100th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s birth looms over Alabama-Texas A&M showdown

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When No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M face off on Saturday in College Station, it will be just the sixth time these two schools have met.

Despite this historical unfamiliarity, both teams are bound together by a common thread that goes beyond their mere status as Southeastern Conference brethren.

It stands to reason that both programs would not be in the position they are now if not for the work of one man — Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, who was born 100 years ago this week.

His first team at A&M, the 1954 squad, went 1-9 after surviving a grueling training camp at Junction, Texas. Two years later, the legendary “Junction Boys” would go undefeated and capture their first Southwest Conference championship in 15 seasons. When John David Crow won the Aggies’ first Heisman Trophy in 1957, it was in large part because Bryant vouched on his behalf.

“If he doesn’t win it, then they ought to quit giving it,” Bryant told the press.

In 1958, Bryant was tabbed by his alma mater to be its head coach and athletic director: “Momma called. And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin’,” he said of his return to Alabama.

His tenure at Alabama was remarkable.  He coached the Tide for 25 years, winning six national titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979) and thirteen SEC championships. He was the three-time national Coach of the Year.  When he finished, he had won more games than any other Division I coach, compiling a lifetime record of 323-85-17.

The Bear passed away in January of 1983, just a few weeks after retiring from football.

What would he think of these two teams getting ready to play on Saturday? He’d probably get a kick out of Johnny Manziel’s free-wheeling style — after all, he coached one Joe Namath — though it’s doubtful he’d tolerate any of his off-the-field antics. The power-running and physical approach of the Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball would be right up his alley.

Most of all, he’d be proud of what his two teams had become — national powers playing the sport at the highest of levels.

If there’s anyone left who represents the spirit of Bryant and his connection to these two schools, it’s Crow, who coached under Bryant at Alabama after starring for the Aggies on Bryant’s last team there. When Alabama and A&M storm onto Kyle Field on Saturday, he’ll be there to watch his Heisman heir try to pull off another upset. But he won’t be devastated if the Tide wins.

“I tell everybody that A&M is my true love and that I want us to win everything that we do, but Alabama is a close second because of the ties I had with Coach Bryant, and with my son playing over there,” Crow told the College Station Eagle.

If this year’s game is as exciting as last year’s 29-24 upset by A&M in Tuscaloosa, it may signal the beginning of a rather interesting and unique rivalry.

The Bear would no doubt approve.

Chris Ash adds another assistant to Rutgers staff

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It was a busy day on the assistant hiring front for Chris Ash.

Earlier Thursday, Rutgers confirmed that Noah Joseph had been hired as co-defensive coordinator as well as safeties coach.  Not long after, the football program again confirmed that Cory Robinson has been hired by Ash as well.

Robinson will serve as passing-game coordinator for the Scarlet Knights as well as cornerbacks coach.

“We are excited to have Cory and his family join our program,” said Ash in a statement. “Cory is a fast-rising young coach that will bring tremendous energy and passion to our defense. We look forward to having him develop and mentor our corners.”

Robinson spent the past two seasons as a cornerbacks coach, at Temple in 2017 and Toledo the year before.  Those were his first two years as an on-field assistant at the FBS level.

UCLA reportedly nabs Boston College offensive line coach

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UCLA head coach Chip Kelly may have his offensive line coach. According to multiple reports on Thursday, UCLA will add Justin Frye to the coaching staff to fill the vacancy at offensive line coach. Football Scoop was among the first to report the news, and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated has also reported the same development via Twitter.

Frye served as the offensive line coach at Boston College, where the Eagles have established themselves with a strong running game behind an improved offensive line. Frye will be expected to produce similar results with the Bruins as Kelly looks to bring the program up to a conference championship pedigree as quickly as possible.

Phil Trautwein was recently named as a new member of the Yale coaching staff in the Ivy League, where he was to be the offensive line coach. Now, he will instead return to Boston College, where his coaching career started. Trautwein was a graduate assistant at Boston College from 2013 through 2015 before spending two seasons as a special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Davidson. The former NFL player and Florida Gator spent four seasons in the NFL with brief stops with the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers.

UCLA’s previous offensive line coach, Hank Fraley, has moved on to the NFL to coach the position with the Detroit Lions.

SEC rolls out four-day media day schedule

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The SEC may be packing up their media day extravaganza and moving from Alabama to Atlanta, but this year’s media day schedule shows the SEC will still carefully roll out plenty of storylines over the course of a four-day love fest for the conference.

The SEC is setting up shop at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, which feels like a great landing spot for the new media day fun for the SEC. The conference has established Atlanta as a destination point for the end of the regular season and the city just played host to the first College Football Playoff national championship game between two teams from the same conference, the SEC (Alabama and Georgia). So why not kickstart a new football season with the media in Atlanta too?

New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will be the headline act for the first of the four media days for the SEC. Fisher will make his SEC Media Days debut as head coach of the Aggies on Monday, July 16. Other coaches speaking that day will be LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Day 2 will be an interesting one with Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the spotlight coming off the SEC championship last fall and new Florida head coach Dan Mullen addresses the media for the first time as the Gators coach, although the former Mississippi State head coach is no stranger to the SEC media day circuit by now. Day 2 will also be the first SEC Media Day introduction for new Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and second-year Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke (Luke took over as head coach in Oxford after SEC Media Days last summer following the removal of Hugh Freeze not long after media days).

But when is Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaking, you ask? Day 3 (Wed., July 18 for those keeping track). Saban headlines the third day of the media day event for the SEC. Two other coaches speaking that day will be new head coaches in the SEC with former Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt representing Tennessee and Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State stepping to the SEC podium for the first time. Missouri’s Barry Odom is also scheduled on day three. Day 4 will feature Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.

Player representatives for each school in addition to any other speakers will be announced at a later time.

Report: Ex-South Alabama coach Joey Jones heading to Mississippi State

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After stepping down from his position as head coach at South Alabama, Joey Jones will remain in the coaching game this fall. According to a report from Steve Robertson of 247 Sports, Jones will join the Mississippi State coaching staff and serve as the special teams coordinator for head coach Joe Moorhead.

Jones was the head coach of the upstart South Alabama program from 2008 through 2017. As head coach of the Jaguars, Jones was 52-50 and the program played in two bowl games. Among the highlights for Jones during his time at South Alabama, ironically, was a 21-20 upset victory over Mississippi State to open the 2016 season. South Alabama was a four-touchdown underdog against the Bulldogs and survived for an upset win after Mississippi State kicker missed an extra point attempt. Mississippi State held leads of 17-0 and 20-7 in the game before letting it slip away.

The hiring of Jones continues a trend for Moorhead in building his first coaching staff with the Bulldogs. Although Moorhead has his own experience as a head coach prior to his arrival at Mississippi State, Moorhead has been building his coaching staff with assistants with previous head coaching experience as well. Tight ends coach Mark Hudspeth and quarterback coach Andrew Breiner each bring head coaching experience to the program that, in theory, will make for a more competent coaching staff on the sidelines this fall and moving forward.

Jones will replace Scott Fountain, who left Mississippi State for Georgia amid the coaching carousel this offseason.