Thoughts of the day: December 7, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday on a day in which we remember the brave people who served at Pearl Harbor:


While Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell remains a serious person of very high interest for Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators, add the name Blake Anderson into the mix. Anderson is the offensive coordinator for Larry Fedora at North Carolina, an offense that produced 32.2 points and 432.4 yards per game this season despite crippling injuries to a roster already shrunk by NCAA sanctions from the Butch Davis years. The 2012 season is probably a better inclination of Anderson’s abilities. Carolina averaged 485.6 yards, 40.6 points, 193.8 rushing yards and 291.8 passing yards per game. The important numbers for 2012: 7.9 per pass attempt, 5.09 per rush attempt and 6.49 yards per play.


Norvell continues to get the most attention for the vacant offensive coordinator job although the odds might be less than 50-50 that he would leave Arizona State. Southern Cal interim coach Clay Helton has the Florida ties (dad is former Gator center Kim Helton) and is the most readily available of the available coaches.  UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was the offensive coordinator when Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at Auburn and he also tutored Tim Tebow in the offseason when Tebow was with the Denver Broncos. Major Applewhite is definitely in the mix but might be the backup plan. For the offensive line, the only two names that are heard prominently are Stacy Searels of Texas and Neil Callaway of Western Kentucky, both of whom have strong connections to Muschamp.


There are no guarantees that Mack Brown will be back at Texas next season even if the Longhorns beat Baylor today, but if the Baylor offense gets on a roll, as it is prone to do, then Brown’s career in Austin is as good as over. Should Texas win and Oklahoma knocks off Oklahoma State, Saturday, then Texas will win the Big 12 championship and it will be next to impossible to fire Brown at least this year. While a championship is a perfect swan song, Brown talks as if he has no plans to retire. He won’t have a choice if the Longhorns get Baylored (give up 30-plus points and more than 300 yards in the first half alone).


The Texas-Baylor game can have a profound effect on Florida’s search for an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Applewhite is not considered to be Florida’s first choice to replace Brent Pease, but he will definitely factor in the decision, most likely as a solid backup plan to a group that includes Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, USC interim head coach Clay Helton and North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson. Friends in the coach search business insist that Searels has the right of first refusal to the offensive line job at Florida. If Texas wins and the decision is made to retain Brown, then it’s doubtful that either Applewhite or Searels will make a move. If Brown doesn’t retain his job, then both Applewhite and Searels will be very much in play for Florida.


Applewhite worked for current Arizona State coach Todd Graham at Rice in 2006, taking over the offense of a team that ran the wishbone the year before and transformed the Owls into a 7-6 bowl team (first bowl game in more than 40 years) that produced a thousand yard rusher and a thousand yard receiver. Applewhite worked for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2007 where the Crimson Tide averaged 26.8 points and 372.6 yards per game. He left for Texas in 2008 and became the Longhorns play caller in 2013. The Longhorns head into Saturday’s game averaging 33.1 points, 241.1 passing yards and 200.7 rushing yards. The Longhorns average 4.46 yards per rushing attempt, 7.1 per pass attempt and 5.59 yards per play. At Georgia from 2007-10, Searels offensive lines gave up 14, 16, 12 and 25 sacks while the Bulldogs averaged more than 4.5 yards per rush in 2 in 2007-09, but only 4.07 in 2010. At Texas, the Longhorns gave up 28 sacks Searels first season, then dropped that number to 16 in 2012 and 13 this season.


Mack Brown hasn’t been fired or announced his retirement, but already there are rumors that Nick Saban has bolted Alabama for the Texas job. Every time Texas has been part of a conversation – often – Saban has denied that he has any interest to leave Alabama, but that’s a pattern. He denied that he was leaving Michigan State and he did. He denied leaving LSU for the Dolphins and he did. He denied that he was leaving the Dolphins for Alabama. Texas has the deepest pockets in college sports and money will be no object, so until someone other than Nick Saban is announced as the new head coach, then Nick Saban will be a candidate. The two names that are being whispered should Saban elect to stay at Alabama are Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher and Baylor coach Art Briles. Of the two, my belief is that Fisher would be more likely to say yes.


At some point you had to know that Boise State’s Chris Petersen would see what happens when he leaves his comfort zone. He could have stayed in Boise forever, but Friday elected to take the Washington job, just a four days after Steve Sarkisian left for Southern Cal.  Petersen got a five-year contract that will pay him a guaranteed $18 million and instead of playing in a 33,000-seat stadium with blue Smurf Turf, he will be coaching in one of college football’s most scenic venues. And, instead of having to scrounge for that under the radar player that all the Pac-12 schools overlooked, he will be able to recruit just about any west coast kid he wants. Petersen was 92-12 at Boise. Since it is highly doubtful he wins at that pace in Seattle, it will be very interesting to see how he adjusts to the step up in competition and losing with greater frequency.


Arkansas State’s head coach revolving door looks like it will continue. Hugh Freeze left for Ole Miss after one year and a 10-2 record then Gus Malzahn went 9-3 and left for Auburn after one year. Bryan Harsin took the Red Wolves to a 7-5 record this season. Looks like he will be the new head coach at Boise State … Ball State head coach Pete Lembo should be named the new head coach at Wake Forest … Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson is now the favorite to land the head job at UConn … If June Jones leaves SMU for Hawaii (expected), Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris should emerge as the leading candidate … Auburn gave Gus Malzahn a new six-year deal which starts at $3.85 million and raises automatically by $250,000 a year afterward.


There are few music videos that have ever been able to match Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” The video is so good that I almost can’t listen to the music on the radio or on CD. I have to go to YouTube to watch and listen. I woke up Friday with this song somehow pounding away in my brain, so I had to listen. That’s why I’m sharing it with you today. Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.