Tag Archives: Chad Morris

Teams Poised to Improve in 2016

Every year there are teams that under- or over-perform compared to expectations. Sometimes teams are just bad. Whether it’s injuries, a bad record in close games, or an unusually tough schedule, some fan bases find themselves thinking it’s just not their team’s year. It often sets up for that team to exceed expectations the following year. The following teams are ones which I think should improve their win-loss record drastically from last year’s finish.

Maryland Terrapins

The Terrapins were about as bad as any Power 5 team this side of Kansas last year. They only left the field victorious three times and one of those was against Richmond. There are reasons for hope entering 2016 however, and by hope I mean they should at least be competitive in most games. Maryland only returns 12 starters, but one of them is the starting quarterback. Perry Hills isn’t going to be confused for Peyton Manning (ok, pre-2015 Peyton Manning), but he rushed for over 90 yards in four games and gives the offense a dual-threat quarterback that can keep defenses off-balance. Then there’s the schedule. The Terps played Bowling Green and West Virginia in the non-conference last year, two offenses they didn’t have a chance of keeping up with. The 2016 non-conference slate consists of Howard, Florida International, and Central Florida and crossover games against Wisconsin and Iowa have been replaced with much more manageable foes in Purdue and Nebraska. Maryland won’t be battling for a conference championship anytime soon, but with any luck it can find its way to a bowl game this fall.

LSU Tigers

LSU certainly isn’t going to surprise anybody this upcoming season, especially when you consider they are likely to find themselves in the top ten of the pre-season polls. I still think they are a team that could be much better than they were last year. I don’t think the Tigers were as good as their 9-3 regular season record would indicate and to increase their win total by even two games in 2016 would be a significant improvement over the 2015 squad. LSU only has four true road games and most importantly, none of those are in Tuscaloosa. If Brandon Harris can hold onto the starting job, he should improve on a season where he threw only six interceptions. Part of the reason was he spent most of his time handing off to Leonard Fournette, but if Harris can be even an average passer it will make the LSU offense exponentially better. Then there’s the defense, one which looked nothing like the Tigers’ stop unit we’ve come to expect. The Tigers’ run defense was gashed in their three losses. That should change this year with the arrival of new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda led a Wisconsin Badgers defense that has been near the top statistically each of the past few seasons. With 18 starters returning, it’s no wonder the Bayou Bengals are on the short list of title favorites in 2016.

Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals finished a disappointing 7-5 last year after some had pegged them as an ACC sleeper. That was shot down early as the ‘Ville started off 0-3 before rattling off some wins through the easier part of its schedule. The opening game loss against Auburn looks bad, but they only lost by a field goal to both Houston and Clemson, who each finished as top ten teams. The Cardinals could never really get consistent QB play, and that will be the key to a turnaround. Lamar Jackson is dynamic, if not the passer Bobby Petrino is accustomed to. Petrino will lead a 2016 team that returns 18 starters, tied for most in the country. Jackson’s dual-threat ability combined with a defense that should be one of the best in the country provide a team that has the talent to hang with almost anyone on a given Saturday. But the passing game will need to show more consistency if that improvement is going to show up in the win column. With a schedule that will have them favored in at least nine of their games, there are no excuses.

SMU Mustangs

Chad Morris had plenty of success as the offensive coordinator for Clemson, but after leaving to become SMU’s head coach. He had to watch the Tigers march all the way to the title game while enduring a 2-10 2015 season in Dallas. The Mustangs have a lot of things working in their favor heading into this season however. It usually takes time for a new coach to get things going, so the team should see improvement across the board just from being in Morris’ system for the second year. This is especially the case for an offense that returns nine starters, including quarterback Matt Davis. Davis won’t be throwing for 500 yards a game anytime soon, but after the opener against Baylor, he didn’t have a single game with multiple interceptions the rest of the year. The offense should keep the team in games in 2016, when the schedule lightens up quite a bit. Not only did the Mustangs face Baylor and TCU in the non-conference last year, they also had conference games against Houston, Temple, Navy, and Memphis, all teams who were much better than anyone could have anticipated. All six of those teams are on the schedule again this year but Temple, Navy, Memphis, and TCU will all likely be worse than their 2015 editions. With improvements for the Mustangs and the rest of the conference falling back to the pack, we may see Chad Morris’ squad bowling in just his second year on the job.

Featured image courtesy John McStravick

College Quickie: It’s Finally Here

OMG THERE’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL TODAY. That was roughly my thought and corresponding excitement level when I woke up this morning. There’s so much to look forward to with a new season starting. So many unknowns. Last year a Top 10 South Carolina team got embarrassed by Texas A&M only for the Aggies to end up having a fairly dismal season themselves. It doesn’t look like there will be a game like that this year, not on opening night anyway. Minnesota should hang with TCU for a while, but it’s hard to see them pulling the upset.

Everyone knows about the bigger matchups of Week 1; Alabama-Wisconsin, Louisville-Auburn, Utah-Michigan, and Ohio State-Virginia Tech are a few big-time games that most, if not all college football fans will be interested in for one reason or another. But there is plenty more goodness on the dish for this weekend. Here are some other things to look for.

Friday Night Lights

Baylor kicks off their season on Friday at 7:00 eastern time on national tv against in-state foe SMU. The Mustangs aren’t exactly a huge challenge, but hey at least Baylor is playing a non-conference game on the road right? If Baylor is the playoff contender many think they are (myself included) they should handle this game fairly easily. New SMU coach Chad Morris led some prolific offenses at Clemson, but doesn’t have nearly the talent at SMU. Maybe he can scheme his way to being a pain in the you-know-what of Baylor for a quarter or two.

The night-cap on Friday (10:15 eastern time) sees Chris Petersen return to Boise leading the Washington Huskies against the Broncos. Boise State is expected to be the top Group of 5 team once again. Even though the Huskies lost most of their defensive stars from a year ago, Boise will be breaking in a new QB. Maybe Petersen can whip up some magic against his old team.

Graduate Transfers

Though Oregon and Florida State are only facing Eastern Washington and Texas State respectively (both 8:00 eastern kickoffs on Saturday night), that doesn’t mean these games aren’t worth keeping an eye on. It will be interesting to see what transfer quarterbacks Everett Golson and Vernon Adams can do in their first start with new teams. They both may pile up stats, but the key will be to see how comfortable each is in their new offense and if they are on the same page as their WRs, particularly Adams who leads the Ducks into East Lansing in Week 2.

Playoff Contenders

Michigan State (Western Michigan), Georgia (UL-Monroe), UCLA (Virginia), Oklahoma (Akron), LSU (McNeese St), and USC (Arkansas State) are all popular playoffs picks for this year who open against vastly inferior opponents and thus find themselves as large favorites. Four of these teams are breaking in new quarterbacks, so it doesn’t mean their teams can’t improve throughout the season, but I’ll be interested to watch just how these teams perform. It would be easy, even in a season opener, to just show up and sleepwalk their way to a win. If a team means business, it will be dialed in and ready to bring it even against these lowly opponents.

A couple other good games are Arizona State against Texas A&M and Texas against Notre Dame. I actually think Arizona State might be in the toughest spot of all the Top 25 teams in Week 1. They already play in the impossible Pac-12 South, and start the year against a quality Texas A&M team in what will basically be a road game. Though many expect the Sun Devils to win and be a playoff sleeper, they’re still underdogs against an Aggie team that isn’t even ranked. You know what else I wouldn’t like? Going against a Kevin Sumlin offense that has had all off-season to prepare for this game.

Notre Dame is in a bit of a tough spot as well. They are definitely expected to win even though Texas should be improved. A dominant effort here could also springboard the Irish into a possible playoff run. On the other hand if they struggle in this one, it’s going to be a long season in South Bend considering the strength of ND’s schedule.

What else to watch for? How about everything. We have waited eight months for this day. Get your favorite energy drink, stock the chips and salsa, set up four TVs and enjoy it. Before you know it, it’ll be Monday night and we’ll be counting down the days until Week 2.

Florida’s Premature Coaching Carousel

Getty Images
Getty Images

The SEC faces a gauntlet of a schedule this weekend with Samford, Western Carolina, South Alabama, Charleston Southern, Eastern Kentucky, and Vanderbilt (oops, my mistake) all coming from their “respected” conferences. These juggernauts will have their hands full of the overrated SEC teams this week, so I will not even touch on the games.

Unfortunately, with the season coming to a close and coaches getting fired, we can’t help but to already look to next season, right? Will Muschamp is out as Florida’s head coach and Florida has some high profile coaches on their desired list heading into the offseason. Florida has been and always will be a desired destination for any coach whether serving in the ranks of collegiate or professional football. Though recently, the program has simmered down from its elite-like status and has just been average in Muschamp’s final two seasons.

Does that mean this job is less attractive for other coaches? Absolutely not.

To be redundant and state the obvious based off of all the other articles already written, Florida is one of the more attractive jobs in all of football due to the amazing facilities, the fertile recruiting grounds, and playing each week in the best conference in football.

Many articles have been written on who the Gators must get to be successful and who fits the mold of the Florida coaching profile (whatever that means). Here’s my list based off who I believe is not only a great fit, but one that should bring success based on his coaching methods, his ability to recruit, and his valuable experience that could suit him best in the Florida coaching position:

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State Head Coach

Let’s just go ahead and get this name out of the way because we know it’s everybody’s favorite to get the gig. Mullen spent years at Florida already under Urban Meyer and was wildly successful in running the spread with the phenomenal Florida athletes. There, he gained much respect and left Florida to take the head coaching job at State. But what would get Mullen out of Stark Vegas and to Gainesville? Sure, the money is greater and Mullen could shout out some zeroes and it would be given to him, but money might be the only thing that may pull Mullen back to Gator Nation. Mullen and Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley reportedly had a fishy relationship at Florida and it was quickly known that Mullen will not be a candidate for the job.

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 A positive for Mullen staying at State is that he can build off the momentum of 2014 and create a sturdy foundation at MSU for years to come, which is something the Bulldogs have never experienced. It’s a pride thing with coaches and Mullen deserves every right to boast in what he has created and accomplished at Mississippi State, whether that gets him the nod in Gainesville or not.

Kirby Smart, Alabama Defensive Coordinator

Jeremy Foley came out early and stated that he wants the next head coach at Florida to have an offensive mind because that has been lacking during Muschamp’s tenure and the Gators were very successful under Urban Meyer’s revolutionary spread offense. With that said, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart may just be too juicy to pass on. Smart’s defense has virtually been ranked first in every defensive category since coming over from Miami with Nick Saban.

Smart has learned under the best coach in football, but is that enough for Florida? Florida went down the same road with Muschamp and well I wouldn’t be writing this article if he was successful. Smart will be a candidate for the job, but will unlikely reach the final cut due to the qualifications and preferences Florida has already laid out.

 Jim McElwain, Colorado State Head Coach

247 Sports
247 Sports

McElwain would not be the sexy pick, but sometimes that’s the way you have to go sometimes. McElwain in as little as three seasons has completely turned around his Colorado State squad with a current 9-1 record with the only loss coming to Boise State. McElwain was solid at Alabama as a coach and recruiter and could be the sleeper for the job and I would approve, but that doesn’t mean much.

Chad Morris, Clemson Offensive Coordinator

Could this finally be Chad Morris’ big break? And wow, it could come at an awesome place. Morris has flirted with head coaching destinations throughout his short stint at Clemson, but nothing seems to have caught his eye quite yet. This could be a golden opportunity for Morris and his high-powered offense, which is right on the money with what Florida is searching for.

Morris manages a similar offense that Meyer ran at Florida by spreading out the best athletes and running the offense around their best attributes and abilities. This hire would almost make too much since, but the experience as serving as only an offensive coordinator may not be enough.

Other candidates that deserve a look…

Justin Fuente, Memphis Head Coach

Fuente has been named recruiter of the year many times throughout his career while serving as an assistant at many high-profile programs. Fuente wouldn’t be very high on the list, but possibly could be a candidate for many other jobs this offseason, so write this name down on a sticky note and keep it near.

Adam Gase, Broncos Offensive Coordinator

This is a little stretch, but could be a logical choice for the Gators. The 36 year old has only served two years as offensive coordinator for the AFC champs, but his offense broke records in his first season and are playing just fine in his second. Gase served as a graduate assistant at LSU for a few years before jumping to the NFL. Gase’s offense will cater to the speed of Florida and will bring a new swagger to Gainesville.

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Many other names like Gus Malzahn, Jim Harbaugh and even Chip Kelly have been thrown around, but c’mon let’s get real.

 

Gus Malzahn: Wesley Hitt/ Getty Images
Chip Kelly: Strength Power Speed
Jim Harbaugh: Scott Cunningham/ Getty Images