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  • Assessing the new defensive coordinator hires of 2014

    Jeremy Pruitt2

    Between the 2013 and 2014 seasons there were 36 new coordinators hired onto existing coaching staffs, 20 offensive and 16 defensive. On Monday we took a look at the impact the new offensive coordinators had on their existing staffs, and now it’s time to do the same for on the other side of the ball.

    While just about all the hires have been good, we see eight as obviously good hires just over halfway through their first seasons, while the other eight are still working to get there.

    Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia (Previous job: Florida State defensive coordinator)
    The most high-profile hire on this side of the ball has worked out like the Bulldogs hoped it would. Georgia is up from 54th to 19th nationally in yards per play, from 45th to 16th in total defense, from 79th to 19th in scoring defense, from 43rd to 16th in rushing defense, and from 85th to 44th in pass efficiency defense. And Georgia is in position to win the SEC East after going 5-3 last season. (Meanwhile, the coordinator whose numbers Pruitt has improved upon, Todd Grantham, has migrated to Louisville and posted better numbers than Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford. Go figure.)

    Lance Anderson, Stanford (Previous job: Stanford outside linebackers coach) 
    Yes, Anderson started a 100-yard sprint at the 50-yard line with what he inherited from Derek Mason but, man, this Stanford defense is good. The Cardinal jumped from 15th to 1st nationally in yards per play at 3.78, the best number since the legendary 2011 Alabama defense if it holds up. Stanford also ranks second nationally in scoring and total defense

    Manny Diaz, Louisiana Tech (Previous job: Texas defensive coordinator)
    The Bulldogs are 4-3 to this point after finishing 4-8 last season, so let’s start there. Scoring has mostly stayed the same on the whole (26.7 to 26.3), but scoring defense against Conference USA opponents has improved dramatically: After finishing ninth a year ago at 26.6 points per game, La Tech leads the league at 14.7 points per game.

    Tony Gibson, West Virginia (Previous job: West Virginia safeties coach)
    Gibson has reduced the Mountaineers’ averages by a touchdown per game and more than half a yard per play. For best evidence, look at the dueling stat lines of Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. In 2013, Petty led Baylor to a 73-42 win while completing 17-of-25 passes for 347 yards as Baylor racked up 872 yards of offense. A year and a change of locations later, Baylor hit roughly a third of its previous marks (27 points and 318 yards) as Petty completed 16-of-36 passes for 223 yards.

    Tyson Summers, Central Florida (Previous job: Central Florida linebackers coach)
    Without the benefit of the No. 3 pick in the draft playing quarterback on the opposite side of the ball, Summers has lifted UCF from 49th to 11th in yards per play, from 5.35 to 4.54. Outside of the 38-10 loss to Missouri, Summers’ defense has put the Knights in position to win every game this season.

    Art Kaufman, California (Previous job: Cincinnati defensive coordinator)
    Kaufman’s fourth defensive coordinatorship (a word I just invented) in four years has, as it almost always does, yielded positive results. Kaufman helped Texas Tech jump from 110th to 53rd in yards per play in 2012, boosted Cincinnati from 40th to 10th in 2013, and has now provided modest gains for California (119th to 94th – a 15 percent from from 7.08 to 5.99). A year ago, the 1-11 Bears had FBS’s second-worst scoring defense. This year, the 4-3 Bears are down a touchdown a game and rank 120th nationally.

    Chris Ash, Ohio State (Previous job: Arkansas defensive coordinator) 
    Ash has worked hand-in-hand with Luke Fickell after last year’s late season collapse, especially by the secondary. The Buckeyes have jumped from 84th to 29th in pass efficiency defense, from 57th to 23rd in yards per attempt allowed, and 112th to 16th in passing defense.

    Kevin Clune, Hawaii (Previous job: Utah State linebackers coach)
    This is a program that has hung its hat on its ability to throw the ball and score points, with one of the most respected offensive coaches of his era as its head coach, and lost games while allowing 17, 21, 28 and 20 points. That, my friends, is criminal. Clune has dropped the Warriors’ yards per play average to 5.32, its lowest since 2010.


    Brian VanGorder, Notre Dame (Previous job: New York Jets linebackers coach)
    VanGorder and his hat have chopped a couple inches per play and three points per game off Notre Dame’s 2013 averages, while tackles for loss are up from 4.92 to 5.57 per outing. The Irish hadn’t allowed more than 17 points this season until getting torched by North Carolina, made Stanford blink first in a 17-14 pitcher’s duel, and dominated Florida State at the line of scrimmage.

    Scott Boone, Nevada (Previous job: William & Mary defensive coordinator)
    Boone did an incredible job as William & Mary’s defensive coordinator – earning a nomination for the FCS Coordinator of the Year – and will need more than one season to transform the Wolf Pack defense from adequate to good. Boone has chopped a touchdown a game off their scoring average and 20 yards per game off their total defense average. Nevada is 4-3, matching their win total from Brian Polian’s debut season.

    Greg Robinson, San Jose State (Previous job: Texas defensive coordinator)
    What a career Robinson has had. After a decade and a half in the NFL, Robinson spent a year at Texas as defensive coordinator, then won 10 games in four years as Syracuse’s head coach, oversaw two unsuccessful campaigns as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, took a year off, volunteered with a California high school, then swooped in as Texas’ defensive coordinator again for most of 2013. Now he’s overseeing a defense that ranks 12th nationally in total defense, but 52nd in yards per play, and 51st in scoring. The Spartans do lead the nation in pass defense and pass efficiency defense, but rank 110th in rushing defense.

    Robb Smith, Arkansas (Previous job: Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach)
    The numbers haven’t really changed, but the overall level of competency has risen. Last year’s defense would not have held Texas Tech to seven over a half, Texas A&M to 14 through three quarters and Alabama to 14 over an entire game. Give it time.

    Keith Patterson, Arizona State (Previous job: West Virginia defensive coordinator)
    The Sun Devils’ numbers have mostly stayed stagnant with its 2013 Pac-12 South championship campaign. Aside from Stanford and its struggling offense, Arizona State hasn’t shut anyone down in Pac-12 play, allowing 545 yards to Colorado, 580 to UCLA and 493 to USC. The Sun Devils have also dropped from seventh to 34th in turnovers gained.

    Hank Hughes, Cincinnati (Previous job: Connecticut defensive coordinator)
    The Bearcats have jumped from 101st to 34th in turnovers forced, but plummeted from 10th to 123rd in yards per play – a jump of 1.95 yards per snap. They allowed 45 first downs and 710 total yards in a 50-28 loss to Ohio State, a season-high (against FBS opponents) 41 points to Memphis, and 621 yards in a 55-34 loss to Miami.

    Brian Knorr, Indiana (Previous job: Wake Forest defensive coordinator)
    Indiana is struggling to stop anyone this season, ranking 75th or lower in every major category, but then again they couldn’t stop anyone last year, either, where they ranked in the 100’s in every important category. The Hoosiers have allowed 37, 45 and 56 points in their three games against Power Five competition since beating Missouri in Columbia.

    Jeff Ulbrich, UCLA (Previous job: UCLA special teams coordinator/linebackers coach)
    The most memorable moment of Ulbrich’s first season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator? This. The Bruins have dropped from 35th to 88th in scoring defense and from 26th to 96th in turnovers forced. UCLA hasn’t held a major conference opponent below 30 since Sept. 25, and Arizona State still racked up 626 yards that night.

  • Photos: Louisiana-Lafayette breaking out black helmets for Tuesday Night Football



    Louisiana-Lafayette will break out new black helmets for Tuesday night’s Fun Belt game with Arkansas State.

    If I may say so myself, this are pretty darn sharp.

  • Oklahoma State cleared of major violations following SI report

    Oklahoma State2

    PM Update: Sports Illustrated has sent the following statement responding to Oklahoma State’s statement:

    “Sports Illustrated firmly stands behind its comprehensive series on the Oklahoma State program. The investigation by the NCAA and an outside consultant hired by Oklahoma State was limited in scope but nonetheless revealed multiple NCAA violations including a “failure to monitor.”  Nowhere does the report say our work is fundamentally unfounded and in fact it points to its own limitations in its ability to corroborate SI’s findings.”

    Thirteen months ago, Sports Illustrated hit Oklahoma State with a highly-publicized, five-part series entitled “The Dirty Game.

    The report accused Oklahoma State of paying players, encouraging female hostesses to provide sexual favors to recruits, academic fraud and rampant drug use. Basically anything and everything that would be included in an Oliver Stone movie about a college football program.

    Oklahoma State was taken aback by the allegations at the time, and athletics director Mike Holder sounded understandably concerned in his initial statement before the report was released. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to read these stories, however many days that it takes, catch my breath and then we’ll start working through the process,” Holder said. “Everybody out there, it’s time to cowboy up.”

    Then, over the course of the next year, Holder’s tune changed. Oklahoma State commissioned an independent study done by The Compliance Group, an appropriately named consulting firm run by former NCAA enforcement staffer Chuck Smrt, while the NCAA conducted its own investigation, and the initial feedback was good for Oklahoma State. “I think what comes out will kind of speak for itself, good or bad. It’s been my position all along — if we are who we think we are, then this would ultimately be a good thing. The day of reckoning is coming. I don’t know when, but it’s coming,” Holder told the Tulsa World last month.

    On Tuesday, the group’s findings were released after conducting nearly 100 interviews and reviewing approximately 50,000 emails. Instead of a massive rule-breaking and cover-up operation, the Compliance Group found the same dirty laundry in the possession of nearly every Power Five program in America.

    – Oklahoma State failed to adequately adhere to the university’s drug policy on five failed tests over the course of six years (from 2007-13). OSU had 94 positive tests involving 60 athletes over that span.

    – Orange Pride, the support program accused of sexual misconduct, instead was guilty of being run through the football program instead of the university admissions office, and thus was not technically allowed to speak with recruits or their families about the university.

    The school was guilty of a failure to monitor in both of the above cases and the NCAA will issue a notice of allegations regarding the three possible Level II violations, but otherwise that’s it. The Miami Sharks were not reincarnated in Stillwater.

    Oklahoma State created a landing page to provide its joint statement with the NCAA –

    “In the aftermath of the Sports Illustrated series, the right thing to do was examine the program. I have attempted to operate our program with integrity and have reinforced to our coaching staff the importance of compliance with NCAA rules,” Holder said in a statement. “If we had any shortfalls, I wanted to know. While I am pleased, but not surprised, that the claims in Sports Illustrated were fundamentally unfounded, we continue to work with the athletics administration to ensure a clear understanding and application of our policies. From the moment I was chosen to coach my alma mater, I have made decisions to create a NCAA compliant environment, while ensuring student-athlete welfare. I love my players and want them to succeed in life by making good decisions and respecting the rules.”

    Though this is undoubtedly a proud day for Oklahoma State to officially have this year-long saga behind them, head coach Mike Gundy summarized the entire saga best back in November: “I think it helped us in recruiting,” Gundy said at the time. “It benefited our program.”

  • A high school football coach has been fired for…smashing watermelons?


    Academic Magnet HS (SC) has gotten off to a fast 6-2 start, marking the second best record the school has ever seen. Which is why many people were scratching their heads when news of Bud Walpole’s dismissal hit the news wire yesterday.

    According to The Post and Courier, Walpole’s dismissal stems from “inappropriate post game celebrations” that took place after wins.

    The official statement from the district does not specify what those “inappropriate post game celebrations” entailed, but The Post and Courier points out that it’s believed to have included the smashing of watermelons, which were then picked up and eaten as a celebratory post game snack.

    Really? Fired for smashing watermelons in a post game celebration? I can’t even say that without picturing Gallagher going HAM on some watermelon with a giant mallet.

    But seriously, there has to be more to the story than that to justify dismissing Walpole.

    Last week, school administrators met with players and interviewed them and by Monday a decision had been made to let coach Walpole go.

    A petition to reinstate coach Walpole hit yesterday, and already has more 1,000 signatures, with just under 950 left to hit the goal. Many of the comments could not be more supportive of Walpole, who has been the school’s head coach for a decade.

    Read more on the situation here.

  • Minnesota State-Mankato and Todd Hoffner are Division II’s No. 1 ranked team

    Todd Hoffner

    Normally we wouldn’t do a story about a new team moving into the top position of the Division II coaches’ poll in the middle of October. Nothing about the situation at Minnesota State-Mankato, however, is normal.

    If you’re reading this article then you’re more than likely aware of the situation. Minnesota State-Mankato head coach Todd Hoffner was removed from his job in August 2012 after being accused of child pornography, and but cleared of wrongdoing that November. Regardless, Hoffner was reassigned within the university following the charges, and fired several months later.

    He later accepted the head job at Minot State (N.D.), but in April an arbitrator ruled he was wrongfully terminated and ordered him to be reinstated as the Mavericks’ head coach.

    Now, half a year later, Minnesota State-Mankato is the No. 1 team in the country.

    The Mavericks, 7-0 this season after a 31-0 win over St. Cloud State (Minn.) and winning games by an average score of 47-10, ascended from No. 2 to the the top spot following defending national champion Northwest Missouri State’s loss to Pittsburg State (Kan.) on Saturday.

    To be clear, Hoffner’s homecoming wasn’t easy for the involved parties. The Mavericks were 34-13 under Hoffner from 2008-11, and went 24-2 under interim head coach Aaron Keen. On Hoffner’s first day back, players boycotted practice in a show of support of Keen. Keen was promoted to associate head coach, but has since joined the Eastern Michigan staff as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.

    “We’re excited that we’re being recognized for the body of work that’s been done, even in my absence,” Hoffner told USA Today, “and this team is continuing the tradition and the legacy that have been build. You only get ranked No. 1 if your body of work displays excellence. … That gets us to where we are now.”