One of the best under-the-radar storylines of the 2017 season continued Saturday evening in Little Manhattan.
Once a highly-touted quarterback prodigy — as a 13-year-old he was offered a scholarship to USC by Lane Kiffin — David Sills moved to wide receiver not long after signing with West Virginia as part of their 2015 recruiting class. In June of 2016, WVU announced that Sills was moving on to the junior college level “to pursue his dream of playing quarterback.”
Six months later, that dream ended as WVU announced that Sills had come back to the Mountaineers — and was coming back as a receiver. And come back he did as, after catching seven passes for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns in eight games as a true freshman in 2015, Sills has now caught 18 touchdowns in 10 games this season after recording two more in WVU’s narrow five-point win over Kansas State — one on an absolutely ridiculous catch, especially for a former quarterback.
The only other FBS player even remotely in Sills’ end-zone neighborhood is Memphis’ Anthony Miller, who has 11. With 10 each, UCLA’s Darren Andrews and Miami of Ohio’s James Gardner are the only other players at this level in double-digits.
With three games remaining, the 6-4, 203-pound Sills has an outside chance — a very outside chance — of tying the FBS single-season record of 27 touchdown catches set by Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards in 1998. He’s also seven scores away from tying the school record of 25 set by Stedman Bailey in 2012. Bailey is currently tied for second all-time with Marshall’s Randy Moss, who set the FBS record of 25 the year before it was broken by Edwards.
In seven games this season, though, Sills has scored two or more touchdowns in a single game. He’s caught three in thee contests.
As for the man feeding Sills the ball through the air, Will Grier (howdy Florida!) leads the nation with 34 touchdowns passes, pending what Missouri’s Drew Lock (31) does tonight against Kentucky. With the same three games remaining, Grier needs eight touchdowns to tie Geno Smith‘s school record of 42 set in 2012 and nine to break it.
Over the past several days, it appeared that Florida had zeroed in on Chip Kelly as its next head coach. On Black Friday, that appears to no longer be the case.
Earlier this afternoon, FootballScoop.com reported that coaches they’ve spoken to expect Kelly to choose UCLA as his destination for a return to college football. Not long after, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported that “Florida has moved on from Kelly” as its potential head coach and will move on to other, unnamed candidates. Forde adds that “UCLA is the increasingly likely new destination for the former coach of the Oregon Ducks.”
Whether Florida moved on because Kelly informed them he was headed to UCLA or because they simply couldn’t reach an agreement is unknown at this time.
These reports come a couple of days after it was reported that UF was prepared to move on from Kelly if he didn’t make a decision in short order.
With Kelly apparently out of the picture in Gainesville, the Gators will very likely turn their attention to UCF’s Scott Frost and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
If Frost is the target, UF will likely have some competition in the form of Frost’s alma mater Nebraska, which is expected to part ways with Mike Riley after the Cornhuskers’ regular-season finale. MSU, meanwhile, is prepared to “go all in” to retain Mullen.
The rumor mill is set to make yet another coach a much richer man. Again.
While it appears that, at least for the moment, Florida is focused on Chip Kelly as its next head football coach, Dan Mullen‘s name has been mentioned as another realistic possibility to replace the dismissed Jim McElwain. The connection makes sense as Mullen spent four seasons as UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer before leaving for Mississippi State, where he’s spent the past nine seasons as head coach. Also, UF’s athletic director, Scott Stricklin, served in the same role in Starkville during a portion of Mullen’s time with the Bulldogs.
In addition to Florida, Tennessee is believed to maintain an interest in prying Mullen away as well.
In that vein, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that MSU is prepared to “go all in” in an attempt to keep Mullen. How all in is the university? “The 45-year-old Mullen is already getting paid $4.5 million, but word is the school is willing to bump him up to around $6 million and also making an even stronger financial commitment to his staff,” Feldman wrote.
In his nine seasons, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a record of 69-46 overall and 33-39 in SEC play. With the exception of 2014 (second), they’ve finished either fourth (2009, 2012) or fifth (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) in the SEC West the last eight seasons; at 4-4, the best they’ll finish this season is tied for fourth.
Feldman’s report comes less than 24 hours after MSU, thanks in very large part to a gruesome first-half injury to its starting quarterback, lost its annual Egg Bowl matchup to Ole Miss. That loss dropped Mullen’s record in that rivalry game to 5-4. Prior to Mullen’s arrival in 2009, though, the Rebels had won five of the previous seven meetings in the series.
For Miami, it’s deja vu all over again.
For the first quarter and half Black Friday afternoon, it was looking as if unbeaten and second-ranked Miami would be facing its fifth halftime deficit of the season as 4-7 Pitt was leading the Hurricanes 3-0 midway through the second quarter. However, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to Ahmmon Richards, which featured some nifty footwork from the latter to get into the end zone, gave the ‘Canes their first lead of the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
However, a late Pitt touchdown at the end of freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett‘s six-yard scamper gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead heading into the halftime locker room. Four times previously, UM has trailed at the half — Toledo (16-10), Florida State (3-0), Georgia Tech 14-13) and Virginia (21-14); each time, the Hurricanes came from behind to win.
As the score hints at, neither offense could muster much production, with the Panthers holding a 175-108 edge in yards. The U’s much-discussed and mega-hyped turnover chain made a pair of appearances, but the Hurricanes couldn’t convert either turnover into points; in fact, the Pitt defense forced three-and-outs on each occasion.
If the Hurricanes can come from behind yet again, they will finish off a perfect 12-0 regular season for the first time since 2002. That team made it to the BCS title game but lost to Ohio State.
Miami will get the ball to start the second half.
The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t an especially positive one for one member of the Iowa State football program.
According to the Des Moines Register, Brian Peavy was arrested Thursday evening on one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief. The starting cornerback was subsequently released from the county jail a short time later after posting an unspecified bond.
From the Register‘s report:
Ames Police Department Sgt. Christine Crippen said police responded to a call around 5:06 p.m. regarding possible vandalism taking place in a skate park in Ames.
Police discovered Peavy and another male spray-painting underneath a bridge near the park. Peavy and the other male ran when approached by police. Peavy was caught while the other male escaped.
WHO-TV reports that an ISU spokesperson confirmed that Peavy remains in good standing with the team and will play in Saturday’s game against Kansas State. ISU heads into the weekend with an outside shot at clinching a berth in the Big 12 championship game, pending the result of today’s Baylor-TCU game.
Peavy currently leads the Cyclones in pass breakups with seven; is tied for second in interceptions with two, and is third in tackles with 75. The redshirt junior has been an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection each of the past two seasons.