Monday, April 8, 2013

Early Off-Season Notes

This is going to be a sort of mix of news....some of it happened before the bowl but I hadn't mentioned it yet....

Prior to the season starting I had this to say about Coach Sumlin in my season preview:
To date, Sumlin has met or exceeded every expectation I had for him. 
Frankly, he has been damn near perfect.  He assembled a high level coaching staff, his recruiting has been outstanding, he has come in with a little bit of a cocky demeanor, he has said all the right things, he understands the school's culture, he has put an emphasis on marketing and public perception, has been on almost every talk show and college football program in the country, and he has embraced the move to the SEC.
Basically, he has dominated the off-season.
We're about to see how he does with the other 50% of the job.  It's football season, my friends. 
He dominated the regular season and the bowl season and 2013 recruiting and is well on his way towards dominating 2014 recruiting.

In one full year on the job Coach Sumlin has been flawless.

We fans couldn't have even topped his first year with our fantasy of what year one should be.

He did is so well that he earned himself a new contract - $17.5M over 5 years ($3.5M/year).  That makes him one of the highest paid coaches in the county and the highest paid coach without a national championship ring.

As the contract was being negotiated, he was offered the Auburn job (Chizik was fired at the end of the season) and he also turned down the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Coordinator Changes

Following his first season, Sumlin had to enter the market for a handful of coordinators. 

Kliff Kingsbury took the head coaching gig at texas tech and took Matt Wallersteadt (LB coach) with him as a DC.  Brian Polian also got the head coaching job at Nevada.  I can't blame a single one of them for jumping for a significant bump up in job title and salary.
I think that Kingsbury is going to struggle in Lubbock and I think Wallersteadt made a bad career move by taking a DC job for a team that isn't very good in the mega-offensive conference that is the Big 12.  I think Kliff could have won himself a better head coaching job had he stayed on for another 2 or 3 years and continued to light up the SEC, but that being said, we couldn't come close to the $2M/year that tech is paying him until that happens (that is at least a x4 bump in salary) - and it was his alma mater.

I don't have any ill will towards any of them, including Kliff, but I also don't have any strong feeling to root for tech just because he was our coach.  First of all, it's tech and I despise tech but secondly, he was just here for a blink of time (10 or 11 months).

I also don't think we're going to miss a beat without him.  I think this is Sumlin's show and the OC is just calling plays in a system that Sumlin implements.  Clarence McKinney, who is well versed in Sumlin's offense stepped up during the Cotton Bowl and called plays pretty darn well.

Sumlin went out and hired Jake Spavital with the title of Co-Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach.  Spavital has had a fairly short coaching career but he has worked with what could easily be considered THE best offensive minds in the game.
  • 2008: Tulsa offensive quality control assistant (under head coach and offensive guru, Gus Mahlzan, now the new HC at Auburn) (National Rankings: #9 pass offense, #1 total offense, #2 scoring offense)
  • 2009: UH grad assistant (under Sumlin, Kingsbury, and Dana Holgerson) (National rankings: #1 pass offense, #1 total offense, #1 scoring offense)
  • 2010: Oklahoma State grad asssitant (under Mike Gundy and Dana Holgerson) - (National rankings: #2 pass offense, #3 total offense, #3 scoring offense)
  • 2011-2012: West Virginia QB Coach (under Dana Holgerson) - (2011 National Rankings: #6 pass offense, #15 total offense, #13 scoring offense; 2012 National Rankings: #10 pass offense, #10 total offense, #9 scoring offense)
His QB pupils...Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, & Gino Smith.

Sports Illustrated and have run great articles on Coach Spav.

McKinney was bumped up with the title of OC and David Beaty was bumped up to Recruiting Coordinator as the result of his cleaning up on the recruiting trail.

Interestingly, this will be our third different OC in as many years (and 4th in 5 years).

Sumlin then hired Jeff Banks with the titles of Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends.  Banks has ties with Sumlin through Mike Price.
  • 1998-2000: Washington State Grad Assistant (under Mike Price)
  • 2000-2003: Idaho State Special Teams Coordinator, Recruiting Coordinator, RB & Kicking Coach
  • 2004-2012: UTEP Special Teams Coordinator, RB & Punting Coach (under Price again)
We need Banks to come in and shore up our kicking game.  It this point, it could easily be the difference between a 10 win season and a 12-13 win season. 

I like that Banks was at one point in time a recruiting coordinator - I think that is a HUUUUGE benefit and something we saw pay off dividends with Sumlin's original staff.  

The coaching staff was filled just before signing day with Mark Hagan as our LB coach. 


Here are some quick notes on some of our players
  • Thomas Johnson - following his MIA incident he is not enrolled in school and will likely not be back
  • Jamiel Showers is graduating during the summer and then transferring to UTEP - where he will turn around and come back to play at Kyle Field next season (again you see the Sumlin/Price connection).
  • Jordan Richmond has not been with the team since bowl practices
  • Kirby Ennis arrested for something that involved brandishing a firearm.  What the heck are you caught up in when at 6'4" and 300+ lbs you need to be packing heat in College Station?  He has been suspended indefinitely....his big body in the middle of the DL and if indefinitely turns into infinitely he will be sorely missed.  Wow, where has our front 7 gone?
  • Nate Askew has moved to DE from WR this spring to see if he can better his status on the depth chart


During a press conference, Coach Sumlin mentioned a handful of injuries (March 1st):
  • Julian Obioha missed Cotton Bowl with undisclosed injury - will miss spring 2013 but should be ready for the fall
  • Trey Williams underwent sports hernia operation at beginning of Feb - should be back last week of spring practice
  • Ivan Robinson tore his achilles during a February conditioning drill - will miss spring practice - 5-6 month recovery
Johnny has taken on celebrity status. 

He had suite tickets for a Cowboy game, sideline tickets for some Rockets & Mavs games (where he met Lebron, Chris Paul, etc.).  He went to the Super Bowl and rubbed shoulders with Jessica Beal, Justin Timberlake, Rick Ross, etc.  Then he went on a mini-tour with rapper, Whale.  Then the NBA All-Star game.  The list goes on and on.  Basically, if it is happening then Johnny is there.

He has become such a focus of the media that when it came out that he was taking all online classes this spring it became a leading story on SportsCenter.  Seriously.  The kid was academically ranked as a junior while he was playing his freshman season of football - we don't need to worry about his grades.

On the drive home from the Cotton Bowl I said something along the lines of, "I would be shocked if he wasn't back for his junior season."  Then I watched the NFL playoffs unfold and realized that with the success of Colin Kapernik, RG3, and Russell Wilson (even Cam Newton) that Johnny is gone.

Enjoy him while he is here folks.

Coach Sumlin knocked it out of the park with the 2013 signing class.  We finished ranked #11 by Rivals, #8 by 247 Sports, and #6 by Scout.  As good as that seems, we finished 5th in the SEC West (by Rivals).  The SEC is a beast.

Yes, we've seen highly ranked classes before but Sumlin was EXTREMELY careful to make sure that everyone we inked would make it to campus and be on the field.

At QB we landed Kenny Hill (son of former MLB pitcher, Ken Hill) out of Southlake Carroll and Kohl Stewart out of Houston.  Hill was a HUGE get and will project to be Johnny's replacement immediately while Stewart has other options in terms of MLB draft status.  

James White was the only RB we took (he will be a thumper) and TE Cam Clear came to us from JUCO (played at Tennessee his freshman season) with two years of eligibility left.

The list of wide receivers is crazy.  Prior to this class, we might have landed 3 or 4 kids of this caliber at WR in school history.  We landed 6 in one class.
  • Quiv Gonzalez - 4*, 5'10", 148 lbs
  • Ricky Seals-Jones - 4*, 6'5", 220 lbs
  • Sebastian Larue - 4*, 5'10" 175 lbs
  • Kyrion Parker - 4*, 6'3" 185 lbs.
  • Jeremy Tabuyo - 3*, 5'11" 178 lbs
  • JaQuay Williams - 4*, 6'3" 205 lbs
That  is without Derrick Griffin who was commited but wasn't going to qualify so we didn't send out a LOI to him - he might have been the best of the bunch (he signed with Miami).

Quiv and Larue are both true vertical threats, something we didn't have last year....Tabuyo runs a 4.4 out of Hawaii....JaQuay will walk in and start for us - he signed with Auburn last year as a sign and place....RSJ was the #1 WR in the state.

We took four OL - Joas Aguilar (6'5", 295), Jeremiah Stuckey (JUCO; 6'7", 290), Ishmael Wilson (6'5", 275), and JJ Gustafson (who will grey shirt).

At DL we had one of our best hauls since the '90s Wrecking Crew days
  • DT Justin Manning 4*, 6'2", 275 lbs
  • DT Isaiah Golden 4*, 6'2", 295 lbs
  • DT Hardreck Walker 4*, 6'2", 280 lbs
  • DE Daeshon Hall 4*, 6'6" 240 lbs
  • DE Jay Arnold 3* 6'4", 235 lbs
  • DE Jordan Points 3*, 6'4", 255 lbs
Justin Manning was the #1 defensive player in the state.

Mack said it was a down year for DT in the state of Texas so he's not concerned.  That's funny because we landed 3 in-state DT...and then Bama and Baylor stole the two horn DT commits less than a week before NSD.  He better hope he knocks it out of the park next year because if he thought 2013 was a down year for DTs, 2014 is supposed to be even leaner.

We brought in 5 LBers
  • Tommy Sanders - JUCO mid-term enrollee will step in immediately
  • AJ Hilliard - TCU transfer will have 3 years of eligibility after sitting out 2013
  • Reggie Chevis - will likely see time as a true freshman
  • Darian Claiborne
  • Jordan Mastrogiovanni
  • Brett Wade
We did lose out on JUCO LB Kenny Flowers, who was set to be a mid-term kid but didn't get it done academically to qualify at mid-term so we passed on him.  As a mid-term enrollee he would have been able to count towards last year's recruiting class scholarship cap but since he wasn't a mid-term kid he lost value (he signed with Auburn).

Like I said, we finished with a top 10 signing class nationally but only 5th in the SEC West.  Seriously, what is going to happen to college football over the next few years? 

Think about this....the kids that signed this year were 10 years old the last time there was a non-SEC team hoisting the crystal trophy at the end of the year.

The ever looming conference re-alignment, which is supposed to end with four Super Conferences, is going to be driven by the fact that the SEC has pulled so far away from the rest of the country - it is literally in a league of its own....and it hasn't even inked it's new conference TV deal.  The money that it is going to bring in is going to be completely staggering and will dwarf anything else out there - including the LHN.

The gap is going to increase between the SEC and everyone some point will you see the NCAA step in and try to level the playing field?

 The NFL combine invite list came out and of the 333 players invited, 79 of them were from the SEC.  The next highest was the ACC (!?!?) with 43.  

A SEC coach can go into recruits living room and say 25% of the kids invited to the combine come from one of the 14 SEC teams.  The other 106 teams in the country share the remaining 75%.

Luke Joeckel is projected to be the #1 overall pick by the KC Chiefs.  That's awesome.

Damontre Moore was a top 10 projected pick going into the combine but did not perform well and has seen his stock drop pretty significantly.

Ryan Swope probably made the most money with his combine performance.  He had the second fastest 40 time at the combine with a 4.34 (faster than Reggie's 4.35, who is still the only QB to ever run under a 4.4).  I knew he was fast but I didn't realize he was THAT fast.

C-Mike, Johnathan Stewart, and Sean Porter were the other three Ags invited to the combine.  It'll be fun to keep up with the draft at the end of April.

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