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Oregon strikes big money deal to retain Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator

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Oregon may have dropped the first game of the Mario Cristobal era on Saturday, but the Ducks came out of the weekend with reason to feel energized about the future of the program. According to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Oregon has reached a deal with defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to keep him on the staff through the 2021 season.

As reported by Feldman, Leavitt will be paid $1.7 million per year for the next four seasons, making him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is paid $1.8 million and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is paid $1.7 million according to a record of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today. Leavitt had been the 12th highest-paid coordinator in college football prior to this significant bump in pay to make him the third highest-paid coordinator in the country.

Keeping Leavitt in Eugene is a big win for Cristobal as he takes over the job as head coach. Leavitt had been expected to be a target of former Oregon head coach Willie Taggart as he assembles his new staff at Florida State. Leavitt had been discussed as a potential target for other jobs as well, with one report suggesting he may have been sought after as a replacement for Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

Leavitt played a big role in turning the Oregon defense around in just one season. Inheriting a defense that ranked 115th in the nation in 2016, Leavitt transformed the Ducks into the 32nd-best defense in the country this season.

Illinois DT Tito Odenigbo reportedly transferring to Miami

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Miami lost a pair of underclassmen starting defensive tackles to the NFL draft, putting a serious dent in the interior of its line.  A couple of weeks later, however, it appears The U has somewhat softened that early-entry blow.

247Sports.com reported Friday that Tito Odenigbo has decided to transfer from Illinois to Miami.  As Odenigbo would be coming to the Hurricanes as a graduate transfer, he would be able to play immediately for the ACC team in 2018.

The upcoming season would be the defensive tackle’s final year of eligibility.

This past season, Odenigbo started four of the 10 games he played for the Illini, and his 4½ tackles for loss were tied for second on the team in 2017.  All told, Odenigbo played in 21 games at Illinois, starting five of those contests.

Prior to the NFL’s deadline, tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton confirmed that they would be leaving Miami early for the NFL draft.

A&M the landing spot for UCF RB Cordarrian Richardson

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The strange journey of Cordarrian Richardson has taken yet another twist.

The running back confirmed to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal late this past week that he has decided to leave UCF and transfer to Texas A&M.  The true freshman will have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2019.

Last season, Richardson ran for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 47 carries for the unbeaten Knights.

On National Signing Day in 2017, Richardson announced via a weather balloon in outer space that he would be signing with Maryland.  A day later, however, Richardson faxed in a signed NLI… to a school that wasn’t even in his final four — UCF.  Maryland, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Ole Miss, were the top four teams that appeared in his original “commitment” video.

Richardson was also heavily recruited by Florida State, which at the time was coached by new A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher.

A four-star 2017 signee, Richardson was rated as the No. 9 back in the country; the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Tennessee; and the No. 157 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He was far and away the highest-rated signee in the Knights’ class that year.

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

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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

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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.