Can Nebraska’s next coach turn back the clock?

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Nebraska has a lot going for it: A dedicated and large fanbase, excellent facilities, a storied history and membership in a Power Five conference. This is a program that, only a couple years ago, sent Ndamukong Suh to Detroit to wreak havoc on the NFL.

In one sense, Bo Pelini’s tenure in Lincoln was a success: No fewer than nine wins in each of his seven seasons, three conference championship appearances (and one fraction of a second away from knocking off Texas and winning the Big 12 in 2009) and four AP top 25 finishes. Plenty of programs around the country would kill for that success.

But in the lens of Nebraska’s history, Pelini didn’t live up to the expectations set 20 years ago by Tom Osborne’s championship-winning sides. This is a program that fired Frank Solich after 7-7 and 9-3 seasons followed AP finishes of No. 3, No. 8 and No. 8.

The goal of firing Pelini was to get Nebraska back to the national relevancy it had under Osborne from 1973-1997. But is that possible?

Let’s start with Nebraska’s recruiting class rankings in the Rivals era (2002-present).

2015: 35
2014: 32
2013: 17
2012: 25
2011: 15
2010: 22
2009: 28 (Pelini’s first full recruiting class)
2008: 30 (Bill Callahan fired after 2007 season)
2007: 13
2006: 20
2005: 5 (Callahan’s first full recruiting class)
2004: 58 (Solich fired after 2003 season)
2003: 42
2002: 40

That’s one top-10 recruiting class in 14 years and an average ranking of 27th.

In 2005, Nebraska pulled from California two four-star recruits (DT Ola Dagunduro, OL Rodney Picou) and one five-star recruit (RB Marlon Lucky). It grabbed four-star QB Harrison Beck from Fort Lauderdale, five-star CB Zackary Bowman from New Mexico and a four-star Suh from Oregon.

Compare that to Nebraska’s top-ranked recruiting class under Pelini, 2011: Four four-star players from Texas, one from California and one from Florida (Ameer Abdullah, an Alabama native) was a three-star prospect in this class). That’s not bad, but it’s not the California pipeline that once existed.

In Pelini’s final recruiting class, he signed just four four-star players: Two from Illinois, one from Missouri and one from Las Vegas.

It’s fair to wonder if Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten hurt recruiting as the program’s main base became decidedly more Midwest/Great Plains without annual games in Texas. Compare to that to fellow Big 12 defector Missouri — a school that notoriously out-performs its recruiting rankings — which, in moving to the SEC, lost some of its Texas reach but gained footholds in talent-rich states like Georgia and Florida.

From 2012-2014 the Huskers signed nine Texas natives, only one of whom earned a four-star ranking. From 2009-2011, Nebraska signed 18 players from Texas, seven of whom were four-star recruits.

So what can Nebraska do? Pelini was relatively successful at recruiting the Midwest/Great Plains, but there’s not a wealth of talent there. Bringing in a coach with strong connections in California, Texas or Florida could be a good starting point, though that’s easier said than done.

Getting Nebraska back to being an annual championship contender will be a tough task for whoever gets the job, though. It’s not the 1990’s anymore, no matter how badly Nebraska wants to turn back the clock.

After Tulane flirtation, Texas Tech QB Jett Duffey moving on to Central Michigan

Jett Duffey
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For Jett Duffey, the past few weeks have been interesting. To say the least.

In mid-December, the Texas Tech quarterback entered the NCAA transfer database. Nearly four weeks later, Duffey announced on a Twitter account that has since been deleted that he would continue his collegiate playing career at Tulane.

Three days later, however, Jett Duffey announced on that same since-deleted account that he was withdrawing his commitment to the Green Wave and reopening his recruitment. In a text message to ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg, though, the graduate transfer revealed that he will now transfer to Central Michigan.

From ESPN’s report:

According to a report from Nola.com, Duffey was originally planning to transfer to Tulane but was denied academic admission. A source told ESPN that Duffey would meet the requirements for admission at Central Michigan.

At this point, Jim McElwain‘s CMU football program hasn’t confirmed the transfer’s addition to the roster.

Jett Duffey, a three-star 2016 signee, started 11 games during his time with the Red Raiders. Eight of those starts came over the last eight games of the 2019 regular season.

In 10 games total this past season, Duffey passed for 2,840 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions in completing just over 65 percent of his 367 pass attempts. He threw for 300-plus yards in five straight games and seven times overall in 2019, including a season-high 424 in the early October win over Oklahoma State; his career-high is 444 against Texas in November of 2018.

In 2018, Duffey became the first Red Raider quarterback to lead the team in rushing (339 yards) since Joe Barnes in 1973. This past season, he ran for 212 yards.

Washington State raids Wyoming coaching staff for defensive assistants

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New Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich is putting together his new coaching staff in Pullman, and he is picking from an old Mountain West Conference foe to fill some spots. Jake Dickert, who had been Wyoming’s defensive coordinator for the past season, will join Rolovich and the Cougars to fill the same role. And that’s not all. Dickert will reportedly be bringing two more Wyoming defensive coaches with him; defensive ends coach AJ Cooper and cornerbacks coach John Richardson.

While that is a bit of a shakeup for Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to deal with at Wyoming, it will help Rolovich put together his first coaching staff at a power conference program. Bringing in some coaches he has a familiarity with makes sense, especially considering how Wyoming has typically played on a defensive level in the last few seasons. If Washington State is going to contend for a Pac-12 title under Rolovich, improving the defensive side of the football will be essential in a division that also features defending Pac-12 champion Oregon and Washington.

Dickert also coached linebackers at Wyoming in addition to serving as defensive coordinator.

Record 111 college football underclassmen have declared early for NFL draft

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The deadline for college football underclassmen to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft has expired, and it looks as though a record number of underclassmen will be hoping to turn pro. Although the NFL will confirm an official number in the coming days, the unofficial count currently sits at 111 underclassmen making themselves eligible for this year’s NFL draft. The 111 underclassmen is a new record for the NFL draft.

According to The Sporting News, there are 111 confirmed underclassmen who have made the decision to forgo their senior seasons for a shot at being drafted in the NFL. One of the last players to make his plan clear was Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who publicly declared for the draft on Saturday. National champion LSU alone has nine players who have declared early for the NFL draft to go along with its graduating seniors.

With 111 confirmed players declaring early, the NFL draft will have at least 100 underclassmen on the board for the third consecutive season. Last year, the NFL reported a total of 103 underclassmen for the 2019 NFL draft. The previous season saw 106 players make themselves eligible for the draft. The 106 players in 2018 was a record number of underclassmen for the NFL draft. A total of 95 underclassmen were reported by the NFL in 2017.

The obvious concern with such a large number of underclassmen declaring for the draft is the growing number of underclassmen who may not be drafted. Last year, 49 players who declared early went undrafted. With only so many draft picks to go around, the more underclassmen that declare makes it more difficult for some players to get drafted. That doesn’t necessarily mean the player made a mistake turning pro, as undrafted players will still find a number of landing spots in undrafted free agency. And for some players, that may end up being the better path than being drafted in the sixth or seventh round because they would then get to choose from potential landing spots.

This year’s total could have been higher, but decisions by players like running backs Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State (HERE), Travis Etienne of Clemson (HERE),  and Najee Harris of Alabama held the record number down, relatively speaking.

If you are looking for something to entertain you while checking in on some spring college football games, the 2020 NFL Draft will take place from April 23-25 in Las Vegas.

Penn State hires wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield from Miami

Taylor Stubblefield, who played at Purdue, is joining the Penn State coaching staff as a receivers coach.
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The search for a new wide receivers coach at Penn State may be over. Penn State is expected to name Taylor Stubblefield as its next receivers coach, according to multiple reports. Penn State announced the new hire Sunday afternoon, following multiple reports suggesting the hire was imminent.

“We are excited to have Taylor, Georgia and Jagger join our Penn State family,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said in a released statement. “Taylor has a strong familiarity with the Big Ten Conference. He was an elite wide receiver as an All-American at Purdue, setting NCAA, Big Ten and school receiving records, some of which he still holds today. He will bring his passion and knowledge to our young wide receiver room. Taylor has a wide range of experiences as a coach, both at the college and professional levels. Taylor really separated himself during the interview process and we are thrilled about the future of our wide receivers under his guidance.”

Stubblefield spent the 2019 season as a wide receivers coach for the Miami Hurricanes. Stubblefield was one of the final pieces of the coaching staff assembled by Manny Diaz in his first season as head coach. He has had a number of coaching stops in his career, including stints with Central Michigan, New Mexico, Wake Forest, Utah, and Air Force. Stubblefield also coached one season in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts. He previously played in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on two occasions.

Stubblefield played wide receiver for Purdue, where he earned All-American recognition as a key piece of the Boilermakers offense coached by Joe Tiller. Stubblefield set an NCAA record for most career receptions (325), which lasted for seven years before Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles broke the record in 2011 (349). Stubblefield currently sits sixth all-time in career receptions. Having a coach who set an NCAA record for most career receptions while playing in the Big Ten should come in handy for a Penn State offense that is in need of improved receiving ability. With KJ Hamler off to the NFL, Penn State has a need to have solid and reliable receiving options to go with returning tight end Pat Freiermuth.

Stubblefield is the latest change to the Penn State offensive coaching staff this offseason. He replaces Gerad Parker as receivers coach after Parker left Penn State to be the new offensive coordinator at West Virginia. Penn State hired Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca to replace Ricky Rahne, who left his role as offensive coordinator to become the new head coach at Old Dominion. Penn State then hired Boston College offensive line coach Phil Trautwein to replace Matt Limegrover.