Michigan State has been climbing a bit of an uphill battle on their way to a Big Ten championship last season. Always flying under the radar and playing with a chip on their shoulders, the Spartans opened some eyes last season by coming together to make a run for the Big Ten title by overcoming rough play early on, handing Ohio State their first loss under Urban Meyer and then shutting down Stanford in a defensive battle in the Rose Bowl. Now on top of the Big Ten, will the Spartans be able to stay there? If nothing else, quarterback Connor Cook is full of confidence heading in to the spring.
“Heading into 2014, our expectations are so high that I feel like anything less than a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl would be a failure,” Cook told Bruce Feldman in an interview for CBSSports.com. “But it’s different now. I feel like we’re going to have more of a swagger heading into this season.”
Michigan State will be moving to a new division in the fall as the Big Ten expands. The Spartans will remain in the same division as in-state rival Michigan, but will also be in the fray with Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana and newcomers Maryland and Rutgers. The increased exposure in the east could not have come at a better time for the program as they currently hold the Big Ten’s title belt. And if they can get out of the Big Ten’s East Division, the odds may be pretty good they can play their way right back to Pasadena, or perhaps enter the College Football Playoff discussion.
“We won the Rose Bowl. We know what we’re capable of.,” Cook explained. “It’s everyone’s dream to win a national championship, and we feel like we can do that but you just have to take it one step at a time. The main goal at our program, which is what it is every year, is to win the Big Ten championship. If you win that, you’re in a BCS bowl. But it’s still the main goal is to win the Big Ten championship and then really everything else will take care of itself.”
Cook also discussed his trianing and how he is preparing for the upcoming season with Feldman, as well as a number of other topics. You can read the full interview on CBSSports.com.
It took a few weeks, but Missouri head coach Barry Odom has a new defensive line coach.
The school announced the hiring of Brick Haley on Friday afternoon, a longtime veteran SEC coach who heads to Columbia after previously serving on Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas.
“I’m very pleased and really excited to be joining Coach Odom’s program,” said Haley in a release. “We haven’t worked together, but I’m very aware of him and the reputation he has in the coaching profession. I look at this as an unbelievable opportunity to work with someone who has such an impressive passion and work ethic. It didn’t take me long in our conversations to know that Coach Odom is the right guy and someone you want to work with. I believe that Mizzou is a place where the sky is the limit, and I’m looking forward to being part of the program.”
Haley has a strong reputation as a recruiter, which is helpful considering that the Tigers are in a bit of a rebuilding job right now. In addition his recent stop at Texas, he also coached at LSU, the Chicago Bears, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and others.
Missouri does have a strong tradition of producing first-round picks along the defensive line and it appears that, after a one year speed bump with Jackie Shipp, the program has found the next coach to help carry on that tradition.
Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season. Thursday, that trio became a quartet.
On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January. The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.
If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.
Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.
North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft. The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.
“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”
“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”
Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played. The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.
Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining. Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.
The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job. According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.
The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today. It could, though, come this weekend.
Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.
In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.
In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.