Tide trio rolls into NFL draft

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As expected, two-time defending national champion Alabama has lost a trio of players to the professional ranks.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, running back Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner each announced they were taking their multiple BCS title rings and making themselves available for the April NFL draft.  Head coach Nick Saban also confirmed that offensive lineman D.J. Fluker will be entering the draft as well.

“I would like to take this time to honor these young men for the great job that they have done in how they have represented the University of Alabama and their family,” Saban said. “They have all been great people, in terms of how they have represented our organization. From a personal character standpoint, these guys have been great representatives and great ambassadors for the University of Alabama and we really appreciate that.”

The early departures certainly put a dent in the Tide’s returning experience as, all told, they will be losing 79 starts amongst the three players.

None of the three were particularly a surprise, though, as each was strongly rumored to be a heavy lean toward leaving eligibility on the table at season’s end.

Lacy, with 14 starts in 34 career games, led the Tide this season with 1,322 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on the ground while also adding 22 receptions and two more scores through the air.  Last season, he finished second on the team in rushing, and finishes his Tide career with 2,402 yards and 30 touchdowns.

He was named offensive MVP of the Tide’s evisceration of Notre Dame in the BCS title game earlier in the week, running for 140 yards on 20 carries and scoring both a rushing and receiving touchdown.

“I want to start by thanking the University of Alabama, Coach Saban and Coach Burns, my position coach,” Lacy said. “I want to thank all of my teammates and the teachers and academic staff here at the university; the training staff, Jeff Allen and especially Jeremy Gsell; we put in a lot of time over the years here.

“Of course I want to thank all of the fans. They are great fans. It has been an amazing experience here. I developed well as a player and as a person here at Alabama. As I look back at the four years, I feel that I have accomplished all of the goals that the team and I set out to accomplish.”

All three were first-team All-SEC performers in 2012, while Milliner was also a consensus first-team All-American.  Milliner was one of three Tide players accorded that honor, including linebacker C.J. Mosely — he announced last month that he would be returning for his senior season — as well as senior offensive linemen Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack.

“It’s been a great experience for me in my three years being here,” Milliner said. “I’ve learned a lot of things -not only becoming a better football player, but also becoming a better man. Coach Saban and the coaching staff do a great job of developing players here and helping you out all that they can.

“I’d like to thank all the coaching staff for what they did for me: Coach Pruitt, my defensive backs coach, for all the help and the things that he did for me; the trainers and all the strength coaches, for developing me as a better person and the things that they do; the academic center, for all the help that they gave me in academics, for making me become more of a student-athlete. I’d like to thank all my family for all the love and support they gave me over the years. Without them I don’t know what I’d be doing or where I’d be right now.”

There have now been at least 67 underclassmen who have declared early for the draft, breaking the record of 65 set last year.  There are still four days until the NFL’s deadline for officially filing their early-entry paperwork with the NFL.

Notre Dame could be landing spot for Stanford transfer Trevor Speights

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Courtesy of a rival, Notre Dame football could see its roster bolstered as we trudge deeper into the offseason.

In early January, Trevor Speights became one of more than a dozen Stanford players who had entered the NCAA transfer database.  A month later, and citing two sources very close to the prospect, 247Sports.com is reporting that Notre Dame football has started recruiting Speights.

In fact, Notre Dame football could very well be labeled as the front-runner early on in the process.  From the report:

Not only have conversations gone extremely well so far, but we’re actually told the 5-11, 205-pounder is finalizing plans to get on campus for a visit in March. Running backs coach Lance Taylor is leading the way on this recruitment and if things go well on the visit between both sides and the staff is sure there is a spot for him, it’s hard to see him landing anywhere else.

On that relationship between player and coach, Taylor has actually known Speights and his family for years. He actually recruited the young man to Stanford a few years ago and played a major role in securing his commitment to play ball for the Cardinal. We’ll see if they get the chance to team up once again, but this time in South Bend at Notre Dame.

As a graduate transfer, Speights would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2020.  Not only that, the running back has, per the same website, another year of eligibility to use in 2021 as well.

Speights was a three-star 2016 signee.  After rushing for 363 yards and a touchdown on 95 carries in 2017-18, Speights didn’t record a carry in 2019.

For those keeping score at home, Speights could face his former team this season as Stanford travels to Notre Dame Stadium Oct. 10.

Speights, incidentally, would be the third graduate transfer added by Notre Dame football in recent months.  In November, Ohio State safety Isaiah Pryor moved on to the football independent.  Two months later, Northwestern wide receiver Ben Skowronek made the move to South Bend as well.

Clemson transfer Xavier Kelly tweets commitment to Arkansas

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Another Clemson football transfer has found a new college football home.

In mid-January, Xavier Kelly took the first step in leaving the Clemson football program by announcing that he had entered the NCAA transfer database.  Later that month, it was reported that the defensive lineman would be taking a visit to Arkansas as he looked to move on from the Clemson football team.

Late Monday night, Kelly made his future-home decision.  On Twitter, the lineman confirmed that he “will be finishing out my college career at the University of Arkansas.”

Kelly left the Clemson football program as a graduate transfer, making him eligible to play immediately in 2020. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Kelly was rated as the No. 1 player regardless of position in the state of Kansas. The Wichita product was also rated as the No. 8 weakside defensive end in the country. He took a redshirt for his true freshman season.

The 6-4, 305-pound lineman went on to play in 28 games the past three seasons. For his career, Kelly has been credited with 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Kelly would become the fourth graduate transfer added by Arkansas since mid-January.

  • Arkansas State defensive back Jerry Jacobs (HERE).
  • Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (HERE).
  • Oklahoma linebacker Levi Draper (HERE).
  • Duke kicker AJ Reed (HERE).

Son of ex-Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder to stay, play sixth season with Monarchs

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A potentially awkward situation for Old Dominion football and one of its players has turned into anything but.  To the credit, it should be noted, of both sides.

In early December, Bobby Wilder stepped down as the head coach of the Old Dominion football team after 11 seasons.  Wilder was the only head coach in the history of the Monarchs program.

Wilder’s son, ODU defensive end Derek Wilder, was “hurt and angry” over what some considered the forced resignation of his father.  In December, after the coaching upheaval, the younger Wilder was granted a sixth season of eligibility he could use in 2020.  Whether that additional year of eligibility would be as a part of Old Dominion football program or another remained up in the air.

A call from Wilder’s replacement, Ricky Rahne, to the man he replaced helped set the wheels in motion for the lineman to return to Monarchs this coming season.  From the school’s official website:

He called me to ask me some questions about the program and the players and that was the first conversation that Ricky and I had about my son,” Wilder said. “He indicated that he wanted Derek to come back.

“I shared that with Derek and he met with Ricky his first week here. Derek really enjoyed talking to him and decided at that point he was coming back.

“He thinks a lot of Ricky and is excited about next season.”

Rahne said he told Derek that “I wanted him back, that I thought he could be a good leader for us.

“Obviously, he’s experienced a lot. He’s had to grow a lot throughout this process. I felt like this would be an opportunity for Derek to go out and play a little bit freer.

“I was excited when he got his sixth year and I am excited that he is coming back.

Because of injury, Wilder the player missed 21 of 24 games in the 2016-17 seasons.  That made the decision by the NCAA to give him another season of eligibility a relative slamdunk.

In 2018, Wilder played in 10 games at linebacker.  This past season, he moved up to the line and played in all 12 games for the first time in his career.  Wilder started 10 of the contests at defensive end, and will be expected to keep that starting job heading into the 2020 campaign.

More signs connecting Charlie Strong to analyst role at Alabama

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At this point, it would seemingly be an upset if Charlie Strong doesn’t land at Alabama football.

In early December of last year, Strong was let go as the head coach at South Florida.  Over the past two-plus months, the 59-year-old Strong has remained on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  There has been speculation, though, that Strong could be returning to Florida and joining Dan Mullens‘ extended staff as a defensive analyst.

Late last week, however, it was reported that Charlie Strong was in Tuscaloosa visiting with the Alabama football coaching staff.  A few days later, it’s now being reported that Strong is expected back in T-Town this week.  Perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to Matt Zenitz of al.com.

Nick Saban doesn’t have an opening on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  However, Charlie Strong could conceivably join the Alabama football program as some type of an analyst, ala Butch Jones and myriad others.

Strong has spent the past decade as a head coach.  After going 37-15 in four seasons (2010-13) at Louisville, Strong left to take the head job at Texas.  Three seasons (2014-16) in Austin ended with his dismissal following a 16-21 record.  Strong’s tenure at USF ended after three seasons (2017-19) as well and a 4-8 2019 campaign.

In the last six years of his head-coaching career, Strong posted a 37-37 record.

Prior to that, Strong spent seven years (2003-09) as the defensive coordinator at Florida.  During that time with the Gators, he also coached defensive ends and linebackers.  For four of those seasons, Mullen was UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before leaving to take the Mississippi State job.

That was actually Strong’s fourth stint with the Gators.  From 1991-94, he coached defensive tackles (1994) and defensive ends (1991-93).  He also served as outside linebackers coach from 1988-89.  Strong began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at UF in 1983-84.

Strong was also the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for four years (1999-2002) before moving on to Gainesville that fourth time.  In between the third Gainesville stint and his time in Columbia, Strong was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame from 1995-98.