It's official: Kiffin heading to Southern Cal

27 Comments

USC’s website has made the news official: Lane Kiffin is heading back to Southern Cal as the head football coach, leaving Tennessee after only one season.

We are excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC,” athletic director Mike Garrett said in a release. ” I can’t tell you how delighted we are to have Ed Orgeronback on staff and to have Monte Kiffin join us. They are some of thepre-eminent coaches in the game. Ed did a marvelous job during hisprevious time at USC and we all know that Monte is a defensive guru. Iknow Lane will fill out his staff with other outstanding assistantslike them, ones who Trojan players and fans will really like.”

The hiring of Kiffin completes a whirlwind day out of Heritage Hall, where less than 24 hours ago they offered the head coaching job to Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio.

Kiffin’s hiring also leaves Tennessee Volunteer fans in shock. Kiffin leaves Rocky Top after one season, taking with him his two most important coaches and staining a program that had stability on top of the program for over three decades, with Johnny Majors, Phillip Fulmer, and Kiffin the only coaches since the late seventies. Kiffin’s hire energized the program, but was a major shift for the program, bringing in an outsider to coach a program that hadn’t done so since the days of General Robert Neyland. 

“This was not a very easy decision and it happened very quick,” Kiffinsaid in a one-minute statement to assembled Tennessee media. “I really believed that this was probably the only place I’d haveleft here to go.”

Kiffin didn’t allow cameras to roll during his impromptu news conference, only adding that in his fourteen months that he gave everything he had and that the program was in a better place than he found it, before walking off to hordes of unanswered questions. 

Bringing Kiffin back to Southern California brings a coach back to a school where he has recruiting relationships and experience in the conference, and a relationship with many of the holdover members of the Trojans staff. Furthermore, ESPN is reporting that Kiffin is bringing back with him Norm Chow, a major defection from Rick Neuheisel’s UCLA’s staff, and the first shot fired across the bow at his new rivals from Kiffin in his return to Southern Cal. 

Kiffin’s hiring is a much needed victory for Trojan athletic director Mike Garrett, who had been widely ridiculed in the days following the news that Carroll was leaving. But the hiring could also be considered a brazen move for the athletic department long seen as lackadaisical under Garrett, and could draw the ire of the NCAA.

Kiffin ran afoul with the NCAA in his one season in Knoxville, racking up a multitude of minor infractions in his short tenure at Tennessee, and currently has an investigation still open regarding the misuse of recruiting hostesses at out-of-state high school football games.

The decision to bring Kiffin, Chow and Orgeron back to USC reunites the supporting cast from the apex of the Trojan dynasty.  We’ll find out soon if the Trojan program can be what it was without its former star.

Talk about a story made for Hollywood…

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

Getty Images
2 Comments

Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

Getty Images
2 Comments

Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

Getty Images
3 Comments

Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”