Trojan football legends close ranks around Ed Orgeron

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USC athletic director Pat Haden is still working on finding a full-time head football coach for the Trojans, but some pretty big names in school lore have already made up their minds.

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen and NFL Hall-of-Famers Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz and Ron Yary are all getting behind interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

The four players provided the following quotes to the Los Angeles Times over the weekend:

“From the depths of despair, from a program that was flat-lining, he has made a tremendous turnaround,” said Allen, the first former player to talk to the team after Lane Kiffin was fired Sept. 29. “Here’s a guy who cares about his players, treats them like his sons, and he wants the very best for them. So he’s going to put you in the right position to be successful. He wants these guys to realize their dream, but he knows the only way to do it is to be tough.”

“To me, Ed Orgeron is like Marv Goux,” Lott said, referring to the legendary Trojans player-turned-assistant who coached at the school for three decades and died in 2002. “Ed Orgeron showed me, and showed a lot of people, that . . . in terms of moving forward, he’s got to be considered. He’s not only got to be considered, but he should be very high on the list.”

“I’d hate to be in Pat’s shoes right now,” Munoz said. “I think Ed, at least from me being there a couple of times, I think he’s done a phenomenal job. The whole atmosphere is different. Not once has he mentioned the lack of scholarships [because of NCAA sanctions]. That impresses me.

“It’s not fair for me to think for Pat,” Yary said. “But if there’s a guy who’s stepping up to earn it, [Orgeron] has so far. He’s certainly turned the program around. . . . I’ve met Ed and hear a lot of good things about him from other people. I’m sure they’ll give him a fair opportunity to get the job. If he wins the rest of the games, I think he’s put himself up for a job offer.”

Impressive quotes to be sure. But to add some perspective, consider that former USC players haven’t always been known to be the best judges of coaching talent in the past. Another Trojan Heisman winner, former athletic director Mike Garrett, hit the jackpot when hiring Pete Carroll but missed badly with Paul Hackett and Lane Kiffin.  Former USC All-American wide receiver Mike Williams said the following when Garrett hired Kiffin: “God is shining on the Trojan faithful. I couldn’t imagine a better pick.”  And here is what Allen said about Kiffin in 2011:

“I think Lane is doing a good job. In talking to Lane, he wants to bring back that culture of toughness and being physical to play smart football. I know that he is challenged with the amount of scholarships and so forth. I think he is headed in the right direction. I think he understands the philosophy of football as we discussed. That is where he wants to take USC which is good.”

So take all these opinions with a grain of salt.  As Haden said last week:

“What Ed had done has been absolutely remarkable. He is clearly in our eyesight. We understand. It’s not just the fans. We’re sophisticated enough and know enough about this to understand the attributes that he has and he’s a known quantity.

“But my job is to find the best coach of USC, not just for this year, for five, six or eight games or next year, but hopefully for five, ten or 15 years. So we’re going to go through this process we have and at the end of the day, I think we’ll have a rational decision. And I completely understand that people are going to disagree with the decision I make, no matter who it is, right? So we’re going to get that. I’m fully prepared for that.”

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

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And you can pardon the whole of the state of Arkansas if they let out a collective “thank goodness.”

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that Cole Hedlund is transferring to North Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014 at Arkansas, Hedlund spent the next three seasons as a placekicker for the Razorbacks.

The Argyle, Tex., native opted to transfer from UA for his final season of eligibility.  He’s the youngest son of UNT women’s soccer coach John Hedlund.

For his career with the Razorbacks, Hedlund hit on 14 of his 24 field goal attempts.  He also connected on all 91 extra point attempts.  His best season came in 2015 when he led the team in scoring with 85 points.

The past season, however, was a rough one.  After missing both field goal attempts in a Sept. 9 loss to TCU — the misses came from 20 and 23 yards out — Hedlund never attempted another kick for the Razorbacks the rest of the season.

“It was basically a PAT, and it was a perfect protection and a perfect snap. It’s inexcusable,” then-head coach Bret Bielema said at the time.

Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down

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A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.

The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach.  Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.

Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU.  From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”

“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”

In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired.  Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.

Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.

Michigan State promotes Mike Tressel to DC, adds ex-Kent State HC as DBs coach

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Mark Dantonio looked inside and out of his football program to fill some holes in his Michigan State staff.

Nearly two weeks ago, Harlon Barnett left as MSU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach to take a job at Florida State.  That left Dantonio with two openings, one of which the head coach closed Friday by promoting Mike Tressel to defensive coordinator.

Tressel and Barnett had served as co-coordinators the past three seasons; the nephew of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will now serve as the Spartans’ solo coordinator moving forward.

“Mike has done a tremendous job working with the defense,” said Dantonio in a statement. “He’s been deeply involved with everything with the defense since we first arrived here, and has helped coach some championship defenses that have been ranked consistently among the best in the nation, year in and year out. He did a great job as co-coordinator the past three years. He’s certainly earned this opportunity and I think he’ll do an outstanding job.”

To replace Barnett as defensive backs coach, Dantonio turned to Paul Haynes.  The past five years, Haynes was the head coach at Kent State before being dismissed at the end of the 2017 regular season.

This serves as a homecoming of sorts for Haynes as well.  From 2003-04, he was the defensive backs coach for the Spartans under John Smith.

The 48-year-old Haynes has also been a secondary coach at Arkansas (2012), Ohio State (2005-10), Louisville (2002) and Kent State (1999).

“We’re very, very excited about Paul,” said Dantonio. “He’s coached here before so he’s got a Spartan background. He was secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, so he’s coached on the highest level with the secondary. He was a defensive coordinator at Arkansas as well. He’s been a head coach at Kent State, so I think that gives him a big picture feel. I think he’s an excellent recruiter. He’s a dynamic person as well, so we’re excited to have him on campus.”

Willie Taggart finalizes first Florida State coaching staff

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Exactly 45 days after being announced as Florida State’s new head coach, Willie Taggart has put the finishing touches on his first Seminoles staff.

Friday night, FSU confirmed that Taggart has completed his 10-man staff with the additions of five new assistants.  It was reported this week that Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell would be taking the same job at FSU; the school confirmed as much today, with Bell also taking over as quarterbacks coach.

The other four hires consisted of Greg Frey (offensive line/running-game coordinator), David Kelly (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator), Mark Snyder (defensive ends) and Alonzo Hampton (special teams coordinator).

That fivesome joins the other five assistants previously announced:

  • Harlon Barnett, defensive coordinator and defensive back
  • Odell Haggins, associate head coach and defensive tackles
  • Raymond Woodie, linebackers
  • Telly Lockette, tight ends
  • Donte’ Pimpleton, running backs

Haggins is the lone holdover from Jimbo Fisher‘s last staff.

“From the beginning of this process, my goal was to bring in the best coaches for our program and I believe we have done that,” Taggart said. “This group will do a great job of recruiting, developing, coaching and mentoring our student-athletes to reach their highest potential. I’m excited for the next few weeks as we are finalizing our 2018 signing class and then working with our team as we prepare for spring practice.”