Rumors already swirling around potential Meyer’s replacements

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It’s been a little more than three hours since Urban Meyer stunned the college football world — again — by stepping down as Florida’s head coach.  We’re still roughly an hour away from the press conference featuring Meyer and athletic director Jeremy Foley that will hopefully shed a little more light on a decision that seems both final — this time — and made with an eye toward family.

And naturally, given the nature of the Internet beast, the rumor mill is already churning out names at a prodigious clip as to the potential candidates to take over one of the premier programs in the country.

First and foremost, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen seems to be at the the top of nearly every early list of replacements.  Given the relative success he’s had in two short years in Starkville and his ties to UF as Meyer’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Mullen’s inclusion is a no-brainer.

Another coach with recent ties to UF is Charlie Strong, and naturally he’s being mentioned in connection to the opening as well.  With just one season as Louisville’s head coach, the former Gators defensive coordinator might be considered a longshot.  Then again, does he deserve any less consideration than Mullen and his two years with the Bulldogs?

As expected, the big-name coaches are being bandied about as well, chief among them Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.  Again, it’s a natural fit after UF tried to hire him when the job came open in 2001.  We spoke to a source close to the Sooners head coach earlier Wednesday afternoon, however, and this person implored us to not connect Stoops’ name to the Gators job because “Bob is not leaving Norman.  Not for Gainesville, not for anywhere else.”  So, take that as you will, but we tend to believe it.

With a perfect record and a spot in the national title game as well, the name of Oregon’s Chip Kelly has been floated as a possibility.  Let’s just nip this one in the bud right now:  Kelly will leave Eugene over Phil Knight‘s even-creepier dead body.  The Nike CEO will simply not allow that to happen, even if Foley were to have him on his initial to-do list.

Here are a few other names that have been tossed around in the initial stages of The Retirement, The Sequel:

Chris Petersen, Boise State — Foley pulled a non-AQ rabbit out of his hat with the Meyer hire; would he tempt fate twice and go after one of the top five coaches in all of Div. 1-A?  I don’t know if he will, but I know he should.  The only question is, would Petersen want to leave?  It’s not that Boise State is a better job than Florida, but it might be a better fit for Petersen than the Gators.

Gary Patterson, TCU — Same boat as Petersen: has done a helluva job with a whole lot less in both talent and revenue streams.  Would almost certainly be on the short list of any A.D. at a big-time program such as Florida, but, again, it would all come down to fit.

Jim Harbaugh, Stanford — Although it’s being rumored already, you can all but forget about this one.  He will stay with the Cardinal… until the Michigan job opens up, which could be sooner rather than later.

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas — Razorback fans are already verklempt over the possibility of Petrino ditching them for the Gators, and he was rumored to be a candidate during Meyer’s brief 24-hour retirement in 2009.  That said, it would be hard to see Foley putting his post-Meyer eggs in the basket of a man who will always have a wandering eye.

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech — Why not?  His name is attached to every other job in the country, why not this one?  And don’t think for a minute that Tuberville wouldn’t ditch the Big 12’s Red Raiders for the chance to return to the SEC.  It’s what he wants before his coaching career is over, but it remains to be seen whether UF would be the right fit.

Jon Gruden, broadcast booth — He flirted with Miami when  their job came open.  Don’t expect this Florida school to do the same, despite the fact that he’s already seeing his name attached to the opening.  UF is in a position where they do not have to entertain a person who’s simply interested in keeping his name in the coaching mix for when he’s ready to return to the sidelines.  The Gators are above that, and they know it.

In the end, I would put a fairly significant amount of money on Mullen returning to Gainesville.  And for it to happen sooner rather than later.

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.