Gruden may meet with Vols this week… or not

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Let’s get this out of the way: we have been led to believe by multiple individuals that in no way, shape or form will Jon Gruden actually pull the trigger on a job at the collegiate level, whether it be Tennessee, Arkansas or any other campus to which he’s been connected.

Instead, the greater likelihood is that Gruden will either step back onto the sidelines — after what would be a five-year absence — at the NFL level or remain in his cushy, multi-million dollar broadcasting gig.

Maddeningly, though, the will he/won’t he headline above is directly related to Gruden’s latest fingernails-on-a-chalkboard flirtation with an FBS job.

Even before Derek Dooley was dismissed as Tennessee’s coach last week, there was push by fans and even some in the media for Gruden to ride in on his blonde horse and save the storied Vols program.  In a connect-the-dots way, Chucky makes perfect sense; his wife went to school at UT, Gruden was a Vols grad assistant in the mid-80s and he and his wife own property in the state.

Forget the fact that he hasn’t coached in the college ranks in over two decades, or at any level in half a one for that matter; he above anyone else is the elixir for all the ails Rocky Top, the common line of thinking in that area goes.

Earlier this month, there was speculation that an announcement on Gruden’s hiring was not a matter of if but when.  That didn’t happen.  A report then surfaced Tuesday night that new Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, a well-heeled UT booster, had offered Gruden an ownership stake in the NFL franchise as part of his signing on as the Vols head coach.  Both the Browns and Gruden denied the report of such a deal, which would’ve likely stepped across multiple NFL/NCAA lines if it had a shred of truth to it.

The latest development in the Race for Chucky is that a meeting between UT and the former coach scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, per a tweet from Knoxville radio host Jimmy Hyams.  Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com followed that up a short time later with a tweet that read “Gruden may meet with Vols AD later this week, I’m told.”

The qualifier? “But Gruden’s main goal is heading back to pros,” Freeman succinctly wrote at the end of the tweet.

And thus the circus ends up right back where it began: Gruden is in like with a college job, but one a level up is what really makes his heart flutter and toes straighten.

In December of 2010, Gruden met with then-Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt to discuss the Hurricanes’ vacancy.  Nothing came of that meeting; in the end, it’s likely lather, rinse, repeat with this latest round of Gruden speculation as it relates to UT specifically and college football in particular.

Or not.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.

Boise State reportedly looking at replacing blue turf in 2019

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Boise State is exploring replacing their famous blue turf… with yet more blue turf.

Perhaps one of college football’s most recognized landmarks thanks to its quirky color, the school is looking at a fresh set of FieldTurf for Albertsons Stadium in a move that may come as soon as the 2018 campaign wraps up.

“We’re talking about it,” Athletic Director Curt Apsey told the Idaho Press-Tribune. “It’s getting to that point to where we’re going to have to make a change. It will remain blue if anyone asks.

“It’s a lifespan more than anything. I’m going to assume that the weather here in Boise does not help the life of it. That’s a guess on my part, but when you start getting into that eight, 10, 12-year range, in the past that’s when we’ve usually made the change.”

The current stadium field was installed back in 2010 and it has gone through various replacements over the years since the very first blue turf was put in place back in 1986. The report from the Press-Tribune and Apsey’s comments certainly make this seem like it’s a done deal but at a reported cost of nearly $1 million for the new surface, it would not be a quick or cheap fix for the school.

Broncos fans can rest easy knowing that the team’s signature color will be sticking around at the very least, even if the actual field itself gets a bit of an upgrade sometime next year.