Lots of Clemson talk to lead this week's mailbag:
From Kelley in Atlanta: I've had it with Tommy Bowden. Every year we're supposed to be great and we never are. Please tell me it's time to bring another coach in here for Clemson!
Feldman: I can understand the frustration of Tiger fans. For a program to start out preseason No. 9 in the country and play in a league without a lot of elite teams and then to be only 3-3 and 1-2 in conference play right now has to be disappointing. It does feel like the program has the perennial underachiever tag and those things can be hard to shake after that vibe hovers around your program. By all accounts, Bowden and his staff have recruited a lot of talented players. This year, though, they've been very suspect on the O-line, as a lot of folks predicted they might be.
On paper the Tigers have a ton of flashy skill players, yet to only score seven points against Wake Forest is obviously not good. In fairness, only one O-lineman has started in the same position all season. I suspect the Ga. Tech defensive front is drooling in anticipation of playing Clemson Oct. 18.
As for Bowden's future, I think it'll be tough for him to save his job again this year. Even if he runs the table now, I don't know if that'd be enough. 9-3 in the ACC? Yawn. Trouble is, Bowden's deal reportedly would cost them about $4 million to get him out of there. In fairness, the guy does have a winning percentage of over 64 percent, but I feel like there just isn't a lot of momentum pushing that program forward and elevating it beyond 7-5 and 8-4 type of seasons, which are solid, but should Clemson be aspiring to better? It seems to be time for a change.
From Cameron in South Carolina: I know it may be uncouth but is Clemson the type of program that can attract a top level coach? If so who should the Tigers consider? Who would you go after? By the way, you had a chance to check out The Ultimate Fighter this season?
Feldman: I definitely think Clemson is a very good coaching job. It has great tradition, good facilities and a big fan base. Plus that area produces a lot of talent. It feels like an SEC school in the ACC in terms of profile. Big-time football school.
I'd probably go after Lane Kiffin first. He is an energetic offensive mind who can really recruit. (He got Mike Williams out of Tampa, among others.) He could also put together an incredible staff. It's possible he could bring his father Monte, the Bucs' D-coordinator, with him. Also, having dealt with life around the Oakland Raiders you know he's not going to rattle easily.
TUF 8 has been crazy. Junie is his own reality show. It will be a wild ride the rest of the season, I'm sure.
From Jordan in Minneapolis: Why hasn't anybody other than college coaches taken notice of Minnesota's WR Eric Decker? He is second in the nation in receptions and first in yards. Yet he is never mentioned. He missed spring football to participate with the baseball team and was good enough to get drafted by the Brewers -- even though he told all teams he wasn't going to sign, regardless of the offer. He is a talented player on a 5-1 (after being 1-11 last year) team. What gives?
Feldman: A big reason is he's on a team that was 1-11 last year and a lot of people haven't tuned back into Minnesota yet, but I think they're starting to. You are correct that his numbers will force people to look at him. I watched some of the Gophers' game last week to get a better sense of Decker and I didn't realize he was a physical as he was. The guy is a solid 6-2, 215 and is very reliable. Thirteen catches for 190 yards against any Big Ten defense is a huge day. It's also been interesting to see how they are using him as a running threat as well. I asked a Big Ten coach about Decker and he must've used the word "tough" 10 times. He also said he's the best blocking receiver he's seen in years.
From Hayden in Atlanta: Wow ... no A.J. Green on the list of newcomers. Interesting, he has one fewer touchdown but more yards and receptions than Julio Jones. I realize Jones played a big part in the UGA loss to Alabama but he surely didn't lose the game for them. I guess we will see how these lists change as the year goes on.
Feldman: Green should've been on the list, same for Sean Spence the linebacker at Miami. It's tough because you have a lot of very deserving guys. Look at what Kellen Moore has done for Boise and what Tramaine Brock has done at Minnesota.
From Paul in Denver: Surprised you left off Missouri's RB Derrick Washington. Total newcomer this year as he was Tony Temple's backup last year. Last I checked I think, he is No. 2 in the nation in total points.
Feldman: I got a bunch of e-mails asking why certain guys like Washington and Penn State's Darryl Clark and Tulsa's David Johnson were left off the list. The reason is because that list was about JC transfers and freshmen, not guys who have shined as first-time starters.
From Dave in State College, Penn.: Can you give a shout-out to Tyrell Fenroy and the ULL running game this week? Against ULM, he had 20-297, and the team had 37-556 (I think). Fifteen yards a carry for a game is just ridiculous. Plus, Fenroy is going to become one of the few backs to eclipse the 1000 yard mark in four straight seasons this year. He really deserves the recognition
Feldman: No doubt, Fenroy deserves all the pub he can get. There is some great talent that comes out of the Sun Belt every year and this guy fits that profile. He's durable, has a great burst and he really takes care of the ball. The one thing that hurts him a little beyond the knock of not being in a very visible program is that he didn't have strong performances against Southern Miss (13 carries, 56 yards) or Illinois (14 carries, 20 yards) at the start of the season.
•The improvement in Colt McCoy has been eye-opening this season. I know people gush about his rushing numbers, and yes, they are impressive, but it's been his accuracy and decision-making that have really caught my attention. Not only has his completion percentage gone up from 65 percent to a whopping 79 percent, but he's gone from throwing 18 picks in 2007 to three thus far (and is on pace for just seven). Some of the credit, though, should also go to Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Kirk Bohls had a good column on the veteran UT assistant today:
"It says here that the 57-year-old coach has done the best job of his 11-year Texas stint this very season. He has produced the sixth-best scoring offense (47.2 points per game) in college football without a reliable running game, tight end or deep threat. He tutors a quarterback who is completing 79 percent of his passes and is a legitimate Heisman candidate. Of Colt McCoy's three interceptions, only one was his fault. Of his 27 incompletions, 10 were dropped passes and two were throwaways. Those numbers aren't only because McCoy gave up Dr Pepper in middle school. Davis deserves credit for his upswing. Lord only knows what Texas would be averaging per game had tailback Jamaal Charles and tight end Jermichael Finley returned to school and tight end Blaine Irby not dislocated his knee."
That is a strong case, although if UT wins against Oklahoma and runs this gauntlet of an October schedule, expect there to be plenty of praise to wash over everyone in Austin.
•The stunning move of Tommy Tuberville canning OC Tony Franklin will have a lot of Auburn recruits and targets watching closely to sift through the fallout, reports Doug Segrest:
"Auburn has 26 early commitments. But even though coach Tommy Tuberville says he's still committed to the spread offense, the firing of Franklin may have burned bridges with some high school coaches, said former Hoover High coach Rush Propst, a friend of Franklin's who now coaches in Georgia."
"Since (Wednesday) at 2 o'clock, I'll bet you 35 to 40 of Tony's clients have called me, and they're ticked at Tommy and Auburn," said Propst, who added that Franklin and his system have about 350 high schools as clients, including about 150 in Alabama.
That's only one reason why Auburn faces a dilemma. Auburn can decide the spread was a mistake and start recruiting a new set of skill players. Or it can stick to the spread and make the most of a chaotic situation.
•Gary Pinkel's mentor Don James isn't convinced the Mizzou coach should return to Washington, writes Vahe Gregorian:
"Husky Stadium's need for renovation mirrors that of the program itself. Between that and what Pinkel has engineered at MU, James said he doesn't believe Pinkel has any reason to make such a move.
"I don't know why he'd even want to consider coming out here, with the facilities he's got and the way he's got it going ... I wouldn't know why anybody would want to leave Missouri now," said James, who also coached Pinkel at Kent State and hired him as an assistant there. "It would be a tough, long haul."
•The list of potential candidates for the Washington job when it comes open will be long. Molly Yanity names 10 possible options.
One she didn't include is Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who coaches a team in the top 10 these days and I suspect would be very intrigued by the potential of the U-Dub job. His style would also be the direct opposite to Ty Willingham, which I imagine would sound like quite a plus.
•Shareece Wright, USC's best cornerback, might redshirt according to the LA Daily News:
Wright has missed the past two games after suffering a hairline fracture in his neck. He currently wears a brace on his neck and was originally expected to be out six weeks. But if he cannot return in the next three to four weeks, Carroll expects him to redshirt.
"If it is for three or four games, we won't bring him back," Carroll said. "We'd like to see if he can make it back for bigger portion of the season."
•Evan Royster has been quite a revelation for Penn State this year. Turns out, as Mark Viera writes, the PSU tailback was quite the lacrosse talent too:
"Royster, the Nittany Lions' starting tailback, has become a star at Penn State with his shiftiness and vision. But before he starred at Beaver Stadium, he was among the most coveted lacrosse prospects in the country. He shined at summer camps, scored 33 goals his senior year and was named a high school all-American. He drew attention from traditional lacrosse powerhouses like Virginia and Johns Hopkins. "As much as I wish I could play lacrosse right now," Royster, a redshirt sophomore, said, "I would sacrifice it before football."
Impressive, between Royster and safety Mark Rubin, the guy who beat Michael Phelps a few times in swimming, the Nittany Lions have two of the more intriguing athletes in their program right now.
•Which area is cranking out the best football talent? Larry Blustein has a good look at the connection between Houston and South Florida:
"When it comes to stocking the shelves for the NFL, it isn't even close. On opening day of the season, Miami had 34 players on rosters and Fort Lauderdale had 12. Add in the seven or eight from Palm Beach and you have 53. Houston, with all the area's covered, have 46. The next is Detroit with 16."