Joker Phillips

Joker Phillips out as UK’s head coach at season’s end

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For the second time this season, a head coach has been relieved of his duties.  And this one will likely be the least surprising of any that will happen over the next month or two, particularly given the apathy that’s set in among the fan base.

In an open letter penned by Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart, the athletic director confirmed that head football coach Joker Phillips will not return for the 2013 season.  Phillips will remain on through the end of the regular season later this month, and “[t]he search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be managed internally.”

The firing didn’t come easy for Barnhart, who has a very close relationship with Phillips that extends far beyond the football field.

“I do so with a heavy heart for a man who has served his alma mater for almost 22 years as a player and a coach,” Barnhart wrote in the letter. “Joker Phillips has carried the banner for the Blue and White with honor and pride. I have enjoyed working alongside him and am thankful for his friendship for the last decade. His concern for the entire program, his work and teaching of young people, his humanitarian work, and the friendship we all enjoy with him will long surpass the scoreboard.

“I want to thank him for all of those things on behalf of Kentucky.”

Phillips played at Kentucky from 1981-84, and served as an assistant coach at UK from 1988-96.  He returned to his alma mater in 2003 and in 2008 was named as the head coach-in-waiting.  Upon Rich Brooks’ retirement, he took over as head coach in 2010.

In two-plus seasons, Phillips has posted an overall record of 12-23 and 4-19 in SEC play.  This season, the Wildcats are 1-9 and 0-7.

As for which direction UK may turn for a successor — and as will be the case for just about every SEC opening — keep an eye on Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes.

“I understand the challenge and significance of finding a new leader for our football program,” Barnhart wrote. “It will be done with great concern for our student-athletes, students of the University of Kentucky, the Big Blue Nation and the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Kentucky Football needs to be and will be a championship contender in the SEC.”

Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas among seven finalists for transferring Clemson DT

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 07:  Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers tries to stop Sean Maguire #10 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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It appears one prominent graduate transfer is zeroing in on a new college football home.

Not long after it was confirmed that Scott Pagano would be transferring from Clemson, a report surfaced that three dozen or so teams had expressed interest in the defensive tackle.  Pagano has since whittled that number down to seven, with 247Sports.com reporting that Arkansas, Cal, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas are the lineman’s finalists.

Pagano’s former head coach, Dabo Swinney, had previously stated that the tackle would “probably” end up at a West Coast school to finish out his career.

The recruiting website writes that “Pagano will now begin setting up official visits for the coming weekends before enrolling in May.” This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Derwin James, Nate Andrews among 11 for FSU to earn medical redshirts

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Things were a little busy on the personnel front for Florida State Monday.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Derwin James and Nate Andrews were two of the 11 Seminole football players who received redshirts for the 2016 season.  The twin safeties received their medical hardship waivers because of injuries, James a meniscus tear suffered in Week 2 that kept him out for the rest of the year and Andrews a torn pectoral that sidelined him for the last half of the season.

While the move would technically give James three more years of eligibility, the talented defensive back is widely expected to make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft.  Andrews will be a fifth-year senior in his final year of eligibility.

As a true freshman in 2015, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists.

Andrews has started 22 games during his time with the Seminoles.

At the other end of the personnel spectrum is Ryan Hoefield, with TomahawkNation.com reporting that the offensive lineman has not only decided to leave FSU but leave the sport, period.  According to the website, Hoefield will graduate this spring and take a job in the medical field.

Hoefield played in nine games the past three years, only one f which came in 2016 and likely hastened his departure from the Seminoles.

DB Cedrick Wright no longer a part of the Miami football program

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Mark Richt of the Miami Hurricanes is seen during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 29, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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College football free agency continues unabated this morning, with Miami the latest to see its roster a little lighter than it once was.

The Hurricanes announced in a press release that Cedrick Wright is no longer a member of Mark Richt‘s program.  No specific reason for the parting of ways was given.

“I talked to Cedrick and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” the head coach said in a statement. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

The departure marks the end of a brief but eventful career for the defensive back with the ‘Canes.

Wright was a three-star member of The U’s 2016 recruiting class who played in nine games as a true freshman.  He was also suspended for the Week 12 game against North Carolina State because of unspecified violations of team rules, and missed the team’s bowl game as well because of academics.

Hawaii hires Jacob Yoro as safeties coach

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Nick Rolovich of the Hawaii Warriors walks the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Lempa‘s new destination hasn’t yet been announced — he interviewed for a Michigan analyst job earlier this month — but Hawaii’s defensive coordinator has already been replace.

Legi Suiaunoa was promoted to defensive coordinator a week and a half ago, and on Monday the Warriors announced Honolulu native Jacob Yoro as safeties coach.

“Jake is a guy that I was interested in even before I got the job here at Hawai’i,” head coach Nick Rolovich (pictured) said in a statement. “I always thought he’d be a good fit with our philosophy. He’s well respected on the West Coast, not only for his knowledge but also for the noise he’s made on the recruiting side of the game. I have great appreciation for grinders like Jake.  We hope he adds to the trust of coaches and players in local recruiting. Local or not, though, Jake is a good ball coach.”

Yoro played at powerhouse Saint Louis High School before playing at Montana from 1998-01, then returned to the islands to coach in the Hawaii high school ranks. He left in 2009 to serve as linebackers coach at Montana Western, spent five seasons at Pacific University in Oregon and then coached the past two seasons as defensive backs coach at Cal Poly.

The Hawaii job represents Yoro’s first foray into FBS football.

“I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity to join the UH football family.  Coach Rolo and the rest of the staff have done a tremendous job of creating a culture that fosters greatness both on and off the field,” Yoro said.

He’ll have his work cut out for him immediately. Hawaii finished Rolovich’s first season ranked 118th nationally in pass efficiency defense, allowing 62.6 percent completions for 8.1 yards per attempt with 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 14 games.