It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.
Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.
The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.
Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).
Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.
The lone hole on Mike Locksley‘s Maryland Terrapins football staff has been filled.
In late December, John Papuchis left the Maryland Terrapins football program to take a job with Mike Norvell at Florida State. Exactly four weeks later, Locksley has landed Papuchis’ replacement, with the addition of George Helow officially announced by the school.
Helow will serve as Maryland’s special teams coordinator. He’ll also coach the Terps’ inside linebackers.
Helow spent the past four seasons at Colorado State. The first two were as a defensive quality control coach and graduate assistant. The last two were spent as safeties coach.
The 2018-19 seasons were Helow’s first as an on-field assistant at the collegiate level.
In addition to the Mountain West Conference school, he has also been a football staffer at:
- Georgia, defensive quality control assistant (2014-15)
- Florida State, defensive graduate assistant (2013)
- Alabama, defensive intern (2012)
Helow played his college football at Ole Miss from 2006-10. Most of his action during his 38 games played came on special teams.
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football program has afforded a wayward coach a means to return to the sidelines.
In the days after Nick Rolovich left to replace Mike Leach at Washington State, Robert Anae‘s name had been mentioned prominently as a potential successor. Tuesday, however, the Virginia offensive coordinator announced in a statement that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football head coach.
Just prior to that, it was reported by The Athletic‘s Bruce Feldman that Todd Graham is getting consideration for the job. Very late Tuesday night, Hawaii confirmed that Graham has been hired as the school’s 24th head coach.
Graham will be introduced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
The 55-year-old Graham has been a head coach at four different FBS schools:
- Arizona State (2012-17)
- Pitt (2011)
- Tulsa (2007-10)
- Rice (2006)
Graham has posted a 95-61 record at those stops. His teams have played in 10 bowl games in 12 seasons, winning five of those postseason appearances. He’s also won three divisional titles.
After being fired by Arizona State in November of 2017, Graham has been out of coaching. He was mentioned as a candidate for the Kansas job that ultimately went to Les Miles.
Two weeks after losing an assistant, the Duke Blue Devils football program has filled the lone hole on David Cutcliffe‘s coaching staff.
Jan. 8, Jim Bridge abruptly resigned as Duke’s offensive line coach; two days later, it was announced that he had taken the same job at Memphis. Tuesday, Cutcliffe officially dipped into the veteran coaching ranks, hiring Greg Frey as Bridge’s replacement.
“We’re thrilled to have Coach Frey join our staff,” Cutcliffe said in a statement. “It isn’t often you have the opportunity to add an individual who, within the landscape of college football, played at the highest level, has coached at the highest level and comes with 20-plus years of experience on the sideline. Coach Frey’s coaching and mentoring abilities are inspiring, and he will have an immediate and positive impact on the young men in our program. We look forward to welcoming Greg, his wife Andrea and children into our football family.”
Frey has previously coached offensive lines at:
- Florida State, line coach (2018)
- Michigan, tackles/tight ends coach, running-game coordinator (2017)
- Indiana, line coach (2011-16)
- Michigan, line coach (2008-10)
- West Virginia, line coach (2007)
- USF, line coach (2000-06)
In 2017, Frey was the tackles/tight end coach as well as running-game coordinator at Michigan. Frey comes to Duke after a one-season stint (2019) at Florida as a quality control analyst.
“As you go through life and build your family and your career, who you surround yourself with becomes very important,” Frey said. “What attracted me so much to Duke University was the faith, the family and the football, as well as the way Coach Cutcliffe runs his program. As we move forward, we want to be at the forefront of building the culture and championship level play that Duke expects. I’m excited to get started and can’t wait to go.”
A talented new addition to the Virginia Tech football roster is officially official.
After playing in the first four games of the 2019 season at Rutgers, Raheem Blackshear, a team captain, opted to sideline himself for the remainder of the campaign in order to preserve a year of eligibility. Three months later, Blackshear indicated on Twitter that he has decided to leave RU and continue his playing career with the Virginia Tech football program.
Two weeks after that social media announcement, the Hokies confirmed via Twitter that the running back is signed, sealed and delivered.
In addition to Virginia Tech, Blackshear had also considered a transfer to Temple. A return to Rutgers for the back was in play as well.
It’s expected that Blackshear, a redshirt sophomore, will seek a waiver that would allow him to play immediately for the Hokies in 2020. If that appeal is denied, he would be left with one season of eligibility he could use in 2021.
A three-star 2017 signee, Blackshear ran for 238 yards as a true freshman. The next season, he led the Scarlet Knights in rushing with 586 yards.
Blackshear could also be a significant asset in the Hokies’ passing game.
In addition to being the leading rusher in 2018, Blackshear also led the team in receptions (44), receiving yards (367) and receiving touchdowns (two). Despite playing in just four games this past season, he was second on the Scarlet Knights with 29 receptions (the leader, Bo Melton, ended up with 30) and 310 yards (Melton had 427). His two receiving touchdowns were tied with Melton for the team lead as well.