Hokies RB Darren Evans opts for NFL

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One half of Virginia Tech’s draft-eligible backfield tandem has made a decision on his football future.

The other half?  That one could be coming in short order as well.

Through a school press release, running back Darren Evans announced that he is leaving Blacksburg and will enter the April NFL draft.

“After sitting down with family, I’ve decided to declare for the NFL Draft,” Evans said. “I felt like this is the best opportunity for me and my family. This was a tough decision because Virginia Tech was good to me and my family and I had fun. I was blessed to play at Virginia Tech and at that level of football. I have plans to graduate and I will, but the NFL has always been a dream so it’s hard to pass it up right now.”

“Darren is really a quality player and a quality person,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “We’ve enjoyed having him here at Virginia Tech. He has been very much a part of our success, and we know he is going to have a great pro career.”

Evans had a very productive season in 2008, rushing for nearly 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.  He missed the entire 2009 season after tearing his ACL during summer camp, but bounced back in 2010 and led the Hokies in rushing (854 yards) and rushing touchdowns (11).  Evans is also married and has a young son, so that likely played a significant role in his decision.

As for Evans’ backfield running mate?  Ryan Williams, the Hokies leading rusher in 2009 after Evans went down to injury, has not yet officially made his decision, although it’s widely expected he will follow Evans to the NFL.  Williams’ decision could come as early as today.

Wisconsin fires Chryst, names DC Leonhard interim coach

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Wisconsin fired head coach Paul Chryst after a 2-3 start to his eighth season leading the school where he played, in the city where he grew up.

The surprising move comes a day after Wisconsin lost at home 34-10 to Illinois and former Badgers coach Bret Bielema.

“This is certainly not a decision that’s taken lightly,” athletic director Chris McIntosh said at a news conference. “It’s not a game-by-game decision. This is a decision that’s based on where we’re at as a program.”

Chryst was 67-26 as coach of the Badgers after being hired away from Pittsburgh. But the program has been backsliding. Chryst had double-digit victory seasons in four of his first five years at Wisconsin while winning three Big Ten West titles. The Badgers have gone 15-10 since.

“It’s a tough time to make a transition, but I felt it was the right time and that’s what led me to it,” McIntosh said.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, who was an All-American at Wisconsin, was named interim coach. The 39-year-old former NFL defensive back has been part of Chryst’s staff for seven seasons and is considered one of the top assistant coaches in the country.

McIntosh said he would do a full coaching search “when the time is right.”

Leonhard said it was an emotional day for him. Chryst gave him his start in coaching with no previous experience.

“This place means a ton to myself,” said Leonhard, who played 10 seasons in the NFL. “We want more, we want better and that’s my goal is to try to help get us in that direction.”

Wisconsin plays at Northwestern on Saturday.

Chryst, the 56-year-old Madison, Wisconsin, native, has four years left on his contract. He was set to make $5.25 million this season.

McIntosh declined to provide specifics of Chryst’s buyout.

“What I can tell you today is that the number that we agreed to is significantly less than the number that have been reported, or even the number that would have been due per the terms of his contract,” McIntosh said.

The in-season coaching move was the fifth already this season, and second of the day. Earlier Sunday, Colorado dismissed Karl Dorrell.

But none of the changes have been as unexpected as Wisconsin’s.

The program has been built on stability for more than three decades since Barry Alvarez turned it around in the 1990s.

Chryst, who played quarterback for the Badgers in the late 1980s, was an assistant and offensive coordinator under Alvarez and Bielema.

The Badgers’ offense, built on a powerful running game and efficient passing, has often looked stale over the last three years and struggled against better competition. Wisconsin managed only 2 yards rushing against Illinois, the program’s lowest total since 2015.

“The expectations of our program at Wisconsin are to win championships and I felt that it was time, it was the right time to make a change to pursue those,” said McIntosh, a former offensive lineman at Wisconsin who replaced Alvarez as AD last year.

After Wisconsin lost to Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday for the first time in 20 years, Chryst said he was undeterred and looked forward to getting a chance to fix the problems.

“Do you want to be better? Absolutely. And you just want to focus on the things that you can do to help move the needle, help our players and assistant coaches,” he said. “So I didn’t think it’s going to be easy, and yet I believe in this group and I like this group. I appreciate where they’re coming from and how they go about it. I look forward to each day I get to be with them.

“We get to be together again, and we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and continue to go to work.”

Dorrell out as coach at Colorado after 0-5 start to season

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BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado fired football coach Karl Dorrell after an 0-5 start in which the Buffaloes have been blown out by more than 20 points in each game.

The school announced the decision a day after a 43-20 loss at Arizona. It’s only the fourth 0-5 start in the history of Colorado (1980, 1984 and 2006).

“I want everybody to know that I have a ton of respect for Coach Dorrell and the way he led our football program with integrity,” Colorado director of athletics Rick George said. “He helped us navigate the challenges of COVID-19 and did so with a lot of class. He made our young men better off the field, both in the classroom and in the community. He led our program to the highest GPA in our history, and his team was involved in a lot of different community activities.

“Karl’s a good man, I have a ton of respect for him and I wish him nothing (but the) best in his future endeavors.

“However, the on-the-field performance fell well short of our expectations,” George added. “I know that starts with me. I hired Karl and it didn’t work out the way any of us wanted it to. There’s no excuses and I own my part in where we are today.”

Dorrell, 58, was brought in as a replacement when Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State out of the blue in February 2020.

The hiring of Dorrell was met with surprise because he had been out of college coaching for a while. He was an assistant with the Miami Dolphins at the time, but he had been UCLA’s head coach from 2003-07.

Dorrell, who had built a house in the Boulder area, agreed to a five-year, $18 million contract that ran through 2024. The buyout, which will come out of the athletic department’s budget, is approximately $8.7 million, but could be reduced pending his next job.

Although the Buffaloes have had just two winning seasons since 2006 – and one of them was their 4-2 record during the pandemic in 2020 – George said he trusts Colorado can return to prominence.

“We will do what is needed to get a winning football team back on this field,” George said. “… This place can be and will be a football powerhouse. We have the facilities. We have the location. We have the programs. We have everything that we need to be successful on the football field.”

George also issued a call for local businesses to step up and make CU more competitive when it comes to NIL opportunities for the Buffs.

Colorado waited to announce the news until after Dorrell had a chance to inform his staff and players in a meeting. Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson was also let go.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will serve as interim coach. Defensive line coach Gerald Chatman will serve as the team’s defensive coordinator, while passing game coordinator/tight ends coach Clay Patterson takes over as offensive coordinator.

The Buffaloes are idle this week before hosting California. They have seven games left and Sanford said the goal is to get an eighth game – a bowl berth.

“We have not been eliminated from any postseason to this point and it all starts with having a fantastic bye week,” Sanford said. “… These players haven’t quit. They have shown nothing but fight.

“This is a fresh start.”

Dorrell didn’t have much of an offseason program due to coronavirus restrictions his inaugural season, but he led the Buffaloes to a 4-2 mark – they started 4-0 – and an appearance in the Alamo Bowl. Dorrell was named Pac-12 coach of the year.

It was downhill from there.

Colorado went 4-8 last season and saw several key starters leave through the transfer portal. This season, Colorado has rotated through three quarterbacks in trying to ignite an offense that ranks near the bottom of the FBS ranks. The Buffaloes and rival Colorado State, which has a new coach in Jay Norvell, are the only two teams left in the FBS without a win.

The loss to Arizona became the final blow for Dorrell, whose team has been outscored by a 216-67 margin. The Wildcats were a team predicted to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, with Colorado last. The Buffaloes’ defense surrendered 673 total yards Saturday – the most since allowing 616 to Arizona in 2015.

Dorrell weathered some rocky moments over his time in Boulder. A year ago, he apologized a day after losing his cool and pushing a photojournalist’s camera on his way off the field following a 37-14 loss to Southern California.

He also came under fire last season for skipping his customary postgame radio show after a 30-0 loss to the Gophers. In addition, Dorrell drew scrutiny when he didn’t make his players available after a 55-23 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffaloes have turned to coaches such as Jon Embree, Mike MacIntyre, Tucker and Dorrell to try to turn the Buffaloes around. MacIntyre led the Buffaloes to the conference championship game in 2016, but it was his only winning season out of six.

Tucker seemed to have the Buffaloes on the right path, bringing in several top prospects, before leaving for Michigan State after one season. That opened the door for Dorrell, who served as a receivers coach and later as offensive coordinator for Colorado in the 1990s.

A national search for a coach is expected to start soon.