CFT Previews: The VIZIO Fiesta Bowl

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WHO: No. 10 Arizona (10-3) vs. No. 20 Boise State (11-2)

WHAT: The 44th VIZIO Fiesta Bowl

WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

WHEN: 4:00 p.m. ET Dec. 31 on ESPN

THE SKINNY: It may not be quite the same as the days of busting the BCS party, but Boise State is back in the Fiesta Bowl for a third time. The Broncos won the lucrative reservation to the New Years Six New Years Eve party by being the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion (sorry Marshall), and the Broncos look to take advantage of it.

Boise State is riding an eight-game winning streak, including a victory in the Mountain West Conference championship game to clinch its spot in the New Years Six line-up. The Broncos have come a long way since opening the season with a loss in Atlanta to Ole Miss and their turnover-filled setback at Air Force. Running back Jay Ajayi has rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and 25 touchdowns and quarterback Grant Hedrick has started to protect the football much more confidently as the offense found its bread and butter down the stretch. The defense has held three straight opponents to fewer than 20 points, but that could be difficult to do in this bowl match-up.

The Broncos will face Arizona, champions of the Pac-12 South and the only team to beat Oregon this season. Rich Rodriguez, the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and his Wildcats were unable to take down te Ducks for a second time, but they look to be a tough test for Boise State. The star attraction will be middle linebacker Scooby Wright III, who received quite the haul of postseason awards (Bronko Nagurski Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award and multiple defensive player of the year and all-conference mentions) for his efforts this season. But there is more to Arizona than the phenomenal Wright. Arizona’s offensive nucleus has shown plenty of promise with freshman quarterback Anu Solomon (3,458 yards, 27 touchdowns), freshman running back Nick Wilson (1,289 yards, 15 touchdowns) and sophomore wide receiver Cayleb Jones (902 yards, 9 touchdowns).

This one has potential to open things up offensively. Can Boise State score a third Fiest Bowl memory, or will Arizona represent the PAc-12 admirably on the big bowl stage?

THE PREDICTION: Arizona 37, Boise State 30

San Diego State loses QBs coach Blane Morgan to FCS head job

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For the second time this spinning of the coaching carousel, a Left Coast FBS program has lost an assistant to its little brother level of college football.

First, it was Cal losing offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin to the head job FCS Cal Poly.  This time around it’s San Diego State, with FCS Lamar officially introducing Blane Morgan as its new head football coach.

Morgan spent the past five seasons as the quarterbacks coach at SDSU.  Before that, he was at alma mater Air Force for a dozen years as, at various times, wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.

ROCKY LONG, HEAD COACH, SAN DIEGO STATE
Blane has been a key part of our 48-18 record over the past five years. He understands what it takes to win and is a proven winner. He’s gotten the most out of his players, and their consistent play is a big reason for our two conference championships since he’s been here. He should make an outstanding head coach.

FISHER DEBERRY, FORMER HEAD COACH, AIR FORCE
Blane Morgan is going to be a great college head coach! He was a tremendous quarterback as a player and was one of the most competitive players and coaches that we had in the program at the Air Force Academy. Being the son of a great and very successful high school coach, and also being on the staff of one of the nation’s premier defensive coaches in the college game makes him well qualified and ready for this responsible job. He will be a great role model and mentor to the players! Players and supporters will love his beautiful family and they will be inspired by his leadership. Lamar University has found a nugget.

TROY CALHOUN, HEAD COACH, AIR FORCE
In Blane Morgan and his family, Lamar is getting a first-class leader that bleeds for their home state of Texas. He’s a superb coach and will be a tremendous representative of the university.

Jeff Traylor brings in five new assistants, retains one at UTSA

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It goes without saying that Jeff Traylor has hit the ground running in San Antonio.

Monday, Traylor was officially introduced as the new head football coach at UTSA.  Thursday, Traylor announced that he has brought in five new assistants and retained another as part of his first coaching staff with the Roadrunners.

Those assistant coaches are:

  • Daniel Da Prato (special teams coordinator)
  • Nick Graham (cornerbacks)
  • Julian Griffin (running backs)
  • Jess Loepp (safeties/recruiting coordinator)
  • Matt Mattox (run-game coordinator/offensive line)
  • Rod Wright (defensive line)

Wright is the only holdover from Frank Wilson‘s last staff at the school.

Da Prato (special teams), Griffin (offensive quality control assistant) and Loepp (offensive analyst) all come to UTSA from Arkansas.  Traylor spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach and running backs coach with the Razorbacks.

Graham (defensive assistant) and Mattox (offensive coordinator) were both at McNeese State for the 2019 season.

With yesterday’s developments, Traylor has just four more openings on his on-field staff to fill.  Unless he gets raided by another football program, of course.

Second App State assistant added to Eli Drinkwitz’s Mizzou staff

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For the second time Thursday, Eli Drinkwitz has added an assistant to his new Missouri coaching staff. And, for the second time, it’s a member of his old Appalachian State.

First, Charlie Harbison was announced as a defensive assistant whose specific duties will be spelled out later. Next, it’s Erik Link being the second confirmed addition as part of Drinkwitz’s 10-man on-field staff.

Unlike Harbison, though, Link’s role has already been defined — special teams coordinator. That’s the same job Link held with the Mountaineers in 2019, his first and only season with the Sun Belt Conference school.

“Erik is a man of high character with a background in teaching and coaching,” said Drinkwitz in a statement. “His special teams units are detailed and very sound, and his guys play hard. They focus on effort, execution and high energy.”

Link was the special teams coordinator at Louisiana Tech in 2018, his first season as an on-field assistant at the FBS level. In 2011-12, he was the special teams coordinator at FCS Montana State.

In two separate stints at Auburn, he served as a quality control assistant (2010) and special teams/offensive analyst (2013-15).

Lane Kiffin adds two to first Ole Miss staff, including OC Jeff Lebby

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The Lane Train is wasting little time rolling out members of his first coaching staff in Oxford.

Officially confirmed as Ole Miss’ head coach Saturday, Lane Kiffin on Thursday unveiled the first two members of his on-field staff — offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and offensive assistant Kevin Smith.

While Smith wasn’t given an official title, he spent the past three seasons as Kiffin’s running backs coach at FAU. That was the 43-year-old Smith’s first on-field role at any level of football as he had spent the previous three seasons at his alma mater UCF as both a coaching intern and quality control coach.

Smith, a consensus All-American as a running back at UCF, played five years for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and one season in the Canadian Football League.

Lebby, coincidentally enough, spent the past two seasons at UCF, the first as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to coordinator following the 2018 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Baylor for five years, primarily as running backs coach.

Lebby’s father-in-law is disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles. His brother-in-law is Kendal Briles, who was Kiffin’s offensive coordinator at FAU for one season before leaving for the same job at Houston and then, ultimately, Florida State.

In addition to those on-field hires, Wilson Love was announced as the Rebels’ head strength & conditioning coach. Like Smith, Love was a part of Kiffin’s Owls program the past three years.