Danny O’Brien signs with Badgers

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UPDATED 1: 23 p.m. ET: Of course, a short time after our previous update, Wisconsin confirmed via a press release that Danny O’Brien has indeed signed with the Badgers.

And, like he did upon Russell Wilson signing with UW last year, head coach Bret Bielema said the starting quarterback job has not been promised to O’Brien.

(Writer’s note: wink wink, nudge nudge)

“We’re excited that Danny has chosen to attend Wisconsin,” Bielema said in a statement. “The first thing we did when we were aware of Danny’s interest was to try and find out what type of person he was and if he would fit into our program. From our dealings with him and all the things I have heard from those who have been around him, he is a tremendous person and has great character. He had a fantastic visit and our current players who met him came away impressed. Having graduated from Maryland in just three years, you know right away that he is a smart kid.

“As is the case with any player who joins our program, we have not promised Danny anything other than the chance to come in during the fall and compete for the starting quarterback position. He understands that and is excited for that opportunity.”

The release also confirmed that O’Brien will be eligible to play immediately for the Badgers.  After graduating from Maryland in May, O’Brien will attend graduate school at UW beginning in the fall.

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UPDATED 1: 11 p.m. ET: A Wisconsin source confirmed to CFT a short time ago that “an announcement on a personnel matter” would be forthcoming from the school “within the next 24 hours or so.”

One current member of the Badgers however, didn’t feel like waiting that long to publicly welcome his new teammate.

“Danny o brien just messaged me this.. ‘let’s do this‘… it shall be done then my man,” running back Montee Ball tweeted shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

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Well, based on the speculation from earlier this week, this certainly qualifies as at least a minor upset.

Citing a college football source, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting that former Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brienis poised to transfer to Wisconsin.”  O’Brien visited the Madison school this past weekend, one of at least four known visits to three different schools this month.

Two of those visits were to Penn State, one of which took place Monday and led some to speculate that new head coach Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lions had suddenly become the front-runners for the QB’s services.

In addition to Wisconsin and Penn State, O’Brien has also visited Ole Miss since announcing his transfer from the Terps.  Somewhat surprisingly, and at least based on what’s been leaked publicly, O’Brien has not taken a visit to Vanderbilt.  The Commodores were far and away viewed as the “leaders” for the player, if for nothing more than the extensive relationship with head coach James Franklin.

O’Brien’s high school coach told CFT nearly three weeks ago that his former player would likely make his choice by mid-April, or late that month at the latest.  A voicemail left for the coach seeking comment on this reported development has not been returned, although a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CFT that a final decision has indeed been made.

The source would not divulge the specific name of the school.  Based on the Journal-Sentinel‘s report, however, things are looking good for the Russell Wilson-less UW Badgers.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.