When it comes to talent and numbers, very few Division I schools can match the University of Florida’s secondary. Florida has earned its place in the discussion for DBU, churning out one NFL-caliber defensive back after another for years. Now, imagine what the Florida secondary is capable of doing with some serious coaching.
Nothing against Travaris Robinson, who is now the defensive coordinator for Will Muschamp at South Carolina, but Torrian Gray a major step up. Robinson is a fine coach and a tremendous recruiter, but he’s spent the last five years apprenticing under Muschamp. Gray spent the last 11 years working for Bud Foster at Virginia Tech and handling the secondary for some of the best defensive units in the country all by himself. In that Blacksburg, Virginia isn’t exactly the garden spot of the earth, Gray had to develop 2- and 3-star talents and turn them into NFL-quality DBs. At Florida, Gray will be working with more talent than he ever had at Virginia Tech.
If you have to make changes, then go for the best available and there are few coaches in the college game with Gray’s credentials. This is an all-star hire for Jim McElwain, who only had one staff change from last year. Only Ole Miss had fewer changes from 2015 to the 2016 season.
Other coaching staff changes around the SEC:
Alabama: This is the biggest staff shakeup in years at Alabama. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart left for Georgia and took secondary coach Mel Tucker with him as his new DC. Jeremy Pruitt, who was Georgia’s DC last year and is a former Bama assistant, is the new DC. The other really significant hire is Karl Dunbar, who played for Nick Saban at LSU. He replaces Bo Davis, who resigned under fire for alleged recruiting violations and alleged hanky panky with a student.
New coaches (4): Jeremy Pruitt, DC/Linebackers; Derrick Ansley, Secondary; Brent Key, Centers/guards; Karl Dunbar, D-line
Arkansas: Losing O-line coach Sam Pittman to Georgia was a big blow since Arkansas only gave up 14 sacks all last year. His replacement is Kurt Anderson, who last coached in the NFL. Another big hire was former Iowa State HBC Paul Rhoads. That should be helpful to a defense that got torched for 275 passing yards per game last year.
New coaches (3): Kurt Anderson, O-line; Paul Rhoads, Secondary; Reggie Mitchell, Running backs
Auburn: When Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson were hired in 2015, it was touted as the move that would give the Tigers the defense that would take them to a championship. Well, that didn’t happen. Now Muschamp and Robinson have moved over to South Carolina and their replacements are Kevin Steele and Wesley McGriff. Steele has that Peter Principle feel about him, a guy who excels at lower level positions who is out of his element when he’s in charge. McGriff spent the last three years in charge of the New Orleans Saints secondary
New coaches (4): Kevin Steele, DC; Wesley McGriff, Secondary; Kodi Burns, Co-OC/Receivers; Herb Hand, O-line
Georgia: Georgia ran Mark Richt off even though he averaged just a shade under 10 wins a season for 15 years. Kirby Smart is the new head coach and he completely cleaned house. Mel Tucker, who came with Smart from Alabama, is the new DC and that’s a really nice hire since he has been an NFL DC and worked 5 NFL games as an interim head coach. O-line coach Sam Pittman was poached from Arkansas and that’s a big time hire. OC Jim Chaney is being hyped as some kind of a guru but his record isn’t exactly the thing legends are made of. James Coley and Tracy Rocker are better recruiters than on the field coaches. Shane Beamer, son of former Virginia Tech HBC Frank Beamer will be somebody’s head coach in the near future.
New coaches (9): Mel Tucker, DC/Secondary; Jim Chaney, OC/Quarterbacks; Sam Pittman, O-line; James Coley, Receivers; Dell McGee, Running backs; Shane Beamer, Special teams coordinator/Tight ends; Glenn Shumann, Inside linebackers; Kevin Sherrer, Outside linebackers; Tracy Rocker, D-line
Kentucky: Mark Stoops made a nice hire when he brought in Eddie Gran from Cincinnati as his OC and added Darin Hinshaw as his QB coach. There are some nice pieces to the offensive puzzle so the Wildcats should improve. Now if UK only had some talent on the defensive side of the ball.
New coaches (4): Eddie Gran, OC/Running backs; Darin Hinshaw, Co-OC/Quarterbacks; Steve Clinkscale, Secondary
Dave Aranda, DC; Dameyune Craig, WR; Jabbar Juluke, Running backs;
Jeff Grimes, O-line
Mississippi State: Manny Diaz did a nice job with the MSU defense last year but when he left for Miami, it was the start of a defensive staff exodus. Overall, the new staff is an upgrade. New DC Peter Sirmon is a lights out recruiter and thought to be head coach material. The secondary should be much improved under former FSU All-American Terrell Buckley and Maurice Linquist, formerly of Iowa State. New D-line coach Brian Baker spent 17 of the 18 previous seasons in the NFL.
New coaches (4): Peter Sirmon, DC/Linebackers; Brian Baker, D-line; Terrell Buckley, Cornerbacks; Maurice Linquist, Safeties
Missouri: When Gary Pinkel resigned as HBC after 15 years on the job, Missouri elevated Barry Odom from DC to HBC. He kept three assistants and raised eyebrows when he canned D-line coach Craig Kuligowski, who made Mizzou a pipeline to the NFL. The new DC is DeMontie Cross, who worked for Gary Patterson at TCU as the co-DC. Josh Heupel, canned just a couple of years ago by Bob Stoops at Oklahoma is the new OC. Jackie Shipp, hired from Arizona State, has the unenviable position of replacing Kuligowski.
New coaches (6): DeMontie Cross, DC/Linebackers; Josh Heupel, OC/Quarterbacks; Glen Elarbee, O-line; Joe Jon Finley, Tight ends; Jackie Shipp, D-line; Greg Brown, Cornerbacks
Ole Miss (0): Ole Miss didn’t lose any coaches but that could change if the allegations by Laremy Tunsil’s former stepfather are proven true. Chris Kiffin, who coaches the D-line, was pulled off the recruiting trail back in the spring, and there are allegations that another assistant or two was involved in some shenanigans the NCAA has investigated.
South Carolina: This is Will Muschamp’s second chance to be a head coach and it will take plenty of patience in Columbia because the cupboards are fairly bare of talent. The new staff is loaded with recruiters such as Bryan McClendon, who was Mark Richt’s top recruiter at Georgia, Travaris Robinson and South Carolina high school coaching legend Bobby Bentley. From Muschamp’s Florida days are Robinson, Kurt Roper, Coleman Hutzler, Mike Peterson and strength coach Jeff Dillman.
New coaches (8): Kurt Roper, Co-OC/Quarterbacks; Bryan McClendon, Co-OC/Receivers; Travaris Robinson, DC/Secondary; Coleman Hutzler, Special teams coordinator/Linebackers; Mike Peterson, Outside linebackers; Lance Thompson, D-line; Pat Washington, Tight ends, Bobby Bentley, Running backs
Tennessee: New DC Bob Shoop is being touted as the missing link that will get Tennessee over the top. He is an upgrade and there is a lot of talent to work with, particularly on the D-line and in the secondary. If Shoop isn’t the difference-maker and Tennessee fails to live up to expectations the entire UT coaching staff could be looking for work in January.
New coaches (2): Bob Shoop, DC; Larry Scott, Tight ends
Texas A&M: Much is being made of the hiring of Noel Mazzone as the OC. Mazzone has a history of doing well for a couple of years, then wearing out his welcome. Mazzone’s success this year could be largely dependent on the work of new O-line coach Jim Turner, who was on Mike Sherman’s A&M staff from 2006-11 and spent last year at Cincinnati. Receivers coach Aaron Moorehead and D-line coach Jim Turner were solid hires but if the Aggies don’t win at least 9 games this year, they’ll be job searching in January.
New coaches (4): Noel Mazzone, OC/Quarterbacks; Jim Turner, O-line; Aaron Moorehead, Receivers; David Turner, D-Tackles
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason continued the overhaul of the coaching staff in the offseason with four new hires. Entering his third year on the job, Mason has only one assistant who has been with him from the beginning, QB coach Gerry Gdowski. Ironically, Vandy’s QBs have seriously under-performed in Mason’s two years.
New coaches (4): C.J. Ah You, D-line; Jeff Genyk, Special teams coordinator/Running backs; Osia Lewis, Outside linebackers; Cameron Norcross, O-line
5 BEST COORDINATOR HIRES FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
1. Greg Schiano, Ohio State, DC: Schiano is drooling. The last time he saw this much talent he was the DC for Butch Davis at Miami.
2. Dave Aranda, LSU, DC: An amoeba would be an upgrade over former DC Kevin Steele. Aranda will turn LSU’s defense fierce this year.
3. Sterlin Gilbert, Texas, OC: He’s 37. He will be somebody’s head coach before he’s 40.
4. Bob Shoop, Tennessee, DC: If UT is to finally live up to the hype it will be because Shoop’s defense comes through in a big way.
5. Chip Lindsey, Arizona State, OC: The Southern Miss offense lit it up last year with Lindsey as the OC. He’s drooling now. Defense and the Pac-12 are often two ships that pass in the night.
Just missed: Manny Diaz, Miami, DC; Eddie Gran, Kentucky, OC; Brady Hoke, Oregon, DC; Tee Martin, Southern Cal, OC
THE 10 BEST SAFETIES IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
When it comes to the safety position, no conference has more talent than the Southeastern Conference. Three of the best four and six of the top 10 safeties in the country hail from the SEC and there are at least 15 who are on the radar of NFL scouts. Here are the top 10 safeties in Division I for 2016:
1. Eddie Jackson, Alabama, SR (46 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, 2 TDs, 1 forced fumble)
2. Marcus Maye, Florida, SR (82 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 3 QB hurries, 5 forced fumbles)
3. Jabril Peppers, Michigan, JR (45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups; 18-72 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 8-79 receiving; 17-194 punt returns; 8-223 yards kickoff returns)
4. Jamal Adams, LSU, JR (67 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble)
5. Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville, SR (88 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble)
6. Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma, SR (75 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 3 pass breakups)
7. Dominick Sanders, Georgia, JR (48 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 6 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 1 TD)
8. Demetrious Cox, Michigan State, SR (79 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1 TD)
9. Donovan Wilson, Texas A&M (63 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 5 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 1 TD, 1 QB hurry, 3 forced fumbles.
10. Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State, SR (108 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble)
Just missed: Nate Holley, Kent State, SR; Max Redfield, Notre Dame, SR; Jonathan Ford, Auburn, SR; Budda Baker, Washington, JR; Nate Gerry, Nebraska, JR.
Tennessee will avoid lengthy court exposure by settling with the eight women who were listed on the Title IX lawsuit. Tennessee will spend $2.48 million to make this go away. It is estimated that going to court would have cost the school in $5.5 million in legal fees alone.
Apparently Dwayne Wade’s days in Miami have come to an end. It is being reported that he will sign with the Chicago Bulls.
They’ve reached the semifinal round at Wimbledon. Over on the men’s side no Americans. Imagine that. Over on the women’s side, Venus and Serena Williams only have to win their matches today to set up an all-American, all-Williams championship.
Portugal will play the winner of today’s Germany-France match for the UEFA European championship. For my money, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is easily the best player in the world. His header for the first goal against Wales in the semis yesterday was the kind of play you expect from the best player in the world.
Duke play-by-play announcer Bob Harris will be retiring at the end of the men’s basketball season. He was good from the beginning but he’s gotten better with the years. The broadcasting profession is going to be losing one of its very best.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
How many of you have watched at least one set of the nearly two weeks of TV coverage of Wimbledon?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I was listening to my radio while driving today and heard “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” by Elton John. As soon as I got home, I had to listen to about an hour of Sir Elton. His career is winding down, but he’s still a great talent and a tremendous showman. Today’s music is a 2015 concert from San Francisco.