ASK CFN (6/6) - Every Team's Mr. Football
Posted Jun 6, 2008

Who's every team's Mr. Football? Herschel Walker at Georgia, Archie Griffin at Ohio State, and Archie Manning at Ole Miss are obvious, but others, like Kenny Easley at UCLA, are up for debate. What top ten teams don't deserve to be in the top ten? These questions and more in the latest ASK CFN.

By Pete Fiutak
Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

Past ASK CFNs ...
- What was Nebraska's problem?
- Is Jim Tressel an elite coach?
- A foolproof BCS solution

- An early look at OSU vs. USC
- The WVU/Rodriguez situation
- Who's the team of the decade?
- Dump Mack Brown and JoePa?!
- Big East expansion
- Is Charlie Weis on a hot seat?
- The Reggie Bush situation

- Is Bob Stoops the new Lloyd Carr?
- Why LSU winning matters
- Bowl winners & losers
- Can a two-loss team play for the title?
- The five worst recent champions 
- The Flakiest Teams
- A little BCS history
- Should USC be in the title hunt?
- The best RB you don't know
- What's wrong with Texas A&M? 
- How bad is the Big Ten?
- Will Miles run to Michigan?
- Supersized Season Premier of ASK CFN
 The most loved & hated teams
- Is Miami still a power?
- CFN's West Virginia ranking
- Is Booty Heisman-worthy?
- The USC Schedule
- The Big Ten Network
- The most underrated head coach
- The Top Ten NFL receiver prospects 

- Why did Brady Quinn slide?
- The Virginia Tech situation

- Creating a MWest-WAC super-league
Mid-majors who should be in the bigs
The potential new superpower
The 5 best coaching jobs
March Madness for football?
Potential Bowl Shockers
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

What team(s) do you foresee being ranked in the preseason top ten that may fall off the radar by middle of the season? ala 2007 Michigan.  What team are you looking at penciling in as a top five or ten that makes you grimace when you think about it? – Mike T.

A: I just don’t quite believe Texas is going to be all that great. The Longhorns will be in everyone’s top ten because they’re the Longhorns, but there are too many question marks, too much hope for unknown, slightly above average players to come through, and unsettled openings at running back and throughout the defense. Arizona State is also a hot team, but it didn’t do much against the better teams and the O line that was so bad last year has to replace some key starters.

Can we agree that today’s SEC boasts the greatest collection of college coaching talent ever gathered in one conference? By far? – Sean F.

A: Yup. I did some research on this a few months ago, and I couldn’t find a group that comes close. Eight SEC coaches make more than $2 million a year and five, Phil Fulmer, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, have won national titles. Throw Tommy Tuberville and Mark Richt into the mix, and over half the coaches in the league have been at a national championship level. Bobby Petrino is fantastic, and will do wonders with Arkansas, Houston Nutt is a strong veteran, and Sylvester Croom, Rich Brooks, and Bobby Johnson are proven.

Dennis Franchione had been considered a coaching superstar until he hit the wall at Texas A&M. I still think he could be handed the keys to a BCS program like Syracuse or Arizona, and if I were running the show at a UNLV or a Marshall I’d crawl across the state to acquire his services. The newsletter scandal hurt, but I’d be more than willing to roll the dice on Fran. Any thoughts on where he lands next? – JRM

A: No one likes a retread who didn’t succeed. Some of the recent high profile rehires after falls from grace, like Dick Tomey and San Jose State, Frank Solich at Ohio and Ron Zook at Illinois, had some success at the previous stop and left under somewhat controversial circumstances. Solich was seen as unfairly kicked out of his Nebraska gig, after taking the Huskers to a national title game, while Zook wasn’t horrible at Florida. Franchione was great at TCU and decent at Alabama, but he was sort of mopey at A&M and he did nothing to take the program to the next level. It’s easy to forget now, but R.C. Slocum had won a Big 12 title before Fran showed up. Eventually, like in a year or two, Franchione could surface at a non-BCS school, but that’s starting over and no older coach is hot on doing that.

I'm a diehard UNC football fan and my friends always joke with me about how Butch Davis will go back to Miami in a couple years. It got me thinking about if he were to have success, why would he leave Chapel Hill? To me, Carolina has the foundation to become a perennially good football program if it had a coach. It's located in good recruiting territory, there's no other in-state powerhouse around (the closest would be Tennessee/Georgia/VT), they've got good facilities, and they'd surely have a great fanbase & a ton of support from the fans and the athletic department if they started winning consistently. What other programs do you think have the pieces in place to turn things around with a good coach at the helm, and how long do you see Butch Davis at UNC? - Matt, a Carolina fan at Ohio State

A: Ehhhhh, but it’s still North Carolina and the football program is always going to be dwarfed by the basketball team. That’s never, ever going to change, and you’re sort of wrong about the location. NC State, Clemson, South Carolina, and various other ACC and SEC teams will always battle the Tar Heels for talent. As far as another program that has everything in place to turn things around, Illinois and South Florida were always my calls before last year’s success. Going back to the Franchione question, Texas A&M has the recruiting base, the fans, and the facilities to be a superpower. That might be a place that goes ballistic once the ball gets rolling.

I was just wondering, how much does a new coaching staff bring to a program? Is it all about recruiting? Can a team really be “coached up”? I’ve heard many announcers say this in referring to Mr. Weis Notre Dame team then it collapsed. Texas A&M is looking at this scenario this year. The coaches all have NFL experience, so can the team be “coached up” to have a run at the conference title? – Bobby

A: They usually bring more than they let on with the normal schlock they spew. Every new coaching staff says the same thing about needing to get everyone in better shape, needing to change the attitude, needing to toughen up, and needing to be more disciplined. Like every old coaching staff had a bunch of lard-butt hooligans who liked to watch Sex and the City marathons and eat bon-bons. It all comes down to teaching and preparation. If you have the assistants who can quickly adapt the style they want to run with the personnel in place, then changing things around isn’t all that hard. If you have a staff with a system, and wants to make the wrong players and talents fit into that style (cough, Michigan, cough), it can take a while. Weis had Brady Quinn, a great receiving corps, and Darius Walker all at their peak, and succeeded by bringing his style to a ready-made pro caliber group of skill players.

NFL experience can sometimes be a detriment to the overall cause when it comes to college players. It can be frustrating because anyone used to the NFL and the ability to have a million practices, meetings, and 100% focus on football sometimes has a problem relating to the 20-year-old cornerback with girlfriend issues and a C- in basket weaving.

Pete, which of the following former powerhouses will win a national championship first: Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, or Washington? – Patrick A.

A: In football? If pressed, I’d have to say Notre Dame because of its independent schedule. Take this year, for instance. Give me the absolute, 100% guaranteed loss against San Diego State, Michigan, at Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, at North Carolina, at Washington and Pitt. At Boston College will be rough, and then it’s Navy and Syracuse before finishing up at USC. Don’t forget, if there wasn’t the Bush Push in the miraculous finish in the 2005 loss to the Trojans, that Irish team probably would’ve ended up playing Texas for the national title. It might just take one really good year and a win over USC to get the Irish into the title game.

Miami might be a close second just because the ACC doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a killer any time soon and Randy Shannon has started to build a fence around the “State of Miami.” Florida State is a mess and might need a bigger overhaul than Seminole insiders might like to believe once Jimbo Fisher takes over. Washington will never win another national title in our lifetime.

What is a grayshirt in college football? - Gerald

A: It basically postpones a player’s career by keeping him from enrolling in classes for a period of time, usually a year. The player says he wants to be a part of the program and it’s understood that he eventually will be on the team … maybe. If you hear that a guy is a greyshirt, it basically means 1) he’s not that good and usually expendable, 2) he needs time to work on his grades, or 3) the coaching staff doesn’t have enough scholarships because they’re being used on better players.

The one major problem for the teams is if the player is all of a sudden a hot commodity. This almost never happens, but a grayshirt isn’t necessarily committed and can go anywhere else if he ends up going the JUCO route. If a player is really good, grades or not, he’s going to be brought in and locked up and would never grayshirt. You’ll never, ever see a four-star recruit getting a grayshirt.

you guys kinda took it easy on Wisconsin (in the preview), no?  akron, marshall, and cal poly san luis obispo in one season?    add to that minnesota, indiana  and iowa...  jeez.        i might try to get a few guys together at happy hour tonight and apply for the open slot on 9/20.  it'll be like kansas of last year - we just won't know if they're any good when their only loss is to ohio state. – TN

A: It’s really not as bad as you think, and it’s certainly not the Kansas slate of last year. You’re right that Akron, Marshall, and closing out with Cal Poly, is a joke, but it’s comparable to what most BCS teams have, while there’s a sneaky-tough trip to Fresno State. Give me the BCS team, other than UCLA going to BYU that has as tough a non-BCS road trip as this one.

Considering that the Bulldog game is a possible loss, UW doesn’t have it too easy during the first half of the season playing at Fresno State, at Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, at Iowa (who has improved), Illinois, and at Michigan State. Get through that unscathed and Wisconsin is off to the BCS closing up at Indiana, Minnesota and Cal Poly.
If you haven't noticed, ESPN has some rankings and discussion on the BCS at it's 10 year anniversary (signature moments, games, players, etc).  One feature is a post board regarding "the face of the program" for each D-IA football school.  Some are obvious (Penn State = Paterno), some are mostly obvious (Florida State = Bowden over Sanders/Ward), and others have great debate (Notre Dame, Michigan, LSU, etc).  Some nominees have been symbols of the school as opposed to coaches/players (Georgia Tech = Ramblin Wreck, Ohio State = marching band script Ohio).  Since you (and Kirk Herbstreit) are the authority on college football, I was wondering what your take on "the face of the program" would be for each school. – Brian A.

Actually, I’ve been stuck in magazine purgatory ( Preview 2008 on newsstands in early July … plug, plug) and haven’t seen the piece. We’re planning on doing our own stuff on the BCS when it’s time later this season, but without looking at what ESPN has done, and without ripping off the idea entirely, I’ll take your question and go a different way. Who is each BCS team’s Mr. Football?

You can call it the face of the program or the signature player or coach, but I’m going with the guy who best represents what the team is all about. He can be a star, or a figurehead, or a legend, or all three. A teacher once told me to go with your first answer, so for each team listed, I’m going with the one guy who pops into my head first when I think of a Mr. Football.

When the Mr. Football is a coach, I also add a player for all the BCS teams and a few select non-BCSers.

Air Force – Fisher DeBerry. Player: Dee Dowis
Alabama – Bear Bryant. Player: John Hannah
Arizona – Tedy Bruschi
Arizona State – Jake Plummer
Arkansas – Frank Broyles. Player: Darren McFadden
Army – Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard
Auburn – Bo Jackson
Baylor – Mike Singletary
Boise State – Ian Johnson
Boston College – Doug Flutie
BYU – LaVell Edwards  Player: Jim McMahon
California – Joe Kapp
Cincinnati – Gino Guidugli
Clemson – Terry Kinard
Colorado – Bill McCartney  Player: Darian Hagan
Colorado State – Sonny Lubick  Player: Bradlee Van Pelt
Connecticut – Randy Edsall  Player: Dan Orlovsky
Duke – Ben Bennett
East Carolina – Jeff Blake/David Garrard
Florida – Steve Spurrier (coach and player)
Florida State – Bobby Bowden  Player: Charlie Ward
Fresno State – Jim Sweeney  Player: David Carr
Georgia – Vince Dooley  Player: Herschel Walker
Georgia Tech – Bobby Dodd  Player: Joe Hamilton
Hawaii – June Jones  Player: Colt Brennan
Houston – Bill Yeoman  Player: Andre Ware
Illinois – Red Grange
Indiana – Anthony Thompson
Iowa – Haden Fry  Player: Nile Kinnick
Iowa State – Seneca Wallace
Kansas – Mark Mangino  Player: John Riggins
Kansas State – Bill Snyder  Player: Michael Bishop
Kentucky – Bob Gain
Louisville – Brian Brohm
LSU – Billy Cannon
Marshall – Bob Pruett  Player: Chad Pennington
Maryland – Boomer Esiason
Miami – Michael Irvin
Michigan – Bo Schembechler   Player: Bennie Oosterbaan
Michigan State – Duffy Daugherty  Player: Bubba Smith & George Webster
Minnesota – Bernie Bierman  Player: Paul Giel
Ole Miss – Archie Manning
Mississippi State – D.D. Lewis (but I’d really like the Mr. Football to be a cowbell)
Missouri – Brad Smith
Navy – Roger Staubach
Nebraska – Tom Osborne  Player: Johnny Rodgers
North Carolina – Charlie Justice
NC State – Phil Rivers
Northwestern – Pat Fitzgerald
Notre Dame – Knute Rockne  Player: George Gipp
Ohio State – Woody Hayes Player: Archie Griffin (but I really want to go with Chris Spielman)
Oklahoma – Bud Wilkinson   Player: Billy Sims
Oklahoma State – Barry Sanders
Oregon – Norn Van Brocklin
Oregon State – Terry Baker
Penn State – Joe Paterno  Player: Jack Ham
Pitt – Tony Dorsett
Purdue – Bob Greise
Rutgers – Paul Roberson
San Diego State – Marshall Faulk
South Carolina – George Rogers
USC – John McKay  Player: Charles White (but it’s really O.J.)
SMU – Doak Walker
Stanford – John Elway
Syracuse – Almost anyone wearing No. 44
TCU – Sammy Baugh
Tennessee – Peyton Manning
Texas – Darrell Royal  Player: Earl Campbell
Texas A&M – John David Crow
Texas Tech – Mike Leach  Player: Donny Anderson (it’s going to be Graham Harrell after this year, but I’m going with Anderson, a star halfback in the 1960s, because his nickname was the The Golden Palomino.)
UCLA – Terry Donohue  Player: Kenny Easley
Vanderbilt – Jay Cutler
Virginia – George Welsh  Player: Jim Dombrowski
Virginia Tech – Frank Beamer  Player: Michael Vick
Wake Forest – Jim Grobe  Player: Steve Justice
Washington – Don James  Player: Steve Emtman
Washington State – Mel Hein
West Virginia – Don Nehlan  Player: Major Harris and/or Pat White
Wisconsin – Barry Alvarez  Player: Ron Dayne