From Brown to Kiffin, here are 10 offseason storylines to watch
No. 1 prospect Bryce Brown should sign on March 12 -- will he stick with Miami?
Who will Lane Kiffin tick off next, and when will his fellows start gunning for him?
WVU tries to cope without Pat White, QB battles at Michigan and USC, and more
So now what?
With Signing Day over, college football fans will likely find themselves starving for news over the next several months. With that in mind, here are 10 storylines to watch as teams transition from recruiting season to spring practice and summer workouts:
1. A possible regime change at Oregon
The hunch in Eugene is Mike Bellotti -- the Ducks' head man since 1995 and the winningest coach in school history -- will hand over the reins to offensive coordinator and designated successor Chip Kelly sooner rather than later. When Oregon announced its succession plan last fall, no one specified a date for Bellotti's transition to athletic director -- could be this year, could be three years from now -- but there have been numerous hints Bellotti has coached his last game.
The most telling sign came when Oregon parted ways with two longtime assistants, receivers coach Robin Pflugrad and defensive line coach Michael Gray, whom Kelly did not plan to retain. Bellotti has said only that he won't make a decision until March. Whatever he decides will have far-reaching implications, both for the Ducks' long-term future and for next season, when Oregon could be a preseason top-10 team, but one under the leadership of a first-time head coach.
2. Who will Lane Kiffin tick off next?
Tennessee's brash young head coach wasted no time alienating half the SEC after his arrival, most notably with his mind-numbing (and factually incorrect) public accusation that Florida coach Urban Meyer cheated while recruiting Nu'Keese Richardson, a receiver who decommitted from the Gators to sign with the Vols. While poaching previously committed recruits has become par for the course, Kiffin and his staff seemed particularly gleeful during their post-Signing Day comments about stealing away at least five pledges from other SEC schools.
There already figured to be much intrigue regarding Kiffin and his $3.325 million all-star cast of recruiters as they begin their push for a top-flight class in 2010. But SEC coaches don't take kindly to an outsider, much less one who accuses people of cheating. Tennessee officials already self-reported two secondary recruiting violations Kiffin and his staff committed in January, and you better believe his fellow coaches will closely watch Kiffin's every little move over the coming months. Remember how the NCAA implemented a "Saban Rule" in response to the Alabama coach's loophole-bending contact with prospects? Here's guessing Kiffin and his staff will do something similar to draw someone's ire.
3. The Bryce Brown saga
When Terrelle Pryor decided to put off his college decision last year, the eventual result wasn't all that surprising. The Jeanette, Pa., quarterback had been leaning toward Ohio State all along, had in fact planned to make it official on Signing Day, but decided to give Penn State another look due to his and his father's close relationship with the coaching staff there. Pryor finally signed with Ohio State on March 19, and about six months later, became the Buckeyes' starting quarterback.
Brown, this year's top-ranked recruit from Wichita, Kan., has chosen much the same path -- only his situation seems somewhat sullied due to the disturbingly heavy influence of Brown's trainer/mentor/potential con artist, Brian Butler. Brown, a running back, has long been committed to Miami but seems in no hurry to make it official, and Butler, a former cell-phone salesman-turned-self-appointed recruiting guru, told the New York Times Brown's options might include the CFL. Mercifully, Butler changed his tune on Feb. 10, announcing Brown will choose between one of his six finalists -- Miami, LSU, Tennessee, Oregon, USC and Kansas State -- on March 12.
4. Who will be the next Pac-10 commissioner?
Tom Hansen, the dean of Division I conference commissioners since 1983, announced last summer he would retire at the end of this school year. The league has yet to name his replacement, and the only thing we know for certain is that it won't be Condeleeza Rice. Whoever gets the job will play an important role on several levels in the near future. The Pac-10's TV and bowl deals were a constant subject of criticism under Hansen, and it will be priority No. 1 for the new guy to help bolster the league's exposure. Hansen was also the staunchest opponent of the BCS plus-one concept, which figures to be revisited in 2012. Former Stanford AD Ted Leland was mentioned as the likely front-runner at the time Hansen made his announcement, but there has been little legitimate scuttlebutt lately. Stay tuned.
5. Quarterback battles at USC and Michigan
It may seem hard to believe now, seeing as he's on the verge of NFL millions, but during springtime a year ago Mark Sanchez was in the midst of a tight competition for the Trojans' starting quarterback job with touted Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain. With Sanchez headed to the NFL, USC will go through another QB derby this spring, this time with multiple contenders -- Mustain, sophomore Aaron Corp (who supplanted Mustain on the depth chart last fall) and possibly incoming freshman Matt Barkley.
While the Trojans will be looking to reload at the position, the Wolverines are in need of a desperate upgrade. Freshman Tate Forcier arrived in January and will have every opportunity in the spring to assert himself as a potential starter next fall. (Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet, who rotated at QB last season, go in with the upper hand.) Forcier, a San Diego native, will need to take full advantage of the head start, because athletic Floridian Denard Robinson arrives in the fall.