With nearly every major conference operating its own television network — we see you, SEC Network, finally joining hands with DirecTV — fans have unprecedented access to their favorite college teams.
There’s one area, though, where we’d like to see college teams take a cue from HBO and NFL Films. Every season, HBO provides an inside look at training camp for one NFL team. Today, the ninth season of Hard Knocks premieres with a behind-the-scenes look at the Atlanta Falcons.
The series has shown a rarely seen side of the pro game, from the personalities of players to the gut-wrenching process of cutting a player or being cut.
College football, too, should provide plenty of content for a Hard Knocks-style program. Certainly, TV networks and the schools themselves have shown glimpses, but all feel a little sanitized. Here are the schools we’d like to see get the full-on Hard Knocks treatment.
The defending national champions are the easy choice for the top team for a behind-the-scenes look. Jameis Winston has had a quiet offseason since the crab legs incident, but there’s still plenty of intrigue on how the defending Heisman winner handles his season. He’s been in the news for off-field scandal, but his command over the locker room has never been questioned. Meanwhile, fast-talking Jimbo Fisher tries to keep his squad hungry as it starts the season at No. 1.
Again, we’re enjoying the fantasy world where Nick Saban peels back the curtain just for fun. This is the same coach who allows his coordinators to speak to the media just once a year — and unfortunately for us he has one of the most compelling coordinators in the country. Offensive boss Lane Kiffin says he’s enjoying concentrating on coaching football this season rather than the other obligations of being a head coach. That in and of itself would be interesting as Kiffin tries to work integrate new quarterback Jacob Coker into a loaded offense.
Who knew Bo Pelini would be the comic relief of the preseason? The coach says he’s always had this sense of humor, but it’s just never been on display. This is the chance for Pelini to show the whole picture — and more than just riffing on @FauxPelini and the cat. Beyond the Bo Show, running back Ameer Abdullah and wide receiver Kenny Bell have personality in spades.
On this week’s episode: A grad assistant teaches a confused Will Muschamp how to use Twitter. Muschamp, of course, has bigger problems than sending direct messages intended for recruits to the general public. He has a new offensive coordinator working with a quarterback returning from injury. The results of that tandem may determine if the Gators coach has a job next season.
Ann Arbor is quite the pressure-cooker this offseason. Brady Hoke may or may not be a hot seat guy as his chief rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State, are riding high. Streaky quarterback Devin Gardner has a new coordinator, and defensive end Frank Clark likes to talk. All of this leads into an uncomfortable rematch with Appalachian State.
What’s life like behind the scenes with Les Miles? Players say he’s the same wacky personality with his players as he is with the media. Players indeed have impressions ready for his post-meeting sign (“Well, men, see ya!”). He generally has compelling teams, but this year will be more interesting than most. LSU has an unsettled quarterback situation and a young defense getting ready for the rough-and-tumble SEC West. Miles also has one of the top freshmen in the country in Leonard Fournette.
Rich Rodriguez is sealing his spot as the best talker in the Pac-12. His football team will have plenty of intrigue, too, as he tries to sift through a four-man quarterback race.
The opulent new football facility would probably be more appropriate footage for MTV or E! programming, and Johnny Manziel is off to the NFL. Still, we’d like to take a peek at Kevin Sumlin’s program. The defense is a mess, the quarterback situation is uncertain, and his squad has discipline issues resulting in dismissals of key players during the summer. All of this in the face of an opener against South Carolina.
Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury is a draw all on his own with his movie-star looks, sense of fashion and whatnot. He’s also entering his second season as a head coach with only a bowl win over Arizona State giving his program momentum after a five-game losing streak to end the Big 12 season. Davis Webb is the last quarterback standing after Kingsbury had to play three last season.
Might as well finish up the tour around the Lone Star State with a look at Texas. Charlie Strong isn’t the most dynamic personality for the cameras, but he’s certainly laying down the law. His fire-and-brimstone approach to the roster would be an episode all to itself. He dismissed five players and suspended three more last week alone.
Like Strong, Chris Petersen might not be the most compelling coach for the cameras, either, but he’s taking over a program that likes to think of itself as a national power. Washington has one of the top defensive players in the nation in Shaq Thompson, who could also find himself on offense during camp. Petersen also has a quarterback question with Cyler Miles. The Huskies’ top player at the position missed all of spring and is now suspended for the opener against Hawaii.
The Bruins arguably have the two biggest football stars in Los Angeles in Brett Hundley and Myles Jack. UCLA has higher expectations this season than its crosstown rival.
Offensive line coach Herb Hand has already appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped, so you know Penn State’s new regime is OK with unconventional publicity. How does a force of personality like James Franklin take over a Penn State hampered by scholarship limitations and its own troubled pass? With a quarterback like Christian Hackenberg, that’s how.
Mike Leach wrote a book on the leadership strategies of Geronimo during the offseason. Just another day in Pullman.
Bret Bielema talks like he’s 8-0 in the SEC. His record is 0-8. What does the big guy have in store for Year Two?