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Oklahoma confirms hiring of Ruffin McNeill as DT coach

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One of the most influential mentors in Lincoln Riley‘s coaching career is officially coming to help out his protégé.

Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Ruffin McNeill would be added to Riley’s first OU coaching staff. Not long after, the football program indeed confirmed that McNeill will fill the void in the staff.

McNeill will serve as the Sooners’ defensive tackles coach as well as carry the title of assistant head coach. OU’s defensive line coach the past two seasons, Calvin Thibodeaux, will focus his coaching attention on the defensive ends.

McNeill had been the line coach at Virginia since December of 2015. He also carried the title of assistant head coach with the Cavaliers.

“Ruffin McNeill is one of the best people, not only in the world of coaching, but also in the world, period,” UVa. head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “I’ve really enjoyed his friendship, the exchange of ideas and the camaraderie that we’ve had together. Ruff has amazing relationships with anyone he’s met. He’s got a great football mind. I am appreciative of all the work he put in helping us to begin to make Virginia an excellent football program.”

Prior to his brief time in Charlottesville, he was the head coach at his alma mater, East Carolina, from 2010-2015 before being abruptly kicked to the curb shortly after the season ended. From 2000-2009, he was an assistant at Texas Tech. Riley and McNeill were on the same staff at Tech from 2007-09, then Riley served as McNeill’s offensive coordinator at ECU from 2010-14 before moving on to Norman.

The school noted in its release that Riley expects to finalize other coaching staff titles in the coming days.

LINCOLN RILEY
“I’m very excited that Ruffin McNeill is joining our coaching staff. Personally, I have a great history with him from our time together at Texas Tech and East Carolina. We’re getting an extremely high-quality person and coach. Our team and fans will love the personality and energy he’ll bring to our program.

“Ruffin possesses a distinguished record defensively, and I’m excited to see him work alongside defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and the rest of our staff on that side of the ball. I view the defensive line as one of the most important — if not the most important — position groups on the field, and he’ll be a big benefit to our student-athletes and to our program as a whole.”

RUFFIN MCNEILL
“I’ve been at every level and have done it a lot of different ways. I’ve been fortunate to work with great people. I’ve had the big-picture view of a head coach, I’ve been a defensive coordinator and I’ve been a special teams coordinator, so I think I have some things I bring to the table. I absolutely love coaching the players. I love that part. I’m excited to do that here. Can’t wait to get on the field, get in the meeting rooms, talk strategy, talk life. That’s what I’ve always been known for; being a hard worker and a team guy. I believe it’s team and family first, last and always. Lincoln and his wife, Caitlin, are family to me. I’ve known him since he was 18 years old when he was a freshman at Texas Tech.

“I believe in working players harder than they’ve worked before, but also loving them more than they’ve ever been loved. That’s my base. And I always am clear with my expectations. ‘Here’s what I expect and why, and here’s what we’re achieving.’ It’s not just the ‘what,’ but it’s also the ‘why’ and the ‘how.’ I treat the players like they’re my sons. Not just my particular group, but the entire team. I’m looking forward to building those relationships here at OU.”

Texas Tech adds two more grad transfers

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It’s been a busy last few days, both incoming and outgoing, for Texas Tech and new head football coach Matt Wells on the transfer front.

Tuesday, quarterback McLane Carter announced that he has decided to take his leave of Lubbock and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  The same day, however, Tech confirmed the addition of Penn State graduate transfer defensive back Zech McPhearson.

A day later, the roster Christmas continued for Wells as Tech announced that they have added two more graduate transfers — linebacker Evan Rambo of Cal and running back Armand Shyne of Utah.  As is the case with McPhearson, Rambo and Shyne will be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

McPhearson will have two years of eligibility remaining counting this season, Shyne one.  If Rambo’s appeal to the NCAA for a sixth season is successful — he missed all but four games in 2016 because of a season-ending injury before missing all of 2017 with an injury sustained in the spring — he’ll have two as well.

This past season, Shyne’s 513 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground were both second on the Utes.  Shyne will finish his time in Salt Lake City with 885 yards and nine touchdowns on 198 carries.

Rambo played in 22 games during his stint with the Golden Bears, starting five of those contests.

WR Brandon Benson tweets decision to transfer from SMU

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Back in January, it was reported that Brandon Benson had become one of the myriad players to place their names into the NCAA transfer database this offseason, signaling a potential move on from SMU. A couple of months later, the wide receiver has made the divorce official.

Utilizing his personal Twitter account, Benson announced in a tweet that, “after praying and talking to my family, I have decided to transfer from SMU to continue my football and academic careers.”

A three-star 2016 signee, only two members of the Mustangs’ class that year were rated higher than Benson. Despite that pedigree, Benson played in just 10 games (one start) in his three seasons with the AAC school, catching one pass for 72 yards and a touchdown. That scoring play came as a redshirt freshman in 2017 against FCS Stephen F. Austin.

Syracuse and Pitt add future home-and-home games with Western Michigan

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Any time a MAC program can land a home-and-home deal with a program from a power conference is considered a nice victory. To be able to land two is even better.

Western Michigan has done just that with the addition of two home-and-home series with ACC members Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The addition of two games with Syracuse is a continuation of a current arrangement between the two schools while the games with Pitt are new to the schedule.

Western Michigan will host Syracuse on September 26, 2020 and the Broncos will pay a visit to the Orange on September 9, 2023. Pittsburgh will host the MAC program on September 18, 2021 and the Panthers will visit Western Michigan on September 17, 2022.

As members of the ACC, both Syracuse and Pittsburgh are required to schedule at least one non-conference game against another power conference opponent. Western Michigan does not satisfy that scheduling requirement but each school has the requirement satisfied in the years with their Western Michigan games. Pitt is scheduled to play at Tennessee in 2021 and will host West Virginia and Tennessee in 2022. Syracuse is set to play at Rutgers in 2020 and will play at Purdue in 2023.

Western Michigan has plenty of power conference opponents on the future schedules in addition to the home-and-home deals with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, but the other games currently scheduled are all road games. Western Michigan will play at Michigan State this year (they also play at Syracuse in their original scheduling agreement). Future road games against power conference opponents include Notre Dame (2020), Michigan (2021), Michigan State (2022, 2025), Iowa (2023), Illinois (2025), and Wisconsin (2026).

LSU AD Joe Alleva officially stepping down

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Despite plenty of success across the entire athletics department under his watch, LSU athletics director Joe Alleva is stepping down from his position. LSU confirmed the news, which had been broken earlier in the day by multiple outlets, with an announcement Wednesday evening. Alleva will transition to a new position with LSU as the special assistant to the president for donor relations. Alleva will continue in the role of AD until a permanent replacement can be found.

“We are grateful to Joe for his years of service and dedication to LSU,” said LSU President F. King Alexander said in a released statement. “Under his leadership, LSU Athletics has become even more nationally competitive and our student-athletes have reached new levels of academic achievement.”

“The eleven years Annie and I have been here in Baton Rouge have been some of the best in our lives,” Alleva said in his statement. “We have made lifelong friends and memories in Louisiana. This is truly a special place. It’s been an honor to serve LSU, and I am proud to continue to do that in a new role.”

Alleva was named the athletics director at LSU in July 2008 after previously holding the same position at Duke. Alleva has never been one to find himself not in the spotlight for various degrees of controversy, from his handling of the rape scandal with the Duke lacrosse program to his time at LSU trying to satisfy boosters. Alleva was criticized by some boosters for being reluctant to part ways with former LSU head coach Les Miles and make a move to hire Jimbo Fisher from Florida State. Instead, Alleva ended up hiring Ed Orgeron to be the head coach of the Tigers and Fisher is now handsomely paid to be the head coach at SEC West foe Texas A&M.

Alleva has always been one of the more vocal ADs in the SEC, never shy to share an opinion he had regardless of how popular it was with LSU fans or others around the SEC. Alleva led the charge in a bizarre feud with Florida over the handling of rescheduled games due to weather-related issues in recent years, as just one example. Within the LSU community more recently, Alleva came under fire for the handling of men’s basketball coach Will Wade, who was just reinstated by the program after his suspension related to his connection to the FBI recruiting scandal investigation.

LSU will undoubtedly be able to hire a top-notch AD to replace Alleva once this potential change becomes official, although how soon LSU will have a replacement lined up remains to be seen. As for Orgeron, his job should appear to be on pretty stable ground. Any time an AD is fired it is easy to wonder what happens to the football coach. Fortunately for Orgeron, he’s coming off a victory in the Fiesta Bowl and has LSU playing some winning football. It may not be SEC championship caliber football, but it is still some good quality football producing some notable wins along the way to secure any coach’s job. Unless the 2019 season is a complete disaster in Baton Rouge, Orgeron should feel more than comfortable in his current position regardless of who becomes the next AD at LSU.