Much to the shock of many and delight of some, Alabama announced back in January of this year that Nick Saban had hired Lane Kiffin — he of the one-and-done at Tennessee that left myriad burned SEC bridges in its wake — as his new offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Even as some praised the hiring, many more were confused, bemused, befuddled or downright giddy that such an unlikely Saban/Kiffin marriage could and would actually come to fruition. Still others were downright suspect about the move, a group that, it turns out, would include the head of Alabama’s athletic department.
In a Q&A with the Anniston Star, Bill Battle was asked about his thoughts on the hiring of Kiffin as coordinator. Much to Battle’s credit, he didn’t shy away from his initial reaction.
“My first reaction, because I didn’t know Lane, wasn’t very positive,” the AD stated bluntly.
Thanks to a little nudging from Kiffin’s new boss, however, Battle began to dig deeper into the whole “Kiffin Experience” and came away thinking highly of the hiring.
“I talked to Coach Saban about it. He asked me if I had ever met him and I said no. He said, “Why don’t you meet him?” He had him in for a visit, I spent about an hour with him and I was very impressed. I followed up and talked to several different people. I called (athletics director) Pat Haden at Southern California. I talked to David Blackbird, who’s the AD at UT-Chattanooga. David was the compliance officer for football at Tennessee when Lane was there. They both told me that they thought he would be a great fit here, and I got really comfortable with it. Now that I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Lane, I’m really impressed. Our players are impressed and I think our coaches are impressed with how he’s gone about things. I think he’ll be very successful here.”
Whether Battle — or even Saban — feel the same way about the addition a year from now remains to be seen. Then again, if Kiffin can rebuild his battered image with a successful stint in Tuscaloosa, he may not be around for long as another head coaching gig could be just around the corner for a coach who won’t turn 40 until May of next year.
LSU rarely loses a player it wants out of Louisiana. Now add in that said player isn’t just from Louisiana, but lives in Baton Rouge. Now add in that he’s regarded as the No. 1 player at his position. Yeah, this kid was never going anywhere else.
Derek Stingley, Jr., committed to LSU on Wednesday, beating out Texas and Florida.
Rivals ranks Stingley as the No. 1 corner and No. 1 overall player in its 2019 rankings. Stingley stands as the No. 1 corner and the No. 8 overall player on the 247Sports ratings. ESPN is more bullish on Stingley, slotting him as just the No. 3 cornerback and the No. 67 overall player. (247Sports lists Lewis Center, Ohio, defensive end Zach Harrison as its No. 1 overall player, while ESPN favors Westlake Village, Calif., defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.)
Stingley was previously committed to LSU, but de-committed to take his time and make an informed decision. All that information led him to the exact same conclusion.
“There are a lot of reasons I love LSU, but the main thing is coach Corey Raymond. We have built a strong relationship over a long period of time. We have really gotten to know each other. I am relaxed around him, we can talk about anything and I know he will be there for me at any time. Our connection is what really pushed LSU to the top,” he told Rivals. “This commitment is completely different. I took my time. I put more time into it and really looked at other schools. I got caught up in the hype before and I did not know anything about recruiting or other schools. I know all I need to know now and LSU is the school for me. I am done now and I will not visit any other schools.”
LSU’s 13-man class is rated No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Vanderbilt got some good news Wednesday when the NCAA approved transfer Rutger Reitmaier to compete this fall.
The Nashville native signed with Oregon out of high school in 2017 but did not compete for the Ducks. He left the team after spring practice, sat out the 2017 season and enrolled at Vanderbilt in January.
“Adding Rutger to our roster is huge,” head coach Derek Mason told Vanderbilt’s official site. “He adds depth, athleticism and will be a key piece for us. I’m excited about what an impactful player he is, and it’s great to add another quality player from Nashville.”
A 4-star recruit, Reitmaier was recruited by the likes of Tennessee, Ole Miss and South Carolina, but favored Vanderbilt when leaving Oregon.
“Vanderbilt was the first school I considered after deciding to leave Oregon,” he said. “It was one of my top-three schools during my initial recruitment in high school. Defense wins championships, so having a head coach like Coach Mason with that background was attractive for me. I’m excited to get going.”
Northwestern claims they have the best home schedule in the country for the upcoming 2018 season and they have a pretty good case with Duke, Akron, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all coming to Ryan Field. Based on the latest moves on their future schedules however, that good run of big names doesn’t quite continue.
The school announced a slew of new games in the coming years on Wednesday, including a pair of home-and-homes with AAC and CUSA opponents. First up is a date with Tulane in Evanston on Sept. 12, 2020, followed by a return game in New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2025. As a result of that first game against the Green Wave, the Wildcats had to move their previously scheduled contest against Central Michigan from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19 in 2020 (also at home).
Another school in the South was also added to the NU docket with a second home-and-home series with Rice way out in the future. The pair will play in Houston on Sept. 8, 2029, while the return game at Ryan Field is set for Sept. 6… 2031. Yeah, 2031. The two teams will also meet in 2024 and 2025.
A single home game against FCS power South Dakota State was also announced by Northwestern and will be played on Sept. 12, 2026.
The moves mean the Wildcats’ non-conference slate is pretty much set in 2019 (at Stanford, vs. UNLV and UMass), 2022 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Southern Illinois) and 2024 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Rice). The games announced Wednesday fill in some of the holes left in other years but outside of the trip to the Farm next season and a home-and-home with Colorado in 2026/27, there’s not a ton to write home about.
At least Northwestern will always have that 2018 home schedule to point to.
The biggest issue the NCAA is tackling at the moment is an easy one to pick out: transfers. Coaches have chimed in about potential changes and new rules have been enacted but even as we approach the Media Days portion of the calendar next month, transfer talk has been one of the hot topics across all major sports at the collegiate level.
Perhaps that interest is one reason why the NCAA released a new study this week looking into the numbers of one particular category of players: graduate transfers. While the number of actual graduate transfers remains relatively low (about 1% of the total number of student-athletes), the number itself continues to skyrocket year-by-year as more and more players take advantage of rules that allow them to graduate and play immediately at their next school.
According to the NCAA, that number of grad transfers is five times bigger in 2017 than it was in 2011 for men’s sports alone and football in particular saw the number of players moving around nearly double from 117 total in 2016 to 211 the following season. The rates are higher in men’s basketball but the overall number is naturally much bigger in football given the vastly bigger roster size.
Data for 2018 was naturally not made available since we’re just in the middle of the year but a similar increase wouldn’t be too surprising to see given the number of big names that have made headlines prior to the upcoming season. That includes players like Michigan’s Wilton Speight (to UCLA), Cal’s Tre Watson (to Texas), Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (to Georgia) and Alabama’s Brandon Kennedy (to Tennessee) all among those taking the grad transfer route. It seems like nearly every week we see one or two players announce their intentions to take a similar path.
While we might not have 400+ players listed as graduate transfers in football when 2018 comes to a close, it certainly doesn’t appear that this trend will be slowing down anytime soon and the coaches that are complaining about this brand of “free agency” in college football will just have to get used to the new reality of player movement in light of a number of new NCAA reforms on the subject.