I did this last year and with another year of college football it's worth another try as we head into the final week before the 2007-2008 college football season.
See above for a full background of what follows. In brief: Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson came up with an intuitive but rarely discussed concept called Artists and Mechanics. He wrote about it, fleshed it out a bit and that's kind of how this internet thing works.
In short, I believe that the world is split into two groups: Artists and Mechanics. Some might call it right-brain and left-brain, but I think Artists and Mechanics is much more lyrical and descriptive. Artists tend to be big-picture types, unconcerned with mundane details. They're strong on the "why," but weaker on the "how." Process is irrelevant; experience is everything...
...A Mechanic, on the other hand, thrives on process. The "how" supercedes the "why." Details bring joy. Learning how to accomplish a new task is a thrill...
...Artists need Mechanics, and vice versa. One cannot survive without the other.
I saw it, loved it, responded and he was kind enough to respond back with his takes. I looked at college football's big picture, and he nailed down the Florida schools and dabbled with SEC/ACC notables.
Time to try it again, as it's a new year and we have new names and faces to talk about. I'm going to write this up and pass it along to Whit Watson and if he's got the time (he's a busy man right about now), he'll send us a reply to which I'll gladly reproduce on here. Sound good?
There's no better way to start out than talking about the preseason favorite USC Trojans. Although he's lauded for his aggressiveness and risk-taking, USC coach Pete Carroll is a mechanic. The man is still in love with the NFL (nothing if not a mechanic's league) and conservative, let the defense win it football. Notably, he's edged even further towards the mechanic camp in recent years, transforming the vision of the USC offense from Norm Chow's artist's interpretation to a more grinding pro style.
His right hand man in the new offense is Steve Sarkisian. Although a Chow "disciple", Sarkisian speaks a lot about execution and mastery of an increasingly complex system. Their system is now less about daydreams and "what could be" and more about NFL 101 and "what we're going to do".
Down in the Bayou, I've got a funny feeling that LSU coach Les Miles is a bit more of an artist than he lets on. Behind that bravado and huff-puffing is a guy who 1)wears his hat real funny and 2)hired freaking Gary Crowton to run an SEC offense. That takes some imagination. His mind was also flexible enough to permit both a pass-happy and run-happy offense in separate years at Oklahoma State. Dogma is the realm of mechanics and Miles doesn't strike me as a repeatedly dogmatic person.
I talked last year about Arkansas coach Houston Nutt being an artist - that hasn't changed. Whit Watson has alluded to how pairing artists with mechanics can create a synergistic harmony. Well, pairing artists with artists or mechanics with mechanics may be bad medicine. I think that may have been part of the issue last year with former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn (artist!). Malzahn liked his art one way (the forward pass), Nutt liked his the other way (run, run, run). Thus: splittsville.
Malzahn's gone, but Arkansas has dusted off some old school tricks and made them modern with its Wildcat offense (now renamed WildHog). Tell me that's not an artist at work?
New Alabama coach Nick Saban is an almost overbearing Mechanic. Last year I said the 'Tide was too mechanical. So what'd they do? They went out and got another mechanic. Here's hoping new offensive coordinator Major Applewhite is an artist to balance things out.
Now, for some players.
Leading Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden strikes me as an artist. His game isn't all that fancy, but he's creative enough to play multiple roles as returnman, tailback and quarterback at the D-I level. He drives a funky, tricked-out car. And he wears dresses on the side. Artist.
Out west, quarterback John David Booty is an artist. His game isn't all that fancy, but here's a guy who ditched his senior year of high school at age 17 to compete for a starting quarterback job at a major program. That's vision at work. As a high school passer, he was magnificent in a gimmick offense. Somehow he was able to transform himself from a shotgun/gunslinger into a pure pocket passer. It's one of the most remarkable transformations I've ever seen and something that stumped guys like Brock Berlin, Brent Rawls, Josh Booty and so many others. Kid's got some imagination.
Another signal caller worth mentioning is Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen. He's a big-time mechanic. He's been groomed since birth to be a quarterback and by the end of high school had all but mastered college-level mechanics and understanding of defenses. He's very polished (which also means he has a low ceiling) and a ready-made product. Artists tend to be more freewheeling and prone to mistakes whereas Clausen's had that tunnel-vision of a grinding mechanic.
At Michigan, one player who really stood out last year was linebacker/defensive end Shawn Crable. His versatility alone speaks to artistic tendencies. He plays decent in space and can run with tight ends and backs. But he can also stuff the run and has a real knack for getting to the quarterback. His game is imaginative and freewheeling. Need more? He was born in Buckeye country and was one of those rare high high high profile Ohio ballers to give serious thought to programs around the country before settling on hated rival Michigan. Independence? Check. Creativity? Check. Artist.
Who else would you like to discuss? Leave a comment below and let's get the conversation started. Some wild cards: Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit (broadcaster or player), Mack Brown, Colt McCoy, Arrelious Benn, Andre Woodson, Pat White, DeSean Jackson, Frank Beamer.
In the meantime, here are some possible questions for Mr. Whit Watson: You spoke last year about Urban Meyer, Bobby Bowden, Mickey Andrews, Jeff Bowden, Larry Coker, Chris Leak, George O'Leary, Jim Leavitt and Andre Hall. With some new players and coaches emerging, how about these names: Randy Shannon, Jimbo Fisher, Rick Trickett (are there any artists among FSU's new coaches?!), Tim Tebow, Matt Grothe, Percy Harvin, Myron Rolle and Terry Bowden?
Also: How would you assess the great Tailgate Overtime show? More artist or mechanic? How about co-hosts Brady Ackerman and Terry Norvelle? Or guests like Mike Bianchi or the myriad former Gators, Noles and Canes who make guest appearances? Plus: wild cards.
My quick takes: Rolle is a tough-nosed defender, but I could see him dropping football tomorrow to follow some other pursuit. He's a renaissance man and an artist in my book. Shannon appears to be a big-time mechanic, same with Trickett. Fisher strikes me as a mechanic, Grothe an artist (people keep comparing him to Joe Montana!), Harvin an artist, Tebow a great artist who is also a mechanic (keeps winning all the offseason hard-work awards). Bowden's a bit of a renaissance man - surprisingly - went to Oxford and did law school and seemed surprised by the hours he's had to put in as a low-level assistant coach at Florida State. Let's call him a closet artist.