Freshmen for Texas A&M, Utah killed in car accident

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There is, unfortunately, some tragic news for the Texas A&M and Utah programs today.

Aggies redshirt freshman Polo Manukainiu (pictured) and incoming Utes freshman Gaius Vaenuku were killed in a car accident in New Mexico Monday evening, the schools confirmed in separate statements. They were just 19 and 18 years old, respectively.

“We lost a terrific young man,” Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin said of Manukainiu. “Polo was loved by his teammates and coaches. Anyone who came in contact with him was struck by his sense of humor and smile. My heart aches for his mom and family members.”

“Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today,” said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham in a release. “He was the kind of young man who lit up a room and his future in football and life had no boundaries. Words cannot express our devastation over the loss of Gaius.”

Another passenger, 13-year-old Lolo Uhatafe, was also killed. Another incoming Utes lineman, Salesi Uhatafe, was injured in the wreck. Salesi’s father also survived. Lolo was Salesi’s brother, Manukainiu his stepbrother.

Here’s a portion of the A&M release that details, at least partially, what happened:

According to the report from the New Mexico State Police, he was a passenger in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia traveling south on U.S. 550 and the vehicle drifted off of the roadway and the driver over corrected and the vehicle rolled several times. Manukainiu and another passenger, Andrew Uhatafe, were ejected from the vehicle and deceased at the scene. Gaius Vaenuku, an incoming member of the Utah football team, was transported from the scene of the accident but was pronounced deceased in the ambulance. The driver and a fifth passenger were transported to San Juan Regional Hospital after sustaining minor injuries. Alcohol was not involved and it appears the driver was the only one wearing a seat belt.

Manukainiu and Vaenuku and Uhatafe played at Euless Trinity High School in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.

Though the cause of the accident is still under investigation — alcohol is not believed to be involved, but it appears the driver was the only one wearing a seat belt — Manukainiu did tweet the following on Monday: “22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

(Picture via Texas A&M)  

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.

Kent State makes firing of Paul Haynes official

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It’s official: there are currently eight openings (for now) at head coach in the FBS.

The latest to officially face the coaching guillotine is Paul Haynes, who Kent State announced Wednesday afternoon would not have his contract renewed, confirming reports that had surfaced earlier in the day.  Haynes wrapped up his fifth, and what turned out to be final season with the Golden Flashes with a 24-14 loss to rival and MAC East champion Akron Tuesday night.

“Making a coaching change is never easy,” athletic director Joel Nielsen said in a statement. “As an alum, Paul gave his all for this university and to Golden Flashes football, and moved the program forward in many ways. We thank Paul and his family for their service and commitment to Kent State student-athletes.”

In 2012, the year prior to Haynes’ arrival, Kent went 11-3.  In the five years under Haynes, they were 14-45 overall.  The Golden Flashes won either two or three games each of the past four seasons, including a 2-10 mark in 2017.

That stretch of 10 wins is the worst four-year run for the program since they won six from 1997-2000.  That was part of a lost decade-plus that saw the Golden Flashes win a combined 16 games in 12 seasons (1989-2000).

Chip Kelly reportedly turned down Tennessee offer, turned away Nebraska interest

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It really is looking like a two-school race for Chip Kelly‘s services.

On the heels of a weekend meeting with Florida officials in New Hampshire, Kelly also reportedly sat down with a contingent from UCLA this week regarding their head coach opening.  It’s been widely thought that, in the coming days — especially if the Gators have anything to say about it — Kelly would decide between UF and UCLA and likely not entertain interest from other programs.

In that vein, and citing a person with knowledge of the situation, George Schroeder of USA Today is reporting that Kelly recently turned down an offer from one SEC school and rebuffed the advances from a Big Ten program.

Kelly turned down a recent offer from Tennessee, the person said. He is also believed to have turned away interest from Nebraska.

While two schools are seemingly in the mix at the moment, Schroeder is also reporting that Arizona State, should it come open, would also be of interest to the former Oregon head coach.  Th earliest ASU would shed themselves of Todd Graham would be Saturday night as they square off with rival Arizona that afternoon.

Regardless of where Kelly lands, the current ESPN analyst is set to get paid as it’s believed that the offers he has received are in the neighborhood of $6 million annually.  As Schroeder and other media outlets have pointed out, though, there could be a sticking point with one of the two schools that have Kelly as its top target as UCLA’s apparel provider is Under Armour.  Kelly still maintains a close relationship with Phil Knight, the founder of Nike and whose company is Under Armour’s biggest rival.

While that dynamic is thought of as a sticking point, it’s not believed to be a deal breaker.

Reports: Paul Haynes out as head coach at Kent State

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And another one bites the dust.  Reportedly.

FootballScoop.com was the first to report Wednesday morning that Paul Haynes has been let go as the head football coach at Kent State.  The Associated Press subsequently confirmed the initial report, noting that the Golden Flash players were informed of the move earlier today.

The not-yet-official move to part ways with Haynes is far from surprising as the former Ohio State and Arkansas assistant is just 14-45 during his five seasons at the school.  For perspective, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2011, the year before Haynes’ arrival.

With Haynes’ ouster, there are now eight FBS head coach openings, with KSU joining Florida, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA and UTEP.