Penn State’s offense should be far from vanilla as Franklin unleashes the wildcat

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Penn State may have a number of question marks about its team heading into the 2014 season but the one things most seem to agree on without hesitation is the Nittany Lions have no issues under center. Sophomore Christian Hackenberg took some lumps in his freshman season but hit his stride as the year progressed. His season finale performance at Wisconsin offered a mighty glimpse of something special for the next few years in State College. If there is one position nobody is terribly concerned about, it is the quarterback position. That said, new head coach James Franklin should not and apparently will not shy away from trying some new things to mix things up on offense.

Yes, the wildcat will be back in State College this fall if Franklin has anything to say about it (and he does, being the head coach and all).

Speaking at an event Thursday, Franklin was asked about the wildcat and he was prepared to share some details about what could potentially happen. Franklin mentioned receiver Geno Lewis and speedy running back Bill Belton specifically, and for good reason. Lewis has some quarterback experience and Belton offers plenty of speed when healthy and has room to work. The spring game served up some potential plays that could make it to the playbook this fall.

In order for the wildcat to be effective though, Franklin stressed the need to have a threat to pass coming from Lewis or Belton or whomever may be running the offense. Hackenberg will rarely be a threat to run, so having Lewis or Belton give the defense something else to think about will be critical to the success of the wildcat. This is true not just at Penn State, but for any team looking to run the wildcat.

This video of Franklin talking about the wildcat was shared by The Patriot News (PennLive.com);

Bill O’Brien brought some new looks to the Penn State offense each of the last two seasons and really changed the way Penn State’s offense had been operating in a short period of time. He was not afraid to do things that had never or rarely been done at Penn State under former head coach Joe Paterno. When Paterno was fired in the midst of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Bradley and the coaching staff wasted little time in trying a few new things as well, and that included the wildcat a little more frequently.

This is not going to drastically change Penn State’s offensive philosophy. The Nittany Lions should still have a dependable running game and a solid passing game with Hackenberg, a tight-end heavy corp and a respectable stable of running backs, but Franklin is known to mix things up a bit. That applies here as well.

Matt Campbell signs contract extension at Iowa State

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Now that we know Matt Campbell will not succeed Urban Meyer as Ohio State’s next head coach, Iowa State is getting down to business of keeping the 39-year-old in Ames for as long as possible.

Campbell signed a new 6-year, $22.5 million contract after last season’s 8-5 campaign that saw Iowa State register wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma and then-No. 4 TCU, but the school wasn’t done investing in him.

On Sunday, Iowa State announced Campbell has signed an extension keeping him in Cyclone colors through 2024. While this extension doesn’t include a raise for Campbell — last year’s deal boosted his salary from $2.1 million to $3.5 million immediately — it does carry an additional $1 million for his assistants.

In addition to the $1 million Iowa State also committed last year, the school has now committed an extra $3.4 million annually to keeping Campbell and his assistants over the past 13 months.

“Coach Campbell and I had a great end-of-the-year meeting Friday and during our visit we mutually agreed to extend his contract to 2024 and further demonstrate Coach Campbell and the University’s commitment to one another,” Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited for our current players, fans and recruits to receive this great news.”

Iowa State’s assistant pool was $2.982 million in 2018 according to the USA Today salary database, putting the Cyclones 49th in the country. Adding another million would boost the Cyclones to 27th, based on 2018 figures.

Ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff poll, Iowa State concluded the regular season at 8-4 and in third place in the Big 12. The Cyclones’ six conference wins are the most in the program’s 23-year history of Big 12 membership, and this year’s club was the closest Iowa State team to reaching the Big 12 Championship since the 2005 team that came within a game from winning their first (and only) Big 12 North title.

The Cyclones will finish Campbell’s third season against No. 13 Washington State in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28.

Alabama flips 5-star safety from Michigan

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Tua Tagovailoa may have come in second in the Heisman race, but Saturday was still a winning night for Alabama.

While he was in New York with his quarterback, Nick Saban‘s recruiting machine was still humming at full capacity as the Crimson Tide managed to flip 5-star safety Dax Hill from Michigan.

A Tulsa native and the younger brother of Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, Hill is the No. 8 overall player and the top safety in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“This was a tough decision for me and my family but I have decided to de-commit from the University of Michigan and flip my commitment to the University of Alabama!!” Hill wrote in a Twitter post.

With Hill’s commitment, Alabama’s 24-man class has increased its lead for the No. 1 ranking in the 247Sports Composite team rankings. Alabama has a 25-point lead over Texas A&M for the top spot with a week and a half before the early signing period.

Hill’s loss means Michigan’s 23-man class now ranks 11th nationally and second in the Big Ten.

UTSA QB Bryce Rivers announces transfer

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Go ahead and add another quarterback to the transfer market.

UTSA quarterback Bryce Rivers announced his intent to transfer on Saturday night. “After long talks with close friends and family, I think it is in my best interest to transfer from UTSA,” Rivers wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account.

A San Antonio native, Rivers backed up senior starter Dalton Sturm in 2017, appearing in just three games and throwing eight passes. He competed with junior Cordale Grundy for the starting role heading into 2018 but lost that battle.

By appearing in just three games, Rivers could use this season as a redshirt and play elsewhere as a redshirt junior in 2020.

Jim Harbaugh: “I’m staying at Michigan.”

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Rumors popped up in the past week — from no less a source than former Ohio State wide receiver Cris Carter — that Jim Harbaugh was open to returning to the NFL. Tired of banging his head against the scarlet and gray wall in the Big Ten, the story went, Harbaugh would pack up his bags and leave Ann Arbor for a second time.

He was intrigued by the chance to coach Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, the rumors said. Maybe he’d cross Lake Erie and coach the Browns. Or maybe Dolphins owner and Michigan booster Stephen Ross could lure him to South Beach.

The story is wrong, Harbaugh said.

Speaking to ESPN on Sunday, Harbaugh said this:

“This is a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day. It’s people spreading messages to further their own personal agenda.

“But I’m on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

There are ways to deflect coaching rumors without outright confirming or denying them, but this isn’t that. It’s hard to be any more unequivocal than, “I’m staying at Michigan.”

Four years into his return to Michigan, Harbaugh has undeniably improved the program from where he found it, going 38-13 with two top-15 finishes and another on the way, though hasn’t lived up to the expectation that he’d wrest control of the Big Ten away from Urban Meyer and return the maize and blue to national prominence.

With Meyer leaving Columbus, the second stage of Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure will see even more pressure to push the Wolverines past the Buckeyes, once and for all. And it appears Harbaugh is open to the challenge.