With first-year QB starter, Saban downplays Tide’s title chances

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In his first year as a starting quarterback in 2009, Greg McElroy helped lead Alabama to a BCS title.  In 2011, in his first year as a starting quarterback, AJ McCarron helped lead the Tide to Nick Saban‘s second of three BCS titles at UA.

With McCarron’s eligibility expired, Saban will be looking to replace that experience and production under center with yet another first-year starter.  Ahead of that, the coach is looking to tap the brakes on, well, any optimism that may be rearing its ugly, unwanted and unwarranted head.

The two main combatants in the fight to replace McCarron are fifth-year senior Blake Sims (pictured) and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker.  Entering 2014, and even with inexperience at the most important position on the field — neither Sims nor Coker have started a game at the collegiate level — the Tide is viewed as a betting favorite to claim yet another national championship.

At least for the moment, Saban is pooh-poohing and downplaying any type of favorite talk despite what’s happened the last two times he’s had a first-year starter at quarterback.

“Well I think it is a little bit unrealistic because basically what you’re talking about is two guys [who] are untested,” said Saban during an ESPN interview when asked about title expectations. “And when you have an untested player at that position, you can be pleasantly surprised with the way they develop and how they do and how the team sorta rallies around them and the impact of their leadership, decision-making, those things are critical at the quarterback position. …

“They can also go to where they turn the ball over and do some things that make it hard to overcome. Because quarterback is such a critical position to me. Football is a great team game, but then there’s the quarterback. And most successful teams have a guy that, at least in their system, is functionally successful for the other players on the team. And in our case, because we have good skill guys, it’s important that our guy can distribute the ball to those guys and make those guys effective players for us.”

(Writer’s note: the Tide QB competition is officially a two-man thing, based on Saban’s quotes.)

Entering summer camp, and even as he has yet to take a snap as a member of the Crimson Tide, Coker is viewed as the heavy favorite to win the starting job.  Consistency and lack of turnovers will be key regardless of which player actually wins out.

Whether Coker’s the way it plays out remains to be seen; what’s certain is that, with a first-year starter, Saban & Company will rely on its loaded backfield, including the three-headed monster of T.J. YeldonDerrick Henry and Kenyan Drakearrest and suspension notwithstanding — to help the starter get his feet wet, especially early on.

NDSU promotes Matt Entz to replace new Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman

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North Dakota State is sticking with what works. Namely, that includes promoting from within.

The program announced on Thursday that defensive coordinator Matt Entz will indeed become the Bison’s next head coach in the coming weeks, taking over the job from new Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman after he was hired by the Big 12 school earlier this week.

“Having watched Matt as the defensive coordinator for the past five years, I knew he possessed the qualities to be the head football coach at North Dakota State: leadership, integrity, toughness, and a sincere appreciation for the history and tradition of Bison football,” ,” AD Matt Larsen said. “I’m eager to work with Coach Entz and his staff as they continue building upon the championship tradition of Bison football.”

This will be Entz’ first head coaching gig and comes after serving the past five years as NDSU’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Prior to joining Klieman’s staff, he found plenty of success as a DC at previous stops with FCS Western Illinois and Northern Iowa.

“Great things happen to great people, and I am so happy for the Entz family,” Klieman added. “Matt is the right guy for the job. I know the Bison will have unbelievable success. The program is in great hands.”

Both Klieman and Entz will remain in their current roles with NDSU until the conclusion of their FCS playoff run before moving on to their new gigs. The former had been promoted once Craig Bohl left for Wyoming a few years ago and that’s worked out just fine for the Bison so it appears the school has no qualms at going back to the well and doing the same thing with the latter. Entz certainly understands expectations around the ol’ Fargo Dome going forward, which includes this weekend’s upcoming semifinal game against South Dakota State.

Texas Tech regents approve $20 million football facility renovation, may expand alcohol sales at stadium too

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Seemingly like clockwork, when a Power Five school hires a new head coach they typically will wind up improving facilities in some fashion shortly thereafter. Consider that the case at Texas Tech following the ouster of Kliff Kingsbury and the recent hire of Matt Wells to lead the football program.

The school’s board of regents met on Thursday down in Lubbock and among the agenda items was approving a $20 million renovation to the team’s football facilities. As is nearly always the case in the state, the project was naturally approved and will move forward, per the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, as soon as Wells is able to sign off on any changes he wants to the plans:

That wasn’t the only football-related move on the agenda for the Red Raiders however, as athletic director Kirby Hocutt put in his pitch to open up beer and wine sales at Jones AT&T Stadium as soon as the upcoming season.

As noted above, there are numerous Big 12 schools who have opened the taps in general seating areas over the years. Oklahoma State was the most recent to do so in 2018 but it’s been brought back at Texas and West Virginia, among others, to great success (i.e. $$$) the past few years.

Holy Cross AD reportedly set to take same position at Air Force after lengthy search

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Air Force appears to finally have their man to lead the Falcons’ athletic department.

Some eight months after former AD Jim Knowlton departed for California, it appears the program is on the verge of plucking Holy Cross AD Nathan Pine to fill the same position in Colorado Springs. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette first reported the news.

Col. Jennifer Block has served as interim athletic director in the wake of Knowlton’s departure but it’s clear that the Air Force has always wanted to keep a civilian in the top post long term. To that end, this will be the first time the Falcons’ AD will be hired and paid under the umbrella athletics corporation at the school, per the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Pine has a lengthy background out West despite spending the past five years leading the Crusaders. An Oregon State alum, he has worked for the Beavers and fellow Pac-12 program California as well. In addition, he’s made stops at Maryland and, funny enough, academy rival Army too.

New Temple head coach Manny Diaz will coach Miami in Pinstripe Bowl, Hurricanes keep Turnover Chain too

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Temple introduced new head coach Manny Diaz on Thursday afternoon in Philadelphia but it appears their latest hire will be splitting his duties for the next month or so with both his new program and his old one.

Speaking to reporters on campus, Diaz confirmed that he would stick around Miami over the coming month in order to coach the Hurricanes in their Pinstripe Bowl matchup against Wisconsin. That will mean he’ll be recruiting and hiring his Owls staff in parallel to his old duties as defensive coordinator under Mark Richt.

Also notable from the introductory press conference was a topic of great importance to some: the Turnover Chain. One of the most eye-opening displays of ‘The U’ returning to national prominence last season, the Diaz-created item led to numerous copycats across college football. It appears as though the chain won’t be headed north with the coach though and will remain a tradition in Coral Gables going forward.

Interestingly, Temple opted to use a dry erase board on the sidelines as their prop under former coach Geoff Collins. While players could write a message or their Twitter handle on it after a turnover, something says that won’t be the only aspect of the program that Diaz puts his stamp on over the coming months in Philly.