Man arrested in Toomer’s Corner tree poisonings

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An Alabama man has been arrested in connection to the poisoning of Auburn’s famed Toomer’s Corner oak trees, WTVM in Auburn is reporting.

According to the television station, 62-year-old Harvey Almorn Updyke of Dadeville, Ala., was arrested Wednesday night and has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief, a Class C felony that carries a punishment of one to 10 years.

Updyke is currently being held on a $50,000 bond.

Police were first alerted to the possibility that the Toomer oaks had been poisoned when a caller to the Finebaum Show claimed he had spread a herbicide on the soil around the trees a week after Auburn’s Iron Bowl win over Alabama last year.  The caller gave his name as “Al from Dadeville” and ended his call with “Roll Damn Tide”.

Auburn police began the initial investigation in late January, and were later joined by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department.  At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson refused to confirm that the Finebaum caller prompted the probe, and warned fans against exacting revenge for the act of a lone nut case.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize the investigation and I don’t want to fuel the fires even further,” Dawson said. “I want to caution all the Auburn fans to act with the class we always act with.

“This is the exception rather than the rule. This is a person who obviously has problems to do something like this. So we want to use caution and let the justice system takes its course.”

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had already decried the desecration of his rival school’s sacred landmark.

“It’s an awful act, a terrible thing to do,” Moore said in a statement Wednesday. “A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer’s Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable.”

University experts, with the help of officials from several different agencies — for example, soil samples were tested at Mississippi State — are doing everything in their power to save the 130-year-old trees, although all evidence points to them fighting a losing battle.

“Spike 80 is an herbicide that is usually used for total vegetation control,” said Stephen Enloe, an assistant professor of agronomy and soil at Auburn. “It’s very good at what it does and that is kill all plants. This herbicide is really active on plants that are actively growing.”

Police believe Updyke acted alone and are not actively seeking any additional suspects. To view the reactions of the act, CLICK HERE.

UPDATED 6:37 p.m. ET: The kind folks at NBC would like us to pass this video along for you all. Judging by the comment thread on this story, this is a pretty big deal.

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Marshall’s Larry Aaron, paralyzed in New Year’s Eve shooting, dies

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Sadly, what was already a tragic situation at Marshall has taken an even more heartbreaking turn.

The Thundering Herd confirmed Thursday afternoon that rising redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Larry Aaron died earlier in the day at a Maryland hospital.  Aaron was paralyzed from the waist down after being struck by a stray bullet during a New Year’s Eve party, and passed away as a result of complications connected to those injuries he sustained in the shooting.

According to reports at the time, Aaron had stepped in front of his girlfriend to shield her from the bullets.

“Marshall University lost a very special young man today and it has shocked and saddened us all,” a statement from Marshall head coach Doc Holliday began. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Larry Aaron’s family and friends, many of whom were his fellow Thundering Herd teammates. His loss will be felt in every corner of our program and his spirit will never be forgotten.”

After redshirting as a true freshman, Aaron played in eight games this past season.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those impacted by Aaron’s senseless death.

Alabama confirms handful of staff changes, including addition of Miami’s DL coach

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An offseason of upheaval on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has apparently come to an official end.

Early Thursday afternoon, the Crimson Tide announced the additions of two new assistant coaches as well as the promotions/new responsibilities for others on the staff last season.  As previously reported HERE and HERE, the new hires are Dan Enos as quarterbacks coach and Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach.  Both coaches, who come to Tuscaloosa from Michigan and Miami, respectively, will also carry the titles of associate head coach.

“We are pleased and happy to have Dan Enos joining our coaching staff at The University of Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of knowledge with five years of head coaching experience and numerous stops as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Dan is a bright football mind and an outstanding recruiter who will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best chance to be successful.”

In addition to those hirings, Saban also confirmed that Mike Locksley (HERE) has been promoted to offensive coordinator and Tosh Lupoi (HERE) has been promoted to defensive coordinator.  Locksley replaces Brian Daboll, who left after one season in Tuscaloosa for the same job with the Buffalo Bills last month, while Lupoi takes over for Jeremy Pruitt, who left after Alabama’s win in the national championship game to take over as the head coach at Tennessee.

As had previously been announced, Jeff Banks will serve as special teams coordinator while also being in charge of the Tide’s tight ends.  Josh Gattis, who was confirmed as the new wide receivers coach late last month, will also carry the title of co-offensive coordinator, while Pete Golding, in addition to his duties as inside linebackers coach, has been given the title of co-defensive coordinator.

And, finally, Burton Burns will step away from his longtime role as running backs coach and take on an unspecified off-field position.  Replacing Burns in his on-field role is Joe Pannunzio, who had been in charge of tight ends.

NCAA grants Houston LB Austin Robinson another season of eligibility

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As it turns out, Houston will have the services of Austin Robinson a little while longer than originally expected.

The football program announced Wednesday that the NCAA has granted Robinson a sixth season of eligibility. While the school wrote in its release that the linebacker “received a legislative relief waiver” from The Association, the specific reasoning behind the waiver being granted is unclear.

With the NCAA’s decision, Robinson will now have eligibility he can use in both 2018 and 2019.

Robinson began his collegiate career at UT-San Antonio in 2014, playing in eight games as a true freshman before transferring to UH and sitting out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He then played in 11 games in 2016 and 12 this past season, starting four contests in 2017.

This past campaign, Robinson was credited with 33 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. He also had a pair of quarterback hurries on his statistical resume.

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

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Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.