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Notre Dame confirms hiring of Lance Taylor as RBs coach

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Nearly a month after a hole was created on his Notre Dame coaching staff, Brian Kelly has officially filled that opening.

Following up on reports that first surfaced in late January, Notre Dame confirmed Tuesday that Kelly has hired Lance Taylor as the Fighting Irish’s new running backs coach.  Taylor, who spent the past two seasons as the wide receivers coach for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, replaces Autry Denson, who left last month to become the head coach at Charleston Southern.

“I’ve been blessed to work at some incredible places in my career, but Notre Dame is truly special,” said Taylor in a statement. “I’m honored and humbled to represent this incredible University as its running backs coach. I’d like to thank both Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick for this opportunity. I’m excited to get on campus, meet our players and get to work.”

“I was primarily looking for two things,” Kelly said in his statement. “The candidate had to have the right skill set. He needs to be a great teacher and communicator. He also needs to fit Notre Dame, culturally, and Lance, most certainly, possesses all of those qualities. He recruited at an extremely high level during his time at Stanford, and he worked with the very best in the NFL. His ability to bring both of those experiences together makes him a perfect fit on our staff.”

Prior to his two-year NFL stint, Taylor spent three years as the running backs coach at Stanford.  Taylor initially walked on at Alabama and played running back for the Crimson Tide from 1999-2003.

Ex-Michigan assistant Pep Hamilton to lead XFL’s DC franchise

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One new professional football league is taking on a decidedly college football feel to it.

Earlier this week, it was reported and subsequently confirmed that retired Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was unretiring to take over as the head coach and general manager of the XFL’s Dallas franchise.  Thursday night, reports surfaced that Pep Hamilton will take over the same roles for the league’s Washington D.C. entry.

The news comes just days after reports surfaced that Hamilton was the odd man out on Jim Harbaugh‘s Michigan coaching staff.

Hamilton, who spent the past two seasons in Ann Arbor, is certainly a known commodity to current XFL commissioner and former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck.

From 2011-12, Hamilton was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Stanford, whose quarterback at the time, Andrew Luck, is Luck’s son.  Hamilton also served as Luck’s coordinator his first three seasons as a member of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

After one-year hiatus, Alabama regains recruiting crown as rankings remain largely unchanged from Early Signing Period

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Welcome to the continuation of the new recruiting norm.

In years past, the first Wednesday in February served as bizarro, ofttimes frightening Christmas for fanatical recruitniks and college football fans all across the country. With the implementation of the December Early Signing in 2017, however, National Signing Day has very quickly morphed into, relatively speaking, an afterthought compared to what it once was.

Case in point: school rankings.

Following the second Early Signing Period this past December, the Top Four schools in the 247Sports.com composite rankings were, in order, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Texas A&M; after signing day, the top four remained unchanged.

With just six four-star prospects (out of more than 340) left unsigned, the end of National Signing Day 2019 means the beginning, potentially, of another recruiting championship streak for ‘Bama. From 2011-17, the Crimson Tide pulled in the top-ranked class each year; in 2018, they tumbled all the way down to No. 5, Nick Saban‘s worst class ratings-wise since a fourth-ranked group in 2010.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten, No. 5 LSU and No. 6 Oklahoma flipped spots from a month and a half ago, while Oregon and Michigan held steady at Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. Florida made one of the most noteworthy jumps of the day, climbing from No. 11 to No. 9, pushing Clemson down one spot to No. 10.

Penn State, conversely, took one of the biggest drops of the day, tumbling from the Top 10 at No. 10 to No. 13, replaced by a pair of SEC schools — No. 11 Auburn (up from No. 12) and No. 12 Tennessee (up from No. 15). Ohio State (from No. 13 to No. 14) and Notre Dame (From No. 14 to No. 15) each fell one spot apiece. The status quo was in effect for Nos. 16-18 (Florida State, Washington, USC), with South Carolina at No. 19 and Nebraska at No. 20 rounding out the Top 20.

Stanford began Wednesday at No. 20 before ending it at No. 21; the Gamecocks had started the day in the same place the Cardinal finished it.

As for the best classes in each conference?

AAC — UCF (No. 56)
ACC — Clemson (No. 10)
Big 12 — Texas (No. 3)
Big Ten — Michigan (No. 8)
Conference USA — FAU (No. 66)
Independent — Notre Dame (No. 15)
MAC — Toledo (No. 71)
Mountain West — Boise State (No. 49)
Pac-12 — Oregon (No. 7)
SEC — Alabama (No. 1)
Sun Belt — Louisiana (No. 72)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Louisville, at No. 73, was the lowest-ranked Power Five school.  No. 68 Oregon State (Pac-12), No. 67 Texas Tech (Big 12), No. 62 Illinois (Big Ten) and No. 57 Vanderbilt (SEC) had the lowest-ranked classes in their respective conferences.

Pac-12 hires consultant for upcoming media rights negotiations

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The Pac-12 seemed to have set a new paradigm when, in 2011, it reached a 12-year agreement with ESPN and Fox that would pay the conference $3 billion, or $21 million per school per year. Coupled with the conference’s yet-to-be-launched wholly-owned television network, Larry Scott‘s conference would equal, if not surpass, the Big Ten and the SEC for college sports supremacy.

And then the next few years happened.

We learned the Pac-12 was not re-setting the market, they were just first up to bat. And we learned that the Pac-12 is still the Pac-12. In short, you can give Oregon State fans their own television network, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to suddenly turn into Mississippi State fans.

Now, eight years later, it’s time for each conference to begin preparations for its next round of negotiations, and on Monday the league announce it has hired The Raine Group, a “leading global investment bank focused exclusively on sports, media and technology,” to consult the conference moving forward.

“The Pac-12 CEO Group believes it is important to provide maximum support for our University athletic departments and our student-athletes,” Colorado chancellor and Pac-12 CEO Group chairman Phil DiStefano said. “We look forward to working with The Raine Group, Conference and campus leadership to help us explore the significant opportunities in front of us, both in the short term and in preparation for 2024.”

The NBA, Major League Baseball and the UFC are among the Raine Group’s clientele.

“We are confident that this process will enable the Conference to fully evaluate its options and further allow its member universities to benefit from the future growth in value of its media assets,” Raine Group partner Joe Ratvich said. “There is a significant opportunity for the Pac-12 both domestically and internationally where the conference continues to build its presence.”

For #content purposes, here’s hoping part of The Raine Group’s directive is to stock college football media outlets with conference realignment rumors.

Ex-Stanford coach reportedly set to become Notre Dame RBs coach

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Lance Taylor is set to become the new running backs coach at Notre Dame, according to multiple reports on Sunday. Yahoo‘s Pete Thamel was the first to report the story.

Taylor interviewed Saturday and beat out Indiana running backs coach and former Michigan running back Mike Hart for the job. He replaces Autry Denson, who left earlier this month to become the head coach at Charleston Southern.

Taylor walked on at Alabama and played for the Crimson Tide from 1999-03. After a brief career in the arena league, he began coaching as a graduate assistant on Nick Saban‘s original Alabama staff in 2007. He is best known in the college game for his 2014-16 stint as Stanford’s running backs coach, where he helped Christian McCaffrey win the AP Player of the Year award in 2015. Taylor was named the FootballScoop Running Backs Coach of the Year that same season. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)

Taylor spent the past two seasons as the wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers. He was the Panthers’ assistant wide receivers coach in 2013.

He will inherit a running back room that will be looking for a new bell cow in 2019; Dexter Williams graduated after rushing for 995 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season. Rising senior Tony Jones, Jr. (392 yards, three touchdowns) and junior Jafar Armstrong (383 yards, seven touchdowns) will spend their spring fighting for Taylor’s affection.