Rounding up hot topics from columnist Ben Frederickson's chat with fans of St. Louis sports:
Q: Why hasn't there seemed to be much interest between Mizzou and Mike Norvell at Memphis? Were both parties not interested? Or could Norvell be eyeing another job?
A: I'm sure there is or at least was some interest in Norvell from the Mizzou side. Any decent program that has an opening has to be impressed by what he's done there. Norvell at Mizzou would always be a little odd because Memphis hired him after Barry Odom turned Memphis down. I'm sure fans could move past that, but the optics are a bit weird, hiring the guy who was the runner-up to the guy you just fired. Norvell is coveted by Ole Miss. Matt Luke was fired for a reason. Most of the big Ole Miss boosters live in Memphis, where they have had a front-row seat to Norvell turning Memphis football into a bigger deal than Ole Miss. Problem is, Florida State also likes Norvell, and he might like Florida State more. I think Norvell jumps -- if he jumps -- to one of those two, and I'm not sure Mizzou sees much point in trying to get into that mix or change his mind. If Ole Miss fired Luke to get Norvell and Norvell goes to Florida State, that stinks for Ole Miss. From here, it looks like Mizzou is too far down his list of hopeful landing spots to be realistic.
Q: What about Lane Kiffin? His recruiting and offense are intriguing, but so are the tales of his off-campus lifestyle, whether it's exaggerated or accurate. Is he ready for another Power 5 shot?
A: I can't speak to what he does or does not do away from the field, but I do think it's just a matter of time until he gets a shot at another Power 5 gig if he wants it. Those who cover Kiffin think he would prefer a job in Florida (Miami, Florida State) or California (UCLA, USC again?) over something in the middle of the country. He apparently hates the cold; not that millions of dollars could not make him change his mind on that. His buyout is, I'm pretty sure, something like $2.3 million until January 1. That's steep. Arkansas seems to be hunting him hard, and can throw around some serious money. Florida Atlantic will come up with a big push to keep him. If it's not Florida State, would not be shocked to see him sit tight for another year. We'll see. In terms of Mizzou, I'm not sure I see the fit and the cash to get Kiffin to jump. And I'm not sure Jim Sterk, who is like a godfather to Florida Atlantic AD Brian White, would poach White's coach. One more thing, while we are speculating. If Ole Miss fired Matt Luke to get Mike Norvell, and Norvell stays at Memphis or goes somewhere else, don't be shocked if Kiffin winds up at Ole Miss.
Q: Should Mizzou consider a service academy coach who runs a triple-option offense? Seems risky, right?
A: I hope not. Mizzou has a foothold when it comes to recruiting and producing quarterbacks, defensive linemen and receivers. To some degree, offensive linemen, too. All of these strengths would erode with a shift toward triple-option. All of them. Offensive linemen can't build a case for the NFL by cut-blocking all the time. Defensive linemen don't want to get cut-blocked in practice every day. Quarterbacks want to throw the ball. Receivers want to catch it. The negative recruiting that Mizzou would encounter in the SEC would be brutal if it switched to a triple-option system. I've encountered some arguments that not all service academy coaches have to run the tripe-option. Fair enough, but why would you hire a coach to run a system he hasn't coached in years? Makes little sense to me. SEC rivals would tear into a hire like this, and recruiting would suffer. If there is one service academy coach out there who might have the energy and success to overcome it, it's Navy's Ken Niumatalolo. It don't think it's Troy Calhoun (Air Force) or Jeff Monken (Army).
Q: If you are Jim Sterk, who is your top choice for the Mizzou job?
A: Boise State's Bryan Harsin. He is the no-brainer. Do everything in your power to get him. He's proven. He's still young. He knows offense. His program churns out NFL talent. He inherited a good program but he's made it even better. Boise State, for the first time in the program's history, did not lose a single conference game this season. Throw the best package available at Harsin and hope he decides to jump. That would be my play. I do wonder if he would leave, and I do wonder if he's waiting on a Pac 12 gig. He played at Boise. He has other family ties to that city. If he was easy to uproot, he would not have been there six years. But his buyout is crazy low, Mizzou could come close to doubling his salary. He has shown some interest in Tennessee and Oregon openings in recent years. Make him say no. If he does say no, bet the house on Charlotte's Will Healy.
Q: Am I wrong to think Mizzou could be kicking itself four years from now if it doesn't grab Charlotte's Will Healy?
A: That is the theory that supports Sterk taking a chance on the Charlotte coach. He's 34. I get it. That's scary. But Healy shows no signs of being Quin Snyder 2.0.
Healy has experience. He's been a head coach at Austin Peay and Charlotte. Before that he worked as the QB coach, receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Over his final four years with the Mocs and Governors, he landed four top-five FCS recruiting classes in five years. The turnaround at Austin Peay was amazing, and the Governors are still winning since he left. That was the worst Division I program in America, and he rescued it. And now Charlotte is doing things it has never done before, like playing in its first bowl game.
He has a background in offense. Played QB at Richmond. Has coached multiple offensive positions. He has an attractive, appealing all-around philosophy. Scoff at the positive-energy stuff if you choose to, but it does work with 18 to 20-something college football players. It works at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. It sells in recruiting, where Healy has the rep of being an amazing in-home recruiter.
This would be an out-of-the-box hire in that Mizzou would be picking a guy it planned to invest in and grow with. Sterk would need to make sure there was some experience on Healy's staff. His current group is young, energetic, but some mature wisdom mixed in would be a must.
I like this idea a lot more than yet another chance for a tired name. No one will be ripping Mizzou if it does not hire Healy, but he could be one of those names that everyone looks back at and wonders, what if, years from now. The coaching community is convinced he's going to be a star.
Q: Should the Cardinals' 2020 campaign slogan feature a hard hat and lunch box? No major additions. Just the same team trying to work to get better? It's not all that exciting.
A: I guess I'm not the only one sensing that the lack of buzz surrounding this Cardinals offseason is leading to some increased negativity from the locals. Personally, I would rather the Cardinals be candid about their offseason blueprint than naming an unrealistic shopping list that is left unfulfilled by the season's start. The Cardinals can't be criticized for telling it like it is, at least not by those who said they wished they would tell it like it is. They don't at the time see one massive hole on their team. They don't think that hole is third base, because they are re-committing to Matt Carpenter. They don't think that hole is the rotation, because they re-signed Wainwright and are monitoring Carlos Martinez's return and want to see how it plays out. They don't see that hole being the lineup, even if Marcell Ozuna leaves, because they think multiple guys and new additions from within will raise the offensive bar in 2020. We don't have to agree with all of that. I imagine most here don't. But better to be upfront than mislead. The potentially interesting and realistic free agents for the Cardinals -- some notable relievers and Moustakas -- are mostly gone. If there's a shakeup coming, it will probably need to come via trade, or free-agent pitching. Perhaps Mo and Co. have some surprises up their sleeves. We'll know more at winter meetings.
Q: I'm still confused about how the Cardinals expect fans to believe the offense will be better in 2020. The cleanup hitter is likely gone, bounce-back hopefuls return and mix with prospects. Can this work?
A: Totally fair question. The biggest flaw, clearly, in the 2019 Cardinals was the offense. We all agree there. The Cardinals have been asked, and will continue to be asked, what must happen to improve that offense. So far, the answers have been the returning players will find ways to be better, and the emerging players will offer upside.
Jeff Albert, the hitting coach who did not have great results in his debut season, should also be part of the discussion on expected improvement. None of these topics have touched on adding a player from outside the organization. Winter meetings could change that. That's part of the reason we go cover that. But for now, I hear you. What the Cardinals are selling, at least in the moment, is quite heavy on optimism. They also think their internal changes on the baseball ops side will help, though that's not going to be much of a selling point with the fans.
Q: What is the current concern level regarding the Reds' improvements and how it could affect the order of the National League Central?
A: That concern level should be growing, sure. I thought the Cardinals should go after Mike Moustakas on two or three-year deal if he was open to it. That would provide a sure-thing starter at third base and let Tommy Edman bounce around. If Matt Carpenter did bounce back as the Cardinals hope, then that would be best-case scenario. There would be a real competition. There would be an asset that could perhaps be traded during the season. Didn't happen. And Moustakas got a better, longer deal to play second base for the Reds. Good for him. I would not have loved giving him that many years. The Reds should not stop here. They should sign Marcell Ozuna and try to grab the division. Just go all in on offense and aim to score more runs than a really shaky defense would allow. Why not?
Q: Is Jake Allen a Blue at the beginning of next season?
A: If Blues GM Doug Armstrong can get a killer deal for a backup goalie when he's got a great starting goalie, I think Army makes that trade on one condition. If Berube agrees. Not that Army is handcuffed by his coach, but I think he trusts Chief's opinion on what this team needs at the moment. It would probably depend on who gets hurt on other teams, and how desperate those teams might be to swap. Army has made it clear the Blues are in a championship window. That's how he's playing this. He traded Fabbri because he was not helping this current team, and he wanted to get someone Berube would use. He didn't worry about what Fabbri might do elsewhere. He's locked in on winning now, with this bunch. So the Allen trade would have to fit that same mold, and be more beneficial to the current group than having a backup who is playing really, really well.
Q: Robert Bortuzzo's explanation of the cross-check that got him suspended and fined did not come across as very apologetic. If things like this continue to happen, could the Blues cut their losses with him?
A: If he becomes a public enemy No. 1 type whose game is impacted by the spotlight he's placed on himself, maybe. But remember who he plays for (Craig Berube) and the style Berube likes his team to play. Heck, remember how Berube played. Berube doesn't mind some excess physicality here and there. I don't think he loved the cheap hit on Viktor Arvidsson, but I doubt Chief lost sleep over it. The Blues succeed because each player has a role. Bortuzzo has a role. The Blues aren't in a position this year, injury plague considered, to run off helpful players because they are getting a bad rap for questionable hits. Bortuzzo just needs to keep a low profile for a while.
Q: All I want for Christmas is a soccer team with a name. Any chance?
A: Nope. News on team name and colors are not expected until the first half of 2020. It's not as sexy, I know, but next up is securing the state funding for the stadium project. The amount has not changed. It just needs to be approved.
Q: Will Mizzou's Albert O. get drafted? Was anyone else surprised by his decision to declare?
A: I think he will get drafted, but probably not as high as he hopes. Where you are drafted doesn't mean much when it comes to your ability to carve out a pro career. Albert has the physical gifts. What he seems to lack is the mental and physical toughness to use those gifts to the best of his ability. His blocking is disinterested. His command of the football when it's in his possession is lackluster. NFL teams are going to ride him hard on those things, and if he can't take it and improve on it, he won't be around long. I hope he figures it out. He's a good young man, from all interactions I've had with him, but the NFL is a tough place to improve toughness. You either have it or you don't.
Q: In the past, the word was that Mizzou's Jeremiah Tilmon was being officiated unfairly. Now, the word is he needs to be smarter on the court? Which one is it?
A: If you watch the games, and I have since he's been a freshman, he clearly gets officiated differently than other big men. Calls that other guys get away with, he rarely if ever does. He also makes some really foolish fouls. He gets fouls miles away from the basket. He gets fouls trying to set bad screens. At this point, it's year three. The officials are watching him. That's not going to change, clearly. He has to change, and it's fair to wonder if he can and will. And this is important: It's not just the fouls. It's his response to them. Here's a trivia question: How many games has Tilmon fouled out of this season? Answer: Zero. But there are times when he gets hit with two early whistles, and it might as well be five. He just shuts down. The team shuts down. That's what happened against Butler. Can't happen if this team is going to be very good.