Alabama Spring Game

Alabama AD’s first reaction to Lane Kiffin hire ‘wasn’t very positive’

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Much to the shock of many and delight of some, Alabama announced back in January of this year that Nick Saban had hired Lane Kiffin — he of the one-and-done at Tennessee that left myriad burned SEC bridges in its wake — as his new offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Even as some praised the hiring, many more were confused, bemused, befuddled or downright giddy that such an unlikely Saban/Kiffin marriage could and would actually come to fruition.  Still others were downright suspect about the move, a group that, it turns out, would include the head of Alabama’s athletic department.

In a Q&A with the Anniston Star, Bill Battle was asked about his thoughts on the hiring of Kiffin as coordinator.  Much to Battle’s credit, he didn’t shy away from his initial reaction.

“My first reaction, because I didn’t know Lane, wasn’t very positive,” the AD stated bluntly.

Thanks to a little nudging from Kiffin’s new boss, however, Battle began to dig deeper into the whole “Kiffin Experience” and came away thinking highly of the hiring.

“I talked to Coach Saban about it. He asked me if I had ever met him and I said no. He said, “Why don’t you meet him?” He had him in for a visit, I spent about an hour with him and I was very impressed. I followed up and talked to several different people. I called (athletics director) Pat Haden at Southern California. I talked to David Blackbird, who’s the AD at UT-Chattanooga. David was the compliance officer for football at Tennessee when Lane was there. They both told me that they thought he would be a great fit here, and I got really comfortable with it. Now that I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Lane, I’m really impressed. Our players are impressed and I think our coaches are impressed with how he’s gone about things. I think he’ll be very successful here.”

Whether Battle — or even Saban — feel the same way about the addition a year from now remains to be seen.  Then again, if Kiffin can rebuild his battered image with a successful stint in Tuscaloosa, he may not be around for long as another head coaching gig could be just around the corner for a coach who won’t turn 40 until May of next year.

Hugh Freeze fuels Ole Miss win in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl golf outing

Hugh Freeze
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge
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It appears Ole Miss’ off-field issues laid bare for the country to see over the weekend had little or no impact on Hugh Freeze’s focus on a golf course.

At the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl challenge in Greensboro, Ga., Freeze and his Ole Miss partner, former Rebel tight end Wesley Walls, pulled away from the field of 13 FBS head coaches and their partners to claim a two-shot win.  Moat impressive was how the Rebel duo pulled away as Freeze holed an 8-iron from 150 yards on the par-four 14th for an eagle, then the team proceeded to rip off four straight birdies to close out both the round and a trio of teams that finished at -11 –Georgia (Kirby Smart/David Dukes), Georgia Tech (Paul Johnson/Jon Barry), North Carolina State (Dave Doeren/Terry Harvey).

“The ball was jumping off my irons and I knew I hit it good,” Freeze said of the holed-out shot that jumpstarted the birdie binge. “Then Wesley said he thought he saw it disappear. I thought it was long but I started walking to the hole pretty fast and found out it went in. That’s when we thought we had a chance.”

Freeze’s heroics helped win his team $100,000, with that total being split evenly between endowed scholarships at the universities and foundations or charities of the coach’s choice.  Those heroics also kept the Georgia Tech team of Johnson and Barry from three-peating and winning the event for the fifth time in the last six years.

Below is how the rest of the field finished in the challenge as well as scholarship.charity money earned.

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‘Sometime this week or next week,’ ex-Miami TE Jerome Washington should sign with Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 16: Rutgers Scarlet Knights are wearing helmets with a stars and stripes logo in honor of Military Appreciation Day before the start of their game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at High Point Solutions Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
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In mid-April, former Miami tight end Jerome Washington confirmed that Rutgers will be his likely transfer destination.  Three weeks later, that move is coming closer to fruition.

Speaking to nj.com, Washington stated that, when it comes to officially signing with the Scarlet Knights, “[h]opefully it’s sometime this week or next week.”  All indications are RU will send the required paperwork in short order to officially make Washington the newest member of first-year head coach Chris Ash‘s football program.

“I haven’t signed but they told me they have a scholarship offer for me,” Washington told the website. “And when I asked what I should say to schools recruiting me, they said I should say I’m not interested, which means I’m basically good to go. Coach Ash told my cousin that last week at the recruiting event.”

If Washington lands at RU, or any other FBS program, he’d have to sit out the 2016 season, but would then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Washington, a rising sophomore, appeared in nine games in 2015 for the Hurricanes but did not record a statistic. He arrived at The U by way of Mercer County Community College.

In February, Washington announced that he would be transferring from Miami and continuing his playing career elsewhere.

Minnesota losing DL Mose Hall to transfer

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: The jersey and helmet of Jon Christenson #63 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers are seen during the third quarter of the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 15, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Buckeyes defeated the Golden Gophers 31-24. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The transfer train continues its run down the tracks, with Minnesota the latest to see its roster hit with attrition.

As all the cool kids are doing these days, Mose Hall took to social media confirm a change in his current situation, announcing on Twitter that he has decided to transfer out of the Gophers football program. No reason was given for the defensive lineman’s departure.

Should Hall move on to another FBS program, he’d have to sit out the 2016 season. He’d then have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Hall was a three-star 2015 recruit rated as the No. 98 strongside defensive end by 247Sports.com.  He was also the No. 61 player at any position in the state of Alabama.

Last season as a true freshman, Hall took a redshirt.

Expansion rumblings once again swirling around Big 12

Matt Ritchey
Associated Press
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Expansion in major college football has been in hibernation for a couple of years now, but it appears movement on that front could be imminent.  Or it could not.  One of the two.

Over the past 24 hours or so, a handful of stories have surfaced that, once again, have the speculation swirling around the Big 12 when it comes to that conference getting back to matching its numerical name.  From analytics to potential expansion candidates to the 800-pound Longhorn in the middle of the room, the Big 12’s annual spring meetings this week figure to at least begin — or, more specifically, continue — the process of settling the expansion/conference title game/league network issues that are all inextricably intertwined.

To wit:

— Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed that in research performed by an analytics outfit hired by the league, a 12-team conference with an eight-game league schedule and a championship game is the best model for one of its teams qualifying for the college football playoff.  Right now, the Big 12 is the exact opposite of that model, with 10 teams, nine conference games and no title game.

According to Bowlsby, the first combination would increase a league’s chances of sending a team to the playoffs by five percent.  As Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News asked, would that slight bump be enough to get everyone onboard with expansion and a title game?

“Some would say we want every advantage we can get,” Bowlsby said. “Others may say it’s not enough to blow up a good scheduling model.”

From Carlton’s report:

Bowlsby said the Big 12 is scheduled to receive “two major reports” in Irving. In addition to information on the title game, Navigate will examine scheduling models for a 10-, 12- and 14-team conference and the variables involved.

In February, Bowlsby said he hoped to have an answer to the expansion question, one way or the other, this summer.  Just how close Bowlsby gets to that timeline will depend on how things go in Phoenix this week.

— Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and UCF have all been mentioned as potential candidates if the Big 12 opts to expand.  According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the UofM has been lobbying the conference for inclusion in a next round of expansion if it comes.

University of Memphis president M. David Rudd sent a promotional publication – highlighting the finer points of the city and its major university – to University of Texas president Dr. Gregory Fenves in December, showcasing the U of M as a possible Big 12 expansion candidate.

Rudd said the publication, entitled “Memphis Soul of a City,” captures “the passion and proud history of Tiger athletics including a historic run by our football program.”

The Memphis publication highlights the city’s top Fortune 500 companies, its overall attributes and the U of M’s attributes, including its recent athletic accomplishments, particularly the turnaround by the football program. Tiger football has gone 19-7 the past two seasons.

— And, finally,that 800-pound Longhorn we spoke of earlier.

It’s long been believed that Texas is not in favor of expanding the conference, especially at the expense of folding its Longhorn Network into a conference-wide network, with Texas Tech and TCU, for their own reasons, following in lock-step with the state’s flagship institution.  According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the conference is one vote shy of garnering enough support to expand.

It’s believed seven of the 10 schools favor expansion. But Big 12 bylaws call for a super majority vote of 75 percent (so at least eight schools) to make a major change. Texas is believed to be influencing Texas Tech’s and Texas Christian’s decisions to also be reluctant to expansion.

Texas Tech has long fallen in line with Texas. Both are public universities that have been in the same league together since 1956, when they were in the Southwest Conference. Texas and Texas Tech were founding members of the Big 12 in 1996.

TCU is believed to be following Texas’ lead because the conference’s power broker reportedly helped the Horned Frogs get into the Big 12 four years ago.

In other words, we’re right back to where we’ve been on multiple occasions in the past: as Texas goes, so goes Big 12 expansion.  Or doesn’t go, as the case may be.

UPDATED 6:38 p.m. ET: If you want an idea as to Texas’ thought process at the moment, I think this sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know.