Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
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Spring Practice Primer: USC


Posted by Bryan Fischer


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 USC.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 6.

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14.

Returning Starters: Nine on offense, eight on defense and both specialists.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Dealing with expectations.

USC safety T.J. McDonald and quarterback Matt Barkley are easy to tell apart if you see them walking around Heritage Hall or roaming around the Coliseum but they could not be more alike on paper after a remarkable run to close out last season. Both are captains, suit up in the cardinal and gold wearing number seven, each runs half the team and, most importantly to the Trojans in 2012, Barkley and McDonald announced they would return to school for their senior seasons on back-to-back days in late December. After two years without a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, the message both talked about was so clear that it's become the program's unofficial motto as they head into spring practice: unfinished business.

In many ways, this is about where everybody expects USC to be year-in and year-out given the program's history. A No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll to close out 2011 and, with 19 starters returning and a favorable schedule, expectations are running high for the first time since Lane Kiffin took over in Los Angeles.

"I really don't think it's expectations as much as it is being free - we kind of feel like we're being let out of prison," Kiffin said. "It's normal now. It's refreshing not to have the negative distractions. People will talk about expectations and all of that but the good thing is we have practice at dealing with that from our time here before."

USC will likely end up as the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country and despite scholarship limitations, will bring in ninth-ranked recruiting class with several five-star playmakers to supplement the group that will head out to Howard Jones field. It may be a return to normal with the national spotlight once again on Troy and Heisman candidate Barkley but for this group, it is something new. While the media will certainly be swarming like they did in the good old days and accolades and praise will come early and often, it's worth remembering that from the seniors to the freshman, this team hasn't faced anything like these expectations before. Will they play too loose or be wound too tight? It's something to keep tabs on.

"This is all about going out and preparing really well and practicing hard," Kiffin added. "It has been very refreshing to not deal with so much negativity and distractions, some of which was based on me and some on the sanctions."

2. New staff and new look.

For the first time in the Kiffin-era, the still youthful head coach has had to deal with some staff turnover. While the big stage the program provides has attracted more than it's fair share of coaches looking to boost their resume, the fact that two coaches left so close to spring practice definitely added a question mark or two to the team's outlook. Scottie Hazelton will take over as linebackers coach and was a surprise pick by many but he brings a solid resume that includes being the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State last season as they won the FCS national championship. It's not a flashy hire by any means and it will be interesting to see how Hazelton deals with the level of competition taking a leap but luckily for him he'll have most of last year's linebacking corps back.

USC hasn't had a full-time secondary coach since right before the 2011 season following the sudden departure of Willie Mack Garza due to NCAA issues. Kiffin took his time in landing a replacement but lured Marvin Sanders out West after he had just taken over as FAU's defensive coordinator. Mostly known for his time as Nebraska's secondary coach, Sanders has coached several top NFL draft picks and contributed to some very good Cornhuskers defenses. He'll take over a group that needs some development but is among the deepest on the team, especially at safety.

"It's going to be refreshing to have a spring with all these guys in place," Kiffin said. "There will be some growing pains but we'll be rolling by the time we get to the fall."

The final hire might have drawn the most press given new receivers coach Tee Martin's place in Tennessee lore. Though his group dealt with drops in his final season at Kentucky, Martin is known for being a good recruiter and helped turn Randall Cobb into an All-American the year before. He'll have the best group of wide receivers in the country to work with this spring, led by All-Americans Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to go along with former five-star George Farmer.

3. Line depth.

The biggest question marks surrounding the Trojans are centered on the trenches. Four of the five offensive linemen return but replacing a top three NFL Draft pick in Matt Kalil will be not be easy despite the unit becoming the biggest surprise of the team last year. The interior of the line is the strength with Marcus Martin and John Martinez solid at the guard spots and All-American candidate Khaled Holmes leading the way at center. Kevin Graf will get first shot at replacing Kaili at left tackle while Aundrey Walker will be on the other side. Both played those positions in high school and, with several starts under their belt already, should ease some concerns. Beyond that though, and depth is still an issue until the fall.

The outlook at defensive line is not so rosy, with three starters gone and the Pac-12 leader in sacks impressing everybody at the NFL Combine. Pencil in Wes Horton and Devon Kennard at the end spot but depth behind them and who takes over at tackle will be the reason Ed Orgeron is up late at night (and not just the Red Bull). Those inside the program expect a lot out of sophomore George Uko.

"I'm really looking at seeing how well these tackles, Aundrey and Kevin do," Kiffin said. "I also really want to seeing the continued development of our defense with so much experience coming back and with two new coaches. I really want to be a dominant defensive team like (USC in) '02 or '03. Big five turnover or seven sack games, the type where you have just a suffocating defense."

If the Trojans are going to live up to expectations, figuring things out along the lines will be paramount this spring.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:35 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 5:37 pm
 

SEC announces Media Days dates, schedule

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



For those of you who see SEC Media Days as the starter's pistol signaling the final dash to the end of another endless college football offseason, we have good news: that pistol is going to fire earlier than ever.

The SEC announced its schedule for the 2012 edition of Media Days Monday, which will run from July 17 through July 19 in its typical home at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. (Journalists in attendance should begin sharpening their complaints about the Wynfrey's notoriously difficult Internet access now.) That July 17 date stands as a full three days earlier than any of the past five year's editions, and if you don't think that's that big a deal, you've forgotten how it feels in mid-July when every scrap of football news is a delicious morsel to save. (Also, you may be sane.)

Here's the full schedule: 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1st session (approx. 1 – 3:30 p.m.) – South Carolina, Texas A&M
2nd session (approx. 3:20 – 6 p.m.) -- Missouri, Vanderbilt

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.) – Florida, Mississippi State
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Arkansas, Kentucky
3rd session (approx. 2:30 – 5 p.m.) – Auburn, LSU

Thursday, July 19, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.) – Alabama, Tennessee
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Ole Miss, Georgia

Our expected highlights from each session:

Tues., 1stSteve Spurrier casually joking about asking Kevin Sumlin where he might be able to find an old-school Fun N' Gun-style quarterback like Case Keenum, then afterwards seriously asking Kevin Sumlin where he might be able to find an old-school Fun N' Gun-style quarterback like Case Keenum.

Tues., 2ndJames Franklin being asked about James Franklin, followed by James Franklin being asked about James Franklin.

Wed., 1stWill Muschamp oh-so-subtly suggesting he might welcome Dan Mullen back to Florida if things don't improve this season in Gainesville; Dan Mullen oh-so-subtly suggesting he might go back to back to Florida if things don't improve this season in Starkville.

Wed., 2ndBobby Petrino being unable to stifle his chuckles from the back of the room as Joker Phillips outlines the steps forward he expects his offense to take this season.

Wed., 3rd: The stoic-at-a-molecular level in front of press Gene Chizik and the molecularly un-stoic in front of press Les Miles causing a press-conference antimatter explosion when they shake hands.

Thurs., 1st: Derek Dooley and Nick Saban singing a duet on the Dooley-penned bluegrass tune "Your Best Interests Have Tamed My Triflin' Heart." As it turns out, Saban plays the most technically proficient banjo you've ever heard.

Thurs., 2nd: Hugh Freeze asks Mark Richt if he arm-wrestle him for that "League's Nicest Guy" coffee mug he thought he spotted in his office.

The best news? The actual Media Days will likely be even better than our expectations. July 17 isn't that far away, and it still can't come soon enough.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 5:45 pm
 

The SEC schedule paradox: what are the options?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Attention Birmingham residents: don't be surprised if you look in the "help wanted" section of your local Craigslist this weekend and find an ad from a user named "NoJiveSlive6nCounting" seeking "experienced cat-herder, must be able to wrangle up to 14 strong-willed athletic direc ... er, cats, with 14 differing agendas into moving in the same direction. Happily. Or at least, not angrily."

If you do, you can bet it's a response to this week's meeting of SEC athletic directors, where efforts to begin hammering out a football schedule for 2013 -- and, more importantly, a planned rotation for the seasons beyond -- seemed to have gone just an inch or two past nowhere. Reading the comments of those A.D.'s both during and after the meetings, it's easy to see why; not only is every SEC school bringing its own aims and ideas to the table, but they can't even agree on what they think they agree on. Just ask LSU and Florida, who are both willing to give up their annual cross-division rivalry or, in fact, aren't, depending on who you ask.

Of course, anyone who wasn't expecting these kinds of difficulties as soon as Texas A&M and Missouri joined the league wasn't paying attention. As we've repeated ad nauseum in this space, what the SEC wants -- preserved cross-divisional rivalries, semi-regular rotations for other East-West matchups, a divisional round-robin -- and the number of league games in which it wants them -- i.e., eight -- is flatly impossible, the scheduling equivalent of dividing by zero. Some kind of compromise somewhere in that tangled thicket of demands is inevitable.

But which compromise makes the most sense? Let's break down the SEC's options:

1. A NINE-GAME SCHEDULE

Pros: The simplest solution would give the conference room to preserve one annual cross-division game per team (saving the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and Third Saturday in October), two slots for rotating cross-division opponents (shortening the gap between home-and-homes to four years), and still fit in the NCAA-mandated six-game intra-divisional round-robin. There's little doubt the league's television partners would vastly prefer another round of conference contests to a snoozer over yet another faceless Sun Belt punching bag.

Cons: They are many, the biggest one being that half the league would be giving up the cash bonanza of a guaranteed home game each year; for teams committed to a nonconference rivalry that requires a biannual road game (South Carolina with Clemson, Georgia with Georgia Tech, etc.) that loss will be particularly tough to swallow. There's also the increased difficulty of bottom-rung teams scheduling their way to a bowl berth; the inevitable loss of one-off nonconference series like LSU's with West Virginia; the inherent unfairness of half the league getting five home games and half just four ... all in all, it's understandable why the league would prefer to stick at eight if at all possible.

2. KEEP SELECTED CROSS-DIVISIONAL RIVALRIES

Pros: In other words, let Georgia play Auburn and Alabama play Tennessee (and maybe LSU and Florida? Arkansas and Missouri?) on an annual basis while everyone else rotates their cross-division opponents. The rivalries that matter are preserved while teams without such rivalries maintain scheduling flexibility.

Cons: For the teams with permanent cross-division rivals and just one rotating cross-division slot, match-ups with the rest of the opposite division will be few and far between--just one home-and-home over 12 years. Will teams in the West who want to recruit Georgia be happy with one trip to Athens every dozen seasons? Will East teams that struggle to fill their stadiums like Vanderbilt or Kentucky be happy with one visit from the Crimson Tide every 12 years? Will traditional rivals Auburn and Florida live with almost never playing each other again? This compromise is better than assigning every team a permanent cross-divisional rival, but it still has major problems.

3. PLAY ONLY FIVE INTRA-DIVISIONAL GAMES

Pros: As discussed by Mississippi State A.D. Scott Stricklin here, this would require an NCAA waiver or repeal of the current rule requiring conferences to stage intra-divisional round-robins to hold a title game (and such a waiver was granted to the MAC, albeit when that league had 13 teams and needed it to make an eight-game schedule work). But it would free up one key slot for a cross-divisional game--and it's hard to think of a team in the league that wouldn't take someone in the opposite division over someone in their own. League regularly dealt with tiebreaks between teams that hadn't played head-to-head back in the pre-divisional days.

Cons: Just because they dealt with them doesn't mean awkward tiebreaks are somehow a good thing; ask the Big 12 about its 2008 season sometime. And it may all be moot anyway--the NCAA may not be inclined to grant the waiver in the first place.

4. REALIGN DIVISIONS

Pros: If Auburn/Georgia and Tennessee/Alabama need to play every year, why not just lump them all into the same division and make the issue of cross-division rivalries irrelevant? You'd have to ignore geography entirely where South Carolina was concerned, but a "Rivalry" division of Tigers, Bulldogs, Volunteers, Crimson Tide, Gators, Commodores, and Wildcats -- with LSU, A&M, Missouri, Arkansas, the Mississippi schools, and the Gamecocks in the "Other" division -- would preserve almost every classic SEC series. And if you don't like that arrangement, there's always other options.

Cons: Hoo boy, the Gamecocks would not be happy with having their Georgia series dissolved in the above scenario. And even if you convince them, any scenario which lumps both Alabama schools in with the traditional East powers is going to be far too competitively weighted towards that division--the West could have just one team (LSU) that had won the league since 1963. 

5. ELIMINATE DIVISIONS ENTIRELY

ProsMore than one SEC fan has proposed simply doing away with the divisional setup -- allowing teams to schedule as many annual rivals or rotated games as they wish -- and having the top two teams in the standings play off in the league championship game. No other suggestion in this list would make scheduling easier.

Cons: That the NCAA has mandated divisions for a championship game since the game's inception is a hurdle just a shade smaller than the Empire State Building, and of course the money-tree that is the SEC Championship Game is going to go away when Razorbacks fly. Then there's the tiebreaking issues, the regressive feel of reverting to the pre-1992 standings table ... this isn't happening.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Short of pitching two schools overboard, which will happen immediately after the league gives up its championship game to help it live a life of "monastic conferencehood, in which championships are awarded for each team's level of enlightenment," nope.

SO WHAT SHOULD THE LEAGUE DO?

Simple: go to nine games. For the likes of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky, this means just two nonconference "paycheck" breathers and some massaging of the road/home split to make sure each team doesn't have too many games away from home in one season.

But guess what? The Bulldogs only played two paycheck games last season, and they ended up all right. LSU played only six true home games last year, only two of them vs. tomato can opposition, and their world somehow continued to spin as well. We're not sure there's a fan in the league that wouldn't be willing to trade two seasons' worth of exhibitions against Cupcake State for one ticket vs. legitimate SEC opposition.

BUT WHAT WILL THEY DO?

Despite the noises coming from Georgia's Greg McGarity, we expect -- and fervently hope -- that even a money-grab as naked as this round of SEC expansion has its limits, and that those limits stop outside the cancellation of Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee. For now, expect the league to opt for option No. 2, where the schools who want permanent cross-division rivalries get them and those that don't don't. And in the long run? When the demands of television viewers and high price of paying off bodybags makes that extra home game more trouble than it's worth, the ninth game will make it debut. 

Unfortunately, there's going to be a lot of hand-wringing, a lot of scary-sounding statements, and a lot of Mike Slive cat-herding before we get to that or any compromise. Buckle in, SEC, fans.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:15 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Terry Joseph is seventh assistant to leave Vols

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's March 2, and even after February had an extra day in it this year, Tennessee is somehow still hemorrhaging assistant coaches.

According to a report from Tennessee Rivals affiliate Volquest.com and confirmed by CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, Vol defensive backs coach (and recruiting coordinator) Terry Joseph has resigned to accept the same position at Nebraska. The Huskers' secondary coaching position came open when LSU hired Bayou Bengal alum Corey Raymond away from Nebraska Feb. 27. Joseph served as a graduate assistant under Huskers head coach Bo Pelini during Pelini's tenure as defensive coordinator at (you guessed it) LSU.

Joseph becomes the seventh Volunteer assistant to depart Derek Dooley's struggling program this offseason, with his decision ensuring that Dooley will enter the 2012 season with an entirely new defensive staff. The only holdovers from the Vols' 2011 staff will be offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and current wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw. With Hinshaw having moved to the receivers' role after coaching quarterbacks last season, not one position on the Vol depth chart will be coached by the same position coach as in 2011.

On the one hand, Joseph's individual departure isn't that big a deal; it comes too late to make any impact on the 2012 recruiting class, but early enough that Dooley should be able to repair the damage both in terms of the 2013 class and in finding someone worthwhile to coach DB's before the 2012 season.

On the other, every shred of stability Dooley could hang onto in a program that's been reeling ever since its season-ending defeat at Kentucky is a huge help, and losing seven assistants in a matter of months -- many of them in moves there's no way other to describe other than "lateral" -- not only erodes that stability, it creates the image of a program that's unstable enough to have its head coach dismissed if things don't turn around.

That image, in turn, does make the program more unstable. Dooley still has plenty going for him, but the lack of confidence shown in him and his program by his now-former assistants has made what already shaped up as a make-or-break season that much more difficult. If there's a coach in the SEC in more dire need of a positive spring camp, we haven't seen him.

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 12:18 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Kentucky LB Ridge Wilson arrested and suspended

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Kentucky linebacker Ridge Wilson was arrested over the weekend in Louisville and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance. A charge that is considered a felony.

Wilson was parked in his car with the lights off when a policeman approached his vehicle to see what Wilson was doing. Inside the car he found a pair of jeans in the back seat with a bag of Xanax in the pocket. Police also found $1,947 in the pants Wilson was wearing.

Police also said that Wilson kept mentioning to them that he was a football player at Kentucky, and seemed nervous the entire time.

Wilson has been suspended by Kentucky following the arrest, though when asked about the suspension, spokesperson Tom Neely would only say that Wilson "broke team rules."

Wilson, who will be a senior in the 2012 season, had 47 tackles in 9 games for Kentucky last season, including 3 for a loss and 2 sacks.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:12 pm
 

Kiffin blames youth for conflict with Meyer

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Urban Meyer isn't making a lot of friends in his new digs in the Big Ten, which makes it all the more ironic that he's on better terms than ever with his old SEC archenemy, Lane Kiffin.

Meyer told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd recently that he and Kiffin "have conversations" and that each has apologized to the other over their conduct while at Florida and Tennessee, respectively. Those conversations were confirmed by Kiffin in a Tuesday interview with the Atlanta Jornal-Constitutionin which Kiffin blamed his behavior -- including smack talk aimed in Meyer's direction over the recruitment of Nu'Keese Richardson -- on the impetuousness of youth (emphasis added):

“Yeah, I’m glad Urban and I are where we are in our relationship. When you’re young, you make some mistakes. We’ve moved forward from that. Who would’ve guessed we are back at battling each other for recruits even though we’re a long ways away? I have tremendous respect for what Urban Meyer does.”

We'll take this opportunity to remind readers that Kiffin made his remarks about Richardson ("I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him") three whole years ago, when Kiffin was a mere 33 years of age--far from the grizzled, world-weary 36-year old he is now. 

But snark aside, even if Kiffin isn't actually that much older than he was during his Volunteer tenure, his relationship with Meyer seems to show that he has gotten more mature. Which is not to say he's lost any of his talent for clever remarks in front of a microphone, saying of the Vols' notorious loss to Kentucky (and his reputation among Vol fans),  "I’m sure somebody somewhere blamed me for that."

A Lane Kiffin with all of his old coaching acumen and overall shrewdness, but without the petty childish distractions and torrent of secondary violations? Maybe that doesn't have a lot to do with USC's likely preseason No. 2 ranking ... but it's sure not hurting, either.

Kiffin's Trojans will start spring practice March 6. See when your team starts their camp or plays their spring game with our handy database of spring dates 

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Posted on: February 15, 2012 10:22 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 12:33 am
 

Tee Martin joining USC staff as WR coach

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Maybe if this whole football thing doesn't work out for Matt Barkley he can give journalism a try. The USC quarterback broke some news on Wednesday night by tweeting that Tee Martin was joining USC's staff as wide receivers coach.

News that CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman was able to confirm on Wednesday night.

Tee Martin had spent the last two seasons in the same position at Kentucky, though he was also promoted to passing game coordinator before last season. Martin had been a popular target among coaching staffs across the SEC for his ability as a coach and his recruiting ability as well.

Though most college football fans likely remember Martin as the quarterback of the 1998 Tennessee team that won its first national championship in 47 years.

Now, ironically enough, Martin leaves Kentucky, a rival of Tennessee's, to take a job at USC. The same USC that lured Lane Kiffin away from Tennessee. A move that didn't exactly make Kiffin a popular name in Knoxville.

So next time Martin is in Knoxville, he might want to have that championship ring on display for self-defense.

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Posted on: January 31, 2012 1:37 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 3:45 pm
 

SEC commemorates sixth national title with shirt

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Hey, remember when the SEC used the cover of its 2011 media guide to oh-so-subtly remind the rest of college football which conference had won the previous five national titles? Now that that number has been bumped up one more notch, they're letting the fans officially get in on the fun--not that SEC fans have ever needed the encouragement.

That encouragement nonetheless arrived Tuesday with the appearance of this t-shirt in the SEC's official Internet store:

 

On the one hand, we'd wonder why Alabama fans would wear a t-shirt that also commemorates Auburn's 2010 title, LSU fans one reminding them of their crushing loss to the Tide this past January as well as their 2007 championship, Georgia fans one that reflects a pair of Florida titles, etc. And it's pretty much impossible to wear this as a fan of, say, Kentucky and not be accused of coattail-riding, isn't it?

On the other, these are SEC fans we're talking about, and you never know when you might wind up planning a trip to Columbus, Austin, or Eugene. So: expect them to sell like hot cakes.

You can pick up your own in the CBSSports.com Shop

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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