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Pac-12 coaches on hot seat: USC’s Clay Helton feeling the heat more than anybody

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CFTalk has been taking a detailed look at hot seats across college football this offseason and one early theme in examining the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten coaches so far is there are, well, not a ton of hot seats out there.

A lot of this has to do with schools already making moves and replacing coaches in the past two seasons and others playing their way out of trouble with some big wins. When one heads out West to the Pac-12 however, well, the league might just be home to perhaps the hottest seat in the nation.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the various stages of heat for Pac-12 coaches near and far:

White hot heat

Clay Helton (USC)

To put Helton’s hot seat in perspective, some of the school’s big name alumni are already talking about his replacement being Urban Meyer in 2020. It was surprising that he was brought back in the first place after failing to make a bowl game in 2018 but a reportedly hefty buyout appeared to be a contributing factor in his return. Helton did lead the Trojans to a Rose Bowl win and another New Year’s Six bowl game during his tenure but  faces a ton of pressure to return the program to prominence immediately in 2019. This is a demanding job to be sure but Helton hasn’t met expectations recently and knows what is on the line this season as a result.

The new guy

Mel Tucker (Colorado)

Lukewarm 

Kevin Sumlin (Arizona)

Sumlin’s debut with the Wildcats couldn’t have gone much worse, with expectations of contending in the Pac-12 South and Khalil Tate making a run for the Heisman all but over by the end of September. The school won’t hit eject on his tenure this early but 2019 could be narrative-defining for Sumlin in Tucson.

Herm Edwards (Arizona State)

Edwards was a bizarre hire at the time and remains so today even if he’s made the Sun Devils fascinating to follow with a fun quote seemingly every day. He was brought in to improve on what Todd Graham accomplished though and 7-6 (5-4) isn’t exactly doing that in a weak division. It’s shaping up to be a big Year 2 in Tempe that could shape the direction of the rest of Edwards’ tenure.

Solid ground

Jonathan Smith (Oregon State)

Smith is a beloved alum and the OSU brass/fan base know how difficult a rebuilding job this is. Still, the early returns weren’t the greatest with a truly awful defense making blowouts all too common. Progress will need to be made going forward or the pressure will be ratcheted up quickly in Corvallis.

Safe and secure

Mike Leach (Washington State)

The pirate has won at least eight games at his Pullman outpost four straight years, highlighted by last season’s terrific 11-2 campaign. He’s given the Cougars everything they can ask for even if he’s come up a bit short against the in-state rivals. Either way, Wazzu right now is more likely to lose Leach to another program than it is to fire him for something that happens on the field.

Justin Wilcox (Cal)

While his hire was questioned at first, Wilcox quickly won over Bears fans with his transformation of the once-woeful defense into one of the best units in the conference. That culminated in a  postseason berth last year, a good sign of progress in Berkeley despite a hefty bunch of interceptions in the Cheez-It Bowl.

Mario Cristobal (Oregon)

Which coach might have the happiest fan base after this offseason? It might be Cristobal after winning a bowl game for his ninth win in 2018 and following that up with an elite recruiting class. Expectations are the Ducks will be in thick of the Pac-12 race as a result and has some feeling a return to normalcy in Eugene after a few tumultuous years in the dark.

Chip Kelly (UCLA)

While some predicted Kelly would have the Bruins contending right away, nothing could have been further from the truth in Westwood during Year 1. While the losses did pile up, the team showed progress as the season went on and there’s still plenty of hope from the powder blues that their big name head coach is the one to finally get the program back on a championship track.

Frozen solid 

Kyle Whittingham (Utah)

Whittingham finally broke through with a division title in 2018 and is remarkably the third-longest tenured active coach in college football right now. Consistency is his calling card and it would be surprising when the time comes for Whittingham to not be on the sidelines for the Utes.

Chris Petersen (Washington)

Petersen has been as advertised since arriving from Boise State, taking a few early lumps before winning two Pac-12 titles and 32 total games the past three years. The Huskies will be favored to be back in Santa Clara once again in early December and it speaks to the program Petersen has built in Seattle that they’ll be Playoff contenders too despite losing a lot of production this offseason.

David Shaw (Stanford)

While NFL teams have inquired and he’s a name that comes up from time-to-time in the coaching carousel, it very much appears that nobody is going to pry Shaw from his alma mater. He’s continued to elevate the program to the point where the nine wins he’s posted in back-to-back years are considered disappointing on The Farm. That speaks to the job he’s done and his status on campus.

Iowa places longtime strength coach Chris Doyle on administrative leave after allegations from former Hawkeyes flood social media

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Iowa is the latest football program caught up in the maelstrom of needed, necessary change.

Saturday, Iowa announced that longtime strength & conditioning coach Chris Doyle has been placed on administrative leave.  Additionally, an independent review will be conducted into allegations that Doyle directly contributed to “racial disparities in the Iowa football program.”

The development came after former Hawkeye football players took to social media en masse in the past couple of days to accuse Doyle of creating a hostile environment. Specifically, as it pertained to black Iowa football players. One former player spoke of Doyle mocking black football players that “made you walk around the football facility on eggshells … and caused anxiety that could be unbearable at times with your dreams and career on the line.”

“There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program,” former starting offensive lineman James Daniels wrote in a tweet. “Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”

In a video statement, Kirk Ferentz described the past 24 or so hours as “a defining moment” for his program.

“I appreciate the former players’ candor and have been reaching out to many of them individually to hear more about their experiences in our program,” the longtime coach stated. “I am planning on talking to all of them in the coming days. This is a process that will take some time, but change begins by listening first.

“Many of the discussions have centered around our Strength and Conditioning program and Coach Chris Doyle. I have spoken with him about the allegations posted on social media. They are troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players. Therefore, Coach Doyle has been placed on administrative leave immediately while there is an independent review. He and I agree that all parties will have their voices heard and then a decision about how to move forward will be made.”

Doyle has been the strength coach at Iowa since 1999. Last year, he was the highest-paid at his position in the country.

Missouri adds 2026 game against Troy in Columbia

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For the second time in a week, Troy has added a Power Five opponent to its future football slates.

Late last month, it was Iowa added to the 2024 schedule.  This week, Troy announced a future football game against Missouri.  That one-off matchup will take place Nov. 21, 2026.

Obviously, the game will take place at Missouri’s Memorial Stadium.

Troy and Mizzou have played four times previously, the first in 2002 and the most recent this past season.  Mizzou won three of those matchups, with the Trojans knocking off a 14th-ranked Tigers squad in 2004 at Troy.  All three of the Missouri wins came in Columbia.

The game against Missouri will actually be the second in 2026 for Troy football against an SEC school.  Troy had previously announced a home-and-home series with Mississippi State that starts that season.  In 2027, the Bulldogs will travel to the Trojans.

Since becoming an FBS program in 2001, Troy has played 25 games against members of the SEC.  The Trojans are 3-22 in those matchups.  The other two wins came against Mississippi State in 2001 and LSU in 2017.

After winning 10-plus games in three straight seasons from 2016-18, Troy tumbled to a 5-7 record in 2019.  That was the Trojans’ first season under Chip Lindsey.  Lindsey replaced Neal Brown, who left to take the head job at West Virginia.

Ole Miss’ Charles Wiley enters transfer portal

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For the first time in a couple of a few months, an Ole Miss football player has hit the transfer portal.

In February, it was cornerback Deantre Prince hitting the transfer database.  Four months later, former Ole Miss football teammate Charles Wiley has done the same.  The Jackson Clarion Ledger was the first to report the move.

Wiley will be leaving the SEC as a graduate transfer.  That will allow the linebacker/edge rusher to play immediately in 2020.  The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Wiley was a four-star member of the Ole Miss football Class of 2016.  The Stockbridge, Ga., native was the No. 23 player regardless of position in the Peach State.  He was also the No. 17 weakside defensive end in the country.

Wiley took a redshirt as a true freshman.  The next three seasons, he played in a combined 33 games.  The 6-2, 244-pound defender started three of those contests, with all three coming in 2018.

All told, Wiley has been credited with 57 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 5½ sacks.  He set career-highs in tackles for loss (six) in 2018 and sacks (three) this past season.

Highest-rated signee in Duke’s 2018 recruiting class transfers to FCS Eastern Kentucky

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A touted member of a Duke football recruiting class a couple of years ago has found a new home.  And at a lower rung on the collegiate ladder.

In May, it was confirmed that Tahj Rice took the first step in leaving Duke football by entering the NCAA transfer database.  On Twitter this past week, Rice announced that he has committed to Eastern Kentucky.  And he’s changing his surname for good measure.

“Thank you Duke for the moments and memories it won’t be forgotten,” the defensive tackle wrote. “I’m excited to say I’ve transferred to @ekusports and I’ve decided to change my last name to Mcclung because it’s LONG [overdue].”

According to his official Duke bio, Rice is the son of Iana and Marcus McClung.

As Eastern Kentucky plays at the FCS level, Rice/McClung will be eligible to play immediately in 2020.  He’ll have another seaosn he can use in 2021 as well.

Rice was a four-star member of the Duke football Class of 2018.  The Louisville product was rated as the No. 15 strongside defensive end in the country.  He was also the No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Kentucky.

Most notably, Rice was the highest-rated signee in the Blue Devils’ class that year.  In fact, he was the only four-star signee for Duke that cycle.

Rice played in 24 games the past two seasons.  He would’ve played in a 25th, but an appendectomy cost him an appearance in the 2018 Independence Bowl.

During his time with the Blue Devils, he was credited with 16 tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks.

Rice is one of at least five Duke football players ( the others are HEREHEREHEREHEREHERE) who have left the Blue Devils since the calendar flipped from 2019 to 2020.