In this week's #DearAndy mailbag: Choosing one player to clone and create a full roster, thoughts on Will Muschamp and rule changes for better game flow.
Will Muschamp has hit nearly every point on the coaching continuum in the past 10 years. He has been a hot coordinator/coach-in-waiting. He has been hired to run a program with two recent national titles. He has been a punching bag who got fired from that job. He has been hired to take over a reclaimation project. So what is he now?
From Richard: #DearAndy, what are your thoughts on Will Muschamp and his tenure thus far at South Carolina and his trajectory going forward?
If Muschamp underachieved at Florida, he has overachieved to an equal degree at South Carolina. His first season, he took a three-win roster and won six games. Last season, he won nine games. And while the gap between nine wins and 10 or 11 wins is probably as wide as the gap between six wins and nine wins, the talent level in Columbia is going to keep getting better for the next few years. Depending on how quickly Dan Mullen can make Florida better and Jeremy Pruitt can make Tennessee better, the Gamecocks have a chance to be the second-best team in the SEC East behind Georgia.
When Muschamp got the South Carolina job, he was very honest about the mistakes that doomed his Florida tenure. He tried to impose a pro-style offense on a group recruited to run Urban Meyer’s spread option, and he hired Charlie Weis to run that offense. Had Muschamp hired a coordinator who would adjust the offense to the players on the roster, he’d probably still be at Florida. He did that at South Carolina with Kurt Roper. But after last season Muschamp fired Roper because, as he told The State (Columbia, S.C.), he felt the offense needed to be more productive. (The Gamecocks ranked No. 86 in the nation in yards per play last season.) He also would like to play at a higher tempo, which is something the Muschamp of 2011 never would have said.
Muschamp’s ability to recruit and develop defensive players—and develop great defensive game plans—has never been in doubt. The question is whether one of his teams can finally pair a dynamic offense with his defense. Muschamp promoted receivers coach Bryan McClendon to run the offense after giving him an extended audition in South Carolina’s Outback Bowl win against Michigan. It will be up to McClendon to get the most out of an offense that will have a third-year starter at quarterback (Jake Bentley) and gets back one of the SEC’s most electric playmakers in receiver Deebo Samuel, who missed most of last season after breaking his leg in September.
One thing Muschamp also must do is get more competitive in South Carolina’s biggest rivalry. Steve Spurrier spoiled Gamecocks fans by beating Clemson five times in a row from 2009-13, but South Carolina’s dip coincided with Clemson’s rise as a national power. The Tigers have won four in a row. Speaking to a group last month in Anderson, S.C., Georgia coach Kirby Smart gigged his former Bulldogs teammate Muschamp, saying he told Muschamp not to crack any jokes about Clemson until he beats the Tigers.
But here’s the thing. If Muschamp gets South Carolina in a position where the Gamecocks can be competitive with Clemson, they’ll be competitive against everyone else, too.
From @HarmoniousSmiff: If you had to pick one college football player in history to clone enough times to get a full roster, which player would make the best team?
I love this question so much. After thinking about this for the better part of a day, I’ve decided the player has to be Cam Newton. Newton was listed as 6’6”, 250 pounds on Auburn’s roster in 2010. He measured at 6’5” and 248 pounds at the NFL combine in February 2011. That inch doesn’t matter. There is no player in college football history who would work better for this exercise.
Newton is perfect because he’s a defensive end-sized quarterback who can run like a receiver. I can bulk up the Newton clones that I play on the offensive line to somewhere between 280 and 290. That’s not big compared to today’s college offensive linemen, but they’ll be ideal for the offense I’d run. Since I won’t have any 300 pounders but will have athletic 285-pounders blocking for a guy who can run and throw, I’m borrowing liberally from Tom Osborne’s mid-90s Nebraska playbook. Those teams regularly used the triple option as their play action in the pass game, and it simply devastated defenses. Now imagine jumbo-sized Newtons blocking for Newton at quarterback with Newton as the fullback and Newton as the I-back. Just watch this and picture 11 Newtons on the field running this offense:
With that run game, we probably wouldn’t need to throw. But we would throw just because it would be fun. Newton throwing to Newton at tight end and Newton at receiver also would be virtually unstoppable.
We might run into some trouble on defense. I’m not worried about any of the Newtons playing linebacker, but our corners might not be quite as fast as we’d like. They would, however, be huge. So we’d definitely jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. I’d bulk up some Newtons to play defensive tackle, but I’d worry about leverage issues given their height and relatively low weight. The Newton I’d have to play at nose would get destroyed on double teams, but remember, I have three Newtons at linebacker behind him. The Newton I play at the three technique might be quick enough to get penetration, Aaron Donald-style. We’re going to be multiple, but our base defense will be a 4-3 because I want two Cam Newtons screaming off the edge. That’s going to be our best chance to stop offenses. We have a secondary that averages 248 pounds. We need to get the quarterback on the ground.
From Justin: Which in-game rules (commercial time-out policies included) should be changed to enhance game flow?
Everyone wants to shorten games, but I don’t understand why. It doesn’t matter to me if a college football game takes longer than an NFL game. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority on this, and we will see changes designed to streamline the game.
The NCAA’s Football Rules Committee has suggested two changes that, if approved, would go into effect this season. These are using a 40-second clock between a touchdown and the conversion try and using a 40-second clock after a kickoff. I have no issue with either of these, which don’t take away any plays but do speed up the proceedings.
I also wouldn’t have a problem with a time limit for replay reviews. One thing the college game could borrow from the NFL is the idea of the challenge flag. Instead of reviewing every close call, coaches could get two challenge flags a game. That way officials would only review plays the coaches considered important. Perhaps keep the old rule of reviewing every close play for the final two minutes of games.
What I don’t want to see is a return to the clock rules the NCAA used for the 2006 season. This package of changes—including running the clock during possession changes and as soon as foot hit ball on a kickoff—shaved 15 minutes off the games. It also shaved an average of five points a game. Basically, those changes gave us 15 fewer minutes of football while keeping the amount of time for commercials steady. We were getting less product for the same price. That’s for suckers. Those rules only lasted a year for a reason.
There is another way to shorten games, of course. The networks that broadcast games could come to the realization that live sports are pretty much the only programming that forces people to watch ads. That makes that advertising real estate more valuable than it used to be. Meanwhile, our attention spans keep falling. We’re so accustomed to 10- and 15-second commercials before Internet videos that a 30-second spot seems interminable. So the networks should try charging the same price for a 20-second spot that they now charge for a 30-second spot. The advertisers might not have a choice but to pay it. Sure, the networks might just load up with more ads, but perhaps they can make the same money on commercials that take up less time. That would allow them to broadcast games in tighter windows.