Cutcliffe: ‘I’m going to be coaching at Duke next year’

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If a coach’s public words can be taken at face value, you can apparently cross one rumored contender off Tennessee’s wide-ranging wish list.

With Derek Dooley officially out at Tennessee, the speculation has now shifted to just who will replace the deposed coach on Rocky Top.  One of the names bandied about, even before Dooley’s official axing, was Duke’s David Cutcliffe.

On multiple levels, such a move or even interest on the school’s part would make sense.

Cutcliffe spent 16 seasons (1983-98) as an assistant at UT.  He left the Vols to become the head coach at Ole Miss, with the prior head-coaching experience serving as a prerequisite in the Vols’ current search and having the added bonus of being in the SEC.  Perhaps most importantly, Cutcliffe has taken a historically moribund football program and, in five years, has it headed to a bowl game for the first time since after the 1993 season.

Add it all up, it would be foolish for the Vols to not at least give Cutcliffe a call.  If UT does come a courtin’, however, it appears a “thanks, but no thanks” would greet the overtures.

“I can tell you right now that I’m going to be coaching at Duke next year. I’m very happy here,” Cutcliffe said during a Sunday teleconference.

As Jayson Swain, current Knoxville radio dude and former Vols wide receiver, wrote on Twitter, “When Cutcliffe says something I take it to the bank. He always preached: ‘say what u mean and mean what u say'”

So, with Cutcliffe (apparently) out of the equation, there are still plenty of names being tossed around as potential replacements.  From fan-favorite Jon Gruden — this is my personal favorite as well, if for nothing more than the sheer train-wreck possibilities — to Miami’s Al Golden to Bobby Petrino — literally no chance of happening — to TCU’s Gary Patterson, all of the expected big guns are being mentioned in connection to what is still one of the top jobs in the sport.

Realistically, and likely wisely, the search will probably turn in the direction of coaches such as Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes.  And, if the idea of previous experience as a head coach was to be shelved, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart could fall under what’s expected to be an expansive search umbrella.

After pushing Phillip Fulmer out the door and the failed Lane Kiffin experiment that’s still reverberating and the Dooley debacle, there’s only one certainty when it comes to UT’s search: regardless of which direction UT goes and who is ultimately hired, they have to nail the hire.  It’s literally as simple as that.

After stops at TCU, Arkansas State, Cameron Echols-Luper to give WKU a try

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Maybe the third time will be a charm for Cameron Echols-Luper?

On his personal Instagram account Wednesday, Echols-Luper revealed that he has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at Western Kentucky.  According to the Bowling Green Daily News, the decision was made following a visit to the school earlier this week.

As a graduate transfer, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately in 2017 for the Hilltoppers. However, he has to finish up some schoolwork at his former school, Arkansas State, before officially moving on to WKU.

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Echols-Luper began his collegiate career at TCU in 2013, transferring to ASU in 2015. After sitting out that season, he was third on the Red Wolves in receptions (26) and receiving yards (407). His 15.7 yards per reception was second on the team.

Ex-USC DL Noah Jefferson won’t be transferring to Arizona after all

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In early March, Noah Jefferson announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Arizona.  Nearly five months later?

Never mind.

Wednesday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Jefferson will not, as previously expected, be playing for the Wildcats this season.  No reason for the abrupt and unexpected about-face was given.

The coach did, though, intimate that a future pairing between the player and the program isn’t out of the question.

Jefferson wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2017 for the Wildcats even if his move to the desert had come to fruition. He would’ve, though, had two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018 at his disposal.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson played in 14 games, starting one of those, as a true freshman. After starting the season-opening loss to Alabama last season, Jefferson never played another down for USC.

Hugh Freeze makes first public comments since exiting Ole Miss in disgrace

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For the first time since his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze has spoken publicly.  Somewhat.

In what was described as a brief interview with USA Today Sports Wednesday, the former Ole Miss head coach said his family and church have helped him get through the storm of the last few days. When asked if his family was standing by him, Freeze responded, “Oh, gosh, yeah.”

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze told the website. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” the former head coach added.

The stunning news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.

Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

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It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.