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#pounditSaturday, April 10, 2021

College Football

Gus Malzahn explains why UCF players had Twitter handles on spring game uniforms

Gus Malzahn

UCF players displayed an eye-catching bit of style during Saturday’s spring game, wearing uniforms with their social media handles on the nameplates.

Instead of their last names, UCF players had their social media names, particularly their Twitter handles, displayed on their backs. That applied to everyone that participated, too.

So what was the thinking behind this? Coach Gus Malzahn explained that UCF was embracing the “new age of personal branding,” adding that it was a good way to reach UCF’s younger group of alumni.

“You look at, what, 322,000 living alumni and the average age is 36. 72,000 [students] and they’re all on Twitter,” Malzahn said. “Some of these big schools, the average age of their alumni is 65 and they’re on Facebook. So we’ve got a big advantage there.”

With the NCAA increasingly backing down on players taking advantages of their names and likenesses, we’re probably going to see more things like this. UCF is getting out ahead of it, which is exactly what a school of its caliber should be doing. They may well reap the benefits of such an approach, or at least serve as a template for other schools that may ultimately follow in their footsteps.

Nick Saban shares what his challenge is for Bryce Young

Nick Saban

Bryce Young appears to have the inside track to winning Alabama’s starting quarterback job for 2021, but Nick Saban wants to see one specific thing from him.

Saban spoke about Young on Saturday following Alabama’s second spring scrimmage. While Saban praised the sophomore quarterback, he added that there was one particular area of focus where he wants to see Young improve.

“I told him one of the things that he has to work on is having presence on the field — being the man so to speak, taking charge and being in command,” Saban said, via Michael Casagrande of “I think that he’s done better at that.

“I think he realizes what he needs to do to try and help the players around him play better. And I think he’s done it very well.”

It’s easy to understand why Young might need a little coaxing. He’s in line to replace a Heisman Trophy finalist in Mac Jones for a team with championship aspirations. He’ll likely have to grow into the role a bit, but that’s what spring practices are for.

Saban has made clear that Young is leading the race for the Alabama quarterback job, and it certainly appears to be Young’s to lose. Paul Tyson and Jalen Milroe are his primary competition for the role.

Ryan Day avoids parking ticket thanks to generous Ohio State fan

Ryan Day

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has a Buckeyes fan to thank for avoiding a parking ticket.

On Thursday, a Buckeye fan in Columbus who had seen Day earlier and recognized the coach’s car noticed something: Day’s vehicle was parked in a spot with an expired parking meter. Never fear: the fan took care of the situation, putting an extra half hour on the meter for the Ohio State coach.

The act of kindness did not go unnoticed by Day.

The fan, Will Palmer, said he just didn’t think it would be right for Day to have to pay a parking ticket in Columbus.

“I decided it wouldn’t be right to let our Head Coach get a parking ticket when he was just trying to spend some time with his family,” Palmer told Mark Russell of Buckeyes Wire. “So I went back into the store, got my wallet and put some money in the meter so he wouldn’t have to come back to a ticket on his windshield.”

With kindness like that, it’s no wonder Day doesn’t want to leave Columbus.

Homeless man participated in USC football practice, ate with players

USC Trojans logo

One man recently had a heck of a time as an unintentional honorary member of the USC Trojans football team.

The LA Daily News’ Scott Wolf reported the story during the week and has some alternating details about it. One version of the story says the man expressed that he wanted to be a walk-on for the football team and was able to participate in practice until someone asked who he was. Then security was called and the guy was kicked out.

Wolf’s follow-up story says that the impostor, alternately described as a homeless man, was acting like a full member of the team. The man reportedly shared a jacuzzi with players, ate at the football dining facility without issue, and slept at a suite in the Coliseum.

There was only an issue when the man got suited up and tried to catch punts at football practice.

Former USC football player Petros Papadakis says the story is true.

Papadakis further says that USC may have made it easier on the man to gain access to facilities because they no longer have a director of security like they used to.

The man may have been able to gain access to areas that typically would have had more security measures because some procedures were reduced during the pandemic.

See, the con works until you try to get greedy. It was all gravy until he tried to field the punts! Of course, it’s not the first time we’ve heard of impostors trying to crash a sports event.

H/T Sammy

Report: NCAA may repeal ineffective ‘Nick Saban rule’

Nick Saban

The NCAA could be preparing to dump a key recruiting rule that hasn’t really done what the organization hoped it would do.

According to Bryan Fischer of Athlon Sports, the NCAA is evaluating the future of the so-called “Nick Saban rule,” which prohibits coaches from leaving campus to travel during the spring evaluation period.

The rule has been in place since 2008. At the time, coaches were allowed to travel during spring evaluations. While they could not speak with recruits, they were allowed to talk to high school coaches and teachers about potential recruits. However, there was a sense among many that some coaches — namely Saban — used the period to arrange “coincidental” meetings with recruits. At the time, Saban was heading into his second season with the Crimson Tide, and had begun assembling the monster recruiting classes he would become known for.

Obviously, the rule did nothing to curb Alabama’s dominance, as Saban has led them to six championships since its passage. That may have something to do with the NCAA questioning whether the rule is necessary or helpful.

As it turns out, there are other reasons Saban is a great coach, such as his unbeatable work ethic. One little rule like this was never going to slow him down much, and the NCAA might as well dump it.

H/T FootballScoop

Arch Manning shares which college football coaches he’s talked to

Arch Manning

Arch Manning is one of the top recruits for 2023 and a highly-coveted quarterback prospect. His recruitment will be a story to follow as he passes through high school. And he may have given some clues about schools in which he has interest.

Arch, who is the son of Cooper Manning and nephew of Peyton and Eli, told 247 Sports’ Steve Wiltfong about which college coaches he’s talked with.

“I’ve been talking with a bunch of coaches,” Manning told 247Sports National Analyst Steve Wiltfong. “Coach (Steve) Sark(isian) at Texas, Coach (Jake) Peetz and Coach (Ed) O(rgeron) at LSU and I’ve gotten the opportunity to talk with Coach (Nick) Saban too. Really all those guys are good at what they do and they’re great to talk to and it’s just been great to get the relationships and bonds already.

“I just really love building a relationship. Really getting to know all of the coaches is important to me.”

Manning only listing those coaches doesn’t mean those are the only coaches he’s talked with. However, it is notable that those ones specifically came to mind for him, which could be an indication of programs he’s considering.

Arch will be a junior in the fall at the Isidore Newman School in the New Orleans area.

Arch’s grandfather, Archie, father Cooper, and uncle Eli all went to Ole Miss. Uncle Peyton went to Tennessee. Despite the family’s history, Arch has actually been getting pressure to join another SEC school.

Lane Kiffin explains why Bill Belichick’s pre-draft approach stands out

Bill Belichick

Many have asked over the years what makes the New England Patriots different from other NFL teams in terms of their long-lasting success. Lane Kiffin is giving one hint as to why that may be.

Kiffin revealed in an interview with “The Pat McAfee Show” on Wednesday that few NFL coaches actually reach out to their college counterparts for inside information on players they’re scouting. The exception is Belichick, who the Ole Miss coach said calls about prospects who aren’t even expected to go in the first round.

“I know there’s guys like Belichick that have personally — I remember a guy in like the third round the night before the draft, him calling me to ask my opinion on him. Not even a first-round pick,” Kiffin said, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk. “So some people do it and I think a lot of people don’t.

“The really good ones like him, he’s so smart. I remember it was a tight end — he was like, ‘OK, I remember you had Zach Miller 10 years ago with the Raiders or whatever it was. How do you compare him to him?’ That’s how smart he is, to be able to remember who you had and players you were around and compare them to. That’s why he’s so great at that.”

There is talk that sometimes Belichick’s approach can definitely backfire on him. Obviously, college coaches want to see their players do well and get drafted high, so their opinions have to be weighed alongside everything else. Still, Belichick’s approach probably pays dividends sometimes, and the knowledge he can acquire from it might give them the inside track on some players that others might not have.

Lovie Smith explains why his defensive scheme failed at Illinois

Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith’s hiring at Illinois was hailed as a coup by many, but the longtime NFL coach ended up doing little to turn the program around. Now that he’s back in the NFL, he thinks he knows why.

Smith said he felt he was not able to implement his entire defensive system at Illinois, as he found college offenses running primarily three receiver sets. That, he said, forced Illinois to remain in its base defense, and his nickel packages were rarely used.

“In college we weren’t able to run our entire system,” Smith said, via Doug Samuels of Football Scoop. “Most of the time offenses go three receivers, we kept our base defense on the field. We didn’t play our nickel packages much. So I think our defense is more suited for the NFL game and we’ll make the tweaks and things like that.”

Smith recently joined the Houston Texans as the new defensive coordinator, where he’s likely to be far more comfortable. That said, you could argue that Smith couldn’t really adapt to the college game and needed to be more flexible when it came to tweaking his system.

Smith’s triumphs at Illinois were plenty memorable, but they were few and far between. He went just 17-39 with the Fighting Illini and only made one bowl appearance.

Nick Saban pays respect to late Alabama superfan Luke Ratliff

Luke Ratliff

Nick Saban on Wednesday paid his respects to late Alabama superfan Luke Ratliff.

Closing out his press conference after the Crimson Tide’s practice, Saban shared his condolences to Ratliff’s family.

Ratliff died on Friday at the age of 23, reportedly due to complications related to COVID-19.

Ratliff was a huge supporter of the Tide’s men’s basketball team and had supported them in their NCAA Tournament game against UCLA. He returned home from that game days before dying.

He finished college attending 42 straight Alabama games.

Alabama’s softball team paid respect to Ratliff as well.

An Alabama assistant coach even started a charity fund for Ratliff’s family.

Nick Saban describes Kyle Shanahan’s behavior at Alabama Pro Day

Kyle Shanahan

Reports are saying that the San Francisco 49ers are likely to take Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft. If that’s the case, the 49ers’ brass didn’t seem to give that impression to Nick Saban at Alabama’s Pro Day.

Saban was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday and talked about his encounters with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.

Saban told Patrick that Shanahan didn’t ask Saban one thing.

The discussion came up because Patrick asked what Saban’s duties are for a pro day. He said one of the things he does is answer questions from some NFL people. Saban seemed serious when he said he didn’t think the NFL coaches felt they were allowed to talk with him.

Jones threw at both of Alabama’s Pro Days on March 23 and March 30. There was a ton of positive talk about him after his sessions, with teams reportedly coming away impressed.

The 49ers made their trade with Miami to move up in the draft just days after Alabama’s Pro Day. If it was a coincidence, they apparently didn’t give many hints to Saban.