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AJ McCarron to drive pace car at Talladega

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Normally NASCAR news would fall under the purview of the fine folks at MotorSportsTalk.com, but when a two-time title-winning quarterback is involved we feel the need to at least touch on the subject.

The subject in this case is Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who will serve as the honorary pace car driver for this Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway it was announced Tuesday.  McCarron, a fan of the sport in general and the Alabama track in particular, said in a press release that he’s “always had a passion to get up to speed on the track.”

Unfortunately for the senior, he won’t actually be getting “up to speed” on the high-banked, restrictor-plate oval where speeds approach 200 miles per hour; in the pace car, McCarron will be limited to the pit road speed of 55 mph.

Prior to a Crimson Caravan appearance yesterday, head coach Nick Saban, who served as the grand marshal of the 2009 race and got to ride around in the pace car, was asked if he was concerned that the linchpin of his 2013 Tide offense would be tooling around Talladega at what’s essentially state-route speed.  Unless McCarron gets behind the wheel of a jet dryer and Bob Griese’s favorite driver Juan Pablo Montoya is in the area, and with all due respect to the questioner, there’s literally no danger involved.

Saban, though, indicated he’s had a discussion with his quarterback, and actually wishes he’d be going faster than 55 mph around the 2.66 mile layout.

Well, we talked about it,” the coach said according to al.com, adding, “If you don’t go 55 on the curve, you’re not going to stay up on the curve, so it’s actually safer to go faster.”

This weekend will mark the fourth consecutive year that a title-winning school from Alabama has been honored with a paint scheme — and one way cool helmet — on the No. 55/No. 15 Aaron’s car at the Talladega spring race.  Three of those paint schemes, of course, feted the Tide, while the Auburn Tigers were similarly honored in 2011.

Incidentally, former Atlanta Braves icon Chipper Jones will serve as the grand marshal for the race.

Alabama reportedly fills defensive assistant vacancy with Derrick Ansley

Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) is mobbed by teammates after intercepting a pass in the end zone during the first half against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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When Alabama lost defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to a head coaching position at Georgia, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban stressed his program always manages to find good coaches to fill spots left by coaches going to accept other positions. Needing to fill out its staff following the latest changes in the coaching carousel, Alabama looks to have filled a defensive assistant role with the addition of Derrick Ansley.

According to a report Sunday morning from TideSports.com (a Rivals affiliate covering Alabama), Ansley will join the coaching staff at Alabama after serving as a co-defensive coordinator for Kentucky. While in Lexington, Ansley coached the secondary for the Wildcats. It is reported he is expected to fill the same role with Alabama under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Ansley previously coached under Saban as a graduate assistant in 2010 and 2011 before moving to Tennessee for one season. He joined the Kentucky staff in 2013. At Alabama, Ansley will fill the vacancy left by Mel Tucker, who moved to Georgia with Smart. Tucker was Alabama’s secondary coach as well.

Cam Newton is first Heisman Trophy winner to win NFL MVP since Barry Sanders

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton walks onto the Auburn football field before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
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On the eve of the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was named the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League. He is the first Heisman Trophy winner to win the NFL’s MVP award since Detroit Lions running back and former Oklahoma State star Barry Sanders was named the best player in the NFL in 1997. Sanders shared the MVP honors that season with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, which means Newton is the first Heisman Trophy winner to be the outright winner of the NFL’s MVP award since 1985, when Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen won the award (Allen was a Heisman Trophy running back for USC in 1981.

Newton becomes the first quarterback to win the top honor at the college and NFL level and joins a short list by becoming the sixth player to receive both awards. Newton was a Heisman Trophy quarterback for Auburn during the 2010 season, in which he fueled a BCS Championship Run. Newton now can become the first player in football history to win the Heisman Trophy, a college national championship, NFL MVP and a Super Bowl. To do that, Newton will have to lead the Panthers past the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, who is perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time but was passed over for a Heisman Trophy by Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 (Manning finished second in the voting that season).

It is somewhat amazing to think that grand slam of football has never been achieved once since the NFL MVP award was first awarded by the Associated Press in 1957, but it also goes to show that sometimes the best players in college and the NFL do not always achieve the top-level of championship success.

Players to win Heisman Trophy and NFL MVP

  • RB Paul Hornung
  • RB O.J. Simpson
  • RB Earl Campbell
  • RB Marcus Allen
  • RB Barry Sanders
  • QB Cam Newton

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.