Ray Rice welcomed back to Rutgers for Friday Knight Lights

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After a turbulent domestic situation off the field and being cut by the Baltimore Ravens and essentially locked out of the NFL  for a year, Ray Rice was welcomed back at Rutgers, where he was a key player in the rise of the Scarlet Knights program under Greg Schiano. Rice was invited back for the Friday night spring scrimmage by current Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood, who felt the time was right to help a member of the Rutgers family.

“I reached out to Ray. I thought we had an opportunity here for Ray to give a very important message to our football players and he did that today,” Flood explained after the Friday night scrimmage.

“The message was really simple; you can do a lot of great things in your life. You can do charitable works at home and in the cities you are working in, but if you make the wrong decision, you’re going to have to be accountable for it,” Flood explained. “Ray made a wrong decision and he’s held himself accountable for it. He’s paid the price for it and I thought today was an opportunity for him to deliver a message to prevent one of our young people from doing that in the future.”

On the field, Rutgers saw some good development from the running game and the offensive line, which should be the strength of the offense in the fall. The quarterback competition, as it so often does this time of year at most programs, should continue over the summer with Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig each looking to replace Gary Nova under center.

“I think both guys have done a good job,” Flood replied when asked about the quarterback performance Friday night. “I think Chris [Laviano] is a little ahead right now, but that doesn’t surprise me because he’s had the advantage of playing in the games.”

Rutgers had a spring game crowd of 15,782 come out to watch the Friday Knight Lights event. The 2015 season begins at home on September 5 against Norfolk State.

Reports: Steve Sarkisian staying at Alabama after flirting with Colorado

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Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian no longer appears headed West after all.

The Crimson Tide play-caller is reportedly staying in Tuscaloosa with a rich new contract after being heavily linked with the head coach opening at Colorado in the past 24 hours. ESPN’s Chris Low was the first to report the news, noting Sark’s new deal will include a pay raise.

Yahoo! Sports later confirmed the same.

The move is certainly a blow to the Buffs, whose coaching search has now extended past the weeklong mark in the wake of Mel Tucker being hired away by Michigan State. Sarkisian was among the more interesting names floated for the gig and made plenty of sense given his connections in the Pac-12 as the former head coach at both Washington and USC.

Former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones have also been mentioned in connection to the opening. Interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini is pegged as the top internal candidate.

As for Sark, the move is an interesting one. It says plenty that he even got an interview given the way things ended in Los Angeles but also speaks to the image rehabilitation he’s done under Nick Saban as well. Alabama missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time last season but were among the most dangerous offenses in the country when starting QB Tua Tagovailoa was healthy.

Replacing the Heisman finalist under center will now be one of Sarkisian’s top priorities over the coming months but at least whoever winds up taking snaps against familiar foe USC will have the benefit of playing in an offense that features the likes of Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith.

Sarkisian’s new contract will also be interesting to see once it emerges from the university bureaucracy. He was already the highest paid offensive assistant coach in the country for the upcoming 2020 season at $1.6 million. He originally signed a three year deal to return to the program after a stint with the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Mel Tucker hires familiar faces Jay Johnson and Harlon Barnett to Michigan State staff

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What’s old is new again at Michigan State.

Continuing a theme of either having ties to the school or his stint at Colorado, new Spartans head coach Mel Tucker confirmed a pair of hires for the program with some familiar names. Announced a little earlier on Thursday, former Buffs offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson was taking the same role in East Lansing.

“Jay is an experienced play caller and an expert quarterbacks coach,” said Tucker in a release. “He has a very innovative offensive mind. I was with Jay when he was at Georgia and really got to know him well there. He’s had success in the Big Ten before, calling plays at Minnesota. He runs a multiple offense with an emphasis on physicality, and he’s an aggressive play caller.”

Johnson joins OL coach Chris Kapilovic in coming over from Boulder. The former previously was with Tucker as an off-field analyst at Georgia prior to going to CU and served as OC at Southern Miss, Louisiana and Minnesota in recent years.

Perhaps the bigger news for Michigan State fans is the return of another name: Harlon Barnett. A former MSU player, he was a mainstay defensive staff member under ex-head coach Mark Dantonio and was defensive backs coach at the school for over a decade starting in 2007. He was elevated to defensive coordinator from 2015-2017 before taking the same position on Willie Taggart’s staff at Florida State.

In addition to the three names mentioned above, Tucker has also retained Ron Burton and former interim head coach Mike Tressel. Additionally, another former Spartan player, Courtney Hawkins, was named the team’s receivers coach.

Marshall and ECU move 2020 season opener to Week 0 to honor anniversary of 1970 tragedy

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You can add Marshall and East Carolina to the list of upcoming ‘Week 0’ games for the 2020 season after the two schools announced a date change for their matchup this year.

While television played a small role in the shift, the two programs sought an NCAA waiver to play on Saturday, August 29 as a way of honoring the 50th anniversary of the tragic plane crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 that claimed the lives of 75 people. The majority of those killed were part of the Thundering Herd football program who were returning from a game against the Pirates.

“We are grateful to Jon Gilbert and everyone at East Carolina University for their efforts in making this schedule change come to fruition,” Marshall AD Mike Hamrick said in a release. “Our people, our universities and our football programs will forever be linked by the tragedy that occurred 50 years ago. This change will allow a national audience to join us in paying proper respect to the 75.”

The incident was famously recounted in the movie ‘We Are Marshall,’ starring noted football fan (and Texas’ Minister of Culture) Matthew McConaughey.

The two programs have met a total of 15 times over the years and have three additional non-conference games set between 2021 and 2025.

Mike Leach and Nick Saban together highlight 2020 SEC Media Days schedule

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Set your calendars for this summer because the SEC preseason bonanza is set to be even more anticipated than it usually is.

The conference office in Birmingham announced the schedule for their annual Media Days event and all eyes in the college football world will be on it in 2020 with the addition of new coaches at a handful of the league’s schools.

The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will play host to the festivities, which annually mark the official end of the long offseason and the beginning of a new season for the sport.

2020 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 13

Florida – Dan Mullen

LSU – Ed Orgeron

Missouri – Eliah Drinkwitz 

TUESDAY, July 14

Georgia – Kirby Smart

Kentucky – Mark Stoops

Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin

Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

WEDNESDAY, July 15

Alabama – Nick Saban

Arkansas –  Sam Pittman

Mississippi State – Mike Leach

Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt

THURSDAY, July 16

Auburn – Gus Malzahn

South Carolina – Will Muschamp

Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

The highlight this year has to be Wednesday’s session that includes Saban answering questions about missing out on the College Football Playoff last year and the arrival of Leach to the throngs of media in the South at his first major appearance for Mississippi State. Having new Arkansas coach Pittman separating the two makes for a real murderer’s row of coaches that can give some quotes.

Don’t discount the day prior either with both Smart and Kiffin headlining things. The latter is no stranger to the event from his brief time at Tennessee too. Reigning national champion LSU and their newly rich head coach will also help kick things off on Monday. Player names will be announced later as well.

SEC Media Days is always quite the event in its own right. Adding in these new personalties to the already established names should make things even more exciting.

July can’t get here fast enough.