With Kiffin canned, to whom does USC turn?

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Shortly after Arizona State had put the finishing touches on an yet another embarrassing loss for the storied USC football program, the questions surrounding the future of head coach Lane Kiffin once again surfaced. Less than three hours later, at 4:28 a.m. PT, the athletic department posted the following on its Twitter account:

“Breaking news: Lane Kiffin has been relieved of his duties as USC’s head football coach per AD Pat Haden.”

And with that, the Kiffin Era in Los Angeles came to a (merciful) end in an LAX parking lot.

Despite extremely punitive NCAA sanctions slapped on the program… despite very steadfast support from his athletic director… the physical act of canning the 38-year-old Kiffin was the easy part.  Beginning in 2012 and after being picked by many as the No. 1 team in the country heading into the new season, the admittedly undermanned Trojans have stumbled and tripped their way to a 10-8 record, including a 5-6 mark in Pac-12 play.  Oregon and Stanford have far surpassed USC in the Pac-12 football pecking order; perhaps more importantly, hated cross-town rival UCLA has done the same.

No, the hard part will be just who Pat Haden hires to replace the man hired by his predecessor.  Haden was tabbed by his alma mater in August of 2010 to replace Mike Garrett, and this will easily be the biggest hire the former Rhodes Scholar makes and will leave the most lasting impact on his résumé.

The good news for Haden specifically and the Trojan fan base in general is that USC still has a helluva lot to offer any potential Kiffin replacement.  From sparkling new facilities to well-heeled boosters to a fertile recruiting base to lasting brand name, USC remains one of the top jobs at the FBS level.

With just a couple of hours to digest the stunning (but yet not-so-stunning) news, here’s a quick-hit look at just whose name will be mentioned — realistically or not — as Kiffin’s replacement, knowing full well that the actual permanent successor likely won’t come from this initial pool of possibilities.

CHRIS PETERSEN
Regardless of how big of a pipe dream this may be, anyone and everyone knows full well that USC officials will back the Brinks truck up to the Broncos head coach’s door and dare him not to answer.  Prior to Kiffin’s hiring, Petersen was reportedly contacted by USC about their opening and rejected the overtures.  In December of 2011, Petersen reportedly rejected UCLA — for a second time — when they offered him $4 million annually at a time he was making just over $1.5 with the Broncos.  Petersen has had myriad opportunities to leave Boise, and has yet to take the financial bait.  Don’t expect him to do it this time, either.  Probably.

JACK DEL RIO
The former USC All-American’s name is already being bandied about as perhaps the top candidate to replace Kiffin.  Currently the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, Del Rio was also mentioned as a possibility to replace Pete Carroll.  Del Rio has never been a coach — head, assistant or otherwise — at the collegiate level and it would be stunning if the Trojans went in this direction.  Speaking of which…

JEFF FISHER
Another former USC All-American, Fisher’s name, as expected, surfaced (again) earlier this month even before Kiffin was officially booted in an LAX parking lot.  Like Del Rio, Fisher has never been a coach at the collegiate level.  Would Fisher give up a head coaching job in the NFL to return home and rescue his college program?  Don’t look for USC to even give him an opportunity to make such a choice despite a segment of the fan base that would love to see it happen.

JAMES FRANKLIN
Four names in, and this might be the most realistic and viable option.  While Franklin has very few ties to the West Coast — one year at Washington State (1998) and one at Idaho State (1999) — he’s one of the best young head coaches in the game and turned Vanderbilt into a competitive football program in the best football conference in the country, no small feat that won’t go unnoticed by those at this level looking for a new coach.  Franklin is one of the top recruiters in the game, and has done well on that battlefield in the SEC; one could imagine what he would do on the fertile California recruiting grounds with “less-intense” competition plus his ties in that arena to the South.

STEVE SARKISIAN
Sarkisian is just 30-25 in his four-plus years at Washington, but he has the Huskies undefeated and ranked (at the moment) No. 16 in the country.  He was a USC assistant for seven of the eight years prior to his hiring by UW and grew up in Torrance, Calif., less than an hour’s drive to Los Angeles.  It would be beyond surprising if Haden didn’t at least reach out to Sarkisian let alone not make a full-blown effort to land him.

GREG ROMAN
Roman was the offensive coordinator at Stanford for two seasons before following Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers.  He has previously been linked to openings at Cal and Penn State.  With the success Harbaugh had in the Pac-12, and with Roman playing a role in it, this could be a direction in which Haden turns.  Keep an eye on this name.

KIRBY SMART
As far as coordinators, it wouldn’t take long to call roll on those more respected than Alabama’s defensive (co-) boss.  He’s had numerous opportunities to leave Nick Saban’s side the past couple of years but has remained in Tuscaloosa as the situation simply wasn’t right.  Smart’s entire coaching career has been east of the Mississippi; would the bright lights of LA scare him off if the Trojans came knocking?

CHAD MORRIS
If Haden is looking to go outside the box, you wouldn’t get much further out than this.  Not only has the Clemson offensive coordinator never been a head coach at the collegiate level, he didn’t take his first college job until 2010 at the age of 42 after a highly successful run as a high school coach in Texas.  Despite that lack of experience, Morris is one of the brightest and most respected offensive minds in college football — Urban Meyer tried to lure him to Ohio State upon his hiring — and has turned the Tigers’ offense into one of the nation’s best.  With college football leaning more and more toward up-tempo offense, especially in the Pac-12, kicking the tires on Morris might make sense on some level.

Mike Riley
USC’s offensive coordinator from 1993-96, the 60-year old Riley has spent the past 11 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State.  While it would seem unlikely that a coach of his age would make a move, he did reply “you never know” when the Los Angeles Daily News asked a couple of years ago about a potential return to the Trojans.  That same paper is already listing Riley as a possibility, although that would be hard to see becoming a viable option if for nothing more than the age factor.

KEVIN SUMLIN
I’m not saying USC will reach out to the Texas A&M head coach, but I’m saying they damn well should.  And they’d better do it before the NFL gets its hooks into one of the brightest coaches at the FBS level.  It won’t be easy for anyone to pry Sumlin out of College Station, though, as A&M officials will rightly do anything and everything to blunt even flirtatious overtures let alone full-blown pursuits.  It wouldn’t seem like Sumlin would leave an SEC job to plow new ground out west, but stranger things have happened.

DAVID SHAW
See above.  The Stanford head coach’s name has already been mentioned as longshot possibility, although it seems more likely that he would leave The Farm for the NFL rather than another college job.

JON GRUDEN
In accordance with federal and state regulations, we’re required to include Chucky on any and all lists related to major head-coaching vacancies.  Seeing as his wife was not a cheerleader at USC, though, we highly doubt this one has a torso much less legs.

Chip Kelly completes first UCLA coaching staff

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Nearly two months to the day he was hired, Chip Kelly has put the finishing touches on his first college coaching staff in six years.

Tuesday afternoon, the Bruins confirmed the hiring of three new assistant coaches: Dana Bible (quarterbacks coach), Roy Manning (outside linebackers, special teams coordinator) and Vince Oghobaase (defensive line).

Bible’s last job in the coaching profession came as an offensive assistant for Kelly with the San Francisco 49ers; he last spent time at the collegiate level as the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State from 2007-12.  The first four years with the Wolfpack, he was also quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, while he dropped the receivers coach role his last season with the ACC program.

Manning spent the past three seasons at Washington State, with Oghobaase working the last two seasons with the 49ers.  One of those years, obviously, was spent with Kelly.

Kelly retained four of Jim Mora’s former assistants: wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, running backs coach DeShaun Foster, offensive line coach Hank Fraley and Angus McClure, who returns to coaching the tight end position.  The program had previously announced the hirings of Jerry Azzinaro as the defensive coordinator, Don Pellum as inside linebackers coach and Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach.

With Tua Tagovailoa lurking, Bryce Love is Bovada’s way-too-early 2018 Heisman favorite

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The 2018 season doesn’t kick off for another seven-plus months, but it’s never too early for a little wagering action.

Two weeks after the 2017 regular season ended, Bovada.lv released its first set of odds as to who will win the 2018 Heisman Trophy.  Not surprisingly, running back Bryce Love, who stunned most observers by returning to Stanford for another season, has been listed by the sportsbook as a slight 7/1 favorite.  Love is the only returning finalist for the 2017 award, and he finished a distant second to winner Baker Mayfield.

Two other players who finished in the Top 10 in the 2017 Heisman voting, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (6th) and UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (8th), are listed in Bovada‘s initial set of odds — Taylor right behind Love at 8/1 and Milton at 18/1.

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, who could greatly benefit from the hiring of Kevin Sumlin as head coach, is at 9/1.  National championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa, who has never started a game at the collegiate level, is at 10/1, with the Alabama quarterback ahead of the likes of Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins (12/1), Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (12/1), Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (15/1) and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (18/1).

West Virginia’s David Sills (45/1) is the only wide receiver listed.  There are also two defensive linemen on the board — Houston’s Ed Oliver (55/1) and Ohio State’s Nick Bosa (75/1).

And, for those who are curious, here are the top four in the odds Bovada released for the 2017 Heisman exactly one year ago today: Mayfield (11/2), Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (6/1), Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (7/1) and USC quarterback Sam Darnold (9/1).  The Oklahoma quarterback won the award, of course, while Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner, was one of three finalists.  The other two didn’t crack the Top 10 in votes.

Below are the complete set of odds for the 2018 Heisman Trophy, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Bryce Love (RB Stanford) 7/1
Johnathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) 8/1
Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) 9/1
Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama) 10/1
J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) 12/1
Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) 12/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) 12/1
Will Grier (QB West Virginia) 12/1
Justin Herbert (QB Oregon) 15/1
Kelly Bryant (QB Clemson) 15/1
McKenzie Milton (QB UCF) 18/1
Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 18/1
Cam Akers (RB Florida State) 22/1
Jake Browning (QB Washington) 22/1
Rodney Anderson (RB Oklahoma) 25/1
Ryan Finley (QB NC State) 25/1
Brandon Winbush (QB Notre Dame) 35/1
D'Andre Swift (RB Georgia) 35/1
Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 35/1
Travis Etienne (RB Clemson) 35/1
David Sills (WR West Virginia) 45/1
Ed Oliver (DL Houston) 55/1
Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State) 75/1

Michigan QB Alex Malzone moves on to the MAC Miami

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Nearly two months after leaving Michigan, Alex Malzone has found himself a new college football home.

Taking to his social media accounts Monday evening, Malzone announced that he will be enrolling at Miami (Ohio) and will continue his playing career with the RedHawks. “Beyond pumped to join Coach [Chuck] Martin and this team,” the quarterback wrote.

Because he’s leaving U-M as a graduate transfer, he can play immediately this season for the MAC school.  Even better for Martin, 2018 will be the first of two seasons of eligibility Malzone has remaining.

A four-star member of the Wolverines’ 2015 recruiting class, Malzone was rated as the No. 14 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Michigan.  While he played in three games — one in each of the past three seasons — during his brief time in Ann Arbor, the 6-2, 224-pound signal-caller didn’t attempt a pass.

Kirk Ferentz adds Derrick Foster as 10th Iowa assistant

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As head coaches across the country continue to take advantage of the new 10th assistant rule, Kirk Ferentz is the latest to bolster the size of his staff.

Derrick Foster, the football program announced Tuesday, has been hired by Ferentz. While the school didn’t specify what position or positions for which Foster would be responsible, it did state that the hiring would allow tight ends coach/special teams coordinator LeVar Woods to concentrate on special teams.

That would seem to indicate Foster will be in charge of tight ends, which would mark his first on-field job at the FBS level.

“Derrick is an outstanding person and has built an impressive resume with experience at multiple levels of college football,” said Ferentz in a statement. “He has an impressive record of success on the recruiting trail that will strengthen and expand our existing efforts.”

Foster has spent the past two seasons as the running backs coach and running-game coordinator at FCS Stamford.  Prior to that, he was the running backs coach (2013) and wide receivers coach (2014-15) at Northwestern State.

“My wife, Bianca, and I are excited to be afforded this wonderful opportunity to become a part of the Iowa family as well as the Iowa City community,” said Foster. “Our journey is continuing, as this provides us with the opportunity to be part of a great staff and a University that is committed to excellence. I have a lot of respect for the stability and commitment of coach Ferentz and his longevity with the program. I feel fortunate and look forward to working with coach Ferentz and his dedicated staff.”