Lane Kiffin

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.

Jim Harbaugh, on rap video criticisms: ‘It’s only uptight white people that didn’t like it’

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh plays shirtless with participants during the Coach Jim Harbaugh's Elite Summer Football Camp, Friday, June 5, 2015, at Prattville High School in Prattville, Ala. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)  NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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What, did you expect Jim Harbaugh to not make some noise at the Big Ten Media Days?

Earlier this month, the Michigan head coach appeared in the video for a rap song titled “Who’s Got It Better Than Us?” If you were a Wolverines fan, you liked it; if you were not a fan of the program, you more than likely abhorred it. And you were probably a stick-up-the-keister caucasian for that matter.

At least, that’s Harbaugh’s take on the criticism, as he relayed during his time with the media Monday.

There you have it, white people, from, ironically enough, the Pasty Khaki King himself.

And, not surprisingly, Harbaugh’s off-field antics aren’t likely in the past.

“My default is usually yes,” Harbaugh said, from transcripts provided by the conference, when asked about how the video came to fruition and why he did it. “Action, why not? And the reaction has been very good. I’ve gotten multiple texts, phone calls, comments from people that really liked it and I think the cool people liked it.”

Take that, uncool white folk.

Jarrett Stidham granted release by Baylor, just not to other Big 12 teams

Jarrett Stidham, Lemaefe Galea'i
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Unlike some recent 2016 signee defections, Jarrett Stidham won’t be afforded the opportunity to haunt Baylor — at least not in conference play.

Earlier this month, Stidham confirmed rampant speculation via Twitter that he would be transferring from the Bears and continuing his playing career elsewhere. Fastforward nearly four weeks, and the quarterback confirmed to ESPN.com that he has been granted a release from his BU scholarship, albeit with restrictions.

Specifically, Stidham will not permitted to transfer to any current member of the Big 12. Texas Tech, which had received a verbal commitment from Stidham before he flipped to BU two months before Signing Day 2015, had been mentioned as a potential landing spot for the transfer.

Other than other members of the league, Stidham is free to transfer anywhere he desires, including schools already on BU’s future schedules during his remaining eligibility. Those would include SMU (2016), Rice (2016-2019), Duke (2017/2018) and UT-San Antonio (2017-2018).

If Stidham goes the FBS route for 2016, he would be forced to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws by sitting out the upcoming season, and would then have three season of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017. There’s also speculation that Stidham could take the junior college path for a season and then move back to the FBS for his final three seasons, although his next step is currently unknown.

A four-star member of the Bears’ 2015 recruiting class, Stidham was rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Texas.

Last season, Stidham started three games as a true freshman in place of the injured Seth Russell before going down with a broken ankle that ended his own season.  He had been penciled in as the Bears’ quarterback of the future when the senior Russell departed after the 2016 season.

LB Christian Bell becomes latest ‘Bama player to transfer

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15: The flag girls of the Alabama Crimson Tide marching band perform before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2008 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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For the third time this offseason — a number that could ultimately turn into four — Alabama has seen a player depart Nick Saban‘s football program.

On Twitter over the weekend, Christian Bell announced that, “[a]fter a lot of thoughts and prayers,” he has decided to transfer from the Crimson Tide. The linebacker gave no reason for his departure less than two weeks before the start of summer camp, although al.com has an idea:

Alabama is very deep at outside linebacker and has several other young outside linebackers who were higher-rated recruits than Bell and were ahead of Bell on the depth chart.

Bell took a “grayshirt” for the 2015 season, ultimately enrolling in classes at UA this past January. The Birmingham, Ala., native participated in spring practice with the Tide this year.

A three-star recruit according to 247Sports.com, Bell was rated as the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 17 player at any position in the state of Alabama.

In January, it was reported that Shawn Burgess-Becker had decided to transfer, with the defensive back ultimately moving on to UCF. A month after Burgess-Becker’s departure surfaced, reports emerged that linebacker Adonis Thomas was leaving ‘Bama for a junior college.

Senior defensive back Maurice Smith has also been granted permission to transfer, although Smith’s family at one time indicated that the door was open for a return. Earlier this month, it was reported that UA had thus far denied Smith a release from his scholarship.

Florida’s Geoff Collins could become next million dollar coordinator

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: The Florida Gators run onto the field before the game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Heading into his second season in Gainesville, Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins just received a significant raise.

Collins, who signed a three-year contract paying him $600,000 annually after leaving Mississippi State to join Jim McElwain‘s staff last winter, netted a bump to $890,000 with a $150,000 retention bonus according to contract details obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

Nine assistants earned at least $1 million in 2015 according to USA Today, with six of those hailing from the SEC.

Additionally, defensive line coach Chris Rumph‘s salary moved to $500,000 with a one-year extension through the 2017 season, offensive line coach Mike Summers will earn $498,500, linebackers coach Randy Shannon‘s $400,000 salary grew by just under $10,000, and new defensive backs coach Torrian Gray signed a two-year deal paying him $335,000 annually.

Florida’s defense ranked eighth nationally in yards per play allowed in 2015, helping the Gators win an unexpected SEC East championship.