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All Coaches Make Mistakes… Even Alabama’s Saban

Alabama v AuburnPeruse the messageboards or dial up the talk radio shows revolving around a down-and-out or middle-of-the-pack SEC program and you’ll soon find that the local coach is a Grade A nitwit.  Every move the guy makes gets questioned.


Why’d he switch to the spread?

Why’d he switch from the spread?

Why’d he call a draw on third-and-15?

Why’d he not go for it on fourth down?

Why’d he not take the ball to start the game?


On and on.

Coaches at mid-range or low-range programs get it from all sides.  That’s because they lose games and lost games leave people with questions.  They also leave folks with doubts about their head coach and/or his assistants.

But here’s the rub – All coaches make goofy decisions.  And they do it all the time.  But those with more talent usually win their games and, therefore, have to defend far fewer decisions.

Take LSU’s Les Miles as the world’s greatest example.  When the Tigers are loaded with talent, his “What the Hell’s he doing?” gambles are viewed as genius.  No wonder.  His top 10 teams have had the ability to make dumb decisions work.  Anyone remember this unfathomable decision from 2007:


LSU vs. Auburn 2007 – Flynn to Byrd


Instead of kicking a 39-yard field goal with time expiring, Miles threw into the end zone.  Now let’s say that pass had fallen incomplete.  And that the clock operator let one more digit drop off the clock.  LSU loses the game.  But Miles had a BCS champion team on his hands.  So that crazy ol’ Mad Hatter was doggone brilliant!  That last-second heave helped keep the Tigers’ title hopes alive.

Why point all this out today?  Because the greatest coach in the country — perhaps the greatest college football coach ever — just botched his team’s shot at a third-straight national title.  After Saturday’s 34-28 loss to Auburn, Nick Saban talked about a lot of mistakes that his team had made on the field and on the game-deciding play.  But the biggest mistakes were made over on the sideline in the space between Saban’s headphones.

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SEC Headlines – 5/10/12

1.  As we noted earlier today, expect the SEC to be on top of the Mt. Television-Revenue when its new CBS and ESPN deals are finalized.

2.  Alabama AD Mal Moore opens up about firing Mike Shula and hiring Nick Saban.

3.  Mike Anderson has added a juco forward to Arkansas’ 2012-13 roster.

4.  LSU guard Ralston Turner has been given a release from new coach Johnny Jones and will consider transferring.

5.  Texas A&M’s next AD will need for Kevin Sumlin and Billy Kennedy to succeed.

6.  Here’s a post-spring look at Florida’s running back situation.

7.  Freshman John Theus will get a shot to crack Georgia’s starting O-line in preseason camp.

8.  Come Monday, Mark Richt will be able to use his phone again.

9.  The academic status of Kentucky signee Nerlens Noel might be a bigger issue than ongoing NCAA snooping.

10.  Indiana’s Tom Crean discusses the end of the UK-IU basketball series.

11.  South Carolina junior guards Eric Smith and Brian Richardson intend to stay put under Frank Martin.  (Sorry, but it’s behind a paywall, folks.)

12.  Derek Dooley feels that all the anchors that were weighing down Tennessee’s program are gone.

13.  Frank Haith is building his Missouri program with transfers (from Auburn, Oregon, Pepperdine, Tulsa and UConn).

14.  Mel Kiper lists nine SEC players on this Top 25 Big Board for next year’s NFL draft… and only two of those players are seniors.

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Bama Rumor Mill: Croom And Groh Names Heating Up

One name familiar to SEC fans and another — familiar to Nick Saban — appear to be rising to the top of Alabama’s search for a receivers coach.  Former Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom has already interviewed for the job while Louisville’s Mike Groh remains a possibility, too.

Croom is a former Alabama player.  Everyone remembers the dust-up when Bama hired Mike Shula as its head coach instead of Croom in 2003.  Croom then took over at Mississippi State, got in a couple of wins over the Tide (one over Shula, one over Saban), took the Bulldogs to a bowl game… and was then fired when his team took a step backwards in 2008.  He is currently the running backs coach for the St. Louis Rams.

Groh is the quarterbacks coach at Louisville.  His father is Al Groh, the former Virginia head coach and longtime NFL assistant.  The elder Groh is part of the Bill Belichick coaching tree — as is Saban — as both worked together under Belichick with the Cleveland Browns in early 1990s.

The Tuscaloosa News speculates that Saban’s final hire might not necessarily be the team’s receivers coach in 2011.  Saban could shuffle his staff and turn the receivers over to another coach already on his staff.  Croom has never coached receivers during his lengthy career.

On a sidenote, Croom’s official photo from MSU (at left) is still the most bad-ass shot of an SEC coach we have ever seen.

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Hogs’ Childs Out For The Season

On Saturday, Bobby Petrino had his starters in the game up 35-14 over Vanderbilt in the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately, his team’s leading receiver — Greg Childs — suffered a patella tendon injury as the Razorbacks attempted to stretch their lead.

The good news: Arkansas scored and went up 42-14 and eventually won 49-14.

The bad news: Childs is out for the season.

One of those stories far outweighs the other.

Petrino was defensive when asked about Childs.  “That was the second play of the fourth quarter.  Every starter on both sides were in the game.

Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean they should have been.

In 2005, Alabama receiver Tyrone Prothro suffered an horrific, season-ending injury while still playing in the fourth quarter of a Tide game against Florida.  Bama was leading 31-3 when Prothro broke both is tibia and fibula.  Mike Shula’s decision to leave Prothro (and his other starters) in the game damaged the young coach’s reputation.

We’ll see how much heat Petrino takes for a similar call.  (And before someone sends me an email, being up 21 points on Vandy is equivalent to being up 75 on Florida.  Vandy was not coming back on Saturday night.)

Now the Razorbacks will head into this weekend’s game at #19 South Carolina looking for other receivers to step up. 

“We’ll definitely miss him,” Petrino said.  “You’re not going to replace his productivity, competitiveness, toughness with just one person.  We feel we do have good depth and different guys we can get the ball.”

Childs led Arkansas in just about every receiving category.  His injury is severe enough that he will likely be unable to go through contact drills in the spring.

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