Parts of Tuscaloosa ‘have been obliterated’ by massive storm

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Forget about the whole rise in the intensity/insanity level of the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry; the state of Alabama has a whole helluva lot more important things on the hearts and minds of its citizens Wednesday evening.

For those unaware, the state has been pounded by a massive storm system that has produced dozens of tornadoes and, according to the early reports, the damage has been devastating.  In particular, the city of Tuscaloosa — and home of the University of Alabama — has been hit by what could only be called a storm of epic proportions.

Tuscaloosa’s mayor, Walter Maddox, appeared on The Weather Channel shortly after the storm plowed through his city, and said that the “devastation is ‘catastrophic’ and parts of city ‘have been obliterated’.”  Maddox added “please pray for us.”

On his Twitter feed, Aaron Suttles, Senior Recruiting Analyst for the Alabama Rivals site, TideSports.com, wrote that “I don’t mean to overstate, but it looks like bombs went off. Nothing left standing. Complete rubble. Cars upside down and caved in.”

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News wrote on his Twitter feed simply: “Scale of destruction in Tuscaloosa is very bad.”

Based on the early reports, the loss of property will be massive.  What’s uncertain at this point in time is what cost, if any, there will be in terms of lives lost, although initial reports indicate that there was one fatality caused by the storm.  The photos and the video shot on the scene, though, paint a sobering picture of it taking a miracle for there not to be many, many more:

It appears — and not that it even remotely matters in the grand scheme of things — that Bryant-Denny Stadium suffered no damage due to the storm, but videos that have emerged in the aftermath show the powerful tornado that apparently caused the devastation in the city passing in the background of the football home of the Tide.  For a high-quality video of that event, click HERE.  Click on the rain-blurred clip below for additional footage of the tornado passing behind the stadium.

Needless to say, our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Tuscaloosa and all the others across the South who have been impacted by this devastating series of storms.

UPDATED 10:44 p.m. ET: Heartbreakingly, Mayor Maddox, by way of the Tuscaloosa News, has confirmed that at least 15 people have been killed in his city as a result of the tornado.  All told, at least 31 people in the state of Alabama have lost their lives.

As for the university and its campus, the News writes that “power outages at the school are widespread, but they have no reports of structural damage to buildings on campus after a storm swept through the city.”

Additionally, the same storm system that tore through Alabama is wreaking havoc in parts of Georgia and Tennessee.  Fatalities are also being reported in those states as well.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

Three DBs among four who have left Syracuse since end of season

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Especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse’s roster has seen a significant amount of attrition over the past couple of weeks.

Since the end of the 2017 regular season 17 days ago, a total of four players have left the Orange football program. Three of those who have taken their leave are defensive backs — Juwan Dowels, Daivon Ellison, Cordell Hudson — while the other is defensive tackle Kayton Samuels (pictured).

Dowels and Samuels were the latest to part ways, with both announcing on social media their decisions to transfer over the weekend.

Both of those two, along with Hudson, are leaving the Orange as graduate transfers. That transferring trio would all be eligible to play in 2018 if they move on to another FBS program.

Samuels played in 34 games during his time with the ‘Cuse, while Dowels played in 24. The latter’s 2016 season was cut short because of a knee injury in Week 2.

SMU confirms hiring of Sonny Dykes as new head coach

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After a year away from the head-coaching game, Sonny Dykes is back in it.

Not long after reports had surfaced earlier Monday, SMU confirmed a short time ago that Dykes has been named as the football program’s new head football coach.  Dykes replaces Chad Morris, who left for the same job at Arkansas late last week.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be introduced as the Head Coach at SMU,” a lengthy statement from Dykes began. “This is home and this is a program I grew up watching. I watched Mustang legends compete and I could always see myself putting on that iconic pony. Today, I’m proud to do just that.

“Coach Morris did great things here and I am fortunate that I have been selected to take the foundation Chad and his staff put in place and take it to a new level. And, make no mistake – That is what we plan to do.”

Prior to 2017, Dykes had spent the previous seven seasons as a head coach — four at Cal (2013-16) and three at Louisiana Tech (2010-12).  After being fired by the former school, he was considered a candidate for the offensive coordinator position at Arizona State.  Family issues, however, made TCU a better fit as he spent this past season as an offensive analyst with the Horned Frogs.

A native of Texas who played college baseball for Texas Tech, Dykes has gone 41-45 as a head coach — 22-15 at Louisiana Tech, 19-30 at Cal.

In Morris’ third season at SMU, the 7-5 Mustangs are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012.

Florida DL Taven Bryan declares for NFL Draft

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The Dan Mullen era has everyone excited in Gainesville, but one key contributor won’t stick around to see it.

Defensive lineman Taven Bryan announced Monday he will leave school to enter his name in the 2018 NFL Draft. According to the statement released on his Twitter account, it sounds as if he made his mind up during the Jim McElwain and Randy Shannon regimes and nearly returned upon Mullen’s arrival.

Bryan ranked fifth on the team with 40 tackles while also recording six TFL and four sacks, just half a sack off the team lead.

A native of Casper, Wyo., Bryan will attempt to become just the third Wyoming native to be among the ranks of active NFL players.

SMU reportedly tabs former Cal, La Tech head coach Sonny Dykes as new head coach

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Sonny Dykes will take over as SMU’s head coach, according to multiple reports. The move was first reported by FotballScoop on Monday morning, and since confirmed by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

Dykes takes over for Chad Morris, who left last week to become the head coach at Arkansas.

Morris was hired to re-establish ties with the Texas high school community after the program flatlined under June Jones, and Dykes has a similar appeal as his predecessor. Like Morris, Dykes is a former Texas high school coach, though only briefly. (He spent one year as the running backs coach at Richardson Pearce High School in 1994.) But more importantly he’s a name that will resonate with Texas high school coaches as the son of the legendary Spike Dykes.

The younger Dykes served as an assistant at Navarro Junior College and Texas Tech before taking over as the head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 mark with one WAC championship from 2010-12. That success led him to Cal, where he took the Golden Bears to one bowl game in four seasons.

He was let go after the 2016 season, and spent the 2017 campaign laying low nearby the Hilltop, as an offensive analyst at TCU.

Dykes will inherit a 7-5 SMU team that ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense and 113th in scoring defense. The Mustangs will meet Dykes’s former team Louisiana Tech in the inaugural Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Interim head coach Jeff Traylor garnered significant support inside the locker room to take over on a full-time basis, so it will be interesting to see if Dykes works to keep the former Texas high school coach on staff, perhaps in an offensive coordinator capacity.