NCF Nation: Mike Canales

Non-AQ Did you Know, Week 12

November, 19, 2010
Time for a little trivia and your weekly installment of non-AQ Did you know? Thanks to the school and league sports information departments for these notes, along with ESPN Stats & Information.
  • San Diego State hosts Utah on Saturday. The Aztecs are 4-0 at home this season, marking the first time they have won their first four home games of a season since 1996. That season, the Aztecs posted a perfect 6-0 home record. The last time the Aztecs won four consecutive home games was during a five-game stretch from Oct. 9, 1998 to Sept. 4, 1999.
  • TCU has scored 454 points this season, ranking second in school history. The TCU record, set last year, is 498. The top-three point totals in TCU history have been accomplished in the past three seasons.
  • Colorado State's Mychal Sisson has forced six fumbles this season, and all have come in the past three games. His six forced fumbles tie the MWC single-season record and are the most by a Ram in a season since 1998 (Joey Porter, eight; Clark Haggans, seven;
  • Southern Miss tied a school record by clinching its 17th consecutive winning season with its victory over UCF last week, matching the mark set from 1951-67. That is the fourth-longest active streak among FBS schools behind Florida State (29), Florida (20) and Virginia Tech (18).
  • Tulsa has a four-game winning streak, and the Golden Hurricane have averaged 43 points and 490.5 yards of total offense during that span.
  • Kent State defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix is tied for seventh in the nation in forced fumbles (4), sixth in tackles for loss (17.5) and tied for 14th in sacks (8.5).
  • Utah State running back Derrvin Speight did not have a 100-yard rushing game in his first 31 contests, but has reached that mark in each of the past two games. The Aggies are looking for their first three-game winning streak since winning four in a row in 2001.
  • Nevada has won 10 straight home games. A win over New Mexico State would give the Wolf Pack their first 10-win season since it was an FCS member in 1991 (12-1). It would also be the 500th victory in program history.
  • Meanwhile, quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs 51 rushing yards to record his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and become the first player in NCAA history with three seasons of 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards.
  • Hawaii wide receiver Greg Salas needs 218 yards receiving to break Jason Rivers’ career school record of 3,919. Fellow wide receiver Kealoha Pilares needs 55 receiving yards to reach 1,000 on the season.
  • Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin broke the school records for passing touchdowns (18) and total offense (3,036) in a loss to Western Kentucky last week. He became just the fifth player in Sun Belt history to record more than 3,000 yards of total offense in a single season.
  • North Texas has shown improvement under interim coach Mike Canales. The Mean Green have won two of three and had more than 400 yards of total offense in all three games. They accomplished that just three times in the first seven games this season. North Texas is also plus-5 in turnover margin in those three games. In the seven games under Todd Dodge, the Mean Green was minus-6 in the turnover margin. The Mean Green have also increased their scoring average from 16.9 points a game to 30.3 points a game.
  • Northern Illinois has won seven straight, but the Huskies have not had a winning streak of longer than that since becoming an FBS program in 1969. The last time a Northern Illinois team won more than seven games in a row was in 1965, when Coach Howard Fletcher’s Huskies put together an undefeated (9-0) regular season before losing to North Dakota in the Mineral Water Bowl.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Four straight weeks of going 7-3 -- is this as good as it gets? I did my upset special right, though I did not expect Utah to continue its implosion, or FIU to beat Troy for the first time ever.

With a 71-43 overall record and several tough games to call this week, bring on Week 12.

No. 4 Boise State 45, Fresno State 17. The Broncos have won four straight in the series, and a few of those wins have been “close” at least in Boise State terms. Last season, Boise State won 51-34, and in 2007 the Broncos on 34-21. Scores that “close” may make voters think twice about where the Broncos stand in the rankings, especially since they have the Friday night spotlight to themselves. The Bulldogs have good balance on offense, but the Boise State defense will be able to shut down Robbie Rouse, who has posted back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.

No. 18 Nevada 55, New Mexico State 10. The Wolf Pack have rebounded nicely from a loss to Hawaii, and relied on Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua to pull out a close game against Fresno State last week. With a combined five touchdowns in that game, Taua and Kaepernick set the NCAA record for the most touchdowns and most points scored by two players on the same team in a career. Taua and Kaepernick have combined for 103 touchdowns and 616 points.

No. 23 Utah 28, San Diego State 27. I have gone back and forth on this one this entire week, and was leaning Aztecs up until this morning. I love what Brady Hoke has done with the program, and think Ronnie Hillman is a future star. But Jordan Wynn usually comes up big at Qualcomm, and a return home should do him some good and help the offense get out of its doldrums. He is on notice, and he has got to respond.

Tulsa 35, UTEP 17. The Golden Hurricane are streaking now, having won four straight games, and find themselves in a tie atop the West. They need to win out and hope for SMU to lose at least once to get the division crown. Meanwhile, UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has been hampered by injuries the last several weeks and won’t be 100 percent. Going with the hot team.

Western Michigan 35, Kent State 28. This one is for the battle to keep bowl hopes alive. Both teams are 4-6, and both have had disappointing seasons. But the Broncos have a good thing going with Alex Carder, Jordan White and Juan Nunez on offense. Kent State has some uncertainty at quarterback -- Spencer Keith played last week with a sprained thumb but was benched after throwing an interception. Backup Giorgio Morgan threw two.

Wyoming 33, Colorado State 30. Anything can happen in “The Border War” season finale between the two teams. The last two seasons, the road team has won this game. Wyoming is winless in the Mountain West and in desperate need of a positive note to close out the season. The Rams have not won a road game yet, and have scored just 29 points in their past two games.

UPSET SPECIAL: Army 28, Notre Dame 20. Sorry, I am not on the Irish bus despite the win over Utah. The Utes were totally deflated going into that game and imploded. I still have visions of Navy dancing for 367 rushing yards against the Irish in my head. While the Black Knights aren’t as proficient as the Midshipmen in the triple option yet, they are much improved will give them fits. No doubt Notre Dame will make adjustments, but I still think Army will be able to run.

FIU 30, Louisiana 20. I have a big fear the Panthers may suffer from a letdown in this game following their first ever win over Troy, a victory that has them in the driver’s seat for the Sun Belt. FIU has never been in that position. But they are streaking offensively, having scored a combined 94 points in the past two games. T.Y. Hilton is a big reason why. Louisiana, meanwhile, has lost six straight.

UPSET SPECIAL, PART II: Houston 28, Southern Miss 24. Houston has got to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. The Cougars are no strangers to pulling the road upset, with a win at SMU last month. If the Cougars limit the mistakes, they win. The Golden Eagles have had a terrible week after three players were shot following a fight at a club. You have to wonder whether they will be motivated to play for them, or distracted because of the events of the week. Southern Miss has lost its two league games by a combined two points.

ULM 27, North Texas 20. The Mean Green have won two of three under interim head coach Mike Canales, and have largely done it behind Lance Dunbar, who has combined for 677 yards and six touchdowns rushing and receiving. ULM has to win this to keep bowl hopes alive, and is unbeaten at home. Kolton Browning had thrown for 200 yards in eight straight games before that streak ended last week against LSU. He will do enough to win.

Lunchtime Links

November, 1, 2010
The week begins with TCU ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. Will the Horned Frogs stay there after Saturday? We have a week full of previews lined up for you, starting with a look at the TCU D vs. the Utah D.

Now on to some links:

If you have not had a chance to see the Army camo unis from this past weekend, check 'em out.

With a bowl invite in hand, Hawaii has turned its attention to winning the WAC championship. Next up: Boise State.

TCU coach Gary Patterson isn't interested in the latest BCS soap opera that has his team ranked No. 3.

The big week is finally here for Utah.

San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley sprained his ankle against Wyoming but is expected to start against Colorado State this weekend.

Air Force has turned its attention to Army.

Mike Canales might be a good fit at North Texas.

Northern Illinois gets ready for its game against the surging Toledo Rockets next Tuesday.

Tulsa coach Todd Graham said Sunday afternoon that he wanted his players to savor their win against Notre Dame: "I want to keep them on Cloud 9."

Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Come one, come all for your top-10 non-AQ storylines for Week 9:

1. Do No. 4 TCU and No. 8 Utah stay undefeated headed into their big showdown next week? TCU travels to UNLV and Utah travels to Air Force on Saturday. The Horned Frogs have been inconsistent in two true road games this season, trailing early to SMU and leading only 6-0 at halftime against Colorado State. TCU is a heavy favorite to beat lowly UNLV, but this is a good road test before its trip to Salt Lake City. Utah faces a much more difficult test at Air Force. The games between the two schools are generally close, and the Falcons are smarting after two straight losses. Many have complained about the “weak” Utah schedule to this point. A win here might answer some of those critics.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lindley
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireRyan Lindley and the Aztecs are on the brink of bowl eligibility.
2. Who becomes bowl eligible? Eleven non-AQ teams are one win away from becoming bowl eligible this Saturday, with some new faces scattered in there. San Diego State (5-2) has not been to a bowl game since 1998 and plays at Wyoming, a game it should win. Toledo (5-3) and UTEP (5-3) have not been to a bowl game since 2005. East Carolina (5-2) and UCF (5-2) play each other so only one will get to six wins. Hawaii (6-2), Nevada (6-1), Navy (5-2), Ohio (5-3) and Southern Miss (5-2) are all favored to win their games. Air Force (5-3) has a big game against Utah, as mentioned above.

3. Does UCF break through and beat East Carolina? The two rivals have combined to win each of the past three Conference USA championships and four of the past five East Division titles. Both have won all their league games, marking the latest that two undefeated teams have played since the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005. But East Carolina has won four straight in the series and holds an 8-1 overall edge. Many people thought this might be a rebuilding year for the Pirates, but they have won behind Dominique Davis. The UCF defense is going to have its hands full.

4. Navy has a chance to win four straight. The Midshipmen were down and out after losing to Air Force 14-6 earlier this season. A team that has known nothing but dominance over its fellow service academies has been strengthened because of that loss, running off three straight wins. None was more convincing than a 35-17 victory over Notre Dame last week that was vintage Navy. It hosts Duke on Saturday.

5. How does TCU quarterback Andy Dalton play on the road? In three neutral site/road games this season, Dalton has three touchdowns to four interceptions. At home: 11 touchdowns to one interception. TCU closes with three of its final four games on the road, starting Saturday. Coach Gary Patterson said earlier this week, “We’ll probably go as Andy Dalton goes. If he plays at a high level, we’ll have a chance to win more of those games than we lose.”

6. Can the Utah defense be as effective as TCU at stopping Air Force? A lot of people like to scoreboard watch as a way to measure teams against each other. TCU and Utah both are in the top 10 in the nation in total defense. So which will be able to handle the Air Force triple option better? TCU held Air Force to a season-low 184 yards rushing last week.

7. Ohio is asserting itself in the MAC. The Bobcats have won four straight games behind solid play from quarterback Boo Jackson. Of course, it has helped that they also got to beat up on Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Akron. But last week’s win over Miami (Ohio) was big. They have outgained five consecutive opponents on the ground for the first time since 2006. During the four-game win streak, Ohio has scored 151 points, the most points in a four-game stretch since 2002. They get Sun Belt Louisiana this week and Buffalo next before a huge game against East Division opponent Temple on Nov. 16.

8. Two of these teams are going to get to two wins on Saturday: San Jose State, New Mexico State, North Texas and Western Kentucky. The season has been especially unkind to San Jose State and North Texas, who have lost multiple players to season-ending injuries. The Mean Green have lost 10 starters, the Spartans 15 starters and key reserves. North Texas travels to play Western Kentucky, coming off its first win of the season, while San Jose State goes to Las Cruces.

9. How does Mike Canales fair in his first game as a North Texas interim head coach? Canales takes over for Todd Dodge, who was fired last week after winning just six games for the Mean Green. This is a job audition for Canales, who would love to become a head coach and has learned under some of the best. Most recently, he served as offensive coordinator under Jim Leavitt at USF before coming to North Texas this season.

10. The BCS standings will look how? Depends on what happens with everybody else. The big question moving forward: If TCU and Utah are undefeated next week and the Horned Frogs win, will that give them a boost toward climbing ahead of Boise State? They are just 0.0013 points behind Boise State this week. If Utah wins, will that give the Utes a boost? That is much less likely because they still have far to climb, especially in the human polls.
North Texas coach Todd Dodge knew after the final game of the 2009 regular season that he’d be retained for another year, but the leash wasn’t going to get longer than that.

Nelson Chenault/US PresswireNorth Texas coach Todd Dodge needs the Mean Green to break through this year to keep his job.
In three years as the head coach of the Mean Green, Dodge has won just five games. But last year, the Mean Green were as competitive as they've ever been under Dodge. Six of UNT’s 10 losses were by seven or fewer points and five of those losses were by four or fewer points. North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal saw the progress, which prompted him to keep Dodge on board, but Dodge knows he needs to show major progress to stay beyond 2010.

“It’s a deal right now that we’ve got to win football games,” Dodge said. “I don’t believe that four or five wins is going to get it done. It’s going to take six or seven wins to get it done. That’s something that’s been explained to me, but it’s also something that before it was ever explained, that’s an expectation that I and my coaching staff and my players have. You can call it under the gun or whatever it might be, and that’s fine. I don’t mind working under that situation. It’s a motivation. It’s a challenge. We kind of know what we’ve got to get done.”

Dodge acknowledges he thought his team could win six games in 2009 and, after beating Ball State to start the season, that belief became even stronger. But then things started to unravel. The Mean Green lost by a point in overtime to Ohio and then were blown out by Alabama. They lost six straight after that initial win and even though they beat Western Kentucky in that eighth game, Dodge knew the season was slipping away.

Dodge can point to a moment in each of the Mean Green’s losses last year that the game changed -- a defensive penalty here, an offensive penalty there, all moments that turned a potential win into a loss.

“It was the mistakes in crucial situations in the ball game,” Dodge said. “When you lose, literally our last three were all by four points. That’s the thing we’re really focusing on this offseason. We’ve got to do a great job of identifying what our problems were, make sure we don’t turn a blind eye to them, and grind through the offseason becoming a more disciplined team. You can shake it out any way you want, but we’ve got to be a more disciplined team in crucial situations for four quarters.”

Despite the lack of success, Dodge heads into this spring with confidence. He returns 19 players with starting experience and he said this is the first time he’s had the kind of continuity he's needed to build a winning squad. Both UNT’s quarterback, Riley Dodge, and star running back, Lance Dunbar, return, as do the team’s top six receivers. He also brought in former South Florida offensive coordinator Mike Canales to help with the offense.

Defensively, most of the top players return and while that's been a weak side of the ball for the Mean Green, Dodge saw them get better as the season progressed.

But what gives Dodge the most hope heading into 2010 is that through everything, he never lost his team. He never thought they stopped playing or gave up. Unlike in past years, Dodge has several good moments to point out that his team can build on and that’s his plan as he heads into this pivotal year.

“When you get down the stretch and you haven’t won any games you feel you should have, there is a tendency late in the year for the attitudes to head south and that kind of stuff,” Dodge said. “There was none of that. The difference in our football team obviously wasn’t in the wins from 2008 to 2009, but the expectation. With the exception of the Alabama game, the Monroe game and the Troy game, the other nine, we were right in the hunt in all those.

“Again, I can go back in any of those losses and pick out about four plays and they were the difference makers. And what we’ve got to do as a football team is turn those four or five difference-making plays into positives in our favor.”

UNT hires Canales to help offense

January, 29, 2010
North Texas announced today that Mike Canales has been hired as the new offensive coordinator. Canales had been the offensive coordinator at South Florida, but was not retained by new head coach Skip Holtz.

In his five seasons at South Florida, Canales turned the Bulls into one of the most offensively proficient teams in the country. In 2008, South Florida led the Big East Conference in scoring and ranked second in total offense.

Bringing in Canales for what could be Dodge’s final season is a pivotal move. Since Dodge took the job in 2006, he’s been running a similar spread attack to the one he ran at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. While the system was wildly successful in the high school ranks and even has produced some of the country’s better collegiate quarterbacking talent, it hasn’t translated into many wins for the Mean Green.

In three seasons with the Mean Green, Dodge is 5-31. He inherited a program that was already down in terms of recruiting, and he’s still getting the leftovers from the six other FBS programs in the state, including SMU, which has recruited much better under coach June Jones.

Canales will have some talent with which to work. Quarterback Riley Dodge ranked 38th in the country in total offense. He also showed the ability to be a quality dual-threat. Running back Lance Dunbar really made a name for himself last year as the No. 14 rusher in the country. He had eight 100-yard games and two 200-yard games. He finished with 200 carries for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Mean Green also return their top three receivers in Jamaal Jackson, Darius Carey and Michael Outlaw.

However, the biggest area North Texas needs to address in order to become a player in the offensively potent Sun Belt Conference is defense. The Mean Green have had one of the worst defenses in the country during Dodge’s tenure and that’s been the thing that has held the team back. It ranked 104th against the run and 112th nationally in scoring defense. The Mean Green couldn’t get to opposing quarterbacks, ranking 116th in the country in sacks.

One of the things North Texas has done the past couple of seasons is scour the junior college ranks for immediate defensive help. In this year’s class alone, Dodge signed five junior college players and all of them are on the defensive side of the ball. All five also will be available for spring football.

Dodge was on the hot seat heading into the 2009 season, but was spared despite a 2-10 record. However, he’ll need to show progress this season. North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal said in December when he decided to keep Dodge for another year that he saw enough progress during the 2-10 campaign to convince him the program was headed in the right direction, but that the results needed to start showing on the scoreboard.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Put some backspin on it.

Team of the week: South Florida. The Bulls won a Big East road game and cracked the polls for the first time this season, joining Cincinnati as the only league teams to be ranked in 2009.

Best game: Slim pickings from a short week. I guess the honor will go to West Virginia's 35-24 win over Colorado, which at least featured a lot of big plays.

Biggest play: For the second week in a row, it's a Cincinnati interception in the red zone. This time JK Schaffer saved the Bearcats from having a really tight game on their hands by picking off a Miami pass in the end zone late in the third quarter.

Best call: And for the second straight week, it's a pass play dialed up by South Florida's Mike Canales. This time, he opened the second half with a play action bomb that resulted in B.J. Daniels' 85-yard touchdown pass to Carlton Mitchell. That set the tone for the rest of the game.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia. He was nearly unstoppable against Colorado, running for 220 yards on 22 carries, including a 77-yard score.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Nate Allen, S, South Florida. He had eight tackles and a pair of interceptions at Syracuse to continue his strong season.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Scott Kozlowski, P, West Virginia. Kozlowski averaged 48 yards on four kicks, including a 56-yarder.

Worst Hangover: Louisville. The Cardinals were geeked up to beat Pitt, breaking out new uniforms and staging a black-out in front of a sold-out crowd. The fans wished they could black out the second half, in which the Panthers outscored Louisville 24-0.

Strangest moment: On two separate occasions in the first quarter of the Syracuse-South Florida game, one team turned the ball over only to have the other team give it back on the very next snap.

OK, time to pay it forward. (games listed in descending order of interest and importance):

Connecticut (3-1) at Pittsburgh (4-1, 1-0 Big East): Could be an early contender elimination game. We'll found out which of these teams is a serious threat in the league race.

West Virginia (3-1) at Syracuse (2-3, 0-1): The Mountaineers have owned Syracuse the past several years, but the Orange are a bit feistier these days.

Southern Mississippi (3-2) at Louisville (1-3, 0-1): Two old-school rivals meet, and that's appropriate because Louisville has been playing like it's back in the mid-1980s again.

Texas Southern (1-4) at Rutgers (3-1, 0-1): I will pay attention to this game because it's part of my job. Anyone else doing so will need a similar excuse.

Byes: Cincinnati, South Florida

Posted by's Brian Bennett

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- B.J. Daniels wore a headset for a national radio interview on the Doak Campbell Stadium field when South Florida offensive coordinator Mike Canales grabbed him.

J. Meric/Getty Images
B.J. Daniels had 215 yards passing and added 126 more on the ground in his first start.
"I told you you would come back and take it in this town!" Canales yelled. "This is your town!"

Daniels grinned for a second and then went back to answering questions. Clearly, nothing much rattles the kid.

Take, for instance, what he faced this week. The redshirt freshman inherited the quarterback job from the face of the Bulls' program, the injured Matt Grothe. His first career start came at No. 18 Florida State, the team he grew up rooting for as a Tallahassee native son. Dozens of friends and family members looked on from the stands.

Daniels, though, acted as though it were a weekday scrimmage.

"I'm not really a nervous person," he said. "I definitely felt comfortable, like I'd been here before."

Showing the moxie of Grothe, with a little more athleticism and a few predictable rookie mistakes, Daniels passed for 215 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 126 yards to help the Bulls beat Florida State 17-7.

"It's a great story," head coach Jim Leavitt said. "These kind of things don't happen all the time, right? But they did today."

Canales recruited Daniels hard when FSU wouldn't, and the coordinator's voice cracked as he talked about this homecoming performance. Despite the enormity of the assignment, Canales said Daniels stayed poised all week in practice except for one early-week drill. Canales got after him, telling him he couldn't afford any lapse in focus.

Daniels forced some throws in the second half -- he threw two interceptions and had another two that could have been picked off -- but for a freshman in this atmosphere, he was still pretty special. He made two huge throws in the first half -- one a 77-yard completion to Theo Wilson to set up South Florida's first touchdown and the other a 73-yard scoring bomb to Sterling Griffin. He set both up with play action, as Florida State had to respect his running ability, which included a 44-yard scramble through highway-style traffic.

"It was unbelievable," Canales said of Daniels' day. "I told him, 'That's why I recruited you.'"

Daniels maintained his focus during postgame interviews. He wouldn't bite on a question about Florida State's nonrecruitment of him, and he kept insisting that the win was far bigger than just him. Once, though, he allowed himself to reflect on what just happened.

"It's like Cinderella," he said, "or a fairy tale."


Posted by's Brian Bennett

When George Selvie Sr. first heard that Florida State was going to play South Florida this season, he excitedly called his son. You're going to get a shot at my boys, he blurted over the phone.

"I said, 'Your boys?'" recalls his son and namesake, the South Florida star defensive end. "You're a South Florida fan now."
 Brad Schloss/Icon SMI
 George Selvie and the Bulls are looking forward to Saturday's game against Florida State.

The elder Selvie might have momentarily forgot his allegiance, because the Pensacola resident was a big Seminoles fan for many years. South Florida, for all its recent success, still feels in some ways like it just got here yesterday.

The Sunshine State's other three BCS programs still dominate the headlines and recruiting. But the Bulls are trying to upgrade their status.

"Since I was in high school here or junior high or elementary school, it's always been Florida, Florida State and Miami," Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said. "I don't think there's any question that South Florida has done some pretty competitive things. But to really change history ..."

Leavitt didn't finish his thought, but he didn't need to. In order to turn the Big Three into Big Four, South Florida will have to beat the members of that triumvirate.

Its first-ever crack at Florida State arrives this Saturday in Tallahassee. Later this season, the Bulls will play host to Miami for the first time since 2005. Next year, they're scheduled to play at Florida for the first time.

In some ways, Leavitt's program has already established itself as a bona fide member of that group. In each of the past two years, the Bulls reached the Top 10 of both polls, while Florida State and Miami were spinning their wheels. But South Florida still couldn't compete with the resources, fan bases or traditions of those schools.

Leavitt chuckled this week when asked about recruiting battles against Florida State. Most of the players on his roster, including Tallahassee native son and quarterback B.J. Daniels, couldn't get a sniff from the Seminoles. Selvie, who played high school ball in the panhandle, never even got a letter from FSU. South Florida made news this offseason when it signed a couple of kids who were also recruited by Miami and Florida.

That's why the Bulls are looking forward to this weekend's game as a chance to prove they belong on the same stage. Selvie compared it to the game at Auburn two years ago that became a breakthrough win.

"That was a big stepping stone for our program," he said. "Playing FSU is like the same thing, but this is an in-state game. For recruiting and prestige, it would propel us up there for years to come."

The question is, are the Bulls ready for this moment?

They are 3-0 but have played probably the worst schedule in the country so far, beating two FCS opponents (Charleston Southern and Wofford) and the newest program in the FBS (Western Kentucky). Florida State, meanwhile, battled resurgent Miami down to the wire on Labor Day and blew the doors off BYU last week on the road. The No. 18 Seminoles look as strong as they have in years.

For South Florida, this will be like going from a morning commute to the Indy 500.

"The speed will be much faster," Leavitt said. "It's a different deal, we all know that."

South Florida's best preparation for this game might come not from its first three games, but from practice. Leavitt often pits starters versus starters, and those players Florida State didn't want are in most cases just as talented as the current Seminoles.

"Our defense is as fast as a lot of teams in this country," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "Going ones-on-ones at that speed every day keeps you at the level you need to play at. Obviously, it may take a little time at the beginning of the game to get used to [FSU's speed], but we'll make little adjustments as we go."

The Bulls are hoping there's a big adjustment after the game, with the Big Three reluctantly clearing some space for a fourth member.
Posted by's Brian Bennett

Mike Canales spent the past two years as South Florida's passing game coordinator and receivers coach before being promoted to be the Bulls' offensive coordinator for the second time in his career.

Canales is transforming South Florida's offense to a true spread attack this season. As someone who has worked closely with receivers, he can tell you how important that position is in a spread offense. And I asked him about just that subject in a recent conversation.

Can you tell us about the role of the receivers in the spread?

Mike Canales:
The biggest thing I look for with receivers in the spread offense is, they've got to be able to block. It's so crucial to the success of the run game, because you're going to get to that second level of defenders, and if you get the running back to that position you need to create angles.

People think throw-throw-throw with the spread, but as a coordinator, what I tell our receivers is, you're not getting on the field if you don't block. These guys are basically your fullbacks down the field, but they're not built like fullbacks.

Most receivers have probably done some blocking in high school, but it must be a major adjustment for them in college, right?

MC: That's right. One thing is, in most high schools, you're not allowed to cut. So we have to teach them about being aggressive, how to cut, the proper angles to cut, not to cut too early so the defensive back can't get on his feet again to make a play, etc.

The angles are all based on defensive schemes. If it's the zone-read outside option, what are you trying to get done, if it's a quarterback run who are you trying to get free. With all these things, young kids are lost at first. They're like, 'What do you mean, coach? I just run a route, a fade in or out, and throw me the ball.' But kids, when they get to this level, it's about teaching them defenses as well.

Do the receivers have more or different responsibilities now that you're running a true spread?

MC: We've added a few things. We're trying to get Matt (Grothe) outside a little bit more.
It's more about them understanding what their roles are and getting more involved in the running game. But the kids have done a good job the last couple of years of understanding what we're doing. We'll try to get the ball outside a little more with boots and nakeds and all that.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve's long process of deciding on a new school has apparently come down to two choices: Purdue or Tennessee.

South Florida had also offered the Tampa resident a scholarship, and Marve had been to a couple of Bulls' practices this spring.

But really, this does not seem like a big loss for South Florida. The Bulls should be in good shape after Matt Grothe graduates with backups B.J. Daniels and Evan Landi, both of whom had terrific springs. They are just as capable, if not more so, of running Mike Canales' offense than Marve. And neither will bring the potential distractions of the Miami transfer. Marve was far from spectacular in his season with the Hurricanes anyway.

In the end, this might have been the best possible outcome for South Florida.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

South Florida's coaching staff was divided over whether to offer a scholarship to Dontavia Bogan out of high school. Bogan's only other offer from a major program came from UAB.

He was an athlete with no apparent position, having played quarterback, receiver and safety in high school. Bogan said when he got to South Florida, coach Jim Leavitt asked if he wanted to play offense or defense.

Bogan chose wisely. He had a solid year among the Bulls' deep receiving corps as a sophomore and proved to be a force on special teams, setting school records for kickoff returns and return yards, averaging 26.6 yards per attempt.

"I was 17th in the nation in kickoff returns last year, but that wasn't good enough," he says. "I want to be number one this year."

Bogan said he played receiver sparingly during his high school career in Thomasville, Ga., and he had a lot to learn about the position in college. He saw the field in a limited role in the first half of his true freshman year until he was thrust into contributing against Rutgers, when the Bulls were trying to protect a No. 2 national ranking on the road.

"I remember going in there, and one of the outside linebackers jabbed me," he said. "I was like, 'I've got to get used to this or it's going to be a long year for me.'"

Bogan made adjustments and finished the year with 12 catches, including several spectacular diving grabs. Last season he had 26 receptions for 354 yards and a touchdown and again hauled in several difficult catches.

"I honestly think he might have the best hands on the team," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "He makes a lot of people miss, he's a good athlete and he can play a lot of different roles. I'm just impressed with the kid and what he's doing."

Canales compared the 6-foot-1 Bogan to a shorter version of New York Jets receiver Jericho Cotchery, whom Canales coached at NC State.

Bogan asked to be placed on kickoff return duty last season and quickly made an impact. Against UConn, he set a Big East record for average return yards in a game at 67.5, including a 71-yarder. He still gets teased by the coaches, though, for failing to beat the kicker on a couple of returns.

The South Florida receiving unit remains crowded, but Bogan can play either on the outside or in the slot positions. He's working this spring on improving his route-running, his blocking and his stamina.

One thing's for sure: a lot of programs whiffed on a valuable player.

"I'm just making progress year by year," he said.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

There's no more recognizable star in the Big East for 2009 than Matt Grothe.

The senior is entering his fourth year starting for South Florida and has made dozens of highlight-worthy plays during his career. He's also led the Bulls to bowl games in each of his three seasons.

Grothe is known for his escapability in the pocket, but he couldn't get away from our weekly spring Q&A series.

  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  Matt Grothe and the Bulls have their eyes on a Big East championship.

How was your offseason? Did you get in any fishing, hunting or golf?

Matt Grothe: For the most part, I was here trying to get better and get going for my senior season. We lost a lot on the O-line, so most of the time I was around here trying to work with our new offensive line and get them going.

What was your focus this offseason?

MG: Just learning the system better. When I'm out there, knowing exactly what I want to do and not let the defense force me into something else. I think coach (Mike) Canales, since he's the new offensive coordinator now, he's had a big impact on my decision-making on the field. It's a big difference in the way I'm doing things.

How has he been able to do that?

MG: He just relates really well to what's going on out there. He's a good speaker and he knows how to talk to you really well.

How much different will the offense be this season?

MG: It's not a lot different. It's just little wrinkles. I feel like it's more explosion, just a lot of fun. A lot of guys are out here having a lot of fun and really liking some of the new stuff we've got going in. I think this is going to be a really, really big year for us.

The last few days, we've had a lot of success doing newer stuff. If we can get into the flow this year, we're going to do big things. So we just need to keep going forward with the new stuff he's putting in and learn from our mistakes, and I think we'll be on the right foot going into the fall.

I hear it's more of a true spread with more downfield passing. Is that accurate?

MG: Definitely. I think the biggest thing since the changes on our side of the ball is, I feel like we just have more of an energy level now, and guys are excited to be running around and doing some of the newer things. Because at any moment, we can break a big play and score a touchdown.

Coach Canales was the receivers coach before. Did you have a lot of interaction with him then?

MG: He's always been a friend I could go and talk to, and since he stepped in and took over the OC job, he's done a good job of staying in touch and asking how I feel about what we're doing. He does a good job of not playing to my weaknesses and playing to my strengths.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Will Jim Leavitt promote receivers coach Mike Canales to be the new South Florida offensive coordinator? The St. Petersburg Times' Greg Auman examines that and other possibilities in his blog. Canales was the Bulls' offensive coordinator from 1996-2000.

• Syracuse coach Doug Marrone added a third former Tennessee assistant to his staff over the weekend by hiring ex-Volunteers running backs coach Stan Drayton.

• West Virginia got another commitment from a defensive back, making it six secondary recruits in this class, the Charleston Gazette reports.

• One of the objectives for the new Rutgers athletic director should be saying no occasionally to football coach Greg Schiano, Steve Politi writes in The Star-Ledger.

Big East internal affairs

October, 15, 2008

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Syracuse: The Orange could get a boost in their backfield if Delone Carter is able to play Saturday at South Florida. Carter has missed three games with a hamstring pull but is expected to be ready this week. He could offer a counterpunch to Curtis Brinkley, who's had four 100-yard rushing days already this season. Wide receiver Dan Sheeran (broken leg) and linebacker Chad Battles (foot) are both out until at least Nov. 1, while linebacker Ryan Gillum (foot) is probably done for the season.

Louisville: With Richard Raglin out with an injured arm and Latarrius Thomas dealing with a lingering knee issue, the Cardinals turned to former walk-on Daniel Covington as a starting safety at Memphis. Covington, a junior who was put on scholarship this summer, recorded 12 tackles in the game and now ranks second on the team with 27 stops. Head coach Steve Kragthorpe also said he wants to find ways to keep true freshman outside linebacker Dexter Heyman on the field when the Cardinals go to their nickel and dime packages.

West Virginia: Alric Arnett looked like the next West Virginia star when the receiver caught four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Villanova. In the five games since, however, Arnett has just nine receptions for 77 yards and no scores. Head coach Bill Stewart said Arnett and senior Dorrell Jalloh (eight catches for 76 yards on the season) need to get involved more. On the plus side, 6-foot-8 receiver Wes Lyons has come on lately. He had four catches for 44 yards last week against Rutgers.

South Florida: The Bulls are sacrificing some depth at cornerback by switching junior-college transfer Theo Wilson to receiver. Wilson, who's recovering from a knee injury, played quarterback, running back and receiver at Pearl River Community College last season and had returned punts for South Florida earlier this season. "He's a big threat when he has the ball in his hands, and that's what we're looking for," passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Mike Canales said. Wilson's switch leaves the Bulls with only four experienced cornerbacks to rotate.

Rutgers: Kordell Young's up-and-down season is back on the uptick. The sophomore running back was pegged as the main replacement for Ray Rice this season and had 94 yards on 26 carries in the opener against Fresno State. But then he started experiencing knee soreness and at one point late last month was feared lost for the season. Young returned to action last weekend at Cincinnati and carried 22 times for 78 yards. He's now listed as the co-starter at tailback, along with redshirt freshman Jourdan Brooks. Rutgers has started three different players at the position in six games.