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Top CB Jackson Showboats His Way To Southern Cal

PLAYER UPDATEAdoree Jackson — the top cornerback in the nation and the top player in the state of California — will be playing his college ball for Steve Sarkisian and Southern Cal.

Good riddance.

I realize that these are just kids, but the showboating some do on signing day shows — at least in this writer’s eyes — displays a me-first attitude that already takes up way too much space in today’s game.  Jackson pulled different objects out of a box and said with each pull, “Nope, that’s not where I’m going,” and “No, that’s not it.”  A Gatorade bottle represented Florida, for example.  The Gators and LSU were among the finalists for his services.

Finally he lifted a Southern Cal hat and broke into a smile.  Ha, ha.  Oh, so funny.

If Jackson let all the coaches who’d recruited him know ahead of his announcement that he was USC-bound, fine.  But here’s guessing he didn’t.  As a result, grown men who’d chased him as a prospect were left to hang on his every word and twist in the wind while he toyed with them (and the fans of all those other schools).

Who knows if Jackson is really a good kid or a showboat, but his performance today leads me to think… showboat.

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Report: Carolina To Bump Spurrier’s Pay To $4 Million

shirtless spurrier moneySteve Spurrier is about to get a nice, fat pay raise.  According to Columbia’s The State newspaper, the Ol’ Ball Coach will see his salary jump from $3.3 million to $4 million.  His staff will receive raises as well, once South Carolina’s board of trustees approves the increases in a vote tomorrow.

While coaching salaries are never quite cut and dried — they’re ever-shifting thanks to bonuses — The State reports that Spurrier should go from the 12th highest-paid coach in the country to #9 on the current list.

For Carolina it’s money well spent.  For Spurrier it’s money well-earned.

In November of 2004, the South Carolina administration rolled the dice on a 59-year-old coach who’d flamed out in two seasons in the NFL and spent an entire year out of coaching after that.  Florida could have had him back, but Gator AD Jeremy Foley passed.

With a football program that had been a doormat for the better part of a century, USC’s decision-makers felt they needed to take a chance on hiring an older coach, despite the NFL flubs and Florida’s lack of interest.  That was the best decision in the history of the South Carolina athletic department.  Given the added exposure and revenue created during Spurrier’s tenure, it could be argued that it was also the best decision in the history of the university, period.

It took Spurrier time to build the Gamecock program.  While never suffering through a losing season, the coach’s teams did hover in mediocrity for five long years — 7-5, 8-5, 6-6, 7-6 and 7-6.  A corner was turned in 2010 when the Cocks finished 9-5 and ended the year in the top 25.  Since then, Carolina has been a perennial top 10 team finishing 11-2 in three consecutive years and winning two Capital One Bowls and an Outback Bowl.

When Spurrier — now just weeks from his 69th birthday — finally decides take off his visor and put on a shirt, he will have proven that South Carolina can indeed play with the big boys of the Southeastern Conference and the nation.  He also might convince a few ADs out there not to be scared of hiring a man with a little wear on his tires.  You don’t see many hires of coaches who are 60-plus.  Spurrier’s success will hopefully change that trend.

Kudos to the coach and his aides for elevating South Carolina and then sustaining that success over four seasons.  And kudos to the USC administration for being wise enough to reward them for their efforts.

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Kiffin Set Up To Succeed At Alabama

Nick_Saban_Lane_Kiffin_Step_BrothersLane Kiffin just keeps falling up.  The man is immune to gravity.

After a good stint as an offensive assistant at Southern Cal under Pete Carroll, Kiffin landed the head coaching job of the Oakland Raiders.  When he flamed out there in less than two years — and let’s face it, Al Davis wasn’t the best at picking players those last few years — he parlayed his ouster into the head coaching job at Tennessee.

Kiffin provided a blueprint to then-Vol athletic director Mike Hamilton of how to turn UT into USC.  That earned him the position.  But just a year later — after a half dozen other coaches declined offers to replace Carroll in LA — Kiffin took a left turn from UT to USC.  His mouth had gotten him into trouble even before he traded kudzu for Palm trees.  The national media would remember his talk and his actions.  He would get no breaks while coaching the Trojans.

In three years — with a roster absolutely annihilated by NCAA sanctions — Kiffin’s star quickly dimmed.  And everyone from rival fans to members of the Fourth Estate seemed to enjoy the loudmouth’s downfall, especially the fact that Kiffin was unceremoniously dumped at LAX midseason.  The fact that Ed Orgeron turned things around, changed the mood inside the program, and went 6-2 down the stretch as USC’s interim coach only made Kiffin look more buffoonish.  (Don’t go buying those Orgeron-to-Alabama rumors, by the way).

But Kiffin did something smart — finally — after his firing from Southern Cal.  He zipped his lips.  Rather than hurl mud back at the Trojans or cry about the way he was 86′d at an airport and left to find his own ride home, Kiffin laid low.  He supported Orgeron via social media.

Then a month ago he was surprisingly brought in to Tuscaloosa to talk offense with Nick Saban and his assistants.  And when Doug Nussmeier left for Michigan — hmmm — Kiffin was hired to replace him as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.  So much for walking in the wilderness.  Kiffin’s resume reads Southern Cal, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, Southern Cal again and Alabama back to back to back.  There are coaches who go their whole entire careers dreaming of working at just one of those places.  Kiffin’s worked at them all despite hurting his reputation at three of them.

So Saban’s hire of Kiffin is major mistake, right?  ”The Process” is now in danger, correct?  There are cracks in Bama’s foundation.  Auburn’s national title has left Saban so desperate for new blood that he’s reaching.  Right?

We don’t think so.  Kiffin hasn’t been perfect but he has shown a pretty good offensive mind over the years.  He’s called plays for championship teams, an NFL team and an SEC team.  He’s worked with some good quarterbacks and he’s turned around some struggling ones.  Granted, his wishy-washy flip-flopping of QBs at Southern Call this past year won’t be added to any “How to Coach Quarterbacks” book, but all guys have bad years.  Example: The Norv Turners and Kevin Gilbrides and Bill Callahans of the NFL have bounced around through ups and downs for years.  They’re not always perfect, but they know enough about offenses and play-calling to keep getting hired.  Kiffin hasn’t forgotten what he’s learned along the way.

Two things make us believe this Kiffin/Bama marriage will actually work out fine.  First, even though he’ll have to break in a new quarterback this spring and fall, Kiffin will inherit one of the five most talented rosters in the country.  And unlike in Los Angeles, this time he’ll have depth galore.  Our view?  It’d be hard for anyone to screw up Alabama’s offense with all those 4- and 5-star guys running around.

Second, Kiffin’s worst enemy over time has proven to be his own big mouth.  On Saban’s staff, he’ll be forced to put a sock in it.  Alabama’s assistants are allowed to speak to the press on rare occasions.  And that should be the best thing in the world for Kiffin.  Even when he’s set to return to Tennessee this fall for the first time since nuking the Vol program, Saban will likely keep him off limits to the press.  Why feed what could become a major distraction and sideshow?  Protected from his own voice box, Kiffin might just parlay this rehab stint in Tuscaloosa into his next head coaching job.

Jim McElwain served as Saban’s offensive coordinator from 2008 through 2011.  Then he landed his first head coaching gig at Colorado State in 2012.  He already led the Rams to a bowl game in 2013.  That, too, works in Kiffin’s favor.

Kiffin has already been a head coach in the pros and in the college game.  He’s led two of the biggest programs in the country.  If he succeeds in leading Alabama’s offense doesn’t it stand to reason that some other school will bank on his turnaround and hire him to lead their program?  And it probably won’t take four years to land such a gig if the Crimson Tide continue to compete for SEC and national championships.

Now, Kiffin will definitely be under more scrutiny than any other offensive coordinator in the country.  Every failed third-down call will result in camera shots of the coaches booth (which really won’t be fair).  But if Bama wins big, Kiffin will win big.  And with his big mouth closed and Saban’s stockpile of talent, both Kiffin and the Tide should win big.

Face it, the guy continues to fall uphill.

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Rumors Continue To Tie Vandy’s Franklin To Southern Cal Gig

james-franklin-trojan-helmetSouthern California AD Pat Haden is reportedly nearing the end of his search for a new football coach.  Interim coach (and former Ole Miss coach) Ed Orgeron is no longer in the running for the Trojans’ full-time gig.  Boise State’s Chris Petersen has pulled his name out of the hat, as usual.

That leaves three candidates that we know of: Washington’s Steve Sarkisian (already interviewed), Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (already interviewed), and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.

Sarkisian is a former Trojan assistant.  Del Rio is a former USC player.  Franklin is the wild card.

From the coach’s perspective, it would be almost impossible to turn down one of the five best coaching jobs in the country to remain at Vanderbilt.  Yes, the school — like Southern Cal — is private and can toss plenty of cash around.  But Franklin has already worked miracles in Nashville.  He’s led the school to three straight bowl games for the first time ever and he’s won eight games in back-to-back years (with a chance to win nine in back-to-back seasons).  That’s not been done at Vandy since the 1920s.

Plus, Franklin has repeatedly called on fans to turn out for Commodore football games.  They haven’t.  There were thousands of empty seats for both the Kentucky and Wake Forest games as VU made its stretch drive.  Vanderbilt Stadium seats just 40,000, so unfilled seats are sure to chap a coach with Franklin’s aspirations.

Franklin also might be thinking it’s time to jump while the getting’s good.  Vanderbilt has beaten just two FBS squads with winning records over the last two years.  At some point, even at Vandy, fans will want more.  Ask Dan Mullen about feasting on cupcakes for too long.

Vandy AD David Williams needs to pull out all the stops to keep Franklin and you can be sure that he will.  But if USC offers, it’s hard to imagine Franklin not accepting.

However, oother issue at play is the rape trial involving four ex-VU footballers.  Defense attorneys have requested copies of the text messages sent back-and-forth between the players involved and Vandy’s coaches during the attempted cover-up.  Haden will have to discuss that matter with Franklin on the uber-slim chance that Vandy’s head coach in any way aided his players in trying to hide the deed.  That’s extremely doubtful, mind you, but after the Penn State scandal, it wouldn’t be prudent for an AD to hire a coach without asking about such an ugly episode.

USC is expected to name a coach in the next three weeks.

Stay tuned…


(UPDATESarkisian has now said he did not interview with Southern Cal.)

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Southern Cal Targeting Kevin Sumlin?

Kevin SumlinIs Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin the top target at Southern Cal?  That’s what “sources” are telling the Los Angeles Daily News.

USC is hoping to have a new coach in place by December after firing Lane Kiffin at the end of September.  In addition to Sumlin, Southern Cal has reportedly reached out to…wait for it…Jon Gruden.  Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has denied that he’s interviewed for the job. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has also been mentioned in connection with the position as has Boise State coach Chris Peterson and Denver Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio.

Here’s what Pac-12 network analyst Rick Neuheisel had to say about Sumlin this week.


“I’m hearing lot of names around the NFL, but I would say a guy like Kevin Sumlin might be the perfect choice.”


The Los Angeles Daily News says Sumlin makes $3.1 million at A&M but could potentially double his salary at USC.  A report surfaced earlier this week indicating there could be a growing rift between Sumlin and Texas A&M A.D. Eric Hyman. (H/T football rumor mill)

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Meet The Fast Starters And Strong Finishers Of The SEC

mrsec stat analysis newWhich running backs are ready to play at the opening whistle?  Which are more effective come crunch time?  When it comes to having a hot hand early or late, which SEC quarterbacks are best?

Examining the fantastic fourth-quarter numbers for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel last week, we became interested in seeing which SEC players performed best when the game was on the line.  Naturally, we then began to wonder which players were the best right out of the gate as well.

Below we’ve listed the SEC’s 10 best rushers and passers in both the first and fourth quarters.  First, we’ll look at the 10 league running backs who most often enjoy hot starts.


Fast Starting Running Backs (minimum 22 first-quarter carries)

  Player   School   Yds/Carry 1st Q   1st Q Carries
  J. Hill   LSU   9.38   42
  R. Hansbrough   MU   9.32   22
  N. Marshall   AUB   8.76   25
  J. Manziel   A&M   7.12   25
  M. Davis   USC   6.53   43
  A. Collins   ARK   6.46   28
  T. Mason   AUB   5.72   32
  B. Malena   A&M   5.55   33
  J. Williams   ARK   5.48   33
  R. Neal   UT   5.22   41


Jeremy Hill averages nearly 10 yards per first-quarter carry, better than anyone else in the SEC.  Russel Hansbrough of Missouri ranks second, but he’s had 20 fewer carries than Hill.  To average 9.38 yards per carry on 42 carries is simply amazing.

Two quarterbacks make the list of hot starters — Auburn’s Nick Marshall and, of course, Texas A&M’s Manziel.  Auburn’s steady ground attack landed two players on this list (Marshall and Tre Mason).  Ditto Arkansas with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.  Ben Malena pairs with Manziel to give Kevin Sumlin’s offense two representatives as well.


Strong Finishing Running Backs (minimum 22 fourth-quarter carries)

  Player   School   Yds/Carry 4th Q   4th Q Carries
  A. Collins   ARK   7.10   42
  C. Artis-Payne   AUB   7.00   23
  T. Mason   AUB   6.35   37
  R. Neal   UT   5.67   24
  J. Williams   ARK   5.50   24
  J. Hill   LSU   5.22   23
  N. Marshall   AUB   4.78   23
  C. Shaw   USC   4.73   22
  M. Davis   USC   3.57   35
  H. Josey   MU   3.57   23


Arkansas’ Collins is both a fast starter and a strong finisher.  His 7.10 yards-per-carry average would (as well as Williams’ 5.50 average) would likely help the Hogs close out a game… if they ever grabbed a late lead.

Gus Malzahn’s Auburn offense actually boasts three of the strongest finishers in the league in Marshall, Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne.  Aside from Marshall, the only other quarterback on this list is South Carolina’s Connor Shaw, who forms a tandem with running Mike Davis.

Next we turn our attention to the SEC’s starting quarterbacks, specifically those 10 who consistently get off to fast starts.  Below is a comparison of the 10 best first-quarter passers according quarterback rating.

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SEC East Race A Muddled Mess After Carolina Nips Mizzou; Tiger Fans Make Fools Of Themselves

confused-man-old-funnyIt all could have been so nice and neat.  If Missouri had been able to hold on against South Carolina, the Tigers would have been the clear-cut, odd-on, catbird-seat leaders in the SEC’s East Division.

Instead, we’ve got a mess.  And Missouri has got egg on its face.

With the game looking to be out of reach, ill and injured quarterback Connor Shaw entered the game like the gridiron version of Roy Hobbs.  He wasn’t in tip-top medical condition, but he seemed destined to get the job done for Carolina.  His first scoring drive cut seven points into a 17-0 Missouri lead with 12:13 to play.

Next, Missouri’s offense fizzled out at Carolina’s 28 and Andrew Baggett missed a lengthy 46-yard field goal attempt.  The ball went back to USC.

Down 17-7, Shaw drove the Gamecocks to the Missouri two-yard-line.  Mizzou’s D finally stiffened and held USC to a 20-yard field goal.  17-10 Missouri with 5:03 to play.

With a chance to run down the clock, the Tiger offense sputtered to a three-and-out and gave the ball right back to Shaw with 3:08 to play.  Carolina never even faced a third down on their 63-yard game-tying drive.

From there you know the rest.  Missouri had yet another chance to finish USC off in the first overtime, but Bruce Ellington got free in the end zone and Shaw hit him with a game-extending TD pass on fourth-and-goal from the 15.  Fourth-and-goal from the 15.

Down three in the second OT, Baggett missed a chip shot field goal to tie which led many Missouri fans to make complete and utter asses of themselves by piling on their kicker, as though he was the only culprit in a game that saw the Tigers blow a 17-0 lead with less than 13 minutes to play.  Baggett was eviscerated on Twitter which you can see for yourself right here (warning: stiff language).

For those Mizzou fans wanting credit for the few Tiger fans who actually sent Baggett pep-talk tweets after the game, sorry, we give no bonus points for behaving rationally.  Hooray for those who weren’t saps, but the childish, unfair, disgraceful tweets left by your brethren are the reason Missouri football is being discussed nationally today.

Of course, Mizzou fans didn’t show a lot of class (or football intelligence) in booing their team’s decision not to let a freshman quarterback try to lead a drive from his own 25 with 42 seconds to play in regulation.  An interception there would have only led to a Carolina opportunity and more boos.

One wonders how much the booing of an undefeated team and the nastiness on Twitter will resonate with Tiger recruits.  I would hope MU fans are better than what they showed on Saturday and Sunday.

In the big picture, Missouri’s pain is all gain for South Carolina, Georgia and even Florida.  All are now back in the East race.  Here’s a breakdown of what each school has left on the schedule:


  Missouri (3-1)   S. Carolina (4-2)   Georgia (3-2)   Florida (3-2)
  Tennessee   Miss. State   Florida (Jacksonville)   Georgia (Jacksonville)
  at Kentucky   Florida   at Auburn   Vanderbilt
  at Ole Miss   Kentucky   at S. Carolina
  Texas A&M


Now lets run through a few scenarios.

If Missouri drops one more game — and those last two games look pretty tough — Carolina can claim the East Division by beating Mississippi State and Florida at home.  USC would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker by virtue of Saturday’s comeback, Steve Spurrier’s decision to insert Shaw, and the Shaw-Ellington fourth-and-goal TD pass (which would certainly go down in Gamecock history should Carolina win the East).

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“Battle At Bristol” Already Doing What It’s Supposed To Do For Tennessee

BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY VIRGINIA TECH AND TENNESSEEYesterday, officials from Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Bristol Motor Speedway announced that on September 10th, 2016, the Volunteers and Hokies will meet halfway between their two campuses at the celebrated NASCAR facility.

Such a gridiron matchup between the two schools has been discussed for years, but only now has a contract been signed.  Plans to quickly convert the track from a racing facility (in August of 2016) to a football facility (in September of 2016) have already been put to paper.

And the hype has already very much begun:


Battle at Bristol – University of Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway


The so-called “Battle at Bristol” is being promoted as the biggest college football game ever.  With 150,000 expected to attend, it should easily become the best-attended college football game in history (the current record is about 115,000).

The game will also bring in a nice chunk of money for both schools.  The Knoxville News Sentinel (paywall) nabbed the contract between UT and the folks in Bristol and found that the teams could make between four and five million dollars by playing in the game.

But new Tennessee coach Butch Jones isn’t having to wait until 2016 to reap the rewards of this deal.  He’s already getting exactly what he wants and needs: publicity.  The Volunteers are a surprising #2 nationally in’s current recruiting rankings.  We have the Vols listed as #3 in the SEC in our latest commitment comparator.  Obviously, Jones has already created quite a bit of momentum for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009.

Now he’s got the national media helping his spread the word about Tennessee’s “big” game to recruits:


The Washington Post


ESPN’s NASCAR broadcaster Dr. Jerry Punch even weighed in on the event last evening while speaking in Mobile, Alabama:


“You’ve got to believe what a huge recruiting tool this will be.  I know both those schools already had wallpaper printed up with the logo on it — ‘Biggest Ever.’  So when the recruits walk in, they walk by that wallpaper and all they’ve got to say is, ‘Hey, you want to be a part of the biggest game in college football history, you come here.’  That’s pretty cool if you’re a kid.  You say, ‘You know what?  You want to play in front of 150,000 people?  It ain’t going to happen anywhere else.  It ain’t going to happen at USC or Texas or Oklahoma or Notre Dame or Michigan.  It’s going to happen right here.’  So it’s a great recruiting tool for both sides.”


As Punch also pointed out, no other NASCAR track is laid out quite like Bristol Motor Speedway… which is why no other NASCAR facility will likely be able to surpass the venue in ticket sales.  That means Tennessee and Virginia Tech should set and hold onto the attendance record for a while.

And that also means that Jones has a pretty good recruiting tool to use a full three years before the game will even be played.

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South Carolina Paper Removes Columnist Muzzle: All Topics In Play

FeudThe embargo is lifted but will the hatchet be buried?  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Ron Morris, a columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina have a well-documented feud.  Spurrier once refused to answer questions with Morris in the room.

This week, the blog reported that Morris had been banned from writing about Gamecocks football.  That report got picked up by media outlets around the country and now the newspaper has issued a clarification.  A memo went out to staff and Deadspin got a copy of it.  Here’s part of what it said.


“Please know this today: Ron Morris and other columnists at The State are free to pursue topics and stories as guided by their curiosity, their news judgment, their obligation to readers and our standards for quality journalism. No subject or individual is off limits for examination…

“Moving forward, all topics — including USC football — are in play. As always, this is a newspaper committed to accuracy, fairness and holding accountable the news makers and institutions that serve our community and our state.”


There you have it – “all topics — including USC football — are in play.”  Should be interesting when the columnist decides to aim his keyboard in the direction of Spurrier. And Spurrier’s reaction, as usual, is almost guaranteed to generate even more stories on the topic.

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South Carolina: No Wrongdoing Between Clowney, Jay Z

South Carolina’s compliance office has finished its review and found nothing wrong with the relationship between defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Jay Z.


South Carolina began to look into the relationship between Clowney and Jay Z, who represents Roc Nation Sports, after reports surfaced that Clowney was being pursued by the famous rapper. Clowney posted a photo of the story (which has since been deleted) on his Instagram account on Monday.

clowney insta 1















There’s nothing wrong with Clowney having contact with Jay Z or any other agent. There would only be an issue if Clowney were to accept any benefits or agree to sign with anyone once his playing eligibility has ended.

South Carolina was smart to check on the situation as soon as it became public. The school would be wise to continually check on Clowney because of the celebrity status he will continue with him during the rest of his college career.

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