SOUNDING OFF ON A THURSDAY
(1) The Silly Season approaches rapidly, magnified by recruitniks convinced Dan Mullen has lost his mind and is plunging the Gators farther behind Georgia because he doesn’t have a clue about recruiting. To those who think their world is about to end, I have this to say – take deep breaths, step back off the ledge, everything is going to be fine.
This is not the same Florida football program that the previous coach was running into the ground. It’s not the same Florida football program that it’s going to be in a couple of years, either. What Mullen has done in two years is nothing short of remarkable but as much as he has accomplished, there is still a way to go. I’m not sure many people really have a firm grasp on just how wobbly the program was when Mullen took over. I’m not sure many really understand just how much Mullen has had to do – and continues to do – to repair ruptured relationships with high school coaches from one end of the state to the other. Where things are today and where they were when Mullen came to UF are light years difference and yet Florida is still playing catch-up. Florida is making progress on the recruiting trail, no question about that, but it’s a process. Anyone who thought this was going to be done overnight just doesn’t have a clue how far behind the previous coach had set UF back.
It’s not simply a matter of firing assistant coaches to bring in guys who have reputations as stone cold recruiters. If you believe that’s the answer then take a look at Alabama and see how Nick Saban is paying the price for loading up his staff with recruiters who weren’t very good on the field coaches. All that staff turnover after the Clemson debacle back in January had everything to do with the fact that Nick sold his soul for recruiters and then had to endure getting hosed by a better coached Clemson team in the national championship game. The fact that Alabama is 10-2 this year and not in the College Football Playoff is a by-product of that error in judgment by Saban, who basically gutted his staff and brought in coaches who specialize in player development.
One of the things overlooked by folks clamoring for assistants to be canned in favor of coaches who are viewed as brilliant recruiters is the internal value of the coaches currently on staff. I’ll give you two examples. (1) When Florida went from national power to middle of the pack in 2010, much of the demise had to do with the fact that Urban Meyer had lost Kenny Carter and Vance Bedford, who left for Louisville with Charlie Strong. Carter wasn’t a great recruiter but kids trusted him infinitely and went to him with their problems. Bedford was a better recruiter and a really good on the field coach, but like Carter, kids trusted him. The guys Meyer replaced Carter and Bedford with didn’t measure up and the Gators lost something valuable. (2) When you trace the demise of the FSU dynasty look at what happened when Chuck Amato and Dan Gladden left. Neither one of them were great recruiters but they were who the players went to when they had a problem. When they left, the dynasty began to crumble because Bobby Bowden didn’t adequately replace them. Mullen knows exactly the value of each member of his staff. If he’s not replacing some assistants it’s because he is fully aware what they bring to the table and that’s important to him.
So to summarize, Florida recruiting is strengthening under Mullen and will continue to strengthen as he continues to (a) win football games and restore Florida’s profile as a player on the national stage and (b) rebuild the relationships that were fractured by the previous head coach and his staff.
(2) I wouldn’t be surprised if Feleipe Franks has some serious discussions with Duke coach David Cutcliffe about going there as a graduate transfer. Cutcliffe has a well-earned reputation as a QB guru who runs an easy to grasp offense. Duke loses senior QB Quentin Harris (2,078 passing yards, 16 TDs; 510 rushing yards, seven TDs). Another place to consider is Tulane where Willie Fritz prefers dual threat QBs. Justin McMillan (2,229 passing yards, 14 TDs; 704 rushing yards, 12 TDs) graduates so there will be an open spot. Fritz has a reputation as a coach who does a great job adapting his offense to the skill set of his quarterbacks.
(3) The American Athletic Conference placed three teams in the final College Football Playoff poll (#17 Memphis, #21 Cincinnati and #23 Navy) and for the third straight year placed a team (Memphis) in the available New Year’s Six bowl (Cotton Bowl vs. Penn State). If you want proof that this is the best Group of Five league then take a look at this fact: In the last five years NINE AAC coaches have become head coaches at the Power Five level. You can’t blame the coaches for leaving. There is substantially more money available for salaries and recruiting at the Power Five level so when jobs are offered they take it, but how much longer can the AAC remain the best Group of Five conference if it keeps losing its coaches?
(4) For those who think we’ll see the College Football Playoff expand to eight teams anytime soon think again. If and when it expands it will be AFTER the current contract that calls for a four-team playoff expires. That is six years from now.
(5) The New York Yankees signed pitcher Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal worth a record $324 million. This comes on the heels of the Washington Nationals signing Stephen Strasburg to $245 million over seven years. I don’t blame Cole or Strasburg for signing such an exorbitant contract. Nobody held a gun to their heads and made them sign. I wonder if the people who give out these big contracts ever take into consideration they continue to pushing attending a Major League Baseball game farther out of the reach from average fans.
(6) Maybe the New England Patriots explanation that their film crew didn’t knowingly break the rules when it filmed eight minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals sideline this past Sunday is legitimate. Perhaps, but given their history with playing fast and loose with the rules the Patriots have a whole lot of explaining to do. I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty but the circumstantial evidence lends the appearance that the Patriots are at it once again.
(7) A committee of scientists has found that the baseballs weren’t juiced during the 2019 season in which home runs were flying out of Major League ball parks at a record pace. The scientists say there was less drag on the ball but there was no attempt at the Rawlings manufacturing facility in Costa Rica (baseballs are hand sewn there) to alter the ball in any way. I like home runs although I adhere to the old Earl Weaver philosophy: Baseball games are won by good pitching and 3-run homers.
SEC COACHING UPDATES AND OTHER STUFF
LSU: Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was linked to the vacant UNLV job but apparently that was all smoke. Aranda is staying at LSU where he makes $2.5 million per year. UNLV was paying former HBC Tony Sanchez $600,000.
Arkansas: New OL coach Brad Davis will make $550,000 as part of Sam Pittman’s new staff ... Barry Lunney Jr., who served as the interim head coach after Chad Morris was fired, is the new offensive coordinator at Texas-San Antonio.
Ole Miss: The new offensive coordinator is likely to be Jeff Lebby, who is the OC and quarterbacks coach at UCF. Kiffin offered longtime Bama strength coach Scott Cochran an on the field coaching position. Kiffin is expected to hire former Bama DC (now Cleveland Browns DL) Tosh Lupoi and former Bama DL (now Detroit Lions DL) Bo Davis.
Georgia: All-SEC corner J.R. Reed announced he is playing in the Sugar Bowl game with Baylor rather than skip the bowl game to prep for the NFL Draft.
Kentucky: Special teams coordinator/secondary coach Dean Hood is leaving the UK staff to become the HBC at D1AA Murray State … Lynn Bowden Jr. has been named winner of the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile player.
Missouri: Appalachian State special teams coordinator Erik Link is following Eli Drinkwitz to Mizzou.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks announced a home-and-home series with Virginia Tech. It won’t happen anytime soon, though. The Hokies will travel to Columbia in 2034 and the Gamecocks will pay a visit to Blacksburg in 2035.
Auburn: The Tigers will host Mountain West opponent New Mexico in a 2024 paycheck game.
Alabama: Defensive back Scooby Carter has withdrawn his name from the NCAA transfer portal and is back with the team. Carter has been seen participating in Alabama workouts.
MORE COACHING STUFF FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Florida Atlantic: One day after FAU interviewed Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, Florida Atlantic hired former South Florida/Oregon/FSU coach Willie Taggart. Taggart will probably do extremely well at this level. There is far less pressure and fewer booster responsibilities.
Colorado State: In just three days CSU has gone from Tony Alford almost a certainty to Kevin Wilson trending rapidly to Steve Addazio is the new head coach. Addazio got a 5-year deal worth $1.5 million a year.
UNLV: Whatever issues there were with hiring Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo have been worked out. They’re putting the final contract together now and Arroyo is likely to be named HBC today or tomorrow.
Appalachian State: O-line coach Shawn Clark was the interim coach for three days. Wednesday, he had the interim tag removed and was named HBC.
Florida State: Memphis defensive coordinator Adam Fuller will be joining Mike Norvell’s staff as FSU’s new DC.
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY
New Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin on the Dan Patrick Show, talking about former boss Nick Saban and when he thinks Saban will hang up the whistle: “I think he’s going to coach a long time. I do. What else is he going to do? He does golf, but he’s miserable. I mean that in a way in that’s why he’s good. He is singularly focused on the University of Alabama and football at Alabama, every minute of every day, even if he’s golfing, even if he’s on a boat. He has his recruiting calls to make every night, whether it’s Christmas or whatever it is. It doesn’t matter. Every day is the same. There are certain people like that. They’re almost like prisoners. You can’t go in the real world, like in ‘Shawshank Redemption.’ When Books Hatlen goes out in the real world he’s like, ‘I can’t do it. I need to be in prison.’ They come back.”
Bruce Feldman of The Athletic on Rich Eisen’s radio show, explaining his theory why Ed Orgeron was bypassed at Southern Cal in favor of Steve Sarkisian after Lane Kiffin was fired: “I really think it’s a USC issue. A lot of people at USC, especially back in that Pad Haden (USC athletic director) regime couldn’t get past what Ed Orgeron sounded like. They didn’t listen to the players. They didn’t listen to the staff. I think at the end of the day, Ed Orgeron is not a country club guy.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Major League Baseball announced that it will begin testing for opioids in 2020. This is a response to the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who had both alcohol and opioids in his system at the time of his death … The President’s Cup has begun in Melbourne, Australia. Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas won their first round match 4-and-3 over Adam Hadwin and Byeong-Hun An. Okay, I never heard of those two guys either, but Tiger and Justin did play well ... The New Orleans Pelicans are still without #1 draft pick Zion Williamson who had surgery for a torn meniscus back when the NBA season began. Reggie Miller tweeted out that he doesn’t expect Williamson to play this season.