Spring practice is over. The NFL draft has come and gone.
College football is headed to its offseason, which once meant exactly that, though not anymore.
Sunday was the deadline for entering the transfer portal and still being eligible for this upcoming season. More than 2,000 players entered the portal during the 2021-22 school year, and not all of them have (or will) find new homes. There will be plenty of roster turnover between now and September, including some more big names.
Before we get to what happens next, though, let’s evaluate what we just saw. New coaches like LSU’s Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s Marcus Freeman, Oklahoma’s Brent Venables and USC’s Lincoln Riley were under the spotlight this spring, and all of them will face lofty expectations this fall.
Here’s a batch of overreactions to this spring.
Kirby Smart had a record 15 players selected in last week’s NFL draft, but Georgia should be capable of plugging those holes. Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
Georgia lost too much talent to get back to the CFP
Georgia ended a 41-year drought without a national championship this past season, and if you watched last week’s NFL draft, it’s easy to understand why.
The Bulldogs had 15 players selected in the draft, the most by any team during the current seven-round format, which started in 1994. Georgia set another record when it had five defensive players selected in the first round, including No. 1 pick Travon Walker.
So, with so many players leaving for the NFL, the Bulldogs have to slide pretty far back, right? Probably not. While they’ll have to reload much of the front seven on defense, the Bulldogs have plenty of talent returning to win the SEC East again.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV should be better after getting a full offseason and preseason camp working as the No. 1 quarterback. He had limited reps in practice before replacing JT Daniels last season. There are areas to improve, even for a 24-year-old who is about to play his fifth season at Georgia.
“Make better decisions,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said of his QB this spring. “We were late over the middle a couple of times with balls and late in the season. He would be the first to tell you he didn’t play perfect. He made some really good plays for us with his feet, with his legs, with his decision-making, but you just wanna take out some of the bone-head throws, some of the bone-head mistakes that he has made from time to time.
“It’s easy for him to say he didn’t have the opportunity to correct those mistakes because the guy was taking [third-team reps] at this time last year. He wasn’t getting a lot of reps, he got a lot of work fast and we still feel like he is still showing progress.”
Georgia will bring back All-American tight end Brock Bowers and added former LSU transfer Arik Gilbert, who looked good in spring action starting at receiver before moving back to tight end. Offensive tackle Broderick Jones could be a potential first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
Georgia might have at least three more first-rounders on defense: tackle Jalen Carter, outside linebacker Nolan Smith and cornerback Kelee Ringo.
“They might have three or four NFL players on defense next season, instead of five or six,” one SEC head coach said. “They’ve still got more than almost everyone else.”
The Bulldogs might not be as dominant as they were in 2021, when they went unbeaten in the regular season and defeated Alabama 33-18 in the CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T. But they don’t play Alabama or Texas A&M in the regular season; road games at South Carolina, Mississippi State and Kentucky might be their biggest challenges.
It would be a big surprise if Georgia isn’t back in the SEC championship game.
What Lincoln Riley is doing at USC is wrong
Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi is reportedly upset that star receiver Jordan Addison might be headed to USC via the transfer portal. According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, Pitt officials suspect that tampering might have occurred. Addison and Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams, formerly at Oklahoma, are both from around Washington, D.C.
It’s easy to understand why Narduzzi is mad. He took a player that wasn’t even ranked in the ESPN 300 in 2020 (Addison was ranked the No. 12 prospect in Maryland by ESPN Recruiting) and helped him develop into Pitt’s best receiver since Larry Fitzgerald. Last season, Addison won the Biletnikoff Award after catching 93 passes for 1,479 yards with 17 touchdowns.
Now, thanks to a potentially lucrative NIL deal, Addison might leave for USC or another college football blueblood. With the existing transfer and NIL rules, Addison won’t be the only previously overlooked star player to leave for greener pastures.
But Riley isn’t doing anything wrong. He was lured from Oklahoma to transform the Trojans into the national power they were under Pete Carroll. The USC roster needed a massive rebuild, and Riley has already added 15 players through the transfer portal, including Arizona State linebacker Eric Gentry and Ohio State safety Bryson Shaw just last week.
Back in December, when Riley was asked about the transfer portal, he said, “I’d say we’re open for business on all accounts.”
Riley is simply playing by the rules, or at least what is left of them in the NIL era.
“It’s NFL free agency without any rules,” one Power 5 coach said. “It’s nuts.”
A 5-7 record is not what Steve Sarkisian had in mind for his first season in Austin. AP Photo/Eric Gay
Texas will be able to compete in the SEC
While last week’s NFL draft might have been a celebration for Georgia, it was an indictment for Texas, which will soon be competing against the Bulldogs in the SEC.
For the first time since 2014, the Longhorns didn’t have a single player selected in the draft. Chattanooga, Fayetteville State, Fordham, Jackson State, Lenoir-Rhyne, Ouachita Baptist and Southern Utah had at least one player selected. Montana State, North Dakota State and South Dakota State had two.
Even worse: There were 32 players drafted who attended Texas high schools. None of them played for the Longhorns.
While Texas is coming off a 5-7 campaign, in which it lost six consecutive games in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first season, the NFL draft shutout is more of an indictment of the coach he replaced, Tom Herman. Most of the players in this year’s draft class were part of the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes during Herman’s tenure.
It’s sadly nothing new for the Longhorns. Whether it is because they’re missing on recruiting evaluations or failing to develop players, their once-steady pipeline to the NFL has dried up. They haven’t had a first-round pick since 2015 (defensive tackle Malcom Brown to the Patriots). Quarterback Vince Young was the last offensive player taken in the first round — in 2006.
Last month, Sarkisian told reporters that fifth-year defensive lineman Moro Ojomo would not be talking to the media “for a while” after his critical comments about the team’s culture.
Among other things, Ojomo said his teammates were “18- to 22-year-olds that want to chase women, want to chase money, want to chase alcohol and they don’t see the future.”
“They’re distracted by what’s in front of them,” Ojomo said. “It’s such a hard thing, especially guys that haven’t been in a winning culture. They’re always talking about coming in here and changing stuff. It’s like ingrained. You’re uprooting, what? Ten years of s— that’s just been let go.”
Maybe Sarkisian should make Ojomo a team captain.
Nebraska is in good hands
It might be difficult to decipher which is worse: Nebraska being penalized for using too many coaches during a 3-5 campaign in 2020, or the NCAA actually penalizing the Cornhuskers for having an analyst coaching players during practices and film sessions with everything else going on in collegiate athletics.
Nonetheless, Nebraska coach Scott Frost was hit with a one-year show cause order and a five-day suspension on Monday. He’ll have to serve it during the “championship segment” of the upcoming season. I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.
It’s not what you might be thinking. A championship segment, as defined by NCAA rules, is “when competition is conducted in which results are counted for postseason selection.” So, essentially, Frost will have to sit out five days at some point during the upcoming season.
Frost’s mistake was hiring a senior graduate analyst, Jonathan Rutledge, to coach special teams, instead of having a full-time assistant or group of assistants work with the specialists. In 2020, the Cornhuskers ranked 95th in the FBS in punt average, 105th in punt coverage, 94th in kickoff returns and 87th in kickoff coverage.
Frost, who is 15-29 as coach of his alma mater, is working with a restructured contract in 2022. He’ll be making $4 million this season, instead of the previous $5 million, and his buyout was reduced from $15 million to $7.5 million. If the Cornhuskers improve this season, his salary would return to $5 million if the team “achieves metrics mutually agreed to.”