Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tar Heels still awaiting NCAA ruling

CHAPEL HILL -- It has been about 12 weeks since North Carolina officials appeared in Indianapolis in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. And still UNC is waiting to find out what penalties it will endure for the academic fraud and impermissible benefits scandals that rocked the Tar Heels football program.

Ohio State waited about 18 weeks to learn its fate from the NCAA. So it’s possible UNC could be waiting a while longer. Tar Heels football coach Larry Fedora was hoping to know the penalties by now, because the unknown has undoubtedly hurt UNC’s recruiting efforts.

With signing day approaching next week, though, it appears less and less likely that UNC will hear anything by then.

-- Andrew Carter

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ohio State defensive back transfers to Duke

Duke football coach David Cutcliffe announced on Monday the arrival of Ohio State transfer Jeremy Cash to the program.

Cash, a former ESPN four-star defensive back, played in five games with the Buckeyes last season as a true freshman.

The 6-foot-2, 190 pound Plantation, Fla., native has enrolled at Duke for the spring season and will participate in spring football, which is scheduled to start Feb. 22. He will have three seasons of eligibility at Duke.

"We are happy to welcome Jeremy to Duke University and into our football family," Cutcliffe said in a statement.

- Edward G. Robinson III

Friday, January 20, 2012

UNC alum Randy Jordan to coach Tar Heel RBs

CHAPEL HILL — Former North Carolina running back Randy Jordan is returning to the school to coach the Tar Heels’ running backs, the university announced on Friday.

Jordan comes to UNC from Texas A&M, where he coached the Aggies’ running backs for the past four seasons. After graduating from UNC in 1993, Jordan spent nine seasons in the NFL and was the special teams captain for the Oakland Raiders team that reached Super Bowl XXXVII at the end of the 2002 season.

Jordan also scored the first touchdown in Jacksonville Jaguars history on a 71-yard touchdown catch. His hiring at UNC completes Larry Fedora's first staff of assistant coaches.

“I’m excited to bring Randy back to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a tremendous background both as a player in the NFL and as a college assistant at Nebraska and Texas A&M. Randy is an enthusiastic coach who enjoys teaching and recruiting. He is a good fit for our coaching staff.”

Jordan began his coaching career with the Raiders as a special teams assistant midway through the 2003 season. He later spent four seasons as an assistant at Nebraska under former Raiders coach Bill Callahan.

-- Andrew Carter

Tar Heels OG Cooper has surgery

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina offensive guard Jonathan Cooper on Wednesday underwent left shoulder surgery to alleviate the chronic inflammation from which he suffered throughout the 2011 season, the university announced on Friday.

UNC described Cooper’s surgery as “successful.” Dr. Jeff Spang performed the procedure at UNC Hospitals.

Cooper’s status for the start of spring practice in March is not yet known. As a junior in 2011, he started all of the Tar Heels’ 13 games. With 35 career starts, Cooper, a native of Wilmington, is UNC’s most experience player.

-- Andrew Carter

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tar Heels, Fedora pick up 3 commitments

New North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora and his staff have picked up three commitments from high school football players, including one who had committed to Fedora when he was the head coach at Southern Miss and another who had committed to East Carolina.

Quarterback Kanler Coker of Flowery Branch, Ga., (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) had committed to the Pirates in December after passing for 2,833 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushing for 837 yards and another 15 touchdowns.

Offensive lineman Caleb Patterson of Auburn, Ala. (6-4, 295) had committed to Southern Miss when Fedora was the head coach there. The Tar Heels also received a commitment from defensive back Clinton Heaven of Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee (6-0, 192).

“Kanler only played for us one season,” said Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin. “He had been a school that was run-oriented and enrolled here last spring and began learning the offense.  I’ve never seen anyone make a smoother transition.”

Griffin said Coker is a tremendous athlete who is hungry to excel.

“Week by week, he kept getting better and better,” Griffin said. “He ended up being one of the best quarterbacks we’ve ever had and we’ve got one (University of South Carolina’s Connor Shaw) starting in the SEC now.

“My offensive coordinator swears that Kanler is going to end up playing in the NFL. I think North Carolina is getting a steal. I think any major program in the country can develop him into an exceptional quarterback.”
Griffin said Coker was excited about the possibility of playing at East Carolina, which was the first school to offer him a scholarship.

“He was really enthused about going there,” Griffin said. “But when this thing opened up at North Carolina, he thought it was just too good to pass up.”

Patterson’s brother played for Fedora at Southern Miss and Caleb had looked forward to playing for Fedora because the coach changed jobs.

Auburn High coach Mike Carter said Patterson had offers from half of the teams in the Southeasteern Conference, plus Stanford and Georgia Tech. “He had 20 or more offers,” Carter said.

Patterson played in the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game and Carter projects him as an interior offensive lineman in Chapel Hill.

“He has an awful lot of confidence in Coach Fedora and I think he and his family were impressed by the facilities at North Carolina,” Carter said.

The commitments are not binding of the players or the schools.  Players may sign binding national letters of intent beginning on Feb. 1.

-- Tim Stevens

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Incoming ACC members Pittsburgh, Syracuse unlikely to play league football schedules in 2012

Barring sudden changes, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will not be included in the 2012 ACC football season.

The league plans to announce its entire schedule in early February and although some modifications could be made later, it would be difficult to extensively revise if the Big East released the two new ACC members without notice.

“You never say never, but it’s unlikely there would be major changes once it’s set,” said Mike Finn, the ACC associate commissioner in charge of football communications.

Finn said the schedule will not be announced on national signing day (Feb. 1), but would likely be released shortly thereafter. The 2011 league schedule was released on Feb. 14.

Most of the non-conference games are set, including an ACC vs. SEC doubleheader on Sept. 1 in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

N.C. State will face Tennessee in one game and Clemson will play Auburn in the other. The kickoff times probably won’t be determined by television networks until late spring or early summer.

UNC will open on Sept. 1 against Elon and Duke will host Florida International the same day. Wake Forest’s opening game hasn’t been set.

ECU will host Appalachian State on Sept. 1, then go to South Carolina on Sept. 8 and to UNC on Sept. 22. The Pirates’ other non-conference game will be in Greenville against Navy on Oct.  27.

Nationally, a trip by Boise State to Michigan State on Friday, Aug. 31 probably will serve as the first major TV event of the season.

National champ Alabama and Michigan will open on Sept. 1 in at Cowboys Stadium.

Pitt and Syracuse were formally accepted as ACC members in waiting on Sept. 19.  But under Big East bylaws, each school will have to pay a $5 million exit fee and may have to wait until after the 2013 football season to leave.

The 2012 Big East league schedule hasn’t been arranged and may not be until after West Virginia’s planned move to the Big 12 is sorted out. The school and the league are involved in lawsuits that could go to mediation.

Syracuse is scheduled to open its schedule at home on Sept. 1 against Northwestern and then face Southern Cal on Sept. 8 in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. Pitt is scheduled to host Youngstown State on Sept. 1. The Panthers will host Virginia Tech of the ACC on Sept. 15.

The SEC, Big 10 and Pac-12 have already released their entire schedules. The ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Conference USA have not.


The pattern of ACC vs. SEC meetings to end regular season will continue yet another season.

The final Saturday -- Nov. 24 -- will find South Carolina at Clemson, Florida at Florida State, Georgia Tech at Georgia and Vanderbilt at Wake Forest.

Miami is scheduled to conclude at home against South Florida on Nov. 24. Unless that game is rescheduled, one ACC team will have to end its season on Nov. 17.

The Notre Dame trend will also continue in the ACC. The Irish will face Miami (Oct. 6 in Chicago), visit Boston College (Nov. 10) and host Wake Forest (Nov. 17). Pitt will go to Notre Dame on Oct. 3, a week after the Irish are at Oklahoma.

-- Caulton Tudor

Monday, January 16, 2012

ACC grants Tar Heels' Barth a fifth year

CHAPEL HILL — Casey Barth, who played in three games before aggravating a groin injury and missing the rest of the season, has been granted an additional year of eligibility and will be able to play for North Carolina in 2012.

The ACC granted Barth his fifth year, according to a statement that UNC released.

Barth was limited in the Tar Heels’ first three games with the groin injury. Then he strained his groin in the first half of UNC’s game against Virginia on Sept. 17, and he didn’t play for the rest of the season.

Barth has made 51 of his 63 field goal attempts during his time at UNC, and has converted a school-record 82 consecutive extra points. His brother, Connor, kicked a school-record 54 field goals.

In 2010, Casey Barth received honorable mention All-ACC honors after making 19 of 22 field goal attempts, including a long of 49 yards.

-- Andrew Carter

Three from Wolfpack picked for all-star games

Three N.C. State players will get another chance to impress NFL scouts in college football all-star games later this month.

Linebacker Audie Cole and receiver T.J. Graham were picked for the Senior Bowl, which is Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala. and tight end George Bryan will play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cole led the Wolfpack in tackles (108) and tied for the team lead in sacks (5.5). Graham was the team's top receiver with 46 catches, 757 yards and seven touchdowns and finished his career as the school's career leaden in kickoff return yardage.

Bryan caught 33 passes as a senior for 331 yards with four touchdowns and has the most career catches (126) of any tight end in school history.

-- J.P. Giglio

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Duke's Vernon to return for senior season

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree can rest easy. His primary receiver Conner Vernon will return for a senior season.

Duke announced on Thursday that Varner, who over the past two seasons has registered 70-plus receptions in each, will return for his final season of eligibility instead of entering his name for the NFL Draft.

“After talking at length with my family and coach (David) Cutcliffe, I have decided to put the aspiration of playing professional football on hold and come back for my senior season,” Vernon said in a statement released by the school. “When I came to Duke, the number one priority was graduating and I’m on track for that. Duke is a special place, and being a part of this football program alongside my teammates is very important to me."

The 6-foot-1, 195 pound receiver has 198 career receptions for 2,675 yards and 13 touchdowns in 35 games. With just two catches, the Miami native will become the seventh player in ACC history to amass 200 career receptions.

He needs 35 catches to become the league's all-time receptions leader and eclipse Clemson's Aaron Kelly who caught 232 passes from 2005-08.

On the ACC's all-time list, Vernon sits eighth in receptions and 15th in receiving yards.

Vernon's decision allows him to keep his current streak alive: He's caught at least one pass in 33 consecutive games – fourth longest streak in school history – and two receptions in 15 straight.

“Conner has had a terrific college career so far, and naturally we are thrilled with his choice to finish his eligibility and graduate from Duke University,” Cutcliffe said in a statement. “I’m confident he will continue to work hard and get better, and professional football will be in his future.”

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

McNeill, ECU add two aides

Former ECU defender Kirk Doll and Southern Miss assistant Pat Washington have joined the Pirates football staff, the school announced Tuesday.

Doll will be in charge of running backs and special teams. Washington will work as outside receiver coach and run game coordinator.

"Their collective experience, especially on the offensive side of the ball and on special teams, is matched by very few and quite simply speaks for itself," ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said in a news release.

Doll, 60, lettered as a defensive end at for the Pirates 1971 and 1972, helping Sonny Randle's team to a Southern Conference title as a senior.

Doll spent the 2011 season as San Jose State's special teams coordinator and running backs coach and was on Notre Dame's staff under Lou Holtz in the late '90s.

Washington, 48, worked on the Southern Miss staff for the past three seasons. As a player, he was the starting quarterback on Auburn's teams in 1984 and '85.

That '85 team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson.

- Caulton Tudor

Monday, January 9, 2012

One way to reform college sports: Turn long-shots into no-shots by creating superconferences

Davidson's Stephen Curry, 2009.
Tampa Bay Times writer Michael Kruse sees the solution for the hypocrisy of college athletics in the creation of four 16-team superconferences, a division of the 64 haves from the world of have-nots.

That would allow schools that can't regularly compete for national championships in football and men's basketball to separate the academic and athletic missions of the institutions.

As Kruse writes:

The creation of superconferences would let all the other schools — nos. 65 to 300-plus in the Division I hierarchy — basically stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and get back to more responsible athletic expenditures in a system that looks more like Division III.

He further contends this would help most schools those outside the athletic elite of his new world focus on their core mission: Educating students. Without this, he suggests, those have-nots will continue throwing good money after bad.

"Big-bucks lightning strikes are college sports' alluring illusion," he writes. "That's all they are. The vast majority of even Division I schools lose money."

Kruse writes and intriguing essay, albeit one that suggests a system that, had it been in place in 2009, would have denied Stephen Curry and Davidson, Kruse's alma mater, a run to the NCAA basketball tournament's  Elite Eight and a moment on the national stage.

But hey, if four superconferences get us a football playoff ...

UNC's Hanson graduates, heads to North Dakota

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina quarterback Braden Hanson is transferring from the university and will play his final season at North Dakota, a UNC football team spokesman said on Monday.
Hanson graduated from UNC in December and he will be eligible to play immediately at North Dakota State, which won the 2011 FCS national championship.

Hanson arrived at UNC in 2008 after earning North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a high school senior at Charlotte’s Latin High. Still, he spent the majority of his time with the Tar Heels on the sideline.

Hanson redshirted the 2008 season, played in three games in 2009 and none in 2010. As a backup to Bryn Renner in 2011, Hanson completed 9 of his 16 attempts for 185 yards for no touchdowns and one interception.

Hanson isn’t the only quarterback who has parted ways with the Tar Heels. Patton Robinette, a high school quarterback from Maryville (Tenn.) High, recently backed out of his verbal commitment to UNC.

Robinette has since verbally committed to Vanderbilt, according to The website ranks Robinette as a three-star prospect.

Bob Shoop, the brother of former North Carolina offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Shoop, is the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.

-- Andrew Carter

NCAA grants Heels fullback a sixth year

In case you missed it, the NCAA over the weekend granted UNC fullback Devon Ramsay a hardship waiver that gives him another year of eligibility. Ramsay was one of many Tar Heels football players who found themselves ensnared in the NCAA investigation into academic fraud and impermissible benefits.

He missed the final nine games of the 2009 season after the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible for receiving help on a paper from the tutor Jennifer Wiley. Then, last February, the NCAA cleared him of wrong doing. Ramsay returned only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in the Tar Heels’ first game of the 2011 season.

Without being around to cover this story from start to finish, this seems like the right call. Ramsay missed more than 75 percent of the 2010 season after the NCAA incorrectly declared him permanently ineligible.

-- Andrew Carter

Friday, January 6, 2012

West Virginia wants out of 2012 FSU game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – West Virginia has asked Florida State about getting out of its Sept. 8 football game in Tallahassee.

West Virginia officials initiated talks a few months ago because of its pending move to the Big 12. Florida State wants to play the game and honor its commitment for a return date in 2013 at Morgantown.

Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman said Friday he hopes West Virginia changes its mind since the game shapes up as one of the marquee contests early next season. Both schools won bowl games and are likely to be highly ranked going into 2012.

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press.

-- AP

Thursday, January 5, 2012

East Carolina hires former UNC football aide

ECU head football coach Ruffin McNeill announced Thursday  that Brian Overton has been named director of football operations and player personnel.

Overton had been a football operations assistant  at UNC  for the past three years. Before UNC, he spent nine years coaching at the high school level.

A native of Ahoskie, the 30-year-old Overton is an Elizabeth City State grad.

-- Caulton Tudor

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tenuta audibles, will stay with Wolfpack

RALEIGH -- N.C. State announced Wednesday that assistant football coach Jon Tenuta will not join the Illinois staff after all.

A news release from the Wolfpack sports information department said the linebackers coach called what amounts to an audible. Illinois announced Tuesday that Tenuta was leaving the Wolfpack to join the staff being assembled by new coach Tim Beckman.

The entire news release from the Pack: After being named to the Illinois football staff yesterday, Jon Tenuta had a change of heart and said today that he will now remain at North Carolina State for family reasons.

“From the top, I want to say that Illinois is a great program and I think the world of Tim Beckman,” Tenuta said. “I’ve known Beck for 20 years and I have no doubt that with the staff he is putting together, he will have Illinois at the top of the Big Ten very soon. However, my family comes first and I may have made a decision without fully thinking through the situation with them. My son is a senior in high school and has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at N.C. State, and it is something I just don’t want to miss. I was one of the first people to contact Beck and congratulate him on the opportunity at Illinois, and I wish him and the Illini nothing but the best.”

-- Caulton Tudor

Three things: Best UNC coach quotes

North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson (right) and other members of the Tar Heel football coaching staff were introduced Tuesday by incoming head coach Larry Fedora (left). ROBERT WILLETT photo
Three North Carolina-related things to think about on this cold Wednesday morning – and we’ll call this one the comments-from-coaches edition.

In other words, the three most interesting things overheard yesterday when UNC coach Larry Fedora introduced his new coaching staff – well, most of his coaching staff, anyway:

First … 

“I think the unknown is the toughest thing because as long as there’s this unknown sitting out there, that’s what everybody’s going to use – they’re going to make it the worst-case scenario possible. Where really that’s not what it’s going to be. So we’re going to deal in what we do know and we’re going to move forward from there.”

This, from Fedora, talking about the “unknown” of the additional NCAA sanctions that might – or might not – await UNC in the wake of the NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

The most important priority for Fedora and his staff right now is simple: They need to recruit. And don’t have much time to do it. National signing day is fast approaching.

It’d be difficult enough for a new staff to come together and finish off a class in the span of about a month. Throw in the unknown of the additional NCAA sanctions, it’s even more difficult. You can bet that North Carolina’s rivals are reminding recruits of what could be coming down at UNC.

Is a bowl ban out of the realm? Probably not, considering Ohio State received one.

Are additional scholarship cuts coming, which would make it more difficult, arguably, for the Tar Heels to compete? Possibly.

The bottom line is, though, that no one knows what is coming, for sure. All anyone can do is speculate. And negative speculation is bad on the recruiting trail.

Fedora and his staff are in the uncomfortable position of having to dispel myths without the benefit of having all the facts. Yet.

Will we hear something from the NCAA before national signing day? It’s possible. But that, too, is unknown.

Second … 

“He steps in from time to time. He helps watch film and makes suggestions – good and bad. But at the end of the day, he puts it on my shoulders and we’ve got a great staff. To me, he’s just a great resource for me to pull from. I could always close the door and say, what do you think about this – or was I right or wrong here? And the thing I’ve been pleased with, he doesn’t second guess.”

This, from UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, on how much Fedora is involved in the nitty-gritty of running the offense.

(Later I asked Anderson how much Fedora is involved in the in-game play calling, so look for more on that at some point soon.)

Many people have been wondering how the UNC offense would be organized given that Fedora has been an offensive coach his entire career. Some head coaches with offensive backgrounds might have an offensive coordinator on staff, but it’s still the head coach who’s running the offense. It’s that way at Florida State, with Jimbo Fisher.

But it won’t be that way at UNC. Fedora gave Anderson complete control of the offense at Southern Miss, and it worked out extremely well. Of course, Fedora has a say. He’s there if Anderson needs him. But he trusts Anderson enough to make the right decisions – both in games and leading up to them.

Third … 

“Well I tell you, I had opportunities to have some other roles at some other schools that required some coordinator things and a lot more zeros past the dollar sign. And this far outweighed [those opportunities]. It wasn’t even a choice. I felt like to have an opportunity to come back to Carolina … was just a unique experience, obviously, with Larry being a friend and being able to work with people that I knew and Blake and other guys and just having some fun.”

This, from UNC passing game coordinator Gunter Brewer (left), who will coach the UNC receivers. You couldn’t help but get the impression yesterday of how grateful many of these assistant coaches felt to have the chance to come to UNC. Vic Koenning, who coached against the Tar Heels during his days at Clemson, spoke about that.

But no one is probably more grateful to be in Chapel Hill than Brewer, who coached with UNC from 2000-04. He then went to Oklahoma State, where he and Fedora worked together on the Cowboys staff. It was there, Fedora said, where he and Brewer often talked about Brewer’s days at UNC.

Fedora admitted that those talks “planted a seed” in his mind about coaching at North Carolina. I asked Brewer if he’d been wanting to get back to UNC ever since he left. Didn’t take long for him to answer, and he broke out into a big smile. You can tell that this place is special to him. And when you think about it, Brewer probably played a larger role than anybody realizes in helping Fedora land the job.

After all, without Brewer’s influence from their days together at Oklahoma State, how much interest would Fedora have had in the UNC job?

Funny how things work out.

-- Andrew Carter

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fedora introduces UNC coaching staff

 New UNC football coach Larry Fedora introduced his staff of assistant coaches during a 2 p.m. press conference today at the Kenan Stadium.

-- Vic Koenning, formerly the defensive coordinator and the interim head coach at Illinois, will be the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator.

-- Blake Anderson, who led Fedora’s offenses at Southern Miss, will be the Tar Heels'  offensive coordinator.

-- Gunter Brewer will be back. He coached at North Carolina in the 2000’s, and spent the 2011 season on Houston Nutt’s staff at Ole Miss.

Not surprisingly, the majority of Fedora’s assistants are coming with him from Southern Miss. Fedora didn’t retain any member of the football coaching staff, outside of strength coach Tom Myslinski.

The coaches coming from Southern Mississippi:

-- Dan Disch, the defensive coordinator;

-- Defensive line coach Deke Adams;

-- Defensive assistant and special teams coordinator Dave Duggan;

-- Tight ends coach Walt Bell; and

-- Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic.

One spot, running backs coach, remains open.

-- Andrew Carter

UNC's Paige-Moss to enter NFL draft

North Carolina defensive end Donte Paige-Moss has informed the school of his intention to enter the NFL Draft, UNC announced on Monday.

On the surface, at least, this appears to be somewhat of a puzzling move, especially considering that Paige-Moss suffered a torn ACL in the Tar Heels’ 41-24 loss against Missouri in the Independence Bowl.

Paige-Moss had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2010, when he had 49 tackles, seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

But his production slipped in 2011. He finished his junior season with 29 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Paige-Moss hasn’t officially filed his paperwork that will make his entry into the draft official. He has until Jan. 15 to do so.

The Tar Heels were already going to be moving forward without Quinton Coples, whose eligibility has expired. Coples finished his final season with 55 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.

-- Andrew Carter