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Rants from SEC Media Days: Spurrier, Clowney, Les Miles, Johnny Football and You


With SEC Media Days now complete here are three things that I want to rant about.

Steve Spurrier opened SEC Media Days by wearing a face that matched his own tie.  Via.

Steve Spurrier opened SEC Media Days by wearing a face that matched his own tie. Via.

Johnny Manziel and the dichotomy of being a 20-year-old celebrity.

There was no neutral ground for Johnny Manziel at SEC Media Days.  You loved him or you hated him.  He was praised for displaying the same confidence and composure that that won him the Heisman Trophy while being peppered with questions under the spotlight.  He was critiqued for showing too much arrogance.  There was no middle ground.

As much as I hate making the comparison, he matched Tim Tebow’s ability to polarize a room – and more universally, the internet.  At the very crux of all the Manziel chatter is the predicament that he finds himself in.  The issue is not the Manning Passing Academy.  The issue is not underaged drinking (alleged).  The issue is not what his family can and cannot afford.  The issue is this: Johnny Manziel is twenty years old and he is famous.  Really, really, famous.  Really, really twenty years old.

He’s the most popular college football player on the planet and one of the most famous figures in his sport’s history.  But he’s twenty years old.  He was the youngest player ever to win one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, but he’s still young.  His fame and his age are not two mutually exclusive characteristics.  They are very much coinciding.

People struggle to comprehend how Johnny Football can claim to be a “normal” twenty year-old college kid while describing the highlights of his offseason as, “Meeting Drake backstage at his concert in Toronto before flying to Cabo for Spring Break and later getting to chill with LeBron James.”  At first glance, maybe those two concepts – the “normal young kid” notion and the “rock star” persona – disagree with each other.  But maybe, just maybe, slightly deeper thinking can explain the paradox.

Could it be that when Manziel refers to himself as a “normal” college kid he really means, “I’m doing what any other college kid would do if he/she was given my opportunities.”  Because that’s a statement that I can rally behind.  As Daniel Palmer said on the podcast on Wednesday, “Give me his arm, his talent, his fame and his family’s money and things get way worse for me.  And I’m 28!”

We live in a controversy-driven culture.  The internet had exacerbated that problem.  But if you can’t see that Johnny Manziel is equal parts normal kid and celebrity, then you have less common sense than society seems to think he has.

“But,” you may say, “Look at A.J. McCarron?  He is humble, quiet, well-mannered and always out of the spotlight.”

All of that is true.  A.J. McCarron, however, does not have a Heisman Trophy.  A.J. McCarron is not bankrolled by a wealthy family.  This is not intended as an insult, but A.J. McCarron doesn’t have Johnny Manziel’s charisma or personality either.  McCarron is humble and polite.  Manziel dominates a room.  These are two different quarterbacks from two different backgrounds who behave in two different ways.  I’m not going to condemn one for being wrong and award one for being right.

Manziel’s social life is capitalizing on his opportunities.  For McCarron he capitalizes with National Championships.  Each is true to himself.  You could make a darn compelling case that each is living the better life.

 

 Is anybody else over Jadeveon Clowney?

I stand by everything that I have ever said about Jadeveon Clowney.  He’s a beast.  He plays his position better than any player in the country plays theirs.  He’s scary.  He’s not human. But good gracious his legend is growing awfully out of control.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I didn’t think Clowney would live up to the offseason hype.  My reasoning: the hype is darn-near unparalleled to begin with for a defensive player, his defense lost a lot of talent and teams may be able to scheme better for him and he doesn’t put up statistically monstrous games on a consistent level.  Those are admittedly nit-picky criticisms but when we’re dealing with hoopla that is unprecedented (and I think we are for a defensive player), sometimes it takes some controversial disputing over minuscule points to disqualify someone.

I learned one thing when I wrote that article: NOBODY TALKS BAD ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA’S BELOVED BABY JADEVEON!!!.  NOT NOBODY, NOT NO HOW!!!!

First of all, the guys more than capable of defending himself.  Secondly, I don’t think anybody is really talking trash about Jadeveon (he’s the only one doing that).  Thirdly, just because Jadeveon is a once in a generation talent at the collegiate level does not mean he’s above reproach:

  • He has a tendency to take plays off.
  • He struggles at times in run defense.
  • He is not the most attractive fellow in the world.

All-SEC teams were voted on during Media Days.  Twenty people did not vote for Clowney on the First Team.  Outrage ensued.  Do I think Clowney is First Team material?  Absolutely.  Was I surprised that he wasn’t a unanimous choice?  Somewhat, but things are rarely unanimous these days (remember, we love controversy).

People went absolutely nuts about it.  Even former Georgia Bulldog turned hater David Pollack weighed in on Twitter saying, “All 20 of the 240 media members who didn’t vote Clowney First-Team All SEC, should never be able to vote again.”

Really, D.P?  Never vote again?  Isn’t that a little strong?  Keep in mind, this is a Pre-Season vote.  The goal of the vote is to predict what will happen this year.  I can think of a number of reasons why someone could conceivably think Clowney wouldn’t finish as one of the two best DEs in the league:

  • Maybe somebody saw a rising star at the DE position while covering the beat trail for his/her college team this Spring.  Maybe somebody is saying, “That kid can be better than Jadeveon Clowney.”  I bet the folks at Ole Miss are hoping Robtert Nkedkdmfdmdsfeche (spelling?) can be.
  • Maybe a voter has heard something about Jadeveon’s offseason workouts.  Yes he’s reportedly run incredible 40 times and benchpressed entire planets, but maybe he’s been letting off the gas a bit.
  • Maybe somebody sees the way he plays and says, “For some reason I think all of his flailing and jumping over blockers is going to get him hurt.”

I’m not saying that I agree with any of the things I listed above or that I’ve heard any such inklings, but I haven’t seen what every voting Media member has seen either.

Jadeveon Clowney is great.  But South Carolina fans – and now fans in general – are putting a hell of a lot of pressure on him.

 

Les Miles is a Gift

Les Miles is an absolute treasure to college football.  He dropped knowledge on the unevenness of SEC scheduling in a very non-Spurrier way (meaning he had facts that weren’t simply demonstrative of his team’s fortune or misfortune).  He spoke eloquently about his coaching staff, players and other personnel.  He spoke with an Australian accent for a spell (seriously).  He talked about Twitter, the United State of America and the Harlem Shake.

Les Miles was great.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

Tuesday Doomsday: History and Math Suggest Johnny Football Will Not Win the Heisman Trophy Again


This is the sixth post in the Tuesday Doomsday series.  Previously, downfalls were predicted for GurshallJadeveon ClowneyTajh Boyd, Will Muschamp and Teddy Bridgewater.

 

In some regards this article was a long time coming.  When predicting that an entity will fall short of expectations, the easiest place to start is with the pinnacle of current success.  Case in point: if I want to predict which NBA team will disappoint in 2013 one team seems like an odds-on-favorite:  the Miami Heat.  Miami returns its nucleus, the best player on the planet, a host of other weapons and a lot of momentum.  But anything short of being the best is failure for the two-time defending champs.  Do I expect the Heat to miss the playoffs?  No. But even making the playoffs and winning in rounds one, two and three before losing in round four is still coming up short.  There is a much higher chance for disappointment next year with Miami Heat (82-23 overall record including playoffs) than with Orlando (20-62 in 2012) even though Miami is light-years ahead as a team.

I say all of that to say:  It’s not exactly ground-breaking to say that a Heisman Trophy, in this instance Johnny Manziel, winner may take a step back.  And perhaps the very obvious nature of that prediction is why I’ve been slow to write this.

 

The History

History alone strongly opposes back-to-back Heisman winners.  In total the award has been handed out 78 times.  Fifty-Six of those winners were seniors and therefore eliminated from living up to expectations the following season – at least at the collegiate level.  Here is how the other twenty-two winners shake out:

  • Nine (Roger Staubach – 1963, Herschel Walker – 1982, Barry Sanders – 1988, Andre Ware – 1989, Desmond Howard – 1991, Rashaan Salaam – 1994, Charles Woodson – 1997, Cam Newton – 2010, Robert Griffin III – 2011) did not return for another season of college football.  Instead, they went pro early.
  • Ten (Doc Blancherd – 1945, Doak Walker – 1948, Vic Janowicz – 1950, Billy Sims – 1978, Ty Detmer – 1990, Jason White – 2003, Matt Leinart – 2004, Tim Tebow – 2007, Sam Bradford – 2008, Mark Ingram – 2009) returned to college football but failed to win another Heisman Trophy.
  • Nineteen of the 22 are now covered.  Two of the 22 belong to Archie Griffin – the lone repeat Heisman winner (1974 and 1975).
  • That leaves only Johnny Manziel.

 

Johnny Football didn’t have the option of going pro – so I’m taking the “not playing” option off the table (although at any time Manziel could be seriously injured or decide that he really, really, really hates college and could then quit).  That means that 10 out of 11 stars with whom Manziel could be compared (those Heisman winners that returned) failed to repeat.  Add some math to that history and Johnny has a 9.09% chance of repeating.  Those are slim odds for anything, but when the condition in question is “Being the Best in the Country,” those odds are steepened.

 

The Statistics

“But,” you may be saying, “Johnny Manziel was the first freshman to ever win the award.”  That is true and that certainly makes him unique.  But if you remove that special circumstance, you can deduce that although he got there faster (although to be fair: as a redshirt freshman he had been in college as long as Tim Tebow – a true sophomore) but put up eerily similar numbers to the following Heisman-winning QBs:

Winning Year

Player

School

Total Offfense

Total TDs

1990

Ty Detmer

BYU

4929

44

2003

Jason White

Oklahoma

3640

41

2004

Matt Leinart

USC

2957

31

2007

Tim Tebow

Florida

3970

51

2008

Sam Bradford

Oklahoma

4529

53

2012

Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M

4600

43

 

A few notes on those numbers:

  • These are numbers prior to Heisman voting – so they do not include Bowl Games.  In general, when I speak on Heisman campaigns I will ignore games that occur after voting.  Those may be interesting or indicative of correct or incorrect polling but they had no bearing on votes cast.
  • When I say, “Manziel’s numbers are eerily similar,” that is not a bad thing at all.  Remember: these are all players deemed to be the most outstanding in the country.   The five other players on the list averaged 4005 yards of offense (Manziel bested that) and 44 total TDs (he lagged slightly).  This is a good group to fit in with.

 

But, how did those players who returned hold up during the following season?

Year

Player

School

Total Offense

Total TDs

1991

Ty Detmer

BYU

3651

37

2004

Jason White

Oklahoma

2913

33

2005

Matt Leinart

USC

3484

33

2008

Tim Tebow

Florida

3079

40

2009

Sam Bradford

Oklahoma*

3264

24

 

With regards to these numbers:

  • To keep things even I again excluded Bowl Games.
  • Sam Bradford’s numbers are projected (he was hurt early during Game 3, so I multiplied his total performance prior to injury by six to get a rough estimate for a 12-game slate).
  • Only Matt Leinart advanced in yardage (although he somehow hurt his draft stock in the process).  He was also the lone player to advance in total TDs.

 

The graphs below display the total impact of these declines.  And, so that I’m not accused of randomly selecting data: THIS DATA REFLECTS EVERY SINGLE HEISMAN WINNING QUARTERBACK WHO RETURNED TO PLAY THE NEXT SEASON AFTER WINNING THE HEISMAN TROPHY.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  ONE. EVER.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

Application:

So what does this mean for Johnny Manziel?  If the historical (and mathematical) precedents hold then in 2013 Manziel will account for a little less than 82% of his 2012 total offense accumulation and a little over 75% of his TD production.  What do those numbers look like?

  • 3765 yards of offense
  • 33 TDs

 

Those are certainly respectable numbers, but do they win the Heisman?  Probably not.  Put it this way: last year Aaron Murray came pretty darn close to numbers while putting up a passer rating nearly 20 points better than Manziel, and he didn’t get serious Heisman consideration.  And, even as a Georgia fan, I’m not complaining about that.

Combine that notion with the fact that there is absolutely no historical precedent for crap like this happening once – let alone twice – and I feel confident in predicting that Manziel will not win the Heisman Trophy in 2013.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

100 Days of SEC Domination: Day 87 – The Rich Get Richer and SEC Coaches as Richie Rich Characters


The SEC is distributing 289.4 m-m-m-m-million dollars to its 14 member distributions for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.  This does not include the $14.1 million retained by the schools who participated in bowls or NCAA academic enhancement payouts.  This doesn’t include local media revenues either.

This is the richest conference’s new record for richest payout.

This is just like Richie Rich…

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

That’s all I got/

Andrew

For the rest of the SEC Domination Countdown, go here.

New Cross Division Rivalries for South Carolina in 2014: Goodbye Arkansas, Hello A&M


A new age has come in our dear SEC.  The days of South Carolina playing Arkansas every year are gone after this season.  There will be two new cross division rivalries starting in 2014.  South Carolina will begin a yearly contest with Texas A&M (Oh. No.), and Missouri will play Arkansas.  Sorry Mizzou fans, when they come back, you’ll never win.

Now, let’s further examine this new rivalry for the Gamecocks.

For South Carolina, playing every other year in Texas could seriously benefit recruiting.  Everyone knows Texas is a hotbed for talent, especially in the trenches.  Even taking a minor recruit here and there would help our offensive line.

To be honest though, playing Texas A&M yearly scares me a little.  Giving a Texas school the SEC recruiting pitch is a death sentence for outside recruiting.  Sure, some will go out of Texas just to get out of the state, but the big names will stay.  This practically ensures A&M a very good crop of recruits EVERY year.  While the coaching may not be up to par, if you recruit studs you win games.  Of course we see how that has worked out for Clemson.

Let’s take a look at that 2014 season.  Clowney? Gone.  Manziel? Likely gone, he’s a redshirt Sophomore, so he’s draft eligible.  Without Manziel, I do not believe Texas A&M wins the first game of this series since it will be in Columbia.  We’ll have an offensive attack led by seniors Dylan Thompson and Bruce Ellington, as well as Junior, Mike Davis.  Our secondary will be hurting a bit, but by game time, they should be settled in.

I’m not even going to fathom an attempt at a prediction of this game.  It’s two seasons away, and far too many variables are involved.  Let’s all admit though, without taking anything from Arkansas, TAMU is a much better team to play yearly due to the benefits to South Carolina, such as money and recruiting.  Hey, that’s why we’re in the SEC, right?  Money and big time players!

As always, it’s great to be a Gamecock!

JB, signing off.

More Aggies Not Named Johnny: Texas A&M’s Most Important Players Continued


This is the second portion of a look into Texas A&M’s other playmakers.  Part One can be found here.

5. Julien Obioha – Defensive End
Questions about Obioha’s health still remain after a back injury that kept him out of the Cotton Bowl. If he does come back at 100%, Obioha will be a big time playmaker on defense. Most likely playing strong side d-end he will be a key in stopping the run against the many talented SEC running backs. He excelled at sealing the edge last year and will be a force coming off edge. Along with Ennis, he comes in with at least a year of experience of starting on the d-line. If he can draw the attention of the offensive line, guys like Brandon Alexander and Tyrone Taylor will be able to provide a deadly pass rush from the weak side d-end position.

4. Deshazor Everett – Cornerback
When looking at the A&M secondary there are plenty of choices of who could be the biggest playmaker. Tony Hurd Jr. could certainly make this top ten as he tends to make big plays in pressure situations. But in terms of talent and the player who could be A&M’s biggest breakout player this year, it is Deshazor Everett. Of course Everett broke out a bit last year when he registered the interception of A.J. McCarron that basically sealed the win for A&M in Tuscaloosa. This year the junior has a chance to develop into the SEC’s next big time cornerback. He has the versatility to play both corner and safety and will be expected to be a shutdown corner this year.

3. Ben Malena – Running Back
Malena is the sure-fire starter among the many Aggie running backs next season. This is not only because he is the most experienced or best runner (he averaged a ridiculous 5.9 yards per carry last year), but he may be the best running back in the nation at picking up the blitz. Throughout the 2012 season teams tried their hardest to get as much pressure on Manziel as they could, and with Malena in the game it was rare to see a blitzing linebacker get by him. He also was great at providing down field blocking for a scrambling Manziel. But that’s not it, without Manziel last year Malena would have easily been a 1000 yard rusher and could have flirted with 1500. With all the talent in the A&M backfield this year Malena may not even reach the 826 yards he gained last year, but he will bring an almost guaranteed gain of five yards every time he touches the ball. His ability to find the hole was on full display when gashing the LSU, Ole Miss, and Miss. State defenses for big yards last year. Malena will be an offensive leader this year, and from the standpoint of being the best all-around fit into the Sumlin offense, he’s the man at running back.

1 & 2. Jake Matthews – Left Tackle, Mike Evans – Wide Reciever
Though the last eight players are vital to a good season for the Aggies, there is no doubt that other than Manziel, Matthews and Evans are the most important figures on the team. Now deciding who is more important between the two non-Heisman winners…that’s nearly impossible.  That’s why I copped out and put them together here.

I’ll start with Matthews; he could have easily gone to the NFL last year and been a first round pick but decided to come back. His decision was probably most affected by having an opportunity to play with his little brother, Mike, on the offensive line. It is possible that he also wanted to prove he could play left tackle just as well as he played right tackle last year, and many project that he will be even better than Joeckel. Those are big shoes to fill, but if anybody can do it, Jake Matthews is the guy. One of the most impressive things the o-line did last year was conform to blocking for Manziel. Matthews was dominant force last year, with the ability to hold blocks as long as Manziel needed him too, which at times was for a day or two. Now he’s protecting Manziel’s blind side, and by the end of the year he will be a no doubt top ten draft pick.
Mike Evans flew a bit under the radar nationally last year with all the Manziel hype. In Aggieland though, Mike Evans is loved as much as any other player. As a redshirt freshman he had 82 receptions for 1105 yards and 5 touchdowns. He comes back as one of the top three receivers in the SEC and top 10 in the nation, and by the end of the year he could very well be the best. At 6’5” 220 lbs, there is not a corner strong enough to compete with him. Add in a 39 inch vertical and the ball just has to be in his general vicinity and he’ll make the catch. With his enormous wing span he just reaches out and plucks the ball out of the air, rarely ever catching a ball with his body. With all that, perhaps the most special thing about Evans is how strong he is. Anytime he makes a catch he is going for another five yards at least after the catch. A&M utilized this tremendously last year, hitting him with a lot of three to five yard passes and letting him carry defenders another five. On 2nd and long he was the go to man to either make it 3rd and short or get the first down. He also made the catch last year that many Aggies say was the turning point in the Aggie season. Against Ole Miss, down by 10, with a 3rd and 20 plus from the one yard line, Manziel threw a prayer to Evans and he went over the top of the defender to make a tremendous grab for the first down and spark the comeback win in a game that saw the Aggies turn the ball over six times. Evans will be Manziel’s favorite target without a doubt, especially with a young and inexperienced receiving corp. Expect huge numbers this year from Evans and for him to be a main reason that the Aggie offense is as explosive as it was last year.

The other players that were just outside the top 10 include Jarvis Harrison at left guard, Tony Hurd Jr. at strong safety, and Brandon Alexander at defensive end. There are plenty of other players who could have made this list, but I believe these are the 10 guys who will be the most important to a National Championship run for the Aggies.

Cody Trimble
Be sure to follow me on twitter @cctrim

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