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.

NCAA grants Houston LB Austin Robinson another season of eligibility

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As it turns out, Houston will have the services of Austin Robinson a little while longer than originally expected.

The football program announced Wednesday that the NCAA has granted Robinson a sixth season of eligibility. While the school wrote in its release that the linebacker “received a legislative relief waiver” from The Association, the specific reasoning behind the waiver being granted is unclear.

With the NCAA’s decision, Robinson will now have eligibility he can use in both 2018 and 2019.

Robinson began his collegiate career at UT-San Antonio in 2014, playing in eight games as a true freshman before transferring to UH and sitting out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He then played in 11 games in 2016 and 12 this past season, starting four contests in 2017.

This past campaign, Robinson was credited with 33 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. He also had a pair of quarterback hurries on his statistical resume.

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

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Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley pleads guilty to DWI

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An off-field situation for one playing member of the Arkansas football program that began during the 2017 regular season has taken yet another step toward winding its way to a conclusion.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cole Kelley pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving while intoxicated.  While the quarterback was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 89 of those days were suspended while he was given credit for time served for the other.  Additionally, the Democrat-Gazette wrote, the 20-year-old Kelley “was also ordered to complete an alcohol safety class and pay $720 in fines and court costs.”

Kelley was arrested for DWI and reckless driving in November of last year. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game; he was subsequently reinstated after serving what amounted to a one-game suspension.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the 2017 season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with a healthy Allen returning to his starting role for the remainder of the year.

On the season, Kelley completed almost 58 percent of his 151 passes for 1,038 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.  The rising redshirt sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job in 2018 under new head coach Chad Morris.

Report: Steve Spurrier Jr. leaving WKU for job at Wazzu

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With coaching holes throughout his Washington State staff to fill thanks to significant offseason poaching, Mike Leach has added a very famous college football surname.  Reportedly.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Steve Spurrier Jr. is leaving Western Kentucky to take a job under Leach at Wazzu.  The son of College Football Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier just completed his first season as the Hilltoppers’ quarterbacks coach.  He also held the title of assistant head coach under Mike Sanford.

It’s unclear what specific title Spurrier Jr. will hold at Wazzu.

Prior to his one season at WKU, and one season as an off-field staffer at Oklahoma, Spurrier Jr. had been an assistant on his father’s South Carolina staff for 11 seasons.  During his time with the Gamecocks, he served at various points as wide receivers coach (2005-15), passing-game coordinator (2009-11) and co-offensive coordinator (2012-15).

Spurrier Jr., who played wide receiver at Duke, has also spent time during his coaching career as receivers coach at Oklahoma (1999-2001) and with the Washington Redskins (2002-03).