Update: A&M confirms Sumlin hiring

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UPDATED 6:01 p.m. ET: In a press release, Texas A&M has confirmed the hiring of Kevin Sumlin as its next head coach.

“It is with great pride that we announce Kevin Sumlin has accepted an offer to become the next head football coach at Texas A&M University,” A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said in a statement. “We began this search process a little over a week ago and spoke to many worthy and qualified candidates, but my decision, which was made in consultation with (Texas A&M) President (R. Bowen) Loftin, kept leading me to Kevin. We met this morning to finalize the offer. I believe he is the right person to lead our football program into the Southeastern Conference. First of all, Kevin is a terrific person. He is also one heck of a recruiter and he will put together a great staff.”

In his statement, Sumlin thanked the Aggies for the opportunity while also expressing how difficult it was to leave a university that gave him his first opportunity as a head coach.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at Texas A&M University,” Sumlin said. “Having coached there before, I understand the culture and embrace the commitment by the 12th Man regarding Aggie football. Aggieland is a special place and I look forward to working with the young men in the football program and recruiting the type of players we need to be successful in the SEC.”

“With that being said. I can’t thank the University of Houston enough for giving me a chance to become a head football coach. It is tough to leave a group of players who have worked so hard and have done things the right way in taking Cougar football to greater heights.”

A press conference will be held Monday at noon ET to officially introduce Sumlin.

In this latest spinning of the coaching carousel, Sumlin becomes the fourth head coach to leave a school that’s in a non-automatic qualifying conference in the BcS for a job as the head coach at an AQ school.

UPDATED 5:08 p.m. ET: At a press conference addressing the coaching situation for his football program Saturday evening, Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades confirmed that Kevin Sumlin has accepted the head-coaching position at Texas A&M. He also introduced Tony Levine as the Cougars’ interim head coach.

Rhoades stated that he spoke to A&M athletic director Bill Byrne shortly before the start of the press conference, and that an announcement from the Aggies on Sumlin’s hiring is imminent.

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Considered the front-runner even before Mike Sherman was officially fired earlier this month, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin is apparently set to be named the new head coach at Texas A&M according to reports streaming in from College Station and surrounding areas.

AggieSports.com reports that the school has made a decision on its new head football coach, with the most likely candidate being Sumlin, although A&M is not ready to announce the hiring.  The San Antonio Express-News takes it a step further, writing that “Sumlin is the Aggies’ choice for the gig” and “a press conference announcing Sumlin’s hire could be as early as today.”

The latter paper goes on to note that “A&M made a late run at Georgia coach Mark Richt, who mulled the offer Friday and turned it down Friday night.”  UGA athletic director Greg McGarity had subsequently declared there “was no truth whatsoever” to reports linking Richt to the A&M job.

On Friday, Sumlin refused to directly address the speculation connecting him to the Aggies’ opening.

Be that as it may, A&M appears to have finally pulled the trigger on the man who has been at or near the top of its coaching to-do list since Sherman’s Dec. 1 firing.  Sumlin has spent the past four years as the Cougars head coach, but will be charged with leading the Aggies as the school makes its way from the Big 12 into the SEC next year.

Sumlin, who had also reportedly drawn interest from Arizona State, Illinois and UCLA, has compiled a 35-17 mark with the Cougars, including a pair of 10-win seasons and three bowl berths.  UH got off to a 12-0 start this year, but a loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game cost the Cougars a shot at not only a perfect season but a BcS bowl berth as well.

In addition to Sumlin, it’s believed A&M interviewed Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora — who subsequently took the job at North Carolina — and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart earlier this week in New York City.

UPDATED 12:21 p.m. ET: Richt released a statement late Saturday morning denying any contact any other school.

“I’ve said many times Georgia is the place I want to be as long as Georgia will have me. That has never changed. And it’s gratifying to know Georgia wants me. I have not talked to any other school about a job nor do I have any interest in doing so. My interest is having a great recruiting year and start building toward next season.”

UPDATED 3:26 p.m. ET: Sumlin has reportedly informed his UH players that he’s leaving for another job.  A&M has no plans to make an announcement on a hiring Saturday; however, a press conference could take place as soon as Monday.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.