42 players named to initial Lott Trophy watch list

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You know what this means, right?  Yep, we’re slowly inching closer to the start of a new season.

While that remains a little under four months away, one major postseason award has released its first watch list of the offseason, with the Lott IMPACT Trophy releasing its group of 42 players on the defensive side of the ball.  No finalists or semifinalists for last year’s award, won by Notre Dame Manti Te'o, are represented on this year’s watch list.

A total of seven conferences — the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt Conference being the lone exceptions — and three independents — Army, BYU and Notre Dame — are represented this year, including a total of 37 different football programs.

Of the seven schools with two players on the list, three come from the Pac-12: Stanford (DL Henry Anderson, S Ed Reynolds), UCLA (LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks) and Washington (DT Danny Shelton, LB John Timu).  Baylor (S Ahmad Dixon, LB Bryce Hager), Northwestern (DB Ibraheim Campbell, LB Damien Proby), Ohio State (CB Bradley Roby, LB Ryan Shazier) and Virginia Tech (CB Antone Exum, LB Jack Tyler).

The Pac-12 led all conferences with 11 players on the list, followed by the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 with seven apiece.  Players from the SEC and Mountain West (two) were also part of the initial grouping.

The Lott Trophy is named in honor of former USC and San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott, and is given out to the player who has the biggest IMPACT — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity — on their teams both on and off the field.

For the complete Lott Trophy watch list, see below:

Henry Anderson, DL, Stanford
Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army
Calvin Barnett, DL, Oklahoma State
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Nat Behre, DB, San Diego State
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Ibraheim Campbell, DB, Northwestern
Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Scott Crichton, DL, Oregon State
Alden Darby, DB, Arizona State
Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt
Steele DiVitto, LB, Boston College
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Jake Fischer, LB, Arizona
Chase Garnham, LB, Vanderbilt
Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Lamarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Devon Kennard, DL, USC
James Morris, LB, Iowa
C.J. Moseley, LB, Alabama
Damien Proby, LB, Northwestern
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
D.T. Shackleford, LB, Ole Miss
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Spencer Shuey, LB, Clemson
Derron Smith, DB, Fresno State
John Timu, LB, Washington
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State

Wisconsin fires Paul Chryst; names DC Leonhard interim coach

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Wisconsin fired head coach Paul Chryst on Sunday 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.

Chryst is 67-26 since taking over as coach of the Badgers in 2015 after being hired away from Pittsburgh.

But the program has been backsliding. Chryst had double-digit win seasons in four of his first five years at Wisconsin and had gone 15-10 since.

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

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, another former Badgers player, 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.

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.

After losing to Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium 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

TCU v Colorado
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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 Sunday, 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).

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 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 is approximately $8.7 million, but could be reduced pending his next job. His termination was first reported by ESPN.

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.

Dorrell didn’t have much of an offseason program due to coronavirus restrictions his inaugural season, but 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, who have a new coach in Jay Norvell, are the only two teams left in the FBS without a win.

“The results on the field just did not measure up to our expectations and standards, which made it necessary for us to make this change at this time,” Colorado director of athletics Rick George said in a statement. “It was an extremely difficult decision and I wish Karl all of the best in his future endeavors.”

This is what it’s come to in Boulder: George issued a statement last month to pacify fans after a 49-7 loss at Minnesota. He said he recognized and understood the disappointment as the team has not “come close to meeting our expectations.” He urged the fans to stick with the program and support the team.

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 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 players weren’t made 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 on 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.

“I fully support Rick in making this difficult decision to dismiss Coach Dorrell,” Chancellor Philip DiStefano said. “The football team is an important part of the university and I know our students, alumni, and fans have high expectations for a winning product on the field.”