Second-leading receiver, ex-Gator among three suspended by USF

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Along with spring practice, one of the annual rites this time of year is suspensions from said practice for various off-field issues.

USF is the latest program to pull the trigger on the non-punitive punitive measure, announcing that three players have been indefinitely suspended by new head coach Willie Taggart.  The trio consists of wide receivers Terrence Mitchell and Chris Dunkley, along with running back Bradley Battles.

Taggart said each of the players will have the opportunity to return to the team, but will first have to prove they deserve something that’s a right and not a privilege.

They could be back. They have to do something, do what it takes to get back out there,” Taggart said by way of Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. “They can be back. They’re not just going to get on this team. You don’t just get on this team any kind of way. They have to make sure they’re doing their part to be on this football team.”

Mitchell last season finished second on the Bulls in receptions (31) and receiving yards (414).  Auman notes, however, that the new coaching staff had already decided to move Mitchell to cornerback.  The fact that Mitchell will likely miss most if not all of spring practice will certainly hinder his transition to the defensive side of the ball.

Dunkley transferred to USF from Florida in May of 2011 and sat out that season to satisfy NCAA rules.  In September of last year, Dunkley, who played in the first five games in 2012, was charged domestic violence in late September and was suspended from the program a day later.  It’s unclear if his latest suspension is merely a continuation of the first one or is the result of a new incident.

Each of the past two seasons, Battles has missed game-time due to suspensions.

FCS head coach Brad Laird placed on unpaid leave after DWI arrest

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Courtesy of Brad Laird, it’s neither a player nor someone from the FBS level that’s at the center of the latest off-field issue in college football.

In 2018, Brad Laird was named as the head football coach at FCS Northwestern State.  Saturday night, Laird was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in Natchitoches, LA.  No details of what led to the arrest have been released.

However, Northwestern State announced Monday that Laird has been suspended without pay for a week.  The school did confirm, though, that Laird will retain his job moving forward.

The school also issued a pair of statements addressing the off-field development.

NSU ATHLETIC DIRECTOR GREG BURKE
“Brad Laird informed me on February 16 that he had been charged with a DWI the previous evening. The university takes misconduct by any employee seriously and especially one with the level of responsibility of a head coach. The university immediately investigated and confirmed this incident.

“I met with Coach Laird on the morning of February 17 and informed him that he would be suspended for one week without pay. He was also issued a letter of reprimand informing him of consequences that could result from any future misconduct that would violate the conditions of his contract with the university. The letter also outlined additional measures to address this incident. Having known Coach Laird for many years, I respect and was not surprised that he expressed regret about his lack of judgment in this incident and stated that it is his desire to learn from this matter and move forward as a better leader for the young men in the NSU football program.”

NSU HEAD FOOTBALL COACH BRAD LAIRD
“On Saturday night, February 15, I made a poor decision to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking alcohol. It was a poor and selfish decision, and I apologize to everyone who was unknowingly put at risk. I am extremely disappointed in this decision as this is not the type of behavior I instill in my players and staff. This was a lapse in judgment, and I take 100 percent responsibility for my actions.

“There are so many that are affected by my selfish decision. I would like to apologize to my family, Dr. Jim Henderson and the University Louisiana System, Dr. Chris Maggio and Northwestern State University, Mr. Greg Burke and the Northwestern State Athletic Department, and to the Northwestern State football players and coaches – past and present. As a role model for this great University and the players and coaches, I am disappointed as my actions were not in the best interest of my family, University, players and coaches. I completely understand there are consequences for all actions, and I accept the disciplinary terms that come with the decision I made Saturday night.”

In two seasons with the Demons, Laird has posted an 8-15 record.  The school went 5-6 in 2018 and 3-9 in 2019. In between his first and second seasons, Laird added two Power Five transfers and another from BYU.

Laird actually played his college football at the FCS school.  He also began his coaching career at his alma mater in 1996 as a graduate assistant.

In the ensuing years, the ties to NSU only deepened for Laird.  From 2003-05 and again from 2008-11, Laird was the Demons’ defensive coordinator.  Prior to being named head coach, he was the coordinator at NSU in 2017.

Alabama reportedly hires Charlie Strong as defensive analyst

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It appears the marriage between Charlie Strong and Alabama is a go.

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.  Overnight, yet another report surfaced that Strong was set to be back in Tuscaloosa this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, with a hiring all but a given.  Late Tuesday morning, Chris Low of ESPN.com reported that Strong has agreed to join the Crimson Tide football staff as a defensive analyst.

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.

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).