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Syracuse still looking for a defensive coordinator after Zach Arnett takes Mississippi State job

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Let’s hope for Zach Arnett’s sake that he was renting and didn’t end up buying in upstate New York.

A little less than two weeks after the former San Diego State defensive coordinator was hired at Syracuse in the same role, Arnett has changed his mind and accepted the same position at Mississippi State instead.

“I couldn’t pass up the chance to join an SEC program like Mississippi State,” Arnett said in a school release. “I am grateful to Coach Leach and [Director of Athletics] John Cohen for the opportunity to be a part of this first-class institution. Mississippi State has a history of great defenses. The staff Coach Leach has assembled is tremendous, and I can’t wait to get down there and get to work.”

Arnett is a longtime Rocky Long disciple dating back to their time at New Mexico when the former was a player. The latter eventually hired the former as a graduate assistant at San Diego State and promoted Arnett to linebackers coach in 2014 and eventually coordinator after Danny Gonzales left to become DC at Arizona State.

The Aztecs defense under Long and Arnett was annually one of the best in the Group of Five and the country overall for much of their time together. SDSU ranked third in scoring defense during the 2019 season and also forced 27 turnovers last year.

The hire comes after Mike Leach had previously discussed the Bulldogs job with Navy defensive coordinator Brian Newberry. He will stay in Annapolis for 2020 however as the Capital Gazette also reported on Wednesday that he signed a new contract to stay put with the Midshipmen.

While it probably isn’t too surprising to see Leach try to hire somebody familiar with the high seas, landing Arnett is still a quality choice for MSU. It should be fascinating to see what Mississippi State looks like this fall, from both the standpoint of their head coach in general and given the number of athletes on the roster running unique versions of both the Air Raid and 3-3-5 defense. We’ll have to find out just how good the Bulldogs will be but regardless the team should look a lot different from their SEC peers on the field going forward on both sides of the ball.

Mississippi State mourns passing of De’Runnya Wilson, 25, whose death is being investigated as a homicide

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The extended Mississippi State football family is morning the tragic loss of one of its own.

According to the Associated Press, De’Runnya Wilson was found unresponsive inside of a Birmingham, Ala., home Tuesday evening by a relative.  The 25-year-old was subsequently pronounced dead of unknown causes.

The Birmingham Police Department, however, is investigating Wilson’s death as a homicide.

Wilson was a Mississippi State football player from 2013-15. Coming to the Bulldogs as a three-star wide receiver, Wilson, who had one minor off-field incident during his time in Starkville, totaled 1,936 yards and 22 touchdowns on 132 receptions.  The touchdowns are second all-time at the school.  In 2015, Wilson set career-highs in catches (60), yards (918) and touchdowns (10).

Following that 2015 season, Wilson, who was also Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama as a high school senior, left his remaining eligibility on the table and entered the 2016 NFL Draft.  Wilson went undrafted, and subsequently spent time on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.  He was also attached to the Arena Football League’s Albany franchise.

On Twitter Tuesday evening, the Mississippi State football program mourned Wilson’s passing.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” the school tweeted. “Thanks for the many memories you gave us, “Bear.”

Oregon confirms hiring of Joe Moorhead as OC

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The Oregon Ducks football team officially has its new offensive boss.

Last week, it was reported that the Ducks were expected to hire Joe Moorhead as offensive coordinator.  A week later, the Pac-12 school confirmed Moorhead’s addition to Mario Cristobal‘s coaching staff.

Moorhead replaces Marcus Arroyo, who took the head job at UNLV in mid-December.

“The search for our next offensive coordinator was extensive and drew interest from coaches at all levels from around the country,” the Oregon Ducks football head coach said in a statement. “It was a thorough process, because we wanted to not only get the best coach for the University of Oregon, but also the best fit for our student-athletes and coaches. I’m fired up to welcome Joe, his wife Jennifer, daughter Kyra and sons Mason and Donovan, to Eugene and our football family.

“I’ve admired Joe’s offensive philosophy and ability as a play-caller from afar, and after meeting with him I was even more impressed. He is a great teacher and communicator, and instills confidence and belief in his players. His offenses have been explosive, balanced, multiple and creative. More importantly, he’s a great man, father and husband who our players and staff will enjoy working with.”

In two seasons at Mississippi State, Moorhead went 14-12.  Moorhead’s January firing was centered on an ugly fight between teammates in the run-up to the Music City Bowl.

The day after Christmas, it was reported that freshman Garrett Shrader, who was supposed to start the bowl game at quarterback, was injured in a post-practice scuffle with a defensive teammate.  The altercation was preceded by an in-practice altercation during a contact drill.  Shrader suffered some orbital bone damage as a result of the incident.

The MSU job was, at the time, the furthest west Moorhead had worked in a three-decade coaching career.

From 2016-17, Moorhead was the coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Penn State.  In the four years before that, he was the head coach at FCS Fordham.  He’s also been on staffs at UConn (2009-11), Akron (2004-2008) and Georgetown (2003).

Moorhead was the coordinator at all three of those latter stops.

LSU, two B1G schools will have most players on Super Bowl rosters

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The LSU Tigers football program represented the sport well in winning the 2019 national championship, and now they’re set to be well-represented when the next level crowns its Super Bowl champion as well.

Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs again overcame an early deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship game. In the NFC championship game, the San Francisco 49ers pummeled the Green Bay Packers to earn a berth opposite the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That game will be played at the home of the Miami Hurricanes, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Feb. 2.

The 49ers, seeking their first Super Bowl win since 1994, have four former LSU football players currently listed on their official online roster*. The Chiefs, in search of their first title since 1969, have one former LSU football player on their Super Bowl roster. That total of five is tied for the most for a single school in this year’s game.

The number for LSU is matched by a pair of schools from the Big Ten — Iowa and Penn State — for the most players on Super Bowl rosters this year. Three former Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes play for the 49ers, two for the Chiefs.

Two SEC schools, Florida and Vanderbilt, each have four former players as part of the game, as does Stanford. Middle Tennessee State and San Diego State are two of a gaggle of schools with three players on teams playing in the game, which is the most of any Group of Five conference member.

Conference-wise, it was the SEC leading the way (again) with 32 players, followed by the Big Ten’s 22. The ACC (17), Pac-12 (16), Big 12 (12) and Conference USA (11) were the only other FBS leagues in double digits.

As for the other conferences?

  • Mountain West, nine
  • AAC, six
  • MAC, five
  • Sun Belt, four

Football independents accounted for six players. There were a total of 21 players who played at levels of football other than the FBS.

Below are all of the individual schools that will be represented on Super Sunday:

FIVE
Iowa
LSU
Penn State

FOUR
Florida
Stanford
Vanderbilt

THREE
Arizona
Auburn
Clemson
Kansas State
Middle Tennessee State
Mississippi State
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Pittsburgh
San Diego State
South Carolina

TWO
Alabama
BYU
Central Michigan
Duke
FAU
Florida State
Georgia Southern
Michigan
Michigan State
NC State
Ole Miss
Oregon
Purdue
Southern Miss
Tennessee
Texas
Texas A&M
USF
Utah
Virginia

ONE
Air Force
Alabama A&M
Appalachian State
Arizona State
Arkansas
Baylor
Boston College
Bowling Green State
Buffalo
Cal
Cincinnati
Colorado
Colorado State
Colorado State-Pueblo
Eastern Illinois
Eastern Michigan
Eastern Washington
Georgia
Georgia Tech
Grand Valley State
Harvard
Hawaii
Illinois
Indiana
James Madison
Louisiana Tech
Louisiana
McGill (Canada)
Minnesota
Montana State
New Hampshire
New Mexico State
North Texas
Northern Illinois
Northern Iowa
Oklahoma State
Old Dominion
Oregon State
Princeton
Samford
San Diego
San Jose State
SMU
South Carolina State
TCU
Temple
Texas Tech
UConn
Utah State
Valdosta State
Villanova
Virginia Tech
Wagner
Washington
West Alabama
Western Illinois
Western Kentucky
Wyoming

(*Includes players on injured reserve, practice squad, etc.)

Alabama transfer Scott Lashley headed to Mississippi State

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If you had the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in the “Next FBS School Featured in a Portal Post” lottery, collect your winnings. And if you had him staying in the SEC West as well?  Play the lottery.

An Alabama Crimson Tide football official confirmed this weekend that Scott Lashley was officially listed in the NCAA transfer database. Subsequent to that, it was reported that Lashley had already decided to transfer to Mississippi State.

According to 247Sports.com, Lashley is expected to begin classes at MSU this coming week.

Lashley graduated from Alabama last month. That will give the 6-7, 307-pound offensive tackle immediate eligibility at Mississippi State.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

A four-star 2016 signee, Lashley was rated as the No. 20 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 8 player regardless of position in the state of Mississippi. The past three seasons, Lashley appeared in a total of 19 games.

Eight of those appearances for Lashley came at right tackle in 2019. Earlier this month, the Tide’s starting right tackle, Jedrick Wills Jr., announced he was leaving early for the NFL.  It had been expected that Lashley would compete for the starting job vacated by Wills.

Lashley is the second Tide player this month to enter the portal and then quickly move on to another school. Two weeks ago, Jerome Ford signaled his intention to leave Tuscaloosa by entering the database. Last week, the running back moved on to the Cincinnati Bearcats.