Cutcliffe: ‘I’m going to be coaching at Duke next year’

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If a coach’s public words can be taken at face value, you can apparently cross one rumored contender off Tennessee’s wide-ranging wish list.

With Derek Dooley officially out at Tennessee, the speculation has now shifted to just who will replace the deposed coach on Rocky Top.  One of the names bandied about, even before Dooley’s official axing, was Duke’s David Cutcliffe.

On multiple levels, such a move or even interest on the school’s part would make sense.

Cutcliffe spent 16 seasons (1983-98) as an assistant at UT.  He left the Vols to become the head coach at Ole Miss, with the prior head-coaching experience serving as a prerequisite in the Vols’ current search and having the added bonus of being in the SEC.  Perhaps most importantly, Cutcliffe has taken a historically moribund football program and, in five years, has it headed to a bowl game for the first time since after the 1993 season.

Add it all up, it would be foolish for the Vols to not at least give Cutcliffe a call.  If UT does come a courtin’, however, it appears a “thanks, but no thanks” would greet the overtures.

“I can tell you right now that I’m going to be coaching at Duke next year. I’m very happy here,” Cutcliffe said during a Sunday teleconference.

As Jayson Swain, current Knoxville radio dude and former Vols wide receiver, wrote on Twitter, “When Cutcliffe says something I take it to the bank. He always preached: ‘say what u mean and mean what u say'”

So, with Cutcliffe (apparently) out of the equation, there are still plenty of names being tossed around as potential replacements.  From fan-favorite Jon Gruden — this is my personal favorite as well, if for nothing more than the sheer train-wreck possibilities — to Miami’s Al Golden to Bobby Petrino — literally no chance of happening — to TCU’s Gary Patterson, all of the expected big guns are being mentioned in connection to what is still one of the top jobs in the sport.

Realistically, and likely wisely, the search will probably turn in the direction of coaches such as Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes.  And, if the idea of previous experience as a head coach was to be shelved, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart could fall under what’s expected to be an expansive search umbrella.

After pushing Phillip Fulmer out the door and the failed Lane Kiffin experiment that’s still reverberating and the Dooley debacle, there’s only one certainty when it comes to UT’s search: regardless of which direction UT goes and who is ultimately hired, they have to nail the hire.  It’s literally as simple as that.

Ex-Iowa DE Romeo McKnight transfers to Illinois State

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Another former Power Five player has decided to ply his football wares at a lower level of football.

The latest to do so is Romeo McKnight, with Illinois State announcing via Twitter that defensive end will be continuing his collegiate playing career for the Redbirds. Because ISU plays at the FCS level, McKnight will be eligible to play in 2018.

Including this upcoming season, the lineman will have three years of eligibility remaining.

The announcement from ISU comes a little over a week after McKnight decided to transfer from Iowa.

McKnight was a three-star member of Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class. In large part because of a knee injury that cost him the entire 2017 season, the defensive lineman never played a down for the Hawkeyes.

Georgia, South Carolina visits in offing for Clemson transfer Josh Belk

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Another of the handful of Clemson defensive linemen who have transferred thus far this offseason could be close to finding a new home.

Reports surfaced Tuesday that Josh Belk will be visiting a pair of SEC schools this week — Georgia and South Carolina. The latter will play host to the ex-Tigers lineman on Wednesday, the former a day later on Thursday.

Belk was a four-star member of Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class. Because he enrolled early and attended classes, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Beginning with the 2019 season, the South Carolina would have four years to play four seasons.

In the middle of last week, Belk announced his decision to transfer from the Tigers.

In addition to Belk, three other Tigers defensive linemen have transferred this offseason. In late January, Jabril Johnson opted to leave Clemson and ultimately ended up at West Virginia; two weeks later, Sterling Johnson took to Twitter to announce his transfer before moving on to Coastal Carolina this month. Quaven Ferguson, arrested for armed robbery in March, had announced his transfer as well prior to that off-field incident.

WATCH: 338-pound Wisconsin nose tackle nails beach backflip

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Yeah, this is absolutely fantastic. And extremely impressive.

Up until now, Olive Sagapolu has been mainly known to most nationally for his prowess on the football field. Entering his fourth-year season in Madison, Sagapolu has started 23 games during his time with the Badgers, including 10 in a 2017 season that saw him earn honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

As it turns out, though, Sagapolu’s athleticism isn’t confined to merely on the field as, in this video sent out through UW’s official football Twitter account, the 6-2, 336-pound starting nose tackle lands a backflip on a beach in Hawaii.

To repeat: the man in that video weighs 336 pounds. 336 pounds.

Then again, it shouldn’t be all that surprising given the fact that Sagapolu spent a portion of his senior year at football powerhouse Mater Dei High School in California as a member of the varsity cheerleading squad. Seriously.

“In a way, (cheerleading) does help because it shows how athletic I can be and I’m getting,” Sagapolu said by way of 247Sports.com way back in August of 2015. “I mean, I’m about a 300-pound guy doing a backflip. You don’t really see that a lot. Doing these other kinds of tricks also helps with hand-eye coordination. It does help with football. …

“(People) were definitely surprised seeing me on the cheerleading team. They thought it was funny seeing… a big guy like me. For me, it is shocking to see the reaction from people’s faces. … Just the whole thing about cheerleading is very different from football. It was something I wanted to do for my senior year and have fun with it.”

Tennessee’s Will Ignont to have weed charge dismissed

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A legal journey for one Tennessee football player that began last year is coming to an end.

In October of 2017, former UT running back John Kelly and current Vols linebacker Will Ignont (pictured, left) were cited for marijuana possession following a traffic stop. Kelly was the driver of the vehicle, Ignont a passenger.

Tuesday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported, Ignont “received a pass disposition and will have his charge dismissed with court costs assessed.” Kelly, selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2018 NFL draft, pleaded guilty in the same court appearance.

Both Ignont and Kelly were suspended for the Kentucky game as a result of the incident, but returned the following week.

Ignont was a four-star member of the Vols’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 16 inside linebacker in the country. He played in six games as a true freshman and was credited with six tackles, one of which went for a loss.