Smart Links 2/22/2010

Last season, despite similar hype, Tennessee’s Eric Berry outshone USC’s Taylor Mays. One oft-cited flaw in Mays’s game was his over-reliance on the kill-shot — his desire to lay huge hits on receivers sometimes results in his getting out of position and either not breaking up the ball or just missing the angle. But oh, those hits were fierce.

The result, however, has been that his draft stock has fallen. As Dr Saturday notes, he went from a likely top 5 or 10 pick last year to a late first-rounder (and possibly even a second rounder) this year. But was this because Mays was freelancing, or was he coached to do it? In his words:

“I think there is some truth to [his reputation for going for too many big hits] but at the same time that is what I was coached to do. At USC, I was coached to deliver knockout shots. I have the potential athletically and mentally to catch the ball and go after the ball. In one week [at the Senior Bowl] I was able to go from only hitting receivers to going after the ball. I just want a chance to work with a coach who can help me do that.”

Doc Sat speculates that maybe this kind of coaching from Carroll is one of the reasons that his teams went from stunningly great turnover margins in his first six seasons to more down to earth levels. I do, however, have never been convinced that you can really coach turnovers. Teams that play a lot of zone defenses (well) tend to get more interceptions because they have more eyes on the ball, but that’s about it, really. Better talent too can help, but fumbling and even interceptions to a lesser extent tends to even out over time. I’m not saying coaches shouldn’t coach turnovers, but it’s not something there is a lot of control over. Six seasons is a lot, but not enough to prove that luck wasn’t a big factor.

2. Blutarsky observes that Auburn has made Gus Malzahn the SEC’s highest paid offensive coordinator at $500k a year. But the Senator also notices that Malzahn’s salary is still significantly less than several other defensive coordinators around the league, and wonders why that is. I think he hits on the most likely answer: Many of the head coaches have offensive backgrounds, and thus hire defensive coaches to complement that. Auburn, with head coach Gene Chizik, a former defensive coordinator, is just the opposite.

3. L.A. Times Reports on Pete Carroll’s and USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett’s meeting with the NCAA on the Reggie Bush/O.J. Mayo fiascoes: “USC representatives spent more than eight hours in a hotel ballroom fielding questions from the 10-member infractions committee.”

4. Offseason football writing often tends to turn into a catalogues of player arrests and petty offenses or injuries, which is more depressing than interesting to me (except when done exceptionally well). But, as Doc Sat (and others) point out, what’s going on at Oregon is worth a closer look, if for no other reason than that it might have very real effects on their football team in the fall.

5. Bill Walsh’s quarterback manual. Seriously. Do I need to say anything else? Just download it, and work your way through it. The best part? It’s not even that advanced or complicated. He used to send a lot of this stuff out to high school coaches he was recruiting or had relationships with. (Thanks to reader Topher for the link.)

6. New rules intended to clean up the game are moving through the system. From the Wiz:


You might recall Terrelle Pryor’s tribute to Michael Vick in Ohio State’s opener last season against Navy. The words “Mike” and “Vick” were written on his eye black.

Vick wasn’t alone. Tim Tebow got his faith-based message across each game, and countless other players had a message for viewers, from an area code or simple shout-out to mom. Those days are coming to an end.

The Football Rules Committee, meeting in Fort Lauderdale, voted to require players who wear eye black to use solid black with no words, logos, numbers or other symbols. The rule will be in effect for the 2010 season, pending approval by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel. The oversight panel regularly rubber stamps recommendations by the rules committee.

Other rules changes include a crackdown on taunting. Players who draw flags for taunting gestures on their way to a touchdown would have the penalty assessed from the spot of the foul, taking away the score. Penalties that occur in the end zone would continue to be assessed on the extra-point attempt, two-point conversion try or ensuing kickoff. That proposal, which received near-unanimous support, would take effect in 2011.

The committee also agreed to stringent standards on players who have suffered a concussion. Such players will now have to be cleared by a doctor before returning to competition.

TV monitors will be allowed in coaches’ booths in press boxes beginning in 2011. Feeds and equipment for home and visiting teams must be identical.

There will also be a requirement for a 10-yard buffer zone for pregame warmups. A no-player zone will be mandated between the 45-yard lines 60 minutes before kickoff.

  • Troy

    I’d draft Mays, I’d just tell him to aim lower. What do you think of using him as a S/LB hybrid, in a Tampa-2?

    Thanks so much for the Walsh book, it’s excellent.

  • Dustin

    Pryor’s right eye black said, “Mika” and according to him it was to represent his sister.

  • John

    In regards to the eye black question, how can they enforce this? Is this not a violation of the First Amendment? What will happen when a student sues the NCAA? I hope it happens…

  • Patrick


    Players have no right to play football. It is no different than an employer having a dress code. It is a condition of employment or in this case the opportunity to play college football. Would you object to players having profanity on their eye black? And if so where would the line be drawn as to what is profane and what isn’t. Also, should players be allowed to write whatever they want, where ever they want on their uniforms? The NCAA is merely eliminating what could potentially be a can of worms. If they eliminate all writing, then they don’t have to deal with possible litigation regarding banning some writing and allowing other writing.

  • Tyler

    Tight hips sink secondaries. I wouldn’t touch Mays in the first two rounds, not because of his kill-shot tendencies, but because he is a linebacker attempting to play safety.

    Anyway, I’ve always been thoroughly unimpressed with the USC defensive staff. They do less with more while their counterparts at Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, and wherever Nick Saban happens to be, end up wildly outperforming USC in relation to recruiting success/NFL output vs. Defensive efficiency.

    USC’s uber-simple 43 Under works because they always have better athletes than their opponents. Whenever they meet a team with equal athletes, they are embarrassed and their coaches have their pants around their legs ( Oregon any time they have a quarterback.) USC just put such a stranglehold on CFB recruiting the past 8 years, no one has been able to consistently get the athletes they have. Nick Saban got more out of his kids in two years than Carroll did in 5.

    Walsh manual was a good find; I’ve been through his Quarterback Fundamental Booklet multiple times and it gives pertinent advice towards today, perhaps the most important of which is a staggered progression when teaching the basics (footwork until it becomes acceptable, footwork + load, footwork + load + release, etc.)Great reminder to never put too much on a kid when teaching the most difficult position in sports.

  • The persistent fool

    As to the earlier First Amendment comment– a similar constitutional case was decided in the 60s. The court ruled that players could be dismissed from the football team at a public university for having afros. The court rejected their argument that they had a First Amendment right of free expression to have Afros (the players had argued that they had Afros to express their ethnic heritage).

    As you might guess, playing college football was a privilege.

  • dr

    The purpose of the first amendment is to keep the GOVERNMENT from arresting you or oppressing your free speech, not an employer or anybody else to which you have agreed to follow a code of conduct. By applying the constitution to uniform codes, they would basically be repealed as unconstitutional and players would be able to wear the uniforms of the opposing teams, tu-tus, suits of armor, etc., all in the name of freedom of expression.

    That being said, I think this is a stupid rule. Who is it exactly that has a problem with notes on the eye-black? Although I thought Pryor’s support of Vick was somewhat ridiculous, it did not upset me in the least.

  • Mr.Murder

    It was Marcus Vick the Buckeye wanted to show support for, instead?

    The Walsh playbook on 8/232 the page marked 6 atop, he shows a way of creating a mismatch via formation. The same formation, with base personnel in different positions. He puts X to HB and HB to X. The corner moves out, it lets him shift X to the second TE and suddenly he’s got LB by rules or a free safety on him.

    He used the exact same tactic(perhaps minus the shift, but from putting X to second TE in aligment) in the second Super Bowl win over the Bengals. Paul Brown had a hybrid type of TE in the Walsh assistant days and it coincided with Walsh’s arrival. Walsh basically wrote of using the trick plays before an opponent in the big games, a thing he learned from Paul Brown, Sr. This was an example of that as well, using a tactic he honed while working with the man, when the West Coast Offense was still the Ohio Valley Offense.

    Eventually he did that item directly with a position change, putting Earl Cooper to tight end, from his backfield position in the first Super season they had. He became a fixture there and it let his speed get off the line faster as a downfield target. Thus he had a hybrid tight end in position to mirror the same tactic he used as a Bengals coach. He also used Rodger Craig to in a veriety of places to get that formation matchup in the pass game.

  • Blair

    I believe you can coach turnovers. Ball drills, strip drills, tip drills, special teams drills. It’s a mindset to go after the ball more agressively in given situations.

  • “In regards to the eye black question, how can they enforce this? Is this not a violation of the First Amendment?”

    They can enforce this in the same way they enforce penalties for saying the wrong thing to an official. One does not have the right to free speech on a football field.

  • Dillon Markey

    I just have to say, I enjoy reading your blog. Maybe you could let me know how I can subscribing with it ? Also just thought I would tell you I found this site through Bing.

  • alright so I spent the last 5 mins looking for the same theme you’re using and cannot find it. Didn’t want to have to ask but really would like to use it for my site, could you let me know? I’ll look back here soon for any replies. Thank you