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September 29, 2010

College Football Report - Dropping the Labels - Part 1:

It’s time to drop a few labels that have been hanging over college football for a while now. Teams, players and even coaching styles are changing in football. Twenty years ago Boise State was fighting for wins as a member of the Big Sky Conference in the NCAA Division II-A. A decade ago Sports Illustrated was calling for the University of Miami to drop its football program, tagging it “broken beyond repair.” A year ago one quarterback nationally finished within the top 25 in rushing. This season, three are on pace to finish within the top 10. It’s time to break some labels.

Part 1:

Charles Woodson - the only defensive player to win the Heisman:

This one was almost busted last season. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting, the highest for a defensive player since Woodson won in ’97. Suh was without a doubt one of the most influential and dominant players in college football and rightfully so deserved to be recognized as one.

This year, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson (left) brings back flashes of Woodson and through four weeks of the 2010 season, you’d be hard pressed to find a watch list that doesn’t include Peterson. He has racked up two touchdowns on punt returns and brought in two interceptions on defense. Peterson has also blocked a field goal. It’s hard to argue against the impact he has on his undefeated LSU team, especially with their offensive struggles. The argument against Peterson is that he doesn’t play any offensive snaps, while Woodson scored three offensive touchdowns during his Heisman season. Peterson, however, is already halfway to Woodson’s total of four touchdowns, without playing a snap of offense.

Players like Peterson come around once in a decade - while there have been quarterbacks and running backs repeating one another season after season. Shouldn’t a player like Peterson be recognized as one of the greatest college football players, no matter what side of the ball he plays on?

Notre Dame as a premiere coaching job:

Imagine a generation that only knows Notre Dame Football as a losing program. Sadly, we’ve reached that. The days of Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz as coaching icons on the Notre Dame sidelines feels like centuries ago. Rather than a coach’s dream job, the Irish position has turned into a nightmare scenario. Bob Davie was unable to follow the footsteps of Lou Holtz from ’97-2001. Tyrone Willingham was thrown out of the program in just three years of work. Charlie Weis, the offensive genius, forgot about the defense for five seasons. All stepped into the treasured position with high hopes. And all three left with their tails between their legs and the feeling that leaving town in the middle of the night might be their safest option.

Before the 2008 Hawaii Bowl, when the Irish defeated the Warriors on their home field, the Irish had not won a bowl since the 1993 Cotton Bowl. During that span the Irish lost nine straight bowls. Not typical of Notre Dame Football, but it has been modern Notre Dame Football.

So now, Brian Kelly steps into the vacated Irish football job. With the same high hopes and passion as the ones before him. The current results? A 1-3 record that rests on the shoulders of Kelly and his 2010 team to start the season as questions arise about whether or not this once storied program can really be brought back to its glory days.

Because If I was a coach right now, I might take my chances with building another program rather than Notre Dame.

Florida’s ‘Tebow’ Innocence:

The golden child Tim Tebow has moved on. Departed from the University of Florida and with him, the programs innocence. The poster boy of a student athlete for four years, Tebow also happened to be a part of a team that produced the most player arrests in college football. This month, Florida tailback Chris Rainey became the 30th player in head coach Urban Meyers tenure at Florida to be arrested. What was so special about number 30 making a splash around the college football world, though? Weren’t 20 or 25 arrests enough to sound the alarms in Gainesville? Perhaps it’s a problem now that Tim Tebow isn’t there to overshadow the arrests with dramatic speeches and missionary trips.

Its good Meyer will take stronger action now, though. It only took a text that read “time to die,” by Rainey to his ex-girlfriend to get Meyer’s attention. Rainey has since been released and Meyer has since had a headache figuring out how to bring up not only his own reputation, but the reputation of Gator football. New Message - "Time to change."

The University of Miami as Thug U:

The University of Miami has had its time in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The last decade, however, hasn’t been one of those times. The program that invented on field celebrations and a brash attitude has since been quiet. A gloomy 2006 brawl between Miami and FIU hangs over the program from the last decade, but Clemson, South Carolina and Ohio State have gone through their own instances of on field disasters. In Head Coach Randy Shannon’s four years as the programs leader just one player has been arrested, that player being current Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

This offseason the football program was recognized by the NCAA for their Academic Progress Report Score (APR), which recognizes programs that finish with a multi-year top 10 percent score. Of the 26 teams recognized, the Hurricanes were the only BCS team that finished the 2009 season ranked, and along with Duke, the only other ACC school.

The past four seasons, Shannon has taken a bad rep in recruiting as fans declared the coach was missing out on some of South Florida’s top ranked players. It appears now, Shannon knew he was recruiting character and dignity. These days, led by the strict direction of Shannon the ‘Canes have dropped the Thug U label and moved onto just The U, a self proclaimed swaggar directed label. So much for the Sports Illustrated's claims of a program “broken beyond repair.”

-Check back tomorrow for Part II of dropping labels.

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All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.