NCF Nation: Trooper Taylor
The recruitment of players courted by Auburn assistants Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper has been investigated by the NCAA, according to multiple sources.
Taylor, Auburn's assistant head coach and wide receivers coach, and Luper, the Tigers' running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, aren't currently recruiting for Auburn, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports. When asked about coaches not actively recruiting for the Tigers, Auburn coach Gene Chizik has declined to comment on the situation.
Al.com also reported on Wednesday that at least one Auburn assistant coach and several players were interviewed by the NCAA this week.
One of the players in question is running back Jovon Robinson, whose former high school guidance counselor, Yvette Lynch, was found to have changed grades for an Auburn recruit. She later told ESPN that she changed the grades at the request of another teacher.
The NCAA ruled Robinson academically ineligible this year and he is not currently enrolled at Auburn.
Al.com also reported that the NCAA's investigation isn't limited to just Robinson's recruitment.
Chizik isn't commenting on the situation, but this is yet another obstacle that he'll have to tackle during a season that has been tremendously disappointing for he and his Tigers. Auburn is 3-8 on the season and 0-7 in conference play. Even though Chizik is two years removed from bringing a national championship to the Plains, his combined 11-13 record (4-11 in SEC play) over the past two years has drawn strong criticism from fans in Auburn.
If Chizik's poor record this year forced one of his feet out the door at Auburn, an NCAA investigation might put the second one out as well.
Who's the next Urban Meyer? The next Chris Petersen? What about another Brady Hoke?
Who's that next great assistant who rises up the ranks and takes over a major program ... and succeeds?
I'm not completely sure, but I have a few ideas. Here are some coaches lurking in the SEC who could be on their way to bigger and better things or are ready to take the next step with their current teams:
- James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin became the only first-year coach in Vandy history to guide the Commodores to a bowl game. He surpassed the program's win totals in each of its previous two seasons and signed arguably the school's best recruiting class in 2012. He brought attitude, confidence and a bit of swagger to the program. He could have left after one year but is really looking to turn things around at Vanderbilt.
- Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: Bulldogs fans probably don't like hearing this, but Mullen is becoming a hot name among the coaching ranks. In his three seasons in Starkville, he has guided Mississippi State to two straight bowl wins. In 2010, he led the Bulldogs to nine wins for the first time since 1999. Mullen says he is happy in Starkville, but if he continues to win, bigger schools won't hesitate to go after him.
- Shawn Elliott, South Carolina offensive line coach/running game coordinator: Steve Spurrier has raved about Elliott's impact on offense and bringing in the zone read package. Elliott has done wonders for South Carolina's offensive line, which was a continual sore spot in Spurrier's early years at the school. Elliott is also a dogged recruiter. Having grown up in Camden, S.C., Elliott is somebody to watch when Spurrier hangs it up. If he doesn't get that job, somebody is going to snap him up.
- Rodney Garner, Georgia defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Georgia for a while and has been wooed several times by other schools. LSU went after him several years ago, and Lane Kiffin was interested in bringing him to Tennessee. In the past 12 years, he has coached plenty of NFL talent, including four first-round draft picks. He has consistently been one of the league's best recruiters as well.
- Todd Grantham, Georgia defensive coordinator/associate head coach: He could start getting more looks for head-coaching gigs. He has vast NFL experience, including being a defensive coordinator at that level, and more schools are looking for coaches with NFL experience. Grantham has proven himself as a recruiter and worked under two of the best in the college ranks -- Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Nick Saban at Michigan State. He has made a tremendous difference in turning around Georgia's defense and has an edge about him that successful head coaches possess.
- Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator for defense: He is one of the bright young names among the assistant ranks. As the defensive line coach at Arkansas State, he coached up Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner, who tied for third in the nation in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss. Arkansas State also led the conference and ranked eighth nationally in tackles for loss (7.62 per game) and tied for 15th in sacks (2.69 per game). He is a tremendous recruiter and helped bring in a solid defensive class in a short amount of time this spring.
- Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M offensive coordinator: After being a standout quarterback at Texas Tech, he is considered one of the top young assistants in college football. He came over with Kevin Sumlin from Houston, where he helped guide the Cougars' offense to its record-setting year in 2011. Houston led the nation in total offense, passing offense and scoring in 2011 behind quarterback Case Keenum. The Cougars averaged 599.1 total yards per game, including 450.1 through the air, while scoring more than 49 points per game.
- Paul Petrino, Arkansas offensive coordinator: He came over to help run Arkansas' offense with his brother, but after Bobby Petrino was fired this spring, Paul Petrino assumed the role as primary playcaller. In 2010, he guided an Illinois offense that broke school records for total points (423) and points per game (32.54). The Illini averaged 42.1 points and 448.9 total yards over the final seven games of the season. If he can keep Arkansas' offense going this year, his phone might start ringing a little more.
- Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator/safeties coach: He has been a head coach at Columbia and is innovative on defense, playing the kind of attacking style that attracts great players. He helped orchestrate one of the most impressive defensive turnarounds in the country last year, as Vanderbilt ranked ninth nationally in pass defense efficiency and 18th in total defense. Vandy's defense also ranked among the nation's top units in interceptions, points allowed and rush defense.
- Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator: He is one of the best defensive coordinators around, and it seems like only a matter of time before he is a head coach somewhere. Smart has already passed on a few head-coaching opportunities. He is making $950,000 a year and is in a position to be picky with coaching jobs.
- Trooper Taylor, Auburn wide receivers coach/assistant head coach: He is one of the hottest and most successful recruiters in the SEC. He brought in and trained some elite receivers at Oklahoma State and Tennessee before making his way to Auburn. He is continuing that trend and has turned Emory Blake into one of the SEC's best pass-catchers. He was co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, and if Auburn's receivers make another jump, Taylor could be waving his towel elsewhere soon.
- Frank Wilson, LSU running backs coach/recruiting coordinator: He has emerged as one of the sport's top recruiters. As a running backs coach, he has done a tremendous job with the Tigers. Last season, LSU averaged 202.6 rushing yards per game and tied a school record with 35 rushing touchdowns. Three backs eclipsed the 500-yard rushing mark. Wilson commands tremendous respect from his players.
- David Yost, Missouri offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Missouri for 11 years, but he has to start getting more attention as an exceptional playcaller. He has a great eye for talent and pointing out mismatches in his spread scheme. In 2011, Mizzou ranked ninth nationally in rushing (244 yards per game) and had one of the most balanced offenses, as Mizzou was one of only two schools in the country to average at least 230 yards rushing and passing in each game.
2. The ESPNU 150 debuted Wednesday. Before you could hit the refresh button, one of four players on the list from the state of Missouri, wide receiver Durron Neal, verbally committed to ... Oklahoma. Ouch. Until the rest of the Big 12 can divert the top talent away from the Sooners and from Texas, the league will not be as competitive as it should be. Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel has a chance for redemption. Another wide receiver from the state, Dorial Green-Beckham, is rated the No. 3 recruit in the nation.
3. Georgia State head coach Bill Curry announced earlier this week that he had promoted Joe Hamilton into a full-time position as assistant coach. That’s great news for Hamilton, who, like Curry, played up the street at Georgia Tech. Unlike Curry, a lineman, Hamilton is the most prominent quarterback in Yellow Jacket history. He won the Davey O’Brien Award in 1999 and finished second in the Heisman Trophy vote that year. Hamilton is exactly the type of name the Panthers need to gain a toehold in Atlanta.
Robinson, an offensive lineman, signed with the Tigers as part of the 2011 class. Reed signed with Auburn in 2010 and redshirted last season after injuring his knee. Robinson and Reed were recruited primarily by Auburn assistant Trooper Taylor.
Dennis Lorio, Thibodaux High School's former football coach, told FOXSports.com that he was interviewed for 45 minutes by one of two NCAA investigators who visited him and that Robinson was interviewed for a "couple of hours."
These are all assistant coaches, and eight SEC coaches made the cut -- Sal Sunseri of Alabama, Tim Horton of Arkansas, Trooper Taylor and Tommy Thigpen of Auburn, Mike Bobo of Georgia, Frank Wilson of LSU, G.A. Mangus of South Carolina and Charlie Baggett of Tennessee.
The ACC was second with five assistant coaches on the list.
I put together my own list earlier this month of the SEC's top 25 recruiters among assistant coaches, and six of the eight SEC guys on the national list were also on my list. The two I didn't have on my list (Mangus and Thigpen) should have been.
Bottom line: If you can't recruit in the SEC, you're probably not going to be around very long -- or you better be one of the best position coaches in the business.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Taking the temperature around the SEC:
- Florida's Matt Patchan, who filled a void at defensive tackle last season, will move back to offense in 2009 and compete for one of the Gators' starting tackle jobs.
- Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor says top receiver signee DeAngelo Benton should be good to go academically this summer.
- LSU coach Les Miles fills his staff opening with former Boston College assistant Dan Yanowsky.
- Arkansas' Bobby Petrino lauds his graduate assistants for their role in the Hogs' recruiting efforts.
- The NCAA has denied the eligibility waiver for former South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, who had hoped to be eligible to play baseball right away at Alabama.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
My apologies to Auburn fans, and my apologies to DeAngelo Benton.
In the pre-spring SEC power rankings on Monday, I referred to Benton as a junior college receiver when I meant to refer to him as a prep school receiver. He attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, and as I've been reminded now by countless Auburn fans, did not spend any time at a junior college.
My bad. I'll make it up by helping to roll Toomer's Corner after Gene Chizik's first big win at Auburn next season.
Anyway, now that we've got that straight, I do think Benton is perhaps the steal of the 2009 signing class.
I say "steal," because nobody really saw Auburn as a player until the very end. Even then, it was a shocker to many that Benton, who's from Bastrop, La., didn't sign with LSU.
He made an impromtu visit to Auburn late in January. New Auburn assistant Trooper Taylor worked his recruiting magic, and Benton saw himself fitting into Gus Malzhan's spread offense and playing for Taylor, who coaches receivers.
But, hey, any offense can use a 6-3, 210-pound receiver who has the hops to go up and get the football over most defensive backs and the speed to run by them. Benton is that kind of athlete, and the Tigers were ecstatic to get him.
Here's something else about Benton: He's hungry.
He signed with LSU on two different occasions, the first time out of high school in 2007 and the second time when he was at Hargrave last year. He failed to qualify academically both times, meaning he doesn't take anything for granted.
The plan is for Benton to be on campus this summer, assuming there are no snags with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
It shouldn't be hard to spot him in the fall, either. He'll be the new guy out there making all the plays, the kind the Tigers didn't make many of last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Once you get in this family, there's no getting out.
I keep thinking about that famous line from "The Sopranos" as I watch the assistants in the SEC change addresses within the conference at a dizzying pace.
That's not to mention the former SEC assistants, head coaches and players who have flocked back to the league this year and found their way onto different staffs.
I can't ever remember a year quite like this where jumping from one SEC port to another was this prevalent. In some cases, coaches were just looking for work. In others, coaches simply got better deals, while some jumped at the chance to reunite with guys they'd worked with in the past.
- Lance Thompson, after two years at Alabama under Nick Saban, joins Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee.
- Former Auburn coach and linebacker James Willis leaves his alma mater for bitter rival Alabama to replace Thompson.
- John Chavis ends up at LSU after 14 seasons as Tennessee's defensive coordinator.
- Former Alabama defensive back Lorenzo Ward, after one year at Arkansas, leaves for South Carolina to reunite with Ellis Johnson, who left Arkansas a year earlier after spending 28 days on the Hogs' staff.
- Trooper Taylor is back in the SEC at Auburn after spending last season at Oklahoma State and the previous four at Tennessee.
- David Reaves leaves South Carolina for Tennessee to work under Kiffin, who is Reaves' brother-in-law.
- Tracy Rocker leaves Ole Miss for Auburn, where he became the first SEC player in history to win the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1988.
- Former Auburn defensive ends coach Terry Price replaces Rocker at Ole Miss.
- Ron Cooper, after five years at South Carolina, leaves for LSU.
- Former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron is the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach at Tennessee after spending last year with the New Orleans Saints.
- Former Tennessee running back Jay Graham, who also worked as a graduate assistant for the Vols, is now the running backs coach at South Carolina.
- Former Ole Miss assistant Frank Wilson has a cup of coffee at Mississippi State earlier this month before bolting for Tennessee.
- Tony Hughes, after a year at Southern Miss, replaces Wilson at Mississippi State. Hughes worked under Orgeron all three years at Ole Miss.
- Former Auburn assistant Eddie Gran lands at Tennessee.
- Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is back in the SEC at Auburn after spending the last two years at Tulsa.
- Carl Torbush, who last worked in the SEC as Alabama's defensive coordinator in 2002, is back in the league as Mississippi State's defensive coordinator.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Bowl action returns tonight when Texas and Ohio State meet in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. I'm expecting an entertaining game between two traditional powers who are meeting for only the third time in history, but also for the third time in the last four years.
Here are some links about what's happening around the conference.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is ready to claim a national championship with players solely recruited by him. Thayer Evans of the New York Times reports that on Stoops' 2000 national championship team, half of the starters were recruited to the program by former Oklahoma head coach John Blake.
- Texas coach Mack Brown discusses the bowl games so far this season, including some unexpected Big 12 South struggles, on Dallas Morning News Big 12 reporter Chuck Carlton's blog.
- Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma State assistant coach Trooper Taylor appears headed to Auburn to join Gene Chizik's staff. And the Dothan Eagle's Andrew Gribble reports that Chizik has hired former Iowa State assistant Jay Boulware as his new special teams coordinator.
- John Finneran of Gatorcountry.com writes that contrary to some prevailing opinions, teams do play defense in the Big 12.
- Only the Cotton Bowl among five Texas-based bowls showed an increase in attendance this season, illustrating a national trend of declining attendance for bowl games, writes Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.
- Bob Hamar of the Grand Island Independent admits to having a sportswriter's man-crush on Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz.