The Scoop on P.J. Fleck to Western Michigan

Western Michigan has agreed to hire P.J. Fleck as its newest head coach.

At just 32 years old, Fleck will become the youngest head coach in FBS. Fleck comes to Western Michigan from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he served as the team's wide receivers coach. He played at Northern Illinois from 1999-03 and spent two years in the San Francisco 49ers organization. 

Fleck's coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 2006. In 2007, he was the wide receivers coach at his alma mater. Fleck added the role of recruiting coordinator in 2009. He then left to join Greg Schiano's staff at Rutgers in 2010 and followed him to Tampa Bay in 2012, working as the wide receivers coach at both spots. Before joining the Bucs (ten months ago), Fleck had agreed to become offensive coordinator at NIU; but changed his mind one day later stating he didn't "feel he's ready to be an offensive coordinator" according to Dave Doeren. 

SI.com's Pete Thamel reported that Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard cited "energy and enthusiasm" as reasons for tabbing Fleck as her next head football coach. Fleck takes over for Bill Cubit, whose coaching career started three years after Fleck's birth.

Fleck takes over a program that reached bowl eligibility five times between 2005 and 2011 but fell back to 4-8 this fall. The Broncos finished in the middle of the pack in the MAC in most statistics but lost five of its last six games to close the season. 

Update> WMU has confirmed the hiring...and alerted all of us to the fact that P.J.'s wife Tracie went into labor today. Holy smokes, what a day in their lives!



Cincy reveals new helmets for Belk Bowl

Cincinnati will be rocking these for the Belk Bowl against Duke on the 27th.

They definitely went down "the path less traveled" with this one. Thoughts?

The Scoop on Stats: Best of the Best (Defense)

Yesterday we took a look at the major NCAA offensive statistics to see which teams stood alone as the best in college football. Today, it's time to look at the defensive side of the ball. 

Without further ado...

Rushing Defense - Mount Union (D-III - OH): 48.2 yards per game. This category was like walking down a set of stairs. The lower you got, the closer you got to the floor. Alabama led FBS with 79.8 ypg, Harvard led FCS with 69.4 ypg, Shepherd (W.Va.) led Division II with 52.6 ypg, and then there was Mount Union. The Purple Raiders limited opponents to just 1.58 yards per carry this season.

Passing Defense - Wisconsin - Lutheran (D-III): 123.2 yards per game. Opposing passers completed just 122 passes for 1,232 yards in 10 games against the Warriors. For the record, Mount Union placed third in this category.

Pass Efficiency Defense - Carroll (D-III - WI): 78.1 opponents' quarterback rating. Carroll allowed just 43.6 percent of passes to be completed for just 4.56 yards per attempt, while permitting just 10 touchdowns with 22 interceptions. For the record, Mount Union finished second in this category.

Total Defense - Mount Union: 180.6 yards per game. The Purple Raiders, who won the Division III championship with a 15-0 record, finished more than 40 yards ahead everyone else in the NCAA. With an average of 2.93 yards allowed per play, a typical series ended with the opponent faced with a 4th and 1. 

Scoring Defense - Mount Union: 8.93 points per game. The Notre Dame defense, led by FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year Bob Diaco, placed second but, really, could it have been anybody else? Mount Union allowed 18 touchdowns and three field goals, 134 total points, in 15 games. The Purple Raiders did not allow a single point between Sept. 15 and Oct. 20, pitching six straight shutouts.

Other defensive statistics....
Turnovers Gained - Winston-Salem State (D-II - NC): 43
Tackles For Loss - West Virginia Wesleyan (D-II): 11.09 per game
Sacks - Linfield (D-III - OR): 5.25 per game
First Downs Defense - Mount Union: 11.07 per game
Third Down Defense - Salve Regina (D-III - RI): 23.39 percent  (40-for-171)
Fourth Down Defense - Wesleyan (D-III - CT): 12.5 percent (2-for-16)
Red Zone Defense - Heidelberg (D-III - OH): 50 percent (13 TDs and 4 FGs in 34 attempts)

Matt Rhule returns home to Temple

Matt Rhule envisioned getting the head coaching job at Temple once before. He had spent five years as an assistant to Al Golden, rising from defensive line coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Rhule had helped the Owls rise from a lifetime spent in college football's basement to a 17-8 record over the 2009-10 seasons.

So when Golden left for Miami, Rhule interviewed with athletic director Bill Bradshaw for Temple's head coaching vacancy. He didn't get it. Bradshaw's selection, Steve Addazio, offered Rhule a spot on his staff if he was willing to take a demotion. 

The way Rhule sees it, getting turned down was the best thing that ever happened to him.

"I want to thank Bill Bradshaw," said Rhule. "He turned me down two years ago, and he was right. I wasn't ready then but I'm ready now."

In the two years since, Rhule spent one season coaching under the Urban Meyer system with Addazio and another as the assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants getting, as he says it, "a PhD in offensive football."

Now Rhule returns to the place he always wanted to be. Rhule and his family have invested in Temple and adopted Philadelphia as their home, saying "This is our school. This is our home. We've built a home here."

Rhule quoted Temple University founder Russell Conwell, stating, "He who would be great anywhere must first be great in his own Philadelphia."

Temple just finished its first year in a its second turn in the ever-changing Big East, but Rhule sees the opportunity ahead for the program. 

"We have a chance to play on a national stage. We have a chance to play in a championship game and we have access to a BCS bowl. That's all we want is an opportunity."

Rhule knows that Temple has a different set of advantages than that of a traditional state school. He brought up Temple's academic foundation and the chance for Temple players to use the resources of Philadelphia that weren't afforded to him when he played three hours down the road in State College.

"We want our young men to not only to graduate, we want them to be educated," Rhule explained. "I went to Penn State, a tremendous school but we didn't have the opportunity we have here. If you're a business major, you couldn't do an internship in Philadelphia. It's the same for marketing, pre-med, whatever you want to be, Philadelphia has it."

Rhule said that it was Temple's players that kept him in Philadelphia when Golden left and Addazio took over, and it was Temple's players that brought him back. Many of the team's leaders recommended Rule for the job after Addazio's departure.

"To hear them know who I am, that I believe in discipline, but that I know how to have fun and be one of them," he said. "To hear some of the things they said, it's almost better than getting the job."

VIDEO: All Access - Major Applewhite

With Bryan Harsin departing for the head job at Arkansas State, Texas head coach Mack Brown walked down the hall to find his next offensive coordinator. Major Applewhite has been on staff in Austin as running backs coach since 2008 and will take over play-calling duties, as well as coaching quarterbacks, with the Alamo Bowl later this month.

Longhorn Network recently put a spotlight on Applewhite's coaching and asked the current players about what they thought of the former Longhorn quarterback.

"I want to play for Coach Applewhite because he seems real honest," said junior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. "He won't sugar coat it. He'll let you know if you're playing bad, he'll let you know if you're playing well."

"He's always honest in his critique or coaching of you," added junior offensive lineman Mason Walters. "He's going to give you exactly how it is. You don't ever have to wonder what he's thinking about."

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