No sooner will foot hit the ball to begin the college football season next week than we can start counting the days until the first HBC gets the axe. Here is the final Countdown to Firing Day preseason list. Let the firings begin!
ON LIFE SUPPORT
1. Darrell Hazell, Purdue: He’s 6-30 after three years on the job and it’s not going to get any better this year. They miss the gold old days when you could count on Joe Tiller for eight wins and a mid-tier bowl.
2. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado: They had such high expectations when Mac arrived. This is a job he should have never taken. Colorado is a graveyard.
3. Paul Haynes, Kent State: Kent State is the same school that gave us coaches like Don James, Lou Holtz, Gary Pinkel and that Nick guy at Alabama. Expectations are greater than 9-26 after three years.
4. Doug Martin, New Mexico State: He’s actually not a bad coach, but he’s in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which isn’t exactly brimming with talent, and NMSU has been booted out of the Sun Belt. Getting kicked out of the Sun Belt is like losing a war to the Cayman Islands.
5. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio): The Cradle of Coaches is becoming The Graveyard of Coaches, a place where bright guys with good football minds go to see their brains turn to mush. He’s 5-19 in two years. They should have hired Ron Zook and they know it.
6. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: James Franklin showed the wine and cheese tailgate set that you can win at Vandy. Derek Mason has so far reminded them what it was like pre-Franklin when putting up a good fight made everybody raise a glass of Chardonnay and peel a grape after the game. Mason needs to go bowling.
7. Ron Caragher, San Jose State: Why are they intent on finding a new coach at Do You Know the Way to San Jose State? Their facilities can’t match a good top level high school program in Texas and the stadium is rarely more than half full. He needs seven wins badly.
8. Craig Bohl, Wyoming: He probably wakes up every morning and asks his wife to kick him in the butt until his nose bleeds for ever leaving North Dakota State for Wyoming, where it snows more than it ever did at NDSU. He might lose fingers and toes to frostbite in Laramie. At least in Fargo he played indoors.
9. Cris Creighton, Eastern Michigan: The 3-21 record in two seasons is bad enough. Drawing less than 3,000 to a home game with UMass is worse. He could have a losing season and keep his job if the fighting EMUs were to average close to 20,000 at Rynearson Stadium. They won’t, of course.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
1. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: Back-to-back 8-5 seasons and the exodus of three stud QBs has Sumlin’s head on the block. Nine regular season wins should save his job, but some folks say he might need 10. The buyout would be more than $15 million, a lot of money most places, but remember, they paid $450 million cash to tear down and rebuild Kyle Field.
2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: When the NCAA says it’s talking to kids at just about every school in the SEC West to inquire what Ole Miss was offering in the recruiting process it’s time to circle the wagons and hope you’ve got dirty pictures of the school prez and AD handy in case you need them.
3. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: Until now, the buyout has been far beyond what is affordable. Jettisoning him now would still cost a pretty penny but it wouldn’t totally break the bank. Through five years he’s 36-28.
4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: There is only so much good will you can get for losing in the last seconds of the national championship game your first year on the job. Now it’s about what have you done for us lately and the Aubrinites look at big brother in Tuscaloosa with another national championship and that is cause for anxiety. He survives with eight regular season wins but anything less and they’ll bite the bullet on the buyout ($9 million).
5. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: The folks in Lubbock really wish he would just go away. This is season four and all he has to show for the previous three is a 19-19 record. Anything less than eight regular season wins and he’s a goner.
6. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest: They really don’t expect more than 6-7 wins a year in Winston-Salem. They’re quite content with that, but not with the 6-18 mark Clawson has turned in the last two years.
7. Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic: If he gets anywhere close to break even he will get one more year. It helps that he works cheap.
8. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: It’s not the 3-9 record last year that really has the alums of the North Avenue Trade School upset. It’s the 28-25 record between 2010-13. That was followed by an 11-3 in 2014 and that’s what the alums think they should do every year.
9. Butch Jones, Tennessee: Butch could lose to Florida and still be gainfully employed if he wins the SEC East and goes to Atlanta. If he loses to Florida and doesn’t go to Atlanta, he’s as good as gone and they’ll bite the bullet on the $10 million it would take to buy him out.
VERY WEAK PULSE
1. Paul Petrino, Idaho: This Division I experiment just hasn’t worked out and Idaho will return to its D1AA roots, which is where it should have been all along. Petrino can actually coach, but will he stay around or become someone’s coordinator somewhere that they actually care about football?
2. Charlie Strong, Texas: This is a dicey situation. Strong has the Longhorns on the verge of something good, but the alums have never been known for their patience. He really needs 8-9 wins this year.
3. Todd Graham, Arizona State: He’s been there four years and taken the Sun Devils to four bowl games but he hasn’t won a championship and that makes the natives very restless.
4. Trent Miles, Georgia State: They really were looking forward to firing him last year but then he took the Panthers to a bowl game. Okay, so it was something called the Cure Bowl. Cure what? Who cares? It was a bowl. That bought Trent another year. He really needs six wins again.
SAVED BY THE BUYOUT
1. Les Miles, LSU: They were ready to can Les last year in the final regular season game until someone casually mentioned how much it would cost to buy him out and how much it would cost to bring Jimbo Fisher in as the head coach. It would cost more than LSU can currently afford to fire him. Besides, he could win it all this year and then they’ll NEVER get rid of him. To buy him out now would be a cool $12.9 million.
2. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: If this were basketball, someone would write the check for $14 million and no one would blink, but this is football, which is what you do until basketball season in the Bluegrass.
3. James Franklin, Penn State: He’s 14-12 in two seasons and so much more was expected but he’s not going anywhere. He’s got a great lawyer.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Asked if he might elect to play two quarterbacks when Alabama opens its season in Dallas against Southern Cal, Nick Saban grinned and quipped, “Like I’d tell you if we were going to” … Alabama is still waiting an answer to find if stud freshman DT Raekwon Davis will be academically eligible. If he’s eligible, he will play … Keep an eye on freshman RB B.J. Emmons. He could take over as the #1 in a very short time.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks named their team captains: LT Dan Skipper, LB Brooks Ellis, RB Kody Walker and DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Auburn: This is somewhat of a shock, but Gus Malzahn named Sean White the starting quarterback over juco transfer John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson. “We’re excited for Sean. He’s earned it,” Malzahn said. Of the three QBs, White is the worst runner. Let’s see how long he remains the starting QB.
FLORIDA: It turns out that WR C.J. Worton’s ankle injury is worse than expected. It’s a high ankle sprain and there is no timetable set for his return ... Jalen Tabor and C’yontai Lewis will miss game one against UMass. Still no update on the official status of Antonio Callaway although he’s practicing. Freshmen WRs Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells haven’t practiced this week and they won’t play until their legal status is clear.
Georgia: Kirby Smart says he wants to see how his QBs handle a game plan before he names a starter among freshman Jacob Eason, GR Greyson Lambert and RSJR Brice Ramsey. If it’s not Eason, consider that the greatest upset since Samson slew X Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey ... RB Nick Chubb practiced Thursday without a brace or sleeve on his knee.
Kentucky: When the Wildcats open their season against Southern Miss, they not only face a team with lots of moving parts returning from a 9-win season and 39.9 points per game, but the offensive coordinator will be Shannon Dawson, who was UK’s OC last year. At Southern Miss, Dawson has a vastly superior QB than the one he had at Kentucky. Nick Mullens threw for 4,476 yards and 38 TDs in 2015. Do you think Dawson might have some ideas about where to attack the UK defense?
LSU: Even with Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander moving to the NFL and with George Brown Jr. transferring out to Miami, LSU has five offensive tackles in the rotation plus four committed for 2017. Brown’s departure leaves the Tigers with 18 scholarship linemen.
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen says he will name a starting QB on Monday, but made it perfectly clear that whoever gets the first game nod might be the #1 for long. Mullen said, “The problem is we come out Monday, okay, this guy is ready to start. Now we transition to game planning and they don’t handle it well. I might have to flip and go back.” Mullen says there isn’t much separation between Damien Williams, Nick Fitzgerald and Nick Tiano.
Missouri: Mizzou starting guard Kevin Pendleton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the O-line is “going to be tough, bad-ass MFers, as Coach (Josh, OC) Heupel says. That might not be appropriate but that’s what the hell we’re going to be.” Mizzou’s offense finished dead last in every SEC offensive category last year when the Tigers scored 15 offensive touchdowns.
Ole Miss: Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reports, “NCAA Enforcement representatives have visited Auburn and Mississippi State, and perhapsat least one more SEC Western Division school, this summer to speak with players who were recruited by Ole Miss. The players were granted immunity from NCAA sanctions in exchange for truthful accounts of their recruitment, sources said.”
South Carolina: After 10 straight non-losing seasons, South Carolina dipped to 3-9 last year in Steve Spurrier’s final year in Columbia. New HBC Will Muschamp isn’t letting the Gamecocks live in the past but pointing everything to the present and the future. Muschamp said, “We need to move on. It’s a new era. It’s a new time. It’s a new day. It’s a new football team.”
Tennessee: After a disappointing freshman year when he registered only 12 tackles and one sack, DT Kahlil McKenzie changed his dietary habits and got in the gym. He played at more than 350 last year. He’s at 305 now and is expected to play a prominent role in Bob Shoop’s new defensive scheme.
Texas A&M: CBS Sports SEC game analyst Gary Danielson calls Texas A&M his “sleeper” pick to win the league because of a favorable schedule. Danielson said, “A&M has got a very unique schedule this year. And, if they’re able to get off at the start – they’ve got Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU at home – they can lose to Alabama and somehow figure a way to still be in the hunt in this thing, I think.”
Vanderbilt: Even with the loss of Andrew Jelks, Vandy feels good about its tackles (Will Holden and Justin Skule) and center (Barrett Gouger). The problems are with the guards where only Bruno Reagan (started last two games) has any experience.
16 SEC PLAYERS ON USA TODAY PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA TEAM
(SEC players in bold face)
First team offense
QB: Deshaun Watson, Clemson; RB: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; Leonard Fournette, LSU; WR: Calvin Ridley, Alabama; JuJu Smith-Schuster, Southern Cal; TE: Jake Butt, Michigan; OL: Cam Robinson, Alabama; Dan Feeney, Indiana; Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia; Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh; Roderick Johnson, Florida Sate
First team defense
DL: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M; Malik McDowell, Michigan State; Lowell Lotuleliei, Utah; Jonathan Allen, Alabama; LB: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State; Reuben Foster, Alabama; Anthony Walker, Northwestern; CB: Desmond King, Iowa; Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; S: Budda Baker, Washington; Derwin James, Florida State
First team specialists
K: Jake Elliott, Memphis; P: JK Scott, Alabama; RET: Evan Berry, Tennessee
Second team offense
QB: Josh Rosen, UCLA; RB: Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Royce Freeman, Oregon; WR: Gabe Marks, Washington State; Christian Kirk, Texas A&M; TE: O.J. Howard, Alabama; OL: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame; Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame; Pat Elflein, Ohio State; Dan Skipper, Arkansas; Zach Banner, Southern Cal
Second team defense:
DL: Charles Harris, Missouri; Carlos Watkins, Clemson; DeMarcus Walker, Florida State; Derek Barnett, Tennessee; LB: Jabril Peppers, Michigan; Malik Jefferson, Texas; Devonte Fields, Louisville; CB: Damontae Kazee, San Diego State; JALEN TABOR, FLORIDA; S: MARCUS MAYE, FLORIDA; Eddie Jackson, Alabama
Second team specialists
K: Andy Phillips, Utah; P: Austin Rehkow, Idaho; RET: Adoree’ Jackson, Southern Cal
If Johnny Manziel is looking for a fresh start and a chance to prove he’s worthy of playing in the NFL he might try the Canadian Football League, whose commissioner (Jeffrey Orridge) says would welcome him provided he can clean up his act. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats hold first rights on Manziel.
Speaking of the CFL, former Gator Chris Rainey is having an all-star season as a kick returner for the British Columbia Lions. Rainey is third in the CFL in punt return yardage with two returns for TDs and second in the league in kickoff return yardage. Loucheiz Purifoy is a teammate of Rainey’s and a starting CB.
The Brazilians are filing false robbery report charges against Ryan Lochte even though USA Today says the truth of the “robbery” incident is somewhere in between Lochte’s claims and those of the government. They need to let this one go.
There is talk of a domed stadium on the Las Vegas strip to lure the Oakland Raiders. Backers of the stadium say they won’t take a dime less than $750 million in public funding to help defer the cost of the $1.9 billion project.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
NFL teams are owned by billionaires. Is the impact of their football teams worth them holding cities hostage for hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to build new stadiums? Or should they all follow Jerry Jones’ example and do it all on their own dime?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Ben Harper has been winning awards (two Grammies in 2005, Grammy for best blues album in 2014) and wowing crowds with his mastery of at least eight instruments for years. He’s ventured into gospel, reggae, soul, funk and blues so pinpointing what he does best is rather difficult. I just found this live performance from last week that’s worth a listen.