Saturday Football: 2020 contingency plans, the red-hot Vols and the NCAA's NIL decision
The Saturday Football newsletter goes out to subscribers up to 3 days a week and discusses the major events going on around the nation in college football. You can subscribe by clicking here.
Good morning and happy Monday! We hope you aren’t too exhausted from hearing “May the Fourth be with you” yet today. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to say it. As we enter the month of May, though, we may need to use some Jedi mind tricks to figure out what those in charge of college football are thinking with regards to the 2020 season.
For now, we’ll continue to wait. Could we have a more concrete picture by the end of the month? It’s possible. Today, we’ll discuss a team that is red-hot on the recruiting trails, the NCAA’s historic names, images and likenesses decision and more. Let’s get started!
No one knows what will happen with the 2020 season yet. Could some conferences do their own thing?
As we continue to battle our way through the COVID-19 pandemic that is still dominating headlines around the globe, the sports world is still mostly at a standstill. No one knows for sure when the MLB, NBA, NFL or college football will be able to return. That has led to a number of contingency plans being discussed by commissioners and those in power of every sports league here in America.
This past week, there has been some interesting chatter in the college football world. What if some states reopen and others don’t? Could we have some conferences that play the 2020 season while other conferences are forced to sit it out? Let’s take a look at this storyline:
- As certain states reopen and others don’t, plans are still forming. What happens if the southeastern states are back to as close to normal as possible this fall and others aren’t? SEC commissioner Greg Sankey discussed the possibility of the SEC going forward with a season even if other conferences aren’t able to do so. Sports Illustrated’s Greg Arias writes that if the SEC does go it alone, it could cause tension with the NCAA and other conferences.
- What are other Power 5 conferences discussing, you ask? Well, on Friday, Kansas State AD Gene Taylor outlined seven contingency plans the Big 12 is considering. Meanwhile, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is worried that COVID-19 could come roaring back this winter and disrupt postseason plans. “I worry more about the end of the season and the postseason than I do the beginning parts of the season,” Bowlsby said. “If the virus comes roaring back in the traditional flu and virus season in November, December, through March, I wonder if we’re going to get basketball seasons in, I wonder if we’re going to get the [College Football Playoff] in, I wonder if we’re going to get the NCAA tournament in.”
- Some schools are already announcing plans to reopen campuses. In the SEC, Mizzou was the first school to announce it was planning to hold fall classes as normal. In the Big Ten, Iowa hopes to have its campus back to normal even earlier, citing June 1 as a target date. Other schools have followed suit and announced plans to reopen. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks and if these decision are able to be put into action or not.
Football won’t return until health experts, governors, university presidents and others in charge deem it safe. That likely means faster and more available testing, a treatment for COVID-19 and potentially even a vaccine. When will that start to happen? It’s unclear at this point, so even though there is positive momentum toward playing a season this year, what that season will look like and who will participate is still very much up in the air.
TOP 2021 RECRUITING CLASSES
Now that we’ve turned the calendars to May, it’s a good opportunity to check up on the 2021 recruiting cycle and which teams are doing the best. Yes, recruiting is a lot different at the moment thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some schools are still doing some good work.
So, who has the top 2021 classes? As of Sunday afternoon, here are the top-10 recruiting classes for the 2021 cycle (via 247Sports):
- Ohio State — 17 players, 3 5-stars, 11 4-stars
- North Carolina — 14 players, 0 5-stars, 10 4-stars
- Tennessee — 17 players, 2 5-stars, 4 5-stars
- Florida — 12 players, 0 5-stars, 7 4-stars
- Clemson — 9 players, 0 5-stars, 9 4-stars
- Iowa — 14 players, 0 5-stars, 3 4-stars
- USC — 10 players, 0 5-stars, 7 4-stars
- Minnesota — 14 players, 0 5-stars, 4 4-stars
- Miami — 13 players, 0 5-stars, 4 4-stars
- Michigan — 10 players, 1 5-star, 4 4-stars
You’ll notice the absence of some usual heavy hitters like Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and others in the current top 10. It’s still early, and these are strange recruiting times, but we’ll see what happens over the next couple of months.
- The SEC just set a record with 15 first-round NFL Draft picks. Heading into the 2020 season, it’s safe to say there will be plenty of SEC athletes who work their way into the Round 1 discussion for the 2021 NFL Draft. Saturday Down South’s Adam Spencer put together a list of 15 guys who could be the SEC’s next crop of Round 1 selections.
- Football, and sports in general, are shut down due to the pandemic. However, players need to stay sharp, and that has led to one industry thriving. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger took a look into the world of private football coaches and how that industry is thriving during the quarantines.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson is an interesting guy off the football field. During this COVID-19 related quarantine, Patterson is putting his musical talents to good use. In this story from ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr., Patterson talks about the album he’s putting together, fulfilling a long-time dream.
- Since the SEC canceled spring practices, there are many unanswered questions. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this a very strange time for teams trying to prepare for an uncertain 2020 season. So, what were the biggest questions that went unanswered this spring? The staff at Saturday Down South explained their choices in this roundtable discussion.
Tennessee is the hottest team on the recruiting trails right now. Why is that upsetting other schools?
The Tennessee Volunteers have had a week for the ages on the recruiting trails. Coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff have done in one week what most teams don’t even do over the course of an entire recruiting cycle. Since April 26, the Vols have landed an incredible seven commitments, including two 5-star players.
Let’s just say other teams are noticing the success the Vols are having. Let’s take a look at what is being said about Pruitt and the Vols nationally:
- First, let’s take a look at the quality of players committing to the Vols. Here are all the commitments the Tennessee program has received since April 26:
- That’s quite the haul for the Vols in only one busy week of recruiting. When asked what he credits Tennessee’s success to, Pruitt talked about his staff and players, saying the players know who they want to play with. “They know who they want to play beside, and the better players you have on the team, the better opportunity you have as a team and as an individual,” he said. “So these guys are bought into that, and they’re working hard to help recruit the best student-athletes to Tennessee.”
- Other schools and coaches are commenting on the Vols’ success. We’ll start with Tennessee’s SEC East rival, Georgia. The Bulldogs posted a highlight video of last year’s win over the Vols with a caption that made it seem like it was in response to Tennessee’s recruiting success. Then, there was a Florida assistant, who seemed to subtweet Wilcoxson. The 4-star Tennessee commit was originally committed to Florida, and the timing of this tweet from Florida staffer John Herron was suspect, to say the least. Finally, Oklahoma graduate assistant Will Johnson’s Twitter account seemed to indicate he was aware of the success the Vols were having. He posted a picture from Oklahoma’s win at Neyland Stadium in 2015 along with the caption “Don’t fall for the hype … it’s not real.” That should make Tennessee’s Week 2 trip to Norman even more exciting.
The Vols now have 17 players in their 2021 recruiting class, which means there are only a few spots left before the class is full. That won’t stop Pruitt and his staff from going after top players across the country, so we’ll see who else commits to Tennessee before this cycle is over. How many more feathers will Pruitt and the Vols ruffle?
JUST FOR FUN
Today, let’s test your knowledge of NFL Draft No. 1 overall picks. Recently, LSU QB Joe Burrow was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He became the ninth SEC quarterback to be taken with the first pick. Can you name the other eight SEC quarterbacks who have gone No. 1 overall?
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
NEW NCAA RULE
The NCAA took a big step toward allowing athletes to make money off names and likenesses. What does it mean?
For years now, there has been a debate about whether NCAA student-athletes should be able to profit off their names, images and likenesses or not. Well, last week, there was a major development on the NIL front. The NCAA is expected to put new NIL rules into place in time for the 2021-22 season, allowing players to profit. This isn’t schools paying players. Rather, third parties will be able to give players money for endorsements.
This is a big step, but what does it mean for the sport and for players? Let’s take a look into last week’s huge decision from the NCAA Board of Governors:
- The big question is — what do these new NIL rules entail? Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara broke down the new rules, as well as a few areas where things might get a bit tricky. What does this mean for agents? Super-agent Leigh Steinberg explained that this might mean agents reach out to athletes while they’re still in high school to try to sign them to a marketing rights deal. That could certainly have a big impact on both college and high school football.
- Reactions have been mixed to the NCAA’s decision, though. The California State senator who introduced the Fair Pay to Play Act, Nancy Skinner, thinks it is a step in the right direction. But, she said, seeing what the NCAA does next will be very important. “The devil will be in the details,” she said. “Yet no matter how you cut it, this represents a landmark change. A year ago, no one would have expected the NCAA to move definitively toward giving college athletes their NIL rights.” Meanwhile, SEC Network host Paul Finebaum sees this as a last-ditch effort by the NCAA to keep the Power 5 conferences from splitting off and doing their own thing. “I think the Power 5 commissioners are slowly moving toward more autonomy,” he said. “This is the NCAA’s last stand. They had to do it. They had a gun to their head. It was way too late. Hopefully, let’s be aspirational here, the NCAA won’t exist in a couple of years and players can do whatever they want.”
- Which players could stand to earn the most under these new rules? Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara named 10 SEC stars (and potential future stars) who could stand to make some serious dough from these new NIL rules. How much could a former college star like Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa have reasonably made? AL.com’s John Talty talked with someone who projected that Tua could have made “$3 to $5 million, easy.”
- OK, we know what you’re thinking. Is the NCAA Football game coming back? Not just yet, according to reports. Since college football players aren’t part of a union, there’s no singular bargaining group to allow something like the return of the popular video game to happen, according to Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. It could come back sometime in the future, but nothing is imminent at the moment.
There are a lot of details that still need to be ironed out before this rule officially goes into effect. But, there’s still time for the NCAA to come up with ways to make sure everything is above board. Overall, this seems like a decision that is going to be a popular one with star players across the country.
Here are the nine SEC quarterbacks who have been taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft (including Joe Burrow this past draft):
- 2020: Joe Burrow, LSU
- 2011: Cam Newton, Auburn
- 2009: Matthew Stafford, Georgia
- 2007: JaMarcus Russell, LSU
- 2004: Eli Manning, Ole Miss
- 1999: Tim Couch, Kentucky
- 1998: Peyton Manning, Tennessee
- 1952: Bill Wade, Vanderbilt
- 1948: Harry Gilmer, Alabama
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“From an officiating perspective, you have to honor the injury. We don’t know if they are feigning or not. Sometimes, we can suspect, but if a player goes down, we’re going to stop the clock. We’re going to make sure the player gets attention for the injury. You can’t just make that judgement on the field on the fly.
“What we’re going to do is put this in the coaches’ lap for the 2020 season. We expect this thing to get cleaned up. If it doesn’t, then we’re probably going to change a rule to limit time to a player who gets injured. It is their last shot to clean it up before the rules committee takes action.”
– NCAA director of officials Steve Shaw weighed in on players faking injuries to slow down offenses. He said coaches will be expected to control that aspect of the game or the NCAA rules committee will have to step in and make some changes.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
One national analyst thinks only five big-name teams have a chance to win a national title in 2020. Bill Bender also named three teams that are right on the doorstep of contending. Will one of those teams win it all in 2020?