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Why is Brian Kelly continuing to drag out Notre Dame QB battle?

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Anyone who watched Notre Dame’s season-opening loss on the road against Texas on Sunday night (and a lot of you did) likely came away knowing one thing for sure. Notre Dame’s offense runs better when DeShone Kizer is playing quarterback instead of Malik Zaire. Just about everybody seemed to agree on that, which made it a little puzzling when Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said this week he will plan on using two quarterbacks once again this week in the Irish home opener against Nevada.

”I haven’t sat down and talked with to either one of them, so before we do that we don’t have any plans to make any decisions,” Kelly said this week.

Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish said it best in one of his postgame recaps of the Sunday night game in Austin. DeShone Kizer needs to be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. I agree. So do you, in all likelihood. Kizer completed 15 of 24 pass attempts for 215 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. He was also Notre Dame’s second-leading rusher, adding one more touchdown on the ground. Zaire attempted just five passes and completed two for 23 yards and rushed three times for zero yards. It can be unwise to make rash decisions based off one season opener, but the difference between Kizer and Zaire was substantial.

So why might Kelly be reluctant to hand the offense over to Kizer on a full-time basis? Let’s try stepping inside the mind of the head coach. First, let’s admit and concede the indisputable fact that Kelly has seen much more of both Kizer and Zaire than anyone else has. He sees these players in practices on a regular basis, watches and breaks down the film, and sees them in action on game day. He talks to these two far more than any of us do as well, so we should probably agree he has a better understanding of what these two options are all about than you or I do. Agreed? Great. Understanding all of that, we can understand in part why Kelly may have the desire to see more out of Zaire and Kizer in a real-game situation.

Maybe Kizer played out of his mind against Texas and Zaire had a down night. What happens if Zaire comes out blazing against Nevada and Kizer all of a sudden begins to struggle? Then Kelly would be justified for holding off on making a decision on one guy. Or maybe Kelly will take a note from what he watched his most recent opponent do and find a way to utilize both of his quarterbacks more effectively in the offense while splitting the plays between them.

That does not appear to be the case. Kelly still seems as though he would like to have one guy to turn to at quarterback, and if Kizer has not yet made it clear he should be the guy, one has to wonder what else Kelly needs to see. Letting this drag on longer than it needs can be a concern as well. All Kelly needs to do is look back to last season when Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer let the quarterback situation play out longer than he needed, or should. (Side note: Remember when Kelly said he liked his quarterback situation better than Ohio State’s last season?) Meyer was faced with deciding between J.T. Barrett coming off injury or Cardale Jones, who played a remarkable three games to help push the Buckeyes to a national championship. The quarterback shuffle led to Ohio State’s offense struggling to get in rhythm the way they were expected to in 2015. Eventually, things sorted itself out, even if Meyer made the wrong call at first by going more with Jones over Barrett. Meyer did Ohio State no favors by creating a distraction that never needed to be there. Kelly is walking down the same path in South Bend the longer he waits to make the call, and it’s not like he’s deciding between quarterbacks who led him to an undefeated season and/or national championship. The call should be for Kizer.

Look. Kelly is getting a ton of money to make some football decisions that appear to be incredibly and painfully obvious to the fans and media alike watching the game from off the sidelines. Maybe Kelly is making a mistake in letting this quarterback indecision drag on. Maybe this is all still going according to plan for Kelly.

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.

SEC says no to Arkansas spring game in Little Rock

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Arkansas has long been one of the more unique programs in college football in playing their “home” games roughly 200 miles away from campus. As much as playing down the road in Little Rock has become a way of life for the Razorbacks though, it won’t be a part of fans first close up with new head coach Sam Pittman.

In a release this week, UA confirmed that their final practice of spring ball would be held Saturday, April 25 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. That was not originally the plan however, as the team was hoping to host the scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

The reasoning? It had nothing to do with scheduling conflicts but rather the conference office.

“As part of our ONE Razorback initiative, our goal remains to engage fans throughout Arkansas and beyond,” Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we did not receive the necessary waiver to accommodate the spring game at War Memorial Stadium as originally planned. However, we will continue to explore additional opportunities to enhance the numerous events already being held throughout the state to help bring the Razorbacks closer to our fans.”

SEC bylaws require the league to approve any off-campus spring practice. They didn’t despite Little Rock truly being the team’s home away from home for nearly a century.

The school just recently negotiated a new deal with War Memorial that runs through 2024. That was supposed to result in spring games being held at the venue in even years and a trio of conference games against regional rival Missouri in the Fall of every odd year.

It’s not known if the SEC’s decision was more of a one-off or if spring games in 2022 and 2024 will have to be scrapped.

The news is certainly a blow to those in the Southeast part of the state who were hoping to get a glimpse of the Hogs in their backyard instead of making the trip deeper into the Ozarks. Arkansas won’t have a presence at all in Little Rock this season as a result (for the first time since 1931) and will instead be fully confined to Razorback Stadium for all seven home games plus the spring scrimmage (for the first time ever).

It wasn’t too long ago where the Hogs were called in the state capital three or four times a year. That sadly is no longer the case now as a result of the league office putting a kibosh on things this spring.

Voice of Notre Dame Stadium to retire after 2020 season

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It’s the end of an era at Notre Dame Stadium.

The longtime public address announcer at the famed cathedral of college football, Mike Collins, is stepping down after the 2020 season. The school confirmed the news on Friday.

“I told my wife, ‘If Fr. Ted (Hesburgh) can retire at 75, that’s good enough for me,’” Collins said in a statement. “There is no one reason, but I can walk out with my head held high, good health and be proud that I’ll be better for my last game than my first. I’ve always viewed myself as an ambassador of Our Lady’s University, not merely an employee of the athletics department. I was able to do that for the most prestigious institution in the world, which just happened to be my alma mater.”

Collins’ voice has been the soundtrack for Fighting Irish games under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus since 1982. His first game that season came in a win over Michigan that doubled as the first ever night game the stadium as well. 

The Pittsburgh native hasn’t stopped since then. Upon the conclusion of the team’s contest against Louisville on Nov. 21, 2020, Collins will have called 233 straight Notre Dame games at the stadium.

No word on how the university will about finding a new public address announcer for the venue but they did note plans to celebrate Collins’ tenure will be announced later this year. 

While it always is going to be hard to call it quits given how good a gig it is, at least Collins will be going out with a bang given the slate ND has this season. The home opener will be against Arkansas on Sept. 12 while traditional rivals like Stanford join ACC foes like Duke and Clemson in coming to South Bend later in the year. All those games will be broadcasted on NBC. 

Western Michigan is also on the docket for the Irish at home in addition to contests like playing Wisconsin at Lambeau Field and a season-opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland.