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NFL coaching carousel begins, so get ready for the rumor mill to spill over to college football

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Today is Bloody Monday around the NFL as the regular season has come to a close. Head coaching vacancies have been made with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and more. And with the NFL coaching carousel now in full swing, do not be surprised to hear some conversation pick up about potential candidates coming from the world of college football.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has been one of the trendy names to follow in the NFL rumor mill, although the head coach of the Wolverines appears to be keeping his distance whenever asked about the possibility of pursuing a job in the NFL. Harbaugh has stated he does not really have representatives, and the Jets have turned aside the rumors suggesting the franchise was looking to make a push for Harbaugh.

For years, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has been seen as a likely candidate to make the jump to the NFL at some point in time. Coming off an undefeated regular season only to be shown the exit from the College Football Playoff in dominant fashion against Clemson will certainly have some suggesting Kelly may have tapped out at Notre Dame and could be willing to look for a new challenge. Confirming his allegiance to Notre Dame is nothing new for Kelly, as he’s been doing it multiple times during his time in South Bend. We’ll see if anyone kicks up some dust on his name for a potential job opening.

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has had his name thrown around by some NFL folks, and with the success of Baker Mayield in his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns, it’s not difficult to understand why. Former Texas Tech head coach and current USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has also had his name tossed around at times, more likely as a coordinator however. There are also reports that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald could get a look from the Green Bay Packers. Former Washington and USC head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian could be out of a job as Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, so it would not be out of the question Sarkisian makes his way back to college football in some capacity either. This thing works both ways, right?

Then there are the college coaches who have some previous NFL head coaching experience. Good luck prying Nick Saban back to the NFL when he is the God of Alabama football at the height of his career, but might an NFL franchise be willing to give a guy like Herm Edwards another shot after proving some doubters wrong in his first season at Arizona State? Given how coaching hires are made, recycling a veteran coach like Edwards would hardly be a surprising move by some NFL franchise.

This time of the year, nothing should be considered completely off the table, so brace yourselves, college football fans. This coaching carousel isn’t quite done just yet (and it was already potentially in motion with some recent vacancies already opened up at Houston and Temple).

Tua Tagovailoa named Walter Camp Player of the Year, wins Maxwell Award

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The college football world’s elite gathered in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame for the 28th annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The night turned out to be a pretty eventful night for College Football Playoff representatives from Alabama, Oklahoma and Notre Dame all took home some major awards on Thursday evening.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took home the first player of the year award prior to the start of the show when he was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year winner for the 2018 season. The last five Walter Camp award winners have gone on to win the Heisman Trophy, but we will have to wait until Saturday night to see if Tagovailoa keeps that streak going. The last four Walter Camp award winners also took home the Maxwell Award. Tagovailoa later made it five straight by closing out the evening’s presentation by being named the winner of the Maxwell Award. For a college football player, Tagovailoa has completed the first two legs of the player of the year triple crown with the Heisman Trophy on deck this weekend.

Tagovailoa wasn’t the only Alabama player taking home some hardware. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award, and Quinnen Williams won the Outland Trophy.

Some quick notes:

  • Kyler Murray became the fifth Oklahoma quarterback to win the Davey O’Brien Award, following Baker Mayfield from last year. No school has more Davey O’Brien Award winners than Oklahoma.
  • Georgia defensive back DeAndre Jordan became the first Georgia player to win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
  • Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly won his second Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (he previously won it in 2009 at Cincinnati). He is the first two-time winner of the coaching award.
  • Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was named the Biletnikoff Award winner, breaking a three-year run by the Big 12 since Alabama’s first Biletnikoff Award winner, Amari Cooper, won the award in 2014.

Here is a full list of the finalists and winners of awards handed out Thursday night. Winners of the awards are listed first and are in bold, with the remaining finalists following them in alphabetical order according to last name. Some of the awards were announced prior to the awards show but are included here because they were recognized or formally presented Thursday night.

WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
  • Josh Allen, Kentucky
  • Will Grier, West Virginia
  • Gardner Minshew, Washington State
  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

MAXWELL AWARD
(Player of the Year)

  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
  • Will Grier, West Virginia
  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD
(Defensive Player of the Year)

  • Josh Allen, Kentucky
  • Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • Quinnen Williams, Alabama

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
(Best Quarterback)

  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
  • Gardner Minshew II, Washington State
  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD
(Outstanding Receiver)

  • Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
  • Andy Isabella, UMass
  • Tyan Wallace, Oklahoma State

DOAK WALKER AWARD
(Best Running Back)

  • Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
  • Travis Etienne, Clemson
  • Darrell Henderson, Memphis

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
(Best Tight End)

JIM THORPE AWARD
(Best Defensive Back)

  • DeAndre Baker, Georgia
  • Julian Love, Notre Dame
  • Greedy Williams, LSU

OUTLAND TROPHY
(Most Outstanding Interior Lineman)

  • Quinnen Williams, Alabama
  • Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • Jonah Williams, Alabama

RIMINGTON TROPHY
(Best Center)

  • Garrett Bradbury, NC State
  • Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame
  • Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama

LOU GROZA AWARD
(Outstanding Placekicker)

  • Andre Szmyt, Syracuse
  • Cooper Rothe, Wyoming
  • Cole Tracy, LSU

RAY GUY AWARD
(Punter of the Year)

  • Braden Mann, Texas A&M
  • James Smith, Cincinnati
  • Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

HOME DEPOT COACH OF THE YEAR

  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

WUERFFEL TROPHY
(Community Service)

  • Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
  • David Blough, Purdue
  • Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Brian Kelly says Ian Book will start for Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

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Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book will be back in the starting lineup this week when the Fighting Irish take on Syracuse, Notre Dane head coach Brian Kelly announced on Sunday.

Book sat out of Saturday night’s home game against Florida State, which meant the Irish turned to Week 1 starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush to get through Week 11 without putting Notre Dame’s playoff hopes in jeopardy. Book had suffered what had previously been reported as “multiple injuries to his midsection” during a game against Northwestern two weeks ago. Wimbush was intercepted twice by Florida State, but he also threw three touchdown passes and rushed for 68 yards to contribute on offense in a 42-13 win to improve the Irish to 10-0 with just two games to play.

Although Notre Dame managed to not be hurt by two interceptions thrown by Wimbush against Florida State, having Book back for a tougher matchup against Syracuse should be comforting for Kelly and the Irish. Syracuse has won four straight games with double-digit margins of victory in each of the last three.

Notre Dame and Syracuse will play their Week 12 contest in Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Notre Dame stays in-house for defensive coordinator by promoting Clark Lea

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Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly did not have to look very far to find his next defensive coordinator. Linebackers coach Clark Lea has been promoted to the role of defensive coordinator in South Bend. Lea replaces Mike Elko, who was hired away for the same role by Texas A&M.

“I cannot express how grateful I am to Father Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick and Brian Kelly for their confidence in my ability to take on this new role,” Lea said in a released statement from the university. “I am indebted to them, and to the student-athletes that I have been blessed to work with over the past year — without their commitment and belief in me, I realize that none of this would be possible. Notre Dame represents everything I want to be a part of in my career as an educator, and I am deeply humbled to be able to continue my work here.”

“Clark has quickly established himself as a rising star in the coaching profession,” Kelly said. “He immediately commands the respect of those around him, whether that be in a meeting room, on a practice field or in a prospective student-athlete’s living room. Clark has demonstrated an ability to motivate, lead, teach and mentor through a positive teaching environment, while also developing the necessary traits of excellence in our players.”

Leas joined the Notre Dame coaching staff in 2017 after one season as a linebackers coach at Wake Forest. Lea has also coached at Syracuse and Bowling Green The Vanderbilt alum started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UCLA.

Brian Kelly got chippy with reporter, suggesting this year won’t actually be any different

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Forget about all of the suggestions from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly about this year potentially being different for the Fighting Irish. A year after a number of close calls going against Notre Dame, Kelly promised this season will be different, but after a one-point loss at home to Georgia Saturday night, Kelly got flustered by a question from the media and walked out in a very familiar fashion.

The reporter not backing down from the bullish Kelly was Laken Litman of The Indianapolis Star. As Litman profiled in her story from the game, there was a familiar feeling for Irish fans watching Notre Dame come up short in a close battle. Here is the transcript of the exchange between Kelly and Litman before Kelly took an exit stage left.

Reporter: Obviously you made a ton of changes, changed the culture, everything. But obviously, you lost and at the very end, kind of like last year, seven of eight losses, how do you…

Kelly: What’s the question?

Reporter: I’m getting to it.

Kelly: Well, get to the question.

Reporter: How do you keep this from snowballing?

Kelly: It’s not going to snowball. Next question.

Reporter: Well, what exactly will be different, I guess?

Kelly: There’s nothing different. I go to work every day, and I coach my football team.

Reporter: OK.

Kelly: Is that — is that good enough for you?

Reporter: Yeah, I was just asking about how it was different from last year’s losing by one possession.

Kelly: OK.

Reporter: Tonight was also like that, so I was just wondering.

Kelly: Losing by one possession?

Reporter: Yeah.

Kelly: No, it was one point.

Kelly was obviously flustered in the aftermath of a tough home loss dropping his team to 1-1. How else can you explain Kelly suggesting a one-point loss is not a one-possession game?