Speculation again connects Nick Saban to the Browns

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Unfortunately for an Alabama football team preparing for what could be a third BCS championship in four years, it’s back.

The “it” in the latest rumor mill churning is speculation connecting Alabama head coach Nick Saban to a return to the NFL in general and to the Cleveland Browns specifically.  In the months since confirmation surfaced in August that Jimmy Haslam was purchasing the Browns, the speculative thought process was the new owner would bring in Joe Banner as his new team president — he did — who would in turn hire Mike Lombardi as his new general manager — he might — who would in turn at least attempt to bring his old Cleveland buddy Saban in as head coach.

That was the under-the-surface speculation, anyway.  Which the Boston Globe decided Sunday to bring to the surface with some fire to go along with the smoke.

In the Globe‘s report that focuses mainly on a potential Lombardi return to football management, and citing two unnamed NFL sources, Greg Bedard writes that “Saban has let it be known that if he returns to the NFL… it would likely be with Lombardi playing Pioli to his Belichick.”  First and foremost, Saban has let it be known that he’d consider a return to the NFL, where he failed miserably in his only stint with the Miami Dolphins?  The fact that a move back to the NFL would be part of Saban’s thought process as he’s preparing for a fourth BCS title-game appearance stretches the bounds of reason to the point of breakage.

Secondly, this “situation” is dot-connecting at its best.

Saban, a defensive back at Kent State in his collegiate playing days, was part of the ill-fated early-90’s Browns organization that included Lombardi, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick.  The latter two famously reunited in New England, with Pioli serving as “general manager” while Belichick held final say over personnel decisions during the Patriots’ run of Super Bowl success.  With Lombardi reportedly in play as the future GM in Cleveland, and with Banner preferring a head coach having final say on personnel, dangling the NFL/Browns/Lombardi/personnel carrot in front of Saban could be enough to prompt the best coach in the best situation at the FBS level to “take the plunge again,” Bedard reports.

Why Saban, who was 15-17 with the Dolphins before leaving for Tuscaloosa — after he wasn’t — would “let it be known” that he’s open to a departure back to the big-boy league is unclear.  It certainly wouldn’t be money; at nearly $5.5 million annually, Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football.  A chance at redeeming his only coaching failure at any level?  Perhaps, although there’s clearly no love lost between Saban and the next level.

What is crystal clear, though, is how Saban’s better half views any type of speculation that has her husband headed somewhere other than Tuscaloosa.

“To answer your question [of her Saban having any interest in rebuilding another college program or returning to the NFL] and get right to the point, no. We’re very comfortable here. We love it here. It’s a great fit for our family. It’s a good fit for me. As far as we’re concerned, this is where we’ll retire someday.

“As far as jobs go, this is it for us. I don’t mean to be presumptuous. I would have to talk this over with Nick, but as far as I’m concerned, this is it.”

Those were the comments made by Terry Saban, the coach’s wife, during a radio interview two days before the Globe‘s report reared its head.  “This is it” has a very definitive finality to it; to be fair, so did “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” two weeks before he was.

Because of that distant past, Saban could in the near future find himself in damned if he does, damned if doesn’t territory if the Globe‘s report and other speculation continues to grow legs.  Damned if he unequivocally denies the Browns speculation (PAWWWLLL, IT’S 2006 AGAIN!!! ROLLTIDE!!!), and damned if he doesn’t (PAWWWLLL, SILENCE IS THE FIRST ACT OF A TRAITOR!!! ROLLTIDE!!!).

All the while preparing his Alabama team for an unprecedented three titles in a four-year span in the BCS era.  “Troll Tide” indeed.

North Carolina makes addition of Ohio State transfer RB Antonio Williams official

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North Carolina’s addition of a player from another Power Five program.

On his personal Twitter account earlier this week, Antonio Williams announced that he would be transferring to UNC.  A couple of days later, the Tar Heels confirmed that the running back has joined Larry Fedora‘s football program.

Williams will have to sit out the 2018 season because of NCAA rules.  Beginning with the 2019 season, however, he will have two seasons of eligibility that he can use at the ACC school.

Earlier this offseason, Williams had opted to transfer from Ohio State.

A four-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2016 recruiting class, Williams was rated as the No. 7 running back in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of North Carolina.  Williams ran for 318 yards and three touchdowns on his 63 carries the past two seasons; 290 of the yards and all three scores came this past season as he was the third back in a rotation that included Freshman All-American J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, who led the Buckeyes in rushing as a redshirt freshman in 2016.

Both Dobbins and Weber return this season, which was likely a trigger for Williams’ move from Columbus.

Nebraska AD: Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh ‘running a little bit scared right now’

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This is just the cutest, bless his heart.

As evidenced by the record-breaking spring game earlier this month, there’s an air of excitement once again surrounding the Nebraska football program, thanks in very large part to the return of Scott Frost as the head coach.  Riding that wave of optimism, new NU athletic director Bill Moos was a speaker at an Omaha Press Club luncheon Tuesday and, well, let’s just say that he may have initially been planning on dipping his toes into the feel-good spring pool but instead ended up doing a cannonball into the thing.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

We’re gonna run that uptempo offense we saw (at the spring game), and we’re gonna get the Blackshirts back to being Blackshirts. And that’s extremely important,” Moos said. “You’ve got Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh thinking, ‘We better put a little more into that Nebraska game coming up.’ And that’s the way we want it. They’re running a little bit scared right now. And they won’t admit it. We’ll leave that at that.

Nebraska will face both Michigan and Ohio State this season, with each of those serving as road games for the Cornhuskers.  Given the heat that seems to be growing under the highly-paid Harbaugh’s seat — finishes of third, third and fourth in the Big Ten East in three seasons in Ann Arbor — mentioning the U-M coach might be apropos.  But Meyer?  In his six seasons in Columbus, Meyer’s Buckeyes have lost three games combined in conference play; in three meetings under Meyer, OSU has woodshedded NU by a combined score of 181-55.

Perhaps, instead of the Big Dog of the conference, Moos should focus these early public comments on Paul Chryst, whose Wisconsin Badgers are the class of Nebraska’s division — Big Ten West champs three of the last four years — and have beaten the Cornhuskers in five straight meetings (three under Chryst) dating back to the 2012 Big Ten championship game.  Or even Kirk Ferentz, whose Iowa Hawkeyes have won three in a row in the rivalry, and by a collective 96-24 score the past two seasons.

Maybe start by finishing higher than fifth in your own division, where you were a season ago, and then work your way up?  Just a thought.

As the kerfuffle over Moos’ comments began to gain traction, the athletic director told the Associated Press in a text message that his words were “[a] bit tongue in cheek.”

“Meant to point out that the competition is aware that there’s a renewed energy at Nebraska and we aim to get back in the hunt,” Moos added in an apparent attempt to cram the toothpaste back into the tube.

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.