Jordan Addison says move to USC was only about football

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — Jordan Addison said he didn’t know Southern California was the school for him until the moment he set foot on campus for his recruiting visit shortly after entering the transfer portal in May.

And the Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver said anybody who thinks his decision was about anything but football really doesn’t know him at all.

Addison realizes he left behind hurt feelings at Pitt, where he was the nation’s most prolific receiver last season while catching 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 TDs. Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi has strongly suggested star players like Addison have been swayed by huge name, image and likeness deals at higher-profile schools like USC.

Addison said there’s no truth to those insinuations, and they’re disappointing.

“It was definitely frustrating, but I wasn’t too concerned because the truth always comes to the light,” Addison said while wearing his new No. 3 cardinal jersey. “I know what my focus is and my intent, so all of that is just outside noise.”

Addison is fitting in well with the Trojans, who are completely rebuilding a proud program from its worst season in 30 years. He’ll also play with extra motivation after the rumblings from Pitt – and more overt insults from fans on social media.

“I definitely feel like I got drug through the mud a little bit with the media,” Addison said. “But I like being the underdog, and I’m always going to come out on top. I feel like it’ll be a great story at the end.”

USC has put together a remarkable roster under first-year coach Lincoln Riley while recruiting extensively through the transfer portal at the same time NIL deals are rapidly changing the sport. The conjunction has led to conflict, with veiled, anonymous accusations of tampering and unfair advantages leveled at the Trojans.

Riley, Addison and other players are increasingly annoyed with the aspersions cast on their character as training camp begins on campus.

“We’ve worked hard through our careers as coaches, my career as a coach, to do things with integrity,” Riley said last week at Pac-12 media day. “I think we’ve largely done that throughout my career. When someone challenges that with no facts and just only emotion, yeah, I mean, I think you take it personally. Absolutely you do.”

Addison’s move might have been the biggest transfer of the college football offseason if not for the move of his new quarterback, Caleb Williams, from Oklahoma to USC. Williams and Addison are both from the Washington, D.C., area, but Addison said they were no more than vague acquaintances until he chose the Trojans.

Williams’ talent has been obvious in USC’s offseason workouts, but Addison missed spring ball. He has participated in player-led practices this summer, and the Trojans are already impressed.

“He’s a freak of nature,” said running back Travis Dye, a transfer from Oregon. “That man can run like a gazelle. I’m excited to go out and watch him in pads.”

Addison said he hasn’t communicated with Narduzzi or former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett since he left. Pickett is in the NFL, and last season’s offensive coordinator and receivers coach have also left Pitt – yet Addison’s decision to try another school was still framed as a betrayal by many fans.

Instead, Addison said he was attracted by the chance to play for Riley at a hopefully revitalized college powerhouse.

“Just me already knowing Lincoln’s history and what he did with some great receivers, that’s No. 1,” Addison said. “And just to see how the change was going here and the rebuilding process. I’m just glad to be out here.”

Addison even gets to wear his preferred No. 3 jersey after a conversation with Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, who gave his blessing to unretire his former number.

Addison hasn’t been to the beach or many hot spots since arriving in LA, but he met at least one celebrity: He has worked out with Marqise Lee, the USC receiver who won the Biletnikoff in 2012 before playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Since he’s likely only in town for one year, Addison has told his new teammates he’ll make the most of it.

“I just wanted to make sure they knew what my intention was and what my focus was going to be,” Addison said. “I wasn’t coming out here for all the lights, camera, action and all that. I just wanted to make sure they knew that I was strictly business.”

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.