Tag Archives: Hugh Freeze

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!

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 seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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Hugh Freeze Played the Victim Card on National Signing Day

Hugh Freeze played the victim card on National Signing Day. With the NCAA’s spotlight shining on his program, Freeze told the world that his 2017 recruiting class should be considered to be a “penalty.” Freeze considers his 30th ranked recruiting class to be a penalty for the improprieties that he has been accused of. Someone should alert the NCAA that Freeze and his Ole Miss program have suffered enough. Call off the dogs!

Did the NCAA’s on-going investigation play a role in Freeze’s 30th ranked recruiting class? More specifically, did the investigation play a part in in-state recruit, Cam Akers, rushing off to Florida State? All of that is possible. But the element that factored into Freeze’s sub-par recruiting and losing Akers was Freeze himself.

We’re all deserving of being considered innocent until proven guilty, including Freeze but Freeze continues to make the NCAA’s investigation the center of the conversation. If he would just shut his mouth and let the NCAA process take its course, maybe things wouldn’t feel so dire in Oxford.

Instead of making the stars of his 2017 recruiting class the center of attention, he has instead contributed to the fixation of possible sanctions by describing the class as a “penalty.” Freeze just can’t get out of his own way. If it weren’t for his own fascination with his alleged infractions, none of us would be talking about the investigation at this point in time.

Freeze has been adamant that he is innocent of any and all wrong doing at Ole Miss. He seems to enjoy bringing it up because he believes there is something to be gained from presenting himself as the victim of the NCAA’s perceived witch-hunt against him.  Freeze’s self-anointed victim-hood was on full display when recruiting Chevin Calloway.

While recruiting the 4-star cornerback prospect (who eventually committed to Arkansas), Freeze blamed his NCAA allegations on his Christian faith. Calloway attributed this quote to Freeze while being recruited by Ole Miss, “…when you’re that big and out there with faith in Christ, he’s like, ‘What do you expect? Jesus got nailed to the cross.’”

Telling recruits what may happen if the NCAA finds him guilty of the allegations against him is one thing but Freeze drives himself up to that point and then goes right over the edge of the cliff. Freeze has not only blamed his lackluster recruiting class on the NCAA but has gone as far as to say that he’s the victim of religious persecution. Suffice it to say, Freeze has shown a complete lack of humility throughout the entire investigatory process.

Freeze would be best served to keep his mouth shut while keeping a low profile in regards to the NCAA’s investigation. The NCAA doesn’t need assistance from Freeze and Freeze doesn’t need the NCAA providing added scrutiny to its investigation. The more Freeze runs his mouth the more assistance he ultimately gives the NCAA.

It’s too soon to say whether or not Freeze is the victim of unsubstantiated allegations but there is one thing that I am certain of. Freeze is not the victim of religious persecution at the hands of the NCAA.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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Let Freedom Ring: Time for College Football and for Nick Saban to Retire

Welcome back to college football. Thursday begins five straight days of football, cheerleaders, marching bands and what I believe to be America’s favorite sport 1. Today, I’ll tell you why the Big Ten East is the most competitive division in college football, the best time for Nick Saban to walk away and four games you need to watch this weekend.

The Big Ten East

The Big Ten’s East division is easily the most competitive division in college football right now. It was the most competitive in 2015 and I expect it to be as competitive in 2016. Between its three major competitors, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, the road team won every game last season.

This season underrated Michigan State and underappreciated Mark Dantonio have both Michigan and Ohio State in East Lansing. To me, they have the toughest row to hoe, but I believe Dantonio to be the best in-game coach of the three.

I give the least amount of weight to Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, and not because I’m sick of hearing about him when he hasn’t won anything at Michigan while Dantonio continues to be the best (football) coach in the state (we know Izzo is the best coach in the state), but because of the losses last season. The last-second punt returned for a touchdown against Michigan State and the embarrassing blowout against Ohio State. I know the Wolverines lost to Utah in the beginning of the season, but those early games don’t count, right? RIGHT??

The last and continual favorite to win the East are the Ohio State Buckeyes and Urban Meyer who some say is currently the game’s best coach. We’ll save that argument for another day, but what’s important is that in the short time he’s been at Ohio State he’s been the best coach in the conference and has recruited the best talent, and when you have the best talent with a good coach there’s a very good chance you’ll win more games than everyone else. What also helps is that Ohio State has not lost a road game under Meyer and face both Michigan and Michigan State on the road. Ohio State’s only home game versus a division opponent is against Rutgers on October 1. Who draws up these schedules?

Here’s where I make a complete ass of myself:

The predicted order of finish of the Big Ten East – Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland.

Most likely to be fired – James Franklin, Penn State.

Most likely to have the craziest ending in at least two games – Michigan.

Most likely to lose an important game because of an interesting officiating decision – Michigan State.

When Will Saban Go?

I talked with Bird and Seth about Nick Saban in last week’s SEC 411. Other than Bird, who is an Auburn fan, almost every other college football person I know agrees the SEC West is Nick Saban’s to lose until he retires. The obvious question becomes, when will Saban retire? My guess is, only God knows. The 64-year-old from West Virginia shows no signs of slowing down heading into his tenth season in Tuscaloosa, and really that’s a shame. Not that I want Saban to slow down, because getting old isn’t fun, but because I like to see new challenges and really, there’s no challenge for him in T-Town anymore. Although, Paul Finebaum and Dan Wolken disagree about the lack of challenges this season.

I’m an admitted Alabama fan, and though the Tide hasn’t won the championship every year Saban has been there, it certainly feels like it has. So, when’s a good time for him to retire? Well, if you ask me it’s 66 so he can collect Social Security, or after he wins the championship this year. Shots fired.

Four Games in Five Days

There are four really important games to watch this weekend, so put these on your calendar and watch the rest of the nonsense when you can.

Oklahoma at Houston (Saturday, 12p) There are three games between ranked teams on Saturday and this is the biggest one. This game is between two of college football’s proven commodities. Houston begins its second season with Tom Herman leading the way and welcomes Bob Stoops and Oklahoma to NRG Stadium to start the day. Oklahoma lost in the semi-final last season to Clemson. Houston beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. This game will be entertaining and flashy, but Oklahoma wins it. And Oklahoma wins every other game this season except for the last one.

USC at Alabama (Saturday, 8p) Everyone wants this to be the biggest game of the weekend, but it isn’t. It isn’t close to the biggest game. The Notre Dame people will be surprised it’s not them for once, but USC is the most overrated, over-ranked and over-appreciated team in college football. The Trojans are the poster boys for shooting their load early. USC continually beats easy teams at the beginning of the season then shits the bed when it’s time to play real teams. Well, that won’t happen this season because Nick Saban and former USC head coach Lane Kiffin are making this game personal. Roll. Damn. Tide.

Louisiana State University vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field (Saturday, 3:30p) This is the only Big Ten-SEC matchup on the board this weekend, so I’m hoping it’s decent. Living in Big Ten country, I always hear the natives complain that SEC teams won’t travel to the north because of X and Y or this and that. Well, here it is, LSU making the trip north to play one of the Big Ten’s bellwethers in its home state. No, this game isn’t at Camp Randall, but beggars can’t be choosers. As long as LSU has Leonard Fournette and Darius Guice to carry the ball, then I don’t imagine there’s a ton Wisconsin can do. Wisconsin’s best prayer is that LSU’s Les Miles does something stupid and the Badgers can capitalize.

Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday, 7:30p) A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have given Texas a chance to win this game, but now the Longhorns could win it. Six Notre Dame players were arrested last week and while I’m not 100% sure what their impact would have been, enough has been made of it to make me reconsider blindly giving this game to the Irish. Texas lives on its football tradition, but it doesn’t compare to Notre Dame’s and at the end of the day, I think tradition, hard work and Brian Kelly overcome any obstacles those arrests or related distractions may have caused. I love Charlie Strong, but he isn’t long for Texas, which is too bad because I think he’s a very good football coach. It’s them, Charlie, not you.

Links of Love

Q&A: How ESPN’s Week 1 college football TV lineup came together [Daniel Uthman/USA Today] I know this type of stuff isn’t always sexy reading, but it’s interesting. ESPN is broadcasting all five of the big neutral site games this weekend. And my guess is all five will be good enough. The best one is listed above. Scroll up, then scroll down.

History says Huskers must get tough at the top (administration, too) to return to the peak [Lee Barfknecht/Oklahoma World Something or Other] The line that says everything about championship-winning football teams, “I’m a firm believer that coaches win games while administrations clear the way for championships.” I think it’s safe to say a few things about Nebraska: it’s doubtful they’ll win another national title in their current form and the administration needs to do what it can to help football be great again. Start with a great coach and stay out of his way. P.J. Fleck seems like the perfect youngster to lead that team. Hire him tomorrow.

With a Friend Nearby and a Big Job Ahead, Brady Hoke is Ready to Fix and Oregon Defense in Serious Need of Repair [Lindsay Schnell/Campus Rush] I like Brady Hoke. He seems like a solid guy who was on the path to be a successful head coach before he landed at Michigan. People rarely turn down their alma mater, especially when that alma mater is Michigan, so I get it 2. And to be fair to Hoke, the expectations at Michigan were unreasonably high considering what Rich Rodriguez left for Hoke and the people at Michigan can be unreasonably arrogant.

Sources: NCAA’s Ole Miss investigation expands beyond Laremy Tunsil [Pat Forde/Yahoo!] I’m really just getting caught up here, and well, this can’t possibly end well for Ole Miss, can it? Although North Carolina has managed to avoid the brunt of any sanctions from the NCAA, I don’t think Ole Miss will be as evasive. The texts about $300 for Tunsil’s mom aren’t good and the fact that investigators are offering immunity is worse. I suspect the NCAA will do whatever it needs to ensure that this case doesn’t end up like Nevin Shapiro and Miami, but I’ll say this, if anyone on the current roster is part of this then the entire team should be sanctioned immediately. I’m not a fan of imposing bowl bans on student-athletes that weren’t part of the problem, but if there are some here that were, then thanks for stopping in Ole Miss and Mr. Freeze here’s your show cause.

Last, I’d like to thank Kristen Botica, Mitch Gatzke, Bob McDonald, and Seth Merenbloom for taking over a lot of the day-to-day stuff that I used to try and do on my own at Campus Pressbox. They’ve stepped up to give me hours, days and soon a week completely detached to focus on life outside of Campus Pressbox. The entire staff of Campus Pressbox has been exceptionally great also and now begins the chapter where everyone knows our name.

If you haven’t signed up to be a Campus Pressbox Insider, please do. Our $2 per month special runs through the end of the month, then the price goes up to a whopping $3 per month. Benefits include early access to content, our Insider-only comments section, and knowing that you’re helping writers who don’t write at the big site write about their favorite college teams. Also, subscribe to our two podcasts, Campus Pressbox and The SEC 411.

E-mail me at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com, follow me on Twitter at @damienbowman, and if you’re crazy enough to disagree with me then join the staff.

  1. The NFL has nothing – well maybe gambling and fantasy football – on college football’s superiority

  2. I didn’t forget about Less Miles or this infamous presser

SEC Links: Ramblin’ Down That Coaches Highway (and a Bit of Lagniappe)

This week in SEC Links we will focus on coaches, their opinions, their salaries, and their preparation techniques. Also, we will take a look at the buzz around a former NFL legend who could, possibly, be jumping into the coaching ranks.

Bret Bielema (known as “Bert” here at Campus Pressbox) has never been one to shy away from controversial topics and he is keeping true to form this off-season. Bielema is gathering information toward, potentially, allowing undrafted college underclassmen to return to their alma maters if they are not chosen in the NFL draft, which is held each spring. The initial idea strikes me as a good one but there are potholes in that road back to State U as this piece from NFL.com outlines. It will be very interesting to see if this notion takes legs and winds up in the lap of the inept NCAA.

Just down the road in Oxford, MS, the Laremy Tunsil debacle and the oncoming NCAA issues continue to take center stage. As gifted an athlete as Tunsil is, you wonder if Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze rues the day he signed Laremy to a scholarship. Freeze now finds himself right square in the middle of this swirling chaos and is taking steps to try and protect himself, and the Rebel program, from potential problems in the event that he is deposed in the lawsuit between Tunsil and his stepfather.

Jump on I-55 and head further down the SEC coaching highway to Baton Rouge, LA where new LSU defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, is installing his system. Aranda is switching schemes from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Summertime is upon us and this is a critical season in terms of a football team bonding, developing chemistry, and working hard toward the dogs days of August, when fall camp begins. LSU is, most-assuredly, loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball, and how well Aranda is able to get those defenders on the same page and playing together, will be critical to the success of the Tigers this fall.

We then take I-10 east, to I-65 north, to I-85 north, and find ourselves on the Plains of East Alabama, where the success of the 2016 edition of the Auburn Tigers will depend, to an enormous degree, on the play of these Tigers’ quarterback. John Franklin III is very much in the center of that conversation, and guess who has been tutoring Franklin as of late? Unless you were already privy to this information, I’ll bet you didn’t guess Michael Vick. Well, boys and girls, that’s exactly who, along with his personal quarterbacks coach, Lionel Bozeman, has been tutoring JF III. Does Gus know about this? The thick plottens.

Yes, SEC coaches, be they assistants, or the top dog, have a mind-numbing array of moving parts to piece together in building a football team, and the approaching summer months are no exception. Now, with the whole satellite camp scramble in full swing, it gets even crazier.

So, just how well do the of SEC head men get compensated? Stan Chrapowicki, of Bleacher Report, has taken the SEC head football coaches salaries, and combined them with the compensation of their fellow head basketball coaches, to reveal what SEC schools are shucking out on their revenue-producing sports’ CEOs. The results might surprise you.

I recently alluded to the insane wages that FBS football coaches demand, and when you couple that with the basketball salaries, it becomes truly eye-popping. One could feed a small country with that kind of money. When you throw in how poorly paid the professors of these “student-athletes” are, something is badly amiss.

Lastly, there is a, now retired, NFL quarterback with time on his hands. Will he be joining the staff of an SEC team soon? Hmmmm… Andrew Olson, of Saturday Down South, pries into the matter. I, personally, love the idea. Let’s wait impatiently and see what happens.

110 days remain until Vanderbilt and South Carolina kick it off on Thursday, September 1.

Photo taken by Bird himself

SEC Links: And This Is Only May

How do you think college football’s Power 5 conferences’ coaches rank, from best to worst? CBS Sports analysts took a stab at this and created a poll in which coaches were rated, one through sixty-five.

In a recent column, I ranked the SEC coaching jobs, bottom to top. But the CBS poll just considers the the head coach and not the entire array of factors that go into making that job what it is.

Let’s take a look at how some of the SEC head coaches fared in the eyes of the people at CBS.

Guess who’s number one? Bingo! Nick Saban. Now that we have the obvious out of the way we’ll take a gander at the more difficult task of slotting the men who rank behind Saban in the Southeastern Conference.

Les Miles is number seven, Gus Malzahn thirteen, Hugh Freeze twenty-one, Bret Bielema twenty-two, Jim McElwain twenty-seven, Dan Mullen thirty-one, Kevin Sumlin thirty-two, Butch Jones thirty-three, Will Muschamp forty-four, and Kirby Smart forty-six. Derek Mason, of Vanderbilt did not poll in the top sixty-five and neither did Mark Stoops, of Kentucky, or newcomer Barry Odom, of Missouri.

Here’s my take on this. I love Gus, but I don’t know if I would rate him as the third best coach in the SEC. I would have after the 2013 season when Auburn came within thirteen seconds of winning the BCS National Championship and he won coach-of-the-year honors on almost every front. Gus has a lot to prove in 2016. We can revisit this after the season has completed.

Dan Mullen has done more with less, at State, than Kevin Sumlin has at Texas A&M. And why would Kirby Smart be ranked at all? The Georgia Bulldogs have yet to take the field with him as their leader.

That brings us back to Kevin Sumlin down in Aggieland. Wednesday was, yet another, tough day in College Station. Their top quarterback recruit de-committed and Aggie assistant coach, Aaron Moorehead, threw a tantrum on Twitter. Moorhead said the de-committment and the Twitter outburst were not related.

If that were not enough, two Aggie wide receiver commits also decided that they would not spend the next few years at Texas A&M.

I, for one, am quite curious as to how all of this will shake down. Stay tuned.

But hold on! We’re not completely done with the Aggies, just yet! Also on Wednesday, Johnny Manziel turned himself in to the proper authorities on the misdemeanor assault offense that he had, previously, been charged with. He was to appear in court on Thursday. As I stated in my Wednesday blog, I truly hope that Manziel’s story ends up being one of redemption.

The land of sin and salvation. Nobody does it better than the Bible Belt and Texas could be considered the buckle of said belt.

Back to Saban and Alabama, it might not be as crazy in Tuscaloosa as it is in College Station, but all is not well on The Capstone. As you probably know, assistant coach, Bo Davis “resigned” recently and that situation has yet to be resolved. Most experts speculate that this will not turn out to be huge and that Alabama will have it contained well. But, NCAA recruiting violations have been committed and penalties, however severe, will be levied.

Let’s move on to the coaches ranked numbers twenty-seven and thirty-three. That would be Jim McElwain and Butch Jones, respectively.

McElwain thinks Jones, and Tennessee, should beat the hell (Okay! “heck”) out of the Florida this fall. Interesting.

Players from the Gators and Vols are also weighing in on the matter. Butch thinks his guys should do this talking on the field. I couldn’t agree with him more.

I will conclude with this. This is all fun and games for us SEC fans, but I’m ready for the real games to begin.

117 days remain until Vanderbilt and South Carolina kick it off on Thursday, September 1.

My Favorite SEC Football Players of All-Time

Last week was a busy one for SEC football. Coaches wish it weren’t so, but it seems as though there is never a dull moment when it comes to headlines that don’t spotlight the positives in and around their programs.

Hugh Freeze got blindsided (pun intended) with the resurrection of the Laremy Tunsil debacle just as Ole Miss is about to hear from the NCAA and its investigation into their program. Also, it appears that Freeze and Jim Harbaugh will attend the same satellite camp in Mississippi.

As the football world turns. These soap operas are highly entertaining and they give people like me something to write about.

Speaking of smoking weed with a gas mask device, four Auburn players were arrested on the Plains Saturday night for, you guessed it, ganja possession, and much to the chagrin of Gus Malzahn and the rest of us in the Auburn family. How long, oh Lord?

Then there was the NFL draft. Ohio State had the most first round picks with five and Alabama had only one, which surprised many “experts”, but the SEC, once again, had more players drafted than any other conference. So there! Nanny nanny poo poo!

So much for all of that. In my last couple of blogs I, subjectively ranked, in order, SEC head coaching jobs and power rankings of the fourteen schools in the conference.

I like lists. From top tens to favorites to whatever. I think most people do enjoy these.

That being said, this week I’m going to give you my top ten favorite SEC players of all time, excluding Auburn. If I allowed my Tigers’ players on the list you would have Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley, Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Phil Gargis, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, Cadillac Williams, Bobby Hunt, Travis Tidwell, and the like to dominate it.

Here we go! My top ten favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. I will do them alphabetically.

Billy Cannon – LSU – 1957-59. Cannon is most remembered for his 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss, in Tiger Stadium on Halloween night in 1959, to give the Tigers a 7-3 win. He won the Heisman that year, as well. Cannon was also named the SEC player of the year in both 1958 and 1959. LSU won the National Championship in ’58.

Randall Cobb – Kentucky – 2008-10. Cobb was an electrifying player at multiple positions for the Wildcats including quarterback, wide receiver and return specialist. He could do it all.  He is not to be confused with boxer, Randall “Tex” Cobb. 

Archie Manning – Ole Miss – 1968-70. Archie is, actually, one of my favorite players in any sport at any level. I never enjoyed watching a player from a team, not named Auburn, more. Just go back and watch some of the old clips from his days as a Rebel. Simply amazing!

Peyton Manning – Tennessee – 1994-97. Does anyone really need to be familiarized with Peyton? He led the Vols to an SEC Championship in 1997. He was a consensus All-American that year and also won the Maxwell Award. He should have won the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 2012- 13.  Has there ever been a more exciting college football player than “Johnny Football”? Incredible. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The 2012 Heisman winner pulled off more incredible escapes than Houdini. I truly hope his story turns out to be one of redemption.

Darren McFadden – Arkansas – 2005-07. McFadden could flat out tote the rock. He rushed for 4,590 yards at a 5.8 yards per carry clip during his years as a Razorback.  He tied the SEC record for most yards rushing in one game, in 2007, with 321 against South Carolina. McFadden won the Doak Walker Award twice, 2006-07, and the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation’s best overall player, once, in 2007.

Joe Namath – Alabama – 1962-64. “Joe Willie”, “Broadway Joe.” These are two of the monikers that Namath was known by during his playing days with the Crimson Tide. I loved him. Most boys loved him. All the girls loved him. Bama won the National Championship, with Joe under center, in 1964. But he is most famous for guaranteeing that his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III, and they did.

Dak Prescott – Mississippi State. The best player in the history of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, no? He was a gifted athlete who could both run and throw the ball. He carried the Bulldogs to heights henceforth unknown as they topped the polls for several weeks during the 2014 season. That season he also passed for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns, and accumulated 4,435 total yards. He rushed for 2,411 yards in his time at State and that is third all-time, by a quarterback, in SEC history.

Steve Spurrier – Florida – 1964-66. Spurrier may be best known as the Head Ball Coach, but he was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the Gators in 1966. There may have never been a more competitive, driven player and coach in the annals of the SEC. Football, golf, tiddlywinks, Spurrier just wants to beat you. And, he was always good for a great quote.

Herschel Walker – Walker is,  arguably, the greatest running back in the history of college football. Bo Jackson is my choice for the greatest athlete of all-time, but Herschel, both a Heisman winner and a national champion, carried the mail. He rushed for 5,259 yards in only three years as a Bulldog. And he was a sprinter, mixed martial artist and bobsledder!

There is my list of favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. Why not come up with your own list? I am also open to suggestions for future lists as they are a lot of fun, and great conversation centerpieces at home, or at your favorite sports bar.

Now, who was the greatest fighter that ever lived? 😉

Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss Will Have the NCAA Asking Questions

Laremy Tunsil was a fantastic offensive lineman for Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss. It is easy to see why he was so highly regarded coming out of high school. His recruitment also involved alleged recruiting violations by Hugh Freeze. At least that is what Tunsil’s step-father accused the coach of. This is the same step-father who is now suing Tunsil.

Tunsil’s recruitment was legendary and his time spent in Oxford appears worthy of a good story as well. But even with all of the energy surrounding Tunsil, the real story is about Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss.

Freeze has done a remarkable job turning around the Ole Miss program. He’s done so well that the assumption has been made that he’s broken a few rules along the way when it comes to recruiting. And Tunsil’s short but informative post-NFL draft press conference has only added to the smoke surrounding the Ole Miss program.

As Peter King reported, Tunsil was asked by an unnamed reporter whether or not the Ole Miss star had ever received money from a coach.

Once the NFL rookie understood the question within the context of his experience at Ole Miss, he admitted that the accusation was true and there was the implication that there are text messages to prove the allegations.

When the reporters attempted to press Tunsil on the issue, Amy Milam rushed in to escort Tunsil away from the podium. Milam is also Jimmy Sexton’s assistant and Sexton is also Tunsil’s agent. Even with handlers, players can go off script.

As he was being whisked away, Peter King over heard one reporter’s reaction to what Tunsil had just admitted Ole Miss was guilty of.

“There’s no way I heard that correctly,” a reporter in the front row said. “There’s no f—ing way that just happened.”

I’d say that reaction sums up the reaction from all of us. And now these allegations will be aggressively investigated. By Ole Miss.

It’s important to remember that Ole Miss is currently dealing with another NCAA investigation. What’s one more, I guess.

Ole Miss fans have defended their coach and school over the past few years. People didn’t believe that Freeze could recruit like this on his own merits. Ole Miss fans believed he could. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between, but when your star player makes a statement like Tunsil did, it does not bode well for you if you’re Ole Miss or Freeze.

The morning of the draft, Alabama announced that one of their assistants would be leaving their program because of possible recruiting violations. One of the Ole Miss fan sites took this as an opportunity to gloat.

Rivalries are great and certainly have entertainment value if you’re a fan. Ole Miss fans consider Alabama a rival. Whether that’s true is a topic for another day, but their fans believe it so let’s run with it.

Alabama is the marquee SEC program. To think that Saban and his staff broke significant rules to build their empire is comical. Did Bo Davis potentially break a rule? Sure. It’s almost impossible for a school not to break a few NCAA rules. However, before Ole Miss starts throwing shade at Alabama or any other school, they should make sure that they aren’t running their program like a bunch of bootleggers during prohibition.

Ole Miss? There’s a lot of smoke around your program, and a flame has been sparked with Tunsil’s comment.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

*Featured image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

SEC Links: We Ain’t So Dumb

Good day sports fans! Here is week two of our SEC Links. In spite of it being the “off-season” there is always some good SEC football to talk about. People like Jim Harbaugh actually ease the burden of assembling discussion-worthy material and he doesn’t even coach in the SEC. But he has pissed a lot of SEC coaches off, hasn’t he? Speak ye of the devil…

I understand where Finebaum is coming from on this matter but I also understand that he has to fill a lot of air time banging his gums on the SEC Network. No one stirs the pot better than Ole Big Ears and he does a fine job of it here. But guess who continues to get lots and lots of press? Correct! Mr. Khaki Pants himself.

And we continue along this line with Ole Miss coach, Hugh Freeze, weighing in on the subject after Harbaugh called him out.

I have to agree with Blindside on this one and I don’t blame him. These satellite camps can certainly throw a monkey wrench into your dead period for recruiting. Now everybody take a deep breath and… chill. Of course that is easier said than done when you’re getting paid $4 million dollars a year to win football games. You had better cry for yourself because no one out here in middle-classville is going to do so.

Ok! Just one more please! Some Pac-12 head honchos weigh in on the matter and Stanford’s football CEO says our SEC football players are dumb.

Stanford is most definitely an elite school in the academic arena and they are pretty darn good on the gridiron, as well. But that is also an elitist attitude on the part of coach David Shaw. You know what we used to say about such folks on the elementary school playground? “Smarty pants, smarty pants, lay you britches on a mat!”

Ah yes, coaches and coaching. Ultimately they put up or shut on the field of play. How do the SEC coaching staffs rank in order of their abilities? This piece attempts to sort them out from fourteen through one.


Alabama’s staff surely appears to be the best. Duh! Florida second? I don’t think so. A&M third? Nope. I’ll take Georgia, LSU or Ole Miss over the Gators or the Aggies. Butch Jones has assembled a very nice group also. Mississippi State at twelve behind South Carolina and Kentucky? Mullen and company were the number one team in the country, for a few weeks, back in 2014, and what on earth has Will Muschamp proven? And the Stoops group? Nope.

Continuing along the line of coaches. If you read last week’s column you might remember that I posted an article about Auburn and Alabama as candidates to move to the East as realignment talks are in the works. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn shares his thoughts on the Tigers openness to that possibility. I am all in. I thought Auburn should have been in the East, as they volunteered to do, when the divisions were contrived. It makes even more sense now. Missouri in the East is crazy.

And finally! I know! I Know! Hold the applause. We bring you to the subject of SEC teams playing FCS opponents. You see it every year dotting the landscape of SEC schedules. South Carolina vs. Wofford, Auburn vs. Jacksonville State (oops! Almost a major bust), Alabama vs. The Sisters of Mercy, etc.

Personally, I do not like these games. You don’t have to play another Power 5 team. I wish they would, or schedule a ninth SEC game. They could at least play FBS teams within their respective states. Alabama could play UAB, Auburn could play Troy, Tennessee could play Memphis, Texas A&M could play any number of schools. Keep it in the state. Those games surely generate more interest than say Florida vs. New Hampshire.

Well, there’s your dose of SEC links for this week. Chew on those for a bit and we’ll be back here with more from the best conference in the FBS, the SEC.

E-mail Bird at bird.lecroy@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Ranking the 2015 SEC Coaches

Putting coaches on a pedestal to dissect their each move is what us media love to do. Grading them on what they did right and of course what they did wrong by giving our own opinion as we are the Paul Bear Bryant of all our armchair quarterback strategies serving as the cream of the crop compared to these college football coaches.

Personally, I always try to stay away from critiquing coaching and playing styles because I have my job as a writer and scout and they have theirs both coming with reason (though Nick Saban may think differently on how deserving media analysts are with his own criteria of the position – but that can be addressed at a different time). The times when I throw my benefit of the doubt reasons for the coach out the window is when coaches stray so far away from the K.I.S.S. method and getting themselves into trouble.

Coaches sometimes become too cute (Gus Malzahn) while others are almost too conservative (Les Miles) not getting enough bang for their buck with the players they have on the field. Though you have to factor what those coaches have on the field in terms of what to run but that’s what practice is for.

Coaches, especially at the SEC level, are seen as gods and kings receiving luxuries and royalties when their well-coached team performs well, but once the market slips below equilibrium all hell breaks loose. Here are the top coaches in the SEC based strictly off this season’s performances and how they compare with last season’s results and preseason expectations:

1. Jim McElwain, Florida (9-1 Overall, 7-1 SEC)

Comparing the Gators’ 2014 season to this season, it’s a night and day difference in the execution on the offensive side of the ball as McElwain has increased the production of this once anemic offense. McElwain got gut punched by the NCAA when the news came out about Will Grier’s 2015 playing status, but backup quarterback Treon Harris has filled in nicely leading the Gators to a 3-1 record since taking over. McElwain had the luxury to rekindle a strong Gator defense put together by former head coach Will Muschamp, but even with an offense that looks better on the field they average less points than last season but have decreased the amount of turnovers giving them a chance to win in every outing. Well done, Coach McElwain.

2. Nick Saban, Alabama (9-1, 6-1)

Obviously the best coach in football, but Nick Saban just falls to second place because of McElwain’s immediate success in his first season at Florida. Having the quarterback controversy to deal with for the second season in a row, it seems as this narrative has already been written. This Alabama defense is one of the best Saban has possessed in his tenure at Tuscaloosa and continue to put themselves in manageable situations to win football games not making quarterback Jake Coker have to do too much. It’s another normal Alabama season that has playoff bound characteristics written all over them.

3t. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3)

Having been placed to finish last in the SEC West this preseason, Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs have been quietly effective this season with seven wins. Dak Prescott has been playing better than ever (Alabama game just average performance: 22-43, 300 yards, Int) and the defense has been just fine holding opponents to just 18 points per game. Mullen has this team contending every week and even with a couple of tough games left on the season 9 or 10 win season is not out of the picture. Dating back to the 2014 opener, the Bulldogs have 17 overall wins which is tied for second in the SEC with Georgia (Alabama ranks first with 212 wins).

3t. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss (7-3, 4-2)

Some coaches can’t even take down Alabama twice in their careers, nonetheless taking down the Tide in back-to-back seasons like Ole Miss has. Hugh Freeze has a unique style to his system scoring big and keeping opponents under 25 points. The philosophy has worked and Freeze has coached up another junior college quarterback to help guide his team. With an ample amount of NFL caliber players you could ask more of the Rebels but with another win over Alabama under their belt and potentially a road win in the Egg Bowl, the season will be a success once again.

5. Bret Bielema, Arkansas (6-4, 4-2)

Seeing how the Razorbacks started it’s strange to see Arkansas riding on a four game winning streak with wins over Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU. Hiring former Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos to run his offense, Bret Bielema has turned his run first offense into an effective balanced attack scoring 34 points per game and an increase of total yards per game of 63 to 469. With the recent win over LSU, Arkansas looks to finish out the season on a six game winning streak getting to eight wins for the first time since 2011.

6. Les Miles, LSU (7-2, 4-2)

It’s a tossup on whether LSU has either overachieved or underachieved with a 4-2 conference record. The quarterback position has been in doubt over the past two seasons with the combination of Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings and neither one of them being effective enough to control the outcome of a game. With a talented filled roster it’s expected for the Tigers to have a little more eye candy and firepower than they have produced this season with just a mediocre showing with a couple of potential losses left on their schedule.

7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3)

In his fourth season at the helm, along with Texas A&M’s fourth season in the SEC, Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies were expected to see the Aggies contending for league titles by now with the improved personnel and coaching staff within the past few years. With another underwhelming season, Sumlin’s seat isn’t getting warm but it’s time to get going on the right road because another eight win season isn’t cutting it.

8. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (4-6, 2-4)

Taking matters into his own hands making changes in the coaching staff, Derek Mason has transformed this 2014 struggling team into a black and white difference in 2015 though the Commodores are still in jeopardy of not producing a bowl eligible season. Mason has this program heading into the right direction and could be a quarterback away from bringing back what James Franklin started in Nashville.

9t. Butch Jones, Tennessee (6-4, 3-3)

This was supposed to be Tennessee’s year. Returning quarterback Joshua Dobbs with key skills players and experienced players in the trenches, this was Butch Jones’ best shot at capturing an SEC East title crown but has fallen short with his team collapsing late in games.

9t. Mark Richt, Georgia (7-3, 5-3)

A 7-3 record isn’t too bad, but it’s just the same ole thing in Athens. Mark Richt has created this program to be on a level to compete for championships every season so this disappointment comes each season when the Dawgs fail to even scratch the surface of at least an SEC East title. Richt’s time could be limited in Athens and with the University of Miami head coaching job vacancy it makes an interesting story…potentially.

11. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (4-6, 2-6)

Sure, the expectations weren’t high for the Wildcats this season but falling apart in the middle of the season was not part of the plan. Mark Stoops’ team has dropped five straight games averaging just 16.8 points per game with poor play on all cylinders. The Wildcats can still reach bowl eligibility with wins over Charlotte and Louisville, but Stoops just has two SEC wins in his three years as head coach in Lexington. It’s time to get it done on the field.

12. Gus Malzahn Auburn (5-5, 2-5)

It’s crazy to see a Gus Malzahn offense struggle so much without having a productive player at quarterback and any big-time playmakers on offense (or we just don’t get to see them get the ball much). Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp seems to finally have his defense playing at a high level, but the Auburn offense has not even been mediocre not being able to capitalize in the red-zone. Who is to blame? I’m not sure, but the finger always gets pointed back at the heacd coach so Malzahn takes the fall with the Tigers extremely underwhelming 5-5 record.

13. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (5-5, 1-5)

Unfortunately, long-time head coach Gary Pinkel has to hang up his coaching career for now and it would have been nice to see his team end on a good note, but that’s not the case. Pinkel’s team ran into more than enough trouble at quarterback decreasing its stock value this season giving reason to its 1-5 conference record. The Tigers are possibly now in rebuilding mode, but moving forward with freshman quarterback Drew Lock can be a good thing.

14. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (2-4, 0-4)*

Well, if you tap out in the middle of season because of losing you’re not going to find yourself at the top of many lists. Steve Spurrier has been rumored to be a sore loser and we may have witnessed just that this season. The Gamecocks have found themselves in the victory circle just once since Spurrier’s departure, so The Ole Ball Coach may have been foreshadowing when leaving, but still at least finish out the season, right?