Hitting the Links Is Not Happy Valley
Get ready for another fun off-season, as Ben Axelrod writes.
Up until this point, I was pretty optimistic about Penn State's 2016 season. Christian Hackenberg had to be replaced, but that offered a lot of possibilities to improve the offense's efficiency. A new offensive coordinator had to be brought in, and Joe Moorhead looked like the perfect candidate. But even in the off-season, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of time to go from hunter to hunted.
Shoop was the best thing Penn State had going for it. James Franklin is a fine coach, better than some give him credit for, but he's not elite, and he needs the right pieces in place and the stars to align to have a really great season. I'm less worried about how he manages the roster - there's still enough explosiveness to replace Geno Lewis, and Franklin was able to make more out of less at Vanderbilt. But can he bring in the right assistant coaches to cover up his own limitations? Getting the offensive line hire right is a must.
A couple other nuggets: as expected, Nebraska's Vincent Valentine will depart for the draft. Also, I totally missed this, but Berkley Edwards won't be suiting up for Minnesota anymore. He was granted a release at the end of December to pursue his track and field career. I'd say good luck, but I know he'll be very successful.
Pry, like Shoop and Moorhead, made his way through the lower levels of football until he got his break with Franklin. Now he's got to reach for another level of success.
My support for Wilson has been discussed before. But regardless of his upsides, Wilson will be in hot water with another losing season in 2016.
Wisconsin has some interesting similarities to Oregon in the late 2000's in terms of recruiting - exceeding its star rankings, a very strong identity in a northern climate, and a tendency to promote program guys and dabble in recruiting down south. Oregon's recruiting was about to take off as Chip Kelly consistently made BCS games, and the blue-chips they brought in helped soften the blow of losing Chip Kelly. It also got them another championship game appearance.
But while Oregon lost Kelly to the NFL, Wisconsin has now lost good coaches to Georgia (Thomas Brown, RB coach), LSU (Dave Aranda), and Arkansas (Bret Bielema) in the last few years. They have also not improved their recruiting, as the 2016 class has only three blue-chip players. Barry Alvarez needs to invest in this football program if they want to make the big stages and continue to grow. That means getting some four-star receivers, talking to top running backs and getting them on campus, and keeping the great coaches around longer than a few seasons.
And while we're on the subject, Purdue's Mitch Daniels released an open letter that discussed athletic spending. It's a heavy read even when broken down by Travis Miller, but an interesting topic that will keep coming up again and again.
Grrrrrrrrr. Also: grrr.
This team will be interesting to follow. How do they handle this year's success? How do they navigate a new set of challenges in next year's Big Ten West (not to mention out-of-division games with Ohio State, Michigan State, and Duke)? Can the receivers finally step up, now that the offensive line has?
Ferguson was a lot of fun to watch, so here's a highlight video I dug up of him.
Mehringer was one of the more interesting hires by Ash (fun fact: a group of owls is called a parliament, thanks to the Chronicles of Narnia), but he'll have to get really creative with Laviano and Rettig.
Even with athletic quarterbacks, Urban Meyer has been known to use Wildcat plays with guys like Jalin Marshall or Percy Harvin. That's got to be one of the things on the table here as well with a bunch of good running backs and Janarion Grant.
In Rutgers recruiting news, quarterback Anthony Russo has decommited. He's the eighth decommit in this cycle.
This has been discussed before, but Dantonio is leaning less on his considerable abilities to scout and develop talent, and more on competing with other top schools for pure speed and skill - at least when it comes to the receivers. And that's exactly what they needed to do to keep growing as a program.
Also, your weekly Dwayne Haskins update: not looking great for the Terps.
A good column by PennLive. Penn State will have a lot to prove in 2016, and in that regard they firmly belong next to Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana, and not Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State.
HOLY GEEZ PUT ON A SHIRT listen to Kyle.