Gators look to UTEP for new defensive assistant

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Exactly a week after Bryant Young abruptly and unexpectedly left the Florida coaching staff, head coach Will Muschamp has reportedly found a replacement.

Following up on speculation over the past 24 hours or so, the Gators announced via a press release Wednesday morning that Jeff Choate has left UTEP for a job with the Gators.  Choate was just hired as the Miners’ defensive coordinator this past January.

At UF, Choate will coach outside linebackers and serve as special teams coordinator.

“We are excited to have Jeff Choate join our staff,” said Muschamp. “He is a high-energy coach, an outstanding recruiter and evaluator, and has a reputation as one of the top special-teams coaches in the nation. He has coached on both sides of the ball and was most recently a defensive coordinator. He sees the big picture and will be a great addition to our staff.

“I got to know Jeff several years ago when I as at Texas and he was at Boise State. He visited Austin and we spent a lot of time talking defensive and special teams schemes. He also visited us in Gainesville last spring and we are very much on the same page philosophically.

Young, who left the program for personal reasons, had served as a defensive line coach since Muschamp took over at UF in 2011.

Prior to one season as linebackers coach at Washington State in 2012, Choate had spent six seasons at Boise State.  Also on that Broncos staff was Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Gator staff and have the chance to compete at the highest level,” said Choate. “I’ve gotten to know Coach Muschamp over the past couple of years and have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and a person. I’m looking forward to continuing the great special-teams tradition that has been established here and can’t wait to get to work.

“I would also like to thank everyone at UTEP, and most importantly Coach Kugler, for the support and opportunity they gave me. I wish him and the program nothing but the best of luck.”

Choate, who was a candidate for the Idaho head-coaching vacancy last year, becomes the second assistant (kind of) first-year UTEP head coach Sean Kugler has lost to an SEC team in less than three months.  In late January, special teams coordinator Jeff Banks left for the same job at Texas A&M  — after a very brief pit stop at Virginia.

Amid Jimbo Fisher rumors, Florida State continues to explore facilities upgrades

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Jimbo Fisher turned interest from LSU to be their head coach into one of the biggest coach-friendly contracts in the country. Could he be leveraging the same kind of interest from Texas A&M into further facilities upgrades? It appears so.

Hot on the heels of Houston Chronicle report that said Fisher is the top target to replace the eventually deposed Kevin Sumlin in College Station, the Orlando Sentinel says that the Seminoles are exploring a number of different options to give the football program their own sport-specific facility on campus.

“You have no idea,” Fisher told the paper on Monday when asked about the importance of a centralized complex. “Their days are strung out … the schedules they’re on and what they’re asked to do. When you’re wasting time in between, you’re wasting development time for them.”

The Sentinel reports that there are two leading options for the program, the first of which includes a renovation of the team’s current home, the Moore Athletic Center, that would also result in other Seminoles sports moving to a different area for office space and training facilities. The other option would include a brand new football complex that would be built right next to the current indoor practice facility. Things are still in the planning stage at this point but it certainly sounds like things are getting fast-tracked given everything that is going on in the college football world in Tallahassee and beyond.

Whether Fisher leaves or not, it’s pretty clear that Florida State will be looking to build a new football facility for the simple fact that they need to keep up with their peers in the state. Florida is set to break ground in December on their new facility and Miami should have their new indoor facility ready to go by the start of next season. Even USF has laid the groundwork for a $40 million project that will include the latest and greatest for the Bulls football team.

Kevin Sumlin says he has not spoken with Aggies’ AD this week

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While it seems like Texas A&M has been preparing to fire head coach Kevin Sumlin since this summer, it very much appears as though his tenure in College Station is going to officially come to an end at the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday.

A report on Tuesday evening from the Houston Chronicle said that Sumlin will be let go — win or lose — following the team’s game at LSU. Despite that definitive-sounding nature of the report from the well-sourced newspaper, the head coach himself says he has not spoken with athletic director Scott Woodward in nearly a week to discuss his status with the team going forward.

“I haven’t talked to Scott since Saturday at the game, so there hasn’t been any discussion about that,” Sumlin said on the SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s not like we haven’t dealt with this since the spring. I think our team has done a really nice job of focusing on games at hand, and we’ll continue to do that. Certainly we’ve had that experience since the beginning of the year.

“We haven’t really had a chance to talk to our team yet, because we haven’t practiced yet and all this information came out after practice. We’ll deal with it the way we’ve dealt with everything this year, and we’ll continue to do business as usual. Like I said, our staff and our coaches have done a nice job of handling it. In football, it’s not just about football. You try to teach lessons and dealing with adversity, that’s what life’s about.”

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman said that players and coaches learned of the Chronicle’s report after practice on Tuesday and were upset at the timing and nature of the news surfacing ahead of the team’s game against an SEC rival like the Tigers. While it’s not like they couldn’t see things coming given the animosity on all sides following a disappointing, if injury-riddled, campaign for the Aggies, it’s still not the greatest feeling in the world to go into a game knowing it will be the coaching staff’s last no matter the result.

East Carolina suspends punter charged with drunk-driving, fleeing

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Punters are players too. And apparently drinkers and, in this case, runners as well.

According to multiple media outlets, East Carolina’s Austin Barnes (pictured, No. 17) was arrested on a handful of charges very early Sunday morning following an attempted traffic stop and apparent chase. Specifically, the senior punter was charged with driving under the influence, fleeing/eluding arrest and having no operator’s license.

No details of what led to the arrest and charges have been released.

As a result of the suspension, Barnes has been suspended by Scottie Montgomery. Below is a statement attributed to the head coach:

Representing East Carolina University is a privilege and any behavior that’s not in accordance with that is unacceptable. We have conduct standards and expectations in place for our program for a reason and it’s disappointing when individuals choose not to be accountable for their teammates, especially those who are perceived to be in leadership roles.

As Barnes is in his final season of eligibility, and as the three-win Pirates can’t become bowl-eligible, this ends the collegiate portion of the booter’s collegiate playing career.

With a 44-yard average, Barnes currently leads the AAC and is 19th nationally in yards per punt. Barnes came to ECU s a graduate transfer from Eastern Michigan.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)

Florida QB Luke Del Rio says he won’t use sixth season of eligibility

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The long, winding journey that’s been Luke Del Rio‘s collegiate playing career has come to an end.

Because of injuries, Del Rio had a sixth season of eligibility that he could’ve used at Florida in 2018.  Instead, the quarterback confirmed on his personal Twitter account Wednesday afternoon that he has decided to not take advantage of that additional season.

No specific reason for that decision was given.

Del Rio started the first six games of the 2016 season, only to see his second year year in Gainesville come to a premature end because of injuries.  After losing the battle for the starting job to Feleipe Franks in August of this year, Del Rio got the job back and started the Week 5 win over Vanderbilt.  Unfortunately, he suffered what turned out to be a season-ending shoulder injury in that same game.

The Swamp was actually the well-traveled Del Rio’s third college football home.

Del Rio, the son of former USC great and current NFL head coach Jack Del Riotransferred to Oregon State from Alabama in January of 2014.  He was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, and served as Sean Mannion’s primary backup that season as he completed 8-of-18 passes for 141 yards.

In May of 2015, he transferred from OSU to Florida.  He finished the Gator portion of his career completing 130-of-226 passes for 1,496 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.