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2011: A look ahead

Carnac

What’s that you say?  It’s barely stopped raining confetti following Auburn’s BcS title game win over Oregon and we’re already talking about a 2011 season that won’t start for another eight months?

You damn right we are.  And you know why?  ‘Cause that’s how we roll.  Or something.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at how at how things may play out in 2011.  And, based on our look ahead to the 2010 season, you don’t have much to worry about if there’s anything negative about your school below.

FIVE COMPELLING STORYLINES

1. The Conference Shuffle
You may have forgotten, but several schools will be ditching long-time conference homes for some new league digs in the coming months.  Nebraska to the Big Ten from the Big 12.  Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 from the Big 12 and Mountain West, respectively.  Boise State from the WAC to the Mountain West.  Perhaps the most intriguing angles will come from the two BcS conferences with new additions; specifically, how will the split into two six-team divisions and the addition of a conference title games affect the leagues as it pertains to the BcS?   It’s hard to say at this point in time how this mini-expansion apocalypse will impact the various conferences, but it’s certainly a new frontier these leagues will be plowing.  And something that bears watching as conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12 continue to sniff around adding even more schools in the coming years.

2. Can the Big Ten Recover From New Year’s Day Bowl Embarrassment?
Last year at this time, we were asking if the Big Ten had displayed earnest growth based on their performance during the 2009-2010 bowl season or if it was merely just a one-year blip.  The 0-5 massacre on the first day of 2011 suggests the latter is the case.  We all know — or at least should know — that bowl performance is not indicative of conference strength one way or the other.  However, it’s a number that’s used to fuel national perceptions, and right now the Big Ten is back nationally to where they were two years ago: a sloth-like, middle-of-the-road conference that has a long ways to go before they climb even with the likes of the SEC.

3. Can Texas Two-Step Back to Their Rightful Place?
Any way you parse it, the 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Longhorns.  Not only was UT 5-7 overall, but they finished an unsightly 2-5 at home — including losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor.  Again, at home.  Following that disaster, Mack Brown overhauled most of his coaching staff either of his own volition or out of necessity, including bringing in new coordinators on both sides of the ball.  There’s simply too much talent on that roster for yet another disastrous year in what could very well be Brown’s swan song.  Oops, did we type that out loud?

4. Last Call for JoePa-hol… Maybe?
Despite rumors that were running rampant that Joe Paterno would be forced to step down due to health concerns, the legendary head coach will be back for his 147th season as Penn State’s head coach in 2011.  But, will it be his last?  Paterno is entering the final year of a three-year contract, and administration stated after a meeting with Paterno this past weekend that his future won’t be discussed until after the ’11 season.  He’s gotta go at some point; will this be the year?

5. The NFL Labor Issue
Based on the rhetoric coming from both sides of the NFL’s labor issue, there seems to be a very good chance that the players will face a lockout at the hands of the owners.  There’s also a very real possibility that the lockout could drag into the regular season, costing the NFL games… and leaving college football as the only “major” game in town.  We’ve heard from a couple of members of athletic departments that filling that football vacuum and sliding some games to Sunday “is something that has been talked about and will continue to be talked about if (the labor projections) continue” to look gloomy.  The NFL will always be king; college football, though, could very well be a big beneficiary of that league’s stupidity.

WAY-TOO-EARLY HEISMAN ROLL CALL

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford — The quarterback surprised some by returning to the Cardinal for another season.  It would be no surprise at all if he winds up in New York City in December holding the same stiff-armed trophy he finished runner-up for late last year.  With the coaching change at Stanford, this could be a dicey player to stick at the top of the Heisman list, especially if athletic director Bob Bowlsby decides to eschew the in-house approach for a replacement.

2. Darron Thomas, Oregon — The Ducks quarterback should’ve received more Heisman attention than he did in 2010.  That will be rectified in 2011 as the junior-to-be is too talented as a runner/passer to ignore much longer, the spotty play in the national title game notwithstanding.

3. Cam Newton, Auburn — After the way the quarterback dominated SEC defenses in 2010 on his way to winning the Heisman, why would he not start at the top of the 2011 list?  Simple: only one player has won back-to-back Heismans, and that happened way back in the seventies.  Of course, any inclusion of Newton is predicated on Newton returning — BIG if — instead of leaping to the NFL after just one full season as a starter at this level, which we will know no later than Saturday.

4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina — We believe it’s a federal law to throw a curve ball into the middle of these lists, so why not toss the talented soon-to-be sophomore running back into the early mix?  Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman.  Logic would dictate that Lattimore will receive even more of the workload after proving himself to head coach Steve Spurrier to be a reliable cog in the offense.  Logic would further dictate that, with a year of seasoning and three-fifths of a solid offensive line returning, Lattimore will be able to improve his 4.8 yards per carry from this past season.

5. Kellen Moore, Boise State — Based on Moore’s first three years with the Broncos, he would appear to be a mortal lock for at least another trip to New York City, provided he can remain healthy and the wheels don’t fall of the BSU freight train.  The senior-to-be has averaged 3,600 yards, 33 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his three years as a starter, all the while completing just over 68 percent of his passes.

6. LaMichael James, Oregon — The nation’s leading rusher in 2010, James, like Luck, decided to eschew a shot at NFL riches for another season of college ball.  For whatever reason, despite his productivity, James does not receive the hype and/or love from the media that he seemingly deserves.  Is he being viewed as a “system back”?  We’ve gotten that impression from some and, although we believe it to be unfair, it’s not likely to abate at any point in the near future.

Bonus Pick: Matt Barkley, USC — Call this one a serious hunch, but we feel that the USC quarterback is on the precipice of fulfilling all of his immense high school hype and throwing some serious numbers out onto the Heisman table.  Plus, it will make NBC Sports.com‘s college football editor very happy, and could potentially help curb his incessant whining over the state of the Trojans.

RICH RODRIGUEZ MEMORIAL COACHING HOT SEAT

1. Paul Wulff, Washington State
The man is 5-32 in three years with the Cougars and barely made it to a fourth.  If he doesn’t show marked improvement in the won-loss ledger, you can bet he won’t get a fifth year and will instead be thrown out on his Wazzu.

2. Mark Richt, Georgia
During his 10 years in Athens, Richt has only finished a season with a winning percentage below .667 twice.  Oddly enough, both of those seasons have come in the past two seasons.  The native Dawgs are getting restless and, with a new boss sitting in the athletic director’s office with a winning mandate for the football program, Richt had better win this season.  Or else.

3. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
Slick Rick returned to his alma mater with great fanfare… and has proceeded to defecate all over the bed.  All Neuheisel has done is wrap a pair of 4-8 seasons around a 7-6 second year during his three seasons with the Bruins.  Perhaps most disturbing is an utterly inept offense that spits and sputters despite the presence of a former quarterback in Neuheisel and an offensive genius in Norm Chow.  What it will take for Neuheisel to remain at UCLA beyond 2011 remains to be seen, but it sure as hell will have to be more than what Slick Rick has done thus far.

4. Ron Zook, Illinois
No coaching hot seat would be complete without the perpetually on-fire backside of The Zookster.  Zook bought himself a little bit of time with a seven-win season that included a bowl win, but he’s still just 28-45 in six years in Champaign.  Even more unacceptable is the fact that he’s 16-32 in the Big Ten and has finished above .500 in conference play just once — the Illini’s Rose Bowl season waaay back in 2007.  It appears Zook will get one more season to show the program is taking significant strides.  Then again, dude has the same number of lives as a couple of felines, so we’ll see.

5. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
The fourth-year coach was thiiis close to getting the axe following the 2010 season, but received a reprieve.  Based on what we’ve been told, it will be his one and only commutation, especially since the Sun Devils are the early pick by some to win the Pac-12 South.  In other words, Erickson might want to consider winning post-haste.

FIVE RISERS
1. Alabama
C’mon, this might be the biggest no-brainer of the bunch.  Is there really any explanation needed as to why the Tide, which finished No. 10 following the blowout of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, is very likely to find their way back into the Top 5 for the vast majority of the upcoming season?  Then again, the quarterback position…

2. Syracuse
Oh yeah; I went there.  Consider this my one flyer in this category.  And, no, I don’t see the Orange as a Top 10 team at any point during the ’11 season, but, given the strength — or lack thereof — in the Big East, Doug Marrone has the opportunity to do something special as early as this coming year.  Hell, UConn made a BcS bowl; why can’t the ‘Cuse?

3. Texas
Almost as big a no-brainer as ‘Bama.  Again, too much talent on that 85-man roster, and Mack Brown is too good of a coach, to allow yet another debacle to take place.

4. Mississippi State
OK, I lied; there’ll be two flyers in this category.  A 9-4 season that included close losses to Auburn and Arkansas, and a big blowout win in the Gator Bowl has the Bulldogs set up for a leap from perennial also-ran to legitimate contender in Dan Mullen’s third year in Starkville.

5. Florida/Florida State
A new head coach at UF seems to have reinvigorated the entire Gator football program, something we fully expect to carry over into a rebound ’11 season.  A first-year head coach at FSU has no doubt brought new life to Seminole Nation, as evidenced by a recruiting class that could easily finish in the top three in the country.  It’s a better sport when programs like these two are relevant.  Expect that to be the case in 2011.

FIVE TUMBLERS
1. Virginia Tech
Yes, Frank Beamer & Company seem to reload year after year, but losing one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Tyrod Taylor (no relation) as well as two of your top running backs to early entry is not exactly the optimal recipe for sustaining success.

2. Missouri
Blame this hunch solely on attrition.  When you lose your best player on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it’s at the quarterback position, and one of your best on the defensive side of the ball, there’s a very good chance for at least a brief step back for the Mizzou program.

3. Ohio State
Shocked at this one?  You shouldn’t be.  Four offensive starters suspended for, barring a successful appeal that results in a reduction, the first five games of the season does not portend well regardless of the schedule.  Down one-third of your starting offense, suddenly games against Miami (Fla.) and Colorado don’t look like such gimmes, and the game against Big Ten co-champ Michigan State gets that much tougher.

4. UConn
Randy Edsall was Huskies football.  As much as we didn’t like the hire for Maryland, we think his departure will have a very negative impact on UConn, which go only eight votes in the final AP Top 25 poll, at least for the short-term.  Then again, they do still reside in the Big East…

5. Michigan State
Personally, I thought the Spartans’ magical 11-2 run was a mirage.  They will prove me correct in 2011 as they have to go on the road to face Notre Dame — a team I nearly put in the Five Risers — Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as take on Wisconsin at home.

EARLY-BIRD TOP FIVE*

1. Oklahoma: I didn’t buy into the preseason Sooner hype last offseason; I’m ready to this year.  Wholeheartedly and unequivocally.

2. Oregon: Darron Thomas, LaMichael James & Company returning?  Something tells me that No. 2 might end up being too low.

3. TCU: Sure, the Horned Frogs lose some key performers — chief among them quarterback Andy Dalton — but the combination of a likely Top Five placement in the preseason polls, a “favorable” schedule and a helluva football program built by Gary Patterson has the private school poised to remain on the fringes of title contention for years to come.  Especially when their schedule really gets easy with the move to the Big East.

4. Stanford: Jim Harbaugh left a helluva foundation for whoever it is that takes over, especially if the Cardinal stays in-house — which they should — for a replacement.  Oh, and Andrew Luck somewhat unexpectedly returning for another year?  That’s enough to at least start them off inside the Top Five.

5. Boise State: The move to the Mountain West should help the Broncos’ “street cred”, even just a little and even with the loss of Utah from the conference.  Chris Petersen reaffirmed his commitment to BSU, and Kellen Moore returns for one more season on the blue turf.  What’s not to like about their chances of competing yet again for a BcS slot… and maybe a spot in the national title game in New Orleans a year from now.

(*With this Top Five, and unlike the early Heisman Roll Call, I’m going with the assumption that Newton will leave early; if he doesn’t, Auburn would be my No. 2)

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Akron the new home for ex-Louisville WR Michaelee Harris

Central Florida v Louisville Getty Images

With his injury-plagues time at Louisville at an end, Michaelee Harris is hoping his move to the MAC will bring him better fortune.

Mark Blankenbaker of TheCrunchZone.com reported earlier this week that Harris has decided to continue his collegiate playing career for Terry Bowden at Akron.  And, because he will be a graduate transfer, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately for the Zips in 2015.

Harris came to the Cardinals with much promises, but health issues — specifically, knee issues — mostly derailed the lofty expectations.

A four-star member of the UofL’s 2010 recruiting class, Harris was rated as the No. 16 receiver in the country; the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 121 player overall according to Rivals.com.  Harris, though, missed all of his true freshman season with a knee injury.  In March of 2011, he tore a PCL in his knee during winter workouts, although he returned to lead the Cardinals in receptions (37) and receiving yards (455) during the regular season.

However, he missed his team’s bowl game with a torn ACL.  Then, in August of 2012, he sustained another torn ACL during summer camp and missed that entire season.

He stayed relatively healthy the past two seasons, catching 15 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns before the production dipped to 9-113-1.

As he missed two full seasons because of injury, he was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA.

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Braxton, Barrett closing in on full health, Urban says

J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller

As each day passes, it appears more and more likely that, barring a setback, all three of the combatants in Ohio State’s much-discussed quarterback competition will be fully healthy for the start of summer camp a month from now.

The latest update on the health of Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett comes courtesy of the man who will pull the trigger on a final decision, Urban Meyer.  At an Ohio football camp Wednesday, and amidst questions on naming a starter that he wasn’t even going to remotely entertain, the OSU head coach indicated both players are moving toward 100-percent health.

“The only thing that’s different is Braxton is pretty close to full speed,” Meyer said of Miller according to the Columbus Dispatch.

“J.T., I’d probably say, is 95 percent,” Meyer said, adding, “[t]hat was the biggest thing, [getting] them all healthy and get them ready to go.”

While Meyer stopped short of firmly stating that both will be 100-percent healthy for the start of camp early next month, that appears to be the direction each is headed. If/when both rejoin the fray — Miller didn’t participate in spring practice because of the shoulder injury that cost him all of 2014, while Barrett was limited because of the leg injury that cost him the postseason run — they’ll join postseason hero Cardale Jones in a competition that the staff hopes will end somewhere around mid-August.

Unless they just decide to take the advice of Barrett’s dad, that is.

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Likely starting Utah CB arrested in connection to robbery

Utah v Washington State

A member of the Utah football program is the latest college player to hold the “honor” of resetting the “Days Without An Arrest” meter back to double zeroes.

While details are extremely scant at the moment, the Deseret News is reporting that Dominique Hatfield has been arrested for investigation of aggravated robbery. Other than for what he was arrested, no specifics have been made available.

A school spokesperson told the News that the entire coaching staff is out of town and she only knows what she’s seen reported by the media. The paper did write that “in matters like this she said the school typically will let the legal system run its course, and the U. may have more to say once head coach Kyle Whittingham returns from vacation.”

If this legal situation affects Hatfield’s ability to get on the field in 2015, it would have a significant impact on the Utes’ defense.

Hatfield actually began his Utah career as a wide receiver, spending all of 2013 (four receptions, 84 yards) and one game in 2014 (1-9) before moving to the secondary for the second game of the 2014 season.  From then on, Hatfield started 10 of the 13 games at cornerback.

He exited spring practice as one of the likely starting corners.

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PHOTOS: Vols new Nike duds are actually quite nice and classy

Nike Vols

One day after Phil Knight announced he will be stepping down as the chairman of Nike, the apparel giant added a new college to its expanding family.  And, unlike they have done with some other schools, they kept it classy for one of the most historical significant football programs in the country.

Following up on months of speculation on just what they would look like, Tennessee revealed Wednesday its new uniforms across the board after ditching long-time supplier adidas and signing a financially-hefty agreement with rival Nike.  The agreement, which will include Nike providing uniforms for all of UT’s men’s and women’s sports,  is said to be worth $24 million over the life of the eight-year contract.

Below are a few photos of the new home and away football uniforms.  While there are some (minor) changes, Nike still maintained (mostly) a traditional look…

… with one epically awesome exception:

Those are the “Smokey Gray” uniforms.  And, if you look closely at the helmet, you’ll see the silhouette of the Smokey Mountains.  That, my friends, is awesome.

Well-done, Nike.  And kudos to UT for (mostly) sticking with what has traditionally worked uniform-wise in the past, with one magnificent twist that the younger generation you’re attempting to recruit to the Vols will certainly be drawn to.

(Photo credit: Tennessee athletics)

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Awkward Harbaugh interview flames out in spectacular, epic fashion

Jim Harbaugh AP

If you’re a fan of awkward and hilariously uncomfortable radio moments, the following will serve as your Christmas in July.

While some view his personality as “off-putting” or even “crazy,” others view Jim Harbaugh as a chatty and engaging character — provided he’s in the mood.  This morning, the new Michigan head coach was decidedly not in the mood.  Or doesn’t particularly care for this particular ESPN interviewer.  Or both.

Either way, Colin Cowherd‘s interview with Harbaugh will go down as one of the epically bad interviews in the history of televised radio.  Enjoy.  And be prepared to cringe.

 

Afterwards, Cowherd called it “the worst interview I’ve done in 14 years.”  He then added this Ohio State-tinged shot across Harbaugh’s bow.

At least one member of the media now charged with dealing with Harbaugh on her beat stuck up for the coach.

If you’re a fan of UM, you likely thought the interview was hilarious and were giving your coach atta boys from afar.  If you’re a non-Michigan fan/Michigan hater, you likely saw it an unnecessarily uncomfortable and will use it as yet another reason to despise both the man and the program.

Me?  I thought it was utterly hilarious because it was so uncomfortable.  With enigmatic sports figures like Harbaugh, you take the good with the, well, that.  And that was epic regardless of which side of the fence you reside.

UPDATED 2:27 p.m. ET: Not surprisingly, Harbaugh has taken to Twitter to address the radio “controversy.”

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USF losing assistant to… Appalachian State?

Stu Holt

This is something you don’t really see every day, especially this close to the start of summer camp and a new season.

A month or so prior to the start of that camp, Thayer Evans of SI.com is reporting, USF head coach Willie Taggart has an unexpected hole on his coaching staff, with special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Stu Holt reportedly leaving for a job at Appalachian State.  Just what position Holt will assume for the Sun Belt Conference member has yet to be confirmed, although the Mountaineers do have a need for a running backs coach.

Neither USF nor ASU have announced any changes to their respective coaching staffs.

Holt has been with the Bulls the past two seasons, first as just the special teams coordinator before adding tight ends coach to his job description for this past season.  He also held the title of Director of Player Personnel in 2013.  For the two years prior to that, he was on Taggart’s staff at Western Kentucky.

Given how late in the offseason this occurred, it’s very likely Taggart, like Wyoming, will split up Holt’s responsibilities among those currently on his staff and search for a permanent repalcement at the end of the 2015 season.

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Dependence Day: Navy officially joins AAC

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For the first 135 years of its existence, Navy played as a football independent.  With Independence Day just three days away, the Midshipmen have officially shed that football independence for its first-ever conference home.

What has been known was going to transpire for a more than a year has now come to fruition as the American Athletic Conference officially introduced Navy as the league’s 12th member.  Along with Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa, Navy will be a part of the AAC West.  The AAC East will consist of Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, Temple, UCF and USF.

The conference will conduct its first-ever championship game in its third season of existence, which will take place a week before the annual Army-Navy game.

“”I am proud and delighted to take this opportunity to welcome the United States Naval Academy into the American Athletic Conference as a football-playing member,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement. “We extend a warm welcome to Admiral Ted Carter, Superintendent of the Naval Academy, athletic director Chet Gladchuk, head football coach Ken Niumatalolo, his team and all the Midshipmen and administrative personnel of the Naval Academy as well as to United States Naval and Marine Corps servicemen and women, friends and fans throughout the world.

“As I have said on many occasions, the Midshipmen represent the best this country has to offer. We are proud and grateful for the service they render to our country, and we are privileged to have them in our Conference.”

After a non-conference date with Colgate in the season opener, and following a bye week, Navy will open up league play by hosting East Carolina Sept. 19 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Their first AAC road trip will take place the following week as the service academy travels to UConn.

The Oct. 31 game against USF will mark the first-ever meeting between the two FBS programs, as will the following week’s game against Memphis.

At the opposite end of the historical spectrum is Tulane, 19 total games played, and SMU, which has squared off with Navy a total of 16 times.

“Joining the American Athletic Conference has given us another goal,” said Niumatalolo. “Now, not only do we have the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy to play for, but a conference championship as well. I do know there are very good football teams in this league and it’s going to be a huge challenge for our program. Every week we will have a tough opponent to play.

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Jim Harbaugh: ‘We don’t run off players’

Brady Hoke, Ondre Pipkins

Late last week, Ondre Pipkins kicked up quite the ruckus by claiming he was essentially pushed out of the Michigan football program by new head coach Jim Harbaugh, athletic trainer Paul Schmidt and associate athletic director Jim Minick.  According to the transferring defensive lineman, Pipkins says he was pressured by those individuals to end his collegiate career by signing a medical scholarship form.

“After consulting with our medical team, we do not think it is in Ondre’s best interest as it relates to his health and welfare to play football, short or long-term,” a statement attributed to Harbaugh began. ” He remains on full scholarship and counts toward the 85-scholarship limit in pursuit of graduation from the University of Michigan.”

For the first time, Harbaugh addressed the situation with the media.  Not surprisingly, the coach’s view of how things transpired differed from his now-former player’s.

We don’t run off players,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com shortly after throwing out the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game. “I’ll speak for myself personally. When it comes to the health and safety of the players, that argument trumps all other arguments.”

Pipkins has had at least two significant injuries during his time with the Wolverines to go along with concussion issues.

In August of 2012 he sustained a neck injury that required a brief hospital stay, but went on to play 13 games. In October of 2013, he suffered a torn ACL in a win over Minnesota. Last season, he played in five games.

Pipkin was a five-star member of UM’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as one of the top defensive tackles in the country and the No. 14 player overall.

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Third USU Aggie released from hospital

Edmund Faimalo

Three down — and out — one to go.

Over the weekend, Utah State announced that two of its football players, senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from a hospital Sunday afternoon.  Adeoye and Taylor were two of five individuals, four of whom are football players, injured in a car wreck late last week.

Late Tuesday night, USU announced in a press release that a third Aggie, redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo (pictured), has been released from the hospital as well. Senior defensive lineman Travis Seefeldt is the lone remaining football player still hospitalized.

Seefeldt and Taylor exited spring practice as projected starters for the Aggies. Faimalo transferred into the program from a JUCO.

The fifth occupant of the vehicle, former USU softball player Sara Vasquez, remains hospitalized.  Her eligibility expired this past spring.

(Photo credit: Utah State athletics)

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UAB, Bill Clark in the midst of negotiating new contract

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks

Earlier this month as UAB confirmed it would revive its shuttered football program in either 2016 or, more feasibly, 2017, it was also confirmed that Bill Clark would remain the head coach.

One issue for Clark, though, is that his current contract only runs through 2016.  Given the initial decision to disband the program in the first place, the last thing Clark and his coaching staff needs is for rival schools to have additional ammunition on the recruiting trail in the form of a contract that’s set to expire next year.

Taking all things into consideration, Clark confirmed to al.com that he and the university are currently in the midst of negotiating a new contract.

“It’s going to be a commitment to myself and my family, and my staff that we want to be here, we’re going to be here,” Clark said. “But it’s our school saying, ‘Football is here to stay, this is our coach, this is his staff. We’re going to commit to him and the things it takes to do it the right way.'”

Based solely on his on-field work with the Blazers, Clark is deserving of a new deal.

In 2014, Clark’s first season at the school, the Blazers posted a 6-6 mark, the first time the team had finished a season with at least a .500 record since 2004. That’s the last time UAB was bowl-eligible, although the Blazers weren’t invited to play in a bowl game at the conclusion of this past season because of the institutional uncertainty over the sport’s future at the school.

Last year was just the fourth time in the program’s 19-year history that the Blazers finished .500 or better, with the other two coming in 2000 and 2001.

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Rutgers loses another DE, and 2014 signee, to transfer

PISCATAWAY, NJ - August 10: Rutgers Scarlet Knights Media Day at High Point Solutions Stadium on August 10, 2014 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz)

Earlier this month, Sam Blue became the fourth member of Rutgers’ 2014 recruiting class to either voluntarily or involuntarily leave the football program.  As we get to the end of June, that number reportedly has been bumped to five.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, nj.com is reporting that Donald Bedell has decided to transfer out of the Kyle Flood‘s team.  Not surprisingly, a logjam on the depth chart at the defensive end position likely was the overriding factor Bedell’s decision.

RU, for what it’s worth, has yet to address the defensive lineman’s status moving forward.

Last season, Bedell took a redshirt.  He was a three-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 player at any position in the state of New Jersey.

As for the other departures from last year’s signings?

Blue was a two-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class, with the Scarlet Knights being the only FBS program to offer the North Carolina native a scholarship.  The defensive end took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

Kam Lott, another 2014 signee, announced in late January that he was transferring to be closer to his family in Florida.  Two weeks later Jacob Kraut, projected to be RU’s starting fullback, announced a move for the exact same reasons.

In late May, Darian Dailey was dismissed after he was arrested on an armed robbery charge.

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Jimbo discusses Saban, 2017 opener vs. Tide

jimbo Getty Images

Neither Alabama nor Florida State has publicly confirmed reports that the two football programs will square off a couple of years from now. That, though, hasn’t stopped one of the likely head coaches in the potentially epic 2017 opener from openly discussing the much-speculated-on matchup.

Speaking in his hometown of Clarksburg, WV, Monday, Jimbo Fisher acknowledged what the two athletic directors won’t: his Seminoles will open the 2017 season against Nick Saban‘s Crimson Tide.

“To be able to go against someone who you have a ton of respect for in Nick and the program in which they have just adds to it,” the FSU head coach said according to the Palm Beach Post.

“We’ve been two of the most consistent programs in the country the last few years. It’s a great kickoff and it’s great for the game of college football.”

That opener in Atlanta two years from now will not only be a great matchup on the field, it will have a personal feel to it on the sidelines.

Both 49-year-old Fisher and 63-year-old Saban were born and raised in God’s Country, with the latter growing up about 20 miles away from the former’s hometown. Fisher’s first offensive coordinating job at a Power Five school came in 2000 at LSU. The Tigers’ head coach at the time? Saban, of course.

While Saban left Baton Rouge for the NFL following the 2004 season, Fisher remained at LSU for another two years before moving on to FSU as coordinator and, ultimately, head coach. Those five years working under Saban, however, helped shape the coach Fisher is today.

“His structure and organization and focus and ability to see the future,” the 2013 BCS champion stated. “Those are a lot of things I got from him. … how to think and how you look at things.”

Fisher and Saban have never faced each other as head coaches, although it came close to happening following the 2014 season.  Both the Seminoles and Tide earned a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff, FSU going up against Oregon and UA against eventual champion Ohio State.  The meeting wasn’t to be, however, as the Tide lost by seven and the ‘Noles by 39.

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Mizzou’s Harold Brantley released from hospital

MISSISSIPPI MISSOURI AP

Injured in a Father’s Day car wreck, Missouri’s Harold Brantley was initially listed in serious condition with multiple injuries.  A day later, however, the defensive lineman was upgraded to good condition.

A week after that?  He’s on the path toward going home.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Tuesday afternoon that Brantley has been released from his Columbia hospital.  The lineman won’t be immediately headed home, however, as he will spend the next several days in what’s described as a transitional facility.

“Harold is making great progress and is no longer at University Hospital… and is hopeful of being able to go home near the end of this week,” a school official told the Daily Tribune.

Brantley, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, sustained a broken tibia, knee ligament damage and multiple fractured ribs in the rollover wreck. Surgery has already been performed on his broken leg, while knee surgery will take place at some pointy in the next 3-4 weeks.

There’s still no word on Brantley’s availability for the upcoming season.

Last season, Brantley started 10 of the 14 games in which he played.

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Report: UCLA coach shamed Diddy’s son over courtside seats

Sal Alosi

Just when you thought we had the UCLA/Puff Daddy drama in the rear-view, it comes back and bites you in the rear.

First, a brief recap: hip-hop mogul Sean Combs was involved in an altercation with a UCLA assistant, strength coach Sal Alosi, in the Bruins football offices a week ago yesterday and was ultimately arrested on multiple felony charges.  The confrontation occurred after Combs’ son, UCLA defensive back Justin Combs, was kicked out of a workout session by Alosi earlier that day, then scurried home to complain to his famous father.

Combs, through a spokesperson, claimed “any actions taken by Mr. Combs were solely defensive in nature to protect himself and his son.”  While UCLA would prefer charges not being pursued, it will be up to the District Attorney’s office whether the legal matter moves forward.

All of that bring us to a report from TMZ.com, which is claiming there is a previous history between the younger Combs and Alosi that could have played a role in the elder Combs’ alleged actions that day:

The coach who fought Diddy this week … brutally shamed Diddy’s son by using a paparazzi pic to drive home a point — that he thinks Justin Combs is a spoiled rich kid.

Sources connected to UCLA’s football program tell TMZ Sports … the humiliating incident went down in February. Coach Sal Alosi had several players in the the gym for a training sesh, which Justin missed because he was at the NBA All-Star game.

We’re told Alosi openly mocked Justin by putting a pic of him at the game — next to Diddy and Ben Stiller … in all the gym monitors. We’re told Alosi told players … “While you guys are training, this guy is sitting courtside with his dad.” The pic remained up for 24 hours.

The gossip website, citing the same sources, went on to claim that Alosi had told the player on various occasions that “You’re only here because of your dad,” and … “You never belonged here,” and … “You should just go work for your dad.”  The allegations made in this report shed new light on the football player publicly backing his famous father.

Diddy was released from jail the night of the incident after posting a $160,000 bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for July 13.

(Photo credit: UCLA athletics)

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Stepdad: Ole Miss’ Tunsil was with NFL agents at time of incident

Mississippi v Vanderbilt Getty Images

A strange story involving Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil has taken yet another strange turn.

Tunsil was arrested Friday and charged with domestic violence after he allegedly stepped into the middle of an argument involving his mother and stepfather Thursday, which led to the offensive lineman punching the latter.  The 53-year-old stepdad, Lindsey Miller, claimed in the notes taken by a sheriff’s deputy for a police report that his stepson was “riding around with football agents,” and that’s what the argument between the stepdad and mother was over.

From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

According to the police report, when deputy Rudy Howell arrived at the scene at 7:19 p.m. Thursday night, Miller was “very excited” and told Howell that “Tunsil and the agents” left in a yellow convertible.

According to Miller’s statements to Howell, Desiree Tunsil walked out of the house during the argument about Tunsil’s alleged contact with agents when Laremy Tunsil entered.

Miller, 53, then claims he extended his hand to give Tunsil a handshake, but Tunsil allegedly shoved him against a wall and started hitting him.

Under NCAA rules, the Sports Business Journal noted back in August of last year, Tunsil is permitted to speak to certified NFL agents, provided he doesn’t, one, sign with them prior to expired eligibility or submitting paperwork for early entry into the draft and, two, he doesn’t accept any impermissible benefits.

“It seems to serve everyone’s purpose,” Lal Heneghan, who works for a consulting company that provides agent advisory services to 12 major college football programs, including Florida State and Alabama, told the sports business website when asked about spring and summer meetings between college players and agents. “The player and the family can get an idea of this is what an agent is all about and they can get a sense if this person will be on a short list and focus on having a season.”

Tunsil, projected to be a likely Top-Ten pick in next year’s NFL draft if he leaves school early, was indefinitely suspended from the football program.  Both he and his mother are seeking charges against the stepfather.

Following the 2014 season, the Associated Press named him a first-team All-American.

UPDATED 4:04 p.m. ET: In response to this latest development, the school released a statement from head coach Hugh Freeze.

“We are aware that Laremy and his family have met with potential agents, which is within his NCAA rights as a student-athlete. Regarding the altercation, we will continue to gather facts and cooperate with the proper authorities.”

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