Alabama Facing Manziel Football

Alabama, Texas A&M and the Heisman

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Beyond all the national implications of Saturday’s huge Alabama-Texas A&M showdown, there is the matter of how it will affect the race for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Last season’s 29-24 upset win by the Aggies over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa helped propel Johnny Manziel to an improbable Heisman. His 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns was remarkable, but his performance against Alabama assured he would become the first freshman to take home the trophy.

Almost one year later, the situation has changed. Manziel is well-established as the premier player in college football, but the obstacles in place between him and another Heisman are many.

It’s no coincidence that there’s only been one two-time Heisman winner, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who captured the trophy in 1974 and 1975. But almost 40 years of perspective hints to us that Griffin’s repeat was probably a matter of happenstance, a case of the Heisman electorate temporarily falling asleep at the wheel

Think of some of the amazing players who had a chance to pull it off but couldn’t: Doc Blanchard of Army, Doak Walker of SMU, Roger Staubach of Navy, Billy Sims of Oklahoma, Ty Detmer of BYU, Matt Leinart of USC and Tim Tebow of Florida.  The failure of these players to win that second trophy raised the bar for future players attempting a shot at it. After all, the next player to match Griffin’s feat will have to be put on the short list of all-time college football legends, right? The Heisman electorate went against normal convention and selected a freshman last time around.  Casually doling out two Heismans is another story.

Add to that the matter of Manziel’s off-season, off-field antics, and the chances of him repeating are remote.

But if Manziel is going to be the one to defy history and take his place in that pantheon of all-time greats, it all starts with what he does on Saturday. A prolific performances against the Tide would give him plenty of momentum in the race and probably assure that he at least gets a return invite to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Playing poorly in a loss to Alabama means his Heisman hopes will be officially vanquished. He’ll have to be satisfied with his one trophy.

But Manziel isn’t the only Heisman candidate in this game. There’s also A.J. McCarron, the Tide’s senior quarterback. He led the nation in passing efficiency last season while guiding his team to its second-straight national title. While he’s off to a slow start so far, he has a chance to do what no other quarterback has ever done — win three straight titles. If he plays well in leading Bama to a victory over the Aggies, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation and have a chance to get to New York if he finishes the season strong. But if Alabama loses, you can probably kiss his Heisman hopes goodbye.

When these two teams last met, the Heisman race was a mess and waiting for a player to take control. Manziel did that. But this season they meet in the early stages of the race, with several strong contenders still vying for the trophy. It’s unlikely that the outcome of this game will have the same positive impact it had last year, unless we see another legendary performance take place.

Knowing Manziel and McCarron, it could happen.

Report: QB Shane Morris to leave Michigan as grad transfer

Shane Morris
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With Wilton Speight seemingly holding down the quarterback position for the foreseeable future, Shane Morris has decided his time at Michigan should come to an end. Reportedly.

According to ESPN.com‘s Tom VanHaaren, Morris is planning to pursue a graduate transfer from UM. Should Morris leave the Wolverines in such a manner, he’d be immediately eligible to play at another FBS school in 2017.

He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Morris came to Ann Arbor with significant hype, a four-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country by 247Sports.com. In four years with the program, he started a total of two games.

The first start came at the end of his true freshman season, with an injury to Devin Gardner opening the door for Morris to start the bowl game that year. His second was memorable as well.

Morris shot to the epicenter of what became a national debate over concussion protocols after his apparently concussed self was reinserted into a mid-October game in 2014. The situation brought significant criticism on the football program, but also led to the Big Ten adopting a conference-wide standard for concussion treatment.

In 2015, Morris not only lost out on the starting job to graduate transfer Jake Rudock but also fell behind Speight on the depth chart. Spight then beat him out for the starting job this season.

Both Speight and John O’Korn, who served as the primary backup in 2016, will return for the 2017 season.

During his time at UM, Morris completed 47 of his 92 pass attempts for 434 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions. In mop-up duty this season, he went 4-5 for 45 yards.

Alabama LB Shaun Dion Hamilton reportedly tore an ACL

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Shaun Dion Hamilton #20 of the Alabama Crimson Tide returns an interception in the first quarter against the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Shortly after Alabama’s SEC championship game win over Florida Saturday, Nick Saban stated that Shaun Dion Hamilton is “probably going to be out for the year” because of an unspecified knee injury. If one report is accurate, you can take “probably” out of the equation.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com has reported that the starting inside linebacker sustained a torn ACL in his right knee during the win. An MRI confirmed the severity of the injury, although the football program has not yet acknowledged any specifics..

The injury will keep Hamilton sidelined for the College Football Playoff semifinal and, should ‘Bama get past Washington, the championship game as well.

Entering the league title game, Hamilton was second on the Tide in tackles. His 64 tackles are now third on the Tide.

He’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by Rashaan Evans.

Report: USF’s Willie Taggart to be named Oregon’s new coach

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 28: South Florida head coach Willie Taggart celebrates with his team after a first quarter touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at Raymond James Stadium on October 28, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)
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It was reported over the weekend that Oregon could have its opening at head coach filling by Tuesday.  A day later than that timeline, it appears the Ducks are on the verge of doing just that.

According to a tweet from ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, Willie Taggart of USF will be named as the next head football coach at Oregon.  No timeframe for an announcement was given.  FootballScoop.com subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The latter site added that Taggart was informed the job was his last night and that the coach wanted to let his Bulls players know today, presumably prior to an announcement being made.

Taggart was interviewed by UO athletic director Rob Mullens in Dallas last Thursday. Tony Dungy, whose son played his football for both the Ducks and Taggart at USF, has publicly stumped for the coach to be hired by the Pac-12 program.

In his fourth season with the Bulls, Taggart has seen his win total increase every year, going from two in his first season in 2013 to four to eight to a 10-win season this year that has another game to go. It’s unlikely Taggart sees this season through, however.

Taggart has also been the head coach at Western Kentucky. After a 2-10 start, he guided the Hilltoppers to a pair of seven-win seasons before leaving for the Bulls.

In addition to Taggart, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin also reportedly interviewed for the Ducks job. The program reportedly offered the position to Matt Rhule, who left Temple after he was named the head coach at Baylor Tuesday.

With Oregon apparently closed, there are no current Power Five jobs open, which seemingly means that P.J. Fleck will be staying at Western Michigan for at least another season. Counting USF, there are currently eight Group of Six jobs that will need to be filled — Cincinnati, FAU, Georgia State, Houston, Nevada, San Jose State, Temple

Jeff Tedford adds four to first Fresno State coaching staff

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Head coach Jeff Tedford of the California Golden Bears argues a call with head linesman James Wharrie during their game against the Washington Huskies at California Memorial Stadium on November 2, 2012 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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After nearly a month on the job, Jeff Tedford has made his first official hires at Fresno State.

Tuesday, Fresno announced that Tedford has added four assistant coaches to his first Bulldogs staff — Jamie Christian (running backs/special teams coordinator), Kirby Moore (wide receivers), Scott Thompson (tight ends) and J.D. Williams (defensive backs). Those four represent nearly one-half of what will be a nine-man coaching staff.

Just two of the four have been position coaches at the FBS level before — Christian and Williams.

The former spent the 2016 season as the running backs coach at UNLV, his second season with the Rebels. Christian has also spent time at FBS programs like Houston (2012-14, special teams coordinator/tight ends/inside receivers), Arizona State (2007-11, special teams coordinator/inside receivers) and Idaho (2006, special teams coordinator/running backs).

The latter was also an assistant at UNLV the past two seasons, serving as the corners coach as well. That was his second stint at UNLV, the first coming 2010-13. He’s also been a defensive backs coach at Utah (2009), Washington (2006-08) and Cal (2002-05).

Moore was an offensive grad assistant at Washington last year, his second year in the profession. Thomas was an offensive assistant at USC in 2016. Prior to that, he held football staff positions at USC (2010-15) and Tennessee (2009).

Christian, Thompson and Williams are all former Bulldogs football players. Williams also served as an assistant at his alma mater (2000-01).