Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has thoughts on Alabama’s loss to Texas, five coaches who continue to be on the hot seat early this season and the Michigan State coaching situation following the Mel Tucker allegations.
1. SABAN’S REACTION AFTER ALABAMA LOSS
I’m used to seeing Alabama coach Nick Saban yelling at players, being surly even with a massive fourth-quarter lead because of a minor mistake on special teams or throwing a tantrum because of a controversial call by the officials.
I didn’t see that Saturday night in Alabama’s 34-24 loss to Texas. Not on the sidelines, where he was unusually calm. Not in the post-game press conference where he did evoke tons of wisdom but didn’t look all that wrangled.
One of two things is going on here: One, Saban knows his team isn’t elite this year or Saban has to take a different tact with this group because of youth and inexperience. I refuse to believe he’s mellowed in early 70s.
In the presser, Saban said he was happy this was the midterm and not the final. That his team now has two choices: To throw in the towel, quit and be mediocre or they can find, grind and do the hard things to be successful.
I’m just not sure the talent is there. Quarterback Jalen Milroe went 14 of 27 with two touchdowns and two picks. Through two games, Milroe also leads the team in rushing yards and TDs, and is tied in rushing attempts.
The receiving corps is fine and has elite speed but this isn’t Julio Jones or Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs or you name it. It’s just not. Texas QB Quinn Ewers threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns and Texas scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win.
Maybe there were some recruiting misses along the way. Maybe the portal (Ewers transferred, Texas WR Adonai Mitchell who had two TD catches transferred from Georgia) has snuck up on the Crimson Tide in ways not calculated yet.
Alabama is good enough to win the remainder of its games. The Alabama dynasty is not crumbling. But this is also a team that I wouldn’t be shocked to see lose three games.
For Alabama, this wasn’t the midterm or the final. This was the first day of class and the student stumped the teacher.
2. FIVE COACHES NOT HELPING THEMSELVES
Every year, there are a bunch of coaches on the hot seat and now a couple weeks into the season, some have helped themselves – and some haven’t. Here are five that could remain on the hot seat throughout the season:
Jimbo Fisher: Last year, the Texas A&M offense was putrid so Fisher swallowed his pride and hired Bobby Petrino to call plays. And now the defense doesn’t look very good after getting the doors blown off in a 48-33 loss to Miami. The secondary looked slow and Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke torched them. In only one of Fisher’s six seasons have the Aggies not lost one of their first two games. Miami hadn’t scored that many points since its game against Bethune-Cookman last year. Through 62 games, Kevin Sumlin had a better record than Fisher.
Jeff Hafley: Hafley has a phenomenal resume in college and the NFL and he’s a smart guy but recruiting to – and winning at – Boston College is very hard. The Eagles lost to Northern Illinois in the season opener and were only a slight favorite over Holy Cross and slipped by, 31-28. Now Florida State comes to town this weekend. Recruiting is always a challenge in Chestnut Hill and there’s just no spark there right now.
Neal Brown: Other than the shortened COVID year in 2020, Brown has three losing seasons in Morgantown and starting off this campaign at Penn State is a tough way to begin. The Mountaineers dodge Texas this year which helps but the schedule still presents numerous challenges and so some surprise wins have to be in store.
Billy Napier: To consider firing Napier this early in his tenure would be absurd especially since he has a track record of winning and being a great recruiter (the Gators have done very well on the trail since his arrival). But at the same time, Florida is too proud a program to lose to Vanderbilt or get blown out by Oregon State in the bowl game. The Gators started the season by getting smacked by Utah with a non-existent running game. There’s a lot to fix and Napier needs time but after back-to-back 6-7 seasons (one under Napier), fans are getting antsy.
Tony Elliott: Every coach in Virginia history has had a losing record in Year 1 dating back to 1946 when Arthur Guepe went 4-4-1 (even George Welch went 2-9 in his first year and Bronco Mendenhall went 2-10) so Elliott’s 3-9 campaign wasn’t historically bad. But the Cavaliers have to show improvement in Year 2 and beyond, and I’m not sure they’re there yet. A home loss to James Madison last week was almost a setup because that’s a good football team. But the ACC schedule doesn’t get much easier and I’m not sure where this Virginia team goes from here.
3. THE UGLY SITUATION AT MICHIGAN STATE
I don’t know what’s going on at Michigan State and neither does anybody else except for the two parties involved – coach Mel Tucker and Brenda Tracy, a sexual violence prevention advocate and rape survivor.
What I do know is that Tracy has made allegations against the Michigan State coach, who has now been suspended without pay, and Tucker vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
What I also know is that this looks like it’s going to be a prolonged situation without any outcome any time soon and that could be very troublesome for a team that doesn’t know what’s happening and a recruiting class that has stayed intact – so far. But uncertainty kills recruiting.
By no means am I putting football ahead of the serious allegations made by Tracy, nor is the sport as important as Tucker defending himself, but these players and these recruits have a right to stability as well. They’re not getting it.
As Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are battling for a chance at the College Football Playoff, here is Michigan State in yet another scandal. The players that chose Michigan State over many other Power Five programs didn’t want this.
The numerous transfers the Spartans took this offseason, including some elite players, didn’t want this. The recruits who want clarity and certainty when choosing a school didn’t want this.
Even if Tucker returns or is exonerated, how will he be viewed? If he departs, then what?
This story goes way beyond football but football is also a big piece and consideration here because it’s not just Tucker’s and Tracy’s lives affected. It’s every kid in that locker room and every kid deciding now whether to stick with their pledge or just wash their hands of it.