Monday, August 24, 2015

10 Random College Football Thoughts

There are 10 days until the college football season kicks off on September 3.  So I decided to give 10 quick thoughts on the upcoming season like I did a year ago.

1.     I think TCU isn’t going to be denied this season and will win the National Championship.  The Horned Frogs won their last game of the regular season 55-3 but were left out of the party a year ago as Ohio State stole the last playoff spot.  This season, TCU does not play a preseason top 25 team until November 21.  While a showdown with Baylor in the regular season finale looms, no one’s stopping the Horned Frogs from making this season’s playoff.

2.     I think it doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback for Ohio State.  It’s an obviously hot topic of discussion entering the season but whether it’s JT Barrett or Cardale Jones won’t matter big picture.  The Buckeyes roster is loaded.

3.     I think Wisconsin’s Corey Clement is going to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.  As a backup to Melvin Gordon a year ago, Clement ran for 949 yards on 6.5 yards per carry.  As the volume increases, the yards will explode and Clement will be the next great Wisconsin running back.

4.     I think Michigan State’s Connor Cook throws for 4,000 yards. I promise I’ll stop thinking about the Big 10 after this but I think Cook’s in for a big year with the backfield in East Lansing unproven.

5.     I think Ole Miss is going to make the playoff.  Perhaps the boldest one of my thoughts but there are a lot of elite college football players at Ole Miss like wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche. A week three upset at Alabama will get this group of Rebels off and running.

6.     I think Oregon finishes the year unranked.  The Ducks have some difficult road Pac-12 games and also has to travel to Michigan State early in the season so I see a down year for the Ducks. USC is the best team in the Pac-12 in my opinion.

                           Cooper Neill/Getty Images
7.     I think Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III is the best defensive player in the country.  A very fluid corner that makes things look easy with his speed.  Hargreaves led the SEC in pass breakups last season as a sophomore and is only getting better.  Gators fans should enjoy him before he starts playing on Sundays.

8.     I think LSU’s Leonard Fournette leads the SEC in rushing.  I’ll take him over Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. Keep an eye on Alex Collins at Arkansas with Jonathan Williams out for the year but Fournette leads the way on the ground in the best conference in America.

9.     I think Laquon Treadwell wins the Fred Biletnikoff award as the nation's top receiver. He’s a big reason why my fifth thought exists.

10.  I think TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (right) wins the Heisman.  I’m buying the TCU hype and I love their dual-threat signal caller.  His senior season will be special.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Misunderstanding of Chip Kelly

Much has been made of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s penchant for parting ways with talented football players in order to create his kind of culture in the locker room.  DeSean Jackson was the first and many followed this past offseason as Kelly gained total control of personnel over Howie Roseman.  The trade of running back LeSean McCoy, the release of all-pro guard Evan Mathis and most recently the trade of cornerback Brandon Boykin raised eyebrows across the National Football League.

                                                                                Associated Press
Wide receiver Riley Cooper is still with the team two years after uttering a racial slur in public.  As a result, the public has questioned Kelly’s ability to handle egos.  McCoy and Boykin both made comments following their departures from the team that insinuated Kelly does not work well with the black players on his team.

In today’s world, it’s easy for someone who has made decisions as bold as Kelly’s to be misunderstood.  That is what has happened here as the third-year coach decided to put the team through a roster makeover in the offseason and the motives behind his moves were blown out of proportion. 

Chip Kelly’s job is to win football games for the Eagles.  Who cares if he does not relate well with certain players on the team? That’s not what he’s getting paid to do.  Granted, culture has certainly driven some of his moves but if he feels that creating a certain culture is necessary to win then what’s the big deal?  While his decisions have people questioning if Kelly is a racist, there are football reasons behind many of his moves as well.

Let’s start with the trade of McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for inside linebacker Kiko Alonso.  After taking heat for not getting anything for Jackson in 2014, Kelly moved McCoy and his hefty cap hit to Buffalo for a 24-year old inside linebacker who appears to be fully healthy after missing all of 2014 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.  Alonso had an impressive rookie season in 2013 and with two years left on his rookie contract serves as a cheap option for production on defense. 

To replace McCoy, Kelly signed former Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray.  Murray’s downhill, straight ahead running style is different than McCoy’s who tended to dance and look for big plays at times when nothing was there. In Kelly’s fast-paced offense, a back like Murray who’s going to take what’s there and gain yards as often as possible is very important to keep the chains moving.  So with the McCoy trade, Kelly got a young and cheap inside linebacker who figures to be a key contributor on defense in Alonso and replaced McCoy with a better scheme fit in Murray.

Trading Brandon Boykin was a classic case of getting something for someone who isn’t in your long-term plans.  Boykin is in line for a new contract following the 2015 season.  There’s a strong possibility that contract would not be another one with the Eagles had the nickel corner remained on the roster in 2015.  The Eagles brought in an influx of defensive backs as Kelly continued to remake the team in the spring.  They signed Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond.  E.J. Biggers and Jaylen Watkins will compete for spots on the roster in camp. They drafted Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans. Nolan Carroll is returning for his second season with the Eagles with a chance to start opposite Byron Maxwell as the team’s other cornerback.  Boykin was hopeful to be given a chance to move outside and start but with the way the Eagles approached the offseason it’s clear they wanted to move in a different direction and so they gave Boykin a chance to start outside on a Pittsburgh Steelers team in desperate need of cornerbacks. 

The Eagles got a 5th round draft pick back for Boykin but it could be a 4th round selection if Boykin plays 60% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps in 2015.  So it seems like a win-win.  Boykin should get a chance to play outside in Pittsburgh and if all goes well the Eagles will get a 4th-round draft pick back for him which is decent value in return for someone who you weren’t planning on keeping around beyond this upcoming season anyway.

At the end of the day, Chip Kelly is a football coach that is trying to win games.  Say what you want about any preferential treatment that may or may not exist, this looks like the best roster Kelly has to work with in his three years with the Eagles and he was the one who assembled it.  Winning solves everything and if everything goes according to planned, no one will care about how well Chip Kelly relates with his players.