College Football Hot Stove

Justin Blackmon
Every year at baseball’s trading deadline, a handful of contending teams usually take the opportunity to make one last big pick-up for the stretch run. Maybe you need a Carlos Beltran to give your lineup a little pop. Perhaps another arm for your bullpen, like, say, Mike Adams?

Obviously, college football programs don’t have that luxury (nor should they). But what if they did?

As fall camps kick off around the country, here are five deals that would benefit all parties involved:

1. Oklahoma State sends WR Justin Blackmon to Alabama for LB Dont’a Hightower.

Try this blockbuster on for size. A deal like this one probably wouldn’t sit well with the season ticketholders on either side initially, but for a general manager with some Billy Beane-sized cojones, it just might be crazy enough to work.

In Blackmon, Alabama would gain one of the best pass catchers in the country and a big-bodied receiver who could mix it up with the tenacious SEC Ds. He’d also give the winner of the Crimson Tide’s quarterback derby a go-to guy to help ease the newby through any growing pains.

As for the Cowboys, they simply need talent and experience in the front seven on defense. Hightower is one of the best linebackers in the land and he’d definitely fortify OSU’s defense with some veteran leadership.

Brandon Weeden would hate it, and Nick Saban would undoubtedly have an issue with surrendering the QB of his D. Still, both sides are deep enough in the affected positions to make a classic strength-for-strength trade.

2. UCLA sends coach Rick Neuheisel to ESPN for Urban Meyer.

The Bruins have flopped so badly under Slick Rick that I’m sure there are more than a few fans who would gladly trade their head coach for a bag of balls. (Of course, that assumes there are people out there who actually care about this team…)

Anyway, I don’t know much about TV, but I do know that Neuheisel would look far better up in the booth now than on a sideline. Whatever magic he had bottled up when he was Colorado and Washington disappeared with that $5,000 March Madness entry fee.

Meanwhile, Saint Urban has taken time off from the coaching rat race recharge his batteries from the comfort of a Bristol, Conn., studio – and he has proven to be a complete dud in front of the camera. He just looks completely out of his element. Imagine what he could do out in Southern California, especially with his cross-town rivals crippled by NCAA sanctions.

3. Colorado sends OG Ryan Miller to Oklahoma for QB Blake Bell.

Miller has been a rock for the Buffaloes, but as he nears the end of his college career, he undoubtedly still longs for that elusive ring. With CU starting to re-tool in the Pac-12 under new coach Jon Embree, maybe the school owes it to the big fella to let him chase his dream. He could bring the Sooners some needed nastiness on the interior to help improve the running game.

Bell, one of the top-rated quarterbacks of the 2010 recruiting class, probably won’t like the idea of leaving one of college football’s top programs for the rebuilding Buffaloes. On the other hand, rather than sitting behind Landry Jones for another year and then competing for the starting job in 2012, Bell would probably start right away for CU.

Plus, I mean, Boulder is pretty cool.

4. Arizona sends WR Juron Criner to Georgia for DE Ray Drew.

Drew was one of the premier defensive recruits in the country this year, so the Bulldogs won’t take dealing him lightly. For a coach in win-now mode, however, it’s worth a shot. Enter Mark Richt.

With A.J. Green now living the good life known as being a Cincinnati Bengal, UGa is bereft of any reliable threats at wide receiver to help QB Aaron Murray stretch the field and keep defenses honest. At 6-4, Criner could give Murray a lethal target on jump balls downfield, and the lanky, athletic pass catcher could probably get off the jam at the line.

Why would Mike Stoops want to let a talented receiver like Criner go? Stoops coached his fair share of great pass rushers as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, and he has to know his team is probably going nowhere this year. The reality is that the Wildcats have few appealing options on the edge this year, and the future doesn’t look much brighter.

Like dealing a pricey slugger in a contract year for prospects, Stoops would sign off on this one.

5. Texas sends football coach Mack Brown to North Carolina and basketball coach Rick Barnes to Tulsa; North Carolina sends basketball coach Roy Williams to Texas; Tulsa sends QB G.J. Kinne to Texas.

OK, as an Oklahoma fan, I’m not in favor of anything that makes Texas better in any way. Still, this just makes too much sense to me.

There are roughly eight members of Texas’ coaching staff who would probably do as well playing the role of main man as Brown. If he leaves, you just slide Manny Diaz in and move on.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina is searching for both a new head coach and a new athletic director. Installing Mack as football coach would be a chance to restore the glory the program once knew with that silver-haired fox stalking the sidelines. Meanwhile, have you seen how much money he can raise? Sounds like a great AD candidate to me.

Conundrum: What do the Tar Heels have to offer? John Shoop? Holden Thorp will need to get creative.

That’s where Williams comes in. As is the case with Texas football, Williams could be replaced in a heartbeat by an assistant – the only way anyone would be able to tell the difference would be the noticeable decrease in postgame crying. So, pack him off to Austin – it wouldn’t be the worst thing that has ever happened to him.

What about Rick Barnes? Well, to be fair, a league like Conference USA might be better suited to his coaching acumen. UT could even eat a little of that salary to make the trade more palatable to the Tulsa brass.

That opens the door to arrange an exchange with Tulsa for one-time Longhorn Kinne to return triumphantly  to Austin to clean up the Longhorns’ Lone Star-sized mess under center.

Everybody wins… Except for Doug Wojcik.