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Big Ten could realign divisions yet again, according to PJ Fleck

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Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.

“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”

Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.

The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.

While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.

However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.

If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.

It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.

Kerry Coombs officially returns to Ohio State as DC

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The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has, as expected, brought back a familiar coaching face.

Speculation has been growing of late that Ryan Day would be adding Kerry Coombs to his OSU staff. Monday afternoon, the Buckeyes confirmed that Coombs has indeed returned to the program as defensive coordinator.

Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, who left last month to become the head coach at Boston College.

In January of 2018, Coombs left OSU to take a job with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.  Prior to that, he was on Urban Meyer‘s staff for six seasons.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” the Ohio State Buckeyes football head coach said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

All six seasons he was at OSU, Coombs was cornerbacks coach.  He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coordinator, defense. He was also special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Five corners who had Coombs as their position coach  — Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward — went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Coombs, a longtime Ohioan, spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ cornerbacks coach.

This will mark the 58-year-old Coombs’ first job as defensive coordinator at any level of football.

Jalen Hurts to represent both Alabama and Oklahoma at Senior Bowl

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The departure of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma was nothing but class. Not surprisingly, his departure from the college game will be just as classy — with the help of all-star game officials and a helmet company.

In January of last year, Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from Alabama to Oklahoma for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  At the time, Nick Saban lauded the quarterback for “[t]he way he managed [the 2018 season]… and I think he showed a tremendous amount of class.”

After leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff — and with Alabama sitting out the CFP for the first time ever — and being named as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hurts saw his collegiate career end with a throttling at the hands of LSU.  As he gets set to embark on what he hopes will be a career in the NFL, Hurts will take a huge first step in that direction by competing in the Senior Bowl.

Traditionally, the all-star game, which is played in the state of Alabama, features players who wear the helmets of the school from which they came.  Hurts will do the same, albeit with a twist.

On one half of the helmet, Hurts will wear the Alabama shade of Crimson with his old No. 2 on the side.  The other half, Hurts will have the Crimson of Oklahoma with the OU logo on it.

Hurts was surprised with the helmet, specially-made by the Riddell company, at a press conference in Mobile Monday evening.

Riddell actually made two of the custom helmets.  One will be worn by Hurts during the game.  The other will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefitting charity.

For those interested, the Senior Bowl will be played this coming Saturday.  Kickoff is set for 2:30 ET.  The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

Miami lands AAC Defensive Player of the Year as grad transfer

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It has been quite the day for the Miami Hurricanes football program on the personnel front.

After some initial uncertainty, D’Eriq King announced earlier Monday that he will be transferring to the Miami Hurricanes football team.  Not long after, Quincy Roche announced that he will be doing the same.

The Temple defensive end entered his name into the NCAA transfer database earlier this offseason.

“This was not an easy decision, but without a doubt the best decision for me and my family,” Roche wrote on Twitter. “I am ready to bring leadership, toughness and [hard work] to the University of Miami Hurricanes football program as we push to win the ACC championship.”

The decision to transfer to Miami came after Roche took a weekend visit to Virginia Tech.  According to 247Sports.com, “[t]he elite edge rusher also drew interest from schools like Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, Baylor, Ole Miss, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Texas and Rutgers amongst others.”

Roche, a three-star 2016 signee, was tied for third nationally in sacks with 14 and 11th in tackles for loss with 19 this past season.  Following the regular season, Roche was named as the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

As is the case with King, Roche will be coming into the Miami Hurricanes football program as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

The twin transfer additions did not go unnoticed by UM head coach Manny Diaz.

There’s an interesting twist to Roche’s addition to the roster.

Roche, as previously stated, comes to Miami from Temple.  Diaz was named as Temple’s head coach on Dec. 12 of 2018; exactly 17 days later, he abandoned the Owls to take the same job with the Hurricanes.

Miami’s opponent to open the 2020 season?  Temple, at home.

Feleipe Franks transfers from Florida to Arkansas

Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will transfer to Arkansas and be eligible to play in the fall.
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Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks has made his transfer decision. He will be an Arkansas Razorback.

Franks is a grad transfer, which will make him eligible for Arkansas this fall. Even better for Arkansas is Franks will be enrolled in classes and be available to work out with his new team this spring. That means Franks will get a chance to go through a full spring practice schedule for his new program under brand new head coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas will also get its first spring practice in with new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. It should go without much saying the Arkansas offense will have a new look in 2020.

A starting job may not yet be guaranteed for Franks at Arkansas, but he will be the most experienced option available. If Franks gels well with his new team this spring, that starting job may quickly become his to lose, if it is not considered that already. Franks is coming back from a season-ending ankle injury.

Arkansas will certainly be getting an experienced passer. Ranks passed for 4,593 yards and 38 touchdowns during his time at Florida, which included some time as the starter for the Gators. Franks also made a visit to Kansas while evaluating his options since deciding he would move on from Gainesville.