Conference USA

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Mario Cristobal reportedly reuniting with former assistant in Eugene

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The Oregon coaching staff is going to have a specific South Florida flavor to it. Head coach Mario Cristobal is a Miami native, a former Hurricanes player and assistant, and the former head coach at Florida International. On Tuesday, Cristobal moved to bring a fellow South Floridian with him to the Pacific Northwest.

According to Grant Traylor of the Huntington (W. Va.) Herald-Dispatch, Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal is leaving the staff to reunite with Cristobal in Eugene.

Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman added Mirabal will work under Cristobal, who will handle the offensive line.

Mirabal is also a native of Miami and a Florida International graduate. He spent the first decade-plus of his career working in Miami’s high school ranks before joining Cristobal’s FIU staff as tight ends and later offensive line coach from 2007-12. He landed at Marshall in 2013 after Cristobal was forced out at FIU, where he remained until Tuesday.

Under Mirabal’s guidance, Marshall finished fourth nationally in sacks allowed at just 0.85 per game. Oregon finished 54th nationally in that same metric.

Alabama a potential landing spot for Rice grad transfer Preston Gordon

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Yet another Rice graduate transfer lineman is drawing interest from an SEC school.

Preston Gordon confirmed to this week that he has had “some preliminary contact” with Alabama as a potential landing spot. Last month, the defensive tackle decided to take the graduate transfer route out of Rice.

As the Crimson Tide, which is also in play for a grad transfer quarterback, lost three linemen to the NFL and signed just two in the Class of 2018, a move to Tuscaloosa could make sense for both parties.

“If Alabama were interested, that’s a top-tier program and I would definitely be interested,” Gordon told the website. “As a D-lineman, that’s where it’s at, so it would definitely be high, high interest.”

Gordon has already received an offer from Texas Tech after visiting Lubbock, and has taken a trip to Kansas as well. The lineman also told the site that he has spoken with Syracuse, TCU, Tulane and UConn.

The last three seasons, Gordon started 28 games for the Owls, including all 12 in 2017. In 2016, Gordon tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.5, while his 6.5 tackles for loss led all interior linemen on the squad. This past season, he was third on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5.

Gordon’s former teammate and the Owls’ starting left tackle the past three seasons, Calvin Anderson, has drawn interest from Auburn as a graduate transfer and has already visited the Tigers. It’s believed that Michigan and Texas are the frontrunners, although Texas A&M has entered the mix for Anderson as well.

Duke promotes Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri to co-DCs after Jim Knowles departs for Oklahoma State

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David Cutcliffe not surprisingly stayed in-house to find a new defensive coordinator.

The school announced a slew of staff changes on Friday and the most notable among them was the promotion of Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri to co-defensive coordinators. Albert will remain the defensive line coach while Guerrieri will shift slightly from handling safeties to being responsible for the entire secondary.

The moves come after Jim Knowles left to be Oklahoma State’s new defensive coordinator last month. Additionally, Lanier Goethie was named linebackers coach for the Blue Devils and Derek Jones earned the title of Assistant Head Coach [Defense]/Cornerbacks.

“First off, I’m really proud of how our defensive staff has handled this situation,” Cutcliffe said in a statement. “We’ve had not good, but great conversations regarding staff organization and responsibilities, and I’m proud of how unselfish Ben, Matt and Derek all have been throughout the process. All three coaches are deserving of their new roles and I’m looking forward to watching them lead our defensive unit starting with spring practice next month. And as for Zac (Roper), his impact on our program goes well beyond coordinating our offense and coaching the quarterbacks. His efforts have been and will continue to be instrumental to our overall success, both on and off the field.”

Goethie heads to Durham after spending the past two years at Louisiana Tech but is plenty familiar with the way Cutcliffe runs a program after having played linebacker for him during their time at Ole Miss. The move to bring him aboard at Duke completes the 2018 coaching staff with a full complement of 10 assistants.

Former Texas star Frank Okam reportedly hired as Baylor’s next DL coach

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A decade after terrorizing the Big 12 at Texas, it appears Frank Okam will now be teaching his players how to terrorize the Longhorns in a new role in the conference.

Baylor team site is reporting that Okam will be the Bears next defensive line coach after spending the past two seasons at Rice. He replaces Elijah Robinson, who joined the Texas A&M staff down the road in the same capacity last month.

This will be just the second full-time coaching position for Okam after becoming an on-field coach for the Owls two years ago. Despite the short coaching resume, his playing career resume is a lengthy one that includes a national title while on the 40 Acres with the Longhorns and a trio of All-Big 12 selections. The former five-star recruit played all four years in Austin and was later a fifth round pick of the Houston Texans. He retired from the NFL prior to the 2013 season after getting cut by the New York Giants and later became a graduate assistant at Rice.

The move should complete the coaching staff at Baylor for the 2018 season provided there are no more changes coming for Matt Rhule and company down in Waco.

Marshall, ECU schedule future home-and-home series

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A Conference USA rivalry will be renewed between Marshall and East Carolina. The two schools have reportedly lined up a future home-and-home series for 2023 and 2025, according to a report from

East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference will host the Thundering Herd on Sep. 9, 2023. Marshall will host the return trip two years later on Sep. 13, 2025. The two schools have not played each other since 2013 before East Carolina left Conference USA to join the AAC. ECU leads the all-time series, 10-5, but they have met two times by the time this home-and-home series is slated to be played. Previously, the schools agreed to another home-and-home scheduling arrangement that will be played in 2020 (at ECU) and 2021 (at Marshall).

Games between two non-power conferences may not seem all that attractive to common fans, but the importance riding on these outcomes can carry some significance. A victory by either team gives their respective conference a win against another nonpower conference it may be jockeying with for a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup. Ultimately, it may not carry enough weight by the end of the season if one team, like UCF, happens to be the clear favorite, but in the event multiple conferences have champions in the running for the exclusive spot in the big money bowls at the end of the year, any little piece of bragging rights a conference can stack up against another conference could become valuable.

In theory, at least.

Marshall currently has other future games scheduled against former conference rivals. This fall the Herd will play former MAC opponent Miami Ohio, and Ohio is on deck for a home-and-home series in 2019 and 2020. Marshall will also face Cincinnati (formerly of Conference USA) in 2019. East Carolina has no other former Conference USA rivals on the future schedule at this point aside from Marshall.