Mark May at Little Rock Touchdown Club Part 4

Too bad for Ohio State they had to forfeit the Sugar Bowl victory in 2011.

I got to hear Mark May speak at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on August 20, 2012 and he did a great job.

May sees hurdles for Hogs in SEC

By Jeremy Muck

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LITTLE ROCK — During his 32-minute speech to the Little Rock Touchdown Club at The Peabody Little Rock hotel Monday, ESPN college football analyst Mark May had high hopes for the Arkansas football team.

“If they win less than nine games, I’ll be surprised,” said May of the No. 10 Razorbacks, who finished 11-2 last season and beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. “The two challenges, obviously, are LSU and Alabama but they get them both at home [Alabama on Sept. 15, LSU on Nov. 23]. They’re going to have to go to South Carolina and from all indications, [ junior running back] Marcus Lattimore is back. It’s going to be tough to stop them because if he’s back to 100 percent after the knee injury, he’s one of the top three backs in the nation, without a doubt.

“Those are the three games they’re going to have to target. Every other game, they should be favored in.”

May, 52, was a first-round draft pick in 1981 by the Washington Redskins from Pittsburgh. He played on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the Redskins and was an All-American and Outland Trophy winner in 1980.

After playing 13 seasons in the NFL (1981-1990 Redskins, 1991 San Diego Chargers, 1992-1993 Arizona Cardinals), May worked for TNT and CBS before joining ESPN in 2001. He is an analyst on ESPN’s College Football Scoreboard and College Football Final.

May praised Long’s decision in April to hire Coach John L. Smith to replace former coach Bobby Petrino, who was fired. Long had served as Arkansas’ special teams coach before leaving to take the Weber State head coaching position last December,

“It was a short window that had to be filled in a hurry,” May said. “I think what Jeff Long did was he brought in a CEO. He wanted a guy that’s not going to tinker with the major problems on this football team, if there are any.”

May said that if Smith is not retained by Arkansas after this season, possible coaching candidates could include Cincinnati Coach Butch Jones, Louisville Coach Charlie Strong (Batesville) and defensive coordinators Manny Diaz at Texas and Mark Stoops at Florida State.

As for Petrino, May believes he should take his time getting back into head coaching.

“I’d try to go out and get a job as an offensive coordinator someplace, maybe Conference USA,” May said, “to at least get back into the game and re-establish myself.Maybe in another 3-5 years, he would have another opportunity to be a head coach again. But right now, he’s as toxic as [former Ohio State coach] Jim Tressel.”

Junior running back Knile Davis – who missed the 2011 season after ankle surgery – has not participated in contact drills since Arkansas opened camp earlier this month, which concerns May leading up to the Razorbacks’ opener Sept. 1 against Jacksonville State in Fayetteville.

“I want to see him get hit before he plays,” said May of Davis. “I want to make sure he’s ready to go before the first whistle blows. I think John has to make that decision in the next week or so.”

Other highlights from May’s speech to the Little Rock Touchdown Club:

On LSU dismissing junior defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season: “People don’t realize how good he was. He changed the game against Arkansas. He changed the game against Florida. He changed the game in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.In every one of those games, they were down. He scored a touchdown, whether it would be an interception return or a punt return. … He’s the momentum changer of that franchise, that program.”

On Southern California – which was on NCAA probation the past two seasons- being picked as the No. 1 team in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll: “That’s a hard one to fathom. They’re very thin. They’ve lost scholarships. … They have a weak schedule. You look at their schedule, their three nonconference games are Hawaii, Syracuse and Notre Dame. They’re going to be favored in every one of their games the entire season long. Their only challenge is going to be Oregon at home [Nov. 3]. That’s it. The second game will be when they play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. They’ve got an easy road to get to the championship game. But they’re going to be playing against a juggernaut from the SEC West.”

On whether the NCAA sanctions for Penn State’s football program were strong enough: “I think after the Freeh Report, I think Mark Emmert and the NCAA did a terrific job in how they handled it. The president of Penn State signed off on it. It was a brutal agreement for Penn State, but it was something that had to be done. … The way they protected people there was atrocious.”

Sports, Pages 15 on 08/21/2012

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