Ohio State lost a top assistant to a head coaching job Monday, while their soon-to-be conference brethren Nebraska saw one of their top young assistants accept a defensive co-coordinator position the same day.
Based on the chatter coming out of Oxford, Ohio, one of those schools could be facing yet another raid on their respective coaching staffs.
According to a source with knowledge of the search, Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell and Cornhuskers offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson have emerged as leading contenders for the Miami of Ohio head coaching vacancy. The source would not go so far as to say that the two are finalists for the position, rather stating that both “are among a handful who are definitely in the mix.”
A decision on the replacement for Michael Haywood, who left to become Pittsburgh’s head coach last month, could happen at some point this week, although the source admitted it could drag into the weekend or even next week.
Fickell, a four-year starter at Ohio State as a defensive lineman in the mid-nineties, was on the periphery of coaching searches at both Minnesota and Indiana. He has spent the past nine seasons as a part of Jim Tressel‘s OSU staff.
Watson has spent the past four seasons as the Cornhuskers’ offensive coordinator, as well as previous BcS stops at Northwestern, Illinois and Colorado. The 51-year-old coach has also been a head coach at the collegiate level, guiding Southern Illinois from 1994 through 1996.
One of the factors that could swing in Watson’s favor is his ties to the school; he was an assistant at Miami for seven years in the late eighties and early nineties. Athletic director Brad Bates told the Hamilton Journal News late last week that a candidate with a prior connection to Miami would have an advantage “all other things being equal”.
Already in the crosshairs for his 2-3 team’s late-game failures, Butch Jones now finds himself under increasing scrutiny for something that allegedly happened a couple of months ago.
The website Gridiron.com, which features such respected journalists Tony Barnhart and Mike Huguenin among others, reported earlier today that the Tennessee head coach was involved in what was described as a “physical altercation” with senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder during summer camp this past August. The source close to the program added that practice film that day captured the alleged incident, although it’s unclear if that tapes still exists.
From the site’s report:
The incident occurred during fall camp, about the time that news started to come out about a few offensive linemen who were considering stepping away from the program. Crowder walked off the practice field one day and missed a day or two of practice, and Brett Kendrick and Dylan Wiesman were said to be contemplating their futures. Sources say the players’ actions stemmed from an incident between Jones and Crowder.
The website also made a Freedom of Information request seeking any correspondence between the university and the Crowder family be turned over, but writes that UT “administrators said any sort of letter or correspondence that may or may not have happened was covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”
Monday, Jones labeled what began as message-board speculation that he had struck one of his Vols players as “absolutely ridiculous.” The Knoxville News Sentinel contacted Crowder’s father, with the paper writing that “he had no comment and did not want to give validation to message boards.”
At least publicly, the university has yet to address the allegations. Jones will get yet another chance to address the speculation with the media in the very near future.
One of the most productive pass-catching duos in the country has been cut in half.
Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery confirmed Tuesday that Keevan Lucas sustained a torn patellar tendon in the third quarter of Saturday’s loss to Houston. As a result, the wide receiver will miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
“He’s such an emotional leader for us and such a great kid,” the first-year coach said. “We’ll have to make a few adjustments offensively and move some people around and try to make sure we’ve got guys in the right spot but also guys who will step up and be ready to play.”
Lucas is currently second on the team with 26 receptions and 409 receiving yards, behind Keyarris Garrett‘s 33 and 539. His five receiving touchdowns, though, are tops on the team.
Montgomery expects Lucas to be healthy enough to participate in spring practice next year.