Three years after the NCAA hammer, Penn State still alive and well

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Three summers ago Penn State’s football program was thought to be wiped as much from existence as a program can get this side of the SMU death penalty. The NCAA dropped a three-ton anvil on the program following the release of the Freeh Report related to the university’s handling of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and his sickening crimes against children both on and off campus; a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, 112 victories vacated, a loss of scholarships ultimately limiting the program to 65 available scholarships instead of the NCAA limit of 85, five years of probation and the possibility of further NCAA investigations following criminal proceedings related to Penn State officials. A lot has changed since that July morning in 2012. Through it all, Penn State has managed to not only survive but also find a path moving forward with great promise.

NCAA president Mark Emmert suggested Penn State had a culture problem on its hands, where the football way of life trumped all other facets of the university. Some applauded Emmert and the NCAA for going all in on Penn State. Others believed the NCAA should have gone further. Others felt it was too harsh a punishment or the NCAA had no jurisdiction on the Penn State shortcomings. Everyone had a side on this subject, and many have stuck to those opinions over the years. Whatever your opinion was at the time, things looked bleak for the future of Penn State football.

The NCAA assigned former Senator George Mitchell to monitor and keep tabs on Penn State by way of an annual progress report. Through Mitchell’s reports, the NCAA saw fit to cut back on some of the sanctions dropped on the program. First the NCAA handed back a handful of scholarships. It later lifted all scholarship restrictions as well as the final two years of the postseason ban. Finally, the program was relieved of all NCAA sanction terms earlier this year with all vacated wins going back on the books, although Penn State remained committed to fulfilling its intent to pay off the $60 million fine, with that money being put to good use to promote the awareness of child and sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.

New head coach Bill O’Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, served admirably in his role as head coach and should someday be recognized for the job he did in his two years in State College. O’Brien took over a program some deemed toxic and was soon hampered even more with the sanctions. O’Brien could have whined about the situation left and right, but instead he kept the program moving forward with whatever players chose to stay with him. Yes, some players took advantage fo a free transfer opportunity from the sanctions (most notably running back Silas Redd to USC), and some recruits opted to go elsewhere. O’Brien worked with what he had, and decided to fight for the players who remained committed. Names were placed on the jerseys to recognize those who stayed. Some schools say those who stay will be champions. Penn State’s 2012 squad may not have won a championship, but it was honored on the inside of Beaver Stadium alongside past memorable teams like the Big Ten champions of 2005 and 2008, the undefeated 1994 team and the national championship squads of the 1980s. Penn State’s 2012 team had a championship mentality and personality.

O’Brien left after two years at Penn State to become the head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans. O’Brien always seemed like a coach looking for an NFL opportunity, and few begrudge him for leaving the program when he did. This is because he made sure the program would be as ready to take the next steps forward as possible under grave circumstances. Penn State hired Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, who is now in the midst of doing just that with a full allotment of scholarships and no sanctions to work around. Depth is rebuilding, and the pride in the program remains. It may even be stronger than ever before, as the football program has ironically played a role in bringing the community together in a new way. This season Penn State will strip the names off the jerseys in another show of moving forward while embracing the tradition of the program.

Penn State’s football program may very well have been the product of a football culture gone overboard to some degree, but it also plays a role in the rebuilding the faith of a fractured community. There is still work to be done in State College, Pennsylvania and the pains suffered by the victims of Sandusky may never heal, but the football program can serve as an outlet to promote awareness of child and sexual abuse in the community. Lessons can be learned from the Penn State saga, and ultimately that is more valuable than any win experienced on the field.

Lane Kiffin completes first Ole Miss staff as Terrell Buckley is hired, two others retained

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The new head coach of the Ole Miss football team has put the finishing touches on his first Oxford staff.

Dec. 7, Lane Kiffin was hired by the Ole Miss football program.  Just over seven weeks later, the Rebels confirmed Monday that one new addition and two holdovers have rounded out Kiffin’s 10 on-field assistants.

The new hire is Terrell Buckley, who will serve as Kiffin’s cornerbacks coach.  Buckley, a former All-American at Florida State, spent the past four seasons coaching the same position at Mississippi State.  From 2014-15, Buckley coached corners at Louisville.

In addition to Buckley, it was announced that Freddie Roach and Derrick Nix have been retained off of Matt Luke‘s coaching staff.  Roach will serve as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, while also coaching the defensive line for the Rebels. Nix will be in charge of the SEC school’s wide receivers.

Roach has spent the past three seasons with the Rebels.  The last dozen seasons, Nix has been Ole Miss’ running backs coach.

With that trio of announcements, Kiffin’s first staff as the Ole Miss football head coach will be:

  • Terrell Buckley (Cornerbacks)
  • Randy Clements (Running Game Coordinator/Offensive Line)
  • D.J. Durkin (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
  • Joe Jon Finley (Passing Game Coordinator/Tight Ends)
  • Blake Gideon (Special Teams)
  • Jeff Lebby (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
  • Derrick Nix (Wide Receivers)
  • Chris Partridge (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties)
  • Freddie Roach (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator)
  • Kevin Smith (Running Backs)

“This coaching staff represents the winning mentality we are establishing here, and I’m excited to get to work as a full group,” Kiffin said in a statement. “We added dynamic recruiters, championship experience and outstanding football minds. This is a staff that will attract the best players in the country and help them reach their full potential.”

USC transfer QB Jack Sears backing off commitment to San Diego State

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It appears one USC football transfer will still be searching for a new home.

After finding himself fourth on the USC football quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, Sears landed at San Diego State.  In fact, he signed a grant-in-aid with the Mountain West Conference school.

Over the weekend, and a couple of weeks after a head-coaching change at SDSU, however, it’s now being reported that Sears is no longer going to attend the school.  However, 247Sports.com reports that the Aztecs are still in play for the transfer.

Per our sources, 247Sports has learned that Sears is “very comfortable” with Hoke as head coach and has no issues in the slightest about that decision. However, with the coaching turnover on staff and no offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, or defensive coordinator on staff at this time, Sears has decided to take a step back regarding his final decision and wants to keep an open mind. We’ve learned that he will not be enrolling early at the school for the spring semester. That said, San Diego State remains absolutely in play, but he wants to keep an open mind to make sure this next and final decision is the right one.

As a graduate transfer, Sears will be eligible to play for any FBS school in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.

Obviously, Sears didn’t attempt a pass this past season.

On three-year contract, Bo Pelini to make $2.3 million annually as LSU’s DC

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Not surprisingly, Bo Pelini will be paid handsomely for returning to LSU.

After a few days worth of speculation, it was reported earlier Monday that all signs were pointing to a Pelini reunion down on the bayou.  A few hours later, after Youngstown State announced it was losing its head football coach, it was confirmed that Bo Pelini is the new defensive coordinator at LSU.

Pelini replaces Aranda, who left earlier this month to take the head job at Baylor.

“We are privileged to have one of the top defensive coordinators in all of football in Bo Pelini join our staff,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement. “Bo has had some of the best defenses in football during his career and we are looking forward to him bringing his tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise back to LSU to continue to win championships.”

From 2005-07, Pelini served as the Tigers’ coordinator.  He went on to spend seven seasons as the head coach at Nebraska.  The past five seasons, he was the head coach at FCS Youngstown State.

According to reports out of the area, Pelini has agreed to a three-year deal that will pay him $2.3 million annually.  The man he replaced, Aranda, was the highest-paid assistant in college football at $2.5 million this past season.

At Youngstown State, Pelini was paid less than $400,000 in 2019.  Of course, there were also the millions paid to Pelini by the Cornhuskers as part of his buyout, so it’s not like he was forced to eat Hydrox instead of Oreos the past few years.

“The opportunity to return to LSU is truly unique,” Pelini said. “Culturally, with my prior experience at LSU, I know it is a great fit for me. The chance to work with Coach Orgeron, the ability to take charge of the Tigers defense, is something that I’m extremely excited about. All of that in a place that both my family and I immensely enjoyed when we were there before is very exciting for us. We are very honored and looking forward to this next chapter.”

Maryland QB Max Bortenschlager hits transfer portal

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Add another Big Ten quarterback to the NCAA transfer portal. Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager has placed his name in the transfer portal, according to a report form 247 Sports.

Bortenschlanger will be a graduate transfer, which means he will be eligible to play for any FBS team this fall. For Bortenschlager, a chance to play quarterback one final year could be at play. The graduating senior previously started for Maryland at quarterback in 2017 but was moved to special teams in 2018. Last season saw injuries interfere with Bortenschlager’s ability to get on the field.

Maryland’s quarterback situation should look similar to how it looked last season. Josh Jackson was named the starter after transferring from Virginia Tech. Jackson passed for 1,274 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions in 10 games. Tyrell Pigrome contributed as well with 719 passing yards and three touchdowns and 153 rushing yards with two touchdowns. Jackson and Piugrome each have one year of eligibility remaining.