Great week gang and thanks for making this a stopping point every Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. for the five things we're kicking around daily.
From the "Talk too much" studios, let's crack this egg...
SEC Southeastern Conference
With Auburn’s Gus Malzahn making a couple of assistant hires in the last 2 weeks I believe all 4 of the schools in the SEC that had assistant openings have been filled. I just wanted to get your thoughts on what school hired the best overall staff? What assistant coach was the best hire? What assistant coach is the best recruiter? Thanks and I’ll hang up and listen.
The four new SEC staffs are complete, and they all are out working their tails off on the recruiting trail as we speak. (Side note: Did any other SEC fans have an "Ah-Ha, that explains it" moment about Alabama's thumping of Notre Dame in the title game after word came out that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is on vacation out of the country for the next two weeks? We're betting that every SEC coaching staff is putting in 80 weeks from now to signing day.)
And before we get too far in this, everyone needs to look at our bio and know we're one of the more optimistic Auburn graduates around. So there's that.
Of the four new staffs, we think Malzahn has put together far-and-away the best, and it's not that close. In fact, the difference is so great, when we rank them below, we're going 1-tie for 3-4.
1) Auburn: You can make a hard argument that Malzahn was third behind Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Tennessee's Butch Jones as far as head coaching resumes when the Tigers hired Malzahn to replace Gene Chizik. Well, if anyone had any doubts about the sales pitch coming from the Gus Bus, well those were put to rest quickly. Malzahn cleared the deck, terminating the contracts of every Auburn assistant, including ace recruiters Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper and special teams coach Jay Boulware and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. Malzahn went about putting together a staff that defensively was long on experience (led by defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson who may have coached against Heisman, Jordan and Dye in his previous SEC stops) and focused on recruiting. He also was very geographically astute in piecing this bunch together — since he took a coach who was considered a good-or-better recruiter from the following programs: Clemson (Charlie Harbinger), Georgia (Rodney Garner), Florida State (Dameyune Craig), Mississippi State (Melvin Smith) and Arkansas (Tim Horton). And added a guy that everyone seems to think is among the best coaches around in former San Diego Chargers special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. It's a home run staff in our view.
3) Tennessee: Butch Jones' bunch is long on familiarity if not so much on rock star appeal, and that's OK too. Especially since a lot of these guys came with Jones form Cincy, where they had championship-winning success. We think Jancek will be a marked improvement as the defensive coordinator (but Bernie from Weekend at Bernie's would be a marked improvement over Sal — SAAALLLLL!!!). We love Jay Graham and what he brings — and if he can land Derrick Green, then that would be mega-huge for Johnny Vols Fans everywhere. This would have been much closer to No. 1 than tied at No. 3 if Butch could have convinced Tee Martin to come back. So it goes.
3) Arkansas: Bielema was a surprise hire that made everyone go, "Wow, nice get Arkansas." His staff has two very well-known names — former UT OC Jim Chaney (Arkansas OC) and former Miami head coach Randy Shannon (linebackers) — and we believe that Sam Pittman, who coached the Vols' OL very well last year, was a great hire. The rest seem OK.
4) Kentucky: Mark Stoops landed a great get in Neal Brown as his offensive coordinator. Brown had a lot of success at Texas Tech with less than front-line talent — something that will serve him well in Lexington. And former UTC coach Jimmy Brumbaugh is the Wildcats' defensive line coach so there's that.
As for the best hire and which assistant is the best recruiter, we say the answer to both is Auburn hiring Rodney Garner away from Georgia, where he had been for 15 years and had become one of the most highly regarded recruiting coordinators in the country.
Even though I'm an SEC nut and was pulling for Bama I was disappointed in the title game. I wanted it to be close and exciting.
What's the biggest disappointment you can remember from a game that you didn't really have a team in but wanted a close game?
Thanks, and I love the 5-at-10.
Thanks for the question and the kind words. And feel free to swing by anytime, as Bluto says, "don't cost nothing."
We can call this the New Year's Eve Rushmore of sporting events — games that you have built up and want to be excellent and they turn into blah events that are made way worse by the disappointment of the build-up. (Back in our single days, New Year's Eve was always like this — expect a huge shindig with a lot of fun, and someone always got sick or in trouble or heart-achy... blah. Now the Mr. and Mrs. 5-at-10 tuck the kids in, pop a cork and watch the Chick-fil-A Bowl and ball drop on TV. Awesome in its awesomeness.)
We'll say almost every Super Bowl from about the early 1980s to the early 1990s, the UNLV-Duke title game in 1990, Alabama-LSU last year (one-sided and boring as a tax seminar) and Tyson-Spinks (we spent 40 bucks in 1988 to watch it in a movie theater on closed circuit TV and it lasted 91 seconds).
As for the most painful, well, that would be the Butler-UConn game that set the game of college hoops back 15 years.
You love the draft. We know this. So where do you think once and never Vol, DaRick will be drafted assuming that he comes out this year? Haven't heard much from or about him since his soft landing in Cookeville which is probably be a good thing.
Johnny P —
Excellent question, and one we wanted to take a little time with because the former SEC players in this draft are going to be a dominant storyline (which is only fair because the SEC is such a dominant storyline in college football).
There are 12 former SEC players listed among Mel Kiper's top 25 prospects. Guys such as A&M's Luke Joeckel and Damontre Moore, LSU's Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins and Alec Ogletree, Alabama's Chance Warmack and Dee Milliner, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Florida's Sharrif Floyd.
There are a host of safety prospects — Florida's Matt Elam, LSU's Eric Reid and Georgia's duo of Shawn Williams and Baccari Rambo — that we think any of this group could sneak into the first round. We think former UT rece iver Justin Hunter could also sneak into the first round as well as Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker and LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
Simply put there are going to be a slew of SEC players snapped off the board early and often in the NFL draft this April.
As for your question, let's look at the following five names — guys with hurdles and/or controversies from their pasts — and where they may go:
Former UT and Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers: We think he's going to test very well — both on the field and in interviews (dude is actually pretty charismatic, immature sure, but likeable). If we're running a draft board and he's still available in round three we're taking him in a heart beat.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore: Dude was a warrior and a great teammate by all accounts. After shredding his leg against UT in 2012, and with the miracles of modern medicine (ask Adrian Peterson), if we're the Atlanta Falcons and he's on the board in round 2, we would sprint to the podium. Lattimore has upper-teir first-round talent.
UT quarterback Tyler Bray: He's going to test physically off the charts. Dude has the height and the arm to be a first-rounder. He's less than good when he's forced to move his feet, but scouts think they can fix that. The unknown his how he'll interview and what type of view the league will take of his antics off the field. That said, if you need a quarterback in a draft with no sure thing at quarterback, he'd be worth a flyer in round four (and maybe even in round three). Think of it this way, Mel Kiper has N.C. State's Mike Glennon as his top QB in the draft. Would you rather have Mike Glennon in Round 1 or Tyler Bray in Round 4?
LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu: We'd be hard-pressed to spend anything more than a seventh rounder on the artist formerly known as the Honey Badger. His biggest impact was on special teams and he's not going to run well for a draftable cornerback. Don't see him working out in the league.
Former Auburn running back Mike Dyer: Not sure he's even declared for the draft or not. After spedning last fall at Arkansas Baptist College, Dyer is trying to work his way back from being the MVP of the BCS title game as a freshman to getting bounced at Auburn to getting bounced at Arkansas State. Dude is an NFL talent, there's no doubt, but man the red flags are everywhere. This is name to watch.
Now that ESPN has (thankfully) kicked the talentless Rob Parker to the curb (remember - he was the guy with the idiotic line of questioning involving nepotism to a Detroit Lions coach a couple of years ago), who else should the Mother Ship jettison? Aside from Skip Bayless and Screamin A Smith, of course.
Now that's a parlor game. Or a good way to kill an hour or two and a couple cold co-coler's at a place like Doc's or CBC.
For starters, there's no bad way to kill an hour or two knocking back Co-Colas at Doc's or CBC (Hi Tommy — and go Falcons).
This is a tougher question than we realized when we first read it.
Are we talking about personal opinion (meaning guys that annoy us so much that we'd run them because we want to break the TV when they're on) or guys that simply stink on the air? We say yes to both and offer the following Rushmore of names that ESPN should run for cause and for causing our ears to bleed. (We're going to leave former players out of this discussion because they bring a different element — sure some are excellent like Herbstreit and Stink and some are at the other end like Trevor Matich and Mark May).
For cause — Bayless, Reilly (shell of his former self as a writer and brutally bad on TV), Knight (this is supposed to be fun right? It's OK to smile and actually have energy), Eric Mangini
For causing our ears to bleed — Bayless (amazing that dude is tops in both, no), Berman, Stuart Scott, Corso (it's time to put the head gears down gang)
We're sure we're forgetting someone. Who you got?
I have read all your stuff on the steroid stuff and tend to agree with you. Even listen to you on SportTalk and ESPN radio this week talking about it, and think your point about voting MVPs and Cy Young awards and then not voting Bonds and Clemens in the hall is silly.
Do you think if these guys came out and admitted it, they'd already be in the Hall. And what other walk of life can you compare the steroid stuff to?
Thanks for reading and listening and for the kind words, and the fact that these guys were good enough to get voted for the top awards when they were playing but are not good enough now is at best hypocritical and at worst cowardly (it's much easier not to vote for someone five years removed from their careers when you never see them, as opposed to when they are playing and you see them on a daily basis).
As for the admittance part of you question, well, we'd like to think so but steroids seem to be a really sore spot in our society for some reason. In fact, we treat it as the most despised level of cheating for some reason, viewing it with more distain than cheating on your wife or your taxes. We like to believe we're a forgiving society, one that loves the underdog story. We fancy ourselves as fans that follow heroes, cheer them when succeed and even scorn them when they fall from grace, but are quick to embrace them as they try to return to favor.
Well, Mark McGwire admitted steroids and his success on the field and even as one the game's top hitting coaches is always met with caution and cautionary tales. Jose Canseco, the guy that pulled the shroud off the steroid culture in the game, is not met with the praise a light-shiner should be by the steroid witch hunters either. So it's hard to know if admitting it would be a path to forgiveness at this point.
As for the other walk of life, let's try this: Breast implants for Hollywood stars. You look at the beautiful folks in movies and TV shows, and they feel they a little lift, a little something extra, to really take them over the top. Sure there were risks early on, and the doubts drew scorn from certain groups, but the benefits could be in some circles (for a lack of a better word) huge.
Eventually there was some backlash and in the end no one really cares in retrospect. There likely are a lot of women who got implants who wished they had not, just like there are probably a large number of guys who took the PEDs and wished they hadn't. Plus, there likely are way more people in Hollywood who had work done than would care to admit and that we would never know about, just like the PED users.
There were even some first-ballot Hall of Famers who took the PEDs/implants to take great skills to the height of their respective games. We'd compare Barry Bonds to Demi Moore (each was a young rising star, before the alleged enhancements turned Bonds into the greatest home run hitter ever and allowed Moore to make the dreadful "Striptease" watchable). We'd compare Clemens to Pam Anderson, each started off as a prodigy before it rolled off the tracks — Clemens' anything-other-than-roid-rage incident where he threw the bat at Piazza in the World Series; Anderson releasing tapes with rock stars.
Where were we?
Since we need to end on a little cleaner note, here's a BONUS question (because we really did have a slew of good ones this week — kudos gang)
From Joe S.
I can see how my SEC dig was not worded well. And the league did go 6-3, which was a surprise to me. What was your biggest surprise of the bowl season and of the SEC bowl season.
And thanks for the contest, it was a lot of fun. What did the winner get?
No sweat good sir, all opinions are welcomed here — good or bad, praising and critical.
Let's take the second part first: Onetimer got a couple of Falcons tickets this weekend that we had laying around for winning and Harold got a Best of Preps basketball T-Shirt for finishing last. Thanks to everyone who played — it was the most entries we've have — and keep an eye out for our next contest. (We're for sure going to have our annual NCAA tournament contest, but we're thinking of adding one more NCAA hoops contest where you try to guess the four No. 1 seeds before Valentine's Day. Thoughts?)
As for surprises in the bowl season, great question.
Here's our top five bowl surprises with explanations in 10 words or less. (Yep, we're going with a walk-off 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10):
1) Alabama hammers Notre Dame: Not surprised the Tide won; surprised they won that easily.
2) Louisville's Strong performance: Cards will open '13 in top 10 after whipping Florida.
3) USC's no-show: Preseason No. 1 to unranked after Sun Bowl meltdown.
4) Cincy's miracle comeback against Duke: Bearcats score 14 in final minute to win and cover.
5) That's Mr. Clowney to everyone else (he actually may be the rare college player that is better than all the hype portrays him to be): Jadeveon's monster hit was the highlight of the bowl season.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...