Trio of Pitt Panthers heading for the NFL

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If/when Todd Graham is officially named as head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers, he’ll take over a depth chart that’s officially lost two of its most explosive playmakers on offense.

As expected, it was announced Monday evening that wide receiver Jon Baldwin and running back Dion Lewis have decided to leave eligibility on the table and make themselves available for the April draft.  Additionally, and surprisingly, fullback Henry Hynoski has decided to join his teammates in the draft pool.

In the aftermath of Dave Wannstedt‘s “resignation” last month, Baldwin announced on his way to throwing everyone under the bus that he was turning pro.  It was reported last week that, barring a change of heart, Lewis would be taking his leave of the Pitt football program.

Baldwin, a two-time first-team All-Big East performer, finished the season with 53 catches for 822 yards and five touchdowns. His career receiving yardage total of 2,337 ranks sixth all-time at Pitt, while his receptions total of 128 ranks eighth.

Lewis rushed for 2,860 yards in just two seasons at Pitt, eclipsing former standout LeSean McCoy’s school record for rushing yards as a freshman and sophomore. (McCoy had 2,816 yards from 2007-08.) Lewis ranks fourth overall on the Panthers’ career rushing list.

Hynoski was Pitt’s starting fullback each of the past two years.  Here are the statements from the three players on their decisions:

Jon Baldwin:
“After careful consideration and discussions with my mother and father, as well as helpful information from Coach Wannstedt regarding my draft status, I have decided to forego my senior season and enter the NFL Draft. I want to thank God for his blessings on my life, as well as my parents for all of their continued support. I want to also thank the University of Pittsburgh, Coach Wannstedt, Chris LaSala and the rest of the coaching staff for the opportunities and guidance they have given me in aiding my development as a student, as a player and as a person at the University. The direction they have provided throughout my three years at Pitt has prepared me for this next step in my life. I wish the University, my teammates, and fans of the program all the best in the future. I will forever be grateful to them for all they have done for me. Hail to Pitt!”

Henry Hynoski:
“After a long discussion with my close family members I feel that the current time is my best opportunity to fulfill my life-long dream of entering the NFL Draft. Along with information I received about my potential draft status, I will earn my degree in April in business marketing. I want to thank Coach Wannstedt, Coach Cignetti and Coach Walker for the wonderful opportunity they have given me to succeed at this outstanding university. I would also like to thank the people of Pittsburgh, as well as my hometown, for their constant support throughout my years here. I wish the best of luck to my team members and I look forward to following the future successes of the Pitt program.”

Dion Lewis Statement:
“After significant discussion and contemplation with my family and coaches, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce today that I am declaring myself eligible for this spring’s NFL Draft. I want to thank the University of Pittsburgh, particularly Coach Wannstedt and his staff, for the opportunities afforded me during the last two years. I look forward to the challenges facing me as an NFL rookie, and I believe my time here at the University of Pittsburgh under Coach Wannstedt’s tutelage has prepared me extremely well for the demands awaiting me at the next level.”

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.

Toledo posts, then deletes, tweet offering to change mascot to Shrek

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There are plenty of annoying trends on Twitter, but perhaps the worst is the “I’ll do X if this gets retweeted X-thousand amount of times.” I blame Wendy’s.

But blanket policies are never a good way to go through life, and an exception was made on Tuesday when Toledo offered to change its mascot from a rocket to Shrek with 500,000 retweets.

Sadly, some dreams are simply too beautiful to live in this fallen world, and the tweet was outed to be a hoax. “We are definitely not changing the school mascot to Shrek,” Toledo media relations specialist Christine Billau told USA Today. “The tweet was meant to be fun, but it caused too much of a distraction.”

Meanwhile, Bowling Green gleefully hopped on the dog pile with both elbows pointed out.

UMass grad transfer lineman narrows choices to Auburn, UCLA, USC

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It’s not yet known to where Jack Driscoll will transfer, but the field has been significantly narrowed.

Earlier this offseason, Driscoll decided to transfer from UMass.  Tuesday, the offensive tackle confirmed to Rivals.com that he’s down to three schools as a potential landing spot — Auburn, UCLA and USC.

Neither football program will have to wait long for a decision as Driscoll expects to make an announcement Wednesday.  Driscoll had taken an official visit to all three of the campuses prior to whittling down his transfer to-do list.

“It will come down to one of those three schools,” the lineman told AuburnSports.com. “I feel like all three of the schools would be a good fit.”

Driscoll will graduate from UMass early next month, and will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever program he selects.  The upcoming season will be the first of two years of eligibility the 6-5, 294-pound lineman has remaining.

After starting eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, with most of those starts coming at left guard, he started all 12 games in 2017.  All of those starts this past season came at right tackle for the football-independent Minutemen. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent first team while he earned second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors for good measure.