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.

David Beaty elevates Cassius Sendish from GA to Kansas safeties coach

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It didn’t take long nor did David Beaty have to look far for Kansas’ new safeties coach.

The school confirmed on Thursday morning that graduate assistant Cassius Sendish, a former Jayhawks team captain and defensive back, would be taking over as the team’s new safeties coach to complete the staff for 2018.

“I am honored and proud to represent the University of Kansas football program,” said Sendish in a statement. “I hold this place near and dear to my heart and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at my alma mater. I can’t thank Coach Beaty and the rest of the football staff enough for allowing me to come aboard and be a part of something special.”

Sendish replaces Todd Bradford on the staff after he made the rather head-turning move to leave coaching and take a new job in the oil industry. Recently hired Bill Miller will continue to coach linebackers while the newest hire will team up with defensive coordinator Clint Bowen to handle the secondary.

There will be plenty of time for everybody to settle into their new on-field roles as the Jayhawks will open up spring practice on March 31st.

Heisman winner Johnny Manziel’s NFL comeback makes stop at San Diego Pro Day

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Former USC quarterback Sam Darnold held his Pro Day on campus Wednesday and likely solidified himself as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Less than 24 hours later though, a former first round pick seemed to draw just as much attention a few hours south of Los Angeles.

That’s because Heisman Trophy winner and ex-Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel was down at FCS powerhouse San Diego’s Pro Day throwing passes and helping out a few of the Toreros’ NFL hopefuls in decidedly un-Southern California type conditions.

Few players had a more buzzed-about Pro Day than Johnny Football did back at Texas A&M and while he’s not throwing passes for a team just yet, at least it was cool to see the former superstar return to a campus with a football in hand Thursday. No word on if this gets Manziel closer to a comeback at the next level but it sounds as though it certainly didn’t hurt one of the most excited college football players in recent memory.

Willie Taggart making single-digit numbers at Florida State up for grabs in spring practice

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Spring practice for a new head coach brings tons of changes for a team as they get used to a new way of doing things. One of the bigger culture changes might be the transition Florida State is undergoing from Jimbo Fisher to Willie Taggart.

While rap music at practice and a quick tempo are noticeable, so too are the numbers players are wearing at practice. It seems there’s a reason behind that change as Taggart is making players earn single-digit numbers instead of being able to carry them over from last season.

“I know when I was growing up the single digits went to the dudes. That’s kind of how we want it,” the new head coach said, according to the Associated Press. “Not everyone can be a single digit. Getting it is being one of the best.”

Taggart, who was No. 1 when he played back in the day at Western Kentucky, is not playing favorites at all when it comes to stripping the single-digits from jerseys. According to the AP report, former five-star and current star running back Cam Akers was wearing No. 23 instead of the No. 4 he wore in 2017.

Credit to the sophomore as he said that he liked the tactic but that kind of thinking might change by the end of spring practice if he doesn’t get his number back.

Dan Mullen is running gassers with the Gators when Florida players miss class

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If you’ve been a part of a football team at any level, chances are high that you are intimately familiar with running a gasser. Depending on how many you were forced to run, you might even have some traumatic memories of running down to the line and back.

New Florida head coach Dan Mullen is trying to instill a new culture in Gainesville with his first spring practice and one of the ways he’s trying to do that is establishing penalties for Gators players missing class. In a unique twist though, the coach isn’t just blowing the whistle and watching guys run up and down the field —  he’s joining them.

“Yeah, they weren’t real happy,” Mullen told 247Sports’ GatorBait site. “That was pretty simple, it’s about going to class. I don’t control that, they control that. If you’re late for class, everybody that’s late for class we run a gasser for. So if they don’t want to run gassers, then just show up on time for class and we don’t run gassers. We’ll get extra work in.

“I’m part of the team, so I should run the gassers too… Hey, if we make mistakes, we’re all going to pay the price. Whether it’s discipline issues, academic issues, football issues, training issues, we all pay the price. So I’m going to pay the price just like them.”

Not many head coaches would take the same path as Mullen but kudos to putting his hand in the dirt and running with his team. Something says a few of his players who struggled to get up and down the field were not to thrilled even if they had their head coach running alongside them though.