Heath Shuler: from Congress back to Rocky Top… as Vols AD?

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It’s been nearly 20 years since Heath Shuler finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting as a Tennessee Volunteers quarterback.

According to at least one report, the rumor is that Shuler may have an interest in returning to Knoxville to run the Vols’ athletic department.  And the interest, per the speculation, was initiated and is being reciprocated by the school.

By way of a political website called Hotline On Call, a radio host in Knoxville, WLVZ’s Tony Basilio, wrote on his blog Monday that Shuler was approached by unnamed UT officials about becoming the school’s athletic director shortly after Mike Hamilton stepped down earlier this month.  Shuler was sufficiently intrigued by the interest that, Basilio wrote, the former Vol is doing “some personal due diligence”.

Shuler’s reportedly reached out to former UT football coaches Phillip Fulmer — rumored initially to be a candidate for the AD job as well — and Johnny Majors, and received their “blessing” and support in pursuing the opening.

And, apparently, another part of that due diligence involves sorting out which direction his current career is headed.

Shuler is currently a Democratic congressman, representing North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He could, however, have a difficult time when the next election rolls around due to redistricting.

Shuler was elected to represent the GOP-leaning Asheville district in 2006, but his seat is one that is expected to be redrawn to be sharply more difficult for him in maps the GOP-led state legislature will release this Friday. Shuler is already facing a primary challenge from Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell, and as Republicans have focused pressure on the dwindling Blue Dog Democrats in the House, two have already resigned or announced their intention to retire in 2012.

Certainly, a losing reelection bid would have Shuler at least looking at future employment opportunities.  For now, however, the Shuler camp will not hint that he’s interested in anything other than his current position.

“Congressman Shuler is focused on the very serious challenges facing our nation, including job creation and balancing our budget,” Shuler spokesperson Andrew Whalen told Hotline On Call when asked about the UT speculation. “He is currently and actively preparing for his next re-election campaign in 2012 and looks forward to continuing to fight for the working families of Western North Carolina in the years ahead.”

We’ve been told privately to not put too much stock in the speculation involving Shuler, so we’ll place this squarely in the “possible, but not very likely” rumor mill bin.  Then again, a similar scenario didn’t work out too bad for Nebraska and Tom Osborne, so we guess it shouldn’t be dismissed completely out of hand, however unlikely it may seem at the moment.

Shutout in first half, No. 25 Memphis tops Houston 42-38

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If there was ever a dictionary definition of a tale of two halves, this game was it.

Through two quarters of play, Houston held a relatively comfortable 17-0 lead on No. 25 Memphis as the AAC teams headed into their respective halftime locker rooms.  When the second-half dust had settled, the Tigers had righted themselves en route to a 42-point last two quarters in a stunning 42-38 come-from-behind win over the Cougars.

Riley Ferguson passed for 471 yards in the win, although he had just one touchdown pass on the night.  Patrick Taylor managed the scoring load for the Tigers, though, as he scored four rushing touchdowns on 14 carries for 39 yards; Taylor had just three touchdowns the first seven games of the season entering Thursday night.

Despite Memphis’ second-half scoring deluge, homestanding Houston actually held a 10-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.  Turnovers on their last two possessions, however, torpedoed any chance of the home upset of a ranked conference foe.

With the win, Memphis moves to 3-1 in American Athletic Conference play and into a temporary tie with Navy, which plays No. 20 UCF Saturday, for the top spot in the Group of Five conference’s West Division.

Washington State’s leading receiver suspended for Colorado game after reportedly getting a tad angry

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While everybody on the Palouse is worried about Mike Leach following athletic director Bill Moos to Nebraska this week, a more pressing concern for Washington State is getting back on track and beating Colorado on Saturday night.

That might be just a tad bit tougher now because the school has suspended leading receiver Tavares Martin Jr.’s for one game following his actions subsequent to the team’s loss at Cal last Friday. The reason he won’t suit up when the Buffs roll into Pullman? It seems he got a tad angry, throwing a bit of a temper tantrum and skipping a practice.

“He was a little angry, saying things hadn’t gone his way the last couple of games. He broke a team rule and needs to be punished for that,” the receiver’s father, Tavares Martin Sr., told The Seattle Times. “He just made a mistake, and he had to pay a price for it. It was a miscommunication between him and the coaches. He was upset. He said he felt like he should have been more involved in that game.”

Martin Jr. leads the team in receiving yards (502) and touchdowns (seven) after starting all seven games this season. Despite that, he had just three catches in the Cougars’ 37-3 loss in Berkeley that caused them to tumble out of the top 10.

The Florida native reportedly apologized for his actions and was placed on the scout team in practices prior to playing Colorado. It seems the stiff lesson is being learned quickly though as he is expected to be back for Wazzu’s game at Arizona next Saturday — likely with a much different attitude.

Notre Dame LB Greer Martini out for USC game after knee procedure

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The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football between USC and Notre Dame is turning into a potential battle of walking wounded on defense. The latest name on the injury list? Irish linebacker Greer Martini.

The starter and team leader has been dealing with a knee injury he suffered in practice and while there was some thought he could be back for Saturday’s massive showdown with the team’s rivals from Los Angeles, that appears not to be the case. Indianapolis Star beat writer Laken Litman reported on Thursday afternoon that Brian Kelly confirmed after practice Martini would miss the game and that he had a surgical procedure to clean up an unspecified meniscus injury on his knee.

Martini is a captain on the team and the third leading tackler on the defense. In his absence, junior Te’von Coney likely slides into the starting lineup at linebacker. The good news might be that Martini could be back for an equally important game against N.C. State that could loom large in any College Football Playoff discussion next month.

The Trojans are dealing with the loss of defensive tackle Josh Fatu and linebacker Porter Gustin for this week’s trip to South Bend as well so both sides have a number of injuries that could hamper their ability to stop the run on Saturday. Given that the game will feature two of the best tailbacks in the country in Ronald Jones and Josh Adams, things could turn into a track meet come kickoff time on NBC.

Michigan State RB LJ Scott reportedly arrested (for a seventh time!) over driving without valid license

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It seems the tumultuous offseason that Mark Dantonio has experienced dating back to last year is not ending with the 2017 campaign being well underway for his Spartans. That’s because the Michigan State head coach is dealing with yet another headache, this time caused by star running back LJ ScottThe Lansing State Journal reports that Scott was arrested on Wednesday for driving on a suspended license.

Now you might say, oh that’s not that big of a deal all things considered. Generally you’d be correct depending on the circumstances. Yet in this case it kind of is a big deal because this is the seventh time — yes, seven times — Scott has been arrested for the same general offense. So yeah.

Per the LSJ:

‘Scott, 21, was arrested and later released on a personal recognizance bond, East Lansing Police spokesman Lt. Chad Connelly said Thursday. He declined to comment further because Scott has not yet been arraigned.

The charge carries up to a year in jail if Scott is convicted because he has at least one prior conviction on the same charge, which is typically a 93-day misdemeanor.’

What might be worse is that the junior has been cited for the same issue across two different states, including Michigan and his native Ohio. The first instance happened back in February 2016 according to the paper, but charges were dropped after a citation was issued and a fine paid. Scott got caught later in March 2016 when he was speeding, another time in April 2016 after being involved in a car crash, and yet again in July 2016 by campus police.

But wait, there’s more.

Scott was pulled over and charged again this past March and another time as recently as July. The LSJ does not have information as to why his license was suspended in the first place but we can offer a few guesses.

What might be even more infuriating for Dantonio and the coaching staff is that Scott just posted a career high against Minnesota (194 yards) and seemed to finally emerge as the primary ball carrier over senior Gerald Holmes and fellow junior Madre London.

The school had not released a statement regarding the matter but it’s probably safe to assume that the Spartans will be without Scott on Saturday when they play Indiana.