Did Gus Malzahn hire his next offensive coordinator today?
On Monday, FootballScoop reported that Byrnes High School (Duncan, S.C.) head coach Bobby Bentley has accepted a position as an offensive analyst at Auburn working with the Tigers' quarterbacks. But it appears this may be Gus Malzahn's first move to prepare for the eventual departure of current quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
To be clear, Malzahn is in no way pushing Lashlee out. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lashlee has been under Malzahn's wing for literally half his life, and Lashlee is the one guy Malzahn has by his side for every key decision. Their relationship stretches well beyond the typical head coach-coordinator duo, and Malzahn presumably would like to keep that in place for as long as possible. That said, Malzahn still must prepare for the future, and that future likely includes some program dangling the keys in front of the SEC's hottest young offensive coordinator sooner rather than later.
When that day arrives, Malzahn has to have a plan in place. Which is why he circled back to Bentley.
Malzahn first offered Bentley a position on his original Auburn staff in 2012. Bentley turned it down. “I’m staying at Byrnes and I want to be here and that’s what I’m going to do,” Bentley said at the time. “Gus and I are good friends. … I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Nearly a year to the day later, Malzahn began dealing with the reality that Lashlee may have a short shelf life at Auburn. Fresh off a completely unprecedented run to the SEC championship, his 30-year-old offensive coordinator was now in demand. "He'll be a head coach at this level," Malzahn said of Lashlee. "It's just a matter of when and he's doing a great job for us right now."
Two months later, Malzahn's second attempt to hook Bentley has landed. Bentley went 119-54 in two separate stints at Byrnes, with a run of four straight state championships from 2002-05. He was named Nike's national coach of the year in 2005. His departure is simultaneously surprising and inevitable. On one hand, he has a son that's a rising sophomore and figured to be Byrnes' starting quarterback for the next three seasons. On the other, coaches twice offered a position on Gus Malzahn's staff don't stick around and hold out for a third job offer.
Let's take a moment to consider who Malzahn is and what it truly means to be his offensive coordinator. A former high school coach, Malzahn has championed the idea of hiring high school coaches directly into major college football. If any coach were to go from high school, to an off-the-field role to offensive coordinator in an extraordinarily short amount of time, Malzahn would be the one head coach where such an ascension would be possible. That's in large part because Malzahn is the brains behind his own operation. To be an offensive coordinator under him is to be a sounding board and a chief lieutenant, first and foremost.
Now let's juxtapose the previous paragraph with this tweet from Greenville News (S.C.) sports reporter Willie Smith:
Bobby Bentley once told me he would only leave for a coordinator’s position. Will be interesting to see what his role with Auburn will be.— Willie Smith (@willie_t_smith) February 24, 2014
Could Malzahn have tapped Bentley for on-the-job training to be Auburn's next offensive coordinator?
We don't possess any inside information as to Malzahn's thinking with this hire, but there are enough dots here that bear connecting.
In a sticky situation, Pat Fitzgerald comes out looking cleaner than ever before
I hope Pat Fitzgerald is flexible, because college athletes' pro-union lawyer attempted to twist him into a pretzel on Friday.
Over the last couple weeks, former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter has led the charge - along with the organization for which he serves as figurehead, College Athletes Protection Association (CAPA) - to give student-athletes more rights. They aren't asking for money (yet). Right now, the discussion has centered on full coverage for players' medical procedures and "due process" regarding the removal of a player from his scholarship. Mostly, CAPA is arguing for a place at the bargaining table, and those are the first two talking points.
The case has made its way to the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, with CAPA arguing that college athletes are less student-athletes and more employees, and Northwestern maintaining that they are not. On Friday, Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald was brought in for cross-examination.
As with any lawyer worth his retainer fee, CAPA's attorney paged through Fitzgerald's old quotes in an attempt to use them against him. Case in point, last summer when, in an attempt to praise his players, he referred to playing for Northwestern as a "full-time job". The lawyer pounced.
CAPA attorney follows up reciting quote from Fitz to @SethGruen where he refers to "the full-time job of a student-athlete." Win for CAPA— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) February 21, 2014
CAPA attorney has Fitz review training camp itinerary to show how structured it is, how much mandatory. Goal: to show players are employees— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) February 21, 2014
Fitzgerald retorted by saying: A) any time a player puts in beyond the NCAA-mandated maximum is purely voluntary, B) Northwestern insists academics comes before football, to the point of allowing players to leave practice early while providing a meal and transportation from practice to class, and C) allowing a player to miss the Nebraska game last season to catch up academically.
Next, CAPA's legal team pressed Fitzgerald on the process of throwing players off the team. One would assume this wouldn't be much of a problem at a school like Northwestern, and Fitzgerald ducked the bullet like Johnny Manziel dodging a blitzing linebacker.
Fitz says 2 players had scholarships not renewed; not his decision. One violated university policy, one violated drug/alcohol policy— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) February 21, 2014
This is, quite obviously, an extremely controversial and divisive issue across college sports, and inside Northwestern's own locker room. Colter's former teammates have distanced themselves from this fight.
Statement emailed to Tribune by center Brandon Vitabile: “We are grateful for every opportunity that we have to represent this university...— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) February 21, 2014
“… that we love, and we look forward to proudly representing #Northwestern for the rest of our lives.”— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) February 21, 2014
I'm sick of listening to my university get thrown under the bus. Playing football at Northwestern was not a job.... (1/3)— Mike Trumpy (@T_rumpy32) February 21, 2014
but rather the opportunity of a lifetime. Obviously everyone has different experiences.... (2/3)— Mike Trumpy (@T_rumpy32) February 21, 2014
It's a very, very difficult tightrope for a coach to talk. He has to defend his program without coming off too hard, and to encourage his players' freedom while still remaining in control of his locker room back in Evanston. Fitzgerald did all that while managing to make the Northwestern football program look better than it did when he took the stand.
Fitzgerald: former football players have gone on to become doctors, engineers, wealth magers...in total 35 different careers.— Alejandra Cancino (@WriterAlejandra) February 21, 2014
No coach ever wants to take the stand in from of the National Labor Relations Board for cross-examination in a case with national coverage. But if someone must do it, the pro-establishment side of this debate could not have had a better representative on the stand than Fitzgerald.
Shannon Dawson explains how spots are won in spring ball: 'This isn't Kindergarten'
Spring practices are a time where player development is at the forefront of every coaches mind, and for players it's a time to prove you've got what it takes to be in the starting 11.
West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson noted at a presser today that if you want to start for the Mountaineers, you'd better take full advantage of your opportunities in spring ball.
"All you can ask for in this life, I don't care if you're a quarterback or a left tackle or receiver, is an opportunity. What's an opportunity? Well, I'm going to give you 'X' amount of reps, and we've divided them pretty evenly really."
"So with those reps, what do you do? Is it my fault that you didn't raise up and win the job, ya know? Win the job. It's not kindergarten. You get an opportunity you better take advantage of it, and if you don't...too bad."
That outlook from their coordinator has got to be quite the incentive for Mountaineer players to improve in the off season. Especially as they look to improve on a disappointing 4-8, 2-7 finish.
HS coaches: This idea will make your life a lot easier during recruiting season
If you're a high school coach, chances are pretty good you've got a handful of your guys looking to play at the college level. With that comes college coach after college coach wanting film on each kid, as well as their transcripts and other pertinent material. Fielding call after call, email after email, or text after text from college coaches or personnel guys asking about players or their film can get a bit overwhelming, but one program I talked to this weekend had an interesting approach to the situation.
This weekend I spent time at a coaching clinic in West Michigan talking to various coaches, but when I left it was a conversation that I had with Grand Rapids West Catholic head coach Dan Rohn and a few guys on his staff that really stuck with me. Rohn has led the West Catholic program to the Michigan High School state title game in three of the past four seasons, winning the Division 5 title in 2010 and 2013.
Needless to say, his players are in high demand with college coaches, and while Hudl has made the process of getting film to college coaches infinitely easier than it was before its introduction, Rohn and his staff have found a way to make things even easier and more efficient. They've created a basic website that shows the players, with access to their film, contact information, height and weight, and even 40 times. Take a look at what they've set up.
Now, every time that a college coach wants film on one of his players, he's able to send them to their website that one of his assistants helped build. There, coaches can click on an individual player and get instant access to the player's Hudl highlights, evaluate him, and move on to another player they're interested in.
Coach Rohn told me that each player is responsible for keeping their information and highlights up to date, so now when he gets an email from a college coach asking about a player, he can respond with the link to the website where the coach can instantly watch film and look at the players contact information.
There are hundreds of free websites out there that are easy enough to build to suit your program's needs. Coach Rohn tells me that it has made the busy recruiting process so much easier on him and his staff, and college coaches love the ease of access and being able to immediately get their hands on what they need help in the evaluation process.
I'm sure it's something that programs across the country have utilized before, but this was the first time I had heard from a head coach doing it, and surely it's an idea that can help numerous other coaches out there in similar situations.
If you're a high school coach doing something innovative like this, we would love to hear from you and share the idea with coaches around the country. Email me directly at email@example.com or let us know on Twitter (@FootballScoop).
ACC Championship to remain in Charlotte through 2019
The ACC launched its championship game in 2005 for most of its first five years in existence. A strong crowd of 72,749 showed up for the inaugural game between Florida State and Virginia Tech in Jacksonville, but attendance quickly bottomed to this just two years later:
As the ACC then learned, when your conference championship game pits teams like Boston College, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, it doesn't make much sense to ask those (limited) fan bases to travel to Florida on short notice.
In 2010, the league finally wised up and moved its conference championship to Charlotte. For a conference stretching up and down the East Coast - and now as far west as Louisville - a centric championship game is a must if you're determined to keep it at a neutral site. Charlotte makes the most sense possible (Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter notes the ACC's geographic midpoint is Walnut Cove, N.C., 95 miles north of Charlotte) and the numbers bear that out. After dipping below 55,000 for three straight years, the ACC Championship has drawn an average of 69,632 spectators for its four years at Bank of America Stadium.
Monday, the ACC announced it would keep its championship in Charlotte through 2019.
“We are pleased to announce that Charlotte will continue to be the home of the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship through the 2019 season,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in the conference's official statement. “The Charlotte Sports Foundation, Bank of America Stadium, the Carolina Panthers and entire City of Charlotte have been outstanding partners and continue to facilitate the growth and success of the game and our many ancillary events. This annual weekend is a true celebration of ACC Football.”
Charlotte obviously makes sense for all the reasons listed above, but the league was also wise to keep the ACC Championship in place for karmic reasons. Everything is going right for Swofford's league right now, as evidenced by exhibits A through D listed below that the ACC proudly noted in its release:
• Is home to the defending national champion in Florida State
• Is the first conference in history to have 11 bowl teams in the same year (2013)
• Is the first conference since 1932 to have 11 teams with winning records in a single season (2013)
• Is the first conference in history to have its football student-athletes capture the Heisman Trophy, the Nagurski Trophy, the Outland Trophy, the Doak Walker Award, the Lombardi Award, the Bednarik Award and the Davey O’Brien Award in the same year (2013)
'Big guys are hard to find. And big guys beat up little guys.'
Following his loss to Alabama in the 2010 BCS National Championship, Mack Brown pledged to build his team more like the one that had just beaten him. His reasoning made sense. After seeing your franchise quarterback exit the game five snaps in - and take any realistic hope your team had of winning the game with him to the locker room - it's certainly understandable that a coach would want to construct his team in such a way that it wouldn't be paralyzed without one certain player on the field.
But then, following a 2012 season that saw Baylor, Oklahoma and seemingly the rest of the Big 12 race up and down the field at a pace that would challenge for the pole position at Daytona. Again, this made sense on the surface. Why swim up stream against such a prevailing current?
The result, though, was a 2013 Texas team that was caught in the middle between two opposing ideas, ending with an 8-5 mark and a new head coach in Charlie Strong.
In a recent interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Strong laid out his philosophy in building a team. Unsurprisingly, it's as straightforward as he is. “I’m big into linemen,” Strong said. “I tell these guys all the time, ‘I’ll find a little guy.’ I want big guys. Big guys are hard to find. And big guys beat up little guys.”
Following National Signing Day, Strong explained his recruiting philosophy of using his first 10 scholarships on the 10 best available players, spending his next 10 at positions of need, and then saving his final five for late bloomers. “And at the end of the day, you’re going to win with that second 10,” Strong said. “That top 10, they’re going to be more concerned about themselves. Ten, ten, five. I just think you’ve got to start off and categorize them.
As for how he wants to disperse those scholarships? Strong would like to Texas' numbers at offensive line by as much as 50 percent, from the current number of 12 up to 15 or 18. Texas currently carries 10 defensive linemen; Strong wants 14. Add in his optimal number of six tight ends (Texas currently has five), and the Longhorns will devote up to 45 percent of their 85 available scholarships on big guys.
“Me personally, I want to go big,” Strong said. “You win big. You win with guys up front on your defensive front and win with guys on your offensive line. That’s going to tell me whether we’re going to be a physical football team when we can get those guys.”
Video: Players explain the UTSA game experience
The football program at Texas-San Antonio is still in it's infancy, but the experience that the players are able to have as they lay the foundation of the program is something that's very, very unique in college football. That can have quite a draw with recruits.
In this clip, players walk you through their game day experience, and some of the traditions. They talk about the what it feels like from a players perspective during the spirit walk, and the game day atmosphere in the tunnel as they emerge through the smoke onto the field.
This is an excellent way to highlight the way that a program, and its players approach game day, and is something that recruits will really enjoy seeing.
Rich Rod had the wittiest tweet of the weekend
Rich Rod's Twitter account (@CoachRodAZ) has only sent 77 tweets, but the one he sent this weekend might have been the best tweet of the entire weekend.
Playing some golf with his son on Sunday, play was evidently a little slow so Rodriguez took to Twitter with a quick, clever thought.
Enjoying the great tucson weather and playing golf with my son. Play is a little slow though #isItAPlayerSafetyIssue?— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 23, 2014
Very witty coach. Well played.