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Kentucky’s Mark Stoops headlines list of potential candidates to replace Willie Taggart at FSU

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Willie Taggart is out at Florida State and it seems unlikely that the school will take long to begin their coaching search for a new leader of the Seminoles.

Who could the program turn to over the coming weeks as they search for a replacement? A few familiar names in FSU circles likely headline their shortlist of candidates but a few others who have made big strides in recent years at other programs will likely make their way to the top of every search firm’s roster of names as well.

Here are a few names to keep an eye on:

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

The first name many will bring up with the opening is the former FSU defensive coordinator. He obviously has head coaching experience in the South and his connections in the Sunshine State and other fertile recruiting areas are a nice feather in his cap too. He has done a great job in Lexington between the lines too, leading the Wildcats to their third-ever 10-win season last year and generally raising the floor of the program from the dregs of the SEC. One question is whether FSU can pony up for him after dropping $20+ million moving on from Taggart as Stoops’ salary escalates up to $6 million eventually and he has a buyout of just under $2 million if he wants to leave. Brother Bob, the former Oklahoma and current XFL Dallas head coach, is also likely to get traction and used to coach up the road in Gainesville as well.

Mike Norvell, Memphis

After his Tigers beat SMU to take the inside track at the Group of Five bid, Norvell’s stock has never been higher. He’s turned down SEC programs in the past but a gig like FSU could be something that garners his interest. He doesn’t have any deep state of Florida ties but that might be a good thing. His offenses have been among the most explosive in the country and he knows as well as anybody how to find under the radar talent and develop it.

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Can the boat be rowed to Tally? Fleck spent time in nearby Tampa as an assistant for the Buccaneers and has specialized in turning around programs at Western Michigan and now with the Gophers. He’s 8-0 this year and in the top 15 in the Twin Cities and has a ton of energy that could help with the transition. He’s recruited well in past stops and that would come in handy given the battles Florida’s big three have over players.

Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator

The Kansas native has been extremely picky about taking his first head coaching gig but FSU is on the level of programs he would likely be intrigued by. He’s helped Dabo Swinney turn Clemson into a juggernaut and been a big part in some lopsided wins over the Seminoles. The familiarity with the ACC and the recruiting areas the school frequents is huge but there would be some questions as to what direction he would take with his staff and on offense.

Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator

All three of the Tigers coordinators (including fellow co-coordinator Jeff Scott) likely will garner interest on the coaching carousel but Elliott seems like a great fit. He won the Broyles Award in 2017 as the nation’s top assistant and his demeanor and workman-like approach could fit in well in Tallahassee.

Lane Kiffin, FAU

I mean, why not? He knows the state well from his time in Boca and has the kind of attitude that most ‘Noles fans would love to embrace in the gig. Highly regarded as a recruiter and play-caller, his ability to bring Nick Saban’s “Process” back to the program would also be viewed as a plus. A long shot sure, but you could also see it working out better than some others.

Willie Fritz, Tulane

Fans may wince at hiring another coach without a winning record (he’s 22-24 with the Green Wave) but Fritz has won at nearly every level of football and done a masterful job rebuilding in New Orleans and beyond. He’ll turn 60 next year which works against him but could well prove a stabilizing force as Florida State likely finds a new president and AD in the coming years.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Gus has been on a revolving hot seat during his time on the Plains and even with eight or nine wins this year might be given a golden parachute by the Tigers to finally end the rocky relationship. FSU fans know Malzahn can lead his team to the final game of the year after all and he can bring pedigree and coaching experience other candidates lack. It’s a bit outside the box but ticks a lot of boxes when you think about it.

A few that could get in the mix as well: Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Tom Allen (Indiana), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Josh Heupel (UCF). One not to consider? Urban Meyer.

Former four-star Oklahoma LB Levi Draper enters transfer portal

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It appears the Oklahoma Sooners football team will have some depth in its linebacking corps pared.

Thursday, it was reported that Levi Draper is entering his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in leaving OU.  An Oklahoma Sooners football official subsequently confirmed that Draper will be entering the portal.

The linebacker’s time in Norman hasn’t officially come to an end, however, as he could always pull his name from the portal and return.

A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Draper was rated as the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he was the No. 118 prospect overall.  Only three signees in the Sooners’ class that year were rated higher than Draper.

Injuries helped lead to Draper take a redshirt as a true freshman.  The past two seasons, Draper played in 28 games.  Most of that action came on special teams.

When Draper does find a new school, it should be as a graduate transfer.  That would then leave him with two years of eligibility to use.

Draper is one of a handful of Sooners who have entered the portal of late. From the school’s student newspaper:

This is the second Sooner linebacker to enter the portal in the last two days, as Ryan Jones reportedly entered it on Wednesday. Along with the two linebackers, wide receiver Mykel Jones, safety Ty DeArman, defensive linemen Coby Tillman and Troy James will all be transferring.

It’s not all attrition at OU, however. Earlier this week, the program confirmed the addition of UCLA transfer wide receiver Theo Howard.  The receiver was honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2018.

Howard graduated from UCLA in December, giving him immediate eligibility at OU this coming season.

Texas A&M transfer Kellen Diesch lands at Arizona State

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The Arizona State football roster is the latest to benefit from a player coming in from a Power Five program.

In early December, Kellen Diesch entered the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a move away from Texas A&M. A month later, Diesch has taken the next step as 247Sports.com has reported that the offensive lineman will transfer to the Arizona State football team.

In fact, the website notes that Diesch is in Tempe and already enrolled in school at ASU.

As a graduate transfer, Diesch will be eligible to play for the Sun Devils immediately in 2020. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

A four-star member of A&M’s 2016 recruiting class, Diesch was rated as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 17 player regardless of position in the state of Texas. The only signee in the Aggies’ class that year rated higher was strongside defensive end Justin Madubuike.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Diesch has played in 21 games the past three years. A dozen of those appearances came this past season.

Despite the recruiting pedigree, the 6-6, 298-pound lineman didn’t start a game for the Aggies.

DE who began his collegiate career at Coastal Carolina, signed with Syracuse before flipping to NC State is back in transfer portal

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The NC State football program is the latest to find out first-hand that Jeffrey Gunter may have an issue with commitment.

In January of 2019, Gunter opted to transfer from Coastal Carolina. Three weeks later, he tweeted he was transferring to Syracuse… before deleting the tweet. Two days later, however, Syracuse confirmed the defensive end’s addition to the roster. Feb. 26, though, Gunter reneged on that commitment, tweeting he would no longer be transferring to Syracuse and would instead move on to NC State.

That commitment stuck… for all of 11 months, as it turned out, as 247Sports.com is now reporting that Gunter is listed in the NCAA transfer database

During his one season with the NC State football program, Gunter was the Co-Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. He had to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

After totaling 14 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018, Gunter, a two-star 2017 signee, was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference.

It’s worth to note that, in Gunter’s winter of decommitment last year, he had also considered moving to either North Carolina or Oregon. Whether those two schools will be in play this time around is unclear.

Former Maryland DB Qwuantrezz Knight now transferring from Kent State

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A former member of the Maryland Terrapins football team is now a former player on yet another team. At least, he’s nearly former.

According to 247Sports.com, Qwuantrezz Knight is now listed in the NCAA transfer database. The defensive back just completed his first season at Kent State.

This past season, Knight led the Golden Flashes in tackles for loss with 10.5.  In Kent’s first-ever bowl win this past season, Knight was named as the game’s defensive MVP.

The move is odd, if for nothing more than the struggle Knight went through just to see the field in 2019.

Leaving the Maryland Terrapins football program shortly after head coach DJ Durkin was fired amidst scandal in the midst of the 2018 season, Knight ultimately transferred to Kent State in January of last year.  Four months later, Knight filed an appeal with the NCAA for a waiver that would’ve granted him immediate eligibility, a waiver that cited “depression symptoms”; in early June, that initial waiver was denied.

Armed with the ability to appeal the original decision, Knight did as much and it proved successful as the MAC program confirmed in June of last year that the appeal was successful and the waiver granted.

Presumably, Knight will be leaving Kent as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play immediately at a third FBS school.