Keeping true to his college roots is something Peyton Manning, a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback when the time comes, believes Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has the Vols heading in the right direction. While speaking at a charity golf tournament Monday, Manning showed support for the head coach of his alma mater.
“I really like Butch,” Manning said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m a big Butch Jones fan.”
Jones is ramping up for his second season in charge of the once dominant SEC and national power. Rebuilding the program after years under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley is a bit of a work in progress but Jones has generated some new enthusiasm around the program through recruiting. Just over the weekend former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara announced he was joining Tennessee.
“I think it’s going in the right direction,” said Manning. “I think Butch had a lot of work to do when he got here. He’s put in that work. He’s signing some of his players. Every coach wants to have their players. He’s been patient. At the same time, he’s been hard-working, as he was advertised to be. He’s done that. I just see it continuing to get better. I really do.”
Tennessee may not be ready to challenge South Carolina or Georgia for the SEC East just yet, but after finishing each of the past four seasons in the bottom half of the SEC East division, the Vols could be ready to start moving back up in the division. That needs to be the first goal for Tennessee this season, and it is not all that unrealistic. It will not be easy though, with road games at South Carolina and Georgia and a home game against Alabama.
Ohio running back Maleek Irons was arrested over the weekend for his role in fleeing a possible drunk driving accident.
The Athens News reports Irons was arrested Saturday morning by police responding to a call about “an intoxicated male driving a vehicle, colliding with other vehicles, and fleeing the scene.” The vehicles connected to the call was found off the road at 3:39 a.m. When police discovered the car, Irons got out of the car and started to run tow a dorm on Ohio’s campus, failing to stop when commanded by the officer.
Irons has been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resisting arrest and obstructing official business. He was released on bond and has a court appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning. There has been no statement from Ohio on his status with the program, although an indefinite suspension of some sort may be expected as is usually the case when an issue like this arises.
With Irons finding himself in some legal hot water, that means The Fulmer cup season is officially underway.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the most powerful person within the Alabama sports department, but even he has a boss. Now, he will have a new boss.
Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle is stepping down into retirement from his current position, although he will remain active in the university as a special assistant to university president Stuart Bell. Battle has been fighting through health issues and completed treatment for cancer last summer. His vacant spot in the athletics department will be filled by Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne. A formal announcement has not been made as of yet, but multiple reports have confirmed the pending Byrne hiring. (UPDATE: Alabama has since formally announced the hiring of Byrne)
”Bill has done a tremendous job as director of athletics, and has accomplished so much during his career,” Bell said, according to the Associated Press. ”His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel.”
The hiring of Byrne takes Alabama outside its own foundation to bring in an outsider to lead the sports department. Byrne is an Idaho native who has worked in an administrative role in two SEC schools, so he will be familiar with the landscape the conference has to offer. Byrne was the athletics director of Mississippi State from 2008 through 2010 before moving to Arizona for the past six years. At Mississippi State, Byrne hired football coach Dan Mullen. Byrne also held an associate AD role at Kentucky, where he directed development and fundraising efforts for the Wildcats.
It’s not yet Signing Day, but Notre Dame has already secured a major commitment for what Brian Kelly hopes is a major bounce-back 2017 season.
Offensive lineman Quenton Nelson announced Sunday he is returning for his senior season. “Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out,” Nelson wrote in an Instagram post. “I’m right behind you Coach.”
Nelson, who hails from “Westeros, GOT,” according to his Twitter bio, is a two-year starter at guard for the Irish. Notre Dame finished tied for 62nd nationally in yards per carry this season, but ranked eighth in that same metric a year ago en route to earning a finalist not for the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the nation’s best offensive line unit — and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Former California head coach Sonny Dykes is set to join TCU’s staff in a to-be-determined role, multiple outlets reported Sunday evening. Jeremy Clark of TCU’s 247 site broke the news.
Dykes, of course, was the head coach of the Golden Bears through last Sunday, when the school abruptly fired him. He was 19-30 in four seasons with Cal.
With Doug Meacham off to Kansas and Sonny Cumbie running the show for the Horned Frogs’ offense, Dykes is a natural fit to slide in and assist Cumbie. Dykes was an offensive assistant of Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-06, and Cumbie played for the Red Raiders as a quarterback from 2000-04. Sharing the same first name can’t hurt, either.