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Jalen Hurts airs frustrations with coaching staff over handling of QB competition

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Although Nick Saban said at SEC media days it was the media who created his quarterback competition, it was not the media who chose to pull Jalen Hurts — to that point 26-2 as a starter — at halftime of the national championship in favor of true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. It was Saban who made that decision, his hand forced by the play on the field.

As we know, Hurts hit just 3-of-8 passes for 21 yards over the first two frames as the Tide carried a 13-0 deficit to Georgia into the locker room on that January night. Tagovailoa took over from there and led Alabama back for a 26-23 overtime win, completing 14 of his 24 throws for 166 yards with three scores and one pick, including the 41-yard knockout punch to Devonta Smith to win the game.

Ever since then, the the biggest quarterback battle of Saban’s 12-year tenure in Tuscaloosa has been on. And according to the incumbent, the die has been cast by the coaching staff.

“This whole spring ever since the game, (coaches) kind of wanted to let it play out and I guess didn’t think it was a thing to let it die down like there wasn’t something there,” Hurts said Saturday. “But that’s always been the elephant in the room. For me, no one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt.

“No one asked me what was on my mind. No one asked me how I felt about the things that were going on. Nobody asked me what my future held. That’s that. So now it’s like when we try to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kind of late, it’s too late, the narrative has already been created.”

Make no mistake: both Hurts and Tagovailoa want to play, and neither will be happy in not being the guy.

Tagovailoa revealed in March that he felt like transferring if he didn’t play in Alabama’s championship win over Georgia, asking his father if his USC offer was still on the table.

“Even throughout my football season, I wasn’t the starter,” Tagovailoa said at the time. “I wanted to leave the school. So I told myself if I didn’t play in the last game, which was the national championship game, I would transfer out. If I gave in, I don’t think I would have seen the end blessing of where I am now.”

The entire Tagovailoa family has moved from Hawaii to Alabama, and Tua’s younger brother, Taulia Tagovailoa, plays at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Ala., and is a 4-star member of Alabama’s 2019 class. The elder Tagovailoa son later clarified his comments as his feelings at the time, but it’s impossible to know how his reflection in March was clouded by the fact that he did indeed play against Georgia.

Hurts’s father, Averion Hurts, indicated in April his son could transfer if he doesn’t win the starting job. Here’s what the elder Hurts said to Bleacher Report this spring:

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.

So we know both quarterbacks, or at least their camps, have publicly entertained the thought of transferring if they don’t win the starting job. And only one of them will.

Saban said earlier this summer that Hurts told him the junior quarterback will graduate in December. “Jalen actually came to me and said … ‘I am going to be here. I am going to be here, I came here to get an education. I graduate in December, and I’m going to be here.’”

Given the grievances Hurts aired Saturday, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility at all that Hurts plays Alabama’s 2018 season as the backup and plays elsewhere in 2019 as a graduate transfer. In fact, that seems directly inside the realm of possibility at this moment.

 

Lincoln Riley’s brother named App State running backs coach

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Garrett Riley is a bright, accomplished coach in his own right, but until he wins back-to-back Heismans with two different quarterbacks (or, at least becomes a head coach in his own right), he’s going to be known as his big brother’s little brother. With that in mind: Lincoln Riley’s brother has been announced as Appalachian State’s new running backs coach.

“I’m excited to be part such a traditionally successful program,” Riley said in a statement. “I’m humble and grateful to have the opportunity to be around this organization and work with Coach Drink and the rest of the staff that I’ve known about for several years. Look forward to continuing the great success that Appalachian State’s had, and I can’t wait to start working with the players.”

Garrett followed Lincoln to Texas Tech and East Carolina before branching out on his own at Kansas, where he joined the staff as an offensive analyst in 2016 and was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2017 and tight ends/fullbacks coach in 2018.

Appalachian State has not announced an offensive coordinator under new head coach Eli Drinkwitz — and certainly the head coach, a former offensive coordinator himself, will have tremendous sway on his favored side of the ball initially — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Riley become the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator in 2020 or 2021. “We’re looking to be cutting edge on offense, and we expect him to continue to push that,” Drinkwitz said Friday. “His experience coaching in North Carolina will also benefit our program.”

Report: Dan Lanning receives nod as Georgia’s next defensive coordinator

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When Mel Tucker left Georgia to be the head coach at Colorado, it was clear Kirby Smart‘s next defensive coordinator was already on his staff. It would either be Glenn Schumann or Dan Lanning, two 30-something whiz kids who split linebacker duties for the Bulldogs (Schumann inside, Lanning outside).

We got a window into Smart’s thinking during the Sugar Bowl, when Lanning was chosen to lead the defensive huddles and represent the defense in press conference setting. Georgia lost that game to Texas, but it was apparently enough for Smart to know his original hunch was correct as Seth Emerson reported Friday for The Athletic that Lanning will be Georgia’s next defensive coordinator.

While Schumann did not win the rose, he’s not going home (or, in this case, staying put) empty handed. According to Emerson, Schumann will be Georgia’s co-defensive coordinator, and both will net massive raises. After both made $325,000 in 2018, Lanning will make $750,000 in 2019 while Schumann will earn $550,000. The 2018 season was Lanning’s first at Georgia, while Schumann followed Smart over from Alabama. Lanning spent 2016-17 as the inside linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Memphis. The 32-year-old was a high school assistant coach in Missouri as recently as 2010.

All eight returning assistants will net raises, per Emerson, but the overall staff pool will go down after losing Tucker’s $1.5 million salary. (Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and his $950,000 salary also left for Tennessee, but previously-announced promotion James Coley will also make $950,000, a $100,000 increase from 2018.)

Coley, Lanning and Schumann aren’t the only coaches being rewarded for sticking around — in title as well as salary. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman will be Smart’s new associate head coach, running backs coach Dell McGee will be the running game coordinator and wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton will be the passing game coordinator.

Seven new assistants highlight Alabama’s 2019 coaching staff

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It’s become an annual thing at this point: Nick Saban‘s assistants, ready to see the sun again after life on Planet Saban, hop aboard the first spaceship that flies by, so Alabama simply reloads and hires essentially a new staff.

While many of the hires had trickled out over the past six weeks or so, Alabama on Friday announced Saban’s full 2019 on-field coaching staff:

Steve Sarkisian — Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Charles Huff — Associate head coach/running backs
Holmon Wiggins — Wide receivers
Kyle Flood — Offensive line
Jeff Banks — Tight ends/special teams coordinator

Pete Golding — Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Brian Baker — Associate head coach/defensive line
Charles Kelly — Associate defensive coordinator/safeties
Sal Sunseri — Outside linebackers
Karl Scott — Cornerbacks

“We are excited to be able to assemble such a talented group of coaches to develop our players both on and off the field,” Saban said. “These coaches have a great mix of energy, enthusiasm and experience that will be a tremendous asset to our program. They are all excellent teachers of the game and fantastic recruiters who bring a wealth of experience to our staff.”

Only Golding, Banks and Scott were on Alabama’s staff for the title game beat down the Tide suffered at Clemson’s hand last month.

Sarkisian, of course, called plays for Alabama’s first title game loss to Clemson before leaving to become the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, where he was scapegoated for the club’s failure to make the playoffs last season. Flood, the former Rutgers head coach, was Atlanta’s assistant offensive line coach for the past two seasons. He was also under a show-cause that did not expire until September.

Huff and Baker worked together at Mississippi State, while Sunseri was the defensive line coach at Florida and Wiggins the wideouts coach at Virginia Tech. Kelly spent 2018 as the safeties coach and special teams coordinator at Tennessee but is best remembered for his run as the defensive coordinator at Florida State.

Not among the names announced Friday: Butch Jones. The former Tennessee head coach spent 2018 as an analyst for Saban but did not get promoted to the varsity for 2019.

BYU taps Texas State’s Eric Mateos as new OL coach

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Kalani Sitake‘s coaching staff is whole again.

In mid-January, Troy announced that it had hired BYU offensive line coach Ryan Pugh as the Sun Belt Conference program’s offensive coordinator.  A month later, Sitake filled that hole by announcing the hiring of Eric Mateos as the Cougars’ new line coach.

Mateos has a connection to Sitake’s BYU staff as he worked in 2016 as an offensive line graduate assistant under Jeff Grimes, who is now the Cougars’ offensive coordinator.  That same season, Mateos was promoted to tight ends coach following the dismissal of Les Miles as head coach.

“Eric is a great person with quality character that will fit in phenomenally with our players and staff,” Grimes said in a statement. “He will take our young group a step further and is a master at building confidence and group cohesiveness. I know our players will really respond well to him.”

The past two seasons, Mateos has worked at Texas State as the Bobcats’ line coach.