SPORTS

Three-point Stance: Aaron Donald, Chip Kelly, Ole Miss

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In this edition of the Three-Point Stance, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has thoughts on what we can learn from Aaron Donald, credits Chip Kelly for being honest and asks if Lane Kiffin can deliver a national title to Ole Miss:

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM AARON DONALD

When Aaron Donald committed to Pitt over Rutgers, Toledo and Akron in April 2009, the headline could not have been more pedestrian: “Pitt lands DT target.”

There was nothing written about Donald potentially being the best defensive tackle of all-time, of him being a complete game-wrecker who totaled 542 tackles, 111 sacks (20.5 alone in 2018) and 24 forced fumbles in his Hall of Fame career.

Such is life in recruiting where you make projections and do your best to be right but players like Donald, who retired from the NFL this week, are always teaching you new lessons.

So what could be learned about Donald’s high three-star ranking and recruitment, of which there was very little.

Here are a few thoughts: When it comes to defensive tackles, we want gap shooters with relentless energy and an endless motor. The big 300-pound plus interior guys are fine but guys with Donald’s size and intensity are the most successful guys in the NFL.

We also don’t want guys ranked highest who are maxed out physically. Donald weighed 260 pounds as a defensive tackle coming out of Pittsburgh (Pa.) Penn Hills. Not every 260-pound defensive tackle is the next Aaron Donald but that’s sure better than a 310-pound one at the same stage.

College coaches and NFL decision-makers are looking for athleticism and toughness in the middle, not just space eaters. We should be, too, and we can learn a lot of lessons from Donald, his three-star ranking and how he vastly outplayed that during his career.

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GOOD FOR CHIP KELLY

Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly (© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Chip Kelly was something this week you don’t really expect from coaches – he was honest.

Some might find it totally strange, even unthinkable, that Kelly could leave coaching UCLA (after begging to keep his job while being on the hot seat late in the season) only to leave for the Ohio State offensive coordinator job.

But Kelly said something we sometimes forget: He was looking to be happy. Good for him.

It was well-known that Kelly didn’t give a hoot about recruiting. Even local prospects rarely visited there. He didn’t go after many national targets. There were times elite prospects would visit Westwood and Kelly wasn’t even there. Throw in the transfer portal and NIL, forget it, Kelly wanted no part of it.

For some reason, UCLA athletics director Martin Jarmond extended Kelly for next season only to see him turn around weeks later and shop himself to anybody who would take him, rumored for numerous NFL offensive coordinator jobs and finally landing with the Buckeyes.

If that’s what Kelly wants, good for him. He can work with the offense that should be loaded at numerous spots, he can hang with friend and now-boss Ryan Day and enjoy the latter years of his coaching life (Kelly is now 60) and look smart doing it.

UCLA clearly needed a change. So many tarps were hung around the Rose Bowl because fans weren’t showing up because the product on the field was so poor because Kelly just wouldn’t recruit that the Bruins needed a spark.

That might be DeShaun Foster, who knows. He’s certainly excited about recruiting and making UCLA a destination spot again. To his credit, Kelly was honest with himself – and the media this week. He’s happy now at Ohio State, let someone else deal with the headaches of portal and NIL.

He can coach Xs and Os, and if Kelly was honest with himself all along, that’s what he wants to do anyway, not all the ancillary CEO head coach stuff.

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3. CAN KIFFIN DELIVER A TITLE TO OLE MISS?

Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin (© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

They have been playing football at Ole Miss since 1902 and the Rebels never won 11 games in a season until coach Lane Kiffin delivered that mark last year with a convincing win over Penn State in the Peach Bowl.

Kiffin has done a really smart thing in Oxford – he’s grumbled about the state of college football, NIL and the transfer portal but he has also used those situations to his advantage to build one of the best rosters in the sport.

So good that the Rebels should be a top-five team heading into next season and Kiffin could have a team that makes a run at the national title.

The schedule is very favorable as the toughest away game is at LSU. Home games against Oklahoma and Georgia are favorable.

Quarterback Jaxson Dart is back and while losing running back Quinshon Judkins to Ohio State hurts, there has been a massive injection of talent – home-grown and from the portal. Thirty-seven players on the roster have come to Ole Miss from junior college or another school.

The Rebels added elite defensive players in defensive tackle Walter Nolen (Texas A&M), defensive end Princely Umanmielen (Florida) and linebacker Chris Paul (Arkansas).

Instead of whining about changes in the sport and doing nothing about it, Kiffin has certainly whined but he’s also reacted – and loaded up his roster for a legitimate shot at a national title.

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