Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban

Spurrier lobs a coupla barbs Saban’s, UGA’s way

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If you’re looking for a solid indicator of how Steve Spurrier feels about his ball team’s prospects for the upcoming season, just listen to the Ol’ Ball Coach talk.  Specifically, listen to how the South Carolina head coach talks about — or take jabs at — the opposition.

Using that theory, and based on one interview, Spurrier is feeling pretty damn frisky about the 2012 edition of his Gamecocks.

In a wide-ranging talk with ESPN.com SEC blogger Chris Low, the OBC was asked about his counterpart at defending national champion Alabama and a change in schedule involving Georgia.  Like a middle schooler with a pair of pigtails dangling in front of him, Spurrier simply couldn’t resist giving a little tug to both.

First, when asked about his thoughts on Nick Saban and the job he’s done at Alabama:

““He’s got a nice little gig going, a little bit like Calipari. He tells guys, ‘Hey, three years from now, you’re going to be a first-round pick and go.’ If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.” 

That’s right, Spurrier tweaked Saban by comparing him to Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, who’s roundly criticized on most fronts for bringing in five-star recruits as one-and-done’s before they shuffle off to the NBA.  Three Tide players — Trent RichardsonDont’a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrickleft school early for April’s NFL draft.  The Gamecocks?  Spurrier had two make the early leap — Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore.

Of course, picking that particular nit wouldn’t much faze Spurrier — who may or may not have been shirtless for the interview — or impact his decision to mildly tweak Saban with a Calipari comparison.

As if that weren’t enough, Spurrier in that three-sentence quote said, in essence, that just about anybody could win in Tuscaloosa, conveniently forgetting the likes of the two Mikes — Shula and DuBose — as the prime recent arguments against his thesis.

And, believe it or not, that wasn’t even the biggest tweak of the conversation.  Rather, Spurrier saved that for long-time rival Georgia when asked about the UGA-USC game being moved to later on in the season from its normal slot the second weekend:

“I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”

Somewhere, Stephen Garcia is having himself a good chuckle.  And a lukewarm PBR.

Someone else having a good chuckle?  The man in charge of the program the barb was directed at.

“How bout that. I think that’s funny. That sounds like Steve,” said an apparently amused UGA head coach Mark Richt, who sports a 4-3 mark against the Bulldogs’ SEC East rival since Spurrier became head coach.

Love him, hate him or utterly despise him, the game of college football’s a better one when the OBC is involved — and yanking chains.  Somewhat related to that topic, Spurrier also addressed how long he intends to stay on the sidelines with visor in the fully-cocked position.  As usual, the 66-year-old coach (he’ll turn 67 April 20th) wouldn’t pin himself down to a precise timeline for stepping away, although he did hint to a high school recruit that he’ll be around for a few more years.

““I used to think 60 [when he would retire]. When I was 55, I’d say four or five more years. When I got to 60, I’d say four or five more. And when I got to 65, I started saying three or four more. I’ll tell you what. We had a good-looking quarterback come through on Junior Day, and I wrote him a letter and said, ‘If you come here, you might extend my coaching career two or three years.’ ”

Here’s to hoping that career extension comes with or without landing the unnamed QB prospect.

Arizona signee My-King Johnson set to become FBS’ first active openly gay scholarship player

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the Territorial Cup college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.

The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.

In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.

“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”

Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.

From the Daily Star:

When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.

Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.

It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.

Central Michigan AD taking same position at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Wide receiver Samajie Grant #10 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates after scoring on a two yard rushing touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the fourth quarter of the Territorial Cup college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.

Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.

Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.

While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.

Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.

UTEP’s Theron Aych named new receivers coach at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Wide receiver Trey Griffey #5 of the Arizona Wildcats catches the ball in front of defensive back Jaterious Pouncey #48 of the Grambling State Tigers for a 34 yard touchdown in the third quarter at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Spring practice is already underway in Tucson but it took until the end of this week for Arizona to finally have a complete offensive coaching staff.

The Wildcats announced on Saturday that Theron Aych would be taking over as the team’s new receivers coach, filling a vacancy created when Tony Dews left for West Virginia.

Aych helped provide a nice boost to the Miners’ passing game in his one season in El Paso and spent five seasons at Division II Angelo State prior to that. He served as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Rams during his five-year stint before moving up to the FBS level.

The Pac-12 is no new experience for Aych though, as he served as a graduate assistant at Washington over a decade ago.

Aych should have his work cut out for him this spring with the team featuring plenty of young players at the receiver position while also dealing with the loss of standouts like Trey Griffey and reliable veteran Nate Phillips both gone.

Colorado rounds out new defensive staff with hire of former Purdue DC Ross Els

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Mike MacIntyre of the Colorado Buffaloes looks on prior to the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks defeated the Buffaloes 44-10.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Just in the nick of time, Mike MacIntyre has rounded out his new defensive staff for the 2017 season.

The Buffaloes announced on Friday evening that former Purdue defensive coordinator Ross Els would be joining the program and serving as inside linebackers coach. The release notes that Els’ paperwork was completed in time for him to join the team for their second practice of spring ball.

“Coach Ross Els brings a lot of energy,” MacIntyre said.  “He has great experience as a coordinator, positions coach and special teams coach, and we’re really excited about having his expertise in those phases in our program.”

Els adds plenty of experience to Boulder, having coached linebackers at New Mexico State, Ohio and Nebraska. In addition, he was the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator  and safeties coach last season.

The move completes the staff for the Buffs after seeing a number of coaches depart to Oregon with former coordinator Jim Leavitt.