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New Tennessee AD John Currie says Butch Jones ‘on the right trajectory’


John Currie is officially on the job as Tennessee’s athletics director, which means it’s time for him to be on the hook for questions about his football program.

The Vols are in a state of crisis after a disappointing 2016 campaign. Despite being picked to win the SEC East and snapping an 11-game losing streak to Florida, the Volunteers fumbled the division away to the Gators, pushing Big Orange’s run of seasons not ending in Atlanta to nine straight years.

Jones is 30-21 after four seasons in Knoxville, rising from a 5-7 debut to 7-6 in 2014, to 9-4 in ’15 to 9-4 again last season. Tennessee’s SEC record fell from 5-3 to 4-4 from ’15 to ’16.

Despite that, Currie said in an interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal that he likes what he’s seen from Butch Jones from afar.

From the paper:

Q: What’s your thought about where Tennessee football is right now?

A: I’m excited to get to know Coach Jones. I know Friday was Pro Day on campus and people are talking about how many NFL scouts and coaches and general managers are at Tennessee. And a number of folks have remarked to me in the last 24 hours that four or five years ago there weren’t so many. So clearly Coach Jones has done a great job of getting the program going in the right direction and I’m excited to continue to get to know him better and find out how I can support him more.

Q: What are reasonable expectations for football at Tennessee? 

A: The expectations are defined by the history. Tennessee is a championship-level program and that’s where you want to get to. But one of the things I’ve learned from Coach Snyder at K-State is what you have to focus on, and that is, are we getting better today than we were yesterday? If you get away from that principal and think about where you want to get to eventually, you’re doing it wrong. We’ve got to focus on where we are today, and will we be better tomorrow, and continue to build through that process. We all know how competitive the conference is, and how competitive college football is. Who would think that Kansas State University would have the best facilities in the Big 12 conference, better than Texas? Kansas State does. The reality of it is, as universities have been able to generate more revenue, everybody has been able to build good facilities, everybody has been able to provide great academic support, and as all those things have happened around the country in all the leagues, it becomes even more competitive. I think Coach Jones is on the right trajectory.

And, yes, you can absolutely fire this under the “what is he supposed to say?” cabinet. But, still, it’s worth filing anyway.

North Carolina formally announces hiring of ex-Tennessee RBs coach Robert Gillespie

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The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”

Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.

Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.

In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach,, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.