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Penn State to make ‘major announcement’ Saturday

Tennessee v Vanderbilt Getty Images

It appears that Penn State’s search for a replacement for Bill O’Brien is a little over 24 hours from an end.

The university revealed Friday afternoon that president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner will make a “major announcement” Saturday at 4:15 p.m. ET.  While the subject matter was not detailed, it’s believed that Vanderbilt’s James Franklin will be officially introduced as the new Nittany Lions head coach.

Based on Penn State’s acknowledgement of a press conference, it appears Vanderbilt’s final push to retain Franklin has failed.  The news of an announcement comes three days after Franklin was pegged as the clear frontrunner for the job.

According to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, Franklin will receive a contract that’s worth in the neighborhood of $4.5 million annually.  O’Brien earned just a shade over $3.8 million in his final year in Happy Valley.  In its annual coaches salary database, USA Today pegged Franklin’s total pay with the Commodores in 2013 at $1.842 million.

That $4.5 million figure would put Franklin second in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.6 million).

Franklin recently completed his third season with Vandy, compiling a record of 24-15 and leading the ‘Dores to three straight bowl games for the first time in the program’s history.  Prior to Franklin’s arrival, the school had just four bowl appearances in 109 years and won a total of 25 games the previous six seasons.  They’d won 33 over the last decade prior to Franklin taking the job.

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Illinois State rallies past New Hampshire, set to face North Dakota State for the FCS title

Illinois State University v University of Northern Iowa

It’ll be an all-Missouri Valley affair for the FCS championship.

North Dakota State punched the first ticket Friday night with a 35-3 win over Sam Houston State, taking a 7-3 halftime lead and exploding from there. The Bison will play for their fourth straight national championship – and three of them could come at the expense of Sam Houston State after beating the Bearkats in the 2011 and 2012 championship games.

On Saturday, Illinois State booked its ticket to the championship in epic fashion. The Redbirds trailed top-seeded New Hampshire 18-6 through three quarters, but notched touchdowns in successive drives – traveling 173 yards in 19 plays – to take a 21-18 lead.

New Hampshire had one chance to tie or take the lead, but its eight-play, 29-yard drive was halted at the Illinois State 46 when Sean Goldrich‘s 4th-and-3 pass to Kyon Taylor was stopped for no gain. Illinois State consumed the game’s final four minutes and eight seconds to punch its first ticket to the FCS title game. Quarterback Tre Robertson carried the Redbirds, completing 18-of-31 passes for 278 yards while also leading the club with 12 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. His prolific effort overcame a lost fumble at the New Hampshire goal line in the first half.

Illinois State (13-1) and North Dakota State (14-1) finished the regular season as co-champions of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They did not meet in the regular season, and each suffered its lone loss on the road to Northern Iowa. Illinois State avenged its loss to the Panthers with a 41-21 win in a second-round playoff game on Dec. 6.

A win by North Dakota State will make the Bison the first FCS team to win four straight national titles since the subdivision was formed in 1978. Appalachian State also claimed three straight national titles from 2005-07.

The FCS National Championship will be held Saturday, Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

 

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Report: Ohio St. co-DC Chris Ash interviews for Colorado St. vacancy

Chris Ash, Tyvis Powell AP

Ohio State has already lost its offensive coordinator to a head coaching job.  Could a coordinator on the other side of the ball be next?

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, OSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy at Colorado State.  Former USC associate head coach John Baxter interviewed for the job as well, McMurphy reported.

It’s unclear when the interviews took place.  It’s also unknown when CSU, in the midst of its bowl game against Utah Saturday afternoon, will pull the trigger on a hire as they’ve cast an expansive net searching for a replacement for Jim McElwain, who took the Florida job earlier this month.

This is Ash’s first season with the Buckeyes after leaving Arkansas, but his departure would be a significant one as he helped take a defense, particularly the secondary, that was extremely suspect in 2013 and turned it into one of the top units in the Big Ten.  Ash’s loss would be magnified as Tom Herman left his offensive coordinator post this past week to take over the Houston football program.

In addition to Ash and Baxter, there have been close to a dozen names mentioned in connection to the CSU opening, including Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo earlier this week.  Another name mentioned recently is that of Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, although it’s believed he might be the front-runner for the Pittsburgh job.

Interestingly, no current FBS defensive coordinators have been hired as head coaches during the 2014 spinning of the coaching carousel, although four coordinators on the other side of the ball and one wide receivers coach have claimed five of the 11 head coaching positions already filled.  CSU is one of three FBS programs still searching for a head coach, the others being Michigan and Pittsburgh.

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Utah State’s New Mexico Bowl victory is 10th win with 4th QB in 2014

Kent Myers

The New Mexico Bowl may have seen some crazy endings the past few years, but this year’s game went against that script. Instead, Utah State (10-4, 6-2 Mountain West Conference) recorded just the second 10-win season in program history with its third straight bowl victory with a 21-6 victory over UTEP (7-6, 5-3 Conference USA).

UTEP opened the scoring in the first quarter with a field goal on the game’s opening possession, but Utah State later scored a touchdown in the first quarter when quarterback Kent Myers broke off a 48-yard touchdown run down the left sideline for the lead. The Aggies punched in a second touchdown in the third quarter with Nick Vigil pushing one in from three yards out to cap a 75-yard drive. UTEP would add a late field goal.

UTEP’s chances to get the ball back for one last chance to tie things up took a critical blow when a kickoff following the second field goal by Jay Mattox went out-of-bounds, setting Utah State up in good field position. UTEP burned a timeout before the field goal try, which meant the decision not to go for the onside kick was a little extra confusing with under three minutes to play remaining. Utah State simply let running back Joe Hill carry the team the rest of the way with some big runs to run clock, including a touchdown run with 1:33 to play for the knockout blow.

Heading into 2015 the first big question for Utah State will be how does quarterback Chuckie Keeton look? Keeton’s return to the field in 2014 did not go according to plan, as he never seemed to be playing at full speed after a knee injury ended the 2013 season for him. The knee acted up again early in 2014, but he has one more year of eligibility to play. It would be wise to have Utah State proceed with extreme caution with Keeton in order to make sure he is ready for the rigors of the 2015 season.

Enough cannot be said about the coaching job Utah State head coach Matt Wells did this season. The Aggies won 10 games using four different starting quarterbacks along the way. That included a bowl game victory that even saw Myers receive some brief medical attention.

UTEP will look to find a way to build on the momentum the second half of the season saw on the field. The Miners win five of their final seven games of the regular season, although they fell a couple of games shy of the division title. The start to the 2015 season could be rough with three consecutive road games against Arkansas, Texas Tech and New Mexico State. UTEP will look to replace some key position players like quarterback Jameil Showers and receivers Jarred Shaw and Ian Hamilton, but the bulk of the offense should be in place. The defensive secondary will be hit hard as well, but the front of the defense should largely in good shape.

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No. 22 Utah handling Colorado State halfway through Las Vegas Bowl

Travis Wilson

No. 22 Utah used big plays and solid defense to build a 24-10 halftime lead over Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

This being Vegas, both teams’ first scores were set up by successful rolls of the dice. After taking possession of its own 47, Utah’s first play from scrimmage was an end around-turned-reverse-turned-throwback pass from Travis Wilson to Kaelin Clay, good for a 36-yard gain. Wilson rushed in two plays later to put the Utes up 7-0.

After forcing a three-and-out, Utah swiftly moved 71 yards in six plays, capped by a 16-yard scoring strike from Wilson to Delshawn McClellon to go up 14-0 midway through the first quarter.

Colorado State responded by moving 77 yards in five plays on the ensuing possession, scoring on a 39-yard pass from senior wide receiver Charles Lovett to quarterback Garrett Grayson.

Utah quickly seized back momentum, though, as Devontae Booker raced 60 yards to pay dirt on the next play from scrimmage.

Overall, Utah scored a Las Vegas Bowl-record 21 first quarter points by gaining 201 yards of total offense on just 15 plays.

Jared Roberts knocked in a 41-yard field goal at the 2:09 mark of the first quarter to pull the Rams within 21-10, and Andy Phillips answered with a 38-yarder at the 8:25 mark of the second quarter to push the lead back to 14. Phillips missed a 38-yard try on the final play of the half.

Wilson has completed 12-of-18 passes for 124 yards with a touchdown and an interception while adding seven carries for 59 yards and a score. Combined with Booker’s 92 yards on 10 rushes, Utah is out-rushing Colorado State 203-13.

Grayson has completed 12-of-18 throws for 136 yards, and All-American receiver Rashard Higgins has notched four receptions for 83 yards.

Utah will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Utah State has edge in defensive New Mexico Bowl at half

Kent Myers

The Gildan New Mexico has served up some wackiness over the last few years, but this year’s game has been a much more defensive battle so far. Utah State holds the upper hand at the break, leading UTEP 7-3 at the half.

It may not matter who is playing quarterback for Utah State this season, because they just seem to make plays. Kent Myers, who started the season as Utah State’s fourth-string quarterback, gave the Aggies a 7-3 lead with a 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against UTEP in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Myers had to receive some medical treatment in the second quarter, but he returned to finish off Utah State’s final possession of the half.

UTEP got the scoring started early with a 32-yard field goal by Jay Mattox from 30 yards out to cap a game-opening drive of seven plays and 60 yards. The Miners were later stuffed on a fourth and four situation inside the Utah State 10-yard line. The Aggies capitalized on the game-changing sequence by sending Ronald Butler off to the races for a 61-yard gain on the first play of the ensuing possession. With time running short, the Aggies had to settle for a field goal attempt in the final seconds of the first half. The kick, after a UTEP timeout, was wide left.

The game has, for the most part, been pretty evenly played. One area UTEP has the clear advantage in is turnover margin. The Miners offense has not lost the football, but UTEP has forced two turnovers in the first half. Once UTEP gets their hands on the football though, they have been unable to cash in. Credit the Utah State offense for bailing out their offense.

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Ragin’ Cajuns win fourth straight New Orleans Bowl to start bowl season

C.J. Bates, James Butler

For the fourth straight season, the Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference) season comes to an end by celebrating a victory in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Ragin’ Cajuns buckled down defensively to hold off Nevada (7-6, 4-4 Mountain West Conference) for a 16-3 victory. UL-Lafayette is the first school to ever win the same bowl game in four consecutive seasons.

UL-Lafayette jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter before Nevada got a handle on things defensively. The offense for the Wolf Pack could never really get going though. For the first time this season Nevada was held to fewer than 20 points, and it was the first time since losing to Florida State in 2013 (62-7) that Nevada was held to fewer than 10 points in a game.

UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway was accurate and effective with his passing against Nevada, completing 26 of 31 attempts for 227 yards and a touchdown. Running back Elijah McGuire led the Ragin’ Cajuns on the ground with 97 yards and was the team’s leading receiver with 54 receiving yards.

Not only is this the fourth consecutive New Orleans Bowl victory in as many years for Louisiana-Lafayette, but this marks the fourth straight season with a record of 9-4 for the program, another tremendous credit to the work and model of consistency put together under the leadership of head coach Mark Hudspeth. The program had just four winning seasons dating back to 1990 before Hudspeth was named the head coach before the 2011 season. Hudspeth had his contract extended earlier this year, but he is going to remain one of the coaches to watch during next season’s coaching carousel unless he still moves somewhere during this season’s cycle. Pittsburgh and Michigan still have coaching vacancies to fill, as well as Colorado State.

Nevada’s last bowl victory came in the 2010 season in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. Head coach Chris Ault did show signs of improvement with the Nevada a program this season though. Although it ended with a loss, Nevada doubled its win total from a year ago, at a time when the program was in the midst of some significant turnover and going through a realignment adjustment. One key offseason task for Nevada will be to find a replacement for quarterback Cody Fajardo. The senior was Nevada’s leading passer and rusher in the losing effort, and he had a rough finale as a college player. Nevada plays in a wide-open division in the Mountain West Conference, so it would not be a surprise at all to see Nevada bounce back next season and contend for the West Division.

With the Ragin’ Cajuns winning, the Sun Belt Conference gets off to a good start in the bowl season. The Sun Belt went 2-0 in its two bowl appearances last season. The Sun Belt has two more bowl games to be played this season, starting later today with South Alabama playing Bowling Green in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Arkansas State will face Toledo on January 4 in the GoDaddy Bowl.

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Nevada off to slow start vs ULL in New Orleans Bowl

Terrance Broadway

Playing in its fourth consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns showed plenty of comfort and poise playing in the Superdome, but after jumping out to a 10-0 lead the Cajuns have simmered and allowed Nevada to get back in the mix.

On the game’s opening possession, UL Lafayette marched right down field on the Wolf Pack with a 77-yard drive ending with a Terrance Broadway touchdown pass to C.J. Bates for the early 7-0 lead. They added a field goal on the next drive in the first quarter while Nevada’s offense was sputtering and slow to get rolling. This has been the story for UL Lafayette in previous trips to the New Orleans Bowl under head coach Mark Hudspeth.

Broadway completed his first 11 passes of the game before throwing one out-of-bounds. At the half, Broadway has completed 15 of 17 passes for 123 yards.

The second quarter started to swing the momentum toward the others sideline though. Nevada’s defense started to clamp down on their opponents, forcing a pair of three-and-outs and changing the field possession game. The offense did its part as well as Cody Fajardo started to get in a rhythm. However, the Wolf Pack could only manage to put a single field goal on the board. A fumble deep in ULL territory killed one scoring threat, and a crucial false start penalty on the one-yard line may have prevented Nevada from punching in a touchdown.

Nevada has been a good second half team this season. Nevada averages 19.4 points per game in the second half, ranking ninth in the country.

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Struggling Hawaii athletics department asks for $6 million from state

UNLV v Hawaii

The struggles to keep the athletics department afloat at Hawaii have led the university to ask for help from the state. The asking price? Six million dollars.

Hawaii News Now reports university athletics department officials are predicting a deficit of $3.5 million this year. That would put Hawaii in the red for the 12th time out of the last 15 years. Part of the reason for the budget issue is a failure to meet football ticket sales goals as well as falling shy of fundraising goals. At a time when UAB made the decision to cut the football program from the university’s expenses, the concern is high for those at Hawaii.

“We do need additional support for athletics,” UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman told the State House Higher Education Committee Thursday, according to the Hawaii News Now report.

Earlier this month it was reported Hawaii athletics director Ben Jay was stepping down from his position. The inability to turn the budget around and slow down the deficit is part of the reason for the need to change leadership. While there are no indications Hawaii is ready to take any steps to drop its football program or any other programs, the thought and discussion has been floating around in some capacity for some time now, especially in light of the situation at UAB and with conferences bracing for changes in spending under new parameters in place.

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Maryland’s Stefon Diggs testing NFL waters

Jhavon Williams, Stefon Diggs AP

Maryland’s star wide receiver and special teams return man Stefon Diggs is deciding whether or not to leave for the NFL or come back for his senior season in College Park for one more year with the Terrapins. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall has started to reach out to some NFL contacts to get some feedback to help Diggs get some information to help him with that decision.

“I’ve called around to GMs and college scouting directors and personnel people and gathered information for him,” Edsall said in a report by CSN Baltimore. “And then once we get back the information from the NFL, I’m going to sit down with his mom and him and go over all the information that I have and present it to them.”

Diggs was Maryland’s leading wide receiver in 2014 with 654 yards and five touchdowns despite missing playing time in Maryland’s final three games due to a suspension and kidney injury. He also was a key contributor on special teams returns with 20 kickoff returns for 478 yards and the ability to make a big play happen any time he got his hands on the football.

Diggs is being scouted as a mid-round prospect right now, which could lead Diggs to come back for one more year at Maryland. Josh Norris of Rotoworld and NBC Sports NFL Draft analyst recently told CSN Baltimore Diggs would likely be drafted anywhere between rounds three and five if he came out for the 2015 NFL Draft.

Last year saw a record number of underclassmen declare for the NFL Draft, which led to increasing concern about poor advice and decisions being made by players opting to leave behind an extra year of eligibility.

Maryland is optimistic Diggs will be available for the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, California against Stanford. The Foster Farms Bowl is scheduled for December 30 at 10 p.m. eastern.

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Wisconsin assistants must reapply to keep jobs in Madison

New Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst says he is willing to talk with any current Badgers assistant coach interested in returning to the coaching staff in 2015, but any coach who has a desire to continue coaching in Madison will have to reapply for the job.

Due to university policies regarding the hiring of employees, Chryst is prevented from making any offers to assistant coaching candidates until those looking for the job submit a formal job application. Applications are due by December 29, so you still have some time to apply for a job on Chryst’s staff.

Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez has confirmed offensive line coach T.J. Woods and defensive counterpart Chad Kauha’aha’a will leave Wisconsin to join Gary Andersen at Oregon State. Both assistant coaches will coach for Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Alvarez will be the interim head coach for the Badgers in the Outback Bowl against Auburn.

Wisconsin is not expected to make a formal announcement about the new coaching staff until after the Outback Bowl.

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Pitt and Colorado State interviewed MSU’s Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has been mentioned as a potential candidate for various head coaching opportunities over the last couple of years now after establishing one of the top defensive programs in the country in East Lansing. It now appears Narduzzi is flirting with the opportunity to take on the role of head coach more seriously than ever before.

Narduzzi has interviewed for the head coaching openings at Colorado State and Pittsburgh, according to a report by MLive.com. Narduzzi reportedly interviewed with Colorado State earlier in the week and with Pittsburgh on Friday. Both coaches lost head coaches to other power-conference programs this offseason. Colorado State’s Jim McElwain took a job offer at Florida and Pittsburgh most recently lost Paul Chryst to Wisconsin.

It seems as though Michigan State has already been preparing Narduzzi for the chance to be a head coach, as well as a plan to replace their defensive coordinator if and when the time comes. Narduzzi has been given extra responsibilities to prepare him for being a head coach, which has benefits for Michigan State as well, and MLive.com says Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio is supportive of his assistant and ready to

“When that point in time happens, we’ve had this happen enough for us that we’ll be prepared,” Dantonio said previously. “Up until that time it’s status quo. It’s a good situation.”

Narduzzi checking out his options is nothing new. Just a year ago Narduzzi interviewed with UConn and he had been connected as a candidate to a few other jobs as well.

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Stagg Bowl XLII: Wisconsin-Whitewater claims sixth DIII title in eight years

Lance Leipold

The Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks are champions once again.

Since Lance Leipold took over the the program in 2007, the Warhawks have done nothing but win football games.

The team’s sixth championship — all under Leipold’s watch — came Friday in Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl XLII when the Warhawks once again beat the Mount Union Purple Raiders 42-34 to claim the program’s second straight Division III national championship.

Leipold will leave the program in style.

As the fastest coach ever at any level of college football to reach 100 wins, Leipold was tabbed as the next head coach of the Buffalo Bulls. It’s a big jump in competition for a Division III head coach, but Leipold just must be the exception if his early success as a head coach is any indication.

The two teams combined for 1,168 total yards and seven turnovers.

Mount Union shot itself in the foot with five turnovers. Quarterback Kevin Burke — the only two-time winner of the Gagliardi Trophy as the top player at the Division III level — threw four interceptions. He only threw five the entire season before Friday’s effort.

Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Behrendt, meanwhile, received plenty of help as he completed 26 of 38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

Warhawks wide receiver Jake Kumerow was the best player on the field. The 6-5 target was nearly unstoppable throughout the contest and finished the game with eight receptions for 130 yards. Dennis Moore added 108 yards only on two catches. Finally, running back Jordan Ratliffe proved to be a workhorse with 24 carries for 116 yards.

Wisconsin-Whitewater’s offensive production along with Mount Union’s turnovers were the recipe for yet another Warhawks championship.

After meeting each other in the Stagg Bowl nine out of the last 10 years, Wisconsin-Whitewater has now gotten the best of Mount Union six out of the last seven times.

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RB Deantre Lewis abruptly leaves Arizona State Sun Devils

Colorado v Arizona State Getty Images

Senior running back Deantre Lewis will not finish his career as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils.

After finishing the regular season with 298 total yards as both a running back and a wide receiver, Lewis will not play in the Sun Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils.

No reason was given for Lewis departure, but Arizona State head coach Todd Graham confirmed he is no longer part of the program.

Lewis career never blossomed after a promising freshman campaign. During his first year on campus, Lewis produced three straight 100-yard games against the Wisconsin Badgers, Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers. He never ran for more than 64 yards in any single game during the rest of his career.

The running back was a victim of a random shooting in 2012. Upon his return, he was stuck on the depth chart behind Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Lewis was then shifted to the defensive side of the football for a short period. He suffered an MCL injury in 2014. He was even called out publicly by his coach.

After an average senior season, it appears Lewis finally had enough.

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Gus Malzahn uncertain of D’haquille Williams’ status for Outback Bowl

D'haquille Williams

Auburn wide receiver D’haquille Williams continues to be bothered by lingering injuries and illness.

The Outback Bowl is 13 days away, but Auburn’s leading receiver isn’t currently on track to play in the game.

When asked about whether Williams would definitely play against the Wisconsin Badgers, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wasn’t willing to commit one way or another.

“Not at this point,” Malzahn told Al.com’s Joel A. Erickson.

Williams missed two of Auburn’s final three games due to a sprained MCL and a bruised knee that he suffered Nov. 8 against the Texas A&M Aggies. The JUCO transfer returned for the Iron Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide and caught seven passes for 121 yards.

However, the talented wide receiver hasn’t been feeling well.

“He has not practiced,” Malzahn said. “He was sick and he’s got some treatment things to do from the last game.”

Despite missing those two games, Williams still leads the Tigers with 45 receptions for 730 yards. The 6-2, 216-pound receiver has proven to be the security blanket for quarterback Nick Marshall.

If Williams can’t play, the Badgers will roll coverage toward Auburn’s deep threat, Sammie Coates. The junior will be playing his last game as a member of the Tigers before he’s NFL bound.

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Former four-star TE transfers from Vanderbilt to Colorado State

team headshots(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

The Colorado State Rams don’t have a head coach yet, but they’ve already landed a big commitment.

Tight end Mitchell Parsons was one of the crown jewels in the Vanderbilt Commodores’ 2013 recruiting class. The former four-star recruit was considered the nation’s seventh-best tight end prospect, according to Rivals.com.

After a redshirt season and no playing time this year, the native of Parker, Colorado, decided he wanted to play closer to home.

Parsons’ transfer shouldn’t come as a surprise. He originally committed to head coach James Franklin, who left to take the job at Penn State less than a year later. Vanderbilt’s offense will again transition this offseason after new head coach Derek Mason fired offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell.

The tight end might not know who he’ll be playing for at Colorado State, but at least his family will only be an hour or so down the road.

Parsons will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Once he is eligible to play, he’ll have an opportunity to replace Steven Walker, who will be a senior in 2015, as the team’s starting tight end.

(Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt athletic department)

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