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#pounditTuesday, January 18, 2022

Stories by Grey Papke:

Gene Chizik set for surprise return to North Carolina

Gene Chizik on set

Gene Chizik is making a surprise return to college football with the program he left five years ago.

The North Carolina Tar Heels announced Saturday that Chizik would return to the program with the title of assistant head coach for defense. Chizik will essentially serve as co-defensive coordinator along with Charlton Warren, another new addition who was previously the defensive coordinator at Indiana.

Chizik’s ties to North Carolina head coach Mack Brown are certainly in play here. Chizik was the defensive coordinator at Texas under Brown in 2005 and 2006, when the Longhorns won a national title. Chizik later won another title as head coach at Auburn, and also served two seasons as defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels under Brown’s predecessor Larry Fedora.

Chizik has worked for ESPN since resigning from North Carolina in 2017, where he has occasionally bemoaned the state of the sport. His return certainly makes for an interesting fit.

Report: Jaguars GM has preferred coach and DC in mind

Trent Baalke at a press conference

The Jacksonville Jaguars could reportedly bring a lot of experience to their next coaching staff if general manager Trent Baalke gets his way.

Baalke is a strong supporter of Alabama offensive coordinator and former Texans coach Bill O’Brien to take over the head coaching job in Jacksonville, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. If O’Brien is hired, the team would reportedly target Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, assuming the Broncos fire Fangio.

Previous reports have indicated that Baalke is a hindrance in the team’s search for a new head coach. That is not said to be the case with O’Brien, who is “aligned” with Baalke and would be willing to work under the GM.

The question at this point is whether Baalke gets to make the hire. Jaguars fans are putting pressure on the team to fire the GM, but owner Shad Khan has not relented at this point. Hiring O’Brien as coach would look pretty uninspiring, and will likely only increase the sense of urgency among fans to call for Baalke’s job.

Photo: Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke during Friday afternoon’s press conference at TIAA Bank Field. After his arrival in Jacksonville, Florida Friday morning, April 30, 2021, Jacksonville Jaguars first-round draft pick Trevor Lawrence along with team owner Shad Khan, head coach Urban Meyer and the Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke held a press conference in the afternoon inside TIAA Bank Field. They were also joined by the Jaguars 25th pick in the first round of the draft and former Clemson teammate of Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Trevor Etienne spurns Clemson to commit to SEC school

Trevor Etienne

Trevor Etienne will not be following the path of his brother Travis by committing to Clemson. Instead, the younger Etienne has opted to try his hand in the SEC.

Etienne, a consensus four-star running back recruit, announced prior to Saturday’s All-American Bowl that he would commit to Florida over LSU and Clemson. The Louisiana-based running back said the choice came down to Florida and Clemson, but he fell in love with Gainesville on his official visit there. He added that he wanted to do “something new” instead of following in his brother’s footsteps.

“It’s something new,” Etienne said, via Jeremy Johnson of On3 Sports. “I wanted to see myself doing something new and doing something I haven’t experienced. My brother went to Clemson. I’ve been to LSU a couple of times. I’ve never really been to Florida. That’s something I want to experience.”

Etienne said he had “nothing but love” for Clemson, having spent a good deal of time around campus watching his older brother play.

Notably, Etienne could factor early at Florida, with top running backs Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis poised to graduate. The path to snaps early may have helped Florida beat out Clemson for the running back.

It will no doubt sting for Clemson to see the brother of one of the program’s most iconic players turn them down to go elsewhere. It may bother LSU just as much given how the school’s former coach felt after losing out on the older Etienne, too.

Bradley Beal’s tip for opponent during game backfired

Bradley Beal

The NBA is something of a fraternity, and while the competition is intense, many players do want to see their peers do well. That’s why a lot of veterans will occasionally dole out tips to younger players.

Bradley Beal did that on Friday and paid for it almost immediately. The Washington Wizards guard offered a word of advice to Chicago Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu during Friday’s game. By Dosumnu’s retelling, Beal wasn’t exactly thrilled when Dosunmu promptly used the move on him.

Beal went into greater detail when telling his side of the story. The Wizards guard said he saw Dosunmu get called for traveling twice due to being indecisive with the ball. Beal told Dosunmu to catch and shoot or catch and go.

“I looked at Coach [Billy] Donovan and he was telling him to catch and go, and it’s funny, I told him the same thing,” Beal said, via Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. “‘Just catch and rip, don’t shuffle your feet, catch and shoot or catch and go.’

“His a– caught and went on me. One dribble pull-up.”

Maybe Beal should have waited until after the game to deliver his advice, but Dosunmu clearly appreciated the tip. The rookie wound up scoring a career-high 18 points in Chicago’s 130-122 win. At this point, Wizards fans would probably like to see their players become a bit less charitable toward opponents going forward.

Photo: Jan 30, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) warms up before the game between the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Lane Kiffin humorously one-ups Hugh Freeze

Lane Kiffin holds his headset

Lane Kiffin cannot help but stir the pot a bit, especially when it comes to one of his predecessors at Ole Miss.

On Tuesday, Liberty coach Hugh Freeze posted a picture of himself on social media showing off a rather impressive fish he caught. That wasn’t enough to impress Kiffin, who responded to the post with an impressive flex of his own.

Point to Lane on this one.

There’s a fun little underlying rivalry going on here. Freeze coached Ole Miss from 2012 to 2016 before resigning amid a series of scandals. He took the Liberty job in 2019 and has made them quite successful. The two teams faced off in 2021, a game in which Ole Miss made things a bit personal on social media after winning. This is a lot less mean-spirited, and Kiffin is just having a lot of fun.

Photo: Sep 18, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffen at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia star makes surprising admission about first matchup with Alabama

Jordan Davis after a game

The Georgia Bulldogs were embarrassed by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship, and one Georgia player made a fairly surprising admission about that game.

Georgia nose guard Jordan Davis admitted on Saturday that the Bulldogs did not have the proper conditioning coming into their 41-24 loss, and that Alabama took advantage.

“I’d say we wasn’t as conditioned as we should have been, especially on my part,” Davis said, via Michael Casagrande of “And definitely this week we’ve been working hard. Coach Smart has been working us hard. And actually I’m about to go run right now after this meeting.”

That’s not something you typically hear from any athletes, though the candor is appreciated. It does suggest that Georgia wasn’t prepared for the first Alabama matchup, or at least not as much as they should have been. Combine that with the “rat poison” Alabama fed off of and you have a recipe for an upset.

Georgia and Alabama will face off again Monday for the National Championship. Do not expect the Bulldogs to make the same mistakes again.

Sep 18, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) reacts as he leaves the field after defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant reveals what he told Kyrie Irving about return to Nets

Kevin Durant dribbles down the court

The Brooklyn Nets have Kyrie Irving back as a part-time player. Kevin Durant wants him to be more than that, but Durant isn’t going to take that matter into his own hands.

Durant said after Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that he has told Irving how happy he is to have the guard back, and that he would like Irving available for all games. Durant added, however, that he would not put any added pressure on Irving to get vaccinated in order to play home games in Brooklyn.

Durant is walking a fine line here. He, like the Nets, would strongly prefer to have Irving for every game. Irving has been firm in his refusal to take the vaccine, however, and Durant is unlikely to change his mind. Durant did apparently play a role in pushing the Nets to back down from their refusal to allow Irving to be a part-time player, as it sounds like the two talked at length about the situation before Irving began joining the team for road games.

Irving’s status has been criticized by some within the game. Durant will not be one of them. He knows this is the situation for now, and there’s nothing he can really do to change it.

Photo: Oct 11, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) in action against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Fred VanVleet receives funny congratulations from ex-teammate for triple-double

Fred VanVleet

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet had a huge game on Friday, but one of his former teammates was jokingly unimpressed.

VanVleet posted his first career triple-double against the shorthanded Utah Jazz on Friday. The Toronto guard scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 122-108 victory, largely on the strength of a dominant third quarter. That got him congratulations from former teammate Kyle Lowry, and an admonishment for taking so long.

VanVleet has come close to the milestone before. He has acknowledged that, albeit by taking a shot at another star guard who’s known for his triple-double output.

Lowry played for the Raptors from 2013 to 2020 and was a mentor to VanVleet, so he will be legitimately proud. He’s made perfectly clear that he’s still rooting for Toronto, after all.

Photo: Mar 1, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) before the game against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports