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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Sunday, Dec. 29

There’s certainly plenty of smoke that Penn State’s Bill O’Brien is primed for a return to the NFL.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien will be named head coach of the Houston Texans. (Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP)It’s been making the news rounds the past couple of weeks, and now ESPN reports that O’Brien has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to become the next coach of the Houston Texans, and the two sides are working to get a deal in place within the next week.

Lions247 reports Brooklyn (N.Y.) Abraham Lincoln five-star defensive tackle and Nittany Lions commit Thomas Holley spoke with O’Brien Saturday night regarding the ESPN report that O’Brien was in the process of working on a deal to become the Houston Texans next head coach.

“I just off the phone with him,” Holley told 247Sports Luke Stampini. “He said he isn’t going. It’s not true.”

The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain reports that Texans owner Bob McNair said the search for the team’s next head coach “isn’t over.”

“The process continues,” he said. “We have other interviews scheduled next week. It isn’t over.”

CBSSports reports Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt will be given strong consideration for the Texans job.

Reports surfaced Friday that Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was expected to accept the same position on Steve Sarkisian’s USC staff.

Now, DuckTerritory is reporting that Oregon has targeted Wilcox to replace the longtime outgoing DC Nick Aliotti. If the Ducks miss on Wilcox, they more than likely promote John Neal to the position.

There are all sorts of rumors flying around linking Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to the Detroit Lions job. However, it looks as if Kelly is likely to stay put.

Jets linebackers coach Brian VanGorder will become Notre Dame’s new defensive coordinator. VanGorder was defensive coordinator at Auburn, Georgia and the Atlanta Falcons.

Multiple sources tell us North Carolina assistant Walt Bell will be the new offensive coordinator at Arkansas State. He had been considered a leading candidate to take over for the departed Blake Anderson, but it looks like Bell will instead join Anderson instead.

InsideCarolina reports that Bell is receiving a two-year contract at $225,000 per year in his new position at Arkansas State, which is less than what UNC offered.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora could look to his former offensive coordinator and current Texas co-OC Darrell Wyatt as his next play caller.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Toledo Blade there are no plans to renegotiate with head coach Urban Meyer before next season, but he knows Ohio State “will have to face that music down the road.”

At Texas, there’s a lot of smoke around Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. If the Texas search drags until the BCSNCG, the speculation surrounding Fisher could reach a fever pitch.

Fisher hasn’t even issued a non-denial denial, saying only, “I’m going to talk about our team. That’s all I’m talking about. I ain’t getting into all the rumors.”

At some point, those rumors are likely to become a distraction for the Seminoles, who will play for the National Championship on January 6th.

The Dallas News reports Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson has begun to focus on at least a handful of candidates including Fisher, Baylor’s Art Briles. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Louisville’s Charlie Strong are also considered to be in the mix.

The News also reports that Alabama’s Nick Saban is a possibility, although that may be a long shot. Other candidates could also emerge.

Horns247 reports that Fisher’s counterpart in the National Championship Game, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, is not a candidate at Texas.

Mack Brown is contractually obligated to receive at least $500,000 annually through 2020, but Texas’ soon-to-be former head football coach is pushing for a lot more.

Don Evans, a former UT regent and one-time U.S. Secretary of Commerce, is involved with Brown’s buyout negotiations with school officials, said Joe Jamail, Brown’s attorney and Texas benefactor.

UCF head coach George O’Leary confirmed on Saturday that he has hired Paul Ferraro as the Knights new defensive coordinator.

Ferraro coached under O’Leary as a graduate assistant at Syracuse in 1983 and also coached defensive backs on O’Leary’s staff at Georgia Tech in 1999-2000.

The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu reports new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will make $600,000 a year. The length of the contract is unknown.

Sources tell us that West Virginia offensive line coach Ron Crook could be the leading candidate to take over the same job at Wake Forest.

Crook is a West Virginia native who arrived in Morgantown via Stanford prior to the 2013 season.

Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP

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Two names emerge as candidates for Alabama offensive line job

Sources tell us that UCF's Brent Key is a candidate to replace Jeff Stoutland at Alabama. (Photo: Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel)

Sources tell us that UCF’s Brent Key is a candidate to replace Jeff Stoutland at Alabama. (Photo: Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel)

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e talked about Pat Hill’s possible return to the college game in an article this morning, but there are at least two more names to watch out for to replace Jeff Stoutland as Alabama’s offensive line coach.

A source tells us that Nick Saban likes South Carolina’s Shawn Elliott and Central Florida’s Brent Key as potential candidates.

Elliott has been part of Steve Spurrier’s staff since 2010, beginning as offensive line coach and later adding the running game coordinator title. He is considered a potential successor to Spurrier as the Gamecocks’ head coach, but spending time under Saban is considered a pretty clear path to a head coaching job in its own right.

A four-year letterman at Appalachian State, Elliott reportedly turned down an opportunity to replace Jerry Moore as the Mountaineers’ head coach in December. Elliott makes $300,000 per year at Carolina, and Appalachian State was not going to be able to pay him enough to lure him away.

Following his playing career, Elliott began coaching at Appalachian State in 1997. He spent two years as a defensive assistant then two years as tight ends coach before taking over as offensive line coach in 2001. Over the next nine seasons, Elliott coached 12 All-Americans and three-consecutive SoCon Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipients.

A 2012 Broyles Award nominee, Key has spent the past eight seasons at UCF, the past four as offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Before the 2012 season, he was promoted to assistant head coach. Key was previously the Knights’ tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Key is a native of Trussville, Ala. and was a four-year starter at Georgia Tech under UCF head coach George O’Leary. He began his coaching career at Georgia Tech in 2001 as the offensive graduate assistant, and later coached tight ends and running backs at Western Carolina (2004) before being  reunited with O’Leary at Central Florida in 2005.

Saban reached out to newly-hired Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman, but Pittman chose to remain with the Razorbacks.

Other names mentioned with the job are former UAB head coach Neil Callaway and current Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend. Both Callaway and Friend played at Alabama and Saban’s staff is currently without a Bama alum, but sources indicate Calloway and Friend are not leading candidates at this point.

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