Report: Nebraska closing in on Matt Rhule as coach

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Nebraska and former Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule were finalizing a deal Friday to make him the Cornhuskers’ coach.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that after several days of discussions, Nebraska made Rhule an offer Thursday that persuaded the former Temple and Baylor coach to return to college after two-plus years in the NFL.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of a contract – including what the Panthers might still owe Rhule – are still be worked out and no announcement from the school was imminent.

ESPN first reported Nebraska was closing in on a deal to make Rhule its coach.

Rhule has been out of work less than two months since getting fired five games into his third season with the Panthers.

He 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.

One of eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins but more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is pinning its hopes on the 47-year-old Rhule to recreate his success at his previous two college stops. Twice Rhule took over struggling programs and built them into conference contenders in three years.

The Cornhuskers beat Iowa 24-17 on Friday and finished 4-8, their sixth straight losing season. Athletic director Trev Alberts fired Scott 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.

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.

Rhule would become the sixth Nebraska coach since College Football Hall of Famer Tom Osborne retired after the 1997 season. The Huskers haven’t won a conference championship since 1999 under Frank Solich or played in a bowl since 2016 under Mike Riley.

Rhule is no stranger 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.

Alberts has lamented the Huskers’ lack of player development and physicality, particularly on the lines. Those areas would appear to be in Rhule’s wheelhouse. He was a defensive line coach at Temple in 2006 before moving to the offensive side as quarterbacks coach and coordinator. He left Temple for a year to be the New York Giants’ assistant offensive line coach in 2012.

Rhule returned to Temple as head coach when Steve Adazzio left for Boston College, and the Owls went 2-10 and 6-6 before he put together back-to-back 10-win seasons and won the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship.

He was named Baylor’s coach on Dec. 6, 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 was the first NFL coach to be fired this year after the Panthers lost four of their first five games.

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.