Top Ten Stories of the Week
10. Peyton Manning creeps back into the college football newswire this week. There have been rumors that Manning desired to coach at Tennessee now that his days as an NFL quarterback are behind him. He squashed this in the short term, saying, “No, I will not be coaching quarterbacks at Tennessee, but I will be the biggest Vols fan this year.” Manning’s recent denial aside, the bottom line is that if the Hall of Famer-to-be wants to coach with the Volunteers in the future, then it will happen. For the time being, at least, no dice.
While Manning’s future coaching aspirations have yet to come into focus, he was in the news for another, less murky reason. Along with stalwarts such as San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Manning is one of 17 first-time candidates up for entry into the College Football Hall of Fame.
9. Nick Saban drew the big headlines from the SEC spring meetings, mostly because Jim Harbaugh does not sleep and has a Twitter account, but my favorite nuggets of the week came from Bret Bielema, who wants his team to play more like Steph Curry and less like LeBron James and would be cool with an SEC-Big Ten challenge at the beginning of the season. To which conference commish Greg Sankey said, “"We generally call those [conference match-ups] bowl games, but I appreciate the creative thought that's out there.” Apologies if your screen just cracked due to the condescension.
Most tangibly, Bielema reiterated his stance that undrafted players who had eligibility remaining before declaring for the draft should be allowed to return to school. “It makes too much sense to have it not happen,” Bielema said, later adding, “And you know what? It works out better for everybody. Graduation rates to go up. Success rates go up.” He made the same argument earlier this offseason, too, and is far from the only coach who would support the idea. You haven’t heard the last of this one.
8. Texas AD Mike Perrin was no fun this week. Not only is he not in favor of expansion, he doesn’t even particularly care for the idea of a Big 12 Network. That figures, though, and Perrin said as much. He called the Longhorn Network “a very valuable asset” and said that it would “take a lot” for him to show favor on any proposal for a conference television network.
7. South Carolina looked at a gypsy wrong three years ago. At the end of 2013, the Gamecocks were coming off three consecutive 11-win seasons and riding high. And then, not so much high riding. Things just haven’t been working out for them of late. They finished last season 3-9 and will now be without their best defensive player for 2016. Stud linebacker Skai Moore needs surgery to repair a disc in his neck. Will Muschamp and company have to hope that the senior linebacker wants to take a medical redshirt for this season, but a jump to the NFL draft is not out of the question, either.
6. Nick Saban actually offered something vaguely resembling a show of the hand in regards to Bama’s quarterback competition, saying that Cooper Bateman, a redshirt junior, held a tiny advantage over Blake Barnett, David Cornwell and Jalen Hurts. Saban cited Bateman’s experience and said that he showed just a little more consistency in spring practice. This is not a closed book, though -- Saban said he thought it would be a “good race” -- and Barnett’s upside might eventually just be too much to let waste away on the bench. ESPN’s Travis Haney noted earlier in the month that one possible best-of-both-worlds option would be that Bateman would start the season-opening fireworks show against USC, with Barnett taking over as starter later in the campaign, after the start of conference play proper. And if Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin deny us the joy of watching Barnett throw giant rainbows to Calvin Ridley completely this year, well, that would just be a loss for us all.
5. Let us unpack (attempt to unpack) the rather lengthy back-and-forth between Saban and Harbaugh. The whole spat arose after Saban went on a lengthy rant against satellite camps, calling them “wild, wild West.” He did bring up Harbaugh’s name, but only to say, “Harbaugh can do whatever he wants to do if he thinks that's what's best. There needs to be somebody who looks out for what's best for the game, not the SEC or the Big Ten or Jim Harbaugh.” Saban learned the hard way that you cannot say the words “Jim Harbaugh” twice in one breath without a Jim Harbaugh Twitter response. “"Amazing" to me- Alabama broke NCAA rules & now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly "amazing.”” Harbaugh is referencing the fact that Tide DL coach Bo Davis was forced to resign in April after having impermissible contact with a recruit. Faced with Harbaugh jumping out of the internet bushes to yell “AH HA!,” Saban -- who does not use Twitter, but has to deal with this, anyway -- responded predictably enough. “I don’t really care what he thinks or tweets,” Saban said. The delicate dance continues.
4. Hugh Freeze spoke out about the recruiting violations outlined in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations (which included four Level 1 allegations under Freeze’s watch). “Have we made mistakes in recruiting? Yes, and we've taken steps to make sure we don't make those same mistakes again. But to say me or anybody on my staff is out there cheating to gain advantage just isn't true.” Freeze said that if he had any information about a member of his coaching staff involved with a violation, he would fire them. Ole Miss is in full spin mode right now as they desperately attempt to avoid NCAA sanctions. In an attempt to stop that gun from firing, they have imposed self-sanctions, including the reduction of nine scholarships over the next three recruiting cycles. Had this happened in an average offseason week, it would have dominated the headlines. Baylor’s ongoing implosion diverted a lot of the attention that otherwise might have been pointed at the Rebs. Hugh Freeze should send Art Briles a fruit basket.
He actually should do that. I’m sure Briles would appreciate it right about now.
3. When four-star TE Kendrick James de-committed from Baylor just hours after Art Briles was fired, he was the first raindrop in what became a deluge. One week later, five of their six 2017 commitments have re-opened their searches, led by four-star QB Kellen Mond, who named Auburn the leader in the clubhouse for his services. Not only has their 2017 class turned to ashes in their hands, ESPN is reporting that seven members of Baylor’s 2016 class want out from their letters of intent. Their top recruit for the cycle, tackle Patrick Hudson, has yet to enroll in classes and four-star wide receiver Devin Duvernay somewhat incredibly hit the market once more because Baylor did not file his letter of intent within the required 14-day window after ink was put to paper. The Bears only discovered this because Duvernay’s father was searching for a record of his son on the NLI database in order to put in a request for his release. That worked out easily enough. Such is not the case for tackle J.P. Urquidez, whose father took to Twitter (these things happen) to demand Baylor release his son from the letter of intent. Julian Urquidez wrote that they “would have never considered Baylor” had they known about the sexual assault allegations that were detailed in the summary of Pepper Hamilton’s report.
2. The above is a long way of saying that new interim Briles replacement Jim Grobe -- formerly of Wake Forest until he resigned after posting his fifth straight losing season in 2013 -- is going to have quite the interesting year ahead of him. Former Wake Forest QB coach Tom Elrod has faith that Grobe is the man for the job. “He will work them hard, and he will have them play in a way that will make Baylor proud. The off-the-field stuff? That will not be tolerated, I can promise you that,” Elrod said. One player Grobe will not be working hard, Devin Chafin. The redshirt senior was dismissed this week. Outside the Lines reported that his dismissal was possibly due to an alleged physical altercation with his girlfriend that took place in 2014. The Bears are still more than adequately equipped at running back with Shock Linwood, Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams, but Chafin’s exit put an ugly end to what was an ugly month.
1. While Baylor is sorting through a quagmire of their own making, one Big 12 rival received a huge boost on Thursday. Or as Baker Mayfield put it on Twitter, “And y’all thought you were getting rid of me…” Mayfield’s future with the Sooners twisted in the wind for much of the week and the chances of the former walk-on receiving back a lost year of eligibility that came when he transferred from Texas Tech seemed dead in the water after a proposal to change the walk-on rules within the conference stalled at a 5-5 vote, with a majority needed for the wheels of justice to turn. A little jiggering of the language will fix all that ails you, though, and on Thursday, a new rule was passed that would allow walk-ons without scholarship offers from their original schools to transfer within the conference without losing a year of eligibility.
Last season, Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards with a 36/7 TD/INT ratio while rushing for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. His newfound year of eligibility is an absolute coup for Bob Stoops.