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Arizona AD addresses report that QB Khalil Tate submarined Ken Niumatalolo hiring

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On Tuesday, mixed into a profile of Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, was the explosive allegation that Tate intentionally sabotaged a reported hiring of Ken Niumatalolo because he and the rest of the Wildcats’ roster didn’t want to play for the Navy coach.

Multiple outlets reported Jan. 12 that Arizona was moving in to hire Niumatalolo, and that afternoon Tate fired off this since-deleted tweet:

“I didn’t come to Arizona to run the tripple (sic) option.” 

“I had to make sure I was heard, make sure the team was heard, because my teammates didn’t want to run the triple option, either,” Tate told Bleacher Report. “So the idea was to tweet it out, let it get traction, then delete it. I knew people reading it would say, ‘Why did he delete it?’ But that just magnifies it more.”

However much impact Tate’s tweet did or did not have on the search, Niumatalolo didn’t get the job. He pulled his name from the search on Jan. 14, and Arizona hired Kevin Sumlin later that day.

Appearing at Pac-12 media day on Wednesday, Arizona AD Dave Heeke addressed the report.

“Throughout the entire process, whether it was Khalil or other leaders in our football program, we were in conversations with them – about where we were going, keeping them informed, trying to understand what the best things are for the program,” he told the Arizona Daily Star.

This quote can be filed directly under “What else did you expect him to say?” category. Either Heeke admits that, yeah, Tate did undermine his hiring, or that he was prepared to move forward against his quarterback’s wishes.

“Khalil and I have a great relationship,” Heeke said. “Speculating and hypothesizing about the decision-making process, without any knowledge of it is, in my opinion, inappropriate and unfounded.”

E.J. Price, Kentucky OL with starting experience, leaves Wildcats

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Coming off one of the most successful seasons in recent memory in Lexington, Kentucky now has a hole to plug on the offensive line. Starting offensive tackle E.J. Price has reportedly left the football program. According to a report from Kentucky Sports Radio, Price will pursue other opportunities and a university spokesperson confirmed he is no longer with the program.

Price transferred to Kentucky from USC in 2017, but it was about a year ago Price suggested he was ready to leave Kentucky too. However, Price stuck with the Wildcats in 2018. He started 11 of 13 games for Kentucky as the Wildcats turned in a 10-win season capped with a victory in the Capital One Bowl against Penn State. It was Kentucky’s first 10-win season since 1977 and their first bowl victory since the 2008 season.

What’s next for Price remains to be seen. He will be required to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless he applies for a waiver and receives approval to be eligible in the fall.

As for Kentucky, the spring will open with a starting job up for grabs on the offensive line, although the return of Landon Young from a season-ending injury a year ago should help solidify the efforts up front.

Virginia Tech promotes ex-Hokie Justin Hamilton to safeties coach

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Virginia Tech has promoted director of player development Justin Hamilton to safeties coach, the program announced Monday.

“Justin has more than proven his mettle to our staff over the past year and has earned this opportunity to take the next step in his football career,” head Hokie Justin Fuente said in a statement. “We know how invested Justin is in the continued success of our program. He’s a bright and talented coach who has built a solid rapport with our players and football staff. Coach Foster and I are both excited to expand his responsibilities with our team.”

A former Hokie player himself, Hamilton spent the bulk of this decade coaching at smaller programs in the Commonwealth. He was UVA-Wise’s defensive coordinator from 2011-13 and coached linebackers at VMI from 2014-17.

Hamilton fills a void created by the departure of current safeties coach Tyrone Nix. Virginia Tech officially said goodbye to him on Monday by announcing his departure for Ole Miss, though Ole Miss has yet to say anything as of press time.

Derrick Nix is on staff as Ole Miss’ running backs coach.

Southern Miss reportedly hiring offensive coordinator away from Arkansas State

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Southern Miss reportedly has its offensive coordinator, and the hire is more notable for who it’s not than who it is.

After the fiasco that was Art Brilesinterview and interview postscript, Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson has decided to go with the decidedly uncontroversial choice of Arkansas State offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, according to FootballScoop. (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Faulkner spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, and prior to that spent four in a similar role at Middle Tennessee. Faulkner’s first stint as an offensive coordinator came in 2010 at Murray State, where his Racers offense became the first in FCS history to post a 500-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in the same game.

Faulkner takes over for Shannon Dawson, who was let go and subsequently became the tight ends coach at Houston.

Southern Miss finished No. 109 nationally in yards per play and No. 90 in scoring; the Golden Eagles went 6-5 but did not garner a bowl bid last season. Arkansas State, meanwhile, was No. 31 in yards per play and No. 55 in scoring.

WATCH: TCU RB Sewo Olonilua squats 705 lbs…. twice

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If you ever have the pleasure of standing in the presence of a high-level college or professional football player, you’ll be struck at just how big those dudes are. Obviously, they’re larger than the average male and especially so the closer you get to the ball — but if your only exposure to this small slice of the population is what you see on television, it’s easy to lose perspective at just how much larger they are than the remainder of the human population.

And any time I happen to be in the presence of a Power 5 or NFL player, one thought comes to my mind: “It’s someone’s job to move him in a direction he very much does not want to go.”

Case in point: TCU running back Sewo Olonilua. At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Olonilua is among the largest running backs in college football. And as the video below shows, he’s also among the strongest.

Now consider the following: Olonilau totaled 135 carries for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. This means that on 133 of his 135 carries — 98.5 percent of his attempts — someone (or someones) brought Olonilau — again, a 231-pound running back who can squat 705 pounds twice — to the ground or pushed him out of bounds.