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Tag:Owen Marecic
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:19 pm
 

Heisman talk should talk about defense

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Pop quiz, hotshot: who had the higher (public )* vote total in the 2010 Heisman Trophy balloting, Stanford fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic or DaQuan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson ... combined?

Since we're asking the question in the first place, you can probably guess that the answer is Marecic, who collected three first-place votes and 16 points, while arguably the three best defenders in the country totaled just one confirmed second-place nod and a smattering of third-place votes. This post isn't about Marecic (though we would like to take a moment to condemn his attention-seeking supporters like David Whitley , who decided that thanks to Cam Newton, they were justified turning the voting for "most outstanding" into a holier-than-thou morality play), since the question that needs answering isn't Why did Marecic get so much support? but Why do even the best defenders in college football get so little Heisman love?

It appeared things might be changing in 2009, when Ndamukong Suh finished fourth , coming as close as any defensive player since Charles Woodson to claiming the award. But after a year in which even a Lombardi Award- winner playing for the national champions couldn't get more than a few token mentions, it appears that defenders aren't actually any closer to full Heisman citizenship.

That point was driven home by the 2011 Heisman watch list released today by popular Heisman-tracking site Heisman Pundit. No one will argue that superstars like Andrew Luck or LaMichael James don't deserve their status as front-runners, or that superb skill-position talents like Alabama tailback Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon haven't earned their spots on the list. But of the 22 players mentioned by Heisman Pundit, every one is a running back, quarterback, or wide receiver. Given the Heisman's track record, yes, those are probably the 22 most likely candidates for the coming season, but shouldn't the conversation surrounding the game's "most outstanding" player at least consider those guys on the other side of the ball?

So in that spirit, we offer five defensive players that deserve to enter 2011 as part of the Heisman talk, our own defense-only "Watch List":

Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: The senior ably filled Suh's shoes as the central anchor for one of the nation's best defenses in 2010, and will likely begin this fall bearing "the country's best defensive tackle" billing.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Barron's already been dotting All-American teams for two seasons, and as the highest-profile player on a loaded Tide defense that should keep Nick Saban and Co. in national title contention throughout the season, he'll have plenty of opportunity to put his name in the Heisman hat.

Tank Carder, LB, TCU: Like Barron, Carder (pictured) should benefit from being the best, most-recognized player on a defense itself widely recognized as one of the nation's best; his MVP performance in the Rose Bowl defeat of Wisconsin won't hurt him, either.

Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon: The only defender to ever win the Heisman did so not only blanketing receivers at corner, but returning punts and kickoffs for highlight reel-touchdowns; if Harris can continue doing the same for Oregon as the Ducks win a third straight Pac-12 title, he'll draw his fair share of attention.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: A wildcard, but if the Fighting Irish (and specifically, the Fighting Irish defense) take the quantum leap forward many expect, the former five-star recruit and budding star could find himself the media-friendly face of the Irish's latest "Return to Glory."

Honorable mention: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State; Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma; Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall; Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College.

*The Heisman only makes official the ballot totals for the top 10 vote-getters, but the site StiffArmTrophy.com compiles all available public votes, including (in this case) those few cast for Peterson, Bowers, or Fairley.
Posted on: February 21, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 6:03 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

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 Stanford, which begins spring practice this afternoon.

Spring practice question: Can the Cardinal keep up the momentum under new coach David Shaw?

Fresh off the best season in school history - punctuated by a 40-12 dismantling of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl - Stanford’s offseason was filled with something rarely associated with the program: drama. After a week of will-he-or-won’t-he declare for the draft, presumed number one pick Andrew Luck stunned everyone by announcing he would stay in school. A day later, after being courted by Michigan and the Miami Dolphins, head coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers.

When hiring a new head coach was only the third most interesting thing to happen on campus during the offseason, you realize just how far Stanford football came under Harbaugh. Trying to continue what he build up is Stanford alum David Shaw, who slides into the head coaching role after being the Cardinal's offensive coordinator the past four years.

What’s his deal? For all the talk about Luck's role in the offense, Shaw is a believer in a balanced offense for one. Despite not having Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart last season, Stanford still finished second in the Pac-10 in rushing at 214 yards per game. Though most of the backfield returns in 2011, the major storyline of spring practice is finding replacements for three starters on the offensive line, including All-American center Chase Beeler.

“From a personnel standpoint, we have a chance to be very athletic upfront,” Shaw said at his pre-spring press conference. “The question is will those guys be consistent and will they play at the same level as those who they are replacing from last year. Ability-wise, we'll be fine. This spring we'll see who is ready to step up and fill those roles. A lot of our success will depend on how we play upfront.”

Offensive line isn’t the only area of concern for the first time head coach. There are still open position battles at linebacker, defensive line, cornerback and backup quarterback. The Cardinal might need five players just to replace all-everything Owen Marecic.

“The best thing about spring practice is the pure competition,” Shaw said. “We have guys coming back who played well for us last year but will be pushed by others ready to make their marks. We've recruited very well the last couple of years and we have a lot of players who are ready to compete and fill some roles.

“The next year is always different - different players, different roles, different schemes. You always have to add, delete and change. That's where we are at right now.”

The first week or two of spring practice will be a bit of a learning experience for the new staff. Shaw named former New York Jets assistant Mike Bloomgren as offensive line coach/run game coordinator and elevated Mike Sanford to running backs coach last Friday. Bringing on coaches just four days before spring practice starts isn't ideal and is something to keep an eye on but staff continuity elsewhere should help ease the transition.

Defensively, Derek Mason and Jason Tarver will share the defensive coordinator title and attempt to fill the shoes of the highly regarded Vic Fangio. Mason will also coach the secondary and will be responsible for calling plays, while Tarver will also serve as linebackers coach.

The return of Luck, however, is key for building on the success of last year. Shaw shouldn't have too much trouble keeping Stanford’s offense from dipping too much from last year’s unit that set a school-record for points scored and finished ninth in the nation in scoring. Having the Heisman Trophy front-runner under center tends to help but running backs Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson and others will also contribute. 

“With Andrew coming back, I've felt pretty good going to bed at night,” Shaw said. “I think he is comfortable with me in my role and I'm extremely comfortable with him. We have an established relationship that will only get better.”

With a manageable schedule (Oregon and Notre Dame at home to go along with just four road games) and lots of talent surrounding a future number one pick in the NFL Draft, Shaw could not have asked for a better situation to take over. With a little bit of Luck and a dash of good coaching, don’t expect a drop off from Stanford after using David Shaw's first spring practice to ease the transition from Jim Harbaugh.

Posted on: November 14, 2010 1:36 am
Edited on: November 14, 2010 1:37 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 13)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. Oregon can win ugly, too. To be fair to the Ducks, they weren't exactly dominated in their 15-13 win in Berkeley; they outgained Cal by more than 100 yards, held the Bears to 193 yards total and a miserable 2.5 yards per-pass, and only gave up a second touchdown on a Darron Thomas fumble in the end zone.

But they also scored their only first-half touchdown on a Cliff Harris punt return, averaged a stunningly weak 2.9 yards per-carry, eked out the final two-point margin by virtue of their made two-point try and Cal's failed attempt, and could have easily lost if not for Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio short-circuiting his own 24-yard field goal with a stutter-step procedure penalty and missing the subsequent 29-yard try. Every national title contender has to win games when they're not at their best, but Oregon was so far away from their best Saturday night they'd have to send it a postcard.

In the end, it didn't matter, as behind Thomas and a hobbled LaMichael James the Ducks changed philosophies on the fly to a clock-churning, yards-chewing ground-exclusive outfit that ate up the game's final 9:25 on one drive . That kind of versatility could prove to be the difference between a national champion and a slip-up before Glendale ... even if the Ducks would prefer not to have to put it to use again until there's a crystal football awarded to the victor.

2. Washington State should keep Paul Wulff.
Let's be fair: the Cougars' rehabilitation, even after their 31-14 upset-of-the-Pac-10's year against Oregon State today, is progressing verrrrry ... sloooooooowly. One FBS win in 2008, that one over winless Washington. One in 2009, over SMU in overtime. Until today, none in 2010.

But that hasn't meant it hasn't been progressing at all . After getting totally obliterated on a weekly basis two years ago, the Cougars have been substantially more competitive this season: 42-28 vs. UCLA , 43-23 vs. Oregon, 38-28 vs. Stanford , 20-13 vs. Cal. You could see the game coming where the Cougars put everything together and took down some unsuspecting favorite. And that game came today: quarterback Jeff Tuel had the game of his career, hitting 10-of-15 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while adding 79 yards in the ground; the rest of a surprisingly productive run game chipped in 142 yards and three touchdowns; and the much-maligned Cougar defense forced three turnovers, hounded Beaver quarterback Ryan Katz into a quiet 12-for-21 performance, and held the Beavers to 261 yards overall. Unexpected as Wazzu's triumph might have been, especially coming in Corvallis, it was no fluke.

So maybe progress has been slow. But it's there. Wulff has Wazzu pointed in the right direction, and after today he deserves at least one more season to see how far in that direction he can go.

(As for the Beavers, well, TCU and Boise would like a refund, please.)

3. Arizona State is the Pac-10's hard-luck team. The Sun Devils have had a couple of games in which they outgained their opponent by wide margins and lost, but today wasn't one of them; visiting Stanford enjoyed a 420-268 yardage advantage. But this is still a team that lost at Wisconsin on a late missed extra point; gave away an excellent shot at a huge upset of Oregon with a flood of turnovers; lost to Oregon State when a late drive ended in an interception; to USC on a late missed field goal. You'd think that eventually Dennis Erickson 's team could buy a break, and when the Devils went up 13-10 late in the third quarter on a Steven Threet touchdown pass, it looked like that break might finally be coming.

But it wasn't: the Cardinal took over on their 15 and went 85 yards to score an Owen Marecic touchdown with just over five minutes remaining. ASU's following drive went nowhere, and Stanford picked up three first downs to ice the game. The Sun Devils have now played the BCS's Nos. 1, 6, and 7 teams and lost by a total of 16 points. But they'll still have to sweep their final two games vs. UCLA and at Arizona just to make a bowl game.

4. This isn't Mike Stoops' breakthrough season, either. Arizona has famously never been to the Rose Bowl, but even if Oregon made clear the Wildcats aren't getting there this year relatively early, Stoops could have still hoped for his first 10-win season and top-20 final ranking -- goals his team looked well on their way to fulfilling after their early-season win over Iowa .

Since then, though, the Wildcats have gone a ho-hum 4-3 with two of those wins over the Washington schools and the latest result a dispiriting 24-21 home loss to USC. The Trojans aren't a bad team by any means, but if the Wildcats want to be taken seriously as Pac-10 contenders, winning home games against their fellow upper-end-of-the-pack rivals (not to mention avoiding getting outrushed 205-51) is a step they'll have to take. Unless Arizona pulls a shocker in Eugene next weekend, eight regular season wins will be the ceiling.

Again.



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