With the Fourth of July in the books, we're now on the downhill drag to college football. SEC Media Days are less than two weeks away, preseason publications are starting to roll out, and preseason watch lists are just around the corner. And the WDRB.com Notebook is here with 2,000 words of football . . .
Brian Brohm: Petrino's U of L reign bred fear and confidence
Bobby Petrino won't be working the sidelines in college football this season. Petrino has only Petrino to blame for his awful implosion at the University of Arkansas, the fallout from his motorcycle crash that forced him to hand over the keys to a team expected to start the 2012 season ranked in the Top 10.
Petrino may never get another opportunity like the one he had at Arkansas, or even like the one he had during his four seasons of dominance at the University of Louisville. Only six years ago he directed the Cardinals to a 12-1 season, including a season-ending Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest.
Brian Brohm was the quarterback of that U of L team. The Notebook has tracked a number of superb football coaches in this town, but none better than Petrino. We asked Brohm what made Petrino special.
"When he was calling plays, there was no doubt in my mind that we were out-scheming the other team, that we had the better schemes, that our guys were going to be open," Brohm said. "The guy he said was going to be open was going to be open.
"We felt we had the other team out-schemed. We knew everything they were going to do. They didn't know what we were going to do. The confidence of our team was extremely high. We felt like we could beat anybody."
The word was always out that Petrino ruled by fear. True?
"Absolutely," Brohm said. "You could see it when he walked into the locker room or walked into the hall. Guys just stopped what they were doing.
"He would come into the locker room and the locker room would be a madhouse, loud. He'd come in and guys would all of a sudden get quiet, stop what they were doing and just turn their attention to him. It was a military-type atmosphere. I think it was a little bit of fear and a little bit of respect. In college, that works."
Big 12's Bowlsby in no rush to expand
Every time any administrator from the Big 12 Conference gives an interview or even clears his throat, college football fans rush to interpret every word and what it means to the future makeup of the league.
Bob Bowlsby, the new commissioner of the Big 12, talked with Tim Griffin of MySan Antonio.com. The seventh question that Griffin asked was about expansion. Huddle up, Louisville fans.
This is what Bowlsby said: "I like our position now. I like the teams we have. I like the stability of the league. I think we need to be the hardest fraternity to get into. But if there is somebody out there that adds real value to the Big 12, we ought to also think about that."
Think what? Fraternity? Where's the keg? It should be remembered that it was an fairly easy fraternity to get out of there for a while.
Regardless, let the speculation begin.
Cardinals on the outside looking in?
The guys at the "Team Speed Kills" blog on SB Nation took a look back through the BCS era and picked out the programs outside the "Big 5" conferences as they now designate themselves that would've been denied access under what appears to be the current format moving forward.
"Only three schools actually won games as BCS Busters, and two of them got called up to the big leagues with Utah now in the Pac-12 and TCU now in the Big 12. Boise State is the only one of the three on the outside looking in. Louisville will be in that boat too, having won the 2007 Orange Bowl as the champ of the soon-to-be-demoted Big East.
"Several other teams besides those three winning BCS Busters from outside the current Big Five conferences have finished in the top 12 of the BCS, and the top 12 of the selection committee rankings will be at-large eligible. The bottom few spots won't likely be getting CFC bowl bids if the committee must go down the rankings in order to pick the at-larges, though. The only ones to finish in the top six, which should safely be at-large territory in any given year, are again Louisville in 2006 and Cincinnati in 2009. That's two across 12 years."
Sure, it's just a few instances. But with U of L being a couple of them, you start to see where the concern comes from for U of L fans.
Special teams coach Kenny Carter said that while coaches can't work with players in the offseason, special teams are getting plenty of attention from players looking to perform specialist duties in preseason camp.
Of particular interest is punt returning. The Cards ranked 102nd in the nation in punt returns last season at 4.95 yards per return. (They did play three opponents who were worse, including UK, which was next to last nationally at 1.84 yards per return).
Those players looking to vie for punt return touches know that they need to put in summer work if they're serious about it.
"Right now, it's a summer tryout," Carter told UofLSports.com. "There are quite a few guys who are out there. They are out there twice a week, catching kicks and punts. They have their schedule and they control it. The great thing about it is that we get Charles Gaines back, and no one has seen him yet. So Charles is phenomenal. Eli (Rogers) understood the problems he had last year. Scott Radcliff has been very consistent and Adrian Bushell will be back there. Bushell didn't return punts last year, but he can do it well."
Gaines, a redshirt freshman cornerback out of Miami, was ranked the No. 196 player in the country by Scout.com as a senior. He also was a big-time receiver in high school.
The Cards also will be on an important search for a placekicker after losing Chris Philpott, who made 12 of 18 field-goal attempts last year. Carter said coaches are excited about John Wallace, but that he's dealing with an injury. The Cards also will look at Matt Nakatani and a couple of others.
Wallace made 11 of 14 field goals as a senior at Central Hardin, including a 50-yarder. He also was 40-for-41 on extra points. Nakatani, the son of jockey Corey Nakatani, made 14 straight field goals at Shelby County and was an honorable mention All-Stater as a senior.
Blue Ribbon not high on the Big Blue
One of the most in-depth preseason college football publications is the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, with lengthy features on every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Blue Ribbon editors picked UK to finish sixth in the SEC Eastern Division, ahead of only Vanderbilt. The only UK player named preseason All-SEC was offensive lineman Larry Warford.
Larry Vaught of the Danville Advocate-Messenger did the honors on the UK preview or Blue Ribbon this year. The first quote from UK coach Joker Phillips in his Wildcats' feature: "I've been part of this program a long time, and a few years ago people would have been ecstatic to be 5-7. But we know where we have got the program to and what we have to do to get back to that level. We have put together good recruiting classes."
The preview speculates that Phillips could play more true freshman than UK has played in some time, and Vaught calls the opener against U of L a "must win."
Phillips set for women's clinic
Phillips and the UK staff will conduct the 2012 UK women's football clinic on Saturday, July 28, at the UK football complex. Registration is available at ukathletics.com, or in person at 8 a.m. on the morning of the event. Cost is $65.
Eight (hundred) not enough for Hoosiers' Houston
By many standards running back Stephen Houston had a solid sophomore season at Indiana in 2011. He led IU in rushing with 802 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry after transferring from Independence (Kan.) Community College. He scored eight touchdowns.
Solid. But not good enough for IU coach Kevin Wilson.
"He was really solid down the stretch," Wilson said. "But we're really pushing him. He had 800 yards, basically rushing for about 60 yards per game. That's still not a very high number.
"His skill set is he should be a really good player. Right now, I think he's pretty good. So we're challenging him to be more consistent. He could be a really nice complete back, but he's got a lot of work to do."
Hilltoppers have high hopes for former Gator Dowling
The Bobby Rainey Era is over at Western Kentucky. Rainey has taken his talents to Baltimore, where he will try to make the Ravens as an undrafted free agent. He ran for 1,695 yards for the Hilltoppers last season. It seemed as if Rainey accounted for about 97 percent of WKU's offense. The Ravens are coached by John Harbaugh, the brother of Jim Harbaugh. WKU coach Willie Taggart worked for Jim at Stanford.
Who will be WKU's next signature player?
Many are predicting a defensive player – Jonathan Dowling.
Here is why: Dowling played in two games at Florida in 2010 and then transferred to WKU. His connection was that he played at Southeast High School in Bradenton, Fla., the same school that produced Taggart.
At 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, Dowling was ranked a four-star recruit by both Scout.com and Rivals as a prep senior. Look for him in the defensive backfield – and as a kick return guy for WKU.
USA Today is out with its college football preview section ($4.95), 64-page tabloid.
What are they predicting for the local teams this season?
-- They like Louisville to win the Big East, finishing 10-2 overall and 6-1 in the league, a game ahead of South Florida. The Cards are booked for an Orange Bowl appearance against Florida State.
-- Not a good forecast for Kentucky. USA Today has the Wildcats finishing last in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference, going 0-8 in the league, 3-9 overall.
-- They place Indiana last in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten, predicting another winless (0- 8) in the league but 3-9 overall.
-- Western Kentucky is predicted to split its 12 games, finishing 5-3 in the Sun Belt Conference, tied for fourth place.
The watchlists are coming
Every week there is another sign the 2012 season is getting closer. Here is the latest:
The Watch Lists for most national awards will be released next week. Here is the schedule:
· Maxwell Award (Presented to the college player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club) · Bednarik Award (Presented to the college defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club)
· Mackey Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding tight end by the Nassau Co. Sports Commission) · Rimington Trophy (Presented to the nation's premier center by the Boomer Esiason Foundation)
· Lou Groza Award (Presented to the nation's top place-kicker by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission) · Ray Guy Award (Presented to the nation's best punter by the Augusta [Ga.] Sports Council)
· Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club) · Outland Trophy (Presented to the nation's most outstanding interior lineman by the FWAA)
· Jim Thorpe Award (Presented to the nation's best defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association)
Monday, July 16
· Butkus Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding linebacker by the Butkus Foundation) · Rotary Lombardi Award (Presented to the college lineman of the year by the Rotary Club of Houston)
Tuesday, July 17
· Biletnikoff Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation)
Wednesday, July 18
· Davey O'Brien Award (Presented to the nation's best quarterback by the Davey O'Brien Foundation)
Thursday, July 19
· Doak Walker Award (Presented to the nation's premier running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum).
Friday July 20
· Walter Camp Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding player by the Walter Camp Football Foundation).
Best Career FBS Winning Percentage of Active Big East Coaches