College Weekly Report
by Brent Beaird
KENTUCKY has signed former Memphis Coach John Calipari to the richest deal in the nation. Calipari (252-69 at Memphis) will be paid $31 million or more over eight years. He will make $3.9 million per year. Florida’s Billy Donovan makes $3.3 million. Memphis won at least 30 games for four straight years.
Calipari has a chance to sign both John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, the top two prospects according to Rivals.com. He is also associated with William Wesley or “Worldwide Wes”, a noted figure (promoter, agent, etc.) close to NBA and college players (said to use his influence to get young basketball stars involved with Nike). There are also questions that he has had discipline problems among his players. There are also questions on whether or not current Memphis players and or recruits would join him. Also, there is speculation that Calipari met with prominent Memphis boosters about former Tiger assistant and current UTEP coach Tony Barbee replacing him. UK’s divorce with Gillispie (40-27 record) might cost them close to a $6 million in alimony ($1.5 million for four years).
ALABAMA: Tide officials have hired former Virginia Commonwealth Coach Anthony Grant to replace Mark Gottfried for somewhere near $2 million that includes a promise to upgrade the basketball facilities. Grant posted seasons of 28-7, 24-8 and 24-10 at VCU. He told the media on Sunday that Alabama was his first choice. Interim coach Philip Pearson will not be retained on the staff.
AUBURN: Regardless of a report to the contrary, VCU was not looking at Auburn’s Jeff Lebo (80-76 at Auburn) as a possibility to replace Grant. Lebo is under contract with Auburn until 2013. He has a $1.5 million buyout. VCU hired former Florida assistant Shaka Smart.
GEORGIA: Bulldog officials have hired former Nevada Coach Mark Fox (123-43) to replace Dennis Felton. He coached at Washington and Kansas State. Fox, who has a six-year contract valued at $1.3 million, has coached four straight 20-win seasons. Nevada was in the NCAA Tournament during Fox’s first three years, but not the past two.
Georgia officials offered Missouri coach Mike Anderson somewhere around a $2 million deal, but he stayed with the Tigers for less money. Georgia was interested in Grant, but he was not impressed with the Parker search firm in Atlanta that was hired to help. Last year, Grant felt the Parker firm treated him poorly when he was interested in the LSU job. Another problem for Fox is the roster could be limited to eight players. There were rumored to be discussions Thursday pertaining to Miami’s Frank Haith and Clemson’s Oliver Purnell, but Fox was hired later that night.
OLE MISS: Andy Kennedy’s name has been mentioned for the Memphis job. However, reports over the weekend were suggesting Baylor’s Scott Drew.
TENNESSEE: Bruce Pearl’s name was mentioned for the Memphis job, but he is staying in Knoxville after renegotiating a six-year deal. Various sources conflicted that Memphis was close to offering him $3.25 million. He will make around $2 million with Tennessee. Pearl’s name has also come up for the Arizona job.
Rico Pickett (6-4, 170), a shooting guard from Miami Dade (Fla.) Community College, is one of the few unsigned four-star player available. Pickett, who played for Alabama his freshman season, has scholarship offers from UConn, Florida, Tennessee and LSU. He averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists this past season.
FLORIDA: Coach Billy Donovan is trying to strengthen his non-conference schedule with the addition of a home game against Xavier next season. There is also speculation about an impending series with West Virginia. The schedule will also improve if the Gators are in the Big-East-SEC challenge. Florida already has road games at Rutgers and N. C. State. Assistant coach Larry Shyatt is staying at Florida after mulling over the UNF job.
FLORIDA: In last Saturday’s scrimmage, quarterback Tim Tebow gave an impassioned speech to the offense. Redshirt freshman center Sam Robey has worked with the No. 1 unit for some of the missing starters. Starters Maurkice and Michael Pouncey and potential starter Matt Patchan are out with injuries. Despite the dominance of the defense, Tebow found tight end Aaron Hernandez for a 58-yard touchdown. The duo connected on a 17-yard touchdown later in the scrimmage. Brandon Spikes returned an interception for a score and linebacker Jon Bostic recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
In last Saturday’s drills five players-defensive back Will Hill, receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., tight end Aaron Hernandez, running back Emmanuel Moody and outside linebacker Jon Bostic (who is up to 235 pounds)-were among several who were impressive. Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler is making a difference in helping his group learn to go under center, freeze the defense with a pump fake or pick out the third option. Offensive tackle is a concern with the loss of Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins. Patchan (who is out of the cast and walking), Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert are the possibilities to step in. After Saturday’s scrimmage, Coach Urban Meyer said he wants different playmakers to step up. The biggest area of concern is at receiver, fullback, tight end (only two players Hernandez and freshman Desmond Parks at the position) and the offensive line (he mentioned redshirt offensive lineman James Wilson needs to step up). He was not happy that the only receivers making plays were Hernandez and David Nelson. The shakiest position is fullback with Steven Wilks, T. J. Pridemore and Rick Burgess struggling to carry out assignments. The defense had three picks (Ahmad Black, Will Hill and redshirt freshman Adrian Bushnell) in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Defensive end Duke Lemmens has earned a starting spot after the scrimmage. Quarterback John Brantley has looked good in practice. He would be a capable backup if something happened to Tebow. Meyer said Johnson is in good standing with the team. Dee Finley is working out at both strong and free safety. Maurkice Pouncey is being held out due to a shoulder injury. Defensive lineman Torrey Davis was arrested last week for parole violation. He was on parole for driving with a suspended license. Defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who is 305 after dropping 25 pounds, is finally healthy after missing most of last year with a bad back, elbow and ankle. Wilson has overcome a stress fracture in both feet and is battling for the starting job at left guard.
ALABAMA: The battle between quarterbacks Greg McElroy (22 of 33 for 214 yards with four touchdowns and two picks) and Star Jackson (6 of 16 for 25 yards) went to McElroy in Wednesday’s first scrimmage. Thomas Darrah was 10 of 20 for 81 yards and three picks. Tailback Terry Grant led the team with 18 carries for 63 yards. Last year’s starting tailback Mark Ingram missed the scrimmage with a hamstring injury and Roy Upchurch is recovering from neck surgery. William Vlachos is making a move to nail down the starting center position. JUCO transfer James Carpenter is still running with the first team at left tackle. Michael Boswell has settled at right guard. Coach Nick Saban praised the play of second team right tackle Tyler Love by saying he has improved dramatically. Linebacker Rolando McClain had 10 tackles, two picks and two sacks. Safety Tyrone King made two picks.
Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News said during the discussions with Grant, someone might have given him the indication that Dave Hart might succeed Mal Moore as the athletic director. The Alabama on-the-field coaching staff received a raise approved by the trustees. The Alabama staff is now worth $2.85 million compared to the Tennessee staff worth $3.325 million, the most in the SEC. Saban did not receive a raise. Linebacker Brandon Fanney is back on the team after serving a suspension. Former receiver B. J. Scott has worked at cornerback.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: The defense dominated the second scrimmage last Saturday by forcing four turnovers including three picks. Quarterback Tyson Lee, who was 9 of 19 for 61 yards with two scores and a pick, hit receiver Delmon Robinson for a 12-yard score, the only one of the scrimmage. Tailback Anthony Dixon rushed 10 times for 64 yards.
State fans will be given the opportunity to bid for a chance to be the head coach of the White team during this year’s spring game on April 18. The lucky fan will be able to sit in on team meetings, be a part of the team draft, give the pregame speech and make “tough” game day decisions. True freshman Cameron Lawrence has been moved from No. 3 quarterback to receiver due to lack of depth. Coach Dan Mullen said the quarterbacks are still too inconsistent. The tailbacks--Anthony Dixon, Christian Ducre and Arnil Stallworth-- have been one of the spring highlights. Former defensive back Anthony Johnson is no longer on the team.
OLE MISS: The Rebel defense dominated Saturday’s scrimmage. Quarterback Jevan Snead hit receiver Markeith Summers on the only touchdown pass. Snead also threw a pass that was picked off by cornerback Jeremy McGee and returned 50 yards for a score. Receiver Dexter McCluster was held out due to an ankle injury. Defensive tackle Jerrell Powe has become a force on the line after losing 21 pounds. Powe currently weighs 329 and hopes to be 310 by the start of fall drills. Receivers coach Ron Dickerson Jr. said he is looking forward to seeing newcomers Patrick Patterson, Terrell Grant and Ja-Mes Logan in the summer.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Next Saturday is the annual spring game. In this past Saturday’s scrimmage, the offense scored five touchdowns. Quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 14 of 23 passes for 191 yards and two scores and no picks. He connected with receiver Moe Brown on a 59-yard touchdown. Tailback Brian Maddox is on top of the tailback depth chart after leading the team in rushing with 55 yards on nine carries. Freshman Jarvis Giles continues to impress with 52 yards on nine carries.
This is a much more physical spring for South Carolina because new offensive line coach Erick Wolford has brought in a different mentality. Redshirt freshman right guard T. J. Johnson has been one of the pleasant surprises. The Gamecocks finished last in rushing the past two seasons. Guard Lemuel Jeanpierre will miss the rest of spring due to a minor knee injury. He missed five games last season due to a knee injury. Senior receiver Moe Brown has drawn praise from Coach Steve Spurrier. Outside linebacker Eric Norwood has been nearly unblockable in practice.
GEORGIA: The annual G-Day game is this Saturday at 1 p.m. In last Saturday’s scrimmage, fullback Fred Muzenmaier, who lined up at tailback, led the team with 54 yards on 11 carries. Tailback Caleb King was next with 43 yards on 10 carries. Quarterback Joe Cox struggled completing only 6 of 18 for 65 yards and two scores along with a pick. Freshman Aaron Murray had his second straight strong scrimmage by completing 6 of 10 passes for 132 yards and two scores. Logan Gray completed 7 of 9 for 52 yards. Receiver Israel Troupe caught three passes for 111 yards. Defensive end Justin Houston, who has had a great spring, took an interception back for a 30 yard score and collected two sacks.
Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs broke his foot in last Thursday’s practice and will miss the remainder of spring drills. Jeremy Longo hurt his shoulder in Monday’s scrimmage. After Monday’s scrimmage, the Bulldogs are limited to only two healthy scholarship defensive ends Kiante Tripp and Houston. King had six carries for 32 yards and Carlton Thomas had eight for 26. Cox was 9 of 13 for 79 yards and backup Logan Gray was 3 of 8 for 64 yards. Murray was 3 of 6 for 131 including a 75-yard scoring pass to senior walk-on Vernon Spellman. Receiver A. J. Green caught five passes for 65 yards. Linebacker Nick Williams and cornerback Brandon Boykin both had five tackles. Geno Atkins had two sacks. Coach Mark Richt and his son, Jon, were looking at Valdosta State last weekend. Offensive line signee Austin Long (6-5, 280), who is from Memphis, has undergone back surgery and will redshirt this season.
LSU: Defensive back Phelon Jones is transferring. He was running third team cornerback. In Thursday’s scrimmage, the offense scored three times after starting at midfield. Quarterback Jarrett Lee threw a 25-yard touchdown to tight end DeAngelo Peterson and a 23-yard score to receiver Brandon LaFell. Tailback Keiland Williams ran a touchdown in from 25 yards. Richard Murphy led the running backs with 47 yards on six carries. Lazarius Levingston is coming on at defensive end. Cornerback Patrick Peterson and Chad Jones are making a move in the secondary. Tailback Steven Ridley had ACL surgery and is expected to be back for the season.
TENNESSEE: The defense won Saturday’s scrimmage by creating four fumbles and recovering two. Freshman defensive tackle Montori Hughes has drawn rave reviews from the staff. Freshman tailback Toney Williams gained 84 yards on 14 carries and scored twice. Tailback Tauren Poole gained 81 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback B. J. Coleman was 17 of 22 for 112 yards. Jonathan Crompton finished 9 of 16 for 90 yards and one pick. Safety Demetrice Morley has already missed three practices. One was excused for the birth of his child.
Running back Lennon Creer is transferring. Creer, who was hurt in the first scrimmage, got caught up in the numbers game with incoming freshmen David Oku and Bryce Brown. Montario Hardesty will likely be the main tailback this spring even though Poole had broken most of the long runs by the tailbacks. Senior receiver Quinton Hancock, who is from St. Augustine, Fla., has come on during spring. Cornerback Brent Vinson had surgery on a separated shoulder last week. Receiver Brandon Warren is practicing without a number because Coach Lane Kiffin said he needed to deal with off-the-field issues. Tennessee has worked little in the G-gun formation. Kiffin seems more concerned about the offensive line (veterans Josh McNeil, Vladimir Richard, Jacques McClendon and Chris Scott and several unproven players) and linebackers (Rico McCoy is the only returning starter) rather than quarterback with Crompton’s improvement and defensive tackle because Wes Brown, Hughes, and Dan Williams have settled in. Former Vol head coach Johnny Majors said practices are well-organized.
Tennessee-Martin has been added to the Vols schedule for 2010. This is the first time in 27 years that the Vols have scheduled a Division I-AA opponent. Tennessee played The Citadel in 1983. The Vols play Oregon, UAB, Memphis and UTM in non-conference play.
AUBURN: The defense won Auburn’s first scrimmage. Running backs Eric Smith and Justin Albert had long runs for the offense. Tailbacks Ben Tate and Mario Fannin missed the scrimmage with injuries. Quarterback Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle both had long touchdown passes. Safety Mike McNeil was a standout on defense. Coach Gene Chizik is enforcing strict discipline on how the players dress including no earrings. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof lauded his unit for creating more turnovers. Junior linebacker Craig Stevens continues to draw raves from the coaches. Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge are doing well at safety. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has told the offensive line not to lose weight. He said the offense is still trying to adjust to his system. Malzahn said Tate and receiver Tim Hawthorne have been impressive.
ARKANSAS: The Hogs scrimmaged for 161 plays last Saturday. Quarterback Ryan Mallett was 20 of 48 for 361 yards with five touchdowns and one pick. Tyler Wilson, who has been the most consistent in the past two scrimmages, completed 17 of 27 for 347 yards with five scores and one pick. Receiver Joe Adams caught eight passes for 160 yards and four scores. Jarius Wright, who is emerging as a go-to receiver, caught eight passes for 161 yards and two scores. Tailback Mitchell Bailey carried the ball 15 times for 110 yards and one score. De’Anthony Curtis gained 95 yards on 14 carries. Sophomore free safety Tramain Thomas continued his good work with a pick.
Running backs are plentiful with USC transfer Broderick Green, Oklahoma State transfer Adrian Moore, Dennis Johnson, Curtis and early enrollee Knile Davis. Unfortunately for Davis, he broke a bone in his foot and will miss the rest of spring. He broke a bone in the same foot during his senior year of high school. Johnson is also out with an ankle injury. In the first scrimmage, Curtis broke free for a 30-yard score. Green, who is still awaiting an eligibility ruling by the NCAA, led the team in rushing with 56 yards on 10 carries. Mallett, who was 11 of 25 for 160 yards, threw the deep ball well. Freshman offensive lineman Matt Hall has been unmovable. Receiver Reggie Fish is having a good spring after redshirting last year.
VANDERBILT: After Saturday’s spring game, Coach Bobby Johnson refused to name a starter among the trio of Larry Smith, Mackenzi Adams or Jared Funk.
KENTUCKY: The Wildcats started practice Wednesday, April 1. Mike Hartline, who was 6-2 last year, is back at quarterback. Four starters return on the offensive line. After struggling last year, Kentucky must find a running game. Randall Cobb might be working at both receiver and quarterback. The Wildcat schedule has been finalized after securing the opening game on Sept. 5 against Miami of Ohio at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium. Kentucky will receive 30,000 tickets. Kentucky will have an off week after the opener before hosting Louisville on Sept. 19.
MIAMI: The spring game was held March 28 at Lockhart Stadium in front of 13,500 fans. The offense beat the defense 52-3. The offense ran 11 series and had four scores. Safety Randy Phillips had a pick. Tailback Damien Berry ran 14 times for 124 yards including a 54 yard touchdown run. Quarterback Jacory Harris was 9 of 16 for 141 yards. Taylor Cook was 11 of 14 for 103 yards. Cannon Smith was 6 of 8 for 31 yards. Defensive coordinator John Lovett said he was pleased with the defensive line consisting of Allen Bailey (who was moved inside from end), Marcus Fortson, Joe Joseph, Jeremy Lewis and Curtis Porter. Eric Moncur, a defensive end, was held out this spring as a precaution following a sports hernia surgery. Lovett wants to see more depth at linebacker, but he is happy with Darryl Sharpton and Arthur Brown. At safety, Lovett said Vaughn Telemaque and Phillips showed improvement. Mark Whipple has been more creative as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Jacory Harris said only 10% of the plays were run. At different times, the running backs threw passes and lineup as receivers and the receivers lined up four wide. Receivers’ coach Aubrey Hill said Kendal Thompson and Leonard Hankerson were the most improved receivers.
CLEMSON: Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had three sacks and four tackles- for- loss in Saturday’s scrimmage. In the quarterback battle, Willy Korn was 8 of 16 for 96 yards with a pick. Kyle Parker was 7 of 14 for 87 yards and a score. Receiver Brandon Ford had three catches for 97 yards. The quarterbacks were sacked 13 times.
In the first scrimmage, Parker completed 5 of 12 passes for 87 yards and three scores. Korn completed 4 of 9 and two scores. Dan Brooks, who was with Tennessee, has been officially hired as the defensive line coach. Tailback Jamie Harper, who has dropped 20 pounds, had a good scrimmage Saturday.
FLORIDA STATE: In Saturday night’s spring game, the defense recovered five fumbles. Defensive back Jamie Robinson picked off two passes. Linebacker Nigel Bradham picked up a fumble and returned it 45-yards for a score. Quarterback Christian Ponder was 10 of 19 for 118 yards. He connected with receiver Jamar Fortson (four catches for 75 yards) for a 65-yard pass.
In Wednesday’s mini-scrimmage, Ponder was 6 of 9 for over 100 yards. At one point, he hit receiver Rod Owens in stride for a 71-yard touchdown. He also connected with freshman receiver Louis Givens, a walk-on from Jacksonville, Fla., for a 26-yard score. The vertical passing game with Owens and Fortson is beginning to click. True freshman defensive end Brandon Jenkins came up big in the second straight scrimmage with two sacks. Coach Bobby Bowden said he wants to spend some of this week’s practices on getting ready for opponents such as Georgia Tech.
In Monday’s mini-scrimmage, there were several long runs as the offense got the best of the defense. Bert Reed took a pass from Ponder and ran 64 yards for a score. Givens did the same thing, but the play was called back for holding. Ponder had a 50- yard run on a designed play. Jermaine Thomas had a 64-yard touchdown run. In all the offense gained 363 yards. Jenkins had four sacks in the scrimmage.
VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies started practice Tuesday. Fifteen starters return on a team that could get some national title consideration.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels had their spring game last Saturday in front of 2,000 fans. Three quarterbacks combined to go 23 of 30 for 202 yards and a score. T. J. Yates is the starter, but backup Mike Paulus was 12 of 15 passing. Twelve different receivers caught passes. UNC practiced until last Saturday.
BRENT BEAIRD IS A SPORTS WRITER FOR MYCLAYSUN IN ORANGE PARK, FLA. HE ALSO WRITES FOR RIVALS.COM, SAMSPORTSLINE.COM AND GATOR BAIT MAGAZINE. HE CAN BE HEARD ON SPORTS RADIO 1010 XL.
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