A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
TIME TO TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT STANFORD IS DOING
Forget about what happened in the Rose Bowl Wednesday. That was just a football game and somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. Do take a look at what Stanford has done on the field the last few years – 46-7 since 2010 – and then take a look at the injury situation. Since Shannon Turley took over director of Stanford’s football sports performance in 2006, the number of season-ending injuries has been reduced by 87%. In the last two years, Stanford has only lost three players to season-ending surgery. Turley doesn’t adhere to the philosophy that the team with the best bench press is going to win the most games. He wants strong players, but he always wants them flexible, which is why there is a heavy emphasis on stretching and yoga. He calls it “real world applicable man strength.” While Stanford players might not have the great 40 and lift results at the NFL Combine, they consistently score high on the Functional Movement Screen, which determines durability and the ability to function in the fourth quarter of ball games.
IS FLORIDA’S APPROACH CONTRIBUTING TO THE INJURIES?
This is a question worth asking, particularly after a season in which so many players were lost to ACL tears, some of which occurred in non-contact drills. Is there a better way of doing things than the current approach? Obviously, you can have big, strong players with an approach that’s different than the one the Gators are taking. There is no lack of big, physical players at Stanford, whose identity is that of a physically dominating and intimidating team that prefers to line up and knock people off the line of scrimmage. That sounds exactly what Will Muschamp wanted to do at Florida in 2013 except he couldn’t because he kept losing big, strong guys to season-ending injuries that required surgery. At Stanford, the big guys don’t see their seasons end because of ACL tears and they don’t miss lots of games because of high ankle sprains. Not only do their players play, but their future opportunities to play professionally in the future aren’t diminished because of serious injury.
NOW, TAKE A LOOK BACK AT 2013
It’s hard to say that a change in the strength training would have saved Jeff Driskel from a broken leg or Tyler Murphy from a separated shoulder. The only way Tyler Moore’s broken arm could have been avoided would have been to forbid players from riding scooters on campus. But, there are plenty of other injuries that you have to wonder if they could have been avoided with a different approach to the strength training program. Would Chaz Green have torn the labrum in his shoulder? Would Dominique Easley or Andre Debose have suffered ACL tears in non-contact drills? We can only speculate but for the future it’s certainly worth taking a long look at what they’re doing at Stanford. Not only could it mean a difference in wins and losses, but more important, it could mean a distinct difference in the longevity of careers.
THE MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER IN THE SEC
Did you catch Connor Shaw in South Carolina’s 34-24 win over Wisconsin? All he did was complete 22-25 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, run for 47 yards and another touchdown, and catch a pass for yet another one. In a league loaded up with big name quarterbacks like Johnny Manzeil, A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenburger, Shaw’s season went virtually unnoticed. All he did was throw 24 touchdown passes and only one interception for an 11-2 team while running for nearly 600 more for another six scores. The best way to measure a quarterback is wins and losses: Shaw finished his South Carolina career 27-5. Only McCarron had a better winning percentage at Alabama.
THE ALL TOO EARLY 2014 SEC EAST FORECAST
South Carolina should be heavily favored to win the SEC East in 2014. The Gamecocks do lose their best two players – quarterback Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney, who is going early to the NFL – but not much else. The Gamecocks will lose only five seniors and probably three early to the NFL, so they will be the most experienced and deepest team in the East. The Gamecocks have had three straight 11-win seasons but this should be Steve Spurrier’s best team from top to bottom of the roster. As for the rest of the SEC East: (2) Missouri; (3) Florida; (4) Georgia; (5) Vanderbilt; (6) Tennessee; and (7) Kentucky.
WASN’T THE BIG TEN RELEVANT … ONCE?
Nebraska and Michigan State saved the Big Ten from an 0-4 Black Wednesday experience, but let’s be honest. Nebraska and Michigan State benefitted greatly from some pretty dumb coaching on the other sideline. There is no excuse for Georgia losing to a Nebraska team that would have problems winning five games in the SEC. And you would think that someone with David Shaw’s NFL experience would know that when you’re trailing by four with three minutes to go you (a) don’t waste a minute and a half in the huddle and (b) run the ball three out of four plays when you’ve got 75 yards to go and you need a touchdown. But, that’s what Stanford did, which explains why it lost to Michigan State. The losses by Iowa and Wisconsin give the Big Ten a 2-4 record, which means the league will have a losing bowl record with only Ohio State’s Orange Bowl game with Clemson remaining. There was a time when the Big Ten was relevant but no more. Until the Big Ten starts recruiting more speed, it’s a league that is going to fall further and further behind the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12.
THE OBLIGATORY TEXAS COACHING SEARCH UPDATE
Still in play: Charlie Strong (Louisville); James Franklin (Vanderbilt); Art Briles (Baylor)
Probably not: Mark D’Antonio (Michigan State); Jimbo Fisher (Florida State); Gus Malzahn (Auburn); Al Golden (Miami)
Definitely not: Jim Mora (UCLA); David Shaw (Stanford); Urban Meyer (Ohio State); Les Miles (LSU); Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers); Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks); Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles)
They will try to make a Godfather offer to: Nick Saban (Alabama)
And if everyone else has said no: Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State); Larry Fedora (North Carolina)
The Prediction: Texas offers Charlie Strong $6 million and he takes it. The alternative is to coach Louisville sans Teddy Bridgewater, who will be one of the first three players taken in the NFL Draft in May.
Pac-12: 6-3; SEC: 5-1; Conference USA: 3-3; Mountain West: 3-3; ACC: 3-6; Independents: 2-1; American Athletic: 2-2; Big 12: 2-2; Big 10: 2-4; Sun Belt: 1-0; MAC: 0-4
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Sometimes I think we forget just how good Simon and Garfunkel were in the 1960s with their impeccable harmonies, thoughtfully constructed lyrics and catchy tunes that made us want to sing along. “Bookends” reached #1 on the albums charts in 1968, featuring four songs that all made the charts that year and a fifth that didn’t become a hit until 1972 when it was re-released on their “Greatest Hits” album. I liked “America” when it debuted on “Bookends.” I was very happy when it got so much air play in 1972.