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Football thoughts of the week: Off-season coaching turnovers and other drama

Football thoughts of the week: Off-season coaching turnovers and other drama

Austin Photo: News_kevin_longhorn resolutions_dec 2012_football team alamo bowl
Courtesy of The University of Texas

With the start of the spring semester for (just about) everyone in college this week, it means the college football season is really and truly over. 

I know it’s been over  since the second Alabama drive of the National Championship game, but there were still three and a half quarters to watch and many games were still fresh on my mind. Not anymore.

However, just because there are no games doesn’t mean there is no news. There is still lots of activity in the world of college football. Such as:

- Manti Te’o. Wow. I keep waiting to watch Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner to walk through a Washington D.C. park as Sutherland explains how it all went down, with video back stories illustrating it. I wonder if Joe Pesci will be in there with that crazy wig?  

- Penn State lawyers are now fighting Mike McQueary in court. The former Penn State qb and coach is suing the school for lost wages and accusing them of making him a scapegoat for the Penn State ugliness. Penn State is saying McQueary’s suit does not meet legal standards… Yeah, yeah, yeah. So one guy who did nothing to stop it is suing the institution that did nothing to stop it, I get it. What struck me was ESPN’s description of Jerry Sandusky. Check this out: “Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach…” Who is that statement for? Does anyone NOT know who Jerry Sandusky is? I have a friend who’s never seen a football game in her life, but she knows who he is. And this is an ESPN article. Is there someone reading ESPN going “Wha? Who is this ‘Sandusky’ and what does this have to do with Penn State… Oh, thank you for explaining that, ESPN.”

- The Big Ten is considering renaming their divisions for 2014. With Maryland and Rutgers joining they will revisit the oddly named divisions. And by “oddly,” I mean “dumb.” I don’t know why they chose “Legends” and “Leaders” for the names of their two divisions, and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany isn’t exactly selling it when he says the Big Ten “...didn’t have a lot of great options” when deciding on the names in 2010. Well, at least you know it’s dumb. Don’t make it worse, though. What could be worse? Send your thoughts to @TreyMcLean #RenameTheBigTen and I’ll repost them next week right here.

- Chip Kelly is now the Philadelphia Eagles coach. Oregon publicly said around the time of the Fiesta Bowl that they would promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfich if that happened. If I were Phil Knight, I’d be on my Nike plane right now to Kevin Sumlin’s house with bags of money, but they didn’t ask me what I thought. I wonder if the Eagles will go for two every time they score?

- Everyone has guys that leave early (understandably, but so did this guy which I don’t understand) but few have as many as LSU leave in one season? How many? LSU has 10 players giving up their eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. One of them is the punter. Yep, the punter is leaving school early for the NFL.

- If you are USC fan you are probably thinking it couldn’t get much worse than 21-7 loss that didn’t seem that close to a 7-loss Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl. It got worse.

See? Lots of stuff. There is work to be done for every team in the off-season. Winning in September begins in January. And it’s January. I want to take a moment to look at what awaits the big boys in the off-season. And by “off-season” I mean before spring practice, the really un-fun part of football when new coaches get to know their teams, guys step into new roles and transfers find their way/find the door. Let’s start where we always start, the Big 12. Let’s go!

The Big 12 2013 Off Season

It’s a touchdown league, dominated by quarterbacks and offense and all the brand names at quarterback are gone: Collin Klein, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Seth Doege. Other names you know, like Alex Okafor, Kenny Vaccaro, Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson have graduated/used up their eligibility or entered the NFL Draft. And plenty of new coaches are finding their way around new programs, too. Let’s see where everyone is.

Baylor Bears

Coaching Turnover: None
Drama: It’s None for the football team, but the Friday night in 2009 when I was at George O’s it felt like I was in Road House
Momentum: A lot

Riding a four-game winning streak, including a whipping of then No.1 Kansas State, the mindset of the Baylor team has to be energy and excitement heading into the off-season. They need to replace qb Nick Florence, wr Terrence Williams and four starters on defense, but they get the self-proclaimed 2013 Heisman winner Lache Seastrunk back at tailback. They need to find a new qb, some new wide outs and a consistent defense, but you have to like where Baylor is headed. Still, why did you keep curmudgeonly Phil Bennett?  

No real problems other than roster turnover for the Bears, who enter their last season in Floyd Casey Stadium.

Iowa State

Coaching Turnover: None
Drama: None
Momentum: Meh

Sure, Iowa State got to a bowl game, but they were trounced by a team they already beat earlier in the year. The energy and excitement a bowl game can produce can be negated by a loss, I think, but if anyone can get it back its head coach Paul Rhoads. I love me some Paul Rhoads. Check out his post-game speech. He even talks about in January how “We are one team! And for that, men, I am soooooo happy!” I want to go play for him now.

They found their starting qb late in the season in Sam Richardson and Rhoads is as energetic as it gets… but they just don’t have the talent to hang with the rest of the league. This off-season is about honing Richardson’s playmaking abilities and getting their players in better shape than the rest of the league.

I really want you to be better, Iowa State. I do.

Kansas

Coaching Turnover: None
Drama: No football/basketball fights so everything is good
Momentum: What’s momentum?

They almost beat Texas. They had Rice beaten. They hung with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU. They lost by 7 to BCS participant Northern Illinois. So close so many times. The harsh reality, however, is this is a bad football team that had some less-bad moments. Still, Charlie Weiss had them farther along than I expected he would and he’s still there. That’s something, isn’t it? Sure.

Football isn’t what the fans are interested in at KU, so Weiss and his staff have all spring to tinker and play under the radar. The objective this off-season is to get everyone committed to winning. It takes time and discipline and I expect another off-season of discipline, doing drills correct and whatnot awaits the Jayhawks.

Most of the people I’ve met in Lawrence were nice. Most.

Kansas State

Coaching Turnover: None
Drama: Never
Momentum: We’ll see

On one hand the Wildcats head into the off-season with lots of momentum as the defending Big 12 champs. On the other hand they head into the off-season needed to replace the heart and soul of the team in quarterback Collin Klein. The Heisman candidate was their entire offense the last few years, and they rode him to a conference championship and BCS bowl game. It takes more than one guy to win a ring, but sometimes that one guy can be the difference.

The good news is the K-State Way is plugging holes with junior college players and incoming juco qb Jake Waters will get the first shot at replacing him. The entire o-line returns, as does tailback John Hubert, but only two starters on defense return. January will be about all the new faces in new places and seeing where everyone fits in.

Bill Snyder is a master of turning around a roster quickly. I see no reason to think that trend won’t continue, but it’s unrealistic to expect the next quarterback to do what Klein did for this team.

Oklahoma
Coaching Turnover:
No
Drama:  They’re soft
Momentum: Zero

The oklahoma sooners limp into the off-season fresh off a beat down in the Cotton Bowl by Texas A&M, with former players criticizing them (see above) and a several underclassmen off to the NFL draft. Linebacker Tom Wort, safety Tony Jefferson and wide out Kenny Stills are gone, as well as quarterback Landry Jones and five other starters on the defense. And there are the two players arrested for possession of a controlled substance in December…

But this is oklahoma, where the next guy in line is better than the guy who is now in the NFL draft. Stoops and his merry band of jerks ride their players very, very hard in the off-season and you can be sure after the hammering they took in the Cotton Bowl that pain and misery await the sooners this off-season.

It works, though. His teams are tough, physical and ready to play (at least in Dallas in October). The Bell Dozer will get a crack as the full-time starter at qb this spring, and I think you sooner fans are going to miss Landry Jones more than you want to admit. As always, expect ou to be ou: lots of bluster, lots of swagger and lots of talk.

Oklahoma State

Coaching Turnover: OC Todd Monken to Southern Miss (head coach), DC Bill Young to ageism (he’s old), tight ends coach Doug Meacham to Houston (OC)
Drama: Mike Gundy to Tennessee, Mike Gundy to Arkansas, Bill Young is too old
Momentum: Who are my coaches again? 

It was quite a ride for Oklahoma State during bowl season: They lost their OC, had their head coach interview just about everywhere else, ran up the score on Purdue, lost their DC, lost their tight ends coach and still have no official offensive coordinator. And now they start the off-season.

The players should be excited because they are going to be one of the pre-season favorites to win the Big 12. A three-headed monster at quarterback, tons of talent outside; but they do lose a super back in Joseph Randle and three starters up front. Seven starters return on defense, including superstar Justin Gilbert, but they lose kicker/punter Quinn Sharp. I expect everyone knows and welcomes the pressure of being the front runner.

The problem is they are starting over at both coordinator spots, meaning they need to learn terminology, new schemes, etc., and this off-season will be as much about learning those new schemes as it is conditioning. Glenn Spencer takes over as the DC and will still coach the linebackers as he did last year, meaning the system might not change much. Or maybe it’s completely new. And right now there is no offensive coordinator, meaning Gundy will call the shots. Or he’s hiring someone right now. The quicker they settle on a guy, the quicker the team gets to work on his offense. I imagine January is a lot of running, lifting and studying.

Using three quarterbacks isn’t going to work, coach. It was okay last year with a few injuries, but I don’t think all three guys are willing to wait for the two others to get hurt so they can play. Expect to lose one this spring. Who will the tailback be? Randle is a first day pick and will be hard to replace, but expect the offense to be as lethal as ever when they hit the field.

TCU

Coaching Turnover: WR coach Trey Haverty to Texas Tech (to coach safeties)
Drama: Casey Pachall returns to school
Momentum: Solid

They lost Stansly Maponga to the NFL draft, but they return nine starters on defense and six on offense, not included starting quarterback Trevone Boykin, who likely returns to the baseball cap and clipboard as Casey Pachall returns. If you remember, Pachall admitted he failed a drug test last spring, was arrested for DWI during the season, and then left school for rehab.

His return to the team, along with that defense, could mean TCU holding the Big 12 Championship trophy in December. All the pieces are there and Pachall is now Joe Kane from The Program and the nationally media will be all over Ft Worth this spring documenting his return.  I wonder if he beat ou like this? That would be awesome.

TCU is setting up nicely for 2013 with Pachall’s return and that purple defense. This off-season will be about reincorporating him into the team and finding a new receiver or two.

Remember Lattimer? He sat behind me at a Texas game once. It was awesome.

Texas

Coaching Turnover: Brian Harsin to Arkansas State (head coach), Major Applewhite to QBs and OC (running backs), Larry Porter to running backs (from Arizona State)
Drama: San Antonio hotel bars, rumors of coups, Nick Saban, Manny Diaz, circling the wagons, being forced out, staying for until 2020, ou… What did I leave out?
Momentum: Yes

Very soon you will be able to read my weekly article about the Texas Longhorns, where address any and everything about the Horns. I’ll leave you with this: Texas was the youngest team in the Big 12 last year and returns 18 of the starting 22 and about 100 more who logged snaps in 2012.

The goal this off-season is to get tougher physically and turn into, collectively, likes-to-fight guy. You know that guy, the guy who will fight at the drop of a hat against anyone regardless of size. The guy that is afraid of no one and has no regard for his own personal safety? That guy. If Texas can turn into 85 likes-to-fight guys, there is no stopping this team. Much more on Texas to come.

Texas Tech

Coaching Turnover: I think all of them but one are gone
Drama: Excuse me, fellas
Momentum: High

So Tubs snuck out the side door of the Lubbock Cheddar’s for more urban pastures in Cincinnati. It was ugly how it ended, but it was time for it to end. Tuberville was a bad fit and things just didn’t click with him there. They hired Kliff Kinsgbury in what I consider an impulse buy. I think there were more qualified guys out there, but I understand why they did it. After Bobby Knight, Mike Leach, Billy Gillespie and Tuberville, the Athletic Department at Tech was a mess and needed something good to happen. Kingsbury is good for Tech. He’s one of them and the fans and players love him and are excited he’s there.

This off-season is about starting over. The energy and excitement will be high, but no one knows what to expect since this is new for everyone, Kingsbury included. He’s a Kevin Sumlin protégé, and everyone in Lubbock expects Johnny Football results immediately, but Sumlin wasn’t a first year head coach, just new to Aggie Land. Kingsbury has never done this before and there might be some times he’s not sure what to do next. Maybe, or maybe not. What do I know?

Good luck, Kliff.

West Virginia
Coaching Turnover:
Corners coach Daron Roberts to unemployment (replaced by Tony Gibson from Pitt), DC Steve Dunlap to unemployment (replaced by Keith Patterson, also from Pitt)
Drama: Not everyone is a fan of the new hires
Momentum: Less than none

The train wreck that was the WVA defense last year was addressed with some solid, if not sexy, hires from Pitt to change things up. That defense needs to get better in a hurry because all the fire power on offense in gone with the departures of Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. Where Baylor’s defense rose up at the end of the year, West Virginia’s hid under the bed and the Mountaineer collapse was epic and ugly.

This off-season is starting over with new players on offense and new coaches on defense .There will probably be some growing pains, so just expect it. And would it kill you to update your athletics website, West Virginia? The bio for Dana Holgorsen still says he’s coming off a 10-3, Big East Championship season and will lead the Mountaineers into the Big 12… Or are you blocking out last year? Hmm… I like it. It didn’t happen. Right. Bring on 2012! I can’t wait for the road trip to Texas! Yes, good plan.

There you, the Big 12 in a nutshell. Back next week with some other football off-season breakdowns.

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