Minnesota Golden Gophers

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Former Tennesse quarterback Peyton Manning and current quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts is honored alongside his former college coach Phillip Fulmer before the start of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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SEC, Ohio State tops on Carolina, Denver Super Bowl rosters

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Cam Newton may be hurtling toward history, but the former Auburn quarterback will not be the lone player representing the SEC in next month’s Super Bowl.  In fact, he’s far, far from it.

As you may have heard, Newton’s Carolina Panthers are set to square off with Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos in the 50th Super Bowl Feb. 3.  Manning and Newton are two of and FBS-best 30 former SEC players who are on the two teams’ rosters, which includes those on the 53-man, reserved/injured list, practice squad, reserved/suspended by commissioner and reserve/future squad.

The Pac-12 is next with 23, followed by the Big Ten (21) and ACC (17).  The final Power Five conference, the Big 12, has 10, three less than the Mountain West’s 13.  The AAC, with eight, is the only Group of Five league to come close to double digits.  The MAC, meanwhile, is the only conference to be shutout, while all of the other divisions in the NCAA combined for 18 players.

Nearly every SEC team is represented in this year’s big game, the lone exception being Vanderbilt.  Of the dozen schools in the Pac-12, only Arizona and Washington State are missing.  Both the ACC and Big Ten have 11 of their 14 teams in the game, the lone exceptions being Clemson, Louisville and Virginia Tech for the former and Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers for the latter.

One of those B1G schools that’s in, Nebraska, has had at least one player on a Super Bowl roster for 23 straight years, the longest active streak for any FBS program.

Ohio State easily outdistances individual schools with seven, three more than the four each for Auburn, Georgia Tech, Oregon State and Tennessee.  Alabama, Arizona State, Colorado State, Georgia, Nevada, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC and Utah.

A total of 20 schools have two players each, including Coastal Carolina, the only non-FBS program in the group.  The other 19 includes Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, San Diego State, South Carolina, Stanford, Troy, Tulane, Washington and Wisconsin.

Smart, Richt currently pace all new head coaches in recruit rankings

CORAL GABLES, FL - DECEMBER 04:  New University of Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt makes the 'U' sign after he was introduced at a press conference at the school on December 4, 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
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In somewhat of an ironic twist, the head coach who was forced to leave Georgia and the coach who replaced him are doing quite well on the recruiting trail at their new programs.  In fact, they’re doing better than any other who found a landing spot in the 2015-16 spinning of the coaching carousel.

As it stands now, Miami’s Mark Richt has the 19th-ranked recruiting class according to Rivals.com, the second-best of any of the  27 head coaches hired in the past three months.  The best?  Georgia, which has the No. 15 class thanks in part to Kirby Smart, Richt’s successor in Athens.

UGA right now, though, and fully understanding that there are nearly two weeks left until National Signing Day, is nine spots behind the No. 6 class Richt signed in 2015.  The U, meanwhile, was ranked 26th for Al Golden‘s last class, a full seven spots behind were Richt stands now.

Not surprisingly, a significant number of programs have seen their recruiting rankings dip from a year ago.  One of the most glaring is that of USC.  Despite offensive coordinator Clay Helton taking over as interim head coach in mid-October and then taking over permanently in late November, USC has just the 23rd-ranked class; last year at this time, the Trojans were well on their way to having Rivals’ No. 1 class under Steve Sarkisian.

Of the 27 head coaches new to their teams, 17 have classes that are ranked lower than their predecessors from a year ago.  The biggest drop belongs to Seth Littrell‘s North Texas (127th currently, 90th in 2015), while that ignominious honor for Power Five programs goes to Dave Odom and Missouri (59th, 27th).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Matt Campbell has taken his new team on one of the biggest rises, lifting Iowa State from No. 69 under the departed Paul Rhoads to No. 52.  Interestingly, Campbell’s successor at Toledo, UT offensive coordinator Jason Candle, has the Rockets at 73rd, 17 spots higher than his predecessor’s 90th-ranked class of a year ago.

Below are the 27 newest head coaches, with where their teams rank now in the recruiting rankings compared to a year ago:

2016 New HC Recruit Rankings

Spinning of 2015-16 coaching carousel comes to a halt (probably)

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Clay Helton of the USC Trojans before the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The 2015-16 head-coaching carousel began spinning August 28 of last year with Illinois’ firing of Tim Beckman. Exactly 141 days later, the hiring of Frank Wilson by UT-San Antonio has brought it to a halt. Probably.

Barring an unexpected firing by an FBS program or an NFL team swooping in to steal a coach, it’s come time, I think, to sit back and take a look at how this year’s version of the carousel has shaken out.

All told, 26 FBS teams will head into the 2016 with head coaches who did not begin the 2015 season in that capacity — Bill Cubit, the Illini’s interim coach after Beckman’s firing, was ultimately named as the permanent head coach and would be considered a 27th. That’s a significant jump from the recent past, with 2013 yielding 19 changes and “just” 15 in 2014. Of this cycle’s changes, 13 came at Power Five programs — nine as the result of dismissals, four because of retirements.

That, of course, means 14 openings came from the Group of Five schools; not surprisingly, the Power Five movement had an impact on that group as four G5 head coaches left for the same job with P5 teams, while another, Ball State’s Pete Lembo, left to become an assistant at a P5 program. Six of the remaining holes were created by firings, while two more jobs in that group came open because of retirements. The lone remaining? Willie Fritz left Georgia Southern to take over at Tulane.

Of the openings, eight were filled by coaches who were defensive coordinators in 2015, and another eight by offensive coordinators.  That is quite the turnaround from a year ago, when just one DC, Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi to Pittsburgh, became a head coach, while five of their offensive brethren landed head-coaching jobs.

The next group could be called the Noah’s Ark of the carousel, coming from their 2015 jobs in twos: interim head coaches (Cubit, USC’s Clay Helton), FCS head coaches (Louisiana-Monroe’s Matt Viator, Texas State’s Everett Withers) and running backs coach (Bowling Green’s Mike Jinks, Wilson).

Finally, one NFL assistant made the move back to the collegiate ranks: Mike Neu, who left the New Orleans Saints to take over for Lembo at Ball State.

And with that, I (probably) wash my hands of the ’15-’16 carousel, knowing full well that it’ll all begin again another 10 months or so — or seven months, if another program decides to pull a preseason Illini.

Penn State moves quickly to replace OL coach lost to Auburn

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions hugs a police officer after defeating the Boston College Eagles in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 27, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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Monday, reports first surfaced that Penn State was losing its offensive line coach to Auburn.  Two days later, the Nittany Lions already have a successor in place.

Head coach James Franklin confirmed in a press release that he has hired Matt Limegrover as his new line coach. Limegrover replaces Herb Hand, who had spent the past two seasons in Happy Valley before bolting for The Plains.

The hiring is a homecoming of sorts for Limegrover as he called Pittsburgh home for the first 18 years of his life.

“We are really excited to have Matt join our staff,” a statement from Franklin began. “He is another Pennsylvania guy, born and raised in Pittsburgh, so he is very familiar with Penn State and this region. He brings a wealth of knowledge and a ton of great experience, both as an offensive line coach and as an offensive coordinator. The numbers that his offenses have put up speak for themselves. As great of a coach as Matt is, he is an even better man; he cares about people, cares about education and cares about the community. We are looking forward to having Matt, his wife, Ann, and their children, Emma and T.J., join our Penn State Football family.”

Limegrover had spent the past two seasons as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator and line coach.  After Jerry Kill’s in-season retirement, his replacement, Tracy Claeys, decided to move in another direction at coordinator.

This upcoming season will mark the first for Limegrover on a non-Kill coaching staff since 2000.  As the school explained in the release, Limegrover spent 16 seasons working under Kill, following the head coach along four stops at Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois and Emporia State.

“I am both humbled and honored to join Coach Franklin’s staff and coach at Penn State,” Limegrover said. “Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I have been a Penn State fan my entire life and to now have the opportunity to coach there is overwhelming. I can’t wait to get there and start working on building an offensive line to help this program become a championship team.”

Gophers look to Ragin’ Cajuns for new offensive coordinator

DETROIT MI - DECEMBER 28: Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach Tracy Claeys watches the action during the game against the Central Michigan Chippewas on December 28, 2015 during the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Nearly a month to the day after ridding himself of the old offensive coordinator, Tracy Claeys has officially found himself a new one.

Minnesota Wednesday confirmed that Claeys has hired Jay Johnson as his coordinator as well as quarterbacks coach.  Johnson spent the past five seasons as the coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Johnson, a native of Lakeville, Minn., will replace Matt Limegrover, who was fired late last month.

“I am extremely excited,” said Johnson. “It’s a great opportunity to come home. I grew up there and have been a Gopher fan all my life, so to come back home and be closer to family and to be part of a great institution like Minnesota is certainly a very exciting opportunity for me.”

Johnson hasn’t coached at a Power Five program since being in charge of tight ends at Louisville. He’s also coached quarterbacks (1999-2001) and running backs (2001-03) at Kansas in a career that stretches back to the early nineties.

The school also announced the hiring of Bart Miller as offensive line coach.  Miller had spent the past two seasons coaching the same unit at FAU.

Limegrover also coached the line in addition to his coordinating duties, triggering the need for two replacements.

“Jay and Bart are both tremendous people and will fit in naturally with our staff,” said Claeys. “These are two individuals we identified early in the process, and I am thrilled that they are headed to Minnesota. They are great coaches with proven track records and will help our student-athletes improve on and off the field.”