Report: NFL teams eyeing Bill O’Brien


Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oregon’s Chip Kelly are two of the hottest college coaches in the NFL coaching rumor mill. Specifically, Saban has been connected to the Cleveland Browns and Kelly to Philadelphia Eagles.

According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, one or more of those teams could also be eyeing Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. Mort states that “O’Brien may be on more short lists” than Kelly.

O’Brien came to Penn State in January after five successful years with the New England Patriots, including a Super Bowl appearance as an offensive coordinator for the 2011-12 season. O’Brien has over a decade of coaching experience in the college ranks, but there’s no overlooking his rise and success in New England.

Mort’s report is a quick read, but here’s the part that stuck out:

“However, sources say teams that have gauged his interest have been informed by a third party representative that when O’Brien accepted the task of being the late Joe Paterno’s successor, he was told by school officials that the Jerry Sandusky scandal was a criminal matter, not an NCAA concern. That proved to be bad information as Penn State was dealt a four-year bowl ban and scholarship reductions as part of its penalties.”

O’Brien knew what he was getting into when he accepted the Penn State job — to a degree. He understood the program was in the middle of the worst scandal imaginable, the effects of which going forward were unknown, and that he would be succeeding an icon in Paterno. While the possibility of NCAA action was in the back of his (and Penn State’s) mind, the sanctions levied against the program in July by NCAA president Mark Emmert were astonishing both in the magnitude and the process by which they were handed down.

The point is that O’Brien did not sign up for what he received. Sure, he might have known the possibility was there, but it wasn’t part of the initial agreement. For that, it wouldn’t be surprising if O’Brien left Penn State. He’d reportedly have to pay the university a handsome sum if he did, but sometimes money can’t even keep someone around if the situation is bad enough.

It’d be hard to blame O’Brien for leaving, just like you can’t blame any Penn State players who left after the sanctions were announced. They had no part in the Sandusky scandal, so why should they pay the price for other people’s blatant, albeit alleged, disregard for the safety and well-being of others?

Conversely, I commend those who chose to stay. That would include O’Brien if he does. One of the qualities that’s made O’Brien my coach of the year in 2012 is his leadership and ability to keep Penn State steady during tough times. The program’s going to need plenty of that going forward and O’Brien’s the guy to do it.

But the draw of the NFL can be enough even without the distractions of Sandusky and the NCAA. The chance to win at the highest level is enticing. If O’Brien leaves, it could very well be because the offer was right. If there’s an offer, that is. There’s no report yet that there’s anything other than interest from NFL teams.

It makes sense, though. O’Brien’s a tremendous coach. Penn State should enjoy his presence, whether it’s for one more year or 10.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa injures thumb on throwing hand in spring practice opener

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This is not exactly the most optimal way to open the spring for Nick Saban and Alabama.

Shortly before seven p.m. ET this evening, grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, who originally committed to play his last season of college football at Alabama, announced on Twitter that he will instead move on to Washington State.  Not long after that, after the Crimson Tide had completed their first practice of the spring, Saban confirmed that Tua Tagovailoa sustained an injury to the thumb on his right (throwing) hand.  Specifically how he sustained the injury wasn’t clear.

The rising sophomore will be taken to Birmingham for further evaluation; just how long he’ll be sidelined remains to be seen.

Jalen Hurts started every game but one at quarterback the past two seasons, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record in that span.  He was under center for the national championship game loss to Clemson, and was in the same spot for this year’s title game against Georgia until a 13-0 halftime deficit compelled Saban to pull the trigger on a change.

And the rest, as they say, is history, as Tagovailoa played a significant role in a second-half comeback that was capped by the true freshman’s game-winning touchdown pass in the first overtime.  Even as it seems obvious to those on the outside that this is Tagovailoa’s team moving forward, given how much more advanced the backup is in the passing game than the erstwhile starter, Saban is not quite ready to pull the trigger on a full-time change at the position.  In fact, the head coach even stated that he’s open to playing both quarterbacks.

Minshew, who started five games at East Carolina last season, was viewed as experienced insurance in case Hurts decided to transfer.  Or, if Tagovailoa suffered an injury.

After committing to Alabama, grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew tweets flip to Washington State

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So much for the implementation of the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™.

In late February, Gardner Minshew, a graduate transfer quarterback from East Carolina, confirmed that he had committed to play for Alabama and would enroll at the university in May.  Nearly three weeks later, Minshew shifted his course significantly, announcing on Twitter that he is “[p]roud to say that I’ll be playing my last year of college ball at Washington State.”

At least when it comes to the opportunity for playing time, the Cougars, looking to replace Luke Falk, make much more sense than the Crimson Tide, who has, in addition to a two-year starter in Hurts, national championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa.

As a graduate transfer, Minshew will be eligible to play immediately for Wazzu in 2018 and could be in line to win a starting job at the Power Five school.

Minshew started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.

The news of Minshew’s initial commitment to UA came a little over a week after Minshew visited the Tuscaloosa campus.  Earlier in February, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.

WATCH: Amazon releases trailer for ‘All or Nothing’ season following Michigan

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“All or Nothing” has been Amazon’s answer to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with one clear distinction — “All or Nothing” actually follows its subject throughout the season. The first two seasons followed the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams, and has now expanded into the college game. Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the trailer for its upcoming season with Michigan, in which its cameras followed Jim Harbaugh‘s Wolverines through an 8-5 campaign where the maize and blue won no games of consequence.

This is not the first such documentary series to follow a college team. Showtime’s “A Season With” has chronicled seasons of Florida State, Notre Dame and Navy.

The upcoming season will hit all Amazon Prime streaming devices on April 6.

Report: Auburn WR Eli Stove undergoes surgery for torn ACL

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A significant development has gone under the radar at Auburn, until now. Junior wide receiver Eli Stove tore his ACL during Auburn’s first spring practice and underwent surgery last Tuesday, according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover.

As a sophomore in 2017, Stove caught 29 passes for 265 yards and rushed 30 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns, which made him the Tigers’ third-leading rusher.

Stove was expected to increase his portfolio heading into 2018, but now he’ll spend the foreseeable future working simply to get back on the field. No timetable has been set for Stove’s return.

Though Stove is one of Auburn’s most talented pass-catchers, the Tigers aren’t hurting for depth even in his absence. Nine wideouts caught a pass for Auburn last season, and not one of them was a senior.