Alabama’s Jones, Smith, Harris lead 6 Tide AP All-Americans

Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports
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Heisman Trophy finalists Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith have been selected to The Associated Press All-America team, leading a contingent of five Alabama players on the first-team offense.

Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris, tackle Alex Leatherwood and center Landon Dickerson are also first-team selections. No. 1 Alabama is the first team since 1980, when the AP All-America team began featuring two wide receivers and two running backs, to place a quarterback, running back and receiver on the first team.

Cornerback Patrick Surtain II gives the Crimson Tide six first-team selections, the most in the nation. No. 4 Notre Dame, Alabama’s College Football Playoff opponent this weekend, has two first-team All-Americans in offensive guard Aaron Banks and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Florida’s Kyle Trask was selected second-team quarterback and fellow Heisman finalist Trevor Lawrence of Clemson was the third-team quarterback on the AP teams released Monday. Lawrence, the likely first pick in the next NFL draft, made AP All-America for the first time in his career.

No. 2 Clemson, which will face No. 3 Ohio State in the CFP semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Friday night, had only one other player selected to the All-America teams: Running back Travis Etienne made the first-team as all-purpose player. The senior has been a second-team All-American at running back the last two seasons.

Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis is the only player to repeat as a first-team All-American after making it in 2020. Davis is one of two Buckeyes on the first team along with cornerback Shaun Wade.

The 2020 AP All-America team:

FIRST TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – Mac Jones, junior, Alabama.

Running backs – Najee Harris, senior, Alabama; Breece Hall, sophomore, Iowa State.

Tackles – Brady Christensen, junior, BYU; Alex Leatherwood, senior, Alabama.

Guards – Aaron Banks, senior, Notre Dame; Wyatt Davis, junior, Ohio State.

Center – Landon Dickerson, senior, Alabama.

Tight end – Kyle Pitts, junior, Florida.

Receivers – DeVonta Smith, senior, Alabama; Elijah Moore, junior, Mississippi.

All-purpose player – Travis Etienne, senior, Clemson.

Kicker – Jose Borregales, senior, Miami.

Defense

Ends – Rashad Weaver, senior, Pitt; Tarron Jackson, senior, Coastal Carolina.

Tackles – Daviyon Nixon, junior, Iowa; Darius Stills, senior, West Virginia.

Linebackers – Zaven Collins, junior, Tulsa; Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, senior, Notre Dame; Joseph Ossai, junior, Texas.

Cornerbacks – Patrick Surtain II, junior, Alabama; Shaun Wade, senior, Ohio State.

Safeties – Talanoa Hufanga, junior, Southern California; Brandon Joseph, redshirt freshman, Northwestern.

Punter – Pressley Harvin III, senior, Georgia Tech.

SECOND TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – Kyle Trask, senior, Florida.

Running backs – Jaret Patterson, junior, Buffalo; Javonte Williams, junior, North Carolina.

Tackles – Liam Eichenberg, senior, Notre Dame; Christian Darrisaw, junior, Virginia Tech.

Guards – Cain Madden, junior, Marshall; Kenyon Green, sophomore, Texas A&M.

Center – Tyler Linderbaum, sophomore, Iowa.

Tight end – Hunter Long, junior, Boston College.

Receivers – Jaelon Darden, senior, North Texas; Jonathan Adams Jr., senior, Arkansas State.

All-purpose player – Kadarius Toney, senior, Florida.

Kicker – Cade York, sophomore, LSU.

Defense

Ends – Jaelen Phillips, senior, Miami; Patrick Jones, senior, Pitt.

Tackles – Alim McNeil, junior, North Carolina State; Haskell Garrett, senior, Ohio State.

Linebackers – Mike Rose, junior, Iowa State; Nik Bonitto, sophomore, Oklahoma; Nick Bolton, junior, Missouri.

Cornerbacks -Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, sophomore, TCU; Ahmad Gardner, sophomore, Cincinnati.

Safeties – Trevon Moehrig, junior, TCU; James Wiggins, senior, Cincinnati.

Punter – Lou Hedley, junior, Miami.

THIRD TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – Trevor Lawrence, junior, Clemson.

Running backs – Michael Carter, senior, North Carolina; Mohamed Ibrahim, junior, Minnesota.

Tackles – Darian Kinnard, junior, Kentucky; Samuel Cosmi, junior, Texas.

Guards – Ben Cleveland, senior, Georgia; Tommy Kraemer, senior, Notre Dame.

Center – Creed Humphrey, junior, Oklahoma.

Tight end – Charlie Kolar, junior, Iowa State.

Receivers – Dyami Brown, junior, North Carolina; Ty Fryfogle, senior, Indiana.

All-purpose player – Avery Williams, senior, Boise State.

Kicker – Jake Oldroyd, sophomore, BYU.

Defense

Ends – JaQuan Bailey, senior, Iowa State; Kayvon Thibodeaux, sophomore, Oregon.

Tackles – Christian Barmore, sophomore, Alabama; C.J. Brewer, senior, Coastal Carolina.

Linebackers – Zion Tupuola-Fetui, junior, Washington; Micah McFadden, junior, Indiana; Dylan Moses, senior, Alabama.

Cornerbacks – Greg Newsome, junior, Northwestern; Eli Ricks, freshman, LSU.

Safeties – Kyle Hamilton, sophomore, Notre Dame; Tykee Smith, sophomore, West Virginia.

Punter – Jake Camarda, junior, Georgia.

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.