Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thomsen takes Porter's spot on ASU staff (Yahoo! Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona State coach Todd Graham has added former Texas Tech interim coach Chris Thomsen to his staff.

Graham announced Friday that Thomsen will take over as the Sun Devils' running backs coach after Larry Porter left to take the same position at Texas.

Graham hired Thomsen as an assistant coach in December 2011, but he left in February to become the offensive line coach at Texas Tech. Thomsen was named the interim coach two days after Tommy Tuberville left Lubbock to become the head coach at Cincinnati.

Thomsen led the Red Raiders to a 34-31 win over Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last month.


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Iowa St QB Jared Barnett to transfer (Yahoo! Sports)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett won the biggest game in school history as a freshman.

By the end of his sophomore season, Barnett decided his time in Ames was up. Barnett, who went from the starter to a third stringer in just over two months, has decided to transfer after two seasons.

Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads announced Friday that Barnett and linebacker C.J. Morgan will continue their careers elsewhere

''Jared has had some great games in a Cyclone uniform and we will miss his character in the locker room and on the field,'' Rhoads said. ''We respect his decision.''

Barnett will be remembered best for throwing for 376 yards in a win over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011 that knocked the Cowboys out of the national title picture.

But Barnett could never quite take control of the starter's job. He lost it twice to senior Steele Jantz twice in 2012, while freshman Sam Richardson took over as the starter for the final two games of the season.

Though Richardson struggled in a 31-17 loss in the Liberty Bowl to Tulsa, he likely would have entered spring ball ahead of Barnett on the depth chart. The Cyclones will also have redshirt freshman Grant Rohach next season, but Barnett's departure will hurt the program's depth at quarterback.

Barnett, who grew up in Garland, Texas, threw for 1,825 yards and 12 TDs at Iowa State.

Rhoads said Morgan has some health issues with his family and is looking to play closer to home. Morgan made just 12 tackles as a redshirt sophomore in 2012. But he could have pushed for a starting spot in 2013 with the graduation of stars Jake Knott and A.J. Klein.

''Family is always first and we wish him the best,'' Rhoads said.

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP


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UCLA's Jim Mora gets 1-year extension through 2017 (Yahoo! Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- UCLA coach Jim Mora agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2017 on Friday after revitalizing the Bruins in his debut season.

Mora led UCLA to nine victories, the Pac-12 South title and a Holiday Bowl berth just one year after replacing Rick Neuheisel at a school that hadn't won even eight games in a season since 2005.

The former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach adjusted splendidly to the college game, even beating crosstown rival Southern California while climbing as high as No. 15 in the rankings.

''What Jim Mora has accomplished in just one season as our head coach is remarkable,'' UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. ''The wins, the Pac-12 South championship and the bowl berth were accompanied by an equally impressive performance by the team in the classroom and in the community.''

The Bruins (9-5) lost their final three games, including two meetings with Rose Bowl champion Stanford before a 49-26 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. But the quiet finish didn't dampen the renewed enthusiasm for football in Westwood, where the athletic department has embarked on plans to improve its football training complex.

Mora said he's grateful to Guerrero ''for his commitment to me and my staff, and our shared belief that we are on the road to creating something very special.''

''I believe UCLA will win championships,'' Mora added. ''The 2012 team established a foundation which will launch us forward. Our staff, our returning players, our administration and the entire Bruin community are pulling together in an effort to win championships.''

Mora agreed to a five-year, $12 million deal at UCLA in December 2011 after nearly two years out of football following his firing by the Seahawks.

He was an unlikely hire for the Bruins, who had mostly chosen head coaches who were former Bruins players or assistants in recent decades. The school also hadn't hired a head coach with a defensive background in 40 years.

Mora hadn't coached college football in a quarter-century since a single season as an assistant at Washington, his alma mater. But Mora immediately hired an impressive staff led by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and then landed a strong recruiting class in less than two months on the trail.

Mora's success attracted national attention, including rumors linking him to interest everywhere from Tennessee and Auburn to the San Diego Chargers.

Along with an improved training complex, Mora's upcoming changes to the football program could include raises for his assistant coaches.

''Jim and I will continue to work closely as partners to enhance all aspects of the program moving forward so that we may continue to compete at the highest level,'' Guerrero said. ''We are thrilled with Jim's commitment to our student-athletes and to this university.''


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Meyer says Buckeyes have lots of room to improve (Yahoo! Sports)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Urban Meyer says one of the mantras for his second Ohio State team will be ''truth.''

He's certainly not sparing his Buckeyes his perception of it when it comes to whether they can compete with the likes of national champion Alabama next season.

''For me to say we have to get there next year, that's like me talking about we have to go fly to the moon,'' he said Friday. ''We're nowhere near even having that conversation.''

Despite a 12-0 record and a No. 3 ranking in the Associated Press poll after a bowl-less season, Meyer made it clear he does not believe his team is remotely close to even discussing competing with the nation's elite teams.

''Truth means exactly (that); you have a good season, and there's a lot of conversation about things that really shouldn't be discussed because it's not true,'' he said, referring to extremely early predictions that figure the Buckeyes to be among the top handful of teams in the nation in 2013. ''For example, are you guys going to (contend for the national title) next year? No, probably not, unless we get a lot better - like, a lot better.''

Meyer even detailed what makes teams like Alabama, Georgia, LSU and the rest of Southeastern Conference - where he coached for six years at Florida 2005-2010, winning two national titles - so much better than everyone else.

''The SEC, right now, the quantity (of great players) is far greater than the quantity at the upper-level Midwestern schools,'' Meyer said. ''It's up to the Big Ten to change that. There's one way to do that: Go out and recruit and get some more depth. But to say that there's not quality football players in the Big Ten, that's not correct. The quantity is the biggest difference.''

Even though he said he won't discuss with his players how they can compete with the Crimson Tide and others, that doesn't mean he isn't thinking about it - ''24/7, every second of (my) life.''

''We've got to go catch them,'' he said of Alabama, the national champs in three of the last four seasons. ''Everybody's trying to catch the best. Some people are probably trying to catch us. There's nothing else I'd rather do than watch these other programs and kind of figure out how they're doing it, how do we get that or do that? How do we beat that?''

His first Ohio State team was a pleasant surprise. Led by sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and a group of game seniors who refused to settle for anything short of each player's best, the Buckeyes piled up wins even though many thought they might falter because of NCAA sanctions which deprived them of a bowl trip.

They eked out some close wins, won their Big Ten division and knocked off rival Michigan in the annual season-ending game.

Despite the disappointment of being shut out of the conference title game or playing in a major bowl due to NCAA violations committed under the tenure of the deposed Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes accomplished just about everything they possibly could last season.

No wonder Ohio State is honoring that squad. A team photo is in a prime spot at the end of the hall just outside the meeting room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Each of the 2012 Buckeyes will receive rings commemorating their divisional title and only the sixth unbeaten and untied season in the program's 123 seasons. And another wall in the practice facility will honor what was a season of triumph after a year of sanctions, suspensions and innuendo that nearly tore the program apart.

''In my history with players, they like that. They like to come in (later in life) and bring their children, bring their families and then say, 'I was a part of that,''' Meyer said.

He said the past few weeks had been good ones. Ohio State received news that running back Jordan Hall would be granted a medical redshirt after missing most of the 2012 season with foot and knee injuries. Meyer has laid the groundwork for a bumper crop of top recruits heading into the Feb. 6 signing day, with several already enrolled in classes. His staff remains unchanged, despite several schools inquiring about hiring his assistants. He also made it clear he had not been offered any of the numerous NFL head-coaching jobs.

Meyer said he would challenge his returning players to make substantial improvement - particularly on the defensive line, at linebacker and wide receiver.

''The truth is we're very strong in certain areas, we've made great strides in certain areas,'' he said. ''However, there were quite a few that were below average performances. So we've got to get those fixed. The saying is, 'If it's strong, enhance it and make it even stronger; if it's weak, fix it.' So that's where that truth comes back.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap


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Texas DT Brandon Moore declares for NFL draft (Yahoo! Sports)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas defensive tackle Brandon Moore is skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft.

Moore announced his decision on Friday, saying he enjoyed his time at Texas but was ready to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.

Moore played in 12 games, including five starts, during his one season at Texas after transferring from East Mississippi Community College. He ranked fifth on the team with eight tackles for loss and tied for third with six QB pressures, while also getting 18 tackles and two sacks.


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Dabo Swinney: Clemson closing in on elite (Yahoo! Sports)

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Clemson had a landmark season and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney feels his team has closed the gap on the game's elite programs - and that they could go even further next season.

The Tigers (11-2), ranked 11th in the final poll, finished with their most victories since going 12-0 and winning the national championship in 1981. Swinney said Friday his players took a giant step forward with their last-second, 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Now that they have, Swinney believes Clemson ranks alongside the game's very best.

''It just does a lot for our football team knowing we don't take a back seat to anybody,'' the fifth-year coach said. ''We can play and compete with anybody in the country.''

That attitude already has expectations soaring around campus. Swinney laid the groundwork moments after Chandler Catanzaro's 37-yard field goal as time expired gave the Tigers their first bowl win in three years, demonstrating to a national audience that his has national title potential.

Swinney said he'll have just 10 seniors next fall, meaning the bulk of a program that's gone 21-6 the past two seasons will be coming into its prime.

''With that comes an expectation. With that comes a belief,'' Swinney said. ''They understand the commitment that it takes. Those are positive things. That's the kind of culture you want to have.

''They're not hoping to win, they expect to win.''

Not that it will come easy.

On Thursday, Clemson's record-setting receiver DeAndre Hopkins gave up his senior season for the NFL draft. Hopkins had a school-record 1,405 yards on 82 receptions including an Atlantic Coast Conference record 18 touchdown catches.

Swinney thought Hopkins, who received a second-round grade from NFL draft advisors, could've used another year in college to develop. Still, he said he supported Hopkins' choice to leave.

''I think it's going to be tough'' for Hopkins to crack the first round of April's draft, Swinney said.

Coming back are two pieces some might not have expected in offensive coordinator Chad Morris and junior quarterback Tajh Boyd. Morris was linked to several head coaching openings and was interviewed by Texas Tech before AD Kirby Hocutt selected Kliff Kingsbury. Morris, the highest paid assistant in the game at $1.3 million last season, said he was happy to return to the Tigers.

Boyd, the ACC's player of the year, has thrown for 7,724 yards and 69 touchdowns the past two years and was leaning toward turning pro after the LSU victory. However, Boyd said he wasn't ready to leave with Clemson on the verge of even bigger things.

''There are things for us to go out there and accomplish,'' Boyd said.

That began, Swinney said, with a team meeting on Thursday. The typically ecstatic Swinney told his players the book was closed on 2012 and its achievements as everyone prepared to buckle down for next year.

Swinney expects another high-flying offense despite the departure of Hopkins and senior tailback Andre Ellington, who posted his second 1,000-yard season this past fall.

Sammy Watkins, an All-American as a freshman in 2010, will lead the receiving corps with backups like Charone Peake and redshirted freshman Genome Hopper looking for more playing time.

Clemson's backfield will feature Rod McDowell and D.J. Howard, who combined for 588 yards and seven touchdowns in backup roles.

The biggest questions will again come on defense, which struggled much of the season before having its best game against LSU. The Tigers, under first-year coordinator Brent Venables, allowed more than 396 yards and 24 points a game this year, although they forced eight three-and-outs against LSU in the bowl victory.

Two of Clemson's three biggest games next season - an expected top 10 season-opening matchup against Georgia and defending ACC champ Florida State - come at home where the Tigers have lost just once in 14 games the past two seasons.

Swinney likes what he sees down the road, yet understands there are plenty of hurdles to leap long before anyone can think championship.

''The big thing is are they going to have the same type of leadership and accountability,'' he said. ''I know what the 2012 team did. It's well documented. But that's got nothing to do with this team.''


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Obama congratulates Alabama coach on championship (Yahoo! Sports)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is congratulating University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban on another BCS championship, joking that ''he and the Crimson Tide are beginning to make this a habit.''

Alabama won its third championship during Obama's presidency on Monday night, defeating Notre Dame 42-14 in Miami.

Obama called Saban on Thursday afternoon and noted that it was the third time he'd made the congratulatory call to the coach.

The White House says Obama commended Saban ''on the incredible organization he has built'' and said he looks forward to congratulating the team in person at the White House.


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