Phillip Sims, A.J. McCarron

HS coach: Sims lost Tide QB battle because ‘he was the out-of-state guy’

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That sound you might hear off in the distance?  It could very well be the blood of a certain Crimson & White head coach beginning to boil.

A quarterback battle between Alabama native AJ McCarron and Virginia native Phillip Sims that began in the spring of 2011 and extended into the early part of the regular season ended with McCarron playing a significant role in Alabama’s second BcS title in three years this past January.  Seeing the very clear writing on the wall, Sims announced after spring practice this year that he was transferring from the Tide.

In an interview with the Virginian-Pilot shortly after Sims’ transfer decision was confirmed, the player’s former head coach at Oscar Smith High School, Richard Morgan, claimed there was one reason and one reason only why McCarron received the nod over Sims.

“If it’s a close competition between an in-state guy and an out-of-state guy, the in-state guy is getting the job,” he said. “Phillip was in a situation where I thought he was the better quarterback, but he was the out-of-state guy. That’s just the way it works in college

As my six-year-old daughter is wont to say, what a crock of poo.  Say what you want about Nick Saban — and I’m quite certain many, many things will be said in the comments section below this post — but his singular focus when it comes to on-field matters is getting the best players into both huddles in order to give his team the best opportunity to win on any given Saturday.  It would be literally impossible, I believe, for the three-time BcS champion coach to care less from what city/state/country/continent/planet/universe a player hailed.

If Saban and/or his coaching staff thought Sims gave the Tide the best opportunity for a win, it would’ve been Sims under center when UA’s offense stepped onto the field for the season-opening series against Kent State last September.  Or the next week or the week after that or the week after that etc.

Right or wrong, Saban rolled the dice with McCarron — and said roll had nothing to do with the fact that McCarron played his high school football four hours from Tuscaloosa.

Third in the SEC in QB rating and a BcS title in his first year as a starter at the collegiate level?  Yeah, I’d say the coaching staff’s decision was more right than wrong, regardless of one outsider’s sour grapes over his former player getting geographically hosed.

The local-boy-makes-good story may be a consideration on a lot of campuses around the country, but not at any place where Saban is in charge, and not at arguably the most important position on the field.

In addition to placing one foot squarely in his mouth on the Tide’s personnel front, Morgan took his other one and crammed it into the same neighborhood when discussing the reason behind Sims’ transfer.

While it seemed obvious to most that the player decided to transfer because he had little chance of supplanting McCarron the next couple of years, Sims said in a parting statement that his decision was “nothing more than a personal matter” and that he “just need[s] to be closer to home to support my family at this time and that needs to be my priority right now.”  Such a public statement was likely the precursor to an appeal for a waiver from the NCAA that would allow the quarterback to play immediately, likely in his home state of Virginia with the ACC’s Cavaliers.

According to the coach, the move instead had a lot to do with personnel instead of something personal.

“McCarron still has two years of eligibility,” Morgan said. “If it was the case where (McCarron) was a senior and Phillip had to sit one more year and then have two years, he wouldn’t leave. Let’s face it, they did win the national championship. So you’re not going to bench the quarterback who won the national title. And (Sims) doesn’t want to sit because he feels he’s just as good. So he has to go somewhere where he can play.”

Sims and his new school will have a hard time arguing the hardship angle to the NCAA with public comments like the above from somebody that close to the player.

(Tip O’ the Cap: al.com)

Local Auburn man arrested after setting Toomer’s Corner oak tree on fire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Police have identified and arrested a 29-year-old Auburn, Ala. man after he allegedly set fire to one of the oak trees at the famous Toomer’s Corner.

Fans traditionally celebrate a Tigers victory by “rolling” the trees with toilet paper and did so once again on Saturday night following an 18-13 victory over LSU. However, video surveillance showed a suspect lighting some of the paper on fire, setting the tree ablaze as he walked away.

The Auburn city police department, in a release obtained by USA Today, stated that “witnesses at Toomer’s Corner identified a suspect, who was immediately detained and taken into custody by police on an unrelated charge of public intoxication.” Several reports identified the suspect as Jochen Wiest.

Firefighters quickly responded to the fire and extinguished the burning tree but university officials are still evaluating the damage to the oaks.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever said in a statement released by the school. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The incident is all the more emotional for Auburn fans given that the tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks. Hopefully the area around Toomer’s Corner can recover in time for the Tigers’ next win, which might be as soon as Saturday when they host Louisiana-Monroe.

Notre Dame officially parts ways with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

FILE - In an Aug. 29, 2014 file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, right, talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice during media day for a NCAA football team in South Bend, Ind. It was announced Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 1-3 start. The school tweeted a new release saying VanGorder is being replaced by defensive analyst Greg Hudson.(AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
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Notre Dame has officially parted ways with embattled defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“This is a difficult decision,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has allowed 134 points through their first four games and are just 1-3 after extremely high preseason expectations. This was VanGorder’s third season in South Bend but the Irish have regressed significantly and ranked 101st in FBS scoring defense after Saturday’s home loss to Duke.

Defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who has served as defensive coordinator at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, was elevated to fill VanGorder’s role.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense,” Kelly added. “As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

The move to make staff changes on the defensive side of the ball isn’t exactly surprising to Irish fans who have seen the team play this year but the timing is notable. Kelly remarked that the coaching was not the problem on defense after the loss to the Blue Devils but still opted to make a change on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if a very young defense will respond, and perhaps even rally, now that a big message has been sent.

Notre Dame plays Syracuse on Saturday at noon ET.

Florida International fires head coach Ron Turner after 10-30 run

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Ron Turner of the FIU Golden Panthers looks on during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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The firing season in college football is getting started earlier and earlier. Just ask Ron Turner.

The Florida International head coach was fired early Sunday in a move that was hardly surprising aside from its timing.

“I want to thank Coach Turner for his contributions to the FIU football program, most importantly his commitment to academics and community service,” athletic director Pete Garcia said in a short statement. “At this time Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach.”

Turner went 10-30 over four years at the school but was 0-4 to begin the season after a 53-14 loss to Central Florida last week. While he is far from the first coach fired in 2016, Turner did become the first head coach to be fired after the season got underway.

Cooper had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was elevated to FIU’s defensive coordinator prior to the season and notably served as LSU’s defensive backs coach when Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu starred in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers are set to play local rival Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

LSU head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fired

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Mad Hatter is looking for a new gig.

LSU has fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the school announced on Sunday. The news was first reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.

“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”

The move comes just hours after the Tigers lost to Auburn in the final seconds to drop to 2-2 after beginning the year as a trendy national championship pick and top five team in the polls.

Miles has been in Baton Rouge since 2005 and posted a 114–34 record at the school, including a national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships. He was nearly let go after the 2015 season but was retained following a huge wave of public support and potential implications with a large buyout.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season. Former LSU quarterback and current tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is slated to become the new offensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports.