recruiting class, led by 4-star Francis Kallon, but Coach Johnson usually redshirts the majority of his freshmen.

Impact Newcomer: The freshman I expect to make a big impact is not, in fact, a true freshman. 6’3 225 redshirt freshman linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days is one of the most impressive physical specimens on the entire roster. The former 4-star prospect and brother of Jacket quarterback Synjyn, has been making plays from sideline to sideline throughout spring practice, and it will be difficult for Coach Groh to keep him off the field. With the devastating career-ending injury of Burnett still looming over the team, Hunt-Days has a great opportunity to step in and contribute right away.

The sky is the limit for Barnes and the Georgia Tech defense

X Factor: Defensive line. Despite the loss of Burnett, more than enough talent returns in the Georgia Tech back seven. But will T.J. Barnes be able to plug the middle? Will there be a pass rush? This team finished last year with only 22 sacks, good for an uninspiring 71st in the country (and 6 of those came from Attaochu). Cross is back along with some other talented ends, but their production absolutely needs to increase. Williams probably has the most ability, and 2012/2013 could be a breakout year for him. In a nutshell, the success of Tech’s defense hinges on the play of Barnes. His talent and ability is through the roof, and if he can play at a high rate for all four quarters, this could be a great fall in midtown Atlanta for Tech football.

2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Friday
04/20/12
Yellow Jackets Spring Game
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
7:30 p.m. ET
Monday
09/03/12
Hokies at Virginia Tech Hokies
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
8:00 p.m. ET
ESPN
Saturday
09/08/12
Blue Hose Presbyterian Blue Hose
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/15/12
Cavaliers Virginia Cavaliers
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/22/12
Hurricanes Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/29/12
Blue Raiders Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/06/12
Tigers at Clemson Tigers
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/13/12
Open Date
Saturday
10/20/12
Eagles Boston College Eagles
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/27/12
Cougars BYU Cougars
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/03/12
Terrapins at Maryland Terrapins
Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/10/12
Tar Heels at North Carolina Tar Heels
Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/17/12
Blue Devils Duke Blue Devils
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/24/12
Bulldogs at Georgia Bulldogs
Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
12/01/12
ACC ACC Championship Game
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
TBA Buy
Tickets

Georgia Tech travels to Lane Stadium on September 3rd to take on the Hokies

Schedule Outlook: The season starts off with a bang on September 3rd when the Jackets travel to Blacksburg to take on the rival Hokies, in a game that could inevitably decide the Coastal Division championship. Tech returns to Atlanta for a four game home stand, in which all games are winnable. Virginia loses a ton off their defense from last year but still will provide a major test for the Yellow Jackets. Miami comes to town the following week, and, although extremely depleted of talent, has had the upper hand in recent years over Tech. Facing VT, Clemson, North Carolina, and Georgia all on the road could spell trouble for the Yellow Jackets. If Tech can split these games, a 9-3 record is likely. The home slate is much easier than in years past, and running the table at Bobby Dodd Stadium should happen. If Georgia Tech can slip past Virginia Tech in the opener, the Jackets will have their eyes set on a Coastal Division title and ACC Championship Game appearance. The triple option allows Tech to compete with any team on their 2012/2013 schedule; quarterback play and the contributions of T.J. Barnes will determine a lot, though.