A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning.
STACY SEARELS WILL BE THE NEW O-LINE COACH
It’s a done deal. Both Andrew Spivey and I through different sources have confirmed that former Texas offensive line coach Stacey Searels will be named as Florida’s new offensive line coach sometime in the next 48 hours. Searels is a former Auburn All-American from the Pat Dye era who has national championship experience as Nick Saban’s O-line coach at LSU where he was on the same staff with Will Muschamp. He was Georgia’s O-line coach from 2007-10. From 2007-09, Georgia played 39 football games and gave up only 42 sacks and the Bulldogs produced a 1,300-yard rusher in 2007 and a 1,400-yard rusher in 2008. Searels was at Texas from 2011-13 where the sack numbers decreased from 26 his first year with new linemen to 16 in 13 games in each of the last two seasons.
CHARLIE STRONG AND BIG BROTHER
As Charlie Strong is about to find out, the advantage he will have at Texas has everything to do with perception and in that state perceptions are huge. As the head football coach at the University of Texas, Charlie Strong will have the kind of power that he never had or could have had at Louisville. In Texas, the University of Texas is “big brother” and that is something that will not ever change. Texas A&M, for all its oil and cattle money and its high powered academics, was, is and always will be regarded as the little fish in the big pond while Texas will be regarded as the shark. In the state of Texas, which produces as much outstanding college football talent as Florida and any other state you can think of combined, kids grow up dreaming to play in burnt orange. They do not grow up dreaming to be Aggies. It doesn’t matter what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M nor does it matter what Art Briles is doing at Baylor. The perception in every corner of the state is that Texas is the Big Kahuna and everyone else is playing for the scraps. As a recruiter, Strong is absolutely death on the close. Give him the power of “big brother” and watch the talent pour in at Austin.
JAMES FRANKLIN’S LAST STAND AT VANDY?
Who would have ever dreamed that Vanderbilt would go to three straight bowl games much less go 9-4 in consecutive seasons? What James Franklin has done there the last three years ranks with the better coaching jobs ever in the Southeastern Conference. You have to wonder if there will be a fourth bowl game, however, because Franklin is a VERY hot property right now. He’s already interviewed for the Houston Texans job and will interview tomorrow at Penn State. The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns have requested interviews next week. Franklin’s star may never shine brighter, but you have to wonder if it’s more important to him to climb the next rung on the coaching ladder or become a legend at Vanderbilt?
MORE ON FRANKLIN
Don’t think for one second that Franklin will leave Vanderbilt for a higher paycheck. Vanderbilt is a private school with a huge endowment and a network of well-heeled, wealthy alums. Money is not going to be an issue and the school is so enamored with him that they will do just anything he wants. The facilities upgrades have been impressive and if he wants more, he will get it. Don’t ever expect Vanderbilt to expand the stadium to 80,000 but if the Commodores continue to win they may have to contemplate expansion. I’ve been told they could expand to 55,000 or so without any problems. What Vanderbilt will do for Franklin is why he may stay put even with all these opportunities to bolt. Does he want to go to Penn State, for example, and have the shadow of Joe Paterno always hanging over him or would he rather stay put and continue building a foundation for long term success right where he is?
THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE IN THE SEC
Take a moment and consider this: Since 2011, South Carolina is 33-6 with three consecutive 11-win seasons; Vanderbilt is 24-15 with two consecutive 9-win seasons and Mississippi State is 22-17 with three straight winning seasons that have ended with a bowl game. What Steve Spurrier (South Carolina), James Franklin (Vanderbilt) and Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) have done is change the entire football culture at their schools. South Carolina and Mississippi State had pockets of success in the past, but prior to Franklin’s arrival, Vanderbilt had gone nearly 30 years without going to a bowl game. It took Spurrier five full years to get past the happy to go bowling stage to the point that he’s got South Carolina stocked with the kind of athletes that can contend with the best teams in the SEC. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State aren’t quite at South Carolina’s level yet, but they are building the foundation for future success if they can hang on to their coaches. There was a time when you saw South Carolina, Vandy and Mississippi State on the schedule and you automatically penciled in a W. Not anymore.
IF AL GOLDEN TAKES THE PENN STATE JOB …
Al Golden interviewed at Penn State Saturday and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin will interview today. Mike Munchak is out of a job with the Tennessee Titans so he’s in play at Penn State, also. Former players are voicing strong opinions to bring back Golden and that will resonate well with the still very powerful Joe Paterno faction among the boosters. Former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien candidly told PennLive.com that the Paterno faction had plenty to do with his leaving Penn State for the NFL so a coach who might keep the peace among the boosters might be the smart choice. Assuming that the people who do the hiring at Penn State have similar thoughts and Golden is hired, who would replace him at Miami? The pay isn’t great – Golden was only making $1.75 million – and the facilities stink, plus Miami requires incoming freshman football players to score at least 825 on the SAT. At certain other ACC schools to the north, you can get in if you are breathing and have a pulse. Still, there is all that talent in Dade County and within 100 miles of the campus.
IF AL GOLDEN TAKES THE PENN STATE JOB, PART II
Even with all that talent nearby and the possibility of loading up the roster quickly, don’t expect Miami to land a top tier current head coach unless it is willing to open its wallet considerably more than it has with Golden. If Miami’s budget can’t stand more than a $1.75 million a year strain, then the pickings are going to be slim. My guess is that Miami goes cheap. Two names that I think you will hear on the Miami hot list are Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. If Miami president Donna Shalayla is really concerned with the bottom line, she will make a very serious run at Morris. With his dynamic offense and all the speed that is available in Dade County and the surrounding area, he could put together the kind of excitement that would put a lot of fannies in seats at Joe Robbie Stadium.
SEC: 7-2; Pac-12: 6-3; ACC: 4-6; Big 12: 3-3; Conference USA: 3-3; Mountain West: 3-3; Independents: 2-1; American Athletic: 2-3; Big 10: 2-5; Sun Belt: 1-0; MAC: 0-4
Still to play: Sunday: Arkansas State (Sun Belt)-Ball State (MAC) in the GoDaddy Bowl; Monday: Florida State (ACC)-Auburn SEC in the national championship game.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Maybe the greatest voice ever in rhythm and blues belongs to Phil Perry. It only took him 38 years to become an overnight success when he broke through with “Call Me,” a remake of an Aretha Franklin hit from the 1970s. He had a terrific 11-year run until September 11, 2001 when he was scheduled to perform a lunch hour jazz concert at the World Trade Center. The twin towers went down early morning but the attack had a profound effect on Perry who went into a depression that wasn’t broken until old friend Dave Grusin convinced him to join a collaborative effort for a new CD. That got Perry singing once again and he’s still at it. The first cut of his 2013 CD “Say Yes” is a very cool remake of the old Sam Cooke classic “You Send Me.”