My time at the one-back clinic 

February, 22, 2010
02/22/10
11:44
AM ET
Tiger Woods is on every TV inside the dining room in the Arizona State Sun Devils' football complex overlooking Sun Devil Stadium. Some of the eight flat-screens that hang above the windows out to the stadium are out of sync with one another, so Woods' halting mea culpa doesn't just sound bizarre -- it sounds downright surreal with its echo effect.

If it is humanly possible to concoct a way to have even more Woods overkill, no doubt this is it. More than two dozen football coaches from all over the country are gathered around the TVs as they finish their omelets, breakfast burritos and coffee. Some of the coaches are riveted to the Woods show. Others are amused, and others just look nauseated. It's 9 in the morning local time this past Friday, and in a few minutes all the coaches will file into the team room on the third floor of the complex. But for the moment, Woods' statement delays the day's proceedings.

Coaches from virtually every level of college football are here, but they're mostly from Football Bowl Subdivision schools. In addition to coach Dennis Erickson and the rest of the Sun Devils' staff, there are coaches from the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Houston Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats and New Mexico Lobos, among others. This is the annual one-back clinic, which brings together some of the more innovative offensive minds in college football. The first one-back clinic was at Washington State in 1999 and was hosted by then-Cougars coach Mike Price. It has evolved similar to offensive football and variations of the spread attack during the past decade.

New Arizona State offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was there in '99 with Gary Crowton, Gunter Brewer, Dana Holgorsen, Sonny Dykes, Larry Fedora and Mike Leach. Mazzone, who has bounced around from Auburn to Oregon State to NC State to Ole Miss to the New York Jets to ASU, has teamed with Houston Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin to take ownership of the one-back clinic and become a ringleader for the two-day event. He helped set up discounts with a local hotel and local restaurants and mapped out all the details. The role suits the gregarious Mazzone well. The former New Mexico quarterback has coached virtually everywhere and seems to know everyone yet is humble enough to ask questions of coaches with a résumé one-third as long as his to try to get a better idea for what they do and why they do it.

Last year, Sumlin hosted the one-back clinic at Houston. Before that, it was at NC State, Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech, SMU and Auburn. There aren't many rules for the two-day clinic, but it is invite-only, and you won't see more than one staff from the same conference invited. Wake Forest, Michigan and Arkansas were all scheduled to attend but had to back out at the last minute.


If you're really into college football -- the inner workings, how coaches think and talk, all that -- this blog is a must-read. It's very detailed and interesting in those respects. To read Bruce Feldman's observation, though, you must be an ESPN Insider.

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