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Alabama’s Sims Says Battle For Starting QB Gig Is “A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity”

gfx-they-said-it4Senior-to-be Blake Sims has a leg up on departed Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in one area.  He’s already met with Tuscaloosa reporters.  McCarron wasn’t given his media baptism until he’d won the starter’s gig in August of his sophomore year.

Sims will compete for the Crimson Tide’s starting spot with incoming transfer Jacob Coker.  Coker will arrive this summer after leaving defending national champ Florida State.

So what’s Sims’ view of the quarterback opportunity and spring practice as a whole:

 

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m having fun out there.  Everybody’s smiling.  Everybody’s having fun.  Just trying to do what we’ve got to do to be the best…

I think (the QB/receivers rapport is) very good, just communication and building a relationship so we know where we’re going to be with our body language.  Just if we try to say that if I was here, where would this person be, and try to be in the other person’s mind at all times.”

 

That should prove to be an advantage for Sims when his battle with Coker fires up this summer.  Many Tide fans are hoping Coker will step in and snag the starting reins.  But even on the competition front, Sims is saying all the right things:

 

“I’m ready for him to get here and make Bama even (that) much better as a team and bring his personality and make everybody smile and take in with open arms.”

 

For his career, Sims is 23-of-39 for 144 yards and two touchdowns in mop-up duty.  Coker was 21-of-41 for 295 yards one touchdown and one interception during his FSU career.

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Coker Released From FSU, Likely To Land At Bama… But Are Expectations Too High Already?

jacob-cokerIt seems that Kevin Norwood did indeed know what he was talking about.  The former Alabama receiver leaked word last week that Alabama would soon be landing a 6-5 quarterback transfer from Florida State.  Today, Jacob Coker’s transfer from Tallahassee to Tuscaloosa is looking very, very likely.

According to ESPN.com, Coker has been released from his scholarship at FSU and is free to transfer.  If he graduates this spring as expected, he’ll then enroll at Alabama.  With a degree in hand, Coker could step in and compete for the Tide’s quarterback job this fall.

Coker is being built up as an elite quarterback and a potential savior for a Crimson Tide program that lacks a proven, pro-style quarterback as it heads into 2014.  Maybe he is.

But he was a three-star prospect coming out of high school.  He chose Florida State over offers from Arkansas State, Duke, Mississippi State and South Alabama.  That’s hardly Ohio State, Texas and Southern Cal.

In two seasons with the Seminoles, Coker saw action in 10 games completing 21-of-41 passes for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  None of that is to say a transfer to Alabama won’t result in many more wins for the Tide.  But it also doesn’t appear — at least not on paper — that Coker should be getting quite the hype that’s currently being tossed his way.

If/when Coker does slip on a crimson jersey, the expectation level will be exceedingly high for a kid who’s thrown 41 passes at the college level.

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Ex-Receiver Norwood On Potential FSU-To-Bama Move By QB Coker: “I Thought Everybody Knew”

gfx - they said itFormer Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood says he didn’t mean to let any cats of the bag when he remarked last week in a radio interview that the Tide: “… have a guy coming in from Florida State, a 6-5 guy.  I don’t know too much about him.  But I heard good things about him.”

The him Norwood was referring to is apparently Mobile native and Seminole backup QB Jacob Coker.  Coker just happens to be the backup to the reigning Heisman-winner, Jameis Winston.  Winston was just a freshman last year.  And thus… a transfer for Coker.

Only Coker has to date downplayed the rumors of a transfer back to his home state and to Nick Saban’s program.  And that’s why Norwood tried to backtrack from his comments yesterday, though he first seemed to sorta/kinda confirm them:

 

“I thought everybody knew he was coming.  I didn’t know I was putting him on the spot or did anything like that…

I don’t want to mess anything up or get anybody excited.  I hope I didn’t because I don’t know if it’s true or not.  I really don’t.”

 

Riiiiight.

Now the question becomes: “What has Coker told Jimbo Fisher?”  If he’s not been upfront with Fisher about the possibility of transferring to Bama the Noles’ coach might not be too thrilled with the possibility that his old boss Saban might possibly be wooing his backup quarterback through back channels.

Longtime Tennessee and Kentucky assistant Randy Sanders makes it sound as though Coker is well worth any efforts to land him (or keep him in FSU’s case).  Currently serving as FSU’s quarterbacks coach, Sanders had this to say about the guy who was Winston’s backup until tearing his meniscus:

 

“I’ve never had anybody with his size who throws it as well as he does.  Jake has a really quick release with tremendous arm strength.  Rarely does it not spiral or not go where he wants it to go.”

 

Alabama fans now must wait and wonder what Coker thinks of new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.  Will he like the guy who did a good job with quarterbacks at Southern Cal (the first time around) and Tennessee?  Or will he focus in on the QB struggles at USC under Kiffin the head coach in recent seasons?

Perhaps Norwood knows the answer to that one, too.

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Jacksonville Radio Personality Goes Sleazy, Assassinates The Character Of New UGA D-Coordinator Pruitt

rick ballou

(NOTE: This piece was written on Thursday morning.  It was put on a back burner and left as a draft in the hopes that no major outlets would even pick up the claims made by a Jacksonville radio host regarding defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s move from Florida State to Georgia.  Now that The Orlando Sentinel has followed up the story with FSU folks shooting down the slanderous comments, we’re posting it.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has also picked up the story.)

 

I don’t know Rick Ballou.  I don’t know his morals.  I don’t know his history.  I don’t know if he gives to charity.  I don’t know if he obeys all traffic signals.  I might have done a phoner on his radio show at one time or another — I know I’ve been on his station — but that hardly gives me any insight into the man’s character or his personal life.  I do know his co-host from radio and he’s always been a very solid guy to me.

But Rick Ballou?  No clue.

What does give me insight into Ballou’s character is the fact that he went on the radio Wednesday and smeared the character of former Florida State and new Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.  That tells me that Ballou is — what’s the word I’m looking for? — ah, yes, a jerk.

Yeah, we live in a world where passing out rumors is considered “reporting.”  Even rumors about public figures’ private lives.

Yes, those of us in the media gave away our souls long ago.  Most of us are willing to talk about anything and everything if we think it’ll draw in one more listener or reader.  There are enough bad apples in the media to spoil our whole dang bunch.

And, yes, you the consumer — many of you at least — lap it all up like mama’s gravy.

That doesn’t make Ballou’s statements any less sickening to me.  He claimed that Pruitt is a man “who loves the nightlife,” “who loves the ladies,” and who “made himself available” while in Tallahassee.  The man on-air with Ballou even said, “wow,” twice as Ballou went a helluva lot farther than he ever should have.  We’ll not link to his out-of-bounds claims because…

They’re none of Ballou’s damn business.  

They’re none of our damn business.  

And they’re none of your damn business.

Naturally, this character attack on Pruitt took off like wildfire on Twitter and a number of websites — Florida State-centric sites in particular — have picked it up and chuckled about it.  ”Ha, ha, alleged dirt on someone.  Hooray!”  For that reason, we felt someone should fire a shot back across Ballou’s bow.

Personally, I’d like to hire a PI to trail the radio host and all the other folks yukking it up over this crap to see just how morally upstanding they are.  We’re all human.  I’m guessing Ballou’s flubbed a few things just as I have and just as you have.  Being a sinner myself I tend not to throw stones regarding the alleged moral shortcomings of others.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I enjoy throwing stones at the stone-throwers.  That’s not very Christian, either, but at least those folks are asking for it.

What Pruitt did or didn’t do is between him and those around him.  Not some radio honk from Jacksonville or some internet hack like myself.  Or some gossip-monger like yourself if you’re into all this trash.

There’s a rumor now being kicked around simply because Ballou broadcast it.  An angry FSU fan — upset that his wubby-dubby D-coordinator split a week after winning a national crown — actually broadcast rumors regarding another man’s personal life.  One week earlier, Ballou would’ve defended FSU’s coordinator had some Gator fans made similar scandalous claims about the man.  Of that you can be sure.  After all, did we hear Ballou share any of these rumors while Ballou was still a Seminole coach?  Of course, not.  Which proves our point.  The guy’s a fan and not an objective member of the media.

Need more proof that Ballou is nothing more than a footy-pajama-wearing Nole backer?  That’s his photo in the Florida State hat at right.  He also posted this third-grade-level tweet when Pruitt’s departure became official.

Now, it’s funny to us that whenever a coach leaves a school, the jilted fans and and some of the media who cover that school always start to whisper that the coach only left because a) he was having an affair, b) he was drinking way too much, or c) both.  If I had a dollar for every stinking time I’ve received an email claiming that “Coach X was sleeping around” I’d be a millionaire.  Always when a guy leaves.  Always from the hometown fanbase.  Always, always, always.  And it’s usually malarkey.

My personal views on this kind of “reporting” haven’t changed much over time.  Go back to Bobby Petrino’s downfall at Arkansas and you’ll find that this site never tsk-tsk’d the man for having an affair.  We focused on the fact that Petrino pushed for the hiring of his mistress which could have gotten the school into legal trouble and — to be honest — could have gotten AD Jeff Long fired for the lack of oversight in his athletic department.

So in our view, the reality of the current situation is this: Georgia just hired a darned good defensive coordinator from national champion Florida State.  That man has an SEC background from his days as both an Alabama player and coach.  According to Pruitt, his reasons for joining Mark Richt’s staff were clear:

 

“In 2003 I was a high school football coach at Fort Payne (Alabama) High School and I brought some prospects over here to Georgia and I had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Richt.  That was the first time I ever met him, and when I walked out of that room 30 minutes later I was wowed.  My father looked at me and said, ‘That’s what college football is all about.’  I said right then and there if I ever had the opportunity to work for him that I wanted to be a part of his staff.”

 

That’s good enough for us.

As for Ballou and his blatant jackassery?  He owes Pruitt and his family a very public apology.  The radio host’s Twitter feed states that he’s the “dad of 2 beautiful little girls.”  Makes you wonder.  If his daughters grow up and become public figures, ya think Ballou would want some talking head broadcasting nasty rumors about their personal lives?

Put $20 on “No way!” for me.

Just because we in the media have microphones and keyboards doesn’t mean we know how to use them.  And being in the media sure as hell doesn’t mean we’re good people.

Thanks for making us all look a just little bit sleazier, Rick.

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Auburn’s Malzahn Wins the Bear Bryant Coaching Award

gus-malzahn-aub-helmetGus Malzahn came within seconds of winning the BCS Championship Game.  But his team’s last-minute loss to Florida State hasn’t gotten in the way of him winning multiple Coach of the Year awards.  Already he’d picked up the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award, the Football Writers Association of America’s Eddie Robinson Award, and AP National Coach of the Year honors.  Last night he added to his tally.

In a move sure to make a few Bama fans sick, Malzahn was announced on Wednesday as the winner of last season’s Paul “Bear” Bryant College Coach of the Year Award.

“When you’re growing up, he’s the man,” Malzahn said of the tribute.  ”The fact that I’m from the state of Arkansas and he’s from Fordyce, Arkansas and one of my best friends is coaching high school there makes it even that much more special.”

The first-year Tiger coach admitted that he’s still stinging over his team’s loss to FSU in Pasadena.  ”We’re still hurting over the fact that we were close to winning the national championship and got beat.  But if you can remove yourself from that, it was a lot of fun, our players came a long way, they improved each week and we were 13 seconds away from being the national champion.”

The fact that his team improved each week — and improved from 3-9 under Gene Chizik in 2012 to 12-2 in 2013 — is the reason Malzahn will have a shelf full of trophies to someday look back upon and appreciate.   Coach of the Year honors typically go to guys who  win national championships.  But there’s no denying Malzahn did more heavy-lifting than any other coach in the country in 2013.

 

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That Didn’t Take Long: Georgia To Hire Pruitt As New D-Coordinator

jeremy-pruittThe seat in the Georgia football complex that once belonged to Todd Grantham never got a chance to cool.  According to reports, the Bulldogs have already settled on Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt to take over as UGA defensive coordinator.

Pruitt served in the same role at FSU where he helped lead the Seminoles to a national title last week.

Based on the word of “multiple sources,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Pruitt has accepted the job.  Consider it a major coup for Mark Richt, himself a former Florida State offensive coordinator.

Todd Grantham resigned as UGA’s D-coordinator on Sunday and joined Bobby Petrino’s new staff at Louisville in the same position.  To replace him in two days with Pruitt will be viewed as a win by Bulldogs fans.

Last season, Pruitt’s Seminoles ranked #1 nationally in scoring defense, #18 in rushing defense, #1 in passing defense, and #3 in total defense.  For comparison, Grantham’s young Georgia D ranked 45th nationally in total defense and 79th in scoring defense.  The Dawgs allowed 29.0 points per game.  The Noles yielded just 12.1.

In addition, Pruitt was named 247Sports.com’s “National Recruiter of the Year” in 2012.  For the icing on the cake, he also knows the SEC as a former Alabama player and as Nick Saban’s secondary coach from 2010 through 2012.

Hiring a “name” coordinator from the defending national champs is no guarantee of success.  We’ll still have to wait until fall to see how all of this plays out for the Bulldogs.  What this move does do, however, is guarantee Richt a much more peaceful spring and summer leading up to fall.

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A Wandering Mind Takes In The BCS Title Game And ESPN’s “Megacast”

gfx - honest opinionJust a few random observations I typed into the ol’ iPad while taking in Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in last night’s BCS Championship Game…

 

FIRST QUARTER

*  What would happen if a network simply opened its broadcast of a football game with a simple intro tune?  Would the game even be played if some country/rock/rap star didn’t provide the music bed for a 1,000 mph, over-produced “hype you up” video?

*  Poor Brent Musburger.  The guy is a legend.  And unlike a lot of aging broadcasters, he’s not prone to stumbles, bungles or gaffes.  He still speaks clearly and — at least to my generation — he’s still the go-to voice for big events (along with Al Michaels and Jim Nantz).  But he just intro’d himself as Kirk Herbstreit “along with Brent Musburger.”  Surely he wouldn’t have joked like that.  Most wouldn’t get it.  If he was joking, I didn’t get it.

*  20 years ago if Musburger says that it’s on its way to Mars, forgotten about in the grand scheme of things.  In this day and age, it lights up Twitter.  It’ll be a story tomorrow.

*  OK, we get it, Brent.  Renegade is on hand for FSU.

*  By the way, watching Tim Tebow during the pre-game, he’s way too nice to provide anything of interest on the SEC Network.  A guy doesn’t have to be mean, of course, but if he never says anything critical it’s hard to believe him when he says something positive.  Tebow is as likable as they come, but his nice guy personality will likely make him a Jon Gruden-esque bouquet-tosser. I have no clue, however, how anyone could dislike the guy.

*  John Legend with a straight-forward, excellent anthem.  Let this guy do more of ‘em.

*  ESPN’s “Title Talk” room is a little too peppy.  Michael W. Smith pushing the “party” angle of the channel.  Celebs, players and coaches are supposed to drop in and watch and talk.  You’re selling it too hard, Michael.

*  The “Film Room” looks to be a cool concept, but will it fly once the action begins?

*  After a big Auburn run on the first play of the game, FSU forces a 3rd-and-7 and Gus Malzahn has to take a timeout.  If that’s to settle the troops, OK.  But blowing a timeout just 1:16 into the game isn’t a great sign.

*  Terrific play call by Malzahn to get Ricardo Louis open deep but Nick Marshall underthrows by a mile.  Still shoulda been caught, but Auburn just missed a chance to go up 7-0 and land a haymaker in the first round.

*  Nice drive by the Seminoles, but AU’s red zone defense holds.  They’ve been good all year at prevent red zone TDs.  Gonna have to keep it up to win this one.

*  Florida State’s defense is fast.  SEC fast.  The rush has Marshall looking a little addled.

*  Super punt by Auburn.  Downed at the two to fill the field.  But will it flip momentum?

*  Uh, yep.  AU stops ‘em then Chris Davis with the nice return and the Tigers are in business near FSU’s 30.

*  FSU is too fast for Auburn to get its perimeter run game going.  That’s their bread and butter.  Not a good sign for the SEC.

*  Beautiful 3rd-and-9 screen for the TD.  Nice call by Malzahn.  As play-caller, AU’s coach is a master.

*  ESPN’s “Film Room” has great post-TD discussion.  Maybe this does fly for a live game.  Split screen makes the action a bit too small, but the info is excellent.

*  Special teams played a big role on that exchange.  Momentum in AU’s favor now… all due to punt downed deep.

*  Aaron Eckhart, what happened, dude?  You go from “Thank You For Smoking” to “I, Frankenstein?”  Ah, well, that kind of fare will probably buy him a new beach house.

*  Fingers-crossed there’ll be no “discount double-check” ads in tonight’s game.  When you have to go back to a 20-year-old SNL skit for your ads, you’ve probably run out of ideas.

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Florida AD Foley, Carolina Coach Spurrier Back Muschamp

vote_of_confidenceAfter twisting in the wind for a couple of days, Will Muschamp got another vote of confidence from Florida AD Jeremy Foley yesterday.  He also got the endorsement of the Gators’ best-ever coach.

In an interview with a writer from Florida’s official athletic site, Foley backed the coach he hired in December of 2010.  The coach many fans want fired in 2013:

 

“As athletic director I’m a thousand percent convinced that Will Muschamp is the guy to lead this football program.  Nothing has changed in what we feel about Will Muschamp from the day we hired him.

Everyone around here wants the same thing.  We want to do what is right for the University of Florida.  We understand that this football season has not gone the way any of us wanted it to go, certainly not the way our fans wanted it to go, and most of all, not the way Will Muschamp wanted it to go.

We have a history of being successful, we have a history of fixing things when they need to be fixed, and that is what is going to happen here, and Coach Muschamp is the one that will fix it…

We will get better under Will Muschamp’s leadership.  This is not the quote-unquote dreaded ‘vote of confidence.’  This is just how we all feel around here.  We have a strong faith and a strong belief in his capabilities, in his leadership skills, in his ability to evaluate what needs to be fixed.

Go back to a year ago: We’re 11-1 and beat four teams in the Top 10 and he was SEC Coach of the Year.  I don’t think that was a fluke.  I think coaching had a lot to do with that.  We’ll stay the course here.  We’ll get it right.  We’re not going to leg Gator fans down.  We want the same thing they want.”

 

For good measure, Florida president Bernie Machen is also quoted in the story as saying: “I want the Gator Nation to know that I have full confidence in Coach Muschamp and his leadership of the football program.

Now that one is literally a “vote of confidence.”

Support from Muschamp isn’t coming from Florida brass alone.  Former Gator coach and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier — who’ll face his alma mater Saturday in Columbia — had nice things to say about Muschamp yesterday:

 

“We’ve got a good relationship.  I’ve admired the way he coaches his team and the way he runs the show down there.  I made mention that I think last year he was SEC Coach of the Year.  After they beat FSU, they were third in the country in that BCS and if Notre Dam had lost to Southern Cal, Florida would have been in the national championship game.

Obviously, this year they’ve had a rash of injuries all over the team that’s really hurt them.  They’ve still got plenty of ball players and they’re a very hard-nosed, physical-type of team…

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have as many (injuries) as they’ve had.”

 

Some ticked off Gator backers might not like it, but Foley and Machen are wise to stick with a guy who won 11 games last year.  The fact that last year’s accomplishments have already been forgotten — that they mean absolutely nothing — further shows just how much the game has changed and how little patience sports fans have these days.  A thumbs-up to Foley and Machen for backing their man… and to Spurrier for tossing in some support, too.  He’s not one to bite his lip if he sees something he likes or dislikes, so it’s unlikely his remarks are tied solely to the fact his team is playing UF this week.

 

 

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MSU And FSU Battling Over Brewster

Reports of Tim Brewster’s move from Mississippi State to Florida State seem to have been a bit premature.  Today there’s still some back-and-forth going on as FSU tries to hire the tight ends coach and MSU tries to keep him.

At this point we can be sure of just one thing — the ex-Minnesota head coach will be making a lot more money next season… either in Tallahassee or Starkville.  But while money will likely play a pretty big role in Brewster’s ultimate decision, Bulldog fans are taking to Twitter to try and convince him to stay in the Magnolia State.

 

msu tweets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s just one catch, of course.  Do you really think Brewster is hanging out on Twitter as two programs compete for his services?

Brewster has been at State for six months, coaching the schools receivers last year before being assigned tight ends two weeks ago.

Update: The Florida State Rivals Site ($) says the deal with Brewster was finalized today. He will coach tight ends for Jimbo Fisher.

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Reports: MSU’s Brewster To FSU

mrsec-breaking-newsFor the third time in two days it appears an SEC school is about to lose an assistant coach on the eve of spring practice.  Multiple internet sites are reporting that current Mississippi State tight ends coach Tim Brewster will be joining Florida State’s staff in the same capacity.

Florida State — which lost a wave of assistants this past offseason — snagged Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham yesterday.  (FSU also scooped up ex-Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders this offseason and it’s believed he will shift from running backs to quarterbacks to make way for Graham.)

Brewster served as Dan Mullen’s receivers coach at MSU last year.  He was shifted to tight ends and given the title of “assistant head coach” when Mullen brought in Billy Gonzales to coach receivers 13 days ago.

Brewster was the head coach at Minnesota from 2007 through 2010.  Hired last August, he spent just six months in Starkville.  The irony in that — if/when Brewster to FSU becomes official — is the fact that Brewster sent out a mid-January tweet suggesting recruiting rival Chris Kiffin at Ole Miss would be leaving the Rebel program.

As of today, Kiffin’s still in Oxford, but it looks like Brewster’s on his way to Tallahassee.

In addition to Brewster and Graham, Ole Miss cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff was named an assistant coach for the New Orleans Saints last night.

So much for spring football.  It’s still coaching-search season in the SEC.

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