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LSU clinging to slim lead over No. 21 Florida at halftime in the Swamp

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Despite a host of injuries, one ejection for targeting, and a number of negative plays, LSU looks like they’re shaking off that loss to Troy a week ago to give No. 21 Florida quite the battle in the Swamp — taking a 10-3 lead into the locker room at halftime of a game that won’t win any awards for watchability.

 

The Tigers struck first in the waning minutes of the first quarter with one of the team’s best drives of the season. Despite an ejection for targeting on an LSU wide receiver, the offense still mounted an impressive 11 play, 86 yard scoring march before Russell Gage took it in untouched from 30 yards out off a jet sweep. The team’s other possessions were nothing to write home about however, as quarterback Danny Etling threw for 71 yards (mostly check-downs) and running back Derrius Guice did not seem to be 100 percent after rushing for just 12 yards on six carries. Devin White led the way on defense with seven tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss.

The Gators were not exactly tearing things up offensively either despite averaging right around six yards per play in the half. A promising 70 yard drive stalled out in the red zone and resulted in a field goal but at least there were some signs of life from Feleipe Franks (5-8, 67 yards) and company to make things a little more interesting when the third quarter kicks off.

Still, that first half was not the most watchable of games we’ve seen in the SEC this season as it was all about a handful of big plays and a bunch of defensive stands. Adjustments will be key for whoever wants to win this one but the fierce rivalry between LSU and Florida does not seem to be letting up given how closely this has been played so far.

Oregon reportedly poaches Wazzu assistant Jim Mastro as Ducks’ new running backs coach

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Alex Grinch isn’t the only member of Mike Leach’s staff who is ticketed out of Pullman this offseason.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Oregon had poached Washington State assistant Jim Mastro to be the Ducks’ new running backs coach and run game coordinator.

Mastro has been with the Cougars since joining Leach’s initial staff at Wazzu back in 2012 and has quite a bit of experience out west, including 11 seasons at Nevada and a year at UCLA. He replaces Donte Pimpleton, who followed former Oregon coach Willie Taggart to Florida State several weeks ago.

Interestingly, this is the third straight offseason that the Ducks have poached an assistant from their Pac-12 North rivals. Quarterbacks coach David Yost left for Eugene back in 2015 while Taggart hired defensive line coach Joe Salave’a last year. Mastro should have plenty to work with upon arrival with senior Tony Brooks-James and youngster Darrian Felix likely leading the way on the ground.

Kevin Sumlin brings familiar Texas A&M face with him to Arizona’s coaching staff

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Kevin Sumlin is still sorting out his new staff at Arizona but reportedly has his special teams coordinator locked up and it’s a familiar face from his previous stop in College Station.

While Texas A&M’s former special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was hired for the same position at Alabama, Sumlin has hired his No. 2 in Jeremy Springer to be the Wildcats’ new special teams coordinator, a source told Sports Illustrated this week. The trio worked together for three years with the Aggies as Springer assisted Banks in the crucial third phase of the game.

Springer was originally ticketed to join another former Sumlin assistant in David Beaty as a staffer at Kansas but instead will head west to the desert. His most recent formal title was quality control special teams/tight ends assistant at Texas A&M but he’ll be an on-field coach in Tucson.

Springer played linebacker for UTEP and is still pretty fresh-faced in the coaching profession having graduated from the school in 2011.

Tennessee still trying to remove Butch Jones billboard at Neyland Stadium… months after he was fired by the Vols

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It’s been nearly two weeks since the national championship game which means that Jeremy Pruitt has been in Knoxville as the new Tennessee head coach for some time now leading the program. Despite that fact, there’s still a visible reminder every day when he drives into work of the previous regime that was in charge of the Vols.

That’s because there’s a giant 35-by-30-foot picture of former head coach Butch Jones still up on the outside of Neyland Stadium… over two months after he was fired by Tennessee. According to the Times Free Press, the picture could even be up past signing day in February as the rather slow change is made for an item that isn’t as easy for the school to alter as the media guide is.

“That’s not an easy process,” athletic director Phillip Fulmer told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR. “There’s mechanical things involved to get that done. It’s not just, ‘Let’s take down a picture off the wall or a graphic.’ We’re working through that.

“It is important to us, because it is important to reflect what we’re doing. It’ll be done in due time. I’ve heard the same thing from the chancellor. She wants me to speed it up, too. We will. We’ll get there.”

Funny enough, the giant picture of Jones (flanked by UT legends Reggie White and Robert Neyland) replaced an image of Fulmer from when the team won the BCS title 20 years ago. Something says they might revert back to that look with their now-AD until Pruitt can establish himself with the program over the next few years to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.

As the Times Free Press notes, it took Florida State just a week to scrub Jimbo Fisher‘s likeness from Doak Campbell Stadium but it might be three months before the Vols can do the same with their coaching change. It may not delight the fan base to see Jones some more but this is clearly one area on Rocky Top that is decidedly not moving at SEC-speed at the moment.

Arkansas DC John Chavis deal with Razorbacks reportedly includes expensive option after 2018

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Chad Morris’ first big hire upon taking over the head coaching spot at Arkansas was to bring in veteran SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis. If the pair is still together beyond the 2018 season though, it will be an expensive combination for the school based on the contract of the latter.

USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz obtained the details of Chavis new deal with the school on Friday night and notes that the longtime coach will make $995,000 for the 2018 season in Fayetteville.

While that figure for the 2018 campaign is down sharply from the $1.6 million figure he made in 2017 in the same role at Texas A&M (third highest for an assistant in the country), it should be noted that the Aggies are still on the hook for nearly $700,000 as a result of a one-year extension he signed prior to last season — resulting in the six-figure salary at Arkansas instead of hitting the million dollar mark.

If Chavis exercises the option for 2019 though, he’ll be back in the top 10 highest paid assistants once again but with Arkansas ponying up the full amount. Not bad work if you can get it after allowing 30.7 points per game the prior season.

Hopefully for the Razorbacks though, the results are more in line with the salary for Chavis and company going forward.