Bishop Media Sports Network

The Bright Sunshine

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been cloudy in The Sunshine State for the Big Four (UF, FSU, UCF & Miami). All four teams recently suffered setbacks and the storm clouds are building up around a couple programs.

Miami and Florida State are on the list of programs with a name that inspires nostalgia and memorable expectations, but with little or no reference to recent big-time success.

Manny Diaz and Mike Norvell may not be on the “hot seat” right now, but with recent performances their seat will be red hot in no time.

Speculation about Diaz and Norvell seems sure to start. Who could replace them in Coral Gables and Tallahassee? If fans had their way, both would be gone immediately.

Here’s a realistic list of replacements, so you won’t see James Franklin, Deion Sanders, Mario Cristobal, or Urban Meyer on this list.

  1. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota head coach: Fleck has a 27-20 record with two bowl game wins that includes an Outback Bowl win over Auburn.

Fleck is known for his motto Row the Boat. I could see Fleck leaving Minnesota for a high-end job like Florida State or Miami. In some respects (as bad as things are at UM and FSU), Fleck could be rowing his boat in Florida water next year.

  1. Mark Stoops, Kentucky head coach: In his ninth season, Stoops has a 52-50 record.

The Wildcats are a basketball school, but Stoops has made them somewhat respectable. Stoops has ties to the last of Miami’s glory days; he was the defensive back coach under Larry Coker from 2001-2003.

Both teams would prefer Mark’s brother Bob, but among realistic candidates, they’ll settle with Mark.

  1. Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina head coach: Chadwell hit the national radar with an 11-1 record in 2020.

Chadwell has built his system quickly during his time as a head coach. Coastal Carolina went from three, to five, to 11 wins in Chadwell’s first three seasons.

Coastal Carolina couldn’t afford to keep Chadwell if either Florida State or Miami came calling. Chadwell’s track record of building a winner will bring Power 5 money, so watch out for his name.

  1. Lane Kiffen, Ole’ Miss head coach: Kiffen has been the head coach for the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers, USC Trojans, Florida Atlantic Owls and his current gig with Ole’ Miss.

Kiffen is a relentless recruiter and offensive mastermind. His name will be thrown into discussion for every job opening in 2021.

He would be a perfect fit with both programs, because he knows the terrain and he’s a fierce competitor.

1.Tony Elliott, Clemson Offensive Coordinator:  This OC has been in talks for several jobs in past years.

He has been waiting for the right job and most importantly, a big-time job.

Elliott has the best resumé and accolades for a non-head coach. He is a respected recruiter in the South Florida area, and that is essential to building a college football program. If Elliott is to become a head coach, it will likely be a blue blood.

Getting the hires right for Miami and Florida State is extremely important for the trajectory of these once dominant programs.

Contrarily, this article can be for nothing if Miami and Florida State turn it around on the field with their current Head Coaches.

Where’s The Buzz

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re a few games into the college football season, so we have a small sample size to evaluate teams.

The team we are going to examine is Georgia Tech. Geoff Collins is in his third season as head coach and I’m wondering has the program gotten any better?

The Yellow Jackets started the season with a loss at home to Northern Illinois, 22 – 21. Losing to a school outside of the Power 5 is embarrassing enough, but the Huskies were winless in 2020 (0-6). This game should have been an easy win before ACC play begins.

The one positive from that game is Jordan Yates came in to relieve an injured Jeff Sims at quarterback. I believed he was a better player and he has played like it so far.

The next game was against an FCS team, Kennesaw State. They won 45 – 17, which is expected.

The Jackets then went to #6 Clemson. Last season the Tigers humiliated Tech, 73 – 7. In 2019 they won 52 – 17. Clemson did have the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence playing quarterback in those games. They also had fellow first-round pick, running back Travis Etienne.

They are replacing a lot of talent and experience, but we expect a program like them to reload. Their offense looked anemic in the season opener, but they did play an elite Georgia defense.

The Tigers won, 14 – 8. This score was much closer than anyone would have predicted. Did Tech close the talent gap between the programs or is Clemson overrated?

I think the truth is closer to Clemson struggling on offense, led by sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. He completed 18 of 25 pass attempts for 126 yards, 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Yates completed 20 of 34 passes for 203 yards, no touchdown and 1 interception.

Clemson had not been held under 20 points in an ACC game since losing 28-6 to Tech in 2014. Likewise, the Tigers’ 284 yards of total offense was their fewest since the same loss to Tech, when they gained 190 yards.

The Tech defense came out in a 3-3 (three defensive linemen, three linebackers) look for the first time this season after playing out of a 4-2-5 (four linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs) as its base defense. They worked on the 3-3 throughout the preseason but Collins did not feel they were ready for the first two games.

“And then once the guys were really confident in playing it, we rolled it out there (Saturday) and they did a really nice job with it,” Collins said.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said that Tech lined up in “absolutely nothing that we prepared for.”

This moral victory may give the team some confidence going forward. The question is will that translate to wins?

Looking at the rest of the schedule I think there are four games they have a chance to win; Duke, Virginia, Boston College and Miami.

Pitt, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Georgia are guaranteed loses. The Yellow Jackets are in for another losing season and missing a bowl appearance.

Fear The Spear?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It was a nightmare for Florida State football fans, it was their first EVER loss to an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) opponent, falling 20-17 to Jacksonville State, allowing a 59-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired.

It usually gets worse before it gets better, but Coach Mike Norvell has not shown anything on the field for me to suggest any upward trajectory. All Coach Norvell has done so far is apologize.

Coach Norvell said, “Did not have our team ready to play today.”  That was evident from the start of the game, UCF transfer McKenzie Milton had not one, but two touchdown throws dropped by Milik McClain and Keyshawn Helton.

The offense committed penalty after penalty and could not find a rhythm. For most of the game, Florida State’s defense was solid, but undisciplined; blown coverages literally cost them the W. Six days after the moral (losers) victory against Notre Dame, FSU suffered the worst loss in program history.

College football today is becoming the land of haves and have nots. Florida State: yes, the Florida State that was not far removed from being a dominant program in college football in the mid 2010s, finds itself a ‘have not’ in the early 2020s.

In truth, I don’t know where Florida State goes from here. If you feel they hit rock bottom, then up, but could the program fall into the lower ranks of ‘has beens’ such as Nebraska, Texas and Miami?

Since Jimbo Fisher departed from Tallahassee, Florida State has been in the dumps, both financially and on the field. FSU fired Wille Taggart near the end of his second season and have now made their bed with Mike Norvell, who has 3 wins in 11 games so far.

Can Florida State afford to even consider another change this early on in Norvell’s tenure? Mike Norvell’s buyout is $18 million. Most coaches are given at least three seasons before trajectory dictates job security, but Florida State has already set precedent with Willie Taggart that they are unafraid to pull the plug on a failing coach.

Florida State owes Willie Taggart about $17 million for his buyout. The next month is extremely important for Norvell if he wants to keep his job in Tallahassee.

I entered the season predicting Florida State would go 6-6, and I’m no longer convinced that 6-6 is attainable.

Florida State currently has the 10th ranked recruiting class in the country. Recruits are singing the right tune at this moment. Fans have to continue to hope this class sticks together. But I’ve heard this tune before and so has the transfer portal.

Is Florida State a victim of high expectations that are no longer realistic? Besides Clemson, the ACC is not a great conference; and winning 8-10 games a year shouldn’t be too tall of a task.

Due to economics, Norvell is not on the hot seat in 2021. Norvell is in his second of his six-year deal, and his buyout is 85% of his remaining base salary.

I fear that Florida State is entering a cycle where they’re going to be so deep in a hole that climbing out of it and returning to a consistently great standard is going to be an insurmountable task.

Conquested

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

After a tough loss last week to Calvary Day, the Frederica Knights were hoping some home cooking would be just what the doctor ordered.

Unfortunately, all the Tiftarea Panthers were ready to serve up was a taste of our own medicine.

Head Coach Brandon Derrick let it be known in the preseason not to expect the high-flying, seat-of-your-pants high-tempo offense of years past.

This year’s Knights squad will, out of necessity, be a very deliberate clock control type offense, milking the most out of every offensive series. While this strategy worked effectively against Valwood in the season-opening victory, it was not in the cards for the next who weeks.

Tiftarea employed the same philosophy against the Knights Friday night to the tune of a 29-7 final score. The Panthers put together long, extended drives all night starting with the opening drive.

Following the opening kickoff, Tiftarea put together a 72-yard, 12-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes of the opening frame and culminated in a designed QB scramble for the score.

“We knew where it was going 85% of the time in the first half,” said Coach Derrick. “They mixed it up a little in the second half. You’ve got what you’ve got.”

The Knights unfortunately answered the opening drive with a three & out series with short runs from RB Jordan Triplett and acting QB Bryce Reilly.

The senior WR filling in for the injured Thomas Veal would spend more time showing off his wheels than his arm all night. Reilly went 2-3 for 66 yards through the air and 12 carries for 48 yards.

Sophomore RB Jordan Triplett didn’t fare any better on the night. The Tiftarea defense focused on #4 all game, limiting him to 34 yards on 11 carries. The night was by far the worst of his so-far stellar career.

The lone offensive highlight of the evening came on the Knights second drive of the 2nd half. After the Knights turned the ball over on downs on the opening drive, Reilly lobbed a screen pass to Triplett to the short side of the field, which “The River” then turned into a 61-yard touchdown.

Late in the 4th, the Knights threatened to score again, evoking memories of late-game heroics from Knights squads past.

Reilly scrambled five times and was aided by a horsecollar penalty on a 16-yard run, which set the Knights up for a 1st & goal inside the 5-yard line. Unfortunately, Lady Luck failed to smile, and a bobbled handoff led to the only Knights turnover on the night, sealing the final score at 29-7.

Defensively, the night belonged to LB Jacob Aiken. The Player of the Game recipient notched a minimum of seven solo tackles (four on the opening drive alone) and numerous group efforts. After the game, he was adamant to share the credit for the performance with his teammates.

“There’s only 20 of us. We all rely on each other, we all fire each other up,” said the Senior. “It was Just as much the linemen as it was me. I need them, I need Jon Phillip (Spiers). We all need each other.”

The Knights are back on the road next two weeks for a pair of GHSA matchups, traveling to Nahunta to take on Frederica coaching alum Jeff Cannon and his Brantley County Herons, then to Ludowici to take on Long County.