Return to Ducks a realistic possibility for Chip Kelly

25 Comments

Well, this is certainly a somewhat unexpected development.

In the days leading up to and immediately after Oregon’s Fiesta Bowl win Thursday night, it was widely expected that Chip Kelly would leave the Ducks for a job in the NFL.  The head coach interviewed with at least three pro teams — Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles — with the common presumption being Kelly had closed the book on his collegiate coaching career.

If that book was closed, it’s open again.

According to Peter King of SI.com and NBC Sports, “Kelly’s going to choose between Oregon and the Eagles.”  One team is apparently out of the mix as Chris Mortensen of ESPN writes that the Browns “will reboot coach search without Chip Kelly in the fold.”

Both the Browns and Eagles have flown out of Arizona, the site of the interviews, with no answers from Kelly.

The situation involving Kelly and the NFL is still very fluid, though, as Jason La Confora of NFL.com says that “the Browns and Eagles go on about their searches, with one eye still on Chip Kelly, and we’ll see what Kelly tells his team.”  There’s speculation that Oregon will hold a meeting at some point Monday to apprise the Duck players of the coaching situation.

What’s been a growing storyline woven into the will he/won’t he dance, however, is that Kelly is not comfortable with the NFL opportunities presented to him and is seriously contemplating a return to the Ducks. “Don’t rule out Chip Kelly staying at Oregon. In fact, I’d say, after sniffing around more, there’s just as much a chance he stays than goes,” Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote.  Mortensen takes it a step further, saying that the “[m]ajority of league folks believe [returning to] Oregon” will be the ultimate result of the latest round of flirtations.

Kelly’s return to Eugene would be a huge boon for the football program and its fans on at least two fronts.

One, obviously, is that the Ducks would retain a head coach that built UO into a national football powerhouse.  In Kelly’s four seasons as head coach, the Ducks have gone 46-7, played in four BCS bowls and won three Pac-12 championships.

Secondly, this might be the last time, at least for a while and if Kelly returns, that UO has to be concerned about their coach bolting for the NFL.  After pulling out of a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last January, and stringing along two NFL clubs this January, organizations around the professional ranks will likely be hesitant — if not outright refuse — to waste the put in the time to woo Kelly in the future.

Amidst Arizona State chatter, Texas Tech DC David Gibbs signs contract extension

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Almost without fail, it pays to have your name circulating through the annual churning of the coaching rumor mill.

The latest example is David Gibbs, with the Texas Tech defensive coordinator being rumored as a target for the same job with Herm Edwards at Arizona State over the past few days.  Fast-forward to Thursday night, and Tech announced that it has finalized a new two-year contract extension with Gibbs.  The coordinator is now signed through the 2019 season.

According to the school, Gibbs’ pay will be bumped from $550,000 per year to $650,000.  That number puts Gibbs right in the middle of Big 12 DC pay.

“We are fortunate to have one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in Coach Gibbs,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a release. “Since the conclusion of the regular season, finalizing this new contract to keep Coach Gibbs at Texas Tech has been a priority for myself and [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt]. We look forward to continuing to build one of the nation’s top defenses in the years to come under Coach Gibbs.”

Long a punchline, the Red Raiders’ defense has steadily improved in the three years under Gibbs.  This season, their 27 takeaways led the Big 12 and are the most in a season for the football program since 2008.  They’re also currently seventh in the country with four defensive touchdowns.

With Gibbs back, he’ll have 10 returning starters with which to work next season.

“There isn’t a better person to work for than Kliff Kingsbury, and I’m looking forward to continue building this program with him,” Gibbs said. “There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I’m excited about the future of our team.”

RB Justin Crawford to skip West Virginia’s bowl game, begin preparing for NFL draft

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.

Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season.  Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.

“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”

Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons.  He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.

After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season.  Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.

SMU graduate assistant GJ Kinne to call plays in Frisco Bowl

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Leave a comment

New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes has been busy assembling his staff as he prepares to jump right in the saddle to coach the Mustangs in the Frisco Bowl next week, but he will have one holdover from the previous staff to help call the shots on offense. Graduate assistant GJ Kinne will call the offensive plays for the bowl game, according to Adam Grosbard of The Dallas Morning News.

This would seem to be the most logical choice for Dykes to make in this scenario. Kinne has been working in the SMU system all season long under former head coach Chad Morris, who has moved to Arkansas with a handful of assistants. Having the most experience with the current roster and a better comfort level makes sense to have Kinne take on this responsibility so close to the bowl game. This will be a major promotion for Kinne, the former Tulsa quarterback, even if just for one game.

I certainly trust G.J. It’s going to be fun to give him an opportunity to be highly involved and it’ll be one of those things he remembers for the rest of his life,” Dykes said of the decision to have Kinne calling the offense from above. “When you’re a GA and you get to call a bowl game, it’s a pretty awesome opportunity.”

Just how smoothly this all goes is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, if things go awry, Kinne and Dykes can always just resort to going back to a chuck-it-deep mentality and see what happens.

SMU faces Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20.

Pitt loses second QB to transfer in as many days

Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi may have been signed to a contract extension recently, but the Panthers are quickly getting shallow at the quarterback spot on the depth chart for 2018. For the second time in as many days, Pitt is losing a quarterback to a transfer.

Ben DiNucci is the most recent of the two to announce his decision to leave the program. Though DiNucci did not say where he is heading next, he did say in a brief message on Twitter he will be enrolling in January. He will have two years of eligibility to use, although he would have to sit out the 2018 season if he transfers to another FBS program. He would be eligible to play right away if he transfers to a lower division football program. A report from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests the latter will be the case, with James Madison and Towson the two leading candidates to add DiNucci.

DiNucci was Pittsburgh’s leading passer this season with 1,091 yards and five touchdowns, although he was used mostly as a backup for Max Browne until Browne was injured after appearing in six games. DiNucci also added 126 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, which came in Week 2 against Penn State.

DiNucci’s announcement comes just one day after Thomas MacVittie announced his own decision to leave the Panthers behind. The redshirt freshman did not appear in any games this season and was passed over on the depth chart by freshman Kenny Pickett. Pickett now becomes the top option in the passing game for the Panthers heading into the spring, unless Pitt happens to add a transfer to the mix.

Pitt will have another scholarship quarterback on the way in 2018 with the addition of incoming freshman Nick Patti out of New Jersey. Patti is not expected to be enrolling early, so he will not be around in the spring.