Al Golden picks true freshman to be Miami’s starting QB

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Ryan Williamsoffseason injury paved the way for a true freshman to become the starting quarterback of the Miami Hurricanes.

Brad Kaaya will be the starter,” Miami head coach Al Golden told the Miami Herald‘s Susan Miller Degnan. “Jake (Heaps) understands exactly what he needs to do in terms of getting ready and supporting Brad, and Brad knows that the competition is going to continue.

“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of the season. There’s competition at every position.”

It comes as a surprise for Golden to name Kaaya the starter. The freshman wasn’t an early enrollee, while Heaps was a senior transfer. It wasn’t too long ago Heaps was considered the favorite to win the job. In a close competition, though, the younger player usually gets the nod.

“It was a tight battle,” Golden stated. “It was a battle that none of us, including you guys, could have foresaw at the end of June or beginning of July or maybe even at the beginning of camp. I’m excited about that position.”

Kaaya was considered a four-star recruit and ranked by Rivals.com as the eighth-best quarterback prospect in the nation. While Heaps had an advantage in experience, he didn’t clearly outplay Kaaya. At 6-4 and 206 pounds, Kaaya fits the mold as a traditional pocket passer to play in Golden’s system.

“He’s really maturing,” Golden said. “We’re putting him in a tough environment every day in terms of the music [UM blasts at practice]. I think the biggest thing now is to get him to… because we don’t have our whole offense in for the opener, he’ll improve by leaps and bounds in the next three or four days.”

The most interesting aspect of Golden’s decision is how the coach handles the situation moving forward. Golden already stated the competition will continue. Kaaya isn’t guaranteed anything beyond starting the season opener. If and when Kaaya struggles, Golden may quickly switch to Heaps.

There is also the question of what happens if Kaaya embraces the position and how the Hurricanes move forward with a recovering Williams and improved Kevin Olsen champing at the bit to start in 2015.

But Kaaya has to prove himself first. The freshman already gained the trust of his coaches. It’s now time to prove he can make plays during live game action.

“If he wasn’t here for 13 weeks before preseason camp plus three now, I don’t think we would be having this conversation,” Golden said. “That combined with the fact that he made incredible sacrifices personally, and he’s smart, and he’s disciplined. He is one of those guys that got better incrementally every day so here we are.”

And a trip to Louisville to open the season against a Cardinals’ defense, which was ranked No. 1 overall last season, is as tough as it gets for an 18-year old quarterback making his first start as collegiate quarterback.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Miami athletic department)

Wisconsin renews Paul Chryst’s contract again, keeps him in Madison until 2023

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It’s becoming a regular occurrence around Madison this time of year but Wisconsin has renewed head coach Paul Chryst’s contract once again.

The UW Athletic Board approved the deal on Friday and keeps Chryst around with a five-year contract that runs through January 31, 2023. Other terms of the contract were not announced but this is pretty standard operating procedure for the school after the board did the same back in 2017 and 2016 to keep the coach on what amounts to a rolling five-year deal.

Based on his upgraded deal that agreed to last winter, Chryst is set to set make $3.3 million in 2018 with additional annual raises of $100,000 each year through 2023.

Chryst is 34–7 at his alma mater (53-26 overall as a head coach) and is coming off the team’s best season several years after going 13-1 in 2017 and capping things off with a victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl. The Badgers could be even better in 2018 given what returns to the starting lineup and were slotted in at No. 5 in CFT’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 for next season as a result.

Colorado State officially announces hire of John Jancek as Rams’ new defensive coordinator

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Mike Bobo finally has his defensive coordinator as Colorado State announced on Friday that long time coaching veteran John Jancek was hired to run the Rams’ defense.

“I’ve had the opportunity to coach on the same staff with John at Georgia, and I’ve coordinated offenses that have gone up against his defenses,” Bobo said in a statement. “He has a great deal of experience coaching and winning at the highest levels of college football, and I’m very excited he is part of the Ram Family.”

The hire of Jancek comes a little over a week after the program nearly brought in former Alabama assistant Derrick Ansleywho was set to head to Fort Collins to take the DC job before getting hired by the Oakland Raiders and their new coach Jon Gruden. The team had an opening at the position after Marty English retired following the 2017 season.

Jancek most recently was a defensive consultant at Kentucky this past season but spent the three years prior as the coordinator at SEC rival Tennessee. All told, this is his fifth stop as a defensive coordinator at the FBS level — including a stint at Georgia that overlapped with Bobo’s tenure in Athens from 2005-2009. He also spent one season as the safeties coach at South Florida in 2016 in his last full-time on the field role as a coach.

Jancek’s move west caps off a busy week for Colorado State’s staff after Dave Johnson was hired as run game coordinator and offensive line coach on Tuesday.

Arkansas center giving up football, pursuing law enforcement career

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Zach Rogers ended the 2017 season as a starter at Arkansas.  Now, he’s set to begin the next first phase of his life post-football.

Rogers’ father confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his son has decided to give up playing college football.  According to the dad, the offensive lineman is pursuing a career in law enforcement, with the Democrat-Gazette reporting that Rogers has already interviewed with two police agencies in Washington County (Ark.).

A three-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2015 recruiting class, Rogers was rated as the No. 27 offensive guard in the country and the No. 48 player at any position in the state of Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Rogers played in three games in 2016.

Last season, when Frank Ragnow, a third-team All-American, went down with a season-ending injury, Rogers started the final five games of the year.  Those were the only games he started in his collegiate career, although he would’ve entered summer camp this year as the favorite to land the starting job in the middle of the Hogs’ line.

Now, as the Democrat-Gazette notes, new head coach Chad Morris oversees a roster without a player who’s ever played the center position at this level.

Arizona’s Rod Smith named OC at Illinois

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The postseason coaching carousel continues to spin, with Lovie Smith the latest to make a key addition to his staff.

Rod Smith, it was confirmed by the school Friday, has been hired by Smith to serve as the next offensive coordinator at Illinois.  In addition to his coordinating duties, Smith will also serve as quarterbacks coach as well.

Smith replaces Garrick McGee, who was fired two days before Christmas after two seasons with the Fighting Illini.

“Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois,” Smith said. “His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here. Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops.”

Smith had spent the past six seasons as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona.  With Rich Rodriguez‘s dismissal earlier this month, it was expected Smith wouldn’t be retained by new boss Kevin Sumlin, whose hiring was confirmed over the weekend.

Smith heads to Champaign armed with experience in the Big Ten, coaching quarterbacks and co-coordinating Indiana’s offense in 2011 as well as spending 2008-10 as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach.