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#pounditWednesday, October 27, 2021

College Football

Watch: James Franklin had major flubs during awkward press conference

James Franklin at a press conference

Penn State is coming off back-to-back losses after being ranked No. 2 in the nation less than two weeks ago, and there have been numerous rumors since then indicating James Franklin could leave the program. It’s fair to wonder if all that talk is taking a toll on the head coach.

Franklin was asked about the rumors linking him to USC and LSU during his Zoom conference call on Tuesday. He insisted his focus is on the Nittany Lions, but it didn’t seem that way. Why? Franklin said multiple times that he is only worried about Penn State’s upcoming game against Illinois.

The problem with that, of course, is that Penn State will face No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday night. Franklin’s team lost to Illinois last weekend in nine overtimes.

You can chalk that up to a mental lapse, but Franklin had others during the same press conference. He also said Penn State will face a big challenge this weekend on the road in “The Big House,” which is the nickname for Michigan’s stadium. Ohio State’s stadium — where Penn State will play Saturday — is nicknamed “The Horseshoe.”

Penn State fans aren’t going to be happy with that. The Nittany Lions had national championship hopes less than two weeks ago, and they now appear to be on the verge of losing their head coach. One major change Franklin made this week could indicate he is preparing to take a job in the SEC. He may insist his focus is solely on Penn State, but you can understand why some people are skeptical.

Photo: Jul 22, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin speaks to the media during Big 10 media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin has extremely animated response to USC rumor

Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin has suddenly found his name tied to the USC head coaching vacancy, but the Pittsburgh Steelers coach made it clear on Tuesday that he has no interest in the job. Very clear.

Tomlin became extremely annoyed when asked if he would consider leaving the Steelers for USC or any other college job. He called the speculation a “joke” and said there isn’t an offer in the world that would make him give it a thought.

“Hey guys, I don’t have time for that speculation. That’s a joke to me,” Tomlin said. “I’ve got one of the best jobs in all of professional sports. Why would I have any interest in coaching college football? That’ll be the last time I address it, not only today but moving forward. Never say never, but never. Anybody else got any questions about any college jobs? There’s not a booster with a big enough blank check.”

Tomlin then ended his press conference by asking if any reporters have asked Sean Payton or Andy Reid about college jobs. Of course, Tomlin wasn’t asked about USC out of nowhere. He can thank former Trojans star Carson Palmer for that.

Palmer was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” Monday. He said he has given input to USC about the head coaching vacancy and discussed potential candidates. Palmer mentioned Tomlin and then seemed surprised that he was the first one to publicly link the Steelers coach to the job. You can see the funny video here.

If USC thought they had a chance to land Tomlin, they can probably forget about it now. Coaches have lied about their interest in other jobs plenty of times, but Tomlin was quite convincing.

James Franklin gearing up to leave Penn State for SEC job?

James Franklin

James Franklin has reportedly hired a new agent, and the move could signal that the Penn State coach is positioning himself to leave for a new job this offseason.

John Brice of FootballScoop.com reported on Monday that Franklin has hired Jimmy Sexton of Creative Artists Agency. He was previously represented by Trace Armstrong of Athletes First.

Sexton represents some of the biggest names in college football. He is the agent for several of the nation’s top coaches, many of whom coach in the SEC. Sexton’s client list includes Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin, Kirby Smart, Dan Mullen and Jimbo Fisher. At one point a few years ago, Sexton represented 11 of the 14 coaches in the SEC. Some of those coaches have since moved on, but his ties to the most powerful conference in college football are deep.

What does that mean for Franklin? Perhaps not a whole lot, as Sexton also represents many NFL coaches and prominent head coaches from other conferences. However, the move is noteworthy for Franklin since he is considered one of the top candidates to replace Ed Orgeron at LSU. Though, two top schools from different conferences may enter a bidding war for Franklin when the season ends.

Franklin has a buyout of roughly $4 million at Penn State. If he chooses to leave, other programs will have no problem paying that.

Penn State has lost back-to-back games after being ranked No. 2 in the country. They lost two weeks ago at No. 3 Iowa before falling in nine overtimes to Illinois on Saturday night.

Urban Meyer doubles down on high expectations for Jaguars

Urban Meyer Jags

Things have not gone well for the Jacksonville Jaguars so far this season, but Urban Meyer does not want to hear any excuses.

The first-year head coach made a clear statement on Monday about his expectations for the remainder of the season. He said the Jaguars’ play at this point cannot be chalked up to a new system or a rookie quarterback in Trevor Lawrence.

In short, Meyer doesn’t want to hear excuses. Considering the team is 1-5, it’s fair to read this as a criticism of their play so far. Meyer definitely isn’t grading on a curve.

Jaguars players seem to have found some other reasons to blame for their struggles this year. That won’t stop Meyer from maintaining some expectations that border on ridiculous. With upcoming games against the Bills and Colts, it won’t be easy.

Report: Longtime NFL coach is candidate for USC job

Jeff Fisher on sidelines

It’s been a while since Jeff Fisher had the chance to coach at either the NFL or college level, but it sounds like USC might be giving him a look.

According to Brett McMurphy of Action Network, Fisher is “in the mix” for the USC job, along with a number of high-profile college head coaches.

Fisher, like fellow former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio, played college ball at USC. One of the two of them always seem to have their name connected to a head coach search at USC.

Fisher has no college experience aside from his current gig advising Eddie George at Tennessee State. That said, he’s been open to college jobs in the past, and it’s hard to see him passing on this one, assuming his candidacy is legitimate.

Fisher became somewhat infamous for his mediocrity toward the end of his NFL tenure. He is 173-165-1 in his NFL coaching career, and has not had a winning season at that level since 2008. One would figure the Trojans would want someone more dynamic and accomplished for the role if they can find that option, but there’s no doubt Fisher has ample experience.

Mel Tucker responds to LSU rumors

Mel Tucker before a game

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker tried to push aside rumors linking him to another job as he prepares for the biggest game of his tenure.

On Monday, Tucker had his first media availability since reports emerged linking him to the LSU job. Unsurprisingly, Tucker was not in the mood to discuss the Tigers, brushing aside the question by saying he was focused on Saturday’s game against Michigan.

“My focus in on the upcoming game versus the school down the road,” Tucker said, via Matt Wenzel of MLive. “That’s where my concentration and all my focus is, and I really appreciate you understanding that.”

It’s not a denial. That said, Tucker isn’t entertaining the speculation right now. With the Spartans in the top ten ahead of a huge game against the Wolverines, there’s no reason to.

Tucker is one of several names linked to the LSU position. Another Big Ten coach may also factor in that search.

Photo: Sep 3, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mel Tucker walks on the field during warmups before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

USC reportedly not giving up on landing notable ex-Pac 12 coach

Chris Petersen at a press conference

The USC Trojans continue to eye big names in their search for a new head coach, including one former Pac-12 rival.

According to Scott Roussel of Football Scoop, USC athletic director Mike Bohn is particularly intrigued with two candidates for the school’s vacant head coaching position. One is Penn State’s James Franklin, as has been widely reported.

The other is former Washington coach Chris Petersen. The 57-year-old is in his second year away from coaching after abruptly leaving Washington following the 2019 season. Petersen has long been eyed by USC, but has never accepted their overtures.

As recently as September, Petersen sounded uninterested in the USC job. Perhaps that’s changed, or perhaps the Trojans think they can change his mind. The appeal is that USC wouldn’t have to go through any hurdles to land Petersen, as he’s not attached to any program. He also has ample Pac-12 experience with Washington.

Franklin is appealing, but the Trojans appear to have competition there. The door may be open to wild card candidates as well.

Photo: Jul 24, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen during Pac-12 football media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Did Carson Palmer reveal big inside info about USC coaching search?

Carson Palmer during Cardinals game

Carson Palmer is one of the best players in the history of USC football, and the former quarterback says he has been consulted on the school’s search for a new head coach. He also may have inadvertently leaked some big information about a coach the Trojans are targeting.

Palmer discussed the USC coaching search during a Monday appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show.” He said he has shared input about candidates and was asked if Penn State head coach James Franklin is the frontrunner for the job. Palmer responded that there are “a lot of frontrunners,” which led to Patrick pressing him further. The former first overall pick then brought up Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

“You’ve got a wild card like Mike Tomlin, if Mike Tomlin wants out. … That’s what’s so great about the job,” Palmer said. “It can lure an NFL guy who’s tired of his current situation and worried about, ‘Is Ben Roethlisberger gone. Who are we gonna draft?’ Does Mike Tomlin have to start over with a first-round young rookie quarterback? Everybody is on the table given that job is so big and so coveted.”

The interview took a funny turn from there, as Palmer was clearly unaware that Tomlin’s name hadn’t really been floated as a possible candidate for the USC job. You can see the clip below:

Tomlin has been the head coach in Pittsburgh for nearly 15 years. The Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL and sports in general, so it seems highly unlikely that Tomlin would voluntarily leave that job for an underachieving college program. Palmer and other USC alumni can dream, however.

USC seems to have one top candidate in mind, but they could be competing with LSU to hire him. They’ll likely make plenty of calls to the NFL, but we’d be shocked if Tomlin has any interest.

Photo: Nov 26, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) looks on after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

LSU AD eyeing national champion coach to replace Ed Orgeron?

Ed Orgeron in a white LSU shirt

Almost every top college coach in the country will hear his name connected to the LSU job at some point, and Dabo Swinney is no exception. The two-time national champion has already denied that he would have any interest in a fresh start, but that doesn’t mean LSU will take him at his word.

Paul Finebaum said on the “ESPN College Football Podcast” recently that LSU athletic director Scott Woodward has Swinney at the top of his list.

“It’s really hard to chisel that one down,” Finebaum said of the LSU coaching search, as transcribed by Wade Peery of On3.com. “There are some who believe the AD Scott Woodward wants — you ready for this — Dabo Swinney. Now, there’s talk that the president wants Mel Tucker. (University of Louisiana coach) Billy Napier is out there maybe as a second-tier selection if everyone else goes bust. It seems like Jimbo (Fisher) is out of that one.”

Fisher coached at LSU under Nick Saban nearly two decades ago when the Tigers won a national title. The connection there is natural, but Fisher insists he is very happy at Texas A&M. Swinney is the big name that Finebaum mentioned, and it’s noteworthy that Clemson is 4-3 and having a very rough season.

Does that mean Swinney would entertain leaving? Probably not. Swinney has built Clemson into a national powerhouse and won two championships since 2016. He signed a 10-year, $93 million extension with the school two years ago. Swinney would have to pay Clemson a significant amount of money if he took another job at this point. The 51-year-old responded to a question about the LSU job last week.

There are other candidates for the LSU job that make more sense than Swinney. That doesn’t mean LSU officials will ignore Dabo altogether, as they are likely to explore every option.

Photo: Sep 18, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron looks on against Central Michigan Chippewas during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Father of Alabama WR Agiye Hall gets profane with son’s critics

Agiye Hall works out

Alabama wide receiver Agiye Hall was a highly recruited prospect who was expected to contribute in his freshman season, but he clearly has not impressed Nick Saban over the past several weeks. Hall was not in uniform for Saturday night’s game against Tennessee, leading to a lot of criticism on social media. Hall’s father wasn’t having it.

Hall was inactive on Saturday and has not caught a pass since Alabama’s season opener. That was his only catch this year. The freshman’s father, Vincent, had some extremely vulgar responses on Twitter for some of Hall’s critics. Beware that the tweets contain inappropriate language:

Alabama fans expect excellence, and Saban made it clear this week that he has not gotten that from Hall. The coach was asked about Hall following his team’s 52-24 win over Tennessee, and he hinted that Hall has not fulfilled all of his responsibilities.

“We have protocols that when guys miss so many things, they don’t get to play in a game,” Saban said, via Mike Rodak of AL.com. “That’s always been a rule around here.

“I’m not gonna disclose — and I don’t think it’s anybody’s business — when we’re trying to get players to do the right thing, and we use playing time and opportunities in football to try to get them to do the right thing personally and academically. That’s basically all I got to say about that.”

Hall sent a cryptic tweet shortly after Saban spoke with the media.

It’s unclear what exactly is going on with Hall, but the former four-star recruit clearly has some ground to make up if he wants to become a factor down the stretch. It’s fair to wonder if he has been subject to any of Saban’s interesting disciplinary measures this season.

Photo: Wayne McGahee III/Democrat via Imagn Content Services, LLC