Tennessee moves quickly, hires UCF’s Danny White as new AD

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Tennessee has hired UCF athletic director Danny White as the Volunteers’ new athletic director just three days after the firing of football coach Jeremy Pruitt and athletic director Phillip Fulmer‘s retirement.

Chancellor Donde Plowman announced the hiring Thursday, noting Tennessee handled this search with urgency. She said officials had enough interest in the position to be able to move quickly.

“Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders,” Plowman said in the release. “He brings the combination of winning attitude, competitive drive, and dedication to integrity and academics that we are looking for.”

White will be Tennessee’s fourth different athletic director since Dave Hart took over in September 2011, and his first job will be hiring a new football coach with the Volunteers in the midst of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations that cost Pruitt his job.

“I am thrilled to be headed to Knoxville and to a university with a great competitive tradition and a spirited and devoted fan base,” White said in a statement. “Volunteer fans have an expectation to win, and my first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach.”

White signed a five-year contract at UCF in March 2020 paying him more than $1 million a year with a $2.5 million buyout if he left for another school before May 11, 2021. It is unclear how the buyout is being handled.

Tennessee will introduce White at a news conference Friday, but when he starts is still being finalized. He will earn $1.8 million a year with an annual pay hike of 5%. He also will be eligible for up to $300,000 annually for team athletic performance, academic performance and operational goals.

UCF hired White in November 2015, and his first job then was hiring a football coach. Scott Frost left for Nebraska after going 13-0 in 2017, then White hired Josh Heupel. The UCF men’s basketball team made the 2019 NCAA Tournament and lost 77-76 to Duke in the second round.

Randy Boyd, president of the University of Tennessee system, said White is a great fit for what Tennessee is building.

“He combines a strong vision for competitive excellence with a deep commitment to winning with integrity,” Boyd said. “The greatest decade in UT Athletics begins now.”

As athletic director at Buffalo between May 2012 and December 2015, White hired Bobby Hurley, who took Buffalo to its first NCAA Tournament and then Nate Oats who has continued that success. White hired Lance Leipold in football who led Buffalo to its first ranking this season and finished No. 25.

White, whose father Kevin is Duke’s AD, has Southeastern Conference experience as senior associate athletics director at Mississippi between 2009-2012. He was associate athletics director for development at California State-Fresno from 2007 to 2009 and a year before that as assistant athletics director for development at Northern Illinois.

White played college basketball at Towson and Notre Dame where he graduated in 2002. He then was director of operations and an assistant coach for a season apiece at Ohio University where he earned master’s degrees in business administration and sports administration. He earned a doctorate in higher education at Ole Miss in 2016.

His brother, Mike, is head coach of Florida’s men’s basketball team.

Fulmer was staying on until a new athletic director took over. The details of his final transition had not been finalized as of Wednesday, but Tennessee said it anticipates paying Fulmer $37,500 per month through Dec. 31, 2023, thanks to a two-year extension signed last May.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.