Pac-12: New York Jets
One of the big questions for the 2013 NFL draft this week is the fate of Matt Barkley. Will he still get picked in the first round or will his stock continue to tumble?
Barkley seemed to -- finally? -- reveal some frustrations this week in a series of interviews in which he questioned coach Lane Kiffin's play-calling in 2012.
See here. And here.
But he wasn't the only former Trojan making news.
Mark Sanchez spoke up about the New York Jets acquiring Tim Tebow last year, and the media circus that the organization seemed to embrace. That, of course, created a new, if more modulated, media circus.
That wasn't the oddest bit of "news."
Former USC quarterback Mitch Mustain, who backed up Sanchez and Barkley after transferring from Arkansas, is the subject of a new documentary. It's narrated by former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson, which adds to a slightly strange texture in itself.
What's it about? Well, it's called "The Identity Theft of Mitch Mustain," which strikes me as a bit melodramatic. Mustain, who had an undeniably live arm, had one problem: His ability to select football programs.
When Mustain decided to leave Arkansas, where he was mismatched with head coach Houston Nutt, he could have become the starter for about 100 or so teams. But he chose USC, which simply had better quarterbacks on hand. End of story, at least on the USC end.
The Arkansas stuff, however, is fairly rich.
Meanwhile, Matt Leinart is a free agent, Carson Palmer signed with Arizona -- perhaps to be closer to the Pac-12 blog -- Matt Cassel is with the Minnesota Vikings, Aaron Corp is on the Buffalo Bills roster and John David Booty is out of the league.
Not many schools can list so many NFL QBs, but that operates as a negative when the success rate is so low.
The cumulative affect of all this mediocrity and odd drama -- fair or unfair -- is freight for Barkley.
His draft stock is not just about a disappointing season and over-heated questions about his arm strength, which is certainly NFL-adequate. It's guilt by association: USC QBs and their recent history in the NFL is pretty lousy.
USC's QB past shouldn't mean that much. Barkley should be evaluated, positively or negatively, on what he has done, who he is and his potential. But that dubious lineage will make more than a few NFL GMs skittish.
But all it takes is for Barkley to end up back in the first round. We shall see.
- Some Arizona perspective on the Pac-12's new TV deal.
- California's NFL pipeline isn't completely a positive for coach Jeff Tedford. An interview with California's hydro technician.
- And what do the Colorado Buffaloes think of their new TV deal?
- Jackpot for Oregon and everyone else! Says George Schroeder. Suspended Ducks LB could be a big loss for the defense.
- Some Oregon State recruiting updates.
- Former USC players reunite with the New York Jets.
- Washington releases its depth chart, and Keith Price is No. 1 at QB. Some thoughts.
- Details on the new Pac-12 media deal here.
If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.
Here's where the Pac-12 players went:
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle
By Pac-12 school:
Arizona State (1)
Oregon State (3)
Washington State (1)
The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
Big Ten... 36
Big East 22
Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.
This was the tally through three rounds:
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4
Next up is Stanford (we're skipping Oregon State for now because its lone vacancy at running backs coach has yet to be filled). The Cardinal saw head coach Jim Harbaugh bolt for the San Francisco 49ers and the promotion of offensive coordinator David Shaw to Harbaugh's former post.
Team in parenthesis is where the departing coach ended up.
Jim Harbaugh, head coach (San Francisco 49ers)
David Shaw, head coach (formerly Cardinal offensive coordinator)
Greg Roman, associate head coach (San Francisco 49ers)
Shaw, offensive coordinator/running backs
Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/receivers
Mike Sanford, running backs
Vic Fangio, defensive coordinator (San Francisco 49ers)
Derek Mason, associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator
Jason Tarver, co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Tim Drevno, offensive line (San Francisco 49ers)
Mike Bloomgren, offensive line/running game coordinator
Reaction: Stanford still has a vacancy at tight ends coach. Defensive line coach Randy Hart, special teams coordinator Brian Polian and OLBs coach/recruiting coordinator Lance Anderson also were retained from Harbaugh's 2010 staff. Hamilton and Mason were promoted from within; Hamilton was receivers coach last season, while Mason coached the secondary. Sanford, Tarver and Bloomgren were outside hires. They came from Western Kentucky, the 49ers and the New York Jets. By promoting from within, Shaw ensured continuity from a highly successful 2010 season. His outside hires have an NFL flavor, which players tend to respect. Sanford, a former Cardinal offensive assistant in 2007 and 2008, was quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Western Kentucky last season. The loss of Harbaugh, who rebuilt the program from the ground-up, shook Stanford fans, but the departures of Roman, a creative offensive mind, particularly in the running game, and Fangio, who adopted a highly effective 3-4-hyrbid scheme, are nearly as big. Can the Cardinal maintain and even build on their recent momentum? That's the big question for Shaw and his staff.
Harbaugh was often a colorful quote but a prickly interview. He was unpredictable and edgy, incredibly competitive and just a little nutty.
"I just have a different personality," he said. "I'm a different person."
That doesn't mean, however, he's any less competitive. During a short phone conversation Friday, he talked about being "single-minded" and "focused" and getting better each practice. The first task for Stanford this spring is moving past a scintillating 12-1 campaign in 2010. If the Cardinal start believing they've arrived, they surely won't.
As to the business at hand, Shaw announced a couple of staff additions. Mike Bloomgren, a New York Jets offensive assistant, is the Cardinal's new offensive line coach and running game coordinator, and Mike Sanford, a former Stanford assistant who was Western Kentucky's quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator last year, has been hired as running backs coach.
Shaw said the last void on his staff is at tight ends coach. "I'm not going to rush," he said. "I'm not just hiring guys for spring ball."
Previously, Shaw announced that Pep Hamilton had been promoted to offensive coordinator and will work with quarterbacks and receivers and that Derek Mason and Jason Tarver, a former San Francisco 49ers assistant, would serve as co-defensive coordinators. Mason will oversee the secondary and call plays, while Tarver will coach linebackers.
Spring practices will be split into two minicamps. The first session runs Feb. 21 to March 5. The second starts March 28 and ends with the spring game on April 9.
When asked about his primary concerns, Shaw quickly named the offensive line, which must replace three starters, including All-America center Chase Beeler and guard Andrew Phillips.
Other issues: Who's Luck's backup? Who replaces Nate Whitaker at kicker? What about two voids at linebacker and on the defensive line? And who steps in for Richard Sherman at cornerback?
Shaw isn't eager to provide lists of possible answers. He obviously wants to create as much competition as possible. The good news is the Cardinal, who are almost certain to be ranked in the preseason top 10, appear to have plenty of up-and-coming players who are ready to step in.
As for Luck, Shaw isn't worried that a guy touted as the surefire No. 1 pick in the NFL draft this spring had he not decided to return will try to shoulder too much of a burden.
"I love his leadership style because it's a performance-based leadership," Shaw said. "He wants to be one of the hardest workers on the team. He wants to lead by example. He doesn't want to give a whole bunch of speeches."
In other words, Shaw expects Luck to be Luck. Just like Shaw plans to put his mark on the program instead of trying to be the second-coming of Harbaugh.
While no conference player is projected to be among the first 10 picks, there's a strong presence over the first round's second half.
The Pac-12 players Kiper projects ending up in the first round are:
No. 13: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado (Detroit)
No. 17: Cameron Jordan, DE, California (New England)
No. 18: Tyron Smith, OT, USC (San Diego)
No. 19: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado (New York Giants)
No. 21: Akeem Ayers, DE, UCLA (Kansas City)
No. 30: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA (New York Jets)
Linebacker Devin Bishop signed with Denver. The Pac-10 blog previously reported -- incorrectly -- that he'd signed with Dallas.
Meanwhile, former Bears safety Brett Johnson signed a free agent contract with Buffalo, while safety Marcus Ezeff will get a tryout next week with the New York Jets, according to a release from the school.
Cal had three players selected in the NFL Draft: defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars, 10th overall) and tailback Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions, 30th overall) were both chosen in the first round last Thursday. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (Denver Broncos, 225th overall) was picked up in the seventh round Saturday.
Hamilton was the Chicago Bears' quarterbacks coach the previous three seasons. He was an assistant with the New York Jets (2003-06) and San Francisco 49ers (2006) before his stint with the Bears.
“Pep Hamilton is an outstanding fit for our staff, both in our personality and in what we stand for,” Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said in a statement. “I value his experience at the highest level, and I am excited for his experience in the passing game of this offense. This will be a very smooth transition; Pep speaks our nomenclature.
“I am enthused for our players to learn from Coach Hamilton in their technique, fundamentals and the West Coast offense. Their growth will come not only at their position, but also in understanding how the entire offense fits together. I feel that we have added in Pep another coordinator-level coach to the Stanford program and offense.”
This will be Hamilton's first college job since 2001, when he was offensive coordinator for his alma mater, Howard University, where he played quarterback and earned a business degree in 1997.
For more information, go here.
- John Canzano reports that Oregon State is willing to offer Mike Riley a lifetime contract in order to fend off overtures from USC. Just about every source is reporting that Riley is the top candidate, ahead of Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio. And what about Fisher: Will he listen?
- Riley is laying low, which might suggest he's at least willing to listen to the Trojans.
- Is Carroll's departure a good thing for athletic director Mike Garrett?
- Carroll might be interested in hiring Norm Chow, presently at UCLA, as his offensive coordinator in Seattle.
- New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez takes a light-hearted jab at his former coach.
- Might Carroll's departure turn up the heat on California coach Jeff Tedford?
- Meanwhile, USC's players wait for answers, as do his assistant coaches.
- And what's next for USC recruiting?
This paragraph is telling:
Carroll did not return messages, but a league source said Carroll is interested in the job and is trying to persuade USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates to join him in Seattle -- as opposed to Bates pursuing the same position with the Chicago Bears.
Why would Carroll leave USC for Seattle, a franchise that has been sagging since a Super Bowl appearance in 2006?
Couple of reasons.
For one, money.
The Seahawks are rich. Their owner, billionaire Paul Allen, is one of the richest men in the world. If the Seahawks covet Carroll, they can open the bank vault for him, which means they can easily beat the $4.4 million Carroll makes annually at USC.
Moreover, Carroll may be ready to exit USC.
You may have heard this, but USC didn't have a good season, based on its recent stratospheric standards. The Trojans finished 9-4 and out of the top 10 for the first time since 2002. For the first time since 2003, USC won't be the Pac-10's preseason favorite next fall.
Even more important: The NCAA's case against Reggie Bush might be coming to a head. With Bush losing his attempt to force confidential arbitration to settle a lawsuit filed by a would-be sports agent who allegedly gave Bush cash and gifts while he played for USC, testimony for the case will be made public. Testimony that the NCAA could use to sanction the football program.
So maybe the timing is right?
Also, it's always been one of Carroll's sore spots that folks believe he was a failure in the NFL. When a reporter asks him why he's been so successful in college when he wasn't as an NFL head coach, he always quibbles with the premise. He was 33-31 in four seasons -- one with the New York Jets and three with the New England Patriots -- and he made the playoffs twice, he'll tell you.
The general feeling long has been that Carroll wanted to eventually re-write his NFL legacy.
On the other hand, he's become entrenched at USC and in Southern California. His charity work, particularly A Better LA, is obviously regionally specific. As a personality, he's much more So-Cal than Northwest.
USC fans may be rolling their eyes at all of this. It's not like this hasn't been the story just about every post-season since 2003.
And Carroll has more than once said he doesn't want to go back to the NFL, consider this quote given to the Miami Herald in 2005 when asked if he wanted another crack at the NFL.
"No," he says. 'I'm a professional college coach. I think the NFL's a wonderful place, man. I love it. The competition at the top you can possibly reach, all the resources and backing. It was awesome to be in that arena. But this is an extraordinary fit for me. I couldn't be happier where I am. I'm having so much fun.''
By the way, this is an excellent source for all the different NFL coaching rumors and stories that have dogged Carroll during his USC career.
It also is fair to ask the question from another perspective: Why would an NFL team want Carroll?
The root of Carroll's success at USC is superior recruiting. That's about charm and salesmanship, two skills with almost zero value in the NFL.
While Carroll has always been a respected Xs and Os guy, his defense floundered the second half of the 2009 season and he seemed to get outflanked by opposing offensive coaches. Moreover, it's reasonable to question a number of his assistant coach hires, including offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who seemed like a bad fit with the Trojans.
To go back the NFL, Carroll likely will demand a fairly substantial level of control over staffing and personnel decisions.
So a franchise would have to surrender a lot of money and a lot of control. Recall that the Seahawks once yanked that sort of control away from Mike Holmgren.
But the undercurrent feels stronger here than in the past, particularly on the Carroll side of things. Again, Carroll might feel this is his best opportunity to land a good NFL head coach job.
So let this one play out.
And, if Carroll goes, let's entertain the next topic: Who would replace him at USC?
Oregon State's Mike Riley? TCU's Gary Patterson? Stanford's Jim Harbaugh? An NFL guy?
We shall see.
Mazzone worked under Dennis Erickson at Oregon State (2002) and he's been an offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, Auburn and N.C. State. He comes to Arizona State after having served as wide receivers coach for the New York Jets from 2006-2008 and working as a personnel consultant for the Jets in 2009.
Mazzone will replace Rich Olson. The Sun Devils ranked ninth in total offense and eighth in scoring in 2009. They were seventh in scoring and total offense in 2008.
Coach Dennis Erickson picked Mazzone over Boise State assistant head coach Brent Pease and former Akron head coach J.D. Brookhart.
|Photos by Getty Images and US PRESSWIRE|
|Is quarterback Mark Sanchez ready to make an impact in the NFL? |
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The last image many USC fans have of Mark Sanchez is the bizarre news conference in which Trojans coach Pete Carroll told reporters that Sanchez was wrong to enter the NFL draft a year early.
"The facts are so strong against this decision," Carroll said at the time. "After analyzing all the information, the truth is there -- he should've stayed for another year."
Carroll cited a 62 percent failure rate for quarterbacks who entered the NFL draft as underclassmen. He said that Sanchez would have made a lot more money in the 2010 draft.
He also said Sanchez was projected to go in the second round, which we all now strongly suspect isn't going to happen: Sanchez almost certainly will be picked in the top half of the first round and could even go in the top five.
So is Sanchez ready to take the reins of an NFL offense? Is he more Ben Roethlisberger or Alex Smith, two quarterbacks of recent note -- and divergent success -- who declared for the draft after their junior seasons?
The Pac-10 blog enlisted the help of Scouts Inc. NFL draft guru Steve Muench to debate the subject.
1. How much of an impact should Mark Sanchez' experience have on the evaluation process?
|An inside look at quarterback Mark Sanchez from USC.|
Steve Muench: Experience is key when it comes to evaluating top-tier prospects such as Sanchez. Sound investments in the first round can be the difference between going to the playoffs or finishing in the bottom of your division. As a result, organizations want to compile as much information as possible in order to make the right decisions. The bigger body of work they have to break down, the better. Carroll made waves when he said he felt Sanchez should stay in school, but the truth is Carroll offered his admittedly talented quarterback sound advice. After all, eight of the last 11 underclassmen quarterbacks taken in the first round are either failing to live up to expectations or are complete busts. Not an encouraging trend. Now obviously you can't base a decision solely on experience, and Sanchez's natural ability as well as intangibles makes him an early first-round value as far as I am concerned. That said, I think that Matt Stafford being a three-year starter gives him an edge over Sanchez.
Ted Miller: It should have a lot of impact -- impact in Sanchez's favor. No other quarterback in this draft has spent the past four years running a sophisticated pro-style offense playing against an NFL defense -- the unit Sanchez faced every day in practice. Let's recall that the Trojans' 2008 defense, one of the best collections of talent in the history of college football, lost three first-round picks and a fourth player taken in the second round the previous spring. Moreover, Sanchez has been in the spotlight since he was named Parade All-American Prep Player of the Year in 2004. He's shown poise and charisma under the brightest media glare in college sports and he's already demonstrated he can work a room full of reporters with the best of them. So when you talk about experience, it's not just about 16 starts. It's about the total package.
2. Where's the best fit for Sanchez -- a team that's going to give him a rookie-year test or a team that's going to let him sit the bench?
Miller: Hey, it's always great for a guy to get to be mentored for two years by a future Hall of Famer before ascending to the front of the huddle. But that's not the reality. Sanchez is an ambitious competitor. He'll want to play now. And he's up to the job. For one, Sanchez is smart. He'll know his place. He'll ingratiate himself with veterans and win their trust, knowing it doesn't happen during a single minicamp. He also takes instruction; see how he without complaint worked within the Trojans' conservative system in 2008 that leaned heavily on an impenetrable defense. Further, he's mentally and physically tough. Sanchez already has shown an ability to shake off mistakes and bounce back from poor performances, as well as an ability to play through injuries. If a coach holds up the keys to the offense and asks Sanchez whether he's ready, let there be no doubt what his answer will be.
Muench: I think it's critical Sanchez lands on a team that doesn't need him to step into the starting role Day 1. He certainly has all the physical tools to contribute early on and is a charismatic leader who I think can win the hearts and minds of the players in the huddle. But the NFL is bottom-line business. He'll have to win for his teammates to keep their faith in him, and the NFL is a whole different animal when it comes to reading defenses. The speed and size of NFL defenders effectively shrinks the field and forces quarterbacks to throw into tighter spaces. Just as important, complicated blitz packages and coverages and quicker pass-rushers will force him to get rid of the ball. He'll have to make sound decisions much quicker than he did at USC, even if the Trojan defense was arguably the most talented in the nation last year. He's going to need time to adjust. In addition, a team that drafts him with the intent of starting him his rookie year more than likely won't be able to put him in a position to succeed because it will have too many needs outside of quarterback.
3. In 2010, will Sanchez look back on this decision with any regrets? Would another solid year at USC have made him the No.1 overall pick in the draft regardless of what Texas' Colt McCoy and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford did?
Muench: I can't seem to find my crystal ball here, but I think Sanchez will end up with the Seattle Seahawks and playing behind Matt Hasselbeck for a year, possibly two. Giving him that time to get comfortable with his new offense/teammates/coaches and adjust to the speed of the NFL game will put him in position to succeed, and I think he develops into an excellent NFL quarterback in that kind of environment. However, I think he struggles if he somehow ends up on the New York Jets' roster, which seems unlikely at this point but can't be ruled out. The Jets play in a big market, they play in a tough conference and they need a starter right away. If Sanchez struggles early, the media there will most likely skewer him. Remember a couple Jets players were quick to place blame on future Hall of Famer Brett Favre for their demise last year. How is a former Parade All-American and star USC quarterback going to handle that kind of criticism, learn the offense on the fly and get his teammates to believe in him? Again, I think Sanchez has a bri
ght future, but that's a lot to ask of anyone, certainly someone who started just 16 games in college.
Miller: Maybe, but not going No. 1 this year means he doesn't have to go to Detroit, and how is that not a good thing? Look: It's impossible to look at a USC offense that welcomes back nine other starters and not wonder what that crew would look like with Sanchez running the show. It's conceivable that the Trojans' 2009 offense would approximate the Trojans' 2008 defense. And that could have buoyed his draft status ahead of every other quarterback. But another year at USC also would mean another year of not getting paid and another year in which something terrible could happen that damages, shortens or ends a career. Sanchez's potential regrets probably hang more on where he ends up than over his decision not to return to USC for his senior year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Names and positions are flying out of Jim Harbaugh's mouth, and it's impossible to keep up. For Stanford's head coach, the spring roster and depth chart is just a hint at what his football team might look like in 2009. Being one of his 16 returning starters doesn't mean a whole lot.
Start at the top. If the season began today, Harbaugh said, redshirt freshman Andrew Luck would be his quarterback, not senior Tavita Pritchard, who's started 19 games over the past two seasons.
"It's undeniable that [Luck] is really good -- better than we thought," Harbaugh said of the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Houston native.
Then there's Harbaugh's new thing. He estimates 10 players might go both ways for him next fall.
That means 241-pound Owen Marecic will start at fullback and see significant action at middle linebacker.
Sophomore Michael Thomas is pushing to start at cornerback. But he's seeing some action at running back. So is Alex Debniak, an outside linebacker.
And so on.
"More so than old school, it could be the wave of the future," he said.
It's clear Harbaugh is willing to experiment, whether it's players going both ways, players switching positions or splitting spring practices into two separate minicamps.
It's the sort of thing that gets a coach noticed. Stanford fans might not have been won over by the rapidly improving product on the field -- see an average 2008 paid attendance of 34,258 in a 50,000-seat, recently renovated stadium -- but Harbaugh's name hit the coaching rumor mill during the offseason, most seriously with the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.
Things got complicated. The source of some of those rumors was a Web site co-founded by Jack Bechta, Harbaugh's agent. Athletic director Bob Bowlsby had announced in December the school had come to terms with Harbaugh on a contract extension through 2014 that would pay a reported $1.2 million a year, but the contract was never signed.
Harbaugh released a statement on Jan. 13 saying he was "100 percent committed" to Stanford. On national signing day, stealing some thunder from Harbaugh's highly rated recruiting class, it was announced that the new contract had been put on hold due to the economic downturn.
The athletic department had projected a $5 million loss over the next three years, and staff cuts and the potential elimination of some teams had the school on edge, even though $1.2 million is a below average among Pac-10 football coaches, even more so when cost of living is factored in.
Harbaugh continues to profess his loyalty to the school and he insists the tabled contract isn't a problem.
"It just got to the point where it didn't feel right to talk about personal compensation with the way this economy is," he said. "People are getting laid off all over the country and here at the university. We trust it will happen when it happens.
"Bottom line. Cut to the chase of the whole thing. We're just too emotionally tied to this job. Physically, emotionally, tied to this job. We can't leave. We don't want to leave. We want to build something here 15 or 20 years out that's going to be a great program. That's the vision.
"The only part of that you can't do is swear to God to that. You say it to people, you look them in they eye, and they kind of look back at you and say, 'What's he really saying?' This is what we're really saying. We're going to be here a long time. We're fighting to keep this job. I want to be here 15 to 20 years."
No one can accuse Harbaugh of slacking off amid these distractions. That's really not in his nature. Consider his mantra, printed under his picture on the inside cover of the spring media guide: "We will attack this day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind."
Last year, Harbaugh decided his team needed to get tougher and develop a "blue collar" attitude. So he distributed blue shirts that looked like something a guy who fixed transmissions might wear.
Call it hokey, but Stanford not only ended up the No. 2 rushing team in the Pac-10 with just under 200 yards per game, it also developed a reputation as a team that would play aggressively until the final echo of the whistle. A very faint final echo in some cases.
And so Stanford, the most elite academic institution in the FBS, earned a reputation for physical, sometimes even dirty, football. White collars turn blue.
"I've got relatives in Kentucky who whittle -- blue collar is in our blood," Harbaugh said. "It is a privilege to be at Stanford... So it's about respecting the people who put us in this position. Somebody -- a parent, a grandparent -- somebody did the blue collar work to put us in this position. Somebody went to a job they did not enjoy going to but they went to it because they wanted to make a better life for their family."
Last year, it was about getting physical. This year, it's about doing things faster, and not just because Harbaugh has substantially upgraded the Cardinal's athleticism. So says the sign in the football office: "Stanford football is hustle. Constant hustle. Hustling all the time."
With so many starters returning from a team that went 5-7 and lost two games by a field goal and a third by a touchdown, the expectation is a bowl game in 2009. The Cardinal opens with two games on the road, at Washington State and Wake Forest, but then seven of the next 10 are at home, including visits from Notre Dame and Bay Area rival California on the season's final two weekends.
Stanford Stadium, which underwent a $100 million remodel before the 2006 season, only sold out for the first time last year when USC visited on Nov. 15. It's hard to believe that if the Cardinal pushes into the top half of the conference, those final two won't be played before full-houses.
"I don't know how you couldn't want to watch these guys play football," Harbaugh said.
Even if it's hard to figure out who's playing where.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Responding to speculation he's a candidate for several NFL head coaching jobs, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh released a statement late Tuesday saying, "I would like to unequivocally state that I am 100 percent committed to Stanford and I look forward to leading this football program for years to come."
It concluded, "I have no desire to coach anywhere besides Stanford at this time."
Harbaugh has been connected to vacancies with the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.
It was reported in November that Harbaugh and Stanford had come to terms on a contract extension, but the contract apparently remains unsigned amid the coaching rumors.
Harbaugh's statement didn't address his contract situation with Stanford.
The statement also included a note that, "Coach Harbaugh is not available for further comment on this issue at this time."
What does this mean?
First, there's plenty of gray area here: "...at this time" does not address tomorrow.
Second, until the new contract is signed, there will be speculation that Harbaugh might end up elsewhere.
Third, the odds are fairly good Harbaugh will be coaching Stanford next fall.