With Mack not coming back, to whom does Texas turn?

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After months — hell, a couple of seasons — worth of speculation, Mack Brown‘s tenure at Texas finally and somewhat mercifully came to an end, with the longtime Texas head coach announcing Saturday night that he would be stepping down after 16 seasons in Austin.

While there’s still the matter of a bowl game to put an official end to Brown’s time with the Longhorns, the search to replace a man who had been on the job since 1998 has commenced in earnest.  Given the fact that UT is the most financially well-heeled football program in the country, don’t look for the university to target the hot coordinator du jour initially; rather, look for athletic director Steve Patterson and those who lord over him to chase a veritable who’s who of head coaches at both the collegiate and professional levels.

Despite appearances — and how laughably clumsy Brown’s departure played out in the media — Texas is still one of the top coaching jobs in any American sport let alone college football.  UT officials should have little problem attracting top-flight candidates from across the country in spite of themselves and their backroom politicking.

With that as a backdrop, here’s a look at some of the names of coaches who have either already been mentioned or could potentially be mentioned as replacements for Brown… and knowing full well that there’s a very real possibility that absolutely none of those mentioned will be the guy to actually replace Brown.

Nick Saban, Alabama
Whoops.  Sorry.  Force of habit.

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Armed with a contract extension that will make him one of the highest-paid head coaches at the FBS level, Fisher will lead his Seminoles into the BCS title game early next month against Auburn.  Fisher, who knows full well the weight that comes with replacing a legend, has seen his name pop up in connection to a potential opening at UT earlier this month, and look for the Longhorns to at least reach out him even as they could likely save themselves some time by not doing so.

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
Reportedly, Harbaugh is unhappy with ownership and could be open to a move back to the collegiate level.  The former Stanford head coach was asked earlier this week about interest in a potential opening at UT, and didn’t take kindly to the line of questioning.  It would seem unlikely that Harbaugh would drop back down to the collegiate level at this point in time, but Texas is one of the few programs in the country that could, to a point, go dollar-for-dollar with the NFL.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Out of all the names that will be mentioned, this is the one that would be both in the realm of possibility and considered a home-run hire by most.  Finishing up his ninth season with the Cowboys, Gundy showed last year by talking to Arkansas and Tennessee about their openings that he’s at least receptive to overtures from other schools.  Add in the tension with his bosses, and Gundy could very well be in play if/when Texas reaches out.  Weakening a conference rival would be an added bonus for UT.

Art Briles, Baylor
Like Fisher, Briles recently received a contract extension that would seemingly lock him down with the Bears for the foreseeable future.  Buyouts will be no hindrance in UT’s search, however, and Texas is expected to at least make a run at a coach who could very well do more for the football program than any other name on this list.

David Shaw, Stanford
Prying Shaw off The Farm would seem to be the dictionary definition of a pipe dream, but UT would be doing its program a disservice if they didn’t at least make a run at one of the best coaches at any level of football.  It’s likely Stanford need only worry about the NFL when it comes to retaining Shaw, although Texas could certainly make a convincing case if, as unlikely as it is, Shaw is willing to listen.

James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Reportedly a candidate for the USC job, Franklin will see his name connected to every significant opening until he actually leaves the Commodores.  Known as a master recruiter, what Franklin could do with the talent-rich state of Texas has to be intriguing on multiple levels to UT.  In his time with the Commodores, he’s led his team to three straight bowl appearance; prior to his arrival, Vandy had appeared in just four games in its century-plus existence.  While happy at Vandy, Franklin’s ears are open to any and all who want to discuss a move.

Todd Graham, Arizona State
Graham has shown, ahem, a propensity to be attracted to the next shiny coaching thing.  Born and raised in the state of Texas, Graham became a high school coaching legend in that state.  He left Rice after one season for Tulsa and bolted Pittsburgh after just one year for his “dream job” at Arizona State; do you think he wouldn’t at least be mildly interested in listening to overtures that would bring him home and result in him taking over the flagship football program in his state?

Kirby Smart, Alabama
If you can’t get Saban, why not target the man who has helped play a significant role in returning Alabama to national prominence?  Smart has been tied to several head-coaching vacancies over the past couple of years, but has yet to pull the trigger on getting out from under Saban’s shadow.  It’s only a matter of when and not if the defensive coordinator becomes a head coach.  If Texas goes for a first-timer to replace Brown, they could do a lot worse than Smart.

Kerry Coombs officially returns to Ohio State as DC

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The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has, as expected, brought back a familiar coaching face.

Speculation has been growing of late that Ryan Day would be adding Kerry Coombs to his OSU staff. Monday afternoon, the Buckeyes confirmed that Coombs has indeed returned to the program as defensive coordinator.

Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, who left last month to become the head coach at Boston College.

In January of 2018, Coombs left OSU to take a job with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.  Prior to that, he was on Urban Meyer‘s staff for six seasons.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” the Ohio State Buckeyes football head coach said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

All six seasons he was at OSU, Coombs was cornerbacks coach.  He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coordinator, defense. He was also special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Five corners who had Coombs as their position coach  — Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward — went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Coombs, a longtime Ohioan, spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ cornerbacks coach.

This will mark the 58-year-old Coombs’ first job as defensive coordinator at any level of football.

Jalen Hurts to represent both Alabama and Oklahoma at Senior Bowl

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The departure of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma was nothing but class. Not surprisingly, his departure from the college game will be just as classy — with the help of all-star game officials and a helmet company.

In January of last year, Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from Alabama to Oklahoma for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  At the time, Nick Saban lauded the quarterback for “[t]he way he managed [the 2018 season]… and I think he showed a tremendous amount of class.”

After leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff — and with Alabama sitting out the CFP for the first time ever — and being named as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hurts saw his collegiate career end with a throttling at the hands of LSU.  As he gets set to embark on what he hopes will be a career in the NFL, Hurts will take a huge first step in that direction by competing in the Senior Bowl.

Traditionally, the all-star game, which is played in the state of Alabama, features players who wear the helmets of the school from which they came.  Hurts will do the same, albeit with a twist.

On one half of the helmet, Hurts will wear the Alabama shade of Crimson with his old No. 2 on the side.  The other half, Hurts will have the Crimson of Oklahoma with the OU logo on it.

Hurts was surprised with the helmet, specially-made by the Riddell company, at a press conference in Mobile Monday evening.

Riddell actually made two of the custom helmets.  One will be worn by Hurts during the game.  The other will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefitting charity.

For those interested, the Senior Bowl will be played this coming Saturday.  Kickoff is set for 2:30 ET.  The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

Miami lands AAC Defensive Player of the Year as grad transfer

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It has been quite the day for the Miami Hurricanes football program on the personnel front.

After some initial uncertainty, D’Eriq King announced earlier Monday that he will be transferring to the Miami Hurricanes football team.  Not long after, Quincy Roche announced that he will be doing the same.

The Temple defensive end entered his name into the NCAA transfer database earlier this offseason.

“This was not an easy decision, but without a doubt the best decision for me and my family,” Roche wrote on Twitter. “I am ready to bring leadership, toughness and [hard work] to the University of Miami Hurricanes football program as we push to win the ACC championship.”

The decision to transfer to Miami came after Roche took a weekend visit to Virginia Tech.  According to 247Sports.com, “[t]he elite edge rusher also drew interest from schools like Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, Baylor, Ole Miss, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Texas and Rutgers amongst others.”

Roche, a three-star 2016 signee, was tied for third nationally in sacks with 14 and 11th in tackles for loss with 19 this past season.  Following the regular season, Roche was named as the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

As is the case with King, Roche will be coming into the Miami Hurricanes football program as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

The twin transfer additions did not go unnoticed by UM head coach Manny Diaz.

There’s an interesting twist to Roche’s addition to the roster.

Roche, as previously stated, comes to Miami from Temple.  Diaz was named as Temple’s head coach on Dec. 12 of 2018; exactly 17 days later, he abandoned the Owls to take the same job with the Hurricanes.

Miami’s opponent to open the 2020 season?  Temple, at home.

Feleipe Franks transfers from Florida to Arkansas

Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will transfer to Arkansas and be eligible to play in the fall.
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Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks has made his transfer decision. He will be an Arkansas Razorback.

Franks is a grad transfer, which will make him eligible for Arkansas this fall. Even better for Arkansas is Franks will be enrolled in classes and be available to work out with his new team this spring. That means Franks will get a chance to go through a full spring practice schedule for his new program under brand new head coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas will also get its first spring practice in with new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. It should go without much saying the Arkansas offense will have a new look in 2020.

A starting job may not yet be guaranteed for Franks at Arkansas, but he will be the most experienced option available. If Franks gels well with his new team this spring, that starting job may quickly become his to lose, if it is not considered that already. Franks is coming back from a season-ending ankle injury.

Arkansas will certainly be getting an experienced passer. Ranks passed for 4,593 yards and 38 touchdowns during his time at Florida, which included some time as the starter for the Gators. Franks also made a visit to Kansas while evaluating his options since deciding he would move on from Gainesville.