Nick Walsome, Mark Stoops

Kentucky names Mark Stoops as new head coach

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After 13 firings/retirings, we finally have an official hiring on the coaching carousel.

Monday, Jimbo Fisher denied reports that his defensive coordinator had interviewed for any head-coaching jobs, including Kentucky.  A day later, his defensive coordinator has been hired by Kentucky.

In a press release confirming earlier radio reports, UK announced that it has indeed hired FSU coordinator Mark Stoops as its new head coach.  Stoops, the brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, will replace Joker Phillips, who was fired a little over three weeks ago after three seasons at his alma mater.

“New beginnings always provide a sense of excitement,” athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement.  “That’s why today I’m excited for Mark Stoops and his family as they provide a new beginning for our football program, fans and players.

“Mark’s passion has been evident in the way he coaches and in his love for the game of football.  That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the Blue and White.  Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark.  He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career.  That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky.  We welcome Mark, Chantel, Will and Zack to the Big Blue Nation.

The hiring comes one day after a report surfaced that Stoops, along with Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes and Cincinnati’s Butch Jones, had told UK “no thanks” when it came to the school’s interest.

Stoops has spent the past three seasons in Tallahassee, transforming the Seminoles’ defense into one of the top units in the country.  He also served as his brother Mike’s coordinator at Arizona for six years before moving on to FSU after the 2009 season.

This will be 45-year-old’s first head-coaching job at any level.

“I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky,” Stoops said.  “My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation.

“First of all, I want to thank Jimbo Fisher and Florida State University for allowing me to be the defensive coordinator at Florida State.  It has been three of the greatest years of my life.  I am grateful for the support of all Seminole fans as we focus on the ACC Championship.

“I want to thank President Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity.  I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of.”

As for the makeup of Stoops’ first UK staff, there are already rumors that Neal Brown, current Texas Tech offensive coordinator, will assume the same position in Lexington.  Brown was teammates with Tim Couch, the former UK quarterback who played a role in the current search for a new head coach.

Barry J. Sanders confirms he’s moving from Stanford to Okla. St. as grad transfer

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Running back Barry Sanders #26 of the Stanford Cardinal rushes against the Washington State Cougars on September 28, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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A move that has been two months in the making has been confirmed by one of the principles involved.

In an interview with The Oklahoman, Barry J. Sanders confirmed that he will be transferring into the Oklahoma State football program and playing his final season of college football with the Cowboys.  Sanders will graduate from Stanford this summer; as such, he will be eligible to play immediately for OSU in 2016 after he arrives this June.

In early January, Sanders confirmed his intention to transfer from the Cardinal after receiving a release from his scholarship.  That confirmation came a month or so after speculation began growing that Sanders, the son of Heisman-winning OSU legend Barry Sanders, was considering a move to his father’s alma mater, talk that prompted Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy to address the issue.

As the younger Sanders will be following in some rather sizable Stillwater shoes, he discussed the move with his father before deciding to become the second Barry Sanders to have his name on an OSU uniform.

“His message to me was to keep an open mind,” Sanders told the newspaper. “I think that he would have wanted me to look at more schools. He definitely didn’t want me to make a decision without considering other options. What I told him was that this was something I’ve been thinking about for some time. I just knew this was the right decision and the right fit for a variety of different reasons.

“So when I kind of explained my reasons behind it, he was pretty comfortable with it and he’s just as excited as I am.”

Sanders was a four-star member of the Cardinal’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 9 running back in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma. He chose Stanford over, among others, Alabama and the Big 12 OSU.

The last three seasons, Sanders has rushed for 672 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 12 passes for 89 yards and averaged 9.5 yards on 10 punt returns.

Family matter prompts Danny Hope to leave USF staff

during the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl  at Marlins Park on December 21, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
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Sometimes, believe it or not, there are things more important than football.

Earlier Thursday, speculation began making the rounds that Danny Hope might be forced to leave South Florida because of an unspecified “family matter.”  A short time later, USF announced in a press release that Hope is indeed leaving the Bulls “in order to be closer to his family.”

Hope had just completed his first season as head coach’s Willie Taggart‘s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

“I would like to thank Danny for his significant contributions to the success of our program over the past season,” Taggart said. “We appreciated having him as part of our staff and I know he enjoyed being a Bull. He loved it here and I loved having him, but sometimes you have to make choices in regards to what’s best for your family. I respect Danny’s desire to do what’s best for him and his family. We wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Hope was dismissed as Purdue’s head coach in November of 2012, spending two seasons on the coaching sidelines before joining Taggart’s staff in December of 2014.

Taggart had a pair of offensive coordinators on his staff, Hope and David Reaves.  Reaves will presumably be promoted to solo coordinator as well as maintaining the title of passing game coordinator, while Taggart intends to continue on as the Bulls’ primary play-caller.

“I expect to be able to complete our staff very quickly with an excellent offensive line coach,” Taggart said. “I will continue to call the plays and work closely with our offense, and we will build our staff around that same structure.”

NCAA rules committee votes to allow replay official to call missed targeting foul

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The NCAA Football Rules Committee’s annual passage of potential new rules for the sport will once again include a potentially controversial measure.

Following four days worth of meetings in Orlando, the NCAA announced Thursday that the committee has approved several proposals that, if approved Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP), will go into effect for the 2016 season. As has previously been expected, one of the proposals the committee voted on and approved was to “expand the authority of the instant replay official, requiring them to review all aspects of targeting fouls.”

In a review of the controversial targeting rule, the NCAA found that, in what it described as a “small number of cases,” players were wrongly ejected from games. Those ejections came after the original targeting call on the field was reviewed by the replay official. Now? The committee has recommended that the same replay officials be given the power “to stop the game and create a targeting foul in situations where an egregious action has occurred” but was missed by the on-field officiating crew.

“The targeting rule is serving the game well, and has enhanced player safety,” said Bob Nielson, chair of the committee and head coach at the University of South Dakota, in a statement. “Because this is such a severe penalty, we are instructing replay officials to review plays to ensure that the required elements of targeting exist. We are also adding the ability for the replay official to stop the game when a potential targeting foul is not detected on the field.”

In another tweak that could ultimately lead to a significant technological development in the not-too-distant future, the committee has approved a proposal that would allow electronic devices — i.e. tablets — in the press box and locker rooms during game day. What will still not be permitted is such devices being utilized on the sidelines, something the NFL approved two years ago and which the college version of the game is expected to ultimately adopt. In that vein, the NCAA wrote in its release that “[t]he committee will continue monitoring the use of those devices next year in addition to other potential technology enhancements it believes could improve the game.”

Last year, the rules committee had approved a proposal that would’ve adjusted the ineligible receiver downfield rule from 3 yards to 1 yard. That controversial proposal was met with significant push-back from HUNH coaches, and was ultimately tabled by the PROP. The ineligible receiver downfield rule will remain the same as in the past, the NCAA has reaffirmed, although “the committee [has] decided to instruct officials to stringently enforce the 3-yard limit and adjust officiating mechanics to better officiate those plays.”

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Three additional proposals aimed at greater player safety were approved:

• First, the rules dealing with low blocks were adjusted to prohibit a player who leaves the tackle box from blocking below the waist toward the initial position of the ball.
• Second, the rules pertaining to a defenseless player will include a ball carrier who has clearly given himself up by sliding feet first.
• Finally, the deliberate tripping of the ball carrier (with the leg) was approved as a foul.

All of the proposals approved by the rules committee will be considered by the PROP on March 8. Again, if approved, the proposed changes would be implemented for the 2016 season.

Reports: A&M bringing back Jim Turner as O-line coach

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 17:  Offensive line coach, Jim Turner, of the Miami Dolphins coaches his players before their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Wednesday brought word that Texas A&M’s defensive line coach was hired for the same job at Indiana.  The dawn of a new day has brought word that Kevin Sumlin has addressed his line vacancy on the other side of the ball, and with a very familiar face at that.

Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com was the first to report that Sumlin has decided to bring Jim Turner back as his offensive line coach.  FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Turner would replace Dave Christensen, who “parted ways” with the program earlier this month.  According to 247Sports.com, Turner “was chosen over former Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad and current McNeese State offensive line coach Eman Naghavi” to be Christensen’s replacement.

Turner spent the 2008-11 seasons as the line coach at A&M under Mike Sherman.  After Sherman’s firing in December of 2011, Turner followed the ex-Aggies head coach to the Miami Dolphins, where the former was the line coach and the latter the offensive coordinator.

After two seasons with the NFL club, Turner was fired after getting swept up in the maelstrom that was the Dolphins’ bullying and harassment scandal.  Turner subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming “his reputation and career have been unfairly affected” by the reports commissioned by the NFL.

Turner spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons “in private business” before being hired earlier this year to be the line coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.