Meyer emphatically denies role in Newton imbroglio

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As the Cam Newton soap opera continues to dominate college football headlines, Urban Meyer is denying in no uncertain terms that he isn’t a part of the production.

The latest chapter of the Newton saga involves alleged academic cheating while at Florida and that the current Auburn quarterback was facing expulsion from the school early in 2009.  That single-sourced report was written by FOX Sports.com‘s Thayer Evans, who reportedly has a more-than-casual friendship with Meyer.

That relationship served to add some significant fuel to the roaring rumor mill fire, that Meyer is behind the push to leak disparaging information about Newton.  It also forced the Florida head coach to issue a swift denial of the speculation.

“Our entire focus right now is on preparing for our biggest game of the year against South Carolina,” Meyer said. “For anyone to think that I or anyone on our staff may have leaked information about private student records to the media doesn’t know us very well. It’s a ridiculous claim and simply not true.”

While this latest report would have no impact whatsoever on Newton’s eligibility at Auburn, the school felt the need to release a statement this morning, a subtly blistering attack on those who have “stoop[ed] to that level… in tearing down a young man’s reputation.”

“In the past 24 hours, a lot of allegations have surfaced that date back two years ago and further,” AU athletic director Jay Jacobs said. “These allegations and rumors about Cam Newton are unfortunate and sad because they seem intent on tearing down the reputation of a young man who has done everything we’ve asked him to do. Cam has been and continues to be completely honest with us.

“Cam is, by all accounts, a great kid. Any discussion of academic records is a clear violation of federal privacy laws. We will not go down that path or stoop to that level as others have apparently done. We will, however, emphatically say that Cam is eligible to play football at Auburn University both academically and athletically. I am proud of this young man and the progress he has made to be a better football player and a better man. We are truly blessed that Cam is a part of the Auburn family, and we support him 100 percent.”

Regardless, what this boils down to is an apparent smear campaign and hatchet job all rolled into one embarrassing attempt at character assassination.  The timing of these unnamed sources suddenly crawling out of the gutter woodwork nearly two years after the fact tells you all you need to know about a situation that smells as bad as any that’s hit the national landscape in years.

Arizona’s Rod Smith named OC at Illinois

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The postseason coaching carousel continues to spin, with Lovie Smith the latest to make a key addition to his staff.

Rod Smith, it was confirmed by the school Friday, has been hired by Smith to serve as the next offensive coordinator at Illinois.  In addition to his coordinating duties, Smith will also serve as quarterbacks coach as well.

Smith replaces Garrick McGee, who was fired two days before Christmas after two seasons with the Fighting Illini.

“Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois,” Smith said. “His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here. Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops.”

Smith had spent the past six seasons as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona.  With Rich Rodriguez‘s dismissal earlier this month, it was expected Smith wouldn’t be retained by new boss Kevin Sumlin, whose hiring was confirmed over the weekend.

Smith heads to Champaign armed with experience in the Big Ten, coaching quarterbacks and co-coordinating Indiana’s offense in 2011 as well as spending 2008-10 as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach.

Stanford’s Ryan Beecher diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

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One member of the Stanford football program has been dealing with a fairly serious health issue off the field, the school announced Friday.

Ryan Beecher revealed in a statement that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last month.  The inside linebacker has been undergoing treatments to fight the disease, although he remains enrolled in classes at the university.

Per the player, he intends to return to playing football for the Cardinal, although a timeline wasn’t specified.

“I look forward to making a full and healthy recovery,” a portion of Beecher’s statement read. “”With the help and support of my family, friends and teammates, I remain inspired to once again contribute to the Cardinal football team.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, non-Hodgkin lymphoma “is cancer that originates in your lymphatic system, the disease-fighting network spread throughout your body. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, tumors develop from lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell.”

A redshirt sophomore, Beecher (pictured, left) played in 13 games this past season.

Peter Sirmon named new DC at Cal

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And now it makes a little more sense.

Earlier Friday, Louisville announced that Peter Sirmon had abruptly stepped down as the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals.  Less than two hours after that confirmation, Cal announced that Sirmon has been hired in the same position with the Bears.

Sirmon will also serve as inside linebackers coach.

“Peter Sirmon shares our vision for Cal football and is an ideal fit for our coaching staff,” head coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement. “I have had the pleasure of working with Peter on previous staffs and understand the value he will bring. Peter is an excellent football coach, a top-notch recruiter and talented in the development of players both on and off the field. He will be an excellent teacher of the game as well as a tremendous mentor for our student-athletes in all aspect of their lives.”

Sirmon just completed his first season with the Cardinals.  In his lone season, the U of L finished 70th in scoring defense (27.4 ppg) and 62nd in total defense (388.1 ypg); in the year prior to arrival, they were 71st (27.1 pp) and 59th (387 ypg), respectively, in those categories.

Prior to the U of L, Sirmon had served as the coordinator at Mississippi State for one season in 2016.

“I’m excited to be joining the University of California and reuniting with Justin Wilcox.” Sirmon said. “We are like-minded in what we believe and in our approaches to both football and life. I’m looking forward to coaching championship football at Cal and helping create the best possible experience for the student-athletes in this program both on and off the field.”

Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

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If it seemed to you like there were an inordinate number of early cannonballers jumping into the draft pool, you were correct.

Four days after the Jan. 15 deadline, the NFL Friday announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the April draft.  That sets a new record for early entrants, breaking the mark of 98 set in 2014.  The past two seasons, there were 95 and 96 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In 2015, there were just 74.

The SEC was hit hardest by attrition with 26 players leaving early, although the ACC wasn’t far behind at 24.  The Pac-12 was next among the Power Five conferences with 17, followed by the Big 12’s 13 and the Big Ten’s 11.

Among Group of Five leagues, Conference USA lost the most with four.  The Mountain West saw three go early, with the AAC (two), MAC (one) and Sun Belt (one) coming next in line.  There were also two non-FBS players who left early, as well as two from Notre Dame.

As far as individual schools go, there were three that lost six apiece — Florida State, LSU and Texas.  Alabama lost five, while Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC all lost four apiece.  Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Stanford and Tennessee were on the losing end of three players each.

In addition to the 106 granted special eligibility — they’ll be listed at the end — the NFL also granted eligibility to 13 players who the league writes “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements.” Those players are listed below:

» Jordan Akins, TE, UCF
» Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
» Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
» Will Clapp, C, LSU
» Terrell Edmunds, DB, Virginia Tech
» Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
» Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
» Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
» Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
» Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
» Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
» Tre'Quan Smith, WR, UCF
» Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Courtesy of the NFL, below is the complete list of 106 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft:

» Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
» Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE, Toledo
» Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
» Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
» Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas
» Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
» Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
» Jessie Bates, DB, Wake Forest
» Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
» Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
» Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
» Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
» Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
» Geron Christian, T, Louisville
» Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
» Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
» Vosean Crumbie, DB, Nevada
» J.J. Dallas, DB, Louisiana-Monroe
» James Daniels, C, Iowa
» Sam Darnold, QB, USC
» Carlton Davis, DB, Auburn
» Michael Dickson, P, Texas
» Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
» DeShon Elliott, DB, Texas
» Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
» Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine
» Nick Gates, T, Nebraska
» Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
» Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State
» Rasheem Green, DT, USC
» Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
» Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama
» Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
» Holton Hill, DB, Texas
» Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
» Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
» Mike Hughes, DB UCF
» Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
» Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky
» Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU
» Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
» J.C. Jackson, DB, Maryland
» Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
» Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
» Derwin James, DB, FSU
» Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
» Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
» Courtel Jenkins, DT, Miami
» Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
» Ronald Jones, RB, USC
» John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
» Arden Key, LB, LSU
» Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
» Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
» Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
» Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
» Tavares Martin, WR, Washington State
» Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State
» Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
» Tarvarus McFadden, DB, Florida State
» R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
» Reginald McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
» Quenton Meeks, DB, Stanford
» Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
» D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
» Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
» Nick Nelson, DB, Wisconsin
» Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
» Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
» Dwayne Orso-Bacchus, T, Oklahoma
» Da’Ron Payne, NT, Alabama
» Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
» Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
» Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
» D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State
» Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
» Will Richardson, T, NC State
» Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
» Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
» Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Miss
» Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
» Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
» Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
» Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
» Andre Smith, LB, UNC
» Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
» Van Smith, DB, Clemson
» Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
» Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
» Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
» Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
» Maea Teuhema, T, Southeastern Louisiana
» Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
» Kevin Toliver, DB, LSU
» Travonte Valentine, NT, LSU
» Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
» Vita Vea, NT, Washington
» Mark Walton, RB, Miami
» Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
» Chris Warren, RB, Texas
» Toby Weathersby, T, LSU
» Jordan Whitehead, DB, Pittsburgh
» JoJo Wicker, DT, Arizona State
» Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
» Connor Williams, T, Texas
» Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue