College coaches with limited NFL experience and gimmick schemes have not fared well at the NFL level, and there is a strong history of coaches, from Lou Holtz to Steve Spurrier to Bobby Petrino, to show for it. With Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Greg Schiano being plucked from the college ranks and finding immediate success, NFL decision makers are digging back into the college ranks looking for the next rising star on the coaching circuit.
Oregon’s Chip Kelly, who word has it is hot on the trails of Carroll by looking to bolt from a program that is set to face serious NCAA sanctions for a recruiting scandal, has become the hottest name in NFL circles.
However, after Stanford handed Oregon its first loss of the season in a 17-14 overtime victory, NFL GMs in need of a new skipper might want to take a closer look at Harbaugh’s successor, David Shaw, who was groomed in Philadelphia, Oakland and Baltimore and runs pro-style schemes that clearly work.
To beat Kelly’s fast-paced, high-octane, matchup-based offense, a team needs a strong, physical front that is not fooled by misdirection and is capable of attacking downhill and dictating the tempo of the game.
Enter Stanford MLB Shayne Skov. Still showing effects of the serious left knee injury he suffered a year ago, Skov was not crisp in the open field, where he missed some tackles and cannot cut cleanly. Nonetheless, his eyes and instincts are outstanding and when many linebackers would be pulled in by play fakes, Skov continually showed up on the spot with support from a fast-flying front seven that held Kelly’s offense to its fewest points since the opening game in 2009.
Rush linebackers Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas led the way on a creative set of stunts, games and blitzes. Murphy notched one of the Cardinal’s two sacks, yet created pressure behind the line all game and kept the offense from establishing a rhythm.
Shaw put the ball in the hands of his ultra-competitive workhorse Stepfan Taylor and, despite a rare fumble late in the third quarter, he carried the offense in the fourth quarter. Taylor (33-161-0 rushing) churned hard between the tackles with a physical, grind-it-out approach that slowed the game, controlled the clock and outlasted Oregon on its home turf.
• USC senior QB Matt Barkley left the game in the fourth quarter after being drilled from the backside by UCLA junior ROLB Anthony Barr and slammed into the ground on his right throwing shoulder. Barkley, who reportedly was wearing a sling under his jacket exiting the locker room, showed noticeable arm strength limitations prior to the injury. Interceptions like the one he tossed to open the game, when he threw the ball an arm's length behind an out-breaking Marqise Lee and directly into the hands of UCLA senior RCB Aaron Hester, have done little to help his cause. Despite being regarded as a surefire top-10 pick, some NFL evaluators have stamped third-round grades on the accomplished passer, as he clearly does not possess the arm talent to succeed in a vertical passing attack.
• Having barely practiced during the week after taking a helmet to his left knee against Cincinnati, Temple senior RB Montel Harris etched a place in the Big East record book by rushing for a career-best 36-351-7 performance against Army in a game when much of his production was well-schemed for him. A knee injury forced Harris to use a medical redshirt in 2011 and he was kicked off the team at Boston College in May for repeatedly violating team rules before joining former B.C. assistants at Temple. At 5-8 3⁄4, 199 pounds with a thin lower body, he is not well built for the NFL game. He is a highly instinctive runner with good balance and quickness and could be a late-round gem.
• West Virginia’s dynamic do-it-all RB-WR-RS Tavon Austin racked up 344 yards on the ground against Oklahoma with a series of explosive runs that helped overcome a 31-17 halftime deficit, but it was Oklahoma senior QB Landry Jones who had the final word in the Sooners’ last-minute, 50-49 win. Better known for crumbling under pressure, Jones came through in the clutch on back-to-back TD drives, including a strike to WR Kenny Stills on 4th-and-3 with 24 seconds to play.
• As Wisconsin senior RB Montee Ball extended the ball toward the goal line after leaping into the air to cross the plane, Ohio State sophomore WLB Ryan Shazier knocked the ball loose and kept Ball from establishing an NCAA record for career TDs. Shazier has stepped up to the challenge since replacing senior Etienne Sabino, who was playing very well before being lost for the season against Nebraska on Oct. 6 with a broken leg.
• Baylor junior CB Joe Williams played a clutch role in the Bears’ 52-24 upset of Kansas State, rallying one of the nation’s worst defenses by twice picking off Wildcats QB Collin Klein and showing up very well in run support, where he notched 11 tackles. With the Bears able to contain a battered Klein on the ground, the Wildcats’ offense sputtered.