Well, here we are. The end of another college football season. Normally, this day fills me with fear, but I’m doing ok so far this morning, mostly because I’m hopelessly excited for tonight’s title game.
Much of that is due to Auburn and my unending interest in Gus Malzahn. I wrote a lot about where Malzahn came from and his dizzying ability to adapt to his tools at hand last year before Nebraska faced Arkansas State, but Chris Brown, as he tends to do, did a much better job of telling the full story for Grantland late last week while also applying it to the big game.
If you read only one story in preparation for the BCS Championship Game, make it this one:
This season, Auburn has been anything but balanced — not that it has mattered. The 2013 Tigers are the first SEC team to average more than 300 yards rushing per game in almost 30 years. (The last team to do that? The 1985 Auburn team led by Bo Jackson.) But while Newton and current Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall both ran for more than 1,000 yards in Malzahn’s offense, they did so while using very different approaches. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Newton was essentially Auburn’s power back, and Malzahn featured him on a variety of inside runs. Marshall, by contrast, is shorter and lankier than Newton but boasts great quickness and acceleration. As a result, Auburn’s 2013 offense has focused less on the core wing-T run plays and more on zone reads to get Marshall on the edges while allowing Mason to use his excellent vision and patience to find running lanes.
The backbone of Auburn’s current rushing attack has been an amped-up version of the zone-read, which gives Marshall as many as four options: (1) throw a receiver screen, (2) hand it to Mason, (3) keep the ball, or (4) keep the ball and then toss it to a receiver who can sit in an open area of the defense if the man covering him comes up for the run — a form of the quadruple-option.
Brown also took a long look at Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, but, given his more traditional origin story, it will feel a little more familiar. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading, however.
News leaked over the weekend that Nebraska defensive backs coach Terry Joseph interviewed with Texas A&M in the days following the Gator Bowl for the same position with the Aggies. That news wasn’t totally surprising. Rumors of Joseph to A&M had been floating prior to the Huskers’ bowl game, but what was interesting was that Joseph, after his interview with Aggies’ coach Kevin Sumlin, talked about the offer with Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star:
“It’s not a done deal,” Joseph told the Journal Star. “They offered me the job. It’s a lot of money but I told Bo I would come back and talk to him before I took the job.
“Now, if you say, ‘It’s a lot of money and Nebraska isn’t going to match it?’ Then, yeah, it’s a done deal, because that’s what it comes down to, getting my contract extended and me getting a lot of money.”
Joseph made a base salary of $245,000 as Nebraska’s secondary coach in 2013. Marcel Yates, who was working with Aggies’ secondary and was also a co-defensive coordinator, was making more than $300,000 this past year. Yates has taken a job as Boise State’s defensive coordinator.
That’s either some unfortunate phrasing — or just total honesty — from Joseph, but it has me doubtful that he’s back in Lincoln for the 2014 season. That’s a big loss on the recruiting front for the Huskers. Joseph was essentially Nebraska’s door-opener in the southeast thanks to his deep connections in Louisiana — the same reason A&M wants him — and that will be hard to replace.
From a coaching perspective, however, change perhaps isn’t the worst thing for this staff headed into next season. Bo Pelini, a former defensive back, is always deeply involved with the secondary and, in theory, could be the “DBs coach” if he had to. Just spitballing here, but former safety Austin Cassidy is also kicking around and could be elevated to a graduate assistant with Joe Ganz’s spot coming open to lend some support back there too. Jospeh’s potential departure would leave a spot open for Nebraska to add Ganz as an assistant if it wanted to, which is an intriguing idea, but it does nothing to address the recruiting loss of Joseph.
The season may be coming to a close tonight, but we could still have some things to sort out in Nebraska football land in the weeks to come.
A couple of quick updates on the major coaching news from the weekend…
TEXAS: The Longhorns officially announced that Charlie Strong will be the next coach in Austin on Sunday, and he’ll be introduced today. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports isn’t convinced it’s a good fit, and, while I’m convinced it was probably the closest Texas could come to making a splash — the expectation after names like Saban, Harbaugh and Fisher were bandied about — I’m not sure Strong will win big there. The short reason why: I think he won about as many games at Louisville as he should have. No more, no less. (Louisville was favored in 37 games over Strong’s tenure. His record? 37-15.) Do that at Texas and you’ll win 10 games a year, but the stakes are too high for that to be acceptable on its own. At that level, you’re judged on the toss-up games, rare as they may be.
LOUISVILLE: Cardinals’ AD Tom Jurich said yesterday that the school’s coaching search is “wide open” as he tries to replace Strong. He also said, surprisingly, that Louisville was prepared to match any offer Strong received from Texas. (Strong is reportedly getting $5 million per year.) Jurich also also said that he would be willing to consider former Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino, which should make at least some Louisville fans happy.
PENN STATE: Penn State reportedly interviewed Miami head coach and former Nittany Lion Al Golden over the weekend, but he quickly withdrew his name from consideration. (See you in Lincoln this September, Al.) Now Penn State will turn to the state of Tennessee with the Lions’ reportedly interested in Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and Mike Munchak who was fired last week after coaching the Tennessee Titans for three seasons.
The Grab Bag
Does Nebraska’s offense need to be more conservative in 2014? … Many player comings and goings: Sammy Watkins, De’Anthony Thomas, Blake Bortles, Cody Latimer and Ryan Shazier are all reportedly heading to the NFL. Braxton Miller and Brett Hundley are saying they’ll stay. … Speaking of De’Anthony Thomas, he apparently wore a gold watch during warmups for the Alamo Bowl. … Here’s an interesting look at shoe/apparel contracts for universities.