2. Bob Diaco will be a good salesman for UConn. He is a good-looking, well-spoken, energetic coach. He has the football chops as well, having served a long apprentice for Brian Kelly. UConn athletic director Warde Manuel hired a sparkling candidate. Now Diaco must face the reality of UConn football: Will UConn provide Diaco with the budget to hire a good staff? Can Diaco do what Randy Edsall did at UConn, supplant the state's meager homegrown talent with players from the northeast and Florida? Is there room for national success in the American? Diaco bit off a lot. We'll see how well he can chew it.
3. Alabama didn't finish No. 1 in the BCS ratings, but the Crimson Tide finished No. 1 in the TV ratings, playing in the season's three most-watched games. LSU at Alabama, played in prime time, drew a 6.9 rating. The Iron Bowl pulled an 8.2. The most-watched game of the season, played way back in Week 3, had been promoted for nine months: Alabama and Texas A&M did an 8.5. Ohio State at Michigan came in a distant fourth at 5.8. The most-watched Pac-12 game, Oregon at Stanford, drew a 3.6 on a Thursday night.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was selected as the Walter Camp player of the year on Thursday, saying he was "overwhelmed" by the honor before later praising his team for the support it gave him during a trying month.
Winston had faced felony charges after being accused of sexually assaulting a female FSU student at an off-campus apartment on Dec. 7, 2012. But last week, state attorney Willie Meggs decided not to charge the Heisman Trophy favorite.
"I know I did nothing wrong," Winston said from the 23rd Home Depot College Football Awards in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
"People just got to realize that my family, and the coaches, and Coach (Jimbo) Fisher, they just supported me through this whole process, and I just feel so loved by that -- you just don't understand just how much that means to me."
The redshirt freshman is the second player from Florida State to win the Walter Camp award, joining quarterback Charlie Ward in 1993. Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o won the Walter Camp last year.
McCarron didn't go home empty-handed, beating out Manziel and Winston for the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding player.
The team was selected by the league's coaches, and coaches could not vote for players on their own team. Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina led the way with four players each on the squad. Here it is in its entirety:
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Andrew Jelks, Vanderbilt
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
C: Jon Toth, Kentucky
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
WR: Marquez North, Tennessee
QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: Alex Collins, Arkansas
RB: Kelvin Taylor, Florida
AP: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Darius Philon, Arkansas
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Skai Moore, South Carolina
DB: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
DB: Tony Conner, Ole Miss
DB: Tre'Davious White, LSU
DB: Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
PK: Elliott Fry, South Carolina
P: Johnny Townsend, Florida
RS: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
Gators nab one of the nation's best
No. 18 David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) seemed to be a Florida lean for more than a year. After trips to Georgia twice during the season and official visits to Tennessee and Florida in November, the 6-foot-6, 288-pound four-star offensive tackle made it official Thursday, committing to the Gators.
Sharpe becomes the 17th commitment for head coach Will Muschamp and his staff, including the 10th ESPN 300 prospect to select the Gators.
Speaking of Florida, the final decision of No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) likely will come following the Rockets' state title game this weekend. Florida is fighting Florida State and Miami to keep the explosive playmaker.
Make it two for Thursday
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"I messed with Coach, [saying] he's getting too old to start up again somewhere else," McCarron said on ESPN's "College Football Daily" from Walt Disney World. "He told me he's not leaving. And I know Miss Terry [Saban's wife] well enough; she runs that house. And she's not allowing Coach to leave either. I think he'll be at the University of Alabama for a little while."
Speculation has been rampant after multiple media outlets reported that Texas coach Mack Brown may soon step down. Since Texas reportedly had reached out to Saban's representatives in the past, he became the top candidate to take over in Austin.
ESPN reported Wednesday that Alabama had readied an "offer of commitment" to make Saban the highest-paid coach in college football.
He signed an extension in March that pays him $5.62 million a year and runs through 2020.
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle would not address Saban's contract situation when contacted by ESPN on Wednesday.
"Coach Saban is spending his time recruiting and getting ready for a bowl game," Battle said from the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York. "It's business as usual, and that's what we're getting ready for. We have a great recruiting class lined up. We have 14 prospects coming in this weekend, and [we're] looking forward to having them and looking forward to playing Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl."
Battle was asked if he was concerned that Texas would target Saban.
These would be freshmen, redshirt freshmen and true sophomores -- or players not eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.
Of their top 25 underclassmen, 14 were from the SEC, including seven of the top 10.
In other words, don't look for the talent level in the SEC to drop off any over the next couple of years.
Not surprisingly, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was the No. 1 player on the list. Winston is the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York City.
Some fans might be a little surprised at who was the top SEC player on the list. Florida true freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III checked in at No. 2. Granted, it was a forgettable season for the Gators, but Hargreaves was outstanding with his ability to cover and make plays. Even though he's only played one season of college football, a lot of the scouts like him as much or more than the Gators' other two heralded cornerbacks -- Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy.
The other SEC players in the top 10 were:
- No. 4 Georgia running back Toddy Gurley
- No. 5 Alabama receiver Amari Cooper
- No. 6 Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham
- No. 8 Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr.
- No. 9 Alabama safety Landon Collins
- No. 10 Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon.
Ole Miss was next with three players, all members of the Rebels' top-5 2013 signing class. Receiver Laquon Treadwell was No. 16, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche No. 18 and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil No. 21.
Interestingly enough, seven of the 25 players on the list were true freshmen from the SEC. One that wasn't on there and will be is Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones, who blossomed as the season progressed and has a chance to be dominant.
Another true freshman from the SEC who will almost certainly play his way onto the list is LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson. Go back and watch him in the Texas A&M game and the job he did on Mike Evans. Robinson wasn't cleared academically until the week of the first game this season, so with an entire spring and an entire preseason camp under his belt next year, Robinson should emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC.
Here's a rundown of all 14 SEC players who made the list:
- 2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida, Fr.
- 4. Todd Gurley, Georgia, RB, So.
- 5. Amari Cooper, Alabama, WR, So.
- 6. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri, WR, So.
- 8. Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida, DE, So.
- 9. Landon Collins, Alabama, S, So.
- 10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama, RB, So.
- 12. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama, DT, Fr.
- 15. O.J. Howard, Alabama, TE, Fr.
- 16. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, WR, Fr.
- 18. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, DT, Fr.
- 20. Mike Davis, South Carolina, RB, So.
- 21. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss, OT, Fr.
- 23. Carl Lawson, Auburn, DE, Fr.
• Auburn's assistant coaches should join head coach Gus Malzahn in receiving raises in the near future. A USA Today salary database shows that Auburn's coaching salary pool is already the fifth biggest in the country.
• Speaking of that USA Today salary database, take a look. LSU and Alabama both rank ahead of Auburn on the list and eight of the top 12 are from the SEC.
• Former President George W. Bush sent a letter of support to Alabama kicker Cade Foster, whose missed kicks helped Auburn stay in the game and eventually upset the Crimson Tide.
• Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was announced as a regional coach of the year on Wednesday by the American Football Coaches Association.
• South Carolina is trying to strike the right balance in its bowl prep.
• The Advocate's Scott Rabalais writes that LSU's matchup against Iowa in the Outback Bowl is sexier than it's getting credit for.
• Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel thinks he's ready for the NFL, but says he hasn't made a decision yet about whether to enter the draft.
• Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell was named the conference's top freshman on Wednesday and will almost certainly make the SEC's All-Freshman team, which will be announced today.
• Ten SEC players were named to USA Today's All-America teams on Wednesday.
• Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell's season ended the way it started: with an injury.
• LSU coach Les Miles plans to watch his son (and some other prospects) at today's state championship games at the Louisiana Superdome.
• It has been a monster year for new Georgia recruiting prospect Nate Brown.
• Florida should have enviable backfield depth in 2014.
• Kentucky's big recruiting weekend is missing one who got away.
Alabama kicker Cade Foster missed three field goals in the Crimson Tide's dramatic 34-28 loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Two just missed, and another was blocked.
It wasn't a good night at all for Foster, who watched from the sideline as teammate Adam Griffith's 57-yard field goal try was returned 109 yards by Chris Davis for an Auburn win that created an avalanche of hate hurled his way.
But while Foster had to wade through embarrassing garbage that social media cowards launched at him following Alabama's loss, he received a pretty neat letter of support from someone with much better credentials than any of those Internet tough guys.
On Wednesday, Foster tweeted a picture of a handwritten letter sent to him from former President George W. Bush that was dated Dec. 3.
Here's what the letter said:
"Dear Cade (#43), Life has its setbacks. I know! However, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best."
It was signed: "Sincerely -- another 43."
No matter your opinion of the former president, your political stance or your team affiliation, this is pretty cool. It's something Foster should treasure for the rest of his life. It should wipe away all of the crud dished out to him after his off night on the Plains.
It had to feel really good to get a message like that from someone who has dealt with far worse criticism under a much bigger microscope. It also showed him that there's more to life than three missed field goals. That night was a low point for Foster, but it wasn't the end for him. Foster has plenty of good days ahead, and this should be only a minor bump in his road.
"Like I said, football is just a game. It's not life," Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said. "Times like this people need to realize the sun is going to rise tomorrow."
It's true. Just wake up and look outside.
It isn’t just the SEC. The depth of the outgoing QB class means several other high-end programs, including Clemson and Texas, could have first-time starters next season.
UCLA could lose Brett Hundley, if he decides to go pro, but we’ll exclude him for now. Our draft analysts have told me he would be better off returning to school, like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. But the top of the QB list is weak enough that if the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hundley has designs on going early, it could be the right time.
Here are the top 10 QB transitions and the succession plans for those teams.
In: Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen
Manziel has not made an announcement about next season, but I’ve been given zero indication that he is even considering a return to school. So how do you go about replacing (this year’s bowl notwithstanding) about 10,000 yards and 88 touchdowns in two seasons? In short, you don’t. Texas A&M’s confidence heading into next year is based on how it has and continues to recruit all positions -- including quarterback.
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On Tuesday, ESPN colleague Mark Schlabach took a look at all 35 bowl games and ranked them. Soon after, we took a look at where all 10 bowl games involving the SEC rank on Schlabach's list.
Now, it's time for a little ranking of our own. And by "our," of course I mean "mine."
Here's how I ranked the SEC's 10 bowl games this season:
2. Missouri-Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl: If you like points then you've come to the right place. These teams are averaging 39 points per game. Mizzou ranks 16th nationally in total offense (492.9 yards per game), while Oklahoma State ranks 41st (440.5). If last Saturday was any indication, defense could be off the table in Jerry's World. The Tigers might have missed out on a BCS bowl, but they get to end a great season in a major bowl against an old Big 12 mate.
3. South Carolina-Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl: Don't you dare overlook this game. It might not have the pizazz of a BCS affair, but you get two teams that want to grind it out and punch you in the mouth on offense. Plus, the last time we saw Jadeveon Clowney in a bowl game, he startled the college football world with "The Hit."
4. Alabama-Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl: OK, so this one is a top-tier game by name, and you get the fun of Bob Stoops vs. the SEC. But I just have a feeling that a frustrated Alabama team won't have much of a problem with an Oklahoma team that has been inconsistent on offense all year. Let's see how Stoops does against the "propaganda machine."
5. Ole Miss-Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: This is a game that features two fun offenses and is in a city that just loves some Southern football. Rebels fans know how to travel, and you better believe they will clog up Nashville. Ole Miss ranks 21st nationally in total offense (473) but faces an improved Yellow Jackets defense that is allowing more than a 100 yards a game below that.
6. LSU-Iowa in the Outback Bowl: Just about everyone from both fan bases remembers Drew Tate's game-winning Hail Mary to beat LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. Funny, the Tigers ended this year's regular season on a last-minute 49-yard touchdown pass to beat Arkansas. Coincidence? Zach Mettenberger might not be in this one, but we get to see Anthony Jennings take another step in his transition as the future at quarterback for LSU.
7. Texas A&M-Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: Johnny Manziel and the Peach Drop? Yeah, I could be down for that. The Aggies didn't finish the season strong (two straight losses), but they get to ring in the New Year in Hotlanta with one of the best stories in college football. Duke might not have the athletes to keep Manziel in check, but being in a bowl like this should serve as plenty of motivation in a game that could be Johnny Football's last in a college uniform.
8. Mississippi State-Rice in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Somehow, the Bulldogs leapfrogged their way into this game. Winning two straight to end the season, including an overtime victory over rival Ole Miss, made Mississippi State a very attractive team for the city of Memphis. Dan Mullen was on the hot seat; now he's getting his team ready for the postseason.
9. Vanderbilt-Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl: Despite going 4-0 in November and beating Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all in the same year, the Commodores were picked last in the SEC bowl pecking order. James Franklin wants Dores fans to pack Birmingham to show that they have no problem with traveling. I wonder if this team will have a bigger chip on its shoulder.
10. Georgia-Nebraska in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: On paper, this is a pretty good game. Take the names away and you see one red team that can usually throw and run at will and another red team that just runs, runs, runs. But we've seen this one before. This was last year's Capital One Bowl, a game the Bulldogs won 45-31. This isn't fresh or new.
2. The secrecy pledge is a study in chutzpah, asking media members that do nothing but beat the drum for the Heisman 12 months a year not to talk about their individual vote. The Heisman people also just shoved the pledge under the voter’s nose as he/she cast the electronic ballot: sign this or else, pal. That’s what bullies do. Oh yeah, my second-place vote went to a tattooed quarterback who didn’t win a third national championship this year. And if you led the FBS in rushing, I might have voted you third.
3. I have tried very hard not to get sucked into the Nick-Saban-to-Texas vortex, because I think it’s a case of Texas people saying what they want to hear, combined with Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, roiling the waters on behalf of his client. And did Texas really say that they want to hire a head coach who has won a Super Bowl or a BCS title? If nothing else, that shows a lack of imagination. How many coaches who have won either had done so before that team/school hired them? One: Saban.