Alabama’s keys to national championship game include trying to solve Deshaun Watson (good luck!)

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The rematch is on in the College Football Playoff national championship game with Alabama and Clemson set to battle for the national championship for a second straight season. Both teams will have the benefit of having gone through this experience against each other last year, so there is a certain familiarity with what the other team is capable of doing. For Alabama, knowing just how dangerous Deshaun Watson can be leading the Tigers offense going in will lead Alabama to look for new ways to scheme against him.

In last year’s championship game, Watson put on a performance that drew comparisons to Vince Young in the Rose Bowl against USC, although Watson came up on the short end of the winning tally. In the epic 45-40 loss to the Tide, Watson scorched Alabama for 405 passing yards and four touchdowns and added 73 rushing yards. It was Watson’s best performance of the year, and it came against the best defense in the country. Guess what. Alabama once again has the best defense in the country, and Watson is fully capable of going off for a big game once again. You can make him make a mistake, as evidenced at times this season. Watson has been picked off 17 times this year, including twice last week by Ohio State. The key for Alabama will be converting points off turnovers. Ohio State, obviously, was unable to do that, but the only team to beat them this year managed to do that. Watson was intercepted three times against Pittsburgh in Clemson’s only loss of the season. The Panthers took advantage of two of those picks by scoring touchdowns on the ensuing possession (Pitt was forced to punt on the first, scored two touchdowns on the next two).

Disrupting Clemson’s momentum on offense will not be easy, even for a talented and stacked defense like Alabama’s, because Clemson does like to move the ball quickly. It’s not just the no-huddle style either. It is also how quickly Clemson releases the ball and gets it in movement. Take a look at how quickly Watson gets the play rolling after taking the snap. Unless he is looking to go downfield and has to wait for a man to get open, he is pulling a quick trigger on a screen pass or tossing to the running back and then Clemson is on the go. That caught up to Ohio State and wore down the defense. Wearing down Alabama’s defense should not be as easy, and if the Tide can get in the backfield on the snap to cause chaos before Clemson can get things rolling consistently, then it will apply pressure on Watson and Clemson to do something else.

When Watson does get rid of the ball, Alabama will have to find ways to cover wide receiver Mike Williams (1,297 receiving yards, 10 TDs) and tight end Jordan Leggett, who could be a wild card factor in this matchup. But Alabama’s biggest concern in this game (other than Watson) will be Clemson’s defensive line. The Tigers just pitched a shutout against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, allowing just 215 yards of offense to the Buckeyes and forcing three turnovers (including two interceptions of J.T. Barrett). Clemson’s defensive effort put everybody on notice that they are on a mission and primed to give Alabama all they can handle. The good news for Alabama is their offensive line is much better than Ohio State’s, so fending off the pressure should be more successful to the point where Jalen Hurts will get some time to think more often than not.

The biggest mystery for Alabama is what happens on offense. Giving the bizarre circumstances this week of showing Lane Kiffin on the door on his way to FAU and promoting Steve Sarkisian to offensive coordinator, where he will call plays for the first time in years, there is a bit of a question as to how much of Alabama’s offense may look different compared to under Kiffin. Will Sarkisian stick to what has been working or will he throw in some new wrinkles? That could be good or bad for Alabama, could catch Clemson off guard or completely blow up in Alabama’s face. Sarkisian is taking on a huge role in this championship game, and it will responsibility to find whatever cracks he can in Clemson’s defense and open them up.

Les Miles adds Jonathan Wallace as newest Kansas assistant

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After one of his Kansas football assistants left and created a hole in his staff, Les Miles moved quickly to fill it.

Last week, Tony Hull exited the Kansas football program.  Tuesday, it was confirmed that Hull had taken a job at Hawaii.  That hiring completed Todd Graham‘s first coaching staff at the Mountain West Conference school, incidentally.

The same day Hull’s Hawaii hiring was announced, Kansas football confirmed that his replacement, Jonathan Wallace, was been hired.  The former Auburn quarterback/wide receiver will coach KU’s running backs.  The Alabama native will also serve as special teams coordinator.

“Jonathan is a detail-oriented coach, who is also a dynamic recruiter,” the Kansas football head coach said in a statement. “He has experience with a championship-caliber football program as both a player and a coach and knows the intricacies of the offensive scheme we want to run. Additionally, he has a strong understanding of what we want to accomplish in all phases of the kicking game.”

In 2019, Wallace was the tight ends coach at Air Force.  That was his first on-field job at the FBS level.

The year before that, Wallace was on the coaching staff at NAIA Bethel as wide receivers coach.  That program’s head coach?  Current Jayhawks offensive current Brent Dearmon.

Wallace began his coaching career as an offensive graduate assistant coach at Auburn from 2016-17.  He worked with quarterbacks and wide receivers during the 2017 season.

During Wallace’s time as an Auburn football player (2012-15), Miles was the head coach at SEC West rival LSU.

Concussions force Baylor’s Bralen Taylor to retire

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Concern over his long-term health has prompted one Baylor football player to step away from the sport.  Permanently.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday, Bralen Taylor announced in a statement that he is “medically retiring from the game I love.” The wide receiver-turned-tight-end-turned-defensive end stated that he has “suffered from a number of concussions while playing” football.  Taylor didn’t specify when and at what level those concussions occurred.

“This is the game that I grew up playing and loving. [T]his game has [given] me everything I have ever asked for and more,” Taylor wrote. “The brain is nothing to mess around with. [W]hile some won’t understand, [God] has already made a plan.”

Taylor was a three-star member of the Baylor football Class of 2018.  He was rated as the No. 90 player regardless of position in the state of Texas.

During his brief time in Waco, Taylor played in six games.  Four of those appearances came this past season.  In that limited action, he was credited with three tackles and one-half of a sack.

Baylor football has gone from 1-11 in Matt Rhule‘s first season with the Bears in 2017 to 11-3 this past season.  The 2019 campaign included a berth in both the Big 12 championship game and the Sugar Bowl.

Unfortunately for BU, Rhule left to take the head job with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

USC makes hiring of Virginia’s Vic So’oto official

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The massive renovation of Clay Helton’s USC football coaching staff has taken another official step.

Last week, it was reported that USC was expected to poach Vic So’oto from Virginia.  As Clint Sintim‘s hiring as So’oto’s replacement was announced a few days later, the latter’s move to the Trojans was a mere formality.

Tuesday, USC football confirmed So’oto’s addition to Clay Helton’s staff.  As he did with the ‘Hoos, So’oto will serve as the Trojans’ defensive line coach.

The 32-year-old So’oto was the line coach at Virginia for the past three seasons.  Prior to that, he was a defensive graduate assistant at the ACC program.

So’oto played his college football at BYU, ending his four-year career in 2010.  After his NFL career ended, So’oto began his collegiate coaching career as a football intern at his alma mater.

For those unaware, So’oto is the second cousin of USC football legend Junior Seau.

LSU confirms hiring of Scott Linehan as new passing-game coordinator

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LSU football has officially replaced one of the hottest young coaches in the sport.

Not long after LSU football claimed the 2019 national championship, Joe Brady left to take over as the offensive coordinator for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Earlier this month, it was reported that Scott Linehan was expected to be hired as Brady’s successor.

Tuesday, LSU confirmed that Linehan has indeed been named by Ed Orgeron as the Tigers’ new passing-game coordinator. The 56-year-old Linehan has spent the past 17 seasons he’s been a coach at the NFL level.

Linehan was out of coaching this past season.

“Scott brings a wealth of knowledge to our offense,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “We wanted to bring in someone who will expand our passing game and with Scott’s experience as an NFL head coach and offensive coordinator we feel this is the best move for our offense. After talking to numerous people with NFL experience and interviewing Scott we knew he was the right fit for the LSU Tigers.”

In 13 of those seasons in the NFL, Linehan served as an offensive coordinator.

  • Dallas Cowboys, 2015-18
  • Detroit Lions, 2009-13
  • Miami Dolphins, 2005
  • Minnesota Vikings, 2002-04

In the other four NFL seasons in which he wasn’t a coordinator, Linehan was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams (2006-08) and passing-game coordinator for the Cowboys (2014).

Linehan’s last job at the collegiate level came as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Louisville (1999-2001). From 1996-98, he was the coordinator at Washington.