Big Ten’s stance on targeting? ‘When in doubt, throw him out’

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The NCAA made it known it was serious about reducing — or, attempting to reduce — head injuries when the Playing Rules Oversight Panel ruled in March that any player flagged for targeting a defenseless player would be automatically ejected from the game.

That rule will apply nationwide beginning this season, and the Big Ten conference is apparently taking it to heart. Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network attended a gathering for conference officials on Saturday and noted that the Big Ten’s front office is telling officials to always err on the side of calling the foul.

Targeting penalties will be subject to immediate video review as well as additional review on Mondays, but it seems the only way a player flagged for targeting can avoid ejection and/or suspension is if there’s conclusive video evidence to the contrary.

That could be tough to prove. The new Big Ten stance, as Dienhart reports, is “When in doubt, throw him out.

The decision to eject players for targeting applies to all leagues, the Big Ten just plans on going by an interpretation of the rule that has basically no wiggle room (Dienhart relays that fans should “get ready for ejections” this fall).

Targeting is a judgement call, and the speed of the game makes any judgement call difficult. Now that call carries stiffer consequences. In the Big Ten’s case, it also leans toward throwing the flag not necessarily because it’s the right call, but because the official feels it’s close enough to merit the penalty. To overturn it, the video crew needs to be 100 percent certain the call on the field was wrong.

Good luck with all that.

Memphis loses OC to Auburn, DC to FCS head coaching job

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Thanks to the events of the last 24 hours or so, Mike Norvell will have a significantly reshaped Memphis coaching staff when the 2019 season kicks off.

First, Auburn announced Sunday night that it has hired Kenny Dillingham as Gus Malzahn‘s offensive coordinator.  The 28-year-old Dillingham, who will also coach quarterbacks, replaces Chip Lindsey, who left for the coordinator job under Les Miles at Kansas.

Dillingham spent the 2018 season as the coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Memphis.

“Kenny is one of the rising stars in our profession, coaching two top 10 nationally ranked offenses the last two years,” Malzahn said. “Because of Kenny’s energy, intelligence and genuine care for his players, he’s been highly successful coaching quarterbacks and is an outstanding recruiter, while working closely with Mike Norvell in developing one of the nation’s top offenses.”

The football program also confirmed that Malzahn will resume calling plays for the Tigers’ offense next season, just as he did from 2013-15.  In 2016, those duties fell to Rhett Lashlee; the past two seasons, Lindsey called the plays.

Dillingham wasn’t responsible for calling plays with the AAC Tigers as those duties fell to Norvell on gameday.

In addition to losing Dillingham, Memphis has also seen Chris Ball leave as the defensive coordinator was named Monday as the new head coach at FCS Northern Arizona.  Ball had spent the past three seasons as Norvell’s coordinator.

Ball, who was an assistant at Arizona State from 2012-15, will be introduced as the program’s 30th head football coach at a Wednesday press conference.

K-State announces North Dakota State’s Chris Klieman as Bill Snyder’s replacement

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One of the most successful coaches at the FCS level is making the move up to replace one of the most beloved figures at the FBS level — albeit not immediately as he has some unfinished postseason business at his current school to take care of.

Monday night, Kansas State announced that Chris Klieman has been hired as the Wildcats’ as the football program’s 35th head coach.  Klieman replaces the legendary Bill Snyder, who retired earlier this month after two separate stints at the school for a total of nearly three decades.

“I’m very excited to have Chris Klieman lead our program,” athletic director Gene Taylor said in a statement. “He is a perfect fit for us, both from a personal standpoint and as a head coach. He’s a tremendous teacher who I had the pleasure to hire at NDSU and watched him turn into a very successful coach. He will bring a ton of energy and excitement. His teams play extremely hard, disciplined football. He’s a winner. That’s all he does is win, and we’re excited to have Chris, Rhonda and the entire Klieman family join our K-State family. They will be a great fit not only for Kansas State Football and Kansas State Athletics, but also the entire community of Manhattan.”

Klieman is in his fifth season as the head coach at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.  In the first four seasons, the Bison claimed three national championships (2014, 2015, 2017) and advanced to the semifinals the other year (2016).

In 2018, North Dakota State is a perfect 13-0 and will face South Dakota State in one of the two semifinal matchups Friday night.  Klieman will remain with the Bison through this year’s playoff run.

All told, the 51-year-old Klieman is 67-6 at North Dakota State.

“This is an absolute dream job,” a statement from Klieman began. “I’m so happy and thrilled to follow a legend in Coach Snyder. I’ve followed him from afar, went to his camps while playing in Waterloo, Iowa, and played against his Kansas State team when I was at Northern Iowa. The opportunity to follow in an icon’s footsteps is something I don’t take for granted and don’t take lightly. I know I have huge shoes to fill, and I’m excited to carry on his legacy. I have prepared my entire life for this opportunity and had great experiences at many institutions, most notably North Dakota State where we’ve had unmatched success over the last eight years. I can’t express how pleased I am and thank President Myers, Gene Taylor and the search committee for trusting in me and handing over the keys to this great program.”

Per the school, Klieman has signed a six-year contract that will pay him $2.3 million in 2019.  He will receive raises of $200,000 annually over the remaining five years of the deal.

Only Kansas’ David Beaty ($1.7 million), dismissed at the end of the regular season, made less than that figure in 2018 amongst Big 12 coaches.  Snyder, at $3.5 million, was the next lowest.

Former Texas State, Rice head coach David Bailiff lands at Texas A&M-Commerce

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One of the best pound-for-pound hires of the 2018-19 coaching cycle will be made at the Division II level. That’s where former Texas State and Rice head coach David Bailiff is headed after he was hired by Texas A&M-Commerce.

“During our comprehensive search process, David Bailiff emerged as an exceptional leader of men who exemplifies our Best in Class mission,” AD Tim McMurray said in a statement. “We had seven key pillars during our search – integrity and commitment to compliance, initiatives for student-athlete success, strategic recruiting based within the Texas footprint, a championship vision, an inclusive leadership style, excellent collaboration with campus partners, and demonstrated ability to engage our alumni and community.   With Coach Bailiff’s energy, passion, and ability to connect with student-athletes, we checked all our boxes.”

Aside from a 5-year stint as New Mexico’s defensive line coach, Bailiff is a Lone Star State lifer who played at Texas State back when the school was known as Southwest Texas State and participated in the Lone Star Conference — where A&M-Commerce lives now — and later became the head coach at his alma mater when it was an FCS school. He went 21-15 in three seasons with a Southland Conference title and a trip to the FCS (then Division I-AA) semifinals in 2005.

That success led him to Rice, where he remained head coach for 11 seasons with a 10-win campaign in 2008 and a Conference USA championship in 2013.

He was replaced by Mike Bloomgren after the 2017 season and spent this fall out of football.

“I am so thrilled to be the 20th head coach in the history of the school. I’m an old Lone Star Conference guy, and that’s where my roots are in college football,” Bailiff said. “It’s great and exciting what coach Carthel built here, and it’s the first job I’ve had where you’ve got to look at the blueprint and continue building the momentum on something great he’s already got started.”

Bailiff takes over for Colby Carthel, who left to become the head coach at FCS Stephen F. Austin. Carthel led the Lions to their first Division II national championship in 2017.

Texas Tech WR Antoine Wesley declares for NFL draft

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He didn’t win enough games at his alma mater, but Kliff Kingsbury did succeed at placing his skill players on NFL rosters. Patrick Mahomes is the MVP front-runner with three weeks left to play, and there are more Red Raider wide receivers in the League than any other college program.

And now we can go ahead and add one more.

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley declared for the NFL draft on Monday. He made the announcement through a Twitter post and a highlight video that paired with the post.

A Las Vegas native by way of Cibolo Steele High School in the San Antonio area, Wesley exploded on the scene as a junior. After catching 10 passes total in his first two seasons, Wesley recorded 88 receptions for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He ranked ninth nationally in catches and seconds in yards and yards per game.

A rangy target at 6-foot-5, Wesley hauled in 13 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-49 win over Houston on Sept. 15, and in back-to-back November games against Oklahoma and Texas he combined to catch 20 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.

Wesley was named a Second Team All-Big 12 performer this fall.