Les Miles a hot NFL commodity?

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With New Mexico’s firing of Mike Locksley earlier this week, the 2011 Head Coaching Carousel is officially open for business.

Coincidentally or not, a report surfaced Wednesday that a college coach who’s anything but part of the Hot Seat portion of the carousel could become a target of the big-boy football league in the very near future.

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com writes that the perception some NFL executives have of the “wacky, Mad Hatter” persona of Les Miles “is changing drastically” and the LSU coach “will definitely be pursued by teams in need of a head coach at the end of the season.”  NFL executives went so far as to intimate Miles is a 21st-century Jimmy Johnson; the current FOX pregame personality was a very successful coach at the collegiate level before transitioning to the NFL, winning two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the mid-nineties.

Oddly enough, Miles does have some NFL experience, and it came with the Cowboys; from 1998-2000, Miles was Dallas’ tight ends coach.  In keeping with the whole reverse JJ career arc, Miles then moved on to become head coach at Oklahoma State, where Johnson had also been the head coach prior to moving on to the Miami Hurricanes and ultimately the NFL.

Whether Miles makes the move back to the NFL ala Johnson remains to be seen.  What appears to be a certainty is that Miles will be a hot commodity for NFL teams at some point in the next couple of months.

“He’s the most intriguing coaching prospect I’ve seen in a long time,” one team executive told Freeman. “I think he has a great deal of talent and can deal with the modern athlete.”

Through his words and actions, Miles has made it perfectly clear that, at least for now, he’s very happy with his current coaching gig in Baton Rouge.  Earlier this year, Miles had the opportunity to leave LSU for Michigan, his alma mater, but opted to remain with the Tigers after meeting with officials from UM.

Late last month, a contract extension that could technically keep Miles at LSU through the 2017 season was formally approved by the school’s board of supervisors.  While Miles received no bump in the $3.75 million he was scheduled to receive annually under his old contract, there are “enhanced opportunities” for additional compensation based on championships and postseason accomplishments built into the revamped deal.

Personally, Miles just “seems” like a college coach from where I’m standing.  Then again, I said the same thing about Jim Harbaugh before he left Stanford for San Francisco this offseason.  It’s unclear if Miles is cut from the same coaching cloth as Harbaugh, although we’ve heard The Hat described in the past as “a college coaching lifer” by those familiar with his thinking.

Again, though, similar things were being said of Harbaugh right up until he bolted for the 49ers.  In other words, LSU fans, buckle up; it’s going to be a bumpy next couple/few months on the speculation front.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.