Penn State Nittany Lions: Alabama Crimson Tide

3-point stance: Texas two-step

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
5:30
AM ET
1. Duane Akina became the seventh assistant from Mack Brown’s staff at Texas to get another job when Stanford hired him as secondary coach. Co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt, the two highest-paid assistants, remain on the market. One interesting note: Most coaching contracts see to it that a fired coach gets the agreed-upon amount. If he is hired elsewhere for less than that amount, the first school makes up the difference. Not Texas. If you take another job, Texas is done.

2. Dr. Joab Thomas, the former president of the University of Alabama and Penn State University, died last week at age 81. While at Alabama, Thomas endured the controversy of hiring Ray Perkins and Bill Curry to replace the legendary Paul Bryant. In 1990, Thomas went to State College, Pa., where the equally legendary Joe Paterno turned 65 the following year. When someone asked him about Paterno retiring, Thomas said, “You can't ask one man to replace both Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno.”

3. Jake Trotter’s post Monday described the desire of West Virginia players to turn the program around after a 4-8 record last season. Injuries contributed a great deal to the Mountaineers’ troubles. But the physical and mental burden of traveling to the Big 12 footprint will be an annual drag on West Virginia football. The good news is that in this season’s nine-game conference schedule, the 5/4 split tips to Milan Puskar Stadium. The bad news is that the season opens with a neutral-site game against Alabama in Atlanta.
1. I am willing to give Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich a pass on Bobby Petrino. Jurich hired Petrino at Louisville 11 years ago, the first head coaching position Petrino had at any level. Jurich knows the man and Jurich knows what he is getting into. I don’t think it’s a gamble at all. But here’s the unusual part of the story: how many bosses give a guy his first chance at the big time and, no disrespect to Western Kentucky, his second chance at the big time?

2. Michigan hired away Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and here’s betting both Nussmeier and Tide head coach Nick Saban were ready to move on. There was talk in Newport Beach over the weekend that former USC coach Lane Kiffin may end up running the Crimson Tide offense. It may be an ideal job for Kiffin -- Saban doesn’t allow his assistants to speak to the media. Whoever it is better know how to convert a fourth down in the red zone. Alabama’s last two losses in the SEC (Texas A&M in ’12, Auburn in ’13) hinged on the failure to do so.

3. Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Penn State must be interested in each other. The university interviewed him Monday even as San Francisco began its preparation for the NFC semifinal Sunday at Carolina. Roman has no connection to Penn State, other than being a Jersey guy, which means he may be able to recruit the neighborhood. Bill O’Brien didn’t have a connection, either, and that worked out well.


Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Big Ten Friday mailblog

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
4:00
PM ET
Sadly, there's no Big Ten football this weekend for the first time since August. I'll be counting the minutes until bowl season.

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.

To the inbox ...

Matthew from Minneapolis writes: Hey Adam, I can't help but feeling you've been dodging my question about "national brand teams" in Michigan/Penn State. What qualitative or quantitative data do you have to substantiate these claims? You recently wrote "...what they're used to seeing, and that's Michigan/Penn State [being good]..." really? When was the last time either of these teams were even remotely decent?

Adam Rittenberg: Matthew, I'm not sure how old you are. If you're under 30, the Michigan and PSU brands might not resonate for you as much as Wisconsin's, MSU's and Iowa's. But it's different for those who remember Michigan's national title in 1997 and five Big Ten championships between 1997-2004, not to mention the program's long-term history. The same holds true for those who remember Penn State's national titles in the 1980s or the great teams in 1994, 2005 and 2008.

You want data that validates Michigan and Penn State as big brands? Look at the money they bring in. They're always included in Forbes' list of most valuable college football teams. They have huge stadiums, massive alumni/fan bases and plenty of NFL alumni. I'm not arguing that Michigan and, to a lesser extent because of the circumstances, Penn State are underachieving. I'm actually underscoring that in Michigan's case. But they're still national brands because of what they've done over time.


Ron from Minneapolis writes: Hi, Adam. I think the Gophers got the shaft this year for their bowl game. Gophers fans don't travel well because they end up in bad bowl games. I would bet anything that had they been selected to the Gator Bowl, the fan base would be very good. What I worry about is, even if they would go 9-3 or 10-2 next year, they will still get passed over to a good bowl because of fan travel? It's hard to recruit and become a contender when people don't even watch a lower bowl game like this. As fans, how do we get the word out to the bowl committees so this doesn't keep happening?

Adam Rittenberg: Ron, the good news for you and your fellow Gophers fans is that the Big Ten, beginning in 2014, will take over the bowl selection process rather than put it solely in the hands of bowl officials. Bowls and teams will be assigned to tiers, and the league will work to avoid repeat destinations or repeat opponents for teams. "We're going to really want to have different teams in different bowls," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in announcing the new bowl lineup in June. "... You'll see a real focus on getting diversity and freshness."

All that said, it's important for Minnesota fans to show up at this year's Texas Bowl, support a good team and begin to change the perception about how well they travel. Quite frankly, you're overestimating the gap between the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl and the Texas Bowl. The Gator Bowl has some more tradition, but I'd argue the Texas Bowl is in better location with a better time slot, away from the New Year's Day gridlock. Bowl committees don't care about head-to-head results or fans whining about being passed over. You probably won't have this problem in the future, but you still should go and support your team if possible.


Todd from Peoria, Ill., writes: How did Ohio State end up playing Clemson and Alabama playing Oklahoma? Given how close both came to the title game, wouldn't that be a better match-up than either got this year? It would prove how the (true) best SEC team this year compares to the best available B1G team and whether OSU had any business thinking of playing for the crystal football. Also, what do you think of the apparent decision by Tim Beckman to keep DC Tim Banks despite two years of dismal defense by my beloved Illini?

Adam Rittenberg: Todd, it has more to do with the current relationships between BCS bowls and certain leagues. The ACC's tie to the Discover Orange Bowl led the bowl to replace Florida State with Clemson. The same held true with the SEC and the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which replaced Auburn with Alabama. Ohio State-Alabama would have been great, though I was hoping the Sugar would pick Oregon to face Bama, a matchup we've wanted for years. But because of the game's upcoming Big 12 tie-in (Champions Bowl), it went with Oklahoma, and Alabama-Oklahoma looks like a mismatch.

As for Illinois, I'm a little surprised Beckman will keep his entire defensive staff intact. He's entering a make-or-break season, and he wants to sink or swim with the coaches he hired. He probably doesn't want another year of significant staff turnover. But the defense must get a lot better.


Tony from Austin, Texas, writes: Hey Adam, what are the chances of Taylor Martinez playing in the NFL? Is it likely he has a future as an NFL quarterback or is he best changing positions (see Denard Robinson)?

Adam Rittenberg: Tony, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told me before the season that he thinks Martinez can play quarterback in the NFL. Pelini knows the NFL, but I'd be surprised if Martinez is taking snaps in the pros next year. His mechanics are improved from his sophomore year but remain far from textbook, which is the standard in the NFL. I don't see enough arm strength, either. Martinez certainly has skills that translate to the next level, namely his speed, so I see him moving to another position.


Todd from Louisville writes: Adam, your comments in two different posts appear to be almost directly opposed to me. Should Iowa fans demand and expect more than an 8-4 record or be realistic/objective about being ambitious and excited for the future? Do you intend to appear combative with these fans no matter what position they espouse?

Adam Rittenberg: Todd, I think my Iowa comment was misinterpreted, and that's my fault. Iowa fans obviously should be excited about their team's four-win improvement this season. My comment was that in general, an 8-4 record seems to please more fan bases in the Big Ten then it would in the SEC. I don't think enough Big Ten fan bases demand excellence from their programs. That's not a shot at Iowa fans, who were understandably disappointed in 2012. But now the bar must be raised for 2014. Iowa has a real chance to win the West division, and anything less should be considered a disappointment. Kirk Ferentz makes big money and should be held to a higher standard than 8-4. That's more than fair.

There are many reasons why the Big Ten has slipped a bit nationally in football. But I wonder if enough teams in this league take a championship-or-bust approach to seasons, and whether that's contributing to the mediocrity.


Sam from Detroit writes: Adam, if things go how they usually go with Nick Saban and he decides to leave for Texas, do you think Mark Dantonio would be a candidate for the Alabama job? He has to be one of the more desirable coaches out there right now, and Alabama is obviously one of the better jobs. I seem to remember Dantonio being in the middle of the pack as far as compensation for B1G coaches and while I'm sure he'll get a bump this year, it won't be an SEC-esque bump. Do you think he'd leave for a job like Alabama?

Adam Rittenberg: I don't think so, but Michigan State needs to step up and provide Dantonio and his assistants substantial raises. Dantonio knows he's in a great situation at MSU. He has a great boss in Mark Hollis, and his family is happy there. His only tie to the SEC is the fact he played at South Carolina. Dantonio definitely has some leverage if other schools begin courting him, but I'd be a bit surprised if he leaves. He's not a guy completely driven by money, and he knows he can compete for the College Football Playoff at MSU.

2013 freshman All-American candidates

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
12:30
PM ET
Projecting the eventual success level of high school prospects is difficult in its own right, but forecasting which ones will play right away and make a big splash in college can be even more difficult. Sometimes, however, there are no-brainers such as South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and USC's Leonard Williams. But more often than not, there is no guarantee when it comes to freshmen making instant impacts. So many factors, from team needs to injuries to maturity, will determine who makes the biggest splash.

Headlined by Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, RecruitingNation takes a look at the Class of 2013 members who can make the biggest impact as freshmen.

To take a look at the team, click here Insider.

Big Ten class rankings analysis 

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
2:00
PM ET
video
The latest ESPN recruiting class rankings are out, and seven Big Ten teams are ranked among the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, trends and stories are developing. Big Ten recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren give you a look at what to watch within the conference:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Nothing lame about BCS' last season

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
12:30
PM ET
BCSESPN Illustration


Though it pains Bill Hancock to hear it, 2013 is a lame-duck season. Like a president in the final days of his term, the Bowl Championship Series is coming to a close. Hancock, who runs the BCS, knows that better than anyone else. He is also running the BCS's replacement, the College Football Playoff, which will become the sport's official postseason event as the confetti flutters onto the Rose Bowl grass on Jan. 6.

"While this will be the last year for the BCS, it won't be a lame-duck season," Hancock said in an email. "Those student-athletes who [are practicing] certainly aren't thinking about the playoff. Their goal is to raise the crystal football in Pasadena."

And there is no question that the school that wins the 16th and final BCS Championship Game will reap the customary benefits. T-shirt sales will soar. So will applications. The players will design ugly rings that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. The history books will record the winner as a national champion, same as the 14 names before it (remember, 2004 is "vacated" everywhere but in the minds of fans who remember what USC did to Oklahoma).

"Of course, we'll be working behind the scenes on the playoff," Hancock said, "but our primary focus will be on the BCS."

To read more of Ivan Maisel's look at the BCS' grand finale, click here.

More from Maisel as he discusses the preseason power rankings with Matt Barrie in the ESPNU College Football Podcast Listen.

ESPN.com's preseason power rankings

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
9:05
AM ET
College Football Power Rankings illustrationESPN IllustrationTBD BY EDITORIAL


Not surprisingly, the back-to-back BCS champions are again preseason favorites and top ESPN's power rankings. But a number of elite programs are ready for their chance to dethrone the king.

Top 15 breakdown
No. 1 Alabama
No. 2 Ohio State
No. 3 Oregon
No. 4 Stanford
No. 5 Texas A&M
No. 6 (tie) Georgia
No. (tie) South Carolina
No. 8 Louisville
No. 9 Clemson
No. 10 Florida
No. 11 Florida State
No. 12 LSU
No. 13 Notre Dame
No. 14 (tie) Michigan
No. 14 (tie) Texas

ESPN 300: July 30 update

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
12:00
PM ET
video
Tom Luginbill breaks down the significant movers in the ESPN 300 rankings, including a new player in the top three, players who made massive jumps further down in the rankings and new positional No. 1s at wide receiver and outside linebacker.
The recruiting process has moved quickly for 2016 DT Rashan Gary (Scotch Plains, N.J./Scotch Plains-Fanwood).

He first tried on shoulder pads in seventh grade, gathered attention in eighth grade after grabbing MVP honors at a National Underclassmen Combine and then became a varsity starter in ninth grade. And now? He already holds seven offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Penn State.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

T.J. Wheatley Jr. (Buffalo, N.Y./Canisius) has moved around more often than an Army brat.

He's followed his father and current Buffalo Bills' assistant coach, Tyrone Wheatley, from New Jersey to Florida, from California to Michigan (in three different homes) and then, finally, to New York. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound tight end/defensive end is still unpacking some boxes after his most recent switch from Syracuse to Buffalo, when his father was promoted from college assistant to NFL coach.

But the next move the ESPN Junior 300 prospect makes? That'll finally be up to just T.J.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The RN Top 10 will appear throughout the camp and combine season and rank prospects based strictly on their on-field performance at that particular event. It does not reflect their overall prospect ranking.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championships brought in top talent from all over the country. Narrowing it to 10 was difficult, as top prospects such as linebacker Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) and running back Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) didn't make the list. It's not because they didn't play well, but because 7-on-7 events are geared more for wide receivers and quarterbacks on offense and the defensive backs on defense.

10. Chris Godwin
Middletown (Del.) High School | WR | 6-2, 203

Godwin, an Under Armour All-American, was one of the main reasons his Delaware team went 6-0 before finally losing a game. In this talent-filled tournament, Godwin showed why he is one of the top receivers in the country. He made several tough catches and displayed his 4.4 speed on a consistent basis. He displayed all the tools to be successful on the next level.

9. Sean White
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Unversity School | QB | 6-1, 199

With receivers such as Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph, it's hard for White not to look good, but he was extremely accurate throughout the tournament and made several big-time throws. White did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him underneath and also showed the arm strength to make several tough throws over the middle. White has seen his recruitment pick up lately and it will likely continue to increase with performances like this.

8. Tyler Queen (2015)
Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb | QB | 6-2, 237

North Cobb was one of the few that brought their high school team, instead of an All-Star team from their region. Queen led his team to several victories and showed pinpoint accuracy on a majority of his throws. He displayed great touch on his deep ball and completed several long touchdowns on the day. It was easy to see why he is already a highly recruited prospect.

7. George Campbell (2015)
Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake | WR | 6-4, 184

Campbell proved why he might be the top receiver in Florida next year. He used his 6-foot-4 height to go up over defensive backs and come down with several long catches. It wasn't just the jump ball that impressed; his route running was good and he consistently got open. On top of his impressive offensive performance, Campbell made several plays at safety. This Under Armour All-American has a chance to be a special player as a senior.

6. Travis Rudolph
West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman | WR | 6-1, 186


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Lessons Learned: IMG 7v7 

June, 23, 2013
6/23/13
6:31
PM ET
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championships showcased some of the top talent from across the country. For the second consecutive year, Team Tampa won the national championship with a thrilling, one-point victory over a talented South Florida Express team.

The championship game featured at least 10 prospects with multiple scholarship offers. Here's a closer look at lessons learned over the course of the two-day event.

Team Top Recruits loaded in the secondary

Top Recruits, featuring players from Jacksonville and Orlando, had a secondary that could probably give some colleges trouble right now. Their secondary consisted of 2015 LSU cornerback commit Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian), Florida cornerback commits Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County) and J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee), uncommitted safety Kendall Gant (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson) and 2015 FSU safety commit Derwin James (Auburndale, Fla./Auburndale).

The Top Recruits offense couldn't match the talent of their defense and found it hard to score points as the tournament wore on. Toliver was quite possibly the best player at the event and will be one of the top players in the country next year.

Northern teams came to play


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
2016 QB Jarrett Guarantano (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic) is used to scouts dissecting his mechanics and fans watching his every move. But he acknowledged it was a little different Saturday when he could feel Bill O'Brien's eyes on his back.

"It's very nerve-wracking to know that type of coach, one of the best quarterback coaches in the country, is watching you," said Guarantano, who already hold a Rutgers offer and is poised to be one of the top QBs in his class. "You don't want to mess up, so you try your best."

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Penn State 2015 Class Debuts At No. 3
Craig Haubert discusses recent additions to the Nittany Lions' 2015 class and first-year coach James Franklin's success on the recruiting trail.Tags: Adam McLean, Ryan Bates, Penn State Nittany Lions, James Franklin
VIDEO PLAYLIST video