Report: Browns ‘very interested in Gus Malzahn, James Franklin

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One FBS program has already lost its head coach to the professional ranks.  Now, it could be an SEC school that’s forced to initiate its own search for a replacement.  Reportedly.

Wednesday morning, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported that the Cleveland Browns are “very interested” in Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin as it conducts yet another search for a head coach.  The Browns also reportedly had an interest in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, who is leaving the Nittany Lions to take the Houston Texans job.

Late last year, the Browns had interviewed O’Brien and Oregon’s Chip Kelly for their vacancy before settling on Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after just one year.

In this latest spinning of the coaching carousel, Franklin has also been mentioned in connection to the Minnesota Vikings opening.  Since late September, Franklin has seen his name tied to openings at USC and Texas; with O’Brien gone, Franklin is being rumored as a possibility at Penn State as well.

This is the first time that Malzahn, who will lead the Tigers into the BCS title game Monday night, has been tied to an NFL job.  Earlier this month, Malzahn was given a raise and a contract extension after leading AU to an 11-win season coming off just three wins in 2012.

La Canfora wrote that the Browns “are doing arduous legwork on Malzahn and Franklin, and are very intrigued by them,” adding that “Malzahn is actually the most likely of the group to land the position, though the process is still very much in its early stages.”

The writer also makes note of the fact that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a University of Tennessee alum and a prominent UT booster.  And, for what it’s worth, both Malzahn and Franklin are represented by super-agent Jimmy Sexton.

Joey Jones steps down as South Alabama head coach

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There’s never a good time to lose a football game 52-0, but even by that scale it’s an especially bad thing to lose 52-0 in a game you had to win to keep your bowl hopes alive to a team so disgusted by its own season that it fired its head coach a month ago.

That’s what South Alabama did on Saturday in dropping a 52-0 decision to Georgia Southern, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.

And on Monday, South Alabama announced head coach Joey Jones will resign following the Jaguars’ Dec. 2 finale at New Mexico State.

“There comes a time in every program where there is a need for change.  For this program that I love so much, that time is now,” Jones said in a statement.  “One of the proudest days of my professional life was being the named the first head coach at South Alabama.  Today is difficult, but it is the right step for me, my family and for this football program.”

Jones is the only head coach South Alabama has ever known, hired Feb. 15, 2008. He led the Jags for three seasons as an FCS Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2012, taking the club to bowl games in 2014 and 2016.

The loss Saturday dropped the program to 4-7 this season, ending hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in the program’s short history.

“Joey Jones is the father of our football program.  He, his wife Elise and his entire family put their arms around the program and committed to its establishment and growth,” said AD Dr. Joel Erdmann.  “He has placed South Alabama Football on strong footing, which is something he and his family can be very proud of and we sincerely appreciate.  His good, hard work and commitment will forever be recognized.”

As Bronco Mendenhall denies interest, Oregon State reportedly interviews two Pac-12 coordinators

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A report broke over the weekend that Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall was a person of interest in the ongoing Oregon State coaching search. An Oregon State graduate with significant experience in the region as BYU’s former head coach, Mendenhall made a lot of sense for the Beavers. Problem is, the Beavers didn’t make a lot of sense for Mendenhall, and on Monday he effectively withdrew his name from the search.

No matter, Oregon State quickly moved on to a group of qualified, logical candidates. According to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, Oregon State interim head coach Cory Hall, Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin and Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith have interviewed for the post.

Eggers wrote that Hall is running significantly behind the other two, but that Oregon State AD Scott Barnes would work to influence the actual hire to retain Hall.

Baldwin has a decade of experience as a head coach in the Pacific Northwest, one 10-3 season at Central Washington and an 85-32 run with an FCS national championship in nine seasons at Eastern Washington. Baldwin left EWU to become Justin Wilcox‘s offensive coordinator in Berkeley last winter.

Smith doesn’t have Bladwin’s head coaching experience, but he does have more successful experience within the Pac-12 and at Oregon State in particular. Smith has been Chris Petersen‘s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for his entire run at Washington, and spent two years as Boise State’s quarterbacks coach before that.

Smith was also a record-setting quarterback at Oregon State and began his coaching career as a Beavers graduate assistant in 2002-03.

Lincoln Riley strips Baker Mayfield of captaincy, Mayfield will start WVU game on sideline

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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield caused a stir with his antics during a road win at Kansas on Saturday, and Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley is addressing it this week. Riley announced Mayfield will not be a team captain for Oklahoma’s game against West Virginia this week, and Mayfield will start the game on the sideline instead of on the field.

Not having Mayfield as a team captain for the game will prevent him from being on the field for the pregame coin flip. Mayfield’s eventful afternoon at Kansas got started with a pregame handshake kerfuffle and later devolved to some trash talking with Kansas fans and obscene gestures directed at Kansas players following a touchdown. None of what Oklahoma is doing this week against West Virginia will necessarily prevent any similar events from happening, but it is somewhat interesting to see.

How long Mayfield stays on the sideline against the Mountaineers was not determined. It could be one half, one quarter, one series or just one play. Regardless of the length of this form of discipline, Mayfield enters some pretty uncharted territory for a Heisman Trophy favorite, and now he will be suspended for the start of a regular season game late in the season. Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston are recent Heisman Trophy winners to serve a suspension during the regular season, but those suspensions were served the year following winning the Heisman Trophy. Could Mayfield be the first Heisman Trophy winner to serve some form of suspension during the same regular season?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Oklahoma hosts West Virginia at 3:45 p.m. ET this Saturday.

Michigan QB Brandon Peters in concussion protcol, leaving Ohio State game in question

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed starting quarterback Brandon Peters has been entered into the concussion protocol after being taken out of Saturday’s road loss at Wisconsin. Because of the concussion protocol, it is unknown if Peters will be available for Michigan’s regular-season finale at home on Saturday against Ohio State.

“He’ll be evaluated again by the doctors this week to see if he would be cleared for contact,” Harbaugh said, according to The Detroit News. “[John O’Korn] has remained diligent every single week to preparation and the game plan, always sitting on a spring ready to play.”

If Peters is unavailable for Saturday, the offense will be placed back in the hands of O’Korn. Wilton Speight has not been cleared to for contact practices yet as he continues to recover from fractured vertebrae earlier this season.

Michigan’s offense seemed to get a much-needed jolt when Peters was inserted in the offense in place of O’Korn, who had also replaced an injured Speight. Without Peters, Michigan’s offense has not been able to find much offensive success this season, and that could pose a significant problem this week against the rival Buckeyes, who will be playing to remain on the College Football Playoff radar.