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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Friday, Oct. 25

Could Auburn play in the National Championship Game?

First-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has his team believing.

First-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has his team believing.

While it may seem far fetched, at least one former major college coach thinks it’s a distinct possibility.

“The way things falling out, Auburn could end up playing for the whole thing,” the coach told one member of the Rumor Mill staff today.

I laughed at first but after giving it’s some thought, it’s not as out there as you might think.

The Tigers control their own destiny, and their two toughest remaining games — Georgia and Alabama — are both at home. A win over Georgia doesn’t nearly as out of reach as it did a month ago, and while Alabama is, well, Alabama, Gus Malzhan’s offenses have caused their share of problems for Nick Saban.

The Auburn players apparently don’t think it’s crazy, either.

“I think we can win it all. You know?” defensive end Dee Ford said earlier this week. “There’s no reason to say that we can’t. We said we wanted to have the biggest turnaround in college football. Why not win it all?”

Still, a road win over a Texas A&M team that is porous (to put it nicely) on defense is a long way from playing for the National Championship. This was, after all, a team that was 3-9 last season and had clearly quit competing for Gene Chizik late in the year.

The Tigers should get a win Saturday at home against Florida Atlantic, but they still have to travel to Fayetteville — a place where Auburn has historically struggled even when it has won — where they’ll face an Arkansas team that should be hungry for a big win for first-year coach Bret Bielema.

The Tigers also must also go to Knoxville to face a Tennessee Vols team that may present the biggest challenge left on the regular season schedule not named Alabama.

Regardless of whether or not Coach is right and the Tigers end up playing for the title, there’s no denying that the turnaround  Malzahn has orchestrated thus far on the Plains has been remarkable.

It will be very interesting to watch how it plays out the rest of the way to say the least.

Southern Miss now boasts the nation’s longest losing streak. 18 games. As Mississippi sportswriting legend Rick Cleveland recently pointed out, it has been 670 days since the Golden Eagles have tasted gridiron victory. It takes more than one bad season under a new coach to get that bad.

It takes a few years of bad recruiting. It takes an incompetent president and an ill equipped, ego-centric, uninformed and incompetent athletic director, a bunch of meddling boosters and a host of other factors.

Southern Miss used to play toe to toe with the Alabamas, Auburns and Nebraskas of the world. Now? The Golden Eagles are stuck in a conference with UAB, Rice, UTSA, FAU, FIU, MTSU and the like — and losing.

Meanwhile, former conference foes Tulane, East Carolina, Tulsa, SMU and others are either playing in or set to play in the revamped AAC (former Big East), while former rival Louisville is headed to the ACC.

Southern Miss currently has 23 freshmen on the two-deep depth chart. Seventeen of those are true freshmen. Of the 19 offensive linemen signed in 2009 and 2010, only four remain on the team.

Southern Miss bypassed purgatory and went straight to hell — and the Golden Eagles may be there for quite some time.

Not surprisingly, Oregon State coach Mike Riley’s name has again been mentioned in connection with the USC job. Keep in mind, Riley has turned down both USC and Alabama (his alma mater) in the past.

Has there been a guy over the past 11 seasons who has done a better job? Oregon State used to be considered the worst job in the Pac, but not anymore.

Riley has compiled a 79-54 record since he returned in Corvalis is 2003. The Beavers are off to a 6-1 start this season after an opening day loss to Eastern Michigan and a slew of injuries. The schedule gets tougher down the stretch, but Riley will likely have them in every game.

Could the Corvalis native end up back at USC after all these years? Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News reports that he asked Riley directly a couple years ago if he would ever return to USC. “You never know,” he said.

Our sources view a move as possible, but unlikely.

Dan Mullen got a much needed win over Kentucky tonight. The Bullies are now 4-3 and will need to win two more to be bowl-eligible. South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss remain. Frankly, it’s hard to find two wins in that group.

As we’ve noted previously, if he goes winless with some bad losses, he could be in big trouble. Could being the operative word.

Our guess is that he wins one and returns for 2014.

How do coaches grade film after a game? Here’s some interesting insight from former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook via 247sports’ site AuburnUndercover:

“Everybody grades differently, but we used to always have an assignment and a technique grade for every single play. We always added a hustle grade…

The assignment: What was the player’s assignment and then the technique in which he performed that assignment? Not every player is going to be involved in every single play. If he’s lined up right, carries out the assignment and his responsibility – and does it with the correct technique and does it with hustle, then usually we are going to give him a plus.

What you’re going to do is take the number of plays that you have and divide it by the number of minus plays and come up with a grade.”

Photo credit: Todd J. Van Emst, Auburn Media Relations

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The Coaching Wire: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

Steve Clinkscale has left Illinois to join Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati staff. (Photo: Al Behrman/AP)

Steve Clinkscale has left Illinois to join Tommy Tuberville’s Cincinnati staff. (Photo: Al Behrman/AP)

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]llinois cornerbacks coach Steve Clinkscale is leaving to join Tommy Tuberville’s staff at Cincinnati.

The move was rumored earlier this week, but the deal was finally completed on Friday. Clinkscale joined Tim Beckman’s Illini staff in January 2012 and after spending three seasons at Toledo. He coached cornerbacks his last two years with the Rockets.

Prior to Toledo, Clinkscale spent one year at Western Carolina (2008) and seven seasons at Division II Ashland (2001-07). In his only season at Western Carolina, Clinkscale worked with the Catamount defensive backs in addition to serving as Western’s academic liaison.

Clinkscale is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. He earned $150,000 at Illinois last year.


Kotelnicki promoted to defensive coordinator at North Dakota

North Dakota head coach Chris Mussman promoted Josh Kotelnicki to defensive coordinator. He has been the team’s special teams coordinator and linebackers coach the past five seasons. Kotelnicki, who also holds the title of assistant head coach, takes over for Mike Mannausau who became UND’s Champions Club Executive Director. Kotelnicki has one prior season as a defensive coordinator at the collegiate level, serving in that post at Truman State during the 2006 season. Kotelnicki was a standout linebacker for the Fighting Sioux and a team captain on the 2001 Division II National Championship team.


Gus Malzahn adds another off-the-field staff member

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has added another off-the-field staff member. Eric Link, who coached tight ends the past two seasons at Montana State, will join Malzahn’s staff in an unspecified role. Link also coached the Bobcats’ special teams in 2012. This will be Link’s second stint at Auburn. He served as special teams quality control on the Tigers’ 2010 BCS National Championship team.

Link was Gene Chizik’s assistant director of football operations at Iowa State in 2007-08 and was an offensive line graduate assistant with the Cyclones in 2006. In between Iowa State and his first move to Auburn, he was offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Keller (Tex.) High School. A three-year starter at Drake, Link was a graduate assistant there working with the defensive line in 2004 and was the Bulldog’s defensive line coach in 2005.


Curt Baldus joins Coastal Carolina staff

Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia has hired Curt Baldus to coach specialists and assist with defense. Baldus spent the past five seasons at Nebraska as a graduate assistant (2008-10) and defensive and special teams intern (2011-12). It was the second stint with the Huskers for Baldus, who served as an offensive intern in 2006. Baldus spent the 2007 season at Buffalo, working with the offensive line, kickers and punters. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at St. Cloud State from 2002-04.

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Bisaccia 'embarrassed' about short stint at AU

Cowboys' assistant Rich Bisaccia says that he is embarrassed by his short stint at Auburn.

Cowboys’ assistant Rich Bisaccia says that he is embarrassed by his short stint at Auburn.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ich Bisaccia’s stint as part of Gus Malzahn’s staff at Auburn only lasted 22 days, and Bisaccia says that’s not something he’s proud of.

Bisaccia accepted a position as Auburn’s assistant head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator and had begun recruiting for the Tigers when Jason Garrett convinced him to join the Dallas Cowboys’ staff.

“This is probably the most exciting time of my life in professional football, to be a part of Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys organization,” Bisaccia told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . “A little embarrassed about how it happened, about having to go through Auburn and only spending 22 days there. That’s not really my style. I’ve actually been really proud of some of the long stays I’ve had at particular places but for it to work out like this and have an opportunity like this I feel blessed in one way and certainly fortunate.”

Bisaccia coached special teams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-10. He met Garrett in 2004 when Garrett was a backup quarterback for the Bucs. Bisaccia will be reunited with Tampa coaches Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli in Dallas.

Bisaccia spent the past two seasons as the San Diego Chargers’ special teams coordinator and assistant head coach.

Prior to his work in the NFL, Bisaccia coached at Ole Miss, Clemson and South Carolina.

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Signing Day Winner: Rodney Garner, Auburn

Head coaches may get the glory at the press conferences, but its the assistant coaches whose year-round grind that builds the relationships that ultimately make National Signing Day either a success or failure. Today, we’re recognizing some assistants whose hard work paid off with huge Signing Day hauls.-CoachScoop (Note: These profiles are focused on assistants who had particular success on National Signing Day. We’ll release our ranking of the naton’s top recruiters later this week.)

Auburn assistant Rodney Garner was one of Signing Day's big winners. (Photo: Albert Cesare/Opelika-Auburn News)

Auburn assistant Rodney Garner was one of Signing Day’s big winners. (Photo: Albert Cesare/Opelika-Auburn News)

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen Rodney Garner left Georgia to join Gus Malzahn’s staff at Auburn, lots of Bulldog fans said there was nothing to worry about. The 46-year old Garner was getting long in the tooth and had lost the energy that made him one of the nation’s elite recruiters for more than two decades, they said.

On Signing Day, Garner showed everyone just how wrong they were.

Garner hauled in five-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams (6-4, 310) from Dooly County High in Vienna, Ga. – beating his former school – and flipped consensus four-star defensive end Elijah Daniel (6-4, 250) from Ole Miss.

Adams is the nation’s No. 10 recruit according to the 247Composite rankings, which averages rankings across the major recruiting services. Auburn was in great position to land Adams before the Tigers’ 3-9 season and the firing of the entire coaching staff. With the turmoil at Auburn, Clemson and Georgia then pulled way out front, and in recent weeks, it looked like the Bulldogs were the favorite.

Enter Garner, who had developed a strong relationship with Adams when he was at Georgia. After an official visit to Auburn last weekend, the Tigers were firmly back in the mix, and were ultimately able to land him on Signing Day.

Daniel is the nation’s No. 50 recruit in the 247Composite. Daniel was born in Alabama and moved to Indiana in the third grade, and took a national approach to recruiting before focusing his sights on the SEC. He took official visits to Marshall (where his brother Armonze plays), Ole Miss and Arizona State before committing to the Rebels.

Daniel wasn’t even mentioned as a possibility for Auburn before Garner’s arrival, but Garner was relentless in working to get an official visit, and he ultimately dropped a planned visit to Florida and went to Auburn the final weekend before Signing Day.

That hard work paid off for Garner and the Tigers on Wednesday when Daniel spurned his pledge to the Rebels and inked with Auburn.

Garner also played a key role in Auburn landing five-star defensive end Carl Lawson, the nation’s No. 21-ranked prospect. Lawson committed to Auburn early in the process, but like most of the Tiger commits, he began to look around following the coaching staff’s departure.

Since Georgia chose not recruit the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Alpharetta, Ga. product until late in the process, Garner’s hiring was initially thought to be a liability with Lawson, but Garner worked hard to mend fences with Lawson and his family, and the Tigers were able to hang on. Lawson re-affirmed his commitment to the Tigers on Monday.

Even though Signing Day has passed, Garner’s impact on the 2013 class could be bigger still. He is lead recruiter for four-star defensive tackle Toby Johnson (6-4, 305) of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Johnson, who visited Auburn officially last weekend, will go to Mississippi State next weekend before announcing his decision on Feb. 19.

Auburn’s class is currently ranked No. 10 by Rivals.com. It began the day No. 13.

[colored_box color="grey"]Talk about Rodney Garner’s Signing Day victories in The Inside Scoop.[/colored_box]

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Report: James Willis will be defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette

James Willis will be named defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette. (Photo: Zach Long/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

James Willis will be named DC at Louisiana-Lafayette. (Photo: Zach Long/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ormer Texas Tech defensive coordinator James Willis will be hired at the same position for Louisiana-Lafayette, according to media reports.

Willis, who replaces Greg Stewart at ULL, was defensive coordinator on Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech staff during the 2011 season. However, he resigned before the Red Raider’s bowl game following a domestic violence incident.

Willis has served as defensive coordinator for the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers since his resignation at Texas Tech.

Ragin’ Cajun head coach Mark Hudspeth announced last week that Stewart would not return for the 2013 season. In a release, Hudspeth gave no reason for Stewart’s departure, but thanked him for his contributions that led to the team’s 18 wins and two New Orleans Bowl titles over the past two years.

Stewart, who had been at ULL since Hudspeth was hired in 2011, said in a prepared statement, “I have decided to go a different direction (professionally), and I am looking forward to the future opportunities for both me and my family.”

A standout linebacker at Auburn, Willis was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft. During an eight-year professional career, Willis also played Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the now defunct XFL.

When his professional playing career ended, Willis returned to Auburn to complete his degree and served as a student assistant in 2001-02. He became a defensive graduate assistant in 2003 under then-defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.

Willis was hired as linebackers coach at Rhode Island in 2004 and moved to Temple in the same capacity in 2005.

Willis returned to his alma mater when Tommy Tuberville hired him as linebackers coach in 2006. He remained at Auburn until Tuberville resigned in 2008, and Chizik, who was named the Tigers’ head coach, released all of Tuberville’s former staff.

Chizik changed his mind two weeks later, however, and re-hired Willis on December 26, 2008. Hard feelings from his initial release remained, though, and Willis caused a stir among Auburn fans when he left to join Nick Saban’s staff at arch-rival Alabama just a month later.

During his time at Auburn, Willis became known for his recruiting prowess, and was particularly successful recruiting the talent-rich Mobile, Ala. area. It was bad enough that a former Tiger legend was moving to their cross-state rival, but the fact that it happened just two weeks for 2009′s National Signing Day made it an even harder for Auburn fans to swallow.

Willis coached at Alabama for two seasons, including the 2010 BCS National Championship team, before being named Tuberville’s defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

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Pelini to recruit: "Best of luck, you're going to need it"

Bo Pelini (Photo: Rebecca S. Gratz/Omaha World-Herald)

Bo Pelini (Photo: Rebecca S. Gratz/Omaha World-Herald)

Bo Pelini’s temper has gotten him in hot water before, and if Dominic Walker’s account of a recent conversation is accurate, Pelini doesn’t reserve his frustration for the sidelines or the post game press conference.

On Friday, Walker, a three-star wide receiver recruit from Orlando, Fla., switched his commitment from Nebraska to Auburn.

Walker originally committed to Vanderbilt back in the summer, but visited Nebraska in late September and flipped to the Cornhuskers a couple of months later.

Walker said his earlier change of heart made the decision to switch to Auburn especially difficult, and he wanted to call Pellini and Husker wide receiver coach Rich Fisher to inform them of his decision personally.

According to the Orlando Sentinel:

“It was a very tough decision. They were [mad]. They were very mad. But I thought I had to call them like a real man shoould,” Walker said. “But yeah, they were mad. Coach Pelini said, ‘Best of luck, you’re going to need it.’ ”

Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher also was in on the call.

“Coach Fisher said, ‘I can’t believe you,’ ” Walker said. “It was really awkward.”

Pellini’s frustration is understandable, but he should’ve kept the snide remarks to himself. After all, Walker de-committed from Vanderbilt before he chose Nebraska in the first place, so it’s hard to believe Pelini and Fisher felt too good about the strength of Walker’s bond.

The Friday decision and phone call wasn’t the first sign that Walker was wavering.

Since his hiring at Auburn in early December, Gus Malzahn made Walker and his high school teammate Tony Stevens (also a highly recruited wide receiver) a priority. The pair bonded with Malzahn and Tiger assistant Dameyune Craig and made official visits to Auburn last weekend. Just after the visit, Stevens switched his commitment from Texas A&M to Auburn, while Walker told reporters that he was torn between the Tigers and Huskers.

Pelini and Fisher made an in home visit to Walker early in the week, and according to a report from AuburnSports.com, Walker hinted that their pitch may have turned him off.

“The visit was about how much of an impact I would make for their class, it was a good visit,” Walker said. “But they were trying to bring up the bad things about why I shouldn’t go to Auburn. They were trying to tell me the bad things — trying to persuade me why I should go to their school. But I didn’t understand that. They can say anything, but it’s been two or three years since Cam Newton and nothing has happened.”

In the end, Walker said that everything worked out for the best. He’ll get to play closer to home, alongside his high school teammate.

“There’s more opportunity for my family to see me play because it’s closer to home and there’s a better chance for me to go in and play right away, which is what I was looking for all along,” Walker said. “Plus, I get to play another four years with my teammate Tony and that’s great … everything is just great.”

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Bisaccia to Dallas, Malzahn shuffles AU assistants

We reported yesterday that Auburn assistant Rich Bisaccia was mulling over an opportunity to join the Dallas Cowboys. Bissacia has decided to accept the Cowboys’ offer.

Bisaccia was to serve as AU’s assistant head coach, running backs coach, and special teams coordinator and would have made $500,000 this year. He will be Dallas’ special teams coach. Details of the Cowboys contract are not yet available, but sources indicate Bisaccia will get a salary bump.

Gus Malzahn, who said in a statement that Bisaccia “had an offer that he felt he could not turn down,” will do some staff shuffling to fill the void.

Gus Malzahn and Gene Chizik

Gus Malzahn and Gene Chizik

Tim Horton will move over to running backs coach and Scott Fountain will shift from an off-the-field position to tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Horton, who coached running backs at Arkansas from 2007-11, was slated to coach tight ends at Auburn. That job will now fall on Fountain’s shoulders, who will also coach special teams.

“I’m excited that Tim will be coaching our running backs,” Malzahn added. “He has a tremendous track record coaching some great backs and I’m extremely confident that will continue here at Auburn. Scott is someone I tried to hire as an assistant coach a year ago at Arkansas State. He is a great coach with a tremendous work ethic, and his strong ties in the state of Alabama will be an asset to our program.”

Fountain was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator under Gene Chizik at Iowa State in 2007-08.  He was retained by Paul Rhoads after Chizik left for Auburn, and then left to manage off-the-field football and recruiting operations for Chizik at Auburn.

Sources indicate that Fountain had been working hard since Chizik’s firing to once again find an on-the-field coaching position.

An Alabama native, Fountain began his college coaching career at Central Florida in 1997, starting as interior offensive line coach and co-recruiting coordinator before becoming offensive tackles/tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.

Fountain left Central Florida to become offensive line coach at Middle Tennessee State in 2004-05 and then offensive line coach and assistant head coach at Georgia Southern (2006) before joining Chizik at Iowa State.

Malzahn also took Twitter this afternoon to wish Bisaccia the best and welcome Fountain back to an on-the-field position.

malzahn_twitter

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