Florida QB Richardson seeks ‘rebrand, sheds AR-15 nickname

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ATLANTA — Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, who wears No. 15, has shed the nickname “AR-15” because he doesn’t want to be linked to the semiautomatic rifle used in mass shootings.

Richardson said Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days he is “just trying to rebrand myself and become a better person.”

The sophomore said he was thinking about “what the future holds” when making the decision.

“I’m not going to be able to play football for the rest of my life,” Richardson said. “I feel it was pretty much a business decision. There’s a lot going on and that kind of played a part in it. Just trying to understand like who I am as a person.

“AR-15 doesn’t necessarily describe who I am. I’m Anthony Richardson and that’s who I’ve been since I was born.”


One day after Alabama coach Nick Saban said his players made more than $3 million in name, image and likeness deals, Georgia coach Kirby Smart wouldn’t give a total count on the earnings of his players.

Smart said he preferred to emphasize having 95 players with NIL deals. He said winning the 2021 national championship helped his players take advantage of the NIL opportunities.

“I would rival anybody in the country with 95 NIL deals coming off the national championship, a pretty gaudy number that we’ve been able to give out,” Smart said before adding he didn’t think the total value of the deals was most important.

“I think it’s more about the depth of our deals than the total amount,” Smart said.


Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is 59-53 as he enters his 10th season, setting a school record for endurance.

The Wildcats carry a streak of six consecutive bowl seasons into 2022.

“The 10 years in Lexington is something that I am proud of because I know how difficult it is,” Stoops said. “I know how difficult it is to walk into this league with the great coaching, with the recruiting … then trying to climb that ladder as high as we can.”

Stoops added, “However, we’re not satisfied. We want to continue to grow. We want to continue to push it. Obviously, some teams at the top of the food chain in the East and the West are doing some really special things. So you have to continue to elevate your game.”


Smart confirmed he is close to agreeing to a contract extension. He is 66-15 in six years at Georgia.

Smart is earning more than $7.1 million per year on his current deal, which carries through the 2024 season. His extension is expected to be for 10 or more years and make him one of the game’s highest-paid coaches at about $10 million per year.

“I’m not concerned at all about it,” Smart said of the talks between Georgia’s administration and his agent, Jimmy Sexton.

“They’ve been tremendous in their communication with my representation,” Smart said. “I’m completely comfortable with where everything is. Both sides have worked really hard to get the thing done.”


Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett is five years older than his brother, Luke Bennett, a wide receiver. Under normal conditions, that age difference would prevent the brothers from playing together in college.

Thanks to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic, Stetson is taking advantage of his sixth year – and the unexpected opportunity to play with his younger brother, a freshman, who signed with Georgia as a walk-on.

“That’s probably the coolest thing for me that came out of COVID-19, if you can say that,” said Stetson Bennett. “We were always super tight, but I was five years older than him. We were never able to get on the team together.

“Being able to have that opportunity, it’s special. We are both super lucky. I know my mom is a big fan of it happening. Hopefully, the stars align, and we can throw a pass to each other, but for right now, we are good just being on the same team.”

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

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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

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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.