NCAA Football

Clancy Pendergast Hired as USC DC: Latest Comments and Reaction

Clancy Pendergast was the defensive coordinator for the USC Trojans in 2013 and will reportedly return to the program in the same role in 2016, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

Pendergast was an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 after he elected to sit out during the 2014 campaign.

Nick Bromberg of Yahoo Sports highlighted the fact USC has made a habit of hiring coaches with past ties to the program in recent years, considering Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Clay Helton are the last three permanent head coaches. All were offensive assistants with the team before earning the nod.

Pendergast will replace Justin Wilcox, who was fired in early December after a disastrous showing in the Pac-12 title game.

The Trojans finished a dismal 70th in the nation in yards allowed per game and 57th in scoring defense this season. They had realistic national title aspirations heading into the year, but they ended up a disappointing 8-6 and lost in blowout fashion to Stanford in that conference championship game and to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl.

It was apparent how much improvement USC needed on defense during its marquee games of 2015, when it allowed 48 points to Oregon, 41 to Notre Dame and 41 against Stanford on two different occasions.

Feldman described why the Pendergast hire could prove fruitful for the Trojans:

In 2013, he turned the Trojans from a unit that ranked No. 7 in the Pac-12 to No. 1. A few years earlier, he sparked as dramatic a turnaround when he took over Cal's defense and made it the conference's top-rated D. Pendergast gained a rep in coaching circles for having a handle on containing the spread after his 2010 Bears slowed down Chip Kelly's prolific offense, holding them to 40 points below their average. However, when Steve Sarkisian was hired as USC's new coach, he opted to not retain Pendergast.

USC won 10 games with Pendergast in charge of the defense in 2013, which it has only done one other time since the 2008 campaign. 

Max Meyer, digital content producer for the NFL, noted Pendergast’s 5-2 philosophy should fit in well with the talent pool at USC:

Ken Goe of the Oregonian reported earlier Thursday that the Oregon Ducks were interested in bringing Pendergast aboard after they demoted Don Pellum from defensive coordinator to linebacker coach.

Alas, it will be the Trojans who add him in an effort to slow down some of the Pac-12’s high-powered offenses that include stars such as Josh Rosen and Christian McCaffrey and uptempo schemes such as the one at Oregon.

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Clancy Pendergast Hired as USC DC: Latest Comments and Reaction

Clancy Pendergast was the defensive coordinator for the USC Trojans in 2013 and will reportedly return to the program in the same role in 2016, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Breaking Down the 2016 Transfer QB Market in College Football

A national champion hasn't even been crowned yet for the 2015 season, but college football's version of free agency for 2016—the quarterback transfer market—is already in full swing.

As the most important position on the roster, quarterbacks are in high demand each year. And whether it's due to coaching changes or depth-chart issues, the trend of passers on the move continues to grow.

This year's quarterback market started with a frenzy down in the Lone Star State, and pieces continue to fall into place in other areas across the country.

Some schools will gain valuable depth at the position for the future, while others will pick up instant-impact graduate transfers who will be eligible immediately.

Let's recap all the action in the transfer quarterback market so far this offseason and update some situations for those still looking for new schools.

 

Decisions finalized

The epicenter of the early quarterback transfer market was at Texas A&M.

The Aggies' two quarterbacks with starting experience in 2015—former 5-star recruits Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray—both announced their intentions to leave College Station early last month. 

Allen, who took over as Texas A&M's starting quarterback in the second half of his 2014 true-freshman season and was the original 2015 starter, decided to stay in Texas earlier this week. The strong-armed quarterback chose AAC and Peach Bowl champion Houston, where he'll compete for the job left by Greg Ward Jr. in 2017.

"I just have a lot of trust in Coach [Tom] Herman," Allen said, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports. "He had recruited me in high school [when Herman was at Ohio State]. I had gotten to know him extremely well. I know he can really help me grow as a man and get to the NFL."

Although Murray decided to transfer after Allen, he chose his new school in less time. The 5'11" speedster, who never lost a single game as a high school starter, signed with Oklahoma before Christmas.

Murray seems like a great fit for Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's scheme when he becomes eligible to play as a redshirt sophomore in 2017. While he needs to continue to develop his passing accuracy, he was an electrifying rushing threat with the Aggies, averaging 6.32 yards per carry.

The transfers left Texas A&M with only one quarterback on its roster, but the Aggies turned the situation into a virtual "player to be named later" trade with Oklahoma.

Former Sooners starter Trevor Knight decided to transfer to Texas A&M this week, and he will be eligible immediately for the 2016 season.

The experienced Knight lost his starting job to former Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield in 2015 after passing for 2,300 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2014. He famously led Oklahoma to a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama at the end of the 2013 season.

Before the Texas A&M quarterback saga was finalized, Dakota Prukop was the top transfer QB story in college football.

Prukop decided to make a move from the FCS ranks after throwing for 3,025 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions at Montana State. According to Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval, he may be more dangerous with his legs.

"The ability to extend plays with his arm and his legs not only makes Prukop hard to physically defend in space, but forces opposing defenses to account for him at all times," Kercheval wrote last month.

He visited SEC champion Alabama, who will have a new starting quarterback in 2016, but decided to transfer to Oregon—a school that picked up FCS star Vernon Adams Jr. for the 2015 season. 

Prukop will have huge shoes to fill from Adams, who led the nation in passing efficiency in his one and only season for a warp-speed Oregon offense that struggled in a huge way when he was injured.

But unlike Adams, Prukop will have plenty of time to prepare in Oregon's offense. According to Chantel Jennings of ESPN.com, Prukop is already enrolled in classes in Eugene. Adams didn't arrive at Oregon until late in fall practice last year after some academic drama.

Other transfers who will immediately compete for starting jobs in 2016 include Austin Appleby, who joined a quarterback-hungry Florida team from Purdue.

Boston College picked up former Kentucky starter Patrick Towles, and Georgia's Faton Bauta joined former Bulldogs assistant Mike Bobo at Colorado State.

Will Gardner, who started at Louisville in the 2014 season, stepped down to Division II's West Georgia. Alec Morris will also be on the move from Alabama's crowded quarterback room to Sun Belt school North Texas.

 

Still on the market

While most of the big names on the quarterback transfer market have already been claimed by schools, a few impact passers are still looking for new homes.

Former Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb could become a new starter somewhere in 2016. He threw for 44 touchdowns in his first two seasons at Texas Tech and averaged more than 300 yards per contest in 2014. 

Health woes limited Webb, and Patrick Mahomes took control of the starting quarterback job in the 2015 season. Still, Webb's 6'5" frame and high football IQ should make one school happy for the upcoming campaign.

"He has a chance to be very special," Kingsbury told Feldman in 2013. "He has one of the quickest releases and strongest arms I've been around. Very smart, intellectual thinker. Processes things very quickly. Sees the field. Great at checking to the right place."

There haven't been any reports yet of any schools leading for Webb, although Feldman wrote that SEC and Pac-12 options were the most likely landing spots for him. 

Pittsburgh's Chad Voytik will also be eligible in 2016 after receiving his release from the Panthers earlier this week.

Voytik recorded more than 2,500 yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns as Pitt's starting quarterback in 2014. He lost the starting quarterback job to former Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman this past season, the first for Pitt under new coach Pat Narduzzi.

According to Saralyn Norkus of the Cleveland (Tennessee) Daily Banner, Voytik is considering Arkansas State, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee-Chattanooga.

The Tennessee native mentioned Memphis to Norkus because of new coach Jay Norvell, who was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh when he signed in 2011.

Elsewhere, Will Grier is looking for a new school.

He broke out as Florida's new quarterback in 2015 and went 6-0 as a starter with 10 touchdowns and just three picks before receiving a one-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Even without the suspension, Grier would have to sit out one season for his new team due to the NCAA's transfer rules. He will be eligible again for 2017.

Other SEC quarterbacks set to transfer are Ole Miss' DeVante Kincade and Vanderbilt's Johnny McCrary.

Kincade played the last two seasons as a reserve and is considering joining North Texas, according to Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle. McCrary, who started 12 games at Vanderbilt, can finish his degree this summer and be eligible for the next two seasons at his new school, according to Adam Sparks of the Tennessean.

 

A final possiblity

There's still plenty of time for some more movement in the market, especially with the fluid roster situations across the country.

The biggest rumor right now in that area revolves around BYU senior Taysom Hill.

When he was healthy for the Cougars, Hill was one of the most exciting dual-threat players in the country, racking up more than 4,000 yards of offense in 2013 (he's only been able to play in eight games since).

With Bronco Mendenhall leaving BYU to become the new coach at Virginia and Tanner Mangum breaking out as a freshman starter in 2015, Hill is expected by some to finish his eligibility elsewhere.

According to Dick Harmon of the Deseret News, Mendenhall and his new Virginia staff have reached out to Hill:

Michigan has also been connected with Hill's name since the regular season, and Matt Brown of SB Nation's Vanquish the Foe mentioned Stanford as another possible landing spot for the Cougar quarterback.

Of course, Hill has had three straight season-ending injuries, and his health may prevent him from playing another season in Provo or anywhere else.

Still, if he leaves BYU for the 2016 season, another school could cash in on a veteran talent and send the market spinning once more. 

 

Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.comRecruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Clemson Granted Release on Practice Limitations for Championship Game vs Alabama

The NCAA granted Clemson a waiver Wednesday that will allow football players to practice more than 20 hours per week in the lead-up to Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

"We're appreciative of the NCAA working with us in granting this waiver to assist in our preparations for next Monday's game while maintaining our commitment to student-athlete welfare," Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement Thursday, per ESPN.com.     

He continued, "As Coach [Dabo] Swinney pointed out, this was not going to be a big difference-maker in our team's schedule, but it's great they've reached a solution that prioritizes the well-being of our student-athletes while allowing them to adequately prepare for the national championship."

Because Clemson's spring semester is in session, players would have been subject to more strict practice rules than Alabama, which has not resumed class. The Tigers would have been held to limits of no more than four hours of football-related work per day and 20 hours or less over the course of a week. 

It's worth noting the game itself counts as three hours, meaning coaches realistically have only 17 hours of prep time during the week. This is the second straight season the rule has come into play, as Oregon was left with a 20-hour limit during its prep for its title game matchup with Ohio State.

With the College Football Playoff extending the season by a week, this is something the NCAA needs to address immediately. Giving Clemson a waiver helps the Tigers in the interim, but more than likely we'll be facing a similar situation a year from now. Exempting championship teams from the 20-hour workweek is logical, and yet it also clearly sends a message that academics come second to athletics.

While most would acknowledge that's the case in high-profile college athletics, it's not a message the NCAA wants to send publicly. Clemson players are having to skip classes and coursework to ready themselves for Monday night's game, though it's worth noting the school is only allowing such instances when it receives professor approval, per ESPN.com.

Nevertheless, it creates a strange conflict of interest. The NCAA needs to either set a practice-limit rule for all teams that applies no matter the status of the semester or find a workable middle ground that avoids such situations in the future. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter

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How Clemson Compares to Nick Saban's Past Title Game Opponents at Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though this will be his last game with the University of Alabama, national championship games have become familiar for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

This will be his fourth as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator, and thanks to the BCS and College Football Playoffs, all have seen matchups of No. 1 vs. No. 2.

While statistically Alabama is pretty similar to its national title teams of 2009, 2011 and 2012, the opponents have been as different as the venues. Should it defeat Clemson in Arizona on Monday (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. CT) it’ll have a clean sweep of what used to be the four BCS title sites, Pasadena, New Orleans and Miami being the others.

“You’ve been in there with LSU, kind of tight, bunched up, running at you; Texas was a little bit spread; then Notre Dame spread it out some,” Smart said.

“These guys are probably the fastest tempo we’ve played in a championship game. So they create a lot of challenges for us because they’ve got a lot of formations, a lot of space plays, a lot of good skill players. So it creates kind of a new dynamic, this situation for us, to be able to stop those guys in what seems like a short week.”

That dynamic, of course, is led by sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, who will be going up against a defense that just pulled off a 38-0 shutout of Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and has Alabama fans drawing comparisons to the great Crimson Tide defenses of old.

Its place among them can be debated after the national title game, and when it comes to intangibles, some claim Alabama has a big advantage because it’s been there before. All of the seniors who didn’t transfer in were at the BCS game at the end of the 2012 season, and a few were there in 2011 as well.

Nevertheless, Clemson will be the Crimson Tide’s biggest challenge of the four title opponents.

“Looking back, I would say absolutely,” said ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who has been a broadcast analyst for each Alabama championship game.

Of the four, LSU clearly had the best defense and the most overall talent. Combined, the two teams have had 45 players from that game selected in the NFL draft, including 16 of the 22 defensive starters (12 in the first three rounds).

It was a rematch of what had been hailed as “The Game of the Century” and turned out to be just that for fans of defensive football. Neither team was able to reach the end zone, with the Tigers pulling out a hard-fought 9-6 overtime victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

With the loss occurring so late in the season, Alabama needed some big-time help to get another shot at LSU, which was being hailed as maybe having the best team in college football history. But with the defense giving up just 92 total yards, including 39 rushing, the Crimson Tide made five field goals and then finally scored a touchdown for a 21-0 victory.

LSU, which had defeated eight ranked teams en route to the BCS Championship Game, didn't cross midfield until eight minutes remained and finished with only five first downs. In contrast, Alabama had 384 yards of total offense.

Jordan Jefferson was LSU’s quarterback that day, while Texas had Heisman Trophy finalist Colt McCoy (who won the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas and Manning awards), and Notre Dame was led by Everett Golson.

All three were known for the ability to run as well as pass (McCoy actually had 1,571 career rushing yards), but none of them did so like Watson this season.

The list of college quarterbacks who have passed for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 during a single season is short, and includes Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel in 2012, Texas’ Vince Young in 2005 and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick in 2010 (along with Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan in 2007 and Chandler Harnish of Northern Illinois in 2011).

Manziel was the only one to pull it off during the regular season. Watson didn’t clear 1,000 rushing yards until the Orange Bowl, but it was his fifth 100-yard game out of the past six. Previously, he didn’t have any.

“I would say he’s unique,” Smart said about comparisons to Manziel, Nick Marshall and Cam Newton. “You could go there, it’s almost like a mixture of the three guys with Nick Marshall as a perimeter runner. Deshaun runs well on the perimeter. Johnny Manziel was a great athlete, create things in space. So does Deshaun Watson. This guy runs more power run game like you would say Cam Newton does. Obviously, he’s not the same stature as Cam, but he runs some of the similar plays that Auburn ran with him.

“So the mixture of those three guys, he takes a little bit from each one.”

Smart, who recruited Watson for Alabama two years ago (“We wanted him. We wanted him bad”), added that the quarterback has the “it” factor that all coaches are looking for and creates an enormous confidence with his teammates.

Consequently, Clemson has the best offense that Alabama’s seen in a championship game, and the last team that moved the ball against this defense was Ole Miss, which runs a very similar system.

Moreover, the Tigers are peaking at the right time and really have nothing to lose. Despite having been ranked No. 1 since early November, they’re playing up the “us against the world” mentality, complete with Dabo Swinney dancing in the locker room and massive pizza parties with fans.

“When you’re 14-0, the confidence that this football team is playing with, that somehow they’re able to maintain a chip on their shoulders, play that disrespect card, and 18-to-23-year-olds, when they all believe it, can become a very powerful thing much like Ohio State did a year ago—Clemson has that on its side right now,” Herbstreit said.

Yes, Alabama has faced undefeated teams in the title game before. It’s been favored in all four games and, like Clemson, is playing its best football at the right time.

But it has yet to win a title in the playoff format and has never played in this desert venue, and Clemson is nothing like the team that it crushed 34-10 in 2008. This will be much more of an endurance test.

“This is going to be a totally different kind of game, too, because these guys average 80-something plays a game,” Saban said. “Michigan State didn't average that many. They weren't a fastball team. The game's going to be long, and the players are going to play more plays. It’s going to be a game where conditioning's going to be at a premium.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh. 

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5-Star Isaac Nauta Breaks Down His Finalists, Says He Knows Where He Will Commit

Isaac Nauta finally knows where he's going to play college football.

The country's top-ranked tight end recruit and No. 9 overall prospect reached a decision Wednesday night after weeks of weighing three finalists. Nauta will let everyone know those plans Saturday afternoon when he announces a commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

"I'm excited to get it off my chest," Nauta told Bleacher Report. "I'm ready to head to school and get this next chapter of my life started."

It's down to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs and Michigan Wolverines for the 6'3", 244-pound prospect. Head coaches Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and Jim Harbaugh will apparently wait until his in-game commitment just like the rest of us, as Nauta doesn't plan to contact any coaches until after the national television broadcast.

"The hardest part about it all is I felt comfortable with all three," he said. "I felt I could go to school at all three and be happy. It was really more of a soul-searching thing. Where do I want to be? What do I want to do after football? I broke it down into everything and it was definitely the hardest decision of my life."

Nauta, a senior at Florida powerhouse IMG Academy, also made official visits to the Ole Miss Rebels and Oklahoma State Cowboys during the season. He previously spent eight months committed to the Florida State Seminoles, a verbal pact that began shortly after his junior campaign and lasted until late July.

After years experiencing the peaks and valleys of a high-profile recruitment process, the 5-star prospect is ready to wrap things up Saturday.

"It's a huge mix of emotions. It can be stressful. It can be fun. It can be tiring. It can be annoying. But at the end of the day, you have to realize you have an opportunity that a ton of kids wish they could have," Nauta said.

He traveled to the campuses of all three finalists this fall, setting the stage for a difficult decision. 

The selling point for Alabama under Nick Saban has been simple and consistent for almost a decade—come to Tuscaloosa and win a national title. The Crimson Tide are now one victory away from finishing atop the college football world for a fourth time in seven seasons.

"They always compete for championships and win a lot of games. Alabama also does a great job developing guys for the NFL," Nauta said.

Georgia hopes to have him in Athens as part of an effort to challenge Alabama for SEC supremacy. New head coach Kirby Smart, a longtime Crimson Tide defensive coordinator, made Nauta an immediate priority.

He was long the focus of Mark Richt's regime. Nauta stongly considered Georgia before his initial pledge to Florida State and grew up in the Peach State, playing at Buford High School until last year.

"It's close to home and there's always a chance to win the SEC East with all the talent around the area," he said. "I have a good relationship with Kirby Smart."

The Bulldogs hope to bag several homegrown athletes during these final weeks before national signing day. A commitment from Nauta could represent a major shift in momentum that sends Georgia surging toward a top-five class in this recruiting cycle.

Smart and his staff secured a key recruiting victory last month by maintaining a commitment from 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason, who flirted with a possible flip to the Florida Gators following Richt's departure. Nauta has been impressed by his potential teammate throughout All-American action this week.

"I've seen Eason out here slinging it. He's playing really well in practice," Nauta said.

Michigan 4-star quarterback commit Brandon Peters is also in attendance. The Wolverines would love to pair him with Nauta in Ann Arbor for years to come.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh is a proven fan of tight ends, evidenced by the production at the position during previous tenures with the Stanford Cardinal and San Francisco 49ers. Michigan tight end Jake Butt finished second on the Wolverines this season with 51 receptions, emerging as a potential top-tier NFL target in the 2017 draft.

"Coach Harbaugh's system is a true pro system that gets you prepared for the NFL. He uses the tight end very well," Nauta said.

He also noted the presence of multiple family members near Michigan, which could help create a comfortable situation that far from home.

Georgia is considered a strong favorite entering Saturday's announcement ceremony. The Bulldogs claim 84 percent of experts' commitment predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball.

Whichever school ultimately secures Nauta's pledge, the wait for his arrival will be brief. He plans to enroll early this month, providing him with a jumpstart toward an immediate role next fall.

"I want to get with coaches every day and learn the offense so by the time spring ball rolls around I'll be ready to go. I want to play right away as a freshman," Nauta said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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