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Central Michigan AD taking same position at Arizona

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Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.

Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.

Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.

While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.

Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.

Two hirings complete Tom Allen’s first Indiana coaching staff

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Entering the first full week of February, Tom Allen had two openings on his initial Indiana coaching staff.  With the second weekend of the month upon us, he now has none.  Again.

In  press release Friday, Allen announced that he has added Darren Hiller and Nick Sheridan as offensive assistants.  The former will serve as offensive line coach as well as running-game coordinator, the latter as quarterbacks coach.

With the twin hirings, which had previously been reported as likely HERE and HERE, Allen’s nine-man on-field staff is complete.

“I have known Darren Hiller for a number of years and have always been so impressed with him, both as a person and as a coach,” Allen said in a statement. “He is a tremendous teacher in the area of the offensive line. Darren does a great job mentoring young men and finding ways to motivate them to play at their highest level. He has been a part of a tremendous offensive attack at South Florida and I think that will continue with us here at Indiana.

“Nick Sheridan is a young offensive mind that I am very impressed with. I love the fact that he is a coach’s son. He has been around this game his entire life. I know that we feel like we got a young Shawn Watson in Nick Sheridan.”

Watson left Bloomington late last month to take the coordinator job at Pitt, for those wondering why his name was included in the quote.

Hiller had just been hired by new Houston head coach Major Applewhite for the the same job last month.  He replaces Greg Frey, who left late last month for a spot on Jim Harbaugh‘s Michigan staff.

Prior to that new — and brief — job at UH, Hiller had spent the 2016 season at USF. He’s also coached FBS-level lines at Cincinnati (2013-15), Nevada (2012) and Arkansas State (2002-11).

Sheridan’s hiring, which comes just a handful of weeks after he was hired to coach tailbacks at Central Michigan, reconnects him with Mike DeBord, who coached Sheridan when he was a quarterback at Michigan and recently took over as the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator.  Prior to landing his first on-field job at CMU, Sheridan spent 2014-16 as an offensive graduate assistant at Tennessee.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Michigan graduate transfer QB Shane Morris announces move to Central Michigan

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Central Michigan has their replacement for star quarterback Cooper Rush and didn’t have to go far to get him.

Former Michigan signal-caller and recent graduate transfer Shane Morris announced Saturday on Twitter that he would be making the move up the road to play for the Chippewas in 2017.

Morris was a former four-star recruit coming out of high school in the state but never quite lived up to those expectations with the Wolverines. He did start two games for the team over the course of his career but was third on the depth chart in 2016 behind Wilton Speight and John O’Korn.

As a result, he wraps up his time in Ann Arbor by completing 47 of 92 passes for 434 yards, with no touchdowns and five interceptions. He’ll be eligible right away for Central Michigan, which is a great landing spot for an incoming quarterback with almost all of the offensive starters returning from last season’s team.

Tulsa hands Central Michigan historic Miami Beach beatdown

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Playing before a typically empty Marlins Park on Monday afternoon, Tulsa was Giancarlo Stanton and Central Michigan was a hanging slider. The Golden Hurricane handed Central Michigan a 55-10 spanking, the second-largest margin of victory in Tulsa’s 21-game bowl history and by far the biggest blowout in the 3-year history of the Miami Beach Bowl.

Tulsa scored on its first eight possessions of the day, starting with a 5-yard Josh Atkinson reception from Dane Evans to cap a 17-play, 93-yard march on the Hurricane’s first possession of the game. After consecutive Redford Jones field goals, Tulsa found the end zone again on another Evans scoring strike, this one a 13-yarder to Keevan Lucas.

After forcing a three-and-out, Evans closed the half with his third touchdown toss of the half, a 4-yard connection to Chris Minter to secure a 27-3 lead at the break.

Running back James Flanders got on the board on Tulsa’s first drive of the second half, racing in from 17 yards out on a 4th-and-2 carry. After yet another three-and-out, the Evans-to-Lucas combination notched its second touchdown of the day, this one a 28-yard connection.

They weren’t done, though, as Tulsa’s next drive culminated in Lucas’s third touchdown reception of the afternoon to push the score to 48-3 with 2:16 to play in the third quarter. The defense got in on the action in the next possession when Jesse Brubaker raced an interception 66 yards for a touchdown with 12:49 to play in the game.

Central Michigan finally scored its lone touchdown when Jahray Hayes carried in a 13-yard touchdown rush with 9:21 to play. Quarterback Cooper Rush finished the day hitting only 24-of-49 throws for 241 yards with three interceptions, while the Chips (6-7) averaged only 3.8 yards per carry on 22 rushes.

Evans closed a distinguished career with one of his most efficient games ever, hitting 28-of-38 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. The Golden Hurricane posted two 100-yard rushers as Flanders carried 17 times for 100 yards and a touchdown and D'Angelo Brewer rushed 17 times for 105 yards. Atkinson collected 12 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown, while Lucas finished with seven grabs for 72 yards and a trio of scores.

For head coach Philip Montgomery, Tulsa’s 581-yard, 34-first down performance (including converting 10-of-15 third down tries) was an example of what the Art Briles offense can do when clicking on each and every cylinder. It was a domination so thorough Montgomery had to look for creative ways to get his punter in the game.

The win pushes the Golden Hurricane to 10-3 on the season, a significant upgrade from the club’s 6-7 mark in Montgomery’s debut season of 2015 and a complete transformation from the 2-10 team Montgomery inherited.

Beyond that, a win like this establishes Tulsa as a team to watch in next year’s American race and Montgomery as a name to watch for open Power 5 jobs in 2017.