Tag:Tom Fornelli
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:21 am
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Embree: new kickoff rules could be dangerous

Posted by Tom Fornelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:46 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Purdue



Posted by Tom Fornelli


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

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

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

Three Things To Watch For:

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

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

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

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:49 pm
 

Nebraska wants brains, BRAINS!

Posted by Tom Fornelli

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:42 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Illinois



Posted by Tom Fornelli


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

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

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

Three Things To Watch For:

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

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

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

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:32 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 11:32 am
 

Chuck Neinas supports a four-team playoff

Posted by Tom Fornelli

He may only be an interim commissioner, and the Big 12 may have already started the process of finding his replacement, but Chuck Neinas is the latest conference commissioner to publicly voice his support of a college football playoff.

Neinas told The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel that he likes the idea of a playoff, and like Roy Kramer and Larry Scott before him, he also thinks sending conference champions would be the way to go.

“I like the idea, if you're going to take four, take four champions,” Neinas said. “They're not hard to identify.

“The selection process is one that would concern me. The easiest is taking four conference champions.”

Neinas also told Tramel he didn't see any downside to college football adopting a playoff format, explaining that college football needs to make changes to maintain what it has. 

“Looking at it very broadly, we've agreed, we've got to do something to maintain public interest. We want a vibrant postseason. We have to explore ideas that will make it better. There's obviously strong support of a four-team arrangement.”

So, to sum it all up, in the last few weeks we've had current, former or interim commissioners from the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and the Big 12 publicly support the idea of a four-team playoff. Three of those four have said they think having only conference champions be eligible is the best way to go about it.

So if I can read between the lines here, a college football playoff is coming, and only conference champions will be eligible.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:59 pm
 

Mountain West releases 2012 schedule

Posted by Tom Fornelli

For the last time in its history the Mountain West released a college football schedule on Thursday. Next year the Mountain West and Conference USA will merge to form a new conference. So if you are a Mountain West geek (A Mountie? Westy? An MWCrazy?) cherish this one, because it's never going to happen again.

TCU has already left for the Big 12 and teams like Boise State and San Diego State will be leaving for the Big East in 2013.

Making matters worse for the conference this year, without TCU around, it seems that Boise State is the clear-cut favorite to win the conference without much standing in its way.

Though stranger things have happened, and you'll definitely want to see Boise's games against San Diego State in Boise on November 3, and when Boise travels to Nevada to play on November 24.

The Broncos will be looking to avenge 2010 and Kyle Brotzman's nightmare that night.

You can check out the entire Mountain West schedule here.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:08 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Oklahoma



Posted by Tom Fornelli


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

Spring Practice Starts: Monday, March 5

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Eight offense, seven defense, both specialists

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Utilizing the Belldozer. One of the best things Oklahoma fans heard over the winter was that Landry Jones would be returning for another season. Still, we know what Oklahoma is going to get from Jones in 2012. What we can't be sure of is the role Blake Bell is going to play. In Oklahoma's final 6 games Bell rushed for 13 touchdowns and was seemingly unstoppable in short-yardage situations. You have to think that the Sooners are going to create more packages for Bell to utilize his abilities. Much like Florida did with Tim Tebow when Chris Leak was still around in 2006 and that worked out well for the Gators.

2. A shift in the defense. Mike Stoops is in as defensive coordinator and Brent Venables has left for Clemson. Here's what I feel confident in saying about the Oklahoma defense this season: with Stoops around, a talented secondary that was already one of the best in the Big 12 is going to get even better. The question is how Venables' absence will affect the linebackers and defensive line, with linebackers in particular being a Venables specialty. Spring practices will give us all our first clue as to how things will shake out.

3. Can a running back emerge? Dominique Whaley was a pleasant surprise for the Sooners in 2011, leading the team in rushing with 627 yards even though his year ended early thanks to a broken ankle. Because of that ankle, Whaley won't be participating in spring practice. Which means there are plenty of reps to go around for guys like Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, and incoming freshman Alex Ross. It would be a bonus for the Sooners if one of these backs steps up and shows they're capable of taking on a big role in the offense should Whaley have trouble coming back from injury.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:58 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska



Posted by Tom Fornelli


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

Spring Practice Starts: Sunday, March 4

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Seven on offense, seven on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Finding replacements on defense. The Cornhuskers may have seven starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, but there are also four pretty big departures that need to be replaced. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Jared Crick are all gone. That's one key player on each level of the defense and none will be easy to replace. Though having Cameron Meredith on the defensive line will make the loss of Crick easier to absorb. That being said, Dennard and David were two of the best defenders in the Big Ten last season. It's not easy to just plug in new playmakers of that caliber, and as if the job wasn't hard enough, Nebraska will also be breaking in a new defensive coordinator this season. John Papuchis was promoted to defensive coordinator after Carl Pelini left to take the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.

2. Rediscovering the T-Magic. Taylor Martinez's first two seasons as Nebraska's quarterback have been a bit of a roller coaster. He was able to stay healthy last year, but he also completed only 56% of his passes, which was actually lower than the 59% he completed as a freshman. Martinez's yards per attempt went down over a full yard as well. Some of this was likely due to it being Martinez's first year in Tim Beck's system, and Nebraska is hoping Martinez will improve in his second season under Beck. In fact, if Nebraska wants to make a serious run at a Big Ten championship in 2011, they'll need him to. So it's important for Martinez to have a strong spring and make sure that the Cornhuskers head into the summer with a clear cut leader at the quarterback position.

3. Giving Burkhead a breather. Rex Burkhead had a great season for Nebraska in 2011, rushing for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to making the All-Conference team. While there's no reason to believe Burkhead won't have another solid season in 2012, Nebraska would be better served to find a bit more depth at running back to keep Burkhead fresh. In Nebraska's first 8 games, Burkhead averaged 110.25 yards per game, but that number dropped to 95 yards per game over Nebraska's final five contests. The Huskers went 2-3 in those games. So if backs like Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green can show that they're capable of taking some carries this spring, it could go a long way in the fall.

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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