Cam Newton runs away with the Heisman

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Thanks to a sizable bloc of sanctimonious voters, it wasn’t a record-breaking night in New York City for Cam Newton, but it sure the hell was a runaway one.

As expected.  And deserved.

In one of the least surprising Heisman votes in the past (fill in number of years/decades here), the Auburn quarterback capped his brilliant on-the-field performance in 2010 by being named as the 76th winner of the Heisman Trophy.  The junior joins Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan as the only players in school history to win the award.

“Thank you to the Auburn family,” Newton said in statements distributed by the school. “Thank you for all the support that you have given me during these trying times. I also want to give a special thanks to my teammates. Without those guys I wouldn’t be here right now getting the recognition.”

“There is no question that Cameron is highly deserving of the most prestigious honor in college football, and I am so proud of him,” said head coach Gene Chizik. “Not only has Cam been the best player in college football this year, he has also been an incredible leader for our football team. Winning the Heisman Trophy is also a tremendous honor for our entire football team, our coaches and our support staff. This is a special day for Cam and for Auburn University, and I feel blessed to be a small part of it.”

Newton’s domination in the voting matched his play in the first 13 games of the Tigers’ unbeaten season; he finished with 2263 points, 1,184 points ahead of the second-place finisher.

The fact that Newton lapped the field was far from a surprise; the only question, really, heading into the ceremony was whether or not he would break percentage records in categories like margin of victory and first-place votes.  That didn’t happen, thanks again to the 105 (out of 886) sanctimonious ones that didn’t include him on their ballots.  It was still an overwhelming win for Newton — 11th biggest margin of victory, and his point total was sixth highest — and an emotional one as well as he appeared on the verge of tears several times while making his acceptance speech.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the order the other three finalists fell in behind Newton.  In somewhat of a mild upset, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck finished as the 2010 Heisman runner-up.  It’s the second straight year a Cardinal player finished second in the voting; running back Toby Gerhart finished No. 2 in 2009 to Alabama’s Mark Ingram in the closest vote in Heisman history.

Oregon running back LaMichael James, thought to be a near lock for No. 2, finished third in the voting, followed by Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.

While they weren’t in New York City for the ceremony, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, TCU’s Andy Dalton and Stanford’s Owen Marecic rounded out the top ten.

In the end, it wasn’t a record-breaking win for Newton, but the hardware ended up in the right set of hands.  Even all of the noise swirling around the NCAA’s investigation into his recruitment couldn’t drown out one of the most brilliant displays of football seen at the collegiate level in many a year.

Who knows whether he’ll get to keep the Heisman, but there’s little doubt that, based on the evidence available both on and off the field, he’s worthy in the here and now.

The Heisman voters got it right, but they didn’t get it as right as they could have.  Or should have.

UPDATED 10:39 p.m. ET: Here are the expanded vote totals for the top ten in this year’s Heisman race.

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

Brandon Wade/AP Images for NFLPA
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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.