James Franklin made the Vanderbilt coaching vacancy more appetizing

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With James Franklin being hired away by Penn State, the search for a new head coach to continue the momentum at Vanderbilt is officially underway. Fortunately for the program, Franklin helped make the job a more attractive one to the next coach.

“There is no question that James Franklin’s outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage,” Vanderbilt vice chancellor and director of athletics David Williams said in a statement released following Franklin’s departure. “Because of James, Fumi, Shola and Addy Franklin, our program is stronger in every way than it was just a few short years ago.”

Vanderbilt had compiled back-to-back 2-10 seasons before prying Franklin away from Maryland, where he was considered the coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen. Maryland’s loss may have turned out to be Vanderbilt’s gain. Franklin had an immediate impact on the Commodores, winning six games in his first season in Nashville and leading them to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in program history.

“We have every expectation to hire an outstanding new football coach to build upon the progress that has been made in recent years,” Williams said. He will certainly have some attractive options to consider.

Will Vanderbilt be able to sway a head coach away from their current school to guide their program? The one name to keep a close eye on in this discussion would be Mark Hudspeth, the current head coach of Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudspeth has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to three consecutive 9-4 seasons and has ended the year with a bowl victory each year. If Vanderbilt is looking for a head coach who is ready to take the next step, Hudspeth should be the name at the top of the list.

Hiring a top assistant coach is certainly a path likely to be explored by Vanderbilt.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has the SEC pedigree down and has been mentioned as a potential future head coach when the right opportunity comes along. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is currently one of the hottest names in the assistant coaching world. So is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Vanderbilt could do worse than any of those names of course. Morris would probably be the best fit among the potential assistant coaching candidates.

Whether the next head coach succeeds to the level Franklin managed to do at Vanderbilt or not, or whether the next head coach can build upon the foundation laid by Franklin, remains to be seen. Perhaps the next coach will see Vanderbilt take a step back. Whatever happens, the position is a much more desirable one worthy of consideration by a number of top candidates that may not have given the job much thought four or five years ago. It is still likely to be a stepping stone position as opposed to a destination position, but it is not as slippery as a stepping stone it once was.

Derrius Guice ‘very questionable’ for LSU vs. Syracuse

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LSU could very well be without its most potent offensive weapon when it looks to bounce back from an embarrassing Week 3 loss.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee.  The star running back hasn’t practiced at all this week, even as Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury.

On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, however, the head coach acknowledged that it could be much worse than he’d been letting on, so much so that the Guice could miss the Week 4 game against Syracuse.

“I don’t know if Derrius is going to play,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t dress out yesterday in pads. He’s very questionable right now.”

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns.  His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Should Guice be unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) would likely be next in line to shoulder the running-game load.

Baylor gets back 2016 leading rusher, two starting DBs for Oklahoma game

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They may be winless, but at least Baylor will be getting some much-needed reinforcements for their game against No. 3 Oklahoma this weekend.

According to head coach Matt Rhule, three projected starters — running back Terence Williams (pictured), safety Taion Sells and cornerback Grayland Arnold — are all expected to play in the Week 4 game against the Sooners. Neither Williams nor Arnold have played this season because of injury, while Sells completed a three-game suspension last week.

Williams led the Bears last season with 1,048 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. The junior underwent offseason shoulder surgery, leading to his absence for the first quarter of the year.

With Williams rehabbing the injured joint, John Lovett currently leads the 0-3 Bears in rushing with 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, BU is averaging just 150 yards per game and slightly less than five yards per rush; last season, they were at 241.8 and 5.0.

“I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off the young guys,” the first-year head coach, by way of the Associated Press, said of Williams’ much-anticipated return. “I think Terence gives us the physicality and a presence running the football that you can clearly see on tape. … He brings us that ability to run you over and make you miss.”

Arnold started four games last season and was listed as the starter heading into summer camp before breaking his left arm in August. After starting four games in 2015, Sells sat out the 2016 season because of an injury. Prior to the suspension for unspecified violations of team rules, Sells too had been listed as a starter in camp.

Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Auburn departure

Associated Press
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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Div. II football player Robert Grays dies from neck injury sustained in game

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There’s horribly sad news to note today as Midwestern State University football player Robert Grays passed away Tuesday, the Division II school in Texas confirmed Wednesday morning.

Grays sustained a serious neck injury attempting to make a tackle during this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.  After initially being taken to a local hospital in Wichita Falls, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Houston, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” a statement from university president Suzanne Shipley said, in part. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates.”

Grays was listed as a 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback on the Mustangs’ official roster.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Grays’ way-too-soon passing.