NCAA Football News

SEC Football Q&A: Rhett Lashlee or Kirby Smart, Gators vs. Vols and Maty Mauk

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

@BarrettSallee More likely to be a HC first, Rhett Lashlee or Kirby Smart?

— Mitchell Tate (@Mitchell_Tate4) April 25, 2014

I like Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and I think he's going to be a head coach sooner rather than later. But Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has been on the fast track to head coaching superstardom for a few years now, and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets a big-time head coaching job following the 2014 season.

To a point, Smart and Lashlee are both fighting the same battle as assistants. They're working for head coaches whose strengths bleed over into their respective responsibilities as coordinators. But Smart has been doing it much longer and much more consistently than any coordinator in the country.

His Alabama defenses have finished in the top five nationally in total defense in each of his six seasons as defensive coordinator and first nationally in 2011 and 2012.

The only way I see Smart sticking around as Alabama's defensive coordinator for much longer is if he has been or is promised the head coaching job (either publicly or privately) once Nick Saban retires.

If that's the case, he'll probably have to say no to several high-profile teams making him big-time offers before taking that step.

Lashlee is on the same track, just a few years behind. If he wants to jump and be a head coach at a smaller school, he probably could do that after this season. Or he could sit around, continue to work with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and wait for the "big one."

Talk about a "rich man's problem," both literally and figuratively.

 

@BarrettSallee Florida vs Tennessee in Knoxville this year. Way WAY too early gut prediction. Who has best shot to win?

— Patrick (@patrick1016) April 21, 2014

Florida, but it won't surprise me if it's close.

I love the hire of Kurt Roper as Florida's new offensive coordinator and the potential dual-threat quarterback Jeff Driskel has in his system. The running back corps, which is led by sophomore Kelvin Taylor, is stacked, and there are some decent pieces at wide receiver, including sophomore Demarcus Robinson.

Tennessee has a ton of weapons, too, and that game being in Knoxville will certainly give the Vols a chance. But who's going to block for the eventual starting quarterback? That's the matchup to watch, and right now, it's no contest. Led by "Buck" linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., the Gators front seven is stacked, and I don't know if the Vols can hold up against that group.

On top of that, the Gators have a bye week leading up to the trip to Knoxville while Tennessee will be coming off of a road trip to Georgia. 

Give me Florida...close.

 

@BarrettSallee Maty Mauk going to be able to do enough to make Mizzou a winner?

— Dan Irwin (@danirwinsports) May 6, 2014

I don't want to dodge the question, but I just don't know yet.

Maty Mauk was solid in place of James Franklin last year but only completed 51.1 percent of his passes (68-of-133). Now, he has to win without his top running back and his top three receivers from last year, including Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed in the middle of spring practice.

Head coach Gary Pinkel knows how to get the most out of his pieces on offense, but the centerpiece of that offense was supposed to be DGB. Now, it's back to the drawing board.

Because of that, I wonder what Missouri's offense will look like. Will it go back to the 2011 form when it finished ninth in the nation in rushing offense (243.46 YPG), or will Mauk air it out?

Mauk can lead Missouri back to the Georgia Dome and the SEC East title, but there is too much uncertainty in that offense right now to really have a grasp of what it will look like.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Louisville's 2014 Draft Success a Reminder Charlie Strong Will Be Fine at Texas

Charlie Strong became the head coach at Louisville in December 2009, making the class of 2010 his first half-class at the school. One of the first players he landed was a largely unknown defensive end/quarterback from Columbus, Georgia, the No. 1,146 overall recruit on the 247Sports Composite.

That defensive end—now a hybrid linebacker—was Marcus Smith, who was the AAC's top defender in 2013 and was drafted Thursday night by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 26 pick in the NFL draft.

This is what Strong does.

Smith was one of three former Louisville Cardinals drafted in the first round Thursday, joining safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18, New York Jets) and being joined later by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Minnesota Vikings).

The way these players were developed should give Texas fans hope as Strong transitions into their program's head coaching position—especially considering the staff Strong brought with him from UL.

Bridgewater was a much sought-after prospect—the type of player Texas routinely lands—but players like that don't always pan out properly. At quarterback, it seems, this is even more likely than any other position. Nuanced coaching is the key to realizing potential.

And nuanced coaching is what Bridgewater got. Strong and new Texas quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson guided Bridgewater where he needed to go, and Bridgewater clearly appreciated it:

How does this matter to Texas?

Simple. The Longhorns have a pair of talented dual-threat quarterbacks on the roster in Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard. Especially in the case of Swoopes, who has not impressed to date since arriving last season, the proper development is needed.

But the talent—the raw, pliable talent—appears to be there en masse:

*Note: Swoopes was listed as an "athlete," while Bridgewater and Heard were listed as dual-threat quarterbacks.

What Strong did with Pryor was even more impressive.

Texas has fancied itself  "Defensive Back U" for the better part of the past decade, and there is no denying its claim to that title. Since the 2006 NFL draft, it has had 10 defensive backs drafted, including seven in the top 50 picks and five in the first round.

And even though we don't have the recruiting data on all of them—Rivals.com was used in this case but only stretches back to 2002—the bits we do have say Pryor was a bigger project than all of them.

Like Smith, Pryor played quarterback in high school before moving full time to defense when he got to Louisville. Strong was able to get the best out of him and teach him the proper way to play.

How?

Because Strong knows how to connect with his players. Not that Mack Brown didn't—who at UT ever disliked playing for Coach Mack?—but Strong does it in a personal, almost poetical way.

"I was Pryor," Strong said during the middle of last season, according to Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal (subscription required). "That's why I call him 'Linebacker' because I like his game. Pryor is an exciting player. I really like to watch him play."

We all do, Charlie.

And thanks in part to you, we all now get to do it on Sundays.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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2015 RB Recruits Ready to Make Immediate Impact

The leap from high school to college football isn't for the faint of heart. It requires a rare skill set and superior strength—physical and mental. Some star prospects are suited for the sidelines as underclassmen, gradually catching up to the pace and demands of heightened competition.

Here, we focus on a collection of backs who are prepared to hit the ground running at the next level, highlighting athletes who are ready from both a physical and fundamental standpoint. Expect to hear about these rushers early in their collegiate careers.

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Michigan Player's Mom Still Thinks Her Son Was to Blame for Jadeveon Clowney Hit

It's been over a year since  Jadeveon Clowney's explosive hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, and one Michigan mom still thinks her son might be to blame.

The mother of Joe Kerridge, who was the Wolverines fullback on the play, still doubts that her son wasn't the one responsible for blocking Clowney on the play.

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Irish's 5 Can't-Miss Games of 2014

After finals week ended Friday for Notre Dame students, it won’t be long before the Irish football team returns to campus in June for summer workouts.

The regular season is not far behind, and football is creeping back into the national spotlight with this weekend’s NFL draft.

Looking at Notre Dame’s 2014 schedule, there’s a strong slate of games.

Let’s spotlight Notre Dame’s five most exciting matchups in 2014. The rankings will take into account the quality of the opponent, history with the team, time and location of the game and time of the season.

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