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Thursday Hub Shreds Not, Fights Not, Stays On Its Side of Town

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This Day In Coach-Swapping. "Sources close to the situation," including Dave Wannstedt, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, his stock way, way up after the lame duck Panthers became the first team to hold West Virginia to single digits since 2004 and finished fifth nationally in total defense, will accept Tommy Tuberville's offer to replace Texas-bound Will Muschamp at Auburn. The Tigers are apparently not concerned that Rhoads' previous two attempts to stop the Mountaineers were grisly disasters, or that the Panthers allowed just shy of 500 yards to Navy last October. Pitt's total defense rankings under Rhoads since 2000, his first year: 29th, 7th, 12th, 79th, 73rd, 31st, 87th, 5th. Make of that yo-yo'ing what you will.

Hugh Nall's advice to Paul Rhoads: Bring a back brace.
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Elsewhere in coach-swapping: As expected, Major Applewhite has formally accepted the position of running backs coach and assistant head coach at the alma mater ... Cast off UCLA offensive coordinator Jay Norvell is expected to be back at Oklahoma as receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator by the end of the week ... Kansas denied a report its defensive coordinator, Bill Young, has accepted the same position with Miami ... Tennessee is close to promoting Jason Michael, merely an assistant tight ends coach with the New York Jets, to head tight ends coach in Knoxville ... Eerie calm today from L.A., where we await word on Pete Carroll's interest in the NFL (or vice versa) and UCLA's bid to lure Norm Chow as its offensive coordinator, but Rick Neuheisel's making ripples with the old college try in his first month on the job, on display in his bid for fellow LA alum turned SC assistant Ken Norton Jr.:
Neuheisel had no appropriate vacancies, no big money packages, nothing to offer but himself, yet he was going to stand chin-to-chin with Carroll and proposition Norton anyway?

Your UCLA family wants you to come home!

Yeah, Neuheisel tried it. And, officially, it didn't work. But unofficially, it couldn't have worked better.
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For the intensely gossipy nature of all this speculation, this line by esteemed L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke couldn't have worked better: "When reached by phone, Neuheisel would not comment on Chow, but you know he probably called him that night." Like, I know he totally did!

We Hardly Knew Ye: Patrick Chung. The Oregon safety has okay speed, but he's only about 5-11, 210 pounds, only 20 years old, and may not be drafted at all. Of course Patrick Chung thinks it's "definitely the right decision" to throw his name into the draft pool with a year of eligibility remaining. He has finished among the top three Duck tacklers all three years in Eugene, though, so, I dunno. Maybe he knows something the scouts don't, or maybe he's just expected big residuals from an increasingly desperate Chris Berman for the opportunity to scream "Patrick `Every Wang' Chung Tonight!" during the preseason. It's a racket.

Oher blindsides draft scouts.
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Not So Fast, My Friend! Man-mountain Michael Oher, perhaps anxious for the "experience" of a year under Houston Nutt, retracted his "goin' pro" announcement Wednesday and will return to Ole Miss for his senior year. Oher's already a quasi-celebrity, thanks to his central role in bestseller and soon-to-be feature film Blindside, a two-time all-SEC pick, on track to earn a degree after a well-chronicled childhood in poverty and is unlikely to contract some virulent strain of shrinking disease during the next year. So why not enjoy laid-back Oxford one more time and come out a certain first-rounder on the other end?

All recruiting eyes this weekend will be on Terrelle Pryor's visit to Ann Arbor, but it should be an interesting weekend in Gainesville, where the Gators hope to foster a few defections. One will be Jacksonville running back Jamie Harper, a serious need after the grade-related de-commit of Georgia RB Franklin Green; Harper is technically uncommitted but visited Clemson last week and is supposedly favoring the Tigers. The Gators will also be hosting three Alabama stars, including heavily panted-over receiver Julio Jones, who everybody has long guessed will wind up at Alabama, and five-star athlete Burton Scott, who has committed and repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to `Bama and who, according to the Gainesville Sun's Robbie Andreu, might be as likely to act as a double agent this weekend in the name of keeping Jones and linebacker/end William Green from getting too carried away with Florida.

Kickoff Anxiety, Revisited. Coaches - many of whom were skeptical about the rule change moving kickoffs from the 35 to the 35 before the season - offered "anecdotal evidence" injuries were up due to fewer touchbacks, so the Athletic Directors Association will conduct a study to gauge the data. Anything to keep neurotic coaches from pulling their hair out over the idea of kickoff team scrubs having to make an open field tackle, though with no baseline data for comparison from previous seasons, there's not much chance the appalling piles of mangled bodies we saw last year will decrease.

Headline of the day. Courtesy the Tampa Tribune:

Good to know he had his head in the right place.

The Rap Sheet
Crimes, misdemeanors and eligibility-crippling issues legal, academic, institutional and otherwise.
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This paper represents all the goodwill I ever had in my home state. Okay, now watch this...
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Transferred, to federal court, West Virginia's suit against Rich Rodriguez to recoup the $4 million buyout he took to Michigan, a bureaucratic move necessitated by the coach's move north before the suit was filed.

Courts, millions of dollars, whatever. In the meantime, the ShredGate/EnRod story grabbing all the headlines - a perfect, perfect story of petty vengeance and half-baked allegation that, along with the brewing storm of in-your-face enthusiasm in Los Angeles, is a promising early sign of an eventful, contentious offseason - appears to be dissipating. Alas, it was inevitable, but even as some Michigan papers call on Rodriguez to apologize for shredding papers of unknown content or importance before his hasty departure from Morgantown, others are pointing out that WVU players' academic files are `secure' (thank god!) and the West Virginia reporter that borke the story goes on record to say, "I've known Rich for a long time and I don't think that there's anything in those files that incriminates anyone in any way regarding anything." Rodriguez may have spent "hours upon hours" shredding paper of some nature, and maybe we'll know at some point what was on that paper and maybe we won't. It is certain that it will be quickly forgotten until West Virginia and Michigan are matched in a bowl game or the NCAA basketball tournament and old lightbulbs flicker on in columnists' heads. Both sides should be more concerned with the disputed $4 million.

Ordered, to stand trial, two Penn State players accused of breaking a man's face in a fight last October. Felony assault charges against defensive tackle Chris Baker and backup linebacker Navorro Bowman were dropped in early December (they still faced misdemeanor simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct), but major charges against the pair were re-filed earlier this week on complaints of "legal errors" leading to the dismissal in the preliminary trial and a new trial was ordered Wednesday after four witnesses said they saw Baker and Bowman "kicking and stomping a man as he lay on the ground" on Oct. 7. Backup cornerback Knowledge Timmons still faces misdemeanor charges from the same fight.

If prosecutors push it, Baker could be denied bail because he also faces trial this month on the well-publicized apartment brawl last April - brawls are always better-publicized when not occurring between the games that consume our attention - though the original cascade of charges in that case was slowly reduced to a trickle over the summer. Baker, Bowman and Timmons were all held out of the season finale against Michigan State and the Alamo Bowl, where Joe Paterno weighed in on his charges' feisty streak: ""They're kids. It was a fight. Weren't you ever in a fight when you were a kid? Come on."

I think I was in a fake wrestling match that got pretty seriously heated when I was about six and tried to karate kick a kid during recess in fourth grade, but nothing beyond that; certainly nothing resembling separate incidents in which I was accused of storming a private apartment party to defend my teammate's barely-challenged honor and/or kicking and stomping a man as he lay on the ground after I started college. But I see where Paterno is coming from. I'm not sure he can actually distinguish between the different incidents when asked by a reporter with big, delicious, distracting brains, but I see.

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