The Battle Ground State

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.14.2016

Charlie Strong, Lane Kiffin and Butch Davis. These are a few of the folks who will be new head coaches in college football next season in the state of Florida. Add in the three big schools in the state, Florida, Florida State and Miami, and you have a fierce recruiting battle in the Sunshine State.

Florida is a little different than most places when it comes to recruiting. According to a CBSSports.com article, one in 99 players in Florida sign to an FBS scholarship out of high school. That’s an extraordinarily high rate and one that shows that there is enough talent to go around between all of these FBS schools and then some. Year after year the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, Nebraska and just about everyone else comes down south and snatches up players.

Lane Kiffin FAUNow the head coaches in state may, how are already great recruiters, just need to convince a 17 year old to stay closer to home. Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Mark Richt at Miami and Jim McElwain at Florida are all top notch recruiters and coaches. Their skills will be put to the test as Strong, Kiffin and Davis recruit from the same talent pool.

These new guys have NFL experience, run Power 5 programs, developed players for the next level and have the rings to show for it. The question now becomes, who can recruit a one or two star player and coach him up. Gut feeling on that is Charlie Strong now at South Florida.

Charlie StrongWhile Kiffin, Davis, Fisher, Richt and McElwain all have selling points about their programs, Strong is the only African American FBS head coach in this state. Along with his strong moral character and strong ties to the state (he coached at Florida on three different occasions), I see him winning out in the long haul. It may take him a year or two but he’s the only one of the three new coaches who has some talent leftover from the previous regime to work with.

Every college football season is a good college football season but this stretch run recruiting season maybe the start of something crazy. Something so crazy that it will probably end up as series on Netflix. Fisher, McElwain, Richt, Kiffin, Davis and Strong competing for the state’s best talent, let the games begin!

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How Two Days in January Made Tennessee Fans Smile

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

January 10th & 11th may not seem like great days if you’re a University of Tennessee football coach, player or fan but they may very well turn out to be. During those two days, Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin left for Penn State and Alabama hired former Tennessee and USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin.

Jame Franklin

Here are the facts; James Franklin made Vanderbilt viable. A 24-15 record with back-to-back nine win seasons and beat Tennessee the last two years. Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten Tennessee in back-to-back years since 1925. He made Vanderbilt the top football team in the state of Tennessee.

He’s now gone.

To say that Lane Kiffin is “hated” in the Tennessee football community would be an understatement. He left the program for his “dream job” at USC which he slowly drove into the ground. Now he’s at Alabama as their new Offensive Coordinator. While he is considered to be a very good X’s & O’s coach he’s also a liability. He’s been brought up on recruiting violations more than once and has never endeared himself to the media. The second half of that doesn’t really matter when Nick Saban is in charge but the first half of that is a huge liability for Bama.

Butch Jones, many believe, has Tennessee on the right track but here are the facts; Tennessee hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2011, have had only one winning season in the last six years and won a grand total of four conference games in the last three years.

Tennessee is on the road back to relevancy. That road got a little bit easier when one of the best up & coming coaches in the country leaves not only the state but also the conference and a former head coach with a history of recruiting violations shows up at a long time rival.

Yep, things are looking up at Tennessee.

A Not So Silly Season

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Over the last two years this time of year has been a proverbial revolving door when it comes to head coaches in college football. This year, not so much. The main reason is that nearly all of the major college football programs have hired a new coach within the last three years.

Look at the major college football conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and Sec. After the 2012 and 2013 seasons there was a total of 24 coaching changes. Between those five conferences this year there will be three coaching changes (give or take).

This is the first time since 2006 that the SEC isn’t changing out a coach. The man who changed that in 2007, Nick Saban at Alabama.

Most people felt back in September that the two biggest job openings this year would be USC and Texas. USC has already been opened and filled. Lane Kiffin was fired (not surprisingly) by USC back at the end of September. He’s been replaced by Washington Head Coach and former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian.

Steve Sarkisian

The Texas job, as of this post, will open possibly by the end of the week if the reports are correct. This will be the biggest job out there by far with all of the resources, money and pressure one could want.

Next year could bring a back the typical ‘silly season’ but let’s hope, for the coaches and the fans, that it comes around as often as the World Cup because it can drive people, well, silly.

Will The Games Go On?

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

It’s turning into a busy week on several sports fronts. The latest is how the government budget impasse and subsequent shutdown has left the very realistic possibility of college football games being cancelled or at a minimum rescheduled.

Air Force is scheduled to play Navy in Annapolis, MD this Saturday on National TV. This may very well not happen due to the current government shutdown. Army’s game at Boston College is also on the ropes for the same reason. Although it may seem like a financial issue it apparently isn’t because if it was the Air Force Academy football team would be on a flight courtesy of United and BC would pick up Army’s travel tab.

All intercollegiate athletics have been shut down by the Department of Defense. The question of what funds are available and what funds are not is also brought into question. While Navy funds their athletics through ticket sales and TV rights Air Force and Army do not. This appears to be the sticking point….and that of public perception.

But public perception shouldn’t mean much here. Congress is still collecting a paycheck and the Academy’s played games during the last government shutdown in 1995.

And let’s face facts. While all college football fans, especially those who bought tickets to the sold out Air Force at Navy game, would love to see these games being played, if it was Army vs Alabama or Navy vs Texas or some other big school, the government would have passed a budget a month ago. The fans of a school the size of Bama or Notre Dame or Texas would not have let government, especially the federal government, stand in the way of a football game in the fall.

A decision on these games will be made by noon Thursday despite what Twitter says. Let’s hope that these teams get to play these games and that Congress can finally get its act together. A betting man would probably lay heavy on the games being played and Congress doing what Congress does best….nothing.

Kiffin-ed

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Lane Kiffin is unemployed. He was fired as the Head Football Coach at USC on Sunday. It comes after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State which is the seventh loss in the last 11 games dating back to last season.

Lane Kiffin

Belive it or not, Kiffin has a winning record as a head coach (40-37). While his record is better in college (35-21) than it was in the pro’s (5-15) no one would say that his tenure’s have been a success. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and University President Max Nikitas pulled the trigger on Kiffin and put former Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron in charge for the remainder of the season.

Pat Haden

What sealed Kiffin’s fate was not win’s and losses although that did play a big factor. It’s the fact that wherever he goes problems seem to follow and no one really seems to care for this guy.

From a fall out with the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis where Davis fired Kiffin with cause to recruiting mistakes at Tennessee that ended up putting them on probation.

The problems continued for Kiffin in how he handled just about every situation. From the way he left Tennessee to his walking out of a post practice press conference at USC. He doesn’t give anyone a chance to like him.

But don’t cry for Kiffin. He’s not yet 40 years old, he’s made millions, and will be able to sweet talk some AD or NFL owner into giving him another chance.

In the end, Kiffin just didn’t seem ready to take on the jobs that he talked others into giving him and really has no one to blame but himself.

Reasons behind USC’s failed Defense

1,318 Total yards

101 Points

54% Third down conversion rate

177 offensive plays

These are just some of the numbers allowed by the USC defense in the last two weeks. Both losses. The first at Arizona and the second at home to Oregon who by some estimates may be the second best football team in the country.

How did such a legendary program like USC give up such numbers? More importantly, how did it do it with the father of the vaunted Tampa 2 defense at the controls?

The Tampa 2 defense was developed by Monte Kiffin who is the current Defensive Coordinator at USC and father to the Head Coach Lane Kiffin. Monte has been in football coaching profession at the collegiate and professional level since 1966. He was Defensive Coordinator of back to back National Championship teams at Nebraska in the early ’70s and won a Super Bowl as Defensive Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. So why can’t someone with credentials like this stop a spread offense?

The Tampa 2 defense on paper would seem to be the one defense that would be perfect to stop a spread offense like the one run at Oregon. It’s really a cover 3 zone defense that relies on the front seven to be aggressive. The corner backs are suppose to be able to stop a sweep by the running back by having a better angle. This defense is the classic ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ defense for back to back weeks it has been destroyed.

There are can be several causes for this. The first being, can you really implement a system like this when you do not have the ‘best of the best’ like you do in the NFL? Second, USC is still operating under reduced scholarships due to previous NCAA rules violations. They’re thin. In fact they are so thin that they apparently rarely scrimmage fearing that someone will get injured.

Being thin or lacking depth if you will means players get tired trying to run around and catch the speedy Oregon Ducks. When guys get tired they make mistakes which can cost them.

Depth isn’t the only issue. Football is really about two things, 1) having more people at the point of attack or 2) having better angles. If you don’t have one of these two you better have better personnel to make up for it. USC’s defense failed on all three of these. Oregon, and Arizona for that matter, had at times more people at the point of attack, better angles most of the time, and at least in Oregon’s case, better personnel.

Has the game passed Monte by? Possibly. But if it has would his son fire his dad?

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