Exiting spring, head coach Bill O’Brien firmly stated that neither Tyler Ferguson (pictured) nor Steven Bench had separated themselves in the race to replace Matt McGloin as Penn State’s starting quarterback. With Bench transferring to USF, and with five-star 2013 signee Christian Hackenberg on his way, it was thought the competition would become a two-player chase.
At least for now, that particular summer camp storyline has officially been set.
In his latest depth chart released Thursday, O’Brien listed the quarterbacks as Ferguson followed by Hackenberg, but separated by an “OR.” Thus, the two players will enter camp, which begins Aug. 5 after the players report the day before, as co-starters.
Ferguson was an early enrollee at Penn State this past January after spending the 2012 season at a California junior college. Hackenberg, on the other hand, comes to Happy Valley with a very heft recruiting résumé.
The five-star player was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013; the No. 3 player in the state of Virginia; and the No. 24 player in the country at any position. 247Sports.com was even higher on Hackenberg, rating him as the top player at his position as well as the No. 6 player overall.
“We have a very good feeling about our team this summer,” O’Brien said in general, although he could very well have been talking specifically about the state of the most important position on a football field — and a certain incoming freshman who most expect will grab the starting by the throat from the get-go and run away with it.
Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season. Thursday, that trio became a quartet.
On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January. The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.
If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.
Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.
North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft. The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.
“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”
“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”
Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played. The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.
Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining. Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.
The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job. According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.
The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today. It could, though, come this weekend.
Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.
In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.
In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.
This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.
Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco. The biggest negative to the hire? Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.
Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed. Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.
Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years. Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.
The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.