The NFL draft is rapidly approaching on the football offseason calendar. The time when college football fans and NFL fans can come together in one single football event is always a fun time of the year for a variety of reasons. For college football fans, the bragging rights about having more players drafted than your rivals is something that is given close attention, and don’t think the coaches aren’t eager to cash in on the NFL draft buzz either.
This year, as is typically the case, a handful of coaches from the college game will be heading to the draft to send off some of their most recent success stories. Among those attending the event this year in Nashville will be some familiar faces. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama head coach Nick Saban will be the headliners at the draft among the college football coaching fraternity. Other head coaches attending the event will include David Cutcliffe of Duke, Matt Luke of Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron of LSU, Mark Stoops of Kentucky, Willie Taggart of Florida State, Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State, and Lincoln Riley of Nebraska.
Although not a head coach, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson will also reportedly be in attendance.
These are coaches of schools that are either well-represented at the NFL Draft on a regular basis and/or have some key players who may be going in the first round. Unfortunately, the NFL Draft being held in Nashville will not include either head coach from Tennessee or Vanderbilt unless there is a change in the plans.
For those keeping score at home, and there is unquestionably at least one of you doing so, that is five coaches from the SEC, three from the ACC, and one each from the Big Ten the Big 12.
The 2019 NFL Draft will run from April 25-27. The Arizona Cardinals currently own the top pick, which could end up being used for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, Kyler Murray.
It has been a while since Tennessee football played a role in the national championship picture, but the Vols hope things turn around soon under the leadership of new head coach Jeremy Pruitt. In the meantime, plans are coming together for Tennessee to pay tribute to the 1998 national championship team, the first school to claim victory in the BCS era. This season marks the 20th anniversary of Tennessee’s last national championship.
A ceremony to honor the 1998 Tennessee team is scheduled for September 22 when the Vols host Florida. A number of players are expected to make an appearance at Neyland Stadium for the ceremony, although it remains in question whether or not one key member of that team will be there.
Tee Martin, who was the quarterback for the Vols after Peyton Manning graduated, may have the schedule work in his favor to make it happen. Martin, who is the offensive coordinator at USC, will be coaching a game for the Pac-12’s Trojans on Friday night. USC hosts Washington State on Friday, September 21. That game will be played at night, which means Martin would have to take an overnight flight across the country to show up, and then he would have to fly back across the country to begin preparing for USC’s next game the following weekend. The game time for Tennessee’s home game against the Gators has not been announced yet.
One former coach from the 1998 staff that won’t be in attendance will be David Cutcliffe. Then the offensive coordinator of the Vols and now the head coach at Duke, Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils are scheduled to play a home game against North Carolina Central for Duke’s homecoming game. Although, if Duke plays in the early afternoon and Tennessee gets to play at night, you never know.
In 1998, Tennessee got their promising season off on the right track thanks in large part to snapping a losing streak to SEC rival Florida, upsetting the No. 2 Gators 20-17 in overtime in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee completed their 13-0 march to the national championship by dispatching of No. 7 Georgia (22-3) on the road and No. 10 Arkansas (28-24) before beating No. 23 Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game (and yes, Tennessee also beat Alabama, 35-18, but the Tide were not quite on the same level they are today). A clean 12-0 record and an SEC championship to their name sent Tennessee to the inaugural BCS National Championship Game to face No. 2 Florida State, and the Vols defeated the Seminoles 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl while also limiting Peter Warrick to just one catch for seven yards.
The Duke Blue Devils are all in on David Cutcliffe despite coming off a losing regular season for the first time since 2011. The Blue Devils announced a contract extension that will carry through the 2010 season. The contract is set to expire on June 30, 2021.
Terms of the contract other than the length have not been disclosed. Cutcliffe was paid $2.3 million by Duke last year, according to the USA Today contract database.
“Simply put, Duke University is terribly honored and very proud to have one of the truly pinnacle football coaches in the country leading the Blue Devil program into the next decade,” Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White said in a released statement. “To be sure, what Coach Cutcliffe has accomplished over nine seasons at Duke is nothing short of extraordinary! With David’s innovation, vision, passion, not to mention well-seasoned expertise, our student-athletes will continue to enjoy, both academically and athletically, the very best – actually the ‘gold standard’ – experience within the broader enterprise that is college football.”
Cutcliffe took over as Duke’s head coach in 2008. Prior to Cutcliffe’s hiring, Duke had played in just two bowl games since 1961, one of which was coached by Steve Spurrier. While there are more bowl games today than ever before, that should not take away from Cutcliffe managing to get the Blue Devils to four straight bowl games from 2012 through 2015 before having a struggle in 2016 with just four wins. Cutcliffe has also coached Duke to the ACC Championship Game (2013). Despite the step back in the win total for the third straight year, nobody doubts Cutcliffe is the right man for the job in Durham.
So much for that whole Brady Hoke to East Carolina idea. Going against the grains of some of the more recent reports regarding the head coach search at East Carolina, it appears Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery will be named the new head coach of the Pirates. Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com reported that news late Saturday night. Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated also reported the news.
The 37-year old first-time head coach had been Duke’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons following a year as wide receivers coach. Montgomery also coached quarterbacks at Duke in addition to his duties with calling offensive plays. Montgomery, a North Carolina native, is a Duke graduate, started his coaching career at Duke before jumping to a role with the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL for three years before returning to his alma mater in 2013. Montgomery also played in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders and a brief run on the Carolina Panthers practice squad. He also played a season with the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League.
As with most first-time head coaches, there is a valid reason to have questions about this hire for East Carolina, especially since it fired Ruffin McNeil from the position following his first losing season in four years. McNeil was 43-34 as head coach of the ECU program, with just two losing seasons with 5-7 marks (2011, 2015). McNeil is heading to the ACC to be a part of the Virginia coaching staff assembled by new head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The hiring of Montgomery is also a bit of a small surprise considering previous reports were suggesting former Michigan coach Brady Hoke and James Madison head coach Everett Withers were thought to be finalists for the job. Others that interviewed for the position included Virginia Tech’s Shane Beamer and North Carolina State offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Montgomery will now get a chance to prove his worth and value as a head coach, and if he is successful he may end up staying on Duke’s radar for whenever the time comes to find a replacement for David Cutcliffe. After all, Montgomery is clearly a Duke guy, and if he proves he can be a solid head coach, he will most certainly be one of the names to keep in mind when the Duke vacancy opens up. But first, let’s see if he can cut it as a head coach at East Carolina, a program that should be capable of competing for an American Athletic Conference championship.
After a weekend that saw Tennessee head coach Butch Jones confront Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker about class and a BYU player get caught punching a Boise State player in the groin, it is nice to see a reminder that good sportsmanship does exist in the world of college football if you know where to look. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe helped prove that to non-believers and skeptics recently by writing a short note to Pittsburgh running back James Conner.
Conner, you may remember, was lost for the season after a torn ACL injury was suffered in Pitt’s season-opening victory over Youngstown State. The top running back in the ACC is already underway with his recovery and setting sights on returning in 2016, and he received a little encouragement from a division rival’s head coach. Conner shared the note on Twitter and thanked Cutcliffe for his best wishes.
Stand-up job by Duke’s head coach, and let’s hope acts like this do not go unnoticed in the future. College football needs more positive influences to share.