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SEC Headlines – New Year’s Eve Edition

Just a few headlines from around the conference today as we prepare to ring in the New Year.

May yours — and your favorite team’s — be happy, safe and blessed.

All the best!


1.  Alabama’s coordinators are prepping for their own days as head coaches.

2.  Bama’s quarterback situation is surprisingly murky heading into 2011.

3.  Oregon’s blitzes remind one Auburn player of Mississippi State’s schemes.

4.  The Ducks’ running backs get the edge over the Tigers’ linebackers.

5.  Arkansas is knocking the rust off in preparation for next week’s Sugar Bowl.

6.  UA and Ohio State spent a lot of money to reach a BCS game.

7.  LSU’s Derek Helton will be tempted to try to punt a ball into the giant video board hanging in Cowboys Stadium.

8.  Freshman Matt Derenbecker is showing off a sweet shooting touch for Trent Johnson’s team.

9.  Mississippi State wants to stop giving up big plays on defense.

10.  Michigan respects MSU’s offense.

11.  Ole Miss blew out Alcorn State 100-62 last night…

12.  And they landed a transfer from Memphis for the future, too.

13.  Excitement is building in Gainesville as the Will Muschamp Era nears.

14.  Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin says he won’t entertain other offers unless he’s let go by Florida.  (Meaning either that he’s lying or dozens of reports of him talking to Texas were completely false.)

15.  Controlling the line of scrimmage will be key in the Outback Bowl.

16.  Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray could break several school records in the Liberty Bowl today.

17.  UGA will be trying to avoid its first losing season in 14 years.

18.  The Dawgs will also be playing for pride.

19.  The intensity of today’s Kentucky-Louisville basketball game will be unmatched.

20.  Here’s how the two teams match up.

21.  The pressure on UK and U of L players — from their fans — is palpable.

22.  South Carolina will be playing for just the second 10-win season in school history tonight…

23.  But this writer says the Chick-fil-A Bowl means more to Florida State.

24.  This head-to-head breakdown gives the edge to FSU.

25.  Tennessee’s basketball team will likely get a tough challenge at home from College of Charleston tonight.

Sorry, no news on Vandy.  What else is new? 

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The Biggest Stories Of The Year

It’s New Year’s Eve.  The perfect time to — Hey, don’t worry, we’re not going to link you to a Barry Manilow clip — the perfect time to look back on the most read stories of the year here at MrSEC.

Below you’ll find some of our most-read stories by month.  Some are mere blurbs, others are updates on other folks’ reports and still a few others are our own research-driven pieces.  You never know what till take off or why on the internet.  (Example: A quick blurb from our Nike-funded trip to Alabama’s uniform-unveiling in September generated a ton of looks and links.)

So just for kicks, here’s what SEC fans were talking about in 2010…


January

1.  MSU Recruiting Weekend Includes Visit To Strip Club?
2.  SEC Recruiting: Where The Talent Comes From
3.  The SEC’s Best Football Coaches


February

1.  Report: UT Hires Wilcox From Boise State
2.  Good News For Richt At Georgia
3.  The Truth About Home Cooking In The SEC


March

1.  Dooley, UT Still Haggling Over Buyout Clauses
2.  Mallett’s Scooter Drawing Laughs
3.  How The SEC Tourney Bracket Should Look


April

1.  Richt Continues To Show That He’s The Class Of The Conference
2.  SEC Spring Game Attendance Numbers
3.  A UK Fan Shows His Ass


May
1.  Report: SEC Already Eyeing Six Teams For Possible Expansion
2.  Expounding On Expansion: Why The SEC Should Be Working Right Now
3.  Top SEC Sleepers For 2010


June

1.  The Academics Of Expansion: A Conference Comparison
2.  Tennessee Fans Can’t Let Go Of Kiffin
3.  Slive Channeling Nixon On SEC Expansion?


July

1.  Georgia Appears To Commit Secondary Violation
2.  Top Five Committed Offensive Players In SEC For 2011
3.  A&M To The SEC Just A Matter Of Time


August

1.  Majors, Fulmer Say Nice Things About One Another.  Temperature Dropping In Hell.
2.  Nutt A “Dirty Coach” For Taking Masoli?
3.  No Surprise: SEC Schools Make A Lot Of Cash Off Of Football And Basketball


September

1.  Lyons Talks Bama Uniforms
2.  Bledsoe’s Grades Drawing More Scrutiny, But Calipari Maintains Plausible Deniability
3.  Spurrier Hangs Players, Assistant Out To Dry


October

1.  Florida Players Tell Prospect They’re Unhappy In Gainesville
2.  Former Gator Rips UF Offense And Gets Racial In The Process
3.  UT Keeping Pearl; Pearl Not Inking New Deal Yet


November

1.  The Questions And Possibilities Are Endless In Newton Case
2.  Newton’s Traffic Records Now Making News, Too
3.  Saban Apologizes For Slapping McCarron’s Butt


December

1.  SEC Coaches’ Salaries Revealed
2.  VU Offers Malzahn Nearly $3M With Franklin Waiting In The Wings
3.  Why Did UF Rush Toward Muschamp?


PS… We lied about Manilow.




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Smart Talks To Muschamp, But Not About Coaching For Him

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was the first name mentioned as a potential assistant when Will Mushcamp was hired by Florida.  Yesterday, Smart was asked if he had had any “informal conversations” with his old Georgia teammate.

“That’s kind of a gray statement there, ‘informal conversation,’” Smart said.  “Will and I talk all the time.  He’s one of my best friends.  I’ve known him for more than 20 years now.  And he and I talk a lot, but not really about me coaching with him, no.”

Florida AD Jeremy Foley said that Muschamp will likely announce a few coaching hires by next Tuesday.

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The Refs Didn’t Care, But The Football Gods Smote The Vols For Taunting

What must Kansas State fans have thought?

If any Wildcat faithful had stayed tuned into ESPN after their own team was jobbed with a letter-of-the-law, Barney Fife-ish, ticky-tack call in the Pinstripe Bowl, they must’ve been sickened by what they saw.

First, the Pinstripe Fiasco: K-State receiver Adrian Hillborn scored on a 30-yard touchdown catch-and-run with little more than a minute to play.  When he reached the back of the end zone, he gave a very quick salute to the crowd.  Two Big Ten officials tossed their flags over the unsportsmanlike act and the Wildcats were forced to try a game-tying two-point conversion attempt from 18 yards away.  They failed.  And Syracuse won.

Now we usually defend officials around here because everyone picks on them.  They pick on them so much that we now have more letter-of-the-law calls being made.  That’s not a good thing.  Refs should be able to use their judgement as to when a foul impacts play or deserves to be penalized. 

Hillborn’s short, impromptu salute did not deserve a flag.

But in the very next game — Tennessee versus North Carolina in the Music City Bowl — Vol players were running through premeditated gestures for the full sixty minutes… actually more if you include two overtime periods. 

Kansas State fans had to be scratching their heads over what really constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct.  ESPN’s broadcasters certainly were.


* After touchdowns (and even after some run of the mill first-down completions), quarterback Tyler Bray and his receivers did their “loco” finger roll move, something they’ve been doing after big plays for five games now.  The gesture was “inspired” by a rap video.

* After a touchdown pass from Bray to Gerald Jones, both players gave saluting gestures to the crowd.  Their salutes were longer than Hillborn’s, by the way.

* After a touchdown pass from Bray to Da’Rick Rogers, the freshman wideout gestured to the crowd as though he were showing off a title belt.


And yet nary a flag flew.  The real oddity?  Like the Kansas State game, a Big Ten officiating crew was working Tennessee’s contest. 

How can a quick, unplanned salute in a game-changing moment be flagged while numerous planned celebrations throughout another game are ignored?  By officials from the same league?

It seems the NCAA has a little teaching to do this offseason.

As for the Vols, while the officials didn’t punish UT for their taunts, the football gods did.  After tossing an overtime touchdown pass to tie the game at 27, Bray was caught by ESPN cameras turning to the North Carolina bench and giving a two-handed throat slash gesture (photo at left).

Predictably, less than 10 minutes later Bray was teary-eyed on his own sideline after tossing an interception that wound up being a game-loser for his Vols.  Hello, Karma.

For a team that finished 6-7 and never beat an FBS team with a winning record, Tennessee’s players have apparently spent quite a bit of time working on their gestures, celebrations and taunts. 

Maybe next year the Vols should spend more time on boring ol’ blocking and tackling.

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Mullen Gets A New $10 Million Deal

College football is all about perspective.

Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen was the ACC Coach of the Year after leading his Terrapins to an 8-4 record this season.  He was rewarded by being forced out of his job after 10 years.  Maryland will pay him to go away.

Dan Mullen also led Mississippi State to an 8-4 record this year.  But he’s been given a new four-year, $10.6 million contract to stay in Starkville. 

Personally I think it’s a great move by State, but the irony of the Friedgen situation bears noting.  If Mullen continues to have 8-4 seasons at State, eventually Bulldog fans will want more.  His 8-4 is currently viewed as an up-and-coming 8-4.  Friedgen’s 8-4 was viewed as a “same ol’ Terps” 8-4.

Crazy job.

All that said, Mullen’s new deal averages about $2.65 million per year, though he won’t make that much in the upcoming season.  His pay will increase the longer he stays in Starkville.

The $2.65 million-a-year average would put Mullen in the middle of the SEC’s coaching pack, but near the top of the national stats.  Only 10 coaches in America currently make more than $2.65 million per season.

There is also a $1.4 million buyout should the coach leave.

“We’re excited for the work Dan has done with us, and our goal is to build a program that can win consistently and have success and compete for championships,” AD Scott Stricklin said of the deal.  “This is a big commitment for us to make sure we’ve got the people in place that can make that happen.”

Mullen’s name was briefly tied to job openings at Miami and Florida this month though neither school is believed to have made him an offer.  (Florida, apparently, did not even contact their old offensive coordinator.)

“To me, I’ve never really had any interest in leaving here this year,” the coach said.  “And now with this deal, I certainly have no interest in leaving any time in the future.”

Mullen’s big raise — as The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal points out — is a result of more cash rolling into the MSU program. 

“Between (2008) and his first year, we were about $5 million or so in ticket revenue, and we’re up to about $8 million or so after Dan’s first year,” Stricklin said.  “That’s a pretty significant jump, and that doesn’t even take into account all the other (benefits), the Bulldog Club donations and everything else that was impacted by that.  We’re not in a bottom-line business like a corporation would be, but finances are pretty important to what we’re trying to do.”

Yes, they are.  And the bottom line is this — State has shown a willingness to spend with the SEC’s big boys.  That’s especially impressive considering the school’s low-end-of-the-SEC athletic budget.  Stricklin is taking some of the new cash that Mullen is bringing in and investing it back into the coach.  Smart move.

Of course, now the pressure will rise for Mullen to live up to his new deal.  As we noted above, 8-4 is great now, but eventually every fanbase wants more.

Mullen knows that.  “That’s a lot of pressure.  I better make sure to make the state proud.”

Mullen’s contract also pushes him ahead of Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt for the time being, though Nutt is expected to see his own salary jump back in front of Mullen’s in 2011.  MSU’s coach — when prompted by reporters — couldn’t pass up a chance to take a little shot at the Rebels.

“I like anything that we do that makes us better than the school up north.  I never looked at it that way, but as long as we’re ahead of the school up north, I’m happy.”

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SEC Off To 0-1 Bowl Start Following Vols’ Implosion

As the seconds ticked away and Tennessee held a lead, tens of thousands of Vol fans chanted “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C,” at last night’s Music City Bowl.

And then they saw their team lose its second game this year following a victory celebration.  Call it “LSU Part Deux.”  North Carolina’s 30-27 double-overtime win over UT was bizarre if nothing else.

By now you know the details:


* Tennessee took a 20-17 lead with just over 5:16 left to play, but kicker Daniel Lincoln got off a low extra point attempt that was blocked.  And when doesn’t that come back to bite a team?

* After holding UNC on defense, the Vols went conservative on offense.  Instead of trying to gain a first down, UT coaches chose to run the ball three times, force Carolina to call its final timeouts, and punt the ball back to the Tar Heels with 31 seconds to play.  Tennessee’s punt sailed into the end zone giving UNC the ball at their 20 and half a minute to get into field-goal range.

* On the first play of the drive, Carolina connected on a 28-yard pass down the right sideline.  The receiver appeared to juggle the ball, but replays were not conclusive enough to overturn what was ruled a catch on the field.  Making matters worse for Tennessee, safety Janzen Jackson was flagged for launching himself at the receiver’s back and leading with his helmet.  One play, 43 yards, ball on Tennessee’s 37.

* As Carolina drove deeper into field goal range, Vol linebacker LaMarcus Thompson was lucky not to be flagged 15 yards for an obvious late hit in which he too led with his helmet.  But that didn’t matter…

* UNC coaches called one last run play — with no timeouts and the clock ticking — to try to get their kicker closer.  But confusion reined after the ballcarrier was stopped.  The Tar Heel kicking team tried to come onto the field, then were shooed away — tick, tick, tick.  Finally, quarterback TJ Yates snapped the ball and spiked it with one second remaining on the clock.

* But officials said the game was over.  Tennessee celebrated.  Only… the game wasn’t over. 

* After a check with the replay officials, it was noted that UNC did spike the ball with one second remaining.  The Heels were flagged 5 yards for having too many men on the field during the spike, but there is no 10-second run-off rule in college football.  As a result, UNC nailed a game-tying field with no time remaining.

* After the play, Vol D-lineman Gerald Williams threw his helmet and was flagged.  Now, why was that helmet toss flagged and LSU’s T-Bob Hebert’s not (an issue that became a big sticking point for UT fans after the Vols’ last-second loss at Baton Rouge in October)?  At the time, SEC coordinator of officials Rogers Redding told MrSEC.com that the game was believed to have been over in Hebert’s case.  Assuming the same logic applied last night, Williams did not think the game was over (at least not when he tossed his helmet).  His helmet throw came as the two teams prepared for overtime. 


The loss was a kick in the pants for Derek Dooley and his Vols.  What other team has celebrated not one, but two victories this year only to have them erased?

With the loss, Tennessee falls to 6-7 on the season.  It’s the first time since the founding of the SEC in the 1930s that the UT program has suffered three losing seasons in a six-year span.


Some reaction:

* The details of the game.

* The rulebook played a huge role in Carolina’s win.

* As noted above, the Vols had plenty of chances to ice the game.

* Everyone in orange flashed back to Tennessee’s loss at LSU.

* Dooley said he “had a bad feeling when that thing hit zero (the first time) — and I didn’t celebrate.”

* On the lack of a 10-second run-off rule, UNC coach Butch Davis said:  “Our game isn’t the NFL.  I think ESPN Classic will probably be showing this 100 years from now.”

* On the bright side for Tennessee, the Vols’ freshmen played well again.

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Another Day, Another Suspension At Arkansas

Taking into consideration the mess he inherited upon arrival, we here at MrSEC.com have thrown some support behind embattled Arkansas coach John Pelphrey the last couple of years.  We’ve called out Razorback fans for not filling Bud Walton Arena.  We’ve tsk-tsked columnists who’ve taken potshots at UA’s top hog.

Well.  Ya know.  Maybe we were wrong.

Pelphrey has now suspended yet another player from his team.  Forward Marshawn Powell — a preseason All-SEC selection who is still recovering from an offseason broken foot — will be out indefinitely.

“I think it’s a fluid timetable,” Pelphrey said.  “I think it can be as long as it needs to be and it can be as short as it needs to be.”

Not unlike Pelphrey’s tenure in Fayetteville.

Powell’s playing time has dropped recently and Pelphrey has refused to say why.  A day after Powell returned from Christmas break late — due to a car accident — Pelphrey delivered the news of the suspension to his forward.  “I think he took it pretty well.”

Even so, Pelphrey has now suspended 16 different players during his four-year stay at UA.  That’s exactly half of the players who’ve “suited up for multiple games,” as ArkansasSports360.com puts it.

At this point, it seems that one of the following statements must be true:

a.  Pelphrey has no control over his team and, therefore, constantly needs to discipline and suspend players.

b.  Pelphrey has recruited a long line of miscreants and no-goodniks who continue to prove incapable of conforming to the coach’s rules.

c.  Pelphrey is such a stickler and has handed out so much discipline that his admonishments and punishments no longer carry any weight whatsoever with his troops.  Meaning: If a dog barks long enough, you eventually learn to tune it out.

d.  Pelphrey is Norman Dale.  Does he force his players to dribble between chairs?  Has he handed down a “four passes before every shot” edict?  Will he play with four players rather than send a disobedient fifth player back onto the court?  Perhaps at some point.

But judging from the results so far, we’ll take options a, b or c over option d. 

And we’re starting to understand why Razorback fans are staying away from Bud Walton Arena in droves.  It’s hard to like a team that the coach himself can’t seem to stand.

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SEC Headlines – 12/30/10 Part Two

1.  The Capital One Bowl is special to coaches on both sides of the field.

2.  Former Michigan State head coach Bobby Williams — now an assistant at Bama — has good things to say about the Spartans.

3.  It’s been a thrilling ride for Tide quarterback Greg McElroy.

4.  Auburn coaches are cranking up the practice pace on defense — requiring a new alignment within 10 seconds of a whistle blow — in preparation for Oregon’s lightning-fast attack.

5.  Tiger safety Zac Etheridge says “They know how to be physical (in the Pac-10) and they’ve got speed in that conference, too.”

6.  Kodi Burns’ sacrifices are being rewarded with a trip to the national title game.

7.  Oregon’s linebackers hold the edge over Auburn’s running backs.

8.  Tony Barbee’s basketball team blew a 29-point lead against Georgia Southern but managed to survive 88-84 in overtime.  They blew a 29-point lead?  That’d be hard to do if you tried.

9.  Sophomore guard Andre Malone is leaving the Tiger hoops team because AU “was not the right fit for him.”

10.  Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love is worried about the Sugar Bowl, not his future pro career.

11.  Ohio State players are tired of hearing about their school’s 0-9 record versus the SEC in bowl games.

12.  OSU’s Jim Tressell says he would not allow any of the five Buckeyes suspended for five games next year to play against Arkansas if they hadn’t promised to return to Columbus next year.  (So they could sit out for five games.)

13.  Rotnei Cleark led Arkansas to an 87-59 win over North Carolina A&T last night.  (Many years ago, when I lived in Charlotte, I’m pretty sure my family used to shop at a North Carolina A&P.)

14.  Playing in the Cotton Bowl on January 7th means LSU’s coaches will actually be coaching while rival coaches are on the road recruiting.

15.  Les Miles is through talking about Stevan Ridley and his NCAA appeal until there is some closure in the matter.

16.  LSU will hold a full game simulation – some would call it a “scrimmage” — today.

17.  Erratic shooting doomed the Tigers in a 74-68 loss at Rice last evening.

18.  MSU quarterback Chris Relf has gained confidence as the season has worn on.

19.  Speaking of confidence, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of Michigan’s Denard Robinson: “Nothing can intimidate us… we’ve played a laundry list of guys that all could’ve been invited to New York this year.”  Well.

20.  Meanwhile, Michigan defenders want to make Relf “go outside, make him go the long way,” rather than allowing him to run up the middle.

21.  Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins have filled the void at running back for State.

22.  Dan Mullen says his program’s next step is to go from good to great.

23.  When Alcorn State takes the court in Oxford tonight they’ll have exactly ZERO wins under their belts…

24.  And that won’t do much for the Rebels’ RPI ratings.

25.  Former Memphis shooting guard Jelan Kendrick is planning to transfer to Ole Miss.

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Jackson Back For UT But Questions Remain

Tennessee’s only representative on this year’s All-SEC team is back from Louisiana and ready for today’s bowl game against North Carolina.  But there are still questions surrounding safety Janzen Jackson.  Like, where’s he been and why has he been there?

Jackson’s father, Lance Guidry, told a Knoxville radio show yesterday that his son is dealing “well” with “serious family issues” that took him away from UT’s bowl preps for more than a week.

Guidry, who is now the interim head football coach at Miami (Ohio), said: “It’s kind of a family situation.  He’s dealing with it well.  He reported to practice.  He’s been staying in touch with the coaches.  We’ve talked every day during the process.  He’s doing well.”

Derek Dooley has not provided details on the nature of Jackson’s week away, saying only that the matter was “very, very personal.”  He also suggested that Jackson might choose to talk about it in the future. 

Not so, says his father.  “I think he’ll keep it quiet,” Guidry said.  “Some things you open up about and other things you don’t.  You kind of keep it within your family.”

Okay, so the player has a private, family issue.  But, as noted, his father is not in Louisiana.  He’s coaching in Ohio.  And Jackson’s mother lives in California.  So perhaps Jackson was in Louisiana to take care of serious family issues in his extended family.

But was that the whole reason he was away from the team?

Jimmy Hyams, who hosts another Knoxville radio show, reported prior to Christmas that Jackson “was involved in a drug-related dorm room incident Dec. 7 but was not arrested or cited.”

Multiple sources have told MrSEC.com that the drug in question was marijuana.  Dooley said at the time that his safety had not been suspended from the team.

Jackson has been at the center of controversy since arriving in Knoxville prior to the 2009 season.

In Fall 2009 he was arrested along with two other Vol footballers for his involvement in an attempted armed robbery outside of a Knoxville convenience store.  Jackson was later cleared.

According to Hyams he also went through drug rehab last summer.

And this past July he was present for a melee involving numerous UT football players at a Knoxville bar.  An off-duty Knoxville police officer was beaten to the point of unconsciousness.  Jackson was not cited in that incident.  Tennessee has since reported secondary violations involving free admission of athletes to that bar.
 
Despite Jackson’s past off-field issues and his recent sabbatical, he will be back on the field for today’s Music City Bowl.  That’s good news for Vol fans who’ve been wondering where their star defender has been.

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SEC Headlines – 12/30/10 Part One

1.  Things have quieted down in Gainesville during the transition from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp.

2.  This writer believes Muschamp’s offensive and defensive coordinators “likely are coaching in the NFL at the moment.”

3.  Florida’s quarterback job is up in the air for Saturday’s bowl and beyond.

4.  One overlooked aspect of the Outback Bowl — Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall was once Florida’s head coach.

5.  UCF players are viewing tomorrow’s Liberty Bowl with Georgia as “our Super Bowl.”  Here’s guessing UGA’s players aren’t so motivated.

6.  Linebacker Justin Houston knows he needs to start thinking about his stay-or-go-pro decision soon.

7.  Backup safety/linebacker Nick Williams is seeking a transfer from Athens.

8.  Folks in the Peach State are still debating whether or not players should be allowed to sell their jerseys… and the debate includes a UGA player and the school’s new AD.

9.  This writer says the arrival of John Calipari has actually been good for Louisville’s Rick Pitino. 

10.  This scribe also believes Pitino has risen to Coach Cal’s challenge.

11.  When the two coaches clash tomorrow, the ref who ejected Calipari from UK’s game with Mississippi Valley State will be working the floor.  Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnn.

12.  Former U of L player Kenny Payne never thought he be a Wildcat working on Calipari’s staff.

13.  Could this year’s 9-4 squad really be South Carolina’s best team ever?

14.  Steve Spurrier says a lot has changed since he last faced Florida State in 2001… but he still doesn’t want to hear the “Tomahawk Chop” chant all night long.

15.  Starting left guard Garrett Chisholm is expected to miss tomorrow’s Chick-fil-A Bowl due to a sprained knee.

16.  USC is preparing to see multiple quarterbacks from FSU.

17.  The Gamecock basketball team snapped a two-game losing streak with a 56-49 win over Jacksonville State last night.

18.  LP Field in Nashville will turn into Knoxville West for tonight’s Music City Bowl.

19.  Here are five keys for the Volunteers today.

20.  Two rough seasons come to a close when UT faces North Carolina.

21.  Bruce Pearl’s Vols slipped by UT-Martin 68-62 last night.  On Monday the Skyhawks lost 100-40 at Ohio State.

22.  After a great start to the season, Tennessee is getting used to close calls and hard-fought battles against mid-majors and ne’er-do-wells.

23.  Without Lance Goulbourne, Vanderbilt still toppled Marquette 77-76 last night on an Andre Walker layup with 4 seconds to play.

24.  Goulbourne’s two-game suspension is now up.

25.  John Jenkins’ shot “has just gotten a little flat,” according to Kevin Stallings.

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