A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
RECRUITS HAVEN’T GIVEN UP ON THE GATORS
If there is one thing we’ve learned this week from the outstanding Under Armour All-American Game coverage by Gator Country’s team of Andrew Spivey, Nick de la Torre and Richard Johnson it is that Florida still turns heads when it comes to recruiting. The Gators might have lost a stud recruit (Dalvin Cook) to Florida State but they picked up an outstanding defensive end Thursday from Les Miles’ back yard in New Orleans when Gerald Willis announced his intention to sign with the Gators. Willis is confirmation that Florida and Will Muschamp are seen as a viable option by some of the nation’s best players. Losing Cook was painful but it’s not like new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper doesn’t have talented running backs such as Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown and Adam Lane to work with. He didn’t have a single back at Duke as talented as any one of those three but he found ways to get them the ball for big chunks of yardage. With a new offensive line coach set to be announced, Florida’s recruiting position will be strengthened yet again.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE SEARCH
Several people who have known Muschamp a long time – a couple of which served on the same staffs with him – still contend that Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels will be Florida’s next offensive line coach. Everybody I’ve talked to says that Searels and Roper won’t have any problems getting on the same page since both are SEC guys at heart. There have been some whispers that Muschamp will announce his O-line coach at a media gathering in which Roper is formally introduced, but there is no confirmation of that. It’s simply guesswork for now.
MORE ON THE STANFORD STRENGTH PROGRAM
In addition to injury prevention – only three season-ending injuries that required surgery the last two years – Stanford’s unique strength and conditioning program directed by Virginia Tech grad Shannon Turley, has produced outstanding results in performance. In 2007, the year Turley took over, Stanford averaged 3.0 yards per carry. Since then, Stanford has never rushed for less than 2,395 yards in a season and its worst average per carry was 4.44. Stanford has finished in the top five nationally in fewest yards per carry in each of the past three years, giving up 2.89 per carry in 2013. At the heart of the Turley program is the concept that a player who is in control of his body has more mobility and stability. Emphasis is placed on joint mobility and exceptional flexibility through the use of Pilates, stretching, plyometrics and yoga. There is less emphasis on power squats and Olympic style lifting. The program is so successful that numerous NFL teams are sending their strength and conditioning staffs to Stanford this offseason to try to duplicate what Turley is doing.
IT’S GONNA BE A LONG OFFSEASON IN ALABAMA
It isn’t so much that Alabama lost its last two games that has faithful in the Heart of Dixie standing on the ledge; it’s the way Alabama lost to Auburn and Oklahoma. Alabama gave up 296 rushing yards to Auburn and lost the game on the last play on a 100-yard field goal return. Oklahoma threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns and sacked A.J. McCarron seven times for 52 yards in losses. Now, no one in his right mind would suggest that the wheels are coming off on the Alabama football program, but those two games – and the Texas A&M game earlier in the season – are clearly indicative that this was a highly overrated Alabama football team. You can also bet the farm that Nick Saban is going to hear the kind of criticism that he’s not accustomed to hearing in the weeks and months ahead. It’s going to be a long, long offseason in Alabama.
WILL STOOPS REMAIN AT OKLAHOMA?
There are reports out of Cleveland that the Browns have their eye on Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Stoops has had other opportunities to go to the NFL, but now might be the perfect time. He just got a win over Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl, he’s the winningest coach in Oklahoma history and he can leave the program in much better shape than it was when he took over in 1999. His compensation package is reportedly $6.1 million, which makes him the second highest paid coach in the college game (Saban is the highest at a reported $7.5 million) and you have to wonder how much more would Oklahoma pony up to keep him? He’s from Youngstown, Ohio originally and he grew up a Browns’ fan. He is 53 years old, so it would seem that there won’t ever be a better time to ride off into the sunset.
THE OBLIGATORY TEXAS COACHING SEARCH UPDATE
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that UCLA coach Jim Mora has been engaged in conversations with Texas. In an interview with Los Angeles media, however, Mora seemed totally intent on remaining at UCLA where he’s lined up a stud recruiting class … The Austin American-Statesman, which Wednesday said Texas was expected to interview Baylor coach Art Briles, reported Thursday night that there has been no contact with Briles. Briles, meanwhile, told some of the wealthiest Baylor boosters that he’s not going anywhere … Football Rumor Mill, which has some incredibly close ties to Louisville coach Charlie Strong, says that Strong has yet to speak to Texas AD Steve Patterson.
THE OBLIGATORY PENN STATE COACHING SEARCH UPDATE
The trainwreck known as Penn State says it will have a new coach in place by January 15. Athletic director Dave Joyner says that a “number of prominent head coaches have reached out” to Penn State. That sounds like a bit of a stretch. Even with some of the NCAA sanctions lifted, this is still a program that has a deep hole to dig out of and it isn’t going to help things with former coach Bill O’Brien saying the “Paterno faction” that remains in the program made him glad to get the hell out of Dodge. Former players are very much in favor of Miami head coach Al Golden, who is a former Penn State player and assistant, but why would Golden leave a program that just got out from under the NCAA cloud to go to one that still has time to serve in the NCAA jail?
Pac-12: 6-3; SEC: 5-2; Big 12: 3-2; Conference USA: 3-3; Mountain West: 3-3; ACC: 3-6; Independents: 2-1; American Athletic: 2-2; Big 10: 2-4; Sun Belt: 1-0; MAC: 0-4
Still to play: Friday: Oklahoma State (Big 12)-Missouri (SEC) in the Cotton Bowl; Clemson (ACC)-Ohio State in the Orange Bowl; Saturday: Vanderbilt (SEC)-Houston (American Athletic) in the BBVA Compass Bowl; 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
“Sweet Home Chicago” is one of the great blues songs of all time, written by the Mississippi Delta legend Robert Johnson. This is perhaps the best version ever of the song with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, John Mayer, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmie Vaughn and Johnny Winter playing together on the same stage at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. I’ve never been to Crossroads but I’ve seen it on DVD and it’s an event that is definitely on my bucket list.