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Mark Dantonio on Michigan: ‘Where’s the threat?’

Mark Dantonio AP

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s April 18, 2012, and we have our first bulletin board material filed away on CFT.

The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, while a perfectly good one, clearly takes a backseat in Ann Arbor to other games such as… oh, I don’t know… Ohio State. I’m half-scared to say this, but I’d even put the game against Notre Dame higher on the hate-o-meter for Michigan than the game against Michigan State (thoughts, Wolverine fans?).

Be that as it may, it has to be annoying for U-M knowing they’ve lost the last four meetings against the Spartans. Adding to that irritation would be Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who had this to say about recruiting against the Wolverines.

“We’re laying in the weeds,” Dantonio told ESPN’s Brian Bennett. “We’ve beat Michigan the last four years. So where’s the threat?

I suppose when you’ve won four in a row against your big in-state rival, you’ve earned the right to talk some smack. That said, don’t expect the Spartans to continue to dominate this series in the future, at least not while Brady Hoke is around.

But you have to love this stuff from Dantonio; selfishly, it gives me something to write about.

The only thing missing now is for Hoke to begin referring to Michigan State as “Michigan.”

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Tennessee recruit pokes a stick at his new SEC rivals

Butch Jones

Tennessee football is looking to be improving with another year of Butch Jones at the helm. It has been a while since the Vols had the opportunity to do some smack talk in the SEC, or even just the SEC East. The pride in the program has been undergoing a restoration project brick by brick, as Jones likes to say, and it seems to be catching on. Even incoming Vols are buying into the mindset, and some are not afraid to start talking the talk before getting a chance to walk the walk.

Kahlil McKenzie is a big recruit for Jones at Tennessee, both literally and figuratively. The five-star defensive tackle from California measures in at 6’4″, 320 pounds and he could slide right into a starting job in Knoxville this fall. He also talks a big game on Twitter. This weekend he took to Twitter to lay down some zingers aimed at Tennessee rivals, like Vanderbilt and Alabama…

McKenzie has a point here. Dixieland Delight may be a classic, but many of us have had our fill of the song Alabama fans love. Of course, tweets like this make for some good bulletin board material, if nothing else. MCKenzie made sure to let everyone know he is just having some fun.

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LSU adds Leonard Fournette’s brother to latest recruiting class

If you thought LSU might be tough with one Fournette on the field, imagine what it could do with two. Lanard Fournette, the younger brother of LSU’s rising running back star Leonard Fournette (pictured) announced this weekend he is joining his brother at LSU.

Lanard Fournette is a two-star athlete according to Rivals, which is a much lower rating than his older brother, Leonard. He does, however, have a three-star composite rating according to the composite ratings compiled by 247 Sports. Leonard was a blue-chip five-star talent out of high school. Lanard seems to be a bit more of a work-in-progress with a smaller frame than his brother. LSU appeared to make some moves in recruiting the younger Fournette shortly after locking up his older brother. LSU has long been the favorite to land Lanard’s commitment, and his brother playing for the Tigers and Les Miles may be a big reason why. Despite offers from schools like Alabama and Miami, Lanard Fournette has long been on track to go to LSU after attending a pair of LSU football camps, attending LSU’s junior day in 2015 and making an official visit over the last year without visiting any other program.

Leonard Fournette will be one of the top running backs in what should be a very strong year across the country for running backs. Fournette was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and could be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy in the fall.

LSU has the No. 12 recruiting class for 2015 according to the most recent team rankings shared by Rivals, but the Tigers have the fourth-ranked class among SEC West schools. Alabama — on track for another recruiting national championship — has the top class in the nation. Texas A&M (No. 9) and Auburn (No. 10) are also in front of LSU among SEC West schools. Tennessee (No. 5) and Georgia (No. 6) are also representing the SEC among the top ten.

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Marcus Mariota admits to sprained AC joint injury vs Buckeyes

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota passed on an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. His absence could be explained away by his participation in the recent College Football Playoff national championship game. Now it appears Mariota is unsure if he will be able to participate in throwing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine next month. A right shoulder injury suffered in the championship game against Ohio State could be to blame.

“Right now we’re still making that decision, whether to throw at the Combine. I had to kinda rest about a week-and-a-half,” Mariota said, via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I sprained the AC joint. But now, I’m able to throw. Feels good.”

Mariota was forced to leave the championship game for a brief period of time as Oregon was attempting to chip away at Ohio State’s lead. Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa tackled Mariota to the ground, driving the Heisman Trophy winner to the ground on his right shoulder.

It is not uncommon for quarterbacks to withdraw from throwing drills at the combine, as some players prefer to do their throwing drills on their own campus during a pro day event. In Mariota’s case, the injury concerns are likely a legitimate excuse.

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UAB football may not be 100 percent dead just yet

UAB FOOTBALL PROGRAM SHUT DOWN 12-2-14

UAB may have cut the football program from life support, but there is a fighter’s chance the Blazers could return to a football field in 2016. A new task force organized by the school’s leaders will take another hard look at the financial numbers and do some number crunching to determine if there is enough to allow for the football program, along with the rifle and bowling programs, to continue.

The task force is being asked to find an independent third-party to review and assess the legitimacy of the now much-maligned Carr Report that led to the shutting down of the football program. It is too late for UAB to put plans together to play football in 2015. Opponents that had scheduled games against UAB have already taken steps to fill expected vacancies in the schedule created by the news UAB was shutting the football program down, players have transferred, and coaches previously employed by UAB have spread out to find new opportunities as well. A return in 2016 may not be completely out of reach, even if it is putting a program back together from scratch.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t think we could bring it back,” said Don Hire, a major donor to UAB, at an open house meeting on Thursday. “I was here when [former UAB men’s basketball coach] Gene Bartow had no jock straps, no basketballs and no gym to play in. I wouldn’t be involved in this if we weren’t going for sustainability.”

It is far from a given, but if the task force discovers there is enough money to keep a football program running without putting the school deep in the red, then the return of the program may become a reality. Maybe 2016 is a bit optimistic given the circumstances surrounding the current state of the university and the athletic department, not to mention the now non-existent state of the football program, but at least it might be something worth looking forward to if it can be done.

UAB President Dr. Ray Watts received a vote of no-confidence following the decision to shut the program down. The video of Watts informing the players of the decision was nothing short of gut-wrenching. What happened at UAB has also caused other programs to reassess the state of their programs as well.

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Harbaugh flips Texas Longhorn-bound QB to Michigan

Jim Harbaugh

National Signing Day is coming up next week, and Jim Harbaugh is looking to close in as big a way as possible to help save what had been a disappointing recruiting class in Ann Arbor. This weekend Harbaugh managed to flip the commitment of four-star quarterback Zach Gentry from Texas to Michigan.

Gentry is a 6′-6″, 230 pound pro-style quarterback, ranked fourth among pro-style passers according to Rivals. The top prospect out of the state of New Mexico, Gentry would have been a key recruit for Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns, but now he is the prize of Harbaugh and his newly assembled staff at Michigan. Gentry is the first commitment added to Michigan’s Class of 2015 since Harbaugh was hired. Gentry flipped his decision while on an official visit to Michigan this weekend.

Gentry is the second quarterback added to Michigan’s Class of 2015. Four-star talent Alex Malzone, an in-state recruit, was an early enrollee for the Wolverines. He will get a head start on the offense and a chance to compete for playing time under Harbaugh this spring, while Gentry will not be able to join the program until the summer. All of a sudden, Michigan is has some young quarterbacks with some good potential to work with.

Michigan also added three-star defensive end Reuben Jones, from Lakeland, Florida, to the Class of 2015. The Wolverines currently have eight players in the Class of 2015, including a pair of early enrollees.

Texas has a much fuller class even without Gentry. The Texas recruiting class also include three-star quarterback Matthew Merrick. Texas also added four-star quarterback Jerrod Heard to the program in last season’s recruiting class.

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Ameer Abdullah earns Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP as North triumphs over South

Reese's Senior Bowl

The 2014 season was one for the ages for Big Ten running backs, so it was fitting to see Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Minnesota’s David Cobb help lead the North to a Reese’s Senior Bowl victory Saturday in Mobile, Alabama. Abdullah, the game’s MVP, rushed for 73 yards and added 40 receiving yards and Cobb rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown. The North pulled away from the South in the second half for a 34-13 victory.

For Abdullah, the chance to wrap up his collegiate career before a large group of family and friends from his home state of Alabama was a special opportunity

“Being down here was much more than putting on a good performance for me,” Abdullah said after the game. “Leaving this state was something that was hard for me to do. You could write a movie about it, really, just coming back and playing on Alabama soil for my last time as a collegiate athlete. I couldn’t paint a better picture.”

The Senior Bowl performance was especially good for Abdullah, who had battled some injuries in 2014 and had a somewhat discouraging week of practice leading up to the game according to some scouting reports.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty also had a tough time in practices this week, missing out on an opportunity to shine in the spotlight for a game without two of the top quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft (Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston). Petty completed nine of his 13 pass attempts for 123 yards and was intercepted once. It was not a banner week for any of the quarterbacks in the game, to be fair. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion tossed the only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 10-yard pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack in the second quarter. Auburn’s Nick Marshall made the move to cornerback and recorded five tackles in the game, tied for the most tackles on the South team.

The Pac-12 had two players stand out in the game on defense as well. Utah defensive end Nate Orchard and Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton were among the defensive standouts with five tackles. Orchard had 1.5 tackles for a loss in his stat line.

How much stock is placed on one performance in the Senior Bowl varies by team and scout, but there were some players that stood out above most of the others on Saturday. Yale fullback Tyler Varga was one of them. Varga had four rushing attempts resulting in 31 yards and he was the North’s second leading receiver behind Abdullah with 39 receiving yards.

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DB Mackenro Alexander leaving Auburn, looking at USF

Auburn Spring Game

A little-used Auburn defensive back is looking for a new football home where he’ll get utilized a little more, al.com‘s Brandon Marcello is reporting.

Citing a person familiar with the decision, Marcello reported that Mackenro Alexander (pictured, being dragged) has been granted a release from his AU scholarship and will transfer to another football program to continue his playing career. One of those places could be USF, where 247Sports.com reports the safety is visiting Saturday.

USF is located in Tampa, Fla., a little over a two-hour drive from Alexander’s home in Immokalee.

Alexander saw very little playing time after coming to Auburn as a three-star member of the Class of 2013.  He played in eight games as a true freshman, then none in 2014.

Originally verbally committed to Florida State, Alexander, rated as the No. 43 safety in the country, ultimately chose AU over his other finalists, Clemson and Mississippi State.  Alexander’s four-star cornerback brother, Mackensie Alexander, signed with Clemson in 2013 and, after redshirting, was named as a freshman All-American by several outlets coming off a season in which he started 13 games.

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SMU, Baylor QBs transfer to Sacramento State

Texas A&M v SMU Getty Images

For the first time since Chad Morris took over as head coach last month, a player has left the SMU football program. And, as it turns out, another player from a fellow Texas FBS program is following.

In a press release Friday, Sacramento State announced that Kolney Cassel is one of three midyear transfers joining the team. Because the Hornets play at the FCS level, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

“We wanted to add a transfer at quarterback and after looking at film and talking to coaches, we were fortunate to get Kolney,” head coach Jody Sears said in a statement. “He brings some experience and veteran leadership to the program. He has good size (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and a great arm and will increase the competition at the position.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Cassel played in five games for a Mustang squad that saw four different quarterbacks start at least one contest. Cassel was one of those, starting one game.

The three-star member of SMU’s 2013 recruiting class completed 15-of-37 passes (40.5 percent) for 156 yards and a touchdown for the one-win Mustangs. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

Matt Davis, a Texas A&M transfer who started the majority of the games the last month of the season; Garrett Krstich, who started from mid-September until Davis essentially took over; and Neal Burcham, the starter at the beginning of the season until being sidelined by a season-ending injury, will head into spring practice as the three favorites for the job, with that logjam factoring into Cassel’s decision.  Of the three that remain, Davis would likely be considered the front-runner.

As for the other FBS transfer, the Hornets also announced the addition of Alexis Robinson. Robinson signed a track scholarship with Baylor last year and was also a preferred walk-on to the Bears football team, where he redshirted for the 2014 season.

“We didn’t sign a quarterback last season so Alexis will step in and fill that role for that class,” Sears said. “He is a world-class sprinter that is a football player. He’s a phenomenal athlete that we are lucky to have in our program.”

Robinson will have four years of eligibility remaining and, like Cassel, will be eligible immediately.

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‘Cuse adds TEs coach, adjusts Bobby Acosta’s role

Jake Moreland

Scott Shafer has officially made a couple of tweaks to his Syracuse coaching staff, including filling the lone hole in his nine-man group.

In a press release, the Orange confirmed that Jake Moreland has been hired as Shafer’s tight ends coach.  Moreland will replace Bobby Acosta, who will slide outside from tight ends to wide receivers.

George McDonald, following his in-season demotion from offensive coordinator, had finished out the 2014 season as receivers coach and is now in the same position at North Carolina State.

“Jake is an outstanding leader of young men and a terrific football coach,” Shafer said in a statement. “The expertise he brings from his 12 years as a tight ends coach will greatly enhance that area for our program as he and Joe Adam work together to mold our offensive line into a productive and cohesive group.

“Adding Jake to our staff allows Bobby Acosta to resume coaching receivers, a position he has mentored at three other schools, and serve as our recruiting coordinator. Along with offensive coordinator Tim Lester and running backs coach DeAndre Smith, Jake, Bobby and Joe will lead a productive offense and develop the young men in our program. We are thrilled to welcome Jake, his wife, Anne, and their daughters, Courtney, Grace and Emma, to the Syracuse family.”

Moreland comes to the ‘Cuse after spending the past three seasons as the tight ends coach at Air Force. He also has a history with Shafer, serving on the same staff at Western Michigan in 2005-06.

“It is a unique opportunity to come to Syracuse after having been at Air Force because both programs focus on the development of the student-athlete, emphasizing academics and athletics, to build student-athletes of high character and mentor young people who will become leaders,” Moreland said. “All of the values Coach Shafer instills in this program parallel what I believe in. My relationships with this coaching staff began early in our careers and then we went our separate ways to continue to grow. It is special to be back together again.”

(Photo credit: Air Force athletics)

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Report: Saban expected to stay in-house to fill one staff vacancy

Tosh Lupoi AP

Alabama announced earlier Saturday that the Tide would be retaining their offensive coordinator, thus avoiding a third hole on Nick Saban‘s coaching staff.  Of the two remaining holes, one has reportedly been filled, and the head coach didn’t have to go outside the building to fill it.

According to Thayer Evans of SI.com, Saban is expected to promote Tosh Lupoi to outside linebackers coach.  Lupoi currently serves as what’s described as a “defensive analyst.”

If the move comes to fruition, Lupoi would replace Lance Thompson, who left for Auburn earlier this month in what amounted to a lateral move.

In December of 2013, it was reported that Lupoi, the defensive line coach under Steve Sarkisian at Washington, gave $4,500 in impermissible benefits to defensive lineman Andrew Basham, who signed with the Huskies the previous February but failed to qualify academically.  Lupoi, who was under consideration for a job on Sarkisian’s new staff at USC, subsequently and very vehemently denied the allegations.  Because of the NCAA investigation into the allegations, Lupoi did not reunite with Sarkisian at USC.

In mid-January, it was reported that Lupoi and the football program had reached an agreement on a separation deal as he was not retained by new Huskies head coach Chris Petersen.  The NCAA completed its probe into the issue in early February, announcing that no sanctions would be meted out against either Lupoi or the UW football program.

Less than two months later, Lupoi was hired by Saban.

Lupoi spent six seasons as a defensive line coach at Cal (2006-11) — he was named Rivals.com‘s Recruiter of the Year in 2010 — before leaving for the Huskies in January of 2012.  Shortly after joining the staff at UW, Lupoi was found to have committed a minor NCAA violation unrelated to the other incident, resulting in his being “limited” during the spring evaluation period for recruits.

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Ex-Gamecock Shaq Roland to finish career at an FCS A&M

South Carolina v Florida Getty Images

A career that began with much promise at the FBS level will finish further down the collegiate ladder.

The mother of former South Carolina Gamecock Shaq Roland has confirmed to Josh Kendall of The State that her son has decided to move on to Prairie View A&M in Texas. As the Panthers are an FCS program, Roland, an SC native, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

“He was feeling kind of depressed (when he left the team), but he’s coming back to normal,” the wide receiver’s mother, Petina Etheredge, told the paper. “He said from the beginning that he wanted to get out of South Carolina. He felt like it would give him an opportunity for a fresh start and a second chance.”

A fresh start was certainly in order for what was an up-and-down career with the Gamecocks.

In 2013, the wide receiver was suspended for a total of three games for unspecified violations of team policies.

This season, Roland was third on the team in receiving yards (356) and receiving touchdowns (four), and he’s fourth in receptions (26). Even with that statistical success, Roland didn’t travel with the team for a game against Kentucky because he failed to attend a team meeting and a walkthrough.

A couple of days before Christmas, Roland quit the team.

A four-star member of USC’s 2012 recruiting class, Roland was rated as the No. 10 receiver in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.

Despite all of that recruiting potential, Roland finished his Gamecock career with just 56 catches for 891 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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Ole Miss’ Trae Elston issues mea culpa for arrest

Alabama v Mississippi Getty Images

Very early Thursday morning, two Ole Miss football players were arrested and charged. A day later, one of the two publicly apologized.

Defensive back Trae Elston and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were each charged with disorderly conduct, while Elston had a charge of resisting arrest tacked on as well. The incident that led to the legal predicament occurred outside of a bar called Lyric and reportedly involved numerous people in what was described as a large disturbance.

From WREG-TV in Memphis:

A police report said an officer was trying to break up a fight when Stringfellow fled on foot. An officer took him down a short ways away, but said Stringfellow refused to follow orders.

The report checked a box, indicating the incident might have been alcohol-related.

Another police report said an officer saw Elston hit another man. When an officer stepped in, Elston reportedly took off.

After taking off, Elston took to Twitter for his mea culpa.

Unlike Stringfellow, this is Elston’s first run-in with the law. “We are gathering facts on the matter,” head coach Hugh Freeze said in a very brief statement.

Over the past three years, Elston, a safety, has started 32 games for the Rebels.

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Alabama announces Lane Kiffin will return to Tide in 2015

Florida Atlantc v Alabama AP

This past week, Nick Saban stated that, amidst NFL speculation, Lane Kiffinis committed to us right now.”  It appears that, moving forward, that commitment will include the entire 2015 season.

And addresses — and puts an end to — the staff overhaul speculation for good measure.

In a press release, and less than two weeks before National Signing Day, Alabama confirmed that Kiffin will return to the Tide for the upcoming season.  Last weekend saw Kiffin’s name surface as the front-runner for the coordinator job of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

This weekend begins with statements from both the interested parties reaffirming their commitments.

“We’ve very pleased and happy that Lane is going to be staying here at the University of Alabama with us,” Saban said. “He’s done a fabulous job and is one of the finest offensive coaches in the country. He is going to have plenty of opportunities in the future and we want to continue to help him develop as a coach so when he leaves here, he’ll be in a very good situation. Our offense was extremely productive last season and we look forward to building on some of the good things we did on that side of the ball with this year’s team.”

In his statement, Kiffin intimated that the speculation involving the 49ers was overstated.

“I made a comment at the Sugar Bowl that I would be back this fall at Alabama and that is definitely the plan,” said Kiffin in his statement. “This time of year, there are lots of things out there regarding other coaching opportunities, but I want to reaffirm my commitment to the University of Alabama, Coach Saban, and our team. I’m excited about what our offensive staff was able to accomplish last year, but I also think there are a lot of things we can do a better job of in terms of putting our players in the best situation to have success.

“After being here for a year, I can see why this is such a special place in terms of the history, tradition, and how much football means to everyone at Alabama. I also have learned so much in the time I’ve spent with Coach Saban and really have a better understanding of what makes him the great coach that he is. I think the more time I can spend learning from him, the better coach I will be in the future.”

Kiffin recently completed his first season with the Tide, setting a school record in his debut for total offense while quarterback Blake Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper both set records for passing yards and receiving yards, respectively. He was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

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Alvarez: Pat Narduzzi interviewed for UW job

Barry Alvarez

With all signs pointing to Paul Chryst being named as Wisconsin’s new head coach, Barry Alvarez acknowledged on Dec. 12 that he would be interviewing two additional candidates. While the athletic director wouldn’t divulge the two potential candidates at the time, one was reported to be former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano.

Not only did Alvarez confirm Friday the Schiano interview, he also revealed the second candidate: Pat Narduzzi. The AD wasn’t done with the revelations either — or pulling the curtain back a bit on the coach-agent-school dynamic for that matter. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Alvarez said there were others interviewed, including an African-American, but he declined to identify them because they’re currently head coaches.

“That’s where it gets touchy because then you jeopardize their job because they’re looking (for a different job) or their agent’s looking for them,” he said.

As had been expected all along, Chryst was officially introduced as UW’s head coach on Dec. 17, leaving the same post at Pittsburgh to come back to his home state. The man who replaced Chryst? Narduzzi, of course.

Three days after Chryst’s hiring, reports first surfaced that Narduzzi had interviewed for the Panthers’ opening. Six days after that, Narduzzi was officially introduced as Chryst’s successor at Pitt.

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At title celebration, Braxton Miller indicates ‘we’ve got another year’

Braxton Miller

Saturday morning, fans gathered at Ohio Stadium to celebrate Ohio State’s title in the first College Football Playoff.  And, it appears, they may have been party to some “breaking” news.

As each player was introduced, Braxton Miller was greeted with a “one more year!” chant from those huddled in the Columbus cold.  In speaking to the throng, Miller seemed to indicate that a return to the Buckeyes, not a transfer to another football program as most have expected, is in the cards for 2015.

It was reported earlier this week that Miller is enrolled for the spring semester at OSU, an indication that he’ll (likely) be at the school when summer rolls around.  Because of the continued rehab on the shoulder that kept him out for the 2014 season, and was the impetus for the current quarterback “conundrum,” Miller will not participate in spring practice.  J.T. Barrett, who led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 mark as a starter before sustaining his own season-ending injury, will be limited in the spring, meaning that the postseason hero, Cardale Jones, will get most of the meaningful reps during the spring — and presumably a leg up in the race for the starting, especially with a new/different coordinator on the job.

Just because Miller states “we’ve got another year” at a celebration… and just because Urban Meyer thinks he’ll be back… and just because he’s enrolled for the spring, that doesn’t mean, though, things can’t or won’t change once summer rolls around, as we’re reminded by Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch:

With his degree in hand, Miller can transfer and play immediately, and his current enrollment at Ohio State has nothing to do with that. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who also had graduated early and was giving minor-league baseball a try, didn’t make up his mind to transfer from North Carolina State to Wisconsin until June 2011. That season, he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.

Of course, Miller could be back for another year, but at a different position. So there’s that as well.  Still, there are a growing number of signs that Miller will, at one position or another, indeed return to OSU for his final collegiate season.

Whether that is the case when spring gives way to summer still remains to be seen.

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