CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 17 Ole Miss

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2013 record: 8-5 overall, 3-5 in SEC (T-5th in SEC West)
2013 postseason: Music City Bowl vs. Georgia Tech (25-17 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Hugh Freeze (45-18 overall; 15-11 in two years at Ole Miss)
Offensive coordinator: Matt Luke (third season); Dan Werner (third season)
2013 offensive rankings: 42nd rushing offense (109 ypg); 23rd passing offense (283.3 ypg); 21st total offense (473.3 ypg); 57th scoring offense (30 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: Five
Defensive coordinator: Dave Wommack (third season); Jason Jones (second season)
2013 defensive rankings: 51st rushing defense (154.9 ypg); 36th passing defense (215.5 ypg); 38th total defense (370.5 ypg); 37th scoring defense (23.7 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: Nine
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Stadium: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 1963

THE GOOD
Unbelievably, with Bo Wallace under center, Ole Miss will enter the 2014 season with the most experienced quarterback in the conference.  While that might give some cause for pause, Wallace was actually, quietly, a very solid quarterback in 2013.  While the Rebels lost its leading receiver yardage-wise in Donte Moncrief, they have a handful of talented players who can help replace the lost production.  The running game is a productive two-headed creature, while the defense returns nine starters from what was one of the more solid defenses in the defensive-minded SEC.  The schedule sets up somewhat favorably as well, with two of the four road games consisting of trips to Vanderbilt (9-4, but with a new head coach) and Arkansas (3-9 overall, 0-8 in SEC play).  But, then again…

THE BAD
Believe it or not, there’s not a whole heck of a lot bad going on down in Oxford.  Freeze has the Rebels rounding into a very nice football program, one capable of peeling off eight or nine wins a year and one that looks, based on recruiting, capable of reeling in the ofttimes elusive sustainability.  The offense will be one of the best in the SEC year-in and year-out, while the defense is vastly underrated.  The biggest bad for Ole Miss?  The division in which they reside, over which they have no control.  At the moment, they simply can’t consistently compete with West compatriots Alabama, Auburn and LSU.  Texas A&M, despite the attrition they’ve suffered in the offseason, are in this for the long haul as evidenced by the money they’re pouring into the football program, so there’s that College Station hurdle as well.  Since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012, the Rebels are just 2-6 against those four programs — a three-point home win against LSU last season and a win in 2012 against an Auburn team that would ultimately win three games and fire its head coach.  And that’s without even mentioning that Ole Miss has lost four of the last five Egg Bowls against in-state rival — and divisional foe — Mississippi State.  Ole Miss has a tough row to hoe if they’re looking to climb to elite status; if they’re just looking for eight-ish wins a year plus a nice bowl bid, then they’re set.

THE UNKNOWN
While nine starters on the defensive side of ball return, just five do so on offense.  Included in the attrition are three starters along the offensive line along with, as previously mentioned, one of the most productive receivers in school history.  With a neutral-site game against a very good Boise State team with what should prove to be an improved — and disruptive defense — leading off the 2014 schedule, it’s imperative that Freeze and his offensive coaching staff quickly identify the line replacements and give them plenty of work as a unit in summer camp.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Texas A&M, Oct. 11
There’s a fairly decent chance that, heading into this game, the Rebels will be 4-1, with the lone loss coming the week before against powerhouse Alabama.  This could be viewed as a swing game for Ole Miss, with A&M serving as the second game of a gauntlet that goes Alabama/Texas A&M/LSU/Auburn in a span of five weeks.  If the Rebels can come out of that meat grinder 1-3 at worst, they’re set up for a perhaps a nine-win season that would likely launch them into one of the better bowl games to which the SEC is attached.  If they can somehow manage that beast of a four-game stretch at 2-2?   The Rebels could be staring their first 10-win season since 2003 square in the face.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Quarterback Bo Wallace
This is one of those no-brainer kind of things.  And, as jarring as it may be, Wallace possesses the most impressive pedigree of all the returning quarterbacks in the SEC.  The stats, though, show Wallace has quietly put together a nice career.  Last season, he completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for over 3,300 yards and 18 touchdowns.  He added six touchdowns on the ground for good measure.  The 10 interceptions might be a bit of a cause for concern, but considering they came in the midst of 437 pass attempts the concern it’s somewhat mitigated.  Any off-the-radar Heisman candidacy that hopes to get on the radar will be determined by how Wallace — and his team — performs in that brutal four-game midseason stretch.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Ex-UConn QB transfers to D2 school to compete for starting job

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Quarterback Jordan McAfee never got his chance to play at UConn, so he is transferring to a new program to get a crack at a starting job. McAfee will look for his chance at Assumption College, a Division 2 school in Worcester, Massachusetts competing in the Northeast-10 Conference.

It is not often you see a player move from a FBS program down to a Division 2 school, but it is not unprecedented.

I transferred to compete for the starting job,” McAfee said to Hearst Connecticut Media, according to a report from New Haven Register. As noted by the report, Assumption has a handful of quarterbacks already on the roster but lacks experience at the position. Not that Mcafee fixes that concern, but he figures to bring a bigger upside to the position.

McAfee committed to UConn over an offer from Boston College, according to his Rivals profile, in the Class of 2017. The pro-style quarterback never got a chance to play for the Huskies in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season as a redshirt player.

Suddenly, UConn is in a bit of a bind at the quarterback position with spring football next on deck for the Huskies. Just two quarterbacks are currently on the roster following offseason departures for graduation or transfer with redshirt freshman Marvin Washington and freshman Steve Krajewski. UConn will add incoming recruit Jack Zergiotis this summer as the Huskies could have a three-man race for the starting job leading up to the start of the 2019 season.

Because McAfee is transferring to a lower-division program, he will be eligible to play right away in 2019 instead of having to sit out a year before becoming eligible again.

Is new Georgia OC James Coley already on NFL radar?

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This time of the year generally leads to plenty of speculation and name dropping for the sake of creating buzz and conversation. Many times, names of “potential” candidates for various coaching jobs, whether for head coach or an assistant role, around the college game and the NFL will be thrown against the wall just to see what sticks. So when a name pops up in the conversation immediately after a coaching change anywhere is made, it is best to tread carefully around the rumor mill and give things some time to breathe.

But that won’t stop us from monitoring what is being thrown out there when it relates to some coaches around college football. Case in point, the idea that Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley could be a potential target for the Dallas Cowboys following a coaching change with the NFC East champions earlier today. The Cowboys fired offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on Friday and are now in the market for an offensive coordinator. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, via Twitter, Coley could be among those considered for the opening with the Cowboys.

Coley’s name popping up for a possible NFL job isn’t all that shocking. It seems anyone with even the slightest connection to Alabama head coach Nick Saban seems to be in the pool of candidates for any number of jobs every year in the coaching carousel around college football and in the NFL. We previously noted that was seemingly becoming more and more the case with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart even having his name floated around the NFL rumor mill a bit. Coley is a former Saban assistant during Saban’s time at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins. He has also been a part of the Florida State coaching staff from 2008 through 2012, Miami from 2013 through 2015 and Georgia since 2016. He has had plenty of experience around players going on to the NFL and that is not taken lightly.

Coley was just promoted to being the offensive coordinator at Georgia following the departure of Jim Chaney to Tennessee. Odds are probably pretty good Georgia won’t have to worry about losing a second offensive coordinator this offseason, but you just never know this time of the year.

Joe Moglia steps down as head coach at Coastal Carolina, Jamey Chadwell promoted as replacement

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Just when you thought the coaching carousel closed the books once again for the offseason, it appears there is at least one more change to make note of heading into the 2019 season. Joe Moglia is stepping down as head coach of Coastal Carolina, the school announced on Friday afternoon. Associate head coach and offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell will take over as the new head coach of the program.

Moglia announced he will stay on as Chairman of Athletics for the remainder of his current contract with the university, which runs through June 2021. Moglia will have executive authority over the football program as well.

“On behalf of the Coastal Carolina University family I want to thank Joe Moglia for all he has done not only to transform our football program, but for his support of the University,” Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo said in a released statement. “Joe is one of those individuals who bring such great talent and success to everything he’s touched. He’s taken us to a level that years ago was simply a dream. He leaves the coaching ranks with all the well-deserved accolades; and leaves a Coastal football legacy that is poised for even better accomplishments.”

Moglia took one of the most unique paths to becoming the head coach of the Chanticleers. Moglia left a career in the financial industry when he stepped down as CEO of TD Ameritrade in 2008. He joined Bo Pelini in an assistant coaching role at Nebraska, his first time coaching football since being the defensive coordinator at Dartmouth in 1983. After two years with the Huskers, Moglia was named the head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks of the short-lived UFL in 2011, and he became the head coach at Coastal Carolina in 2012.

Under Moglia’s leadership, Coastal Carolina became a rising power at the FCS level with successive playoff appearances from 2012 through 2015 before making the transition to the FCS in 2016. Coastal Carolina went 10-2 in their transition season before jumping into the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. Moglia, however, took the 2017 season off for medical reasons. Chadwell took on the role of interim head coach for the 2017 season and remained on the staff as associate head coach and offensive coordinator in 2018 after Moglia returned to the sidelines for the program.

With Chadwell as the next head coach of the Coastal Carolina program, there should be a smooth transition with some stability on the coaching staff late in the offseason for coaching changes.

Wisconsin renews contract of Paul Chryst into 2024

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In what has seemingly been an annual tradition in Madison, Wisconsin has renewed the contract of head football coach Paul Chryst by tacking on another year. Chryst is now under contract through Jan. 31, 2024 with his latest renewal following approval from the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board.

Wisconsin renewed Chryst’s contract a year ago, extending his contract through the end of Jan. 2023. Wisconsin and Chryst originally agreed on a contract that was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2020 with a written agreement that the contract may be extended with a positive annual review beginning after the 2015 football season.

The Badgers may be coming off a relatively disappointing season with a record of 8-5, but Chryst has gone 42-12 in his first four seasons as head coach of the Badgers and it is expected Wisconsin will remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten West Division with a shot to play for and win the Big Ten championship in the years to come.

According to the USA Today coaching salary database for the 2018 season, Chryst was paid $3.75 million last season. Specific details of how much Chryst will be paid now were not announced by Wisconsin.

Wisconsin also renewed the contracts of volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield, women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins, and men’s soccer coach John Trask.