Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien addresses a news conference before his first spring practice as Penn State's head football coach, in Pennsylvania

Penn State makes Bill O’Brien’s departure for Texans official

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It’s officially official: for the second time in two years, Penn State will be forced to conduct a search for a new head coach, albeit under entirely different circumstances.

Nearly two year’s to the day Bill O’Brien was officially introduced as Joe Paterno‘s successor, Penn State confirmed Thursday morning that the head coach is leaving Happy Valley to take the same job with the NFL’s Houston Texans.  In two seasons with the Nittany Lions, and working under stifling NCAA sanctions, O’Brien posted a 15-9 record.

The announcement comes a handful of days after it was reported that O’Brien and the Texans were closing in on a deal that would send the coach back to the professional ranks, a level at which he had spent the majority of his coaching career prior to coming to the Nittany Lions.

Athletic director Dave Joyner also confirmed that long-time defensive line coach Larry Johnson will serve as interim head coach while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

“We need to do everything we can to support the needs of our student-athletes during this period,” Joyner said. “I am very confident in Larry Johnson, the coaches and staff in maintaining continuity and working with the returning players and recruits.

“We intend to move quickly in our search to identify the next great Penn State football coach.”

At a press conference that began shortly after the release was sent out, Joyner stated that the search could be wrapped up “in a matter of days, not weeks.”

Based on recent reports, Greg Schiano appears to be Joyner’s top target.  A candidate for the job the last time it came open, Schiano was fired last month as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  While Schiano’s schtick may have worn thin at the NFL level, he showed during his time at Rutgers that he can run a successful collegiate program, even at a place not known as a traditional football power.

In addition to Schiano, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Tennessee Titans head coach — and former PSU All-American — Mike Munchak have both been prominently connected to the job over the past couple of weeks.  San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman could be an under-the-radar candidate, as could Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden, who was a potential candidate the last time around as well.

While there’s not much buzz around him at the moment, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi would be at or near the top of my to-do list were I standing in Joyner’s shoes.

There’s also the matter of Christian Hackenberg.  The Freshman All-American quarterback is rumored to be considering a move on from the Nittany Lions now that a significant reason for his signing with the school is gone; it will be up to the new head coach and his staff, particularly the position coach, to convince the talented freshman to stay.

Half of all FBS signees lived between Texas and North Carolina

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Johnny Jefferson #5 of the Baylor Bears carries while defended by Dominquie Green #26 and Des Lawrence #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half of the Russell Athletic Bowl game at Orlando Citrus Bowl on December 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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ESPN recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton provided a massive public service through his Twitter account on Tuesday, releasing a data dump of fascinating information about the signing class of 2016.

In short, Texas was the most popular breeding ground for FBS prospects, but half of all signees came from a clean sweep from Texas, across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida and up to North Carolina.

The Lone Star State produced 359 players, with nearly half of those heading to Power 5 institutions. In fact, Hamilton reports, 72 of 128 FBS programs and 38 of 64 Power 5’s signed at least one player from Texas.

Florida trailed with 327 players, followed by California with 248 players and Georgia with 225. For what it’s worth, Ohio was not included in the study.

Data dump, begin!

AAC releases 2016 conference schedule

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The American Athletic Conference released its 2016 conference schedule highlighted by, oddly enough, non-conference games that pit league gem Houston against Oklahoma (on opening day at Houston’s NRG Stadium) and Louisville (in Houston on Nov. 19).

Those two games, more than any others, will sink or swim the conference’s chances of not only grabbing the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six, but a spot in the College Football Playoff itself.

The 2016 conference slate kicks off with Navy meeting Connecticut on Sept. 10 and concludes with the second annual AAC title game on Dec. 3 at a to-be-determined campus site.

The AAC led the way in scheduling Power 5 opponents — highlighted by a Week 3 schedule that will see the entire East Division punching up a weight class — and includes the likes of Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, Syracuse, Kansas, TCU and Oklahoma (for all intents and purposes) visiting AAC campuses.

View the full AAC slate here:

 

Former Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees hired as Chargers offensive assistant

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 02: Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish passes against the Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium on November 2, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Just like we all thought when watching him play at Notre Dame, Tommy Rees will be in the NFL in 2016. Just not as a quarterback.

The San Diego Chargers announced his hiring as an obnoxiously vague offensive assistant, assisting with the club’s offense in some form that they aren’t inclined to elaborate on.

After completing a career in which he threw for 7,670 yards with 61 touchdowns against 37 interceptions from 2010-13, Rees was cut by the Washington Redskins in 2014, then spent the 2014-15 seasons as a graduate assistant at Northwestern.

Report: Wisconsin DBs coach Daronte Jones leaving for Miami Dolphins

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 27:  Wisconsin Badgers cheerleader waves the flag after the team scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the South Florida Bulls on September 27, 2014 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the South Florida Bulls 27-10. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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The post-National Signing Day coaching carousel is now in full tilt.

According to a report from Adam Caplan of ESPN, Wisconsin defensive backs coach Daronte Jones is leaving to become the assistant defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins.

The Badgers already endured a significant loss this winter after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda took a lateral position with LSU. He was replaced in January by former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Jones spent but 13 months in Madison, a January 2015 addition to Paul Chryst‘s first staff after spending three seasons at Hawaii.

Wisconsin possessed one of college football’s top pass defenses in 2015; the Badgers ranked seventh nationally in pass defense, tied for sixth in yards per attempt allowed, placed third in opponent completion percentage and finished second in pass efficiency defense.