Mark Stoops named head coach at...

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Mark Stoops named head coach at...

From Comcast SportsNetLEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky has hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as the Wildcats' football coach.Stoops replaces Joker Phillips, who was fired on Nov. 4. Phillips went 13-24 in three seasons at Kentucky and the Wildcats were 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference this year.Kentucky made the announcement on Tuesday and the 45-year-old Stoops will be introduced here at a news conference on Sunday. No. 13 Florida State (10-2) plays Georgia Tech Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.Terms of Stoops' contract with Kentucky were not released. His salary with the Seminoles was 550,000 a year. He should definitely receive a raise in his new position; Phillips' annual salary was 1.7 million.Stoops' hiring concludes a quicker-than-expected coaching search by the university. After Saturday's season-ending loss at Tennessee, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said he had no timetable to find a replacement for Phillips.But it didn't take long for Barnhart and the Wildcats to make a move. The decision makes Stoops a head coach for the first time in his career."I want to thank (Kentucky) President Eli Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity," Stoops said in a statement. "I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of."Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said after the Seminoles' practice Tuesday that Stoops will coach Saturday's game but that he hadn't talked with him about coaching through a bowl appearance. Stoops did not talk to reporters after the workout.Stoops becomes the third brother in college football's famed coaching family to lead his own program. Older brother Bob Stoops is the head coach at Oklahoma and Mike Stoops is the Sooners' defensive coordinator. Before joining the Oklahoma staff this year, Mike was the head coach at Arizona."He's earned it," Bob Stoops said of his brother. "He's done really well everywhere he's been. I know he's really prepared for the job."Bob said his advice to Mark is to trust his instincts."When you get one of those positions, everybody wants to tell you what to do," the OU coach said. "That's how it was for me. I didn't let anyone hurry me. I took it at my own pace, trusted my guy and my instincts on what I wanted to do, and fortunately it worked out."Mark Stoops has been the Seminoles' defensive coordinator the past three seasons. Florida State's defense was ranked 108th when he took over and he has turned the Seminoles into one of the nation's top defensive teams.The Seminoles have the nation's second-ranked defense, giving up 249.4 yards per game. Kentucky allowed 391 yards a contest this season and ranked 11th in the 14-team conference."Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark," Barnhart said. "He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career."Now Stoops' challenge will be making Kentucky competitive in the conference that has won the last six BCS national championships.The Wildcats are coming off their third straight losing season and second without a bowl appearance. Seven of their eight conference losses this season were by margins of at least two touchdowns, including a 40-0 blowout at home to Vanderbilt on Nov. 3 and a 37-17 season-ending loss at Tennessee on Saturday.Stoops has a proven track record of rebuilding defenses, which represents a philosophical shift from the offense-minded Phillips.Before joining Fisher's staff, Stoops resurrected an Arizona defense with similar issues that Kentucky experienced. Arizona was 109th in total defense before his arrival; the defense was ranked in the top 25 in his final two seasons and Arizona earned consecutive bowl bids.Stoops leaves a Florida State program poised to claim a BCS bowl bid if it wins the ACC championship on Saturday. The Seminoles enter the ACC title game with the nation's seventh-ranked scoring defense, allowing 15.1 points per game.Fisher said it's a compliment to the defensive players at Florida State that Stoops "got the shot because of how they played and how he coached them.""I'm very proud of him. Very happy for him," Fisher said after Florida State's practice Tuesday. "He got an opportunity to go on and further his career and it's something he wants to do. ... We wanted Mark to stay here for a long time until he got what he wanted to do. Our players are very elated. They know that that's part of this business."Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner said the players are also happy for Stoops."Everybody knew he wanted a head coach job," Werner said. "Everybody was happy for him. Nobody was like sad that he was leaving. ... He did everything he could. He turned a great defense into an even better defense."The search for Stoops' successor will begin next week and Fisher hinted that it could be an internal hire."There are possibilities of that all the time," he said. "We have some great coaches underneath."

Melifonwu might be solution to Raiders' problem covering tight ends

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Melifonwu might be solution to Raiders' problem covering tight ends

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have struggled mightily covering tight ends. It hasn’t been a one-year thing. They’re notorious for letting that position run rampant over the past four years, allowing talent ranging from Travis Kelce to Gary Barnidge to tally huge totals against the Silver and Black.

The Raiders may have found a solution to that problem Friday in the second round. They selected massive combine freak and Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, a 6-foot-4 speedster who can match up well with most anyone.

“Look, this is no secret, we’ve struggled for the last couple of years covering the opponents’ tight ends,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We think this is a guy that can help out with his length, matchup against some of the bigger tight ends, some of the better tight ends. We’ll put him right in the mix.”

Del Rio can get creative with this kid. Melifonwu is a safety by trade, but can play cornerback – he proved that during Senior Bowl practices – and functions well from the slot. He can also play well in the box against the run game or deep in the pattern, providing versatility to the secondary.

The Raiders have incumbent starters at safety, with free safety Reggie Nelson and strong safety Karl Joseph. Nelson is 33 and entering a contract year, so Melifonwu could develop into a long-term partnership with Joseph, last year’s first-round pick.

Expect Melifonwu to help right away, especially against the recently bothersome tight end position.

“I feel like I’m a solid cover guy, especially versus tight ends,” Melifonwu said. “I feel like the majority of tight ends that I go up against I’m going to be faster than and really be able to cover them.”

The London, England native put on a show at the NFL scouting combine. He ran 40 yards in 4.40 seconds there, and did most every drill well.

“I think it did a lot for me,” Melifonwu said. “I think it showed my character, my poise and the ability to perform under pressure. And really the fact that not only am I an explosive player, I’m a player that has great hips and great range for somebody my size.”

Del Rio said is supported solid game tape, which improved as his college career progressed. He finished with a career-high 118 tackles and four interceptions. He also had 2.5 tackles for a loss and three passes defensed. He accounts the improvement to improved football knowledge.

“Just having a better sense of the game of football,” Melifonwu said. “My defensive back coach Anthony Poindexter was a great college safety and a great NFL safety. He really did a great job of helping me fine tune things like run fits, formations and really keyed every week to watch and how to watch the game of football, how to study the game of football which in result, helped me have the season I had.”

49ers select TE George Kittle in fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select TE George Kittle in fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft

GEORGE KITTLE
Position: Tight end
College: Iowa
Height: 6-3 3/4
Weight: 247
Selection: Fifth round, No. 146 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Iowa tight end George Kittle in the fifth round with the No. 146 overall pick.

Kittle becomes the second Iowa player the 49ers selected in two days. Late Friday, the 49ers traded up to select quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Kittle was considered an outstanding blocker in the Hawkeyes pro-style offense. As a senior, Kittle appeared in nine games and caught 22 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns. In 2015, he had 20 receptions for 290 yards and six touchdowns.

"I think my game overall, I’m a very versatile player," Kittle said. "I can have my hand in the dirt and block anybody you want me to block. You can move me around and run routes. I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I feel like I can catch the ball well and run routes well. I’m a versatile guy."

Kittle joins a 49ers tight end group that includes Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell and Je’Ron Hamm. 

Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi on Friday reported the 49ers are attempting to trade McDonald. In one of former general manager Trent Baalke’s final moves, the 49ers signed McDonald in December to a five-year contract extension that included a $7 million signing bonus.

Kittle said he caught passes during Beathard's workout with 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. The next day, he was invited to fly to Santa Clara as one of the 49ers' 30 pre-draft visits.

While the 49ers' selection of Beathard at the end of the third round might have surprised some, Kittle said he figured the 49ers would have reason to be interested in his teammate of the past four years.

"He’s just a guy, he loves football more than anything other than maybe his daughter," Kittle said of Beathard. "He lives and breathes it. That’s all he cares about. He is a genius in the film room and on the football field. He know absolutely everything that everybody is going to do. . . . He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.”