One of the top freshmen in the Class of 2014 will be adding some additional responsibilities his first season at the collegiate level. And, somewhere, Charles Woodson is smiling over the development.
While not really a surprise, and saying “we want improvement” in that phase of the game, Michigan’s Brady Hoke confirmed Friday that star 2014 signee Jabrill Peppers will be utilized as the Wolverines’ primary punt returner. After averaging just over six yards a return last season, one of the fastest players in the most recent recruiting class certainly won’t do anything but help that unit.
“That’ll be Jabrill,” the head coach said when asked about the job of returning punts. “I think, No. 1, we’re putting a lot of our best guys on the field. I think that’s a plus. I think we’ve had some (punt returners) in the last three years that have been decent, and sometimes maybe we haven’t fielded the ball as well as we should sometimes.”
In addition to his punt-return duties, Peppers will play an integral role in UM’s secondary this season, whether it be as a starter or a nickel cornerback. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said a couple of weeks ago that Peppers wouldn’t just be handed a job; with game day a week away, the defensive back has done just that.
Peppers was a consensus five-star recruit, rated as the No. 1 corner and the No. 3 player at any position in the country. Peppers served as the highest-rated recruit UM has ever signed since the founding of Rivals‘ back in 2002. The previous high? Ryan Mallett as the No. 4 player in the Class of 2007.
Oh yeah, and as I said, he’s kind of a fast human being.
North Carolina’s eastern and western Group of 5 programs are going to rekindle their rivalry.
Appalachian State and East Carolina — or is that East Carolina and Appalachian State? — announced Tuesday plans to play a 4-game series in 2021 and then 2024-26.
The teams will meet on opening weekend (Sept. 4) of the 2021 season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, then go home-and-home for the final three games of the series. East Carolina will host on Sept. 14, 2024, App State will take a turn on Sept. 6, 2025, and East Carolina will close the series on Sept. 5, 2026.
“On behalf of Appalachian State University, I would like to thank Will Webb, the Charlotte Sports Foundation, Jeff Compher and East Carolina University, the Carolina Panthers, and Bank of America Stadium for the opportunity to host a home game in downtown Charlotte,” App State AD Doug Gillin said in a statement Tuesday. “The chance for App State to host a home game in an NFL Stadium, in Charlotte where our largest alumni base is and against a program like East Carolina is a great opportunity for our students-athletes, alumni, and fans.”
“Both football programs have a rich history of success and outstanding fan support,” East Carolina AD Jeff Compher added. “I am especially excited for our future football student-athletes who will have an opportunity to play in such an exceptional NFL venue as Bank of America Stadium. We are grateful to Doug [Gillin] and our colleagues at Appalachian for working together in creating this four-game series.”
The two teams have met 31 times previously, but only twice since 1979. East Carolina has won each of the recent meetings — 29-24 to open the 2009 season and 35-13 to open ’12, both in Greenville — and holds a 19-12 all-time advantage with wins in the last six and nine of the last 11 matches.
Arkansas has promoted Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator, the program has announced.
Like a college player going pro or a high schooler freshly offered a scholarship, Bret Bielema made the announcement through his Twitter account.
Rhoads ascends to the defensive coordinator spot after Robb Smith left the staff to take the same job at Minnesota. He spent the last season on staff as defensive backs coach, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he moves to the big chair.
Arkansas concluded the 2016 season ranked 123rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 85th in scoring defense. The Razorbacks allowed 37.3 points per game and 7.87 yards per play in SEC games — which both stood as the worst in the conference.
Best known for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, Rhoads made his name in coaching as a successful defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh (2000-07) and Auburn (2008).
Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is the quintessential “player you hate if he’s on the other team and player you love if he’s on your team.” Boulware constantly searches — often times outside the letter of the rule book — to look for an edge, and made no secret of his disdain for ESPN college football analyst Demsond Howard‘s disdain for Clemson’s linebackers.
Howard’s quote that started the one-sided feud, via The Clemson Insider:
“Defensively, when I watch Dalvin Cook, Florida State’s running back do … and he is an elite running back and there is no doubting that. He is a special talent. But they are supposed to have a special defense, too. I think their achilles heel may be their linebackers. They are good straight ahead, but as far as going east and west, sideline to sideline, Dalvin Cook turned the corner whenever he wanted to against that defense. I need to see the linebackers play a little better, too, from Clemson.”
That’s the kind of quote that the average viewer would consume and then never give a second thought, or, if you’re a Boulware, the kind you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
With Clemson’s national championship now in the bag, Boulware showed off his new strategically-placed tattoo on Twitter, tagging Howard in the process.
(By the way, Cook did rush for 169 yards and four touchdowns that night, though Clemson won the game, 37-34.)
Knowing Boulware, he’ll spend the rest of his days barefoot, hopping with his inked foot splayed in the air, begging each and every passerby to ask him how he got that tattoo.
Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.
Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.
He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.
“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham. “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships. He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there. He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship. Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country. He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”
In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.
“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement. “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been. And he has a track record of developing young men. Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me. I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area. I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live. I am very excited to get started.”
Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.