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ACC spring game recaps

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Clemson’s last memory of an otherwise successful 2011-12 season was an embarrassing 70-33 whipping at the hands of West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, a game that ultimately resulted — directly or otherwise — in the release of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Enter Brent Venables. It’s no secret that the Tigers can score a lot of points in Chad Morris‘ offense; it’s stopping the other team that seems to be an issue for Clemson. Today’s Orange and White game — a 23-20 win by the Orange team for what it’s worth — was the first real opportunity to see Venables in action.

But it won’t be until the fall that fans will get to see what the former OU DC has in store. Like all other spring games, Clemson’s defense was as plain and simple as it comes. The offense, on the other hand, looks like it hasn’t missed a beat. Quarterback Tajh Boyd struggled early before hooking up with DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown. Hopkins, who Dabo Swinney said was the most improved player this spring, reeled in seven catches for 120 yards and a score.

Defensive back Robert Smith led all defenders with 10 tackles.

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Some other news and notes from around the ACC:
  • Miami’s spring game was understandably going to revolve around Memphis transfer Ryan Williams, but the story of the Hurricanes’ 7-6 slugfest was the defense. That side of the ball is going to have the upper hand anyway in spring games, but even Miami’s second-team D was impressive early, not allowing anything deep in the passing game. Player of the game had to be safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, who had an interception and a fumble recovery.
  • North Carolina begins the Larry Fedora era in 2012, and if the Tar Heels play anything like they did in a 44-21 win by the Blue team over the White team, UNC is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Bryn Renner had a decent day and North Carolina has plenty of athletes to make Fedora’s spread offense go.
  • Outside of some injury news, there wasn’t much to expect from Florida State’s spring game. The difference between this Seminoles team and the one last season that failed to meet expectations is depth. Quarterback E.J. Manuel still couldn’t get comfortable today because of spotty O-line play, so that will have to continue to be a point of emphasis for coach Jimbo Fisher.
  • Virginia’s Blue-Orange game resulted in a 20-17 win by the Orange team. Mike London‘s team was one game away from playing for an ACC championship last year, and the Cavaliers are looking to build that success this season. “It was good to see the guys competing. We are going to continue to make downfield throws and try to get the ball in the hands of as many guys as possible,” London said afterward. “There is an emphasis on explosive plays, plays that move the ball beyond 15 yards. We have guys that can run, that were athletes and track runners in high school, and we are going to find ways to get them the ball.”

Wazzu hires Jeff Phelps to coach D-line

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks up at the video screen during the third quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State has hired Jeff Phelps to coach its defensive line, the program announced late Friday night.

Phelps arrives from Minnesota, where he spent the past six seasons in the same capacity. Ironically, Phelps’s final game as a Gopher came against… Washington State. His defensive line finished the 2016 season ranking 12th nationally in tackles for loss, 14th in rushing defense and 22nd in sacks.

“Jeff is a passionate football coach and a true technician of the game,” Wazzu head coach Mike Leach said in a statement. “He coaches with great energy, is a strong recruiter and brings with him a track record of being a part of great defenses.”

Phelps takes over for Joe Salave’a, who reportedly signed a new deal with the Cougars in December before leaving for Oregon earlier this month. 

Washington State finished last season ranked 29th nationally in rushing defense (up from 95th in 2015), but 103rd in sacks and tied for 67th in tackles for loss.

Auburn hires former Gus Malzahn assistant Chip Lindsey as offensive coordinator

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  A member of Auburn Tigers cheer team waves a flag during their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Well, so much for all that.

Amid reports of a tug-of-war between Gus Malzahn and the Auburn administration, it appears the coach has got his man.

Auburn will hire Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to the same post, the Tigers announced Saturday.

“I’m excited to welcome Chip Lindsey to the Auburn family,” Malzahn said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in his ability to lead our offense and his strength in developing quarterbacks makes him the perfect fit. Chip is a man of integrity and character who will fit well within our staff. He has great knowledge and enthusiasm for the game and is a rising star in this profession.”

Like Malzahn, Lindsey is a longtime high school coach. His break came when Malzahn hired him to his original staff as an analyst; the Tigers’ improbable worst-to-first run to the SEC championship and BCS national title game spring-boarded Lindsey to the offensive coordinator post at Southern Miss, where he helped the Eagles jump from 102nd nationally in yards per play in Lindsey’s first season to sixth in his second and final season in Hattiesburg.

Lindsey spent but one season at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils finished 103rd in yards per play.

He’ll take over a jekyll-and-hyde offense that ranked 87th in yards per play in September and 83rd in November, but placed sixth in October. The Tigers have added a high-wattage transfer in former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

“My family and I are very excited to return to Auburn and our home state,” Lindsey said. “Both are very special places to us. I looking forward to reuniting with Coach Malzahn and his staff. They are great coaches and great people. I look forward to being part of something special and helping Auburn win championships.”

Nebraska won a bidding war with Arkansas to hire Bob Diaco

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 2: Head coach Bob Diaco of the Connecticut Huskies watches his team practice before they play the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 2, 2015 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Nebraska and Arkansas have met just once on the field, in the 1965 Cotton Bowl. But the Huskers and Hogs have now met twice in the only college athletics competition more cutthroat than the actual games — hiring coaches.

Arkansas famously held off Nebraska for Houston Nutt‘s services in 2004 (before you scoff, Nutt led the Hogs to the 2006 SEC West title, and Nebraska wound up hiring Bill Callahan) and now the Cornhuskers have returned the favor.

Nebraska hired Bob Diaco as its defensive coordinator this week, nabbing the former Connecticut head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator after he’d finished an interview with Arkansas. Sean Callahan of Husker Online explains from here:

Head coach Mike Riley said they stopped Diaco’s plane in the air on his way back from Arkansas and got him to fly to Lincoln last Thursday from Chicago. Riley said from there, they weren’t letting Diaco leave Lincoln until he accepted the job.

The money didn’t hurt. Nebraska handed Diaco a 2-year contract worth $1.7 million in total, making him the highest-paid assistant in program history.

Report: Auburn offensive coordinator search getting thorny

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers reacts during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Auburn does not have an offensive coordinator yet, which is odd. The Tigers have an explosive offense with a lot of returning parts. They have Jarrett Stidham coming in to play quarterback. They have a boatload of money. And they have a boatload of money.

According to a report from James Crepea of AL.com, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and “people with influence over the program” can’t agree on who should replace Rhett Lashlee.

Malzahn is said to prefer Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. Lindsey and Drinkwitz worked for Malzahn previously, and Malzahn has built a working relationship with the Briles family — Stidham and running back Kam Martin transferred from Waco to Auburn, and Art Briles visited a Tigers practice this season.

But Auburn donors, Crepea writes, have nixed those choices, saying Briles is too inexperienced and Lindsey and Drinkwitz are too close to Malzahn.

Instead, donors preferred Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (who has already been crossed off the list) or Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (ditto). Mark Helfrich does not seem like a viable option at this time.

With less than two weeks until National Signing Day, the urgency to bring someone to the South Plains only grows stronger.