March 7, 2008

Some coaches face double standard

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for
Previous mailbags
Feb. 29: True champions?
Feb. 22: The next step
Feb. 15: Waiting on Pryor

Identifying a good coach should be easy.

If his team wins a lot, he's good. If it loses a lot, he's not. And if his team wins a national championship, he becomes a legend.

Well, that's the way it should be. But the fate of former Miami coach Larry Coker, fired five years after winning a national title, shows it's not.

Coker's first two teams at Miami reached the title game, but detractors dismissed that by crediting Coker's predecessor, Butch Davis, for assembling the team. But when Urban Meyer guided Florida to a national championship in his second year, no one was crediting Ron Zook, Meyer's predecessor. By the same token, John Cooper received no credit when Jim Tressel, his successor at Ohio State, took the Buckeyes to a national title in his second season.

Clearly, there isn't a one-way street on this issue. That raises the question of just what street LSU's Les Miles is on.

Mad at Miles

What is your honest opinion on Les Miles and the quarterback situation at LSU? Miles knows that if he's to have any chance of repeating as national, or even SEC, champs, he's entirely dependent on Ryan Perrilloux. So, everyone knows he's not going to discipline him whatsoever. He's going to pull the same thing he did last year: suspend him in the spring and for cupcake games in the fall.

Miles doesn't have the character or integrity like that of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to truly discipline any of his star players because he knows his mediocrity as a coach will be exposed. That was proven at Oklahoma State. He's still riding on the coattails of Nick Saban, and all of Bayou country knows that. And the only reason he didn't take the Michigan job was because the truth got exposed early and was forced to save face. If he says otherwise, then he's as bad a liar as Roger Clemens.

Jim in Austin

Jim, you seem angry. Being an Oklahoma fan in Austin must have made you bitter. I understand.

But questioning Miles' coaching credentials raises an interesting issue. Would you rather have the best coach to not win a national championship or the worst one that did? I'm betting on the latter.

Besides, I don't think Miles is a bad coach. He's a little excitable, perhaps. But bad? No way. Not with a 62-27 overall record and a 4-2 bowl mark in seven seasons.

OK, so he was given the keys to a Ferrari when he replaced Saban at LSU. But he got the keys to a Fiero when he took over at Oklahoma State in 2001, and had three winning seasons in four years in Stillwater. That included two upset victories over Stoops and Oklahoma.

I'm also going to disagree with you on a couple of points on the Perrilloux issue. First of all, I wouldn't discount LSU as a championship contender if Perrilloux doesn't play. The Tigers will still be strong at just about every position, and in that scenario, teams can get by with a first-year starting quarterback.

Your Oklahoma Sooners did in 1985, when true freshman Jamelle Holieway was the quarterback of a national champion. And the Sooners were contenders last season with Sam Bradford as a redshirt freshman. Who's to say LSU's Jarrett Lee can't be an effective first-year starter, especially with so much talent around him?

But the Tigers shouldn't have to count on that. True, Perrilloux has been suspended three times, most recently for violating team rules. But Miles runs the team, and as long as he hasn't run out of patience with Perrilloux, he shouldn't feel compelled to boot him.

At this point, Perrilloux's most serious offense is trying to enter a casino with a fake ID. That's not a big deal, especially compared to the transgressions of other players on other campuses.

The hope here is that Perrilloux will mature and behave responsibly.

Still waiting

I have been a Gamecock all my life. I have watched the football team roll out of the gate like a champion, only to go down in blazing mediocrity year after year. South Carolina is not afraid to spend money for coaches, facilities, etc. The fan base is as loyal any team could dream of. What will it take for Steve Spurrier to finally bring an SEC divisional title to South Carolina? And do you think breaking up the schedule more evenly would help their chances? We always finish the season with the "Orange Crush" and Arkansas.

Scott in South Carolina

Patience, Scott. It took the Red Sox about 100 years to end the "Curse of the Bambino." Well, the Chicken Curse will take some time to wear off, too. But having Spurrier on your sideline certainly should give you hope and optimism.

Last season, Spurrier truly felt South Carolina was in position to make a legitimate run at the SEC East title. After victories over Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky, it appeared he was right.

Then came Vanderbilt and well, I'll spare you the gory details. You've been through enough all ready.

I believe the key for South Carolina is finally getting a quarterback Spurrier believes in and trusts. He didn't appear comfortable with Blake Mitchell or Chris Smelley last year. Perhaps redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia will be the guy.

The Gamecocks also must bolster their soft run defense. But with 10 starters returning, linebacker Jasper Brinkley coming back and new coordinator Ellis Johnson coming in, the Gamecocks figure to make some improvement there.

In addition, I don't believe the schedule is a factor in South Carolina's failure to win the East. Every season, Georgia plays Auburn from the West. Tennessee plays Alabama and Florida plays LSU. So, in that regard, South Carolina may have an edge.

The biggest issue is that South Carolina has to play Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.

Dawg dreaming

I was wondering what you thought about Georgia's chances at a national championship next fall. With Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and an extremely experienced defense, it looks as if the Dawgs could win it all. What do you think?

Ross in Athens, Ga.

As reported last month (Title Traits, Feb. 1), Georgia fits the profile of a potential national champion. It returns the starting quarterback from a bowl-winning team and returns the majority of starters from a top-ranked defense (14th last season).

Oh, yeah: Having Moreno - one of the best backs in the nation - certainly helps.

I'm on record as picking Georgia as my preseason No. 1 team, a prediction that has sparked debate, disagreement and disrespect from all over - especially Baton Rouge.

But Georgia was arguably the best team in the nation in the second half of last season, and the Bulldogs figure to ride that momentum into another great season in '08. The potential stumbling block is a treacherous schedule that features a trip to Arizona State and a four-game stretch in which the Bulldogs must play LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn each away from home.

Clemson's chances

Do you think that Clemson ever will become a real-deal powerhouse? And could you rank the top quarterbacks and running backs for this coming season?

Ryan in Greenville, S.C.

Frankly, I'm surprised Clemson isn't already a real-deal powerhouse. Two seasons ago, I thought the Tigers might be a national championship contender. They had almost everyone coming back, and although the quarterback wasn't a returning starter, he was a senior who had played.

So what happens? The Tigers lose close to Boston College in double-overtime in the second game and underachieved all season.

The first step for Clemson to become a real powerhouse would be to win the ACC, and 2008 could be the year. The Tigers return six offensive starters and eight defensive starters from a team that was a dropped pass away from reaching the ACC Championship Game, so that looks promising.

But Clemson has teased so many times before. The Tigers have to prove they belong among the nation's elite.

As far as the elite quarterbacks and running backs, here's who I would take at this point:

Quarterbacks: 1. Tim Tebow, Florida; 2. Chase Daniel, Missouri; 3. Pat White, West Virginia; 4. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech; 5. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma.

Running backs: 1. Chris Wells, Ohio State; 2. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia; 3. LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh; 4. P.J. Hill, Wisconsin; 5. Marlon Lucky, Nebraska.

Pryor a priority for success?

I personally don't think Terrelle Pryor is coming to Michigan. But if he does, would that give Michigan a chance for success this season? How about the chances without Pryor?

George in Michigan
I think Michigan will have a solid season, no matter who is at quarterback. Certainly, the vastly talented Pryor would be welcomed in Ann Arbor and would seem the perfect fit for coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.

But he still would be a freshman, and first-year quarterbacks usually need polishing before they excel at the Division I-A level.

If Pryor doesn't choose Michigan, redshirt freshman Steven Threet was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school - where he played in a spread offense.

The reason Michigan figures to be better in its first season under Rodriguez than West Virginia was when he took over there in 2001 and went 3-8 is that the Wolverines' defense figures to be strong. Michigan returns its four starters on the defensive line, a linebacker and both cornerbacks. The defense should keep the Wolverines close and lead the way in several victories.

How many? Don't expect a Big Ten title, but I'd anticipate another bowl appearance.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Click here to send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag.

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