BOZICH | Monday Muse: The Real Villain in Elam/McElroy dust-up
The real villain in the Matt Elam-Greg McElroy dust-up. Nick Saban for college football commissioner. John Feinstein tees up North Carolina. Why AAU basketball stinks. Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Welcome back football.
Louisville, Kentucky and Western Kentucky all on the practice field Monday. Indiana is primed to join them with Media Day Tuesday and practice Wednesday.
Buckle your chinstraps, memorize your playbook and let’s move to the Monday Muse.
1. Apology to Matt Elam — From Recruiting Services
A confession: I have a Hate/Love relationship with recruiting rankings.
I hate the obsession with putting star rankings on every recruit as talent observers tackle the impossible task of slotting guys in 1-to-250 order. Nobody has been able to explain the difference between No. 37 and No. 51 or a three-star and a four-star.
Can’t do it, especially in football where top prospects rarely compete against each other on the field. There are endless tales of mammoth defensive linemen who build reputations by bullying offensive tackles they outweigh by 60 pounds and then flinch when they arrive in college and start getting busted in the chops.
My next point: Recruiting services like scout.com and 247Sports owe Kentucky defensive lineman Matt Elam an apology more than Elam deserves one from former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, now a college football analyst for the SEC Network.
Scout and 247 overvalued Elam’s skills as a defensive lineman at John Hardin High School and ranked him a four-star recruit as well as one of the Top 200 high school players in the Class of 2014.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Elam wasn’t four-star worthy.
Four-star size, yes. Four-star athleticism, maybe. Four-star motor and grit, no.
That was not the narrative four years ago. Elam was billed as the Next Great Thing in Kentucky high school football, a player Mark Stoops absolutely, positively had to sign to get UK football rolling.
Elam signed. But he’s never played like a four-star player — and likely never will, even after McElroy’s stinging criticism that Elam was as “lazy and as underachieving,” player as McElroy has seen in the SEC in a long time.
Unless McElroy has been a secret visitor to UK practice and off-season workouts, I’m not certain how he can evaluate Elam’s work ethic.
Maybe Elam was as overrated as McElroy was underrated.
Remember this about McElroy: As a player, McElroy was the anti-Elam.
Signed in 2006 as a two-star recruit, McElroy grew up in suburban Dallas without earning a scholarship offer from the homestate Texas Longhorns. Texas A&M snubbed him, too, as did Baylor and Texas Tech.
According to Rivals.com, McElroy’s only in-state offer was from TCU. He signed with Alabama, redshirted, sat on the bench for two seasons and eventually led Alabama to the 2009 Bowl Championship Series title.
If anybody should understand the perils and motivation of recruiting hype, it’s McElroy.
In this case, he should have directed his criticism at the recruiting gurus. They oversold Elam.
2. Nick Saban For College Football Commissioner
This is not a new concept for me. When Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks, I listen.
I realize Saban has every advantage necessary to keep steam-rolling the competition in the Southeastern Conference (and beyond). Like most coaches, Saban is agenda-driven.
But I love his latest idea. Saban wants to eliminate the ridiculous “buy games” that stain college football schedules everywhere.
The games nobody wants to watch and or play. The games the television networks typically use to fill inventory at noon. I don’t have to name names. You know who they are.
I’ll let Saban describe them, as he did to Heather Dinich of ESPN.com: “We all play three or four games a year now that nobody's really interested in.”
Here is Saban’s prescription: Require Power Five league teams to play all out-of-conference games against other Power Five leagues.
Saban was getting warmed up because he would like bowl matchups to be dictated by power ratings, instead of the current slotting system. He also said by switching to that system pressure would build to expand the college football playoff to 12 teams.
Is it going to happen?
No. We suffered through more than a decade with the Bowl Championship Series before college football embraced the four-team playoff. The current system might grow to eight teams by … 2051.
But keeping pushing, Nick.
3. Kentucky vs. Indiana (football edition)
They compete in baseball. They compete in soccer. They compete in swimming.
But Kentucky and Indiana have not played a regular season men’s college basketball game since December 2011. The last football game between the programs was played a dozen years ago.
I’m not here to report the schools intend to play again — or that they should.
Louisville serves the role on neighbor out-of-conference rival for the Wildcats. Indiana must schedule a program the Hoosiers can consistently beat. They’re already committed to nine Big Ten games, one more conference game than the SEC requires.
But if college football ever adopts the Saban Plan, UK-IU could squeeze its way back into the rotation.
With the talk about conference superiority, John Crist from SaturdayDownSouth.com, a website dedicated to SEC coverage, wrote this piece outlining the teams he’d like to see paired if the SEC and Big Ten scheduled a 14-game challenge between the leagues.
His pick for the Wildcats?
His reason? Both schools obsess about basketball more than football.
True. But what Crist overlooks is this: Kentucky cares more about football. Considerably more.
4. Ole Miss Recruiting
Let’s be honest: What was the first or second question many SEC football fans asked after the jarring resignation by Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze less than two weeks ago?
What’s going to happen to the Rebels’ recruits?
Recruiting is the fastest shortcut Freeze took to upgrade the Ole Miss program. No Freeze, no reason for top-rated players from Illinois, Ohio, Texas or elsewhere to head to Oxford.
The early results are in — and they’re not pretty. Ole Miss has suffered decommitments from 30 percent of its projected 2018 class, losing three of 10, including a pair last weekend. Daniel Skipper of OleHottyToddy.com has the story.
5. Feinstein For the Win
There’s an excellent chance you’re not a fan of John Feinstein’s writing — at least about college basketball. You’re convinced Feinstein hates your school.
I’ve heard the grumbles. Feinstein has heard the grumbles. He doesn’t care. He shouldn’t care.
But consider this a request to put aside your irritation for Feinstein to read this piece he wrote about North Carolina basketball and NCAA problems.
Feinstein, a Duke graduate, wrote UNC’s defense strategy has been flawed and that the Tar Heels are in line for a significant penalty.
6. AAU Basketball: Good, Bad or Ugly?
AAU hasn’t always been The Big Thing in recruiting.
High school basketball coach was once the primary vehicle for evaluating, recruiting and landing top prospects.
That changed more than two decades ago. Let me make it perfectly clear: We’re never going back to the days when the high school coach runs the show — unless he is the father of a recruit.
We’re good on that idea, OK?
But I’m not the only one who believes that AAU basketball is (like most things) a colossal money grab.
Charging parents to watch their children play. Charging players and teams substantial tournament entry fees. Charging college basketball coaches even more substantial fees for a book of rosters and telephone numbers — even if coaches don’t need them.
Don’t believe me?
Then believe Jim McIllvaine, the former Marquette and NBA player. In this blog post, Mac writes he played before AAU ball blew up and that he returned to the game this summer to watch his nephew compete.
McIllvaine was not impressed, so he wrote this lengthy blog post he titled:
Should AAU Basketball Even Exist?
7. Waiting on Williamson
I’m not one of the 100,000 fans who watched livestream coverage of AAU basketball from Las Vegas during college basketball’s third and final summer evaluation period.
But I did read considerable coverage.
You’ll enjoy this story from the Las Vegas paper about Zion Williamson, the monstrous power forward from South Carolina many consider one of the top three players in the Class of 2018.
Williamson has offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina and others.
8. Brendan McKay
Credit to the Tampa Bay Rays for two things:
They’re going to give former Louisville ace Brendan McKay every opportunity to succeed as completely as possible as a pro baseball player.
They’re letting him hit. They’re letting him play first base. They’re letting him DH.
The Rays signed McKay to a bonus worth more than $7 million. There is no reason to squeeze $5 million of value from McKay this summer. After a demanding season at U of L, McKay finally made his pro pitching debut for Hudson Valley in short-season Class A ball Sunday.
He was nearly flawless, pitching two scoreless innings without allowing a hit while, striking out four and walking one.
McKay will likely throw less than 30 pro innings this summer — and work on improving his .222 batting average in 36 at-bats.
9. Pick$ to Click
How much would you pay for national coverage of college football or college basketball?
$40 for an entire year?
Not one penny?
You’ll soon have an opportunity to make that decision. TheAthletic.com, a pay sports content site that has focused coverage in Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland and other cities, is about to make a major push with national college football and basketball coverage, building teams of writers who have worked at other national sites.
The first arrival will be Aug. 28 when TheAllAmerican launches, dedicated to college football coverage. Former Sports Illustrated and FoxSports writer Stewart Mandel will quarterback that effort.
Of more interest locally will be the college basketball site, titled TheFieldhouse. Another former SI guy, Seth Davis, will direct that one, and he’s already added several writers.
Is there a market?
I hope so.
10. Poll Results
What is the key September game for the University of Louisville football team?
Clemson -- 77.2 percent
North Carolina -- 18.2 percent
Purdue -- 4.6 percent.
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