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What do Urban Meyer and Jimbo Fisher have that Nick Saban doesn’t? A No. 1 overall NFL draft pick

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The NFL draft is coming up later this week, and a handful of college football coaches could potentially have their first player chosen first overall. Among those looking to join a short list of active head coaches with a top overall draft pick on their watch includes Penn State’s James Franklin, USC’s Clay Helton and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl.

There are just six active head coaches in FBS that have sent a player to the top of the NFL draft order, and only one of those coaches are currently at the same school they had a player go No. 1 overall. Stanford’s David Shaw was the head coach of the Cardinal when Andrew Luck went with the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft to the Indianapolis Colts. The other five coaches on the current list have since moved on to another job since they had a player go with the first pick in the draft. Three of those active coaches will have new jobs starting this fall.

Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M was the head coach of Florida State when quarterback Jameis Winston went first overall in 2015. More recently, Sonny Dykes was the head coach at Cal when Jared Goff went to the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. Dykes is now the head coach at SMU. And just last year, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin saw defensive end Myles Garrett go to the Cleveland Browns from Texas A&M with the first pick.

The two other coaches on the list of active coaches with a top draft pick are Urban Meyer of Ohio State and Mark Richt of Miami. Meyer was getting settled in at Florida after leaving Utah, but he was watching admirably as Utah quarterback Alex Smith went to the San Francisco 49ers with the first pick in 2005. Richt’s top draft pick from his time at Georgia was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was taken first overall by the Detroit Lions in 2009.

You may have noticed (as if the headline didn’t give it away) there are some notable head coaches in college football without a top overall draft pick. Despite all the success of Nick Saban at Alabama, including a factory of NFL talent sent through the draft in recent years, a top overall pick continues to elude Saban. Not that he is worried about such a thing of course. Alabama’s NFL draft output is far more impressive when you realize quantity and quality are not short on supply in Tuscaloosa. During Saban’s time at Alabama, the highest draft pick from the school has been running back Trent Richardson with the third overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft (Cleveland Browns). Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus also went third overall to the Buffalo Bills in 2011.

But again, Alabama may not have a first overall pick, but the Crimson Tide lead the pack when it comes to first-round draft picks.

Here is a list of all the active head coaches with one No. 1 overall NFL draft pick:

  • Kevin Sumlin, Arizona: Myles Garrett, DE (2017)
  • Sonny Dykes, SMU: Jared Goff, QB (2016)
  • Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: Jameis Winston, QB (2015)
  • David Shaw, Stanford: Andrew Luck, QB (2012)
  • Mark Richt, Miami: Matthew Stafford, QB (2009)
  • Urban Meyer, Ohio State: Alex Smith, QB (2005)

Wyoming’s Josh Allen is considered one of the favorites to be chosen with the first pick Thursday night in the NFL draft, which would add Craig Bohl to the list (and he gets some of the credit for No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Carson Wentz, too). Penn State running back Saquon Barkley would add James Franklin to the list. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is another trendy pick for the top pick, but his head coach, Jim Mora, is no longer an active coach at this time. Sam Darnold of USC would add Clay Helton to the list, and Lincoln Riley would make the jump into the conversation if Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield happens to go first overall.

We’ll find out Thursday night if a new coach joins the list or not.

Nick Saban issues statement on DJ Durkin’s involvement with Alabama

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You had to know this was coming.

Earlier this week, a report surfaced that former Maryland head coach DJ Durkin has been helping Alabama in what was described as a “consultant-like capacity” ahead of its playoff game against Oklahoma later this month.  Given Durkin’s controversial exit from College Park, the report raised more than a few eyebrows.

In light of the mini-firestorm that erupted, Alabama Friday night issued a statement attributed to Nick Saban in which the head football coach of the Crimson Tide addressed the level of Durkin’s involvement with his football program:

DJ Durkin is spending a few days with our staff in Tuscaloosa from a professional development standpoint. He has not been hired in any capacity at The University of Alabama. He is simply observing our operation as many other coaches have done through the years.

Durkin, two members of the training staff and then-head strength & conditioning coach Rick Court were placed on administrative leave in early August after a bombshell report alleged mishandling of the medical event that preceded the death of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair and detailed what was described as a toxic culture within the football program.  That report described the toxic culture under Durkin as one based on fear, intimidation, belittling, humiliation and embarrassment.  Players were, allegedly, routinely subjected to what was described as extreme verbal abuse that included, in part, obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity.

On Oct. 30, it was confirmed that Durkin had been reinstated and would remain as the Terrapins head coach.  The next day, and amidst an avalanche of criticism from football playersstudent groups and high-ranking government officials, U of M, College Park president Wallace Loh announced that Durkin had been dismissed as the Terrapins head football coach.

Everybody deserves a second chance, although one can debate the merits of giving that second chance so close to a coach’s first chance cut short, in part, by the death of one of his football players.  Personally, I don’t know what length of penance should be served, but it just feels like less than two months is not nearly enough.

Dan Mullen says Florida has offered UCF 2-for-1 future football series

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As we entered the stretch run of games in late November this season, there was a growing interest in the potential for Florida and UCF to meet in a New Year’s Six game. While that didn’t end up playing out with the CFP Selection Committee sending the Gators to the Peach Bowl and the Knights to the Fiesta Bowl, it appears the two in-state rivals may still have the opportunity to meet on the field down the road.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, UF head coach Dan Mullen appears to confirm that discussions have taken place between the two programs about a future series and the ball is seemingly in UCF AD Danny White’s hands as to whether things will move forward.

“I think we offered them a two-for-one like we do with most schools in their position, which is actually really a good deal,” Mullen said. “They have the opportunity to have an SEC school play at their place. It would potentially be a big deal for them. I know I’ve done it that way.

“(UF athletic director Scott Stricklin) brought it up to them. If they want to try and toughen their schedule, that would be great, a good opportunity for them if they want take it. It’s up to them.”

Knights fans will probably scoff at having to do a 2-for-1 in order to get the Gators on the schedule but it’s a pretty familiar scheduling philosophy for Florida, which just recently made a tweak to their own 2-for-1 series with fellow AAC school USF. Few programs have had their schedule picked apart quite like UCF and while fans may not like making two trips to Gainsville, getting the Gators to come to Orlando would be a significant boost to a future slate of non-conference games.

Reports: Ex-WKU head coach Mike Sanford Jr. to become new Utah State OC

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Mike Sanford Jr. is back in the Mountain West.

The former Western Kentucky head coach will be returning to the familiar confines of the conference as the new offensive coordinator for Utah State, according to reports from both ESPN and FootballScoop.

Sanford, who is indeed the son of the former head coach of UNLV and Indiana State with the same name, was recently let go by the Hilltoppers after just two seasons in charge and a 9-16 overall record.

Despite the quick hook in his last gig, the younger Sanford does have a fairly lengthy resume that was likely appealing to new Aggies head coach Gary Andersen. Prior to going to WKU, he was offensive coordinator/QB coach at Notre Dame and served in the same capacity at his alma mater of Boise State. Prior to that, he spent several years at Stanford in a variety of offensive positions.

Sanford will replace David Yost, who is following Matt Wells to Texas Tech as offensive coordinator after guiding USU to several top 10 statistical marks nationally in 2018.

Kentucky RB Benny Snell declares for 2019 NFL Draft, will still play in Citrus Bowl

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One of the best players in Kentucky football history is skipping out on his senior year… but not before one last game with his teammates.

In a lengthy video posted to his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wildcats running back Benny Snell confirmed that he was entering the 2019 NFL Draft. In what is (strange to say nowadays) a surprising decision though, he will remain at UK and play in the Citrus Bowl against Penn State.

Snell was once an unheralded recruit but quickly turned himself into one of the best running backs in the SEC, playing a big role in leading the Wildcats to three consecutive bowl games. The junior has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons and 3,754 yards on the ground in his career — a mark that he could boost in the bowl game to become the school’s all-time leading rusher.

As a result of his hard-running in key wins against Florida, Missouri and others, Snell was named a 2018 first-team All-SEC tailback this past season.