Fournette, Hill among inactives in Jacksonville

Published: Sunday, November 05, 2017 @ 11:43 AM

            CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 29: Jeremy Hill #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 29: Jeremy Hill #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Neither starting running back play in Jacksonville today, as Jeremy Hill is inactive for the Cincinnati Bengals and Leonard Fournette for the Jaguars.

The Bengals are saying Hill is inactive due to an ankle injury, while Fournette is being disciplined.

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“Leonard Fournette is not playing in today’s game due to an infraction of a team rule,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said in a statement. “This has been addressed internally, and further details will not be made public.”

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Fournette leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with six and sixth in rushing yards (596).

Hill was not on the injury report, so the ankle issue must have happened during pregame warmups. His absence means rookie Joe Mixon is expected to make his first career start.

The Bengals also will be without kicker Randy Bullock, who reported tightness in his back earlier in the week, leading the team to sign Marshall Koehn on Saturday.

Koehn will make his NFL debut.

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Also inactive is rookie wide receiver John Ross as a healthy scratch. Ross saw his first action since Week 2 when he played six snaps in last week’s win against Indianapolis. Cody Core missed that game with a concussion but was cleared to return earlier this week, leaving Ross as the odd man out in a receiver rotation where fourth-round pick Josh Malone has surpassed him.

Malone is active for the third week in a row after catching his first career touchdown last week.

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Wide receiver Tyler Boyd (knee) and linebacker Kevin Minter (elbow) were ruled out Friday with injuries.

The other inactives are offensive linemen Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond.

Top 10 candidates to replace Arkansas coach Bret Bielema

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 2:40 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.  — Arkansas is likely to fire football coach Bret Bielema after his fifth season with the Razorbacks is completed Friday.

The Hogs are expected to begin searching immediately for his replacement. Here are 10 top candidates to potentially replace Bielema, listed by the SEC Country staff in order from most to least likely:


1. Mike Norvell, Memphis

Norvell is 17-6 over two seasons at Memphis. His current team is 9-1 overall and 6-1 in American Athletic Conference play.

He also had successful stints as an offensive assistant at Arizona State, Pitt and Tulsa prior to being hired by the Tigers in December 2016. While coaching quarterbacks and serving as offensive coordinator at Arizona State, Norvell produced a top 40 overall offense in each of his four seasons.

Norvell, 36, was a four-year starter for Central Arkansas at wide receiver (2001-04). He finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in receptions (213) and ranked third in receiving yards (2,611). His wife, Maria, is a Fort Smith native.

His buyout for leaving Memphis is just $500,000 and he currently makes $1.86 million. Neither of those figures will scare anyone away from making this hire.

Mike Norvell’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Memphis 2 17-6 .739
Total 2 17-6 .739

2. Chad Morris, SMU

Arkansas needs to re-establish a strong recruiting presence in Texas. That makes Morris an ideal option.

Morris, 47, was a head coach at the high school level throughout Texas for 16 years (1994-2009). His first two signing classes at SMU (2015, 2016) were entirely made up of Texas players.

During his time with the Mustangs, Morris is 13-22. But he inherited a 1-11 team that was among the worst in college football. Since he’s arrived, SMU has increased its win total each season and was bowl eligible by late October this season.

Chad Morris’ career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
SMU 3 13-22 .371
Total 3 13-22 .371

3. Mike Leach, Washington State

Leach is a popular choice among Arkansas fans. An online petition to bring him to Fayetteville was started earlier this season and has more than 1,000 signatures.

It’s understandable why fans want him. He’s the winningest coach in Texas Tech history and he’s done an outstanding job turning around the program at Washington State. Those are two of the most difficult jobs in the Power 5 conferences. If he can win there, he can almost certainly win in Fayetteville.

The issue with Leach, 56, is he comes with baggage. He was fired from Texas Tech amid alleged mistreatment of a player. He’s also currently demanding $2.4 million from Tech in unpaid wages.

Mike Leach’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Texas Tech 10 84-43 .661
Washington St. 6 38-36 .514
Total 16 122-79 .607

4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Malzahn, 52, graduated from Union Christian Academy in Fort Smith and spent 15 seasons (1991-2005) coaching high school football in the Natural State.

His one-year stint as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator (2006) under coach Houston Nutt was a disaster, mostly because of disagreement in philosophies. He’s 53-23 in his six years as a coach at Arkansas State (2012) and Auburn (2013-present).

Arkansas stands to be an ideal landing spot if Auburn doesn’t want him back or he opts to leave after this season. But the Tigers are one win away from playing in the SEC Championship Game, so a victory over Alabama on Saturday almost certainly takes Malzahn off this list.

Even with a loss in the Iron Bowl, it seems reasonable Malzahn may simply entertain the idea of coming to Arkansas, just to get a more time and money at Auburn. Maybe his agent is already doing that for him through the rumor mill.

Gus Malzahn’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Arkansas St. 1 9-3 .750
Auburn 5 44-20 .688
Total 6 53-23 .697


Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz won a bowl game in each of the past three seasons. (Butch Dill/Getty Images)


5. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech

Holtz, 53, is a Fayetteville High School graduate who still has many friends in Northwest Arkansas. He spent six years (1977-82) in Fayetteville while his father, Lou, was coaching the Razorbacks to some of the best seasons in program history.

At Louisiana Tech, Holtz has won nine games the past three seasons before experiencing a setback (currently 5-6) in 2017. His team nearly upset Arkansas without its starting quarterback last year in Fayetteville, a 21-20 Razorbacks victory in the season opener.

Holtz could also likely be hired at a discount because he’s making just more than $700,000 this season and isn’t a likely candidate to be thrown into a bidding war.

Skip Holtz’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
East Carolina 5 38-27 .585
South Florida 3 16-21 .432
La. Tech 5 36-28 .563
Total 13 90-76 .542

6. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Campbell has been among the hottest names in college football since the Cyclones upset two top 5 teams (Oklahoma and TCU) in October.

At 7-4 this season, Iowa State is one victory away from just its ninth eight-win season in 126 years of football at the school. That speaks to how difficult of a job Iowa State is and how well Campbell has done there. Though Arkansas is a better job, it’s similar in that the Hogs also need a coach who can win without top-tier talent compared to the rest of the conference.

Here’s the holdup with Campbell: He’s going to be very expensive. The 37-year-old has a buyout of $9.4 million should he leave Iowa State after this season.

Matt Campbell’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Toledo 5 35-15 .700
Iowa St. 2 10-13 .435
Total 7 45-28 .616

7. Neal Brown, Troy

Last season, Brown led Troy to its first 10-win season since joining the FBS (2001). The Trojans are 8-2 so far this season.

Brown, 37, is another young offensive-minded coach very likely to be on the Hogs’ radar. He’s also 1-0 as a coach against Arkansas rival LSU, upsetting the Tigers earlier this season in Baton Rouge.

But he, too, has a buyout that could make schools think twice about pursuing him. If he accepts another job after this season, his future employer would be in line to pay Troy nearly $3 million.

Neal Brown’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Troy 3 22-13 .629
Total 3 22-13 .629


Les Miles took his Oklahoma State and LSU teams to 14 bowls in 15 full seasons as coach. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)


8. Les Miles, former LSU coach

The former LSU coach ruffled the feathers of many Arkansans during his 12 years with the Tigers. Still, he was reportedly offered the Arkansas job before the Razorbacks hired Bielema in 2012.

Miles is 64 and working as a television analyst this season. But he’s been outspoken about his desire to get back into coaching. He’s reportedly shown interest in Oregon State’s coaching vacancy. If he’s interested in that job, he surely would be interested in Arkansas.

Razorbacks fans might be able look past this former rivalry if it means getting a coach with a national title on his résumé — especially one who can poach recruits from Louisiana.

Les Miles’ career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Oklahoma St. 4 28-21 .571
LSU 12 114-34 .770
Total 16 142-55 .721

9. Scott Frost, Central Florida

Frost took over a winless program at UCF and immediately turned things around. The Knights finished 6-7 in 2016, his first season. The Knights are 10-0 this season and No. 14 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The former Nebraska quarterback is known for producing high-scoring offenses. In four seasons as wide receivers coach at Oregon (2009-12), the Ducks reached four consecutive BCS bowls. He was promoted to offensive coordinator at Oregon in 2013 and was a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2014.

However, Frost seems far more likely to end up at his alma mater or Florida.

Scott Frost’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
UCF 2 16-7 .696
Total 2 16-7 .696

10. Charlie Strong, South Florida

Strong is having success in his first season at South Florida after an underwhelming three-year stint at Texas. The Bulls are 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the AAC this season. He’s 62-38 in his career as a coach, including 37-15 in four years at Louisville (2010-13).

The Batesville, Ark., native lettered four years as a defensive back at Central Arkansas (1980–83). He’s a defensive-minded coach who had successful stints as a defensive coordinator at Florida (2003-09), where he won two national championships under Urban Meyer, and South Carolina (1999-2002).

Strong is local, but his background as a defensive coach isn’t likely to be what Arkansas is looking for this time around. It’s also unlikely the Razorbacks would pursue a coach fired by the hated Longhorns less than a year ago.

Charlie Strong’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Florida* 1 0-1 .000
Louisville  4  37-15  .712
Texas 3  16-21 .432
USF 1  9-1 .900
Total  9  62-38  .620

* Interim coach for bowl game in 2004

Ole Miss, Mississippi State team up for pregame message to temper Egg Bowl passion

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 5:15 PM

Rivalries are intense. They’re meant to be clashes for trophies that mean a lot to both schools.

A win for Ole Miss gives them bowl eligibility in a season that looked like it was headed for a dumpster fire after Hugh Freeze’s resignation.

It seems like both schools have an interest in keeping their fans from appearing in any fight videos on Thursday when the Rebels visit the Bulldogs.

“We ask that fans from both schools honor this storied rivalry with civility and respect for each other,” the statement said in part.”….Please join us in enjoying the tradition of the Egg Bowl in a respectful and positive manner.”

All those words may ring hollow once the alcohol begins to flow and the game starts. A Thanksgiving Day game means some might have the day off work and are ready to get rowdy.

As is the case at most football games, there are bound to be a few incidents, but at least the schools can say they tried.

Auburn recruiting: Predicting the Tigers’ signing class on offense

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 5:15 PM

Auburn finds itself in a position with more to gain in the Class of 2018 than any other program.

A month ago, the Tigers were left for dead. They slipped down the Top 25 rankings, Gus Malzahn and his staff were told to take a hike and recruiting promise looked bleak with the cloud of uncertainty rising. Then Auburn topped No. 1 Georgia and now has No. 1 Alabama ahead. If the Tigers can win that one, they’ll be the hot team on the market heading into the December signing period.

As of now, the Tigers sit at No. 14 nationally in 247Sports’ composite rankings, but they’re in a position to crack the top 10 if a few recruiting battles fall their way. Here is SEC Country’s latest projected class on offense.

* — indicates current commitment

QB: Joey Gatewood*

Analysis: I was given reason to believe over the weekend that it’s Jarren Williams, Emory Jones or nothing for Auburn when it comes to adding a second quarterback. Could that narrative change if the Tigers were to miss on both? Perhaps they could circle back on a guy such as A.J. Curry. Williams is trending toward Miami and may not even visit Auburn this weekend anymore. Jones is still committed to Ohio State and Alabama may be the more likely candidate to flip him. In the end, I expect Auburn to ride with Joey Gatewood, who is cruising through the Florida state playoffs.

Confidence level: 70 percent

RB: Asa Martin*, Shaun Shivers*

Analysis: Asa Martin and Shaun Shivers are both solidly committed to Auburn. As much as Alabama and others may push for Martin, his commitment to the Tigers won’t change as long as this coaching staff is in place. There are a few other running back targets to watch. For instance, LSU commit Tae Provens visited for the Georgia game and will be back for the Alabama game, but Auburn is still trying to decide if it likes him more as a running back or a cornerback. For that reason, I expect the running back class to stay where it’s at.

Confidence level: 90 percent

WR: Matthew Hill*, Shedrick Jackson*, Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz

Analysis: I wrote about the wide receiver group at length for the inaugural Recruiting Question of the Day earlier on Monday. Auburn doesn’t have any concerns about holding on to Matthew Hill and Shedrick Jackson, nor should it. Now the question comes: Will Auburn take one or two more wide receivers? If it’s two, I think the most likely scenario for right now is Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. Somewhat surprisingly, I had a source say, of all the wide receiver targets, Auburn feels most confident with Schwartz right now. That’s why he makes his way into my class projection for the first time.

Confidence level: 55 percent

TE: Nobody at this time

Analysis: Auburn received some unwelcome news Sunday night when top tight end target Michael Parker announced he received an offer from Alabama. The Tigers forced the Crimson Tide’s hand on this one, as Parker was likely set to commit to Auburn at some point this week. Auburn will have to go a different direction. Tyneil Hopper has visited three times this season with his entire family, so he’s someone to monitor. There are a few JUCO options who will be tracked down the stretch. But Auburn feels good about John Samuel Shenker, who they’ll add next year, plus the Tigers won’t lose any of their scholarship tight ends. It might make more sense to leave the tight end position vacant to allow for more openings at other position groups.

Confidence level: 40 percent

OL: Kameron Stutts*, Jalil Irvin*, Trey Hill, Jerome Carvin

Analysis: Kameron Stutts and Jalil Irvin are already committed on the interior. It looks like Auburn is going to take one more inside guy. In a perfect world, that’s Trey Hill, and it looks like he’s trending that way. It’s impossible to count out Georgia, of course, but Auburn feels good, which is a big reason why the Tigers plan on pumping the brakes on Tank Jenkins. The bigger question will be at tackle with Badara Traore and Dylan Wonnum appearing to be long shots for now. Enter a name who hasn’t appeared in a class projection since the spring — Jerome Carvin. A source told me Auburn has fallen in love with his senior film. This likely will be a battle with Tennessee and Mississippi State, so the Tigers like their chances. He’ll officially visit for the Iron Bowl, which, to my knowledge, will be his first visit since the spring game.

Confidence level: 65 perecent

Penn State football’s Mike Gesicki named finalist for John Mackey Award

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 5:10 PM

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki has been named one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding tight end in college football. Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are the other two finalists.

Penn State tweeted out congratulations for Gesicki.

The senior has been one of the Nittany Lions’ top pass catchers this season and enters Penn State’s regular season finale against Maryland with 46 catches for 466 yards and seven touchdowns.

In Penn State’s 56-44 win over Nebraska last weekend, Gesicki hauled in four catches for 47 yards and two touchdown receptions, marking the second straight week he found the end zone.

The John Mackey Award winner will be announced Dec. 6.