#ItMightMeanTooMuch: A Finebaum caller's wild Bryce Young take, another head-turning SEC assistant salary
There are a couple of ways of thinking when it comes to SEC fans, and really all passionate college football fans.
On one side, there are the fans who are always focused on what’s next. Newer is always better. They can tell you about every recruit in the incoming class. They’ll break down why that 3-star defensive tackle out of Louisiana is going to fit perfectly into Will Muschamp’s defense. They’ll project things that are 3-4 years down the road with confidence. In fact, they spend just as much (if not more) time looking at the recruiting class as they do the current roster.
On the other side, there are the fans who are extremely skeptical of change. They support anything that preserves the current team’s foundation, even if that includes historic spending on the coaching staff. If an assistant leaves, the sky is falling. If a new hire is brought in, it’s met with skepticism about how they’ll fit into the team’s culture.
Sure, there’s some overlap with these types of fans. Plenty of diehards operate with both types of thinking. In this week’s #ItMightMeanTooMuch, we’re going to take a look at both schools of thought.
Let’s start first with the “newer is always better” fan.
Now I’m going to preface this by saying I don’t usually use quotes from callers on “The Paul Finebaum Show” because it’s too easy. I could just take quotes from it every day and use it for this column. As a fan of variety, and providing some different content, I do my best to avoid going that route for this column.
But … this take packed too much heat for me not to write about it.
“Mike from Kentucky” called the show and explained why 5-star Alabama freshman Bryce Young, who has never played a down of college football, is “way” better than Tua Tagovailoa:
“Bryce Young is not only BETTER than Tua Tagovailoa…he’s WAY better than Tua Tagovailoa!!!” pic.twitter.com/IpVMNpqDtn
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) February 17, 2020
If you’re in an office and you couldn’t listen to those 43 seconds of insanity — complete with a mediocre pronunciation of “Tagovailoa” — fear not. Here’s the quote from “Mike from Kentucky.”
“Bryce Young is not only better than Tua Tagovailoa, he’s way better than Tua Tagovailoa. Do you know that kid played the best talent the United States had to offer? I noticed him 2 years ago when he defeated IMG Academy. Even Iman knows who IMG Academy is, Paul. They’re a freakin’ 4- and 5-star factory. They can’t even play for a state title they’re so loaded with talent. Bryce Young played 10 times the talent Tua did in high school and threw for over 100 more touchdowns. He is extraterrestrial good, Paul. Hell is comin’ to college football next year, and he’s gonna be wearin’ crimson and white.”
Oh my. So much to unpack there.
Saying an early enrollee is better than one of the best college quarterbacks of all-time is, um, bold? Saying an early enrollee is “way” better than one of the best college quarterbacks of all-time is just, um, wrong.
A big issue with Mike’s argument here is that he said “Bryce Young is not only better than Tua Tagovailoa …” That’s saying that presently, someone who hasn’t even played in a spring game is already better than a likely top-5 NFL Draft pick. Had Mike simply said “I think Bryce Young will have a better career than Tua Tagovailoa,” I’m not writing about this subject. It would have made the rest of his argument at least somewhat understandable.
Mike is right about Young playing against better high school competition than Tagovailoa. That’s why Young is one of the top-rated quarterback recruits in the recruiting rankings era (Tagovailoa was still a 5-star recruit). Mater Dei (Calif.) is widely known as one of the premier quarterback factories in America. Matt Leinart, Colt Brennan and Matt Barkley all went there to play against elite competition. Young did beat powerhouse IMG Academy, which as Mike said, was definitely more talented than anything Tagovailoa saw in high school.
But call me crazy, SEC competition is just a bit tougher than anything Young faced in high school. Check that. SEC competition is way better than anything Young faced in high school. LSU, in my opinion, could beat IMG. That’s probably a better way to evaluate Tagovailoa than what he faced in high school, no?
Here’s the other thing. There’s actually no such thing as “way better” than Tagovailoa. No quarterback in the sport’s 150-year history falls in the category of “way better” than Tagovailoa. Even Joe Burrow, who beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa and just capped the best college football season of all-time, wouldn’t be considered “way better” than Tagovailoa. And if you don’t believe that, perhaps you missed Tagovailoa finishing his career with the best passer rating of all-time.
Can Young finish with a better college career than Tagovailoa? It’s possible, though if that happens, it feels like Young will go down as the greatest quarterback in college football history.
But I suppose according to Mike, that’s inevitable, as is hell comin’ to college football.
Kentucky is now more SEC than ever
Kentucky has looked more like an SEC program under Mark Stoops than perhaps it has in any time of the past 40 years. The Cats just delivered their best 4-year stretch since Paul “Bear” Bryant was running things in Lexington. Mark Stoops turned down Florida State and is making north of $5 million a year.
It’s a different time in Kentucky football. The Vince Marrow events showed exactly why that’s the case.
For those who don’t know, Marrow has been Stoops’ top recruiter at Kentucky. A fellow Youngstown (Ohio) native, Marrow is a major reason Kentucky had so much success recruiting in the state of Ohio with guys like Lynn Bowden and Benny Snell.
That’s why when Mel Tucker accepted the job at Michigan State, he made a serious push to poach Marrow from Kentucky. But ultimately, he decided to stay at the place he helped build up for the past 8 years. That decision netted Marrow a raise from $600,000 to $900,000 annually.
On the surface, a college football assistant making $900,000 is hardly unusual. In 2019, 24 assistants made at least $1 million (via USA Today).
But here’s the thing — Marrow isn’t an offensive/defensive coordinator like all 24 of those assistants. The Kentucky tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator will now be the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football in 2020. Compare that money to FBS head coaches and it’ll really put things in perspective:
Kentucky TE coach Vince Marrow will make $900,000 next season according to his amended contract.
That’s more than 36 FBS head coaches earned in salary in 2019, which includes Rocky Long, Billy Napier, Blake Anderson, Eliah Drinkwitz & Jim McElwain.
SEC money is insane.
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) February 17, 2020
That’s where we’re at in 2020.
And the crazy thing is I actually give Kentucky a lot of credit for recognizing Marrow’s value. We’ve seen Florida State, Georgia and Michigan State all make major plays to pick apart the Cats’ coaching staff, and Kentucky prevented that from happening.
Granted, it helps justify that spending when that $45 million annual revenue distribution check rolls in. That helped Georgia pay Sam Pittman $900,000 as the team’s ace recruiter/offensive line coach last year. Ask any Georgia fan and they would have told you that Pittman was worth it. Ask any Kentucky fan and they’ll tell you that Marrow was worth it.
Four years ago, it was a somewhat stunning development when LSU shelled out $1.2 million annually to poach defensive coordinator Dave Aranda from Wisconsin. Four years later, it wasn’t even somewhat stunning to see Kentucky pay a non-coordinator nearly $1 million.
Marrow’s deal served as a reminder that Kentucky football definitely means a lot these days.