USC gets their own Luck: Barkley to return for another year

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In early January of this year, Andrew Luck surprised some observers by announcing that he was eschewing a shot at a certain spot inside the Top Five of the NFL draft and returning to Stanford.

Nearly a year later, another Pac-12 school has officially become the beneficiary of an even more surprising decision by the leader of its offense.

With an ornate Christmas tree setting the seasonally-themed scene: Matt Barkley announced at an on-campus press conference Thursday afternoon the one gift Trojan fans have been wishing for over the past few months: the quarterback will be returning to USC for one more season.  Barkley told his coaches and teammates of the news of his decision earlier in the day, a decision that was made after extensive conversations with his family, school officials and other advisers from the professional level.

“I know in my heart that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player,” the junior said. “Our USC football team has been through some tough times and we have persevered.  But the 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend to play a part of it.

“So, yes, I have firmly decided to forego the NFL draft in 2012 and finish this exceptional and unique journey that I’ve had here at USC.”

Based on the early draft projections, Barkley was a near-lock to be one of the first 10 players selected in the April NFL draft and, pending the pre-draft workouts, perhaps even a top-five selection.  Instead, he’s returning to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest Trojans in the football program’s storied history.

With the decision, Barkley immediately becomes one of the front-runners for the 2012 Heisman Trophy — perhaps the front-runner pending the NFL decisions of 2011 winner Robert Griffin III and this year’s other finalists, all of whom are draft-eligible — thanks to a 2011 season that saw him pass for more than 3,500 yards, 39 touchdowns and just seven picks.

More importantly is what Barkley’s decision means for the Trojans as a team.  Add Barkley’s return with the fact that 16 other starters from a 10-2 squad are expected to return as well, and it will likely equal the Trojans starting the 2012 season deep inside the Top Ten of the major preseason polls.

And, with the school finally eligible following a two-year bowl ban, a run at a Pac-12 championship and berth in a BcS bowl are certainly not out of the question and should probably be expected.  In fact, and even with the final chapter of the 2011 season not yet written, the Trojans would have to be considered one of a handful of legitimate national title contenders eight months or so out from the start of next season.

Thanks to Barkley’s unexpected decision, such talk is far from premature, regardless how far the start of the 2012 season is off in the distance.

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Georgia Tech dismisses leading rusher Dedrick Mills

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I believe this one would qualify as a significant development.

In a very brief press release, Georgia Tech announced Friday afternoon that Dedrick Mills has been dismissed by Paul Johnson from the football team.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of Tech athletics department rules.

The head coach is expected to meet with the media following practice later on this afternoon.

Regardless of the specific reason for the dismissal, Mills’ departure serves as yet another blow for the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.

Last season, Mills’ 771 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns led all Tech ball carriers.  169 of those yards came in the bowl win over Kentucky.  Mills put up all of those numbers as a true freshman despite being suspended on two different occasions for a total of three games.

Mills’ dismissal is the second huge blow to their 2017 running game as Marcus Marshall, who was second on the team last season with 624 yards, announced in late November that he would be transferring from Tech.  Less than a month later, he moved on to James Madison.

With those twin departures, Clinton Lynch‘s 415 yards last season makes him the team’s leading returning rusher.

LOOK: Notre Dame unveils alternate uniforms honoring Knute Rockne’s legacy

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As you may know, I’m hardly a fan of the alternate uniform craze.  These, though, I can very easily get behind.

Notre Dame on Friday released images of new uniforms the Fighting Irish will wear for their Nov. 18 game against Navy.  From helmet to shoes, the new duds will serve as a head-to-toe tribute to the legendary Knute Rockne.

The players will all have the name “ROCKNE” emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys, while the helmets replicate the leather ones of Rockne’s era.  The cleats also will pay homage to the era in which Rockne, also a former player at the school, coached the Fighting Irish to five national championships from 1918-1930.  In those 13 seasons, the Irish lost just 12 games under Rockne.

Additionally, the sleeves will be adorned with the words from one of Rockne’s most famous speeches.



Penn State OKs James Franklin’s new deal, reportedly worth nearly $6 million annually

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James Franklin is now in some very heady financial company.

Friday morning, Penn State’s Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation, as expected, unanimously approved an amended contract for their head football coach.  While no details were released — that’s expected to happen later today — it’s believed the amended deal will extend through the 2023 season.  Franklin’s old contract ran through 2019.

Additionally, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that the new six-year deal will average $5.8 million annually.  What Franklin’s compensation for 2017 and beyond will, again, be divulged later on today.

The average of $5.8 million a year would make him the fourth-highest-paid coach in college football, behind only Alabama’s Nick Saban and a pair of fellow Big Ten coaches — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

Set to enter his fourth season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin has an overall record of 25-15 at the school.  After a pair of 7-6 seasons to begin his tenure, 2016 was a breakout one for the program as they went 11-3 and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2008.

Expectations are extremely high coming off that breakout season as the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll.

WATCH: Chris Simms cops to accepting $100 handshakes at Texas

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Given the content, what could possibly go wrong in the comments section below?

Chris Simms was a quarterback at Texas from 1999-2002, starting for the Longhorns his last two seasons in Austin. During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show Thursday, Simms, now a studio analyst on NBC‘s coverage of Notre Dame football, freely admitted that he accepted “$100 handshakes” from what he described as “random” boosters at various times while at the school and part of the football team.

“He might have 10 football jerseys for you to sign real quick and you’d sign it, and then he’d… ‘hey, thanks for this I appreciate that’ and give ya a $100 handshake,” Simms said, before going on to say, essentially, it happens everywhere so get over it already.

“For people out there to think like that doesn’t happen, that’s just stupid,” Simms explained. “Like get over it, it’s not a big deal, it’s happening everywhere. It’s happening at Harvard, it’s happening at Division II schools, it’s going on everywhere.”

The pertinent discussion starts at around the 4:16 mark.