North Carolina athletics

Gene Chizik steps down as Tar Heel’s DC to spend more time with family

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The rumors have officially come to fruition.

With speculation swirling, North Carolina confirmed Thursday evening in a press release that Gene Chizik has decided to step down as the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator.  Chizik stated he decided to “step away from coaching to be with my family.”

John Papuchis, UNC’s linebackers coach and former DC at Nebraska (2012-14), will take over for Chizik as coordinator.

“After a lot of prayer and discussions with my wife and children, I have made the difficult decision to step away from coaching to be with my family,” said Chizik in a statement. “The past two years at the University of North Carolina and the opportunity to work with Coach Fedora have been a blessing, and I’m extremely proud of the success we enjoyed. I have always told my players family should come before football, and it’s time for me to follow my own advice. I look forward to watching my own son play the game I’ve dedicated my life and career to for the next two years, and I look forward to the simple joys of being a father and husband I’ve missed out on.”

“These last two years with Gene have been exactly what I hoped they would be,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “The defensive improvement speaks for itself, but I’m equally as proud of the growth and development of our student-athletes on the defensive side of the ball. I hate to lose Gene but certainly understand the reasoning behind his decision, I know it’s been hard on him and his family. We wish the Chizik family all the best and appreciate their dedication to Tar Heel football.”

Chizik was in charge of a significant and impressive — and immediate — turnaround of UNC’s defense.

In 2014, the year prior to Chizik’s arrival, UNC finished 119th in scoring defense (38.9 points per game) and 118th in total defense (263.5 yards per game); in 2015, they were 35th (22.6 ppg) and 26th (194.5 ypg), respectively.  This past season, they were 14th in yards per game (183.8) but dipped to 46th in points per game (24.9).

‘Family reasons’ lead two-year starter at WR to leave Utah

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Suddenly, Utah’s receiving corps is significantly depleted.

The Utes confirmed Thursday that Raelon Singleton has decided to leave Kyle Whittingham‘s football program.  The school cited unspecified “family reasons” for the redshirt junior wide receiver moving on from the Utes.

“We are sorry to see Raelon leave, but understand that his family comes first,” a statement from the head coach read. “We appreciate his contributions to our program over the last four years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Singleton, a native of the state of Texas, will graduate from the university in May.  That would make him eligible to play immediately in 2018 at another FCS school if that’s the route he chooses to take.

The past two seasons, Singleton was the Utes’ second-leading receiver yards-wise.  He had 36 receptions for 531 yards and four touchdowns this past season, and went 27-464-4 in 2016.

With Singleton’s departure and leading receiver Darren Carrington‘s expired eligibility, the Utes will have to replace 106 receptions and 1,511 yards.  That twosome also combined for 10 touchdown catches; as a team, the Utes had 18 this past season.

Peter Sirmon steps down as Bobby Petrino’s DC at Louisville

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It’s that time of year for a handful of coaching surprises.

The latest such development comes from Louisville, with Jody Demling of CardinalAuthority.com the first to report that Peter Sirmon has stepped down as the U of L’s defensive coordinator.  The football program subsequently confirmed that Sirmon has left Bobby Petrino‘s coaching staff.

“I would like to thank Peter Sirmon for all his work this season at the University of Louisville,” a statement attributed to the head coach began. “I wish him and his family all the best.”

Sirmon just completed his first season with the Cardinals.  In his lone season, the U of L finished 70th in scoring defense (27.4 ppg) and 62nd in total defense (388.1 ypg); in the year prior to arrival, they were 71st (27.1 pp) and 59th (387 ypg), respectively, in those categories.

Prior to the U of L, Sirmon had served as the coordinator at Mississippi State for one season in 2016.

QB Zerrick Cooper announces transfer from Clemson

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Not surprisingly, Clemson’s quarterback room will have one less familiar face in it this season than it did last.

Using Clemson’s official Twitter account, Zerrick Cooper announced Friday that he has decided to transfer from the Tigers.  In his statement, the quarterback indicated that he was moving on in order to find a better opportunity for playing time.

“This is no reflection of the Clemson family,” Cooper wrote, “but rather a direct reflection of my drive to lead, play & compete.”

Cooper was a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Cooper, along with Hunter Johnson, served as the backups to starter Kelly Bryant following the competition to replace Deshaun Watson.

Of the two, the strong-armed Cooper saw the most action as he completed 25 of his 41 attempts for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns in seven games.  Johnson, a true freshman who was a five-star 2017 signee, attempted 27 passes.  However, by the end of the season, Johnson had seemingly become Bryant’s primary backup.

Both Bryant and Johnson will return in 2018.  Perhaps more than anything, however, Clemson signed Trevor Lawrence, the top-rated player in the Class of 2018, as part of the first-ever early signing period last month.

Alabama reportedly raids Penn State staff for new WRs coach

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Nick Saban‘s latest reshaping of his coaching will reportedly come at the expense of a Big Ten school.

Earlier Thursday, a report surfaced that Mike Locksley was being promoted by Saban to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  As Locksley served as Alabama’s wide receivers coach this past season, it left Saban in search of a new coach for that positional group.

According to FootballScoop.com, that search has ended as Penn State’s Josh Gattis is expected to take the job.  Gattis will also serve as the Tide’s co-offensive coordinator.

A couple of other outlets confirmed the initial report.

Gattis had spent the past six seasons on James Franklin-led coaching staff, the first two at Vanderbilt and the last four at Penn State.  In addition to receivers coach, Gattis held the title of passing-game coordinator and assistant special teams coordinator with the Nittany Lions.