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SEC Headlines – 6/15/12 (Into A Brief Summer Break Edition)

Headlines only today as yours truly starts a little mini-break.  The next few days, Mike Mitchell will provide daily headlines and Josh Ward will handle recruiting news — as usual — as well as any breaking news coverage.  I might have an extra story or two in the hopper for early next week, but just be aware the next few days are mid-summer breaktime.

Now, on with the news…


1.  College hoops coaches are now free to call and text around the country at their whim.

2.  The fight for a college football playoff creeps and crawls towards a resolution.

3.  This isn’t a sports story, but questions are now being raised about how quickly Auburn students were informed of a weekend shooting… and a shooter who was on the loose.

4.  Arkansas will open its 2013 football slate against Southern Miss in Fayetteville.

5.  Comedian Dave Chappelle got a kick out of a trademark Razorback Hog Call during a Little Rock show.

6.  For a guy that throws a lot of barbs and needles, Dan Mullen has got some thin skin.  MSU’s coach took offense to something Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes said in praise of his own players… and then Mullen took a straight shot at Dykes’ coaching ability.  (State fans love him the way Vandy fans love Franklin, Gamecock fans love Spurrier, and Volunteer fans once loved Kiffin… but all four of those guys are/were bratty.)

7.  Ex-Bulldog hoopster Renardo Sidney has been dropped by his agent.

8.  Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze says his school doesn’t “have the talent level that people in the SEC West have right now at a lot of spots” and “that’s not fixed overnight.”

9.  Kevin Sumlin – talking of a a fresh start for the Aggies in 2012 — joked with Texas A&M boosters that his team’s still undefeated and he just won his fifth straight spring game.

10. Virginia Tech freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith is reportedly transferring to Florida’s basketball program.

11.  Good news: Gator linebacker Neiron Ball has been cleared to return to football after suffering a brain hemorrhage in February of 2011.

12.  Kentucky players are loving the upgrades made to their football facility.

13.  New South Carolina hoops coach Frank Martin believes his school’s support for baseball can carry over to the Colonial Life Arena.  (Of course, winning back-to-back NCAA titles hlps.)

14.  Former DePaul and Virginia head coach Dave Leitao is joining Frank Haith’s staff at Missouri.

15.  Tiger football coach Gary Pinkel told a Nashville radio station that Mizzou’s recruiting “is going as well as it has ever gone for us” thanks in large part to a move to the SEC.

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Ex-Carolina Aide Encourages USM Aide To Join Spurrier’s Staff

During the 2011 football season, Steve Spurrier raised eyebrows with occasional digs at his defense.  The rumor mill began to spin.  Spurrier and Ellis Johnson — Carolina’s de facto defensive coordinator — were no longer seeing eye to eye.

When Johnson left his home state of South Carolina to take over as head coach at Southern Miss, some took it as a sign that there really had been a growing gulf between the Cock’s top two coaches.

But the words of Carolina’s new secondary coach — former USM and Johnson assistant Grady Brown — suggest otherwise:

“(Johnson) was really good about me coming here.  He had nothing but good things to say about his time spent here in Columbia.  He actually encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity.  He told me about how Coach Spurrier was a great coach to work for and this town is a great town.

He hated to see me go, obviously, but he had nothing but good things to say about South Carolina and really encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity.  I’m definitely happy and pleased with how he handled it.  We have a great relationship.  He thinks a lot of South Carolina.”

Johnson had decided to hang onto Brown, convincing him to return to Hattiesburg rather than depart for North Carolina with Larry Fedora.  Impressive then that he would encourage Brown to follow up on the opportunity presented by Spurrier and the Gamecock program.

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Lineman Leff Switches Commitment To Auburn

Auburn has received a commitment from offensive lineman Robert Leff from Fairhope (Ala.) High School.

Leff had been committed to Southern Miss but switched his commitment after Auburn offered him a scholarship on Tuesday morning.

“It’s playing in the SEC against the best of the best,” Leff told “That’s how you get better is playing against people better than you. If you don’t look for competition, you’re not going to get any better.”

Leff is Auburn’s 16th commitment for the class of 2012 and third offensive lineman to choose the Tigers.

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SEC Headlines – 12/20/11

1.  Auburn slipped past Florida A&M 76-69 last night, but Tony Barbee isn’t happy his team plays down to the level of its competition.

2.  Might AU use a “mystery tailback” in the Chick-fil-A Bowl?

3.  Alabama is getting back to basics for its bowl preps.

4.  Outgoing offensive coordinator Jim McElwain got emotional when Nick Saban praised him to the team during practice… and the team responded with applause.

5.  Freshman quarterback Brandon Allen is drawing praise at Arkansas during bowl practice.

6.  Will tailback Knile Davis play in the Cotton Bowl and burn a medical redshirt?  Will he return next year?  Or turn pro?  No one’s saying.

7.  Of LSU’s two All-American cornerbacks, Morris Claiborne is the low-key one.

8.  MSU’s linebacking corps jelled as the season played out.

9.  Quarterback Tyler Russell will play through the pain of an MCL sprain in the Music City Bowl.

10.  Mississippi’s Hugh Freeze and his staff of five assistants are trying to play catch-up on the recruiting trail.

11.  The Rebels’ new head coach said yesterday that he’ll be calling plays next season… even though he still might give someone else the “offensive coordinator” title.

12.  In hindsight, Will Muschamp says he should have put his first Florida team through a more physical August camp.

13.  The roundball Gators whooped up on Mississippi Valley State 82-54 last night.

14.  Georgia has wrapped up the on-campus part of its Outback Bowl preps.

15.  The Dawgs want to make amends for last season’s bowl loss to UCF when they face Michigan State.

16.  Mark Fox’s basketball team hosts Mercer tonight.

17.  Kentucky’s Darius Miller says he’s been rushing the 3-point shot.

18.  John Calipari is trying to create a “Breakfast Club” on his Wildcat team.  (That’s my cue to do this for those of you who are children of the ’80s.)

19.  UK and the city of Lexington continue to differ over the future of Rupp Arena.

20.  Melvin Ingram told fellow Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to “keep pushing” through the freshman wall.

21.  When Ellis Johnson is announced as Southern Miss’ new head coach, Steve Spurrier will lose a solid recruiter.

22.  Tennessee may be on a four-game losing streak but Cuonzo Martin is “sticking to the script.”

23.  Martin also won’t cut Trae Golden’s minutes just because he’s got a broken nose.

24.  Vanderbilt got a 29-point performance from Jeffery Taylor — who was coming off a bad stomach bug — in a 99-71 win over Longwood last night.

25.  It looks like Cincinnati will have a healthy Zach Collaros at quarterback when they face the Commodores in the Liberty Bowl.

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Carolina’s Johnson To Be Head Coach At USM

In a blow to the South Carolina football program, the Gamecocks’ top defensive assistant, Ellis Johnson, will be taking over as head coach at Southern Miss according to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.  The hire is expected to be made official today.  With Larry Fedora coaching USM once last time in their bowl game, it’s expected that Johnson will stay with USC for its Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska.

Johnson was in Hattiesburg interviewing for a second time with the school yesterday.  The 59-year-old — who turns 60 on Friday — once served as an assistant at USM in 1988 and 1989.

He has served as defensive coordinator at Clemson (1995-1996), Alabama (1997-2000), Mississippi State (2004-2007) and at South Carolina since ’07.  From 2001 to 2003 he served as the head coach of The Citadel.

Steve Spurrier’s turnaround of the Carolina program can be traced to two things: recruiting and defense.  Oddly enough, the Ol’ Ball Coach’s offense has not just found a way to take flight in Columbia.  A quick look at the Cocks’ D under Johnson shows how much improvement has been made on his watch:

2007 — 9th in total defense (SEC), 56th in total defense (nation)
2008 — 4th in total defense (SEC), 13th in total defense (nation)
2009 — 3rd in total defense (SEC), 15th in total defense (nation)
2010 — 7th in total defense (SEC), 46th in total defense (nation)
2011 — 4th in total defense (SEC), 4th in total defense (nation)

Clearly, Johnson has played a big role in changing the fortunes of his homestate school. 

This isn’t to say, of course, that Spurrier can’t find a new coordinator to fill Johnson’s shoes.  After all, he was the man who grabbed Johnson in the first place.

But it does mean the Cocks will have to wade out into the coaching pool and compete with the likes of Auburn for a top coordinator.  Better get out the checkbook.

Johnson was making $750,000 in Columbia as the “assistant head coach for defense.”  Lorenzo Ward actually bears the title of “defensive coordinator.”  So it’s possible that Spurrier will simply promote Ward if he feels he’s got the chops to run the show on his own.

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SEC Headlines 12/18/2011

1. Ohio State 74 –  South Carolina 66. Early second-half lead evaporates for the Gamecocks.

2. Mississippi State 80 – Detroit 75.  Bulldogs win their 10th straight game.

3. Florida 84 – Texas A&M 64.  Billy Donovan: “I thought the first half was the best we’ve played all year.” Kenny Boynton dominates with 22 points.

4. Arkansas  62 – Southeast Louisiana  55. Mike Anderson: “A raggedy ride is better than a smooth walk.”

5. Southern Miss 86 – Ole Miss 82.  Southern Miss scores 53 points in the second half.

6. Indiana State 61 – Vanderbilt 55. Commodores drop a third non-conference game at home for the first time since the 1977-1978 season.

7. Kentucky 87 – UT Chattanooga 82.  UTC coach John Shulman on the Wildcats 18-2  run to start the game.  ”I looked at [assistant] Ricky Cabrera and said, ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Shulman said. “He looked back and said, ‘We’re playing against five NBA players. It’s OK.’”

8. Terrance Jones dislocates a finger.

9. Auburn 84 – North Florida 71.  Tigers off to their best start since the 2003-2004 season.

10. Kansas State 71 – Alabama 58.  K-State goes on a 19-6 run in second half.  Tide have lost three of last four games.

11. Georgia 63 – USC 59.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scores 21 for the Bulldogs.

12. Former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell interviews at his alma mater.

13. Auburn coordinator search continues.  Mark Stoops reportedly staying at Florida State.

14. Is the Auburn program “barely recognizable”?

15.  Kiehl Frazier prepares to adjust to a post-Malzahn career at Auburn.

16. SEC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Crowell is currently reduced to second-string status.

17. Alabama is fired up for a second opportunity to face LSU.  ”This is what the world wants to see,” said strong safety Brandon Taylor.

18. Should SEC officials work the Alabama-LSU game?

19. Georgia backup quarterback Hutson Mason may transfer. Why the Bulldogs 2012 schedule could be easier than this year’s version.

20. Five South Carolina juniors submit paperwork for the NFL.

21. Mississippi State has started game planning for Wake Forest. All-SEC lineman Gabe Jackson is a key cog.

22. Attendance eroding but still high at Tennessee for both football and basketball.

23. Bobby Petrino wants the Arkansas-Texas A&M game to remain in Dallas every year.

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SEC Headlines 12/17/2011

1. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart reportedly withdraws from consideration as the head coach at Southern Miss.

2. No academic casualties at LSU.  Expect the Tigers to be at full strength when they face Alabama in the BCS championship game.

3. What did Les Miles and Nick Saban do at the Heisman ceremony? They swapped recipes.

4. The rumors this year about Mark Richt’s status has had an impact on recruiting. Expect his contract to be extended through at least the 2015 season.

5. Georgia tight end Orson Charles, safety Bacarri Rambo and quarterback Aaron Murray file paperwork for NFL evaluation. Charles appears to be the most serious about possibly leaving early, expect Murray to stay.

6. Still offensive coordinator at Auburn and new head coach at Arkansas State, it’s double duty for Gus Malzahn.

7. Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier says he’s staying. Tigers tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen named team MVP.

8. When Middle Tennessee State travels to Starkville next fall, it will cost Mississipi State $930,000.

9. Was Urban Meyer the best hire this offseason?

10.The college football bowl season starts today.

SEC Basketball

11. Ohio State at South Carolina (4-5). Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn on OSU’s Jared Sullinger: “His IQ is off the charts.”

12. Mississippi State (10-1) at Detroit. MSU point guard Dee Bost: “We’ve got great team chemistry.”

13. Texas A&M vs. Florida (7-2).  SEC foes next year, it’s No. 22 vs. No. 13 this year. Billy Donovan signs his contract extension.

14. Southeast Louisiana at Arkansas (5-3).  After two straight road losses, look for coach Mike Anderson to shake things up.

15. Ole Miss (8-1)  at Southern Miss. Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway is everything coach Andy Kennedy thought he would be.

16. Indiana State at Vanderbilt (6-3).   Kedren Johnson leads all Vandy freshmen in points and minutes.

17. UT Chattanooga at Kentucky.  Terrance Jones gets a shot at redemption.  John Calipari: “He knows he screwed it up. Now, he’ll come back and be fine.” Transfer Twany Beckham is now eligible.

18. The Wildcats face a team in controversy.  How does Chattanooga forward Chris Early feel about his coach? “I would run through hell in gasoline draws than to play for this man another year.”

19. North Florida at Auburn (5-1).  The Tigers are still waiting for some players to get healthy.

20. Alabama (8-2) vs. Kansas State.  Trevor Releford goes home to Kansas City to face a familiar opponent.

21. Georgia (4-5) at USC.  Bulldogs look to break a four-game skid.


22. Former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads gets a 10-year contract from Iowa State.

23. Former Alabama coach Ray Perkins is reportedly close to coaching again - at a Mississippi junior college.

24. Two New York high school athletes get suspended for paying tribute to Tim Tebow.

25. ESPN analyst Craig James weighs a run in the U.S. Senate.

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SEC Headlines – 12/16/11

Thanks for bearing with us the last couple of days.  We’ll be back to a full day’s work on Monday.  (Meanwhile, Mike and Josh will continue to handle weekend and recruiting news as usual.)

Here are your Friday headlines…

1.  Auburn will try to get its passing game cranked up in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

2.  The Tigers have sold about 15,000 of their 16,000 tickets to the game.

3.  Arkansas’ Joe Adams is an All-American.

4.  The hoops Hogs start a seven-game homestand tomorrow.

5.  LSU has started its title game preps for Alabama.

6.  The roundball Tigers shot just 31% last night… but they still managed to beat UC-Irvine.

7.  MSU cornerback Darius Slay is now playing a big role for the Bulldogs.

8.  Ole Miss is already keeping an eye on the RPI.

9.  Transfer Jelan Kendrick seems to be getting off on the wrong foot in Oxford.

10.  Florida is having struggles at the free throw line.

11.  Georgia’s Outback Bowl tickets are all sold out.

12.  The UGA hoops team will travel to Italy next summer.

13.  Chattanooga’s coach expects to run into a ticked Kentucky team after the Cats’ loss to Indiana.

14.  Are folks being too tough on UK’s Terrence Jones?

15.  South Carolina’s top defensive coach, Ellis Johnson, interviewed for the Southern Miss head coaching spot yesterday.

16.  An announcement from USM could come soon.

17.  Meanwhile, the Cocks are getting ready for their bowl date with Nebraska.

18.  New Tennessee AD Dave Hart wants to see “progress” from Derek Dooley’s program next year.

19.  The Vol hoops team is on its first four-game losing streak since 2004-05.

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Weekend Coaching Moves And Rumors From Across The SEC

So what coaches are coming and going around the SEC?  Below is an update for each school, complete with the list of 14 head coaches — as of now — who’ll patrol the league’s sidelines next season.  We’ll take it in alphabetical order…

AlabamaHead Coach Nick Saban (2012 will be 6th season in Tuscaloosa)

It looks now like both of Bama’s coordinators will be back in 2012.  Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was believed to be a candidate for the head coaching jobs at Ole Miss and Texas A&M, but neither job went his way.

Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain reportedly backed out of the running at Memphis amidst contract negotiations and he reportedly pulled his name out of the mix at Fresno State over the weekend.

ArkansasHead Coach Bobby Petrino (2012 will be 5th season in Fayetteville)

Petrino lost all three of his coordinators — offense, defense and special teams — but those roles have already been filled.  Petrino’s brother, Paul, will take over for Garrick McGee who has taken over as head coach at UAB.  Paul Petrino ran the Razorbacks’ offense prior to McGee, but he spent the past two seasons as Illinois’ O-coordinator.

On defense, Willy Robinson “resigned,” and has been replaced by former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Paul Haynes.  Haynes was hired Friday.  He served with Petrino

Special teams coordinator John L. Smith departed to be the head coach at Weber State and that set off a chain reaction of moves.  Steve Caldwell — UA’s defensive ends coach — will take over the special teams units.

Petrino has also shifted Bobby Allen from defensive tackles to defensive backs.  Reggie Johnson will coach the linebackers — both inside and outside.  And director of high school relations Kevin Peoples has been promoted to defensive tackles coach.

AuburnHead Coach Gene Chizik (2012 will be 4th season in Auburn)

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof departed for the same job at Central Florida last week.  Chizik is taking over the D-coordinator role for the Tigers’ Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance.

Reports suggest Chizik has already had preliminary talks with Florida State coordinator Mark Stoops… who led a Top 10 defense in Tallahassee this past season.

Former North Carolina defensive coordinator is also considered to be a frontrunner for the position, but Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is reportedly interested in him as well.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn — once believed to be a leading candidate for head coaching jobs at North Carolina and Kansas — is still being mentioned in connection with Southern Miss’ head coaching vacancy, but it’s likely he’ll return to The Plains next year.

FloridaHead Coach Will Muschamp (2012 will be 2nd season in Gainesville)

Last week, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis made a surprise move to Kansas to become the Jayhawks’ head coach less than a year after arriving at UF.  Former Gator coach Urban Meyer has also hired strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti at Ohio State.

Muschamp is contacting candidates for both spots, but it’s not believed he will hire anyone until after Florida’s January 2nd Gator Bowl appearance against the Buckeyes.

Muschamp has past ties to possible coordinators Al Borges (Michigan), Major Applewhite (Texas) and Greg Davis (formerly of Texas).

GeorgiaHead Coach Mark Richt (2012 will be 12th season in Athens)

Richt and AD Greg McGarity are currently working on an extension for the long-time Bulldog coach.  This after Texas A&M reportedly made a run at Richt.  Despite reports that he spoke with A&M officials, Richt put out a press release Saturday stating that he had not talked to any other schools.

The agent for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has publicly angled for a multi-year extension for his client, but McGarity has said he’s not sure yet where he stands on multi-year deals for assistants.

KentuckyHead Coach Joker Phillips (2012 will be 3rd season in Lexington)

Despite much heat, Phillips will return for a third season next year.  He will, however, be replacing co-defensive coordinator Steve Brown.  Brown had the “co-” added to his title before last season when Rick Minter was hired and put in charge of the Wildcats’ defense.  On his way out the door, Brown pointed out that he was one of the last coaches from Rich Brooks’ staff to survive on Phillips’ staff.  Now only two remain (Randy Sanders and Chuck Smith).

LSUHead Coach Les Miles (2012 will be 8th season in Baton Rouge)

Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson has had his name pop up in connection with head coaching jobs at Tulane and Southern Miss, but at this point it’s believed USM will promote from within to replace Larry Fedora.

Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen (2012 will be 4th season in Starkville)

Mullen has been rumored to be a candidate at both Penn State and Texas A&M this offseason.  He reportedly interviewed at State earlier this month, but the school’s search continues.

MissouriHead Coach Gary Pinkel (2012 will be 12th season in Columbia)

Despite a late-season DUI arrest for MU’s head coach, things appear to be quite stable in the Show-Me State.  Get with the program, Mizzou.  You’re in the SEC now.  That means moves and rumored moves every offseason.

Ole MissHead Coach Hugh Freeze (2012 will be 1st season in Oxford)

Despite opportunities to land more proven coaches like Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez, the Archie Manning-led search committee tabbed Arkansas State’s first-year head coach Freeze as the man to fix what’s been ailing the Rebels since the early ’60s.  Freeze has had a meteoric rise from high school coaching to SEC assistant to coaching to NAIA coaching to Arkansas State and now to Ole Miss.  He has a track record of success, but it’s a pretty short track record.

Freeze is bringing with him a number of assistants from his last stop: Dave Wommack (defensive coordinator), Maurice Harris (tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator), Tom Allen (linebackers coach) and Chris Kiffin (defensive line coach).

Reportedly, Freeze has also spoken to Duke offensive line coach Matt Luke about returning to Oxford where he was once a player and then an assistant.

South CarolinaHead Coach Steve Spurrier (2012 will be 8th season in Columbia)

Assistant coach Jay Graham has left Columbia for his alma mater at Tennessee, which leaves Spurrier in the market for a new running backs coach.

Defensive mastermind Ellis Johnson is reportedly a target of Auburn’s Gene Chizik or the Tigers’ defensive coordinator position, but it’s doubtful he would leave the Palmetto State — where he has a great number of ties — or another assistant’s job.  Johnson has been rumored to be a candidate for the head coaching job at Southern Miss, but as we mentioned above, that job will likely go to an assistant from Fedora’s old staff.

Head Coach Derek Dooley (2012 will be 3rd season in Knoxville)

Shortly after the season, wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett announced his “retirement” from Tennessee, though the school will give him some sort of payoff.  Baggett’s departure coincided with rumors that he’d grown weary of the antics of sophomore wideout Da’Rick Rogers.

With Baggett leaving, Dooley moved quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw to the receivers position.  Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney moved from running backs to quarterbacks, and Graham was hired to fill that slot.

Now Dooley is back in the search mode as former Mike Leach assistant Eric Russell is heading to Washington State to re-team with his old boss.  Russell was in charge of Tennessee’s tight ends and special teams the past two seasons.

Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin (2012 will be 1st season in College Station)

Despite late-in-the-game rumors of big-name candidates — Chris Peterson, Dabo Swinney, Richt, etc — the man first rumored to be A&M’s next head coach eventually did land the job.  Houston’s Kevin Sumlin was officially hired over the weekend to replace the recently fired Mike Sherman.

Sumlin is known for his offensive system, but Sherman had the Aggie offense rolling quite well.  Heading into a new conference, we believe Texas A&M would have been wise to simply hold on to Sherman and upgrade at defensive coordinator if a change needed to be made.  That indeed seems to be the approach with Sumlin.

The Aggies are reportedly targeting former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops for their D-coordinator position.  It’s believed Sumlin will line-up a completely new staff in College Station, which will make for an awful lot of change on the field and on the recruiting paths as A&M readies for its first season in the SEC.

VanderbiltHead Coach James Franklin (2012 will be 2nd season in Nashville)

Vandy’s fiery first-year head coach had his name mentioned in connection with openings at North Carolina and Penn State, but he’s instead worked out a contract extension with the Commodores… which happens to be great news for VU.

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Monday SEC Coaching Rumors

Just a quick catch-up on some of the coaching rumors making the rounds today…

* New Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is expected to bring multiple assistants with him from Arkansas State.  Two names to keep an eye on are Chris Kiffin (defensive line coach) and Grant Heard (receivers coach).

It has also been reported by that Freeze has offered the offensive coordinator position in Oxford to…

* Current LSU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson.  Wilson had been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Bob Toledo at Tulane, but that job is expected to go to New Orleans Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson.

* Carl Pelini has been named the head coach at Florida Atlantic.  Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was a strong candidate for that job before officially accepting the job as UAB’s head coach yesterday.

John L. Smith — the special teams coach in Fayetteville — is rumored to be a top candidate at his alma mater, Weber State.  The school has scheduled a press conference to announce its coach tomorrow.

* Auburn’s Gus Malzahn appears to be totally out of the mix at North Carolina at this point.  Troy Calhoun of Air Force and Larry Fedora of Southern Miss appear to be the top candidates for that job.

* Fedora is also in the mix at Kansas and at Texas A&M.  Fedora is a native of College Station, was an Aggie fan growing up, and his brother coaches a nearby high school team.  His name began to shoot up the ranks after his Southern Miss team — 11-2 and C-USA champions — pounded previously unbeaten Houston on Saturday.  On the other end of that beating was Kevin Sumlin who is also a candidate for the A&M job. 

Currently, it sounds like Fedora and Louisville’s Charlie Strong are the leaders for the A&M gig.  Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has also been discussed as a possible candidate.

We still wonder if A&M might not have been wiser keeping Mike Sherman as head coach — to allow for a smoother transition into the SEC — while adding a top-flight defensive coordinator.  Supposedly, if A&M goes with the offensive-minded Sumlin he will have to bring in a “name” D-coordinator.  Sherman’s offense was proven.  Seems like the safer and less expensive move would have been to simply add someone like Mike Stoops to Sherman’s staff… rather than start all over again from the top down.

*  We mentioned Smart above, but fellow Alabama assistant Jim McElwain — the Tide’s offensive coordinator — has been mentioned in connection with the open head coaching position at Fresno State.

* It’s been reported that Georgia AD Greg McGarity will begin working with Mark Richt on a contract extension in the next couple of weeks.

* is reporting that Kentucky receivers coach Tee Martin will not be heading to Tennessee.  Reports from the Volunteer State say Martin was never officially offered a job with his alma mater.

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