Future Alabama-USC game in the offing?

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Depending how factors on a few fronts shake out, two of the most storied football programs in the history of college football could meet on the gridiron for the first time in over three decades.  Maybe.  Possibly.

A USC official confirmed to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News that discussions have taken place regarding a future neutral site game against Alabama.  Specifically, there have been talks about the Tide and the Trojans opening the 2016 season at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

The two programs last met in the Aloha Bowl following the 1985 season and first met in 1938.  All told, the Tide and the Trojans have squared off seven times — the former owns a 5-2 edge — including the historic meeting in 1970 “in which John McKay’s visiting Trojans, with their all-black starting backfield, pounded Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide 42-21.”  That game, the story goes, forever changed Alabama football.

Adding further intrigue would be Lane Kiffin, who was fired as USC’s head coach a month into the 2013 season and then hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator a few months later.  And, yes, I would be just as giddy about such a game as I was when Kiffin was hired by Nick Saban.

There are, however, several hurdles that need to be navigated before such a clash of iconic brands could take place.

“We often get approached about scheduling opportunities,” the spokesperson told the News. “We have been approached about doing this game and we are looking at it, but there are a number of real challenges to scheduling this game. For instance, our 2016 schedule is full. We also need to evaluate the financial ramifications. At the end of the day, that could be an issue.”

For his part, Saban would only talk in scheduling generalities when asked about the potential matchup.

“We’re always looking, but not anything I can share with you right now,” the coach said according to the Anniston Star. “I don’t think we want to create speculation. We’re playing Wisconsin in Dallas the next year (2015 opener), and we were supposed to play Penn State in 2016. They bailed out on us, so we’re looking for an opponent to play somewhere in 2016 right now.

According to the excellent website FBSchedules.com, the Trojans, which play nine conference games in the Pac-12, only have two of its three non-conference games booked that year: the annual rivalry game with Notre Dame and the opener against New Mexico. Perhaps the third game has been finalized and not announced?

Regardless, there are no real scheduling issues on the Tide’s end as UA has yet to announce any of their four non-conference games that season. In September of last year, UA canceled a home-and-home series with Michigan State that was to begin in 2016.

As far as the financial ramifications go, owner Jerry Jones and his stadium will make sure each team is handsomely rewarded for giving up a home game.  In 2017, for instance, both Florida and Michigan will be paid in excess of $6 million for playing their opener at Cowboys Stadium.

(Photo credit: Showtime)

Report: Dan Lanning receives nod as Georgia’s next defensive coordinator

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When Mel Tucker left Georgia to be the head coach at Colorado, it was clear Kirby Smart‘s next defensive coordinator was already on his staff. It would either be Glenn Schumann or Dan Lanning, two 30-something whiz kids who split linebacker duties for the Bulldogs (Schumann inside, Lanning outside).

We got a window into Smart’s thinking during the Sugar Bowl, when Lanning was chosen to lead the defensive huddles and represent the defense in press conference setting. Georgia lost that game to Texas, but it was apparently enough for Smart to know his original hunch was correct as Seth Emerson reported Friday for The Athletic that Lanning will be Georgia’s next defensive coordinator.

While Schumann did not win the rose, he’s not going home (or, in this case, staying put) empty handed. According to Emerson, Schumann will be Georgia’s co-defensive coordinator, and both will net massive raises. After both made $325,000 in 2018, Lanning will make $750,000 in 2019 while Schumann will earn $550,000. The 2018 season was Lanning’s first at Georgia, while Schumann followed Smart over from Alabama. Lanning spent 2016-17 as the inside linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Memphis. The 32-year-old was a high school assistant coach in Missouri as recently as 2010.

All eight returning assistants will net raises, per Emerson, but the overall staff pool will go down after losing Tucker’s $1.5 million salary. (Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and his $950,000 salary also left for Tennessee, but previously-announced promotion James Coley will also make $950,000, a $100,000 increase from 2018.)

Coley, Lanning and Schumann aren’t the only coaches being rewarded for sticking around — in title as well as salary. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman will be Smart’s new associate head coach, running backs coach Dell McGee will be the running game coordinator and wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton will be the passing game coordinator.

Seven new assistants highlight Alabama’s 2019 coaching staff

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It’s become an annual thing at this point: Nick Saban‘s assistants, ready to see the sun again after life on Planet Saban, hop aboard the first spaceship that flies by, so Alabama simply reloads and hires essentially a new staff.

While many of the hires had trickled out over the past six weeks or so, Alabama on Friday announced Saban’s full 2019 on-field coaching staff:

Steve Sarkisian — Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Charles Huff — Associate head coach/running backs
Holmon Wiggins — Wide receivers
Kyle Flood — Offensive line
Jeff Banks — Tight ends/special teams coordinator

Pete Golding — Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Brian Baker — Associate head coach/defensive line
Charles Kelly — Associate defensive coordinator/safeties
Sal Sunseri — Outside linebackers
Karl Scott — Cornerbacks

“We are excited to be able to assemble such a talented group of coaches to develop our players both on and off the field,” Saban said. “These coaches have a great mix of energy, enthusiasm and experience that will be a tremendous asset to our program. They are all excellent teachers of the game and fantastic recruiters who bring a wealth of experience to our staff.”

Only Golding, Banks and Scott were on Alabama’s staff for the title game beat down the Tide suffered at Clemson’s hand last month.

Sarkisian, of course, called plays for Alabama’s first title game loss to Clemson before leaving to become the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, where he was scapegoated for the club’s failure to make the playoffs last season. Flood, the former Rutgers head coach, was Atlanta’s assistant offensive line coach for the past two seasons. He was also under a show-cause that did not expire until September.

Huff and Baker worked together at Mississippi State, while Sunseri was the defensive line coach at Florida and Wiggins the wideouts coach at Virginia Tech. Kelly spent 2018 as the safeties coach and special teams coordinator at Tennessee but is best remembered for his run as the defensive coordinator at Florida State.

Not among the names announced Friday: Butch Jones. The former Tennessee head coach spent 2018 as an analyst for Saban but did not get promoted to the varsity for 2019.

BYU taps Texas State’s Eric Mateos as new OL coach

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Kalani Sitake‘s coaching staff is whole again.

In mid-January, Troy announced that it had hired BYU offensive line coach Ryan Pugh as the Sun Belt Conference program’s offensive coordinator.  A month later, Sitake filled that hole by announcing the hiring of Eric Mateos as the Cougars’ new line coach.

Mateos has a connection to Sitake’s BYU staff as he worked in 2016 as an offensive line graduate assistant under Jeff Grimes, who is now the Cougars’ offensive coordinator.  That same season, Mateos was promoted to tight ends coach following the dismissal of Les Miles as head coach.

“Eric is a great person with quality character that will fit in phenomenally with our players and staff,” Grimes said in a statement. “He will take our young group a step further and is a master at building confidence and group cohesiveness. I know our players will really respond well to him.”

The past two seasons, Mateos has worked at Texas State as the Bobcats’ line coach.

North Texas turns to FCS Eastern Washington for new OC

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Nearly three weeks after losing its offensive coordinator to a Pac-12 school, Seth Littrell has filled that void on his North Texas coaching staff by dipping down to a lower level of football.

UNT has confirmed via a press release that Littrell has tapped Bodie Reeder as his new offensive coordinator.  Reeder replaces Graham Harrell, who left late last month to take the same job at USC.

The 32-year-old Reeder has spent the past two seasons as the coordinator at FCS Eastern Washington.  Prior to that, Reeder served as an offensive quality control coach working with quarterbacks at Oklahoma State for three seasons.

“Coach Reeder is one of the brightest young offensive minds in the country and we are happy to have the opportunity to bring him to Denton,” the head coach said in a statement. “He has been successful at all of his career stops at several levels of college football, most recently at Eastern Washington and Oklahoma State. I can’t wait to bring him into our family and culture and give him the opportunity to leave a great mark on our program.”

Reeder began his coaching career at Wisconsin-Stout after graduating from Eastern Illinois in 2010, spending his time at the Div. III program as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.