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The toughest positions to play according to Jim Mora

After practice this morning, Jim Mora explained that there are two positions that stick out to him as the hardest to master from a technique perspective. Those two positions are corner, and offensive tackle.

As Mora sees it, you're protecting your side of the ball's most valuable asset, and in many cases, doing it out on your own island. For the corners, it's the goal line that they protect, and for the tackles it's the quarterback.

Both great points.

Hear more from Mora on the subject below. 

This would definitely make for some solid late night debate at the AFCA convention with some cold beverages in hand. What are your thoughts?

The Scoop on tonight's games


Here's The Scoop on everything you need to know about tonight's tripleheader. 

Florida State at Virginia Tech (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

On paper this should be a certain win for Florida State. Jimbo Fisher's team is the clear statistical leader in the ACC, ranking first or second within the league in 11 of the 17 official categories tracked by the NCAA. The Seminoles pace the ACC in total offense and total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense as well as passing efficiency and passing efficiency defense. 

The problem, however, is that certain wins have so often turned out not to be the case over the past decade for Florida State. According to Matt Hinton at SundayMorningQB.com, Florida State is 0-8 in ACC play while playing on the road as a ranked team against an unranked underdog since 2005. That number includes the Seminoles' only setback in 2012, a 17-16 setback at N.C. State on Oct. 6. (FSU is a two touchdown favorite tonight.) Since that loss, Fisher's squad has rebounded to win three straight; at 8-1 overall and 5-1 in conference play the Seminoles stand in first place of the ACC's Atlantic Division. 

That brings us to tonight as Florida State travels to Blacksburg to face a Virginia Tech team in the midst of a very un-Frank Beamer-like season. At 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league play, the five-time ACC Coastal champions are one game above the basement in the division. They come into tonight off a 30-12 loss to Miami last Thursday night, a game in which the Hokies were the team that endured a blocked punt, an 81-yard kickoff return, a missed field goal and a missed extra point. 

Tonight marks Florida State's first visit to Lane Stadium since 2007, a place where Virginia Tech has won its last seven games. Frank Beamer's team is 19-6 on Thursday nights and 25-3 in November since joining the ACC. Those sterling marks will be put to test against Florida State, the only squad that ranks among FBS's top eight in total offense and total defense. 

Louisiana - Monroe at Arkansas State (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The Sun Belt title could be decided tonight when two of the league's top offenses square off in Jonesboro, Ark. ULM leads the league at nearly 38 points per game, while Arkansas State checks in at No. 3 with 34 points per game. Gus Malzahn's team enters tonight with a four-game winning streak in which they've posted nearly 40 points per game. 

Red Wolves quarterback Ryan Aplin has heated up over the last month, connecting on 78-of-108 (72.2 percent) of passes for 1,023 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Arkansas State's stretch of good football hasn't just been limited to Aplin; the Red Wolves have rushed 157 times for 714 yards (4.5 ypc) for 13 touchdowns over their past four games while limiting opponents to 580 yards on 151 attempts (3.8 ypc) and three scores. Arkansas State has also secured a 10-to-3 turnover margin over that span.

Todd Berry's team had its five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, but still claims the Sun Belt's top scoring offense and turnover margin. Offensive coordinator Steve Farmer calls a balanced offense as ULM averages 40 passes per game to go with 36 rushes per game. That balance was thrown off in the 40-24 loss to Louisiana - Lafayette as the Warhawks only managed 74 rushing yards on 20 attempts. The Warhawks will need to run the ball better tonight without starting quarterback Kolton Browning, who suffered an injury early against ULL, in the lineup. Browning was working on a Sun Belt Player of the Year campaign, leading the league in total offense and accounting for 27 touchdowns. Senior Cody Wells steps in for Browning, bringing in a resume that includes 226 attempts for 1,499 yards and an 11-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his career.

Both teams share a 4-1 conference record coming into tonight, sitting atop the league along with Middle Tennessee (also 4-1 in Sun Belt play). ULM already owns a victory over the Blue Raiders, while Arkansas State hosts MTSU in the season finale on Dec. 1. A win tonight will go a long way toward a first conference championship for Berry's program, while Malzahn's squad hopes to defend its 2011 league title. 

Noth Alabama at West Alabama (7:30 p.m. ET, GSC-TV)

Bobby Wallace returns to Livingston, Ala., to face his old team and former offensive coordinator Will Hall, who is now at the helm of West Alabama. North Alabama (5-4) enters tonight ranked tenth in D2Football.com's Super Region 2 rankings, while West Alabama (7-3) checks in at No. 7. Hall's offense puts opposing defenses under a tremendous amount of pressure when things are clicking. The Tigers score nearly 44 points per game in their seven wins but just 16 points per game in their losses. 

Tonight marks Wallace's first trip back to West Alabama, where he led the program for five years. He is in his second stint at North Alabama, returning to the school where he coached from 1988-97 and won three NCAA Division II national titles. After winning four straight games in which they allowed a total of 28 points, the Lions have dropped three straight games and surrendered 100 points in the process.  

Gruden reportedly wants back in

We saw a report earlier today from NFL writer Gregg Rosenthal that ESPN's Jon Gruden wants to get back into coaching.

In itself, that should not come as a major surprise to anyone. Gruden is only 49 and his name always seems to come up with numerous high profile jobs each off season. This season will be no different.

Rosenthal goes on to explain that he has heard from his source (Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com) that Gruden has already reached out to a few assistants, including former Eagles defensive coordinator and offensive line coach Juan Castillo and Chargers specials teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, about their potential availability after the season wraps up.

Take it for what it's worth, but Rosenthal says Campbell has been pretty accurate when it comes to NFL movement, and notes that Gruden is waiting for the perfect opportunity in a large media market, otherwise he's more than happy at ESPN and as president of the FFCA (Fired Football Coaches Association).

Read Rosenthal's full take on the Gruden situation here.

 

"Nobody has a facility like this"

T. Boone Pickens is one of the main reasons that Oklahoma State has been able to build some of the most impressive facilities in the country. Just ask Mike Gundy and his staff. It definitely helps to have a guy like Pickens in your corner.

Oklahoma State's newest addition, the Sherman E. Smith indoor training facility, is really starting to take shape. The $19 million facility will feature two doors that are 80 feet wide, and one other door 120 feet wide, both of which will have the ability to roll up and basically open up the entire side of the building. Also, the facility was built with the strong Oklahoma winds in mind and has a unique design which runs north to south with the long sides of the building facing east and west due to the prevailing southwest winds that they see throughout the year.

After talking about some of the unique features of the building, Pickens explains in the early part of the clip that "nobody has a facility like this." With that said, we're excited to see the finished product and how it stacks up to some of the other impressive indoor facilities around the country.

The project should be completed sometime during next summer. 

The legacy of Darrell Royal

Darrell Royal was long gone from college football by the time I gained sports consciousness. The legendary coach retired in 1976, a dozen years before I was born. It wasn't long after I became a fan of college football, however, before my dad called me to the living room, sat me down and told me we were going to watch the 1969 Texas-Arkansas game and that I was going to learn everything there was to know about Texas' greatest football coach.

I immediately thought of that moment Wednesday morning when I learned of Royal's passing. 

The tower, UT's campus landmark, was lit orange on Wednesday night to honor Royal. A full orange tower is usually limited to mark occasions when Texas wins a national championship, something Royal accomplished three times while at Texas. Royal's teams came achingly close to three more national titles. His 1961 team was ranked No. 1 before it suffered a 6-0 loss to TCU, one of the biggest upsets in Southwest Conference history.

"They're like a bunch of cockroaches," Royal said of TCU. "It's not what they eat and tote off, it's what they fall into and mess up that hurts."

A year later Texas was again the top ranked team in the country when a 14-14 tie with Rice knocked team from down to No. 5. After breaking through with the school's first national championship in 1963, Royal's bid for a repeat ended when the top-ranked Horns suffered 14-13 loss at the hands of Arkansas, the eventual national champions. After scoring with 1:27 left in the game to pull Texas within one, rather than opt for a tie, Texas went for two and failed. 

Largely considered a conservative coach, Royal had a penchant for rolling the dice in the biggest of moments. Against that same Arkansas team five years later, Texas fought back from a 14-0 hole with two successful gambles - a successful two-point conversion after Texas' first touchdown, and facing a 4th-and-3 with under five minutes to play, Royal ordered quarterback James Street to roll left and fire a bomb that snuck between two defenders and into Randy Peschel's outstretched arms to set up the Longhorns' go ahead score in a 15-14 win.

Royal's teams slipped to mediocrity after the 1964 season, going 19-12 from 1965-67 before he and assistant coach Emory Bellard implemented the Wishbone offense. After a tie and a loss to open the 1968 season Texas would not lose again until January 1971, a streak of 30 consecutive wins that brought Royal his second and third national championships. 

At the exepense of his own job security, Royal often shared the ins and outs of the Wishbone offense with many coaching staffs, including archrival Oklahoma. That move ultimately contributed to Royal's early retirement when Barry Switzer's Oklahoma gained control of the rivalry using the Wishbone. 

Royal's persona stretched well beyond just the game of football. He had well-publicized friendships with Willie Nelson and President Lyndon B. Johnson. In a state that worshipped football, Royal was the Pope.

My grandfather, at the time an executive in the Presbyterian Church, met with Royal in the late 1960's to invite the coach to speak at a men's conference. Royal declined, but their conversation eventually broached the subject of integration. SMU's Jerry LeVias had recently broken the color barrier in the Southwest Conference and Royal explained that Texas planned on breaking its own color barrier, he was just looking for the right player to do it with.

In 1970, Julius Whittier became the first black player to play for Texas. In truth, my grandfather had nothing to do with breaking the color barrier at the University of Texas. Just don't tell him that. 

I had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions as a student at Texas when he attended various football, basketball and baseball games. I told myself to cherish every moment in his presence, not only because I had the pleasure of being in close proximity with a living legend, but because, frankly, I never knew when I would run out of chances to see him with my own eyes.

Royal's passing shook the state of Texas on Wednesday. One day after the presidential election, news of Royal's death led Dallas newscasts with live dispatches from Austin.

On Saturday Texas will open its game with Iowa State by lining up in Royal's trademark Wishbone formation inside the stadium bearing his name. Darrell K Royal may no longer grace the sidelines of Texas football, but to many Texans he was, is and always will be the personification of football in the state of Texas.

The University of Texas tower lit burnt orange on Wednesday night to honor the life of Darrell Royal. 

Longhorn Network feature on Darrell Royal's life and legacy.

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