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.”

After stops at TCU, Arkansas State, Cameron Echols-Luper to give WKU a try

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Maybe the third time will be a charm for Cameron Echols-Luper?

On his personal Instagram account Wednesday, Echols-Luper revealed that he has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at Western Kentucky.  According to the Bowling Green Daily News, the decision was made following a visit to the school earlier this week.

As a graduate transfer, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately in 2017 for the Hilltoppers. However, he has to finish up some schoolwork at his former school, Arkansas State, before officially moving on to WKU.

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Echols-Luper began his collegiate career at TCU in 2013, transferring to ASU in 2015. After sitting out that season, he was third on the Red Wolves in receptions (26) and receiving yards (407). His 15.7 yards per reception was second on the team.

Ex-USC DL Noah Jefferson won’t be transferring to Arizona after all

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In early March, Noah Jefferson announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Arizona.  Nearly five months later?

Never mind.

Wednesday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Jefferson will not, as previously expected, be playing for the Wildcats this season.  No reason for the abrupt and unexpected about-face was given.

The coach did, though, intimate that a future pairing between the player and the program isn’t out of the question.

Jefferson wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2017 for the Wildcats even if his move to the desert had come to fruition. He would’ve, though, had two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018 at his disposal.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson played in 14 games, starting one of those, as a true freshman. After starting the season-opening loss to Alabama last season, Jefferson never played another down for USC.

Hugh Freeze makes first public comments since exiting Ole Miss in disgrace

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For the first time since his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze has spoken publicly.  Somewhat.

In what was described as a brief interview with USA Today Sports Wednesday, the former Ole Miss head coach said his family and church have helped him get through the storm of the last few days. When asked if his family was standing by him, Freeze responded, “Oh, gosh, yeah.”

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze told the website. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” the former head coach added.

The stunning news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.

Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

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It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.