Three-Point Stance: What grade does Kirby Smart deserve?
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thought-provoking Three-Point Stance is here with a look at the Jalen Hurd transfer, the first-year coaches in the Power Five and how hot seats heading into next year could affect recruiting.
1. GRADING THE FIRST-YEAR POWER FIVE COACHES
Let’s take a look at how each new Power Five coach has done so far and let Professor Farrell hand out his grades as the regular season enters its final month.
Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech – A-plus - Fuente, who replaced a legend in Frank Beamer, is on track to potentially win a division crown in his Hokie debut.
Tracy Claeys – Minnesota – A-plus - The Gophers are 6-2 overall, bowl eligible already and have a winning record in the Big Ten.
Will Muschamp – South Carolina – A - Who would have expected South Carolina to already have surpassed the win total from last season and have an upset win over the Vols? The Gamecocks' 4-4 mark is fine by me.
Clay Helton – USC – B-plus - USC fans might not agree and give more credit to Sam Darnold than they do to Helton, but 5-3 overall and 4-2 in conference after that Alabama disaster is a good job.
DJ Durkin – Maryland – B-plus - The Terps are 5-3 and on the fringe of being bowl eligible after the Randy Edsall debacle. Durkin is the real deal.
Jim Grobe – Baylor – B-plus - The Bears haven’t beaten anyone short of Oklahoma State and the Texas loss wasn’t great, but Grobe stepped into a tough situation and has done very well.
Dino Babers – Syracuse – B – The Orange are 4-4 and .500 in ACC play with a great upset victory against Virginia Tech. This team is playing hard and the offense is fun to watch.
Kirby Smart – Georgia – B – This is where it gets tricky because no one expected Georgia to be 4-4 overall and have a losing record in SEC play, but the offensive line Smart inherited is one of the worst in college football.
Mark Richt – Miami – B-minus – Miami's record, 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, isn’t great, but at least the Hurricanes are playing with more passion.
Matt Campbell – Iowa State – C - The Cyclones are 1-7 and winless in a bad Big 12, but they hung with Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. This is an improved team even though the record doesn't show it.
Barry Odom – Missouri – C – The Tigers are 2-6 and winless in the SEC but they probably should have beaten Georgia if that means anything and they hung with West Virginia.
Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia – C – The Cavaliers are 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the ACC but the win over Duke was solid and the near upset of Louisville was stunning.
Lovie Smith – Illinois – C-minus - The Illini are 2-6 and 1-4 in the Big Ten with a loss to Purdue. That's ugly, but no one fails in my first-year class.
Chris Ash – Rutgers – C-minus - The Scarlet Knights are 2-6 and winless in the Big Ten with embarrassing losses to Ohio State and Michigan. I liked the team's effort against Minnesota.
2. JALEN HURD AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL DECOMMITMENTS
There are now decommitments in college football. That’s right, not just in recruiting but in college football itself.
While I’m not a fan of decommitments in recruiting, I can understand them to an extent. There are many factors that could be at play - a hasty decision, pressure from adults to commit, a coaching change or a better offer - and every one of those factors involve a 16- or 17-year old kid.
But to decommit in college football as Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd did this week is bad business. Hurd played in 33 games as a Volunteer and was a huge part of the Tennessee offense from the moment he stepped on the field. And then, after a third-straight loss, he just bailed.
Hurd's commitment to the Vols wasn’t a hasty decision. He wasn’t pressured by adults. There was no coaching change. I don’t see any better offers out there. He’s an adult now. All I see is a selfish act; a player that bailed on his teammates when times got tough.
I don’t know the real deal behind the scenes, but I do know how it looks from the outside: ugly. The least Hurd could do is stay and finish out the season with his brothers.
Hurd is far from the only player to leave a team midseason - Blake Barnett quit on Alabama earlier this year, for example – but Hurd's move puts college football decommitments in the spotlight in a much bigger way and could lead to a trend.
Transfers in college football are more commonplace than ever these days, but quitting in the middle of a football season is just awful. And that NFL career? You can bet scouts from all 32 teams will have a huge red flag next to his name from here on out.
3. HOT SEATS THAT WILL IMPACT RECRUITING
The offseason is sometimes the best time to recruit. Last year behind you, you are undefeated heading into the next season year and selling a vision is much easier at that point than when your team is getting beat up on the field. The first-year coaches above have a great advantage over these five guys who are likely to survive this season but will be under heavy pressure next year while negative recruiting runs amok:
Mark Helfrich – Oregon – The Ducks' recruiting has been down a bit since Chip Kelly left. Now Helfrich could have a hard time selling all the advantages the Ducks offer as Washington could become the cool destination in the Pacific Northwest.
Brian Kelly – Notre Dame – The Irish's win over Miami was big and Kelly's team could finish strong for all we know, but it will be tough for Notre Dame to make the postseason. Recruiting will be difficult if Kelly is widely seen to be on the hot seat entering next season.
Butch Jones – Tennessee – When you recruit as well as Jones did when he landed the job in Knoxville, expectations are sky high. Even if the Vols win out, it has already become a tougher recruiting road in 2017. Imagine how difficult things will be for the 2018 class.
Bret Bielema – Arkansas – Bielema is .500 overall and owns a big-time losing record in the SEC. During his tenure, Arkansas has shown signs of life only to be followed by disappointment. Without a great recruiting territory, this could be a tough sale next season.
Dave Doeren – NC State – Oh what a missed kick could mean. NC State is just weeks removed from what should have been a signature win against Clemson and has since been destroyed by Louisville and embarrassed by Boston College. A 4-8 finish is possible, which would drop Doeren to 22-28 overall and 7-25 in the ACC. That would put him in serious trouble heading into next season.