Liberty next up to make jump up a level in football

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Already in the past several years, a handful or two of Div. 1-AA (FCS) football programs have made the jump to the Div. 1-A (FBS) level.  This year alone, four programs — South Alabama (Sun Belt), Texas State (WAC), UMass (MAC) and UT-San Antonio (WAC) — will be making the jump.

Georgia State will be making the move to the big-boy level of football next year, as will Charlotte in 2015, while Appalachian State is on the verge of doing the same.

Now, another program is prepared to take that step up the football ladder.

During his commencement address Saturday, Liberty University chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. (pictured, left) announced that, as the Lynchburg News & Advance wrote, the Flames are ready to make the leap to the Football Bowl Subdivision.  The decision is the result of a feasibility study that commenced in December, shortly after the hiring of former Kansas head coach Turner Gill (pictured, right) for the same position with the Flames.

While a press conference will be held at 1 p.m. Monday afternoon to address the decision, Falwell Jr. issued a press release confirming the news he broke during the commencement speech.

“Competing at the highest levels of collegiate competition has been the vision for Liberty University since its founding in 1971,” Falwell said in a press release. “It is exciting to watch the fulfillment of that dream taking shape as Liberty now has the financial resources, facilities, academic support and athletics professionals necessary to move forward.”

Even as Liberty, a private Christian university founded over 40 years ago by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, has the desire to move up a level, they cannot do so without an official invitation from a 1-A conference, which is much the same position in which Appalachian State finds itself.

The News & Advance notes that the Sun Belt and MAC are the most likely options, and the school is hoping that the positive end to the feasibility study will prompt conferences to take an interest in the football program.

One plus for the two conferences mentioned is stadium size.  While Williams Stadium seats just 19,200 fans now, there are plans to expand the stadium to a capacity of 30,000 in the very near future.  Such a number would put LU behind just three of 12 schools in the MAC* — Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan at 30,200, Central Michigan at 30,199 — and make them very competitive attendance-wise in the Sun Belt — seven of the 10 schools currently in the conference have stadiums with listed capacities between 30,000 and 31,000, with new member South Alabama topping the league at just over 40,000.

(*13th member UMass will play its home games at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots)

Adding Liberty would expand the MAC’s footprint to seven states, the Sun Belt’s to eight.

Regardless of where Liberty ultimately lands, the school is confident it’s ready to take that next step with its football program.

“There has always been great commitment from our university to our NCAA Division I athletics programs and everything we have done has been with intent and purpose,” athletic director Jeff Barber said in his statement. “Our university and athletics program have gone through tremendous transformation during the past five years, and because of this, we are ready for FBS football.”

(Photo credit: Liberty athletics)

Alabama, SEC reign in first round of NFL draft

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And, in other news, water’s wet, sky is blue, death and taxes and yadda yadda yadda.

The first round of the 2018 NFL draft has officially been put to bed, and four Alabama players and 10 total from the SEC were selected amongst the first 32 picks.  Those totals represent the most for an individual school and a conference yet again.

For perspective, that conference last year had a record-tying 12 players taken in the first round; Alabama, with two, was tied with Clemson and Ohio State for most for an individual school.  This year, there were six other schools with more than one player selected: College Football Playoff championship game runner-up Georgia with three, while Louisville, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA and Virginia Tech were next with two each.

The Tech picks, incidentally, were linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (No. 16, Buffalo Bills) and safety Terrell Edmunds (No. 28, Pittsburgh Steelers).  Those two are brothers, making them the first siblings ever selected in the first round of the same NFL draft.

Aside from the SEC, the Power Five conferences went, in order of the number of selections, the ACC (six), Big Ten (four), Pac-12 (four) and Big 12 (one).  That number for the Big 12, incidentally, is two fewer than the Mountain West’s three and the same as the one each from the AAC and Conference USA.

Over the last six NFL drafts in the first round, the Power Five conference selections look like this:

SEC: 60
ACC: 36
PAC-12: 33
Big Ten: 25
Big 12: 12

Alabama joins Miami in some very exclusive NFL draft company

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It took a little while longer than what some of the early mock drafts had projected, but Alabama has finally joined some rarefied Player Selection Meeting air.

With the 11th overall pick of the 2018 NFL, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama defensive back/Swiss army knife Minkah Fitzpatrick. With that selection, the Crimson Tide has now seen a player taken in the first round of the draft each of the last 10 years, joining the Miami Hurricanes as the only program that can make that claim.

The All-American Fitzpatrick was the second player from the SEC taken thus far, joining Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, who was taken eighth overall by the Chicago Bears.  And,  just as we were getting ready to post this, one of Fitzpatrick’s teammates, Da’Ron Payne, was taken by the Washington Redskins with the 13th-overall pick.

Baker Mayfield becomes first former walk-on to be selected No. 1 overall in NFL draft

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You can add yet another notch to Baker Mayfield‘s burgeoning list of accomplishments.

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, most mock drafts had either USC quarterback Sam Darnold or Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen going No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns. In the last 24 hours, however, there was a growing buzz surrounding the Oklahoma signal-caller for that top spot.

Thursday night, at a little after 8 p.m. ET at AT&T Stadium, that buzz turned into a reality as the Browns made Mayfield the first pick of this year’s draft. And, not only did he become the fourth-ever Sooner to be taken No. 1 overall, he becomes the only player who began his collegiate career as a walk-on to be selected first in the draft.

Famously, Mayfield walked not once but twice in his collegiate playing career — first at Texas Tech and then again at Oklahoma after he decided to transfer from the Red Raiders. Mayfield, a three-star 2013 recruit who was rated as the No. 42 pro-style quarterback in the country, actually held offers from pre-Lane Kiffin Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and Rice before opting to become a walk-on in Lubbock.

While with the Red Raiders, Mayfield became, it’s believed, the first-ever to start a season opener as a true freshman walk-on.

After transferring to the Sooners and sitting out the 2014 season, the Austin, Tex., native became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football history. He helped lead the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs two of the last three seasons and put together back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017 that were the best, passer rating-wise, in the history of the game. He capped off that prodigious statistical run by winning the 2017 Heisman Trophy in one of the biggest landslides in the award’s history.

Report: QB Shea Patterson will be eligible for Michigan this fall

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The Michigan Wolverines may have their new starting quarterback. Shea Patterson, after a drawn-out battle for eligibility this season, will be eligible to play for the Wolverines this fall. According to a report from The Detroit News, Patterson has been granted a transfer waiver from the NCAA after the NCAA, Michigan and Ole Miss came to terms on an agreement to allow for Patterson to become eligible.

From The Detroit News report;

An agreement has been reached among the NCAA, Michigan and Ole Miss, according to the source, and with the completion of some paperwork, Patterson will be eligible to play this fall.

The source requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made, but that announcement is expected soon.

A Michigan official said Thursday night the athletic department has “no new information on a final decision from the NCAA.”

Ole Miss had been holding up the transfer process for Patterson because the school did not accept Patterson’s reason for wanting to transfer from the Rebels to Michigan. Frustrated with the process, Patterson ripped Ole Miss and former head coach Hugh Freeze. With Ole Miss blocking the transfer for Patterson, the former Ole Miss quarterback had been hanging in limbo with Michigan with no idea if he would be cleared to play this fall for the Wolverines or if he would have to sit out a season due to typical NCAA transfer rules.

Because Ole Miss was placed on probation amid scandal, Patterson sought a transfer after feeling he had been misled and lied to by Freeze and Ole Miss. Now at Michigan, Patterson can immediately begin focusing on competing for the starting job at quarterback for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Given how much Michigan could stand to improve at the position, Patterson could give the Wolverines a much-needed boost this fall.

A formal announcement on Patterson’s status at Michigan is expected to be made once the legal paperwork is completed between the NCAA, Michigan, and Ole Miss.