Davis Webb's move to Cal reveals what's right about grad transfers
Kliff Kingsbury hadn't tweeted in more than a month, but the Texas Tech coach broke his online silence Saturday to salute … a player who is leaving to play for Cal this season.
Whether Mel Kiper will wind up correct regarding the quarterbacks in the 2017 draft remains to be seen, but the fact is an absurd amount of quarterback talent has spent time in Lubbock of late. In 2013, Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb and Michael Brewer split time. Mayfield won a Big 12 title as Oklahoma's starting quarterback last season, and Brewer started two seasons at Virginia Tech. After those two transferred in 2014, Patrick Mahomes joined Webb at Texas Tech. Webb began the season as the starter but dislocated his left shoulder against Oklahoma State. Webb and Mahomes each finished that season hobbled, but Mahomes won the starting job in 2015 and never gave it back.
Such is the dilemma at quarterback. The guy who doesn't win the left tackle job can be the right tackle. The guy who doesn't win the boundary corner job can play field corner. But the guy who doesn't win the quarterback job has to change positions or change teams. And Kingsbury stocked his quarterback room so well that it was inevitable that former Red Raiders passers would wind up starting elsewhere*.
* It still remains absurd that Mayfield had to sacrifice a year of eligibility to transfer to Oklahoma. He walked on at Texas Tech and walked on at Oklahoma. The transfer rules are bad enough for scholarship underclassmen; they're patently unfair for players paying their own way.
For Webb, elsewhere will be Cal. That wasn't the original plan, but the plan changed. Webb is taking advantage of the best rule on the NCAA's books to finish his career at a program that needs him and to work on a master's degree at one of America's best universities.
The problem was that Cal wasn't the only program that needed Webb. Colorado did, too. Webb had signed a financial aid agreement with the Buffaloes, where he would have provided a one-year bridge as starter Sefo Liufau recovers from a foot injury. But since there is no National Letter of Intent for graduate transfers, Webb could keep his options open until he set foot in a classroom at his next school. He did that, and a better situation came along.
The great news here is that everyone acted like adults. Unlike some of the more outspoken college basketball coaches, who have ripped the graduate transfer rule while actively recruiting graduate transfers, the Colorado coaches weren't hypocrites about it. Just as Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre bailed on San Jose State when Colorado offered more money, Webb bailed on the Buffs when he learned he had a chance to play with more raw talent in an offense run exactly like the one he left. When it became clear Webb was headed to Cal, Colorado co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, who had worked with Webb at Texas Tech before taking a job at his alma mater, tweeted this:
See, coaches? Isn't that easy? The players aren't any more or less loyal, on the whole, than the coaches or the schools. This is America, and everyone is supposed to seek the best possible situation. That isn't something to criticize. The Colorado staff is probably quite bummed Webb didn't choose to come to Boulder. These guys may be coaching for their jobs this season. In a just world, Buffs coaches wouldn't have any concerns about job security. The previous Colorado administration dug a deep hole and kept right on shoveling through the premature firing of Jon Embree. MacIntyre and his staff should have years to set this thing right, but they don't. The program has gotten better but not fast enough to satisfy an instant-everything society. Despite all this pressure, Chiaverini took the high road in his public comments. That's commendable.
Webb made his decision after a careful breakdown of the teams. Colorado probably has a better defense, but Cal can put a better line in front of him and give him more athletic targets even though the Bears lost their top six receivers from 2015. The new group of receivers includes Demetris Robertson, one of the top wideout prospects in the class of 2016. Robertson, from Savannah, Ga., is expected to enroll at Berkeley next month. There also is the small matter of the future. Webb will replace the quarterback who went first overall in the NFL draft. If Webb bears any resemblance to Jared Goff, it could help him come April.
But perhaps the biggest factor in Webb's decision is that he walks into an offense nearly identical to the one he ran the past three seasons at Texas Tech. Had Tony Franklin chosen to remain Cal's offensive coordinator instead of leaving for the same job at Middle Tennessee State, Webb might have faced a more difficult decision. Cal coach Sonny Dykes is an Air Raid guy just like Kingsbury, but the system Dykes and Franklin ran at Cal wasn't as pure a distillation as Kingsbury's.
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Remember, Kingsbury played quarterback for Air Raid co-creator Mike Leach and learned how to coach the offense in 2008 and '09 as a quality control assistant for former Leach lieutenant Dana Holgorsen when Holgorsen served as Kevin Sumlin's offensive coordinator at Houston. In Kingsbury's second year as a quality control assistant, the Cougars took on a graduate assistant who was one year out of Missouri State. His name was Jake Spavital. Spavital and Kingsbury became close friends, and they learned to coach offense the same way. They were so similar that when Kingsbury got the head coaching job at his alma mater after the 2012 season, Sumlin hired Spavital—then quarterbacks coach under Holgorsen at West Virginia—to run the Texas A&M offense. The Sumlin-Spavital union didn't work as well as either had hoped, and Sumlin cut Spavital loose earlier this year. Fortunately for Spavital, Franklin had just left Cal and Dykes needed an experienced Air Raid practitioner.
So Dykes hired Spavital. Suddenly, the school that produced the top pick in the draft ran the same offense Webb ran in Lubbock. The learning curve would be non-existent. In fact, Webb could help teach it to his new teammates. Whether that will give Cal a chance in a more-open-than-usual Pac-12 North remains to be seen. But if Webb comes out firing, the Bears could have a shot. Meanwhile, the 2015 Texas Tech team might wind up producing two first-round quarterbacks.
A random ranking
Today, we'll rank parts of speech.
*Verbs don't only make sentences move. We can add to them to create gerunds, participles and infinitives. They power the language.
** Try writing without using "a," "an" and "the." I dare you.
1. Last Thursday, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that the Texas attorney general's office ruled that Baylor's police department cannot use the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to block access to all the reports requested by news organizations relating to sexual violence and violence against women on Baylor's campus. While the AG's office ruled FERPA shields some of the records, the department will have to release information requested by reporters. This likely includes the request filed by ESPN's Paula Lavigne, who has done the best reporting on the Baylor case. So don't be shocked to see another round of stories involving other cases that were either unknown or unreported.
2. After the most recent round of Baylor stories last week, several readers wondered why Baylor's Board of Regents hasn't released the report it commissioned from law firm Pepper Hamilton. As a private school, Baylor doesn't have to release anything. (Its police department does because criminal records fall under Texas open records laws.) Also, the report probably isn't finished. The regents were briefed on the findings of the Pepper Hamilton attorneys on May 13, but that doesn't mean the work is done. If the Pepper Hamilton attorneys are smart, they'll wait until after the Baylor PD document dump and the resulting stories. If the report the regents bought doesn't include the accounts of the people interviewed by the media outlets, it risks looking like a whitewash. Baylor can't afford that. So don't be surprised if the final report takes longer. There is a risk in that, too. Baylor doesn't have to make any decisions—or any employee changes—if it doesn't want to, but if everything remains status quo, there won't be many football-related questions when coach Art Briles hits the stage at Big 12 media days in July. That said, it's more important to be thorough and correct than to adhere to any sort of artificial deadline.
3. The NCAA is worried about getting a fair trial in Los Angeles in former USC assistant Todd McNair's defamation suit against the organization. That's funny. McNair didn't exactly get a fair trail in the NCAA's judicial system—which is the reason the NCAA got sued in the first place.
4. Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times published an excellent interview with Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock this week. In it, Babcock discusses the Hokies' game against Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway, changing donation requirements for football season ticket holders and the still-in-development (we think) ACC Network. The funniest revelation is that Virginia Tech and Maryland agreed to terms on a 2029 football game in record time because, at the time of the negotiations, neither school had a head coach to complain about scheduling. Part one of the interview is here and part two is here.
5. Speaking of the Hokies, Frank Beamer is doing retirement right…
7. Former Florida quarterback Will Grier enrolled in classes at West Virginia last week, and Mountaineers coach Dana Holgersen said in a statement that he expects Grier—who is currently serving a one-year suspension for violating the NCAA's substance abuse policy—to be eligible to play in the 2017 season opener.
There has been some confusion as to whether Grier is skipping out on some of his punishment. He's not, and some simple math can clear up any misconceptions. Had Grier stayed at Florida, the current redshirt sophomore would be eligible to play again in October. He would have two and a half seasons of eligibility remaining. Because he chose to transfer, he must sit out the entire 2016 season. So now he's eligible to play again in September 2017. He'll have two seasons of eligibility remaining. Two and a half is more than two. Grier actually will sit longer than the original NCAA penalty required.
8. Former Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk has transferred to Eastern Kentucky. Mauk graduated from Missouri last week, but he would have been eligible to compete right away anyway because he is dropping down to the FCS. Mauk, who had substance abuse issues at Missouri, is following the path of former Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence, who played his final collegiate season at Eastern Kentucky before becoming a second-round pick in the NFL draft.
9. In other quarterback transfer news, Connor Mitch will graduate from South Carolina and transfer. That leaves approximately 72 potential candidates for the Gamecocks' starting job.
10. It's been a slow news week in college football, but HBO released its LBJ biopic last week. Here's Johnson ordering pants in 1964.
What's eating Andy?
Bill Simmons stole my editor again. This is becoming a thing. In 2013, Simmons swiped the great Mallory Rubin from SI to bolster Grantland's editing team. She's now one of the big cheeses at Simmons's new site, The Ringer. Mallory also is better known as The Mother of Dragons on HBO's After The Thrones show. This month, Simmons pilfered the great Ben Glicksman for The Ringer. The column you're reading—at least the format and the sweet name—was Ben's idea. He had a lot of great ideas, and I'll miss him dearly. I just hope the writers at The Ringer understand how lucky they are to have Ben and Mallory on their side.
What's Andy eating?
I approached the right corner of the strip mall in Sarasota, Fla., last week with extreme caution. Southwest Florida barbecue had burned me before, and I didn't want to get my hopes too high only to have them dashed again. A few years ago, some readers recommended a place in Ellenton, Fla., that they claimed served some of the best barbecue they'd ever eaten. So I visited. The ribs tasted microwaved and came slathered in a sauce that belonged on waffles. As I chewed the ruined pork, I extrapolated. I was in an area populated mostly by transplanted Yankees. They probably like this slop, I reasoned. And with that, I unfairly stereotyped an entire area.
Fortunately, the restaurant on the right corner of that strip mall proved me wrong. Roadside Rib Shack doesn't look like a shack. Given its location, it looks more like a nail salon, a laundromat or a Chinese buffet. In fact, a nail salon sits two doors down. The laundromat? Three doors down. The buffet? Four doors down. But the building doesn't matter when judging barbecue. Only the meat matters. That place in Ellenton looked the part but turned its ribs to mush. Roadside Rib Shack, the king of the shopping center, smokes ribs the way the good lord had in mind when He created pigs and made them so delicious.
RRS sources slabs with thick pillows of meat atop each bone. They are then cooked so that the meat disengages from the bone with a gentle tug. (Remember, if someone tells you they make fall-off-the-bone ribs, just order a salad and save your calories for another day.) RRS serves its ribs without sauce because they don't need any. They are tender and juicy and the seasoning produces a bark that provides all the necessary flavor enhancement.
RRS does offer several sauces, of course. Their mustard-based sauce would make certain South Carolinians proud. The most interesting of the options was the Sweet Heat. Plenty of sauces combine sugar and pepper, but this one tasted different yet familiar. I couldn't quite place it until a friend's taste buds provided the answer. "It's sort of like sweet and sour sauce," he said. He was correct. Imagine your favorite Chinese takeout place's sauce with less sugar, more tomato and copious amounts of red pepper. It may sound all wrong, but it works on the ribs and on RRS's excellent pulled pork.
If you choose only one meat, get the ribs. Then order some collard greens. And you're going to want more of the jalapeño cornbread, so just order that off the top. After you've finished, don't be surprised if you start looking for shacks in every strip mall you pass.