Tag Archives: ALabama Crimson Tide

Ramblin’ Around the SEC, Something’s Burning

Occasionally, I do a column on my personal website which I call Ramblin’. It’s a stream of consciousness, word association, hodge-podge type of thing on which I bemuse on any number of subjects. Today, we’re going to ramble around the SEC a bit. This one will be more organized and structured but it is ramblin’ nonetheless.

One topic of discussion that tends to circulate throughout college football, in the off-season, concerns coaches who are on the hot seat. Some of those coaches’ fannies are truly scorching, for others it’s just a matter of speculation on the part of the media and fans.

Here is my take on the SEC coaches who appear to be feeling the most heat, in no particular order.

Gus Malzahn

I’ll start with Gus because I’m an Auburn guy and his situation is, obviously, the most important to me. I do not believe Gus’ hiney is as hot as many might think. Now. But, if Auburn loses 4 or 5 games it probably will be; however, I don’t think that will be the case. The Tigers appear to me as the second best team in the conference and their record should, ultimately, reflect that.

Kevin Sumlin

 A similar situation to Malzahn. A&M needs to have a big year. Sumlin needs to break the pattern of winning his first 5 or 6 games and then crashing and burning in the second half of the season. The Aggies’ boss definitely needs to take care of business or climb down off of the porcelain throne.

Hugh Freeze

 Whether the Ole Miss powers-that-be or their fans like it or not, his rump is hot. How can it not be? Regardless of the Rebels’ on-the-field performance, their NCAA situation screams for someone to take the fall in Oxford. In the end, doesn’t that fall on the head coach?

Butch Jones

 In spite of being “Champions of Life” and having “Five Star Hearts”, the Tennessee Volunteers need to win a lot of football games. Talk is, indeed, cheap, especially when the product on the field consistently fails to meet expectations.

Bret Bielema, are you listening?

Onward to some talk about some actual football games. SEC Media Days is just around the corner, July 10-13, and polls will then begin to pop up everywhere. Speculation will be like wildfires spreading across the nation. And here in the Southland is where things seem to always burn with the greatest intensity.

Yeah! Let’s keep on with that hot theme!

Here are the ‘smokinest’ games in the SEC on opening weekend. Again, in no particular order.

Florida vs. Michigan

 Both teams will be ranked (Yes, I think Florida should and will be ranked). SEC vs. Big Ten. Gators and Wolverines. Jim vs. Jim. The flamboyant Harbaugh and the steady McElwain. Jerry World.

Alabama vs. Florida State

 The biggest one of the weekend. Two top five teams, at minimum. The ACC and the SEC. The Tide and the Noles. Hotlanta, GA. First college game at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Playoff preview?

Texas A&M vs. UCLA

 Two coaches on the hot seat. Huge for both teams. Rose Bowl. Bruins house. Prime Time. Sunday! Sunday! SUN-DAY!!! Be there!

Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech

Rocky Top and Ramblin’ Wreck. Great jump-start for someone. Mercedes-Benz, again. Hotlanta Deux. Jones and Johnson.

Disparate styles. A shootout?

Missouri vs. Missouri State

Just messin’ with ya!

And now, we might as well conclude with more hot topics or burning questions.

Will Alabama keep its playoff streak alive? Will Ole Miss be sanctioned into certain, long term mediocrity? Will Georgia win the East for the first time in five years? Will Coach “O” deliver? Will Vanderbilt go bowling again? Does anybody care? Will Muschamp?

All of this and more… later!

Sieging Atlanta Twice: Will the SEC Do It?

Whoa Nellie! We may not have Keith Jackson calling college football any longer, and that is a tragedy considering some of those whom we do have to endure as announcers today; however, the game is as popular as ever and the 2017 season is fast approaching.

Over the years we have seen multitudinous adjustments to the game that many of us hold so dear. Rules have been altered. We saw the implementation of the BCS. And three years ago brought about a dramatic change that we thought might never occur in our lifetime, a playoff for member schools of what is now known as the FBS.

Yes, things have changed dramatically but our passion for college football has not.

“I believe the winner of the Iron Bowl could very well win the SEC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff.”

When I was growing up in Lower Alabama we, essentially, had one pre-season publication to rely on. That was Street and Smith’s College Football Yearbook, and the publication continues to hold a spot near to my heart. On its cover would be a brilliant color photo of one of the players who was considered to be one of the very best in the country for the upcoming season.

Auburn’s own Pat Sullivan graced the 1971 coveted spot and, indeed, did go on to win the Heisman trophy that season.

Back in 1971 there was no ESPN, Fox or CBS sports channels on television. You had your local news with a sports segment that lasted about 5 or 10 minutes. And I’m talking about those few minutes to cover all of sports, college and pro, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, et al.

And pre-season information? There is a bottomless pit of magazines, e-zines and dot com sites to gather info from. For purposes of this column I have chosen four magazines from which to draw the basis for my word to you today: Lindy’s, Athlon, The Sporting News, and yes, Street & Smith’s.

Phil Steele has not published his hard copy and that is the reason for it not being included in our ratings compilation.

What I have done, just as I did in the 2016 pre-season, is take these magazines’ ratings of SEC teams and average them into a consensus.

In alphabetical order:

Athlon has Alabama number one, Auburn nine, LSU 11, Georgia 15, Florida 16, and the Tennessee Vols 19.

Lindy’s also has Bama at one, Florida 15, Auburn 18, and LSU 11. Georgia and Tennessee are not to be found in the top 25 here.

Sporting News keeps the pattern of the Crimson Tide in the number one slot, Auburn is 10, LSU 13, Georgia 14, Florida 18, and Tennessee 23.

Finally, ol’ Street & Smith’s. Guess who’s numero uno? Yep, it’s the University of Alabama! LSU takes the 10 slot, Florida’s Gators are 13, Georgia is 14, Auburn is 16, and Tennessee 24.

And now your consensus SEC picks. Alabama 1; Auburn 13.25; LSU 13.75; Georgia 14; Florida 15, and Tennessee 22.

It is very interesting to note that no other SEC teams made any of these four publications’ top 25. Not one!

My humble opinion on this? Making Alabama tops in the SEC is a no-brainer. Why pick anyone else? In the entire country? That’s arguable. See Florida State, Ohio State, Washington, and, possibly, Southern Cal. Those seem to be the big dogs at this point in the discussion.

The rest of the SEC? I do like Auburn as number two in both the West and overall in the conference as a logical pick. What do I think will actually occur on the field? I believe the winner of the Iron Bowl could very well win the SEC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff.

The East? Once again, this division could be won by default with it being a crapshoot between the three teams that are consensus picks in the magazines. I like Kentucky as a dark horse in the Easy. LSU will have a big say in the West.

But, currently, all of this is mere noise. Alabama and Florida State kick it off in 77 days. That’s when it gets real brothers and sisters. Buckle up! It should one heck of a ride!

For Illinois, Moral Victories Exist

When it comes to college football, success is primarily measured by the amount of games won as well as the number of conference titles and national championships a program has accumulated. The more victories a team has, the easier it is to hire top-notch coaching staffs, lure in gifted athletes, build state-of-the-art facilities and keep fans interested. Yet, winning games is much easier said than done especially for schools that don’t have the same financial resources, talent, experience and championship-rich pedigree as the top dogs. A conference bottom-feeder like Illinois just can’t keep up with the likes of Alabama even if they play a perfect game. 9 out of 10 times, the Fighting Illini get crushed by the Crimson Tide and even in the rare event that its close, the more talented team usually always comes out on top. So if your program rarely wins, has fallen drastically behind other teams and is in the middle of rebuilding, what does success look like?

Initially, it doesn’t look like anything tangible and won’t show in the win column so you need to find satisfaction in the small victories. These victories can be getting a highly-rated recruit and seeing him blossom into a consistent play-maker or putting up a competitive, valiant fight against a superior, highly-ranked foe. They say moral victories don’t exist but for a fledgling operation, you need to find the silver lining and take away positives in order to build confidence and a solid foundation for the future. Other than that you can’t have too many lofty expectations because if you do, chances are they will never be fulfilled and you’ll always be miserable and unsatisfied.

Since 1951, when Illinois last won a national championship according to the Boand selecting body, the Fighting Illini have 23 winning season records, finished in the top three of the Big Ten 16 times, have four conference titles, and six bowl victories. It’s not anything incredible but certainly not the worst ever and shows that Illinois could make an occasional run at a conference title (2001)or a Rose Bowl berth.

Remember in 2005, former Florida head coach Ron Zook was hired and Illinois went 2-9, 0-8 and 2-10, 1-7 in his first two seasons but went 9-3, 6-2 in 2007 including a victory over No. 1-ranked Ohio State and a trip to Pasadena . Then again, it must be stated that the Illini did get mighty fortunate in recruiting in 2006, when one of the Midwest’s top quarterbacks, Isiah “Juice” Williams of Chicago Vocational High School was right in their backyard and had a top-25 class in 2007 highlighted by one of the country’s top receivers in Arrelious Benn.

However, unless the Fighting Illini hit the jackpot again in recruiting soon, it’s going to take some time to turn things around. It’s been 16 years since the Illini won a conference title and I think it be mighty unfair to criticize Lovie Smith if he doesn’t win more games next season especially with what he has to work with. Plus, Smith has had only one true season of recruiting and it will be three more years until Smith actually has a team entirely of players he and his staff recruited.

Now, the one thing Illinois has going for them is they just need four wins to make an official improvement from 2016 and could conceivably win three to six games from a schedule-standpoint. But with the enormous amount of talent leaving an offense and defense that both ranked near the bottom of the conference, I predict things will get worse for the Illini before any improvements, whether measurable or not, will show.

The offense was 109th in total passing yards per game and loses its starting quarterback Wes Lunt, two wide receivers, three linemen and two tight ends. On defense, which ranked 11th in conference for yards allowed per game, it loses its entire starting defensive line, starting middle linebacker and leading tackler, Hardy Nickerson Jr. and two defensive backs.

I hope the Illini faithful have come to terms with reality and accepted this won’t be fixed overnight. The only thing you can hope for is that the team plays competitively and maybe pulls off a couple victories.

Winning games will always be the definition of success and some programs will always have an uphill climb to the top. My advice is to keep expectations low and embrace the drought so that when that turnaround happens, you will feel incredibly satisfied. Cherish those small victories to maintain hope and your sanity and keep up the faith. Sooner or later, those moral victories will translate into real wins and no one will see it coming except those who patiently waited.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Nick Saban is a People Person

Are you tired of hearing about Nick Saban? Well, too bad. Here comes another article about his greatness. More to the point, I’m telling you about Saban’s greatest trait. He’s a people person…

Bear with me on this. I promise that it’s true.

In his 2016 article for Entrepreneur, sales guru Grant Cardone hit all of the nails on the head when laying out what makes Saban great. As Cardone wrote; success has to be maintained, you must dominate your field, there needs to be an investment in the endeavor, you must be relentless, and you must have the right priorities.

But Cardone left out one important characteristic that has contributed to the success that Saban has created at Alabama. That’s his ability to build strong relationships. You see? Saban truly is a people person.

People often wonder what Saban’s secret is on the recruiting trail. His rosters spill over with four and five-star recruits. His third string could start for most other college football teams. His critics say it’s because he cheats. His supporters say it’s because he works his ass off. I say it’s because of his ability to forge meaningful relationships on the recruiting trail.

Unlike middle-of-the-pack programs, Saban doesn’t need to saturate the recruiting market with his assistant coaches. Because of the level of success he’s had at Alabama, he’s able to utilize a more strategic approach. He’s able to zero in on the areas of the country and specific high schools within those geographic areas that have the highest percentage of top tier talent. Needless to say, Saban is efficient in his energy expenditure.

His strategic approach gives him the luxury of building meaningful relationships with the high school programs that produce the best talent. And his ability on the recruiting trail is what Saban prides himself on.

Saban knows that he gets the most bang for his recruiting buck in the South. Particularly Alabama and Georgia. Sure, this is where a high concentration of talent is, but it’s his relationship with “prospects, their parents and their coaches early in the recruiting cycle” that really seal the deal for him.

Back in 2007, while traveling with then Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, Saban asked the person who hired him if he thought he had hired the best coach available. Moore obviously said he had, but Saban disagreed with the belief his boss held. Instead, Saban corrected Moore and said that he had hired one “helluva recruiter.”

Saban has the reputation of being harsh, abrasive, and short fused. The ultra-successful coach has been labeled as one of the most unlikeable coaches in sports. Just because he doesn’t seem to care what people think doesn’t mean he isn’t a people person. He just doesn’t want his time wasted.

People put the cart-before-the-horse in assessing Saban’s greatness. College football fans believe that winning created Saban’s recruiting success. But it’s the other way around. His ability to recruit created his winning percentage and it’s to the point where the Alabama organization is a well-oiled machine. And that can be attributed to one thing. Saban truly is a people person who builds meaningful relationships.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

It’s 2017 and I Still Don’t Care About Your Spring College Football Game

It’s April and that means one thing…college football? Well, for some that’s true. But that isn’t true for this guy right here. Simply put, I don’t care about your spring game.

And with that, I’ll offer a few hundred words on something that I admittedly don’t care about.

The spring game is one where a team’s 1s play against its 1s. Its 2s play against its 2s. And so on. The options are endless. But not really.

Fans of some schools show up in droves. Ohio State drew 80,134 fans. While a school like Missouri drew a lackluster (?) 16,457. Congratulations! All of you showed up to a scrimmage and left either optimistic about the upcoming season or depressed about the upcoming season. Here’s my question – How in the hell could you tell how good the team is?!? It’s a scrimmage.

Being a scrimmage that is open to the public and the media means one thing and that is that spring games are completely controlled. The coaches show the football world only what they want us all to see.

As this past Saturday progressed, I saw a considerable amount of chatter on social media about the Georgia spring game. Is there a quarterback battle brewing in Athens? Can true freshman Jake Fromm wrestle the starting spot away from last year’s savior, Jacob Eason? What do you think my thoughts are on this budding quarterback controversy? You guessed it. I don’t care.

I don’t care about your sexy practice.

There was similar chatter coming out of Tuscaloosa. Last year the Alabama fans had a love/hate relationship with Jalen Hurts. But this is the case with most Saban quarterbacks. So, when Tua Tagovailoa (yes, I did nail the spelling) committed to Alabama, the Crimson Tide fans were ecstatic. And Tagovailoa was electric in the spring game. He’s basically Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson. Except for one thing. We’re talking about a scrimmage.

I remember the 2016 Missouri Tiger spring game like it was, well, last year. Wide Receiver Eric Laurent impressed the fans. Not only that, but Laurent gained the attention of the fans throughout the 2016 offseason. Then the season started and he caught one pass for two yards. Granted, that one reception was for a touchdown. His production was efficient.

This year’s Missouri spring game hype was focused on Dawson Downing. Who you ask? Yes. Dawson Downing.

Downing is a second-year walk-on who played his high school ball in Kansas City. Hurray for the local-ish kid being the hero of a scrimmage. And the walk-on dazzled all 16,457 who attended the Missouri scrimmage. Downing is 2017’s Laurent which means don’t expect to see blinding production from him once the real season starts.

Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri are all different situations. Georgia is always considered to be a stones-throw away from competing for the SEC championship. The Bulldogs are solid each year. Alabama is Alabama. Saban has all the players and all the assistant coaches. And Missouri is the red headed stepchild of the SEC.

What those three schools do have in common with not only each other but every other Power 5 team in the country is that each set of fans view their respective spring games as a makeshift crystal ball. The fact-of-the-matter is that the crystal ball is not only broken but not needed. Seasons aren’t made or broken in April.

These scrimmages are marketing gimmicks designed to get the fans energized for the upcoming season. College football fans don’t need to be energized. The fanaticism lasts all year long.

I may get it but I don’t have to like it. Now let’s kick the real season off.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Pixabay

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

The NCAA Has Its Sights Set on Nick Saban and Alabama

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Alabama, under Nick Saban’s leadership, has experienced an overwhelming amount of success. Whether we’re talking about corporate America or the playing field, the public attributes certain beliefs to organizations that achieve the level of success Saban has created at Alabama. Those beliefs include, but are not limited to, “greed,” “being unethical,” and “breaking the rules.” It’s just not sexy to applaud the incredible work ethic and dedication that goes into building the resume that Saban has built in Tuscaloosa.

The latest gripe that the college football community has with Saban is that he hordes all the assistants and analysts. There’s nothing illegal about building the largest entourage of experts. But that’s about to change if the NCAA Football Oversight Committee has anything to say about it. With Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby leading the way for this committee, the NCAA has its focus set on leveling the playing field when it comes to staff sizes.

When speaking on behalf of the committee, Bowlsby referenced one school that has a football staff of 97 people. Come on, Bob. There’s no need to be cute, coy, or discreet. We all know who Bowlsby was beating around the bush about. Alabama.

If people want to complain about how the NCAA handled the situation involving former Alabama assistant Bo Davis, great, go for it. I agree that the NCAA was lenient with Alabama and Saban. Rules were broken in that situation, but that doesn’t mean that Saban has broken any rules in hiring 97 people as coaches and analysts.

Bowlsby and his committee are taking the stance that too much success is to be punished. Do you want the notion of “too much success” to be quantified? Good luck! It’s completely arbitrary. That’s of no concern to the committee. They’re here to spread the wealth of winning around college football and, for that to happen, Alabama must be targeted.

The scheme of the committee is to create guaranteed success by presenting it as an equalization of opportunity measure. Is there a lot of money flowing through college football? Yes, there is. Is there a lot of money flowing through the Alabama football program? Absolutely. But every Power 5 school in the country could have built what Saban has built at Alabama.

Alabama had some lean years prior to Saban being hired. Significant emphasis should be placed on the word prior. Success doesn’t happen without the right people first being hired. Whoever identified Saban as the top candidate for Alabama, whether that was a search committee or just the A.D., did their job. That homerun hire was one that every Power 5 school with an opening sets out to make. Quality leadership and hiring practices matter.

Bowlsby did acknowledge the difference between the Power 5 schools and the smaller FBS schools. It’s about the size of the budgets. Placing caps on the size of a coaching staff is geared towards leveling the monetary level field. The cold truth of the matter is that some schools will always have more than their competitors. Is that fair? No, it isn’t. And I have no problem with success not being fair given that rules were not broken. What I do have a problem with is enforcing legislation with the purpose of tempering the success of one program in favor of the success of other programs. That, to me, is predatory.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

Alabama Football is Too Big To Fail

As the NCAA was peering over the shoulder of Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss football coach was consistent in his vehement refutation of all of the claims against him and his program. Freeze went as far as to imply that the NCAA’s investigation was based on religious persecution as he compared himself to his Lord and Savior. Motivation aside, the NCAA has accused Freeze of having a lack of institutional control to go along with 15 Level I violations.

Paying recruits is among the specific allegations that comprise Freeze’s alleged transgressions on the recruiting trail. This allegation becomes stickier when one of those recruits in question didn’t make Ole Miss his home. A logical assumption is that if the recruit accepted payment from a program that he turned down that it’s easy to believe that the same recruit accepted money from the program that he ultimately chose to play for. This is what’s been suggested to have occurred with Leo Lewis. Lewis allegedly accepted money from Ole Miss only to turn around and commit to Mississippi State. And it’s at this point that the NCAA finds itself in the same philosophical dilemma that it has placed itself in time and time again.

As a governing body, the NCAA has been anything but fair and balanced. The NCAA has a history of playing favorites and turning a blind eye to justice when the member institution is considered to be a blue-blood program. To say that the NCAA has shown a lack of institutional control when levying justice is an understatement. This certainly doesn’t make the NCAA judiciary arm different from any other governing body but that also doesn’t excuse its practice of selective enforcement.

Alabama has been a recent beneficiary of the NCAA’s protocol of selective enforcement. There was a long paper trail documenting the funneling of benefits between former Crimson Tide player Luther Davis and D.J. Fluker. Davis acted as the go-between for Fluker, NFL agents, and financial advisors.

Yahoo Sports was able to authenticate text message records, Western Union fund transfers, banking statements, flight receipts and other financial material linking both Davis and the five college football players. Yahoo Sports also found that three NFL agents and three financial advisers engaged Davis in transactions totaling $45,550. The three agents were Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips. The financial advisers were Jason Jernigan, Mike Rowan and Hodge Brahmbhatt.

Even with the case that could be made against Alabama and some of the individuals close to the program, the NCAA lacked the time to go after Nick Saban and Alabama. And that poses the million-dollar question; what is the NCAA afraid of? To me, that’s an easy question to answer. The NCAA is afraid of going after one of its blue-bloods because it’s afraid of what that could mean to its overall brand. Alabama is worth too much to bring down what Saban has built in Tuscaloosa.

It is true that the NCAA placed Alabama football on probation once before, but that wasn’t under the shadow of the current economic landscape of college football. Alabama has too much market and intrinsic value in the modern day business model. Simply put, Alabama football is considered too big to fail and, because of that, the Crimson Tide are essentially allowed to make its own rules.

The Fluker accusations were not the only ones surrounding Alabama. There was also the situation that former assistant coach Bo Davis placed Alabama in. And when I say “placed Alabama in,” I really mean the situation that Davis placed himself in. Davis was accused of contacting recruits during the dead period and the NCAA did engage in a small investigation. Based on its lack of action against Alabama, the NCAA considered this a case of no-harm-no-foul once Davis resigned.

Davis submitted his resignation on April 28. He was then paid $316,666.66 on August 19. The reason given for this payment was “to resolve disputed claims related to his separation from the university.” Once that payment of $316,666.66 was factored in, Davis made more than the $475,000 that Alabama had set his 2016 compensation at. That strikes me as a payoff to keep his mouth shut about what he witnessed and took part in while on the Alabama coaching staff. But like I said, Alabama is considered too big to fail.

The NCAA has a rich and storied history when it comes to wielding its selective sword of justice. In addition to what the NCAA has allowed Alabama to get away with, there are numerous examples of the NCAA engaging in questionable enforcement procedures when it comes to its basketball programs.

Going all the way back to when Roy Williams was the basketball coach at the University of Kansas, the NCAA went easy on his Jayhawk program when investigating the ties between Tom Grant, Myron Piggie and JaRon Rush.

Once Williams left the Jayhawks for the North Carolina Tar Heel job, he played dumb as the NCAA questioned how he ran his Kansas program. Again, nothing substantial came out of this NCAA investigation.

How about the FBI investigation that Bill Self’s team found itself attached to? Yes, I said FBI investigation. Did this receive much attention from the NCAA? It did not.

And there was the ticket scandal that occurred at Kansas while Lew Perkins was the athletic director. This included the concealing of income statements that were provided to the NCAA. But, as you probably guessed, nothing came out of this.

The NCAA had an issue with one of its investigators, Abigail Grantstein. Grantstein, who graduated from Kansas, was eventually fired for bungling the investigations into UCLA recruit Shabazz Muhammad and Kansas recruit Josh Selby. Both UCLA and Kansas got off easy.

Perhaps the real cake topper in how the NCAA operates was on display as Miami basketball was being investigated. The NCAA had Nevin Shapiro’s attorney on its payroll as Maria Elena Perez was caught sharing privileged information with the NCAA.

The NCAA claims to stand for integrity and claims to support what is in the best interest of the college athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The NCAA cares about itself and what it considers to be in its best interest. And what’s in the best interest of the NCAA is for its blue-bloods to remain successful.

If your school isn’t on par with Alabama football or Kansas basketball, you had better hope that your school doesn’t offer a recruit an impermissible cheeseburger. But if your school is on par with Alabama or Kansas? Let the payments and benefits flow.

This is what will help contain the damage that would have otherwise have been inflicted by an in-depth NCAA investigation into the former Ole Miss football recruits. We should expect the NCAA to go just far enough as to take down Ole Miss, but not far enough to clean the entire situation up. If the NCAA did go all the way with the investigation, a school like Alabama could get caught in the cross hairs. And that’s the last thing the NCAA wants.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

 

Nick Saban Has Nothing to Prove to High School Coaches

Louisiana high school football coaches have had a busy few weeks. First, there was the on-again/off-again boycott of Ed Orgeron’s LSU football program. Then, Parkway High School football coach, David Feaster, went nuclear when he banned Nick Saban and Alabama from his program. The tense situation between the New Orleans high schools and Ed Orgeron was quickly smoothed over. As for Feaster and Saban? Feaster soon found himself on the unemployment line as Parkway principal Waylon Bates fired the coach.

Feaster didn’t agree with what he considered to be Saban’s unethical recruiting tactics. The former Parkway head coach took particular issue with how Saban recruited Brandon Harris in the 2014 recruiting class.

Harris was a highly regarded dual-threat quarterback in that 2014 recruiting class. Alabama’s offensive assistant coaches believed that Harris would be a valuable asset to the Alabama offense. But no matter how good a recruit is, they don’t truly have an offer from Alabama until Saban says they have an offer from Alabama. For that to happen, Harris would need to attend a Crimson Tide football camp to prove himself to Saban.

Saban’s record at Alabama speaks for itself. The way in which he structures his recruiting process may seem harsh to some, but that structure has proven results. If you’re in charge of a high school program, you’re wise to play by Saban’s rules. If you don’t, it’s not going to harm Saban. It’s only going to be to the detriment of your high school recruits.

Now, as for Harris, his time as an LSU Tiger was anything but extraordinary. His career in Baton Rouge was spent between riding Les Miles’ bench and starting. He was ultimately benched in favor of Purdue transfer Danny Etling. Based on this, I’d say that Saban was correct to pass on the previously highly regarded quarterback recruit. Saban continues to sit on top of the SEC while Miles found himself fired mid-season.

There is a bigger picture in all of this. Those Louisiana football coaches were wrong for leading an albeit short boycott of LSU and Feaster was wrong for banning Alabama from his former program. Who high school recruits show interest in and where those recruits end up playing their college ball is up to the players. End of story.

These high school coaches can offer advice to their players but that’s where it has to end. Unless the college coaches who are recruiting the players are doing something illegal, they should be granted access to the recruits. If the recruit wants nothing to do with a particular college program, that’s their call. Otherwise, the only thing that these high school coaches are doing is limiting the potential opportunities for the recruits. And limiting the opportunities of the recruits is the last thing a high school coach should be doing.

Perhaps if Feaster would have given Saban the benefit of the doubt, Harris’ collegiate career would look considerably better than it does. Just imagine if Harris would have attended the Alabama camp, been offered a scholarship by Saban and enrolled at Alabama rather than LSU. A large part of the reason Miles was fired by LSU was due to his inability to develop a quarterback. And a large part of Saban’s success is his ability to develop a college level quarterback and place that quarterback in the best position to win.

Saban continues to win. Harris is looking to transfer. Miles is sitting at home. And Feaster was fired for what was considered to be insubordination.

 

E-mail Seth at  or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

SEC Champions or “Champions of Life?”

ESPN’s preseason FPI (Football Power Index) was released Monday and here is how it looks. All 130 FBS schools were ranked. And here is a brief summation of how this system works:

“The model comprises four major components: the last four seasons of performance on offense, defense and special teams, with the most recent season counting most; information on offensive and defensive returning starters, with special consideration given to a team returning its starting quarterback or gaining a transfer quarterback with experience; a four-year average recruiting ranking of four systems (ESPN, Scouts, Rivals and Phil Steele); and head coaching tenure. These four components interact and are assigned different weights depending on the team to produce preseason FPI.”

Here are the SEC teams in the Top 25:

2. Alabama
5. Auburn
6. LSU
13. Georgia
15. Florida
20. Tennessee

A couple of things jumped out at me immediately. First of all, Alabama is not ranked number one. And, Auburn is ranked in the top five.

Here we go with high expectations, again, for my Tigers. More on that later.

And the remainder of the conference.

27. Texas A & M
32. South Carolina
33. Mississippi State
34. Kentucky
36. Arkansas
38. Ole Miss
41. Missouri
47. Vanderbilt

What leapt forth from the page upon my first take? South Carolina would probably be somewhere in “others receiving votes” if this were the AP or USA Today Coaches poll.

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Me thinks not but me also thought not in 2016 as I had Will Muschamp’s boys at dead last in my preseason picks.

Please don’t ponder my picks too very long, please. There are, as always, embarrassments aplenty in there.

Another thing that struck me is Ole Miss coming in at number 12 out of 14 if you’re ranking the SEC top to bottom with no divisional considerations.

And that provides a slick segue-way into the breakdown of the East and West.

SEC East

  1. Georgia
  2. Florida
  3. Tennessee (“Champions of Life and “Five star hearts”)
  4. South Carolina
  5. Kentucky
  6. Missouri
  7. Vanderbilt

SEC West

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. LSU
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Mississippi State
  6. Arkansas
  7. Ole Miss(ed)

You know what? That’s pretty darn accurate as far as I’m concerned.

And you know what really concerns me most about these rankings? Auburn’s lofty perch. I refer back to my, earlier, high expectations comment. If you follow SEC football closely, and Auburn in particular, you will know that high expectations, quite often, precede a disappointing season for Auburn.

Whatever. I’ll take it.

Back to the entire pack.

The East. Georgia is my “way too early” choice to make the short trek to the happy, shiny, brand-spanking new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Hotlanta.

You have to admit that is a most impressive facility, but so was the Georgia Dome which remains a very serviceable stadium. Billionaire’s toys.

Oh well, back to the East. I might jump Kentucky to the fourth spot and that would place the Gamecocks at five.

The West? (Clearing my throat and repeating the mantra, “Always pick Bama first.”). And if you, again, harken back to my 2016 foolishness, you’ll see I had to go with LSU in spite of my mantra and knowing in my heart of hearts that it would be the Tide. Sigh.

I don’t think I like State over Arkansas and I’m not so sure about the Rebs in the cellar, but somebody has to finish last. There could be a tie down there at the bottom.

What else? LSU is loaded, as always, but I like where they are here. Number three. And… and… AND… I like the winner of the Iron Bowl to join Georgia in that happy, shiny, palace.

It’s only February! Who will win the SEC and who will be named “Champions of Life?” Stay tuned!

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Five Way Too Early Predictions for SEC Football in 2017

I know we still have a while to go until we get our beloved SEC football Saturdays back, but I just can’t wait. SEC football is on my mind all the time. So here are just a few of my recurring thoughts about this coming season.

Georgia will be the team to beat in the East

Let’s be honest, Kirby Smart’s first season in Athens was a little underwhelming. The worst moment of the season for the Dawgs had to be that last-minute loss to the Vols at home. Just when Jacob Eason had led them down the field to take the lead, Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings connected for an unbelievable Hail Mary. I fully expect Georgia fans to be able to put that pain behind them next season. Eason will have more experience, the defense will have more experience, and coach Smart will also have more head coaching experience.

South Carolina will have more than one good upset win

This past season wasn’t particularly impressive for South Carolina in its first year under Will Muschamp. But, the Gamecocks did manage to get a pretty nice upset win over the Vols. They were a huge part of why Tennessee never made it to Atlanta. The Gamecocks showed promise in most games, even many of the losses. The only game they might want to erase from memory is that Clemson thrashing at the end of the season. But with another year under Muschamp’s guidance and with his recruits coming in, I anticipate two upset wins out of the Gamecocks this season.

Butch Jones will get run out of Knoxville

This call may be a little early. But with all his press conference clichés, I think this might be the year Tennessee fans grab their pitchforks and run Jones out of town. Heck, after that Vanderbilt loss to end the regular season my dad had decided not to renew his season tickets for 2017. Guess he doesn’t want to be part of another championship of life. Or maybe he just doesn’t have that five-star heart. All this being said, the Vols may be in trouble next season. Their defense is a huge question mark and now they have a question mark starting at quarterback too. Just ask the Gators how well that second question mark works out in the SEC.

Alabama will win the West…again

No other team was truly a tough match for Alabama in the West last year, with the biggest challenges coming from LSU and Ole Miss. Ole Miss later lost star quarterback Chad Kelly to injury and its season tanked. The Rebels were more of a pretender than an actual contender. LSU had a slow start, but ended up in some good games under then-interim (now head) coach Ed Orgeron. But at the end of the day, Alabama was still dominant in the SEC. Alabama dominated all the way until the national championship game that it lost to Clemson. That loss may sting, but with quarterback Jalen Hurts having more experience, I expect Alabama to be number one in the West and headed right back to Atlanta again in December. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alabama still has Nick Saban.

But LSU will make it close

The LSU Tigers had arguably one of the most interesting seasons out of the entire SEC in 2016. Les Miles was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Defensive Line Coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron led the team to a 5-2 finish (after starting the season 2-2 under Miles). Additionally, LSU dominated Louisville and its Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl. On top of all this, Orgeron put together a top ten recruiting class in his first time recruiting as LSU’s head coach. With Orgeron leading, talent returning, and talent coming in, the Tigers are poised to finish second in the SEC West and maybe even give the Crimson Tide a run for its money.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Image courtesy of Sean Davis, Flickr.