Last offseason was the "Summer of Harbaugh" after Jim Harbaugh took over his alma mater Michigan and dominated headlines for nine months thanks to satellite camps, mean mugs and his recruiting prowess.
It looks like the next month will be the long-awaited sequel: "The Winter of Whine."
Harbaugh made waves on national signing day when he confirmed that he will take the Wolverines to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, over spring break for a week of spring practice. IMG, of course, is essentially a sports vocational school that boasts 10 of the 247Sports top 200 prospects in the 2017 class and produced seven top-200 prospects in 2016.
Predictably, that has drawn the ire of the SEC, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com.
"Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we've got one program taking what has been 'free time' away," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told Dodd. "Let's draw a line and say, 'That's not appropriate.'"
Harbaugh fired back, subtweet-style, on Wednesday:
Coach Harbaugh @CoachJim4UM
Question of the day: Does anyone find whining to be attractive? Just curious.2/10/2016, 6:38:38 PM
Sankey stood strong, according to AL.com's Brandon Marcello.
"I'm not going to reduce what is an important conversation to some childhood use of Twitter," he said. "This is an important issue."
You have to admire the hustle and creativity of Harbaugh. It's an innovative, unique and bold way to spread the word about the Michigan program, and it enhances the buzz that he has already built in just over a year on the job.
The weeklong trip will likely be allowed this year, mostly because there isn't enough time for the NCAA to pass a rule preventing it. It might be the only year, though.
If Harbaugh wants to portray Sankey's response as whining—either passive-aggressively or directly—that's fine. The truth is Sankey has every right to object, and not only is he looking out for himself and his conference's interests, but also the entire sport's.
Of course it's a threat for Michigan to be at the highest-profile high school football factory in the country, and it's even more of a threat that it's located within the SEC footprint in Bradenton. That's an underlying theme in his objection, but he's not going to say that publicly because it would give off the impression he is whining, as Harbaugh appears to be suggesting.
So Sankey veiled his objection within the larger time-management issue, which is a valid concern.
College football players don't get much downtime. They have offseason conditioning from the moment they step foot on campus for winter semester, spring practice and "voluntary" workouts during the summer that are anything but voluntary. And, of course, they're stretched incredibly thin during the season.
The only time players actually get time off is during spring break, between the spring and summer semesters and a few days prior to fall camp. That's it. And even then, some of those players choose to stick around to work out and/or work with private coaches.
Then there's the effect this can have on college football.
Players are already toeing the line of being considered university employees, which is what the Northwestern unionization effort alleged two years ago. How's it going to look to the outside world if coaches start taking away some of the time off they previously enjoyed?
Enjoy Bradenton, Michigan. It's a lovely place, and the trip will certainly generate buzz.
It's likely the only time something like this will be allowed.
Piling on Texas A&M is the fashionable thing to do these days, and former Aggie quarterback Kyle Allen joined in.
Allen told Dodd of CBSSports.com the culture created under former quarterback Johnny Manziel was part of what led to his transfer:
I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny's era there—the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there. They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny…and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now. A lot of people were riding off that, 'I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'
There's no disguising it; that's a shot directly at head coach Kevin Sumlin and his ability to run a program.
It seems more like sour grapes, though.
Allen was justifiably unhappy with how he and former quarterback Kyler Murray were used in 2015 and even voiced his support for fired offensive coordinator Jake Spavital on Twitter when he was let go in early January:
Kyle Allen @KyleAllen_10
My guy for life @JakeSpavital we'll be back on top soon ✊🏼1/3/2016, 11:06:39 PM
There's no doubt that there was—and perhaps still is—dysfunction in College Station and that lines were drawn in December when decisions needed to be made.
Allen, who transferred out of the program before Murray did, clearly was on the wrong side of that line. Of course he's a little bitter. I would be as well.
Because of that, let's not take his word as a full-on indictment of Sumlin's program. After all, Allen wasn't even there at the same time Manziel was.
Don't Screw It Up
Alabama lost former defensive backs coach Mel Tucker this offseason when he joined Kirby Smart's Georgia staff as the defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs.
On Wednesday night, the Crimson Tide announced former Kentucky co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Derrick Ansley as the new defensive backs coach for head coach Nick Saban.
"We are very happy to have Derrick and his family back at Alabama," Saban said in an emailed statement. "Derrick did an outstanding job when he was with us as a graduate assistant, and he has a very good understanding of how we run our program and what is expected. He is a bright young coach, and he will be a great addition working with the defensive backs. We also believe he will be a tremendous asset to our staff in the recruiting process."
Job No. 1 for Ansley will be to keep the ship going in the same direction it was headed when Tucker jumped.
Eddie Jackson, who moved from corner to safety prior to the season, landed on the All-SEC first team in 2015. Jackson tied for the SEC lead with six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. Two defensive backs appeared on the SEC All-Freshman team in 2015, true freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick and redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey.
The Tide cut down the number of long passing plays they gave up (10 or more yards) from 133 in 2014 to 112 in 2015 despite playing in one more game.
Ansley will have to deal with the losses of corner Cyrus Jones and free safety Geno Matias-Smith, but Saban has amassed a tremendous amount of depth, and the foundation has already been set. Another step forward should be Alabama's expectation.
Bret Bielema—The Hero We Want and Need
Luckily, Bret Bielema is here to save the day.
Arkansas' fourth-year head coach has established himself as one of the most interesting coaches in college football thanks to his ability to light up a room with quotes, his honesty and willingness to be forthcoming in front of the microphone and his one-liners that rival those of the Head Ball Coach.
Take last year's SEC media days, for example, when he claimed that kneeling down near the end zone to put away a dominating win over Texas in the closing seconds of the 2014 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl was "borderline erotic."
"I did not plan on saying 'borderline erotic' that day," Bielema told Bleacher Report Radio on Saturday. "I had said it before, because it kind of was when we were able to do that to them the way that we wanted to. I just kind of be me. I don't have any planned material. I just kind of roll in and see where it goes."
Luckily for fans, Bielema will be a star of Bo Mattingly's Internet reality show, Being Bret Bielema, this offseason.
"The university came to me and proposed the idea to try to have a closer look at who I am away from the field," Bielema said. "They probably wanted to show people the person that I hope I represent on a daily basis. I tend to make some people mad here and there, and they want to soften my image a little bit. Bo has done a nice job of capturing some fun moments away from the game."
Save us, Bret. You're the only one who can.
- John Whittle of 247Sports reported Wednesday that Shaq Davidson will transfer from South Carolina, leaving first-year head coach Will Muschamp with just seven scholarship wide receivers for spring practice. For a team that needs downfield options, the Gamecocks are incredibly inexperienced at the position after Pharoh Cooper jumped to the NFL.
- Florida's Jim McElwain made one of the most underrated assistant hires of the offseason last week, luring Torrian Gray away from Virginia Tech to coach the Gators defensive backs. Gray's secondary in Blacksburg gave up just 185 passing yards per game over the last 10 years, according to Florida's release. Ten years.
- Offensive line coach and noted chef Herb Hand is now at Auburn, and he's already tweeting pics of meals. Too bad it's not a home-cooked meal.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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