Vincent Smith downplays Clowney hit

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Despite the fact that the Michigan-South Carolina Outback Bowl was a highly entertaining, back-and-forth postseason game that featured a game-winning touchdown pass with just 11 seconds remaining — with some hack even listing it as the top bowl game of the 2012-13 season — just about the only thing that anyone wanted to talk about in the aftermath of the Gamecocks’ win was Jadeveon Clowney.

Specifically, the talk of the water cooler was Clowney’s hit on Vincent Smith that sent the Wolverine running back’s helmet on a deep post pattern in the opposite direction of the line of scrimmage.

For those who may have forgotten about it or, for some reason, never actually witnessed it, here’s the video of The Hit:

 

Now, while mere mortals such as you and I who would likely have ceased to exist after such a hit, Smith was just fine, other than having to hail a cab to retrieve his headgear.  He was fine physically at the time and, two weeks later, he’s fine mentally despite the replay being seemingly shown on a loop and becoming the subject of ridicule for getting blown up by the likely overall No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Smith, though, even disputes the notion of getting blown up, answering “oh yeah, it did” when asked by Michael Rothstein of WolverineNation.com if the hit looked worse than what it actually was. “I saw it coming and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Smith added.

As is ofttimes the case with such a situation, however, there were myriad factors other than “dude, Clowney’s a freak!” involved in the hit, a confluence of events that Rothstein does an excellent job in summing up:

The simple explanation of what happened is Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan called a change in the blocking scheme, and unfortunately for Smith it gave Clowney an open path to him. The Gamecocks called a blitz before the play — something Smith recognized in pre-play reads — and his fullback chose to block the cornerback coming from the left side, where the run was supposed to go, instead of trying to take Clowney up the middle.

Before the play, Smith figured he was going to be hit in the backfield and would have to break a tackle, either from the corner or someone up the middle. He didn’t anticipate everything falling apart as it did just as quarterback Devin Gardner tried to give him the ball.

In the end, everybody’s likely correct.  Yes, it was a helluva play and hit by Clowney as has been universally proclaimed, and yes it likely looked worse than what it actually was as Smith claims.

For his part, Smith said after viewing it on replays afterward, “I forgot about it” and moved on.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, though, it’s not an exploding gif that will be going away at any point in the near future.

(Photo credit: South Carolina athletics)

Kent State makes firing of Paul Haynes official

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It’s official: there are currently eight openings (for now) at head coach in the FBS.

The latest to officially face the coaching guillotine is Paul Haynes, who Kent State announced Wednesday afternoon would not have his contract renewed, confirming reports that had surfaced earlier in the day.  Haynes wrapped up his fifth, and what turned out to be final season with the Golden Flashes with a 24-14 loss to rival and MAC East champion Akron Tuesday night.

“Making a coaching change is never easy,” athletic director Joel Nielsen said in a statement. “As an alum, Paul gave his all for this university and to Golden Flashes football, and moved the program forward in many ways. We thank Paul and his family for their service and commitment to Kent State student-athletes.”

In 2012, the year prior to Haynes’ arrival, Kent went 11-3.  In the five years under Haynes, they were 14-45 overall.  The Golden Flashes won either two or three games each of the past four seasons, including a 2-10 mark in 2017.

That stretch of 10 wins is the worst four-year run for the program since they won six from 1997-2000.  That was part of a lost decade-plus that saw the Golden Flashes win a combined 16 games in 12 seasons (1989-2000).

Chip Kelly reportedly turned down Tennessee offer, turned away Nebraska interest

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It really is looking like a two-school race for Chip Kelly‘s services.

On the heels of a weekend meeting with Florida officials in New Hampshire, Kelly also reportedly sat down with a contingent from UCLA this week regarding their head coach opening.  It’s been widely thought that, in the coming days — especially if the Gators have anything to say about it — Kelly would decide between UF and UO and likely not entertain interest from other programs.

In that vein, and citing a person with knowledge of the situation, George Schroeder of USA Today is reporting that Kelly recently turned down an offer from one SEC school and rebuffed the advances from a Big Ten program.

Kelly turned down a recent offer from Tennessee, the person said. He is also believed to have turned away interest from Nebraska.

While two schools are seemingly in the mix at the moment, Schroeder is also reporting that Arizona State, should it come open, would also be of interest to the former Oregon head coach.  Th earliest ASU would shed themselves of Todd Graham would be Saturday night as they square off with rival Arizona that afternoon.

Regardless of where Kelly lands, the current ESPN analyst is set to get paid as it’s believed that the offers he has received are in the neighborhood of $6 million annually.  As Schroeder and other media outlets have pointed out, though, there could be a sticking point with one of the two schools that have Kelly as its top target as UCLA’s apparel provider is Under Armour.  Kelly still maintains a close relationship with Phil Knight, the founder of Nike and whose company is Under Armour’s biggest rival.

While that dynamic is thought of as a sticking point, it’s not believed to be a deal breaker.

Reports: Paul Haynes out as head coach at Kent State

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And another one bites the dust.  Reportedly.

FootballScoop.com was the first to report Wednesday morning that Paul Haynes has been let go as the head football coach at Kent State.  The Associated Press subsequently confirmed the initial report, noting that the Golden Flash players were informed of the move earlier today.

The not-yet-official move to part ways with Haynes is far from surprising as the former Ohio State and Arkansas assistant is just 14-45 during his five seasons at the school.  For perspective, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2011, the year before Haynes’ arrival.

With Haynes’ ouster, there are now eight FBS head coach openings, with KSU joining Florida, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA and UTEP.

Minnesota, P.J. Fleck reach agreement on contract extension

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Not even through his first full season as head coach, and P.J. Fleck has already been rewarded for his work.

Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it has reached an agreement on a contract extension with Fleck into 2023.  The 36-year-old head coach originally signed a five-year contract with the school, making this a two-year extension.

A December meeting of the school’s Board of Regents will rubber stamp the extension and make it official.

“It’s an honor to coach at the University of Minnesota and in the Big Ten,” said Fleck in a statement. “[athletic director] Mark Coyle and I share the same goal of building a championship culture and team at Minnesota. It’s a goal that we are working on daily together and one that we will achieve. I am proud of how hard our young men have worked to improve this season on living a holistic life. They have taken great strides in bettering themselves athletically, academically, socially and spiritually. I look forward to leading them and watching them grow on and off the field as we continue to move this program forward.”

In his first season at Minnesota after coming to the Big Ten program from Western Michigan, Fleck has the Gophers at 5-6.  Fleck took over a team that won nine games in 2016, and, if they fail to beat fifth-ranked Wisconsin Saturday, would have their fewest wins in a season since going 3-9 in Jerry Kill‘s first year in 2011.

On the flip side, his five wins are the first for a first-year Gophers coach since Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954.  Additionally, he became the first coach to win his Gophers debut since John Gutekunst did the same back in 1986.

“When we hired Coach Fleck, I talked about his authentic energy and passion, and his dedication to building a unique team culture. This year, I have seen our students connect with his energy and embrace that culture,” Coyle said in his statement. “From the commitment and hard work of our current students, to building a nationally-ranked recruiting class that will be among the best in program history, I have seen the foundation of what Coach Fleck is building, and I’m looking forward to supporting him for years to come.”