Penn State, UGA young guns give ray of hope for future

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Coming into the season, John Brantley replacing Tim Tebow at Florida was the overriding storyline when it came to quarterbacks who would be starting full-time for the first time in their collegiate careers in 2010.

Brantley’s debut Saturday afternoon was, shall we say, less than stellar.  Another pair of first-time starters, however, showed against admittedly inferior competition that fans can be comfortable in the knowledge that there’s quality upside at the position.

Both Penn State’s Robert Bolden and Georgia’s Aaron Murray were on center stage this afternoon, the former as a true freshman and the latter as a redshirt freshman.  And both, statistically speaking, were outstanding.

In Bolden’s case, it’s one of the more amazing stories of the young season.  The true freshman was unable to enroll early and thus didn’t participate in spring practice this year, instead arriving in the summer after his competition for the job got what was thought to be a significant leg up the previous six months.  That was strike one.  Strike two was the fact that Joe Paterno had never in his 44 previous years in Happy Valley started a true freshman at quarterback in the opener.

Instead of looking and taking a called strike three, Bolden took his rips at the plate and eventually went yard in summer camp, drawing raves for his outstanding preseason performance and, against many long odds, officially beating out three other challengers for the job earlier this week.  And in his first start, Bolden showed exactly why the Penn State coaching staff had no other choice but to put a college quarterbacking virgin under center.

In PSU’s 44-14 win over Div. 1-AA Youngstown State, Bolden was 21-of-29 for 239 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.  In the portions of the game I was able to catch, the only thing more impressive than the freshman’s cannon for an arm was decision-making ability that belied his youthfulness.  As I wrote on Twitter (follow us, while we’re here), the kid just looks like a quarterback and a future star at the position.

Oh, and Bolden accomplished all of this while playing in the shadow of the graduated Darryl Clark, one of the most underrated college QBs of the last decade.

While not nearly the “rags-to-riches” story that was Bolden, Murray was impressive in his own right given where he’d come from.  Redshirted last season, Murray entered spring practice in a three-way battle for the starting job.  Exiting spring, and following the dismissal of one of the challengers, Murray had a stranglehold on the job.

At least for one day, Murray repaid that confidence.

On their way to an easy win over Louisiana-Lafayette — UGA was up 55-7 with less than seven minutes left as this is being written — Murray completed 17-of-26 passes for 194 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.  Additionally, Murray rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown in roughly three quarters of work before giving way to Hutson Mason.

As for Brantley, well, he didn’t get inured by one of Mike Pouncey‘s wayward shotgun “snaps”.  That’s one of the more positive things you could say about that debut.  Bogged down by that head-scratching issue, as well as drops and a general offensive malaise for most of the game, Brantley’s stats were very pedestrian: 17-of-25, 114 yards and two touchdowns in the closer-than-it-looked 34-12 win over Miami of Ohio.

There’s little doubt Brantley possesses nearly every physical tool you want in a college QB.  Now, it’s just a matter of working out the kinks and synching up an offense that’s spent the past three years leaning heavily on the departed Tebow.  At least, that’s what head coach Urban Meyer & Company are banking on.

Again, it was just the first of many, many games for these three players.  Much like you shouldn’t put too much stock in the “greatness” of Bolden and Murray considering their level of competition, one shouldn’t look for a roof from which to cannonball off of if you’re part of Gator Nation.

All three players hold tremendous promise.  It’s just after one game, the hope is shining a little bit brighter for two of ’em.

Third ex-Vandy football player sentenced to 15 years for rape

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A third former Vanderbilt football player will spend a sizable portion of his adult life behind bars.

In June of this year, Brandon Banks was found guilty on one count each of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery related to a 2013 gang rape of an unconscious woman. Friday, Banks was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In July of last year, one of Banks’ former teammates, Cory Batey, was sentenced to 15 years after being found guilty of aggravated rape. Four months later, another former Vandy football player, Brandon Vandenburg, was sentenced to 17 years after being found guilty of the same charge as Batey. The judge gave Vandenburg a longer sentence than Batey because the former was the leader in the attack and betrayed the woman’s trust.

Banks, Vandenburg, Batey and another ex-Vandy football player, Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenziewere initially charged Aug. 9, 2013, with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery each after a police investigation determined that the four had raped an unconscious woman.

On June 28 of 2013, Vanderbilt announced that four unnamed players had been indefinitely suspended amid reports that the players were connected to an alleged sex crimes case.  The next day, Vandy officials further clarified the players’ statuses, releasing a statement announcing the dismissals of the four.  That release further added that none of the four will be permitted to return to campus without permission from the office of student conduct and academic integrity.

McKenzie has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.  He has agreed to testify against his former teammates in exchange for what he hopes is a lighter sentence.

Georgia Tech dismisses leading rusher Dedrick Mills

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I believe this one would qualify as a significant development.

In a very brief press release, Georgia Tech announced Friday afternoon that Dedrick Mills has been dismissed by Paul Johnson from the football team.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of Tech athletics department rules.

The head coach is expected to meet with the media following practice later on this afternoon.

Regardless of the specific reason for the dismissal, Mills’ departure serves as yet another blow for the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.

Last season, Mills’ 771 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns led all Tech ball carriers.  169 of those yards came in the bowl win over Kentucky.  Mills put up all of those numbers as a true freshman despite being suspended on two different occasions for a total of three games.

Mills’ dismissal is the second huge blow to their 2017 running game as Marcus Marshall, who was second on the team last season with 624 yards, announced in late November that he would be transferring from Tech.  Less than a month later, he moved on to James Madison.

With those twin departures, Clinton Lynch‘s 415 yards last season makes him the team’s leading returning rusher.

LOOK: Notre Dame unveils alternate uniforms honoring Knute Rockne’s legacy

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As you may know, I’m hardly a fan of the alternate uniform craze.  These, though, I can very easily get behind.

Notre Dame on Friday released images of new uniforms the Fighting Irish will wear for their Nov. 18 game against Navy.  From helmet to shoes, the new duds will serve as a head-to-toe tribute to the legendary Knute Rockne.

The players will all have the name “ROCKNE” emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys, while the helmets replicate the leather ones of Rockne’s era.  The cleats also will pay homage to the era in which Rockne, also a former player at the school, coached the Fighting Irish to five national championships from 1918-1930.  In those 13 seasons, the Irish lost just 12 games under Rockne.

Additionally, the sleeves will be adorned with the words from one of Rockne’s most famous speeches.



Penn State OKs James Franklin’s new deal, reportedly worth nearly $6 million annually

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James Franklin is now in some very heady financial company.

Friday morning, Penn State’s Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation, as expected, unanimously approved an amended contract for their head football coach.  While no details were released — that’s expected to happen later today — it’s believed the amended deal will extend through the 2023 season.  Franklin’s old contract ran through 2019.

Additionally, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that the new six-year deal will average $5.8 million annually.  What Franklin’s compensation for 2017 and beyond will, again, be divulged later on today.

The average of $5.8 million a year would make him the fourth-highest-paid coach in college football, behind only Alabama’s Nick Saban and a pair of fellow Big Ten coaches — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

Set to enter his fourth season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin has an overall record of 25-15 at the school.  After a pair of 7-6 seasons to begin his tenure, 2016 was a breakout one for the program as they went 11-3 and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2008.

Expectations are extremely high coming off that breakout season as the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll.