South Carolina’s Byrd receives four-game suspension from NCAA

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With Damiere Byrd unexpectedly sidelined for South Carolina’s opener due to an NCAA compliance issue, head coach Steve Spurrier said he hoped to “get it cleared up before next week.”

Spurrier got his wish as Byrd’s status has indeed been cleared up.  It’s doubtful, though, the resolution was what he was hoping for.

First reported by 247Sports.com, and subsequently confirmed by the school, the wide receiver will be forced to serve a suspension that totals four games.  In addition to the opener against East Carolina, Byrd will miss the the next three games against Georgia, Navy and Vanderbilt.

Byrd, a freshman, was found to have received impermissible benefits prior to signing with the Gamecocks.  The school stated in the release that Byrd will have to repay benefits as a condition of becoming eligible to compete again, although the amount was not disclosed.

“While we respect the process, we are very disappointed for Damiere,” said Athletics Director Eric Hyman in a statement. “Damiere is an outstanding individual and has been upfront with us as to what occurred during the recruiting process. He had no idea that being part of the Student Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation would in any way affect his college eligibility. We continue to support him and will carefully consider appealing this decision

Byrd’s father is Adrian Byrd, who is listed as the director of the New Jersey chapter of S.A.M., a Delaware-based organization whose stated goal is to “provide supplementary support to high school student-athletes in both their academic and athletic endeavors.”  That same organization is connected to Sharrif Floyd, the Florida defensive lineman who the NCAA ruled Thursday would have to sit two games and repay $2,700 after it was found he had received impermissible benefits prior to his enrollment at UF.

It should also be noted that S.A.M.’s treasurer, Kevin Lahn, is a graduate of South Carolina and a football season-ticket holder.  As explained to us by Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post, in order to become a USC season-ticket holder, you must first be a member of the booster club.  Technically, that makes Lahn a USC booster.

Coming out of Sicklerville, NJ, Byrd was a four-star member of South Carolina’s 2011 recruiting class.

UPDATED 3:19 p.m. ET: The NCAA announced that Byrd will be forced to repay $2,700 as a condition of his reinstatement, the same amount as Floyd.  So, why was Byrd suspended for four games and Floyd just two for what appears to be the same “crime”?  The NCAA noted in its release on Floyd that the player was in line for a four-game suspension, but, “[b]ased on the mitigating circumstances in the case” — with those being Floyd’s “personal hardship that led to the impermissible benefits being provided to the student-athlete by someone other than a legal guardian or family member” — the “withholding condition” was cut in half to two.

About-face: Derrius Guice will play vs. Syracuse after all

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Never mind, I guess.

Wednesday night, Ed Orgeron flatly stated on his radio show that Derrius Guicewill not play this week” against Syracuse because of a left knee injury sustained in Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State. Thursday, there was a complete 180-degree reversal.

“We got some good news today, at the beginning of the week, Derrius was ruled out, up to yesterday he wouldn’t be able to play,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “He came to us today and said ‘Coach, I’m feeling better, I want to practice.’ He practiced pretty good today so he’s going to get some snaps. He will play.”

OK then.

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Pitt FB/TD machine George Aston set to return vs. Georgia Tech

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One of the most efficient touchdown producers in college football in 2016 that you were probably completely unaware of appears ready to make his 2017 debut.

A vague lower-extremity injury knocked George Aston out of most of not only summer camp but also Pittsburgh’s first three regular-season games as well. With Georgia Tech on the horizon in Week 4, the fullback is listed as probable on the team’s official injury report released Thursday.

For a team that has scored just four offensive touchdowns in two games against FBS competition, Aston’s potential return could serve as somewhat of a boon for that side of the ball.

Last season, Aston totaled 75 yards on 22 carries as well as 169 yards on 22 receptions. In those 44 touches, Aston totaled 10 touchdowns — five on the ground, five through the air.

Saturday’s game will serve as the ACC opener for both Pitt and Tech.

NCAA approves waiver to allow UCF to schedule Austin Peay as hurricane replacement game

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Hurricane Irma forced a lot of shuffling and cancellations on the college football schedule but perhaps no team was more uniquely affected than Central Florida.

The Knights had two home games cancelled as a result of the storm, last weekend against Georgia Tech and a contest against Maine that was bought out as a way for the team to play their full AAC conference slate. Dropping the games left UCF with only 10 games for the 2017 season and a not ideal five home games as a result.

That has been cleared up somewhat however, as the school announced on Thursday that the NCAA has approved a waiver and that Austin Peay is now scheduled to go to Orlando for a Oct. 28th contest.

“I can’t thank Oliver Luck and the staff at the NCAA enough for their help and understanding of our situation,” UCF athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate Austin Peay being willing to visit Spectrum Stadium. We’re thrilled for our student-athletes, who deserve every opportunity they can get to go out and compete. I know our fans will be excited about the opportunity to have another Saturday at Spectrum Stadium.”

The Knights are currently 1-0 heading into their trip to play Maryland on Saturday. With the addition of an 11th game to their 2017 slate, UCF needs to go at least 6-5 in order to become bowl eligible as a result.

Clemson kicker Greg Huegel injured during practice, out for the season after ACL tear

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If Clemson is to defend their national title this season, they will do so without the services of their reliable kicker.

The school confirmed various reports on Thursday evening that redshirt junior Greg Huegel was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday night — on the final kick, no less — and tore his ACL. He will have surgery and will not play again in 2017.

While he didn’t get the press of Deshuan Watson or others, Huegel was a key part of the Clemson run the past few seasons after taking over as the starter in 2015. The former walk-on was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year and had hit two of his four field goals to start off this season, one of which was a career-long 49 yard kick just last week.

Backup kicker Alex Spence is likely to take over for the Tigers in Huegel’s absence. The redshirt junior has never attempted a field goal in a game but has kicked off and made an extra point for Clemson this season.

Reserve tight end Cole Renfrow, the younger brother of title game star Hunter Renfrow, also tore his ACL in practice and is out the rest of the season as well.

Given the thin margins that College Football Playoff teams have nowadays, the loss of Huegel figures to be a big one for Dabo Swinney and company going forward. Clemson hosts Boston College this week but will face a stiff test on the road at Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch to end the month.