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Oklahoma to upgrade football facility, Gaylord Memorial Stadium

Oklahoma recently opened Headington Hall, the standard for all football dorms across the country. Its stadium was recently rated the best in the Big 12. It will reportedly give Bob Stoops a raise to more than $5 million as soon as today.

One might think Oklahoma could not possibly have more resources to devote to football. Oklahoma is football, after all. One would be wrong.

According to Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman, Oklahoma is in the beginning stages of what will amount to a massive overhaul of the Sooners' entire football properties. Broken out in three stages, the school will renovate the Switzer Center - OU's football headquarters - with a new weight room, new coaches' offices and a new entrance, as well as new bathroom and concession areas with new fan plazas at Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium. Stage two entails building new luxury suites spanning the west side of the stadium, mirroring what Oklahoma already has on the east side. A new press box will be built on top of the luxury suites. Finally, the third stage will install a new video board above the north end zone, matching the board sitting above the south end zone.

At the behest of Oklahoma president David Boren, the Sooners are going about this very cautiously. The athletics department will not receive the green light to build until the proper amount of funding is in place. Construction on stage two would not begin until stage one is complete. All told, the project could cost more than $400 million (word from the OU Board of Regents meeting says that the project has a $370 million price tag). 

“A&M is finishing their $400 million (stadium) deal,” an unnamed OU booster told the Oklahoman. “TCU’s stadium is better than JerryWorld. Baylor’s is going to be out of this world. You know what Oklahoma State did. Finally OU is joining the party, it looks like.

“The frustrating thing, we’re behind in all these things. We see what it did for Oklahoma State. Went from the bottom of the Big 12 to fighting for the top, just because of nice facilities. That’s what it’s all about in this day and time.”

Construction is slated to begin at the conclusion of the 2015 season, with the hopes that the Switzer Center redesign would be complete in time for the 2016 campaign. 

Gaylord Memorial2

(Photos via @GuerinEmig)

How Ben Roethlisberger shaped Pat Narduzzi's defensive philosophy

In 2002, Pat Narduzzi was coaching linebackers at Northern Illinois, working under then defensive coordinator and current Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer. On October 12 of that season, the Huskies traveled to Oxford, Ohio for a huge MAC game against Miami (Ohio). Both teams were undefeated in conference play at the time. This was the year before Miami ripped through the MAC en route to a 13-1, top 10 finish, but Ben Roethlisberger and company were still spending their autumn Saturdays haunting the dreams of opposing defenders. 

The Northern Illinois defensive staff defended the Miami attack like most anybody else with two deep safeties, and Big Ben tore them apart. He connected on 41-of-61 passes for 525 yards with four touchdowns against three interceptions while adding a 10-yard scoring dash of his own. Thanks to a balanced attack of its own, Northern Illinois hung on to beat Miami (Ohio), 48-41. It was MACtion before we knew what MACtion was. 

As fate would have it, Narduzzi got the Miami defensive coordinator job the following season. He now spent every practice defending a future two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. As Narduzzi tells it nearly a dozen years later, the RedHawks' defense hit Roethlisberger with a Cover 4, and it turned Big Ben into Moderately Sized Ben. 

The rest, they say, is history.

Narduzzi spoke for 80 minutes Thursday before a couple hundred coaches at the Angelo Football Clinic on his version of the Cover 4 defense. Narduzzi admitted his coverage can look like man a lot of the time and, I must admit, I couldn't discern much of a difference. But that's kind of the point.

A few notes: 

- Narduzzi charges his players to take ownership of their defense. He pushes his players to create their defensive blueprint. The 2013 slogan was, "A focused group of vicious brothers forever bonded to wreak havoc among all opponents." He then holds his players to the standard that they set for themselves.

- Players also come up with names for each position group. The defensive line was A-WOL, the linebackers were Bomb Squad, and the secondary was No Fly Zone. 

- And how's this for fostering an environment of player ownership? Darqueze Dennard had t-shirts printed up for the defense at a cost of $600. Narduzzi instructed Dennard to hand over the receipt and have the university cover the cost, but Dennard refused. He went on to win the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back and was selected 24th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.

- In addition to Narduzzi, Michigan State employs defensive line coach Ron Burton, linebackers coach Mike Tressel and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett. Mark Dantonio insisted Narduzzi be a walk-around coordinator upon their arrival in East Lansing, and Narduzzi hated it at first. Now, he loves it.

- Unlike Glenn Spencer, Narduzzi wants his defense to look the same at every snap. He likes his players playing fast and simple because, "the only way you're going to get big hits is when your kids know what they're doing."

- How about this quote? "You're going to be sore after you play us, win or lose."

- Narduzzi likes to call zone pressure because it keeps defenders' eyes on the ball. "We coach defense for 15 days in the spring and through fall camp. Once the season starts, we're coaching offense."

- He showed a chart breaking down the looks his defense showed each season, going back the past half-decade. Michigan State plays its base defense 60 percent of the time, and only played man pressure 14 times total over the past two seasons. That was shocking to me.

- Michigan State recruits cornerbacks more than any other position, and then cycles players forward. Big corners become safeties, big safeties become linebackers, big linebackers become defensive ends, big defensive ends become defensive tackles, big defensive tackles become offensive linemen, and offensive linemen that can't play move to the bench.

Video: Dave Clawson program building

During his time at Fordham, Richmond, and Bowling Green, Dave Clawson has been tasked with taking a underachieving team and resurrecting the program.

At Fordham, his first college head coaching stop, they went 0-11 in his first season, but by his fourth season the program had improved to 10-3. Richmond was a similar story; 3-8 in year one and 11-3 in year four.

At Bowling Green he led the team to a 7-6 season his first year, and then saw a dip to 2-10 in year two. That was followed by two solid seasons (5-7 in 2011 and 8-5 in 2012) before exploding on the scene last year as the Falcons went 10-3 including a MAC title and a narrow loss to Pitt in the Humanitarian Bowl.

To summarize, everywhere he has been, he's successfully turned programs around. And not just that, but in the high pressure / win now world of college athletics, he's done it his way. That's exactly what Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman had in mind when he decided to lure Clawson away from Bowling Green.

The video below is a tip of the cap to Clawson and his approach to building a program. He's obviously got a blueprint that he, and his staff, believe in 100% and has the results to prove that there is a method to his madness. 

Clemson gives their men in the trenches some love with a highlight video

First, Nebraska gave their offensive line their very own highlight video. Now, Clemson has been handed the torch as they love up their bigs with this highlight dedicated to the defensive line.

Now granted, finding sacks and tackles for loss from the big guys up front isn't exactly difficult, but too often the men in the trenches get ignored / overlooked in highlight films, so seeing them get the love they deserve is always nice.

Big Ten presidents release joint statement regarding athlete welfare

In light of the ongoing Ed O'Bannon trial fighting over the rights to college athletes' name, image and likeness - and where Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany took the witness stand last week - the 14 Big Ten presidents released a joint statement Tuesday stating their position for where they'd like to steer college athletics moving forward. (Pac-12 presidents did the same thing a month ago.)

"The best solutions rest not with the courts, but with us – presidents of the very universities that promote and respect the values of intercollegiate competition," the statement reads. "Writing on behalf of all presidents of the Big Ten Conference, we must address the conflicts that have led us to a moment where the conversation about college sports is about compensation rather than academics."

While pointing out that a tiny minority of college athletes go on to carve out a career in professional sports, Big Ten presidents pledged the following: 

- Guaranteeing four-year scholarships, regardless of the students' ability to compete on the field. "We want our students to graduate," the statement reads. USC announced yesterday it would now offer four-year scholarships in football and both men's and women's basketball. 

- Guaranteeing even if a student leaves school early to pursue a professional career. A player could play in the NFL for 15 years or 15 minutes, either way his scholarship is waiting for him when he hangs 'em up. "Again, we want our students to graduate."

- Provide improved medical care for student-athletes. "We have an obligation to protect their health and their well-being to return for the physical demands placed upon them." 

- Provide a full cost-of-attendance scholarship. The Big Ten and its peers have stated this desire before today.

If you're wondering where this goes from here, you're not alone. No one does. 

For example:

Again, beefing up its scholarship package is nice, but it may come a day late and a dollar (so to speak) short in terms of the O'Bannon trial. 

This ongoing debate has may twists and turns still ahead, but Tuesday's letter was a step in the right direction for the establishment.

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