Senior Bowl recognizes Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald’s practice efforts

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Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have to make room on his trophy shelf for at least one more award. Donald was named the top practice player at the Senior Bowl practices this week.

“Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle,” said Mike Smith, the coach of the Atlanta Falcons, in a statement released by the Senior Bowl. The Falcons coaching staff is coaching the North team in this year’s Senior Bowl. “I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s short in stature by NFL standards and doesn’t maybe have all the measurables, but he’s one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He’s done a very nice job both in the running and the pass game.”

Donald cleaned up on the college football awards circuit. He was named the winner of the Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award and Chuck Bednarik Award in addition to being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.

The Senior Bowl also handed out awards for the top players by position. Auburn’s Dee Ford was named the most outstanding defensive lineman, which is somewhat humorous considering Donald is also a defensive lineman. Northern Illinois defensive back Jimmie Ward, West Virginia running back Charles Sims, Iowa wide receiver C.J. Fiedorowicz, Notre Dame offensive lineman Zach Martin, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland and Auburn kicker Cody Parkey have all been recognized for their performance in practices this week as well.

Last year’s top practice player at the Senior Bowl was Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who went on to be the number one overall draft pick. Donald may not be the number one pick in this year’s upcoming NFL Draft, but his stock certainly could not be much higher at this point. With NFL scouts and coaches gathering at the Senior Bowl, what a potential draft pick does during practices at the Senior Bowl tends to carry more weight than anything that happens during the actual game, although ending the week on a high note with a solid game performance certainly helps.

Lane Kiffin completes first Ole Miss staff as Terrell Buckley is hired, two others retained

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The new head coach of the Ole Miss football team has put the finishing touches on his first Oxford staff.

Dec. 7, Lane Kiffin was hired by the Ole Miss football program.  Just over seven weeks later, the Rebels confirmed Monday that one new addition and two holdovers have rounded out Kiffin’s 10 on-field assistants.

The new hire is Terrell Buckley, who will serve as Kiffin’s cornerbacks coach.  Buckley, a former All-American at Florida State, spent the past four seasons coaching the same position at Mississippi State.  From 2014-15, Buckley coached corners at Louisville.

In addition to Buckley, it was announced that Freddie Roach and Derrick Nix have been retained off of Matt Luke‘s coaching staff.  Roach will serve as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, while also coaching the defensive line for the Rebels. Nix will be in charge of the SEC school’s wide receivers.

Roach has spent the past three seasons with the Rebels.  The last dozen seasons, Nix has been Ole Miss’ running backs coach.

With that trio of announcements, Kiffin’s first staff as the Ole Miss football head coach will be:

  • Terrell Buckley (Cornerbacks)
  • Randy Clements (Running Game Coordinator/Offensive Line)
  • D.J. Durkin (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
  • Joe Jon Finley (Passing Game Coordinator/Tight Ends)
  • Blake Gideon (Special Teams)
  • Jeff Lebby (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
  • Derrick Nix (Wide Receivers)
  • Chris Partridge (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties)
  • Freddie Roach (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator)
  • Kevin Smith (Running Backs)

“This coaching staff represents the winning mentality we are establishing here, and I’m excited to get to work as a full group,” Kiffin said in a statement. “We added dynamic recruiters, championship experience and outstanding football minds. This is a staff that will attract the best players in the country and help them reach their full potential.”

USC transfer QB Jack Sears backing off commitment to San Diego State

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It appears one USC football transfer will still be searching for a new home.

After finding himself fourth on the USC football quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, Sears landed at San Diego State.  In fact, he signed a grant-in-aid with the Mountain West Conference school.

Over the weekend, and a couple of weeks after a head-coaching change at SDSU, however, it’s now being reported that Sears is no longer going to attend the school.  However, 247Sports.com reports that the Aztecs are still in play for the transfer.

Per our sources, 247Sports has learned that Sears is “very comfortable” with Hoke as head coach and has no issues in the slightest about that decision. However, with the coaching turnover on staff and no offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, or defensive coordinator on staff at this time, Sears has decided to take a step back regarding his final decision and wants to keep an open mind. We’ve learned that he will not be enrolling early at the school for the spring semester. That said, San Diego State remains absolutely in play, but he wants to keep an open mind to make sure this next and final decision is the right one.

As a graduate transfer, Sears will be eligible to play for any FBS school in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.

Obviously, Sears didn’t attempt a pass this past season.

On three-year contract, Bo Pelini to make $2.3 million annually as LSU’s DC

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Not surprisingly, Bo Pelini will be paid handsomely for returning to LSU.

After a few days worth of speculation, it was reported earlier Monday that all signs were pointing to a Pelini reunion down on the bayou.  A few hours later, after Youngstown State announced it was losing its head football coach, it was confirmed that Bo Pelini is the new defensive coordinator at LSU.

Pelini replaces Aranda, who left earlier this month to take the head job at Baylor.

“We are privileged to have one of the top defensive coordinators in all of football in Bo Pelini join our staff,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement. “Bo has had some of the best defenses in football during his career and we are looking forward to him bringing his tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise back to LSU to continue to win championships.”

From 2005-07, Pelini served as the Tigers’ coordinator.  He went on to spend seven seasons as the head coach at Nebraska.  The past five seasons, he was the head coach at FCS Youngstown State.

According to reports out of the area, Pelini has agreed to a three-year deal that will pay him $2.3 million annually.  The man he replaced, Aranda, was the highest-paid assistant in college football at $2.5 million this past season.

At Youngstown State, Pelini was paid less than $400,000 in 2019.  Of course, there were also the millions paid to Pelini by the Cornhuskers as part of his buyout, so it’s not like he was forced to eat Hydrox instead of Oreos the past few years.

“The opportunity to return to LSU is truly unique,” Pelini said. “Culturally, with my prior experience at LSU, I know it is a great fit for me. The chance to work with Coach Orgeron, the ability to take charge of the Tigers defense, is something that I’m extremely excited about. All of that in a place that both my family and I immensely enjoyed when we were there before is very exciting for us. We are very honored and looking forward to this next chapter.”

Maryland QB Max Bortenschlager hits transfer portal

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Add another Big Ten quarterback to the NCAA transfer portal. Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager has placed his name in the transfer portal, according to a report form 247 Sports.

Bortenschlanger will be a graduate transfer, which means he will be eligible to play for any FBS team this fall. For Bortenschlager, a chance to play quarterback one final year could be at play. The graduating senior previously started for Maryland at quarterback in 2017 but was moved to special teams in 2018. Last season saw injuries interfere with Bortenschlager’s ability to get on the field.

Maryland’s quarterback situation should look similar to how it looked last season. Josh Jackson was named the starter after transferring from Virginia Tech. Jackson passed for 1,274 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions in 10 games. Tyrell Pigrome contributed as well with 719 passing yards and three touchdowns and 153 rushing yards with two touchdowns. Jackson and Piugrome each have one year of eligibility remaining.