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.
In the year prior to Seth Littrell‘s arrival in Denton, North Texas went through an abysmal one-win season. Twelve months later, they participated in the postseason. A couple of months after that, the football program’s head coach has been rewarded for the immediate turnaround.
In a press release Friday afternoon, UNT announced that the university and Littrell have reached an agreement on a new five-year deal. The school’s Board of regents has already signed off on the contract.
With the new deal, the 38-year-old Littrell is now signed through the 20121 season.
There’s no official word yet as to what financial enhancements were included as part of the new pact. Last season, his first as a head coach, Littrell was paid $815,000. That number was third among Conference USA coaches in 2016 according to USA Today‘s salary database.
“We are excited to announce this new agreement with coach Littrell,” said athletic director Wren Baker in a statement. “Under one of the brightest young coaches in the country, our football program had the second-best turnaround in the nation last season and his performance was recognized by his colleagues and media members around the nation. This new contract represents an aggressive move to keep coach Littrell, his staff, and their positive momentum intact. This is validation of the successful efforts that Seth has led in the early stages of the turnaround of North Texas football.”
While the Mean Green finished the 2016 regular season 5-7, they were one of the five-win teams to qualify for a bowl game. It was the program’s first bowl appearance since 2013 and just the second in the last dozen years.
The four-win turnaround from the previous season was the second-best at the FBS level.
North Carolina’s reported poaching of North Texas’ coaching staff is officially official.
UNC acknowledged in a press release Friday that Mike Ekeler has been hired as the Tar Heels’ new linebackers coach. Ekeler will take over the job previously held by John Papuchis, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gene Chizik abruptly stepped down to spend more time with his family.
“We’re thrilled to add Mike to our coaching staff,” said head coach Larry Fedora in a statement. “He’s a well-respected, energetic coach who has worked with other members of our defensive staff in the past, which will make the transition to Carolina that much easier. He’s an outstanding coach and recruiter who will be a great fit for our program. We look forward to having Mike and his wife and kids join the UNC family.”
Ekeler spent the 2016 season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Mean Green. Prior to joining UNT, he spent two seasons as inside linebackers coach at Georgia.
He’s also worked on coaching staffs at USC (2013), Indiana (2011-12), Nebraska (2008-10), LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04). At the latter two stops, Ekeler served as a graduate assistant.
Not surprisingly, Syracuse’s top returning defensive back will get to spend a little additional time with the Orange.
On social media Thursday, Antwan Cordy announced that the NCAA has granted him a medical hardship waiver for his 2016 season. Because of the medical redshirt, the safety will have two seasons of eligibility at his disposal instead of just the one prior to the decision.
Should he choose, Cordy could play for the Orange in 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Cordy started the first two games last year, but sustained what turned out to be a season-ending arm injury in a Week 2 loss to Louisville.
In 2015, Cordy started all 12 games for the Orange, with the 5-8, 175-pounder’s 12 tackles for loss leading the team and setting a school record for defensive backs. That total was also second in the ACC amongst secondary players (Duke’s Jeremy Cash, 18).
Paul Chryst is certainly taking a unique approach in reconstituting his Wisconsin coaching staff.
Earlier this month, Chryst hired Jim Leonhard as his new defensive coordinator despite the latter having just one year of experience as a coach at any level. Now, reports have surfaced that Chryst is bringing Bob Bostad back to Madison to fill a vacancy on the staff.
While Bostad was an offensive assistant during his first tour of duty with the Badgers, he’ll be a defensive coach in this latest stint. Specifically, he’ll serve as UW’s inside linebackers coach.
Bostad would technically replace Justin Wilcox, the coordinator Leonhard replaced after Wilcox took the head-coaching job at Cal last month.
From 2006-11, Bostad was an assistant for the Badgers — the first two seasons as tight ends coach, the last four as offensive line coach. After spending four seasons as the line coach for two NFL franchises — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Tennessee Titans (2014-15) — Bostad spent the 2016 season as tight ends coach at Northern Illinois.
In a coaching career that spans 27 seasons, this would be Bostad’s first job on the defensive side of the ball.
UPDATED 12:59 p.m. ET: Wisconsin has confirmed the hiring of Bostad.