The CFB Degenerate's Newsletter: A Bi-Weekly Article Series
This week: Coaching carousel bonanza, transfer names to know this cycle, FSU recruiting violations, a surprising stat on Ohio State WRs, and five candidates for the most improved offence in 2024.
I’ve been a pig for 19 months… I should have been a fireman.
- Ethan Hawke, Training Day (2001)
Coaching Carousel: A Cascade of Impactful Domino Effects
As I’m sure we all know by now, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban announced his retirement last week. It’s impossible to quantify Saban’s impact on College Football (CFB) while he was active, so it should come as no surprise that even in his wake, there would be massive tidal waves continuing to reshape the landscape of the sport.
The first impact centred around Saban’s immediate replacement. Former University of Washington (UW) head coach Kalen DeBoer accepted the position to coach Alabama, and by all accounts, plans to bring a number of his Huskies staff with him. That seems to be the thing to do these days whenever coaches move shop. At least, I don’t remember coaches bringing entire staffs over with them eight or ten years ago. But that’s neither here nor there.
DeBoer would have most likely brought several players over with him too, if it weren’t for the fact that almost all of his key players from UW are moving on. That was part of the magic of that team—not a single five star in sight, but an entire fleet of NFL skill players on offence who could have easily left for the NFL last year.
There is the defensive back Jabbar Muhammad, who is probably Alabama level quality, and the Tide are losing a few DBs to the draft this year. But besides that, it’s hard to envision many former Huskies making the trip to Tuscaloosa.
Curiously, while some transfer portal friction was expected, what was not expected was that it’d be the WRs, who are either on the roster, or were committed, who appear to be jumping ship.
Isaiah ‘shaken not stirred’ Bond transferred to Texas within 48 hours of the news of KD’s hiring. An unfortunate move for him (and I guess us too), because the OC that DeBoer is bringing with him—Ryan Grubb, and the WRs coach—JaMarcus Sheppard, have pretty good track records with WR development.
Perhaps more importantly, Bond wouldn’t be competing for targets as much at Alabama, as he will be at Texas. Rising sophomore Johntay Cook is expected to become a feature piece of the offense in 2024. They also brought in Houston transfer Matthew Golden and, most recently, Silas Bolden from Oregon State. On the other hand, if given the option of catching passes from Jalen Milroe or Quinn Ewers, perhaps I'd make the same decision too.
One thing to keep in mind is that while yes, DeBoer and Grubb’s system has mostly lent itself to QB and WR production, they’ve also had some pigs in the backfield at times (Ronnie Rivers, Dillon Johnson, and to an extent, Stevie Scott). I wrote about who might step up in that role for Alabama earlier this week.
Of course, with DeBoer and his staff moving on, that left an opening for UW. The Huskies moved swiftly and picked up Arizona’s Jedd Fisch, who has had quite the rebuild with the Wildcats over the last two seasons. Apparently, Fisch’s move ruffled quite a few feathers in Arizona, so we’ll just have to wait and see how many of his former players follow him. Jedd is expected to bring basically his entire offensive staff with him.
The two key roster pieces to poach would be rising juniors QB Noah Fifita and superstar Tetairoa McMillan. RB Jonah Coleman is already in the portal, and is expected to follow Jedd to the Pacific Northwest. I highlighted him during the season as a potential volume pig for the future. That of course is depended on who he’s playing under, but if he follows Jedd to UW, I think it’s a good spot for him, especially with Dillon Johnson moving on.
Arizona’s search then kicked in motion. Names that were connected to that opening included UNLV’s Barry Odom, and SJSU’s Brent Brennan, among others. Even newly minted Alabama OC Ryan Grubb was linked to the opening. Brennan originally interviewed for the job when Jedd got it the first go around.
As far as the CFF implications of each, one could imagine that if Odom was hired, that he might have brought OC Brennan Marion’s ‘Go-Go Offence’ with him. That would essentially repeat this cycle all over again, with likely several Rebel players (WR Ricky White, for ex.) following suit. If you missed it, the Rebels recently acquired former FCS QB Matthew Sluka in the transfer portal. This is going to be a fun (and probably explosive) offence in 2024. Fingers crossed that the carousal doesn’t blow this one up. I would not be as high on players like White or Sluka playing at the P5 level, for obvious reasons.
The Wildcats brass eventually landed on Brent Brennan, announcing the acquisition on Tuesday. Brennan caught me completely off guard this year in CFF, when he had not only one RB permeate the surface of CFF relevancy, but at times, two RBs gain this distinction.
While I can’t say Kairee Robinson was a classic volume pig, he was insanely efficient with his touches, and he ended the year averaging over 20 PPG. Brennan’s SJSU teams in the past have had productive QB and WR play too, so the players to target under him are not quite as obvious. I’m guessing T-Mac will still be seen as a first round player in CFF, however.
Now, we wait and see who SJSU hires as Brennan’s replacement.
Bi-Weekly Newsletter (Some Boring Housekeeping)
As many of you will recall, during the College Football season I released an article series every week titled ‘The Itis’. The premise was that this article series provided a recap of the notable events transpiring in the CFB world, and offered some CFF nuggets when and where appropriate. I originally planned to halt this series during the offseason, given that, naturally, not as much is happening. The better half of my brain brought me back to the light, reminding me that there really is no such thing as an offseason in CFB. That’s been especially true in the last couple of weeks, with multiple shockwave-inducing events occurring in the span of a few days.
So, I thought why not bring this style of article back. I have made one wrinkle though, and that is that I plan to publish these on a bi-weekly basis. I believe this will offer enough room to capture interesting topics regularly. This is the first time I’ll be doing something like this in the offseason, so I’ll be monitoring to see if this is something worthwhile.
In the spring of the last offseason, I began a monthly recap series, which effectively summarized camp rumblings, quotes from coaches, transfer movement, and injury/suspension news. I plan to do this again this year, but those won’t start until March most likely.
I am also exploring the option of using an AI tool to scrape the internet and capture key quotes from coaches as they relate to CFF insights, for when the next season starts. The inspiration for this derives from the fact that there are already such tools that exist, which summarize the key quotes from earnings calls in finance, producing a transcription within minutes for public consumption. The idea of my reports would be similar, and would undoubtedly provide massive value not just for CFF players, but the DFS crowd as well. They would be independent of my analysis or opinions too, making them doubly valuable.
The roadblock is that the existing tools are generally expensive to use, and there’s no guarantee that I could calibrate them properly to pull what we want out of coaching press conferences and beat reports. This is something I will update on at a later date.
With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s get back to it.
The Kalen DeBoer Era Begins In Alabama
On an exceptionally windy evening here in Toronto, my running mate— Henri, and I braved the elements in search of some much needed post-holiday exercise. During this run, we chatted about the gut punch that was Nick Saban’s surprise retirement last Wednesday.
It was one of those moments that was so monumental to the sport, that you’d remember where you were when you heard it. Ironically, for me, that was huddled around a heater in the entry way of a community centre to warm my hands, frozen from the last hour running outdoors that Wednesday evening.
I opened my phone, intending to go to YouTube to play some music for the remaining leg of my journey home, only to be greeted by a newly uploaded Uncle Lou video, with a caption reading that Saban was calling it a career. I didn’t believe it, assuming that this was a troll video (Uncle Lou is that type of guy), but I clicked anyway. I probably ended up spending the next 15 minutes or so in that entry way glued to my phone reading the updates on twitter (X… whatever).
On Friday’s run, I mentioned to Henri that Kalen DeBoer should lobby to add Hawaii to Bama’s OOC schedule, because they were the only team that he couldn't beat when he was at Fresno State (lost in 2020 and 2021). I also mentioned that I remembered watching him on the sidelines of Fresno State games in 2020 and 2021, because I was a shareholder of his RB— Ronnie Rivers, in a few CFF leagues.
I explained that I had always liked KD during this time—that I liked the cut of his jib, and that I thought he was probably going places (as in, a P5 program). Little did I know that he would be replacing Nick Saban just a few years later.
As far as my thoughts on Alabama’s coaching search — and I think this is indisputable — there was nothing they could do that wasn’t going to be a downgrade from Saban. The only viable candidate to continue at Saban’s level was Kirby Smart, and even then, it is probably not possible for anyone to replicate what Saban did at Alabama in the new era of CFB.
What I found particularly interesting in the 40 or so hours that followed Saban’s announcement, was that it appeared, on the surface, that Alabama was actually being turned down by not one, but multiple candidates.
At the end of the day, who knows who was offered what, but Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Texas’ Steve Sarkisian, and FSU’s Mike Norvell each tweeting some version of ‘I’m staying put’, with each receiving raises in the process, does raise one’s eye brows.
I think the hiring of KD is a good hire. However, history tells us that no-one really knows ahead of time who’s a good or bad hire, so we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.
The Biggest Transfers of 2024
There were a lot of massive transfers this cycle, and I’m going to cover most if not all in separate write-ups eventually this offseason. Below are a few that stood out.
QB Dillon Gabriel (Oregon) — It might have been puzzling on the surface for someone like Gabriel to leave Oklahoma for Oregon, when many expected him to head to the league this offseason. However, the Jackson Arnold era is officially underway in Sooner land, and the Ducks needed a veteran presence to replace Bo Nix. I love this fit in Will Stein’s offence. Nix was one of the top QBs in CFF this past season, averaging over 30 PPG in all formats by season’s end. Gabriel offers a similar dual threat skill set, and should be in a fantastic spot to land in the top 5-10 QBs in CFF for 2024.
WR Evan Stewart (Oregon) — It just goes to show how good of an offseason the Oregon Ducks are having that they brought in what is probably the best QB of the transfer cycle, and also the best WR. I mean—why not, right? This offence is going to be bananas next season, and CFF managers will be right to line up in droves to acquire stock of Will Stein’s offence. Stewart will be a first round selection in most drafts I’d assume, likely filling the Troy Franklin role. By most accounts, Stewart’s a better talent than Franklin, so the sky is the limit here.
RB Trevor Etienne (UGA) — Not much introduction is needed here. Etienne is a premium RB, and probably the first that UGA’s had since D’Andre Swift. Despite shoddy offensive line play, Etienne was extremely efficient with his touches during his two seasons at UF. The Gators were third in the SEC last season in yards after contact, but 10th in yards before contact. Conversely, UGA was 3rd in yards before contact, but 10 in yards after. Needless to say, if you pair an extremely efficient runner with a dominant run blocking offensive line, you have a recipe for fire works. The question remains regarding what the input volume will be under Kirby and Bobo, but Etienne is a player worth taking a late round shot on.
RB Quinshon Judkins (OSU) — Judkins committed one of the gravest acts of CFF seppuku this offseason, choosing to leave the cozy backfield in Oxford, MS, for the cold football factory that is OSU. While many speculated that his transfer signalled Henderson was leaving for the NFL, as it turns out, they’ve each signed up to split a backfield in Columbus next season. Yuck. I won’t be including either of these two gentlemen in my CFF rankings come the summer.
Some Under-The-Rader Transfers That Could Blow Up
There will be separate write ups eventually on these players, but for now I’ll just cover with broad strokes on a few that caught my eye.
RB CJ Stokes (Charlotte) — I’ve been banging the drum that Charlotte HC Biff Poggi is going to go pig mode with a RB eventually, and the recent Michigan transfer could be that guy in 2024. The 49ers began leaning on their RBs late in the 2023 season, with multiple producing big showings in November. I struck out on Shadrick Byrd last year, but I’m willing to try the old well once more with whoever wins the starting job in 2024. Of note, ISU transfer Cartevious Norton was also brought in this offseason. Fingers crossed Poggi hasn’t gone soft and opted for a committee approach.
QB Gevani McCoy (Oregon State) — McCoy was a big time producer for the Idaho Vandals in 2022, scoring a total of 30 TDs to only seven INTs. He took a bit of a step back in 2023, but I like this fit now that Oregon State will be playing mostly MWC opponents. McCoy probably won’t be an elite CFF asset, but he could be a nice relief guy when needed whenever the Beavers play weak defences.
RB Dylan Downing (Miami OH) — I have an article dropping soon on recent Miami of Ohio transfer Dylan Downing. The former Purdue Boilermaker has a sizeable opportunity to fill in with Rashad Amos moving on. Amos crossed 1000 yards rushing last season, and morphed into a volume pig in the second half of the season. As always with MAC players, September will be tough. But October and November could be productive months for our boy here.
WR Louis Brown (SDSU) — Speaking of coaching dominoes, earlier this offseason, former Colorado OC Sean Lewis took the head coaching job at San Diego State. Lewis had spent the previous five seasons coaching in the MAC at Kent State, where his teams became infamous in the CFF community for producing CFF value. He typically has a dual threat QB, a pig at RB, and at least one productive WR. Given that he is entering year one at SDSU, I wouldn’t expect him to hit the ground running. Brown, the former CSU Ram, is entering his third year of CFB, and put together a fairly productive campaign in 2023 (9.2 PPG). The Aztecs brought in former FSU QB AJ Duffy as well.
NCAA Making an Example Out of FSU
Recruiting violations… excuse me? Is that still a thing? Apparently so, at least, if you play football in Tallahassee, FL. FSU was in the news again last week for all the wrong reasons, and no, not just because their fans are whining again.
The NCAA announced that they’d be levying a series of recruiting and scholarship limitations over a three year period on FSU’s football program for violations occurred in 2022. The player of interest— UGA’s Amarius Mims, flirted briefly with the portal in the spring of that year. His first and only recruiting visit was to Florida State, where — apparently — he was introduced to a wealthy booster who promised payments of 15K a month for his first year on campus.
As we know, Mims ultimately turned that offer down, and returned to the Bulldogs, eventually becoming a starter in 2023. If you’re like me, you probably read this news and wondered: with everything that is going on in CFB recruiting right now, why on earth would the NCAA hone in on FSU of all programs? The conspiracy hat theorists out there might point to the debacle that was the Orange Bowl in late December. However, the beef there is really between the CFP committee and FSU, rather than the NCAA.
Upon digging around, it seems that FSU is not being punished for the act itself, but rather for conducting the act so brazenly. Rumours of coaches boasting about poaching Mims from UGA before a commitment was even made have swirled around the internet recently. From what I’ve read, FSU tampered and wanted UGA to know about it. In the end, they were not only left with egg on their faces but also faced a host of new restrictions passed down from the NCAA for good measure. I’m sure that’ll help FSU fans get over the sting of being left out of the CFP this offseason.
Most Improved Offences in 2024
NC State — Entering year two of the Robert Anae regime in North Carolina, I’m expecting the Wolfpack to take a major step forward this year. They’ll have transfer QB Grayson McCall calling the shots now, which is probably an upgrade from the shell of what was Brennan Armstrong last year. However, most importantly is the facelift that was provided to the WR room. Wake Forest transfer and rising sophomore Wesley Grimes was brought in, along with rising sophomore Noah Rogers from OSU. Superstar freshman sensation Kevin Concepcion should lead the way for what is a high-volume passing attack.
ODU — You may recognize a theme here, entering year two of the Kevin Decker regime should provide a nice boost to the offensive efficiency. I was high on this offence last year, and they failed to live up the expectations. That happens sometimes in year one, as there’s a lot of change happening in a small amount of time. They return their starting QB Grant Wilson, along with RB Keshawn Wicks. Starting WR Isaiah Paige came on strong to close the season, garnering eight or more targets in four of his last seven games.
MSU — I wrote about MSU’s RB Nathan Carter last week, which you can find here. New head coach Jonathan Smith should at the very least, provide a volume pig in the backfield for our CFF rosters. I’m not expecting much from the passing attack.
Akron — Former Montana OC Taylor Housewright is bringing his #3 FCS scoring offence (42.9 PPG) to Akron. He’ll serve under Joe Moorehead, who was Oregon’s OC from 2020 to 2021. I was high on Akron’s offence to improve last year, and it didn’t happen. However, I’m willing to potentially get burned once again. Montana St. didn’t have any pigs last year on the final stat sheet as far as I could tell, but I do appreciate that they’ve provided this comprehensive guide on Housewright’s offence. Individual names to target are not clear yet. Of note: QB DJ Irons declared for the NFL draft.
New Mexico: See my article on the Lobos here.
The First OSU Buckeye WR to Break 500 Yards as a Freshman?
As shocking as it may be to some, it is in fact true, that Ohio State has never had a true freshman WR finish a season with more than 500 yards. Incoming true freshman sensation Jeremiah Smith is probably the top candidate to buck that trend, but I explain why I’m skeptical on his chances in this article.
Kirby Smart’s Training Day (Farewell to the GOAT)
After what turned out to be an arduous day of introductions, Saban and the freshly introduced Alabama head football coach Kalen DeBoer, along with his family, gathered at Dillard’s chophouse—a steakhouse conveniently located just five minutes off campus. The evening unfolded with spirited conversations, resonant laughter, and a shared sense of anticipation for the promising journey ahead.
Later in the evening, as Saban bid farewell to coach KD and his family. The two exchanged pleasantries, and went on their separate ways.
As he headed towards his vehicle in a quiet parking lot adjacent to the main thoroughfare, Saban saw an image in the reflection of the glass that he did not recognize. It almost resembled a white Nike swoosh at a distance—a visor maybe? Before he could get his wits about him, a sudden flash in the window was accompanied by a thunderous noise.
Emerging from the shadows was Kirby Smart, current UGA head football coach, holding a colt 45 pistol in his hands.
Half incensed with rage, half utterly mind fucked to see Kirby in the parking lot, Saban barked out:
“SOB! You shot me in the ASS!”
Kirby: “That’s right. And I’ll do it again any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”
Saban, now slouched over, was at a loss for words as he processed what was happening.
Kirby continued “I’m here on Sankey’s orders. He was PISSED after the SECCG. You know you screwed us all over, right? We beat those three JV teams in the CFP easily. You and your boys just had to rise to the occasion and screw me one last time on the way out, huh?”
Saban, having now collected himself replied “I don’t believe you have it in you to kill a GOAT. You always lacked the killer instinct. I told Caleb Downs that on the day of his commitment—that’s why he chose me over you.”
Kirby: “Oh yea? That’s cool. Figured while I was here I’d do some shopping. I’m taking T-Rob and Pope with me back to Athens.”
Kirby takes two steps closer to Saban, within execution range now. He holds the pistol up to Saban’s head.
“Oh, and I’m taking Downs with me too. Send my regards to Karen, or whatever the fuck his name is.”
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