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Report: Jay Hopson pursued recruit accused of raping two women at knife point without disclosing allegations to Southern Miss

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Could we see yet another head coaching change at the FBS level?  Based on the last 72 hours or so in Hattiesburg, it certainly seems as if it’s a possibility.

Earlier this week, Jay Hopson interviewed disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles for the offensive coordinator vacancy at Southern Miss. Wednesday, the university, which was not initially aware of the head coach’s interview with Briles, announced in a statement that Briles was informed he is no longer a candidate for a position with the football program; shortly thereafter, Hopson released a statement that very publicly questioned his employer’s decision, writing in part that Briles “is a man who deserves a second chance” as he “personally… committed no crime.”

On Thursday, a report from The Athletic‘s Nicole Auerbach further cast both the coach and the university in a negative light.

According to Auerbach, Hopson had signed junior college transfer Charles West as part of USM’s 2019 recruiting class.  The problem?  West was accused of raping two women at knifepoint in 2015 in two separate incidents.  A potentially bigger problem for Hopson?  As was the case with the Briles interview, the head coach, again per Auerbach, never informed the university of West’s past.

West was set to enroll in classes at the university Jan. 24 of this year before “someone in the athletic department found the Dallas Morning News article detailing the sexual assault cases that West’s background was brought to light,” Auerbach wrote. “Then West’s application was denied by the admissions office,” she added.

While initially accused of rape, West, 18 years old at the time of the attacks, subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after the case fell apart as both alleged victims were “having a hard time testifying in front of [their] attacker” and declined to take the witness stand.  West was one of the highest-rated members of BYU’s 2015 recruiting class before the football independent parted ways with the player as a result of the off-field issues; in between the first assault in early 2015 and the parting of ways, West was shot in the left arm while playing a game of pickup basketball at his former Texas middle school in July of that year.

In the assault cases, West reached plea deals in July of 2016 and was sentenced to four years of deferred adjudication probation.  If he violates probation at any point between then and July of 2020, he would be facing 20 years in prison on each count.

In addition to the West situation, Auerbach also detailed in her exceptional piece “Hopson’s previous tenure as a head coach at Alcorn State [that] included recruiting a registered sex offender and a player who saw game action while awaiting rape charges.” In the latter case, Hopson added a player to his Alcorn State roster who was connected to the Vanderbilt rape scandal, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, in 2013, although the university quickly did an about-face after the addition brought significant scrutiny to the university.

West, who eventually returned to Alcorn State as a player after Hopson left for Southern Miss, was sentenced to 10 years of probation in May of 2018 as he was never accused of actually raping the victim but rather standing by as it happened.

Auerbach also detailed Hopson taking in another player with a sketchy past after the McKenzie imbroglio:

Jamil Cooks had enrolled at Alcorn State after he was dismissed from the Air Force Academy. Midway through the 2014 season, ABC News reported that Cooks had to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after a court-martial panel convicted him of abusive sexual contact in 2013. Cooks pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering women’s dorm rooms at Air Force the week prior to the conviction.

Despite his status as a sex offender, there was no rule that prevented Cooks from playing at another university. His 11 sacks led the Braves in 2014, and his 14 tackles for loss were second on the team.

Despite repeated requests, Southern Miss officials have thus far to comment publicly on Auerbach’s report.

Penn State replaces special teams coordinator lost to NFL

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A week after losing his special teams boss to the NFL, James Franklin has found a replacement.

Penn State confirmed Thursday that Joe Lorig has been hired as Franklin’s new special teams coordinator.  Lorig will also serve as an unspecified defensive assistant as part of Franklin’s Nittany Lions coaching staff.

The move to hire Lorig comes after Phil Galiano, who spent two years with the Nittany Lions, left earlier this month for a job in the NFL.

“We are looking forward to having Joe join our staff,” a statement from Franklin began. “We conducted a comprehensive study of special teams coordinators across the country to find the best fit for our staff and identified Joe as the best candidate. His special teams units have a history of being among the best in the country and we know he can continue that success here. I have also known Joe for many years, dating back to when we worked together at Idaho State under Larry Lewis.”

“I am extremely excited to join the staff at Penn State University and begin working with such a storied program,” Lorig said. “Penn State is a program with outstanding players, coaches and tradition. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Franklin and his entire coaching staff. My wife, three children and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to join the Nittany Lion family, and we look forward to helping Penn State win championships!”

The past three seasons, Lorig was the special teams coordinator at Memphis.  He also served as the outside linebackers coach for the Tigers.

Ex-Texas All-American takes defensive line job at UTSA

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Rod Wright is officially returning to the state that helped launch his coaching career.

As had been speculated on over the last few days, UT-San Antonio has announced that Wright has been hired by Frank Wilson as the head coach’s new defensive line coach.  Wright played his college football for the Texas Longhorns in the mid-aughts, earning All-American and All-Big 12 honors as a defensive lineman during his time in Austin.

“We are excited to announce Rod Wright as our new defensive line coach,” Wilson said in a statement. “He was an outstanding collegiate player and he has done an exceptional job mentoring defensive linemen everywhere he’s coached. We think he’s one of the best young coaches in the country and he will be a great addition to our staff.”

This past season, Wright served as the line coach at East Carolina, his first on-field role at the FBS level.  Prior to that, he spent four seasons at FCS Sam Houston State.

Wright began his coaching career at his alma mater, working as a student assistant/defensive special assistant for three years at UT beginning in 2011.

Nation’s top 2017 recruit announces transfer to Miami

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The transfer train has made yet another stop in South Florida, and this one brought a passenger with a helluva high school pedigree with not a lot to show for yet on his college résumé.

In mid-December, it was reported that Jaelan Phillips would be transferring from UCLA.  A little over two months later, Phillips announced on Twitter that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Miami.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Phillips will likely have to sit out the 2019 season.  He would then have two years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.

Phillips was the No. 1-rated recruit in the entire country for the Class of 2017 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Despite that lofty ranking, although in large part due to injury, his collegiate career thus far hasn’t amounted to much.

As a true freshman, Phillips started four of the seven games in which he played. Despite missing nearly half the season because of an ankle injury, he finished fourth on the Bruins in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with 3.5. Battling additional injuries in 2018, including concussions, Phillips played in just four games this past season.

Phillips would be at least the seventh FBS player — and sixth from a Power Five program — to transfer to Miami since Manny Diaz took over at The U, joining USC safety Bubba Bolden (HERE), Virginia Tech defensive end Trevon Hill (HERE), Auburn running back Asa Martin (HERE), Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell (HERE), Buffalo wide receiver K.J. Osborn (HERE) as well as Phillips’ former UCLA teammate, defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (HERE).

Clemson 4-star LB signee suffers knee injury in basketball game

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When a clip of Trevor Lawrence getting into a scuffle during an intramural basketball game went viral earlier this week, a chorus of takes screamed into the void asking what a college football player was doing playing basketball in the first place.

Dabo Swinney has always defended his players’ intramural endeavors, reasoning that unpaid college students should not be treated as employees. “They’re just having fun and enjoying being college people and doing what college kids do,” he said.

Swinney has defended this even in light of Jordan Williams, a potential starter at defensive tackle, suffering a leg injury during an intramural basketball game that will keep him out of a crucial spring for his development.

And now the basketball injury bug has struck another Clemson player.

Bryson Constantin, a 4-star linebacker signee in Clemson’s 2019 class, suffered a knee injury while playing for Baton Rouge’s University Lab High School basketball team last week — and he believes it could be serious.

“At a basketball game last week, I came down from an alley and I felt a pop in my knee,” Constantin told TigerNet. “I went to the ER that night to make sure it wasn’t like a knee cap or anything like that. They figured out it was most likely my ACL. I went for an MRI two days ago but I had too much blood in my knee to do an MRI, so they drained all the blood out and they were like, the only way you’d have this much blood in your knee is if you did tear your ACL. I go back for an MRI this weekend or Monday, so I’ll know for sure what it is coming up soon.”

While active college players playing intramural basketball is a (somewhat) controversial practice, incoming signees playing for their high school teams is not. Many a college coach has waxed poetically about falling in love with a player’s gridiron potential while watching him compete on the hardwood.

Still, it’s a cruel bit of irony: the only place the nation’s best football team seems to suffer any sort of defeat is on the basketball court.