Inside the numbers: Breaking down Dan Mullen’s offensive success at Florida in 2006

florida gators-dan mullen success-2006

New Florida coach Dan Mullen has had offensive success in the SEC for the last 13 years, dating back to his time as the Gators’ offensive coordinator from 2005-08. Once a week, we’ll break down Mullen’s success, one year at a time.

The focus this week is the 2006 season.

The rundown

The Gators finished 13-1 and won the second national championship in program history. Budding stars by the name of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin made their presence known in their freshman seasons and Mullen’s offensive identity truly began to take form. Florida went 5-1 against ranked opponents, with the lone loss coming against Auburn before closing the season on a seven-game win streak capped with SEC and national championships.

The stats

  • Total offense: 396.1 yards/game
  • Passing offense: 236.1 yards/game
  • Rushing offense: 160 yards/game
  • Scoring offense: 29.7 points/game
  • Yards per play: 6.3 yards

The key players

  • Quarterback Chris Leak: 2,942 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
  • Quarterback Tim Tebow: 358 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception; 469 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry, 8 rushing touchdowns
  • Running back DeShawn Wynn: 699 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns, 4.9 yards per carry; 12 catches, 161 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Percy Harvin: 34 catches, 427 yards, 2 touchdowns; 428 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Dallas Baker: 60 catches, 920 yards, 10 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Andre Caldwell: 57 catches, 577 yards, 6 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius: 34 catches, 523 yards, 3 touchdown

The key wins

  • 21-20 over Tennessee: After opening the season with a pair of easy wins (34-7 over Southern Miss and 42-0 over UCF), the Gators came close to dropping their SEC opener against Tennessee. But behind a pair of clutch second-half touchdown drives led by Chris Leak — and ending with catches in the end zone by Dallas Baker — Florida found a way to leave Rocky Top with a win.
  • 21-14 over Georgia: After losing by 10 points to Auburn two weeks earlier, Florida knew it would need to be perfect the rest of the way for a spot in the SEC Championship Game and beyond. First up in that back half of the season was the annual neutral-site rivalry game with Georgia. The Gators took a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter and held off a late Bulldogs rally to clinch the win.
  • 41-14 over Ohio State: The SEC Championship was already in hand after a 38-28 win over Arkansas. Now, the real test awaited. No. 2 Florida vs. No. 1 Ohio State. In reality, though, it didn’t turn out to be much of a test at all. The Gators took a 34-14 lead at halftime and never looked back. By the end of the game, Florida had amassed 370 yards of offense. Chris Leak completed 25 of 36 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown, while Tim Tebow had a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown as the Gators won the national championship. 

In summary

It took just two years for the Gators to get back into national championship contention — and the work was just getting started.

The post Inside the numbers: Breaking down Dan Mullen’s offensive success at Florida in 2006 appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country


Ole Miss willing to go down with Hugh Freeze, and NCAA will oblige


Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says he wants “finality.” He’s probably not going to get it under the circumstances he’d like.

The Rebels released their official response to the NCAA’s second Notice of Allegations on Tuesday, and the takeaway is clear: Ole Miss has no intention of backing down when it comes to the serious accusations levied against Freeze.

The two most notable of these are the Level I “lack of institutional control” and “head coach responsibility” claims, but a total of 15 Level I allegations can be found in the NOA. Most occurred under Freeze’s watch, with a fraction attributed to Houston Nutt’s tenure.

The university, which begins the response by citing its internal investigation, proactive compliance measures and self-imposed punishments (including the bowl ban) at length, eventually addresses the Level I charges:

“In taking responsibility for what has occurred, the University has self-imposed significant and appropriate penalties …

“All but three of the Level I allegations (i.e., Allegations Nos. 5, 20, and 21) were the result of intentional misconduct specifically intended to evade monitoring systems implemented by the University, the athletics department, and the head football coach …”

“The University contests the allegations concerning institutional control and head coach responsibility (Allegations Nos. 20-21).”

Those are the legalese equivalent of fightin’ words, and it’s either a bold display of support or brazen stupidity. 

By continuing to resist — that’s how the NCAA will see this — Ole Miss not only looks reckless, but risks getting hammered harder by college football’s governing body, as well. The NCAA is out for blood and wants Freeze to be the sacrificial lamb. This is where the Rebels have made their stand.

Objectively, you have to wonder: Is Freeze worth it?

He’s a fine football coach who led the Rebels to their first Sugar Bowl win in decades. His offense beat Alabama twice. But he’s not the second coming of Johnny Vaught. Does fighting for him outweight the potential long-term damage done by a two-year bowl ban, more scholarship reductions or worse? A year-long suspension for Freeze is on the table. The anxiety surrounding this investigation has already poisoned recruiting efforts (see: 2017 signing class, “penalty”).

Let’s assume for the purpose of argument that Freeze, who is still beloved by many in Oxford and around the state, had no knowledge of his staff’s wrongdoings, as the university argued in its response.

Freeze may be a fantastic human being — I can’t personally vouch for his character, but I know some who can — and it’s hard to believe athletics director Ross Bjork would fight this hard if that wasn’t the case. Yet, that probably matters little when the NCAA sees these matters in black and white.

The officials investigating this mess see a repeating trend of broken rules. Ole Miss has admitted as much. Not much can be done to completely protect Freeze at this point, so why try?

Bjork and his team can try to deflect blame from Freeze by bringing up the likes of  “Student-Athlete 39,” widely recognized as Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, or ex-assistant Barney Farrar. Lewis certainly would have a conflict of interest in telling the NCAA about improper benefits he may or may not have received.

With the evidence available to the public, however, it’s unlikely Farrar acted as a rogue agent, just as it is unlikely an alleged cash-dealing booster only paid this particular ex-Ole Miss recruit. The existence of your typical “college football bag man” is common knowledge at this point. And here’s Ole Miss, harping on the account of one football player and requesting to be present for his interview.

RELATED: Ole Miss requested interview with Dan Mullen about NCAA allegations

Ole Miss will achieve the finality Freeze seeks only by bowing out of this fight, and that means firing Freeze. In continuing to battle the NCAA, the Rebels may ultimately have to fire Freeze anyway. Coaches rarely, if ever, survive this sort of onslaught given the internal and external pressure to clean house.

It’s a lose-lose proposition for the school. Bjork may feel good defending a coach he personally respects, but when the men in suits with hundred-page reports show up on your doorstep, you’ve already lost.

The Rebels will meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions later this year. Despite a tornado’s worth of potential fallout churning in the distance, Ole Miss is standing pat, going about its business and apparently willing to die on this hill with Freeze if necessary.

In other words, this picture is the perfect metaphor for Ole Miss v. NCAA:

The post Ole Miss willing to go down with Hugh Freeze, and NCAA will oblige appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country


South Carolina prepares for major recruiting weekend; Gamecocks WR target breaks down decision factors

South Carolina football-Ryan Hilinski-recruiting event

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Guests of honor

The South Carolina Gamecocks are hosting a number of highly touted prospects from the 2019 and 2020 classes this weekend.

The expected guest list from the Class of 2019 includes 4-star quarterback and South Carolina commit Ryan Hilinski and 5-star defensive end Zacch Pickens. Four-star defensive linemen and Columbia natives Jordan Burch and Alex Huntley highlight the 2020 visitors.

South Carolina’s 2019 class is currently ranked No. 13, according to 247Sports’ 2019 football recruiting composite team rankings. Four-star wide receiver Jamario Holley is the Gamecocks’ highest-rated commit, tabbed as the No. 268 overall prospect by the 247Sports composite.


What is 4-star WR and South Carolina target Traevon Kenion looking for in a school?

“I don’t want to go somewhere and regret going there, so I want to keep going up there and seeing, is this really where I want to be the next four years,” Kenion said. “That’s what I’m mainly looking for.”

Rated as the No. 192 overall prospect for 2019, per the 247Sports composite, Kenion hears from South Carolina, North Carolina and North Carolina State the most.

The Monroe (N.C.) High School standout plans to announce his commitment in May.

Familiar face

Five-star athlete Quavaris Crouch is one of South Carolina’s top targets for 2019, so it certainly helps to have Crouch’s former teammate at Harding University (Charlotte), Jovaughn Gwyn, arriving on campus in a few months.

Gwyn, a former 4-star offensive guard, was rated as the No. 347 overall prospect for 2018 (247Sports composite) when he signed with the Gamecocks in December. He’ll enroll at South Carolina this summer.

“I got a big relationship with Jovaughn. That’s my main guy,” Crouch said, via John Del Bianco of The Big Spur.

The 247Sports composite rates Crouch as the No. 17 overall prospect for 2019.

More than teammates

There’s one freshman that junior Buck outside linebacker/defensive end D.J. Wonnum is most excited to see on the practice field this summer, his younger brother, Dylan.

“It’s going to be pretty cool, you know. I’m excited to get him down here,” D.J. said, via David Cloninger of the Post and Courier. “I feel like he’s got a chance. He needs to step up for us and be able to play if his time is called.”

The younger Wonnum signed with the Gamecocks in February. He was rated as the No. 12 offensive tackle for 2018, per the 247Sports composite.


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According to The State’s Greg Hadley, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team may be pursuing TCU transfer guard Amber Ramirez.

Ramirez averaged 10.8 points, 2.86 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season for the Horned Frogs.

She was rated as the No. 12 overall prospect for 2016, according to ESPN.

Moving on

South Carolina forward Brian Bowen will enter the 2018 NBA Draft but will not hire an agent, as reported by the Post and Courier.

“Everyone at the University of South Carolina, from my teammates and coaches to the great fans, have welcomed me from the very beginning and I want to thank everyone for that support,” Bowen said in a statement. “My family and I are thankful to everyone at South Carolina for the opportunity to be a Gamecock. I’m excited to declare for the draft without hiring an agent and look forward to the process and continuing to work hard on my game.”

A 5-star recruit coming out of high school in 2017, Bowen transferred to South Carolina from Louisville in January, sitting out the remainder of the 2017-18 because of NCAA transfer rules.

Bowen’s departure from Louisville was prompted by Cardinals coach Rick Pitino’s firing in October amidst the FBI investigation into college basketball — although Bowen was cleared by the FBI.

Stopping by

South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin visited with 4-star center and 2019 prospect DJ Burns on Wednesday night.

The Rock Hill, S.C., native is the No. 74 overall prospect for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite. He already boasts offers from South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and more.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country


South Carolina’s outlook at TE; 4-star athlete breaks down Gamecocks’ pitch

south carolina-evan hinson-tight end depth

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Starting anew

What does the South Carolina Gamecocks’ depth at tight end look like after spring practice?

According to SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan, senior Jacob August tops the pre-summer depth chart, with redshirt junior Kyle Markway and two-sport athlete Evan Hinson, a redshirt sophomore, trailing.

“The trio of tight ends will attempt to combine forces and replace Hayden Hurst as he marches toward a career in the NFL,” McGranahan wrote. “Hinson, who missed most of the spring because of basketball and class scheduling conflicts, could emerge as the starter before the end of the season.”

Redshirt senior K.C. Crosby and junior Kiel Pollard should serve as H-backs.

South Carolina’s tight ends have a tall order in replacing Hurst’s production. The former All-SEC player led all conference tight ends in catches (44) and yards (559) in 2017.

‘I’m their guy’

Four-star athlete J.R. Walker won’t announce his commitment until later this year, but the Northeastern High School (Elizabeth City, N.C.) standout already hears a lot from South Carolina.

“Well, every day they tell me that I’m their guy [and] I’m a South Carolina guy,” Walker said. “That just means a lot to me, to know that a team thinks that I’m that guy and really wants me that bad.”

Assistant coach Kyle Krantz is Walker’s primary recruiter to South Carolina.

The 2019 prospect counts South Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech as his top 3 schools.

Heading to town

Four-star quarterback and South Carolina commit Ryan Hilinski will be in Columbia this weekend, according to a tweet he posted Monday afternoon, via John Del Bianco of The Big Spur.

Having Hilinski on campus during the SpursUs cookout this weekend should give the Gamecocks a boost in their recruiting efforts.

With Hilinski’s pledge on April 4, the Gamecocks’ 2019 class is currently ranked No. 13 overall in 247Sports’ 2019 football recruiting composite team rankings.

Offer out

South Carolina offered 4-star wide receiver and 2019 prospect Isaiah Hazel on Monday night.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver is rated as the No. 243 overall prospect for 2019, per the 247Sports composite. He boasts additional offers from Alabama, Maryland, Virginia Tech, among others.

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Late addition

Three-star forward and 2018 prospect Elysa Wesolek has signed with South Carolina’s women’s basketball, according to David Cloninger of the Post and Courier.

The Charleston, S.C., native originally signed with Western Kentucky but reopened her recruitment following a coaching change with the Lady Toppers. Western Kentucky released her from her letter of intent.

ESPN ranks Wesolek as the No. 47 overall forward for 2018.

On the move

Freshman guard David Beatty is leaving the South Carolina men’s basketball team, the school announced on Monday.

“We want to thank David for everything he did for our program during his time with us, and we wish him the best on and off the court moving forward,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a release.

Beatty is the third underclassman to leave the program within the last month, following the departures of forwards Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia and Khadim Gueye.

The former 4-star prospect appeared in 29 games last season, averaging 3.0 points and 1.0 rebounds.

Goodbye to you

Check out former South Carolina star and All-American forward A’ja Wilson saying goodbye to her childhood home in South Carolina.

The three-time SEC Player of the Year and consensus Player of the Year in women’s college basketball was picked first in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

The post South Carolina’s outlook at TE; 4-star athlete breaks down Gamecocks’ pitch appeared first on SEC Country.

Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country


Breaking down South Carolina’s spring game; Gamecocks name No. 2 QB

South Carolina Gamecocks-Michael Scarnecchia-South Carolina-South Carolina football-spring football

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Spring into action

The South Carolina Gamecocks held their annual Garnet and Black spring game on Saturday and SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan was on hand for the action.

“Junior quarterback Jake Bentley looked sharp as he connected on touchdown passes to Jacob August [8] and Bryan Edwards [19],” McGranahan wrote. “Bentley’s best throw might have been a 40-yard completion to Edwards with Rashad Fenton in coverage.”

The Black team defeated the Garnet squad 34-20. Bentley completed 15 of 25 passes for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns.

‘He’s had a very good spring’

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp named redshirt senior Michael Scarnecchia as the team’s No. 2 quarterback following the Garnet and Black spring game.

“He’s had a very good spring,” Muschamp said. “He throws it extremely well. He’s got a very good grasp of what we’re doing offensively.”

The Fleming Island, Fla., native completed 9 of 16 passes for 146 yards and 1 touchdown on Saturday.

In review

Though he had mixed marks for the defense, Muschamp was happy with his team’s offense and overall leadership in the spring game.

“Pleased with how we moved the ball, offensively. We’ve got a ways to go, defensively,” he said. “The good thing is we have really good leadership and guys who are going to be accountable within our organization.”

The teams combined for 44 points and 449 yards of offense in the Black team’s win.

Looking for answers

When looking at the defense, Muschamp specifically wants to see improvement in the secondary.

“We’ve got to get better across the board in the secondary,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to get more guys that are going to be game ready, to play. Obviously, Jam [Williams] being out [for the spring game] — he’s a very dependable player for us that’s going to be a good player for us next year.”

The Garnet and Black secondaries surrendered 365 yards passing and 3 touchdowns but posted 2 interceptions.

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Decision incoming

Three-star QB and 2019 prospect Garrett Shrader is close to making a decision, according to SportsTalkSC’s Phil Kornblut.

“I’m going to sit down with coach [Jason] Estep this next week or in the next couple of weeks and try to figure it out and put certain pieces in their place and make a decision off that,” Shrader told Kornblut after checking out the Gamecocks’ spring game.

South Carolina, Mississippi State, Penn State and West Virginia are the finalists for the Charlotte (N.C.) Christian standout.

Good vibes

Three-star linebacker Tyron Hopper liked what he saw from the Gamecocks’ defense when he visited spring practice in February.

“The way everything [runs], the flow and everything,” Hopper said. “The way everything’s going. I really like the defense and how it was run.”

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound prospect is rated as the No. 18 inside linebacker for 2019, per 247Sports. He boasts offers from South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and more.

Checking in

Former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was at Williams-Brice Stadium for the spring game on Saturday.

From 2005-15, the “Head Ball Coach” posted an 86-49 overall record, winning the 2010 SEC East title and posting three straight 11-win seasons from 2011-13.


The celebrity cameo in the Garnet and Black spring game, an annual tradition, belonged to a visiting Spurrier on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the HBC couldn’t haul in the would-be touchdown.

Past off-the-bench celebrity receivers have included South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina alum and country music star Darius Rucker.

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The post Breaking down South Carolina’s spring game; Gamecocks name No. 2 QB appeared first on SEC Country.

Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country


Nick Saban puts down retirement talk; Steve Spurrier sees him coaching into his 70s

Nick Saban-retirement-steve-spurrier

Nick Saban is 66 years old and a good bit older than some of his top competitors, such as Dabo Swinney (48), Kirby Smart (42) and Lincoln Riley (34). But that doesn’t mean the legendary Alabama coach is close to retiring.

Saban, who is coming off his fifth national championship in nine seasons at Alabama, emphatically put down any idea of him stepping away anytime soon.

“That’s what everybody keeps saying, that I’m not going to be doing this for much longer, and all the people who say it have no idea what I’m going to do,” Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low. “I’ve been involved in some fashion with football and being a part of a football team ever since I can remember. I don’t know what it would be like not doing it, and don’t want to know.”

Another legendary SEC coach who recently retired, Steve Spurrier, also spoke with Low about how much longer Saban could end up coaching. The former Florida and South Carolina coach sees Saban coaching in Tuscaloosa for several more years.

“Nick ain’t thinking about retiring, not even close,” Spurrier said. “He can go into his 70s easy, and I think he will.”

Spurrier retired when he was 70. But South Carolina clearly had started to slide, as the Gamecocks went 7-6 in his final full season and got off to a 2-4 start in 2015 before he stepped away. He also offered up this gem of a quote.

“I told him he won’t retire until he loses three games in a season. He told me, ‘If I ever lose three games around here again, they might kill me.’ I think he was joking, but I’m not sure.”

Alabama has lost three games in a season once since Saban took over, and that was in 2010. In the last three seasons, Saban has lost a total of three times while racking up 41 wins and two national titles.

Saban is hardly the first coach to coach into his late 60s and possible 70s. Joe Paterno of Penn State and Bobby Bowden of Florida State coached into their 80s.

The Crimson Tide are getting ready to open spring practice. They will open the 2018 season against Louisville on Sept. 1 in Orlando, Fla. Alabama likely will be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 to open the season. And Saban is as focused as ever on winning another title.

“I don’t base being successful on what the standard is on the outside,” Saban said. “I agree that the expectation is that we have to win the national championship every year. That’s what it’s become here. But I don’t think having a good program necessarily is totally relevant to how many national championships you win.”

The post Nick Saban puts down retirement talk; Steve Spurrier sees him coaching into his 70s appeared first on SEC Country.

Connor Riley – SEC Country


SEC coaching rumors: Breaking down insane day of Jimbo Fisher, Dan Mullen and Greg Schiano news

Dan Mullen-Mississippi State-Mississippi State Bulldogs-SEC

There are times when emotions run hot, situations escalate and pleasantries get tossed out the window. Only then do you see the true heart, soul and passion of the people who live, breathe and invest time and money into SEC football Saturdays.

This… this is one of those times.

If you stepped out for a relaxing Sunday with your family or friends, buckle up, because you have missed an awful lot. Here are the quick-hit highlights:

Here are three major takeaways from an absolutely wild day around SEC Country.

1) Dan Mullen can fix Florida’s offense, and that’s really all that matters

It doesn’t take a genius to recruit Florida; Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain and Ron Zook were all largely successful in doing so.

It doesn’t take a coaching mastermind to cobble some of that Sunshine State talent into a respectable defense. The Gators defensive coordinator position has acted as a springboard for many coaches — Charlie Strong, Dan Quinn, Teryl Austin and Geoff Collins, to name a few — but even Randy Shannon’s unit ranked 31st in total defense with many of Muschamp’s recruits gone.

Building an offense that can actually challenge SEC defenses ain’t so easy. Neither is developing a quarterback who can survive the rigors of an SEC schedule. Muschamp, McElwain and all of their offensive coordinators failed on both fronts, often miserably.

Only once since Urban Meyer left have the Gators scored more than 30 points per game; under McElwain, they never did better than 23.9. For a program with Florida’s resources, that’s not just bad — that’s pathetic.

Mullen needs no introduction. He has survived what no other conference coach has since 2007 — Nick Saban’s arrival at Alabama — and turned Mississippi State into a consistent performer in the cutthroat SEC West. More importantly, he has done so by signing a bevy of Magnolia State and JUCO 3-stars and, wait for it, developing them into capable college starters.

And, of course, Mullen has been especially great at developing quarterbacks. Nick Fitzgerald, a former wide receiver who only had one other scholarship offer (Middle Tennessee), and Dak Prescott might be his crowning achievements. Imagine what he could do with blue-chip California prospect Matt Corral?

Maybe some Florida fans would have preferred a flashier hire, like Chip Kelly, or a young upstart like UCF’s Scott Frost. But Mullen already has proven he can win in the SEC, and for that there is absolutely no substitute.

This hire is a clear win for the Gators, and a crushing blow for Mississippi State, which already lost athletic director Scott Stricklin to the Gators. The SEC East just got better.

2) Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M? That’s a whole lot of ego on one campus

Don’t get me wrong: Jimbo Fisher is a great coach, and it makes sense why he’d be the Aggies’ first choice.

Fisher’s apparent level of interest in the Texas A&M job is intriguing. The A&M post, all things considered, is a pretty ideal setup from a resources and recruiting standpoint. The challenges of playing in the SEC West still exist, but the access to Alabama-level recruiting talent is practically unbeatable. Throw in a recently-renovated stadium along with competitive facilities and College Station is a pretty sweet place to land.

At the same time, Florida State has most of those same advantages. Maybe Fisher was just ready for a change of scenery after eight years at the helm in Tallahassee. Or maybe he was tired of Seminoles fans heckling him during a losing season, where he lost his starting quarterback in the season opener, four seasons removed from a national championship.

Spoiler alert: Texas A&M fans will do the same thing if Fisher signs a massive contract only to go 6-6 in Year 1.

Whatever the motive, the Aggies are going big, as expected. It’s worth questioning whether two sides that think so highly of themselves are a fantastic fit. But then again, winning cures everything, doesn’t it?

3) Greg SchiaNO: The funniest, saddest story of the day

Tennessee’s coaching search started with the predictable Jon Gruden rumor hysteria. Then the focus apparently shifted toward Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen. Ultimately, athletic director John Currie reportedly settled upon the most predictably laughable successor to Butch Jones: Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, whose best coaching performance came in 2006, when Rutgers won 11 games.

The reaction has been outrage and condemnation, for a handful of reasons.

  1. Schiano has not been a college head coach since 2011. His only head coaching experience at the college level came during his 11-year stint at Rutgers, where he compiled a 68-67 overall record.
  2. His Ohio State defenses have been torched in big games. Iowa dropped 55 points on the Buckeyes earlier this month. Baker Mayfield shredded his secondary for 386 yards passing.
  3. There are Schiano’s perceived implications in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky scandal. Schiano was on Joe Paterno’s staff at the time and, according to court documents, assistant Mike McQueary testified that Schiano knew about Sandusky’s sexual misconduct.

Literally everyone with a stake in Tennessee has criticized the reported hire: Vols fans, alumni and even state legislators. Even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders weighed in. People are protesting, and you can bet Knoxville riots will follow if this goes through. The only people I’ve seen defending Schiano here are Paterno’s son, Scott (go figure), and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit (whose Twitter mentions were shredded by angry Tennessee fans).

The mounting pressure could be enough to torch any talks that took place between Tennessee and Schiano. One report from ESPN on Sunday night indicated that indeed was the case. A separate report indicated that Schiano was seeking compensation from Tennessee for calling off the deal.

Are Tennessee fans right to be angry? Absolutely. Currie is clearly in over his head and has little-to-no sense of his own fan base.

At the same time, Tennessee fans probably need to step back and realize that this is not an elite job that can attract or keep top coaching talent. Florida and Texas A&M have you beat. Arkansas might be neck-and-neck at this point. Phil Fulmer was the best Tennessee has had, and we all remember how that ended. The Schiano incident sure won’t change perceptions, especially if fans and politicians manage to run the guy off before he even signs a contract.

This is a toxic situation all around, and there might have been disgust even if Currie hadn’t settled on Greg Schiano. What a mess.

The post SEC coaching rumors: Breaking down insane day of Jimbo Fisher, Dan Mullen and Greg Schiano news appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country


Could another Iron Bowl come down to a special-teams play?

Alabama football-Andy Pappanastos-Minkah Fitzpatrick-Nick Saban-injury updates-Mercer-Auburn

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though University of Alabama seniors Anthony Averett and Rashaan Evans experienced the Kick Six in vastly different ways, they both had the same reaction.

Averett was already on the Crimson Tide roster, but poised to redshirt, so he didn’t travel with the team to Auburn. Instead, he got permission to head home to New Jersey for both Thanksgiving and his birthday.

“It was a bad experience,” he said. “I was thinking, man, really? Nov. 30, yeah, that’s crazy.”

Meanwhile, Evans was at Jordan-Hare Stadium being wooed by the host school as a prize recruit. Not only was he considered one of the best prospects in the nation, but had played just down the street at Auburn High School.

“Oh yeah, it was crazy,” said Evans, who will ironically play his final regular-season collegiate game back in his hometown.

What are the chances that Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) could be decided by another special-teams play? If the No. 1 vs. No. 6 showdown is as close as most people believe, it very well could.

Just don’t expect another Kick Six.

“That’s not really a situation you think about,” said Alabama senior kicker Andy Pappanastos, the transfer from Ole Miss who was with the Rebels in 2013.

“Obviously, you go in with confidence and just try to make it and put points on the board. I don’t think anybody would have predicted that would happen.”

Regardless, decisive special-team plays tend to happen in this rivalry. From Van Tiffin’s 52-yard field goal to give Alabama a 25-23 victory as time expired in 1985, to “Punt, Bama, Punt,” when Auburn’s Bill Newton blocked two Greg Gantt punts and David Langner returned them both for touchdowns in 1972, the Iron Bowl as seen just about everything.

So have a lot of the players on both rosters. For example, Auburn blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown just before halftime at Texas A&M. Numerous Alabama players remember the successful onside kick against Clemson in the National Championship Game two years ago.

“We practice that a lot, too. It’s not a fluke,” said Averett, who along with senior center Bradley Bozeman are the only remaining players from the 2013 Crimson Tide roster. “We use it if we have to, special occasions.”

Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses.

Auburn is last in the SEC in punting and 13th in kickoff coverage, which could significantly help the Crimson Tide in terms of field position. However, Alabama hasn’t been good on punt returns or kickoff returns.

“We haven’t gotten the kind of production out of those two teams that we’d like,” Nick Saban said. “We continue to work on it and focus because that can be a real weapon for you if you win in special teams.”

Alabama is second in kickoff coverage and boasts senior punter JK Scott, who is up for the Ray Guy Award again. Auburn has senior kicker Daniel Carlson, a finalist for the Lou Groza Award.

Carlson already holds 13 Auburn kicking records and is tied for second all-time in the nation for most field goals made with 88 (Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez made 96 from 2013-16). He’s made 13 career field goals of 50-plus yards. Overall this season, he’s 19 of 25 (76.0 percent).

Pappanastos is 15-for-19 after having a 41-yard attempt clang off the upright at Mississippi State, which would have given Alabama the lead with 2:03 remaining.

“I think I just pulled it a little bit,” he said. “I hit it great. That’s why I feel really confident about it.”

He’s been perfect on anything within 40 yards, including all 49 extra-point attempts, but is just 4-for-8 between 40-49 yards. Of course, for anything around 50 yards or longer, Alabama usually opts for Scott, who has a stronger leg. He made a 48-yard field goal against Ole Miss, but missed from 50 and 52 yards.

Remember, the Kick Six was off a 57-yard field-goal attempt

Auburn-Auburn football-Auburn Tigers-Iron Bowl 2013-Iron Bowl-Kick Six
Chris Davis made the game-winning play, a 100-yard return, during the 2013 Iron Bowl.

It was also an attempt to win the game, which is something Pappanastos had never had during his kicking career.

“In high school, I had a couple similar to [the Mississippi State] situation, I hit a field goal and there would be a minute to two left and we win by three,” he said. “But not at the last second or anything.

“My dad actually told me to just put it in your mind that it’s going to come someday so whenever you get out in that situation it’s not going to be any different.”

Just imagine if that opportunity came in the Iron Bowl.

The post Could another Iron Bowl come down to a special-teams play? appeared first on SEC Country.

Christopher Walsh – SEC Country


Paul Finebaum admits the SEC is no longer the best conference: ‘It’s time to tell the truth down here’

Paul Finebaum-SEC-Network-Finebaun-Florida-Tennessee

For a decade, the SEC dominated the college football landscape. But now, that no longer seems to be the case.

After winning seven national championships from 2006 to 2015, the SEC has seen a number of its top-tier programs slide. And according to ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, a lot of it has to do with the coaching in the conference.

“It’s time to tell the truth down here. The SEC won six straight national championships and owned college football but it doesn’t anymore,” Finebaum said. “I think a lot of the coaching hires have been very questionable.”

Florida, LSU and Auburn, along with Alabama, were the teams that have won titles since the SEC’s rise to power. But other than Saban and Alabama, it’s hard to say those other three schools have nailed replacing their championship coaches. Florida cycled through Will Muschamp and hasn’t gotten championship-level returns on Jim McElwain. Ed Orgeron didn’t get off to an inspiring start against Mississippi State, and Gus Malzahn has seen Auburn go from an offense powerhouse to a sputtering attack.

Couple those hires with Tennessee being unable to get back to the highs of the Phillip Fulmer era, Kirby Smart going 8-5 in his first year at Georgia and Kevin Sumlin and Bret Bielema underwhelming at Texas A&M and Arkansas, respectively, it’s easy to see Finebaum’s point

While the ACC can boast coaches such as Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino, most fans struggle to identify who the second-best SEC coach is (it’s Dan Mullen at this point, who is 0-8 against Nick Saban and Alabama in his time at Mississippi State).

The SEC may soon be getting new coaching blood if certain programs continue to flounder.

The post Paul Finebaum admits the SEC is no longer the best conference: ‘It’s time to tell the truth down here’ appeared first on SEC Country.

Connor Riley – SEC Country


Week 1 SEC football recap: Alabama brings ACC hype man Jimbo Fisher back down to earth

Jimbo Fisher-Florida State-LSU-Orange Bowl

Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed over the weekend. Here’s what we’ve been stewing over …

After months of being force-fed takes about the ACC’s supposed ascendancy to the Iron Throne of college football, the SEC rang in a new college football season by silencing the blabbers with good, old-fashioned gridiron excellence.

Alabama toppled Florida State, 24-7, and South Carolina outlasted North Carolina State to highlight a 10-1 showing by the SEC on Saturday. Both ACC foes had generated significant preseason buzz, with FSU predicted by many to make the College Football Playoff, and both got immediate reality-checks when facing their SEC counterparts.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, who months ago dubbed his league the “premier conference in college football,” watched as the Crimson Tide kept his heralded offense contained and beat star quarterback Deondre Francois into submission under the shiny new lights of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Three turnovers, 40 yards rushing and 1 offensive touchdown were the main ingredients of a hot humble pie, and this time, Nick Saban was doing the force-feeding.

Taken at face value, Week 1 seemed like a return to normalcy for the SEC, which went 6-6 to open the humbling 2016 season. Yes, Tennessee has yet to face Georgia Tech. Yes, Texas A&M inexplicably blew a 34-point lead in one half of football (more on that below). And, of course, a handful of the SEC’s nonconference foes were true cupcakes. Still, Saturday marked a solid start for a league looking to rebound from a bad season.

Here are four more takeaways from Week 1:

1. Anyone who thought Alabama was fading is a fool

Maybe the loss to Clemson, which reminded the world that Saban’s great crimson and white football machine isn’t perfect all the time, sewed a few seeds of doubt. Maybe the baffling pre-title game departure of Lane Kiffin or the freshman plateauing of Jalen Hurts caused some dummies to think Alabama was losing its way on offense.

News flash: This program still out-recruits everyone in the country, and it’s not even close.

So, in typical fashion, the Crimson Tide went back to doing what they do best — playing tremendous defense and smashmouth, get ‘er done offense — and bludgeoned one of the best regular-season opponents they’ll face in 2017. The passing game sputtered, the offensive line needs work and special teams suffered a few hiccups, but we have every reason to believe those issues will be corrected in time.

Time is something Alabama has on its side, too, because its next four opponents are Fresno State, Colorado State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

2. Kevin Sumlin might want to have his bags packed and ready

Full disclosure: I wrote most of this roundup before the Texas A&M-UCLA game, and while I predicted a Bruins win entering the weekend, nobody could have imagined the colossal implosion that occurred in the Rose Bowl Sunday night.

I watched it live, and to be quite honest still can’t entirely comprehend what I saw. The score was 44-10 with 4:08 left in the third quarter. Texas A&M squandered a 34-point advantage in 19 minutes. That’s not just being awful — that’s being awful with shocking efficiency.

First half Josh Rosen became fodder for Internet jokes and booing Bruins fans; second half Josh Rosen looked like someone set the game difficulty sliders to “freshman.” He was making NFL-caliber throws all over the field. His final line: 35 of 59 passing for 491 yards and 4 touchdowns. The game-winning fake spike touchdown pass was equal parts amazing and unbelievable.

The second-half Texas A&M offensive play calling was baffling at times, especially with a limited true freshman under center for much of the collapse. Meanwhile, the second-half defense allowed consecutive UCLA drives of 75, 85, 96, 74 and 66 yards, all of which lasted fewer than 2:04 minutes. Earth to John Chavis: Are you there?

For a team with Texas A&M’s talent — none can dispute that the Aggies have recruited at an elite level under Sumlin — this type of loss is inexcusable, and the coaching staff knows it. There’s not much left to say that can truly express the mind-boggling meltdown that took place under their watch. Coaches are supposed to preach 60 minutes, and I can guarantee Sumlin’s successor will do that a lot.

3. Florida’s offense looks just as bad as the 2016 edition

Since Urban Meyer left The Swamp, Florida’s inability to recruit viable players at quarterback and on the offensive line is truly remarkable.

Here are the signal callers who have taken snaps under Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier since Will Grier was suspended:

  • Treon Harris
  • Austin Appleby
  • Luke Del Rio
  • Feleipe Franks
  • Malik Zaire

Additionally, here is where the Gators have ranked nationally in both sacks and tackles-for-loss allowed:

  • 2015: 128th (sacks) and 122nd (TFLs)
  • 2016: 71st (sacks) and 48th (TFLs)

Against Michigan, whose defense lost 10 of 11 starters from last season, Florida permitted 6 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

Sure, the Gators had suspended their two best offensive players in Jordan Scarlett and Antonio Callaway. But with offensive line play like that, it doesn’t matter! Franks and Zaire had no time to read the field, set their feet and throw. They looked helpless. The UF offense generated a grand total of 3 points, and at halftime, the unit had fewer offensive yards (75) than interception return yardage (88).

Both of those interceptions were horrible plays as well. Wilton Speight gifted the Gators 14 points, and the offense responded by… wearing down the defense.

More notable than the substance of this beatdown, however, is the context. Here’s a stat that blew me away: Florida has never signed a class ranked lower than 21st nationally since 2010, with multiple top 5 classes secured during that window. The program has produced 12 offensive draftees since 2013 and a total of 35 NFL draft picks during that time span.

Since 2011, here is where the Florida offense has ranked nationally in points scored per game: 71st, 78th, 113th, 56th, 100th and 107th.

Over the offseason, McElwain said he expected the offensive line to be a “true strength” of this team. Now, he’s publicly calling out his unit and claiming he will reevaluate his strength program.

Here’s a hard truth McElwain may need to face: The current Gators coaching staff is not developing offensive linemen, nor are they developing quarterbacks, nor are they running an offense that has any place in modern college football. The same program that was home to elite offensive minds — Meyer, Steve Spurrier and Dan Mullen — cannot for the life of it figure out offense. And that’s truly shocking.

4. Will Muschamp has South Carolina in a great place

Will Muschamp has what he never had at Florida — a weapon at quarterback — and he’s making the most of it.

Sophomore Jake Bentley threw 3 touchdown passes in South Carolina’s win against North Carolina State, while his defensive line accounted for 4 sacks and made Wolfpack passer Ryan Finley work for every yard.

This team has a lot left to prove, but so far, it’s given us a glimpse of what it could accomplish in 2017. The SEC East may not be out of reach this season, and even if it is, the Gamecocks have the tools to make life tough in a division that looks pretty wide open.

But again, the key cog here is Bentley, who has already displayed the type of poise and leadership skills that you rarely find in young quarterbacks. Check out what he said after Muschamp’s postgame speech in the video below:

Previewing Tennessee-Georgia Tech

  • Kickoff time: Monday, 8 p.m. ET (Broadcast: ESPN)
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
  • Last meeting: Oct. 24, 1987 (Tennessee won, 29-15, in Knoxville)

Tennessee player to know: Kahlil McKenzie. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound defensive tackle appeared on track for a big 2016 season before a torn pectoral muscle cut it several games short. Tennessee will need big things from the junior this season, and especially against Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. Four quarters of cut blocks aren’t what most consider a fun time.

Georgia Tech player to know: Matthew Jordan. Three-year Yellow Jackets starting quarterback Justin Thomas is gone, and Jordan is in line to replace him. But Jordan suffered a setback this spring, when he had to undergo surgery for a foot injury. How ready he’ll be by the time Tennessee and Georgia Tech kick off is unclear, but a healthy Jordan is dangerous: He rushed for 121 yards in a road upset of Virginia Tech last season.

Key matchup: Georgia Tech O-line vs. Tennessee D-line. Our bet is the Vols struggle here.

Quote of note: “We have zero continuity on offense, and we have to step it up there. I trust that we will, but it’s not to our expectations, so the next few practices are monumental.” — Butch Jones, via SEC Country’s Mike Griffith.

Interesting SEC stats from Week 1

  1. Drew Lock broke the Missouri records for single-game passing yards (521) and passing touchdowns (7) during his team’s 72-43 win against Missouri State, and he did so on just 21 completions. That comes out to an average of 15.3 yards per completion. The offense collectively accounted for a program-best 815 total yards as well. The defense still looks like hot garbage.
  2. In 13 games under Dave Aranda, the LSU defense has held opponents under 17 points nearly 70 percent of the time (nine games). The only team to score more than 21 points against Aranda’s unit is Texas A&M. The BYU game marks the sixth time an Aranda-coached team has recorded a shutout since 2013.
  3. Hurts is 41-of-83 passing (49 percent completion) in his last four games, dating back to the SEC Championship Game against Florida, and he is averaging fewer than 150 total yards per game during that span. Against the Seminoles, he finished 2 of 6 on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield. However, he also went 7 of 11 on third down, and did so in the face of tremendous pressure from the FSU defense, which sacked him twice. Hurts can also still do this:

SEC quote of the week

“Their guys were bigger and stronger. They whooped us. Plain and simple.” — McElwain on the Michigan defensive line.

SEC power rankings after Week 1

  1. Alabama: The mighty Crimson Tide football train is chugging down the tracks just fine, even if Hurts didn’t look exceptional against a tough Florida State defense. It is the most heralded program in the country for a reason.
  2. Auburn: Jarrett Stidham finished a pedestrian 14-of-24 passing, but it was also his first real game since Nov. 21, 2015. Auburn, otherwise, rolled right through Sun Belt foe Georgia Southern.
  3. LSU: BYU won nine games last season and started a senior quarterback (Tanner Mangum). A shutout is impressive in most circumstances, but this is doubly so given the talent LSU lost on defense. Aranda is a wizard.
  4. Georgia: The offensive line still needs work, but the Bulldogs’ defense could be dangerous. Notre Dame will make for a great measuring stick next week.
  5. South Carolina: The 2017 season couldn’t have started much better for Muschamp. The Gamecocks look like an SEC East contender.
  6. Florida: We’re not abandoning the Florida ship just yet, but the Michigan game exposed some serious problems for this offense. The line absolutely must play better.
  7. Tennessee: Has not played yet. This writer projects a Georgia Tech win on Monday night.
  8. Mississippi State: Charleston Southern is a real softball, even by nonconference scheduling standards today. The Bulldogs would be wise not to look past Louisiana Tech, which nearly upset Arkansas last season.
  9. Vanderbilt: Middle Tennessee is a solid program, and Kyle Shurmur looked improved during a 296-yard, 3-touchdown performance. Brent Stockstill, one of the more productive returning Group of Five quarterbacks, was held to 166 yards passing at home.
  10. Texas A&M: 34 points in 19 minutes!!!
  11. Kentucky: The offense looked clunky at times, while the front seven flashed signs of taking a significant step forward this fall. Still, a 24-17 win against Southern Miss is not how coach Mark Stoops would’ve preferred to open the 2017 season.
  12. Arkansas: Ditto for the Hogs, who played a true cupcake in Florida A&M on Thursday night. The TCU game will give us a much better look at this team.
  13. Ole Miss: The Rebels entered halftime leading, 13-10, before their offense exploded for 27 points in the third quarter. The running game averaging just 3.5 yards per carry doesn’t bode well. Shea Patterson and AJ Brown look like the real deal, at least.
  14. Missouri: The Tigers put up video game-type numbers on offense. But to allow 43 points and nearly 500 total offensive yards while facing an FCS opponent? Gary Pinkel is weeping somewhere.

Hittin’ the links: SEC Country coverage you don’t want to miss

Around the FBS: Stories from outside SEC Country

  • Channeling its inner App State: FCS member Howard completed a historic upset of UNLV on Saturday, thanks to the heroics of quarterback Caylin Newton, the younger brother of former Auburn star Cam Newton. The younger Newton tallied 330 total yards and 3 touchdowns as the Bison, which entered the matchup as 45-point underdogs, pulled off the 43-30 shocker in Las Vegas.
  • Looking back: Speaking of App State, Saturday marked the 10-year anniversary of the Mountaineers’ legendary upset of Michigan in The Big House. Andy Staples published a phenomenal feature on that game three years ago that’s still very much worth reading.
  • New boat, same story: In its first season without rising star coach P.J. Fleck at the helm, Western Michigan gave No. 4 USC all it could handle in a 49-31 loss. Sam Darnold did not look like the anointed savior of Trojans football some expect him to be, but his running back, Ronald Jones II, picked up the slack (149 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns). Also of note: Blind USC walk-on Jake Olson successfully snapped an extra point during the game, making him an official letterman. That’s incredible.
  • Still lookin’ good: Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson looked great in his season debut, completing 30 of 46 passes for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also scrambled for 107 yards in the Cardinals’ 35-28 win against Purdue. By the way: The Boilermakers looked much improved under former Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm, a Louisville alumnus.

What you need to know (besides football)

  • Hurricane Harvey: The record-breaking storm caused an estimated $ 180 billion in damages, according to Texas governor Greg Abbott, and reports of regional price-gouging — particularly around gas and water — have surfaced in recent days. Many, many people have already donated money or supplies to those in need, and many will continue to do so, which is fantastic. Just be sure to carefully consider where you donate. National organizations such as the American Red Cross do wonderful work, but also consider smaller entities such as regional food banks and shelters. They need resources, too.
  • RIP Juicero: In one of my favorite stories about venture capitalism gone horribly wrong, San Francisco-based “juice press” manufacturer Juicero is closing its doors due to a hilarious design flaw. The company’s $ 400 WiFi-enabled home juicer, as publicized in a Bloomberg report, squeezes juice from a prepackaged bag. Alternatively, you can save most of that money by squeezing said bag by hand. Yeah. Amazing.
  • The Based God: The Ball family, including LaVar and Lonzo, have a Facebook reality show (that I will never watch!). Apparently, Lonzo Ball claimed that nobody listens to hip-hop legend Nas anymore (untrue!). Rapper/sport fan Lil’ B caught wind of this heresy and threatened to curse Ball during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. We’ll be watching this situation closely.

Tweet of the week

Here’s serial whiner and Fox Sports person Clay Travis complaining about someone breaking into his car. Remember: This is the guy who turned “#DBAP” into an online slogan of sorts (you can look up what that stands for on your own), and the same one whose unsolicited advice to young writers includes “spend less time tweeting and more time writing.” Hey, Clay: tweet less!

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country