In December of 2010, former BCS stage coordinator and current College Football Playoff puppet master, Bill Hancock, wrote a column for USA Today adamantly defending college football’s former playoff-less era. More specifically, Hancock tackled chatter for a playoff head on, explaining in detail why this concept would be a detriment to the sport.
“College football has the best regular season of any sport,” Hancock wrote. “And the lack of a playoff is one big reason why.”
On January 1 2015, the playoff debuted with no one less than Hancock himself, the executive director, overseeing it all. The entire thing—to the surprise of absolutely no one—was an overwhelming success. Feet still haven’t hit the floor. Eyeballs consumed in mass.
The playoff, as it turns out, didn’t have a negative impact on the regular season. In fact, its presence added an element and importance to each and every week, a season-long journey that culminated in a pair of wildly entertaining semifinals on New Year’s Day.
With these two games came two enormous television ratings, numbers that compete individually with national championships from previous seasons.January 2, 2015
Nothing blew up. Nothing was lost. The bowl season was still successful and necessary. The regular season wasn’t just kept important; it became even more imperative for more teams and fanbases.
While the debate over deserved playoff participants nullified some of the playoff’s true value—with controversy taking over—this was gladly tossed aside the moment Oregon and Florida State kicked off.
Even with one blowout, you couldn’t turn away. Alabama and Ohio State capped off a spectacular day in spectacular fashion, delivering an unlikely result we’ll be buzzing about for some time regardless of what happens next.
While the playoff may not be perfect—and much of this depends on how you like your football served—the new era has been welcomed with open arms. It was a perfect complement to a brilliant bowl season, not a big, sorry distraction.
Change, of course, is always worrisome. It’s why Hancock—and many others, for that matter—fought to keep the old system intact for as long as he could. He viewed the playoff as a threat before having no choice but to embrace the unknown. In losing this battle, however, the rest of us won.
The only relevant question that can be asked now isn’t regarding the prospects of eventually expanding to eight teams. We’ll get there when we get there. It’s far simpler than that.
Why’d we wait so long?
With only one game remaining, here are the awards, Vines and important mascot groin kicks from an action-packed bowl season.
Offensive Player of the Bowl Season: Nick Chubb, Georgia
Given some of the box score destruction that took place in obscure bowl locations, you could have gone a handful of directions for this award. But in terms of numbers and overall impact, no one did more for their team this bowl season than Nick Chubb, Georgia’s “backup” running back. (Note: This isn’t very fair.)
Todd Gurley’s replacement ran for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, obliterating the nation’s No. 11 rush defense. A combination of size and speed, the true freshman capped off a brilliant first year in style, falling only 16 yards short of Herschel Walker’s single-game mark.
He will now spend the next eight months getting bigger and faster, which is also unfair.
Dominant Defender: Arkansas, The Entire Defense (Again)
Only once this season did we honor an entire defense rather than an individual in this category. That team was Arkansas following its 30-0 victory over Ole Miss in late November, its second consecutive SEC shutout.
As dominant as the defense was in back-to-back weeks, it was even better against Texas in the Texas Bowl. The Longhorns weren’t just defensively challenged; they were running head first into a brick wall for 60 minutes.
Texas: 59 yards on 43 offensive plays; fewest yards by any FBS team in a game this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 30, 2014
As statistically incredible as that might seem, it should be noted that Texas had less than 30 total yards late in the fourth quarter. The numbers don't do it justice.
And over the last five weeks of the season—going up against four ranked opponents at the time of the game—Bret Bielema’s team allowed 31 combined points. Not bad.
Video Game Box Scores
— In a game that took roughly 19 hours to complete, USC and Nebraska delivered plenty of offense in the Holiday Bowl. These two totaled a combined 1,040 yards, 702 passing yards, 50 first downs and 87 points. Despite the Trojans' best efforts to blow a robust lead, they held on 45-42.
— Prior to Clemson’s bowl game, quarterback Cole Stoudt had a negative quarterback rating in two of three games, headlined by a -62.6 performance against South Carolina (albeit with only two throws). After struggling mightily all season, however, Stoudt was brilliant in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Behold one of the strangest individual finishes to the season you will ever see.
Cole Stoudt’s quarterback rating over his last four games: From -62.6 to 174.2. pic.twitter.com/Oj3DU243Ni— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) January 4, 2015
Anti-Video Game Box Score
— How do you total 583 yards, score 41 points and still manage to finish with negative rushing yards? If you’ve been seeking out an answer to this riddle, pull up a chair. Baylor’s heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl gave us that answer.
Coming to an anti-video game box score bowl recap near you: pic.twitter.com/p3P6QvpzDA— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) January 3, 2015
— Oh, Ole Miss. After a brilliant season, the Rebels ended with an emphatic thud against TCU in the Peach Bowl. The Rebels totaled just 129 yards in their 42-3 loss, running for just nine yards on 37 carries. This game also featured eight turnovers—four on each side—although Bo Wallace’s early interceptions did not help matters. In fairness to Ole Miss, TCU is a mighty fine team.
It was a rare break in his programming, a sign of actual raw human emotion from an individual who rarely allows us access. Although Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is typically robotic in his media encounters, this was not the case following his team’s Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
As Meyer met with the media following his team’s 42-35 win, he was alerted of Oregon’s blowout victory over Florida State and—more relevant to his interests—his opponent for the national championship.
His reaction was authentic and perfect. It was subtle and, yet, it was a welcomed change of pace from a coach that doesn’t stray from the script often.
For the Highlight Reel
It was Christmas Eve, and I was wrapping presents with the helping hand of a large glass of Baileys. With the Bahamas Bowl on as backdrop, I watched Western Kentucky blow out Central Michigan for three quarters. And then, with the score 49-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Chippewas responded. Oh, did they respond.
After scoring 28 consecutive points, Central Michigan was down to its final play in regulation with just a few seconds remaining. In need of a miracle at the wrong 25-yard line—the side you don’t want to be on when you need a miracle—the unthinkable happened.
I have watched this video roughly 40 times, and it still doesn’t make sense. It still doesn't look real.
Although the two-point conversion to win the game failed on a poorly executed fade—please ban this play from your playbook—you may never see anything like this in your football life. Treasure it.
For the Highlight Reel: Part Two
World, Maxx Williams. Maxx Williams, world.
If you live within Big Ten walls, this is a name you know quite well. If this is your introduction to Maxx Williams—the nation’s best tight end and perhaps a future first-round draft pick—you’re in for a treat.
Against Missouri in the Citrus Bowl, Williams pulled the rare double-hurdle on a 54-yard touchdown reception. Because one just wasn't enough.
Although “anonymous draft scouts” will soon be dissecting our favorite players, they will not be able to knock his ability to hurdle mortals with relative ease.
Gary Patterson didn’t say much at all. And yet, no one said more.
When your team is left out of the College Football Playoff by the slimmest of margins and your response is a 42-3 clobbering over the nation’s No. 9 team, not saying much at all is almost more powerful. The resume says plenty.
Gary Patterson on if this was statement to @CFBPlayoff: "I don’t think I have to say anything"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 31, 2014
Large-Man Play of the Bowl Season
If you share the same passion for large-man feats as I do, you’re going to want to sit down, or at least move far away from all glass tables and other breakables. After all, it’s not every day that a 390-pound human runs freely in the open field with a football in his hand.
That’s precisely what happened with Baylor’s Laquan McGowan. The 6’7” guard heard his number called against Michigan State on an 18-yard touchdown reception in a play call that I would like to hug.
It was unexpected. It was brilliant. And it was beautiful.
The best part of this moment—outside of everything, of course—has to be the awkward booth silence following the score as ESPN searched for the name of the unexpected giant.
No, wait. The best part is how McGowan’s jersey only covers about half of his upper body and looks more like a bib.
Scratch that. The best part is all of it. Yep, let’s go with that.
We stay in the Cotton Bowl for a while longer, although all kickers—both past and current—are encouraged to skip to the next section.
Following a blocked field goal late in the game, Baylor kicker Chris Callahan tried to track down the ball that was moving in the other direction. That’s when Michigan State wideout/cornerback/special teams missile Tony Lippett appeared out of nowhere.
Please put on your hard hat before viewing.
It should be noted that Callahan was fine despite what the video told us. In fact, following the game, he and Lippett had a nice exchange on Twitter.
@chrispcallahan2 man that play happened so fast man... Hope u alright though man— Ralph LaurenLIP (@Tony_Lippett14) January 2, 2015
They may not be best friends after all this, but that's nicely done by both.
Biggest Hit (Runner-Up)
It was a difficult bowl season for kickers. On top of the occasional missed field goals and game-losing botched extra points—sorry, Boston College—the position was hit hard.
Although West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert wasn’t hit nearly as hard as Chris Callahan above, he was hit somewhere no kicker wants to be hit in the Liberty Bowl.
Kickin’ ain’t easy, folks. Remember that as you watch a Texas A&M player fly into the screen and make "contact" with Lambert's "belt area."
It should be pointed out that after a flag was thrown, Lambert came back later on in the drive and made a field goal. That is award-worthy.
Biggest Hit (Mascot Edition)
There must be history here. How else can you explain why the Cincinnati Bearcat did a flying kick into Thomas Jefferson's belt area? I never expected to type that sentence, but I’m sure glad I did.
The matchup between Virginia Tech and Cincinnati was certifiably “meh.” But when a mascot disrupts a race featuring former presidents with a move from Mortal Kombat, your utmost attention is required.
I haven’t stopped laughing at this. I don’t plan to anytime soon.
Most Embarrassing Bowl Season Job
Let’s stay in the mascot genre a while longer and celebrate what has to be a low point for some young man’s professional career.
I’m sure there are worse things to do than hold an umbrella for a giant potato mascot—more specifically, the terrifying mascot for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl—although none come to mind. This has to be a personal low.
I’m sure it will read much better on a resume than it appeared on television.
Also, again, why is that thing wearing gloves?
Most Terrifying New Bowl Mascot(s)
Congratulations, mutant potato. You are no longer the most terrifying mascot of the bowl season. You have been overtaken by not one, but two food-related items that appeared in the Outback Bowl.
Here we have a mutant shrimp, I think.
So that's a fried shrimp. pic.twitter.com/MN2Fy8iZbd— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 1, 2015
And a human-sized Bloomin’ Onion. Children reading this for whatever reason, I’m so sorry. They'll see you in your Outback nightmares.January 1, 2015
Toughest Coach of the Bowl Season
Although there were better overall coaching jobs this bowl season (see: Urban Meyer), no coach took a kick to the face—yes, an actual kick to the face—better than South Alabama’s Joey Jones.
That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, this moment wasn’t for the faint of heart. Playing Bowling Green in the first-ever Camellia Bowl, Jones was simply trying to help one of his players as he was pushed out of bounds and took a cleat to the face in the process.
Again, you've been warned.
The result was not pretty, although Jones didn’t budge from the sideline. South Alabama fell short in its comeback efforts, but kudos to the head coach for hanging in there with a broken nose.
1st Camellia Bowl has a little bit of everything, including bloody nose for coach Joey Jones. pic.twitter.com/kYCI2uR3Qi— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) December 21, 2014
Best Illegal Forward Pass of the Bowl Season
It ended up not being a fumble; let’s start with the positives. With that out of the way, Iowa’s Jonathan Parker provided one of the strangest kick returns you will ever see against Tennessee in the Taxslayer Bowl.
You’ve been there before. Perhaps your, “Oh [expletive removed by copy editors]!” moment didn’t come on a kick return with your team down roughly 987 points. But sometimes instincts kick in, and sometimes these instincts are wrong.
Chin up, kid. At least it was ruled an illegal forward pass and not a fumble. Plus, this wasn’t the play that cost Iowa the game. No, there were plenty more of those.
Best Unexpected Coaching Tantrum
With things starting to turn in the Pinstripe Bowl, Boston College head coach Steve Addazio had seen enough. When one of the members of the chain gang got in his way, almost causing him to fall, Addazio let the man hear it as he picked himself up.
It wasn't this gentleman's fault that things went bad against Penn State; although I'm sure it felt like it at the time.
Best Headset Toss
This one is easy. There is no contest. If this whole coaching thing doesn’t pan out, Urban Meyer might have a future in shot-putting.
There is one more game to go. Enjoy every last minute of it. I have zero doubts that you will.
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Now that Tennessee's resurrection season is complete following a 45-28 win over Iowa that gave the Volunteers their first winning record since 2009, it's time to turn the attention toward the offseason.
It's going to be an exciting one in Knoxville.
Head coach Butch Jones is locked into a long-term contract, he's recruiting at the highest level in the country and the team has several centerpieces around which to build.
The decisive victory over the Hawkeyes was what everybody on Rocky Top needed as a catalyst. An offense that had struggled at times this year found a few reliable playmakers, and the defense continued to make huge strides under coordinator John Jancek.
The Vols now have to focus on parlaying the successful finish into bigger and better things.
With a more manageable schedule and a more seasoned team, UT is expected to be one of the hottest teams entering the national picture next season. It's possible the Vols even start the season ranked.
But there's a long way to go between now and the start of next season. Here are some things that need to happen in the interim to keep the Vols heading in the right direction.
If football is a game of matchups, then Oregon and Ohio State will present a feast of strength-on-strength battles in the national championship game. The Ducks and the Buckeyes are two of the most well-rounded teams in the nation, and with so much premier talent even among the third-stringers, neither side has much of a weakness for the other to exploit.
However, the stylistic contrast should be fascinating. For instance, while both teams boasted top-five scoring offenses this season, the up-tempo, spread-oriented Ducks make for a significant contrast with Ohio State's pro-style power-running game and emphasis on the deep ball. Talent typically wins out, but in this instance, scheme will play just as significant a role.
Therefore, when thinking about these matchups, it's important to consider not just talent but also how each team utilizes each player. With that in mind, here are the likely player matchups that will have the greatest impact on this game's outcome.
Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio St.) vs. Jake Fisher (LT, Oregon)
Few defensive players in the nation possess the power-speed combination necessary to corral Marcus Mariota, but the sophomore Bosa is one of them. Though the unanimous first-team All-American was largely contained against Alabama, even a poor game by his standards resulted in a handful of pass pressures:
On the season, Bosa has compiled 20 tackles for loss, making him a potentially disruptive force against the Ducks rushing attack. The Big Ten doesn't have many systems similar to the Ducks, but against Indiana's spread rushing-oriented offense on Nov. 22, Bosa's impact was muted by his lofty standards, as he recorded five tackles but no sacks.
Still, he's the toughest test on the Ohio State defense, and the Bosa assignment will largely fall upon Jake Fisher's shoulders. Oregon's left tackle has been an unsung hero in the Ducks offense, as the offensive line conceded 10 sacks in the two games Fisher missed this year. However, Fisher was excellent in the Rose Bowl, shutting down Florida State's Mario Edwards Jr. as the Ducks held the Seminoles without a sack.
Tempo is Oregon's greatest ally in keeping defenses on their heels, but that alone isn't likely to stop Bosa or Ohio State's talented interior tackle tandem of Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington. Thus, Fisher and the rest of the offensive line will need to play their best game of the season to slow down the Buckeyes defensive line, the best unit on the squad.
Devin Smith (WR, Ohio St.) vs. Troy Hill (CB, Oregon)
Against Florida State, the senior corner Hill shadowed top receiver Rashad Greene. The Buckeyes possess a more egalitarian wide receiving corps, so it's unclear if the Ducks will employ that same strategy with their No. 1 cornerback. Sophomore Michael Thomas leads the Buckeyes with 50 receptions, while freshman running back Jalin Marshall will present headaches for linebackers on passing downs.
However, no player is more dangerous than Smith, whose 12 touchdowns lead the team this season. Smith's absurd 27.7 yards per catch is the highest mark in the FBS for players with at least 30 catches, per Sports Reference, and no other receiver has scored on a higher frequency of his catches. With a 47-yard touchdown against Alabama, the senior again reminded us that he is one of the nation's best deep threats:
Hill won't be intimidated by the challenge if he does shadow Smith, as he stymied Greene, holding him to just six catches for 59 yards. While potential first-rounder Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has received much of the hype in the Oregon secondary this season, his absence has fostered an appreciation for Hill's gritty man-to-man coverage skills:
Ohio State is 22-0 when Smith catches a touchdown, so it's clear that this matchup is going to represent one of the game's determining factors. While the Buckeyes offense won't be toothless if Hill contains Smith, that would go a long way toward reducing Cardale Jones' margin for error.
Cardale Jones (QB, Ohio St.) and Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio St.) vs. Oregon Front Seven
Speaking of Jones, the sophomore has fared better than anyone could have hoped for since taking over for an injured J.T. Barrett. Though Jones threw a pick and took some untimely sacks in the Sugar Bowl, he averaged 6.9 yards per attempt while wearing down the Crimson Tide's front seven with his bruising running style.
The Buckeyes will seek to run the ball first, especially with the 6'0", 225-pound Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. Elliott failed to make either All-Big Ten team, because of the conference's enviable backfield depth, but with 1,632 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns on the season and 450 yards on the ground over his past two games, the sophomore is on an absolute tear. Between Elliott and the 250-pound Jones, few teams can match the muscle in the Buckeyes running game.
That will be a huge test for the Ducks front seven, which often unfairly gets labeled as "finesse" because of the program's general emphasis on speed. Still, Oregon did have issues with Florida State's running game, as its running backs averaged 6.3 yards per attempt.
In past years, beefy SEC teams such as LSU and Auburn have bullied Oregon's front seven in the trenches. Now, the Ducks are facing a team that derailed one of those SEC kingpins. Oregon will be an underdog in this specific matchup, but there's no better way to change the national perception than by containing the Buckeyes running game and forcing the game onto Jones' arm.
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Cassius Peat, a 4-star senior outside linebacker (6'3", 235 pounds) out of Corona del Sol High School (Tempe, Arizona), has decided to wait until national signing day to announce where he will take his talents, according to Jared Cohen of Sports360AZ.
The son of former NFL football player Todd Peat and the younger brother of Todd Jr., who transferred from Nebraska to Glendale Community College in 2012, and Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat, committed to UCLA on Oct. 13 but then decided to revisit his decision once November rolled around and the 2014 high school football season had ended.
Besides UCLA, schools such as Michigan State, Arizona State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M are also on his radar. He currently has two official visits remaining and will have in-home visits as the recruitment process nears an end in the final month.
In his final season with the Aztecs, he recorded 45 total tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
At the moment, Peat is playing his last season of basketball on a nationally ranked Corona del Sol team that is looking to win its fourth consecutive Division I state championship.
The Aztecs knocked of Federal Way from Washington 73-51 on Dec. 30 and came up just short against Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California), which is currently ranked sixth nationally, 65-64 on Saturday night.
While basketball will occupy Peat for the time being, his decision on where he will be playing college football remains a mystery. The program fortunate enough to have him join its linebacking corps will gain a player who possesses physical strength and athleticism.
According to ESPN.com, Peat is the ninth-best player in the state of Arizona, with the first being highly touted wide receiver Christian Kirk (Saguaro High School, Scottsdale, Arizona), who committed to Texas A&M on Dec. 17.
Peat will make his final decision on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
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With most of the football world either still fighting the New Year's Six hangover or focused on the NFL playoffs, the GoDaddy Bowl isn't exactly a marquee event.
But Kareem Hunt made sure America took notice.
The explosive sophomore running back racked up a GoDaddy Bowl-record 271 rushing yards and five scores against Arkansas State, leading the Rockets to an entertaining 63-44 victory on Sunday night.
One of the most productive backs in the nation, Hunt finishes the season with 1,631 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler foresees him as a major part of the draft conversation once eligible next season:
Hunt, who looked like he was operating against defenders stuck in molasses for most of the night, had his biggest run of the day in the first quarter. He took a carry to the left, put one foot into the ground, cut upfield and exploded 44 yards to pay dirt with ease:
While Hunt was the star, Toledo's defense came up with a number of big plays as well.
Junior linebacker Trent Voss recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play from scrimmage, giving Toledo a lead just 10 seconds into the game.
Just before halftime, the defense did it again, as Allen Covington picked up another fumble and rumbled 67 yards for a touchdown, giving the audience the always-beloved "fat guy TD."
Of course, that's only by definition, as Covington weighs in at 275 pounds. It certainly didn't look like a typical "fat guy TD":
Arkansas State wasn't without its highlights. Fredi Knighten completed 23 of 31 passes for 403 yards and touchdown throws of three, 27, 44, 55 and 66 yards. Three of those went to Booker Mays, who finished with five receptions and 138 yards.
Probably most known as the fainting player in Arkansas State's now-famous fake punt attempt, Mays quadrupled his touchdown total on the season, per CBS Sports CFB:
The Red Wolves also had their own defensive score, as Money Hunter returned an interception 94 yards, cutting the deficit to 11 points late in the third quarter.
But every time Arkansas State got close, Toledo went right back to Hunt, moving the ball on the ground with little resistance. Even when Hunt went down in the fourth quarter with a cramping issue, Damion Jones-Moore came in and added 103 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
The loss ends a two-game winning streak in the GoDaddy Bowl for Arkansas State.
Nevertheless, after amazingly losing Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin to head coaching jobs in the last three years, it's an incredible accomplishment by the program to simply keep churning out winning seasons.
As for Toledo, it has some rebuilding to do next season, as it loses all five of its senior starting offensive linemen.
With Hunt, though, it may not matter who's blocking for him. He should keep the Rockets firmly in contention atop the Mid-American Conference in 2015.
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Michigan’s offseason drama has centered on who would replace Brady Hoke after the team’s disappointing 5-7 finish. The regular season was a disaster both on and off the field and ultimately claimed Hoke’s job.
Michigan was in the news for all the wrong reasons, from shocking losses to Big Ten newcomers Rutgers and Maryland to quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion injury, which resulted in the resignation of athletic director David Brandon.
But all was not lost for the Maize and Blue. Fans were rewarded after an excruciating month-long wait with the coach everyone wanted.
Jim Harbaugh Returns to Ann Arbor
“I have no other words to really describe how that feels except to tell you I have great excitement about the challenge of serving the University of Michigan as your football coach,” said Jim Harbaugh during his introduction, and so launched the next era of Michigan football.
Harbaugh confounded practically every national expert by choosing to take the Michigan job over NFL opportunities. Harbaugh, who grew up in Ann Arbor and played for Michigan under Bo Schembechler, has a track record of quick turnarounds but will compete in a Big Ten East Division dominated by Ohio State and Michigan State.
He refused to issue a time frame for success or make any guarantees, but expectations are sky-high that he will soon have the Wolverines back in the national spotlight.
Who Will Be on His Staff?
After Harbaugh’s announcement, conjecture quickly turned to his coaching staff. During his press conference, he said that that he wanted “the best” coaches to work with him at Michigan.
Here is the rundown of who might be headed to Ann Arbor:
247Sports reports that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has told recruits he will be part of the staff in some capacity.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno will be Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that interim Florida coach D.J. Durkin was waiting for Harbaugh’s move to Michigan and is now expected to be his defensive coordinator.
Bruce Feldman has reported that Lance Anderson, currently Stanford's defensive coordinator, is also being pursued by Harbaugh.
The Sacramento Bee has reported 49ers wide receiver coach John Morton will also be joining the Michigan staff.
Sam Webb, WTKA's Michigan Insider, tweeted that Shannon Turley, who is currently with Stanford, will be Michigan’s new strength and conditioning coach.
Upheaval in Buffalo has led to speculation that running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley may be available, but there has been no confirmation that Harbaugh is pursuing him.
One coach who won't be joining Harbaugh is Vince Marrow (currently with Kentucky), according to Brian Eldridge.
There is no word on if longtime Michigan assistant coach Fred Jackson will be retained. Jackson has coached at Michigan since 1992.
Who Will Play Quarterback?
After completing his staff, Harbaugh will need to use spring practice to evaluate his quarterbacks. Early enrollee Alex Malzone will battle with Shane Morris, Russell Bellomy and Wilton Speight for the chance to lead Michigan on the field next season.
With a few weeks left before signing day, there’s also the possibility that Harbaugh could woo another quarterback to Ann Arbor.
Whomever Harbaugh chooses to start will have the advantage of his years of experience playing quarterback at the pro and collegiate level.
(Interim) Athletic Director
After David Brandon's resignation, Michigan filled its void at athletic director with former corporate CEO Jim Hackett. Hackett is technically still the interim athletic director, but after landing Jim Harbaugh, he is the top candidate to fill the job permanently.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand
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The hiring of Jim Harbaugh was the perfect remedy for Michigan football. After a seven-year downward spiral, things are finally looking up for the Wolverines, who haven’t won an outright Big Ten title since 2003—they last shared a piece of a league title in 2004.
And on top of that, they haven’t been truly relevant on the national stage since 2006.
Time for change was a long time ago.
Widely regarded as one of the best in the game, collegiate or pro, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Stanford Cardinal and San Diego Toreros is known for rebuilding and winning—he’s done so at every stop.
He’ll likely do the same at Michigan.
However, even "His Highness" needs some time to get things moving.
In 2007, Harbaugh took the wheel from Walt Harris and steered a one-win team to a record of 4-8. He followed that by going 5-7 in 2008 and 8-5 in 2009. In 2010, he went 12-1 against the No. 13-ranked schedule in the nation, per Sports-Reference.com, and pounded Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl.
Needless to say, he did a wonderful job of setting the table for David Shaw, who’s won at least 11 games thrice since taking over in 2011.
Expect better for Michigan in 2015. Harbaugh’s presence should immediately change the overall mood within the confines of The Big House.
But don’t expect miracles from Harbaugh, who, contrary to popular belief, won’t be able to right the ship with a snap of a finger and a few phone calls. He’s a great coach who is capable of dusting off Michigan, but he’s not the “messiah” or “savior,” a point he clearly made during his introduction on Dec. 30, 2014.
The Texas Longhorns are getting younger in 2015, bringing in 27 recruits after redshirting much of last year's haul. Just like the true freshmen, several members of that group are going to have to play a major role next season.
Thanks to a big weekend that saw them add three recruits, Charlie Strong and the Horns now sport a top-10 recruiting class according to 247Sports. And that's with several highly rated players still there for the taking.
While that represents a major step forward for a program that could easily lose ground on the trail because of performance, it guarantees nothing, especially in the immediate future.
Several of these freshmen will contribute, and even start. But with only seven early enrollees, Strong can only count on what he's got, which means current players will have to step up.
There's talent waiting in the redshirt ranks to help out in that area, ranked here based on their potential to be reliable contributors.
Head coach Chris Petersen continued to add to his first real recruiting class at the University of Washington, securing the commitment of 4-star recruit Austin Joyner.
The Marysville Pilchuck (Marysville, WA) star announced his decision during Sunday night's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, via Scout.com's Chris Fetters.
Petersen sent along the now-recognizable confirmation tweet:
Joyner is the sixth-ranked all-purpose back in America and No. 2 prospect out of the state of Washington. An exciting, athletic player, he is also a candidate to play cornerback at the next level.
A former Washington State recruit—surely there will be no bad blood there—Joyner gives Petersen the top two recruits in the state of Washington, as well as five of the top eight.
FieldGulls.com's Jared Stranger gave his thoughts:
While the Cactus Bowl marked a disappointing finish to Petersen's first season with the Dawgs, he is showing success in the recruiting circles. Washington's class is now ranked No. 26 nationally, and the arrow is pointing up in Montlake.
Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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ACC secondaries better start worrying about Dwayne Lawson.
The 4-star high school quarterback announced that he's headed to Virginia Tech during Sunday night's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
Recruiting Insider Evan Watkins of 247Sports captured a quote from the newest Hokie, who said, "I decided to play ball at the University of Virgina Tech. All the players, they have the same thing in mind, they are hungry and they want to play young. We are on the rise."
According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Lawson is the 10th-best pro-style QB in the 2015 recruiting class and ranks 254th overall.
Lawson originally committed to the Miami Hurricanes back in May. However, he revealed on Dec. 18 that he decided to spurn the 'Canes and look elsewhere:
Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun felt the Florida Gators had a chance to try to woo Lawson but that Virginia Tech sat in pole position:
While listed as a pro-style quarterback, Lawson gained 867 yards and scored 17 touchdowns on the ground in 2014, according to 247Sports. He's not a run-first QB by any measure, but he has the speed and athleticism to do some damage outside of the pocket.
On Nov. 10, ESPN's Recruiting Nation (ESPN Insider subscription required) highlighted one of Lawson's performances in which he gained 268 total yards and scored on passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns:
On Friday night, Lawson showed why he is one of the more athletic quarterback prospects in the country. The No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the ESPN 300 showed the ability to keep plays alive when in the shotgun spread throwing and running outside the pocket. His live arm was evident on a few deep passes that were placed perfectly over the top of coverage, and he also took what the defense gave him on several underneath throws, including a 22-yard scoring strike. As a runner he kept the defense honest. Lawson scored on a 15-yard scramble early in the second quarter where he was able to get outside and get to pay dirt.
Lawson possesses seemingly limitless upside because he has a great arm and great mobility for a pocket passer. His accuracy is a bit questionable, especially on deeper throws. With the right coaching staff, those problems can be solved.
The prep star still has a lot of room to grow, so it's unlikely he'll make an immediate impact in Blacksburg. Lawson's one of those QBs best served with a year or two on the bench so he can refine his skills before being thrown into the starting role.
This is a player who, over time, could blossom into an All-American quarterback.
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