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Tavon Austin induces nausea for Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads

Tavon Austin AP

To give you a brief glimpse into what’s been contributing to West Virginia’s five-game losing streak, allow us to pass along the following:

WVU had 778 yards of offense, scored 49 points and didn’t lose the turnover battle against Oklahoma this weekend. And lost.

Specifically, Mountaineers receiver Tavon Austin rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns (a school record). His all-purpose yards for the game: 572. That’s most in the FBS this season and a mere six yards short of the all-time FBS record.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops called it “Maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen.”

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was impressed too, though he had a slightly different way of expressing it.

Never change, Paul. Never change.

The Cyclones will host the Mountaineers this weekend as WVU desperately seeks a sixth win to get bowl eligible. Will Austin see more time at running back (he played the position in high school)? It’s more than possible. Austin, in one game, has already become WVU’s second-leading rusher on the season.

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Ezekiel Elliott tops, OSU QB trio among early Heisman favorites

If you thought the third-string quarterback who helped propel Ohio State to a three-win postseason run that culminated in a national championship, and who eschewed early entry into the NFL draft, would be the current Heisman front-runner, you’d be wrong.

Instead, it’s his backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott, who Bovada.lv has installed as a 6/1 favorite to win the 2015 Heisman Trophy.  Considering Elliott’s late-season run, his placement as the front-runner is hardly a surprise.

Over the last three games, which included wins in the Big Ten championship game and the College Football Playoff semifinal and championship games, Elliott, just a sophomore, carried the ball 76 times for 696 yards and eight touchdowns.  That’s more rushing yardage than Wake Forest (479) and Washington State (478) totaled the entire season.  His eight rushing touchdowns in that three-game span were more than Wake (four), Wazzu (five) and Kent State (six) had in 12 games in 2014.

The last running back to win the Heisman was Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.

As for the player alluded to in the lede?  Cardale Jones is at 14/1, tied with a pair of running backs — Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine — and behind seven other players.  Right behind Jones are the other parts to OSU’s upcoming three-headed quarterback battle: J.T. Barrett at 16/1, Braxton Miller at 18/1.

Getting back toward the top, a pair of SEC players are right on Elliott’s heels, with Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, a midseason Heisman favorite last year before fading, and LSU freshman running back sensation Leonard Fournette at 7/1.  TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is not far behind the top three at 15/2.

There are no finalists for the 2014 version of the award on the initial 2015 odds list as all three — Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper — all left early for the NFL.

Below are the complete set of 2015 Heisman Trophy odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

2015 Initial Bovada Heisman Odds

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Awaiting a UAB resurrection, Bill Clark won’t coach in 2015

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks

After killing off the program late last year, there’s a growing sense of hope that football will be reinstated at UAB.  Maybe.

In that vein, the man who led the Blazers to a mini-renaissance, only to see it mercilessly executed, is lying in wait for what many are projecting to be a resurrection.

Speaking to Kevin Scarbinsky of al.com, Bill Clark stated that he’s had several opportunities to coach elsewhere since the sport was controversially axed in early December. Clark wouldn’t divulge any particular programs, but did allow that there were head-coaching as well as assistant offers on the table.

He turned them all down, in part because he wants to see how the situation at UAB plays out — “My heart is still at UAB. I love those people” — and in part because he’ll be fully vested in the state’s retirement system within a year.

Despite the program going on the chopping block, the 46-year-old Clark will still be paid the final two years of his contract, which will allow him to hit the 25-year mark of the state’s vesting threshold later in 2015.

Football-wise, Clark labeled it a “definite possibility” he’d return to the Blazers if the program was reinstated. There was, though, one potentially significant qualifier when it comes to a return.

“There’s a glimmer of hope for me and a lot of folks,” he said. “I love Birmingham and I love the state of Alabama, but a lot of things would have to happen, and it would have to be done correctly.”

The intimation from Clark is that the financial commitment from the school would need to be very tangible as the Blazers would essentially be a start-up program again as nearly every player of merit has fled the university to continue their playing careers elsewhere. Commitment outside of the financial from the administration would also seem to be paramount, although the program would seemingly have the backing of some well-heeled boosters who were ready to step in and save the sport in the first place. Even the faculty at the school would be behind a revival.

The situation’s gotten to the point where a state lawmaker is “seeking a ‘full, thorough, independent’ review of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees to investigate accusations of board interference involving UAB athletics,” which serves as yet another suggestion that an about-face may be in order — and Clark may be the man to lead it.

In 2014, Clark’s first season at the school, the Blazers posted a 6-6 mark, the first time the team had finished a season with at least a .500 record since 2004. That’s the last time UAB was bowl-eligible, although the Blazers weren’t invited to play in a bowl game at the conclusion of this past season.

Last year was just the fourth time in the program’s 19-year history that the Blazers finished .500 or better, with the other two coming in 2000 and 2001.

Based on his lone season, and his loyalty to the school, Clark deserves the first crack at making it five. That’s the least the university could do if the sport’s reinstated.

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Hacked off: Mora Twitter issues continue

UCLA v Washington State Getty Images

Either Jim Mora or the person responsible for the UCLA head coach’s Twitter account needs to pick up a copy or of “Twitter for Dummies.”

Mora’s Twitter account was originally abandoned earlier this month after a tweet war erupted in the wake of the post-bowl handshake imbroglio with kindly Bill Snyder.  Mora then moved to a private Twitter account before resurrecting the old one, as BruinsNation.com explained.

The account then posted the following photo late last night, one in a series of screen snaps astutely compiled and saved by the same SBNation.com website:

Mora Tweetgate I

That would be a Bruins uniform photoshopped onto the body of Maea Teuhema, a five-star 2015 recruit Mora and the Bruins are trying to flip away from LSU. That would also be an NCAA no-no as coaches are not permitted to acknowledged unsigned prospects in such a manner.

In a gallant attempt to cram the toothpaste back into the tube, one in which we harken back to the golden age of “the dog ate my homework” excuses, the account went here with its explanation:

Mora Tweetgate II

As of now, if you attempt to access Mora’s Twitter account, you get the following

Mora Tweetgate III

When it comes to social media in general and Twitter specifically, Mora might want to take to heart the (paraphrased) sage advice Brian Fantana gently offered Champ Kind: “Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop tweeting for a while.”

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Tweet reaffirms top QB Kyler Murray’s commitment to A&M

Kyler Murray

Things seemingly got a little dicey on the quarterback recruiting front for Texas A&M and its faithful over the last week.

Kyler Murray, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the Class of 2015, has been a long-time verbal commitment to Texas A&M, his father’s alma mater. Then came a tweet from Murray’s personal Twitter account in which he showed a picture of a Texas Longhorn jersey while on a surprise visit to Austin.

Just as quickly as the recruit caused a rise in Aggie Nation’s collective blood pressure via Twitter, Murray, following an in-home visit from A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, brought it back down on the same social media website Thursday night with a short and simple missive less than a week before National Signing Day.

In an interview with ESPN.com a short time later, Murray explained that the face-to-face with Sumlin yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to the Aggies.

Texas A&M is where my heart is at,” Murray said late Thursday night. “Coach [Charlie] Strong and Texas is a great opportunity, but I felt that A&M was the place for me. Not because of my dad having played there, but just the right place for me. …

“It went well. All my questions were answered. I just can’t wait to get this all over with and get back to playing ball.”

To further buttress Murray’s commitment, an in-home visit from Strong that had been expected Friday won’t take place after all.

Murray would/will be a four-star member of A&M’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Texas by Rivals.com.  It’s at this point in the program where we note that verbal commitments are non-binding and nothing is official until the Herbie Hancock is put on paper next Wednesday, but it doesn’t appear as if Murray will be flipping at any point in the near future.

A&M, though, is not completely out of the woods when it comes to procuring Murray’s talents for at least the next three years, although the competition could come from another sport.

Meanwhile, baseball is a threat to A&M… when it comes to Murray. As an infielder with power at the plate, he projects as a potential first-round selection in the June amateur draft, and he’ll likely have to decide between signing a pro baseball contract or playing college football.

If he does play football, he has said he intends to play baseball as well at the college of his choosing.

It’s highly likely Murray will opt for football with baseball as a secondary collegiate option ala Jameis Winston, especially given the new MLB restrictions on amateur spending, but it’s a situation that bears keeping at least one eye on when June rolls around.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Pat Narduzzi plans to transform Pitt into a version of Michigan State

Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi received his first opportunity to be a head coach from the Pitt Panthers. He has no qualms about stealing the blueprint from his old Michigan State boss, Mark Dantonio, and bringing it to the Steel City.

“I think there’s a lot of things we do well at Michigan State, so I would say you will see Michigan State of the city of Pittsburgh, really,” Narduzzi told the ‘Griff and Grinz’ Show on Lansing’s 92.1 FM The Team, per MLive.com’s Mike Griffith.

“Why would you change the blueprint of what Coach Dantonio has done there?” he asked. “There will be tiny little things here and there, but the blueprint has been set. I’ve been in the program for 11 years with Coach Dantonio, and I know how we’ve done it and built it, and I think that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Dantonio’s formula is simple:  play fundamentally-sound and physical defense with a ball-control offense. The Michigan State program has also been highly successful developing its talent despite lesser recruiting classes.

However, Narduzzi agreed he wouldn’t bring any fellow Michigan State coaches with him to Pittsburgh.

“That’s probably the hardest job I’ve had so far, putting together a staff and getting the right people,” Narduzzi said. “Too often you see guys, (like) Charlie Strong in one year at Texas, he’s already fired two guys and you look throughout the country and after one year, boom, they (assistants) can be gone.”

The former defensive coordinator also confirmed that he’ll have some input in Jim Chaney‘s offense.

“My initial intentions are to let it go, but through this last month, I’ve talked to a ton of head coaches that say, ‘Hey Pat, keep your hands on it early, then let it go — don’t let it go and have to come back in,’ which makes a whole lot of sense,” Narduzzi said. “My job is still to coach all the coaches and make sure practices are run the way we want them to be run and organized.”

Now that the coaching staff is set, Narduzzi doesn’t plan on making many changes during his tenure.

“Continuity has been a big thing for me at Michigan State and Cincinnati,” he added. “One of the reasons Pitt was such an attractive job is because it’s a job where assistant coaches can come and be happy as long as the head coach stays there.”

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Seahawks Michael Bennett: ‘NCAA is one of the biggest scams’

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability Getty Images

A pair of Seattle Seahawks didn’t pull any punches when they were asked about the plight of student-athletes and what they believe is the NCAA’s exploitation of young men and women.

Defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman were asked about their college days during Thursday’s Super Bowl media day, and their replies couldn’t have been more biting.

“I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America,” Bennett told ESPN.com’s Terry Blount. “These kids put so much on the line. They [the NCAA] say, ‘We give you a free degree.’ That’s like me owning a restaurant and saying, ‘I’ll give you a free burger.’ It makes me so mad and irate. Universities need to do more for the student-[athletes].”

Sherman’s speech revolved around the daily habits of a college athlete.

“I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to take advantage of the free education they’re given,” Sherman said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say you’re not focused on school and not taking advantage of the opportunity you’re given.

“I would love for a regular student, for just one semester, to have a student-athlete schedule during the season and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes for 2 to 6 o’clock on any given day.

“Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when you get out [of practice and meetings] at 7:30 or so and have a test the next day and you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study and get the same work done.”

Plenty of “regular students” put in the same amount of time — if not more — than a typical student-athlete.

Furthermore, student debt is at all-time high. But, go on, Mr. Sherman.

“I tell you from experience that one time I had negative 40 bucks in my account,” Sherman added. “It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal.

“People say you get room and board and they pay for your education. But to [the school officials’] knowledge, you’re there to play football. Those are the things coaches tell you every day. Luckily I was blessed to go to Stanford, a school primarily focused on academics. But as [former Stanford coach] Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were still there to play football.”

There is no denying that college football is in a transitory stage. Last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case irrevocably changed what the meaning of “student-athlete” can actually be. The NCAA also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy that will allow those schools to better service the needs of their student-athletes.

Bennett wasn’t finished ripping the system, though.

“I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players,” Bennett said. “Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment.”

However, the former Texas A&M Aggie provided a solution that would ease his concerns.

“I think the NCAA should come up with a plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring into the schools. My school, Texas A&M, I think makes $50 million just on jersey sales. So I would say pay $60,000 [to student-athletes] for every year you stay in college. Keep that in a 401(k). After you graduate, hold that money until you are a certain age and then you get the money.”

Some day this might happen. It may be closer to happening than it isn’t. Until then, scholarship athletes still receive an education without paying or paying very little to gain such an invaluable asset.

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Baylor adds alumni locker room to facilities

Baylor locker room

Every program is looking to gain an edge.

Facility improvements have become the newest arms race in college football. Programs are willing to invest millions of dollars in order to entice the nation’s top recruits.

What better way to get players to come to your program than to grant them access to those players that already made it to the NFL?

Nearly every top prospect dreams of playing in the NFL. The lure of being around professional athletes can certainly sway impressionable young men. And programs are taking advantage of that edge.

Baylor is the merely the latest to build an alumni locker room in its new Simpson Athletic and Academic Center.

“The purpose is to bring some of our pro players back to campus when they have an opportunity during the offseason and train at Baylor, which we know they like they to do,” Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski said in an interview with the school’s official athletic site. “They consider this their home, and the coaching staff is their family. This provides a great opportunity for them to put their duffel bag in and get workouts in. … All these guys really find opportunity to come back.

“They know the coaches, they know our strength coaches, and they believe in them. When you’re in the offseason and have an opportunity to come back and feel comfortable and work out with the rest of the guys, that’s just a great thing. It’s comforting. We’ve put a lot of kids in the NFL, and it’s becoming more and more of a demand. This is a great opportunity to create a space for them.”

While Patulski framed his answer by saying it’s a great opportunity for the professional athletes, it’s really beneficiary for the program, its players and even potential players.

(Photo courtesy of Baylor athletic department)

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Report: NC State’s Matt Canada receives extension, Vols still searching for OC

Matt Canada

The grass isn’t always greener in the SEC.

North Carolina State offensive coordinator Matt Canada was among three finalists to replace Mike Bajakian as the Tennessee Volunteers next offensive player-caller.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that Canada pulled his name out of consideration Thursday.

The reason behind Canada’s decision was simple. North Carolina State decided to extend a new contract, according to SI.com’s Pete Thamel.

With Canada out of the conversation, the Volunteers will likely concentrate on three candidates to become their next offensive coordinator. A report surfaced earlier Thursday that UCLA’s Noel Mazzone, USC’s Clay Helton and former Michigan coordinator Mike DeBord interviewed for the position.

Scout.com’s UCLA affiliate, Bruin Report Online, reported Mazzone didn’t interview with the Volunteers, though.

If the latter report is correct then Helton and DeBord remain in consideration. Helton is the likely the favorite since DeBord hasn’t been on the sidelines for two years nor called plays since 2006.

North Carolina State, meanwhile, retains an innovative play-caller. During his two seasons with the Wolfpack, Canada’s offense averages 406.12 yards per game.

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UPDATE: Long-time Mizzou AD Mike Alden stepping down, Mike Slive speaks

Mike Alden

One of the longest-tenured athletic directors in the country has decided to call it quits.

In a press release late Thursday afternoon, Missouri announced that Mike Alden‘s last day on the job will be Aug. 31 of this year.  In his statement, Alden said that “[a]fter several months of contemplation, I have decided that it is time for a change, both for me and for the university I dearly love.”

A press conference will be held Friday morning and will feature Alden, president Bowen Loftin and Dean Michael Clay.

Even as Alden is leaving a post he has held since 1998, he won’t be leaving the university as he will transition into an instructor in the Positive Coaching Program in Mizzou’s College of Education.

While Alden can boast of numerous accomplishments during his nearly two decades as the head of Mizzou athletics, shepherding the Tigers into the SEC will likely be his lasting legacy.  After a trying first season, Mizzou has claimed back-to-back SEC East titles in football the past two seasons.

Beyond the on-field success, the move to the SEC will continue to pay financial benefits to the entire athletic department long after Alden steps down.

Mizzou I

Mizzou II

UPDATE [7:30 p.m. ET]: The University of Missouri officially became a member of the SEC in 2012. Three years later, the Tigers football team already owns two SEC East championships.

The school has proved to be a tremendous addition to the conference, and SEC commissioner Mike Slive acknowledged the role Mike Alden played in the transition:

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History in the making: Ohio State in talks with Army to play future contest

Annual Army Navy Football Game

The Ohio State Buckeyes opened up their latest national championship campaign with a 34-17 victory over the Navy Midshipmen.

The next time the Buckeyes will face a service academy, though, won’t be until after the 2016 campaign.

Ohio State is currently in talks with the Army Black Knights to schedule a game at a future date.

Amazingly, these two programs have never met on the gridiron despite their long and illustrious histories.

While Army’s schedule remains flexible due to being an independent program, Ohio State will have to work around their conference schedule. Like Navy, Army will likely serve as a season-opening opponent. The first year both teams have an opening at the beginning of their schedules will be the 2017 campaign.

Army doesn’t have any current openings early in the season that coincide with Ohio State’s 2018 schedule.

The two sides also have openings at the start of the 2019 campaign.

Due to the size of Ohio State and the importance of home games for the Buckeyes’ athletic department, Army will almost certainly be a one- or two-game contract with the contests being played at Ohio Stadium.

The two sides still need to finalize an agreement, though.

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WKU loses two QBs, including former Tide transfer

Troy Jones

With record-setting quarterback Brandon Doughty returning for a sixth season, the players behind him at the quarterback position will, barring injury, have very little chance of seeing meaningful action in 2015.

With that as a backdrop, Western Kentucky confirmed Wednesday that a pair of quarterbacks are no longer a part of the football program, the Bowling Green Daily News is reporting.  JUCO transfer Troy Jones (pictured, under towel) and redshirt sophomore Parker McLeod are the two in question, although only one will continue his playing career.

According to the Daily News, Jones will be seeking a transfer for the 2015 season.  As Jones would be a graduate transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS program.  However, it appears he will head to an FCS team, where he would also be eligible to play in 2015.

Jones threw four of the five non-Doughty passes for the Hilltoppers in 2014, completing two of them for 11 yards.  Those were the only passes of his WKU career.

Conversely, McLeod has decided to transfer to another school but will not play football.

McLeod was a three-star member of Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class.  After redshirting his true freshman season, he left Alabama in May of last year before landing at WKU two months later.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, he was forced to sit out the 2014 season.

(Photo credit: Western Kentucky athletics)

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E. Washington releases statement on Oregon QB transfer target

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

Wednesday, reports surfaced that not only was Vernon Adams a potential transfer target for Oregon, but that the star FCS quarterback was a near-lock to move on to the Ducks.

A day later, EWU has addressed the Adams situation.  Sort of.

While not specifically mentioning his name, EWU released a statement Thursday acknowledging “[i]n the current situation that has arisen recently, we have granted the ability for our student-athlete to explore what opportunities may exist.” That student-athlete is, of course, Adams.

Adams will graduate from EWU this spring, and would thus be eligible to play immediately for UO in 2015. Given the fact that Marcus Mariota‘s early departure has created an experience (and talent) void at the position, and given Adams’ level of talent — he threw for over 400 yards against both Washington and Oregon State the past two seasons — there would be a very good chance that Adams could line up under center as the starter for the Ducks’ season opener.

And Oregon’s opponent Sept. 5? Eastern Washington, the team for whom the two-time Walter Payton Award finalist totaled 100 touchdowns the past two seasons. Based on the fact that they’d have to face the star right out of the gate, not many would begrudge EWU if they took a hardline stance on an Adams transfer to UO.

To their credit, EWU has shown that they’re putting the interests of the student-athlete ahead of the football program, which is a refreshing change regardless of the level.

Below is EWU’s statement, in its entirety:

The NCAA instituted the ability for student-athletes who finish their undergraduate degree the ability to complete their eligibility at another institution should they successfully enroll in a graduate program that does not exist at his/her current institution.

In regards to this rule, Eastern handles each situation on a case-by-case basis. We either allow or not allow a student-athlete to discuss the possibilities with a prospective institution, and then, should that option progress further, determine whether or not to release them to pursue the opportunity to complete their eligibility at another institution. In the current situation that has arisen recently, we have granted the ability for our student-athlete to explore what opportunities may exist.

When we recruit, retain and develop student-athletes, we first and foremost ask them to earn their college degree. Should they achieve that and have opportunities — whether based on current NCAA transfer rules or potentially in a professional setting — we do our best to try and support them in what is in the best interest of their future. Our desire is also for our student-athletes to complete their eligibility at Eastern, given the education, investment and support that our University community, athletic department and coaching staffs have provided them.

Given the current transfer rules that are in place and the desires of other institutions to utilize them to their advantage, we will continue to try and do what is in the best interests for our student-athletes, knowing that their education is our primary role.

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Offense, OCs big winners in latest spinning of coaching carousel

The 2014-15 spinning of the coaching carousel has nearly come to an end, with Central Michigan, thanks to Dan Enos‘ abrupt departure to become Arkansas’ offensive coordinator, the lone remaining FBS program without a head coach less than a week from signing day.

And, when it comes to this year’s spinning, if you were an offensive coordinator with head-coaching aspirations, you were in luck.  Or, hell, if you had an offensive background, period.

First off, there have been just 14 coaching changes (not including CMU) in 2014-15, compared to 19 in 2013-14, 30 in 2012-13 and 26 in 2011-12.  Of the 14 changes made thus far, five have schools have found replacements in current offensive coordinators: Colorado State’s Mike Bobo (Georgia), Houston’s Tom Herman (Ohio State), SMU’s Chad Morris (Clemson), Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery (Baylor) and Troy’s Neal Brown (Kentucky).  Additionally, Kansas hired Texas A&M’s wide receivers coach David Beaty as its new head coach.

Diving even further offensively, three 2014 FBS head coaches who took over different programs since the end of the season — Florida’s Jim McElwain, Nebraska’s Mike Riley, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst — had extensive experience as coordinators on that side of the ball prior to becoming head coaches.  Throw in Buffalo’s Lance Leipold – an OC prior to winning six Div. III titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater — and 11 of the 14 coaching changes involved individuals with extensive offensive backgrounds.

Given the fact that the college game is currently very much offensively-driven, the skewed hires toward that side of the ball aren’t all that surprising; just last year, 13 of the 19 hires were offensive-minded coaches, so it’s continuing to trend upward.  Still, it’s a stark reminder of just how skewed the game is in the here and now.

In fact, the only current defensive coordinator to land a head-coaching job this cycle was Pat Narduzzi, who left Michigan State for Pittsburgh.  Gary Andersen, who left as head coach at Wisconsin for the same job at Oregon State, had a defensive background in a previous coaching life as well.

The lone remaining new hire is Tony Sanchez, the Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School head coach hired by UNLV.  Sanchez was a defensive coach prior to becoming a high school head coach… but actually began his coaching career as an offensive assistant at that level.

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Report: UCLA’s Mazzone, USC’s Helton interviewed for Vols OC job

Noel Mazzone AP

We don’t know yet when Butch Jones will pull the trigger on his biggest coaching hire this offseason, but we do know some of the candidates who have caught his attention.  Reportedly.

According to Jimmy Hyams of radio station WNML in Knoxville, Jones has interviewed five outside candidates for the Vols’ vacancy at offensive coordinator: current Michigan administrator and former UM coordinator Mike DeBord, as well as 2014 coordinators Matt Canada (North Carolina State), Clay Helton (USC), Noel Mazzone (UCLA) and Kurt Roper (not retained at Florida). Additionally, UT wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni is listed by Hyams as a candidate as well.

Hyams notes that Jones has interviewed those individuals in locations such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Las Vegas.

Of the reported candidates, Mazzone and Helton would be the most noteworthy.

Mazzone has spent the past three seasons as the Bruins coordinator.  During those three seasons, the Bruins finished 37th (33.5 ppg, 2014), 21st (36.9 ppg, 2013) and 31st (34.4 ppg) in scoring; in the two years prior to Mazzone’s arrival, the Bruins were 88th (23.1 ppg, 2012) and 103rd (20.1 ppg) in that category.

Helton has spent the past five seasons as the Trojans’ coordinator/quarterbacks coach.  In his first season under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, Helton did not hold play-calling responsibilities.

Jones, incidentally, was on DeBord’s coaching staff at CMU from 2000-03.  DeBord has been out of the coaching game since serving as the tight ends coach of the Chicago Bears in 2012.  Hyams notes, though, that DeBord has NFL opportunities from which to potentially choose as well.

Whoever it is that Jones hires will replace Mike Bajakian, who left to to take the quarterbacks coach job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this month.

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Tide makes Mel Tucker hiring official

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Three days after it was first reported, the lone hole on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has been filled.

In a press release, UA announced that Mel Tucker has been hired as Saban’s defensive backs coach.  Tucker will also hold the title of assistant head coach.

Tucker has a history with Saban, who hired him as a grad assistant at Michigan State nearly two decades ago.

“He is an outstanding coach all the way around and really does an excellent job in terms of teaching the players,” Saban said in a statement. “When you look at his college and NFL experience, his resume is very impressive, and he’ll be a positive addition to our defensive staff. Mel’s experience with the secondary will allow us to move Kirby back to coaching the inside linebackers, which has been most effective for our defensive coordinator. We’re pleased and happy to welcome Mel and his family to Tuscaloosa.”

Tucker has been away from the college game for the last decade, having spent time on NFL staffs with the Cleveland Browns (2005-07, defensive backs; 2008, defensive coordinator), Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-12, defensive coordinator) and Chicago Bears (2013-14, defensive coordinator).  His last job at the collegiate level came in 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.

Prior to that, the Cleveland, Oh., native coached the secondary at OSU (2001-03), LSU (2000) and Miami of Ohio (1999).

“I’ve known Coach Saban since I was 17 years old and he recruited me when he was the head coach at Toledo,” said Tucker. “He gave me my first job at Michigan State and most of what I learned as a defensive backs coach came from him. He has always been extremely loyal to me and my family, and is a trusted friend and mentor.

“We’ve become big Crimson Tide fans through the years and our family actually went to the bowl games against Michigan State and Notre Dame. When I was invited to speak here at one of the coaching clinics, I really got to see first-hand how special the University of Alabama is and I’m honored to join Coach Saban’s staff. I have the utmost respect this program and what Coach Saban stands for as a man and as a coach.”

In addition to Tucker, UA also announce the hiring of former UAB assistant Jody Wright.  This is a return for Wright as he spent 201 as a graduate assistant with the Tide and 2011-12 as an offensive analyst.

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