Alabama v Arkansas

Two ‘ahead of the curve’ in Arkansas’ QB race

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With Tyler Wilson off to the NFL after two seasons as Arkansas starting quarterback, arguably the main focus for the Razorbacks during their first spring practice under Bret Bielema is to at least begin the process of separating contenders from pretenders at the position.

One week into the 15 allotted spring sessions?  Two of the contenders appear to be standing a bit taller than the others.

In his first extensive comments to the media since spring practice began a week ago today, Bielema allowed that a pair of Brandons — Allen and Mitchell — have nudged ahead slightly in the chase to replace Wilson.

“I think there is no doubt on offense the key is going to be who is going to be our trigger puller, and I think Brandon Allen (pictured) and Brandon Mitchell both have shown that they’ve been ahead of the curve,” Bielema said in comments distributed by the school.

The fact that Allen and Mitchell would be ahead of the quarterback game just a handful of practices into the spring makes sense.

Allen, the presumptive front-runner heading into the spring, played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2012 as Wilson’s primary backup.  The four-star member of UA’s 2011 recruiting class started one of those games — the 52-0 lay-down at the hands of Alabama — and completed less than 50 percent of his passes (21-49) for one touchdown and three interceptions on the season.  As the No. 5 pro-style QB in his class, and on paper, it appears to be Allen’s job to lose.

Mitchell, on the other hand, comes into his redshirt senior spring after spending the 2012 season at the wide receiver position — for the most part.  In 2011, Mitchell served as Wilson’s backup after falling short in that season’s competition.

Technically speaking, though, it’s a five-man competition, with Brian Buehner, A.J. Derby and Taylor Reed (no relation) filling in the roster at the position.  The latter two came to the Razorbacks as transfers, Reed from Memphis and Derby from Iowa by way of the JUCO ranks.  Interestingly, Bielema chose to extensively single out the latter when questioned on the battle for the starting job.

“I would say that A.J. Derby has shown that he is definitely a guy that can manage a game,” the coach said. “He has been in that position and impressed us. He is a thirsty kid, who is always eager to learn.”

While Derby may be at least on the periphery of the discussion at the moment — and Reed could eventually based on experience alone (nine starts at Memphis as a true freshman in 2011) — there’s little doubt who has made the biggest impression thus far.

“I would think that the more reps we can get to those five guys the better off we are going to be, especially the top two in Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell,” Bielema said.

In other words, and until further notice, this is a two-horse race for the Hogs.

‘Bama officially announces Derrick Ansley as DBs coach

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A handful of days after Nick Saban had reportedly filled a hole in his Alabama coaching staff, the Tide officially brought out the shovel Wednesday.

The football program confirmed in a press release that Derrick Ansley has been hired by Saban to coach the Tide’s defensive backs.  Ansley will replace Mel Tucker, who left last month to take the job as defensive coordinator on Kirby Smart‘s new Georgia staff.

This is a return home of sorts for Ansley as he spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Alabama as a graduate assistant.

“We are very happy to have Derrick and his family back at Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “Derrick did an outstanding job when he was with us as a graduate assistant, and he has a very good understanding of how we run our program and what is expected. He is a bright young coach, and he will be a great addition working with the defensive backs. We also believe he will be a tremendous asset to our staff in the recruiting process.”

Ansley had spent the past three seasons at Kentucky, the first two as cornerbacks coach and the last in charge of the entire secondary. Just prior to leaving for the Tide, he had been named as the Wildcats’ co-defensive coordinator.

His first job at the Power Five the defensive backs coach at Tennessee (2012).

USC: Pat Haden ‘stable… resting comfortably at local hospital’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden
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Following up on reports of a “health event” involving outgoing USC athletic director Pat Haden, the university offered up a release Wednesday night on the administrator’s condition.

According to a release, Haden is in stable condition and “resting comfortably at a local hospital” as of late last night.  The 63-year-old Haden undergoing medical testing, but “plans to be back soon watching his Trojans in action.”

“He thanks all for their concern,” the release added.

Early Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Haden nearly collapsed outside of Heritage Hall and was treated by paramedics called to the scene. Shortly thereafter, per reports, he was taken to the hospital via ambulance.

In the release, the university clarified the chain of events:

Haden was walking back from an on-campus meeting this morning and felt lightheaded, similar to how he felt at the Notre Dame game last October. He sat down outside Heritage Hall and the athletic department’s medical personnel attended to him. Haden was alert and talking as he walked under his own power up to his office in Heritage Hall. Medical personnel continued to attend to him there before transporting him to his doctor off campus.

A similar episode prior to the Notre Dame game last season prompted Haden to step down from his position as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Lingering health issues played a role in his decision earlier this month to step down as USC’s athletic director later this year.

Stanford plucks Oklahoma defensive line coach Diron Reynolds

MIAMI - 2007:  Diron Reynolds of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2007 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart announced his retirement. On Wednesday, the Cardinal found his replacement.

Stanford hired one of its own according to reports from Sports Illustrated and FootballScoop (where I am also a writer), pulling former assistant Diron Reynolds away from Oklahoma after one season with the Sooners.

While Stanford has not formally announced Reynolds’ hiring, Oklahoma has already confirmed his departure.

“Diron did an excellent job for us here at OU,” head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This move is going to allow him to reunite with his wife and children. We appreciate the work he did and wish him the best.”

Reynolds was Stanford’s assistant defensive line coach in 2014, and prior to that spent five years in the same capacity with the Minnesota Vikings. He inherits a defense that ranked in the top 30 nationally in rushing defense and sacks.

For Oklahoma, 2016 marks the second straight season the Sooners will be on the hunt for a defensive line coach after Signing Day. OU’s hiring of Reynolds last year was necessitated when defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery left for the Green Bay Packers.

D-line coach Mark Hagen leaving A&M for Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 14:  Nate Sudfeld #7 of the Indiana Hoosiers runs with the ball against the  Michigan Wolverines at Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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There are two types of coaching moves: the ones coaches want to make and the ones they’re told to make.

It’s with that in mind we review the news that Indiana has hired Texas A&M defensive line coach Mark Hagen to coach the same position, the Hoosiers announced Wednesday. Hagen is a former Hooiser that coached at his alma mater in 2011-12 before leaving for College Station in 2013. And Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin coached with Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson for five years at Oklahoma. If you wanted to find a landing spot for an assistant you were looking to replace, this is the type of job you would look for.

Texas A&M insider Billy Liucci, as much an insider as one can be, certainly presented this move as the second type of coaching change.

When a head coach is feeling heat, it’s often his assistants that pay the price, and especially when a high-profile coordinator is brought in, as was the case with the hiring of John Chavis.

“It’s exciting to be able to come back home again,” Hagen said in a statement. “These last three years have been fun. It’s something I felt like I had to do a few years back, but being a part of Coach Wilson’s program again and getting on board on the front end with Coach Allen is something I could not pass up. I’m looking forward to the challenge of coaching the entire defensive line and building a championship defense.”

Hagen coached one of the nation’s top pass-rushing duos in College Station in the form of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall.