Posted on: March 27, 2011 2:29 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Here's a helpful hint for any college football player, or athlete in general who is reading this blog: if you get injured in practice, don't blame the team or the coaching staff. It seldom works out to your benefit.
For instance, last week USC running back Marc Tyler pulled his hamstring in practice. It's an injury that is going to keep him sidelined through spring practice. Well, when talking to the media about the injury, Tyler wanted to make sure that everybody understood it wasn't his fault he got hurt. According to Tyler, the reason he pulled up lame running a route in practice was because the team failed to hold proper stretching excercises before practice.
“I didn’t know we weren’t going to stretch like we usually do,” Tyler said. “I guess they want us to come here earlier and stretch before. I didn’t know they changed it. My legs didn’t feel good all practice.”
Imagine that, an athlete who has been participating in sports for years having to make sure he stretches himself before practice. How crazy!
Anyway, Tyler's head coach Lane Kiffin caught wind of the excuse and quickly put an end to it.
“We’ve discussed that with Marc,” Kiffin said. “Since he pulled his hamstring two hours into practice, it wasn’t the stretching before that.”
Kiffin also pointed out that USC has four stretching tables available to its players at all times, and that he doesn't think "any college in America does that."
I guess Tyler wants eight.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:48 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Pete Carroll drew some criticism as USC's head coach in 2009, when he publicly chastised Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez for deciding to forgo his senior season in Los Angeles and turn pro a year early.
Though Lane Kiffin has maintained many, many aspects of Carroll's program after taking over the Trojans, it seems those kinds of opinions on his quarterbacks' futures aren't going to be one of them. Bryan Fischer of our sister blog Eye on Recruiting (and our USC spring practice primer ) was on hand for Kiffin's post-practice comments yesterday, which included this on the future of junior quarterback Matt Barkley (emphasis added):
“Matt’s going into his third year here. Obviously, if he has a good year, I’m sure he’ll look to go to the NFL. Most guys do after their junior year.The very lack of competition for the Trojan QB job that Kiffin describes would be reason to think he'd all but beg Barkley to return. But Kiffin has always made his and his program's ability to put players into the NFL a cornerstone of his recruiting pitch; clearly he's not going to send the message to potential future quarterbacks that he won't make every effort he can to get them into the pros as quickly as possible.
But is Barkley really on track to make that kind of leap? Assuming he makes the same kind of progress in 2011 he made in 2010, he likely is; he improved his touchdown-to-interception ratio from 15-to-14 to 26-to-12, taking his QB rating from approximately 131 to 141 in the process. Another 10-to-15-point increase would put Barkley amongst the national top 20 in QB rating and one of a very few quarterbacks in that range playing in a pass-centric, pro-style system like Kiffin's. If an occasionally-erratic, spread-trained quarterback like Blaine Gabbert could go as high as No. 1 in this year's draft, it seems likely that a prospect like Barkley could find his way into the first round after a solid junior season ... if not all the way into the top 10.
So Kiffin's not exaggerating. But to see a head coach expect -- and almost hope , it seems -- that his best player will skip town a year early is just one more sign that Kiffin is marching to an entirely unique drummer amongst college coaches.
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 4:19 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Tennessee , who starts spring practice today .
Spring Practice Question: Can Tennessee make enough strides along the line of scrimmage to threaten the teams at the top of the SEC East?
There was a time when Tennessee fans would have greeted a 6-7 overall record featuring one SEC win over a team that wasn't Vanderbilt or Kentucky -- and that one coming over an utterly mediocre Ole Miss outfit -- with as much hostility as a Gator frigate or Tide destroyer attempting to take sail alongside the Vol Navy. But that time came before the decline of Phil Fulmer and the abbreviated reign of Lane Kiffin, the combination of which turned what had been one of the nation's most feared programs into a smoking orange crater when Derek Dooley was hired in early 2010. Given the major headaches Dooley inherited, the bottom-of-the-barrel expectations for 2010, and the infamous victories against LSU and North Carolina that got yoinked away after the final whistle, 6-7 really wasn't so bad ... and so it's no surprise that rather than looking for a rail on which to run Dooley out of town, Vol fans enter 2011 with a healthy amount of optimism regarding both their head coach and the program's direction.
But steadying the Vols' ship is one thing. Bringing it safely into port alongside Florida or Georgia or now South Carolina atop the SEC East standings is something else entirely. And though no one will blame Dooley for not bringing home a divisional title in 2011, there will undoubtedly be some disappointment in Knoxville if the Vols aren't more competitive against the aforementioned trio; even with the Gators and Dawgs fielding their weakest teams in a decade or more, Tennessee fell to each by a combined 41 points. Though a second-half comeback made the Vols' contest against the division-winning Gamecocks more interesting, ultimately that game ended in a 14-point UT loss, too.
So how does Dooley close the gap? The easiest answer will be getting an entire season out of quarterback Tyler Bray , the true freshman who took over from the erratic Matt Simms at midseason and sparked a startling offensive resurgence, leading Tennessee to 335 or more yards of offense in its final six games despite the team not crossing that threshold once in its first seven.
But as starry-eyed as Vol fans might be regarding Bray's future, even Dooley's not expecting him to be a finished product this fall. "If he doesn't understand something, he doesn't care. He's just going to do something else," Dooley said at a pre-spring media luncheon Monday. "We'll be the ones throwing our hats because he throws it to the wrong guy and it's a touchdown."
It wasn't a surprise, of course, that the Vols struggled with an entirely new offensive line and new starters at both defensive tackle positions. But struggle they did: dead last in the SEC in sacks allowed, dead last in both total rushing and yards per-carry, ninth in yards per-carry allowed, ninth in sacks in conference play. However you sliced it, the Vol lines weren't pretty.
But they were also some of the youngest in the country, and there's reason to think they'll be substantially better this year. On offense, NFL-sized (6'7", 320 pounds) true freshman tackle JuWuan James earned a starting job in fall camp, started all 13 games, and landed first-team Freshman All-SEC honors. Fellow freshmen James Stone, Zach Fulton, and JerQuari Schofield had all likewise entered the starting lineup by season's end, with sophomore Dallas Thomas also making a name for himself. Assuming the five of them take the leap forward expected of rising sophomores (and a rising junior) who have their first year of serious action already under their belt, the Vol line could go from a position of obvious weakness to a borderline strength.
It's much the same story along the defensive front. Ends Gerald Williams and Chris Walker may have graduated, but there's plenty of talent left in their place. The new defensive tackle pairing of Montori Hughes and Malik Jackson had its positive moments as well as its struggles (Jackson led the team with five sacks) and should be much-improved in their second year in the starting lineup. On the ends, yet another true freshman -- Jacques Smith -- came on late in the year and landed on the league all-freshman team. Fellow true frosh Corey Miller was almost as impressive in limited time, and the two look set to serve as sophomore bookends this season.
Overall, the Volunteers will remain so young on both lines that neither can be expected to join the ranks of the SEC's best just yet. But with burgeoning talents like Bray, running back Tauren Poole, wide receiver Justin Hunter, and corner Marsalis Teague (not to mention Janzen Jackson, the troubled safety who withdrew from school with personal issues but who Dooley says is "on pace" to return), as long as there's improvement up front, there should be improvement on the scoreboard as well.
Some of that improvement is likely. But we'll find out this spring how much the Vols can actually expect ... and if it's Dooley or the Gators, Dawgs, or Gamecocks who need to be sweating once spring is done.
Tags: Chris Walker, Corey Miller, Dallas Thomas, Derek Dooley, Florida, Georgia, Gerald Williams, Jacques Smith, James Stone, Janzen Jackson, JerQuari Schofield, Justin Hunter, JuWuan James, Kentucky, Lane Kiffin, LSU, Malik Jackson, Marsalis Teague, Matt Simms, Montori Hughes, North Carolina, Ole Miss, SEC, South Carolina, spring practice, Spring Practice Primer, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Tyler Bray, Vanderbilt, Zach Fulton
Posted on: March 21, 2011 11:57 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Every Monday, our weekly Recruiting Review recaps the past week's top headlines from our sister blog, Bryan Fischer's Eye on Recruiting . Enjoy:
Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:52 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Brandon Willis was originally a member of North Carolina's 2010 recruiting class, but only after originally committing to Tennessee and changing his mind when Lane Kiffin left for USC. After losing his mother while still in high school, Willis' father lost his job and found a new one in southern California. Not wanting to be separated from his father after losing his mother, Willis announced last August that he was leaving North Carolina to transfer to UCLA.
Then, seven days ago, Willis announced he was leaving UCLA. This time his grandmother is ailing, and once again Brandon is on the move. While it's been rumored for a week now, North Carolina made it official with a release on Monday saying that Willis was returning to Chapel Hill.
“Brandon lost his mother in high school and is very close with his grandmother, who lives in Burlington and is battling health issues,” head coach Butch Davis said in a statement. “He and his father wanted to move back to the East coast to be with her. There were no hard feelings when Brandon originally left and when he inquired about the possibility of returning, we welcomed him back.”
Of course, since Willis transferred last season, he had to sit out the entire 2010 season. Now that he's transferring again, he may have to sit out a second straight year. North Carolina will submit a waiver to the NCAA asking to grant Willis immediate eligibility, and given the nature of his latest transfer, there's a chance that the NCAA will allow it.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:04 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Lane Kiffin's NCAA chickens appear to be coming home to roost.
Both Kiffin's former employers at Tennessee and his current ones at USC have announced today they have been served with NCAA "Notices of Allegations," essentially the list of violations which the NCAA has discovered during an investigation. That list as it pertains to Volunteer football, via the official Tennessee website :
The notice contains the following allegations of violation of NCAA rules against the football program:The headlining charge here is the "failure to monitor" violation levied against Kiffin. Though in the past coaches have typically been absolved of blame once they've left their previous university behind, it seems unlikely in this instance, with Kiffin's (well-earned) reputation for ignoring the finer points of NCAA regulations. There may be more forthcoming than the typical slap on the wrist.
As for the Trojans, their Notice of Allegations likely includes the same violations committed by Kiffin (and assistant Ed Orgeron, believed to be the "former assistant" in the second bullet above) in Knoxville. The official statement from athletic director Pat Haden :
"We have received from the NCAA a notice of allegations against Lane Kiffin pertaining to his tenure as the head football coach at Tennessee. The NCAA enforcement process provides for Tennessee and Lane to address those charges. Until that process is completed, it would be unfair and premature for me or USC to comment on this matter.Eye on College Football will have more on this story as it develops. Follow our Twitter feed for further updates.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 2:41 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Every summer I look forward to HBO's Hard Knocks series that follows an NFL team through training camp. It's just incredibly interesting to see life behind closed doors on with a NFL team. It's that appetite for such knowledge that has often had me wish HBO would do something similar with a college football team. ESPN and the Big Ten Network have done it before, but I'd prefer to see the show on a premium channel like HBO where there are less restrictions on what can be aired.
It would give all of us a better idea of what life is like for a college football player as he balances school with football, and we'd see the amount of work these kids put in every day. Plus, can you ever really have enough college football? It'd be an excellent way to bridge the gap between the seasons for college football fans, and you know it would be a ratings hit.
The problem may be finding a program and a coach who is willing to give such access to the media, but I believe we may have found one.
Lane Kiffin may say it's just a random thought, but I read that as "HEY, HBO! COME FILM US!!" Which would be fine with me, and it may be one of the first things Lane Kiffin has ever done that I thought was a good idea. Though if given my choice of which program I'd like to see profiled, I'm not sure USC would be my first choice.
I'd like to see a program that was working in a new head coach, or a huge program that was trying to bounce back from a down year. So, with both of those things in mind, I think a series featuring Texas would be the most interesting choice. You have Texas coming off of a down season, and a ton of coaching turnover on Mack Brown's staff. It'd be compelling television to see how the Longhorns prepare for a new season with the goal of getting back to the top of the new Big 12.
Which school would you like to see?
Posted on: February 8, 2011 8:36 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
USC athletic director Pat Haden threw his full support behind embattled head coach Lane Kiffin in the wake of a recent report saying he would be named in an NCAA violations case at Tennessee.
AOL Fanhouse reported last Wednesday that Kiffin would be cited for a failure to monitor violation arising from his time as head coach of the Volunteers. Kiffin’s brother-in-law David Reeves, who was an assistant on staff, will reportedly be cited for improper contact with recruits.
“I read the report and I know he can’t comment on it,” Haden said. “I can’t really ask a lot about it because it happened at Tennessee. Right now it really is not a USC issue.
“What I know of Lane Kiffin is he’s been more than compliant with everything we ask. He is doing the right thing and we’ll see how this report turns out, how the investigation goes, what the results are, I just have no idea what’s going to happen. All I know is our (case) took a long time and I don’t know how long this will take.”
The violations stemmed from a group of school hostesses who allegedly made improper contact with several recruits, with Reaves reportedly instructing the hostesses on how to contact the recruits. It was one of several alleged violations committed by Tennessee during Kiffin’s short tenure at the school. Despite the run-ins with the NCAA at his previous school, Haden believes Kiffin is doing everything by the letter of the law at USC.
“I did not hire Lane but in my seven months, he has been very positive in terms of compliance,” Haden said. “The reputation and reality of Lane Kiffin are two entirely different things. I understand what his reputation is but the reality that I’ve dealt with is not that reputation.”
USC was placed on four years of probation by the NCAA for violations stemming from a lack of institutional control following an investigation centered on the school's football and men’s basketball programs. The school is currently appealing several of the sanctions placed on the football team but Haden did not think the recent news would have any effect on the appeal.
“I sure hope not,” he said. “Those are two separate cases and it should not, that’s the Tennessee case. The way these play out, I would expect we’ll hear from the Appeals Committee long before the Tennessee situation is taken care of.
Haden spoke to reporters following a six hour summit designed to discuss issues related to agent awareness and education. Representatives of the Pac-10, SEC, NCAA, NFL and NFL Players Association were in attendance.