Saban picks Peyton Manning’s no-huddle brain during visit

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In mid-December last year, Lane Kiffin was brought to Alabama by head coach Nick Saban to help evaluate the Tide’s offense ahead of its BCS bowl matchup with Oklahoma.  Less than a month later, the former USC head coach was hired as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

While another hire likely won’t come out of another high-profile visit, Saban has again decided to pick the brain of some offensive-centric football types in his never-ending quest to improve his football program.

Saban confirmed to the media that current Denver Broncos and former Tennessee Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, along with Manning’s coordinator Adam Gase, visited Tuscaloosa for two days last week for a meeting that may have violated the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Saban said Manning has “been a friend and very well-respected for a long time,” and the visit came about as the player and coach were taking a football tour to select cities across the country.

Given the proliferation of no-huddle, spread offenses in the college game — and the Tide’s notorious struggles in stopping them — and Manning’s expertise in running such a system, Saban jumped at the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said. “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”

Saban’s attempts to decipher the no-huddle riddle from a defensive standpoint has become almost legendary; earlier this month, a football clinic hosted by Saban featured, among others, the head coach of the fast-paced, high-octane Baylor Bears, Art Briles.

“The goals that you have for next year are basically the things that you struggled with last year,” Saban said in explaining the proliferation of high-profile visitors of late. “You make a list of those things through your quality control, and then you go out and look for people who might be able to help you develop a little more expertise, a better way to teach, a better way to coach some situation.

“Sometimes we bring somebody in here to visit with us. Sometimes we have people call us and ask us if they can come and visit us and try to learn from us, which we share with quite a few people. I think we usually learn from them as well when that happens.”

Kevin Sumlin says he has not spoken with Aggies’ AD this week

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While it seems like Texas A&M has been preparing to fire head coach Kevin Sumlin since this summer, it very much appears as though his tenure in College Station is going to officially come to an end at the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday.

A report on Tuesday evening from the Houston Chronicle said that Sumlin will be let go — win or lose — following the team’s game at LSU. Despite that definitive-sounding nature of the report from the well-sourced newspaper, the head coach himself says he has not spoken with athletic director Scott Woodward in nearly a week to discuss his status with the team going forward.

“I haven’t talked to Scott since Saturday at the game, so there hasn’t been any discussion about that,” Sumlin said on the SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s not like we haven’t dealt with this since the spring. I think our team has done a really nice job of focusing on games at hand, and we’ll continue to do that. Certainly we’ve had that experience since the beginning of the year.

“We haven’t really had a chance to talk to our team yet, because we haven’t practiced yet and all this information came out after practice. We’ll deal with it the way we’ve dealt with everything this year, and we’ll continue to do business as usual. Like I said, our staff and our coaches have done a nice job of handling it. In football, it’s not just about football. You try to teach lessons and dealing with adversity, that’s what life’s about.”

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman said that players and coaches learned of the Chronicle’s report after practice on Tuesday and were upset at the timing and nature of the news surfacing ahead of the team’s game against an SEC rival like the Tigers. While it’s not like they couldn’t see things coming given the animosity on all sides following a disappointing, if injury-riddled, campaign for the Aggies, it’s still not the greatest feeling in the world to go into a game knowing it will be the coaching staff’s last no matter the result.

East Carolina suspends punter charged with drunk-driving, fleeing

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Punters are players too. And apparently drinkers and, in this case, runners as well.

According to multiple media outlets, East Carolina’s Austin Barnes (pictured, No. 17) was arrested on a handful of charges very early Sunday morning following an attempted traffic stop and apparent chase. Specifically, the senior punter was charged with driving under the influence, fleeing/eluding arrest and having no operator’s license.

No details of what led to the arrest and charges have been released.

As a result of the suspension, Barnes has been suspended by Scottie Montgomery. Below is a statement attributed to the head coach:

Representing East Carolina University is a privilege and any behavior that’s not in accordance with that is unacceptable. We have conduct standards and expectations in place for our program for a reason and it’s disappointing when individuals choose not to be accountable for their teammates, especially those who are perceived to be in leadership roles.

As Barnes is in his final season of eligibility, and as the three-win Pirates can’t become bowl-eligible, this ends the collegiate portion of the booter’s collegiate playing career.

With a 44-yard average, Barnes currently leads the AAC and is 19th nationally in yards per punt. Barnes came to ECU s a graduate transfer from Eastern Michigan.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)

Florida QB Luke Del Rio says he won’t use sixth season of eligibility

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The long, winding journey that’s been Luke Del Rio‘s collegiate playing career has come to an end.

Because of injuries, Del Rio had a sixth season of eligibility that he could’ve used at Florida in 2018.  Instead, the quarterback confirmed on his personal Twitter account Wednesday afternoon that he has decided to not take advantage of that additional season.

No specific reason for that decision was given.

Del Rio started the first six games of the 2016 season, only to see his second year year in Gainesville come to a premature end because of injuries.  After losing the battle for the starting job to Feleipe Franks in August of this year, Del Rio got the job back and started the Week 5 win over Vanderbilt.  Unfortunately, he suffered what turned out to be a season-ending shoulder injury in that same game.

The Swamp was actually the well-traveled Del Rio’s third college football home.

Del Rio, the son of former USC great and current NFL head coach Jack Del Riotransferred to Oregon State from Alabama in January of 2014.  He was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, and served as Sean Mannion’s primary backup that season as he completed 8-of-18 passes for 141 yards.

In May of 2015, he transferred from OSU to Florida.  He finished the Gator portion of his career completing 130-of-226 passes for 1,496 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Kent State makes firing of Paul Haynes official

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It’s official: there are currently eight openings (for now) at head coach in the FBS.

The latest to officially face the coaching guillotine is Paul Haynes, who Kent State announced Wednesday afternoon would not have his contract renewed, confirming reports that had surfaced earlier in the day.  Haynes wrapped up his fifth, and what turned out to be final season with the Golden Flashes with a 24-14 loss to rival and MAC East champion Akron Tuesday night.

“Making a coaching change is never easy,” athletic director Joel Nielsen said in a statement. “As an alum, Paul gave his all for this university and to Golden Flashes football, and moved the program forward in many ways. We thank Paul and his family for their service and commitment to Kent State student-athletes.”

In 2012, the year prior to Haynes’ arrival, Kent went 11-3.  In the five years under Haynes, they were 14-45 overall.  The Golden Flashes won either two or three games each of the past four seasons, including a 2-10 mark in 2017.

That stretch of 10 wins is the worst four-year run for the program since they won six from 1997-2000.  That was part of a lost decade-plus that saw the Golden Flashes win a combined 16 games in 12 seasons (1989-2000).