Ohio State officially introduces Luke Fickell as next head coach

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Exactly two weeks after Jim Tressel‘s stunning resignation, Ohio State has finally gotten around to making their next (interim) head coach available to the media.

Fickell, who becomes the 23rd head coach in the school’s storied history, was introduced by athletic director Gene Smith, who spoke of shifting the focus of the beleaguered football program back onto the field.

“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” Smith said. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

As expected, Fickell did not address the myriad allegations swirling around the program, but their were a few noteworthy nuggets tossed out during the presser as to what the OSU faithful can expect with the former Buckeyes player and long-time assistant in charge:

— Needless to say, the first question involved NCAA issues, with Fickell claiming that he had no knowledge of  violations allegedly being committed by football players.

“I was not informed of any information until it became public knowledge.”

— Fickell said that he had not spoken to Terrelle Pryor since the day after Tressel’s resignation because of the hectic and unexpected nature of the situation.  The quarterback, of course, announced last week that he would be foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility, probably for a shot at the NFL’s supplemental draft.

— There is an opening on his coaching staff, and Fickell said that situation will be addressed in the coming weeks.  When a coach is added, it will be on the defensive side of the ball.

— Given his lack of experience with the unit, Fickell confirmed that long-time offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will handle play-calling duties, although Fickell will certainly have input into the game plan as its formulated in the days leading up to kickoff.  Additionally, there will likely be no major changes to the offense.

— Reiterating what he stated in a sit-down interview with the Big Ten Network prior to the press conference, Fickell said that “[o]ur goal is to lead the nation in these categories: effort, turnovers and toughness.”

— In the hours after Tressel stepped down, Fickell spoke to his former boss.  Tressel’s advice?  “Be yourself”.

–Fickell’s two-year deal was amended to reflect his rise to interim and head coach and he will make $775,000 in 2011, with bonuses that could push that figure to over $1 million.

It had been announced on March 30 that Fickell would serve as the team’s interim head coach as Tressel served his five-game suspension.  Shortly after Tressel’s resignation on Memorial Day, the school announced that “Fickell will serve as interim head coach for the 2011-2012 football season” and that the “[r]ecruitment for a new head coach – which is expected to include external and internal candidates – will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”

We said it before and it deserves reiterating when it comes to Fickell’s chance at becoming the full-time coach at his alma mater: The former Ohio State player will be in charge of the football team from now until the end of the season and will certainly be given the opportunity to state his case that the “interim” tag should be stripped from his current title.  Some have already begun to dismiss the possibility that Fickell could be a long-term, permanent fix on the sidelines; I haven’t, and I won’t.  Fickell is a helluva football coach and will be leading a major Div. 1-A football program at some point in the next five years.  Hopefully, he’ll be given serious consideration by those who will ultimately make the decision.

Unless, of course, Urban Meyer says yes to the overtures that are certain to come at some point in the future.

WR T.J. Simmons transferring from Alabama to West Virginia

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A former Miami Hurricane wasn’t the only Power Five transfer West Virginia landed over the weekend.

On his personal Twitter account Sunday, T.J. Simmons surprised many by announcing that he would be transferring from Alabama. Not only that, but the wide receiver announced his new college football home — West Virginia.

After sitting out the 2017 season, Simmons will have three years of eligibility remaining with the Mountaineers.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2016 recruiting class, Simmons was rated as the No. 58 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Alabama. While he played in 12 games as a true freshman, mainly on special teams, he caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in this year’s spring game.

In addition to Simmons, former Miami tight end Jovani Haskins announced Saturday he would be transferring to WVU as well. All told, four Power Five players have come to Morgantown this offseason — those two, plus former Syracuse defensive back Corey Winfield (HERE) and ex-Miami quarterback Jack Allison (HERE).

Meanwhile, In Tuscaloosa, Simmons has joined linebacker Shawn Jennings (HERE) and O.J. Smith (HERE) as transfers away from UA in the last month. As 247Sports.com noted, that trio of transfers gets the Tide down to 86 scholarship players, one above the 85-man limit.

East Carolina mourns loss of former Pirate Domonique Lennon in fatal shooting

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The extended Eastern Carolina football family is in mourning following the passing of one of their own.

Over the weekend, Domonique Lennon was shot and killed following an incident outside of a Raleigh, NC restaurant. He was just 24 years old.

Witnesses described hearing upwards of 15 gunshots, with police arriving at 9:45 p.m. Friday night. No suspect or suspects are in custody as police continue to investigate the fatal shooting, which they believe involved more than one shooter.

It’s unknown if Lennon was the target or just caught up in the crossfire.

Lennon played defensive back for the Pirates from 2011-15. He played in 26 games his last two seasons with ECU, starting 14 of those contests in 2014.

“East Carolina University, the athletics department and Pirate football program are saddened by the tragic passing of Domonique Lennon,” a statement from the school began. “He made a positive impact on many people during his time as a student-athlete at ECU and earned the respect of both his teammates and coaches. We extend our condolences to Domonique’s family, friends and all those who knew and loved him.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help start a college fund for Lennon’s young son Landon. You can reach it by clicking HERE.

VIDEO: LSU RB Derrius Guice squats 650 pounds

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Derrius Guice may be the most underrated player in college football.

Playing in the shadow of Leonard Fournette, Guice posted an eye-popping 8.55 yards per carry (51 rushes for 436 yards) as a freshman in 2015, then kept his big-play ability as his usage increased while Fournette battled injuries in his final college season. Guice rushed 183 times for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns; his 7.58 yards per carry average was the most among Power 5 rushers with at least 180 carries.

So, yes, Guice is really good. He’s also a physical freak.

LSU captured and tweeted video Friday of Guice squatting 650 pounds, more than three times his listed 212 pounds.

If — and this is a massive, Les Miles-firing if — LSU can consistently throw the ball in 2017, go ahead and make Guice your darkhorse Heisman contender in 2017.

(HT CBS Sports)

Former Miami TE Jovani Haskins headed to West Virginia

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Jovani Haskins announced two weeks ago he was leaving Miami for “somewhere else.” That somewhere else proved to be a favorite destination of other Sunshine State transfers: West Virginia.

“WVU is my new home and I can’t wait to perform in front of the fans of West Virginia!” he tweeted on Saturday.

A 3-star prospect out of Bergenfield, N.J.., Haskins was offered by West Virginia in the class of 2016 and most recruiting experts actually had him signing with the Mountaineers before a surprise commitment to Miami.

Haskins joins two former state of Florida players on WVU’s roster: starting quarterback Will Grier (Florida) and former Miami quarterback Jack Allison (Miami). The Mountaineers also employed Florida State transfer Clint Trickett at quarterback and Miami transfer Antonio Crawford at cornerback.

Haskins redshirted in 2016 and will presumably sit out 2017 before gaining eligibility in ’18. West Virginia could use the help immediately; the roster lists one scholarship tight end at present. WVU currently has two tight ends pledged for the 2018 class in addition to Haskins.