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Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald sweeps B1G Coach of the Year honors

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What appeared to be a lost season for Northwestern took a sharp turn once the calendar flipped to October, earning Pat Fitzgerald some well-deserved postseason conference honors.

The Big Ten Tuesday announced a handful of individual awards, with Fitzgerald taking home both the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year.  The former award is voted on by the coaches in the league, the latter by the media that covers it.

Northwestern started the 2018 season with a 1-3 mark in September, including a 1-1 record in Big Ten action.  The Wildcats finished off the regular season by winning seven in a row in conference play, with their only loss in that stretch coming to third-ranked Notre Dame the first weekend of November.

Thanks to that closing stretch, Northwestern claimed its first-ever B1G West crown and a spot opposite Ohio State in the conference championship game this weekend.

The Big Ten also announced several individual honors, including Michigan linebacker Devin Bush being named as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Below are all of the individual honors doled out by the conference thus far (offensive awards will be announced Wednesday night). For the complete all-conference teams for both defense and special teams, click HERE.

Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award: Jake Wood, Wisconsin
Named for Minnesota’s Tony Dungy and Indiana’s Anthony Thompson

Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award: Antwaan Randle El, Indiana
Named for Michigan’s Gerald Ford and Iowa’s Nile Kinnick

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Named for Minnesota’s Bronko Nagurski and Michigan’s Charles Woodson

Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches vote): Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Named for Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler

Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote): Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Named for Wisconsin’s Dave McClain

Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Named for Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and Penn State’s Courtney Brown

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Named for Illinois’ Dick Butkus and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald

Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Amani Hooker, Iowa
Named for Ohio State’s Jack Tatum and Purdue’s Rod Woodson

Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Chase McLaughlin, Illinois
Named for Wisconsin’s Jim Bakken and Michigan State’s Morten Andersen

Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Will Hart, Michigan
Named for Illinois’ Dike Eddleman and Michigan State’s Brandon Fields

Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa
Named for Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers and Iowa’s Tim Dwight

Highest-rated signee in Texas A&M Class of 2018, Leon O’Neal, enters transfer portal

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For nearly the dozenth time this cycle, a Texas A&M football player is looking to leave College Station.  And this one was a huge 2018 get.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Leon O’Neal announced that he has decided to leave the Aggies and continue his playing career elsewhere.  No reason for his decision to enter the NCAA transfer database was given.

“I want to thank Texas A&M for everything,” the defensive back wrote. “Every game was one I’ll never forget. Win, lose or draw The 12th Man never lost [their] spirit. I want to thank my brothers for the love and support. Our bond will last forever.”

A four-star member of the Texas A&M football Class of 2018, O’Neal was the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Texas.  He was also the No. 8 safety in the country.  Most notably, O’Neal was the highest-rated member of the Aggies’ class that year.

O’Neal was part of Jimbo Fisher‘s first recruiting class after taking over as the A&M football head coach in December of 2017.

As a true freshman, O’Neal appeared in all 13 games for Texas A&M football.  Most of that action came on special teams.  This past season, the safety started eight of the 12 games in which he played.

Boise State DB DeAndre Pierce opts to enter transfer portal

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The playing career of one injury-plagued Boise State football player has come to an end.  At least, in Idaho it has.

According to 247Sports.com, DeAndre Pierce has made the decision to move on from the Boise State football program.  A BSU football official subsequently confirmed overnight that the defensive back’s name is listed in the NCAA transfer database.

No specific reason for the parting of ways was given.

If Pierce follows through and transfers away from Boise State football, he would do so as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play at another FBS school immediately in 2020.  If that’s the tack he chooses, of course.

Pierce was a three-star member of the Broncos’ Class of 2016.  The California native took a redshirt as a true freshman.  In 2017, Pierce started 11 of the 14 games in which he played.  He earned honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors for that season.

Then, the injuries hit.

The safety started four of the first five games in 2018 before a lacerated spleen sidelined him for the rest of the season.  In 2019, Pierce started five games… but missed the other nine because of various injuries.

When healthy, Pierce was credited with 144 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six passed defensed, one sack and one interception.

Even with legal case (mostly) settled, WR Joshua Moore’s status at Texas won’t be determined until closer to start of 2020 season

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Even as the off-field aspect was cleared up for one member of the Texas Longhorns football program, there’s still no clarity as it relates to him getting back onto the field.  And likely won’t be clarified for a few months.

In August, Joshua Moore was arrested on a charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon. Thursday, the wide receiver pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor weapons charge. Moore avoided jail time with the plea, with the Austin American-Statesman writing that “[t]he deferred adjudication agreement states [Judge Nancy] Hohengarten will not enter a guilty finding if Moore stays out of further legal trouble over the next year, completes 60 hours of community service and fulfills any counseling conditions the probation department recommends.”

Because of the off-field situation, Moore was not permitted to play in games for Texas Longhorns football last season. He was, though, allowed to practice with the rest of his UT teammates.

A Texas Longhorns football official stated after the player’s plea that a decision on whether Moore will be permitted to play in games in 2020 won’t be determined until closer to the season kicking off.

A four-star 2018 signee, Moore played in the first six games as a true freshman before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. In that half-season of work, the 6-1, 180-pound receiver totaled 53 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.

If he’s cleared to play in games — the odds are very much in his favor, provided he doesn’t violate the terms of his plea agreement — Moore is expected to take on a bigger role in the Texas Longhorns football passing game in 2020.

New Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell retains four of Mel Tucker’s assistants

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Karl Dorrell‘s first Colorado football coaching staff will have a decidedly Mel Tucker feel to it.

Feb. 12, Tucker left Colorado football to take over as the head coach at Michigan State.  Eleven days later, Dorrell was the surprise hire as Tucker’s replacement.  Dorrell’s first hirings four days his official hiring will actually be retentions as the program announced that four of Tucker’s former assistants will remain as part of the new coaching staff.

Those four are:

  • Darrin Chiaverini (wide receivers coach/assistant head coach under Tucker)
  • Darian Hagan (running backs coach)
  • Brian Michalowski (outside linebackers)
  • Tyson Summers (defensive coordinator/safeties)

According to the release from Colorado football, the holdovers’ “exact responsibilities will be determined once the remaining six assistant positions are filled, which Dorrell hopes to conclude sometime early next week.” It’s believed that Chiaverini will serve as Dorrell’s offensive coordinator, although, obviously, that hasn’t yet been confirmed.

“It’s always important if you can maintain some continuity during a coaching change,” the new Colorado football head coach said in a statement. “I’ve been around enough college and professional teams where doing so offers some stability. I had great conversations with all four and while I haven’t determined their exact roles as of yet, I am excited that we share the same goals and vision for the program. I am excited about all four and am looking forward to working with them.”

Both Chiaverini and Hagans have been a part of the Colorado football program for the past four seasons.  Both Summers and Michalowski were in their first years in Boulder.

Prior to his departure for East Lansing, Tucker had just completed his first season in Boulder, going 5-7.  Since a 10-4 2016 season, the Buffaloes have gone 5-7 each of the past three seasons.  That 2016 season is the program’s only winning record since 2005.