SALT LAKE CITY—The Utah football staff finished its recruiting for 2012 with 28 signed commitments. The list includes two mid-year junior college players who signed National Letters of Intent in December.
The biggest beneficiaries were the offensive and defensive lines, which claimed 16 of the 28 scholarships and landed three four-star recruits: freshman Hiva Lutui (Euless, Texas/Trinity HS), freshman Jeremiah Poutasi (Las Vegas, Nev./Desert Pines HS) and junior Junior Salt(Glendale, Utah/Mt. San Antonio College).
While the Utes continued their tradition under coach Kyle Whittingham of recruiting primarily freshmen—adding 21 underclassmen—their seven junior college transfers included six linemen.
“Football starts at the line of scrimmage. If you’re strong up front, the other positions will usually thrive,” said Whittingham. “We needed immediate help up front after losing three all-conference linemen to graduation (offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen and defensive lineman Derrick Shelby) and because of the physicality of Pac-12 football. We believe the junior college linemen we signed will provide immediate help.”
Another priority position was quarterback, where the Utes looked to the future by signing two highly-rated freshmen: Parade All-AmericanChase Hansen from Utah’s Lone Peak High School and California prep star Travis Wilson (San Clemente HS).
“The Pac-12 conference is loaded at the quarterback position and the two we signed are very talented and should fit right in that mold,” said Whittingham.
In addition to the 15 linemen and two quarterbacks, the Utes added three defensive backs—including four-star freshman Justin Thomas (Orange, Texas/West Orange-Stark HS) —two linebackers and two receivers.
The coaching staff mined seven states for the 2012 class, signing 11 players from Utah, nine from California, three from Texas, two from Louisiana and one each from Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.
Temple lost its head coach to an FBS program in the state of Texas. Could the Owls find his replacement in the form of the former head coach at that state’s flagship university? Or, as is looking more and more likely, could they “lose” him to a fellow AAC school?
According to at least one report the former could be the case as the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing a source familiar with the situation, reported that Strong and Temple officials have spoken about the vacant head-coaching job. How strong, so to speak, the former Louisville and Texas head coach’s interest is in the AAC football program is something the source couldn’t gauge, the Inquirer noted.
That said, “[t]hey had a conversation with Strong, that is a fact,” the source said.
The strongest, so to speak, competition for Strong may very well be coming from USF, with Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders reporting that “[i]t is believed that USF has already begun negotiating a contract with Strong.” A subsequent report from the Tampa Bay Times noted that USF spent Thursday in heavy pursuit of Strong.
The 56-year-old coach had previously been connected to the USF job, and his deep ties to the fertile recruiting grounds in the state that makes a marriage almost a no-brainer for both sides.
Strong was fired by the Longhorns in November after going just 16-21 during his three seasons in Austin. UT currently owes Strong roughly $11.2 million as part of his buyout. Per the terms of his contract, Strong must make “reasonable efforts” to obtain another job. If he does, USA Today wrote, “Texas’ obligation to him will be offset by an amount equal to 50% of the total compensation Strong receives from his new job.”
Matt Rhule, who left Temple for Baylor earlier this week, was paid just north of $1 million for his final season with the Owls, a figure that was eighth amongst AAC coaches. Willie Taggart, who created the USF vacancy by leaving for Oregon, was the fifth-highest paid coach in the conference at $1.7 million.
Strong’s salary final salary of $5.2 million was sixth nationally.
The college football world gathered in Atlanta on Thursday night as nearly a dozen of the sport’s most prestigious awards were handed out from the College Football Hall of Fame.
While a few of the winners were announced before the televised ceremony, here were the players who took home some hardware at the annual awards show:
Walter Camp Player of the Year — Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson
Maxwell Award as national player of the year — Lamar Jackson
Chuck Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year — Alabama’s Jonathan Allen
Davey O’Brien Award for best quarterback — Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (his second in a row)
Doak Walker Award as best running back — Texas’ D’Onta Foreman
Biletnikoff Award for best receiver — Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook
Outland Trophy for outstanding interior lineman — Alabama’s Cam Robinson
Rimington Trophy for best center — Ohio State’s Pat Elflein
Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back — USC’s Adoree’ Jackson
Lou Groza Award for outstanding place kicker — Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez
Ray Guy Award for best punter — Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky
John Mackey Award for outstanding tight end — Michigan’s Jake Butt
Butkus Award for best linebacker – Alabama’s Reuben Foster
Wuerffel Trophy for community service — Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight
Home Depot Coach of the Year — Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre
Baylor’s on-going scandal over reported sexual assaults looks like it is about to get even uglier.
Former head coach Art Briles has filed a lawsuit for libel and slander against three school regents and a vice president, according to the Associated Press, accusing them of falsely stating he knew of sexual assaults by players and didn’t report them.
Perhaps most eyebrow-raising is that the lawsuit also accuses the officials of conspiring to keep him from getting another coaching job. Briles has been connected to openings such as the one at Houston but school officials quickly denied reports that he was formally considered for the vacant head coaching spot.
Briles was fired in the spring by Baylor after an investigation from law firm Pepper Hamilton determined the school mishandled reports of alleged sexual assaults, some of which involved numerous football players. The coach denied he knew about the alleged assaults but several regents — including the three named in the recent lawsuit — told the Wall Street Journal on the record that Briles failed to report alleged assaults.
While the football team may be looking to move on from all of this with the recent hire of Matt Rhule as the new head coach, it appears the school itself will continue to deal with the fallout from one of the worst scandals in college football history.