Coaches at Penn State and Pitt trying to reignite the rivalry

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Penn State and Pittsburgh used to play every season, but once the two programs went their separate ways by joining the Big East (Pitt) and Big Ten (Penn State), it has been a struggle to get the two programs to see eye-to-eye when it came to scheduling any future games. Much of the tension stemmed from the days of Joe Paterno leading the Penn State program and demanding an extra home game in any scheduling arrangement with Pittsburgh, but that is best left for historians to dig deeper into today. Penn State and Pittsburgh have a four-game series lined up for 2016 through 2019. If it was up to the head coaches of both programs today, the series would continue on an annual basis.

The topic of power conference opponents scheduling other power conference opponents has become an increasingly relevant topic with the emphasis shifting on strength of schedule in the College Football Playoff era. With Pitt also needing to fulfill a non-conference scheduling requirement to schedule an opponent from another power conference opponent each season under the ACC’s new guidelines, it would seem only natural for the Panthers to explore the revival of past annual rivalries against either West Virginia or Penn State.

Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst was asked about historic and regional rivals Penn State and West Virginia this week while moving through the ESPN car wash. In what may come as a bit of a surprise, Chryst told Brett McMurphy of ESPN he would prefer to see an annual match-up with Penn State instead of West Virginia if he had to choose between the two. Penn State head coach James Franklin appears to be on the same page, telling McMurphy today on his run through the ESPN media gauntlet he would support seeing an annual series with the Panthers.

What needs to happen before this can actually become an annual tradition in the Keystone State? There may not be a whole lot that needs to fall into place, although Penn State playign a nine-game schedule in the Big Ten moving forward while the ACC sticks to an eight-game schedule will present many of the same problems faced with reviving the Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia. In the end, Penn State’s desire to assure an extra home game on the schedule could resurface in a different capacity by ensuring Penn State has seven home games at a minimum for years to come.

With new leadership in place at both schools compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s, perhaps getting these two in-state rivals back together for the long term could be a more realistic possibility.

Penn State and Pittsburgh last played in 2000. The two schools agreed to a two-game series in 2016 and 2017 and later agreed to extend the series by two more games through 2019. Penn State leads the all-time series, 44-41-4.

Clemson transfer Xavier Kelly tweets commitment to Arkansas

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Another Clemson football transfer has found a new college football home.

In mid-January, Xavier Kelly took the first step in leaving the Clemson football program by announcing that he had entered the NCAA transfer database.  Later that month, it was reported that the defensive lineman would be taking a visit to Arkansas as he looked to move on from the Clemson football team.

Late Monday night, Kelly made his future-home decision.  On Twitter, the lineman confirmed that he “will be finishing out my college career at the University of Arkansas.”

Kelly left the Clemson football program as a graduate transfer, making him eligible to play immediately in 2020. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Kelly was rated as the No. 1 player regardless of position in the state of Kansas. The Wichita product was also rated as the No. 8 weakside defensive end in the country. He took a redshirt for his true freshman season.

The 6-4, 305-pound lineman went on to play in 28 games the past three seasons. For his career, Kelly has been credited with 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Kelly would become the fourth graduate transfer added by Arkansas since mid-January.

  • Arkansas State defensive back Jerry Jacobs (HERE).
  • Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (HERE).
  • Oklahoma linebacker Levi Draper (HERE).
  • Duke kicker AJ Reed (HERE).

Son of ex-Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder to stay, play sixth season with Monarchs

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A potentially awkward situation for Old Dominion football and one of its players has turned into anything but.  To the credit, it should be noted, of both sides.

In early December, Bobby Wilder stepped down as the head coach of the Old Dominion football team after 11 seasons.  Wilder was the only head coach in the history of the Monarchs program.

Wilder’s son, ODU defensive end Derek Wilder, was “hurt and angry” over what some considered the forced resignation of his father.  In December, after the coaching upheaval, the younger Wilder was granted a sixth season of eligibility he could use in 2020.  Whether that additional year of eligibility would be as a part of Old Dominion football program or another remained up in the air.

A call from Wilder’s replacement, Ricky Rahne, to the man he replaced helped set the wheels in motion for the lineman to return to Monarchs this coming season.  From the school’s official website:

He called me to ask me some questions about the program and the players and that was the first conversation that Ricky and I had about my son,” Wilder said. “He indicated that he wanted Derek to come back.

“I shared that with Derek and he met with Ricky his first week here. Derek really enjoyed talking to him and decided at that point he was coming back.

“He thinks a lot of Ricky and is excited about next season.”

Rahne said he told Derek that “I wanted him back, that I thought he could be a good leader for us.

“Obviously, he’s experienced a lot. He’s had to grow a lot throughout this process. I felt like this would be an opportunity for Derek to go out and play a little bit freer.

“I was excited when he got his sixth year and I am excited that he is coming back.

Because of injury, Wilder the player missed 21 of 24 games in the 2016-17 seasons.  That made the decision by the NCAA to give him another season of eligibility a relative slamdunk.

In 2018, Wilder played in 10 games at linebacker.  This past season, he moved up to the line and played in all 12 games for the first time in his career.  Wilder started 10 of the contests at defensive end, and will be expected to keep that starting job heading into the 2020 campaign.

More signs connecting Charlie Strong to analyst role at Alabama

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At this point, it would seemingly be an upset if Charlie Strong doesn’t land at Alabama football.

In early December of last year, Strong was let go as the head coach at South Florida.  Over the past two-plus months, the 59-year-old Strong has remained on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  There has been speculation, though, that Strong could be returning to Florida and joining Dan Mullens‘ extended staff as a defensive analyst.

Late last week, however, it was reported that Charlie Strong was in Tuscaloosa visiting with the Alabama football coaching staff.  A few days later, it’s now being reported that Strong is expected back in T-Town this week.  Perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to Matt Zenitz of al.com.

Nick Saban doesn’t have an opening on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  However, Charlie Strong could conceivably join the Alabama football program as some type of an analyst, ala Butch Jones and myriad others.

Strong has spent the past decade as a head coach.  After going 37-15 in four seasons (2010-13) at Louisville, Strong left to take the head job at Texas.  Three seasons (2014-16) in Austin ended with his dismissal following a 16-21 record.  Strong’s tenure at USF ended after three seasons (2017-19) as well and a 4-8 2019 campaign.

In the last six years of his head-coaching career, Strong posted a 37-37 record.

Prior to that, Strong spent seven years (2003-09) as the defensive coordinator at Florida.  During that time with the Gators, he also coached defensive ends and linebackers.  For four of those seasons, Mullen was UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before leaving to take the Mississippi State job.

That was actually Strong’s fourth stint with the Gators.  From 1991-94, he coached defensive tackles (1994) and defensive ends (1991-93).  He also served as outside linebackers coach from 1988-89.  Strong began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at UF in 1983-84.

Strong was also the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for four years (1999-2002) before moving on to Gainesville that fourth time.  In between the third Gainesville stint and his time in Columbia, Strong was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame from 1995-98.

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow will likely be highest-paid non-coordinator in college football this year

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For Vince Marrow of Kentucky, it paid to be wooed by Michigan State.

After an initial denial, Mel Tucker reversed course and left Colorado to become the Michigan State head coach. Not only will Tucker be doubling his salary in East Lansing, but his salary pool for assistant coaches will be nearly double what he had to work with in Boulder as well.

Marrow was one of the assistants Tucker had hoped to bring to Michigan State, wooing the longtime Kentucky coach and close friend into his new fold. Instead, he opted to eschew the chance to move to Michigan State and remain at Kentucky.

In a non-coincidental move, UK Monday released the details of a new contract agreement signed last Thursday by Marrow. Per that new deal, Marrow, who is tight ends coach while also serving as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach, will be paid $900,000 annually as part of the three-year contract. This past season, Marrow was paid $600,000 in guaranteed compensation.

With Mike Yurcich ($950,000) taking over as Texas’ offensive coordinator after spending 2019 as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and Sam Pittman ($900,000) leaving as Georgia’s offensive line to take the head job at Arkansas, Marrow is currently the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football. That statement is based on the USA Today coaches salary database.

Marrow will also have a salary on par with UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and slightly above the $875,000 set for defensive coordinator Brad White.

The 51-year-old Marrow has spent the past eight seasons at Kentucky.  He was retained when Mark Stoops took over the Wildcats in November of 2012.