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Defensive End Spence Preparing To Cut List

Defensive end Noah Spence from Bishop Mcdevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pa., is preparing to cut his list of schools to seven.

“Then he’ll be setting up the officials the first week of September, or at least we’ll be knocking it down to five,” Spence’s father, Greg, told 247Sports.com. “It’s a fluid situation right now, just because of the nature of college athletics right now, especially with the NCAA. Every day it’s something new.”

And it was something new this week with one school Noah Spence is considering – North Carolina. The Tar Heels fired head coach Butch Davis on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of respect and admiration for that institution, no question about it,” Greg Spence told 247Sports. “UNC is tremendous, we all know that, academically and you really couldn’t ask for more. The football program, unfortunately, is in shambles right now.”

Noah Spence, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 2 weakside defensive end by 247Sports, has offers from several SEC schools, including Auburn, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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UT Has Competition For Top A.D.s; Shuler Not A Candidate

When news first broke a month ago that Heath Shuler was a candidate for Tennessee’s open athletic director gig, we made it clear that we weren’t buying what was being sold.  In fact, a source close to UT’s search told us that the former Heisman runner-up was in no way a realistic candidate at all.

Now a spokesperson for the North Carolina congressman is making that even more clear:


“Heath Shuler is running for re-election in 2012.  He is not going to be the next athletic director at the University of Tennessee.  He has not sought it.  He has not interviewed for it.  If offered, he will not accept it.  He will not be the next AD at UT.  He is running for re-election.”


That’s what the Shuler team told Politico.com yesterday. 

While Shuler ramps up his campaign in one part of the state, over in Chapel Hill UNC officials are looking for a new athletic director.  One day after dismissing Butch Davis as head coach, AD Dick Baddour announced that he is stepping down from his post.

Tennessee officials haven’t had an easy time finding a replacement for Mike Hamilton, and now a similar job is coming open.  Both schools are in NCAA hot water, though the investigation into Tennessee is complete.  The Vols are simply waiting on penalties to be handed down.

UT is trying to rebuild in football and in basketball while Carolina’s new AD will only have to oversee the reconstruction of the Tar Heels’ football program.  UNC basketball — you might have heard — is a juggernaut, national program.

It will be interesting to see which school nabs the AD with the better reputation.  UT has been looking for a while, so if UNC somehow trumps the Vols with a big name hire — assuming UT doesn’t make one, too — Big Orange fans will have another reason to bemoan their school’s administration.

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Malzahn’s Name Already Connected To UNC Opening

In addition to messageboard posters and Bleacher Reports bloggers, the scribes at ESPN are among the first to connect Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to the now vacant head coaching job at North Carolina.

Bruce Feldman put together a list of six hot candidates for the job and Malzahn’s name is at the top.  (Feldman’s list is viewable by subscription only, but Chris Low gives an overview.

UNC will go through the 2011 season with an interim leader, so you can bet Tar Heel fans will keep an eye toward Auburn’s rebuilt offense this fall.  If Malzahn’s system can put up big numbers after losing Cam Newton and a talented offensive line, there’s no question he’ll be able to write his own check — if he decides to — by season’s end.

Also on Feldman’s list of UNC possibilities: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

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We’ve Said It Before: Smart Coaches Should Ban Twitter

Did you thumb through the letter of allegations handed down from the NCAA to North Carolina yesterday?  Mixed in among all the charges of wrongdoing, misinforming, and looking the other way was a quick mention of Twitter.

The NCAA requested from the school copies of “materials posted on Twitter” by UNC football player regarding trips “on which they received impermissible benefits.”

You might recall that former Tar Heel Marvin Austin tweeted information about trips and possible interactions with agents and street agents that opened the flood gates on a deluge of potential NCAA violations in Chapel Hill.

As we’ve stated before, coaches would be wise to ix-nay their players’ use of Twitter and Facebook for fear that they might post something inflammatory on the social networking sites.  Now that the NCAA has made it clear in an official document sent to a school under investigation that it’s eyeballing all those tweets and Facebook updates… maybe some coaches will get with the program and follow our advice:

Ban your players from Twitter now!

(As always you can follow MrSEC.com on Twitter by clicking ri’ cheer.)

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FoxSports’ Early Top 25 Hoops Picks

It’s never too early for preseason polls, apparently.  And we’re not even talking about football.

Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com posted his way early Top 25 basketball picks late last week.  Among them are four SEC squads, two of which are in his Top 10:


2.  Kentucky — “The top-ranked incoming class in America, along with the return of a trio of holdovers — including (Terrence) Jones — make the Wildcats the co-favorites along with UNC.”  (Goodman, obviously, ranks the Tar Heels in the top slot.)

8.  Vanderbilt — “The Commodores have everyone back except for (Andre) Walker, which means they are a legitimate top-10 club.”

14.  Florida — “The Gators have talent, but it will be interesting to see how Billy Donovan’s team will fare with a bunch of guards who all love.”  “Who all love?”  We’ll assume Goodman’s last words in that sentence were meant to be “to shoot,” but that’s just an educated guess considering the number of scorers UF should have in its backcourt next season.

21.  Alabama — “Anthony Grant returns his top three players from last year’s team, which barely missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid.”


That’s it, folks.  Four and done.  No other SEC team even makes Goodman’s 12-team “others to watch” list.

And while the SEC West has three teams listed in most preseason Top 15 football polls… it’s the SEC East that continues to land three squads in the Top 15 of most basketball pundits’ picks.

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UGA’s Fox A Candidate At NC State?

Mark Fox has only been at Georgia for two years, but his name is already being floated in connection with another opening.  SportsByBrooks.com suggested yesterday that NC State AD Debbie Yow would have Fox on her list of possible replacements for Sidney Lowe… assuming she does oust Lowe today as expected.

According to the site, Fox would be a candidate along with Rick Barnes of Texas (won’t happen), Sean Miller of Arizona (won’t happen), and, of course, Tubby Smith of Minnesota (whose agent has to be behind all the name-drops of his client).

NC State is believed to be willing to pay a significant sum — $3 million? — to keep up its their nearby neighbors Duke and UNC.  Sounds good.

But the SEC just got more teams into the NCAA Tournament than the once-heralded ACC did.  And if Fox thinks it’s tough to recruit against Kentucky and Florida, he should try playing third fiddle (or fourth behind Wake Forest) in the same state to the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels.

Georgia fans have little reason to worry at this point.

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UT’s Celebrations Drew Attention From NFL’ers

If you happened to have missed last week’s Tennessee-North Carolina Music City Bowl, you missed what might have gone down as the most celebrations by a losing team in football history.

We wrote as much the following morning, pointing out the numerous Tennessee “loco” finger rolls, salutes and even a double-throat slash by the Vol quarterback toward UNC’s bench.  (It least it wasn’t the dreaded triple-dog throat slash.)

Naturally, we were lit up by Vol fans who claimed that we must “hate” Tennessee.  (For the record, we are also apparently “haters” of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, to hear their fans tell it.  But we’ve been accused of “loving” all of those teams, too, so maybe the bias is in a few readers’ eyes and not in our writing.)

The most common emails we received from Big Orange Nation last week said either:


“You’re just looking for another reason to hate on Tennessee…”

or

“Tennessee didn’t celebrate anymore than any other team.”


All evidence to the contrary.  The Vols’ antics in their 30-27 double-overtime loss drew the attention of two of the nation’s most-popular NFL writers.

Peter King of SI.com compared one of UT’s most over-the-top celebrations to the salute that drew a game-changing flag in the Pinstripe Bowl in his Monday Morning Quarterback column:


“Then, in the other bowl game that day, the Tennessee quarterback, Tyler Bray, threw a touchdown pass and gave the crowd a double throat slash… and got nothing.  Nice rules you’ve got, NCAA.”


ESPN.com’s Gregg Easterbrook walked the same path in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column:


“Along comes the next bowl, North Carolina at Tennessee.  On one Volunteers touchdown, the receiver did a choreographed dance as a teammate leapfrogged him; on another, the receiver danced elaborately, then a teammate lifted him into the air.  No flag in either case.    Rules are supposed to be consistent.”


I don’t remember seeing a leapfrog during that game, but the point’s the same — everyone noticed UT’s celebrations.

Now, we could say, “We told you so.”  We could say, “We told you that Derek Dooley’s team embarrassed itself by offering up more celebrations than any other team in the nearly 40 bowls played so far.”

But we won’t say that. 

Instead we’ll tell you what many of you most want to hear: Peter King and Gregg Easterbrook just hate the Vols, too.

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UT Got Jobbed By Officials… Sort Of

If you read in the next few days that North Carolina “benefited” from it’s own last-second penalty in last week’s Music City Bowl, you’ll know that the author is a Tennessee fan.  Because Carolina did not benefit from a penalty in last week’s 30-27 double-overtime win.

For the second time this year, UT fans had to watch their team lose a game it thought it had already won.  That’s made life rough on Rocky Top.  Many Big Orange fans want to scream, “Blame the refs” and be done with it.  But it’s not quite that simple:


* Ball on Tennessee’s 25, UNC trailing by 3, 16 seconds remaining — Carolina calls a running play to get deeper into field goal range.  The back reaches the 18 and then madness ensues.

* Ball on Tennessee’s 18, UNC trailing by 3, 9 seconds remaining — the clock keeps right on ticking.  Carolina’s offensive players line up to spike the football and stop the clock with 5 seconds left, but someone on the Tar Heel sideline sends the kicking team onto the field.  In total, 18 men are on field (which tops UT’s 13 against LSU by a good margin). 

* Ball on Tennessee’s 18, UNC trailing by 3, 3 seconds remaining — five kick-team linemen reverse field and try to race back to the sideline so Carolina quarterback TJ Yates can spike the ball.  They can’t make it.  Yates spikes the ball with 1 second remaining, but the clock operator rolls the game clock to zero and officials announce the game is over.  Tennessee celebrates a 20-17 victory.

But it gets whackier from there.

First, officials in the press box realized that the ball was spiked with 1 second remaining.  They buzzed down to the field and told both teams that the game was not actually over.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Texas defeated Nebraska in 2009′s Big 12 Championship Game when officials put a second back on the clock following an incomplete pass.  It might have looked odd, but it’s not unprecedented.

Officials then walked off a five-yard penalty against North Carolina for having too many men on the field — 18 — when Yates spiked the ball.  This has led numerous Vol supporters to claim that the penalty gave UNC another play.  Nope.  The legal spike gave Carolina one more play.  Having too many men on the field cost the Tar Heels five yards.

There was no 10 second run-off for an offensive penalty in the final minute, but seeing as how this was a college game and not an NFL game, the refs were right on that front, too.  The NFL and NCAA have differing rulebooks — run-offs, interference, placement of has marks, etc.  UT backers might want to see that rule changed, but as its written currently, the refs got it right.

All that said, the officials did err in one major area. 

While five linemen tried to race off the field before the spike, the kicker and holder for Carolina stayed put right behind Yates.  The fact that those players did not attempt to leave the field should have made the last-second penalty “illegal participation.”  That carries a 15-yard step-off as opposed to the 5 yards that were actually marked off against the Tar Heels.

Vol coach Derek Dooley — as he also stated after the LSU game — said that the officials should have stood over the football and prevented Carolina from snapping the ball until UT had had ample time to make substitutions.  But there’s a problem with that line of thinking, too.

In October, we at MrSEC.com spoke with SEC coordinator of officials Rogers Redding about Dooley’s complaint following the LSU game.  Redding’s response:


“The rule in question (Rule 3-5-2-e) specifies how this situation should be handled, when the offense is at the line and then makes substitutions: ‘The game officials will not permit the ball to be snapped until Team B (the defense) has placed substitutes in position and replaced players have left the field.  Team B must react promptly with its substitutes.

“The action of the crew (in the LSU-UT game) is a perfect textbook example of how this rule should be used.  The umpire stood at the ball until he received a signal from the referee, who accurately determined that no more subs were coming in for either team and that the defensive players on the field were giving no indication of going to the sideline.”


Last Thursday, the Big Ten crew did not have the umpire standing over the ball waiting to clear it for play.  However, a quick check of the video shows that no Tennessee defenders were coming on or off the field, either.  The Vols were set in their defense just as they had been at LSU.  Therefore, if the umpire had been in position, he still would not have held up the play because no Vols were shifting at all.

(Sidenote — Can you imagine the furor if an offensive team had lined up to spike the ball and the officials refused to let them snap the ball?  You’ll go a long time before you see a college game decided like that.  It might not be following the letter of the law, but here’s guessing that UNC would have been allowed to snap the ball even if Tennessee had been trying to adjust its line-up.)

So for the record, Carolina did not benefit from a penalty call.  The clock stopped because of a legal spike of the ball.  The spike of the ball was legal because Tennessee was not attempting to make any defensive substitutions.  And the 10-second run-off issue is not a factor in the college game.

But Carolina’s kicker and holder did not try to leave the field before Yates’ spike of the ball.  So instead of a 5-yard penalty for having too many men on the field, UNC should have been penalized 15 yards for illegal participation. 

Would UNC’s kicker have hit a 48-yard field goal as opposed to a 38-yarder?  That’s a legit question. 

And that’s where Vol fans have a very legit gripe.  All the other complaints?  Not so much.



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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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Ex-Vol Douglas Signs With Alabama

A little background on this one:

Aaron Douglas was a Tennessee kid.  His father was an NFL offensive lineman who starred for the Vols in the 1980s.  His mother played for Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols.

He was a legacy at Tennessee — not unlike Kent Dorfman at Delta Tau Chi.

But after Douglas signed with Tennessee, Phillip Fulmer was ousted.  Then after becoming a freshman All-American at left tackle, his next coach — Lane Kiffin — left, too.

According to Douglas’ father, his son then battled depression (not leaving his room, staying in bed, etc) and needed a change of scenery.  Much to the family’s chagrin, he asked for a transfer from new UT coach Derek Dooley and hoped to start again somewhere else… somewhere where he wasn’t standing in his parents’ shadows.

Dooley did not take kindly to the fact that Douglas did not give him a fair chance to win him over, so rather than give the player a release with typical no-team-in-the-conference stipulations, the coach informed the family that Douglas would only be given a release if he transferred to a school at least eight hours from Knoxville.

Rather than allow someone he did not recruit and someone who had already been through two coaches to leave, Dooley applied some punitive damages forcing the player and his family to have to travel eight hours.

It is believed Douglas wanted to transfer to North Carolina, but Dooley’s eight-rule mandate drove him elsewhere.  The lineman chose to transfer to Arizona Western of the juco ranks for a year.  Having played out West this past season, Douglas is free to sign wherever he likes.

Fast-forward to yesterday…

And now Douglas has signed to play football at Alabama.

Alabama fans will cheer the fact that Nick Saban has plugged a hole on his line with a former freshman All-American.  Tennessee fans will scream that Douglas is a turncoat and a wretch.

In reality, Dooley asked for this result.

Had Tennessee’s coach simply limited Douglas’ choices to non-SEC schools, the player would probably be at North Carolina waiting to play next season.  If Dooley had narrowed the player’s choices to schools not on UT’s immediate schedule (and UNC was on the Vols’ schedule in 2011 at the time of the Douglas dust-up), he would probably be sitting out his transfer year at Duke right now.

Instead, Dooley played hardball and tried to force Douglas to go eight hours away.  Well, he drove him away alright.  Right to a junior college and now to Alabama.

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