Archive for December, 2014

Charlie Strong axes Les Koenning and Bruce Chambers

Posted by    |    December 31st, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Report: Texas HC Charlie Strong axes two offensive coaches after Texas Bowl debacle #horns http://t.co/JBZKaDTxDH pic.twitter.com/Q5ir9j0hZ7

— Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) December 31, 2014

New blood. How about a recruiting rainmaker or two?

Jim Harbaugh: Michigan Man – For Now

Posted by    |    December 30th, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Jim Harbaugh is going home, and suddenly Michigan and the Big 10 are relevant again

The University of Michigan football program, mired in mediocrity for almost a decade, brought home favorite son Jim Harbaugh Tuesday, making him one of the five highest paid coaches in college football.

It is a stunning move, one promising to make Michigan a player on the national stage again while boosting the perception of the overall strength of the Big 10 conference.

Michigan more than doubled the salary they were paying Brady Hoke to bring Harbaugh back. He could have had his pick of any job that comes open in the NFL.  Michigan has been losing ground in the Big 10 not only to Ohio State but to Michigan State and Wisconsin as well. The Wolverines needed a splash hire and Harbaugh was the only name on a short list that would appease every faction of the program.

Harbaugh is as tough a competitor as you will find. A four-year letterman at Michigan, Harbaugh was 24-5-1 as a starter. In 1986, he led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and a berth in the Rose Bowl. He was third in the Heisman balloting that season and finished as the NCAA career leader in passing efficiency.

Harbaugh played 12 years in the NFL, leading the Indianapolis Colts to come-from-behind wins in the 1995-96 playoffs over Kansas City and San Diego. He was always a favorite among teammates and is in the Colts Ring of Honor.

His first head coaching job was at 1-AA San Diego where he went 29-6. Then it was on to Stanford (he had graduated from Palo Alto HS) and in four years he turned around a program that had gone 16-40 the previous five years into a legitimate PAC 12 contender, finishing with a 12-1 record and a BCS bowl win in 2010.

Harbaugh should succeed as Michigan for several reasons:

Recruiting:

Finding and signing talent is merely an extension of the game for Jim Harbaugh – it is yet another competitive arena to go to battle with other programs and he has the reputation as a tireless recruiter.

In the mid-90’s Jack Harbaugh, Jim’s father, was the head coach at 1-AA Western Kentucky. In 1994 Jim was named as an unpaid assistant for his dad – while still playing for the Chicago Bears.

He was designated as a recruiter for the Hilltoppers and showed an incredible work ethic from the start.  Harbaugh got Willie Taggart, a first-team-all state High School QB in Florida to come to WKU where he was a 4-year starter. Taggart is now the head coach of South Florida. Western Kentucky won the 1-AA national championship in 2002, and Jim Harbaugh was responsible for recruiting 15 of the players on that squad.

He turned Stanford into a legitimate contender in the PAC 12 by recognizing the strengths and weaknesses that recruiting to the school entailed. He emphasized physicality – concentrating on recruiting tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs at a time when the spread offense was beginning to take hold. Practice was where the culture of physicality was honed. Every day was a competition for playing time.

His NFL background helped land strong armed QB’s who saw him as a path to the league. His recruitment of Andrew Luck paid dividends on and off the field as Stanford recruited nationally (Texas, Georgia, Virginia).

Harbaugh’s contract calls for deep salary pool for his assistants, and they will be expected to hit the recruiting trail as hard as the head man.

Creative Tensiona situation where disagreement or discord ultimately gives rise to better ideas or outcomes.

Jim Harbaugh thrives in a culture of creative tension – so much so that when it doesn’t exist naturally he will invent it. He is a team-based coach who likes a staff of strong-willed assistants not afraid to voice their opinions, but who eventually understand that there is one voice at the top of the food chain. He will battle with administrators and anyone else who doesn’t share his vision of how the program should be run.

That vision extends to game time as well. In a 2010 contest against Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons lined up for a field goal right before halftime. Harbaugh called a timeout to try and ice the Wake Forest kicker.

Stanford had a 41-7 lead.

Harbaugh has always enjoyed competition, and he loves conflict.

Just ask Pete Carroll.

Soon after being hired at Stanford, Harbaugh gave an interview where he said that “(Pete) Carroll’s only got one more year (at USC)…that’s what I’ve heard. I heard it inside the staff.”

Needless to say Carroll didn’t appreciate it, and he was at USC for another three years. What Carroll really didn’t appreciate was Harbaugh’s Stanford team coming to LA that first year as a 40-point underdog and stunning USC 24-23.

Then there was the “What’s your deal?” game in 2009. Stanford pounds USC 55-21, going for two after a fourth quarter score, which led to one of the more interesting post-game handshakes in recent memory.

Which leads us to:

Michigan vs Ohio State: Back to Being Relevant

In 1968 #1 Ohio State pounded Michigan 50-14. After scoring a 4th quarter touchdown, Ohio State went for – and made – a two point conversion. When Buckeye coach Woody Hayes was asked why he called for the two point conversion and replied, “Because I couldn’t go for three.”

The next year, Bo Schembechler was in his first season as Michigan coach. For the week leading up to the Ohio State game, Schembechler had everyone on the practice squad wear jerseys with the #50. Michigan upset the Buckeyes 24-12, costing them a second consecutive national championship, and allowing Texas to step into vacuum..

The rivalry between Hayes and Schembechler was so intense that it is designated as the “10-Year War.

From 1972-1977 both teams were ranked in the Top Ten for their season ending game. They accounted for every Big 10 title between them during that stretch.  Schembechler and Michigan won the last three games in their battle, giving Bo a 5-4-1 record over Hayes. Weeks after losing his third straight to Michigan, Woody lost his job when he punched a Clemson player during the Gator Bowl.

Urban Meyer vs. Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan leads the series 58-47-6, but the Wolverines are mired in a black hole of despair over recent history: Since 2000, Ohio State holds a 12-3 advantage, including 10 out of the last 11 meetings.

For the first time in almost four decades it seems that the coaching match up will once again equal the intensity of the game itself. Meyer and Harbaugh were born in Toledo, Ohio just six months apart. Both possess a singular focus on controlling every daily aspect of their programs to the point of obsession.

We won’t have to wait for next November to see the competition between the two flare up. Michigan currently has just six recruits committed to its 2015 class. The Wolverines had several players de-commit during the slow demise of Brady Hoke this season, so Harbaugh has a lot of ground to make up. One of the players who jumped shipped was a 4-star running back out of Detroit, Michael Weber.  He flipped from Michigan to Ohio State. Harbaugh will obviously use his NFL and Stanford background to pitch Michigan as a place to get a great education and become NFL ready at the same time.

Michigan paid top dollar to bring Jim Harbaugh back because it was a seller’s market. Harbaugh wore out his welcome at San Francisco (as is his modus operandi) but he was still highly valued by NFL owners looking for a new head man. Michigan understood he was the only coach in football who could energize the dormant fan base as well as be an instant factor in recruiting. If Michigan is to avoid the dreaded 3-5 year rebuilding plan, then Jim Harbaugh is an indispensable part of the process.

It remains to be seen just how long a ride Michigan will get out of Harbaugh. That creative tension thing seems to always get in the way of longevity for him. He is the son of a coach and led a nomadic existence as a youth. He seems to have embraced that lifestyle in his own career.

Two years as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders. Head Coach at 1-AA San Diego for three years. Four years at Stanford, and then four with the San Francisco 49ers.

He does not suffer fools gladly, and there are always fools to be dealt with in big time college football. While he will have full control over the Michigan football program, he no doubt will run into obstacles, not the least of which will be the 20-hour weekly time limit with his players.

I believe that Jim Harbaugh will win and win big at Michigan. He could take his place next to Bo Schembechler on the Michigan Mount Olympus. He might also piss off enough folks that when he gets tired of the restrictions and petty bickerings that he will have to deal with he may decide to move on.

Like others who have found him a high maintenance hire, Wolverine officials would no doubt thank him for leaving the program in better shape than he found it.

As a Michigan fan with lifelong ties to the University and the program, either scenario is just fine with me.

Shooting From the Hip: Arkansas 31, Texas 7

Posted by    |    December 29th, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Arkansas wins the battle of toothless fans versus a toothless offense.

This is how the season ends.  This is how the season ends.  Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

OFFENSE

I was looking for some kind of literary allusion to lead with here – I was hoping for a plucky underdog Horatio Alger kind of deal, rapidly downshifted into Edgar Allen Poe territory and finally landed in some kind of Lovecraftian horror scenario.

The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.

I wish I could get as jazzed as ol’ H.P. about doing some abyss-delving, but this thing just flat-out sucked.  The sins and horrors of the past – bad culture, lackluster OL development, hideous QB depth chart management – came forth to plague us, but the sins and horrors of the present were plenty on display as well.  Tyrone Swoopes avoided the kind of four-turnover abortion that he trotted out against TCU, but he still made a myriad of mistakes and looked to have made absolutely zero progress through the entire season when faced with a Top 40 defense.  He missed high, low and wide on the occasions when he had time to throw, looked in multiple sacks, and outside of Texas’ lone TD looked robotic or simply not allowed to make reads on Texas’ “option” plays.  He had a few moments where he was able to get into a rhythm in the short/intermediate game, but for large portions of the game he looked completely uncomfortable and missed some absolutely-gotta-have-em throws downfield that could have allowed Texas to make some semblance of a game of it.  Mix in a horrid botched exchange that gifted Arky with a back-breaking second quarter TD and you’ve got a guy who has inspired zero sense that he’s capable of leading a nine-win team next season.

Not that he had much help.  Texas’ OL was thoroughly dominated in this one – watching 5 minutes of Arkansas film told you this was going to be an uphill battle in the trenches against guys like Darius Philon and Trey Flowers, but when you key an offensive attack retreat that loses yardage on six consecutive possessions there needs to be some major soul-searching up and down the entire unit.   Dishonorable mention goes to Camron “No Contact At All” Hughes who by turns looked to be lost, attempting to live up to his nickname or outright shaving points, but the entire unit looked like they’d been asked to play five minutes after the TCU game ended rather than after two-plus weeks of bowl practices.  Missed assignments on stunts, zero sense of how to handle exchanges and climb to the second level and a simple inability to get movement put the offense behind the eight ball from the jump.

The skill position guys basically get an “incomplete” thanks to the issues mentioned above, but in a game where someone needed to step up and provide ANY kind of a spark our guys were found wanting.  Not everyone can be Marshawn Lynch, but when tacklers hit a quality runner from the side that runner needs to bust some of those tackles and get his offense ahead of the chains.  Texas’ runners showed no quality tonight.  Daje Johnson served as something of a bright spot, simply because he ran some rudimentary routes and could potentially be deployed in multiple roles next season without hanging a neon sign that says “JET SWEEP COMING!”  Of course, that means staying dialed in and focused for eight straight football-free months – any takers on that bet?

Watson and Wickline were dealt a bad hand with this unit, but even bad hands should yield better results than what we saw tonight.  The pressure is on in the off-season.

DEFENSE

While they could certainly sue the offense for non-support, in some ways the defense’s effort was even more disappointing tonight.  There were some bright spots early, and there’s no question they had their work cut out for them against a diverse rushing attack keyed by a talented and veteran OL.  But when you hang your hat on a unit the way that Texas depends on its defense, you can’t turn in that kind of effort against a mid-octane SEC O.  There were too many soft corners for runners to turn, too many instances of potential tacklers not firing their gun and dropping an unprotected runner at the line, and WAAAAAY too many simple botched assignments in the passing game.  A team that’s built around the Strong-Bedford-Vaugh secondary coaching axis can’t be botching assignments in the red zone and failing handoffs to the safety against a ho-hum air attack.  The potency of the Razorback run game forced Texas out of its preferred 3-3-5 alignments and kept Strong from disguising coverages the way he’d like, but the playmakers in the secondary not only failed to make plays but frequently rolled out the red carpet on simple route combinations.

The effort was there through much of the night (though Arkansas’ late second quarter TD march after Texas’ lone TD was simply ghastly) and they fought a losing field position battle all game, but the kind of momentum-changing stop or special play that you associate with an elite unit was nowhere to be found tonight.  Whether it was Peter Jinkens whiffing on a runner in the backfield or Shiro Davis flailing and failing to drag down Allen on a third-down scramble, the plays that were there to be made just didn’t get made tonight.

SPECIAL TEAMS

It wasn’t the ass-kicking that the season’s comparative special teams records might have indicated – thanks largely to some quality individual-effort returns from Daje – but Texas needed a win here in the worst way and never had a shot at getting one.  The 40-yard kick return to tee up Arkansas’ devastating answer to Texas’ lone TD was par for the course for a wildly embarrassing coverage unit, and Arky dropped two sleeves’ worth of Balata balls on punts that backspun and died inside the ten yard line.  Much like the refs in Manhattan this season, special teams didn’t decide the game but they did a fine job of making sure that one never broke out.

I was going to say something about the absurdly lopsided refereeing in the first half, but it turned out to be pebbles in the avalanche.  Still, it’s oddly gratifying to see that other conferences have crews as incompetent as what the Big XII deals with on a weekly basis.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The bottom line is that there’s a tough row to hoe before the the Longhorns take the field in 2015.  The first order of business will be salesmanship to keep our Malikmentum from flagging too badly and bringing a Top Ten class home to roost in February – then the really hard work begins.  Texas has to find a quarterback, solidify the OL, find some playmaking sparks at the skill positions and at least hold serve with a D that’s losing some of its best players if we’re going to take any kind of true step forward next season.  It’s a coaching staff with attitude, knowledge and skins on the wall, but it’s also a staff that just used up the last of its Mack Malaise Mulligan.

There’s a long way to go to prove to the world that Texas is on its way back to the top of college football.  Let’s get to work.

Hook ’em.

2015 Texas Longhorns Football Recruiting: Late Visit from 4 star OT Drew Richmond

Posted by    |    December 28th, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Texas is expecting to battle for a number of elite commitments down the stretch in January, but you can chalk Memphis, TN offensive tackle Drew Richmond in the possible, but unlikely column.  The Ole Miss commitment has been wavering from his commitment and will visit Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas (Jan 30th expected date) before national signing day. Richmond is being recruited by Chris Vaughan, who has deep Memphis connections and is proving to be a fairly stalwart OOS recruiter.  Vaughan and OL coach Joe Wickline visited Richmond in Memphis in December.


5-star OT @TheDream_75 plans to visit #UT <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Longhorns?src=hash”>#Longhorns on Jan 30. More details ($) http://t.co/8FQHOeE1BM pic.twitter.com/rlMNdjwprS

— Jason Suchomel (@OB_JasonS) December 28, 2014

Richmond is a 6-5, 320 pound consensus four star who currently plans to set his announcement on national signing day. I’ll set the likelihood of an actual visit as a coin flip, with things potentially getting interesting if he does make it on campus.

The Texas Bowl Pregamer: Arkansas

Posted by    |    December 28th, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Out of curiosity, can a school buy the sponsorship line of their rival’s bowl game? We’re asking for a friend.

Let’s start the post-Christmas festivities (Festivuses?) with a simple question.

Is there anything more Texas than Texas?

Haha

Nope.

Of course not. So there’s little wonder in that The University of TEXAS is going bowling in the only bowl Texas enough to handle us… …That’s the Texas Bowl in case you were wondering. Yessir, everything’s bigger in Texas, and the kids can’t help but be excited about the chance to see a whole different part of the state, going to those rodeo themed restaurants, and trying this new-fangled BBQ food the locals seem to like. Who needs trips to Disney World or Bahama Mammas? They can all choke on our perfectly balanced 6-6 vs 6-6 records. It’s not a sign of the devil as long as you leave room for Jesus and hyphens.

But enough on how much we Advocare about playing before New Years or in Houston. After all, the Texas Bowl has a conference tie-in with a certain Texas-ly inclined group of individuals up the road that can’t stop talking about how much they run this state. Surely this season was all an elaborate trap set by Coach Strong to lure our good friends from College Station back for a second helping of the Justin Tucker Scoreboard Experience. How could they not jump on a chance for revenge against a .500 Texas team?

Hah. In their superior wisdom, the SEC has sent the Aggies to Tennessee. Guess they ran the numbers and were worried about filling the seats. It’s hard to generate excitement in these bowls after all, and TV markets being what they are, it’s unlikely two Texas teams would have much of a draw in Houston. Gotta bring in more markets that speak to that Wal Mart generation. And we have just the team.

Granted, Arkansas isn’t the Aggies, but they just might be what the Aggies look like in 15 years. Stop me if you’ve heard this story; old foe leaves conference for greener pastures in a top heavy SEC. They spend a lot of time talking about how they used to play us regularly, and how much they hate us. It must be like looking into a mirror, if that mirror is really your second uncle you vaguely look like who left town decades ago to “find himself” and now lives in a camper van outside Reno with his common-law wife. It’s sad to think that someday we may think of our little rivalry with A&M the way our parents and grandparents promise us that Arkansas used to be special.

Now we feel all sad inside. Let’s get a quick pickup from Travis.

Another bit of good news, we’ve been informed the entire Longhorn team is academically eligible to play on Tuesday. Apparently we did come to play school. Hope one of those classes was run gap awareness, we just might need it.

Good luck. Happy Holidays. Let’s get bowling.

Hook’em.

special report

Better Know a Bielema:

You may have noticed a large lumpy hole in the first half of our coverage. Never fear, we at the Pregamer aren’t taking a pass on a golden opportunity, just merely giving adequate space for the girth of our analysis.

Charlie for scale.

This is Bret Bielema, coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks and lvl 19 Hand Troll (see above). He is awesome in all the ways we at the Pregamer could hope for.

For those who don’t follow Big 10 football (everybody?), Brent came to Arkansas via the “Flee Madison” coaching tree that has grown exponentially in recent years. His departure of a fairly successful program was surprising, and not just because he looks like he stepped out of a catalog for Green Bay Monthly. Whatever the reasons, Boss Hogg had his eye on greener pastures. Also he raised pigs as a kid. Seriously.

In fact, ole Bret was in such a rush to get out of a job with regular trips to the Rose Bowl for middle of the pack SEC play, he allegedly sent a handwritten letter to Arkansas inquiring about the job 3 months before the season was over. And how could they turn the man down? He’s basically better than Saban.

But forget about Brent the Coach. What do we know about Brent the Man? In addition to handwritten correspondence, The Big Biel likes to take things slow. He is most definitely an ass man, and when it fancies his mood, he is quite the cunning linguist.


Watch out you Workout Spurriers out there, the Bielema Machine runs on sex appeal and is coming for you.

Any one of these fun facts could have been their own column. And for that, we salute you coach. If the Big 12 is looking for a new member, maybe we can just take this guy. You know him and Holgo would make the pre-Media Day parties worth it.

trivia new

Better Know a Roster:

A joke several recruiting cycles in the making

Jokes several recruiting cycles in the making

A tip of the hat to the Arkansas coaching staff. It must be hard coming up with a group of football players from the state with this many different last names.

  • Juan Day (RB, FR) – [There are 1000s of jokes, please leave your best in the comments…e.g., “Juan Day, the Pregamer guys will write their own jokes.”]

  • Tiquention Coleman (LB, SR) – The beauty of Tiquention is that it is equal parts Star Trek and Hood Rich.

  • Rafe Peavey (QB, FR) – There are not nearly enough Rafes in sport. For every Rafe Lafrentz there seem to be thousands of Petes, Jimmys, and even Garrets. Save the Rafe.

  • Marty Murad (WR, SO) – with no context, your first thought is absolutely that this guy is a NASCAR driver. With a mustache.

  • Henre’ Toliver (CB, FR) – Is it supposed to be Henré? Like “On-Ray Tol-E-bear?” Either way, I like that his father’s name is Henry and he decided to class it up a bit.

  • Jojo Robinson (WR, FR) – I checked the roster like 6 times. No KC, Casey, Kasey to be found.

  • Korliss Marshall (RB, SO) – Perfect name for a CoreValueTM-less program like Arkansas. (Tried to name after Corliss Williamson, Arkansas basketball GOAT, but missed…)

  • Keegan Heller (LB, FR) – Equal parts Helen and Keller

  • Kohl Slaughter (FB, FR) – What happened on Black Friday after they marked the Jennifer Lopez 600-thread-counts down 50%.

  • Denver Kirkland (OL, SO) – is wholesale OL quality, but you have to buy like 12 of em to get the Costco discount.

  • Mitch Smothers (G, JR) – is the perfect O-Line name. And future Line Cook at Waffle House name, come to think of it.

  • Brey Cook (G, SR) – The solution for slowing down the UT pass rush? Maybrey.

  • Luke Charpentier (C,SR) – I still call them Freedom Fries, but this is a damn fine French last name. Evokes super-classy woodwork.

  • Jeremy Sprinkle (TE, SO) – the guy’s a real cupcake.

  • Hunter Henry (TE, SO) – Sounds like a children’s PBS show.

  • Taiwan Johnson (DT, SO) – a phallic insult usually reserved for when giant testes are sovereign from a small but powerful Wang.

  • Alan D’Appollonio (LS, SR) – 
games
forecast nw

Forecast:

Tejas Chaos: I’ve picked us to win every game this year, and I’m right approximately half the time. Texas and my gambling habit finishes on the upswing, ending 2014 in the black.

Kyle Carpenter: We’ve already won the Malik Bowl, the Rodeo Bowl, and the JJ Watt endorsement for who will win in his stadium Bowl, now all that is left is play the Game of this young Century and have Obama award us the National Championship.

Parting Shot: