James Willis

James Willis reverses course, spurns FSU to stay at UL-L

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It’s not often that a coach at a non-Big Five Conference football program turns down an offer from one in a power FBS league.  Thursday, James Willis did just that.

Wednesday, Louisiana-Lafayette defensive coordinator informed his boss, Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth, along with his players that he was leaving to take the linebackers coach job at Florida State.  Willis was set to replace Charles Kelly, who was promoted to coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt left for the same job at Georgia.

After some soul-searching overnight and a morning conversation with Hudspeth, however, Willis did an about-face and decided to remain at UL-L.

In confirming that he was staying with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Willis, formerly an assistant at both Alabama and Auburn, issued as heartfelt of a statement as you’ll find in this kind of situation.

“My decision to leave the Ragin’ Cajuns program has weighed heavily on me since I announced my decision to the players last night. After some soul-searching over night, I spoke with coach Hudspeth earlier today about this, and he invited me to remain with the Cajuns.

“It was hard to tell that group of young men, who just 12 months earlier had welcomed me into the program, that I was leaving. I could see the disappointment in their eyes when we talked. We asked them to buy into the system that we were teaching and the result was a Sun Belt Conference title.

“After thinking about things further, I feel I owe the players more than just one season after they responded so well to our philosophy. Professionally, I believe it is in my best interest of my coaching career to remain a coordinator instead of stepping back to become a position coach.”

Very, very classy, coach.  And essentially unheard of as well.

2013 was Willis’ first season with the Ragin’ Cajuns, leading a UL-L defense that was third in the Sun Belt — up from eighth the year prior to his arrival — and played a significant role in the football program’s second SBC co-championship.

(Photo credit: Louisiana-Lafayette athletics)

Tom Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain during Deflategate suspension

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Well, here’s a story born straight out of SEO heaven.

New England Patriots quarterback — and, of course, former Wolverines signal caller — Tom Brady will serve as an honorary captain for Michigan during his Roger Goodell-mandated Deflategate suspension.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed the news on NFL Network’s Rich Eisen’s podcast. The Big House cameo will take place Sept. 17 as Michigan hosts Colorado.

Brady is free, of course, due to a wide-ranging controversy stemming from allegedly deflated footballs in the Patriots’ 45-7 trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts during the 2014 AFC Championship that led to him being suspended the first quarter of the 2016 season.

Brady played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1995-99 and has kept close ties with his alma mater since, but those have ramped up since Harbaugh’s late 2014 hiring. Most notably, Brady made an appearance at Harbaugh’s 2016 Signing Day extravaganza in February.

Beware Lambeau leapers: Les Miles says you’ll be thumbing your way back to the bayou

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 19: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers does a Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field on October 19, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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One of the best traditions in the NFL apparently isn’t welcome at the collegiate level.

LSU and Wisconsin will square off opening weekend at historic Lambeau Field.  At the the Green Bay Packers’ house, every time the home team scores the scorer leaps into the stands to celebrate  with their fans– the famed Lambeau Leap.

In the run-up to one of the few collegiate games ever played in the venerable NFL stadium, it was made perfectly clear that such a leap would be against NCAA rules — “delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)” is part of Rule 9, Section 2, while another part prohibits “going into the stands to interact with spectators” — and the leaper, and thus his team, would be subject to a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

At least on Tiger stated earlier this week that, despite the penalty and knowing “coach Miles won’t be happy with me,” he’s really “looking forward to” doing the Lambeau Leap. “I’ll take that punishment when we get back Monday morning,” defensive back/punt returner Tre’Davious White added.

Getting back, though, could prove problematic, especially if his coach follows through on his “threat.”

“I promise you that if anybody jumps (for) the Lambeau Leap, they’ll end up with their thumb out to see if they can get a ride home,” Les Miles said on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday morning. “It’s college football, and we’ll play it that way, and I think our guys understand. We’ll do it right.”

There you have it.  You have been warned, Bayou Bengals. Leap at your own peril — especially when the whole “leaping into what will likely be a whole gaggle of Badger fans” aspect is taken into consideration as well.

After leaving Michigan, Ahmir Mitchell ‘appears headed to Rutgers’

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21: The mascot of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights leads the team onto the field before their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
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Ahmir Mitchell may have left Michigan, but he may not end up leaving the Big Ten after all.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Todderick Hunt of nj.com is reporting that Rutgers is the likely destination for Mitchell.  Later on in the story, Hunt writes that Mitchell “appears to be headed to Rutgers.”

Maryland and Temple have also been considered potential landing spots.  It’s expected Mitchell will make a decision next week.

As for his eligibility now and in the future at whichever school he selects?  Hunt explains:

Per Big Ten transfer rules, Mitchell will have to sit out the 2016 season, and will lose an additional year of eligibility, in order to transfer home. But Mitchell is expected to appeal the rule, and potentially even fight for a hardship waver, which although unlikely, could get him on the field as early as this year.

Mitchell’s departure from Ann Arbor was certainly an odd one, cloaked in uncertainty and secrecy.

Jim Harbaugh had confirmed earlier this month that two of the three Michigan football players not present for a team photo — Mitchell, running back Kareem Walker and defensive lineman Shelton Johnson — had been suspended, although he declined to specify which two. A couple of weeks later, Mitchell announced that he had decided to reopen his recruitment even as UM would’ve allowed him to return if he paid his own way this semester.

A four-star 2016 recruit, Mitchell was rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of New Jersey and the No. 167 player overall on 247sports.com‘s composite board. He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice.,

Big 12 informs East Carolina it’s no longer an expansion candidate

GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the East Carolina Pirates walks onto the field with his team before their game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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We don’t know yet which schools the Big 12 will add in its latest round of expansion.  We do know, though, one who won’t be added.

In a press release, and in a move that will surprise almost no one outside of the university, East Carolina confirmed that the Big 12 has informed them that they are no longer being considered as a candidate for expansion.  It had previously been reported that ECU was one of 20 Group of Five schools that contacted the conference about becoming a member.

The Big 12’s decision on ECU comes a couple of weeks after the current American Athletic Conference member conducted a video conference with commissioner Bob Bowlsby to make its pitch for membership.

“I am proud of the support Pirate Nation provided to our efforts,” ECU president Dr. Cecil Stanton said in a statement. “While I am disappointed by the decision, I remain undaunted in my commitment to ECU athletics and the excellence displayed by our wonderful student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

“While it is obviously not the decision we were hoping for, I am confident ECU put forth its best effort during this process,” a statement from the school’s athletic director, Jeff Compher, began. “Through a determined approach we were able to tell our story to not only the Big 12, but the entire nation. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff will continue to proudly compete for championships in the American Athletic Conference and we will represent our alumni and community with great resolve. We remain Undaunted!”

Nine other AAC members (Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple, Tulane, UCF, UConn, USF) are up for consideration by the Big 12.  Schools from Conference USA (Rice), the MAC (Northern Illinois), Mountain West (Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV) and the Sun Belt (Arkansas State), as well as football independent BYU, are considered to be expansion candidates.

It’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  A report from TMGSports.com surfaced overnight that stated invitations have been sent to those six schools, as well as USF and two other unnamed AAC schools.  Those on the receiving end of the invitations are expected to take part in another round of presentations, after which the conference will settle on their new members.

While the conference is looking at expanding by both two and four teams, it appears the former is the more likely number.  A final decision on both the members and number of members is expected at some point in October.