Ellis Johnson is reportedly out as Auburn’s defensive coordinator

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Bad things happen at Auburn when allowing 55 points in a loss to Alabama, especially if you’re the man in charge of the defense. And now less than 24 hours after the Tide hung half-a-hundred on the Tigers, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is out, as first reported by FootballScoop.com and confirmed by AuburnUndercover.com.

After starting this season 5-0, Auburn went 2-4 down the stretch in SEC games. And it was almost all the defense’s fault. The Tigers gave up 39 points a game in those half-dozen games, and surrendered 38, 41, 34 and 55 points in their four losses.

They also ranked 10th or lower in total defense and yards per play allowed in the 14-team SEC in conference games.

Johnson was an original member of Malzahn’s staff at Auburn, helping the Tigers reach the BCS National Championship last season. He spent one (winless) season as Southern Miss’ head coach in 2012, and spent eight seasons coordinating defenses at Mississippi State and South Carolina before that.

Former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and former LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini figure to be obvious candidates to replace Johnson, but FootballScoop reports UAB head coach Bill Clark could be in the mix if the Blazers do indeed shut down their football program.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Auburn defensive coordinator is the latest assistant to join college football’s burgeoning $1 million coordinator club. Considering what happened on the field in Tuscaloosa last night and the investment their chief rivals have made in their offensive play-callers, Auburn almost can’t afford not to break the bank.

7:21 p.m. ET Update: The firing is now official.

“At this time I felt it was best for our program to make a change with our defensive coordinator,” Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “Ellis is a true professional and I would like to thank him for his contributions at Auburn.”

“This is part of the business and I totally understand,” added Johnson. “I did think we were good in several areas, but overall it wasn’t good enough. I’m disappointed for our players, but this is a results business. I want to thank Coach Malzahn and Auburn for the opportunity the last two years.”

Broyles Award for top assistant narrows field to 15 semifinalists

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The most prestigious award a college football assistant can claim has significantly narrowed its list of potential winners.

Tuesday, the Broyles Award unveiled its 15 semifinalists for the 2018 version of its hardware.  Four of the semifinalists come from the SEC, while two each hail from the Big 12, Pac-12 and football independents.  The ACC has two of the 15 and the Big Ten has one.

Group of Five conferences account for three of the semifinalists as UAB, UCF and Utah State are all represented.  Army also accounts for one of the semifinalists.

Of the 15 semifinalists, seven are defensive coordinators and seven are offensive coordinators.  Just one position coach made the cut — UCF offensive line coach Glen Elarbee.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was the 2017 winner of the Broyles Award; the Tigers’ other offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, is a semifinalist this year.

Alabama – Mike Locksley, Offensive Coordinator
Army – Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator
Cal – Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
Clemson – Jeff Scott, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Georgia – Sam Pittman, Offensive Line
LSU – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Notre Dame – Chip Long, Offensive Coordinator
Oklahoma – Bill Bedenbaugh, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
UAB – David Reeves, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Glen Elarbee, Offensive Line
Utah State – David Yost, Offensive Coordinator/QBs
Washington State – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia – Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Miami Hurricanes down to one healthy tight end, a walk-on

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To say that injuries at the tight end position have been an issue for Miami this season would be a significant understatement.

In early August, Michael Irvin II suffered an MCL injury in his right knee and will be out for up to four months.  In mid-September, the Hurricanes were down to two healthy scholarship tight ends when Brian Polendey suffered a season-ending injury.

Unbelievably, both of the remaining scholarship tight ends, Brevin Jordan (pictured) and Will Mallory, who are both true freshmen, were injured in last Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech.  Both Jordan, who is second on the team in receptions with 30, and Mallory will be sidelined for the regular-season finale against Pitt this weekend.

The good news is that, per head coach Mark Richt, the two tight ends should be healthy enough to return for a bowl game.  The bad news?  According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Hurricanes are now down to just one healthy tight end, and he’s a walk-on — Nicholas Ducheine.

The redshirt freshman Ducheine has appeared in two games this season — Week 2 vs. Savannah State, Week 12 vs. Tech — and is still looking for his first career reception.

Houston-Washington State to serve as 2019 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game

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With the curtain about to fall on the 2018 regular season, there’s some news on the next regular season on which to note.

Houston had already been scheduled to open the 2019 season against Washington State on Saturday, Sept. 14.  Tuesday, however, it was announced that that matchup has been selected as the 2019 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game.

The game will now be played Friday, Sept. 13, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

“We are excited to face a quality program such as the Houston Cougars next year in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game at NRG Stadium,” said Washington State athletic director Pat Chun in a statement. “It provides our fan base the opportunity to see a tremendous nonconference opponent in a great part of the country, while giving our student-athletes the chance to play in a world-class stadium.”

“We are honored to receive the invitation to participate in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff,” Chun’s counterpart, Chris Pezman, said in his statement. “We have fond memories from our last action in the event and look forward to creating more in front of our hometown fans in a primetime nationally-televised game.”

Houston has played in the Kickoff Classic one time previously, a 33-23 win over Oklahoma in 2016.  This will mark Wazzu’s first appearance in the game.

The two football teams have met three times previously, the first coming in 1959 and the most recent in the 1988 Aloha Bowl.  The Pac-12 Cougars own a 2-1 edge in the miniseries.

Report: UMass ‘moving on’ from Mark Whipple

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And then there were seven.

Last Saturday, UMass put the finishing touches on another underwhelming season as the Minutemen were pushed around by fifth-ranked Georgia in a 66-27 loss Between the Hedges.  Three days later, there will apparently be a change in leadership as Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and The Athletic is reporting that the university is “moving on” from Mark Whipple as its head football coach.

An official announcement from UMass is expected at some point this week.

In his second stint with the Minutemen, Whipple has compiled a 16-44 record from 2014-18.  UMass has won four games each of the past two seasons after winning a combined eight in his first three years with the school.

Including UMass, there are now seven openings for head coach at the FBS level: Bowling Green, Charlotte, Colorado, Louisville, Maryland and Texas State.  The Kansas job had been open prior to Les Miles taking over the Jayhawks this past weekend.