George O’Leary

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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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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Thursday, Oct. 24

Steve Spurrier went 9-4 and won the Gator Bowl in his third season at Florida. The HBC won 9 and 10 his first years.

Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp (Photo: Dave Martin, AP)Ron Zook went 7-4 and was fired in the middle of his third season. However, it was obvious that he had recruited great players and it’d only be a matter of time before they’d compete for championships. (Zook recruited 22 of 24 starters on Urban Meyer’s 2006 National Championship team.) Zook’s tenure ended as the Gators beat FSU in Tallahassee, something even Steve Spurrier never did.

Urban Meyer went 9-4 in his third season. That’s after winning 9 in his first and the national championship in his second.

Will Muschamp went 7-6 in his first season, 11-2 in his second and is currently 4-3 in the middle of his third. The Gators gave one away at Miami, didn’t play well at LSU and were blown out at Mizzou. With Georgia, Vandy, South Carolina, Georgia Southern and FSU remaining, it’s not out of the question that Florida could have it’s first losing season since 1979.

Sources inside the program tell us there’s a lot of division on the team and teammates beginning to point fingers. Florida AD Jeremy Foley gave Muschamp a vote of confidence earlier this week, saying his coach is “not going anywhere.” For what it’s worth, he told Ron Zook he was “in the circle” and on “on the same team” the Friday before he fired him. So, his public support for Muschamp should be taken with a grain of salt.

We talked with a number of coaches this week and they all told us the same thing. They don’t see a lot of “energy” on the sideline and they don’t see the kinds of playmakers Florida has had in the past.

Muschamp deserves another year to get it fixed — but expect staff changes if he does. The head coach gave offensive coordinator Brent Pease a half-hearted vote of confidence this week, saying “This is the same staff that came a game away from playing for national championship, OK.” Well, Greg Davis was fired at Texas four seasons after winning the national championship and one season after winning 13 games and playing for another.

Assuming Muschamp is around after this season, Foley will insist on staff changes and you can take that to the bank. Sources close to Foley tell us he has had thoughts that maybe he pulled the plug too soon on Zook — and that he seems determined to give Muschamp a longer leash.

However, if the Gators implode down the stretch, don’t be shocked to see Foley do what Foley does best: protect himself. Just ask Ron Zook.

There has been chatter around Central Florida coach George O’Leary for some time. He had a player die on his watch and the Knights landed on NCAA probation. That’s not to mention his prickly personality — he’s not exactly warm and fuzzy. But fast forward to the present and UCF could land in a BCS Bowl as winners of the new AAC.

Duke has never been to back to back bowls, but David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils one win away from being bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year. Things may look better now with Hugh Freeze at the helm, but maybe firing him at Ole Miss one season removed from winning ten games wasn’t such a smart move after all.

After a one-year respite, there are rumblings again at Georgia. If the Bulldogs lose to Florida, watch out. One prominent coach told us today that the coach that loses that game could lose his job. Cocktails, anyone?

Photo credit: Dave Martin, 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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