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Cocktail time: No. 7 Georgia thumps No. 9 Florida to make SEC East statement

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No. 7 Georgia heard the question for two weeks: is the team capable of making another run at the SEC title? On Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs went a long ways to answering in the affirmative.

Kirby Smart’s squad got back to clicking on offense and forcing turnovers on defense as the Dawgs beat rival No. 9 Florida 36-17 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and secured their status as East Division front-runner in the process.

In perhaps the most encouraging part of the game for many fans in red and black, Jake Fromm looked much more like the signal-caller who took his team to the final game of the season last year as a true freshman. The quarterback threw for 240 yards but saved his best passes for the end zone, tossing a trio of beautiful touchdowns while not turning the ball over. Jeremiah Holloman was one of the breakout stars in the game for the Georgia receiving corps, scoring twice to finish with four catches and 48 yards while leaving a few nightmares for Gators defensive backs to get over once they watch the tape next week. Tight end Isaac Nauta was also a big part of the passing game with 73 yards and several huge first downs.

While the Bulldogs had their struggles at times running the ball — including getting stuffed five times three yards away from the goal line — the two lead tailbacks still got their numbers in the end. Elijah Holyfield finished with 71 on the ground while D’Andre Swift busted out for 104 yards and iced the victory with a fourth quarter touchdown that saw him burst through the line and out run everybody on the field.

It wasn’t all bad for Florida as the team did lead in one category: unique penalties. They had one player flagged for a delay of game for not wearing pads covering his knees (which extended a UGA scoring drive) and head coach Dan Mullen wound up with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as well.

Though the final margin was rough, the Gators did have some chances but continually had to play from behind in the game thanks to turnovers. Tailback Jordan Scarlett (56 yards rushing) fumbled early in the first half and QB Feleipe Franks threw an interception on the very next series. It was all together a bit of a reversion to the mean for the UF offense overall as there was little consistency throughout the game and Franks seemed to get hit on every drop back. It was impressive that he even managed to score twice (one passing, one rushing) but that was otherwise it as the entire unit got stuck in neutral.

When all was said and done from Jacksonville though, it was Georgia that can finally claim (improbably) just their second winning streak in the series in the past two decades. While the Bulldogs still have to play at Kentucky and against Auburn, the victory should all but lock up another division title and trip to Atlanta in the process.

Whether it will all be enough when they face Alabama or LSU in December is a separate issue entirely but, at least this weekend, the Dawgs took a step in the right direction and lived up to their preseason billing by moving toward another title in the SEC East.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.

Tulane officially adds Oklahoma State transfer LB Kevin Henry

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One of the nearly dozen Oklahoma State football players who entered the transfer portal this cycle has found a new collegiate home.

Thursday, Tulane announced that Kevin Henry has officially been added to the program’s roster.  As the linebacker left the Oklahoma State football team as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play for the AAC team immediately in 2020.

The upcoming season will serve as Henry’s final year of eligibility.  Henry had previously been awarded a sixth season from the NCAA after taking a redshirt as a true freshman and then missing all but one game of 2017 because of a torn ACL.

A three-star member of the Oklahoma State football Class of 2015, Henry was rated as the No. 25 safety in the country.  He was also the No. 20 player regardless of position in the state of Louisiana.  Only one signee on the defensive side of the ball in OSU’s class that year, defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, was rated higher than Henry.

Daniels, incidentally, ultimately finished up his collegiate playing career at Nebraska after transferring to the Cornhuskers in December of 2018.

During his time in Stillwater, Henry played in a total of 36 games, including a dozen appearances this past season.  He started one of those three-dozen games, Oklahoma State football’s Liberty Bowl win over Missouri following the 2018 regular season.

In those appearances, Daniels was credited with 51 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed.

Texas A&M officially hires assistant who was at Florida State for a month

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Texas A&M football has officially pilfered Mike Norvell‘s first Florida State coaching staff.

Dec. 28, Norvell announced that he was bringing TJ Rushing along with him from Memphis.  Nearly a month later, and after reports had it headed in that direction for the last week or so, A&M confirmed that Jimbo Fisher has hired Rushing as defensive backs coach.

Rushing had not officially signed a contract at FSU. As a result, he will not owe that school any type of buyout.

“TJ has an outstanding track record of playing, teaching and developing quality defensive backs,” the Texas A&M football head coach said in a statement. “He is a tireless worker, an outstanding recruiter and he coaches with a lot of fire and enthusiasm. He will make a great addition to our coaching staff.”

The past two seasons, Rushing, who played his college football at Stanford, was Norvell’s defensive backs coach at Memphis. He was also the Tigers’ passing-game coordinator.

From 2016-17, he was the defensive backs coach at Arizona State.  He just missed working with Norvell on that staff as well.

Rushing started his coaching career as a graduate assistant (2012) and defensive quality control coach (2013) at his alma mater. His first on-field job came as cornerbacks coach at Northern Arizona in 2014.  In 2015, he was a defensive assistant at Stanford.

Rushing is the second assistant Fisher has added to his coaching staff in as many days.  Yesterday, Tyler Santucci was hired by A&M as linebackers coach.  Santucci had spent the 2019 season in the same job at Wake Forest.

Fisher still has one hole on his staff to fill.  Earlier this month, tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley took a job with Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. In addition to tight ends coach, Finley will also be passing-game coordinator.