UConn’s Johnny McEntee is what they call just a guy, a body, nothing special. The Huskies “backup” quarterback — being charitable there — has been on campus for three years. Dude hasn’t thrown a pass. Well, a pass that counted for anything on the football field.
The wonders of YouTube changed that. Johnny Mac Trick Shot Quarterback had elicited 4.5 million views as of Wednesday, and the most buzz in the sport since Reggie Bush met Lloyd Lake. Call it TMZ with a transcript. America’s Funniest Videos with a jockstrap — and a really patient, hard-working editor.
That can only mean it’s time for 25 Spring Things to Watch. With spring drills getting under way, Johnny Mac’s fully legit video is the talk of the industry, and, the way things are going, is sure to outlast his career. The kid can pass, it turns out — into a trash can, into a basketball goal, even blindfolded. It’s all legit and it all occurred on old cold day recently at Connecticut, proving it’s possible that one slappy quarterback has brought more attention to UConn football than Randy Edsall ever did.
That’s a magic thing about the spring in college football.
Here are 24 (or so) more …
2. Mean-spirited prank or federal crime at Auburn?
Someone — perhaps a caller to the syndicated Paul Finebaum Show — applied a deadly herbicide that is poisoning Auburn’s legendary oak trees. You know, the old-growth icons that are “rolled” after each big Auburn win. Call it Toomer’s Travesty.
The story broke Wednesday and immediately became the biggest news of the offseason — below the Mason-Dixon line, where overreaction is served with grits. The assumption, even without the caller taking “credit,” was that the damage was caused by an Alabama sympathizer. Pictures were posted of police cars stationed near Bryant-Denny Stadium, apparently in place to guard the famed statues of the school’s championship coaches. Expect extra security at both schools’ spring games. Really.
This is a “crime” that started before the spring but will live on for years, which is exactly how long an official said the deadly herbicide will last in the soil. Enough time for more Iron Bowl hate to percolate.
3. Sweating out a championship already won
There was enough angst at Auburn before the poison … Yes, the NCAA investigation of Cam Newton is still active. No, there apparently isn’t anything yet that would signal wrongdoing.
But as long as the NCAA cops have a search warrant, there is reason to be nervous on The Plains.
We’re basically still where we were at on Dec. 1, when the NCAA declared Cam Newton eligible to play. The difference being the NCAA can’t touch Newton now. Technically, it can’t touch the national championship either. But the BCS already has plowed that ground. By the time spring football concludes, there is a good chance USC will lose its appeal in the Reggie Bush case. The BCS already is on record as saying it will vacate USC’s 2004 national championship if that is the case.
Auburn doesn’t want to make it another “vacation.”
4. If you go to no other spring game make sure you see …
What will Les Miles have up his sleeve in LSU’s spring game? (US Presswire)
LSU’s. Les Miles is back, basically declaring his undying love for the program. Steve Kragthorpe is the new offensive coordinator. There’s an interesting battle at quarterback. The defense shouldn’t miss a beat, even with the loss of Drake Nevis, Kelvin Sheppard and Patrick Peterson. Oh, and they’re my preseason No. 1. Plus, it’s always an event at Baton Rouge. Last year’s game drew 23,000, which is the equivalent to the number of fans partying outside Tiger Stadium during an SEC game.
5. The significance of March 4
That’s the deadline for the NFL’s millionaire players and billionaire owners to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.
If they don’t figure out how to fairly split the equivalent of the gross national product of Belgium, then better for us. College football takes center stage in the sport — and perhaps eventually in sports.
In case you want to plan ahead, there will be plenty of football. TCU will open spring practice March 4, a day before Miami and Houston.
6. The remaking of Texas
Mack Brown’s first losing season in Austin kicked off a makeover that would fill an Oprah show.
There are six new assistants, including two new coordinators. The coach in waiting (Will Muschamp) wouldn’t wait around anymore. Change has come so fast and furious that as of Wednesday, Texas still needed a defensive backs coach. Jerry Gray came — and then went. Meanwhile, Duane Akina went to Arizona and came back. The result is a younger more energetic staff that signals what Muschamp finally figured out — Brown isn’t leaving anytime soon.
Two of Mack’s new key lieutenants are 34 (co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin) and 36 (defensive coordinator Manny Diaz). Major Applewhite, the other co-offensive coordinator and already on staff, is 32. The Longhorns have a long list of problems. Falling asleep at staff meetings won’t be one of them. In a way, these guys are setting the table for the rest of their careers by trying to resurrect Texas.
7. Can Brady Hoke win with Rich Rod’s players?
That’s one way of looking at it. Michigan fans everywhere are just glad the Rich Rodriguez era is over. Now it has to deal with the program changing coaches for the second time in three years, which is never a good thing.
After a quick rebuild at San Diego State, Hoke became the choice after more accomplished veteran candidates passed. Will he and a quickly assembled recruiting class be enough to turn around Michigan right away? With a load of starters back — including Denard Robinson — Hoke has a head start. Being a Michigan Man won’t matter much, though, if Michigan’s Men keep losing to Ohio State.
8. The Iowa Debate
Iowa heads into spring practice amid an internal investigation to determine what happened when 13 Hawkeyes went to the hospital on Jan. 24.
Hawk honks believe the story is “over.” Health professionals all over the country have told me they can’t wait to see more. One guess: There are some lawyers somewhere certainly interested in the outcome.
9. Network mania
The Longhorn Network is a reality. Next stop, statewide cable, national cable market, your smart phone, maybe even a skull implant. If you haven’t noticed, these guys are serious.
The Big 12 has already acquiesced, as if it had a choice. Oklahoma is next, promising to ramp up its own network by the end of the year. The Big Ten Network is the Granddaddy Of Them All. So what’s next? In general, more college football for the fan. Specially, more spring college football, more recruiting, more inside looks at the sport we all love. This, people, is a good thing, especially if you can afford the increased cable fees.
Are these coaches adhering to the letter of the law by oversigning? Yes. Spirit of the law? No.
That’s basically what college coaches are telling you when they sign more recruits than they have roster spots. The NCAA says you can sign a maximum of 25 each recruiting year and have a max of 85 on scholarship. That doesn’t keep coaches from oversigning as a hedge against academic problems, for example. We knew scholarships were renewable year-to-year. What the world is finding out that it’s a minefield just to get to that first season with a scholarship.
The stories of kids having schollies ripped are piling up at an alarming rate. The long-standing practice of oversigning became more of an issue in the past recruiting season because until they’re kept from doing it, coaches are going to keep abusing the loophole.
11. His name is Barrett Trotter …
How much should Gene Chizik and Auburn fans expect out of Barrett Trotter? (US Presswire)
… and he is the new Ron Zook, Gene Bartow, Sammy Hagar.
In other words, The Guy To Follow The Guy. Zook followed Steve Spurrier, Bartow followed John Wooden. Hagar followed David Lee Roth. OK, so Hagar did a decent job of replacing DLR in Val Halen, but the general rule is never to be the guy to follow a legend.
Trotter, Auburn’s junior quarterback, doesn’t have a choice. He’s eager and ready to replace to Newton but it’s still a process that begins with spring practice. This looks like a bridge year for the Tigers between a national championship and another run at all the marbles. Auburn has to replace three of its top four receivers, the anchor of the defense, All-American Nick Fairley, and, oh yes, Newton.
12. The Ohio State Five
No matter what you think of those five Buckeyes players being allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, this is going to be a fascinating year in Tresseland.
Per the NCAA, the five players — Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas — must sit out the first five games of 2011 because they sold their gear. Their first game back would be at Nebraska on Oct. 8. Hey, no problem there, right? If already-enrolled true freshman Braxton Miller “wins” the quarterback job, what happens when Pryor, an established senior, is allowed to come back in that sixth game?
13. The Heisman favorite
One of the most inspirational stories of the spring will be played out at Stanford. Quarterback Andrew Luck is so humble he won’t admit to being the runaway, No. 1 favorite for the Heisman in 2011.
After the loss of Jim Harbaugh, there is still enough talent around to make a run at Oregon and the Pac-12 title. New coach David Shaw must rebuild the offensive line. As for Luck, he is not dumb for turning down those NFL millions. The kid was wise enough to call Peyton and Archie Manning, who told him to follow his heart.
14. Conference realignment
Five programs go into the spring preparing for new homes in 2011 …
Nebraska: Big Ten.
Utah and Colorado: Pac-12.
Boise State: Mountain West.
BYU: America’s Guest, going independent.
Best move: Nebraska. A good fit, immediately. The Huskers will be no more or no less competitive in the Big Ten but the conference is more stable for a school that couldn’t co-exist with Texas in the Big 12.
Worst move: BYU. Even with ESPN as its scheduling partner, BYU will be back in a conference within five years, realizing it will be easier to chase a BCS bid (in the Big 12?).
15. Oregon love
Now that the Ducks have announced themselves as a national program, the pressure is on. It’s no longer about the wacky Nike unis, it’s about the football. Let’s see how Oregon lives up to the hype. The Ducks already are emerging as some folks’ preseason No. 1.
We’ll see. Chip Kelly has to replace three starters on the offensive line. Go-to receiver Jeff Maehl is gone. The defense that accounted for itself so well against Auburn will have to be reshaped. Plus, the Stanford game will be in Palo Alto. This might be the year we find out if Kelly and Oregon can sustain things. If not, there’s always a fallback — day-glo yellow as a fashion statement.
16. The California Effect
In terms of recruiting, Cali has long been like oil in Saudi Arabia. The tap is always open, it’s just a question of finding the best quality.
That’s especially the issue facing Utah and Colorado as they begin migration to the Pac-12. There’s a reason Washington, Oregon and Oregon State have risen to power at various times in the old Pac-10. All three made a big effort to recruit in Southern California. Passing through that recruiting territory was a big issue in how to divide the Pac-12 into divisions. Everyone wanted to make an appearance in Southern California (playing USC and/or UCLA in the process) each season.
Utah and Colorado have always recruited in California. Now they’ve got to recruit there better. Glancing at the MaxPreps Top 100, there is work to be done. There were six California natives on that list. USC, a program on probation, got three of them. Utah and Colorado got none.
17. The school with the ‘ain’t nothing but 5-5′ coach
Alabama might have missed out on the smack-talking Jadeveon Clowney, but the Tide are ready to move on.
And by moving on, I mean winning another national championship. Bama will likely start the season in the top five with a defense that might be better than the 2009 group. The issues in the spring are quarterback (A.J. McCarron vs. Phillip Sims) and finding a replacement for receiver Julio Jones.
18. The Fight for Florida
Al Golden raised Temple from the dead, but expectations will be much higher in Miami. (US Presswire)
Two of the Big Three have new coaches. The other head coach is in his second year.
That sound you hear is Sunshine State football, getting out of bed, wheezing and coughing, trying to make itself presentable again. For now, Florida State is the leader in the clubhouse going into 2011 as part of perhaps the biggest rebuilding job in the state since Miami beat Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Back then, Florida, Florida State and Miami were congealing as a trio of powers than would win 10 of the next 26 national championships.
Now? Uncertainty, at least, at Florida and Miami. Al Golden was actually scrambling to find another quarterback in February for Miami. Muschamp is rebuilding from a 7-5 season. FSU has no sympathy, still trying to regain lost glory while coming off a 10-win season and a top-five recruiting class.
19. Good Time Charlie
No matter what you think of Charlie Weis — Bully? Brilliant? Both? — the man can call plays and coordinate an offense.
That’s why Muschamp wasted little time in hiring him as Florida’s new offensive coordinator. Tom Brady is one thing, but in his last job, Weis coached Kansas City’s Matt Cassel to a Pro Bowl season. There will be a major overhaul going from Urban Meyer’s zone-read spread to the pro style. The change in offenses might have kept John Brantley on campus. It also could make for quite a spring battle with already-enrolled Jeff Driskel getting a shot, too.
20. Three spring surprises
• More scrutiny on BCS bowls, with the recent administrative leave handed to Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker.
• The next big thing out of Blinn College (juco home of Cam Newton) will be Justin Tuggle, a one-time Boston College quarterback who is now at Kansas State.
• Pittsburgh at least will become exciting to watch under new coach Todd Graham.
21. Three spring non-surprises
• Gary Crowton will have a hard time moving the ball — again. The tough thing will be finding the same athletes he had at LSU, as new offensive coordinator at Maryland.
• Michigan will play better defense just by changing formations, going to the traditional 4-3.
• USC and Ohio State (Buckeye Five) will lose their NCAA appeals.
22. Bummin’ Bruins
You want to know far UCLA has fallen? Its last first-team All-American offensive lineman Kris Farris (1998) was recruited by Terry Donahue.
That’s where the story of the Fall of Westwood begins. For a variety of reasons, the Rick Neuheisel era hasn’t taken off yet. Slick Rick hasn’t been able to find a reliable quarterback. The coaching staff was reworked. Things are about to get tougher in the new Pac-12. UCLA football has become what it absolutely can’t be in the L.A. market.
If the football monopoly is officially over, it’s not because of UCLA; it’s because USC is on probation.
Spring is a time for rebirth and UCLA needs Miracle-Gro.
Texas and Florida, a combined 12-12 in 2010, both with remade staffs … Clemson, a late-closing recruiting class has added momentum for 2011, which could be the 23rd consecutive year without an ACC title … Notre Dame, having won its last four … Louisville, trending up after winning a bowl in Charlie Strong’s first season … Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand … Michigan. Do you have to ask why? … Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon … The Big 12, which still exists after conference realignment … Houston’s Case Keenum, who was awarded a sixth year to exhaust his eligibility and will chase the NCAA career passing mark as a result.
Mike Haywood … Mike Leach, who for the second season in a row seemingly won’t have a head coaching job … Temple, which might have lost its golden ticket in Al Golden … New Mexico, which has lost too many games under Mike Locksley … San Diego State, which lost Hoke … Arizona, which lost its last five … Oregon State, living in the ever-lengthening shadow of Oregon … Auburn. It can’t be that good again, can it? … Vanderbilt. Because and always.
25. Looking ahead
LSU-Oregon (at Cowboys Stadium), Georgia-Boise State (in Atlanta), Ohio State at Miami, Alabama at Penn State, Oklahoma at Florida State.
And that’s only the first three weeks of 2011 …