Outgoing Penn State AD opens up about firing Paterno, hiring O’Brien

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Earlier this week it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner will resign from his position. Joyner had never been much of a fan favorite, and the tales of his interactions with coaches and football players had been documented, including in the John Bacon book “Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football.” Joyner realizes why his image is tarnished to a certain extent, but he appears to not want to shoulder the responsibility for some of his actions as a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees and athletics director.

“I just think people have so many emotions tied up in how they feel about what went on that it interferes perhaps with some rational thought process,” Joyner said in a one-on-one interview with David Jones of The Patriot News. “And I don’t slight them for that; that’s not a criticism.”

What did Joyner mean by “what went on?” The firing of former head coach Joe Paterno, as the Jerry Sandusky scandal was ripping apart the program and university before a blitzkrieg of national media flocking in State College in November 2011.

“What happened with Joe and the Board and all the issues surrounding that,” Joyner explained. “You know, if you have a burr under your saddle, every time you move, it hurts, no matter what it is.”

Joyner’s critics ranged across the state of Pennsylvania. Penn State fans had been split as a result of the Sandusky crimes and to this day the healing as a community continues. Anger and outrage was directed at the leadership of the school, and that meant Joyner was a bit of a target as well after coming form the board. Joyner says he received plenty of criticisms for his actions from those who felt the entire Paterno portion of the fallout was mishandled, but he tried to suggest Paterno was never fired. Jones was not buying that.

From The Patriot News;

Joyner: “The folks that may have come up to me and said that they were upset that I was part of Joe’s – well, let’s clarify something, too: He wasn’t fired. He was not permitted to coach the last three games.

P-N: Oh, come on. And [former men’s basketball coach] Jerry Dunn wasn’t fired either. Please. Stop it.

Joyner: “I understand. Having said that, people have come up to me and said some things. It’s happened in the grocery store. Not very often anymore. But when it would happen, I would just say, ‘I respect your right to that opinion.'”

Joyner was also charged with the task of hiring a new head coach. That job search led to the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. O’Brien coached two seasons at Penn State, which were slammed with NCAA sanctions nobody quite expected later in the summer just before O’Brien got his head coaching gears in motion. O’Brien left to take a job as the head coach of the Houston Texans this offseason. Some felt O’Brien had issues with Penn State leadership, but Joyner suggests Penn State tried to give O’Brien everything the coach wanted.

“I’m not sure what he wanted that he didn’t get, to be honest with you,” Joyner said. “We tried every way we could to do everything we can. Not saying we can do everything. But we would talk very frequently about, hey, what do you need?”

Joyner will retire effect August 1 but has informed Penn State he will help with the transition as a new AD is brought in.

You can read the full interview with Joyner via The Patriot News.

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.

San Jose State QB Malik Watson latest to take grad transfer route

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  The San Jose State Spartans marching band plays their fight song against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the second quarter on November 29, 2013 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California.  The Spartans won 62-52.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college football player has decided to ply his final season of college football wares elsewhere.

The latest to take that tack is Malik Watson, who announced via Twitter that he has “decided that I will not be returning to San Jose State for my senior and will be seeking elsewhere to pursue my dream.”  As Watson will graduate from SJSU this May, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 if he lands at another FBS school and enrolls in a grad program not offered at his former school.

Watson added that, as he awaits a new destination, he “will continue to train with my private QB coach in this meantime.”

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A California high school product who was born in Hawaii, Watson transferred from the junior college ranks to SJSU in 2014. After redshirting that first year, the 6-3, 208-pound Watson played in two games as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart.

In that time, Watson completed 9-of-15 passes for 59 yards and an interception. Of the 15 attempts, 14 came in the Week 3 loss to Oregon State.

Illini grad transfer T.J. Neal to visit WVU, Auburn

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMPER 27: Linebacker T.J. Neal #52 of the Illinois Fighting Illini arches of running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskersduring their game at Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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T.J. Neal does not yet know where he will continue his collegiate career, but it appears the linebacker has significantly narrowed the field.

A little less than two weeks ago, Neal, after being told by the coaching staff that they were planning to move him from middle to strongside linebacker, decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program.  As he will be a graduate transfer upon earning his degree in May, Neal will be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2016.

Enter West Virginia and Auburn, two teams which have been in contact with Neal and vice versa.  According to al.com, Neal will visit Morgantown this coming Monday, then head to The Plains a week later.

Upon the announcement of an impending departure, Illini head coach Bill Cubit said the Pennsylvania native “was talking about playing closer to home.”  Even as a move to Auburn would be the exact opposite of that, Neal seems genuinely excited over the prospects.

“Being able to play down there in Alabama, it’s like a dream come true,” Neal told Brandon Marcello of al.com. “From my high school, I never thought I’d play at a big-time school like Auburn. To have a chance now, it’s exciting to play against some of the top players in the country.”

According to blueandgoldsports.com, Penn State and Pittsburgh are/were also in play. It’s unclear if he’s visited or plans to visit those schools in his home state, although it was originally thought that the Nittany Lions could be high on Neal’s to-do list.

Not only is Neal a native of McKeesport, Pa., but Tim Banks, the Illini’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach the past four seasons, left in December to become the Nittany Lions’ coordinator.  PSU has also seen a pair of linebackers, Troy Reeder and Gary Wooten Jr., transfer out this month, meaning the opportunity for a starting job would certainly be on the table.

Regardless, Neal expects to make a decision shortly after the Feb. 15 visit to Auburn. He would then enroll in his new school of choice shortly after his graduation from Illinois.

Neal was a two-year starter for the Illini who finished second on the team in tackles (109) this past season.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten for his play in 2015.