When Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville was being mentioned as a possible candidate to fill a vacancy at SEC rival Auburn in 1998, he assured Rebels fans that he wasn't going anywhere.
"They'll have to carry me out of here in a pine box," Tuberville said.
He took the Auburn job two days later.
Tuberville coached 10 seasons at Auburn, winning 85 games and an SEC title in 2004, when the Tigers finished a perfect 13-0.
Tuberville was forced out after the 2008 season, spent a season out of coaching and then resurfaced at Texas Tech, where he replaced the popular Mike Leach. After three so-so seasons with the Red Raiders, Tuberville unexpectedly left to take a job at Cincinnati in December 2012.
Tuberville later denied the report, but a junior college recruit who was at the dinner told a Texas Tech recruiting site: "The waitress brought our food out, and we thought [Tuberville] went to the bathroom, but he never came back to dinner. Then next thing I know, the next day, he made an announcement that he's going to Cincinnati."
Talk about a dine and dash.
Gary Andersen's stunning decision to leave Wisconsin to become Oregon State's coach on Wednesday is the latest in a long string of surprising coaching moves. It's the second time the Badgers have been caught with their pants down recently; former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema unexpectedly left for Arkansas in December 2012.
Alex Collins, No. 57 in 2013 class
Collins' recruitment played out like a Lifetime movie or a future "30 for 30." After being recruited to hometown Miami (FL) for nearly a year, Collins opened up recruitment with Florida State, Wisconsin and Florida among those trying to upset the Hurricanes. Following the departure of then-Seminoles assistant Eddie Gran to Cincinnati and Bret Bielema to Arkansas, Collins' recruitment took added turns. After finally deciding on Arkansas on Feb. 4 after a late January official visit, he didn’t sign with the Razorbacks on national signing day because his mother wouldn’t sign his letter of intent, and disappeared with the LOI. Collins ended up signing with Arkansas three days later in a recruitment that grabbed national headlines for a week because of the actions of his mother.
Collins made an immediate impact at Arkansas. As a freshman in 2013, he rushed for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns on 190 carries, including four games of 100 yards or more. Collins was the first freshman in SEC history to begin his career with three straight games of 100 yards or more rushing. Following the season, he was named SEC Freshman of the Year by the Associated Press, as well as SEC All-Freshman Team by the league's coaches.
This season, Collins again went over 1,000 yards, finishing with 1,024 yards and 12 scores on 187 carries, which included a career-high 212 yards in a blowout win at Texas Tech in September.
Collins will likely be a candidate to enter the NFL draft after the 2015 season.
Honorable mention: Cyrus Gray, No. 57 in 2008 class. Gray attended DeSoto High south of Dallas, where he was high school teammates with current NFL players Von Miller and Tony Jerod-Eddie, all three of whom attended Texas A&M. Gray topped 1,000 yards as a junior for the Aggies. Following his career in College Station, he was selected in the sixth round, No. 182 overall in the 2012 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he remains.
Georgia vs. Louisville, Belk Bowl
Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Grantham gets to face the team he was coaching with last year, and Georgia coach Mark Richt gets to see a few players who once lined up on his side. And let’s not forget the good versus bad storyline with Richt taking on former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, whose embarrassing motorcycle incident forced him out of the SEC. Soap opera storylines aside, this should be a fun football game, too. Hutson Mason is looking to redeem himself for that overtime interception against Georgia Tech, and it’s a chance for Georgia to get 10 wins for the ninth time under Richt.
Georgia vs. Louisville, Belk Bowl
This is a personal pick, just from having worked around the guys involved for a while. I’m intrigued by the matchup between Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Cardinals defensive boss Todd Grantham. Those are two hyper-competitive guys who worked against each other in practice every day for the previous four seasons. It will be fun to see how Grantham’s defense -- which ranks sixth nationally in total defense at 293.3 ypg -- fares against a Georgia offense that is stocked with some impressive talent. Louisville hung with Florida State well into the second half before Jameis Winston & Co. made a late run to win.
Sam Khan Jr.
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia, AutoZone Liberty Bowl
The fascinating part about this game to me are the coaching relationships across the two staffs. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen knows plenty of folks on the A&M staff from his two years at Houston as Kevin Sumlin's offensive coordinator (Sumlin brought several coaches and support staff members with him from UH). Likewise, Texas A&M offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital knows some Mountaineers from his time there and knows Holgorsen well, having worked with him for four seasons. And who doesn't like a little Air Raid? It'll be Air Raid everything on Dec. 29 as both teams' offenses are rooted in the principles of the famed offense that Hal Mumme and Mike Leach popularized.
Arkansas vs. Texas, AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
I know. Everybody wanted to see Texas and Texas A&M in this bowl game. Personally, I’m glad Arkansas got a decent matchup and didn’t stuck in the Birmingham Bowl or the Independence Bowl. The Razorbacks were fun to watch this year. Obviously, this isn’t an elite Texas team by any stretch, but it’s still Texas. And it’s an old Southwest Conference rivalry at that. Arkansas will be motivated. I expect both Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins to break off some big runs, and it’s the last chance to see All-SEC defensive end Trey Flowers, one of the more underrated players in the conference. That's enough for me to want to tune in.
Auburn vs. Wisconsin, Outback Bowl
Though the game is technically on New Year's Day, the Outback Bowl is not among the coveted New Year's Six. But that's OK. Auburn and Wisconsin doesn't need a fancy designation to draw anyone in. When you've got one player who is a Heisman Trophy finalist (Melvin Gordon) and another that was in the running for the award earlier in the season (Nick Marshall), that's enough. In fact, it will be the last game either plays for their respective teams, adding further drama to the contest. Between the two, the over-under might be 500 yards rushing. Throw in the intrigue of Auburn operating without a defensive coordinator and Wisconsin losing its head coach, and you've got the right recipe for good television.
As Sumlin’s search for a defensive coordinator continues, it is the one with everyone’s attention. The Aggies have been poor defensively the past two seasons and Sumlin aims to bring in someone who can make Texas A&M an SEC West-caliber unit on defense. The young talent on the roster and resources A&M has at its disposal suggest the Aggies can obtain a proven coach with a track record of success.
Though the defensive coordinator is priority No. 1, replacing Beaty’s spot on staff will be critical as well. In his three years in Aggieland, the former Texas high school football coach earned a reputation as a stellar recruiter and was the lynchpin to the Aggies’ success in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a fertile area for talent and one that is a priority to Sumlin in the team's annual recruiting efforts.
In addition to being involved in the recruitment of every receiver the Aggies have brought in since his arrival, Beaty had a hand in helping land commitments from several highly-regarded recruits out of the Metroplex area including ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle Greg Little, the No. 1 ranked player in the 2016 class. He also assisted quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital in the recruitment five-star quarterback Kyler Murray, who is the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class, and defensive line coach Terry Price in the pursuit of five-star defensive end Myles Garrett, who broke the SEC freshman sack record for the Aggies this season and was the No. 4 overall player in the 2014 ESPN 300.
Just got off the phone with one of my favorite coaches @beaty_david I love that guy good luck in the future— 7ã4ã (@TheGreglittle74) December 9, 2014
Lancaster (Texas) High School products Daeshon Hall and Nick Harvey, who both saw time as true freshmen at A&M (Hall in 2013, Harvey in 2014), were also Beaty recruits. And there are others in the current recruiting class, like 2015 ESPN 300 offensive tackle Trevor Elbert, whom Beaty was involved in recruiting. He was well-respected by high school coaches in the Metroplex.
Beaty was also able to land overlooked players, such as junior college receiver Josh Reynolds, that have paid dividends. In his first year at Texas A&M, Reynolds matched the school single-season record for touchdown receptions with 12. And while he was recruited by the previous coaching staff, there’s no doubt Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, who is excelling as a rookie in the NFL, showed tremendous growth in his two seasons under Beaty's tutelage at Texas A&M after being a raw receiver with little organized football experience prior to arriving at school.
In addition to being able to coach their respective positions, Sumlin has always prioritized recruiting ability when searching for assistant coaches and this time is unlikely to be any different in that regard. His current staff excels in key areas such as Houston (with a presence from running backs coach Clarence McKinney and special-teams coach Jeff Banks), East Texas (offensive line coach B.J. Anderson), Southeast Texas (Price) and Louisiana (defensive backs coach Terry Joseph).
Ensuring the Aggies keep a strong foothold in Dallas and Fort Worth will be important though for Sumlin as he retools his staff to fill the current vacancies.
This game is the top one for obvious reasons, primarily, it’s the one bowl game involving the SEC that has real stakes -- the winner goes to the national championship game. If the College Football Playoff semifinal wasn’t strong enough for you, it matches two of the most well-known head coaches in the game right now, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. Those two did battle before when Meyer was at Florida, so the reunion should be plenty compelling.
2. Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU
This is the only other SEC bowl that matches up two top-10 teams. TCU was one of the teams left at the altar by the selection committee, so it’s probable that the Horned Frogs would like to stomp a highly-regarded SEC team to make a statement. Ole Miss has had an impressive season and can secure only its seventh 10-win campaign in school history and its third since 1971.
3. Belk Bowl: Georgia vs. Louisville
It’s the Grantham Bowl. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s current team (Louisville) takes on his previous team (Georgia). It’s a safe bet he’d like to have his unit excel en route to a Cardinal win. The Cardinal defense is sixth nationally in yards per game allowed (293.2) but it’ll get tested by the Georgia running game, led by freshman sensation Nick Chubb (1,281 yards), who leads Georgia’s 12th-ranked rushing attack (255 yards per game).
4. Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
You have two of the nation’s top rushing teams as well as two pretty good running backs in this one. There’s the nation’s top individual rusher, Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon (2,336 yards) against Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (1,482) who leads the SEC. Wisconsin averages a whopping 314 rushing yards per game, third in the nation while Auburn posts a hefty 258.5 (11th).
5. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
If you like scoring, you’ll enjoy this one. Both teams average more than 33 points per game and they each throw it around a lot, averaging more than 300 passing yards per game. There are familiar faces on the coaching staffs as well. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen worked for Kevin Sumlin for two seasons at Houston and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital worked for Holgorsen at Oklahoma State and West Virginia before going to A&M. It’s Air Raid everywhere.
6. Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
He wasn’t a Heisman finalist but Dak Prescott was in the Heisman conversation for much of the season. It’s definitely worth tuning in to see Prescott and his partner-in-crime, running back Josh Robinson, who is aptly nicknamed “Bowling ball.” Georgia Tech is worth a watch for traditionalists, as the Yellow Jackets run the triple option well: just ask Georgia (who they beat in overtime) or Florida State (a team they stayed step-for-step with for much of the night).
7. Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas
Long live the Southwest Conference. This is a throwback battle if there ever was one. These teams are both in the top 30 nationally in defense, each allowing fewer than 350 yards per game. The job Bret Bielema has done to get the Razorbacks to a bowl this season is noteworthy, while Charlie Strong seems to be laying the foundation for future success at Texas. Also, Strong has history in Arkansas -- he was born in Batesville and played for Central Arkansas. He said Tuesday this will be the first time he’ll root against the Hogs.
8. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame
Considering the profile of these two programs, you wouldn’t expect this game to be this far down the list. While the two teams have strong histories, this season hasn’t been stellar for either. There’s plenty of intrigue, though, from getting to see LSU’s star freshmen (Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre, Jamal Adams, etc.) to the quarterback situation at Notre Dame, where Brian Kelly has opened up competition between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire. For what it’s worth, Les Miles said bowl prep will also be an important evaluation time for his quarterbacks, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris.
9. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota
This one may not have the sizzle on the surface but it matches two quality teams, both ranked in the Top 25. Missouri features two of the league’s best pass-rushers, Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Those two are worth watching alone, even if the Tigers’ offense isn’t always. Minnesota features one of the nation’s top rushers, running back David Cobb, who is ninth in rushing yards this season (1,548).
10. Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina vs. Miami
This game could become a feeding frenzy for Miami running back Duke Johnson, who is 12th in the country in rushing yards (1,520). South Carolina allows 214.4 rushing yards per game, 107th nationally. But the Gamecocks can score plenty of points, they average 33.3. Keep an eye on Pharoh Cooper, a dynamic receiver and returner who can do it all, including pass, and has 1,164 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns this season.
11. TaxSlayer Bowl: Tennessee vs. Iowa
Tennessee is thrilled to be in a bowl. You might even say they’re happy. It’s the first time in a bowl since 2010 for the Volunteers. There’s still a long way to go to get this proud program back to where it wants to be but they’re moving in the right direction. The Vols have a ton of talented freshmen on the roster who played key roles this season and sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who came on strong late in the season, seems to have a bright future in Knoxville.
12. Birmingham Bowl: Florida vs. East Carolina
Any time you go into a game with an interim coach, it’s not ideal. That’s what the Gators have to do after firing Will Muschamp. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will serve as the interim coach. For Florida fans, this is a chance to scout a future opponent -- the Gators and Pirates meet Sept. 12 next season. East Carolina brings a high-powered offense led by quarterback Shane Carden, who is second nationally in passing yards (4,309). That should be a good test for a talented Florida defense. The continued development of true freshman quarterback Treon Harris is also worth keeping an eye on.
2. Lashlee isn't the only offensive coordinator in Alabama making headlines. In what some considered an upset, Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin did not win the Frank Broyles Award on Tuesday. The award, which honors the nation's top assistant coach, went to Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman instead. However, Kiffin was in attendance and spoke publicly for the first time since the beginning of fall practice. He was quite entertaining, too, when talking about his boss Nick Saban. What does Saban say tell him on the sideline? “Hey Lane, I love you so much,” Kiffin joked. “Thank you so much for coming here. Can you please stop throwing the ball so much and just run it a few more times please.” Maybe that's why Saban has kept his offensive coordinator off-limits to the media this season.
3. More honors were given out Tuesday. A day after releasing its All-SEC team, the Associated Press named Amari Cooper the conference's offensive player of the year and Shane Ray the defensive player of the year. Ray became the second straight Missouri player to win the award, joining last year's recipient Michael Sam. The league's coaches also put out their All-SEC team Tuesday, and it looked similar to the AP. Dak Prescott was voted first-team quarterback ahead of Blake Sims, and names like Cooper, Ray, and Landon Collins were all on the list as well. In all, 12 of the 14 SEC teams had at least one player on the first team. Stay tuned this week as we at the SEC blog will be releasing our All-SEC first team on Friday.
Around the SEC
- Still searching for a coach, Michigan has “reached out” to LSU coach Les Miles' agent.
- Junior college linebacker commits to Ole Miss 15 minutes after Rebels extend an offer.
- Tennessee has replaced UAB with Bowling Green for next season's opener in Nashville.
- Texas A&M pledge Kyler Murray named Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.
Perhaps that was just coincidence. Or maybe the league was looking for friends after what happened this past weekend.
Being shut out of the initial College Football Playoff was a dominant part of the conversation in the swanky Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, as you’d expect.
Big 12 sources talked about scheduling, naming a champion and the odds they would look to a championship game or expansion.
2. With the playoff news and bowl selections, Jim McElwain’s introductory press conference at Florida got lost in the news Sunday, but here’s a look back. He was charming, funny, and while he doesn’t have a nickname for his offense just yet, he did say that “it will be a blast.” That should be music to the ears of Florida fans. Some might be a little skeptical, but others believe he’s the SEC's next superstar coach and the right fit in Gainesville. The Gators will play in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3, and though McElwain isn’t allowed to coach the team, he plans to be there for the game and watch bowl practices to evaluate the players. He’s also keeping busy on the recruiting trail, putting together what could be a significant first class.
3. The Associated Press released its All-SEC team on Monday. A couple things stood out. First, I was a tad surprised Dak Prescott edged out Blake Sims as the first-team quarterback. Both had sensational seasons, but I just felt like Sims played better in bigger games, especially down the stretch. Also, the only three unanimous selections were Cooper, Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson and Alabama safety Landon Collins. Those three names didn’t surprise me, but I thought there’d be more than three unanimous picks. As for the numbers, Alabama led the way with nine players making the list, including six on the first team. Ole Miss, who had five first-team selections, was second with six All-SEC players in all.
Around the SEC
- Bret Bielema earned a $50K bowl bonus for leading Arkansas to the postseason.
- Georgia safety J.J. Green is transferring to Georgia Tech so he can play offense again.
- Tennessee committed to Butch Jones, giving him a big raise, contract extension.
- Derek Mason fired his friend and mentor, Vandy defensive coordinator David Kotulski.
There's always next year #kaser4heisman— Drew Kaser (@drewkaser) December 9, 2014
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First, Spavital delivered a quick reminder to his old boss that he should be cautious in his preparation for the Dec. 29 game.
DEC. 29, 2 P.M. ET, LIBERTY BOWL MEMORIAL STADIUM, MEMPHIS, TENN. (ESPN)
TEXAS A&M BREAKDOWN
Season highlights: The Aggies started 5-0, including a 52-28 win at the start of the year at then-No. 9 South Carolina, a win that was significant before we knew what kind of team South Carolina really was. Texas A&M also went to then-No. 3 Auburn on Nov. 8 and knocked the Tigers out of the College Football Playoff with a 41-38 victory. There were some impressive individual performances, from Kenny Hill’s quarterbacking debut vs. South Carolina to Kyle Allen’s performance at Auburn. All season long, true freshman defensive end Myles Garrett was a force, breaking Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC freshman sack record with 11.
Season lowlights: Texas A&M endured a brutal three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, getting decisively defeated by Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. The worst loss was at Alabama, where the Aggies weren’t even competitive and were embarrassed to the tune of 59-0. It was the program’s worst loss since 2003. After winning the next two games, the Aggies lost their final two, though in much closer fashion, to Missouri and LSU. The defense was poor and wound up last in the SEC in yards per game and rushing, leading to the firing of defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Linebackers coach Mark Hagen is the interim defensive coordinator for the bowl.
Player to watch: There are several young stars, but Garrett is the one to keep an eye on. An injury suffered at Auburn slowed him in his final two games (missing the Missouri game), but the bowl-season rest should serve him well for a strong finale to his debut campaign. With 11 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries and a blocked kick, Garrett has been a force all season. A five-star recruit who was No. 4 overall in the 2014 ESPN 300, the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder has lived up to the hype.
Motivation factor: A win would be good for morale, allowing the Aggies to end a transitional year on a positive note. The season was nightmarish at times, but A&M recovered nicely after the Alabama debacle to win a couple games and be competitive in the final two losses. It may be only one game, but 8-5 looks better than 7-6, and the Aggies are about to enter a 2015 season in which the expectations are going to be raised. The team will be in its fourth SEC season, as will Kevin Sumlin, and tangible results need to follow. Gaining momentum with a bowl victory would be a nice start.
-- Sam Khan Jr.
Season highlights: After playing Alabama and Oklahoma tough, the Mountaineers finally broke through on Oct. 18 against then-fourth-ranked Baylor. Clint Trickett and Kevin White hooked up for 132 yards and two touchdowns as West Virginia knocked off the Bears 41-27. It was also a masterful performance from the Tony Gibson/Tom Bradley defense, which sacked quarterback Bryce Petty four times.
Season lowlights: After the win over Baylor, the Mountaineers were a quarter away two weeks later from hopping into the Big 12 title and playoff races against then-No. 7 TCU with ESPN “College GameDay” in town. But after jumping to a 30-21 lead, West Virginia failed to produce a first down in the fourth quarter, and the Horned Frogs drilled a 37-yard field goal as time expired to escape Morgantown with a 31-30 win. The emotional defeat sent West Virginia into a minor tailspin, as the Mountaineers would lose three in a row before rebounding in the regular-season finale with a 37-24 win at Iowa State.
Player to watch: A Biletnikoff Award finalist, White has been one of the top receivers in college football all year. He finished the regular season leading the Big 12 with 102 receptions and 1,318 receiving yards. White opened the year with seven straight games of at least 100 yards receiving, including 143 against Alabama and 173 against Oklahoma.
Motivation factor: Despite the late three-game slide, the Mountaineers outperformed preseason expectations to make a bowl game. A win to put them at 8-5 on the year would give Dana Holgorsen’s program plenty of momentum heading into 2015.
-- Jake Trotter
We knew the SEC would get one team into the inaugural College Football Playoff when Alabama beat Missouri on Saturday. Nailing down the destinations for the conference's other 11 bowl-eligible teams is much more difficult.
Here are our best guesses in the final hours before we will know for sure:
College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Mississippi State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Arkansas
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: Georgia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Florida
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina
Edward Aschoff, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
Section Of Kyle Field Imploded For Renovations
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State