2013 March

Monthly Archives: Mar 2013

The Wire: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UAB: Matt Sanders has been hired as special teams and assistant secondary coach. Sanders, who played at Louisville, coached inside linebackers at Lehigh at season. The Blazers started spring practice today with four new coaches. Below is a rundown the staff, their responsibilities and previous positions:

  • Richard Owens, Offensive coordinator, Wide receivers (UAB, Tight ends)
  • John Peterson, Offensive line (UAB, Offensive line)
  • Eric Evans, Running backs (Albany, Wide receivers)
  • Joe Henry, Tight ends (Arkansas, Graduate assistant)
  • Reggie Johnson, Defensive coordinator, Outside linebackers (UAB)
  • Kevin Peoples, Defensive line, Recruiting coordinator (Arkansas, Defensive tackles)
  • Jimmy Williams, Assistant head coach, Inside linebackers (UAB, Defensive line)
  • Brandon Sharp, Secondary (UAB, Safeties)
  • Matt Sanders, Special teams, Assistant secondary (Lehigh, Inside linebackers)

**Head coach Garrick McGee will coach quarterbacks along with GA Bryan Ellis.

Marshall: Doc Holliday announced that Sean Cronin will be defensive ends coach. Cronin, who was the Herd’s defensive line coach in 2010, served the same role at Temple the past two seasons. Cronin, who is the son-in-law of Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, returned to the school in December but his role was not yet known.

Notre Dame: Director of player personnel Tim McDonnell has been hired as a scout by the New York Giants, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton. McDonnell spent the last eight seasons at Notre Dame, beginning as a quality control coordinator under Charlie Weis in 2006. He’s the grandson of the late Wellington Mara, the former Giants’ president.

Ferris State (D-II): Head coach Tony Annese has named Lou Esposito as defensive coordinator. Esposito spent the last three seasons as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator on Bill Cubit’s Western Michigan staff. Esposito, who was an offensive lineman at Memphis and later with the now-defunct Memphis Xplorers of the AFL, was head coach at D-II Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) for five seasons prior to Western Michigan.

Towson (FCS): Jared Ambrose has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Ambrose joined the Towson staff in 2009 as tight ends coach and was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2011. Prior to Towson, he was a graduate assistant at Delaware in 2007-08.

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After rough season, Loeffler gets fresh start

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o some, Frank Beamer’s decision to hire Scot Loeffler as offensive coordinator was a head scratcher.

After a disastrous 2012, Scot Loeffler gets a fresh start at Virginia Tech.

After a disastrous 2012, Scot Loeffler gets a fresh start at Virginia Tech.

Loeffler was out of work, fired in December along with the rest of the Auburn staff. His first season as a BCS offensive coordinator had just ended with a 3-9 record and his unit ranked 115th nationally.

That he was able to find a job at all six weeks after being was dismissed is noteworthy.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, that he was named offensive coordinator at a perennial ACC title contender is nothing short of remarkable.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that it was a testament to two things. The first is how good Loeffler’s reputation in coaching circles was going into the Auburn job. The second, and perhaps most important, is just how bad his situation there was.

He had three quarterbacks, none of whom had ever started a game and all who were recruited to run Gus Malzahn’s system.

The offensive line was young and full of holes. Of the four players listed on the opening day two-deep at offensive tackle, three were freshman. The only non-freshman tackle was Shon Coleman, technically a sophomore but who was playing his first football since high school. (He was diagnosed with leukemia less than months after signing with the Tigers in 2010.)

The receiving corps, who, like the rest, was recruited for Malzhan’s up-tempo version of the spread, wasn’t exactly teeming with experienced playmakers.

His most dangerous weapon was Onterio McCalebb, a running back generously listed by the media guide at 173 pounds. A speedster who gave SEC defensive coordinators fits on jet sweeps, McCalebb wasn’t exactly the prototypical tailback for Loeffler’s pro-style system.

Add to all that a former defensive coordinator as head coach who, according to those inside the program, was meddling both in Loeffler’s game-planning and play calling, and you had a recipe for disaster. And that was the outcome.

A fresh start

Fast forward two months and things are looking up. He’s called his pairing with Frank Beamer a “perfect, perfect fit.”

Loeffler’s offensive philosophy was shaped during more than a decade spent under Lloyd Carr at Michigan. It began as player, then a student assistant, later a graduate assistant and finally, after two seasons at Central Michigan, as the Wolverine’s quarterbacks coach from 2002-07.

He’s called his philosophy of a power-based, pro style offense “nearly identical” with Beamer’s.

Loeffler and the Hokies take the field to begin spring ball today. He’s the leader of a revamped offensive staff, and unit eager to erase the memories of a disappointing 2012 season.

Gone are offensive line coach Curt Newsome, quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain and receivers coach Kevin Sherman. Former offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring is still on the staff as tight ends coach.

Jeff Grimes, who was offensive line coach on the Auburn staff, and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead join Loeffler as their replacements.

Loeffler says the focus during spring ball will be on the basics – improving fundamentals, installing his base offense and finding out who the playmakers are.

Building trust

Another point of emphasis will be rebuilding the confidence of senior quarterback Logan Thomas.

Big things were expected from Thomas in 2012, but he was inconsistent and struggled with accuracy, throwing 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Loeffler has used his short time in Blacksburg to begin building a relationship with Thomas. Ultimately, that boils down to one thing.

“Trust,” Loeffler told Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times yesterday. “Trust and being on the same page. The guys that I’ve been around, when I’ve been around a guy — a real guy, a great player — is I can generally sit up in the press box, call the play and tell you exactly what he’s going to do before it ever occurs.

“And then right when the ball hits him in the hands and things change, I can tell you exactly what he’s going to do. That’s the whole key that we need to get done, that I can sit up there and say, ‘OK, Two Tampa, he’s going to go here, here, he’s taking this footwork. No, no, no, it’s a field zone, he’s going to check the protection and go backside.’ So that’s the challenge that we have.”

He never came close to that at Auburn. In fact, things got so bad that, late in the season, he moved down from the press box to the sidelines in an attempt to fix some of the Tigers’ problems and calm a true freshman quarterback.

Loeffler, who says a coach can get “caught up in the emotion rather than the actual critical thought” on the sidelines, will be back in the box this fall.

Without that trust in his quarterback, it significantly limits what the offense can do.

“They’re the drivers,” Loeffler said. “They’re the complete drivers of everything. It’s a very NFL-oriented in terms of, if we feel we have a quarterback, we let him do whatever. We let him do it all. They’re checking, they’re audibling, they’re in and out of plays, they’re in and out of protections, they’re switching plays. But if we’re not at that point, we just give them a few things to do.”

Even though Thomas has the ability to beat defenses with his feet, Loeffler says that when it comes to designed runs for his quarterbacks “we’ll pick our spots.”

Loeffler’s own playing career was cut short with an injury, so he knows first hand the beating a quarterback takes on plays where they don’t run the ball – let alone the plays when they do.

“I’m very sensitive to how much beating can you take and still be able to find a way to get to the fourth quarter, find a way to get to the end of the season and win a championship,” Loeffler said. “You better have your quarterback around.”

Virginia Tech will have five quarterbacks on the roster this fall, but Loeffler knows it’s not the number that counts.

“You have to have the right three to five,” he said. “That’s the whole key is you need to make sure you’re going out and you’re doing a great job in recruiting.

“At the end of the day, the teams that I’ve been a part of that have been great have had a great quarterback. Period, end. There’s no getting around it. They had a great quarterback. The teams that have been so-so haven’t had great quarterbacks. So the importance of recruiting a guy, a real guy, is crucial. It’s crucial.”

His offense

After his time at Michigan, Loeffler has bounced around a bit, making it difficult to get a read on exactly what his offense will look like. He spent a year as quarterbacks coach with the Detroit Lions, followed by two seasons with Urban Meyer at Florida.

His first stint as a coordinator was at Temple in 2011. The offense was run-heavy, but Loeffler says that was more a case of his playing to his team’s strengths.

“The style of offense that I want to have, I want to have a premier, first-round, second-round quarterback,” Loeffler said. “That’s what I’m looking for. If I don’t have a first-round, second-round quarterback, I’m going to play to completely the strengths of what we are, who we are.

“Obviously, everywhere that I’ve been from, calling the passing game at Michigan to the NFL to down at Florida, you always had the mentality that we’re going to run it. You looked at Urban [Meyer’s] system, you looked at Michigan’s system, you looked at what we did at Temple, what we tried to do at Auburn was be able to run the football.

“The second most important thing is protecting the passer. And if we’ve got a guy that can drop back and throw the ball, I’d like to throw it, a heck of a lot more than what we’ve had, but we had to play it at Temple completely to strengths. You had a third-round draft pick sitting there [running back Bernard Pierce]. You had a great senior offensive line. We had a few wide receivers. We had a quarterback that was not established at all, zero. So we did what our strengths were. And we’ll continue to do that. That’s what coaching is.

“In a perfect world, would I like to be 50-50? Absolutely. But if we’re not 50-50, we’re going to play to our strengths.”

Auburn appeared to be a pass-first team a year ago, but nothing seemed to work and the team was playing from behind so often that it was impossible to get a read on what he would have liked to do.

Down but not out

Regardless of what happened last season, Loeffler hasn’t let it get to him.

“In our business, I’ve been very fortunate to have more highs than lows,” he said. “There’s very few lows. And even when they’re super highs, if you’re really, truly doing your job, in my opinion, you’re even more critical. If you’re really good, you’re being even more critical when things are great. Because it keeps you from becoming complacent.

“Whenever you cross those paths of misfortune and some things are in your control and some things are out of your control, you learn something. And I learned a lot. I learned beyond a lot from last year’s experience. And there were some things that were in my control and there was a lot of things also that we’re out of my control. But again, you learn from all those scenarios, and you don’t make excuses.

“Heck, we didn’t get it done. Period, end. And there’s lot of reasons for that. And you self-evaluate the things that you could have made better and you move on.”

The first step in that process begins today.

Photo credit: Virginia Tech Media Relations

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CFS Daily Hot Reads: Tuesday, March 26

A $300,000 gift from Tommy Tuberville is helping Cincinnati restore scholarships for several men's Olympic sports.

A gift from Tommy Tuberville is helping UC restore scholarships for several men’s sports.

In 2009, “fiscal constraints” forced Cincinnati to limit scholarship money for several men’s sports, including cutting all scholarships in cross country, track and field, and swimming and diving. At his introductory press conference in December, Tommy Tuberville announced that he would donate $300,000 over the next five years to help fund the school’s Olympic sports. He’s making good on that commitment, and its paying dividends. The school announced today that it will be able to offer a full allotment of scholarships across all 19 men’s sports teams starting in the fall of 2013-14.

Details of Maryland’s decision to leave the ACC for the Big Ten are apparently hard to come by. The school says it doesn’t have a copy of the contract it signed with conference, and the Board of Regents reportedly met behind closed doors to discuss the switch – a move that a state compliance board says broke the law. Naturally, some critics of the move are up in arms.

In case you haven’t seen it, TCU recently posted pictures of a new 8-foot tall horned frog statue that will sit outside Amon G. Carter Stadium. Thankfully, it turned out much better than the $50,000 bronze “SuperFrog” (which Deadspin aptly called called “Sonic the Hedgehog waiting patiently for a crosstown bus”) that nearly got the SGA president impeached.

Could there actually be some good news for Illinois football? Though he admits Tim Beckman faces lots of challenges in trying to rebuild the program, longtime Illini beat writer Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette likes what he’s hearing.

Despite the scorn of an angry fan base, Texas head coach Mack Brown tells SI’s Stewart Mandel that he’s “having fun.”

If you’re waiting for the NCAA to reduce the penalties levied on Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, don’t hold your breath. Mark Emmert says he’s “comfortable” with the decision and that would only change if someone were to present “a whole new set of facts.”

Photo credit: Al Behrman / AP

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The Wire: Tuesday, March 26, 2013

North Carolina A&T (FCS): As reportedly previously, former Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Rickey Bustle has been named offensive coordinator. Aggies head coach Rod Broadway made the hire official with an announcement today. Bustle also spent 14 seasons (1987-93, 1995-2001) at Virginia Tech. He was running backs coach at Southern Miss last season.

Valdosta State (D-II): Former Louisville quarterback Adam Froman has been named quarterbacks coach. He spent the last two seasons as an offensive assistant for LSU, working with the quarterbacks and running backs. After Louisville, Froman spent time with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and played for the Arena League’s Spokane Shock in 2012.

N.C. State: Henry Trevathan, Jr. has been named director of high school relations. Trevathan has been a head coach in the North Carolina high school ranks for the past two decades, including the past two seasons at Southern Alamance High in Mebane. His prep coaching career also includes stops at Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons (2011), Broughton High School in Raleigh (1984-90), Southern Alamance in Graham (2004) and Western Alamance in Elon (2005). His father, Henry, Sr., is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and was a Wolfpack assistant from 1986-93.

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Idaho, New Mexico State to join Sun Belt

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear is "relieved" to have a football conference.

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear is “relieved” to have a football conference.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]daho and New Mexico State will join the Sun Belt Conference as football members for the 2014 season.

Earlier in the day we reported that Appalachian State and Georgia Southern would move from the FCS to the FBS and the Sun Belt in 2015.

Idaho and New Mexico State, who were left without homes after the WAC fell apart, will bring the league’s football membership to 12. Both programs will compete as independents in 2013.

“It’s a sense of relief,” Idaho athletic director Rob Spear told the Idaho Statesman. “We have a lot of work to do to get this program where it needs to be facility-wise. This is a positive step for sure. We have a heck of a lot of work to do.”

The league is expected to be split into Eastern-Western geographic regions. The Eastern Division would include Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky. The West Idaho and New Mexico State, along with Arkansas State, Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

According to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, the Sun Belt will play an on-campus conference championship game.

With college football’s move to a four-team playoff in 2014, the highest-ranked conference champion from the soon-to-be-renamed Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt is assured of a spot in one of the top-tier bowls.

Photo credit: University of Idaho

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App. State, Ga. Southern headed to FBS

New Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson is moving quickly to add members and stabilize the conference.

New Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson is moving quickly to add members in an attempt to stabilize the conference.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ppalachian State and Georgia Southern are moving from the FCS to the FBS.

The schools are leaving the Southern Conference to join the Sun Belt in 2015.

An official announcement is expected this week, probably on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Both schools will be ineligible for the FCS playoffs in 2013.

The schools will be full-fledged Sun Belt members in all other sports in 2014, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

They join Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky to give the Sun Belt 10 football members.

North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee announced they were leaving for Conference USA in January.

Karl Benson, who was named Sun Belt commissioner in February, said at the league’s basketball tournament two weeks ago that the majority of schools the conference was considering for expansion are from the FCS level.

“We want to create two geographic divisions and make sure there’s at least 10 football schools while considering the option of 12,” he said. “We also want to make sure that the schools in our league make sense geographically and are regionally aligned.”

Former WAC schools New Mexico State and Idaho could football-only targets.

“They are in need of a conference and are being assessed,” said Benson, who was WAC commissioner the past 18 years. “We are looking specifically for schools that will add stability and value. We also are exploring the possibility of football-only members, and it’s not just limited to NMSU and Idaho.

“We have created a lot of maps with different possibilities that would fit many of our needs including geography.”

The Sun Belt will have a 12-member basketball league with those 10 schools plus Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington.

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Ex-Iowa assistant Lester Erb to join Nevada staff

Lester Erb will join Brian Polian's staff at Nevada.

Lester Erb will join Brian Polian’s staff at Nevada.

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ormer Iowa assistant Lester Erb has been hired as Nevada’s running backs and tight ends coach.

Erb spent the past 13 seasons at Iowa and was in charge of special teams coach his entire tenure. He coached running backs the past five seasons, and was receivers coach from 2000-07.

Rivals.com named Erb one of the nation’s Top 25 recruiters in both 2005 and 2011.

He replaces Jeff Genyk, the former Cal assistant who left the staff earlier this month to join Gary Andersen’s Wisconsin staff.

Kirk Ferentz announced in mid-February that Erb would not return to the staff next fall “to pursue other opportunities.”

It was part of a major staff shakeup. Ferentz has replaced six of nine assistants over the past 18 months.

Erb coached with Ferentz on the Baltimore Ravens’ staff in 1997-98.

He was tight ends coach at Army during the 1999 season before joining Ferentz at Iowa.

Photo credit: Liz Martin / Iowa City Gazette

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