Saturday Football: DeVonta Smith wins the Heisman, B1G-NFL coaching rumors and Alabama's OC search
The Saturday Football newsletter goes out to subscribers up to 3 days a week and discusses the major events going on around the nation in college football. You can subscribe by clicking here.
Good morning and happy Wednesday! We’re less than a week away from the College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Ohio State. And, last night, the 2020 Heisman Trophy was awarded. Meanwhile, there are some big-time coaching rumors dominating the sport at both the college and NFL levels.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll break down all things Heisman. Then, we’ll discuss some coaching rumors involving Big Ten coaches potentially making the jump to the pro ranks. Finally, we’ll take a look at Alabama’s search for a new offensive coordinator to replace the outgoing Steve Sarkisian. Let’s get started!
DeVonta Smith became the first WR to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard. How did he break the QB streak?
On Tuesday night, Alabama WR DeVonta Smith did what no receiver this century has done — win the Heisman Trophy. Smith won the prestigious award over a trio of quarterbacks in Alabama’s Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Florida’s Kyle Trask. Smith’s numbers speak for themselves. He led the nation with 105 catches, 1,641 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. That’s simply incredible.
So, how did we get here? How did Smith become the first receiver to win the Heisman since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991? Let’s take a look at Smith’s outstanding season and Heisman victory:
- Smith has had quite the journey as a receiver at Alabama. As a freshman, he caught the famous “2nd and 26” pass from Tua Tagovailoa to beat Georgia in the national championship game. Now, he’s a Heisman Trophy winner. And, the vote wasn’t particularly close. Here’s how the votes looked for the four Heisman finalists:
- DeVonta Smith: 447 first-place votes, 1,856 total points
- Trevor Lawrence: 222 first-place votes, 1,187 total points
- Mac Jones: 138 first-place votes, 1,130 total points
- Kyle Trask: 61 first-place votes, 737 total points
- Smith gave a short and sweet acceptance speech. He offered hope to all those who have been overlooked because of their size. Here’s the full speech, which barely eclipsed 2 minutes. That’s just how Smith is, though. He’s not flashy or outspoken. He just does his job better than every other receiver in the country. Others will hype Smith up, though. Social media reaction after the announcement shows that many fans think the Heisman voters picked the right winner. Alabama hoops fans were watching the ceremony during halftime of the Tide’s game against Florida and had a great reaction when it was shown on the Jumbotron. Saturday Down South’s David Wasson writes why Smith is the perfect embodiment of what a Heisman winner should be.
- Finally, let’s leave you with some highlights for all the candidates. Bleacher Report put together highlight reels for each of the four finalists. It’s easy to see why they were top vote-getters. How will they all fare in the NFL? Well, Bleacher Report has us covered there, too. Kristopher Knox broke down which NFL players the four Heisman finalists best compare to.
It has been a special season for Smith, but the best honor could be yet to come. Both Smith and Jones have said all along that a national championship is their No. 1 goal. They’ll get that opportunity on Jan. 11 when they face Ohio State in Miami. Can Smith add to his growing trophy collection?
- Texas A&M will finish the season in the top 4 of the AP Poll. The Aggies are fresh off a big Orange Bowl win over North Carolina and have plenty of momentum heading into 2021. Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara details why the Aggies are here to stay under coach Jimbo Fisher.
- Ohio State fans can be forgiven if they’re having some flashbacks. RB Trey Sermon has been showing shades of Ezekiel Elliott in the Buckeyes’ wins over Northwestern in the B1G title game and Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Zeke’s 2014 dominance led the Buckeyes to a championship in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Saturday Tradition’s Dustin Schutte breaks down how Zeke’s postseason run compares to Sermon’s current hot streak.
- Clemson’s season came to a dramatic end in the Sugar Bowl. From the talk from Dabo Swinney leading up to the game to a second-half explosion from the Ohio State offense, it was an ugly loss for the Tigers. So, where do they go from here? ESPN’s David M. Hale explains that it won’t be as simple as reloading with talented players.
- It’s a new year, and that means it’s time for resolutions. There are plenty of top teams out there in the college football world that need to dig deep to make some improvements. Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller put together a list of New Year’s resolutions for each top 25 college football team.
B1G COACHING RUMORS
Multiple Big Ten coaches have been rumored as potential candidates for NFL jobs. Will any make the leap?
Rumor season has arrived. We’ve reached that point in the year when names of prominent head coaches at the college level begin to surface as potential candidates for NFL jobs. This year, there is no shortage of Big Ten coaches who are reportedly being targeted by front offices at the professional level.
Five current and former Big Ten names have been tossed around as candidates for NFL jobs. Who are they, and what are the odds any of those coaches make the jump to the professional level?
- Urban Meyer appears to be the most serious candidate to land in the NFL. Over the last few days, it’s been reported that Meyer has been “lining up a staff,” should he take the job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is his to turn down, according to Pro Football Talk. Meyer is reportedly asking for top dollar to take over an NFL franchise, and would likely want a lot of control, as well. Considering Meyer’s success at the college level (187-32 record, 3 national championships), he’s as good a candidate as any for the Jags. But SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum doesn’t believe Meyer would be a good fit in the league.
- Ryan Day’s name is also being mentioned this year. If Meyer passes on the opportunity to lead an NFL team, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that Jacksonville would consider talking with current Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. The second-year Buckeyes leader has experience in the league as an assistant, but has limited experience as a head coach at any level. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that, right now, Day has “no intention” of leaving Ohio State for the NFL.
- Yes, Jim Harbaugh’s name is included again this year. It’s become a yearly tradition, hasn’t it? But this time, it sounds like Harbaugh may actually have some interest in returning to the NFL. Despite Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reporting that Michigan was closing in on a contract extension that would keep Harbaugh in Ann Arbor through the 2026 season, WTOL’s Jordan Strack says the Wolverines’ head coach is “actively working” to get back to the professional level. Could this be the end of the Harbaugh era at Michigan?
- Pat Fitzgerald isn’t turning down interview opportunities. Believe it or not, Fitzgerald may actually give serious consideration to an NFL job this year. It’s long been rumored that he’d be interested in coaching the Chicago Bears (how fitting) if that job became available. But Fitz might take his coaching experience elsewhere. Following Northwestern’s Citrus Bowl win over Auburn, it was reported that Fitzgerald is considering options with the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.
- There is one interesting candidate this year. It’s hard to imagine P.J. Fleck leaving the college game to coach in the NFL, but at least one organization has some interest. Despite his unique approach and emphasis on culture, NFL.com reported that one league front office is interested in interviewing the Minnesota head coach.
Will any of these Big Ten names make the leap to the next level and give the NFL a shot? We’ll likely know sooner rather than later.
JUST FOR FUN
Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian won the Broyles Award this year. The award is given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. So, for today’s quiz, can you name the 10 coaches who won the prestigious award from 2010-2019?
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
ALABAMA OC OPENING
Who will Nick Saban turn to as Alabama’s new offensive coordinator? Some interesting names are in the mix.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are gearing up for the College Football Playoff title game on Jan. 11 (hopefully, barring some ongoing COVID-19 issues at Ohio State), but after that, they’ll have a big hole to fill. That’s because current OC Steve Sarkisian will coach his last game with the Tide before heading off to Austin to become the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.
So, the question now becomes — who will Nick Saban turn to as Alabama’s next offensive coordinator? Well, some interesting names have entered the mix. Let’s take a look at the search in Tuscaloosa:
- This NFL season saw several head coaches fired. Now, a couple of them are in the running for the opening in Alabama. A report from Bruce Feldman of The Athletic named former Jets coach Adam Gase and ex-Texans coach Bill O’Brien as a pair of candidates. According to other reports, O’Brien was already on Alabama’s campus this week. But, Gase has some longstanding history with Saban, as detailed by Feldman in this tweet.
- What if Alabama goes in a direction outside of O’Brien or Gase? Well, there figure to be plenty of interested candidates. Sports Illustrated put together a list of coaches who have been linked to the opening. Dakota Cox of Bama Hammer named some possible Sark replacements and Rivals’ Kyle Henderson and Tony Tsoukalas named their candidates, too.
- It might not just be Sarkisian who Saban has to replace. Sark’s Texas staff is shaping up to have plenty of Alabama influence. According to reports, OL coach Kyle Flood, ex-analyst AJ Milwee, WR coach Holmon Wiggins and even potentially TE coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Banks could be on their way to Austin after the season. That surely wouldn’t make Saban too happy.
There are going to be some major changes to the coaching staff heading into 2021, particularly on the offensive side. We’ll see who the next coordinator ends up being, but whoever it is will have plenty of talent to work with. First, though, Sarkisian and his high-powered offense will try to leave Tuscaloosa with a championship ring!
Prior to Steve Sarkisian this year, here are the previous 10 coaches to have been honored with the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach:
- 2019: Joe Brady, LSU
- 2018: Mike Locksley, Alabama
- 2017: Tony Elliott, Clemson
- 2016: Brent Venables, Clemson
- 2015: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
- 2014: Tom Herman, Ohio State
- 2013: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
- 2012: Bob Diaco, Notre Dame
- 2011: John Chavis, LSU
- 2010: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I will say in a weird quirky sort of way, I think Nick Saban deep down is happy seeing Ohio State across the field than Clemson and it’s only because of the history. We all know Alabama and Clemson’s history and I think that’s a program down in South Carolina that knows it can beat Alabama and I don’t think what happened in 2014 (when Ohio State beat Alabama in the CFP semifinals) has any impact on this game. This is a completely different world we’re living in. But I think Saban would prefer to take his chances against Ryan Day’s team against another matchup against Dabo Swinney. Although, really these days with Dabo Swinney, you kind of invite that challenge because you don’t know how Dabo Swinney’s going to affect the outcome of the game through his mouth.”
– SEC Network host Paul Finebaum thinks Alabama coach Nick Saban might be fine with avoiding another title-game matchup against Clemson. The Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes haven’t met since Ohio State’s 42-35 win in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.
TWEET OF THE DAY
In some surprising news from Monday night, Kentucky starting QB Terry Wilson announced on Instagram that he was entering the NCAA transfer portal. Wilson has been with the Wildcats for three seasons. He threw for 20 touchdowns and ran for 10 more during his Kentucky career. Now, Kentucky will have to choose between Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen (or someone else) for the starting QB position in 2021 and beyond.