Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catching up: Indiana won't be good

* I wrote last month about the pointlessness of Indiana moving QB Kellen Lewis to receiver, but his athleticism might have made him a respectable threat (even if there was nobody to throw him the ball). Unfortunately, we'll never know. Lewis was dismissed Wednesday for the classic "violation of team rules," meaning that what was probably going to be a horrendous offense just got ... well, horrendous-er. I can't really blame Bill Lynch for the dismissal, though, as this was already Lewis' second chance (he was suspended last spring for missing classes and team meetings). You've gotta draw the line somewhere.

* This apparently isn't new, but it's been revealed in numerous places recently that the Big Ten does not allow November games to be scheduled at night. I can't imagine that there'd be too many instances in which a school would want to schedule a night game in November -- trust me, even the day games at that time of year are freezing -- but I also don't see why the Big Ten needs to regulate that. If a situation did arise that called for a prime-time game (Ohio State's visit to Penn State on Nov. 7 comes to mind), shouldn't it be an option? It seems that for a conference that's struggled on the big stage in recent years -- and has lost some prestige because of it -- it'd make sense to showcase your top teams and games on at least an occasional basis late in the season.

* Pitt receiver T.J. Porter, who was suspended for spring practice, won't return to the team. As I mentioned at the time of his suspension, with LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling now in the NFL, Pitt desperately needs the passing game to step it up this year in order to have any semblance of an offense. With fifth-year senior Bill Stull at QB, stud sophomore Jonathan Baldwin and senior Oderick Turner at receiver and the talented Nate Byham at tight end, the pieces are in place -- even without Porter -- for former Cal offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti to work his magic. But a team that couldn't put a single point on the board against Oregon State in the Sun Bowl has a long way to go, and losing last year's third-leading receiver certainly won't help.

* Speaking of bad offenses, UCLA named redshirt freshman Kevin Prince the starting QB after a spring game in which he started, um, 0-for-7 with an interception. Apparently he played well later in the game, but that still left him 24-for-57 passing for 280 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in three spring scrimmages. It'd be hard to play any worse than the injury-riddled, interception-prone rotation of 2008, but it's also hard to envision much of a step forward from last year's horrific 17.7-point-per-game performance -- especially when the coaches are saying things like this:
"I just think we need guys to step up," Neuheisel said. "They've got some of the best coaches in the land. It's time now to grow up."
* Congratulations to Tim Brown, Gino Toretta, Chris Spielman, Grant Wistrom, Major Harris, John Robinson and the 12 other former players or coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It's easy to forget about guys of the past with all the focus on recruiting and transfers and so on and so forth, but keeping in touch with the tradition and history of the game makes college football what it is. I just have one complaint: If Toretta was worthy, how do you explain Desmond Howard and Eric Dickerson being left out?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

QB carousel

Way back in the spring of 2007, Steven Threet and Robert Marve were two of the most sought-after high school passers in the country. They were overshadowed a bit by the two superstars in their class -- Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett -- but they were good (according to Rivals, anyway):

It's been a long two years, hasn't it? There are two noteworthy things about that once-formidable top 10:
  1. That, my friends, is a bust-eriffic list. Brantley will have his opportunity once The Tebow Child finally departs, and Clausen appears to be developing into a good (if overrated) starter ... but the rest? Yikes.
  2. A whopping FIVE of those 10 quarterbacks have transferred from their original school, including two (Threet and Marve) who are making news once again this week as de facto free agents.
Threet announced in February that he'd had enough of the Rich Rodriguez offense -- he wouldn't have been starting in 2009 anyway -- and the search was on for his third stop in three years. An FCS school seemed logical since he had already redshirted, but let's face it: Who can resist the co-eds at Arizona State? (Answer: not Threet.)

Threet didn't have a lot of luck with coaching stability at his first two stops (he originally committed to Georgia Tech just before Paul Johnson took over), but barring a complete disaster this season, he should be safe at ASU under Dennis Erickson.

While he wasn't exactly a smashing success at Michigan in an ugly 3-9 season, Threet's play wasn't the reason for the poor record. His accuracy was lacking, but he has an impressive arm and showed good decision-making for a redshirt freshman. Considering the lack of quality QB options at ASU -- senior Danny Sullivan is atop the depth chart, with sophomore Samson Szakacsy and freshman Brock Osweiler in the wings -- Threet will have a legitimate shot at the starting job.

The only problem: That shot won't come until 2011. As a transfer who has already used a redshirt year, Threet will be forced to burn a season (his redshirt sophomore year) and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Marve was also looking at Arizona State after leaving Miami under less-than-friendly circumstances, but with Threet already on his way to Tempe, it now appears likely that he'll end up at Purdue.

According to ESPN, Marve has developed a "close relationship" (I don't want details) with Boilermakers coach and Joe Tiller look-alike Danny Hope and has already worked out an academic plan to ensure his admission.

Purdue certainly needs quarterbacks -- with Curtis Painter off to the NFL and Justin Siller off the team due to a lack of effort in the classroom, fifth-year senior Joey Elliott and redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush are all that's left. In other words, expect Marve to be starting in 2011 and 2012 if the transfer goes according to plan.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mike Leach hates the NFL

A lot of us are confused by the NFL draft process and how some elite college football players get passed over on an annual basis, but Texas Tech coach Mike Leach took it to a new level Monday.

When asked by the Dallas Morning News about Graham Harrell going undrafted -- while Texas A&M's Stephen McGee went in the fourth round -- Leach responded with this gem of a backhanded compliment:
"I'm happy for Stephen McGee," Leach told The Dallas Morning News. "The Dallas Cowboys like him more than his coaches at A&M did. ... The truth of the matter is that the NFL drafts quarterbacks notoriously bad. That's indisputable."
Ouch. My first reaction was to laugh, but the truly funny thing is that he's right. McGee couldn't hold onto his starting job at Texas A&M (getting jumped by the more athletic Jerrod Johnson after suffering a shoulder injury), and considering the NFL's general lack of success in finding quality quarterbacks, maybe we should trust the scouts less and our eyes more.

Even more amusing, though, were Leach's comments about the Cleveland Browns, who he blamed for Crabtree slipping out of the top five after reports surfaced that coach Eric Mangini considered Crabtree a "diva."
"Michael Crabtree has been more successful as a receiver than that guy as a coach at this point," Leach said. "... My definition of a diva is someone who's loud and self-absorbed. Michael Crabtree is the furthest thing from loud that I've seen. ... Let's see how all those non-divas do up in Cleveland this year."
You've gotta love the pirate. He doesn't care what anyone thinks about his play-calling, his attire or his opinions, and there aren't many coaches you can say that about.

Another thing you've gotta love: Irony. With Harrell in search of a job Monday after going undrafted, he was invited to training camp by ... the Cleveland Browns.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Who's the boss?

Over the past seven years, there's no debate that USC has been the most dominant team in the country. From top-10 finishes to BCS wins to conference titles to recruiting, it's been an all-around ass-kicking.

But the gap between the Trojans and the rest of the college football world is closing fast ... or has it already closed? A thought popped into my head the other day: Which team has actually been better in the past three years, Florida or USC? Is Pete Carroll still running THE elite program in the country?

"Better" is obviously a somewhat objective term, but it'd be hard to argue against Florida. With two national titles in that time (compared with zero for USC) and 35 wins (compared with 34 for USC), the only case you could make for the men of Troy is consistency -- USC hasn't finished outside the top five since 2002, and their average final ranking in the past three years is 3 (compared with 5.5 for Florida, which is skewed by the 9-4 season in between national titles).

One of the primary reasons for that consistency is recruiting, as USC seemingly gets whatever players it wants in greater quantities than anybody ... right?
  • USC -- 12 five-stars, 34 four-stars (based on Rivals' rankings from the past three seasons)
  • Florida -- 11 five-stars, 37 four-stars
Eh, not really. Florida has pulled in about the same amount of blue-chip talent, and if we're talking about who's really done the best job of recruiting, think about this: In only two years at Alabama, Nick Saban has accumulated a phenomenal 40 four-star or five-star players, 10 more than USC in that time and 12 more than Florida. And fresh off a BCS appearance, it seems doubtful that those numbers will drop off much in the near future, meaning another SEC juggernaut is looming on the horizon.

But here's the thing USC has going for it: In a relatively weak Pac-10, a BCS appearance is essentially a given. And with the hype Carroll has built around the school and the already-established tradition, it will continue to be a power until some other coach comes along and screws things up -- it's too hard not to be good at USC.

But in terms of overall dominance, don't forget about Florida and what Meyer has done there. He's turned it back into the powerhouse Steve Spurrier built -- albeit in a MUCH different manner -- and should be given credit for having a program that is just as good as (or better than) USC right now in nearly every aspect.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


In its unending quest to salvage Bobby Bowden's shot at the all-time major college wins record, Florida State has appealed to the NCAA to allow Bowden to keep all of the 382 wins on his resume -- even if the football team has to forfeit some of those victories.

The appeal also asks that the players who weren't involved in the recent academic scandal be able to keep their individual records.

The basis for their argument? Ummm ....

I don't know. If you're forced to forfeit (or "vacate") wins -- and basically all record that those games were ever played -- I don't really see any reason certain records should still count. It'd be convenient for Bowden, of course, and I know everyone in Tallahassee would get warm fuzzies if Bowden gets to retire as the all-time wins leader, but a forfeit is a forfeit.

And this quote from Bowden is just laughable:
"There's just so many kids who didn't need help and didn't want help, but somebody was giving it. We suspended 25 guys for four ballgames and lost two of them. They all got [grades of] F's. Cheating, to me, should be a university problem. We discovered it. They didn't discover it. If they make us forfeit these games, doesn't that mean any time someone cheats a team is going to have to forfeit games? It seems to me that would open a can of worms."
Really??? So the players were completely innocent victims of a rogue academic adviser with the devious goal of helping athletes get better grades? Please.

And yes, if a player is cheating in school, the team SHOULD have to forfeit any wins he participates in -- by rule, that player is ineligible.

Bowden is one of the all-time greats and is deserving of his accolades, but statements like these are the reason not too many people in the college football world will be shedding tears when he finishes behind Joe Paterno (who, by all accounts, has always done things the right way).

The NCAA should stick to its guns here; when a situation arises that's truly deserving of a penalty, don't back down just to cater to the record book.

I'll never understand

Sometime in the fall, I remember laughing my ass off when seeing that Mel Kiper's top-ranked senior QB prospect was Purdue's Curtis Painter. Good call.

If we're talking about predicting draft status, though, I can't claim to have done a whole lot better. The guy that I (and most other college football fans) recognized as one of the best passers in the country -- Chase Daniel -- appears to be about as much of a draft afterthought as Painter, despite putting up another 4,000-yard, 38-touchdown season. On the flip side, a guy who no educated observer thought had a chance as a QB in the NFL -- Pat White -- has been hyped up to the point that it appears he'll be taken in the second round.

Look, I loved Pat White and the dynamic offense West Virginia was able to put together with White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. It's been fun to watch and it's changed the way offenses everywhere are designed.

On top of that, I do believe that White has the athleticism and speed to be an effective player somewhere. I could see him as a slot receiver or a kick returner, and he could be of value to a team that wants to give him a few snaps each game in the overhyped Wildcat formation. Colts GM Bill Poliani compared him to Kordell Stewart and Antwaan Randle El -- both valid comparisons, I believe -- but after playing in a modern version of a triple-option offense, you're telling me that a left-handed version of Tommie Frazier or the 2009 model of Antwaan Randle El is that valuable?

And that this guy ...

... won't be "anything other than a clipboard holder in the NFL?"

Whatever. I'll just file this away as reason No. 4,552,613 why I don't understand the NFL draft.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fact-checking the fact-checker

One of my favorite features in the blogosphere is Dr. Saturday's "Fact-checking," which provides detailed statistical analysis in an attempt to verify some of sportswriters' and fans' favorite memes.

The doc took on the so-called "Rodriguez Leap" last week, with an emphasis on determining whether or not Michigan fans can realistically expect a significant step forward in RichRod's second year (or, more accurately, if his teams have done so in the past or if it's simply a myth).

The verdict:

Those numbers speak for themselves -- the second-year leap is real. Dr. Saturday does, however, provide one caveat:
Unlike any of his previous stays, Rodriguez isn't returning a potentially dynamic quarterback. Tate Forcier, in fact, is not only unlikely to resemble Shaun King or Woody Dantzler as a true freshman, he isn't even a lock to finish the season as functional starter.
Rodriguez might not return a dynamic quarterback, but if you watched Michigan's spring game, you know he's got one.

His point is accurate in one regard: You never know about freshman quarterbacks, even ones as prepared as Forcier. But that got me wondering just how good (and experienced) Shaun King, Woody Dantzler and Rasheed Marshall were in their respective schools' breakout seasons -- and, on a related note, if it's unrealistic to expect something similar from Forcier.

Let's take a look:

* King started as a junior in 1997 and put up solid numbers (54% completion, 24 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) before breaking out big-time and setting the NCAA pass efficiency record in Tulane's undefeated 1998 season. People often don't realize that Tulane's offense was extremely pass-heavy; it was at Clemson that the "spread 'n' shred" was implemented.
* Dantzler saw spot duty prior to 1999, when he rotated with Brandon Streeter as a redshirt sophomore and established himself as the starter heading into 2000. Dantzler was far more of a running threat than King, finishing with 588 rushing yards and a respectable 131.8 pass efficiency in '99 while getting about half the snaps. In 2000, the ground game REALLY took off, as Clemson's offensive numbers exploded despite Dantzler's pass efficiency remaining relatively static at 134.5.
* Marshall was a first-year starter as a redshirt sophomore in 2002 after seeing a handful of snaps in mop-up duty the previous year. He took over for Brad Lewis, a pocket passer who rushed for a whopping 41 yards in Rodriguez's ugly first season in Morgantown. Marshall didn't exactly tear it up in '02 (53.7% completion, nine touchdowns, five interceptions and 666 rushing yards), but combined with running back Avon Cobourne, a third-year starter, the offense was an entirely different animal.

Summary: None of the three quarterbacks had more than a year of starting experience heading into his team's breakout season (Marshall didn't have any), and only King put up numbers that would be extremely difficult to duplicate -- and I think it's safe to say that Michigan won't be putting the ball in the air 364 times this season, as Tulane did in '98.

More importantly, read that note on Marshall again. He was a dual-threat, first-year starter taking over for a pocket passer after a disastrous season in which the team struggled to do anything on offense (other than turn the ball over). When paired with a talented, experienced running back, he put up respectable passing numbers and did enough on the ground to lead the team to an 8-3 record.

Everything in that sentence -- up until the final record, anyway -- would accurately fit Michigan heading into this season. There were so many times last year when the mere threat of a running quarterback would have opened up a huge play -- either via the QB keeping the ball on a zone-read fake or the running back having a huge hole because the weakside defensive end and linebacker wouldn't have been able to crash into the line -- that I can guarantee a significant improvement in Michigan's offensive numbers this season, regardless of the quality of Forcier's passing. And based on what I saw in the spring game, I'll be a bit surprised if Forcier's passing numbers don't exceed both Marshall's and Dantzler's.

Am I expecting 8-3 (or 9-3)? Well ... I'm not so sure. The schedule is far easier than last year, but even with Penn State and Ohio State at home, those are almost certainly losses. And expecting a team that's still VERY young to go 9-1 over the remainder of the schedule is probably unrealistic.

But do I expect significant improvement and bowl eligibility? Absolutely. And if Forcier is able to perform like his predecessors did in RichRod's second year at each stop -- which isn't out of the realm of possibility -- it would be such a remarkable improvement from last season's QB play that an Alabama-like turnaround isn't out of the question.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A merciful end

Thankfully, the Greg Paulus-to-Michigan saga appears to be over. According to Scout, Michigan is no longer in pursuit.
Sources indicated late Friday afternoon that the Michigan football program is no longer exploring the possibility of adding former Duke PG Greg Paulus to its fall roster.
I've already written way more than intended about the potential transfer of a guy who hasn't played football since high school, but one final summary: Paulus would have been nice for depth purposes as a backup to Tate Forcier, but the accompanying media frenzy was completely out of control and might have been an overall detriment to the team. It wasn't worth it for a guy who would have been competing with walk-on Nick Sheridan for the backup job, and I'm thankful it's over.

Now let us never speak of this again.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring fever (the good kind)

Spring football is a lot like spring training -- it's great to finally get a look at everyone in uniform, but the results don't mean a whole hell of a lot.

That said, it's all we've got until fall, so let's take a look around at some notable situations and see where things stand.

* While most of the talk regarding the USC quarterback battle has revolved around Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain and stud freshman Matt Barkley, the man working exclusively with the first team in the Trojans' spring game was sophomore Aaron Corp. And while Mustain and Barkley both struggled, Corp finished a solid 8-for-13 for 70 yards. Unless Pete Carroll's comments AND actions are to be considered a smokescreen, it appears that the little-known Corp will be running the show. As for the linebacking corps ... well, it'll be inexperienced. Chris Galippo, supposedly the next big thing in the middle, is out for the spring with mono but is still expected to start between former backups Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith.

* It would be safe to assume that Texas Tech's defense will have to improve this season for the Red Raiders to come close to duplicating last year's success, considering that both Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree have departed. That's going to be just a bit more difficult, though, with the news that defensive end McKinner Dixon, who led the team with nine sacks last season, has been suspended indefinitely for his academic performance. This is nothing new for Dixon, who flunked out of school during his freshman year in 2005 only to return after a year at a community college, but Mike Leach apparently decided that he'd seen enough. He didn't completely close the door on a possible return, but it doesn't appear likely.

* Arizona State freshman Jack Elway (yes, that one) has decided to quit football but will continue his academic career at ASU. Elway was involved in a five-way battle to replace Rudy Carpenter this spring, but was considered a longshot to beat out last year's backup, Danny Sullivan. It appears that Sullivan has a fairly firm grasp on the starting job heading into the sun Devils' spring game this weekend.

* I briefly mentioned this in my post(s) on Greg Paulus, but Tate Forcier put on a show in Michigan's spring game by going 11-of-14 with four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and no interceptions. Barring an injury or some other unexpected development, Forcier will start the Wolverines' opener against Western Michigan.

* No one thought it'd be easy for Georgia to replace both Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno in the backfield, but the offensive performance in the Bulldogs' spring game still couldn't have been what fans were hoping for. Joe Cox struggled but is still the front-runner to start at QB in the fall, while Moreno's heir apparent, Caleb King, is competing with microscopic redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas and sophomore Richard Samuel (currently out with a wrist injury). Mark Richt said he expects that battle to last into the season.

* Freshman QB Russell Shepard has been unstoppable on the ground in LSU's spring practices, but sophomore Jordan Jefferson still has a firm grasp on the starting job. Les Miles has also been giving Shepard snaps at receiver in an effort to get him on the field, but it's unclear whether he'll play there regularly if he doesn't beat out Jefferson.

* Alabama has some serious rebuilding to do on offense, but junior Greg McElroy is solidifying at least one spot by running away from dual-threat freshman Star Jackson in the QB competition. Sophomore Mark Ingram looks have a slight lead on Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch at running back, but five-star recruit Trent Richardson could change things quickly when he arrives in the fall. The offensive line is still a work in progress, with several players trying out at various spots in an attempt to fill three vacated positions. Regardless of how many five-star recruits Nick Saban has compiled, it's gonna take some time for the Tide offense to jell.

* Ohio State running back Boom Herron (nickname required in order to replace Beanie Wells), who filled in last year while Wells was injured, appears likely to start while sharing carries with speedster Brandon Saine. With the way the Buckeyes' offense struggled last year in Wells' absence -- and with the loss of top receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline -- Terrelle Pryor will have to carry an extremely heavy load for OSU to make a run at another national title game.

* Florida's spring scrimmage has essentially turned into a JV game, as the Gators are holding out numerous starters -- including defensive end Carlos Dunlap, running back Emmanuel Moody and linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey -- with injuries. Nothing appears too serious, and for a team that will almost certainly open the season at No. 1 in both polls, there's little reason to risk further damage.

One more thing

As the rumors continue to swirl about Greg Paulus and his potential transfer to Michigan, I'd like to add (or clarify) one thing.

Paulus was at one time an excellent recruit, but for a guy who was a mediocre college basketball player and has never played a down of college football, the media attention this story has gotten -- from ESPN, in particular -- is completely out of whack. This is what happens when the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader gets ahold of a story that combines two of the biggest fan bases in sports: Duke basketball and Michigan football.

Even if Paulus does decide to enroll at Michigan -- which hasn't yet been decided (it's unclear whether he's even been offered a scholarship) -- the chances of him seeing significant playing time are remote. Early enrollee Tate Forcier appears to have the starting job locked up, and the rust that Paulus would have to shake off seems like it would be prohibitive for someone hoping to step onto the field at the highest level of college football.

I'd still like to have him at UM, as the alternatives behind Forcier are less than thrilling, but the talk of competing for a starting job is unrealistic hype that isn't helping anything.

With Forcier getting a little defensive about his status as starter and douchebag journalists such as Woody Paige using this is another opportunity to kick Michigan while it's down, this has grown into something WAY bigger than it was ever intended to be -- Rich Rodriguez looking to add some depth by picking up a talented athlete for one year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back to reality

A story Sunday in the Chicago Tribune stated that Charlie Weis considered leaving Notre Dame at the end of last season -- voluntarily. This seemed a bit stunning at first glance, but Weis' quotes seemed to back up that assertion:
"We talked about all that as a family, and we felt that we didn't want to leave that way," Weis said. "That would have been the easy way out. That's not why we came here."
On Wednesday, though, Weis clarified his statements and told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that the discussion wasn't so much about leaving as it was about having a backup plan in the event that he lose his job following another embarrassing loss to USC. The quotes are a bit rambly, but it appears that Weis was had no intention of leaving voluntarily.

The supposed reasoning for the family discussion was that Weis was concerned for his teenage son's well-being as the Irish continued to struggle, but let's be realistic here. Despite all its troubles in the last three years, Notre Dame is still the cream of the crop in terms of college football coaching jobs, and for a guy whose ego is as big as his appetite, there's no way Weis would step aside without being forced to.

As noted by Notre Dame blog UHND, what should be taken from the Tribune's story is not that Weis was planning on leaving, but that he was actually so close to being fired that he was discussing his future career options with his family. If there was any question as to how short a leash Weis is on -- nine wins seems to be the absolute minimum this year -- his statements should clear things up.

Out of nowhere

It's been reported by multiple outlets in the past few days that Duke point guard Greg Paulus, who was a high school All-American and a highly touted recruit as a quarterback out of New York in 2004, visited Michigan and met with Rich Rodriguez this week regarding a possible transfer to resume his football career.

Let's go over some facts here:
  • Paulus had offers from a large majority of the top schools in the country coming out of high school.
  • While considered an excellent athlete (obviously, given his basketball abilities), Paulus played in a spread passing offense in high school and still holds the state record for passing yards.
  • He hasn't played football since arriving at Duke in 2005.
  • Due to the NCAA's five-year eligibility clock, Paulus has one year remaining (at any school) if he chooses to play football.
  • After expressing interest in playing under David Cutcliffe at Duke, Paulus was informed that he would not be considered as an option at QB but could try out for the team as a receiver.
Paulus obviously was considered an excellent prospect at one point, but with several years of rust and only one season remaining, his upside is pretty minimal. However, there are two reasons that I think it's wise for Michigan to consider bringing Paulus in:
  1. If his physical abilities are considered so impressive that he was brought in for a workout by the Green Bay Packers despite having never played a down of college football, that puts him ahead of every quarterback on Michigan's roster in terms of pure talent (with the possible exception of freshman Tate Forcier).
  2. After Forcier, who put up four touchdowns in the spring game and erased any doubts about his claim to the starting job, the depth chart is ugly. Walk-on Nick Sheridan -- whose performance last year was so horrific that he earned the nickname "Death" at Mgoblog -- is the presumptive backup, while freshman Denard Robinson, who won't arrive until fall, will likely be mixed in as part of some run packages.
Regardless of whether Paulus is the same player who was named Gatorade's national player of the year in 2004, his arrival would be welcome if for no other reason than depth. If Forcier falls far short of expectations or (knock on wood) is injured, it'd be nice to have a backup QB with reasonable athleticism AND the ability to complete a forward pass, and Paulus appears to fit that description.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dodging a bullet

My sabbatical is over. My second child -- a little girl -- was born last Tuesday night, so my life has been a little hectic. But now that things are settling down, it's time to catch up with the world. I haven't missed much (that's the one positive of an eight-month offseason), but one particular event jumped out at me.

Three more Iowa players were arrested last week and charged with public intoxication, including backup center James Ferentz. As you've probably surmised by his last name, his dad is coach Kirk Ferentz. The arrest itself isn't much of a surprise given the state of the Iowa program -- I've lost track of the number of disciplinary issues the last few years -- but the name itself should tell you something (and the blood alcohol levels were phenomenal in their own right).

I tend to believe that coaches get too much of the credit and too much of the blame when it comes to off-the-field trouble -- players will do what they want, and unless you avoid anyone with even the slightest character concerns (which is pretty much impossible), you're going to run into the occasional problem. That said, the Iowa situation has gotten somewhat out of control, and Ferentz has to shoulder at least some of the blame (especially considering the cover-up accusations that came out after the sexual assault allegations against two Iowa players in 2007).

A little background: About 16 months ago, it became known that Michigan was searching for a head coach after the retirement of Lloyd Carr. While this detail never really became public (at least not that I'm aware of), several insiders with knowledge of the coaching search reported that the first person contacted about the job was Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz has never been exciting, but he's always done a little more than he rightfully should at a place with minimal recruiting draw, and he's been compensated heavily for that.

But fans who got wind of the school's run at Ferentz were irate, mostly for two reasons:

1) Ferentz's offense made Lloyd Carr look like Mike Leach.
2) Iowa's off-the-field issues have become a running joke around the country.

It should be noted that this was the second alcohol-related arrest for James Ferentz, who is ... um, 19 years old. Everyone thinks Kirk Ferentz is a good coach (or the BEST COACH EVER!!! if you're Tom Deinhart of The Sporting News), but his stock has plummeted because his team has turned into this decade's version of the Criminoles while failing to even approach the three straight 10-win seasons it put together from 2002-04.

When I first heard that he was being targeted as Carr's successor at UM, it seemed to make sense, even if it wasn't a sexy pick; Ferentz exudes authority and has been targeted by other programs (and NFL teams) for years -- there's a reason he's one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. But as Iowa's program becomes more and more of an embarrassment off the field, I can't help but breathe a sigh of relief that Michigan went a different direction -- and I say that following the completion of the worst season in school history.