GRADING THE CORNERBACKS
As we finalize the grades for each position in the 2016 season, a look at the cornerbacks.
Jalen Tabor: He’s a lockdown corner who is a mortal lock to go in the first round when the NFL drafts this spring. He made first team All-SEC and second team All-America for Football Writers Association, American Football Coaches Association, CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated and third team AP. Regular season stats: 32 tackles, 2 tackles for -13 yards, 1 sack for -11 yards, 4 interceptions (1 TD return), 5 pass breakups and 1 fumble recovery.
Quincy Wilson: He was the perfect complement to Tabor so it was pick your poison for opposing QBs. Like Tabor, he will go in the first round of the NFL Draft so he’s not coming back. He would have been first team all-conference in any league but the SEC, which is loaded with stud corners. Regular season stats: 31 tackles, 3.5 tackles for -12 yards, 1 sack for -8 yards, 3 interceptions (1 TD return), 6 pass breakups, 1 QB hurry
Duke Dawson: He played corner and nickel but he’s probably best suited for safety. He’s a good tackler and showed good ability to break on the ball this year. He will still play corner and nickel next year barring injury. Regular season stats: 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for -12 yards, 1 interception (1 TD return), 7 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble
Joseph Putu: Played in eight games and had limited productivity after transferring in from juco. Regular season stats: 4 tackles
Chris Williamson: Played in eight games with limited productivity. Regular season stats: 5 tackles
Chauncey Gardner: Regular season stats: 30 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups
McArthur Burnett: Took a redshirt.
C.J. McWilliams: Took a redshirt.
Grade A: Tabor and Wilson were so good a lot of teams simply eliminated throwing the ball in their direction and concentrated on throwing elsewhere. Both are slated to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft so there is very little chance they’ll be back for a senior encore. The cupboard isn’t exactly bare when they leave but the talent pool is definitely diminished. Dawson played mostly at nickel and is probably best at safety but depth will be an issue next year so he’s probably not moving anywhere. Gardner is a football player. Put him on the field and he’ll find a place to play. He’s got a future as a corner with enough size and strength to handle the bigger receivers. Putu and Williamson each played in eight games with limited productivity. They have to show up big in the spring. Burnett and McWilliams both took a redshirt. Neither one is very big but they’re both quick and have good cover skills.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
Heart of Texas Bowl: Army 38, North Texas 31 (OT)
Military Bowl: Wake Forest 34, Temple 26
Holiday Bowl: Minnesota 17, Washington State 12
Pinstripe Bowl: Pitt vs. Northwestern
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia vs. Miami
Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana vs. Utah
Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Kansas State
MONEY MATTERS AND OTHER NUMBERS FOR FINAL FOUR
Athletic department operating revenue
1. Ohio State $167.2 million; 2. Alabama $148.9 million; 3. Washington $103.5 million; 4. Clemson $83.5 million
Total operating expenses
1. Ohio State $154 million; 2. Alabama $132.4 million; 3. Washington $104.4 million; 4. Clemson $82.9 million
1. Ohio State 36; 2. Washington 22; 3. Alabama 21; 4. Clemson 19
1. Ohio State 724; 2. Alabama 452; 3. Washington 404; 4. Clemson 385
Debt service for facilities
1. Ohio State $28.6 million; 2. Washington $15.8 million; 3. Alabama $15.2 million; 4. Clemson $2.1 million
Money given back to the university
1. Alabama $5.3 million; 2. Ohio State $75,470; 3. Clemson and Washington $0
1. Alabama $35 million; 2. Washington $26.3 million; 3. Ohio State $24.8 million; 4. Clemson $15.4 million
1. Ohio State $6.2 million; 2. Alabama $3.7 million; 3. Washington $3.7 million; 4.
1. Nick Saban $6.9 million; 2. Urban Meyer $6.1 million; 3. Dabo Swinney $4.4 million; 4. Chris Peterson $3.6 million
Assistant coach salary pool
1. Clemson $5.4 million; 2. Alabama $5.3 million; 3. Ohio State $4.6 million; 4. Washington $3.6 million
Support staff pay
1. Clemson $3.3 million; 2. Alabama $3.2 million; 3. Ohio State $3 million; 4. Washington $2.4 million
1. Alabama $1.3 million; 2. Clemson $884,960; 3. Ohio State $614,619; 4. Washington $452,610
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says the way for Washington to beat Alabama is take the run away from QB Jalen Hurts. “Keep him in the pocket,” Freeze said. “I’m not sold he can win it all as a passer.” Freeze did say Alabama’s defense is so good, however, that the Crimson Tide could win even without a good QB performance. “Their defense, though, they can win it all,” Freeze said.
Arkansas: Defensive coordinator Robb Smith says the Hogs will have a “wrinkle or two” ready for Virginia Tech. They’ll need it to take on VaTech QB Jerod Evans, who threw for 3,309 yards and 27 TDs and ran for 759 yards and 19 more scores. Virginia Tech averaged 448.2 yards and 35 points per game in the regular season.
Auburn: Auburn plays Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes Benz Super Dome. Since 2004, Auburn is 8-1 in games played in domed stadiums. The only loss was the 2012 season opener with Clemson played in Atlanta.
Georgia: Safety Dominick Sanders won’t decide about the NFL Draft until after Georgia plays TCU in the Liberty Bowl on Friday.
Kentucky: The Wildcats were weak against the run in 2016 (225 yards per game, 5.14 per carry by opponents) so they’ve got their work cut out for them in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia Tech, which averaged 257.42 yards per game and 5.52 yards per carry.
Mississippi State: Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson is leaving to become the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Houston.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had a cumulative GPA of 2.8 in the fall semester. All players are academically eligible to play in the Birmingham Bowl against South Florida.
Tennessee: While some high profile players such as LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey will sit out their team’s bowl games. All-American defensive end Derek Barnett says the thought of skipping the Vols’ Music City Bowl date with Nebraska never crossed his mind. “I’m from Tennessee,” Barnett said. “I play at Tennessee. It would be disrespectful not to play.”
Vanderbilt: Running back Ralph Webb, already the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,152 yards, will return for his senior season. There is still no word about MLB Zach Cunningham, who could go in the first round of the NFL Draft.
BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL
“We have played better quarterbacks than him. I’m not taking anything away from him. I don’t think he is a bad player. He definitely is a good player, but he does not stand out as one of the best quarterbacks that we have played this year.” – Clemson safety Jadar Johnson talking about Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, whom the Tigers play in the Fiesta Bowl Saturday.
Let’s see. Clemson played Heisman Trophy QB Lamar Jackson of Louisville, three pretty good ones in Nathan Peterman of Pitt, Jerod Evans of Virginia Tech and Deondre Francois of Florida State and a bunch of quarterbacks who are nothing to write home about. Other than Jackson, there isn’t a quarterback Clemson has faced as experienced (25-3 record as a starter) or with the kind of productivity – 6,254 passing yards and 69 career touchdowns, 2,467 rushing yards and 31 career touchdowns.
Add to the fact that nobody in the coaching profession is better than Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at using bulletin board material to get a player or a team psyhed and ready to play in a big game. Remember when Meyer was Florida’s HBC and the Gators played Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship? In the Florida hotel there was an entire wall of bulletin board material, some directed at the team in general, some directed at units and some directed at individual players. Meyer made sure the Gators felt righteously disrespected and it showed in the way the Gators played the game. Florida came out of the tunnel with a chip on its shoulder and it stayed there, all the way to a 41-14 rout of the mighty Buckeyes.
Clemson is going to have enough problems with a very good Ohio State team. Facing a quarterback as talented as Barrett playing as if he has something to prove is one problem the Tigers don’t need.
RECRUITING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
At the Under Armour All-American game, 85 players were asked which fan base does the best job recruiting them via social media. The top vote getters were Georgia (9), Michigan (7), Penn State (6), Alabama (6), LSU (5) and Oklahoma (5). Recruits were also asked which fan base is the most annoying on social media. The results were Tennessee (9), Texas (8), Alabama (6), Michigan (5), Florida (4), Miami (4), Nebraska (4) and Texas A&M (4). ESPN reports that 17% of the players at the game report they have been influenced by social interaction with fans on social media.
THIS IS WHAT I HATE ABOUT BOWL GAMES
Temple put together a great season to go 10-3 and win the American Athletic Conference championship. It was good enough that HBC Matt Rhule was offered a massive contract to take his traveling show to Waco to coach Baylor, employment effective immediately. So Temple goes into the bowl game with Wake Forest absent the guy who took them to great heights and the Owls lost 34-26 after falling behind 31-10 at the half. The same thing happened to Houston, which lost HBC Tom Herman to Texas. The Cougars were torched by San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
I understand that it’s a business and business opportunities don’t grow on trees, but there has to be a better way of doing things than poaching coaches prior to bowl games. It’s not fair to the kids whose blood, sweat and tears got the team that far nor is it fair to the fan base that writes the checks to make the program go.
I don’t know that there is a clearcut solution to what is a growing problem. More and more schools aren’t waiting until the end of the season to fire their coaches and with the recruiting schedule the way it is – national signing day is the first Wednesday in February – it’s imperative to get the new coach on board as quickly as possible. I’ve heard suggestions that national signing day is moved back a month and while that might help, coaches need December for their early enrollees and jucos.
I feel for the kids who lose their coach before the bowl game, but until someone comes up with a solution that will satisfy the coaches and athletic directors, we’re stuck with the current dilemma.
Miami hasn’t won a bowl game since the Canes beat Nevada 21-20 in the MPC Computers Bowl in 2006. Miami faces West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando tonight.
Forbes came out with its list of the 20 richest celebrities. Athletes making the list were (4) Michael Jordan $1.2 billion; (7) Tiger Woods $740 million; and (18) Phil Mickelson $375 million.
The Buffalo Bills fired head coach Rex Ryan, who was 15-16 in less than two full seasons on the job. Now, I’m not a big Rex Ryan fan, but he’s not the guy who drafted quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel. If the Bills want to get serious about winning football games, they need to fire the general manager and find someone who knows how to put a team together.
Brett McMurphy of ESPN is reporting that UConn is seriously thinking about bringing back former coach Randy Edsall. Edsall coached UConn from 1999-2010 before leaving for Maryland, where he was fired after the 2015 season.
Russell Westbrook notched his 15th triple double of the season for the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night with 29 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Miami Heat. For the season, Westbrook is averaging 31.7 points, 10.9 assists per game and 10.4 rebounds.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Currently, the Gators are ranked #20 nationally in Scout.com’s recruiting rankings for 2017. That’s the eighth-best class in the SEC. Are you concerned that UF is falling way behind in the talent race or do you believe Jim McElwain is simply recruiting players who fit his system and recruiting rankings don’t matter all that much?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Eric Clapton will do a 7-show tour this spring with two dates in New York, two in LA and three in London. He’s said to be considering retirement because of arthritis in his hands. Today’s music is Clapton’s 2005 album “Back Home.”