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  • Mark Dantonio replaces Pat Narduzzi by keeping it within the family

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    Following the departure of Pat Narduzzi to Pittsburgh, Mark Dantonio has kept the Spartans’ defensive coordinator duties within the family by promoting defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett and linebackers/special teams coach Mike Tressel to co-defensive coordinator roles. Barnett has also added an assistant head coach title.

    “It’s important to move the process forward, and I feel very comfortable in naming Harlon Barnett assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator and Mike Tressel co-defensive coordinator,” Dantonio said in a statement. “Harlon and Mike have been on my staff together for 11 years, including the past eight years at Michigan State. They both have had a ton of input and shared a lot of ideas with Pat Narduzzi over the years. The co-appointment ensures continuity in terms of player relationships, defensive concepts and terminology.”

    Since Narduzzi did not coach a position and was a rare “walk-around” coordinator, promoting from within frees up a space on the staff for Dantonio to hire another defensive assistant. “I’ll empower our coaches to have a say in the hiring process, as we complete the defensive staff. It will be a collective effort.”

    Michigan State led the Big Ten in total defense and yards per play allowed from 2011-13, and ranks third in total defense and fifth in yards per play allowed this season. The 10-2 Spartans place sixth nationally in total defense, 21st in yards per play allowed and 14th in scoring defense this season.

    Narduzzi, introduced as Pitt’s head coach on Friday, will return to coach the Spartans in the Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl against Baylor.

  • Photo: Did Bret Bielema flash a “Horns Down” while shaking hands with Charlie Strong?

    The pre-New Year’s Day bowl season of 2014 finally – finally - has its answer to the Zapruder film controversy.

    At a press conference for Monday night’s Texas Bowl, Texas head coach Charlie Strong and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema posed for a hand-shaking photo. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary until Arkansas sports anchor Aaron Peters tweeted a photo of Bielema doing a “Horns Down” gesture that is common of Texas opponents.

    Then, Bielema denied doing the gesture through sports radio host Bo Mattingly.

    And then Peters denied photoshopping the picture.

    So, did he or didn’t he? Who cares? It’s a glorified exhibition game between a pair of teams playing for the right to finish 7-6 instead of 6-7. Not exactly the Big Shootout of 1969 reincarnated.

    The real winner in all this is the Texas Bowl itself, the beneficiary of an afternoon’s worth of publicity while actual bowl games take place in the proverbial background.

    Texas and Arkansas will meet at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN Monday night.

  • Let’s take a look at Oregon’s Rose Bowl helmets

    Oregon’s winged helmet look started in the Rose Bowl three years ago, as the Ducks outlasted a Russell Wilson-led Wisconsin team, 45-38.

    Oregon 2012 Rose

    The Ducks were in chrome lids that day, but the winged decals would become Oregon’s predominate look over the next three seasons, migrating to every color in their repertoire, with only a break for charitable or nostalgic purposes.

    But with the inaugural College Football Playoff upon us, Nike has seized the opportunity to remind the public that all four participating schools wear swooshes. Much of that unveiling was nothing more than Swoosh promotional material, but there was notable change packed among the fluff: the return of Oregon’s “O” helmets. Worn from 1999 through 2011, Nike is using the grand stage of the Rose Bowl to bring it back.

    Officially unveiled earlier this month, @OregonFBEquip provided a closer look on Friday.

    Oregon green

    Three quick reactions:

    1. That is a green helmet. If nothing else, Oregon will be back in its green-and-yellow roots for the Rose Bowl.

    2. Is it just me, or has the “O” gotten wider this time around?

    3. If the Ducks lose to Florida State, everyone’s going to blame it on the helmets.

  • What separates Pat Narduzzi from other first-time head coaches

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    Sports Illustrated

    Pat Narduzzi officially accepted the head coaching position at Pittsburgh on Friday, culminating a quarter century-long journey from a graduate assistant position on Randy Walker’s staff at Miami (Ohio) to now. Though Pittsburgh represents Narduzzi’s first head coaching job, Narduzzi insists he’s ready for this job because he’s been a head coach – of sorts – working under Mark Dantonio for the past 11 years.

    “The reason I want to be a head coach is so I can be the CEO of a program and start to lead nine assistant coaches. For the last 11 years I’ve been a walk-around coordinator so I feel like I’m a head coach of the defense. I don’t coach a position – at least I haven’t coached a position in the last 11 seasons. I’m not in charge of the linebackers. I walk around and I coach the coaches,” Narduzzi said. “That’s my job. All I’m doing now as the head coach is coaching a few more and letting them do their thing. Coach Dantonio lets his coordinators coach. I’ve been so fortunate to work with guys that let their coaches coach. That’s the best thing you can do as a head coach – stay out of it.”

    The biggest question facing Narduzzi will be his offensive coordinator hire and the overall direction of the offense in his tenure. Narduzzi said he’ll give input on how he thinks opposing defenses can be attacked, but for the most part that side of the ball will be the offensive coordinator’s domain.

    As head coach, Narduzzi’s biggest task will be setting the tone for his assistants and his players.

    “A ton of energy, passion and discipline. We’re going to have knowledge,” Narduzzi said of how his team will play. “We’ve got to have a ton of knowledge. We’re going to play fast and physical. It’s hard to play fast if you don’t know what you’re doing. Probably the best compliment we’ve gotten at Michigan State is, ‘You guys play fast.’… Our kids can play fast because they know what they’re doing.”

    Narduzzi explained how, exactly, he does that at during a talk at the Angelo Football Clinic over the summer. FootballScoop was fortunate enough to sit in for that talk.

    “We’ll play with a tough, blue collar mentality. And how else would you want it in the city of Pittsburgh?” he continued. “When someone plays the University of Pittsburgh, they’re going to know they were in a brawl.”

    While many a hot-shot coordinator has taken that first head job and failed, Narduzzi comes in with a different set of tools than most. He’s the rare first-time head coach that’s not really a first-time head coach.

    “I’ve been assistant head coach for the past two or three years, I feel like I’ve had had coaching duties. Coach Dantonio does not have a staff that’s a bunch of yes men,” Narduzzi said. “We’re going to speak up. I really feel like everybody’s had a role in the building of that program. I really feel like there’s nothing missing here.

    “To me, I feel like leaders are leaders. I feel like I’m a leader. I’m going from leading 50 to leading 100, and that’s about the only difference.”

  • Under Armour has revealed their unis for the HS All-American game

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    The Under Armour High School All-American game is being played on January 2nd, and today Under Armour uncovered what the top recruits in the country will be wearing at the game.

    I normally am not a fan of the futuristic look, but these look pretty sharp, and I’m really looking forward to getting a closer look at those helmets.

    Take a look at the roster for game here, complete with what program the players are committed to.

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    (H/T Darren Rovell)