Bielema won’t anoint Russell Wilson, would hammer cheaters

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When it comes to being unfiltered, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema is one of the few head coaches that will pretty much tell a member of the media what’s on his mind.  While that was the case for the most part at the Big Ten’s media days Thursday, he did wander into the Land of Coach Speak when it came to one of the subject matters put before him.

After he was given his release from North Carolina State and following an extended courtship by multiple schools, Russell Wilson ultimately decided on the Badgers over Auburn — and football over baseball — and automatically upgraded UW’s quarterback position exponentially.  Given the fact that Wilson was a long-time starter at his former school, it’s widely expected/assumed that he will be the Badgers’ starter in 2011.

While that will, barring an injury of course, absolutely be the case, Bielema refused to anoint the transfer.  In his opening remarks, the coach mentioned the addition of Wilson, labeling him as “our potential starting quarterback.”  Later, Bielema twice was asked about Wilson as the starter, and twice he deflected the questions.

“What Russell brings to the table is an opportunity for us as coaches to see what we can do,” Bielema said the first time he was asked about the new presumptive starter. “We’ll get him in fall camp, like every one of our players. We have 105 players coming to campus. We’ll see who can give us the best chance to win football games in the fall and figure it out from there.”

After a question about Northern Illinois, Bielema was asked if there was seriously a chance Wilson wouldn’t be the starter.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Bielema said, which I know was stated with a straight face as I watched it live. “I was very open with Russell during the recruiting process, You will have an opportunity to come in and show us what you can do. I think that’s one of the things that attracted him to our program. We were honest, truthful. My parents said if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. That’s what we said, come in, have this opportunity, take full advantage of it, you’ll be the guy that reaps the rewards.

“I haven’t seen Russell Wilson compete one snap competitively in practice. I think I might know what will happen, but until it happens, that’s where we’re at.”

Bielema may have equivocated when it came to just who would be his starting QB, but he reverted to the real Bielema when it came to negative headlines in college football.  Asked what it would take to get the college game back into a positive light, Bielema jumped at the opportunity to answer.

“You know what, that’s a great question,” Bielema said. “If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys that don’t do things right. To me in my profession, the only thing I get very frustrated about is when I know things go on that aren’t right, mainly in recruiting. That’s the biggest thing that comes across my desk. People are willingly and knowingly abusing rules and breaking things. To me, when you are consciously aware of abusing a rule, there’s no excuse for that. … But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable. That’s probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”

Certainly Bielema wasn’t referring to a certain former Big Ten coach during the course of his answer, was he?

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.

Report: USC OC Graham Harrell interviewing for NFL job

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Clay Helton has been searching for a defensive coordinator the past several weeks and may need to expand his search to include an offensive coordinator as well.

According to a report out of Philadelphia, USC OC Graham Harrell has interviewed with the Eagles for a spot on Doug Pederson’s coaching staff in a similar role:

Harrell was retained this offseason amid plenty of fan fare (and money) in Los Angeles. He reportedly had interest from Texas in the same position on Tom Herman’s staff but a return to the Lone Star State was put off for a multi-year deal with the Trojans.

The former North Texas OC and Texas Tech quarterback oversaw one of the more impressive turnarounds in the country in 2019. Despite being forced to play true freshman Kedon Slovis at quarterback following J.T. Daniels injury, USC still added nearly a touchdown per game with the move to the Air Raid and rose from 91st in scoring offense to 35th.

This wouldn’t be the first time Helton and the Trojans will feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them by the NFL after a splashy move on offense. As many know, Kliff Kingsbury was on the job for a few weeks before moving on as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals last January. We’ll see if anything becomes of Harrell’s flirtation with the pros but there’s little doubt that this will not be the last time his name comes up for a bigger job going forward.

Nine from ’19: TE Thaddeus Moss joins LSU exodus for NFL Draft

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Thaddeus Moss is officially a one-and-done at LSU after declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The star LSU tight end became the ninth underclassman for the national champions to leave campus for the pros this week. He made the announcement on social media in a letter thanking the fan base:

Moss played a pivotal role in the team’s record-setting offense in 2019. He caught 47 passes for 570 yards and had three of his four touchdowns come in the College Football Playoffs. That included a pair of scores in the title game, one of which doubled as the one that allowed QB Joe Burrow to set the FBS record for TD passes in a season.

The one-time North Carolina State transfer is no stranger to the pros either way. He’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss and will be part of an intriguing class of players at tight end this spring.

While it’s possible there will be an additional name or two that surfaces, Friday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare means Moss’ departure could be the last for LSU for the time being. Still, that’s a lot of talent to lose as Ed Orgeron embarks on an offseason full of changes right after reaching the top of the sport.