Tag:Sun Belt
Posted on: April 7, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: April 7, 2011 12:41 pm
 

Sun Belt to add new member?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen 

The 2011 offseason doesn't nearly so expansion-mad as the summer of 2010, but thanks to the Sun Belt, it look like we might have some intrigue after all.  

According to this report in the Miami Herald, the current nine-team conference (and 10-team league once provisional program South Alabama becomes a full FBS member) is on the verge of adding a new, as-yet-unidentified 11th future member (emphasis added): 

The conference has entertained expansion overtures from multiple programs in recent months, and the league has expressed keen interest in at least one of those candidates, The Miami Herald has learned.

Sources close to the situation would not specify which school is atop the list of contenders, but the pool of potential programs is relatively shallow when the conference’s top two criteria are factored in.

The Sun Belt would only consider universities with an established Football Bowl Subdivision program currently aligned with another conference. And the conference would want any new member to fit into its geographical footprint.

“We’re not afraid to expand if there’s someone out there who will add value to the league, but we’re not going to expand just to reach some arbitrary number,” Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters said. “I think we’ve got to find people who bring value to the conference.”

The report is correct that limiting candidates to current FBS programs within the Sun Belt's geographical footprint doesn't leave room for a whole lot of options. And in fact, barring a surprise defection out of Conference USA, there seems to be just one: Louisiana Tech.

Located hundreds of miles from its closest geographic neighbors, the Shrveport-based school has always been an odd fit in its current home in the WAC. Given the WAC's short straw in the expansion battles and impending plunge to the basement of the FBS (not to mention the possibility of losing its automatic NCAA Tournament berth in men's basketball), Tech's switch to the Sun Belt would make sense from any number of perspectives: better level of competition, substantially reduced travel costs, local rivalries with schools like the SBC's UL-Monroe and Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns, and all the recruiting advantages that those benefits would bring.

Meanwhile, the Sun Belt would be getting a firmly-established FBS program with a long history of producing high-quality teams, NFL players, and upsets of neighboring power schools (not to mention the aforementioned in-state conference rival for its Louisiana programs). Tech to the Sun Belt would appear to be a win-win on all sides.

That's not to say it's a certainty. Several schools in Conference USA also fit within the SBC's geographic footprint if they wanted out of C-USA for whatever reason, and if the league decided that footprint was wider than we'd expect, they could theoretically re-adopt former Sun Belt members New Mexico State or Utah State. And even if the school receiving "keen interest" from the league is Tech, it's far from a done deal.

But in any case, the move would make so much sense for both the Bulldogs and the SBC it would be a surprise if they weren't considering it. And if it's a move that indeed comes to pass, we'll have yet more confirmation that the Belt has decisively left the WAC behind as the FBS's bottom-barrel conference.

Posted on: January 31, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Big 12, non-AQs lead the way in JUCO signees

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Certainly no team got more attention for going to the junior college well this year than Auburn, who rode their famous pair of JUCO transfers -- Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, arguably the best offensive and defensive players in the country, respectively -- to a perfect record and national title. The Tigers started former JUCOs at linebacker (Eltoro Freeman), cornerback (Demond Washington) and right tackle (Brandon Mosley) as well, as clear an example as you could get as to why major programs aren't going to stop looking at immediate JUCO help anytime soon.

But if a program like Auburn might sign the most influential JUCOs, which ones sign the most, period? That's the question asked and answered by this study by Jon Solomon at the Birmingham News , which tallied up every community college transfer signed in FBS football over the past four recruiting classes (give or take one or two here or there). Solomon found that the three conferences collectively bringing in the most JUCOs were all non-AQ leagues: the WAC at 17.2 signees per team per four years, the Sun Belt at 15.0 per team per four years, and Conference USA at 14.8.

At the BCS level, the Big 12 (13.8 per team per four years) is far and away the leader in JUCO signees, with the Pac-10 coming in runners-up (despite the SEC's JUCO-friendly reputation) at 11.6. (The addition of Utah won't help the future Pac-12's numbers, either; the Utes led the Mountain West in JUCOs with 22 over the four-year period studied.)

Why the Big 12? Though eight of the conference's teams finished in double digits, the runaway leader was -- you guessed it -- Kansas State, the notoriously JUCO-dependent program that lived up to every inch of its reputation by signing an FBS-most 39 junior college players from 2007-2010. Non-AQ teams took the next five slots as Memphis (35), UAB (34), Hawaii (31), Troy (29), and New Mexico State (28) were the only other schoosl to top 28 or more. The closest BCS conference team was Iowa State, with 26.

So does JUCO signing work? On the one hand, the success of teams like Hawaii and Troy -- not to mention Auburn and Oregon, who with 17 JUCOs in the four-year period actually took on seven more than their national title game opponent -- would suggest that taking on the right kind of two-year players can pay handsome dividends. The ongoing struggles of Memphis, UAB, and Bill Snyder's Wildcats -- who have gone just 12-20 in the Big 12 in this span -- would suggest, though, that it's not at all a sure quick-fix.


Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Super Bowl rosters, broken down by conference

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Are you an NFL general manager or other team executive? Would you like your team to win its conference and go to the Super Bowl? You, sir, clearly need to start drafting players out of the conference where the real talent is: the mighty MAC.

That's the curious lesson imparted by the active rosters of this year's two Super Bowl participants, as the MAC is more heavily represented among thosee 106 players than any conference aside from the SEC and Big Ten. The complete breakdown of players' conference affiliation is as follows, per the active rosters of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers available here and here , respectively:
SEC: 18 (Steelers: R. Clark, R. Foster, A. Madison, Ma. Pouncey, C. Scott, M. Wallace, H. Ward; Packers: C. Clifton, M. Flynn, B. Goode, H. Green, Q. Johnson, D. Lee, P. Lee, T. Masthay, C. Peprah, S. Wells, J. Wynn)

Big Ten: 15 (Steelers: F. Adams, W. Allen, T. Essex, L. Foote, J. Kapinos, R. Mendenhall, A. Randle-El, M. Spaeth, L. Woodley; Packers: B. Bulaga, A. Hawk, R. Pickett, A. Quarless, M. Wilhelm, C. Woodson)

MAC: 13
(Steelers: C. Batch, A. Brown, J. Harrison, B. Roethlisberger (pictured back in his Miami (Ohio) days), S. Suisham; Packers: D. Briggs, T. Crabtree, J. Gordy, C. Jenkins, G. Jennings, T. Lang, J. Starks, F. Zombo)

ACC: 13 (Steelers: C. Butler, J. Dwyer, N. Eason, J. Farrior, K. Fox, B. McFadden, H. Miller, L. Timmons, G. Warren, J. Worilds; Packers: R. Francois, B. Raji, S. Shields)

Big 12: 8 (Steelers: C. Hampton, T. Hills, Z. Hood, J. Scott; Packers: G. Harrell, M. Crosby, B. Jackson, J. Nelson)

Conference USA: 7
(Steelers: B. Leftwich, D. Legursky, M. Moore, E. Sanders; Packers: A. Bigby, J. Sitton, C. Wilson)

Non-FBS: 7 (Steelers: I. Redman, A. Smith; Packers: N. Collins, E. Dietrich-Smith, D. Driver, J. Kuhn, N. McDonald)

Pac-10: 6 (Steelers: K. Lewis, T. Polamalu; Packers: D. Bishop, C. Matthews, D. Nance, A. Rodgers)

MWC: 5 (Steelers: C. Hoke, B. Keisel, C. Kemoeatu, S. Sylvester; Packers: B. Swain)

WAC: 5
(Packers: J. Bush, D. Colledge, K. Hall, J. Jones, T. Williams)

Big East: 4 (Steelers: W. Gay, R. Mundy; Packers: J. Spitz, B. Underwood)

Sun Belt: 4 (Steelers: D. Johnson, S. McLendon, I. Taylor; Packers: E. Walden)

Independent: 1
(Steelers: A. Battle)
(Note that affiliations are based on 2010 league alignment: Boise State in the WAC, Utah the MWC, Nebraska the Big 12, etc.)

Some bullet points to be made about the breakdown:
  • Kidding aside, the number of MAC players represented has to be something of a statistical fluke -- does any team in the league have as many as the Packers' eight? -- but it's worth noting that both teams rely heavily on players from outside the six BCS conferences. 34 percent of the Steelers' roster hails from non-AQ (or non-FBS) teams, with the Packers' number at 43 percent. An NFL team that doesn't bother scouting smaller conferences would, obviously, be missing out on a major source of talent.
  • That said, the two conferences best represented -- the SEC and Big Ten -- are exactly the two you'd expect based on the amount of money being spent within them and overall influence within college football.
  • As with the MAC's high numbers, the oddly low numbers for the Pac-12 and Big East are probably unfortunate circumstance. Nonetheless, those leagues probably would have liked to have been represented by more than only four and three teams, respectively.
  • Yes, it's interesting that non-FBS teams enjoy more representation than two BCS leagues and have only one player fewer than a Big 12 featuring programs like Texas and Oklahoma. But don't marvel too much; as with the number of successful pro players who weren't highly-ranked as recruits being a function (in large part) of how many more lower-ranked recruits there are, the sheer numbers of players attending the dozens of FCS and Division II schools ensure that some of them will always find their way to NFL stardom.




Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
 

Headset Reset: reviewing hires in C-USA, Sun Belt

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

"Headset Reset" is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the four new head coaches in Conference USA and the Sun Belt .


BILL BLANKENSHIP, Tulsa

Why him? Former Tulsa quarterback was promoted from running backs/special teams coach to maintain 10-3, top-25 status quo. For 2011, Blankenship needs to: find a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who took the same position at Clemson after being passed over the Tulsa head job; the right hire could turn Tulsa's nine returning offensive starters (including quarterback G.J. Kinne and all-purpose weapon Damaris Johnson) into another double-digit win season. By 2014, Blankenship will need to have: won a C-USA title. For all of the Golden Hurricane's offensive fireworks under Todd Graham, their only league championship came back in 2005 under Steve Kragthorpe. Chances Blankenship gets what he needs? Fair-to-middling. Tulsa's points-happy brand should be strong enough to keep them near the top of the league standings (provided Blankenship doesn't blow the OC hire), but will simply promoting a position coach really be enough to get them over the hump?

DAN McCARNEY, North Texas (pictured)

Why him? Far and away the most recognizable name among the new C-USA/SBC hires, the 57-year-old McCarney spent 12 successful seasons as Iowa State's head coach before supervising the defensive lines at South Florida and Florida. For 2011, McCarney needs to: just offer some kind of hope. The snake-bitten Mean Green (4 losses in 2010 by total of 13 points) have won only 13 games in six seasons. By 2014, McCarney will need to have: found some semblance of a defense. UNT hasn't had too many problems offensively, but they won't accomplish anything until one of the nation's worst defenses is brought up to code. Chances McCarney gets what he needs? Decent. McCarney may be a little too long in the tooth (and the program may have decayed too badly) to bring back the Mean Green's early-Aughts glory days, but the old pro should have the defensive chops to at least bring UNT back to respectability.

HUGH FREEZE, Arkansas State

Why him? Former Ole Miss assistant made famous by The Blind Side was promoted from offensive coordinator after leading Red Wolves to better than 400 yards per game, vaulting them from 95th to 43rd in total offense. For 2011, Freeze needs to: get to .500. Disappointing 4-8 records the last two seasons earned Steve Roberts a pink slip, but with Ryan Aplin back at quarterback and better luck due after going 1-5 in one-possession games in 2010, there's no reason (other than a revamped offensive line) Freeze can't get the Red Wolves back to 6-6. By 2014, Freeze will need to have: established ASU as an upper-tier Sun Belt program. Getting past Troy and up-and-coming FIU won't be easy, but there's nothing stopping the Red Wolves from joining in the SBC mix. Chances Freeze gets what he needs? Good. Freeze knows his way around the Arkansas and Tennessee recruiting scenes and has a sharp offensive mind; those traits alone should be enough to get the Red Wolves back to the postseason (for the first time since 2005) sooner rather than later.

MARK HUDSPETH, Lousiana (formerly UL-Lafayette)

Why him? Before taking a job on Dan Mullen's staff at Mississippi State , Hudpseth excelled as the head coach at Division II North Alabama, going 66-20 in seven seasons. For 2011, Hudspeth needs to: right the ship. A series of near-misses at a winning season under Rickey Bustle dissolved in a 3-9 disaster in 2010; a simple step in the right direction will be enough for one of the FBS's most tradition-deficient programs. By 2014, Hudspeth will need to have: earned a bowl bid. The Ragin' Cajuns have never taken part in FBS postseason play. Chances Hudspeth gets what he needs? Not bad. There's room to be upwardly mobile in the Sun Belt, and despite a relatively bare cupboard, Hudspeth has quality head coaching experience at only 42 years of age.



Posted on: January 7, 2011 1:58 am
 

Bowl Grades: GoDaddy.com Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A flurry of Dwight Dasher interceptions helps Miami (Ohio) pull away from Middle Tennessee State, 35-21.

MIAMI (OHIO)

Offense: The RedHawks were rarely a thing of beauty tonight, punting six times, turning the ball over twice, and failing to score seven times in eight possessions over the second and third quarters. But as they've done all year, they didn't need a lot of flashiness to get the job done. Bruising back Thomas Merriweather ran for 101 yards on 27 carries with a pair of short-yardage touchdowns behind a line that mostly got the better of their MTSU counterparts; quarterback Austin Boucher tossed two picks but hit a consistent 22-of-36 for 8 yards an attempt and two scores; three different RedHawk receivers finished with at least 4 receptions and 60 yards.

Sure, they did some things wrong. But they did far more things right, and on a night when the Blue Raiders couldn't get out of their own way, that was plenty. Grade: B+

Defense:
Miami struggled in the first half with Dasher's speed and elusiveness, but as soon as they figured out how to keep him in the pocket, the game was over; his four second-half picks were the decisive factor, with the Blue Raiders 4-of-13 showing on third-down conversions a close second. Giving up 6.6 yards a carry isn't good, but when your defense collects five turnovers and holds their opponent scoreless over the final seven possessions of a two-score game, one flaw's not going to ruin the whole performance. Grade: B+

Coaching:
Miami seemed like a prime candidate to mail in their bowl performance, losing head coach Mike Haywood, coming off the high of the MAC championship, taking the long trip to Mobile (Ala.) to play one of the postseason's most lightly-regarded bowl games. But interim head coach Lance Guidry and the rest of the Miami staff had the RedHawks plenty ready to play. Grade: A

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE

Offense:
The Blue Raider offense wasn't a total disaster; it put up a respectable 371 yards, averaged the aformentioned 6.6 yards per carry, and made enough big plays to keep MTSU in the game for three quarters. But five turnovers are about four too many, and over their final 13 possessions, none lasted longer than five plays. If you're giving the opponent back the ball that often -- either by punt or turnover -- they're going to outscore you eventually.

Also, those Dasher picks? Those weren't batted balls or great defensive plays; they were horrendous throws that handed Miami possession on a silver platter. Grade: D

Defense:
It's hard to put too much blame on a Blue Raider defense that kept being put in such difficult situations by the offense, and that kept Miami off the board for so much of the middle of the game. But at the same time, giving up more than 400 total yards and three touchdown drives of 70 yards or more to a team as low-fi as Miami isn't something to crow about. Merriweather, Boucher, and the other RedHawk skill position players are solid performers, but they're also just not the kind of explosive athletes that tend to keep defensive coordinators up at night. It's not hard to think MTSU could have done better. Grade: C+

Coaching:
The Blue Raiders played hard, no question about that. And it's not entirely the coaches' fault that Dasher was so intent on throwing the ball to the other team. But at some point, maybe Rick Stockstill and Co. should have done more to rein their quarterback in; with 14 interceptions on the season in only eight games coming in, it's not like they didn't know he had a penchant for being loose with the ball. Grade: C

FINAL GRADE:
The GoDaddy.com Bowl was diverting enough. It had a lot of big and exciting plays, it stayed competitive through nearly 55 minutes, and there was a sideline interview with Danica Patrick in which she compared the atmosphere to the Indy 500. (The IRL folks are so happy for you on your move on to NASCAR, no doubt, Danica.) But there was no escaping the overwhelming feeling that this was, truly, a matchup between a 6-6 Sun Belt also-ran and the MAC team the Vegas bookies had still installed as a small underdog to them, being played in a city whose tourism commercial (featuring unflattering shots of a shipyard and a flotilla of tacky candy-colored faux-antebellum dresses) only emphasized that this was most assuredly the bowl season's equivalent of off-off-Broadway. It's hard to get too excited when the stakes seemed this low. Grade: C+

Posted on: December 19, 2010 1:18 am
 

Bowl Grades: New Orleans Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Final score: Troy 48, Ohio 21

Troy

Offense: How good was the Troy offense? QB Corey Robinson was 21-27 for 262 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Um, that was at the half. Troy led at the break 38-7, and scored on every possession until the fourth quarter. Jerrel Jernigan and Tebiarus Gill combined for all five of Troy's touchdowns, and eventually combined for 144 yards from scrimmage. The Trojans would eventually register 602 yards from scrimmage, even after the reserves found their way onto the field. This is an easier A than Geology 101. Grade: A+

Defense: The Trojans did give up 21 points, but allowed only 99 yards on 30 rushes and four first downs on 12 third down conversion attempts. Ohio's offense was mostly stifled while the game was in any semblance of doubt. An interception by Jimmy Anderson in Troy territory set the tone for the game, and the Trojans never looked back. Grade: B

Coaching: Larry Blankeny put his team in a position to win by playing to his team's strengths. The Trojan offense is fast-paced and designed to highlight Robinson's accuracy, and the playcalling put the ball in Jernigan's hands in a variety of ways; Jernigan's first touchdown came out of a keeper from the Wildcat formation, and Jernigan would finish with three rushes on the day. Blankeny had his team fired up for the game, and the difference in effort was readily apparent throughout the first half -- at which point the game was pretty well decided. Grade: A

Ohio

Offense: The Ohio offense features a two-headed attack at quarterback; Boo Jackson is the better passer, while Phil Bates is the more athletic ball-carrier. Bates, in fact, threw one pass for the entire game; it was the Anderson interception on Ohio's second play from scrimmage mentioned earlier. So while Jackson threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns, almost none of it came in a first half that saw precisely one possession achieve a first down. Grade: D

Defense: The Bobcats did not play defense. Grade: INCOMPLETE

Coaching: What Frank Solich was thinking by staying conservative in the first half, even as Troy was running the Bobcats out of the Superdome, is beyond us. During the first two plays of each of the Bobcats' first half possessions, the Bobcats ran on 10 of 13 plays (the final drive of the half was one play long); those 10 rushes resulted in 10 yards and no first downs. Sure, the passing was 1-3 for six yards and an interception, but the message from Solich was clear: he had a formula, and he was sticking to it. It was a very ill-advised message to send, as it put Ohio out of any position to win. Grade: F

Final Grade

It would be unfair to give a failing grade to a game that featured such a well-functioning offense in the first three quarters AND a surprise giant manbeard courtesy of punter Will Goggans (above) in the fourth. There were aspects of the game that were fun to watch, even though the endgame drama had been sucked out of the Superdome by the end of the Trojans' fourth possession. Jerrel Jernigan is going to get a chance to succeed in the NFL, and we hope he makes the most of it; embarrassing the Ohio defense isn't exactly difficult to do, but he was the most athletic player on the field all the same, and some of the moves he made in stride were Sunday-worthy. It's just a shame that between the television audience and the laughably sparse Superdome crowd, probably under 100,000 people actually got to watch him. Still, this game was as anti-climactic as the first two, so we must grade sternly so as to send a message to the rest of the bowls: this will not do. Grade: D-

Posted on: December 19, 2010 12:16 am
Edited on: December 19, 2010 4:11 am
 

PHOTOS: Troy's punter has greatest beard ever

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Let's face it, it takes a "special" kind of person to stay watching a game like the New Orleans Bowl -- a 48-21 thumping by Troy over Ohio -- a couple minutes before midnight on the last Saturday before Christmas. Yet those who stayed with the game were rewarded when Troy punter Will Goggans finally got his shot at uncorking a punt in the fourth quarter (Troy had scored on every single possession before then). Goggans' punt was downed at the 1-yard line, which was cool to see in and of itself, but HOLY HOLY HOLY THAT BEARD:

According to announcers, Goggans has been growing the beard for the entire year in preparation for his role in a play as Santa Claus. Well, that's as good a reason as any to grow a beard. They also mentioned that Goggans would be shaving the beard in a few days after the play is done, and perhaps the women in his life would prefer he do so, but we must strenuously disagree with that decision. That's the finest beard in college football. He makes Adrian Clayborn look like an 8th grader with a crustache. May the beard live forever.


Posted on: November 29, 2010 12:16 pm
 

Meyer caught off guard by McCarney departure?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Maybe it doesn't mean anything. Maybe it's an accurate portrayal of the kind of miscommunication and perhaps even distrust that helps lead a program that won two national titles in three years and nearly played for a third into a 7-5 crater. Maybe the reporting simply isn't accurate. But it sounds like Urban Meyer wasn't aware that his defensive line coach was about to accept the head coaching position at North Texas :
The Denton (Tex.) Record-Chronicle is reporting that Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, who is also the Gators' assistant head coach, will be named as the new head coach at North Texas either today or Tuesday.
UF coach Urban Meyer said after Saturday night's 31-7 loss at Florida State he was unaware of McCarney's possible departure. The Texas paper, however, reported Sunday that a contract is being finalized.
If that's accurate, then McCarney stepped onto the sidelines for Florida 's humiliation against Florida State having already told the Mean Green he'd be accepting their offer ... but without having told Meyer the same. Obviously McCarney wouldn't want his negotiations to go public in the press, becoming a distraction in the days leading up to the game (not that it would have made any difference, apparently), but wouldn't the professional approach be to at least inform his immediate superior? If Meyer's telling the truth that McCarney hadn't discussed the matter with him, is this kind of disconnect between Meyer and his staff indicative of why the Gators have floundered so badly this season?

Those are difficult questions to answer, but we can at least say with certainty that McCarney's departure at this relatively late stage won't help Meyer's stated goal to "build [Florida] back up" via the avenue of recruiting ; while it's debatable whether McCarney maximized the immense talents on his defensive line (which has seen several high-profile busts as well as several smashing successes), the arrival last season of the nation's best defensive line class (and arguably the best in the recruiting rankings' history) shows that his recruiting touch, at the very least, won't easily be replaced. That Meyer appears to have been surprised by McCarney's defection won't help him find a replacement in a hurry, either, though at Florida it's also safe to say there won't be any shortage of qualified candidates.

As for North Texas, the hire seems like a good one; the veteran McCarney should know how to walk UNT back to respectability before they start running back towards Sun Belt championships. But back in Gainesville, his departure creates even more difficult questions for a program that, after this lost season, has no shortage of them at the moment.


 
 
 
 
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