Wrapping up Day One of SEC Media Days

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The SEC brought out their two biggest coaching guns on the first day of the SEC Media Days, and neither Nick Saban nor Urban Meyer disappointed.  Especially — especially — the former.

Needless to say, the major hot-button issue was rogue agents and the burgeoning scandals on four conference campuses, but there were other highlights — Dan Mullen‘s head-scratching and out-of-nowhere shot at Saban, anyone? — as a total of four coaches and 12 players made their way to the dais.

So, join me as we wade through some of the highlights from the league’s first day in Hoover, Alabama.

— “How are they any better than a pimp?”

Those eight words, uttered so eloquently by Saban, are now and forever a hi-larious part of the storied and colorful lore of the SEC.  When you get past the humor of it, though, there’s a very salient point, one that Saban and then Meyer attempted to hammer home throughout their time with the media.

While saying that players should shoulder some of the blame and responsibility — that point needs to be stressed more, incidentally — if they accept illegal benefits, Saban saved most of his venom for player agents and their associates who, for lack of a better word, stalk student-athletes.

It’s ridiculous and it’s entrapment of young people in a very difficult time of their life,” Saban said. “It’s very difficult for institutions and the NCAA to control it and it’s very unfair to college football.

“The agents should have consequences and right now they have none.”

You think Saban was done railing, right?  Au contraire as Saban was relentless in his blistering attack on the rogue seeds in the profession.

“I don’t think it’s anything but greed that’s creating it right now on behalf of the agents… I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?”

— Meyer didn’t rail as emotionally — guess those sabbaticals took, eh? — against agents as his ‘Bama counterpart did, but he was nonetheless very precise and surgical in conveying his feelings for “pimps” preying on the college football world.  Calling them “predators”, Meyer said what’s going on now is an “epidemic” and trusts that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be a part of a solution to the current situation.

The UF coach, even while offering praise for Goodell, also aligned himself alongside Saban’s idea of possibly putting out a “Not Welcome” mat out for NFL teams if things don’t change agent-wise.

“I’d be willing to listen,” Meyer said. “I’d be willing to align with something to make a change because it’s not right. It’s a dirty, dirty part of our business that’s unfortunately becoming more well-known. You think this wasn’t going on 10 years ago.”

Meyer added that’s he’s “kind of tired seeing student-athletes getting penalized by predators.”

— SEC Commissioner Mike Slive says it’s time to start over and lay down a new set of rules as it pertains to student-athlete’s interacting with agents.

“I think we need a national strategy for dealing with agents in college athletics, and in order to get there we need to sit down with a pad and a pencil and start from scratch. And the goal should be to provide our student athletes with the most information, the best information, honest information about the profession they have chosen to go into. If you’re going to go to law school or if you’re going to go to medical school you’re going to find out everything you can find out, including how much financial aid you’re going to get. And I think our kids to know those same things before they make a decision.”

Lane Kiffin has been out of the SEC’s hair for over six months, but the acrimony he left in his wake was still very much being felt by at least a couple of the people taking part in the proceedings.

During his time with the media, Commissioner Slive took a not-so-subtle jab at Kiffin without mentioning his name while praising his successor.

“(A) head-coaching change took place at Tennessee when Derek Dooley‘s predecessor left to return to his western roots. I want to welcome Coach Dooley back to the SEC.

And when I say welcome, I mean welcome.”

Then, during Meyer’s allotted time, he pulled a Slive when praising Dooley.  

“I have a lot of respect for the new coach at Tennessee, and I spent a lot of time talking to him in Destin (at the league’s spring meetings). You can tell he has everything in order. He’s a high-character guy, and that’s nice to see. I have a lot of respect for that coach.”

— In a roundabout way, Commissioner Slive confirmed that the SEC had talks with both Oklahoma and Texas A&M during the conference-apocalypse-that-wasn’t month of June.

We had conversations with folks. But I’m going to avoid getting into talking about schools. I think the point is made — after all that activity, here we are.”

— You want Sign No. 1,478 that the times, they are indeed a changin’?  Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips was asked what the number one thing new UK wide receivers coach and former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin brings to the team.  Phillips’ response?  “He understands Facebook. There’s a bunch of us who don’t understand it.”

— In between his diatribes against agents, Saban seemed to intimate that the spread offense can hinder a quarterback’s preparation for success at the NFL level.  Dan Mullen was asked about Saban’s thoughts, and the Mississippi State head coach took a jab at the reigning national champion.

I’ve had more first-round quarterbacks drafted than he’s had,” Mullen chirped, referring to Utah’s Alex Smith and Florida’s Tim Tebow.

— Speaking of going over like a fart in church, Mullen was the author of the WTF moment of the first day of the meetings.  Harkening back to the decision of the SEC at the spring meetings to allow MSU’s famous cowbells to ring at specified times during the course of a game, Mullen opened his time with the media with the following:

“For the next 10 seconds it’s legal to ring your cowbells,” Mullen said. “After that we’re going into a cowbell-dead zone.” 

Wrote Joe Person of The State in the aftermath of Mullen’s clumsy attempt at humor: “There were no cowbells clanging. And no laughter, either.”

Joker Phillips refused to identify a leader in UK’s three-headed race for the starting quarterback job heading into summer camp.  His best player on the offensive side of the ball, however, had no problem identifying who he prefers out of challengers senior Mike Hartline, sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt f
reshman Ryan Mossako
wski
.

“Honestly, I feel like Hartline is the guy,” running back Derrick Locke said. “He had a great spring and he made plays. I’m not saying we can’t win with the other guys. But Hartline’s a senior, and he’s got more to play for. He’s going to go all out for the team, and he’s going to make plays. I’m putting all my faith in him. If we’re going to win, I feel like he’s going to be our guy.”

Oregon St. assistant Brent Brennan hired as head coach at San Jose St.

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After a few years away, Brent Brennan is coming back to one of his college coaching homes.

San Jose State announced Wednesday afternoon that the 43-year-old Brennan has been hired as the program’s new head football coach.  Brennan will replace Ron Caragher, who was dismissed late last month after four seasons with the Spartans.

From 2005-2010, Brennan was an assistant at SJSU under both Dick Tomey and Mike MacIntyre.

“We want to recruit high-character young men that are tough and love to play football and also take their academics seriously,” Brennan said. “We’re going to help them grow from young men into men and put a product on the field that anybody who has a connection with Spartan football can be proud of.”

In between stints at SJSU, Brennan spent the 2011-16 seasons at Oregon State.  He coached wide receivers in each of his seasons with the Beavers.

This will be Brennan’s first head-coaching job at any level.

“We are thrilled to have Brent back at San José State. He is an exceptional football coach and one of the most respected recruiters in the country. His coaching background and ties to San José State make Brent a perfect fit,’ athletic director Gene Bleymaier said.

The Spartans went 4-8 in Caragher’s last season.

Oregon makes hiring of Willie Taggart official

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Willie Taggart of the South Florida Bulls during a 3rd quarter timeout against the Florida State Seminoles at Raymond James Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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And now it’s officially official.

Wednesday morning, myriad reports surfaced that Oregon was set to name Willie Taggart as its next head coach.  A few hour later, the Ducks confirmed that they have plucked Taggart from USF to replace the dismissed Mark Helfrich.

Taggart, who will be introduced at a press conference Thursday, will be the first of the 33 head coaches at UO to be African-American.

“We are thrilled to welcome Willie, his wife, Taneshia, their sons, Willie Jr. and Jackson, and their daughter, Morgan,” UO athletic director Rob Mullens said in a statement. “Willie places an emphasis on ensuring a positive student-athlete experience and on winning, and his previous stops have proven his success at both. We have a very bright future under his leadership.”

In his fourth season with the Bulls, Taggart has seen his win total increase every year, going from two in his first season in 2013 to four to eight to a 10-win season this year that has another game to go. Taggart won’t this season through, however, as USF announced that co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist has been named as the Bulls’ interim head coach and will guide the team through their preparation for the Birmingham Bowl matchup with South Carolina.

Taggart has also been the head coach at Western Kentucky. After a 2-10 start, he guided the Hilltoppers to a pair of seven-win seasons before leaving for the Bulls.

The 40-year-old assistant also comes to Eugene with experience in the Pac-12, serving as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at North rival Stanford from 2007-09.

“I am grateful for the trust that President Schill and Rob Mullens have put in me to be the next head coach of the Oregon football program, and I thank them for the opportunity,” Taggart said. “Oregon has a strong national presence and a proud recent history of playing among the nation’s elite, and I look forward to the challenge of upholding the excellence. I can’t wait to get started.”

Taggart will be taking over a program that went from winning 13 games and appearing in the first-ever College Football Championship game following the 2014 season to nine wins in 2015 before bottoming out out with a 4-9 campaign in Helfrich’s third and final year at the helm.

LSU DC Dave Aranda becomes highest-paid assistant ever

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When it was revealed that Dave Aranda would likely remain at LSU when Ed Orgeron was named the permanent head coach, it was thought the defensive coordinator could become the highest-paid assistant in college football.  Wednesday, that became a reality.

LSU announced earlier today that Aranda has signed a new three-year contract that runs through March of 2020 and includes the additional title of associate head coach.  The deal will also be worth  total of $5.5 million — $1.8 million in 2017, with bumps to $1.85 million and $1.9 million the last two years of the deal.

“My family loves Baton Rouge. We are excited to build on what we’ve started. LSU is a special place,” Aranda said in a statement. “Our outstanding student-athletes, the passion of our fans, the first class facilities and the commitment to excellence from the administration makes LSU one of the premier programs in college football and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

The deal still needs the approval of LSU’s Board of Supervisors, although that’s expected to be a mere formality.

The $1.8 million will, at least at the moment, make Aranda the highest-paid assistant coach in the history of college football, trumping the $1,6 million Will Muschamp pulled in as the defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2015.  The highest-paid assistants in 2016 were Texas A&M DC John Chavis ($1.56 million), Clemson DC and Broyles Award winner Brent Venables ($1.43 million) and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin ($1.4 million).  Aranda was fourth at $1.315 million per the USA Today salary database.

At the end of the regular season, Aranda’s Tiger defense was sixth nationally in scoring (16.4 points per game) and 13th in total defense (323.0 yards per game).  The former was second in the SEC behind Alabama, the latter third behind ‘Bama and Florida in the conference.

The leader of the Tide defense, Jeremy Pruitt, was 12th in the country in pay at $1 million and will likely be in line for a raise at season’s end.

Michigan’s Jake Butt named Mackey Award TE of the Year

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26:   Jake Butt #88 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Marshon Lattimore #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes after catching a pass during the first half of their game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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For the second time today, a Michigan Wolverine has taken home a major college football award.

This morning, the Paul Hornung Award announced Jabrill Peppers as its 2016 winner.  Not long after, the John Mackey Award named Peppers’ teammate Jake Butt as the 2016 recipient of its award, handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Butt was a semifinalist for the 2015 award won by Arkansas’ Hunter Henry.  He’s the first Michigan player to win the Mackey.

“It’s a great honor first and foremost, especially for this team,” a statement from Butt began. “One thing Coach [Jim] Harbaugh says, ‘A rising tide raises all ships.’ So it’s great to win this award. I want to thank the guys in this group; this is our award, really it’s not a one-man award. I really thank everyone on this team, this coaching staff, my position coach Jay Harbaugh, my family and everyone that’s helped me achieve this great award. I’m really appreciative of that.”

Butt’s 3.6 receptions per game tied for 10th amongst tight ends.  he was one of three finalists for the award, and was joined by Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Clemson’s Jordan Leggett.