Is Bill O’Brien considering leaving Penn State for the NFL? Only he knows

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This time of year is always littered with coaching rumor after coaching rumor. Some are based on facts that may end up being credible (Mack Brown resigning at Texas?) while others are nothing more than coming up with a list of popular or trendy names and throwing them against a wall to see what sticks.

For the second straight offseason Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is once again having his name thrown in to the mix for any number of possibilities that would require leaving State College, Pennsylvania for 2014. For a second straight year, O’Brien has been relatively mum on the subject to the point Penn State fans may start to get a little nervous.

As I have said before, O’Brien just feels like an NFL coach and I imagine one day we will be watching him coach on Sundays. When that happens is something I am not clear on, but I can see it happening someday. Though he has plenty fo college experience, O’Brien has said before coaching in the NFL is the top of the caching profession, and considering how much of a competitor O’Brien is I can see him working to one day get that opportunity as a head coach. He has been there as an assistant of course, and if he continues to build a winning program at Penn State in spite of once crippling sanctions, his profile will only continue to rise to those with bigger paychecks.

The latest buzz surrounding O’Brien and a possible return to the NFL was ignited by a report from CBSSports.com’s Jason La Confora, suggesting O’Brien has drawn interest from the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings. It would make sense O’Brien would be on the radar for either team. Both have young quarterbacks who could be a good project for O’Brien, who managed to somehow make Matt McGloin an NFL player. Imagine what he might be able to do with Christian Ponder or Case Keenum. That said, the report had some unstable reasoning such as more sanctions. In reality, Penn State had sanctions reduced by the NCAA, and there could be more reductions done at some point in the future.

With Penn State no longer in practices for any games, O’Brien’s availability has been reduced from the fall schedule. O’Brien has said before he is looking forward to continuing on at Penn State, but every coach would mutter that sentiment. His recent silence, as reported by veteran Penn State reporter David Jones of The Patriot News is rather intriguing.

“I’ve called and texted O’Brien for the past 24 hours asking him to put all the latest speculation to rest by coming out publicly and stating that he will return to coach Penn State next season,” Jones writes. “O’Brien is usually very good at getting back to me and he may at some point still. But up to this hour, he has not. Draw your own conclusions from that.”

This alone is not enough to suggest O’Brien is considering his options, but it certainly does not paint a pretty picture on him being a rock solid Penn State guy for now. Until he says anything on record, it is all just speculation and guessing for now, as it is with any coach at the college or pro level. O’Brien has not gone on record confirming his satisfaction being the head coach at Penn State the way Nick Saban had with Alabama, David Shaw has with Stanford or Gus Malzahn has with Auburn.

Allow me to go back to something I said earlier. If he keeps winning at Penn State, I can easily envision O’Brien one day coach in the NFL. But the situation has to be right for O’Brien. That situation is something only O’Brien and his family know for sure. Is Houston the right situation? Is Minnesota? What about Austin, Texas? Or is State College, Pennsylvania the right situation?

We do not know for sue, because O’Brien has not told us.

Iowa linebacker announces transfer

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been known to have a program that could play some solid defense more often than not, but the depth at linebacker just got a bit more shallow this Memorial Day weekend. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Garbutt has announced he is leaving the program.

“After prayer, consulting with my family and Coach Ferentz, I have made the decision to leave the University of Iowa,” Garbutt announced in a statement on Twitter. “I am thankful for my years as a Hawkeye and will continue to support the franchise.”

Garbutt went on to announce he will make a decision after going through a recruiting process. No timeline for his decision was announced.

Garbutt still has three more years of eligibility remaining, although he has already burned one redshirt year after joining the Class of 2015 at Iowa. If he transfers to another FBS program, he will have to sit out the upcoming 2017 season and lose a year of eligibility in the process. He would be available to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a lower division football program.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.