Sprints Just Fades Away // 06.11.09

Old coaches never die. A fascinating (and fairly long) piece about "Ears" Whitworth, almost indisputably the worst coach Alabama has ever had. It's obviously written so that the football-impaired can read it -- really, does anyone need a definition of "personnel depth"? -- but it's great reading for SEC fan and history buff alike. Oh, and everything old is new again.

In a desperate attempt to fix his ailing offense, Whitworth took the overall concept of the split-T scheme -- the gaps and mismatches created by spreading out the offensive line and tight ends -- and combined it with a wide-open passing attack. ...

Reporters covering the Tide didn’t know what to make of the high-flying, pass-happy offensive system that Whitworth had concocted. Three writers -- Max Moseley from the Montgomery Advertiser, Ed Miles from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Bill Smith from the CW -- all described it as "the spread formation." ...

Ears also attempted to address his team’s depth issues, signing an enormous freshman class of 39 athletes. ...

Bryant -- folks called him "Bear" -- told The News he was not interested in the job.

"I have not been approached by anybody...and I don’t want to be approached by anybody," Bryant said. "I am very happy at Texas A&M, I expect to spend the remainder of my career right here."

Bryant added: "I guess I'm going to have to say it ... " You can finish the joke yourself. The whole piece is worth a read. (HT: kleph at Roll Bama Roll)

Meanwhile, the Mayor's intrepid -- and so far, against the rules -- quest to get Erk Russell in the Hall of Fame continues, as he is now a member of the august group that will select the Hall of Fame inductees. He does know that Mark Richt isn't eligible yet, right? In all seriousness, the idea that Russell isn't in the hall is laughable -- so the best of luck to any attempt to right the wrong.

Law and Order. Alabama news from both the NCAA and enforcement officials that, you know, actually scare people.

Up first: It looks the Tide football team will get off with a relatively light punishment for Textbookgate.

The NCAA will announce Thursday that the Alabama football team must vacate all wins in 2005 through 2007 that included players involved in violations of textbook disbursement policy, a person with knowledge of the ruling said.

That number is at least 10, another source said. Alabama will not have to give up its 2007 win over Tennessee or its bowl win that season. ...

The penalties do not include scholarship losses for football, the sources said.

The best news? They won't have to vacate any wins over Auburn. Oh, wait a minute ...

And Alabama Attorney General Troy King closes the Andre Smith case. Apparently, no laws were broken, though common sense is always a victim when it comes to Smith and agents.

Meanwhile, in a Gator Clause post that essentially argues that thuggery is necessary to championship ambitions -- no, I'm not exaggerating -- Jeremy Foley essentially reveals that the Florida football team would be an al Qaeda sleeper cell were it not for Urban Meyer.

"However, Urban Meyer and his staff are the best that I have seen in modifying behavior and, at the end of day, the majority of the players who come through this program will make us all proud -- and not just because they are good football players."

See? We should all just be glad they haven't blown anything up.

Play Ball! Literally hundreds of players were drafted in the MLB Draft on the second day Wednesday, so rather than try to plow through them all and present a long list of names in anything approaching a coherent format -- here is the MLB.com Draft Central, and here is their Draft Tracker, sortable by school. (Hint: A team that is "University of ... " will be found under the U's.) Have fun. The interesting thing about MLB.com is that they're the "official" Web site of MLB, but they're also editorially independent, so it's objective-ish information.

The Other Draft. Other fans are nervous because of the whole NBA Draft. Gamecocks are wondering whether their best player will bolt for the Association or the destination du jour.

Devan Downey texted his high school coach today, saying it was "50-50" he would return to South Carolina. ...

A few other people I have spoken to today think it’s closer to 100 percent that Downey will not return for his senior year. The scenario that has gained the most traction is that Downey would withdraw from the draft by Monday then play next year in Europe and re-enter the draft in 2010.

Tipton says Jodie Meeks is unlikely to decide before the weekend, despite rumors.

A note on Boy Wonder Lane Kiffin. Because kidbourbon called to my attention the continuing discussion of the Mayor's thoughts on Tennessee verbose coach, then posted a FanPost that made the Front Page at Rocky Top Talk, I will reluctantly re-enter the Kiffin Wars just once more for a rejoinder. The rest of my thoughts will be reserved for next week, when I invite Tennessee fans to join us for a discussion of Boy Wonder.

In any case, KB's post is thoughtful and uses this stuff we call "rational argument," so a few points.

We know that Kiffin had great success as an offensive coordinator at USC. This is fact. It is not open for debate.

There are quibbles -- as even KB acknowledges -- but the substance is pretty much dead-on. Boy Wonder had a great deal of success as an offensive coordinator at Southern Cal. (As C&F is a fan of the "real" USC, he doesn't use that abbreviation.) That doesn't, though, mean that he will be a successful head coach. There are plenty of successful coordinators who have produced mixed results as head coach -- Paging Charlie Weis -- or been outright bad at it. It is akin to saying a good colonel will make a good general or a good vice president will make a good president. Neither is true.

But he was not exactly dealt pocket aces either. The Raiders were 2-14 in 2006. In 2007, with Kiffin, they were 4-12. They were 1-4 when he got fired the next year. They ended up at 5-11….winning at roughly the same clip with Kiffin as without him. Did he turn the franchise around? No, he did not. But he did get two more wins in his first year than they got the previous year….the team did improve.

Eh. A fairly good point, though I would argue that the Raiders merely went from "more awful" to "less awful" while Kiffin was there. Besides, the NFL is one of the easiest leagues in sports in which to engineer a turnaround. The league is literally built on giving last year's dog a chance to get to the playoffs -- with the exception of Detroit, which is just terrible. Boy Wonder was not entirely responsible for the mess in Oakland, and KB rightly points out that it wouldn't prove he would be a bad college coach even if he was. I'm just not sure how much improvement was really there.

He brought in a legendary defensive coordinator. He brought in the best recruiter in the business. He brought in a stable of other very good assistant coaches -- who may not be household names like the elder Kiffin and Orgeron -- but who are, by all accounts, very good coaches.

Again, fair points. I'm still eager to see how Gramps Google comes to terms with the spread, which he never really had to defend in the NFL. But bringing in good assistants and being a good head coach are still two different matters.

He showed right at the outset that he does have some recruiting chops. If it is impossible to fail running an offense with Reggie Bush (but, of course, not Knowshon Moreno) as your tailback, well then it will be pretty darn tough to fail running an offense with Bryce Brown at the same position.

First of all, RECRUITING is not coaching. Orgeron is a great recruiter. Ron Zook is a great recruiter. No, you can't win if you can't RECRUIT, and doing so well is an essential function of the head coach. But to argue that recruiting well automatically equals winning is a provably false point.

Secondly, not to get too deep in the weeds on this one, but Knowshon Moreno is not Reggie Bush. (Sorry, Georgia fans.) Don't get me wrong: Moreno is a great player and a great running back, and it's an open question as to how good Bush would have been had he been facing SEC defenses. But Bush was electric in a way that Moreno was not.

And, finally, we do not know that Bryce Brown is anywhere close to Reggie Bush. We have good reason to believe he'll be a quality college football player, but it's a long way from that to even Knowshon Moreno.

As to the criticism of my use of "Boy Wonder" for Kiffin: I am hardly alone in giving him a nickname. (See here for the vogue moniker, here for Blutarsky's use of Junior and Laner.) It might not be the best nickname for him, but it's mine. Just like Gramps Google, the Golden Tebow, St. Nick (don't use it as much; maybe I should), the Gypsy Coach of the South (Bobby Petrino) and a handful of others I've either used or picked up, I give some people nicknames. It's a blogging tradition.

I want to address this more next week (BIG HINT), so I'll keep it short: I sincerely hope that I've not overly offended Tennessee fans with my commentary on Lane Kiffin. (Happy?) Emphasis on overly, of course. While we aim to offer substantive analysis of the SEC here, particularly once the season gets underway, this site is intentionally irreverent. As I've said before: We've poked fun at things Steve Spurrier has said. The Mayor mildly chided me a couple of months ago for reveling in Georgia's misfortunes of the past year. This was before I pretty severely tweaked Mark Richt for it's so hot in Jacksonville. (To his credit, the Mayor agrees with me on the substance, at least, of my complaint.)

If Kiffin is a great coach, I'll acknowledge it when he proves it. I've never been scared to be wrong -- if I were, it would be time to get out of the blogging business. And I've never been scared to admit when I'm wrong -- if I were, I'd apply for a job on College Gameday.

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