Notre Dame isn't known as the most popular team in college football, but fans of all color combinations should laud the Irish for their 2014 schedule.
With the College Football Playoff beginning this season, the selection committee should place a greater emphasis on which teams each school plays from start to finish. Exactly how much emphasis remains to be seen, according to ESPN's Brad Edwards.
In any case, no one on the selection committee is likely to question Notre Dame's strength of schedule. On paper, the Irish have what appears to be a rough, if not brutal, road ahead.
Let's take a look at some quick numbers.
Notre Dame faces 10 teams that had winning records last season, six of which had double-digit wins. Thanks to Notre Dame's scheduling agreement with the ACC in conjunction with its partial membership, the Irish will travel to Florida State on Oct. 18.
The Seminoles, of course, are the defending national champs with the best player in college football, quarterback Jameis Winston.
By themselves, previous records aren't necessarily indicative of how a team will look the following year. Which players (and coaches) are coming back play a role, too. In all, Notre Dame's opponents project to have an average of 14 starters returning, according to Phil Steele.
Even then, there's context. Louisville, for example, loses head coach Charlie Strong to Texas and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL. That doesn't mean the Cardinals won't be a competitive team with a good first-year coach, Bobby Petrino, but it's worth noting.
On the other hand, Northwestern has a majority of its starting 22 returning from last year's 5-7 disaster. The Wildcats were ranked 16th in the country heading into their Oct. 5 game against Ohio State, a 40-30 loss. That's when things went south and Northwestern lost six straight games. It's not clear what head coach Pat Fitzgerald did to anger the football gods, but it must have been something wretched.
The Wildcats are better than that, and they'll be out to prove it in '14.
With Northwestern, Navy, North Carolina and Rice, there really aren't any pushovers on Notre Dame's schedule. Even Purdue showed last year in a 31-24 loss to the Irish that there are few "gimmes" on any schedule.
Yes, Purdue is beatable—quite beatable, in fact. So are a handful of teams on the '14 schedule. But beatable shouldn't be confused with easy.
So did Notre Dame schedule its way out of a CFP appearance?
First, these agreements are formulated years—sometimes many years—in advance. It's impossible to truly know how good or bad a team is going to be. The exception here is the aforementioned agreement with the ACC.
Secondly, you're never going to get an argument here that scheduling tough is a bad thing.
That said, as the Irish begin spring practice, questions loom about who will step up in the defensive front seven. Nose tackle Louis Nix is gone, as is the entire linebacker unit.
That could be a major problem against a power offense like Stanford's.
Quarterback Everett Golson returns after sitting out the '13 season with an academic issue, but how will he look? Will the Irish utilize two quarterbacks again?
These aren't the best questions to answer when your opponents are Florida State, Arizona State and the like.
In an era when strength of schedule is such a focal point, Notre Dame should be commended for its 12-game slate. Nevertheless, it will be a tough route to navigate. Without at least 10 wins, it's going to be hard for the Irish to make the four-team playoff.
Still, it's an attractive schedule. Get double-digit wins and there's likely no debate about the Irish's postseason destination.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.
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Whether your team finished 0-12 or won the final BCS National Championship, the sounds of pads popping and whistles blowing gives hope that 2014 will be good.
It's the annual rite of passage known as spring football, but for a select group of coaches this is it—their final chance to get it right or ship out.
Yes, no one is getting fired on spring football alone (unless said coach is doing something wrong off the field), but the fact is spring ball sets a major tone for the year ahead. Just ask Illinois how a good spring can lead to huge improvement quickly.
As spring football gets going, here are a select group of coaches who could really use a positive change this spring. Consider these coaches squarely on the hot seat.
*All coaches' salary information courtesy USA Today Sports.
Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst is on the verge of something unprecedented. It's a decision that could mold how other programs' offseasons are handled in the future. It’s not groundbreaking in nature, but rather an honest assessment of his current situation.
Chryst has decided to cancel his team’s spring game, which typically serves as an annual celebration of the program. Instead of leaning on injuries or venue complications, however, he’s openly expressed his desire for just one more practice—a few hours with his kids—instead.
And given his current situation, he’s absolutely correct in doing so.
For coaches, practices are like currency. Call it a mix of supreme confidence—some might even call it arrogance—a solid helping of experience and a dollop of unrelenting optimism. Whether these valuable hours come before a bowl game—perhaps a college football coach’s most cherished seven-win commodity—or on an unassuming day in March, this time in invaluable.
This mindset is shared everywhere, from Alabama to the Division III school striving to hit that five-win mark next year. Rarely are such cutthroat approaches revealed in such broad daylight, however, especially with the perception that might come from it.
Speaking with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Chryst justified the cancellation of the game with the following:
The thought behind [the decision], honestly, is to get one more good work day out of them. Most, if not every spring game I’ve been a part of, you really end up sacrificing a lot. It sounds crazy, but just being locked into a place, bad weather. … You’re kind of locked into that day. These days are really valuable for us.
It’s a little bit selfish doing what’s best for the program. You appreciate [the fans]. You don’t want it to come off as not being appreciative. It’s not the intent. But there is real conviction that for this group of guys, the guys in the building … you feel really good that this is the right thing. You hope the people appreciate that.
Last season, Florida canceled its spring game after the offensive line endured a flurry of injuries. The Gators held a regular practice at Florida Field instead. Other teams have had to adjust their plans because of injuries, turning their spring “game” into an open practice of sorts.
Texas A&M has canceled its spring game for 2014 and 2015 because its football home, Kyle Field, is undergoing a massive renovation.
The solid excuse for not having a game hasn’t stopped head coach Kevin Sumlin for chiming in on their overall worth. While he didn’t go as far as Chryst in his assessment, his comment wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, via Coachingsearch.com:
I miss it for the fans. Last year, we have 50,000 people here and ESPN here as a great recruiting opportunity, great national exposure for the program. It’s a great thing for fans. It was a beautiful day to get out and see the team. But from a football standpoint, I’ll be honest with you: You guys know me. That second half goes real quick. I’m ready to get out of there. The goal of that day is to look halfway decent and get out of that thing without getting anybody hurt. That’s the goal of that. For the fans, it’s a bigger deal.
On the other side of the reaction spectrum is Auburn or, more specifically, Athletic Director Jay Jacobs. Jacobs is not only in favor of the game, but he took his appreciation of the event to another level while speaking with CBS Sports’ Jeremy Fowler.
“There isn't any doubt” the game was a springboard for a national title run, Jacobs said.
The benefits of these games can vary greatly on the situation—something Pitt is currently coming to public terms with. But the reality of most well-attended games is they serve as a showcase for the program. They’re for the fans, the cameras and the recruits tuning in at home.
Their actual football usefulness is typically drowned out by the absurd scoring systems often used and the buzz hopefully manufactured throughout the afternoon.
While you can preach game situations, experience and live play as selling points for these team-on-team scrimmages, most spring games are moving billboards.
That’s not to say this is all for show and playing in front of the masses can’t have a positive impact on young players, but this an event more than a time to learn. The problem for Pittsburgh is the term “event” is relative.
Unlike Texas A&M, Pittsburgh didn't draw 50,000 fans to their 2013 game. In fact, they fell well short of 5,000.
The 3,642 fans who attended the Panthers' spring game at Bethel Park High School put them ahead of just 14 teams nationally and behind the likes of Wake Forest (4,200), Texas State (4,608), Middle Tennessee (5,000) and Western Kentucky (6,500).
Without an on-campus stadium, Pitt has had to be creative when picking locations. And while playing at a local high school is a solid play in the local recruiting world—it can also be a tough sell. It can be a tougher sell if the weather does not cooperate.
That's not the case for the SEC, which enjoyed sunshine and enormous attendance figures last year. Eight out of the top 11 best-attended spring games came from the SEC. In total, a staggering 569,638 fans attended spring games within that conference, according to al.com.
For teams like Tennessee and Kentucky—No. 3 and No. 5 in the SEC in attendance—the spring game served as the first real public celebration of a hopeful turnaround. Other football-centric schools in the conference took advantage of the nice weather and an established, passionate following.
But not all programs have these luxuries, be it sunshine, T-shirt temperatures or a guaranteed fan base that will pour through the gates on a spring Saturday regardless of last year’s win-loss mark.
Pittsburgh, at the moment, is on the exact opposite side of the spectrum in many of these categories, and it has identified it appropriately. Instead of a day of underwhelming, forced excitement, the Panthers are hoping to cash in this practice currency for one more practice.
Given the totality of the situation, how could you possibly blame them?
This is not a vendetta against the fans or a national stand that should be admired. It’s a candid assessment and a strategy to which other programs can relate. While Nick Saban would love to seal the doors and maximize these hours, Alabama’s spring game garners far too much interest—78,315 fans and maximize coverage—for him to pull the plug.
For Alabama, despite the questionable football worth, the spring game still offers up enormous perks. The situation makes sense, and there is value.
This overall value is mainly in our corner—the desperate media member craving news and the fan looking for a good excuse to drink beer and watch live hitting out of season. Those reasons are good enough from our perspective, but they might not match up with a team’s agenda.
The answer isn’t immediately to follow Pittsburgh’s lead and cancel every spring game from here on out. There are conversations to be had, though—realistic evaluations of the value of these games for a particular program. And if that means removing the game in the favor of one more practice—just a few perceived critical hours—so be it.
Spring buzz is just that—buzz. And the reality of such desired hype is that nothing generates program interest like the tried and tested approach.
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But while that duo—along with LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and others—performed well in Indianapolis, others weren't so lucky.
We'll break down the situations that face several SEC players who struggled in Indy up ahead.
Additionally, we'll take a look at two of the league's stars who were held out of combine workouts due to injury but should be back in time to impress scouts during their school's pro day.
Gus Malzahn ain't going anywhere.
Auburn rewarded its first-year head coach with a hefty raise and six-year extension in December, locking up Malzahn until 2019 with an additional $250,000 each year he stays on the Plains, according to Joel Erickson of AL.com.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban signed a similar extension roughly a week after Malzahn and not long after saying he's "too damn old to go some place else," per Andrew Gribble of AL.com. LSU head coach Les Miles, meanwhile, signed his own extension the prior December and has already spurned Michigan, his alma mater (and supposed dream job), to remain in Baton Rouge.
Which is to say, beyond a shade of dissent, that the SEC West is loaded at the top—not just now but in the future. In terms of building and sustaining a program, no sport is more reliant on its head coaches than college football. The SEC West has three of the undisputed best in America.
Among that triumvirate, however, there is a small schism.
Saban and Miles are old-school, win-with-defense coaches, the kind of guys your father or your father's father might prefer. Their offenses perform outmoded strategies like "clock control" and "risk minimization" and employ anachronistic players like "the fullback."
Malzahn is the opposite: a new-school, win-with-offense coach, the kind of guy your father's son or your father's father's son might prefer (hint: that's you). He doesn't control the clock so much as he sprints right though it—a feat for which Saban, along with a small minority of other FBS head coaches, has tried to change the rulebook to combat.
Saban and Miles have a longer resume of success, but right now Malzahn is the college head coach du jour. He led Auburn to within 13 seconds of the national title last season, one year after inheriting a team that went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.
If they want to sustain their dominance of the past decade, Alabama and LSU must devise a foolproof method that stops Malzahn's attack. Especially because Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M also reside in the division, game-planning against the uptempo offense is the most important thing an SEC West team can do both next year and in the foreseeable years that follow.
But which team, Alabama or LSU, is in better shape to crack the code?
Neither defense struggled, per se, to stop Auburn's offense last season. LSU held it to a season-low 5.14 yards per play, Alabama to a respectable 5.78. The latter number goes down to 5.28 if you eliminate Auburn's final offensive down: a 39-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates on a play that even the strictest Tigers "homer" would admit was broken and, thus, kind of lucky.
Things won't be so easy in 2014, though, when Malzahn will return eight starters to an offense that finished No. 7 in Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings and led the nation with 328 rushing yards per game.
Meanwhile, Saban and Miles will lose players such as C.J. Mosley, Ed Stinson, Anthony Johnson and Lamin Barrow—the only four Crimson Tide and Tigers to appear on either of the All-SEC coaches teams last season—along with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri, Trey DePriest, Jeoffrey Pagan, Deion Belue, Ed Stinson, Adrian Hubbard, Ego Ferguson and Craig Loston.
That's a lot of talent.
If Alabama and LSU want to enjoy the same (relative) success against Auburn next season, the personnel won't be as responsible as the coaches.
It will be a chess match that Saban, along with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, and/or Miles, along with defensive coordinator John Chavis, must find a way to win.
As is often the case in matters like these, you cannot go wrong picking either Alabama or LSU. There are arguments to be made for both sides, and good ones at that.
For Alabama, there is the argument of timing.
Unlike LSU, the Tide couldn't beat Auburn in 2013. But they played the Tigers in the final game of the regular season. LSU, meanwhile, played Auburn in September, before Malzahn's team hit its late-season stride.
Marshall was three games, not 10 games, into his career as an FBS quarterback, and the curve of his development, starting roughly around the Texas A&M game, when not just he but the entire Auburn offense began to click, was closer to exponential than linear.
The Auburn team Alabama played in Jordan-Hare was much different (read: better) than the team LSU beat in Baton Rouge. The final scoreboard is damning, but Alabama, in many respects, did a more impressive job defending Malzahn than LSU.
For LSU, there is the argument of sample size.
Malzahn's system is unique unto himself, but it falls under the grander category of uptempo offenses.
Another team in that category is Texas A&M, which conveniently happens to play Alabama and LSU every year. And in each of the past two seasons, the Aggies have been kryptonite to Alabama's defense but been kryptonite'd by LSU's:
Over the past two seasons, Alabama has allowed an average of roughly 10 points per game to teams that aren't Texas A&M but 36 points per game to the Aggies. LSU has allowed 29 points to A&M in the past two years combined—a number Alabama has failed to stay under in either meeting.
This is important because it nullifies, in some respects, the argument of timing issued in Alabama's favor above. Neither team played A&M when it was starting to put the pieces together in 2012 (i.e., the phase in which LSU played Auburn last season), instead getting the peak version of Johnny Manziel, so the results are not skewed in the same respect.
Ergo, these numbers seem to say that Chavis has been better than Smart against the uptempo offense these past few seasons. Beyond that, LSU returns seven defensive starters to Alabama's five, according to Phil Steele's experience chart. The Tigers lost four of their best defensive players, sure, but the Tide lost eight or nine of their own.
Alabama's defense in 2014 should look a lot like LSU's in 2013: filled from top to bottom with blue-chip recruits but not experienced enough to function at its usual mode of efficiency. It won't be a bad defense, and it should still be one of the SEC's best.
It just won't be one of Alabama's best.
LSU gave a lot of meaningful reps to young players last season and should reap the benefit of that experience in 2014. It doesn't have the star power of a normal Chavis defense, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. There is balance at all three levels.
Despite playing at Jordan-Hare—whereas Alabama will get Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa—LSU is, by a nose, my bet to slow down Malzahn's attack in 2014. The Tigers have always fared well in marquee road games during the Miles era, and there's no reason to expect that will stop. They will come prepared to play.
The race is close, however, and not worth actually betting on.
For all anybody knows, Alabama could be the right answer. Both could be the right answer. Neither could be the right answer. A lot depends on the continued development of Marshall, on how Auburn replaces future pros like Tre Mason and Greg Robinson in 2014.
There is so much we do not know, but amid all the chaos and questions atop the SEC West, one fact does stick out for certain.
It's going to be must-watch television.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT
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As quarterback Braxton Miller sits out the spring recovering from surgery, the Buckeyes are missing on a shot for the team to grow together as a more cohesive unit. Even with a push to task the signal-caller with ample vocal and mental duties, Ohio State is missing out on Miller gelling with the new faces that will push into the starting lineup.
Ohio State is certainly not wasting the spring sessions, even with Miller sidelined due to shoulder surgery. As Ari Wasserman points out at Cleveland.com, the staff is making sure Miller is as engaged as someone in his position can possibly be during practice. Miller is calling plays, pointing out what he sees and helping direct the offense from the sideline, all with a sling on his arm. As Meyer points out:
"He actually calls the play and also tells us what he sees in the secondary (during practice)," Meyer said. "His issues are verbal communication and keeping the eyes on the secondary. It will be a productive spring (for him). He's into it now."
Actions that certainly will prove beneficial for the quarterback, who is looking to develop the mental aspect of his game. What he is not getting is a chance to match his physical performance with what he's seeing on the field—that element will have to wait until summer and into fall camp.
Chalk it up to a series of unfortunate events, as Miller's February surgery rendered him out for spring, unable to match the physical with the mental. Thus, while Miller's calling out plays, protections and coverages, he is missing out on working behind the revamped offensive line and establishing a rapport with faces, old and new, on the offensive side of the ball.
That said, Braxton Miller, thanks to Urban Meyer and this Buckeyes' staff, is certainly not wasting the spring season. Forcing the quarterback to remain engaged, not just doing rehab or off to the side talking to players not on the practice field, is a massive step up from what many injured players do during spring. Miller's not out at "Muscle Beach" doing one-armed kettle bells and running in the sand; he is remaining locked in during practice periods.
Mental reps are not perfect, watching from behind the actual action, or from the side, is not the most accurate depiction of in-game scenarios. With Miller not throwing or running, facing pressure or defenses reacting to him, there will be rust to knock off come summer for the quarterback. However, by remaining active during periods, Miller is getting an extensive, and extended, live-action film session.
And thanks to the device recording his decisions and reads, it is also an extended session for his coaches to review.
Film holds true utility when it comes to athletes improving, especially on the gridiron. While Miller misses on the physical, he continues to grow his cerebral understanding of playing the position. With the extended film work, including the live sessions, the staff will get a shot to evaluate Miller's mental understanding extensively.
For Ohio State, a team that loses pieces on the offensive line, plus stud running back Carlos Hyde, having Miller active during spring would help make the transition easier on the physical pieces involved. Given the quarterback's injury, that is not an option this spring, but the Buckeyes are making the best of it by making sure Miller benefits from every ounce of mental growth during the spring season.
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Young athletes are gravitating toward wide receiver more than ever as the position continues to command greater precedence in a pass-oriented era. The 2015 recruiting class features a collection of explosive receivers who are ready to become dominant stars in college.
The group features plenty of size and speed, along with the son of rapping royalty. We sorted through game film to uncover the top 10 receivers in America, aiming to identify their ideal blend of agility, physicality and fundamental technique.
All prospect information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
The South Carolina Gamecocks did not lose too many players after the 2013 season, and return with a lot of talent and depth on the 2014 team.
With spring practices about to heat up, players are jockeying to land bigger roles at their respective positions.
South Carolina is still a younger team, but now younger players have some experience and certainly don't lack talent. There are some spots to fill on both sides of the ball, so players need to step up now and make early impressions for increased playing time this fall.
With a team this stacked with talent, anyone has the potential to surprise this spring. Last season, we saw Mike Davis become an emerging superstar, and maybe South Carolina will see another breakout player this spring.
It's tough to pick who will surprise people this spring, but here are my four Gamecocks who will do just that.
Fifteen pivotal practices are staring the Tennessee Volunteers in the face this spring, a handful of days that will go far in determining the length of strides the program takes in 2014.
While not everybody who will play a role on this year's team will be present, the Vols do have the luxury of already having 14 of their 31 signees on campus and ready to participate. That means head coach Butch Jones can teach, mold, push and examine many of the weapons he'll have at his disposal.
The growing pains can be weathered now, and by fall, perhaps a few of them will be counted on.
For positions like quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver, where most of the movers and shakers are already going through drills, this spring is massive for establishing a pecking order.
Other areas such as the defensive line, cornerbacks and safeties will feature players who are trying to get a firm foothold on positions before the reinforcements arrive.
If UT truly is on the brink of a big turnaround, the seeds of that will be sown starting Friday.
Let's take a look at the position-by-position breakdown heading into Coach Jones' second spring on the Hill.
CLEMSON, S.C. – Tuesday afternoon, Dabo Swinney extolled the virtues of spring.
“It’s always fun to start to build a new team,” Clemson’s head coach said. “That’s the great thing about college football, you really start over every year. Everybody has to move on, and that’s just the nature of college football.”
Swinney knows all about starting over: he and offensive coordinator Chad Morris return just four starters from a talented, potent offense that averaged 40.2 points per game in 2013, keying the Tigers’ run to an 11-2 record and Orange Bowl title.
Among the positions up for grab as the Tigers’ spring practice begins Wednesday afternoon? Quarterback.
Tajh Boyd, who holds 53 Clemson and ACC career records (including Clemson’s marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns, total touchdowns and completions and the ACC record for passing touchdowns) is gone, leaving highly-touted freshman DeShaun Watson, steady senior Cole Stoudt and talented sophomore Chad Kelly to compete for the position.
Clemson’s quarterback battle is one of only a number of high-profile signal-caller competitions that will take place across college football this spring and summer.
Here’s a look at the high-profile quarterback competitions which will shape and affect national championship contenders and the national title pictures, and how they’ll unfold this spring.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.
Alabama's battle to replace quarterback AJ McCarron will be one of the SEC's top offseason storylines. After all, McCarron's eventual successor will have to fill the shoes of a man who won two BCS National Championships as a starter, one SEC championship at the helm and finished second in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting.
But while head coach Nick Saban's quest to find McCarron's successor will be analyzed ad nauseam over the next six months, the real battle won't take place until Jacob Coker gets there. The rising redshirt junior and former backup at Florida State to Jameis Winston is finishing up his degree and transferring to Alabama this summer, essentially ensuring that no decision on the quarterback race will be made before he has a chance to practice during fall camp.
So in spring practice, it'll be up to senior Blake Sims, sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshman Parker McLeod, redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and true freshman David Cornwell to jockey for position before Coker sets foot on campus.
The man with the biggest spotlight on him should be Bateman.
The former 4-star prospect in the class of 2013 came to Tuscaloosa last January as the No. 5 pro-style prospect in the nation. With a big arm, great field vision and pinpoint accuracy, he's essentially a clone of McCarron.
He has all the attributes to be a star in Alabama's offense, but just what will Alabama's offense look like?
New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was brought in to spice things up a bit. While Bateman might have been a fit for the old scheme, he may not be the best fit depending on how creative Saban lets Kiffin get with the offense.
This is Bateman's window.
Coker wouldn't be coming in unless the coaching staff legitimately felt he had a chance to legitimately win the job, and if he nails it down, he could own it for two seasons.
Would Bateman really want to sit around two more seasons as a backup knowing that hot-shot, pro-style quarterback Cornwell—the No. 3 pro-style prospect in the class of 2014—is in essentially the same boat?
There's no easy way to answer that, but considering Cornwell could redshirt this year and create a year of separation between himself and Bateman without putting his job in jeopardy down the line, it's unlikely that there will be too much separation between the two if neither beats out Coker or any of the other competitors this offseason.
Does he really want to go through the same old song and dance again?
The spring quarterback battle at Alabama is the opening act for the big show, which will be when Coker joins the battle in fall camp. Without Coker and with Cornwell still learning the ropes and coming off of a knee injury, Bateman needs to be the No. 1 guy on the current depth chart exiting spring.
If he's not, he might not get another chance.
Recruiting rankings via 247Sports.
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Officially, as of March 5, there are 176 days until the 2014 college football season begins. However, players are already being suspended for season openers, meaning it can't be that far off.
According to The Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner (h/t College Football Talk's Kevin McGuire) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced during a Tuesday press conference that four players—offensive guard David Beasley, offensive tackle Shaq Anthony, defensive back Garry Peters and defensive end Corey Crawford—would miss the Tigers' opener at Georgia. The reason? The always-vague violation of team rules.
Beasley and Crawford are by far the biggest losses, if for no other reason than they started last season (Crawford started 12 games; Beasley started seven). Anthony and Peters were in positions to compete for starting time.
How bad does Crawford's suspension hurt the Tigers' chances? It's a tough loss considering what he brings to the defense. Considering who returns for Clemson, though, it's not as bad as it could be.
As a defensive end, Crawford has the greatest impact statistically of the four suspended players. He finished sixth on the team in total tackles (44), third in tackles for loss (10.5) and fifth in sacks (2.5) last season. Along with defensive lineman Vic Beasley, Crawford is part of a senior-laden defensive line that projects to be one of the ACC's best.
Crawford serves as a great complement to Beasley, who usually garners most of the attention. Crawford is more than just a good tackler, though. Georgia, of all teams, should know this.
It was Crawford who dropped back into coverage on a zone blitz against the Bulldogs last season (a 38-35 win) and picked off quarterback Aaron Murray.
Crawford gives the Tigers defense some versatility. That will be missed, for sure.
With the Bulldogs breaking in a new quarterback, Hutson Mason, and a new-look offensive line that replaces three starters, Crawford could have been a big factor.
Defense is what may decide the Week 1 game against the Bulldogs. Both teams return far more starters on that side of the ball and have replaced veteran quarterbacks.
The good news for the Tigers is that they have plenty of other playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. In all, Clemson returns eight starters there.
Thus, Crawford's suspension isn't a worst-case scenario. With so much attention on Beasley, though, he could have had a monster game.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
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After weeks of rumors that Virginia Tech’s coaching staff was pursuing some transfer quarterbacks to beef up the team's depth chart, the Hokies made a splash by securing the services of former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer.
Brewer announced the decision via Twitter on March 2 after visiting Blacksburg, and he clearly liked what he saw:
As a redshirt sophomore in Lubbock, Brewer will graduate from Texas Tech in May, allowing him to use his two remaining years of eligibility at Virginia Tech.
Coming out of high school in Austin, Texas, Brewer was rated as a 3-star prospect, per 247Sports, but he never really got into a groove with the Red Raiders. He redshirted in 2011 and played sparingly in 2012, completing 34-of-48 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns in the nine games he played in.
Brewer was expected to compete for the starting spot this past summer, but a back injury that he claims Tech misdiagnosed hampered his chances. Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield passed him by on the depth chart, throwing for a combined 5,033 yards and 32 touchdowns in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s system.
For the Hokies, Brewer comes as a salve for what seems to be a tough quarterback situation. Redshirt senior Mark Leal has plenty of years on the team and was widely viewed as the presumptive starter for next season. However, his poor performance in relief of Logan Thomas in the Sun Bowl didn’t do a lot to boost the team’s confidence in him.
In fact, in a surprisingly candid interview with the Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler was non-committal about Leal’s prospects instead of simply stating that he’d be the guy:
I think because of age, you would say from an outsider and I think it’s only natural that because of age, a guy that’s been around. But to be quite honest with you, we’re going to find out who our quarterback is. Period, end. He knows that. I know that. We’ve had the discussion. Obviously with age, you are the frontrunner. You should be, just because you’ve been around, an older guy. But he’s got to prove that he’s a starting quarterback. Whoever it is has got to prove and have the trust that they’re the guy.
That sure sounds like someone looking for options at the team’s most important position, and Brewer should be able to provide some competition, at the very least.
But what can he actually bring to the Hokies?
Brewer might be only 6’1” and 185 pounds, but he makes up for his lack of size with his mobility in the pocket.
He ran a system at Lake Travis High School that gave him plenty of opportunities to run the read option, and he used his legs to great effect in many games. In fact, during his junior year, he ran for 615 yards on 116 attempts while compiling 23 touchdowns.
While Loeffler has shown a predisposition for running some option plays with Thomas, the outgoing veteran was never particularly good at executing them. Brewer might give Loeffler the ability to add that element to the playbook.
But his mobility’s real value comes in the pocket. His diminutive size makes it unlikely that the team can run him too often—as they did with Thomas—but his quickness should help him move around the pocket and confuse the defense.
Just watch the way he’s able to use his legs on this throw:
In the above clip, he’s able to bootleg left, make the defense think for a second and then set his feet and nail a throw down the sideline.
If he can bring that mentality to Tech, he’ll be very valuable to Loeffler indeed.
While Brewer is mobile, he’s also got the arm strength to complete tough throws on the run and when sitting in the pocket.
In a seperate interview with Bitter, Loeffler talked about looking for ways to stretch the defense by both taking advantage of the team’s veteran receivers and their incoming freshman, and Brewer certainly seems to have the arm strength to help do so.
In fact, his high school highlight reels are full of throws like this one:
In the above clip, not only does he sit in the pocket calmly and make a good read, but he also nails the throw to the right sideline—exactly the type of throw he’ll need to make at Tech.
But unlike Thomas, it seems like he can also adjust his arm strength in each situation. Watch as he floats a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone on this throw for the Red Raiders:
On passes like this, Thomas tended to rifle the ball to the very back pylon, making it a nearly impossible for the receiver to make a play. By contrast, Brewer puts enough on the ball to place it away from the defender but gives it enough touch to let his man make a play on the ball.
If he can continue to put heat on the ball when he needs it but hold back when it’s warranted, he’ll be well suited for Loeffler’s offense.
Grasping the Offense
Beyond his obvious physical gifts, Brewer’s greatest challenge in competing for the starting job will be picking up Loeffler’s offense quickly.
Since he graduates from Texas Tech on May 17, he won’t be able to join the Hokies until their first summer session on May 27. As a result, he won’t have the benefit of spring practice to adjust to his new team's scheme.
However, his time in Lake Travis’ complex offense combined with his work in Kingsbury’s high-octane scheme should prepare him well to adjust to Loeffler’s more conservative offense. In fact, Loeffler told Bitter:
I think it’s a lot easier to transition from what I came from to what I’m going to now, rather than the other way around. Because I’m used to throwing it anywhere from 40 to 50 times a game, sometimes even more than that. So I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp of anything that’s going to be thrown my way as far as the passing game is concerned. There are things that I need to learn, certain protections and run game stuff, but I feel confident that coach Loeffler will get me ready for that and just continue to move forward and learn the offense.
Watching his film from his high school days does seem to indicate that he should be comfortable with Loeffler’s sets. This play in particular—a run/pass option—shows that he does have good comprehension of a complex concept:
The reason he had to deal with so many innovative sets in high school had something to do with his coaches, as Bitter explains:
I know he put up big numbers in Austin, Texas, at Lake Travis High School, playing for current Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris at one point. Texas high school football is no joke, so being successful at a place like that probably tells you something about his skill level. And to be a quarterback at Texas Tech, you'd got to chuck it around, so having an understanding of passing concepts is a must. The unknown comes from the fact that he's thrown 58 passes in actual games in the last three years. But again, it's not like the Hokies' roster is any more experienced.
He’ll only have a few weeks to adjust to Tech’s sets if he wants to really compete for the starting job, but if he can grasp plays like this one, he should be able to handle Loeffler’s scheme.
He may be at a disadvantage when it comes to the time he has to adjust to the offense, but his physical abilities, combined with his capacity for understanding complex schemes, should put him on more equal footing with Leal.
Leal could easily come into spring practice and blow everyone away with how much he’s improved, but if he shows any weakness, Brewer will be ready to step up.
Given the wide variety of quarterbacks on Tech’s roster, it’s impossible to grasp exactly how Brewer might fit in, but it seems like there’s a decent chance that he will be able to compete immediately.
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Alabama head coach Nick Saban continues to lobby for the passage of a new rule that would slow down NCAA offenses—facetiously dubbed the "Saban Rule" by South Carolina's Steve Spurrier—in the days leading up to Thursday's meeting of the NCAA Football Rules Committee.
The new rule would disallow teams from snapping the ball during the first 10 seconds of the play clock, affording a five-yard delay of game penalty on those who did. Theoretically, the rule would be done to make college football safer, but opponents of the proposal, like Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, have pointed out that "there's absolutely zero documented evidence that is hazardous on the pace of play, only opinions," according to David Ching of ESPN.com.
To that, Saban responded on Tuesday with a plea for common sense. Even if there's no hard data, he implied, invoking a metaphor about cigarettes, logic dictates that up-tempo offenses are more dangerous than methodical ones.
His exact words, per Chris Low of ESPN.com:
The fastball guys (up-tempo coaches) say there's no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic. What's the logic? If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20? I guess there's no study that specifically says that. But logically, we would say, 'Yeah, there probably is.'
When Saban puts it like that, his argument is hard to find fault with.
The more plays per game, the more chances a player has of getting hurt—especially if he's exhausted, gasping for air, slouching his head and using improper technique. He's at risk.
The problem is Saban's motive. It's difficult to suss out where he is being sincere from where he is employing rhetoric. As Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury pointed out, per Luke Zimmerman of SB Nation, it might not be a coincidence that Saban's last three losses have come against teams playing at a higher tempo:
Most of the college football populace is against Saban's proposal. According to an anonymous survey conducted by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, only 25 of 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of its passage and only 11 of those 25 come from "power conferences."
The rule is tentatively expected not to pass at Thursday's meeting, but stranger things have happened. As a lobbyist, Saban has always wielded a certain amount of power over his peers. The meeting is worth keeping a close eye on.
No matter how the voting goes, however, this story will not disappear.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT
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The SEC dominated the BCS era in part thanks to its shrewd scheduling. Member schools have systematically reduced the challenges in nonconference games, making sure to minimize losses outside of SEC play.
While the other four Big Five conferences have (Pac-12 and Big 12) or are planning to (Big Ten and ACC) move to nine-game conference schedules, the SEC so far has resisted, as its coaches voted 13-1 to stay at eight games at least through the 2015 season.
As we enter the College Football Playoff era, that scheduling philosophy looks to remain intact until/unless it begins to harm the postseason prospects of SEC teams.
With the 2014 season schedule basically complete (only American Athletic has yet to announce dates of conference games, though all opponents are set), we conducted a thorough examination of the upcoming season's nonconference schedules. We ranked all 124 FBS teams—leaving out the four independents for obvious reasons—on their expected nonconference strength of schedule with the following methodology:
Sagarin Rankings: An average of the opponents' final Sagarin ratings from 2013, which encompass all Division I teams, including both FBS and FCS.
Intended Rankings: We parsed the schedule according to the origins of teams' opponents' conference membership, giving bonuses for playing Big Five conference teams (plus Notre Dame), with partial bonuses for playing AAC and MWC teams, as well as Army, Navy and BYU.
Deductions were given for playing FCS teams, except the six that made the FCS semifinals in the past three years—North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington, Montana, Towson and New Hampshire. We also assigned bonuses for playing nonconference games away from home.
The rankings revealed that on average the SEC schools play the easiest nonconference schedules by a country mile:
Whether this scheduling scheme would change in the CFP era remains to be seen, with two important factors potentially being the most influential.
First, how might the committee members, who are charged with selecting the four playoff and eight other major bowl teams, view the SEC's out-of-conference (OOC) strength of schedule?
Second, how might TV ratings affect the SEC Network, which is due to launch in August, since it most likely will be saddled with the dregs of the schedules?
For 2014, each of the 14 SEC teams will play one of its four OOC games against an FCS opponent (the ACC being the only conference also doing that), with 10 having schedules ranked at No. 81 or lower. In fact, of the 10 easiest OOC schedules out of the 124 teams, a whopping four come from the SEC—No. 115 Florida, No. 119 Alabama, No. 121 Mississippi State and No. 122 Vanderbilt.
Georgia is the only SEC team that faces two BCS conference opponents (Clemson and Georgia Tech). Texas A&M is the only one that plays more than one road game—but it's not exactly a murderers' row with stops at SMU and Louisiana-Monroe.
Six SEC teams don't play any OOC games on the road at all, with Alabama (vs. West Virginia in Atlanta), Ole Miss (vs. Boise State in Atlanta) and LSU (vs. Wisconsin in Houston) playing virtual home games that masquerade as "neutral site" showdowns.
Nevertheless, Bleacher Report SEC guru Barrett Sallee believes that the days of nine-game conference schedules are near. But even if that's the case, don't expect the SEC to make things even tougher by boosting its nonconference schedules.
A few other observations:
- The American Athletic Conference and Mountain West are competing to have the toughest OOC schedules, and this is by necessity. Since neither is guaranteed an automatic entry into the most lucrative bowls, their respective champions must emerge with the highest rankings (according to the committee) among the non-Big Five conferences.
- The much-maligned Big Ten has significantly upgraded its nonconference schedule ahead of going to a nine-game conference schedule—also out of necessity. No Big Ten team appeared in the BCS Championship Game since 2007 thanks in part to the perceived weakness as reflected by the computer rankings. The Big Ten is the only conference that does not have a single team ranked outside of the top 100 in our ratings.
- FBS teams continue to mine the FCS for victories (though sometimes this backfires; just ask Florida) in exchange for a payday. In 2014, only 26 of the 128 FBS teams do not have FCS teams on their schedules, and four teams have two FCS opponents each. USC, UCLA and Notre Dame are the only schools that have never played an FCS opponent.
In our next installment, we will examine the best and worst nonconference schedules, especially among national championship contenders.
Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru
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So far, James Franklin has put his money where his mouth is.
In the short time he's had to focus on the 2015 recruiting class, Franklin has lived up to his "dominate the state" mantra. Of the seven players currently committed to the class, five are Pennsylvania natives. By comparison, Penn State's 2014 class had only three.
Still, Franklin and his staff have a few more prospects from the commonwealth to grab.
At the very least, they seem to have a plan on how to do that. Mark Wogenrich of The Morning Call in Allentown recently tweeted this picture, which shows how Franklin has divvied up in-state recruiting territories to nine of his assistants:
Of the top 15 Pennsylvania prospects, five have committed to Penn State and two have pledged to Pittsburgh. The remaining eight have yet to decide.
One of those prospects is offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins. A behemoth of a high schooler (6'8", 305 pounds), Jenkins would figure to be next in line at left tackle once the Donovan Smith era ends.
As Mike Gross of Lancaster Online writes, landing Jenkins would go a long way in solidifying Franklin's motto: "Jenkins could be a litmus test for this 'Dominate the State' stuff. At 6-8, 305 and the rare high school monster tackle considered better at pass than run blocking, Jenkins is somebody’s left tackle of the future."
Landing Jenkins won't be easy. He's one of the nation's top tackle prospects, and according to his 247Sports profile, he is very much interested in both Michigan and Ohio State.
Luckily, Franklin will have some help. After Pennsylvania native and 4-star (per 247Sports) running back Andre Robinson committed last week, he told Tom VanHaaren of ESPN that he'll get to work on convincing Jenkins to join him in Happy Valley:
This makes sense. After all, Jenkins would be clearing running lanes for Robinson.
Despite early success on the eastern side of the state, there's still work to be done. While four of Penn State's five in-state commits—Ryan Bates, Jake Cooper, Ryan Buchholz and Saquon Barkley— are from that area, there's still plenty of talent left to be had.
Ranked as the state's top prospect by 247Sports, cornerback John Reid would give a huge boost to Penn State's secondary. Sure, the Nittany Lions just signed three cornerbacks, but none is as highly touted as Reid. With Adrian Amos set to graduate after the season and Jordan Lucas not getting any younger, Penn State needs cornerback depth.
Reid was on hand for Penn State's junior day on February 15. Of the 10 Crystal Ball predictions on his 247Sports profile, all 10 predict that he'll eventually become a Nittany Lion.
Two additional prospects in Penn State's crosshairs are running back Josh Adams and defensive end Shareef Miller. According to recruiting experts on their respective 247Sports pages, Penn State is the favorite to land both players.
Adams happens to attend school just miles from where Bates and Cooper go. Couple that trio with Reid and Miller, and there's a pocket of rich talent in the greater Philadelphia area Penn State needs to tap into.
Early success is good, but finishing strong is key. If Franklin intends to make good on his word to lock up Pennsylvania, he'll need to reel in some of the aforementioned prospects. Doing so will get him off on the right foot and send a message to future classes: If you're a Pennsylvania guy and we think you can help us, we're going to get you.
Franklin's domination of the state has gotten off to a hot start, but he's far from finished.
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Much like two years ago when Bill O'Brien took over the helm at Penn State, the Nittany Lions find themselves in a state of transition.
Unlike last time, though, every position coach has been changed along with the head coach.
Following the departure of Ron Vanderlinden, for the first time in a decade Linebacker U will have a new person coaching its linebackers. Compounding that fact is that new linebacker coach, Brent Pry, will have his hands full while filling out the depth chart at the team's most famous position.
The last two seasons have seen senior leaders Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges depart for the NFL while three-year starter Glenn Carson is working toward the same future.
While Pry's cupboard is hardly bare, there is some organizing to be done in the pantry.
Senior outside backer Mike Hull is the one known commodity Pry has going into this spring. He is already penciled in as a starter and may see some snaps at the "star" position—a linebacker/safety hybrid—because of his speed.
Unfortunately, no one is certain that the undersized Hull can hold up over a full season while playing with the intensity that he does. In 2013, Hull played in just 10 games and was limited in several of them.
If optimism can win out and Hull manages to play a full season, that leaves a group of young, athletic, unproven players to battle for the other two spots.
While Hull's 78 tackles didn't set the world on fire, he recorded more than the next three returning linebackers did, combined.
Heading into spring, the only candidate who seems pigeonholed into one position is Gary Wooten, as he will likely be limited to the middle spot.
Sophomore Brandon Bell could start opposite of Mike Hull or back him up, while Ben Kline and Nyeem Wartman could find themselves at any position, as a starter or a backup.
Don't be surprised to see them multiple times on the depth chart, backing up Hull while starting at another position.
Wartman made a splash in his first career game with Penn State, blocking a punt against Ohio. Shortly after, he suffered a lingering knee injury that would cost him most of his freshman season and afford him a redshirt season.
Last year, he showed flashes of greatness while indecisiveness cost him at times, most notably in the Ohio State game when he often acted as a quarterback spy.
Wartman could benefit from playing in the middle, covering sideline to sideline in a "read and react" role, but he has the speed to play outside as well.
Ben Kline has plenty of size to step into the middle linebacker role, but he is dealing with a lingering shoulder injury that may cost him snaps this spring. Rather than backing up Wartman, Kline may be slid outside in an attempt to get the best three players on the field.
The wild card of the unit this spring is Brandon Bell. Depth issues caused Bell to be thrown into the fire earlier than he probably should have been, and the young freshman looked the part. By the end of the season, however, Bell looked more comfortable and had six tackles in each of the last two games against Nebraska and Wisconsin.
If Kline has to miss extended time, Bell could be the favorite to start outside of Wartman. Or, Wooten could be granted the nod in the middle with Bell backing up both Wartman and Hull.
Unlike last year, Penn State should have three really good starters and at least three more-than-competent backups heading into the summer.
Where the six of them will be slotted after April is anybody's guess.
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The SEC, ESPN and Dish Network made a major announcement on Monday, when it was revealed that Dish and The Walt Disney Co. agreed to a multiplatform, long-term agreement to carry several channels of Disney programming, including the soon-to-be-launched SEC Network. Coupled with existing deals with AT&T U-verse and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC), the network will be available to roughly 19 million homes as of March 5, with more than five months to go before its launch.
Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president of college networks, sat down with Bleacher Report to discuss the network, the progress of carriage deals, what the agreement with Dish means for the launch and programming that fans can expect to see on the SEC Network.
Bleacher Report: Just how significant is the agreement to get the SEC Network on Dish Network, and what does it mean for the future of the network as you lead up to your launch date in August?
Justin Connolly: The Dish Network deal is a huge step for us, and a huge step for the network to have a national distributor on-board five-plus months prior to launch. Just the idea that availability to any consumer who wants the network and to have that day one when we launch, I think is incredibly significant. It also sends a message to the marketplace and other distributors that Dish sees this as an opportunity to grow their business. I like to say that the SEC has quite the "satellite culture" across DirecTV and Dish, and I see that Dish recognizes that in doing this deal. You should be ready to see a media blitz on behalf of Dish Network touting the fact that they have this network.
B/R: With the current deals that are in place, the SEC Network is already slated to be available to roughly 19 million homes with five months to go before launch. The Big Ten only had 16 million when it was launched, and jumped to within 30 million within a month. Is there a specific subscriber goal you have in mind at launch, and is there a pie-in-the-sky number that you think is attainable as a best-case scenario?
JC: We don't really have a numerical number per se that we're chasing. Our interest is in trying to get widespread distribution across the board here, with really every distributor we can. At the same time, we've got an incredibly valuable product. I think, from quality of games we're going to put on, to the number of games, to the studio shows, to the talent we're bringing to this thing, we really feel like the quality of this is going to be top notch. So part of the dynamics here is making sure that quality is getting recognized and valued appropriately when we do these deals.
There's going to be a dance here across every distributor. Our goal is to have anyone who would like to carry the network, acknowledges the value and we can strike a deal with, we want to do a deal with.
In our view, this is a national network. SEC teams compete for national championships in pretty much every sport. Feedback from distributors who have smaller SEC footprints remains positive. They know the big programs in the SEC translate nationally, to the extent you look at how SEC games rate nationally. They attract audiences across all 50 states. It's not something that's specific to the 11 states. The passion and interest in those 11 states certainly leads the way, but there's interest in every corner of the 50 states for SEC competition.
B/R: The first original launch date was Aug. 21, 2014, but was moved up a week to Aug. 14, 2014, when the Dish Network deal was announced. Why the one-week jump?
JC: We picked (Aug. 14) for a few different reasons, actually. We have an interest in letting customers know sooner rather than later if they have to make decisions in order to see the games they care about. Call it a two-week window before we kick the first football game off on the network when Texas A&M visits South Carolina on Aug. 28.
The second thing is that the 14th will allow us a longer period of time to work the kinks out. We don't expect many, but from a production standpoint, sometimes they happen.
And I think there are some creative things we can do in terms of having 14 days with 14 schools leading up to the first football game on the network. We look at it as a number of things lining up where we made a decision that we wanted to move it up a week.
B/R: What lessons did you learn from the Big Ten and Pac-12 Networks, and how important is the fact that the SEC Network is wholly owned by ESPN, rather than the Pac-12 owning its own network and Fox owning 51 percent of Big Ten Network?
JC: For starters, both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have done a lot of things right. They have great networks. What we have, which I think is very valuable, is the ability to draw the experience of ESPN. We have folks in our company who have launched multiple networks. I think our production and programming level is unparalleled in terms of how we cover sports, sports news and events. The ability to draw on that wealth of resources I think differentiates us in a big way.
We also have a legacy for storytelling which is unrivaled, and we are going to build upon that on the SEC Network with the SEC Storied franchise, which lives on ESPNU. The ability to dip in and double up that effort and debut, exclusively, five SEC Storied episodes on the network I think is one of those things that ESPN can do that others can't.
The other thing that I think others have done well and that we can do well is just volume. Doing over 1,000 live events in Year 1 is going to be a massive undertaking, so we'll use the schools to help us do that as well as the expertise of ESPN so that we can get the full breadth and depth of the SEC.
B/R: You're having studios set up at all 14 member institutions to help with access and productions. Have there been any issues with satellite studios being set up, and how much involvement do you anticipate from a local media standpoint but also from the schools and journalism departments themselves?
JC: There's a massive amount of collaboration going on right now where we are trying to ensure that each of the schools have the ability to put a coach on or potentially a student-athlete and do a talk-back with Charlotte (where the SEC Network studios are located). In addition to that, in order to do 1,000 live events, we need to have the help of the schools to be able to produce a whole lot of Olympic events locally. That's been a massive focus, and the schools are in varying degrees of preparedness where some of them could probably turn on tomorrow and do it. There's going to be a late summer testing phase where we make sure we can cover all 14 schools.
B/R: The SEC Nation pregame football show on Saturday mornings that will run concurrent with ESPN's GameDay will be a major program for the network. Will that be a mirror image of the GameDay format, or will you mix it up to make it its own entity?
JC: We are going to focus on differentiating it from GameDay, and at the same time we'd think it'd be silly if we didn't borrow and use the lessons learned along the way. I do think that one of the bigger areas of focus for us is to mix it up. GameDay sits down and becomes the centerpiece for fans to congregate. I think the focus of SEC Nation will be to actually take the show out to the tailgates and try to integrate it a little bit more. The idea is to incorporate some of the cultural elements that are so rich on SEC schools on Saturday, and try to amplify that. Whether it's cooking or music or the ambience of being in The Grove or being there for Tiger Walk, for us, it's so rich. We think we can design the show while making it a little more tailgate-centric, while still bringing the depth of coverage as it relates to every SEC game going on that weekend.
B/R: You have already announced some personalities that will be a part of the network, including Paul Finebaum, Tim Tebow and Joe Tessitore. When will you be able to name more names and how big of a splash are you looking to make?
JC: We're working on some things. It's a little premature, but I think we will continue to demonstrate quality both on the analyst and play-by-play side. It shouldn't be too much longer before we continue to reveal the frame around the network.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.
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The Florida Gators will soon kick off spring practice to satisfy your football fix for the next month or so. There’s a lot to look forward to, and optimism is in the air after last season’s disappointment.
Position battles are always on the menu for spring ball. And after a 4-8 season, plenty of them will be going on. Few players are guaranteed a starting job, which creates a healthy competition that makes the team better.
So, what are the main position battles?
We can start with the secondary and then move to pretty much the entire offensive side of the ball.