Saturday Football: Recruiting dead period, LSU reloads and Michigan in transition
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Good morning and happy Monday! Reminder that there won’t be a newsletter on Thursday, as we prepare to relaunch the new-look newsletter on Monday, March 1. We hope you’ll enjoy the new features we have coming your way ahead of the 2021 season!
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss what LSU is doing to get back to its 2019 self after a tough 2020 season. We’ll also explore a Michigan team still making changes even as spring practices approach. Finally, we’ll take a look at the extended NCAA recruiting dead period and what impact it’ll have on players and teams. Let’s get started, shall we?
LSU had a less-than-ideal 2020 season. Can Ed Orgeron and the Tigers turn it around in 2021?
After winning the 2019 College Football Playoff championship, the LSU Tigers took a major step back in 2020. They finished 5-5 overall and missed the postseason due to a self-imposed bowl ban. They also saw starting QB Myles Brennan miss most of the year with an injury.
So, can the Tigers turn things around in 2021 and beyond? There is some positive momentum in Baton Rouge. Let’s take a look at the latest out of the LSU program:
- Let’s start with Brennan and the quarterback position. As the Tigers prepare for spring practices, coach Ed Orgeron said Brennan is looking like he can give it a go this spring. That’s good news, since the Tigers also just landed 4-star 2021 receiver Brian Thomas. Now, he and Brennan will presumably get to work together before the 2021 season kicks off. LSU continued to make a case for the “Wide Receiver U” crown, landing 4-star 2022 receiver AJ Johnson, as well. There won’t be any shortage of receiving weapons in the coming years, even after TE Arik Gilbert transferred to Florida. The defense got a big boost, too, as Clemson LB Mike Jones transferred to LSU.
- The coaching staff will have plenty of new faces, though. The Tigers parted ways with DC Bo Pelini after only one year, replacing him with Daronte Jones. Offensively, OC Steve Ensminger retired from his on-field role, and Jake Peetz will replace him as the offensive coordinator. This past week, the Tigers lost a couple of staffers, too. One staffer left to go to law school so he could better understand the upcoming NIL rules in the NCAA. Yes, really. Another staffer left for USC.
Will these changes work out for Coach O and the Tigers? SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum explained why it’s important for Orgeron to have a good year in 2021. If all goes well, though, then the worst thing to happen to Coach O this year will be this awful portrayal by an actor playing him in the “Young Rock” series.
- UCF recently hired Gus Malzahn to replace Josh Heupel as head coach. The Knights now prepare to take another step forward in the national landscape. Former AD Danny White (now at Tennessee with Heupel) was resistant to scheduling 2-for-1 home-and-home series with SEC teams. However, Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara writes that the new administration would be foolish not to do those deals.
- Ohio State made it to the College Football Playoff title game in 2020. Can the Buckeyes make it back there again in 2021? What about Michigan, Penn State and some of the teams that struggled? Can they regroup and reload? Saturday Tradition’s Phil Ervin named a realistic ceiling for each Big Ten team for this coming season.
- Speaking of realistic expectations, how about the Texas Longhorns? Steve Sarkisian is the new coach, taking over after guiding Alabama’s offense during a title-winning season. What should we expect from him in Year 1 in Austin? Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon breaks down some realistic expectations for Sark and the Longhorns.
- Plenty of QBs enter the NCAA transfer portal on a yearly basis. There are currently several QBs looking for new homes. After spring practices, when certain schools decide their 2021 starters, we can expect some additional QBs to enter the portal. Bleacher Report’s Brad Shepard makes some long-shot suggestions for some QBs who might lose their battles for the starting job.
MORE CHANGES AT MICHIGAN
Joe Milton is out, transfer numbers are high and more staff changes. Will the wild offseason stop at Michigan?
With Michigan announcing that spring practice is starting on Monday, there was probably an expectation that the offseason drama had concluded. To quote College GameDay’s Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!”
This past week, former starting quarterback Joe Milton announced he was leaving the program, two linebackers also entered the NCAA transfer portal and Michigan saw its linebackers coach leave for a job at Tennessee. That’s quite a lot of action for a team preparing to open spring practice. The big question is, are any of these late changes a major concern in Ann Arbor?
- Losing another QB is certainly a big deal. In the era of the transfer portal, it’s not uncommon to see a team lose a few passers from the roster from time to time. However, Milton’s departure is the latest in an unsettling trend for Jim Harbaugh’s time in Ann Arbor, becoming the third QB to start and later transfer from Michigan over the past six seasons. The good news? Adam Biggers of Saturday Tradition points out that the Wolverines are still in a pretty good spot with sophomore Cade McNamara and incoming 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy battling for the No. 1 spot for the 2021 season.
- Speaking of ugly trends… The actual wormhole into the transfer portal might be located somewhere in Ann Arbor. This offseason, Michigan has seen 17 players enter their name into the NCAA database and explore opportunities to play elsewhere. Former linebacker Ben VanSumeren is transferring to rival Michigan State and fellow LB Adam Shibley also entered his name into the portal recently. The Wolverines also lost a pledge from 4-star defensive tackle Alex VanSumeren, a big blow to their 2022 class.
- Coaching changes continue. Since Harbaugh signed his 4-year contract extension, he’s gone through the task of altering his staff in an attempt to bounce back after a 2-4 year in 2020. But Michigan suffered a big hit recently, with linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary reportedly accepting a position on Josh Heupel’s staff at Tennessee. There is some positive news, though, as Harbaugh plucked another member of his brother’s Baltimore staff over the weekend. Michigan will welcome former Baltimore running backs coach Matt Weiss to Ann Arbor to coach the quarterbacks. He’s the second member of John Harbaugh’s staff to accept a job at Michigan, joining Mike Macdonald.
Change is inevitable in college football. Rarely, though, do we see something quite as drastic and complicated as we’ve seen in Ann Arbor in the months since last season ended. Will it help Michigan re-establish itself as a blueblood program in the B1G? Or will we see more of the same in Harbaugh’s seventh season?
JUST FOR FUN
For today’s quiz, let’s see how well you know your rivalries. We’ll give you six of the biggest rivalries in college football. Your job? Pick the side that currently has the edge in the rivalry. Got it? Here are the rivalries:
- Ohio State-Michigan
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
RECRUITING DEAD PERIOD
The NCAA has extended the recruiting dead period. What does this mean for schools and recruits?
The NCAA has had a recruiting dead period in place since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been extended a few times, and recently, it was announced that the NCAA had extended it again. Now, schools can’t do any in-person recruiting until June 1 at the earliest.
So, what does this mean for programs around the country? And, how should recruits feel about this news? Let’s take a look at what’s being said nationally about the dead period:
- Managing something like this isn’t easy amid a global pandemic. But, the latest plan seems to be to try to reopen things on June 1. Tracy Pierson of 247Sports writes that the NCAA Division 1 Council wants to have a plan in place by April 15. NCSASports.org put together a helpful guide for navigating the dead period.
- Obviously, not being able to make official visits hurts recruits. A.J. Black of SI.com wrote that it is yet another blow to recruits and staff members. Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel agrees, saying it will specifically hurt seniors. Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork is upset the Aggies won’t get to host recruits for their spring game on April 17, saying he thinks it’s time to open recruiting back up. .
- The dead period is affecting different schools in different ways. For example, Mark Russell of BuckeyesWire.com says Ohio State continues to wait to see if 5-star 2021 DL J.T. Tuimoloau will end up in Columbus or not, as he has expressed interest in taking official visits before making a final choice. On the other end of the spectrum, Fansided’s Alan Rubenstein explains why Miami might actually benefit from the extended dead period.
It’s a difficult situation to navigate, obviously, but with the COVID-19 vaccine being administered across the country, things could soon go back to some semblance of normal. The NCAA now seems set to open recruiting on June 1. But, some want it to be opened back up sooner. We’ll see what happens as many FBS teams begin preparations for spring practices this coming week.
Here are the answers to today’s college football rivalries quiz:
- Alabama-Auburn: Alabama leads 47-37-1
- Ohio State-Michigan: Michigan leads 58-51-6
- Army-Navy: Navy leads 61-53-7
- Oklahoma-Texas: Texas leads 62-49-5
- Georgia-Florida: Georgia leads 52-44-2
- USC-UCLA: USC leads 49-32-7
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was tough going through all the years just playing a couple plays. It definitely was tough, but just going in made me confident. So I’ve just been working my tail off every year just trying to get better. That’s all I’m focused on.”
– Florida QB Emory Jones describes how it was tough at times to wait his turn behind Kyle Trask and others. Now, entering the 2021 spring season, Jones has a chance to win the starting job. Can he do it?
TWEET OF THE DAY
As @RedditCFB playfully tweeted after Michigan beat Ohio State in men’s basketball on Sunday, this is the first time in a while that the Wolverines have gone “undefeated” against the Buckeyes in football and men’s basketball in the same season. The word “undefeated” is key, obviously, as the Buckeyes and Wolverines didn’t meet on the gridiron this season due to COVID-19 issues. The Buckeyes currently own an eight-game winning streak against their rivals.