Late suspensions may not doom Oregon’s championship hopes vs. Ohio State

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Tonight’s national championship game is a testament to teams persevering after losing key players — Ohio State made it here without quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, while Oregon lost cornerback Ifo Epkre-Olomu and wide receiver Devon Allen before kickoff of its 39-point win over Florida State Jan. 1.

But at what point does a team lose so many players that it can’t replace them? For Oregon, we may know the answer to that question by late Monday night.

The Ducks will be without receiver Darren Carrington and reserve running back Ayele Forde for tonight’s title bout against Ohio State, with the NCAA levying a drug-related ban to each player. The NCAA’s out-dated and extreme drug policies are a separate issue here, but because those won’t be thrown out in the next 12 hours Oregon has to move forward without a surging pass-catcher and a special teams cog.

Carrington, a redshirt freshman, set a season high with seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown in Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship win over Arizona, then bested it against Florida State with seven catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns (entering the Arizona game, Carrington had one touchdown and no more than five catches and 79 yards in a game).

Without Allen, who suffered a knee injury during warmups of the College Football Playoff semifinal, Carrington became a favorite target of Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. CSN Northwest’s Aaron Fentress runs down how Carrington’s loss will affect the depth chart against Ohio State and has reaction from the Ducks, but more importantly, offers this insight:

Oregon does not rely on a go-to receiver. The Ducks simply run their system and quarterback Marcus Mariota goes through his reads until he finds the open guy. He doesn’t zero in on a particular player.

That makes the receivers pretty much interchangeable. So while many have viewed Carrington’s 165-yard, two-touchdown performance against Florida State as a reason for major concern regarding his absence, the reality is that the Ducks believe any of their top receivers could have made those plays that day. 

Of course Carrington, Allen, Pharaoh Brown — the tight end who suffered a season-ending injury in November — and last year’s second-leading receiver Bralon Addison, who tore his ACL during spring practice, are talented players. But consider this: Since Chip Kelly took over in 2009, Oregon has had one wide receiver selected in the NFL Draft — last year, when Kelly’s Eagles took Josh Huff in the third round.

Oregon’s offense is predicated on running an explosive, effective system that’s stocked with players who are the perfect fit for it. The Ducks have had one top-10 recruiting class since 2009 and yet have made two title games and been in the championship conversation nearly every year since.

So when Mariota turns to Byron Marshall (66 REC, 834 yards, 5 TDs), Dwayne Stanford (39 REC, 578 YDS, 6 TDs), Keanon Lowe (25 REC, 359 yards, 4 TDs) and Charles Nelson (21 REC, 306 yards, 5 TDs), there may not be a significant dropoff.

And that’s the mark of an elite program, one that deserves to play for the first College Football Playoff Championship.

 

Appalachian State confirms no interim tag for Shawn Clark, ex-Mountaineers OL gets five year deal to be head coach

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Eli Drinkwitz surprise departure from Boone after just one season has led to a rather expected move to fill his shoes with somebody who definitely won’t be bolting the school that soon.

Confirming reports from earlier in the week, Appalachian State has officially removed any sort of interim tag from Shawn Clark and give him the permanent position with a five year deal as head coach.

“It’s a great day to be a Mountaineer,” Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said in a statement. “We are thrilled to announce Shawn Clark as our new head coach. He’s been a great leader for us since the day he returned to his alma mater. He has experience at both Power Five and Group of Five schools and is highly respected among his peers, his players, on campus and in the community. His experience as a leader, play-caller and recruiter will help us to continue to raise our football program to new heights.”

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime to be named the head football coach at my alma mater, the school that I love so much,” Clark added. “I would like to thank Chancellor Everts, the Board of Trustees and Doug Gillin for entrusting me with this great responsibility. I am excited to keep pushing our players to greatness on and off the field and to work with a great coaching staff to win championships. My family and I are grateful to stay in Boone and keep pushing this program to new heights.”

Clark has been the offensive line coach at his alma mater the past four years under both Drinkwitz and Scott Sartterfield before both moved onto Power Five gigs.

The 44-year-old Clark was part of staffs at Louisville, Eastern Kentucky, Purdue and Kent State as well before returning to Boone, where he was an offensive lineman on some of the program’s powerhouse teams back in the mid-1990’s.

Clark’s first game fully in charge will come on Dec. 21 in the New Orleans Bowl against UAB — a spot he’s pretty familiar with having served as the interim offensive coordinator for the team’s game at the Superdome in 2018. That resulted in a blowout win that no doubt played a role in him getting the full time gig just a year later and AppState fans have to hope for similar results as Clark takes the field this time around as head coach.

Reports: Barry Odom isn’t leaving the SEC — nor the Ozarks — for next coaching gig

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Recently fired Missouri head coach Barry Odom was expected to find work quickly after being dumped by his alma mater and thus was rumored to be up for just about every defensive coordinator gig at Power Five schools all over the country.

As it turns out, Odom does not appear to be leaving the SEC — nor even the Ozarks — for his next stop. According to both FootballScoop and The Athletic, Arkansas is zeroing in on hiring him as Sam Pittman’s first defensive coordinator.

Odom was the head coach of the Tigers for four seasons after being elevated from being their DC to take over for longtime stalwart Gary Pinkel in 2016. He spent three seasons as Memphis’ coordinator under Justin Fuente as well and served a number of different off the field roles in Columbia prior to that. The Oklahoma native knows the region quite well and was widely associated with helping turn around Mizzou when he was a linebacker and team captain in the late 1990’s.

He takes over for John Chavis, who was one of Chad Morris’ first big hires when he first took over in Fayetteville. The ‘Chief’ as he is known, was paid a hefty salary after coming over from a stint at Texas A&M but failed to produce the kind of turnaround that could have kept Morris around as head coach, with the Razorbacks ranking No. 124 this past season in scoring defense — statistically the worst Power Five unit in the country.

With Morris now serving as Auburn’s new offensive coordinator, it’s pretty clear that in the SEC, there’s plenty of soft landings available for coaches who get the axe at the end of the year — and we’re not even getting into the buyout life either.

San Jose State, Brent Brennan set to formally announce new contract

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Brent Brennan has yet to reach the .500 mark at San Jose State, but his bosses have seen enough to reward the 47-year-old head coach.

A press conference has been called for Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET that will feature Brennan and a pair of SJSU leaders, athletic director Marie Tuite and president Mary A. Papazian.  According to the school, the presser has been called to announce a contract extension for Brennan.

Brennan’s current deal is scheduled to run through the 2021 season; details pertaining to the extension are not yet available.

During his first two seasons with the Spartans, Brennan went 3-22.  This past season, SJSU improved to 5-7, the football program’s most wins since the six they put up in its last bowl appearance in 2015.  Those five wins in 2019 included SJSU’s first victory over rival Fresno State since 2016.

According to the USA Today coaches salary database, Brennan was paid $599,000 in guaranteed compensation in 2019.  That number was 10th among the 11 Mountain West Conferences coaches listed in the database.

WR Tarik Black looking to transfer from Michigan

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Another hour, another player has popped up in the portal.

The latest football program to face a potential personnel loss is Michigan, with ESPN.com‘s Tom VanHaaren the first to report that Tarik Black is now in the NCAA transfer database.  Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic subsequently confirmed the initial report.

A four-star member of U-M’s 2017 recruiting class, Black was rated as the No. 15 receiver in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Connecticut.

This past season, Black was fourth on the Wolverines in receptions with 25 and receiving yards with 323.  It appears he’ll finish his time in Ann Arbor with 507 yards and two touchdowns on 40 catches.