It’s been awhile since I wrote about college football. But just because I haven’t written about it, doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention.
Oh, I’ve been paying attention alright.
I’ve been paying attention through the coaching changes and roster attrition. Through Jim Tressel’s turn from “patron saint in a sweater vest,” to “evil mastermind behind The Tat Five.” From Auburn’s championship celebration in Glendale, to having a roster that could put them in the bottom of the SEC West. Through two separate Stephen Garcia suspensions and, of course, when “Al in Dadeville,” became a household name. Oh, I’ve been paying attention alright. And just like college football’s regular season, the offseason didn’t disappoint.
So with spring football in the books at most places, and summer workouts beginning soon, who were the winners and losers this offseason?
Today we’ll hit Part I of this article, talking about the preseason favorite, The Senator Jim Tressel, quarterback controversy at LSU, and much more. And Monday I’ll return with Part II, getting into Stephen Garcia, Auburn’s wild winter and some other stuff in greater depth. So be sure to check back for that.
You know Dick Vitale has the VBDI? The “Vitale Bald Dome Index?” Sadly, I don’t have anything that fancy. Still, my Full Head of Hair Index told me after last season that Oklahoma would enter this season at No. 1. And nothing that happened this spring has changed that.
Sure, part of why Oklahoma had such a successful spring is more about what didn’t happen than what did. By all accounts, last Saturday’s Red-White game was relatively uneventful, but then again, these things tend to be. Still, the Sooners seemed to avoid any crippling injuries this spring, and maybe most importantly, didn’t have a single notable player (or coach for that matter), arrested, indicted or deported. Which is more than a lot of their rivals can say.
But back to last season for a second. Because over the final few games, Landry Jones went from “wildly enigmatic and unpredictable,” to “just sort of enigmatic, and a lot more confident.” Sure his numbers over the last four games (13 touchdowns, five interceptions) aren’t much to write home about, but believe me, I watched those games. He was really good. And with every major piece of the offense except DeMarco Murray coming back this fall, he should be even better. The defense won’t be too shabby either.
Simply put, Oklahoma got through the offseason healthy, improved and unscathed, a good start for a team with real championship aspirations.
The same can’t be said for…
Loser: Jim Tressel
You knew it had to be coming, right?
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last six months, it was a tough offseason for Tressel. And not just because his dry-cleaner accidentally starched his favorite scarlet sweater vest.
Nope, instead Tressel came under fire when a Yahoo Sports report revealed that he knew about a scheme by five of his players (including starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor), who gave away their jerseys in exchange for free tattoos and money, this despite the coach having previously pleaded innocence. Yahoo uncovered a whole string of e-mails that showed Tressel was in fact aware of the situation, dating all the way back to April of last year. Just for the record, the NCAA didn’t find about everything until December, meaning Tressel had a full six months to take action, and for whatever reason, chose not to. Not good.
Now, after those five players had been previously been suspended for the first five games of next year, Tressel too is out for the same time frame. He was also docked a not-so-cheap $250,000 from this year’s paychecks (None of the players involved were fined, since other than Pryor, none make anywhere close to $250,000 a year….Kidding Ohio State fans!). The players and coach will miss early season games against Akron, Toledo, at Miami (FL), Colorado and Michigan State, before returning for a trip to Nebraska October 8.
Going forward, the Buckeyes should be fine, at least on the field. They should win four of those five games, with only Miami looking really tough. And if you watched Jacory Harris at all last year, even the Canes might be a pushover. Of course coming back into the fray in Lincoln won’t be easy.
As for Tressel’s future, well, everyone seems to think he’ll serve his five games and it’ll all be brushed under the rug. Me? I’m not so sure.
Now for the record, I’ve always liked Tressel. I want him to get through this. But it’s bad. And while we have no proof right now that he lied to the NCAA during their investigation, common sense would dictate that he had to have fibbed at least a little. After all, if you’re playing dumb in December, then fessing up in February, somewhere along the way, the truth had to be stretched, right?
And here’s the thing: If we learned any one thing from the Bruce Pearl situation at Tennessee, it’s that the NCAA doesn’t like being lied to. If you do lie to them, well, watch out. Understand that while the NCAA doesn’t actually have the authority to fire anyone, they can put the school in an awfully uncomfortable situation until it takes care of the dirty work themselves.
If you don’t believe me, just listen to this interview with CBS Sports writer Gary Parrish on the Pearl situation. In it, Parrish explains that the NCAA wanted Pearl gone from Tennessee, and was going to hit him with whatever it took for the school to initiate the firing. If Tennessee was willing to stand by Pearl through a one year suspension, the NCAA would give him two. If they waited two years, the NCAA would give him five. By the end, it was apparent to the Tennessee athletic department that keeping Pearl just wasn’t an option. And fair or not, the same thing could happen with Tressel.
Also, there’s one other point which I haven’t really heard anyone discussing. The simple truth is that Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith isn’t out of the woods on this matter himself. I know he’s fully supportive of Tressel right now, but if his job is all of a sudden at risk, don’t you think he’ll sacrifice Tressel to the wolves? Because I do.
Again, I’ve always liked Jim Tressel. I hope he somehow gets through this, if only because college football is better for everyone when he’s involved (well, except Michigan anyway). But again, he’s back himself into a corner here.
I guess I’ll end by saying this: We already know that someone else will be coaching Ohio State to start the 2011 season. I wouldn’t be fully surprised if the same was true in 2012.
Winner: Michigan State offensive tackle Arthur Ray Jr.
If you haven’t seen this fine piece of reporting by ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg on Ray, I suggest you check it out. Ray- who has battled cancer- is back on the field practicing, after missing over a year of football. Incredible.
As for the team itself, well, I really don’t know what to tell you.
If you think the Spartans are going to win another 11 regular season games, well I’ve got a sack of pixi dust I'd love to sell you too. Sorry Spartans fans, it ain’t happening again. Not with road trips to Ohio State (granted, they’ll be without Pryor and Tressel, but still) and Nebraska added to the schedule, and additional road games against improved Notre Dame and Northwestern teams too.
But, with Kirk Cousins looking good this spring, and a strong offensive line in front of him, could they win eight games and get back to a nice bowl game? That sounds about right.
Loser: The Fiesta Bowl
As if it wasn’t bad enough that UConn came in and stunk up the joint on New Year’s Day, now there’s a chance they could get stripped up their BCS membership?
Then again, shouldn’t they have known better than to trust someone named “John Junker.”
I thought so.
Loser: Spring Break Security Guards
Anyone else see this video of a spring break security guard getting tackled into the pool by some drunk idiot? No? That was only me? Ok, I kinda need to get a life, and stop wasting my time watching Youtube videos. I’ll admit it.
Still, what you need to know about this particular video is that the guy who did the tackling isn’t just another stupid frat guy. Nope, it’s Kentucky football recruit Daylen Hall.
Actually, correction, that’d be former Kentucky recruit Daylen Hall.
Winner: Willie Lyles
From everything I’ve read, there’s no real reason to believe that Oregon will get in any kind of trouble for paying Lyles $25,000 for access to his recruiting services.
Still, this isn’t about Oregon as much as it is about Lyles. And all I can say is, let’s give the man some credit for getting paid! Oregon gave him $25,000 to deliver some tapes, a few scouting reports and a third-string running back? Are you kidding me? What kind of con is this man running, and where do I sign up? Hell, my next door neighbor is 6’1, can probably bench press about 300 lbs., and will shovel your driveway if you give him 20 bucks. That’s got to be worth at least $7,500 at Oregon, right?
Willie Lyles is a winner in my book.
You know who isn’t though?
Loser: Lane Kiffin
Who said on Monday that he, “Has never paid $25,000 like some schools for a recruiting service.”
And he’s right, he hasn’t. All he’s done is sent teenage girls across state borders to do his dirty work for him.
Look Lane, I love ya. But shut up!
Winner: Zach Mettenberger, Quarterback LSU
So yeh, I went ahead and watched the LSU spring game two Saturday’s ago. And it wasn’t pretty. Well, unless you’re LSU Defensive Coordinator John Chavis. In which case, you might as well just march into Les Miles’ office right now, rip up your contract and demand a new one. Because if the spring game was any indication, it’s looking more and more like the Tigers are- once again- only going to go as far as their defense takes them.
As for the offense? Woof.
For all the talk about the new and improved Jordan Jefferson, two Saturday’s ago he looked like the old, not-so-very-good-to-begin-with Jordan Jefferson to me. Watching the spring game, Jefferson made all the throws that you never want to see your quarterback make: Behind the receivers, over the receivers heads, into the third row of the stands. Unfortunately he never actually the receivers between the numbers. Same with Jefferson’s backup Jarrett Lee, who, despite getting ready to play his 14th year of college football, still can’t seem to throw a tight spiral. On the bright side, at least Lee’s AARP benefits are kicking in soon.
Either way, it looked to me like Mettenberger, a former Georgia Bulldog, is the best quarterback on the roster. He wasn’t perfect in the spring game, but did make a couple real nice throws, including a 60-yard touchdown pass that Jefferson couldn’t dream of making. In real life or on his Xbox.
And with that is where things get really interesting.
Based on what I saw, it seems like for all intents and purposes, we’re headed for a quarterback derby this summer and fall heading into the season opener. I don’t care how much experience Jefferson has, it just seems like Mettenberger gives them a better chance to actually win football games this year. Especially when you consider that in Ruben Randle, Russell Shepard, Spencer Ware and others, LSU will again have a phenomenal group of skill-position players.
Of course, there are two problems with the idea of a quarterback battle though. One is that as several people pointed out to me on Twitter, Les Miles has a history of being an incredibly loyal coach. That might be nice if you’re Jefferson, but if you’re an LSU fan hoping to win the SEC this year, it’s not nearly as good. Either way, it’s hard to see Miles handing over the quarterbacking duties to Mettenberger from the jump, especially when you remember how long it took just to get Lee some snaps last year. For whatever reason, Jefferson is his guy, and as of right now, The Hatter is sticking with him unequivocally.
The second thing that’s got to concern you if you’re an LSU fan, is that this team just doesn’t have time to screw around and figure out what they want to do. The Tigers play Oregon Labor Day night in Dallas, and have trips to Mississippi State and West Virginia before the end of September. Simply put, a decision at quarterback has to be made. The sooner the better.
LSU has all the components to make a run at a BCS title this year. Well, all the components except one that is.
Look for Part II of the College Football Offseason Winners and Losers on Friday, including thoughts on Stephen Garcia, Auburn and HBO, Charlie Weis, and more!
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