For some SEC teams, coaching seat heating up


For some SEC teams, coaching seat heating up

The Southeastern Conference could be getting another makeover.

This one would have nothing to do with expansion.

The league that has won six consecutive national championships has more coaches on the proverbial ``hot seat'' than in any recent year, with potential openings at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. The Razorbacks are seemingly in disarray, while the Tigers, Wildcats and Volunteers have had all sorts of on-field problems.

With the season a little past the halfway point, talk about possible replacements is more rampant than speculation about the upcoming recruiting class or even basketball season. Well, not at Kentucky.

Still, all that conjecture can make a long season feel like it's never going to end.

``There can be outside distractions whether you're doing great or whether you're doing not as well as you certainly would like to be doing,'' Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ``The great thing about college football is everybody's got an opinion. It's the greatest sport on the planet, and part of what makes it so great in this part of the country is that everybody does have an opinion.

``When you get into this, if you're not strong enough to handle that, then you're in the wrong business - both as a player and as a coach.''

The way things have unfolded at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee, it could be gut-check time for all four coaches and their assistants.

The Razorbacks fired coach Bobby Petrino in April for hiring his mistress to a position in the athletic department and initially lying about her presence during a motorcycle accident. Athletic director Jeff Long then hired former Michigan State and Louisville head coach John L. Smith to a 10-month contract.

Arkansas (3-4, 2-2 SEC) went 1-4 in September, including home losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Rutgers. Making matters worse for Smith, he mistakenly referred to Arkansas as Alabama during a speech and told reporters to smile two days after a 52-0 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Smith also is making headlines for his $40.7 million bankruptcy.

Long said Monday he would like to have the team's next coach in place two weeks after the regular season. He has not ruled out Smith as a candidate, but given all that has happened this season, it's hard to fathom any scenario in which Smith stays in Fayetteville.

``In the end, it becomes who is interested in us,'' Long said. ``Even though I have had quite a long time to look at and research coaches, I don't know who is truly interested in us and we won't know that really until almost the end game because we've all seen other searches within this conference where they've ended up with their second, third choice so to speak.''

Auburn secretly interviewed Petrino late in the 2003 season - while Tommy Tuberville was still the Tigers' head coach - and many wonder whether Auburn would go after the offensive-minded coach again.

Of course, that would mean firing Chizik two years after winning a national championship.

The Tigers (1-5, 0-4) rank last in the SEC in total offense, clearly struggling with the transition from Gus Malzahn's spread offense to Scot Loeffler's pro-style system. Auburn has lost six consecutive SEC games by a combined score of 192-68 and is trying to avoid the program's first 1-6 start since 1952.

Maybe the most telling mark is Chizik's 17-15 record without 2010 Heisman Trophy Cam Newton.

``You have to be strong enough to be able to block out the positives when they're telling you how great you are because you're never that great,'' Chizik said. ``You have to be able to block out the negatives when they tell you how bad you are because you're never that bad. That's the message that I give to our team on a daily basis. How much they choose to listen and buy into what everybody's opinion, I can't control that.''

Kentucky (1-6, 0-4), meanwhile, has lost 13 of its last 17 games under coach Joker Phillips. The Wildcats have failed to build off that 2010 bowl berth, prompting the fan base to clamor for change.

Phillips said Monday he talks with athletic director Mitch Barnhart a couple of times a week, but just about ``small talk.

``He's been very encouraging,'' Phillips said. ``It's nothing which you want to get at. One thing Mitch and I are: We're friends. That's more important to me than anything on the business side. We are friends.

``And I can tell you this: there are not a lot of people out there that can say that they're friends with their AD. There are not a lot of them. One thing that I do cherish and I do appreciate is our friendship.''

Expectations at Kentucky hardly compare to those at Tennessee, where coach Derek Dooley has come under fire after conference losses keep piling up.

The Volunteers (3-3, 0-3) are 14-17 in Dooley's three seasons, but just 4-15 in SEC play. They also are 0-13 against Top-25 opponents, and Dooley's first two years produced the program's first consecutive losing seasons since 1909-11.

There have been signs of progress, though.

Tennessee, outscored by an average of 19 points in seven SEC losses last year, led Florida in the second half and trailed by a score in the fourth quarter against Georgia and Mississippi State. But will that kind of improvement be enough to keep Dooley in Knoxville?

``More than anything, you have to define who you are, not somebody else,'' Dooley said. ``It's a life lesson. You can't let somebody else define who you are. The best way to define who you are is when you make a mistake or you don't play well, you don't dwell on it. You don't make an excuse. You don't try to defend it. You just focus on the next mission and be proud of what you put into it every day.

``When you do that, you feel good about yourself as a man. You feel good about yourself as a player and you go do the best you can. Right now, we haven't done the best we can. That's what we ought to be concerned about.''

The Vols have plenty of company in that department.

Four coaching changes would be rare in the SEC, which hasn't had that many since Florida, LSU, Mississippi and South Carolina hired new coaches following the 2004 season.

``I've been through tremendous, fantastic things as a coach in college football,'' Chizik said. ``I've been through some battles. I understand how the whole ebb and flow of the nature of a college football season may go, good or bad. ... I think most of our kids hear that and they understand it and they learn lessons, because a lot of our guys on our team have heard the same story two years ago, but it was flipped.''


AP Sports Writers Gary Graves in Lexington, Ky., Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., and John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.

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Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Stars will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Stars game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-24-7) take on the Stars (38-27-8) Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Stars game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Stars
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Islanders game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny - Jakub Jerabek

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Brooks Orpik (lower body injury)


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' defensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

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Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' defensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 20, 37 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at the 2018 depth chart—defense

The Redskins are likely to make a few more free agent acquisitions and there is the draft, but the depth chart is beginning to settle in. Let’s take a look at where the defensive side of the ball stands now. The offense was covered yesterday.

Defensive line: Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee
Backups: Terrell McClain, Anthony Lanier, Ziggy Hood

I wrote this on Monday afternoon wondering if I would have to edit it to add Jonathan Hankins but that has not happened yet. I have to think that they will use a top draft pick on a D-lineman if they don’t land one in free agency. That could create some competition between Hood and McClain for the last roster spot.

Linebackers: OLBs Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan; ILBs Mason Foster, Zach Brown
Backups: Ryan Anderson, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Martrell Spaight

Again, I thought I might have to edit this because of the return of Junior Galette or the addition of Pernell McPhee but as it is, the Redskins are looking for an additional reserve edge rusher to go with Anderson. There might only be room for two backup inside linebackers between Vigil, Harvey-Clemons, and Spaight.

Defensive backs: CBs Quinton Dunbar, Josh Norman; FS Montae Nicholson, SS D.J. Swearinger
Backups: Orlando Scandrick, Fabian Moreau, Josh Holsey, Deshazor Everett

I debated including Su’a Cravens here because he is on the roster, but I think that the odds that he will be on the 53-man roster in September are slim. If he doesn’t return they will need some help at safety. You can count on Scandrick playing in the slot. They seem to like both Dunbar and Moreau better on the outside and Scandrick can give Holsey a chance to develop inside.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 28
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 130
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 174

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