With Kelly’s departure, ‘a recruiting class hangs in the balance’

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In the immediate aftermath of Chip Kelly‘s stunning about-face departure for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oregon’s attention turned to two key questions — just who will replace the Ducks’ fourth-year head coach and what kind of impact it will have on the 2013 recruiting class.

As to the former, the answer could be relatively straightforward.  Barring an unexpected development and after the interview of a minority candidate to satisfy state law — the school has already posted the openingMark Helfrich is expected to be officially named as Kelly’s successor in short order.  Helfrich, who has served as Kelly’s offensive coordinator during all four of the now-former coach’s seasons at the helm in Eugene, has been described as a clone of his former boss when it comes to attention to detail and the like, making for a relatively seamless transition both on the field and, most importantly at the moment, on the recruiting trail.

It’s on that latter front, though, where things could get dicey for Helfrich — or, as Rivals.com breathlessly put it, “a recruiting class hangs in the balance.”

Already, two of the prized verbal pieces of UO’s 2013 recruiting class, twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson, have announced they have reopened their recruitment while still technically remaining committed to the Ducks.  USC, in particular, has already been in touch with the players in an attempt to get both to complete the flip three weeks ahead of National Signing Day.  Additionally, Ohio State is reportedly going after that same pair of UO verbals as well, with Notre Dame also named by one of the players as a possibility.

“This is crazy. I mean, [UO assistant John Neal] was just here yesterday up at school to watch me and my brother play basketball,” Tyree Robinson told DuckSports.com. “Everything was all good. Everything was all fine. It’s crazy. Right now, I have to talk to my family. I’m going to call my mom right now to talk to her about it.

It’s not all negative recruiting-wise for Oregon, though, as DuckSports.com reports that Thomas Tyner, a five-star running back rated as the No. 21 player at any position in the country, is expected to remain committed to the Ducks and follow through with a signature on signing day.  That “good news” comes with an asterisk, however, as Tyner has already decommitted from the Ducks once last October, albeit for just one day.

There’s also positive precedent on which the football program can fall back; in 2001, Butch Davis left Miami (Fla.) for the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns a week before signing day.  A little over 11 months later, with Davis’ replacement Larry Coker patrolling the sidelines, the Hurricanes staked their claim to the BCS title.  Coker had served as The U’s offensive coordinator the previous six seasons.

Certainly keeping Helfrich and maintaining some type of continuity on the coaching staff — how many assistants Kelly takes with him to the Eagles becomes another storm cloud looming off in the distance — will help keep intact a recruiting class that was, to be blunt, fair-to-middlin’ to begin with.

In fact, this class was shaping up to be the worst, rankings-wise, since Kelly’s first class in 2009.  The past three years, Oregon’s classes have been rated no worse than 16th (2012) by either Rivals.com or Scout.com and as high as ninth in 2011.  This year, the Ducks currently rank 44th (Rivals), 26th (Scout) and 25th (24/7Sports.com) with signing day looming the first Tuesday of next month.

“It hurts,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said of Kelly’s departure, “but it isn’t like they have a huge class to keep together anyways.”

That, then, would seem to make it much more imperative for Oregon to hang on to as many assistants as possible to keep an average class from slipping further.  As DuckSports.com writes, “most recruits do not build the relationship with a head coach. The head coach is not allowed the same number of contacts as his assistants so many prospective student athletes develop strong ties to assistant coaches.”

Many will ask why Kelly put Helfrich, his assistants, current/future players and the football program as a whole in such a predicament just 21 days before the college version of the NFL draft.

Some will point to looming NCAA sanctions as the impetus; if that were the case, Kelly wouldn’t have turned down both the Eagles and Cleveland Browns nearly two weeks ago, risking having that NFL door shut tight for the foreseeable future and closing his Pete Carroll-esque escape hatch.  Some will point to the opportunity for a significant increase in pay; if that were Kelly’s motive, he would’ve bailed on the Ducks for the Bucs and a boatload more money in Tampa Bay last January.

While those particular points may have played roles on some level, this appears simply to be the case of an innovator looking for a new challenge at the highest level of football and with an organization he (eventually) gained some degree of comfort.  After his flirtation last year… and after a two-pronged show of leg this year… and with a consistent itch to challenge himself, Kelly took the NFL “if” out of the equation and turned the “when” into the here and now.  In the end, that’s where most thought Kelly would be at some point in the future, especially as the NFL, thanks in large part to the out-of-the-gate successes of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, begins to absorb more of the college-level spread concepts.

Yes, it was not the optimal time for Kelly to bolt; the thing is, there almost never is.  At the very least, though, Kelly left a powerhouse football foundation on which Helfrich or anyone else could build — 46 wins, four BCS bowl games and three Pac-10/12 championships screams “reload” as opposed to “rebuild.”

“Next man up” and “next man in” have always been two of Kelly’s most identifiable mantras.  Helfrich is up, and he’ll be officially in at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Before he can get to building upon Kelly’s on-field legacy, he’ll need to fend off the pickers looking to pluck prospects from what will be his recruiting class.  Based on the number of vultures already circling, and with three weeks left in which to swoop, that might be easier said than done.

DA: No charges will be pursued against Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson

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The attorney for Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson labeled the allegations against his client “patently false.” A few days later, the Sooners football player has been vindicated.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Cleveland County (Okla.) District Attorney Greg Mashburn announced that his office would not pursue charges against Anderson.  The decision came after the prosecutor met with a Norman Police Department detective Tuesday afternoon and again Thursday morning.

Earlier this month, a woman filed for an emergency order of protection against Anderson; additional details subsequently emerged, with the woman describing the player in a written statement to the court as the “alleged rapist” and herself as the “victim of rape.” A hearing on the protective order had been scheduled for Dec. 18.

The alleged assault occurred Nov. 16, with the alleged victim claiming that she began recalling details of the alleged attack the weekend of Dec. 2 as she was speaking to a friend.

Late last week, it was reported that Anderson passed a three-hour lie detector test administered to him this past week by a retired FBI polygraph examiner. Bill Brown, the retired FBI investigator who has reportedly performed in excess of 3,500 such polygraph exams, was hired by Derek Chance, Anderson’s attorney, to administer the test.  That attorney claimed that the accuser only went to the authorities with her claims after Anderson had rejected several of her advances.

Anderson currently leads the Sooners with 960 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on the ground.  He’s also caught 16 passes for 283 yards and another five touchdowns coming out of the backfield.

No. 2 Oklahoma is set to face No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl New Year’s Day, with the winner facing the Clemson-Alabama winner for the right to play for the 2017 College Football Playoff championship.

Scott Frost bests three playoff coaches for Eddie Robinson Award

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For the second time since the regular season ended, Scott Frost is on the receiving end of some coaching hardware.

For his work at UCF, the Football Writers Association of America announced Thursday that Frost has been named as the recipient of the 2017 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.  Frost, who was named as the new head coach at Nebraska upon the completion of the regular season, was also honored as the Home Depot Coach of the Year last week.

“Scott Frost is one of the up-and-coming coaches in college football,” said FWAA president Dave Jones in a statement. “What he did at UCF was nothing short of remarkable in just two seasons.”

Taking over a team that went 0-12 in 2015, Frost coached UCF to a 6-7 record last season.  This season, Frost has the 12th-ranked Knights sitting at 12-0 after winning the football program’s second outright AAC championship and earning the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl bid.

After some initial uncertainty, it was confirmed earlier this week that Frost will coach UCF in its Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn.

There were seven other finalists for this year’s Robinson Award, including Bill Clark, UAB; Lane Kiffin, FAU; Jeff Monken, Army; Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma; Kirby Smart, Georgia; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; and Jeff Tedford, Fresno State.  Riley, Smart and Swinney all led their respective teams to this year’s College Football Playoff.

Colorado State inks Mike Bobo to three-year contract extension

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Just a little more than halfway through his original deal, Mike Bobo is getting a contractual attaboy.

Colorado State announced Thursday that Bobo has signed a three-year contract extension with the university.  Bobo’s original’s deal was set to run through the 2020 season; this new deal extends him out through the 2022 season.

Under the extension, Bobo’s pay for the 2018 season will increase from $1.65 million to $1.8 million.  For the remainder of the contract, he’ll be due raises of $100,000 annually.

“Mike Bobo has developed a strong foundation for our football program,” a statement from athletic director Joe Parker began. “His leadership and focus on creating an environment where young people can grow in their academic and athletic pursuits is the essence of intercollegiate athletics. We have shared championship aspirations for our program and continuity is an extremely important element to chartering the path toward achieving those aspirations.”

Through nearly three full seasons at CSU, Bobo has guided the Rams to seven wins each season, with this year’s bowl game still to be played.  He is the first head coach in the football program’s history to reach a bowl game in each of his first three seasons.

The legendary Sonny Lubick is the only other CSU coach to lead the Rams to bowl games three seasons in a row.

“I am very grateful for the confidence shown in me by both Joe Parker and Tony Frank,” the former Georgia offensive coordinator said. “It is humbling and gratifying to be able to show my commitment to Colorado State University with the signing of this extension. I’m thankful for the terrific support of our fans and alumni, and the Fort Collins community that has welcomed my family and me, and has made us feel at home here. I would also like to thank the outstanding student-athletes and coaches in our program, as well as the university community for all of their hard work, support and investment in our football program. To see our new on-campus stadium become a reality is something we all are very proud of.”

NCAA denies ex-Alabama assistant’s appeal of two-year show-cause

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Recruiting restrictions will remain in place for one former member of Nick Saban’s coaching staff.

The NCAA announced Thursday that former Alabama and current UT-San Antonio assistant coach Bo Davis must serve a two-year show-cause order instituted earlier this year.  Davis had appealed to the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee to have the sanction removed.

The NCAA announced in April of this year that Davis was found by the Committee on Infractions to have “acted unethically when he provided false or misleading information about impermissible recruiting contacts” and was slapped with the order as a result.

In late April of last year, reports surfaced that Davis was expected to resign or be fired as Alabama’s defensive line coach after the school opened an inquiry into possible NCAA violations on the recruiting trail.  A day later, the Tide announced that Davis had, ahem, “submitted his letter of resignation.”

The show-cause order runs from April 14, 2017, through April 13, 2019; Davis had argued in his appeal that the clock on the order should’ve started on the day he resigned from his job at Alabama.  From the NCAA’s decision:

However, the appellate committee noted that neither NCAA rules nor past cases consider timing other than the announcement of penalties as the start date. The committee also noted the infractions panel provided substantial leniency to the former assistant coach given that he was subject to a show cause order ranging from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 10 years with a prohibition on all athletically related duties. The infractions panel noted in its decision that this shorter show-cause penalty was due to the nature of the underlying recruiting violations and the university’s swift action once the violations came to its attention.

As part of the NCAA-mandated sanctions, Davis is barred from all off-campus recruiting activities until the order runs out in April of 2019.  Davis was hired by UT-San Antonio in February of this year as defensive line coach, and, at least for now, is still serving in that same capacity.