Dooley: Step right up
Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 11:37 p.m.
There are different kinds of pressure in college football. There is the kind that a player says he puts on himself, which is the easiest to deal with because he can always back off. There’s the kind that comes with a fourth down in an SEC stadium, a pressure so intense it could turn coal into diamonds.
There is the pressure of a last-second field goal or being in charge of the deviled eggs at your tailgate or writing a column on deadline.
If we’re closing in on the start of football season, pressure is waiting around the corner along with unbridled enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations.
For some, it is greater than it is for others. These 10 people need to step up and fish or cut bait because it’s gut-check time and they have to answer the bell. There, I ran out of cliches.
1. Quinton Dunbar: Let me point out that I’m not trying to put any extra pressure on any of these people, but am only trying to point out that they need to have big years. Dunbar was a serviceable wide receiver a year ago as a sophomore, but if Florida’s passing game is going to be elevated, there has to be a receiver who will be a candidate for All-SEC at the end of the year. With Andre Debose out, I’m appointing Dunbar to the role of big-time player. Last year, he had 40 or less receiving yards in 11 of 13 games. That has to get better. I’ve said all summer that Jeff Driskel can only improve as much as his wide receivers improve.
2. Aaron Murray: The Georgia quarterback is going to break every serious SEC passing record if he stays healthy. But he often struggles in the big games and I’m sure he wants his legacy to be more than a couple of SEC East titles. Murray has plenty of offensive weapons around him and a slew of early showcase games. How about making a statement, big guy?
3. Steve Spurrier: The head ball coach already has a bunch of rings for SEC crowns and a national title, but this might be his best (and last realistic) shot to get the Gamecocks over the hump and win the conference.
4. Mark D’Onofrio: The joke in Miami last year was that his name should be Onofrio because there was no D for the Hurricanes and their defensive coordinator. Miami got better in the second half of the season, but the ‘Canes won’t be able to be truly back until they start playing some defense.
5. Silas Redd: When he transferred to Southern Cal from Penn State, it looked like the last piece of the puzzle for Lane Kiffin. The tailback was good (905 yards) but not great and failed to find the end zone in his last three games. Against Stanford and UCLA — 16 carries for 25 yards.
6. Hal Mumme: Old Squirrel Brains is back and is running the offense at SMU. June Jones handed over the play-calling duties to a guy trying to make it back to a power conference, but he has to be looking over his shoulder at the head coach every time a play doesn’t work.
7. Erin Andrews: The new FoxSports1 network isn’t going to overtake ESPN and College GameDay has little to fear, but Andrews is the person who has to make the pre-game show work despite a lame cast around her (Regis Philbin? Was Jerry Springer not available?)
8. Tommy Rees: Not much on your shoulders there, Tommy boy. Just the weight of the Irish Nation coming off a national title game. With Everett Golson lost to academic issues and unproven back-ups, it’s Tommy’s show. Until Brian Kelly gets ticked off.
9. Washington State’s offensive line: Look, Mike Leach is going to throw it. A lot. But when you give up 57 sacks (the most in the nation), it’s difficult to get an offense going. The Cougars lost more yards last year than a lawn service with broken mowers.
10. Adolphus Washington: Ohio State has a Heisman candidate at quarterback and a coach with two national championship rings. What the Buckeyes lack is an experienced edge rusher after losing 51 sacks to graduation. Washington will try to fill the void in what is supposed to be a special season in Columbus.
Honorable mention: The SEC East (four straight losses in Atlanta by a total of 94 points), the ACC (beat somebody), Dominique Easley, James Franklin (the quarterback, not the coach), George O’Leary, Mack Brown (the coach, not the running back).