A few thoughts to jump start your New Year’s Day, 2014.
ROPER: OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR; ANY QUESTIONS?
Kurt Roper, formerly of Duke, is Florida’s new offensive coordinator. If you were one of those who questioned why Will Muschamp would select a coordinator from Duke, of all places, then your questions should have been answered in the first half of Tuesday night’s Chik-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, when the Dookies scored on all six of their possessions and lit up Texas A&M for 38 points. By my count, Duke ran plays out a dozen personnel packages and – this is a guess – about 20 different formations but it wasn’t the mixing up of personnel or formations that was so impressive. It was the discipline in which Duke played. Nobody was confused. Everybody knew what to do. There was accountability on the offensive line. The quarterback knew exactly where to go with the ball and got the ball out of his hands quickly. Receivers ran precise routes and caught the ball. Once runners or receivers got into the secondary, teammates were looking to get a hat on somebody and nobody made silly blocks in the back.
MORE ABOUT ROPER
Duke lost the game, 52-48, but that said more about the athletes on the other side of the ball – particularly the guy at quarterback for the Aggies – than it did the offensive coordinator. What I liked best about Roper’s play calling was the lack of predictability. After two years of Brent Pease in which I could probably count on two hands the number of times I was surprised by a play call, it was extremely pleasant to watch as a coordinator had everyone – especially the Texas A&M defense – guessing what was next. This is a balanced offense that uses the entire field and spreads the ball around nicely. Yes, for much of the game it was an offense going against 11 matadors – ole! – but maybe the biggest reason the Aggies looked so inept is the guy calling the plays has learned from one of the best in all of college football (David Cutcliffe) how to slice and dice a defense. From what I saw, Will Muschamp has an offensive coordinator capable of turning Florida’s offense into one capable of scoring points.
ONE LAST JOHNNY FOOTBALL MEMORY
If you saw that one play in the third quarter then you know exactly where I’m going. I’m going to describe what Johnny Football did. He wanted to throw a bubble screen but it was covered. He looked downfield and that was covered. He bounced around then saw the tiniest crease between two of his own linemen so he tried to leap through it and over a Duke defender but the Dookie got a hand up and nearly tripped him. Somehow Manziel kept his balance, bounced backwards off his own linemen, retreated, rolled left and found one of his receivers on the sideline for what turned into a touchdown pass. I’ve seen the replay a bunch of times and I still don’t believe it and I saw it.
OKAY, JAMEIS WON THE HEISMAN BUT …
Florida State’s Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy because he put up fantastic numbers for an undefeated team that finished the season ranked #1. Famous Jameis was good. He was very, very good, in fact, and you can make a case that because he had the great stats with the only unbeaten team that he is a deserving Heisman Trophy winner, but the Heisman is supposed to go to the BEST player not the one with the best stats on the unbeaten team playing for a national title. Having seen a healthy Johnny Manziel tonight – he was only 100% for about four games this year – there is no doubt who would get my vote for best player. Nor would there be any question who would get my vote for the most entertaining player … maybe ever. In what was probably his final game as a college football player, Johnny Manziel was 30-38 passing for 382 yards and three touchdowns and ran 11 times for 73 yards and another touchdown but more than the stats he willed his team to a 52-48 come-from-behind win after the Aggies fell behind, 38-17, at the half.
CHARLIE STRONG INTERVIEWS AT TEXAS
Orangebloods.com, whose track record regarding the Texas coaching situation has been on the money from the very beginning, reports that Louisville coach Charlie Strong was interviewed by Texas athletic director Steve Patterson Tuesday. Nobody should be shocked that Strong would at least interview. When a school with the resources and facilities of Texas requests an interview, there is no harm whatsoever in listening. If Texas offers Strong $6 million could anyone blame him for taking it? Now, I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think Charlie Strong wants to work for a guy like Patterson when he’s working for one of the two best athletic directors in the country already in Tom Jurich.
THE NEXT BIG DOMINO FALLS
The worst kept secret of the week has been Penn State coach Bill O’Brien bolting to the NFL Houston Texans. Now that Penn State is vacant, it will be like dominos falling. The guy who is the absolute perfect fit for Penn State is James Franklin, who has also interviewed at Texas. Considering everything that has happened at Penn State in the past three years, it is hard to imagine Penn State not going for a coach with a pristine reputation. Franklin and Miami’s Al Golden are the two coaches who best fit that mold and of the two, Franklin would seem to be the right hire. Of course, if either Franklin or Golden leave for Penn State, another major job will open. In your wildest dreams did you ever think that Vanderbilt might be an extremely desirable job? It is because of James Franklin that Vandy will be able to land an extremely good coach if Franklin goes to either Texas or Penn State.
Through the games of New Year’s Eve – Pac-12: 6-2; SEC: 3-0; Independents: 3-0; Mountain West: 3-2; ACC: 3-6; Big 12: 2-1; Conference USA: 2-3; Sun Belt: 1-0; American Athletic Conference: 1-2; Big 10 0-2.
FINALLY, SOME NEW YEAR’S WISHES
It is a brand new year, one in which I hope you will see your hopes and dreams realized. For some of you, I know it hasn’t been a great year so my wish is that this will be a brand new start, a chance to put all the difficulties of the previous year behind you as you move forward. For those of you who are coming off a good year, may your prosperity and good fortune continue. If I have one wish for all of you it would be that today you will tell the ones who mean the most to you that you love them and if there is a relationship that is fractured in any way that you will be the one who takes the first step in repairing it. Happy New Year, everybody.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Do you remember the first time you ever heard “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones on the radio? For me it was the summer I turned 14 in McComb, Mississippi on WNOE, the 50,000-watt AM station in New Orleans that was the best station in that part of the country in those days. A week after hearing it the first time, I got the 45 and wore it out. When the album “Out of Our Heads” came out in July, I bought that one, too. If memory serves me well, “Satisfaction” was the only song on the album that was any good. This version of the song is from that 2006 concert at Copa Cabana Beach in Rio. It’s a full eight minutes. I didn’t think you’d mind eight minutes of the Stones.