With the Penn State quarterback direction heading down a different path, Steven Bench opted to transfer to South Florida in hopes of getting a better chance to start this season. This weekend that opportunity will finally come. South Florida will start Bench at quarterback as the 0-3 Bulls host the undefeated Miami Hurricanes in Tampa.
“He’s still not there where he knows our offense completely, so we’ve got to be smart with what ask him to do,” USF coach Willie Taggart said according to an ESPN.com report. “We don’t need him to be Tom Brady. We want him to be Steven Bench.”
So who is Steven Bench?
Bench is a Georgia native who was not heavily recruited, but accepted a scholarship offer from Bill O’Brien at Penn State, a good first step for O’Brien’s recruiting plan to move south. Bench backed up Matt McGloin and played only s a last resort last season. In a week two game against Virginia Bench filled in for an injured McGloin and completed two of eight pass attempts. That was Bench’s only football action in 2012, his freshman year. Bench practiced with the Nittany Lions in the spring but O’Brien chose to move in a different direction with the quarterback position with the addition of junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and incoming blue chip quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Bench transferred to South Florida after learning he would be the odd man out in State College. His transfer came under the NCAA sanctions allowing all Penn State scholarship players to transfer to another program without having to sit out a season, a sanction that has now expired.
Bench’s first college start will come against a tough Miami defense. Miami is ranked 11th in the nation against the pass with opposing quarterbacks completing just 51.1 percent of their pass attempts. Miami has intercepted six passes and allowed just one passing touchdown. That includes two red zone interceptions and the Hurricanes have not allowed a red zone touchdown pass.
Bench will be the third starting quarterback for South Florida early in the season. Matt Floyd lost the starting job very early in the year in a season opening loss to McNeese State and Bobby Eveld was yanked last weekend against Florida Atlantic. The Bulls are ranked 113rd in the country in passing offense, averaging 135 yards per game through the air.
Following a somewhat disappointing season in Knoxville, changes are in the air for the Tennessee Vols coaching staff. Among the first changes of the offseason comes at the defensive back coaching position.
Tennessee has announced the addition of Charlton Warren as the new defensive backs coach for the Vols. It is the same role he previously filled at North Carolina for the past two seasons. Warren will replace Willie Martinez, who will not be returning to the Tennessee staff in 2017, according to a released statement from the university’s athletics department.
“Coach Warren is a passionate, knowledgeable and driven football coach that has an outstanding history of developing defensive backs on the collegiate level,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said in a released statement. “He also has a great reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country with strong ties to our recruiting areas. We feel extremely fortunate to add someone of his caliber to our coaching staff and our defensive meeting room.”
Tennessee finished ranked 10th in the SEC in passing defense, allowing an average of 230.7 yards per game through the air to opposing quarterbacks. The Vols allowed the fifth-lowest opponent passer rating and picked off 11 passes while allowing 18 touchdown passes, which actually fared well among SEC peers even if just around the middle of the pack or just toward the bottom half of the conference in each category. For a school that prides itself on its defensive backs, a change was necessary.
North Carolina owned the ACC’s top pass defense in 2016, allowing just 180.8 yards per game and 11 touchdown passes. The one downside was having just one interception recorded in 13 games. Every other FBS program had at least three interceptions last season. How UNC only picked off one pass all season long is quite a remarkable feat considering how respectable the pass defense was last season.
With some room to work on the Alabama coaching staff this offseason, head coach Nick Saban has found the right opportunity to promote Mike Locksley to a full-time offensive assistant role in Tuscaloosa. The hiring was made official by Alabama on Monday.
Locksley spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide. He spent the previous four seasons as an offensive coordinator at Maryland and was previously the head coach of New Mexico from 2009 through 2011. Locksley previously spent time in the SEC as a running backs coach and recruiting coordinator for Florida in 2003 and 2004 as well. He is a well-known recruiting machine, as if Alabama needs any extra help in that department (I say this in a joking manner, because Alabama didn’t get to where they are today without having to grind on the recruiting trail).
“We are excited to add Mike Locksley to our staff as an assistant coach on the offensive side of the football,” Saban said in a released statement. “He is an outstanding offensive mind who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as both a head coach and offensive coordinator. Mike is also one of the best recruiters in the nation and will be an excellent addition to our staff. His time as an analyst with us over the past season should also ensure a smooth transition and a full understanding of how our organization operates.”
The University of Alabama Board of Trustees still needs to approve the contract to make Locksley’s hiring official, but that should just be a formality.
Ohio running back Maleek Irons was arrested over the weekend for his role in fleeing a possible drunk driving accident.
The Athens News reports Irons was arrested Saturday morning by police responding to a call about “an intoxicated male driving a vehicle, colliding with other vehicles, and fleeing the scene.” The vehicles connected to the call was found off the road at 3:39 a.m. When police discovered the car, Irons got out of the car and started to run tow a dorm on Ohio’s campus, failing to stop when commanded by the officer.
Irons has been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resisting arrest and obstructing official business. He was released on bond and has a court appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning. There has been no statement from Ohio on his status with the program, although an indefinite suspension of some sort may be expected as is usually the case when an issue like this arises.
With Irons finding himself in some legal hot water, that means The Fulmer cup season is officially underway.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the most powerful person within the Alabama sports department, but even he has a boss. Now, he will have a new boss.
Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle is stepping down into retirement from his current position, although he will remain active in the university as a special assistant to university president Stuart Bell. Battle has been fighting through health issues and completed treatment for cancer last summer. His vacant spot in the athletics department will be filled by Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne. A formal announcement has not been made as of yet, but multiple reports have confirmed the pending Byrne hiring. (UPDATE: Alabama has since formally announced the hiring of Byrne)
”Bill has done a tremendous job as director of athletics, and has accomplished so much during his career,” Bell said, according to the Associated Press. ”His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel.”
The hiring of Byrne takes Alabama outside its own foundation to bring in an outsider to lead the sports department. Byrne is an Idaho native who has worked in an administrative role in two SEC schools, so he will be familiar with the landscape the conference has to offer. Byrne was the athletics director of Mississippi State from 2008 through 2010 before moving to Arizona for the past six years. At Mississippi State, Byrne hired football coach Dan Mullen. Byrne also held an associate AD role at Kentucky, where he directed development and fundraising efforts for the Wildcats.