Stunner: Russell Wilson given release by N.C. State

4 Comments

Well, this is certainly an unexpected development.  Kinda.

Back in February, head coach Tom O’Brien appeared to slam the door shut on the possibility of quarterback Russell Wilson — runner-up for the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year last season as well as a baseball player in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system — returning to North Carolina State for one more season in 2011.  Of late, however, Wilson has intimated that he was considering a return to football, although O’Brien fired back at that speculation by stating Wilson would be the backup if he returned.

After today’s news, such talk has abruptly become a moot point.

In a release issued by the school Friday evening, O’Brien announced that Wilson — third in school history in passing yards (8,645) and second in passing touchdowns (76) — has been released from his NCSU scholarship and is free to transfer to another school if he still desires to play football at the collegiate level.  The decision to release Wilson also makes it crystal clear what O’Brien has been stating for a month a more: Mike Glennon is his starter at QB for the 2011 season.

“Russell and I have had very open conversations about his responsibilities respective to baseball and football,” said O’Brien in a statement. “While I am certainly respectful of Russell’s dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to NC State Football.

“My staff and I thank him for his contributions as a member of Wolfpack football and to this University and wish him only the best in the future.”

Wilson said in his own statement that while he “remain[s] undecided on the option of playing college football this coming season, I believe it is in the best interest of the players and coaches involved to end any speculation of my return to the Wolfpack. It has become apparent that the time has come for the program to move on without me.”

Even as Wilson remains undecided about his football future, the name of one possible destination immediately popped into our mind when we first heard the news of the talented QB’s release: South Carolina.  Given the uncertainty swirling around Stephen Garcia, the Gamecocks would be a near-perfect landing spot for Wilson if he decides to continue playing football at the collegiate level.  As Wilson has already received a degree in communications from NCSU, he would be eligible to play immediately at USC — or anywhere else at the Div. 1-A level, for that matter — provided he enrolls in a graduate program not offered at his former school.

It might be worth at least a shot for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks.  Hell, the one-and-done method at the QB position didn’t work out too shabby for another SEC school in 2010; who’s to say lightning can’t strike in the same conference in back-to-back seasons?

UPDATED 7:09 p.m. ET: The Raleigh News & Observer reports that, based on the terms outlined in his release, Wilson will not be permitted to transfer to any school in the ACC or one on their 2011 schedule.  The Wolfpack’s non-conference slate consists of Liberty, South Alabama, Cincinnati and Central Michigan.

Clemson, Georgia paying seven-figures to make 2021 opener happen

Clemson Georgia
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Clemson and Georgia are both spending money to make money.

In the wake of the two schools announcing a highly anticipated 2021 season opener in Charlotte, news has now surfaced at just how badly the two programs wanted to play each other.

The total tab: roughly $2.9 million.

That’s the combined amount the Tigers and Bulldogs will be paying to get out of their previously scheduled Group of Five games set for the same date.

Per the Greenville News, Clemson is ponying $1.1 million to cancel their contract with Wyoming. The Athletic reports Georgia is cutting a $1.8 million check to San Jose State.

“This is another great opportunity to schedule a national non-conference game with a top-level opponent,” UGA head coach Kirby Smart said in a release announcing the game. “Playing a regular-season game in Charlotte will give our fans the opportunity for a completely new experience in a great city and top-level stadium. I know our coaches and players will be excited for the challenge to kick off the season in this kind of environment.”

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. will host the regional rivals on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.

Georgia and Clemson have met 64 times over the years, most recently in 2014. The 2021 date is a one-off but the programs are still scheduled to meet five more times between 2021 and 2033. This includes the 2024 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and a pair of home-and-home series scheduled for 2029/2033 (in Death Valley) and 2030/2032 (between the hedges).

The Tigers will also take on fellow SEC program South Carolina in those years and will host UConn and FCS South Carolina State to round out their 2021 non-conference slate. The Bulldogs have their annual game against Georgia Tech plus UAB and Charleston Southern in 2021 as well.

Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer says he could have coached Vols again but it ‘didn’t appeal’ to him

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could Tennessee have had Phillip Fulmer back on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium coaching again?

There was speculation that he could have done just that from the moment he took over as athletic director at the school. Actually having it happen in Knoxville though? It apparently was not on the table due more to the necessity of Jimmy and Joe’s as opposed to X’s and O’s.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Tennessean about his on-going tenure as AD, Fulmer was asked if he ever considered putting the whistle back on for the team he led to the national title over two decades ago. Though it crossed the minds of many at the school, it didn’t for the man himself thanks largely to the rigors of the profession changing from 2008 to now.

“No. I mean, that energy level that it takes to do that. Could have coached and wanted to coach, that’s two different things, right?” Fulmer told the paper. “I certainly could have come coached the team or whatever, but the recruiting and the staffing and all those things, I’ve done my time, and I had a great run. That didn’t appeal to me, nor did I ever lose confidence that Jeremy (Pruitt) was going to do it.”

While that latter line is notable for the team’s current head coach after a historically bad start to the 2019 season, don’t gloss over his earlier comments. In fact, it says plenty about the situation on Rocky Top in recent years that Fulmer directly confirms that he “could have” come down from the AD box to the sidelines.

The only thing that stopped him? Not optics, but just the time a head coach has to devote to things like recruiting. While there’s no doubt that is pretty much a 24/7 operation nowadays at SEC schools like Tennessee, it’s interesting that was one of the few things preventing a move many in orange and white clamored (or at least expected) to see at some point.

Instead, Fulmer will have to make do with his 152–52 overall record at the school and a national title in the 1998 season. That forever cemented his status in Knoxville as one of the program’s greats and it appears he’s content to let things end there despite not having the ending he wanted back in the day.

Reports: Steve Sarkisian staying at Alabama after flirting with Colorado

Getty Images
1 Comment

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian no longer appears headed West after all.

The Crimson Tide play-caller is reportedly staying in Tuscaloosa with a rich new contract after being heavily linked with the head coach opening at Colorado in the past 24 hours. ESPN’s Chris Low was the first to report the news, noting Sark’s new deal will include a pay raise.

Yahoo! Sports later confirmed the same.

The move is certainly a blow to the Buffs, whose coaching search has now extended past the weeklong mark in the wake of Mel Tucker being hired away by Michigan State. Sarkisian was among the more interesting names floated for the gig and made plenty of sense given his connections in the Pac-12 as the former head coach at both Washington and USC.

Former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones have also been mentioned in connection to the opening. Interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini is pegged as the top internal candidate.

As for Sark, the move is an interesting one. It says plenty that he even got an interview given the way things ended in Los Angeles but also speaks to the image rehabilitation he’s done under Nick Saban as well. Alabama missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time last season but were among the most dangerous offenses in the country when starting QB Tua Tagovailoa was healthy.

Replacing the Heisman finalist under center will now be one of Sarkisian’s top priorities over the coming months but at least whoever winds up taking snaps against familiar foe USC will have the benefit of playing in an offense that features the likes of Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith.

Sarkisian’s new contract will also be interesting to see once it emerges from the university bureaucracy. He was already the highest paid offensive assistant coach in the country for the upcoming 2020 season at $1.6 million. He originally signed a three year deal to return to the program after a stint with the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Mel Tucker hires familiar faces Jay Johnson and Harlon Barnett to Michigan State staff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

What’s old is new again at Michigan State.

Continuing a theme of either having ties to the school or his stint at Colorado, new Spartans head coach Mel Tucker confirmed a pair of hires for the program with some familiar names. Announced a little earlier on Thursday, former Buffs offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson was taking the same role in East Lansing.

“Jay is an experienced play caller and an expert quarterbacks coach,” said Tucker in a release. “He has a very innovative offensive mind. I was with Jay when he was at Georgia and really got to know him well there. He’s had success in the Big Ten before, calling plays at Minnesota. He runs a multiple offense with an emphasis on physicality, and he’s an aggressive play caller.”

Johnson joins OL coach Chris Kapilovic in coming over from Boulder. The former previously was with Tucker as an off-field analyst at Georgia prior to going to CU and served as OC at Southern Miss, Louisiana and Minnesota in recent years.

Perhaps the bigger news for Michigan State fans is the return of another name: Harlon Barnett. A former MSU player, he was a mainstay defensive staff member under ex-head coach Mark Dantonio and was defensive backs coach at the school for over a decade starting in 2007. He was elevated to defensive coordinator from 2015-2017 before taking the same position on Willie Taggart’s staff at Florida State.

In addition to the three names mentioned above, Tucker has also retained Ron Burton and former interim head coach Mike Tressel. Additionally, another former Spartan player, Courtney Hawkins, was named the team’s receivers coach.