Stunner: ‘Huskers hire Mike Riley away from Beavers

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In replacing Bo Pelini, Nebraska was hoping to make a “wow” hire.  I don’t know if this qualifies, but I sure said “wow” when the release came out.  And “WTH?!?” for good measure too.

In what can only be described as a stunning turn of events, Nebraska announced Thursday that it has hired Mike Riley as its new head football coach.  Riley had spent the past 12 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State, his second stint with the Beavers (1997-97).

The 61-year-old Riley — he’ll be 62 before the start of the 2015 season — will be formally introduced at a 10 a.m. ET press conference Friday.

“There was one coach who fit all the characteristics that I was seeking to lead our tradition rich football program,” NU athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement. “Mike Riley has a proven record of success, a sound approach to football and teaching, an understanding of the educational mission of our university and the integrity and values that we cherish at Nebraska. I have no doubt that Mike will assemble a tremendous staff and lead our student-athletes to win Big Ten titles and compete for national championships in the years ahead.”

In 14 total seasons at OSU, Mike Riley went 93-80 overall (.538) and 58-63 (.479) in Pac-12 play, and won nine or more games four times. For comparisons sake, the man Riley will replace went 67-27 (.713) overall and 39-17 .696 in the conference, winning nine-plus all seven years.

Riley, who had previously turned down overtures from USC (twice) and his alma mater Alabama, never won a conference or division championship with the Beavers, while Pelini won or shared four divisional titles in his seven seasons with the Cornhuskers.

One more: OSU qualified for eight bowl games during Riley’s 14 seasons, including just two the last five seasons. NU went to/qualified for a bowl game every season under Pelini.

“It is truly an honor to join the University of Nebraska family,” Riley said. “Though we love Corvallis and Oregon State, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s most storied football programs and I can’t wait to get started. My sincere thanks to Chancellor Perlman and Shawn Eichorst for their confidence in me and I look forward to becoming a part of the Nebraska family and building upon the great history and tradition.”

Entering the 2014 season, there had been talk that Riley could very well end up on the hot seat in Corvallis.  After a 5-7 season, there was additionally chatter that there could be a parting of ways between the coach and the program, with particular media attention paid to the structure of his contract.

As it turns out, that was very much the case, although not in the manner that anyone saw coming.

Riley turned hot-seat talk into a job at Nebraska?  That’s about as stunning as it gets; just ask the former coach’s alter Twitter ego.

Texas reportedly suspends WR Kennedy Lewis for spring practice

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Texas head coach Tom Herman has been busy this offseason remaking his coaching staff. That doesn’t mean he’s kept an eye on what his players have been doing however.

According to Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the program has suspended wideout Kennedy Lewis. The redshirt freshman will miss spring practice with the team but appears to be in line to return in time for summer workouts. 

Provided, of course, he does what he needs to in order to get back in the graces of Herman and company. There was no word on what Lewis did to get the (temporary) boot. 

Either way, it’s a missed chance for Lewis to make an impression for Texas’ rich new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. The Longhorns are also looking for several new targets for QB Sam Ehlingher this spring given that seniors Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay both are off to the NFL. The youngster was expected to be one of those in the mix behind the likes of Jake Smith and Brennan Eagle to see some serious playing time.

Now that’s not longer the case.

Lewis arrived on the 40 Acres as a three-star recruit prior to last season. He made it into two games and took a redshirt, recording just a single catch against Rice for 37 yards.

Now, others like Josh Moore and Marcus Washington figure to get extra reps when the ‘Horns opens their 15 practice slate next month.

New three year deal at Auburn for Chad Morris winds up saving Arkansas money

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Arkansas has had to tap the well for buyout money quite a bit in recent years. The good news for the school however is that those checks will be a little smaller than first thought going forward.

That’s the result of ex-head coach Chad Morris’ new deal at Auburn. Terms were released to the media last week of the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator and per AL.com, that will result in a three-year contract worth roughly $735,000 annually. 

If that doesn’t sound like a lot for an SEC coordinator, you’d be right. It’s especially true given how much rival Alabama is prepared to pay their OC, Steve Sarkisian, given recent reports.

However, Morris isn’t just being paid by Auburn. Arkansas still owes him millions in buyout money. 

The figure was originally on the order of $10 million after he was fired midseason by the Hogs last year. That total was spread out over the next four years. However, Morris had an offset in his deal so the amount the Tigers are paying him will mitigate down that total from Fayetteville some. 

Morris will still wind up taking home nearly $2.5 million each of the next four years. Thanks to the AU deal however, the amount coming from UA will drop to nearly $1.7 million from now until 2022.

The new coordinator deal is also fully guaranteed between Morris and the Tigers. If he’s fired, the school owes him every penny. If he leaves for another job that isn’t a head coaching gig, he would owe everything left as a buyout.

Either way, Morris is both reunited with his old friend Gus Malzahn on the Plains and a very rich man. At least for folks at Arkansas, that arrangement will at least save them some money even if their ex-coach is at a division rival.

The Hogs also recently stopped paying former head coach’s Bret Bielema’s buyout last year as part of some legal wrangling. As a result, the nearly $22 million the program was set to be on the hook for in just the past three seasons is actually quite a bit less than first thought. 

That all might not help take the sting out of the lack of victories in Fayetteville but it certainly will help the ol’ check book if nothing else. 

Alabama losing special teams staffer to the New England Patriots

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The Alabama kicking game needs all the help it can get but will have to soldier on without a key member of the coaching staff.

According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, assistant special teams coordinator Joe Houston is leaving Tuscaloosa for a position with the New England Patriots.

Houston certainly has become a fast-riser as a coach. He was kicking field goals for USC from 2007-10 and got into coaching just recently. He served as an assistant special teams coach at Iowa State prior to joining the Crimson Tide staff.

While Houston is highly regarded off the field, his slim small body of work at Alabama was a mixed bag. Kickers Joseph Bulovas and Will Reichard combined to made just 12 of 18 field goal attempts in 2019. That includes a critical miss in the Iron Bowl that knocked the team out of the Playoff chase.

The Tide should still be okay on special teams come 2020 though. Reichard was injured early and hopes to be healthy after signing as the top prep kicker in the country a year ago. Highly regarded special teams coordinator Jeff Banks also returns.

Houston’s move to Foxborough no doubt came with a recommendation from Saban to his old pal Bill Belichick. The latter also struggled with the kicking game last season. Hopefully for both, this latest move will boost both teams in the critical third phase of the game.

Colorado closing in on hiring… Karl Dorrell?

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The unexpected Colorado coaching search may have an unexpected conclusion.

In a move first reported by Yahoo! Sports, the Buffs are supposedly close on hiring Karl Dorrell as their next head coach. USA Today later confirmed the news. He replaces Mel Tucker, who left for Michigan State in early February.

Bringing Dorrell in is, needless to say, a surprise move. The school had flirted heavily with former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian before parting ways. As it turns out, Colorado was looking at the wrong former coach in Los Angeles.

Dorrell spent five seasons in Westwood as head coach at UCLA from 2003-2007. The tenure had a high point of going 10-2 in 2005 but otherwise floated around .500. It didn’t help either that Pete Carroll had things humming across town at the same time as Dorrell was trying to get things turned around at his alma mater.

Since his firing, Dorrell has mostly been in the NFL. He had a one season stint as Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2014 but is otherwise been coaching in the pros. That includes two stints in Miami and others with the Houston Texans and New York Jets.

Less than 24 hours before his reported hire at Colorado, Dorrell was promoted to assistant head coach of the Dolphins by Brian Flores.

Though Dorrell reached a bowl game in all five of his seasons in Westwood, his meddling record saw him pushed out the door. His replacement then? Former Buffs coach Rick Neuheisel. The two memorably helped lead the Bruins to the 1984 Rose Bowl together at the school.

Now Dorrell once again has the goal of getting back to Pasadena. Just not where anybody expected it to happen.