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.

Arkansas assistant Vernon Hargreaves added to Mizzou’s staff

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Vernon Hargreaves wasn’t retained by the new coaching staff in Fayetteville, but he’ll end up remaining in the SEC anyway.

Missouri confirmed Thursday that Hargreaves has been hired by Barry Odom and added to the second-year head coach’s staff.  The veteran assistant will serve as Odom’s inside linebackers coach.

“I’ve known Vernon for a number of years and have always respected the way his position plays the game,” said Odom in a statement distributed by the school. “He will be a great teacher and mentor for our student-athletes. His experience will be so valuable for our program; I’m excited about Vernon and his family joining our Mizzou family.”

Hargreaves spent the past three seasons as the linebackers coach at Arkansas.  Most notably, he served in the same capacity at Miami from 1998-2005.

Hargreaves also spent time on staffs at Houston (2013-14), South Florida (2010-12), East Carolina (2007-09), Florida International (2006) and UConn (1985-97).  He was also the special teams coordinator at USF and ECU in addition to being a position coach.

Telly Lockette takes job at Florida State as TEs coach

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As Willie Taggart constructs his first coaching staff at Florida State, he’s added yet another familiar face.

Taggart, FSU announced earlier Thursday, has hired Telly Lockette as the Seminoles’ tight ends coach.  Lockette had spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Oregon State.

Prior to that, Lockette was a member of Taggart’s coaching staff at USF as running backs coach for two seasons and maintains deep ties to the fertile recruiting soil of South Florida.

“I’ve known Coach Lockette for a long time and am excited he is joining our staff at Florida State,” Taggart said. “He was an important part of my first staff at South Florida and has gained Power 5 experience with his last three seasons in the Pac-12. Coach Lockette is a tremendous recruiter and coach who does a phenomenal job developing student-athletes on and off the field. While we were at South Florida he was the primary recruiter for the Miami area and helped us sign a number of impact players, including Quinton Flowers, Khalid McGee and Deatrick Nichols. His expertise will benefit our current and future Seminoles.”

The job with Taggart at USF was Lockette’s first at any level of college football.  The first 10 years of his coaching career were spent at the high school level, including a five-year stint at Miami Central from 2008-12.

Amidst Arizona State chatter, Texas Tech DC David Gibbs signs contract extension

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Almost without fail, it pays to have your name circulating through the annual churning of the coaching rumor mill.

The latest example is David Gibbs, with the Texas Tech defensive coordinator being rumored as a target for the same job with Herm Edwards at Arizona State over the past few days.  Fast-forward to Thursday night, and Tech announced that it has finalized a new two-year contract extension with Gibbs.  The coordinator is now signed through the 2019 season.

According to the school, Gibbs’ pay will be bumped from $550,000 per year to $650,000.  That number puts Gibbs right in the middle of Big 12 DC pay.

“We are fortunate to have one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in Coach Gibbs,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a release. “Since the conclusion of the regular season, finalizing this new contract to keep Coach Gibbs at Texas Tech has been a priority for myself and [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt]. We look forward to continuing to build one of the nation’s top defenses in the years to come under Coach Gibbs.”

Long a punchline, the Red Raiders’ defense has steadily improved in the three years under Gibbs.  This season, their 27 takeaways led the Big 12 and are the most in a season for the football program since 2008.  They’re also currently seventh in the country with four defensive touchdowns.

With Gibbs back, he’ll have 10 returning starters with which to work next season.

“There isn’t a better person to work for than Kliff Kingsbury, and I’m looking forward to continue building this program with him,” Gibbs said. “There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I’m excited about the future of our team.”

RB Justin Crawford to skip West Virginia’s bowl game, begin preparing for NFL draft

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Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.

Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season.  Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.

“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”

Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons.  He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.

After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season.  Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.