One of the individuals who put the fat guy in Fat Guy Touchdown has decided to move on to the next level.
Brian O’Neill announced in a statement sent out via the Pitt sports information department that he has decided to make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft. After discussing his option with his family and coaches, O’Neill stated “I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.”
The offensive lineman took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, which left him one more season of eligibility he could’ve used.
The last three seasons, O’Neill started 37 games in a row for the Panthers. After starting 24 games in a row at right tackle — his first start was on the opposite side — he started all 12 games at left tackle this past season.
O’Neill’s claim to national fame, though, was his 24-yard touchdown run on a backward pass (pictured) that helped earn him the second-annual Piesman Trophy Award in 2016. That same season, he scored a five-yard touchdown on an end-around.
Below is O’Neill’s statement, in its entirety:
After careful consideration over the last few weeks, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL draft. I do not take this decision lightly; therefore, I took an extensive amount of time discussing the situation with my family and coaches. Ultimately, I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.
“Looking back on the past four years, I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the world. As an incoming freshman, I was welcomed with open arms into this team, school and community. I am extremely proud to have earned my degree and will always call the University of Pittsburgh home.
“I am forever grateful to a number of individuals instrumental in my development as a player and person. Coach Narduzzi and Coach Peterson’s support and guidance has been incredible. I am truly appreciative for them and all my teammates and coaches. Additionally, I maintain a special appreciation for Coach Dave Andrews, Coach Dave Bucar and Mark Diethorn. I will never be able to thank all the people who have helped me throughout the past several years, but their support does not go unnoticed.
“Moving forward, there is nothing more important to me than representing my family, teammates, coaches, and this great University in a first-class manner. The entire Pittsburgh community has been great to me – thank you!
“As always, Hail to Pitt!!!
Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas
And you can pardon the whole of the state of Arkansas if they let out a collective “thank goodness.”
Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that Cole Hedlund is transferring to North Texas. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014 at Arkansas, Hedlund spent the next three seasons as a placekicker for the Razorbacks.
The Argyle, Tex., native opted to transfer from UA for his final season of eligibility. He’s the youngest son of UNT women’s soccer coach John Hedlund.
For his career with the Razorbacks, Hedlund hit on 14 of his 24 field goal attempts. He also connected on all 91 extra point attempts. His best season came in 2015 when he led the team in scoring with 85 points.
The past season, however, was a rough one. After missing both field goal attempts in a Sept. 9 loss to TCU — the misses came from 20 and 23 yards out — Hedlund never attempted another kick for the Razorbacks the rest of the season.
“It was basically a PAT, and it was a perfect protection and a perfect snap. It’s inexcusable,” then-head coach Bret Bielema said at the time.
Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down
A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.
The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach. Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.
Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU. From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”
“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”
In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired. Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.
Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers. All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.
Michigan State promotes Mike Tressel to DC, adds ex-Kent State HC as DBs coach
Mark Dantonio looked inside and out of his football program to fill some holes in his Michigan State staff.
Nearly two weeks ago, Harlon Barnett left as MSU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach to take a job at Florida State. That left Dantonio with two openings, one of which the head coach closed Friday by promoting Mike Tressel to defensive coordinator.
Tressel and Barnett had served as co-coordinators the past three seasons; the nephew of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will now serve as the Spartans’ solo coordinator moving forward.
“Mike has done a tremendous job working with the defense,” said Dantonio in a statement. “He’s been deeply involved with everything with the defense since we first arrived here, and has helped coach some championship defenses that have been ranked consistently among the best in the nation, year in and year out. He did a great job as co-coordinator the past three years. He’s certainly earned this opportunity and I think he’ll do an outstanding job.”
To replace Barnett as defensive backs coach, Dantonio turned to Paul Haynes. The past five years, Haynes was the head coach at Kent State before being dismissed at the end of the 2017 regular season.
This serves as a homecoming of sorts for Haynes as well. From 2003-04, he was the defensive backs coach for the Spartans under John Smith.
The 48-year-old Haynes has also been a secondary coach at Arkansas (2012), Ohio State (2005-10), Louisville (2002) and Kent State (1999).
“We’re very, very excited about Paul,” said Dantonio. “He’s coached here before so he’s got a Spartan background. He was secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, so he’s coached on the highest level with the secondary. He was a defensive coordinator at Arkansas as well. He’s been a head coach at Kent State, so I think that gives him a big picture feel. I think he’s an excellent recruiter. He’s a dynamic person as well, so we’re excited to have him on campus.”
Willie Taggart finalizes first Florida State coaching staff
Friday night, FSU confirmed that Taggart has completed his 10-man staff with the additions of five new assistants. It was reported this week that Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell would be taking the same job at FSU; the school confirmed as much today, with Bell also taking over as quarterbacks coach.
The other four hires consisted of Greg Frey (offensive line/running-game coordinator), David Kelly (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator), Mark Snyder (defensive ends) and Alonzo Hampton (special teams coordinator).
That fivesome joins the other five assistants previously announced:
Harlon Barnett, defensive coordinator and defensive back
Odell Haggins, associate head coach and defensive tackles
Raymond Woodie, linebackers
Telly Lockette, tight ends
Donte’ Pimpleton, running backs
Haggins is the lone holdover from Jimbo Fisher‘s last staff.
“From the beginning of this process, my goal was to bring in the best coaches for our program and I believe we have done that,” Taggart said. “This group will do a great job of recruiting, developing, coaching and mentoring our student-athletes to reach their highest potential. I’m excited for the next few weeks as we are finalizing our 2018 signing class and then working with our team as we prepare for spring practice.”