Mississippi v LSU

LSU exodus continues: Spencer Ware, Brad Wing departing for NFL

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Three times in the past two days, LSU underclassmen have officially announced they are leaving early for the NFL.  This evening, the official count is up to five.

Both running back Spencer Ware and suspended punter Brad Wing are confirmed early entrants into the April NFL draft, the school announced Friday.  Each had been considered two of the handful of Tigers giving serious consideration to an early move, particularly the latter following a suspension for what was reportedly multiple failed drug tests and cost him a shot at playing in this year’s bowl game.

The loss of Ware might actually be the lesser of these two given the stable of backs Les Miles has assembled in Baton Rouge, although the junior certainly possesses the physical talent and tools to succeed at the next level.  He finished second on the team in rushing yards (707) and led the club in rushing touchdowns with eight last season, with his production dropping to 367/1 thanks, again, to Miles’ stable.

“I feel confident that I am ready to go to the next level and I look forward to working hard in preparation for this next chapter in my life,” Ware’s statement read. “I want to thank everyone at LSU for all they have done for me over the last three years. I especially want to thank Coach Miles and his staff for helping me to develop on the field, and mature as both a player and a person. I also want to thank my teammates for all the support they’ve given me.

“I will forever where purple and gold as a badge of honor and I wish continued prosperity and success to the Tiger Nation.”

As for Wing, he was 11th in the nation with a 44.8 yards per punt average a year after he was 11th with a 44.4 average.  He was arguably most famous for being the first player to have a touchdown called back last season because of the then-new taunting rule.

As a redshirt sophomore, he had two years of eligibility remaining.

Can’t express enough love for Tiger Nation,” Wing wrote on Twitter after his decision was announced. “Thank you for making these 3 years so amazing. Love to the fans, my teammates and coaches.”

Linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Eric Reid and cornerback Tharold Simon had previously announced they would not be back for their senior seasons.

Fourth Georgia Tech player to transfer since end of season

DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Christian Philpott of Georgia Tech celebrates victory over Boston College in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Ireland 2016 at Aviva Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)
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Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season.  Thursday, that trio became a quartet.

On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January.  The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.

If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.

UNC’s Nazair Jones leaving Tar Heels early for NFL

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Nazair Jones #90 and Dominquie Green #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels tackle Mark Walton #1 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.

North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.  The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.

“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”

“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”

Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played.  The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.

Urban Meyer could lose two OSU assistants to FBS head-coaching jobs

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining.  Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.

The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job.  According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.

The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today.  It could, though, come this weekend.

Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.

In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.

In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.

Matt Rhule adds Texas high school coach association president to Baylor football staff

Baylor University's new football coach Matt Rhule speaks during a public event at the Ferrell Center, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Waco, Texas. Rhule replaces Jim Grobe, who led the Bears to a 6-6 record as interim coach this season after Art Briles was fired May 26. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
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This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.

Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco.  The biggest negative to the hire?  Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.

Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed.  Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years.  Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.

The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.