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Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

Washington State raids Wyoming coaching staff for defensive assistants

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New Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich is putting together his new coaching staff in Pullman, and he is picking from an old Mountain West Conference foe to fill some spots. Jake Dickert, who had been Wyoming’s defensive coordinator for the past season, will join Rolovich and the Cougars to fill the same role. And that’s not all. Dickert will reportedly be bringing two more Wyoming defensive coaches with him; defensive ends coach AJ Cooper and cornerbacks coach John Richardson.

While that is a bit of a shakeup for Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to deal with at Wyoming, it will help Rolovich put together his first coaching staff at a power conference program. Bringing in some coaches he has a familiarity with makes sense, especially considering how Wyoming has typically played on a defensive level in the last few seasons. If Washington State is going to contend for a Pac-12 title under Rolovich, improving the defensive side of the football will be essential in a division that also features defending Pac-12 champion Oregon and Washington.

Dickert also coached linebackers at Wyoming in addition to serving as defensive coordinator.

Washington State confirms hiring of Hawaii’s Nick Rolovich

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UPDATED 9:13 p.m. ET: In a release Tuesday evening, Washington State confirmed that Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich has taken the same job with the Cougars.

“We set a goal of bringing the best coach possible to Washington State University,” said athletic director Pat Chun in a statement. “Nick Rolovich is a genuine person, a program builder, an innovator and the exact fit to lead Cougar Football. Coach Rolovich is committed to academic achievement and developing every aspect of our student-athletes. He has a vision of taking Cougar Football on a path to win championships. We are fortunate to have Nick lead our program and we welcome his wife Analea, along with their daughter Alana and sons Daniel, William and Patrick to the Cougar Family.”

“I’d like to thank President Schulz and Pat for the opportunity and the trust they have put in me to lead these young men,” said Rolovich. “Not only on the football field, but we truly believe we are raising tomorrow’s husbands, fathers and community leaders. The excitement is real and it’s honest. Most recently what Coach Leach has built gives us a high starting point. I appreciate him as a friend and what he has done to build the program.

“We are looking forward to learning more about the program, the history, the anecdotes and the legends of WSU football. One of the more attractive things was the community, how it matches a lot of the values we try to live by and I’m excited to raise my family in Pullman. We can’t wait to get up there and get started.”

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(The original post appears below.)

When it comes to the Washington State football program, it appears the Cougars will shift from the Air Raid to the Run-and-Shoot.

After eight seasons, Mike Leach left as the Washington State football head coach on Jan. 9 to take over at Mississippi State.  Five days later, it’s being reported that Nick Rolovich of Hawaii will be hired to take over for Leach.

Rolovich is expected to receive a five-year contract from WSU that averages $3 million annually. Leach made $3.75 million for the 2019 season.  Rolovich?  $600,000 at Hawaii.

Leach’s salary was ninth amongst Pac-12 head coaches.  Rolovich’s was ninth in the Mountain West Conference.

An official announcement from Washington State is expected at some point Tuesday.

While Wazzu has yet to confirm the hiring, Hawaii has confirmed the departure.

The 40-year-old Rolovich just completed his fourth season as the Rainbow Warriors’ head coach.  In finishing 10-5 this past season, Hawaii reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2010.  They also played in their first-ever Mountain West Conference championship game.

Overall, Rolovich went 28-27 at his alma mater.

There is, though, an ugly incident in which Rolovich allegedly physically assaulted a newspaper photographer in November that Washington State will no doubt be forced to address if the hiring comes to fruition.

Is Jim Mora in play to replace Mike Leach at Washington State?

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What we do know is that the Washington State football program is on the hunt for a new head coach. While we don’t know yet who it’ll be, could it wind up being someone very familiar with the conference?

To the giddy delight of college football media members across the country, Mike Leach left as the head coach of Washington State football for the same job at Mississippi State Thursday. Leach had spent the past eight seasons on the Palouse.

As for a replacement? Former Wazzu and current Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has been mentioned as a possibility, as have Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl and USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

Additionally, in the hours after Leach left, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports tossed out another name.  Jim Mora.

The 58-year-old Mora began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Washington, where he also played his college football. After a quarter-century in the NFL, Jim Mora took over as the head coach at UCLA in 2012.

His first four seasons with the Bruins, Mora won at least eight games. He put up back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2013-14. A 4-8 record in 2016 put him on the hot seat; a 5-6 record in 2017 led to his dismissal with one game left in the season.

Since the firing, Mora has worked as a college football analyst for ESPN.

Given Harrell’s experience in the Air Raid, he would make much more sense than Mora given the personnel cupboard left by Leach. So would North Texas’ Seth Littrell. Apparently, though, Mora is a name to keep an eye on as the Washington State football program searches for a Leach replacement.

Mike Leach is the new head coach at Mississippi State

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Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin in the SEC? In the same division?  It’s happening…

Since Joe Moorhead was ousted at Mississippi State, Mike Leach has been on the periphery of discussions as to potential replacements.  Overnight, however, it was reported that the current Washington State head coach had interviewed for the MSU job this past weekend.

Thursday, it was being reported that Leach will become the next head coach at Mississippi State.  A short time later, MSU’s athletic director provided video confirmation of the hiring.

Leach just completed his eighth season at Washington State.  He’s 55-47 with the Cougars, including an 11-win season in 2018.  Wazzu went 6-7 in 2019, the fourth time the school has finished below .500 under Leach.

Including his 10 years at Texas Tech, Leach is 139-90 as a head coach.

The hiring of Leach helps assuage the anguish the university has felt the past week or so.

Since firing Moorhead, Louisiana’s Billy Napier has turned down overtures from the university. Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik interviewed for the job, but pulled his name from consideration the next day.  Former MSU football player Joe Judge was considered a (the?) leading candidate to return home. Instead, the New England Patriots special teams coordinator was named as the New York Giants head coach.

It had gotten to the point where Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz is tossing his name into the mix.

Now, Leach will again cross swords with Kiffin.  Hired by Ole Miss last month, Kiffin was at USC as head coach from 2010 until late September of 2013.  One of Kiffin’s last losses at the school?  To Leach and Wazzu.

It’s safe to say that, at this point, the 2020 Egg Bowl will be one of the most anticipated games of the entire season.  And it’s only January.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank Mr. Dog Pisser for helping to trigger the series of events that led us to Leach-Kiffin, the Sequel.

UPDATED 3:56 P.M. ET: MSU has revealed that Mike Leach will officially be introduced as head coach at one p.m. ET Friday.

Below are statements released by the university after officially announcing the hiring.

HEAD COACH MIKE LEACH
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be the head football coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. I loved Washington State, but I am excited for the next chapter in the SEC. It’s a privilege to be a part of the MSU family, and we look forward to getting down to Starkville shortly.”

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR JOHN COHEN
“Mike Leach is a proven winner who has established a culture of excellence for nearly two decades as a head coach. An offensive genius and two-time national coach of the year, he has a track record of building programs to national prominence with accountability and a blue-collar approach. We are thrilled to welcome him and his family to the Mississippi State family and look forward to watching our football program grow under his leadership.”

MSU PRESIDENT MARK KEENUM
“I want to commend Athletics Director John Cohen and his staff for conducting a very thorough and true national search. In Coach Mike Leach, that search produced a charismatic leader who has proven he can both win football games at a high level and motivate teams to play up to their potential. I’m excited about the future of our football program.”