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Video: An SID tries to return punts, and it does not go well

As a former SID myself, I can report the gap between Sports Information Directors and Division I athletes is about equal to the distance between the peak of Mount Everest and the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Western Illinois has confirmed that for all of us with their fall camp series #WHATSITLIKE.

The Leathernecks' communications staff has taken turns strapping on a GoPro camera and trying to duplicate what their athletes do on the field. One of them caught passes, another stared down opposing linebackers, and this time it's Kyle Bradt's turn to (attempt to) return punts.

The timing of the George O'Leary report

Every now and then I see an article about a coaching change and I just can’t figure it out. Yes, this is an article about the report that came out late Saturday night regarding George O’Leary; but before diving into that one, allow me to step back to last year and provide an example.

Last year, during the season, it was beginning to look as if both Texas and USC head coaching positions would become open. The “experts” at CBS penned an article in which they speculated about who would likely be hired to fill those positions if in fact they both became open. Dennis Dodd proffered that Texas would hire Kirby Smart and Bruce Feldman stated that USC would hire Pat Fitzgerald. There were more dominoes after that; but I just couldn’t get past those…and wondered openly if I was the naive one. Well, as we all now know, those two hires didn’t happen.

Fast forward to this past Saturday night, about 36 hours ago. I checked Twitter at about 9 p.m. CT and see all sorts of chatter stemming from a report that Bruce Feldman (who is now with Fox Sports) put out stating that UCF head coach George O’Leary was considering retiring…possibly as soon as following their week 1 game versus Penn State (in Ireland). For those that didn’t see the report, here it is in its entirety:


Sources: UCF’s O’Leary strongly considering stepping down in 2014

Bruce Feldman (Fox Sports) Aug 9, 2014 9:30p ET

George O'Leary is giving strong consideration to stepping down this season, multiple sources close to the program have told FOX Sports.

That move could happen as early as after the Knights' opening game against Penn State on Aug. 30 in Ireland, with his protege Brent Key getting to take over the program.

Asked for comment, UCF AD Todd Stansbury said through a spokesman that there have been no discussions of that nature at this point.

O'Leary, who turns 68 later this month, has been the head coach at UCF since being hired in 2004. The team went 0-11 in his debut season but responded by going 8-3 the following season. O'Leary has won Coach of the Year honors in three leagues -- the ACC (twice), Conference USA (three times) and the AAC (once). In 2013, O'Leary led the Knights to a 12-1 season and a BCS Bowl win in the Fiesta Bowl en route to a No. 10 ranking in the Coaches Poll.

The 36-year-old Key, who was promoted to assistant head coach of offense earlier this year in addition to his roles as offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, is in his 10th season at UCF. He was a former All-ACC offensive lineman for O'Leary at Georgia Tech. TheAlabama native was a team captain and started four seasons for the Yellow Jackets.

As FOX Sports noted last month, Key's stock has been on the rise in the coaching ranks and he has been an integral part of UCF's surge under O'Leary. Last season, the Knights’ offense averaged 35.2 ppg and his O-line did not allow a sack against, among others, Baylor, Penn State and Louisville  -- all three teams that ranked in the nation's top 50 in sacks (the Cards were second).

Last winter, Key turned down a chance to become the head coach at UAB to remain at UCF, according to sources.

Feldman’s report really struck me as odd. Three questions immediately came to my mind.

  1. Why did Fox release this so late on an otherwise quiet and irrelevant Saturday night in early August? …And truly, why not wait to get O’Leary’s response?
  2. Why would O’Leary step down following game 1?
  3. Did Bruce Feldman just state as fact that Brent Key “turned down a chance to become the head coach at UAB” last winter?

Regarding my question #1, within an hour, the Orlando Sentinel reached O’Leary who immediately denied the report stating “I never spoke to anybody from Fox…I don’t have any idea what that’s about.”

Sunday morning I planned to reach out to UCF to ask about the report; but upon opening Twitter I noticed that CBS had already spoken with him. O’Leary went on the record quite strongly stating that he will coach every game this season and “intimating” to Jeremy Fowler that he plans to coach a good way through his contract (which runs through 2017).

Sunday, following practice, O’Leary came out even stronger against the report, “I’m not one to start something and not finish. I’m always going to finish…I have every intention of coaching 13 games this year and doing what I need to do to get this team to win.” If you watch the video of O'Leary speaking following practice you'll see that O'Leary also goes out of his way to say that not only is "who the next head coach will be" not his decision (he points out the AD and President will make that call) but he also seems to go out of his way to point out there are a "couple of guys" on staff that should be considered, not just Key. 

Last night I reached out to Bruce to ask him about why they issued the report so late on a Saturday night in early August. Feldman chose not to go on the record.

Bruce has been doing this for a very long time. There is no doubt in my mind that he has George O’Leary’s phone number (or could get it with one call). I presume (and yeah, that might be my naivety again) that Bruce called O’Leary to get his response to this in advance. I have no idea why Fox Sports chose to release the report at the time that they did and without comment from O'Leary. 

Regarding my question #2, “Why would O’Leary step down following game 1?”, I simply have no idea on this one and O’Leary seems to have made it crystal clear that he has no plans on doing this. Going back to my gut, I don’t think there is any way Bruce Feldman would have reported this without having excellent sourcing on it; so I’m just at a loss on this one.

Regarding my question #3, “Did Bruce Feldman just state as fact that Brent Key 'turned down a chance to become the head coach at UAB' last winter?”, well folks, that might just be the biggest head scratcher of them all in this report. Whereas the rest of the article is caveated with words like "considering", "could happen", etc...this appears to be a straight statement of fact. This one really had me thinking I was crazy because when Garrick McGee left UAB Bill Clark was the only person who was going to be offered that job. We reported it as such back then and I reached out to UAB athletic director Brian Mackin on this same subject yesterday as well. I sent Mackin a link to Feldman’s article stating that Key “turned down” the chance to become head coach at UAB last winter. Mackin responded directly that Brent Key “was never a candidate at any time” for the position.

So, here I am again wondering if I am the naive one. George O’Leary is about to turn 68. Does just about every 68 year old “consider” retiring? Yeah, I presume so. But, the timing of this article (including the statement that he might retire following their opener) just seems so odd to me.

Bruce Feldman is a very seasoned reporter. The fact that Feldman and Fox Sports published the article including a direct retort in it from UCF's AD leads me to believe that Feldman is holding more than we know in his back pocket on this one. Still, the timing of this one just really leaves me scratching my head. I guess, as with all things, time will tell.

You've seen staff retreats before, but nothing quite like this

There is a school of thought that the only proper way to hunt is with a bow and arrow or equally primitive technology. Man versus nature, the way our ancestors did it. In the fishing world, they call this noodling.

Noodling is the process of catching a catfish with one's bare hands, and it's illegal in 35 states. The practice rose to prominence over the last two decades, and it's the very definition of primitive. For his annual staff retreat, Texas A&M-Commerce head coach Coby Carthel took his staff, their wives and children to Peninsula Ranch on Lake Tawokoni a half hour's drive southwest of Commerce, one of the best catfish lakes in the country.

Carthel and staff are in the second year of one of the biggest rebuilds in Division II. Prior to their arrival, the Lions hadn't had a winning record since 2001, hadn't made a postseason appearance since 1994, and hadn't played in a bowl game since 1958. Texas A&M-Commerce was 5-26 over the three years prior to Carthel's arrival, including a 1-9 mark in 2012. Things were bleak.

They aren't bleak anymore.

The Lions went 7-5 in 2013, including a 6-2 start, good enough for an appearance in the Texarkana Bowl. The six-win jump was the largest among all Texas college football programs in 2013. Which brings us back to noodling. Carthel credits the closeness of his staff with the base on which A&M-Commerce's successful season was constructed. Strange as it may be to some, Carthel believes noodling will bring them even closer.

"We felt noodling would help teach us to work as a team, be courageous, overcome fears and anxiety, and step out of our comfort zone," Carthel told FootballScoop. "As you can see in the video, we accomplished all that and more."

The video provided below shows wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Kevin Bleil working to secure a 40-pound flathead catfish which he grabbed from a hollowed out log eight feet below the surface - and the rest of the Lions' staff helping him. 

You know what that say - the staff that noodles together stays together. 



Peyton & Eli - Fantasy Football Fantasy music video

The Manning family is back at it for DirecTV. Enjoy

Also, this:

What team outperforms expectations in 2014?

With the season now just a few short weeks away, its time to answer some real questions... Today's question for the three of us is, what team outperforms expectations in 2014. 

Zach: I know Florida is kind of the stock answer here, but I'm going with Florida anyway. I think Florida is good this season. Not 7-5/8-4 good, but 10-2/9-3 good. 

The Gators' last three recruiting classes have ranked third, fourth, and eighth nationally, so the talent is there. I can't explain the injury bug that inflicted the team last season, other than that injury gods must have put Florida's protective forcefield on autopilot while they got caught up on Breaking Bad. All I know is that can't possibly happen again this year, although they did dodge a bazooka shot with Vernon Hargreaves on Thursday. The biggest reason I believe Florida turns it around in a big way is coaching. Will Muschamp made a massive upgrade in exchanging Brent Pease for Kurt Roper. There aren't many quarterback tutors in football better than Roper, and fixing Jeff Driskel will in turn fix about 80 percent of Florida's problems. 

Predicting a 9-3/10-2 type season doesn't leave much room for error with Alabama and Florida State on the schedule, but I think Florida benefits massively in getting LSU, Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina at home. 


Doug: My pick for a program primed for a big season this year lies in Big Ten country with Northwestern. 

There are a few reasons that I really believe that this will be a special season for B1G Cats. For one, they may have been the unluckiest team in the country during one particular four week stretch last season, just weeks after giving Ohio State all they could handle in one of the Big Ten's best knock down, drag out games of the year.

Starting in mid-November, the Cats lost by 3 to Minnesota, lost in OT at Iowa, dropped a triple OT heart breaker to Michigan after they hit a game tying field goal at the buzzer, and then lost to Nebraska on a last second Hail Mary. I know coaches say that "you make your own luck", but that's a brutal stretch of tough breaks.

Secondly, they've pulled in a respectable recruiting class on the heels of a 10-win 2012 season and news that their new Lake Michigan training facility will open in the next few years. They also return super-talented tailback Venric Mark is back after highlighting a list of injured contributors in 2013. Mark took the country by suprise in 2012, rushing for over 1,300 yards after making the switch from receiver. He'll pair up with fellow senior Trevor Siemian to create one of the Big Ten's most talented backfield's when it's all said and done. "Mark" it on your calenders (see what I did there?).

Finally, their schedule is stacked in their favor with Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan all coming to Evanston to play, and two of the favorites to win the Big Ten (Ohio State and Michigan State) are completly off the schedule this year. I'd consider Northern Illinois and Notre Dame are their two tests on the non-conference schedule.

Long story short; don't ever underestimate Fitz and his staff. Everything I've heard from Evanston this off season says that the team has become closer than ever in part to the "unionization" talk that dominated the off season. I think they're ready to explode on the scene in 2013 with 9 or 10 wins well within reach.


Scott: Last year, in Kliff Kingsbury's first season as head coach, Tech won their first seven games and then lost their final 5 regular season games (they went on to beat Arizona State 37-23 in the Holiday Bowl). To be blunt, the Red Raiders just ran out of depth as the year wore on. Kliff and his staff have addressed depth as much as they could in the past 17 months; but the team is still lacking some degree of depth, particularly up front on both sides of the ball. Largely for that reason, national expectations are good; but not great for Texas Tech in 2014 (Paul Myerberg has them at #28 entering the season). 

I visited Lubbock a few months back and observed & interacted with both the staff and the players. This is Davis Webb's team and I think that's a good thing. Webb and Kingsbury work well together and I can see them getting on a hot streak and winning way more than people think. There is not an "unwinnable" game on the schedule this year and Kliff will have this team playing loose, having fun and playing with a lot of confidence. 

If the team can stay healthy, I think Texas Tech finishes the season in the top ten. 

PS - This team could be scary good in 2015. Prepare accordingly. 



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