Tag:SEC
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:47 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2012 2:35 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Colorado

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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 Colorado.

Spring Practice Starts: March 10

Spring Game: April 14

Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 specialists

Three Things To Look For:

1. Can the Buffs find a quarterback? After four years as an off-and-on starter, Tyler Hansen has (finally?) graduated and left Jon Embree with the first quarterbacking decision of his young Colorado tenure. The job was expected to be a spring battle -- and possibly a fall one -- between sophomores Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman, but after offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot, Hirschman amazingly broke the same bone in his right foot last weekend and will miss all of spring drills. As the only quarterback on the Buff roster to have taken a collegiate snap, Hirschman might have been the slight favorite, but now that honor falls to Wood as he duels redshirt freshmen John Shrock and Stevie Joe Dorman. From Wood's perspective, spring camp will be a key opportunity to put some distance between himself and Hirschman before the latter returns for fall camp. But for Embree, who winds up winning hte job will be less important than that someone does--and that process starts this weekend.

2. Are there any playmakers out there? If Embree's going to improve on 2011's 92nd-ranked offense, he's going to have to do it the hard way--in addition to Hansen, the Buffs have also lost leading rusher Rodney Stewart and four of their top five receivers, including starting tight end Ryan Deehan. The cupboard isn't bare -- rising junior receiver Paul Richardson and one-time highly regarded tight end recruit Nick Kasa both look poised for breakout seasons -- but it remains to be seen if any of the candidates at running back or any others at receiver or tight end are ready to become serious Pac-12 contributors. Given that whoever wins the quarterback job is going to experience some growing pains along the way, any help Embree can find for his future QB (or QBs) is going to be something valuable indeed.

3. Front seven: same question? The good news for the Colorado defense is that things can't get a lot worse than last year's 114th-place finish in yards per-play allowed (or the 102nd-place finish in total D) no matter what personnel they do or don't return. The bad news is that improvement will nonetheless have to come without their best defensive player in 2011, linebacker Josh Hartigan, who led the team in both sacks and tackles-for-loss on his way to Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors. (No Buff defender made either the league's first or second teams.) As with the offense, there's several promising pieces for Embree to work with: senior nose tackle Will Pericak, junior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, and linebacker Jon Major should all be capable of spearheading a step forward. But for the Buffs just to reach respectability in the rushing defense department -- a year after giving up the nation's 112th-worst mark per-carry -- someone (or several someones) will have to be more than "promising," and more like Hartigan.

To check in on the rest of the Pac-12 and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: March 8, 2012 1:40 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Alabama

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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 Alabama.

Spring Practice Starts: March 9

Spring Game: April 14

Returning starters: 7 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 specialists

Three Things To Look For:

1. Motivation level at low Tide? Ask Nick Saban what the difference was between his 2009 and 2011 national titlists on one side and his 2010 disappointments on the other (for a given definition of "disappointment," of course), and he'll tell you that the former teams were driven, focused squads that put everything into their practice time, and the latter was a little too happy with the previous year's championship. We'd argue the bigger difference was the mile-deep rivers of experience that flowed through the Tide defense in '09 and '11, rivers that helped convert Saban's frightening stockpile of talent into two of the better defensive units in college football history ... but that's neither here nor there, really, since that talent is still there in abundance. Even if the experience isn't, if the Tide adopt the work ethic of their recent champions, there's no reason they can't at least approach their success, too. Spring will give us our first glance if that's the case or not. 

2. How well are the defensive holes being plugged? Of course, no matter how many four- and five-star studs are waiting in the wings, losing Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Chapman, DeQuan Menzie and Jerrell Harris is still losing Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Chapman, DeQuan Menzie and Jerrell Harris; the Tide have their work cut for them. It's time to see if Jesse Williams can fill Chapman's shoes, Adrian Hubbard Upshaw's, Trey DePriest Hightower's, etc. The spotlight will be particularly bright on the secondary, where even the return of Robert Lester may not be able to mask losing players --and leaders -- the caliber of Barron and Kirkpatrick.

3. Is T.J. Yeldon the real deal at running back? While owning the nation's No. 1 recruiting class gives Alabama fans plenty of options when it comes to their favorite newcomer, there's probably an especially soft spot in the heart of the Tide faithful -- and a diamond-hard one in the chest of your average Auburn fan -- for early-enrolling freshman running back Yeldon, a five-star recruit who committed to Auburn early and stuck with the Tigers until mere days were left before his enrollment ... whereupon he switched to the Tide. The neutral observer might not blame him, given the opportunity presented to him: with Trent Richardson on his way to the NFL, de facto starter Eddie Lacy out for spring following surgery for turf toe, and one-time star recruit Dee Hart coming back from an ACL tear in spring 2011, it's possible Yeldon could exit spring as the Tide's No. 1 tailback. And given that the last two guys to hold that honor both wound up attending the Heisman Trophy presentation before their careers were out, that would be a very, very nice place to be.

To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:03 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:03 pm
 

Scott: Summertime before reaching BCS consensus

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Although the most recent BCS meetings wrapped up two weeks ago in Dallas and the NCAA tournament is fast approaching to steal headlines, discussion about the future of the college football postseason continues to bubble to the surface.

Speaking at the league's annual basketball tournament Wednesday evening, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott cautioned that any movement toward a specific postseason proposal would likely be months away from emerging.

"Once we start to get to the point where a consensus is emerging around a model or two, that's when conferences will be asked to kind of officially vote on something," Scott said. "It's a little hard to predict when exactly but it's probably summertime.

"I don't know if there will be a point where our conference declares exactly what it supports until there's a specific proposal in front of us. We're kind of far from that point and there's a lot more work that I need to do and my colleagues from other conferences need to do to narrow options and think of all the implications."

One of the few details to emerge about any new BCS deal over the past few months is that Scott and the Big Ten's Jim Delany prefer that only conference champions to be eligible for any sort of postseason playoff or plus-one. SEC commissioner Mike Slive, speaking to the Birmingham News earlier Wednesday, naturally disagreed with the notion, no surprise considering the all-SEC nature of the national championship game in January.

Approximately 50 proposals different have been presented to decision makers over the past few months and it seems that just about the only thing that anybody can agree upon is that the process will continue to evolve before everybody comes together again.

"It's an iterative process," Scott said. "The concepts will get more specific. I've been in constant contact with our AD's and presidents over the last few months - with our partners at the Rose Bowl in terms of priorities. We're starting to talk about options."

Which ones, exactly, remain to be seen.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 4:54 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 4:59 pm
 

Pinkel: Border War renewal "going to happen"

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Missouri kicked off spring practice yesterday, but with the Tigers preparing for their first season in the SEC East, Gary Pinkel also took the time this morning to appear on radio station 610 Sports AM in Kansas City. And he had some highly interesting things to say about his program's 120-year-old "Border War" rivalry with Kansas--namely, that the two schools will resume the series in the future, despite the Tigers' acrimonious leap to the SEC.

"You know we’re going to play again," he said. "We need to play a game in Kansas City. Every year we should play the first or second week in September ... It would be awesome. Basketball can do the same thing. Maybe not every year in Kansas City but certainly maybe four years there then home and away and go back there. It’s awesome.

"It’s going to happen. You all know it’s going to happen."

This would be news to Kansas, who reacted to the Tigers' defection from the Big 12 by insisting the Border War had come to an end, despite support from the Jayhawk players for continuing the series; 2012 will mark the first time since 1891  the two teams won't meet on the gridiron, disrupting the longest rivalry in any college sport west of the Mississippi River. The months between Missouri's announcement and now have yet to produce, at least publicly, any thaw in KU-UM relations from the Lawrence side of things.

But Pinkel is correct that some things speak more loudly than even anger and bitterness, and that one of them is cold, hard cash.

"Of course it’s going to happen. We’re going to make too much money doing it, first of all," Pinkel said (emphasis added). "And all the fans want it to happen ... I wish the Big 12 luck. I’d never wish Kansas luck. I can’t do that. That’s against my principles. But certainly I hope the Big 12 does really, really well. Let’s just move on. Gosh darn, it’s not that complex."

We admire Pinkel's "principles" here, since they illustrate why we're hoping the allure of splitting a huge Kansas City-fueled paycheck can bring the two teams back together on both the football field and the basketball court; it's not an exaggeration to say college sports would be better for it. But we also don't blame Kansas for being aggrieved, given the general "see ya, wouldn't want to be ya" vibe given off by the Tigers on their way out the league door.

Take this trailer (for lack of a better term) for the SEC leap posted to the Mizzou football YouTube channel Wednesday:
 


The voiceover isn't exactly inflammatory: "They say you rise to the level of competition ... That playing great teams only makes you better ... We're counting on it." But the implication is also clear: The SEC is just better than your conference, dude.

So here's a wish that Pinkel's prediction comes true sooner rather than later ... and our own prediction that it may take a few years for the wounds to heal well enough for that to happen.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:13 pm
 

Slive: plus-one shouldn't be champions-only

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Few individuals -- if any -- will have as large a say in the construction of the impending college football "plus-one" as SEC commissioner Mike Slive. And as of Wednesday, the construction Slive has in mind is one that won't be exclusive to conference champions.

Speaking to the Birmingham News, Slive said that he was "willing to have a conversation" about restricting the field to champions only, but that it wasn't his preference--no surprise, considering it was his conference that wedged its teams into both slots in the 2011 national title game.

"[I]f you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go," Slive said. "It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly. There's still a lot of information that needs to be generated."

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott previously stated his support for admitting conference champions only, though we're not sure that veiled "some commissioners" jibe from Slive is a shot across Scott's bow or not.

What we are sure of is that Slive is more open to Jim Delany's proposal for on-campus semifinals than Scott's regarding league champions. While stopping well short of endorsing the Big Ten-backed suggestion, Slive also noted some of its benefits and kept the door well open to its consideration.

"There are plusses and minuses to that concept," Slive said. "One is that you're playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage ... You have to look at that. The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games. You guarantee good attendance (on campus) -- for one team.

"It needs to be looked at carefully. It's on the table and it should be on the table."

Slive also again declined to reveal details on the SEC' 2013-and-beyond scheduling arrangements and said the league wasn't interested in expanding beyond its current 14 teams. Of more interest was his comments on the league's ongoing television negotiations, reopened since the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri.

"They know who we are and what we have," Slive said. "None of our schools will be hurt financially (in 2012-13). But that's just today. It's tomorrow that's the real issue. The discussions are very important. They're longterm. We'll leave it at that."

Knowing that Slive's entire willingness to entertain expansion was -- very likely -- motivated first-and-foremost by a desire to rework the league's (mostly) static 15-year TV deal for something closer to the Big Ten and Pac-12's rapidly expanding, league network-driven contracts, could his emphasis on the "very important" "longterm" be commissioner-speak for a push for an SEC Network? 

We'd be stunned, frankly, if it means anything different. Slive's opinions and preferences on the plus-one matter a great deal where the rest of college football is concerned--but when it comes to the distant future of his own conference, those negotiations may be even more critical.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:19 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:26 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Missouri

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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 Missouri.

Spring Practice Starts: March 6

Spring Game: April 14

Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 specialists

Three Things To Look For:

1.  What practical impact, if any, will the SEC move have on spring camp? Gary Pinkel has gone on record as saying the Tigers won't be changing their coaching philosophy or schemes to adjust to their new conference home, but that doesn't mean it has to be business as usual during spring camp. With the carrot of making a splash in the (mostly) open SEC East hanging in front of them, the Tigers could (or should) have the kind of focus and drive throughout spring practice that could (or should) give them that extra edge in preparation come the fall. But with depth a major concern at multiple positions (see below), Pinkel can't crank up the intensity too high--lest he lose a major contributor in the offseason for a second straight season.

2. Can the Tigers find enough bodies on the defensive line? One number to illustrate Missouri's current lack of depth on the defensive line: zero, as in the number of players who started for the Tigers in 2011 that will be taking part in spring drills, thanks to three graduations and shoulder surgery for end Brad Madison. A second is four, as in the total number of scholarship tackles who'll be participating in spring practice thanks to offseason surgeries for Sheldon Richardson and Marvin Foster (the former the Tigers' expected best DT). The bad news is that with so much inexperience and limited numbers, the Tigers will come out of spring still unsure about what they'll really have to work with come the fall--and in a league where line play is often even more critical than in other (less ground-oriented) leagues. The good news? Players like tackle Lucas Vincent and end Michael Sam will have a golden opportunity to prove themselves ready for a starring role, and maybe even some extra coaching attention to help make that opportunity pay off.

3. Can Kendial Lawrence be the answer at running back? As CBSSports.com Missouri RapidReporter Dave Matter has written, the Tigers are in decided need of some new playmakers at both wide receiver and tight end. But those won't do much good if the Tiger running game can't keep opposing defenses honest, and after 2011's brutal knee injury, it remains to be seen what -- if any -- contribution Henry Josey can make. That puts the onus on rising senior Lawrence, who saw plenty of carries last season but also saw his role reduced as Josey exploded onto the scene; for the season, Josey averaged more than three yards more per-carry than Lawrence. If Lawrence can show some improved explosiveness this spring, that'll be one less worry -- and a key one at that -- for a Tiger offense that will have its work cut out for it in 2012.

To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 3:20 pm
 

Auburn to unveil Heisman statues at spring game

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Auburn fans treating themselves to the Tigers' "A-Day" spring game are going to be treated themselves to a one-of-a-kind ceremony involving the school's three Heisman Trophy winners.

The Tiger athletic department had announced previously that they would be commissioning and erecting statuses of Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton to be unveiled at a later date. A release from the school Tuesday established that date as April 14, when the statues will be dedicated in a special ceremony at 10 a.m. prior to the annual "A-Day" game.

According to the release, Sullivan (who won his Heisman in 1971), Jackson (1985) and Newton (2010, in case you've forgotten already) are all scheduled to be in attendance at the ceremony. The statues will be placed on the east end of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

In an interview with Auburn fansite The War Eagle Reader last April, statue sculptor Ken Bjorge said that the statues of Sullivan and Jackson had already been commissioned -- and completed -- when Newton's stunning Heisman season forced Auburn to ask for a third statue, and delay the unveiling of Sullivan's and Jackson's. In the interim, Florida became the first SEC team with a collection of Heisman statues, unveiling renditions of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow at their 2011 spring game. 

The delay also meant, of course, that Auburn avoided the awkwardness of either dedicating or not dedicating a statue of Newton, whose infamous NCAA investigation only wrapped up last October. Though going through with an order for $100,000 worth of sculpted steel was already a sizable vote of confidence on Auburn's part, there's little doubt the school is highly appreciative the statue won't have to be unveiled with a Julie Roe Lach-shaped monkey on its back. 

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 1:38 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 2:09 pm
 

A&M president confirms series with Gamecocks

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The SEC still hasn't confirmed (or denied) South Carolina president Harris Pastides's claim that the league's athletic directors and presidents have signed off on a plan to maintain the league's annual cross-divisional rivalry games, or his assertion that his Gamecocks would be exchanging their yearly battle against Arkansas for one vs. league newcomers Texas A&M.

But even if the league won't confirm it, someone who would most certainly be in a position to know has: Aggie president R. Bowen Loftin. Loftin tweeted the following Monday afternoon:

 

Yes, that's the bow-tied president of a major research university of more than 50,000 students tweeting "#WHOOP" over a future football game. Clearly, the Aggies will be even more at home in the SEC than we've thought.

That aside, Loftin's confirmation should -- finally -- end any speculation or controversy over whether or not the SEC will keep the permanent cross-division games that have allowed series like Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee to continue since its 1992 divisional split. If the SEC is going to bother forcing the Gamecocks and Aggies -- two teams without any geographic rivalry or gridiron history -- to play each season, it's safe to assume that every SEC team is going to play someone in their opposite division, eliminating the possibility of a compromise that would see some teams (like the Tide and Vols) keep their cross-division rivalries while others did not.

This decision does mean that if the SEC remains wedded to an eight-game schedule, teams in opposite divisions who don't share a rivalry game (like say, Alabama and Florida, or Georgia and LSU ) will play each other just twice in a 12-year rotation. To judge by Pastides's and Loftin's comments, though, whether that will be often enough to keep all 14 schools (and the SEC's television partners) happy will be a bridge the conference will cross when it comes to it.

HT: TSK. 

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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