Jonathan Baldwin

Trio of Pitt Panthers heading for the NFL

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If/when Todd Graham is officially named as head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers, he’ll take over a depth chart that’s officially lost two of its most explosive playmakers on offense.

As expected, it was announced Monday evening that wide receiver Jon Baldwin and running back Dion Lewis have decided to leave eligibility on the table and make themselves available for the April draft.  Additionally, and surprisingly, fullback Henry Hynoski has decided to join his teammates in the draft pool.

In the aftermath of Dave Wannstedt‘s “resignation” last month, Baldwin announced on his way to throwing everyone under the bus that he was turning pro.  It was reported last week that, barring a change of heart, Lewis would be taking his leave of the Pitt football program.

Baldwin, a two-time first-team All-Big East performer, finished the season with 53 catches for 822 yards and five touchdowns. His career receiving yardage total of 2,337 ranks sixth all-time at Pitt, while his receptions total of 128 ranks eighth.

Lewis rushed for 2,860 yards in just two seasons at Pitt, eclipsing former standout LeSean McCoy’s school record for rushing yards as a freshman and sophomore. (McCoy had 2,816 yards from 2007-08.) Lewis ranks fourth overall on the Panthers’ career rushing list.

Hynoski was Pitt’s starting fullback each of the past two years.  Here are the statements from the three players on their decisions:

Jon Baldwin:
“After careful consideration and discussions with my mother and father, as well as helpful information from Coach Wannstedt regarding my draft status, I have decided to forego my senior season and enter the NFL Draft. I want to thank God for his blessings on my life, as well as my parents for all of their continued support. I want to also thank the University of Pittsburgh, Coach Wannstedt, Chris LaSala and the rest of the coaching staff for the opportunities and guidance they have given me in aiding my development as a student, as a player and as a person at the University. The direction they have provided throughout my three years at Pitt has prepared me for this next step in my life. I wish the University, my teammates, and fans of the program all the best in the future. I will forever be grateful to them for all they have done for me. Hail to Pitt!”

Henry Hynoski:
“After a long discussion with my close family members I feel that the current time is my best opportunity to fulfill my life-long dream of entering the NFL Draft. Along with information I received about my potential draft status, I will earn my degree in April in business marketing. I want to thank Coach Wannstedt, Coach Cignetti and Coach Walker for the wonderful opportunity they have given me to succeed at this outstanding university. I would also like to thank the people of Pittsburgh, as well as my hometown, for their constant support throughout my years here. I wish the best of luck to my team members and I look forward to following the future successes of the Pitt program.”

Dion Lewis Statement:
“After significant discussion and contemplation with my family and coaches, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce today that I am declaring myself eligible for this spring’s NFL Draft. I want to thank the University of Pittsburgh, particularly Coach Wannstedt and his staff, for the opportunities afforded me during the last two years. I look forward to the challenges facing me as an NFL rookie, and I believe my time here at the University of Pittsburgh under Coach Wannstedt’s tutelage has prepared me extremely well for the demands awaiting me at the next level.”

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney
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When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.

Win or lose, Dabo Swinney throwing pizza party for Clemson on Sunday

Dabo Swinney, Jim Brown
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Clemson’s 12-0 regular season will be celebrated Sunday, whether or not the Tigers win Saturday night’s ACC Championship.

“We’re gonna have a pizza party on Sunday. That’s gonna happen,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pledged Tuesday to the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier, following through on an off-hand comment made a few weeks back. “It’s kind of hard to plan for a pizza party when you don’t know the outcome. We’re not going to know that until midnight — that’s a lot of dough.”

It’s unclear if Swinney’s last statement was meant literally or figuratively or both.

Either way, Clemson said it will provide at least 2,500 Papa John’s pizzas, which will be distributed for free upon admittance to Memorial Stadium. Assuming a Tigers win over North Carolina, gates will open at 11 a.m. in advance of the noon ET College Football Playoff selection show.

But the party will go on regardless of Saturday night’s result.

“Regardless of whether we win or lose the game Saturday night, this team deserves to be celebrated.”

Report: Temple’s Matt Rhule stops talking to Missouri

Matt Rhule

The search for a new coach at Missouri continues, and apparently one candidate has backed away from the pursuit. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Temple head coach Matt Rhule has turned taken himself out of the mix for the job at Missouri, which likely means Rhule will stay put in South Philly during this coaching carousel cycle.

According to the report, Temple is also in the process of negotiating a new contract for Rhule. Rhule has already signed a contract extension with Temple that runs through 2021. Rhule’s Owls are also preparing to take on Houston in this week’s American Athletic Conference championship game. Rhule does not believe this will serve as a distraction to his team as they prepare for the Cougars.

“I think our team is way too strong to be distracted about anything with me,” Rhule said. “I am honest with our players and tell them everything.”

Ironically, Houston also received some encouraging news this week when head coach Tom Herman said he has an agreement in principle to stay at Houston. Not only is that good news for Houston and Temple, but that is outstanding news for the conference as a whole, although Memphis did lose Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech.

For Temple, this should be encouraging news as a program. The two coaches before Rhule took the job each left to take on power conference opportunities once they came along. Al Golden took an offer to coach Miami (that, uh, didn’t exactly pan out nicely) and Steve Addazio bolted for Boston College. Who knows if Rhule will stick around for the long haul, but it would seem just being able to get him to return in 2016 would be a major step in the right direction for Temple.

Texas Tech fires three defensive assistants

Kliff Kingsbury

Texas Tech may be getting ready for a bowl game, but they will do so without three defensive assistant coaches. Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Smith, cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis and outside linebackers coach Trey Haverty have been cut from the coaching staff, head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced today.

“We appreciate all that Mike, Kevin and Trey have done at Texas Tech over the last three seasons,” Kingsbury said in a released statement. “All three are great Red Raiders and we wish them the very best.”

Texas Tech had the Big 12’s ninth-ranked total defense after allowing 540.2 yards per game. That was nearly 100 yards more per game than Iowa State’s eighth-ranked defense. Only Kansas had a worst defense, allowing 560.8 yards per game. Texas Tech’s defense ranked 126th in the nation out of 128 schools. The Red Raiders were torched through the air, allowing 268.3 yards per game through the air, which was ranked 113th in the nation.

Offense appears to be the key to success in the Big 12 and defense has tended to be a hurdle for the Red Raider program. This much appears to be clear though. Kingsbury is making moves with his roster to find a way to improve defensively and become a more well-rounded threat in the Big 12.