National college football columnist. FWAA Super 16 voter. Travel virtuoso.
Those who have been around Alabama head coach Nick Saban know he’s a little bit of a jokester behind the scenes but that wee bit of personality seemed to come out a little at Thursday’s press conference for the four College Football Playoff-bound head coaches. That’s because Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked about his Coaches Poll final ballot.
While you normally might roll your eyes about how a coach votes in such a poll, the order Dabo had the teams in was a bit eyebrow raising — namely he had Ohio State at No. 4 and his next opponent (and alma mater) Alabama at No. 5 in the ballot he submitted last Saturday after the close of the regular season.
“Literally it was 3:00 in the morning. Man, I got to do this poll. Looking at it, you know, they won 11 games. Alabama won 11 games. They won the Big Ten championship,” said Swinney. “Obviously the committee has a lot of things to look at, a lot of data. They’re going to pick the four best teams however they see it. At that moment, that’s the way I voted. They’re all great teams, man.”
To which Saban followed up, complete with a giant grin: “He was just respecting his alma mater, that’s all.”
“I’m trying to get rid of him, but I can’t shake him,” Swinney retorted.
For what it’s worth, Saban voted the Tigers No. 1 and the Tide No. 4.
The Clemson-Alabama rubber match is going to be fantastic fun down at the Sugar Bowl and especially so since the two head coaches love to have a little bit of fun with each other in press conferences after three postseason meetings.
It’s awards season time in college football and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is off to a good start ahead of the sport’s annual awards show on Thursday and the Heisman Trophy presentation next week.
The Sooners star was named 2017 College Football Player of the Year by the Associated Press on Thursday afternoon by a huge margin (51-of-56 first place votes) over Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Those three are the lone finalists for the Heisman this year and a pretty good indication as to the order they’ll finish in next Saturday.
“I’m on this awards trip right now with a lot of great players from OU and other schools, and every one of them deserves to be recognized. To receive this award is an honor and it’s something just a few years ago I never thought would happen,” Mayfield told the AP. “Obviously I’m very happy and thankful that I’m being recognized with this.”
Mayfield becomes the fourth Oklahoma quarterback to win the award, which dates back to 1998, and joins Josh Heupel (2000), Jason White (2003) and Sam Bradford (2008) as the school’s other winners.
The AP award figures to be the first of many trophies collected by Mayfield on Thursday as he is also a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Award — all of which will be handed out during an awards show on ESPN. Something says the school will need to check a few bags to carry the night’s haul back to Norman given how the day started off for their signal-caller.
It seems like it’s becoming routine at Alabama nowadays: take a head coaching job, stick around for the College Football Playoff.
Speaking to reporters at the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday evening ahead of ESPN’s annual awards show, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban confirmed new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt will remain with the team as defensive coordinator throughout the team’s playoff run.
“Yes, Jeremy is going to finish the season with us,” said Saban. “He’s going to go do some things to get his program started at Tennessee. When we’re ready to practice, he’ll be back with us, be a part of the Playoff.
“I really appreciate the fact that Kirby did a great job of doing that a couple years ago when he had an opportunity. I think it shows a lot of respect for the players on our team who worked hard to help us all have success this season.”
Kirby Smart accepted the head-coaching job at Georgia but remained on staff through the team’s title run. Lane Kiffin infamously coached as the Tide’s offensive coordinator during last year’s Peach Bowl semifinal after taking the Florida Atlantic job but missed out on the national title game.
While he will be wearing crimson the next few weeks, Pruitt will still be recruiting and assembling his staff with Tennessee while in Tuscaloosa and, eventually, New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. That makes things slightly more interesting than the time Smart did the same given that the Vols’ biggest annual rival is, you guessed it, Alabama and the two will meet at Neyland Stadium on the third Saturday in October.
The move will also make life a little easier for semifinal opponent Clemson when it comes to game planning too, as the Tigers won the national title in January against Saban and Pruitt down in Tampa.
The college football regular season has wrapped up — save for the Army-Navy game — which means it’s decision time when it comes to declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft for the vast number of players who are thinking about the next level.
While we’ve seen several announcements already from players who are opting to turn pro and skip their bowl game, a new report surfaced on Thursday that Florida’s biggest offensive weapon Antonio Callaway would not be returning to Gainesville to play for new coach Dan Mullen.
Callaway making the jump to the NFL at this point is not exactly surprising to anybody who has followed his story the past year. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound junior missed the entire 2017 season for the Gators after being suspended for this involvement in a felony fraud case and pleaded no contest to a drug charge in the summer. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also reportedly at the center of a pair of Title IX investigations.
Even though there were plenty of concerns off the field with Callaway, there’s no denying that he was one of the few explosive playmakers for the team under Jim McElwain. He started 24 games as a freshman and sophomore with Florida and averaged 15.7 yards a catch with the team, closing his career out with 1,399 yards and 11 total touchdowns. While it was doubtful he was going to be back with the team in 2018, signing with an agent cements his sayonara from college football.
The college football world will focus squarely on the annual Army-Navy rivalry game this week but a secondary storyline to the contest is a little more pressing than the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the Midshipmen on Saturday.
The Capital Gazette reports that Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper’s status for the contest is up in the air this week after his son Jarren was hospitalized overnight after doctors found a “potential complication” during a check-up. The 14-year-old has been awaiting a heart transplant for several months following an initial complication that arose after surgery for an abnormally fast heart rhythm.
The elder Jasper missed Wednesday’s practice and no status update was given for the team’s Thursday practice.
The Jaspers’ story has been covered quite a bit this season on the Showtime documentary A Season With Navy Football after Jarren was initially diagnosed during fall camp and all of the subsequent ups and downs that have come since. The family have been a mainstay at the Academy for 18 seasons and Ivin has served as the team’s offensive coordinator for the past decade.
Per the Gazette, if Jasper is unable make it to Philadelphia for the game, running game coordinator Ashley Ingram would move from the sidelines to the Lincoln Financial Field press box and serve as Navy’s play-caller. Hopefully Jarren can recover quickly enough to be able to go home and watch his favorite team close out the regular season on Saturday but, either way, he can probably expect a whole bunch of positive thoughts and prayers from both sidelines of this all important rivalry game.