CFB Storylines of the Week

Mark Lindquist
Rotoworld

Happy media days season! While bloated and occasionally absurd, your author loves them. Not only do they mark the final stretch of days before the start of preseason camps, they fill in many holes in the fabric of college football news -- we’re largely in the dark from the close of spring practice up until media days. So what’s cooking?

 

- Oklahoma and Ohio State will hold quarterback competitions. Or at the very least, have not figured out to a 100% certainty just who will be starting. On the Buckeyes side of things, HC Ryan Day said that he would like to name a starter within the first two weeks of camp. The internet will shake if it’s not Justin Fields. We have our questions about the Day-Fields combo -- or perhaps more accurately, we just don’t know what we will see. 

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On the Oklahoma side of things, HC Lincoln Riley spun out the whole “gotta win the job first” line with Jalen Hurts. Riley pulled this same line with Kyler Murray v Austin Kendall last summer. We didn’t buy it then and we’re not buying it now. 

- Tua Tagovailoa’s pantry probably doesn’t look like yours. This week, it came out that during summer training, he and his brother Taulia have been on strict diets, with Papa Tagovailoa confiscating car keys at night in order to prevent any weak drive-through moments. The Heisman contender has shed a few pounds gained in the spring and told Sports Illustrated that he feels more healthy now than at any point since he enrolled at Alabama. For most players, these kinds of routines are somewhat extreme -- drive-throughs are great -- but for Tua, the strict regiment is a direct response to some of the injury issues which plagued him as a true sophomore. 

Because without a healthy Tua, Alabama’s title chances drop dangerously low. If you’re creating a few little mental signposts to follow during August camp, Tagovailoa's health should absolutely be one of them.

 

- Even if Tagovailoa’s hamstring falls off, though, Alabama may still have enough talent to make the Playoff. 10 Crimson Tide players were named to the preseason SEC first-team, with 19 of 22 starters making the cut teams one-through-three. The talent in Tuscaloosa is downright stupid. As you might predict given everything laid out above, the media really likes Alabama to do well this year. Like SEC Championship well. Again. The conference preseason standings have the Crimson Tide tangoing with forever bridesmaid Georgia in the title game. 

We are here for the stray randoms for conference champion, with this year’s most eye-brow raising champion picked probably being Tennessee. The Volunteers have seemingly done nice work in coming together under HC Jeremy Pruitt’s tutelage, but pump the brakes on conference relevancy. You have to be able to crawl before you can run a marathon. Somebody also voted for South Carolina to win the SEC. Gamecocks HC Will Muschamp believes this is his best South Carolina squad, and we should see QB Jake Bentley at the tippy-top of his college development, but still. If South Carolina or Tennessee wins the conference, something has gone horribly awry. 

 

- Jim Harbaugh had way, way too many thoughts bottled up over the spring months and could not wait to share them during media days. He often seems to treat the media like Two-Face, with one half eager to talk about his master plan, the other half hiding injury and depth chart news under the rug. Rolling rapid fire, Harbaugh divulged this week that the team plans on using QB Dylan McCaffrey and Shea Patterson in the same game -- he would not go into super-deep detail on that revelation -- that Michigan was close to announcing a scheduled game on “foreign soil,” that he would be in favor for a one-time mulligan for transfers allowing them to play immediately. 

In general, the transfer portal and eligibility waiver free-for-all was one of the top conversations across all of our conference media days thus far. Alabama HC Nick Saban and Nebraska HC Scott Frost both endorsed the idea of a rule which required a blanket sit-out for transfers -- the words “free agency” have never been uttered so often before in college football -- while Harbaugh, as aforementioned, likes the idea of the one-time-only exception. 

Where we’re at with this one -- Harbaugh’s mulligan idea appeals. By and large, we actually think the portal in general is fine. It’s what happens on the other end, after a player arrives to a new school, that has proven more problematic. That’s because the NCAA has been exceedingly inconsistent in their handling of waiver requests. If you essentially take the NCAA out of the equation to start with, the issue lessens considerably.

 

- One more Harbaugh note, we swear it’s probably maybe possibly our last one. Harbaugh could not let media days go by without slinging at least a little shade on Urban Meyer’s retirement vibe, saying that while Urban was a fantastic head coach, “controversy follows everywhere he’s been.” Which isn’t exactly a world-shaking dig, a point Harbaugh stressed when he noted that “It’s things that you all understand and have written about.” Fair enough, Coach. It’s important to remember during media days that the coaches and players involved are often being asked direct questions. They aren’t just going off on personal rants. Mostly.

 

- Harbaugh said that Michigan must “embrace the suck” of their constant losses to Ohio State. He also said that he agreed with the media’s preseason pick of the Wolverines to win the Big Ten. OK, there. We’re not writing anymore about Jim Harbaugh.

 

- Michigan State HC Mark Dantonio is just fine coaching right now, thank you. He was asked about his future retirement and responded by relaying a conversation he had with his wife which boiled down to “if you retire what are you going to do in your life.” Fair question, for us all. Dantonio is a spry 63 years old, younger than David Cutcliffe, Nick Saban and Mack Brown. But older than Mark Richt. While things can change fast, as Richt would no-doubt tell you, Dantonio sounded pretty comfortable in his position.

 

- Do not ask the Rimington Trophy for a little sugar in your coffee. They will pour the entire shaker in your mug. Watch lists are fine, if somewhat indigestible simply given the dearth of names. Then there’s what the Rimington did. Rather than confine their list to 20 centers, 30 centers, 40 centers, 50 centers, 60 centers or 70 centers, they opted to shut things down at 80. Alright. There are 130 teams in the FBS. Perhaps not even the Rimington Trophy really knows how to evaluate a center and they just put them all on there to cover their bases. 

 

- Apparently the 2018 Notre Dame team was a mediocre box office draw which stoned teenagers stumbled upon a year later and now it’s a cult classic. Clemson lineman John Simpson said that the Fighting Irish, rather than Alabama, were the best team that the Tigers played last season. Earlier this offseason, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said that Clemson and Notre Dame were more or less even on the talent level. We will let you know if we see any other revisionist history in the coming weeks. 

 

- Our best thoughts with UNLV OC Barney Cotton, who will not coach this coming season due to serious health concerns. He is currently waiting it out for a heart transplant in Nebraska. Cotton has been working as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach with the Rebels since back in 2015. Garin Justice, UNLV’s run-game coordinator and OL coach, will serve as offensive coordinator in Cotton’s place.

 

- Kellen Mond believes that Kellen Mond is the best quarterback in the SEC. Mond’s blooming last fall was low-key one of our favorite developments in the entire country after we saw him come in as a lost, clueless freshman the previous year following a Nick Starkel broken ankle. Mond was raw raw raw at the time and looked a ways off from being able to start games in the SEC, let alone excel in those contests. Then Jimbo Fisher came along and replaced Kevin Sumlin’s shaky-handed guidance with a steadier touch. Magic. 

It’s difficult to truly get behind Mond’s best-in-SEC claim with that Tua Tagovailoa dude currently chilling in Tuscaloosa, but Mond will have every chance to make good on his claims in a pressure-packed schedule that will see Texas A&M take on Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Georgia. Among others. Those could easily be the best four teams in the country.

 

Recruiting Notes

- The recruiting world has been on Haynes King Watch for several weeks, but our long national nightmare finally faded into the light of dawn when the four-star quarterback committed to Texas A&M on Wednesday. King had been planning on a late June commitment, before the Elite 11 Finals, but that did not ultimately come to pass and he had subsequently slipped into a protracted limbo as he continued to consider finalists Texas A&M, Tennessee, Duke and Auburn. 

We touched on Kellen Mond’s “best in SEC” comments paragraphs above -- King gives the Aggies an even more dangerous dual-threat signal-caller. Unlike Mond, who has very nice wheels, but would struggle to hold the speed limit in a state like Montana, King brings upper-echelon speed to College Station. Not quite Kyler Murray speed, but he has been laser-timed at 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash this offseason. 

 

- Washington picked up a pledge from four-star RB Sam Adams. The patriotically-named back opted in with the Huskies over Ohio State and Florida. He could see immediate freshman work in the backfield should Salvon Ahmed bounce for the NFL this coming season. Adams could potentially see time on the defensive side, too, depending on how his development in Seattle plays out.

Running through our five other big commitments of the week, Alabama landed a pair of four-star pledges in ATH Kristian Story and DT Timothy Smith, Texas reeled in four-star DT Vernon Broughton, Ohio State snagged four-star S Lathan Ransom and Florida scored with four-star CB Jahari Rogers

 

- Mack Brown, coming in hot. Old friend and new Tar Heels head coach Brown is not a fan of the new December signing period for recruits. He would actually be in favor of a June signing period, which would free kids up to play their last seasons of high school ball without the complications of the recruiting process. Left unsaid by Brown, it would also largely allow coaches such as himself to focus on their own teams. 

Our biggest quibble with Brown’s comments would probably be that he is speaking from a darkened room. Brown has not yet actually gone through the new recruiting cycle -- not in full -- and we’d be interested to see if his stance changes at all once he is more thoroughly back in the flow of the game (though we’re sure he has talked with other coaches on this). 

 

Quick Hits

Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke is HC Mark Dantonio’s lead man, though ostensibly there will be a little competition with Rocky Lombardi in August...UM could turn to LB/S Khaleke Hudson at running back if they run into injury attrition...UM named Tru Wilson its starting running back...SMU hired Ra’Shaad Samples from Texas to serve as wide receivers coach. Samples was playing college football just a few years ago and already has a full on-field coaching gig, not to shabby. He brings strong recruiting ties from the Dallas-Fort Worth region...Miami, like Ohio State, would like to settle on its starting quarterback in the first two weeks of camp...Nebraska is not ready to make a call on RB Maurice Washington’s status. Washington is with the team in good standing, but a “revenge porn” case continues to hang over his head. Huskers HC Scott Frost indicated that a decision on playing status might not come until the opener...Illinois HC Lovie Smith’s beard is getting out of control...Auburn HC Gus Malzahn reaffirmed that he will be calling plays this season, referring to his previous cedings of those duties as a “mistake”...Malzahn is not yet ready to name his starting quarterback...But seriously, Lovie Smith's beard is getting out of control.

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