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Illinois extends Lovie Smith

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Lovie Smith is just 9-27 in three seasons as the head coach at Illinois. The Illini concluded a 4-8 season with a 24-16 loss to No. 20 Northwestern on Saturday, just a week after falling 63-0 to Iowa. Smith is just 4-23 in Big Ten play, and 2-22 against everyone in the conference not named Rutgers.

Given those figures, one would expect that Illinois might announced today it had fired Smith.

Instead, Illinois did the opposite. The Illini have announced a 2-year contract extension for its head coach, keeping him employed through the 2023 season.

In a lengthy statement by AD Josh Whitman, he explained the reasons he decided to double down on the Smith tenure:

  • We doubled our win total from the 2017 campaign and compiled two more Big Ten wins than in the prior year.  In addition, we were minutes away from an upset against South Florida that could have propelled our season in an entirely different direction and, just yesterday, we had several chances to beat a good Northwestern team before losing a one-score game. 

  • Our offense was one of the nation’s most improved units, making significant advancements in national rankings for total yards and scoring per game.

  • We emerged as one of the most dynamic running attacks in football, with more than 240 yards rushing per game, an improvement of almost 140 yards from the previous season.  We were among the nation’s leaders in explosive runs, and running back Reggie Corbin recorded the first 1,000-yard season by an Illini runner in the last eight years.

  • For the second consecutive season, we fielded one of the youngest teams in college football, with only nine seniors and 24 total upperclassmen, both the fewest in the nation. 

  • On the other end of the spectrum, underclassmen accounted for nearly 80% of the roster and 60% of the total starting lineup.  In the last two seasons, we have played 41 true freshmen who, in total, have accounted for 118 starts – numbers unprecedented in our program’s history.

  • More than 30 starters and significant contributors are expected to return in 2019.

  • The team was riddled with injuries during the 2018 season.  Players missed a total of 114 games due to injury, including more than 65 combined games by projected starters.

  • In terms of our roster, this staff has successfully attracted more top tier talent to Champaign than we have seen in a decade, with several players in each class choosing Illinois over tradition-rich Power 5 programs.

  • In July 2019, we will open the doors on the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center, the new 110,000-square-foot home of the Illinois football program.  This building, which will be among the finest facilities of its kind anywhere in the country, represents the most sweeping upgrades to player and staff spaces in generations.

“The University of Illinois is an incredible place to coach and teach,” Smith said. “We love living here in Champaign-Urbana and representing our state’s flagship institution. We will continue working every day as we move our football program forward. Our new football performance center, the Smith Football Center, which will be completed next summer, will be among the best in the nation. I want to thank Josh Whitman and Chancellor Robert Jones for continuing to believe in what we are working to accomplish. Those of us around the program see the progress being made each and every day and we expect to be competing for championships very soon. Our incredible fans and everyone on our campus deserve nothing less.”

Contract figures for Smith’s extension were not disclosed. Smith made $5 million in 2018 according to the USA Today coaching salary database, making him the 13th highest-paid coach in college football.

Jeremy Pruitt’s shuffled Tennessee staff includes Derrick Ansley as DC

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Jeremy Pruitt‘s coaching staff up on Rocky Top will have a decidedly different look to it when the 2019 season kicks off.

One of the most noteworthy staff announcements Friday afternoon involved Derrick Ansley, who was hired last week as the replacement for dismissed cornerbacks coach Terry Fair.  Not only will Ansley serve as Tennessee’s defensive backs coach, but he’ll also be the Vols’ defensive coordinator.  Not only that, but Ansley has also been designated as UT’s defensive playcaller, the duties of which were held by Pruitt in his first season as head coach in 2018.

One of the two co-defensive coordinators from a year ago, Chris Rumph, will retain that title as well as his duties as outside linebackers coach.  The other co-coordinator on that side of the ball, Kevin Sherrer, will lose that particular designation but remain on as inside linebackers coach.  Additionally, he’ll now serve as special teams coordinator.

Pruitt’s former special teams coordinator, Charles Kelly, left for a job at Alabama earlier this offseason.  Kelly was also UT’s safeties coach, a job that will be rolled into Ansley’s all-encompassing defensive backs duties.

On the other side of the ball, Jim Chaney, as previously reported, will be Pruitt’s new offensive coordinator, but he won’t be in charge of any position groups as Pruitt will now employ a total of six offensive assistants.

Tee Martin, whose hiring as an unspecified offensive assistant was also previously announced, will serve as wide receivers coach.  The Vols’ former assistant at that position, David Johnson, will move to running backs while the former assistant manning that position, Chris Weinke, moves to quarterbacks.

UT’s quarterbacks were previously coached by Tyson Helton, the offensive coordinator who left Knoxville in late November to become the head coach at Western Kentucky.

There are only two offensive assistants who remain in the same jobs as a year ago — Will Friend (offensive line) and Brian Neidermeyer (tight ends).

Florida State parts ways with offensive line coach Greg Frey

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A self-created hole has suddenly, but not unexpectedly, opened up on Willie Taggart‘s Florida State coaching staff.

In a statement sent out by the university, Taggart announced that he has decided to part ways with one of his assistants, Greg Frey.  Frey, who was a member of FSU’s 1993 national championship team, spent this past season, his first, as the Seminoles’ offensive line coach while also holding the title of run-game coordinator.

Below is the head coach’s statement, in its entirety:

This morning I informed Greg Frey that we are moving in a different direction with our offensive line coaching position. I appreciate the hard work and expertise Greg brought to our program and understand how important it was for him that FSU be successful. I wish Greg and his family the best as he continues his coaching career. We are working to fill this position quickly.

This past season, FSU’s line surrendered 36 sacks, a total that was 12th in the ACC and tied for 16th-worst nationally.  Even worse, the Seminoles’ 2.8 yards per rushing attempt was 129th out of 130 teams at the FBS level.

Frey came to Tallahassee after spending one season as the run-game coordinator/offensive tackles coach/tight ends coach at Michigan.  Prior to that, he was the line coach at Indiana for six seasons.

Penn State reportedly losing special teams coordinator to NFL

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Those of you who had Penn State in the “Next Power Five Program to Lose an Assistant to the NFL” pool, collect your winnings.

While nothing is official from his new employer, 247Sports.com has reported Friday morning that Penn State assistant Phil Galiano is leaving James Franklin‘s coaching staff to pursue an opportunity in the NFL.  The specific NFL club for which Galiano is leaving wasn’t divulged.

Penn State subsequently confirmed Galiano’s departure from the program.

“We are excited for Phil and his family. This is a tremendous opportunity for Phil to return to the NFL,” the statement from the school read. “We are very appreciative of Phil and everything he has done for our program over the last two years. We wish him nothing but success moving forward.”

Galiano has been with the Nittany Lions for two seasons, first as a defensive consultant in 2017 and then as special teams coordinator and assistant defensive line coach this past year.  Prior to that, he was the special teams coordinator at both Miami (2016) and Rutgers (2015).

From 2012-13, Galiano was an assistant special teams coach on Greg Schiano‘s Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff.

Galiano would be the second change to Franklin’s staff this offseason.  Wide receivers coach David Corley was dismissed in early January and replaced a couple of weeks later by Gerad Parker.

Judge signs arrest warrant for Nebraska RB Maurice Washington

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The next step in Maurice Washington‘s legal odyssey has been taken.

Thursday, the Omaha World-Herald reported, a Santa Clara County (Calif.) judge signed a warrant filed earlier in the week that seeks the arrest of the Nebraska running back for alleged violation of that state’s revenge-porn law.  It’s alleged that Washington sent a sexually-explicit 10-second video, recorded two years prior by someone other than Washington, involving a then-15-year-old female and two other boys, neither of whom was Washington, to that same female in early March of 2016.  The female has claimed she is being sexually assaulted in the video, which shows the teenager performing oral sex on one boy while another masturbates.

Washington has already been charged with a felony count of possessing a video or photograph of a person under 18 who is engaging in or simulating sexual conduct and a misdemeanor count of posting a video or photograph of a person engaging in or simulating sexual conduct without consent, leading to the person suffering emotional distress.  Washington had dated the alleged victim prior to the video being recorded.

With the arrest warrant signed, Washington is now expected to turn himself in to California authorities at some point in the not-too-distant future.

From the World-Herald:

Washington’s attorney, John Ball, released a statement Thursday saying Washington will “continue to move forward with a self-surrender” and will voluntarily appear in court in California. Ball said a time frame for that first court appearance is still to be determined.

“We expected this, and were prepared for it,” Ball said. “… Mr. Washington will remain fully cooperative in this matter.

While the university and the NU football program were aware that authorities in California as well as the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office were actively seeking to speak to Washington, and were made aware of some type of situation involving the player in mid-September of last year, they have steadfastly maintained that they were not privy to the details of the situation until Feb. 8 of this year.

After some academic uncertainty throughout the offseason, Washington was cleared to join the Cornhuskers football team in early August of last year.  As a true freshman, and despite the off-field cloud hanging over him from the start of the season, Washington rushed for 455 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that were both good for third on the team.  His 24 receptions were also third-best, while his 221 receiving yards were fourth.