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John L. Smith moving on without arrested/suspended players

John Smith AP

The fate of Arkansas’ suspended trio of Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey and Andrew Peterson was thought to be known by Aug. 2. 

Turns out, we may know already.

Arkansas coach John L. Smith said on the second SEC media day that the all suspended players, including linebacker Tyler Gilbert, were not in the school’s media guide, and according to Arkansassports360.com, “indicated that this is permanent.

Smith has been saying the suspended players were not part of the program for some time, but now it seems there’s no coming back. The four players were arrested this spring.

Wade would be the most notable Razorback not to return, having eight receptions for 62 yards last year.

In other Arkansas news, both quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis said they have spoken to former coach Bobby Petrino, who was fired this past spring for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate (and lying about it). Both said the former coach called to apologize to them about what happened.

“I think there is genuine remorse there,” Wilson said. “I think he feels bad about what happened.”

From Davis:

“He called me. He said, ‘Man I hope you have a very good year.’ He apologized. He said, ‘I’m sorry for everything that happened.’ I let him know, he was very humble, he was very hurt on the phone. I told him not to be so hard on himself. I told him, ‘You made a mistake. You’ll get back from it.’ He said, ‘Thank you man, I love you.’ That was pretty much it.

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Report: Braxton Miller surgery tentatively slated for Tuesday

Braxton Miller AP

Braxton Miller‘s road to recovery appears to have a semi-official start date.

Citing a source close to the Ohio State quarterback, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Miller is tentatively scheduled to undergo surgery next Tuesday.  The procedure will be performed by world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

Initial reports had the injury labeled as a dislocated shoulder, which later morphed into a torn labrum.  Instead, the Dispatch reports, Miller suffered a partially torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder.

The injury, similar to the one he suffered during the Orange Bowl and for which he underwent February surgery, occurred during practice Monday as Miller was making a short throw to the sidelines.  There was no contact on the play.

Head coach Urban Meyer said earlier in the week that a timeline for a return would be 9-12 months, which means Miller could return as early as summer workouts in 2015 or as late as the end of summer camp.  Or, obviously, somewhere in between.

In a statement confirming his injury, Miller stated his intentions are to return to Ohio State next season and play for the Buckeyes.

With Miller out for the season, the Buckeyes are expected to turn to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett under center.  At the very least, Barrett will get the start in the opener against Navy, although backup Cardale Jones is expected to see some action as well.

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Neal Burcham holds off A&M transfer, named SMU’s starter

Central Florida v SMU

The official successor to Garrett Gilbert has been anointed, and it’s just who most expected it to be.

Following practice Thursday, June Jones announced that Neal Burcham has been tapped as SMU’s starting quarterback.  The Mustangs’ quarterback competition technically involved multiple players, but it essentially came down to Burcham and Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis.

“He has been waiting his turn to get in there,” Jones said. “I have been impressed watching him the last couple of years. He’s prepared himself, he’s worked hard. It’s just getting familiar with the offense and knowing where to go with the ball quickly and knowing your reads.”

The redshirt sophomore started the last two games in place of an injured Gilbert last season and went through spring practice, which Davis didn’t take part in, as the No. 1 quarterback. Jones cited Burcham’s experience in the offense as the deciding factor.

Burcham, a three-star member of the Mustangs’ 2012 recruiting class, completed 64-of-106 passes for 556 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in 2013.  Davis isn’t going away anytime soon, however, as the four-star 2012 signee still has three years of eligibility remaining counting this season.

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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

Navy v Duke

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the ACC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Florida State (Last year: 14-0; beat Auburn in BCS Championship Game)
It is easy to make the Seminoles the chalk favorite when evaluating the rest of the ACC. Despite losing some key players from a national championship roster, Florida State returns Heisman Trophy winning Jameis Winston and a deep roster that has benefitted and prepared for this moment since the day Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach. The depth is there with loads of quality all around. Karlos Williams should have a big year at running back and Winston’s top targets in the open field will be Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. The defense has a few holes to plug, but that should not be of much concern. Florida State looks to have the top unit or second-best unit in the entire ACC at every position on the field. There is not one game on the 2014 schedule Florida State should not be the favorite in, and they could keep this winning streak going into the playoffs. This team is clearly in College Football Playoff or bust mode with this amount of talent and the level of expectations in Tallahassee. Of all teams around the country, Florida State looks to be the most likely to be able to afford a blip in the loss column and still be invited to the playoff. But who can beat them? Anybody?

2. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat Ohio State in Orange Bowl)
The distance between Clemson and Florida State at the top of the Atlantic Division is not as widespread as last season’s meeting might suggest, but it did widen a bit heading into 2014 with the loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, but having Vic Beasley back on defense is rather nice. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris could have his work cut out for him in 2014 and Clemson could fall behind early if adjustments are not made. Getting to October with a winning record is not exactly a given with road trips to Georgia and Florida State lined up. Clemson should be a better team by the end of the season once they go through some growing pains early on.

3. Louisville (Last year: 12-1; beat Miami in Russell Athletic Bowl as member of AAC)
This Louisville team may be a far cry from the team we saw a year ago, but they could have a better debut season lined up compared to last year’s ACC rookies at Syracuse and Pittsburgh (and they both went to a bowl game and returned home with a win). The question is what does Bobby Petrino to get the Cardinals off on the right foot and can he continue to work some quarterback magic as the Cardinals enter the post-Teddy Bridgewater era? For starters, he feeds Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer on the ground and gets the ball to DeVante Parker through the air. Will Gardner will be the likely heir to Bridgewater’s throne under center, with just 12 pass attempts last season. The defense should be prepared for an adjustment period after returning juts four starters from last season.

4. Syracuse (Last year: 7-6; beat Minnesota in Texas Bowl)
Syracuse turned out to be a nice little surprise last season, but running back Terrell Hunt is no longer a secret. The Orange will let him carry the offense with his legs and his arm once again. If he can cut down on the interceptions and tack on a few more touchdowns through the air he will give defenses a little something extra to think about. With 15 starters back, the Orange look to have a good amount of experience on both sides of the football. They are not at a level ready to compete for a top spot in the division, but Syracuse could make a push for a third place finish if some pieces come together. The Orange have a schedule that could set up for a great start, but a challenging October will see Syracuse go through some rough spots. How they play through it will tell how their season will end.

5. Boston College (Last year: 7-6; lost to Arizona in Advocare V100 Bowl)
Steve Addazio has already breathed new life into this program, but what happens this season could be crucial. Boston College only brings back a handful of players from last season’s 7-6 squad, and they must find a way to replace 2,000-yard rusher and Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams. The primary running duties will likely be handed off to Myles Willis, and quarterback transfer Tyler Murphy from Florida should embrace a fresh opportunity with a head coach who knows all about him. The spring showed Boston College will once again be likely to rely on the running game, but help could be on the way in the passing game with some receivers getting into the mix.

6. North Carolina State (Last year: 3-9)
The 2013 season was a painful one for the Wolfpack, somewhat literally. With a rash of injuries across the roster, NC State hardly got a chance to see what it could do with new head coach Dave Doren on the sideline. With any luck that should change this season, with 14 starters due to return this season. There is plenty of work to be done on offense and defense in Raleigh, but having a steady quarterback situation with the transfer of Jacoby Brisket from Florida could help.

7. Wake Forest (Last year: 4-8)
New head coach Dave Clawson will have to be patient as he takes over a Wake Forest team in need of improvement across the field. The offense has averaged fewer than 19 points per game each of the past two seasons. Can that possibly go one more year? Competing in this division does not make anything easier for the Demon Deacons. They could jump out to a promising start (3-1 is not completely unrealistic), but once ACC play opens it could be a long fall.

COASTAL DIVISION

1. North Carolina (Last year: 7-6; beat Cincinnati in Belk Bowl)
The biggest thing going for North Carolina is momentum. After getting off to a rough start in 2013 (1-5), the Tar Heels kicked things in gear and ended the season winning six of the final seven games of the year, including a bowl victory. Larry Fedora finally seems to have things in order for a potential run to a division title, and he does so with 15 starters coming back this season. Marquise Williams will keep the dual-threat going for the Tar Heels after leading the team in rushing in 2013 and second to Bryn Renner in passing, but getting running back TJ Logan more involved should be in the plans. North Carolina may be a little in development on the defensive line, but the linebackers and secondary are in really good shape this fall.

2. Miami (Last year: 9-4; lost to Louisville in Russell Athletic Bowl)

It is hard to believe but Miami is entering its 11th season as a member of the ACC and is still searching for a trip to the ACC Championship Game. Could this finally be the year for the Hurricanes? Al Golden certainly has a running back to lead his offense there with Duke Johnson and the defense did put up some better numbers in 2013 compared to 2012 by knocking off roughly four points and 60 yards per game. And for the first time in a while Miami posted back-to-back seasons with a positive turnover margin. Want more? The offense has increased its average scoring each season Golden has been in Miami. Yet, they can’t seem to take a firm grasp on the Coastal Division. Why? Inconsistent play. Miami will be challenged early with road games at Louisville and Nebraska and a home date against Arkansas State is no guarantee. Miami also catches Florida State on the schedule, which could hurt their chances in the division race when other possible contenders skip FSU (and Clemson).

3. Virginia Tech (Last year: 8-5; lost to UCLA in Sun Bowl)
Virginia Tech returns nine starters on offense, but the Hokies break in a new starting quarterback. Fortunately, transfer Michael Brewer is not without experience and could be ready to step right into action in Blacksburg. The offensive line has just one hold to fill as well, so stability and uniformity should not be a concern. Virginia Tech’s biggest concern will just be scoring points after averaging just 22.5 points per game last season. And that’s the catch. Virginia Tech only allowed 19.3 points per game last season, so the Hokies probably should have won more than eight games. There is a chance to get off to a good start too, because the road trip at Ohio State looks much more manageable now with Braxton Miller out for the season.

4. Pittsburgh (Last year: 7-6; beat Bowling Green in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl)
Pittsburgh loses a monster on the defensive line with Aaron Donald now in the NFL, and the secondary is extremely thin in light of some offseason news, so to say the defense is a concern is putting it nicely for the Panthers. The Panthers also allowed more points per game than they scored, which tends to be a rarity for a team with a winning record.  If the defense can clamp down just a bit more, Pittsburgh could easily play their way to a Coastal title, although they will win ugly at times. Pittsburgh has young receiver Tyler Boyd, already one of the top receivers in the ACC, and a steady running stable of James Conner and Isaac Bennett. The schedule is also extremely favorable for Pittsburgh, with no Florida State or Clemson and home games against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke.

5. Duke (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas A&M in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Let us not attempt to take anything away from the great work done in Durham by David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils the last two seasons. Duke going to back-to-back bowl games was something that could once only be dreamed of. Can they get back to the postseason for a third straight year? Absolutely, but will the rest of the division and the typical football powers rebound a little to block a return trip to the ACC Championship? Duke was set to return 14 starters, but injuries have already taken a toll with an ACL tear to All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown and another to tight end Braxton Deaver. On top of that, Duke lost quarterback Brandon Connette to a transfer to Fresno State. All is not lost though. Duke still has receiver Jamison Crowder, one of the best in the ACC, and the schedule avoids Florida State and Clemson once again. No school in the country will have an easier October either.

6. Georgia Tech (Last year: 7-6; lost to Mississippi in Music City Bowl)
Georgia Tech’s strategy will be the same as it has always been under head coach Paul Johnson; Run, run, option run. Will the Yellow Jackets be able to use that offensive style effectively enough to take the heat off of Johnson? The depth on offense is not great, although six starters return from 2013. One starter not back this season is quarterback Vad Lee, who decided to transfer this offseason. That opens the door for sophomore Justin Thomas under center, and he played sparingly last season. The big concern will be the defense. Georgia Tech allowed just 22.8 points per game last season, the lowest average since 2008, but just four starters return for the new year. Georgia Tech may still have enough to make a run at the wide-open Coastal Division (avoiding Florida State on the schedule helps, and they get Clemson at home).

7. Virginia (Last year: 2-10)
If there is one coach that is latched into the hot seat in the ACC, it may just be Virginia’s Mike London. The head coach of the Cavaliers. Virginia lost their top offensive player in tight end Jake McGee (he went to Florida), so the need for returning players to step up in 2014 cannot be overstated. Virginia does return eight starters on offense, with a handful of young players scattered throughout. Running back Kevin Parks should be the focus of the offense after a 1,000-yard season with 11 touchdowns. The defense returns nine starters from 2013, and the hope is playing experience last season will help slow down a trend in allowing more points per game each of the past three seasons. The defense was gashed for 404 yards per game last season, the highest per-game average dating back to 2007. One positive might be the number of sacks (28) was the highest sack total for Virginia since recording 29 in 2008. But Virginia has a long way to go to improve on two wins from last season.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Another SEC school keeping 4-star DT from LSU?

Travonte Valentine

It appears the Travonte Valentine situation hasn’t been resolved after all.

Earlier this week, the the four-star 2014 signee’s high school was quoted as saying his former player, who had been awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse, had been cleared by The Association and would arrive on campus Tuesday.  That didn’t happen, and may not happen until Saturday… if then.

While the defensive tackle has been cleared by the NCAA, he has yet, for whatever reason, to be cleared by the SEC.  Valentine, however, has an idea why the league has yet to give a thumbs up.

From the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Ross Dellenger:

“I think there’s a few people that don’t want me to play in the SEC,” Valentine said, “and I’m pretty sure who it is, but I’m not going to say.”

Valentine suggested that he was referring to another SEC school.

The SEC office did not immediately return a message for comment on Valentine’s situation.

(SEC football: catch the intrigue and back-room backstabbings at the expense of 18 year olds!!!)

According to Dellenger, Valentine, who held scholarship offers from nine SEC schools before signing with LSU last February, and his mother were slated to meet and talk Thursday night about the situation.  What was discussed hasn’t been divulged.

Even if Valentine enrolls in school Monday and begins practicing with the team, he won’t be permitted to practice in full pads during the mandatory four-day acclimation period.  Such a timeline means there would be a very real chance Valentine wouldn’t have a full-pad practice prior to LSU’s opener against Wisconsin a week from Saturday.  It also means this delay could have Valentine ticketed for a redshirt.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He was originally expected by some to be a part of the line rotation as a true freshman.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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No Choice: injury to keep Clemson from redshirting 4-star RB

Adam Choice

The ripple effects from Zac Brooks‘ injury has commenced in earnest.

Wednesday, Clemson announced that Brooks would miss the entire 2014 season due to a foot injury.  That left the Tigers with just three healthy running backs… and Dabo Swinney with no other choice.

In a move not entirely unexpected, the head coach confirmed Thursday night that true freshman Adam Choice will not redshirt as had previously been planned.

“With Zac’s injury we have just three healthy running backs to open the season,” Swinney said in quotes distributed by the team. “You can’t go through a season with just three backs, so Adam Choice is going to play this year. Adam has had a great camp. He has a lot of natural ability and we have been very impressed with his ability to pick up the offense. We will get him ready and he will have an impact at some point this year.”

Choice was a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 10 running back in the country by Rivals.com. How choice will fit in with the current rotation of junior C.J. Davidson, redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman and senior D.J. Howard, the presumptive replacement for Brooks as top back, remains to be seen.

As for the specifics of Brooks’ injury, Swinney said it’s a ligament issue in his foot, similar to the one suffered by former Clemson great Andre Ellington.  Swinney sounded optimistic Brooks, the Tigers’ leading returning rusher, will be available for the start of spring practice next year.

“The positive is that Zac will still have two years to play. He has not redshirted. Andre has come back from it just fine. He had a 1,000-yard rushing season for us an is now the top back in Arizona (Cardinals).”

(Photo credit: Clemson athletics)

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Spurrier, on star RB vs. A&M: ‘Mike’s going to be in there’

Mississippi State v South Carolina Getty Images

It appears Steve Spurrier got everyone wound up for, basically, nothing.

Wednesday after practice, Spurrier made it sound as if there was very real doubt that Mike Davis would be available for South Carolina’s opener against Texas A&M next Thursday.  That was offset by both the running back and his position coach downplaying the severity of what’s been described as a rib injury.

A day later, Davis returned to practice after missing the previous two sessions.  And he did so without the benefit of the no-contact jersey some of his injured teammates were sporting.

During a radio interview afterward, the OBC struck a decidedly different tone than 24 hours before when talking about Davis’ availability for the A&M game — even as he couldn’t help but get a shot in at Davis’ expense.

“Mike Davis has sort of been banged-up this preseason,” Spurrier said according to The State. “He’s missed several days of practice, sort of got a bruise in the back or something. He hasn’t practiced but a little bit today, all this week. So Brandon Wilds has been running well, David Williams has been hurt, Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds have been everyday guys all preseason.

“So anyway, Mike’s a heck of a back, but these other guys have actually done a little better than him because Mike’s been hurt a little bit. So we’re going to play our backs, and Mike’s going to be in there.”

Earlier in the day, Davis himself took to Twitter to make light of the concern over his availability for the opener.

Davis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last year, was named first-team All-SEC by the conference’s head coaches Thursday.

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Tom Osborne explains selection process for College Football Playoff

Tom Osborne

There is so much we don’t exactly know regarding the selection process to determine the inaugural College Football Playoff.

This much we do know:

  1. A 13-member committee was created to choose the participants.
  2. Each member of the committee will be recused from voting when their school or conference is discussed
  3. A team’s strength of schedule and level of competition will be primary factors in how team’s are differentiated.

One of the members of the committee is former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Dr. Tom Osborne. The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ official site interviewed Osborne Thursday to discuss the processes the committee will use to help decide which four teams will be chosen to play in the College Football Playoff.

Here are the highlights:

We’ve been introduced to the technology and will be able to watch almost every football game that’s played. We also will have access to a huge amount of statistical data that will become relevant about the fourth or fifth game of the season. We will see trends that take shape in terms of who’s playing well on offense, who’s good on defense, field position, the kicking game, turnovers, and those kinds of things. Of course, we will also look at strength of competition, conference championships, and even injuries will be considered.

I think that if two teams have identical records and similar schedules and one of them wins the conference championship and one of them doesn’t, then some weight may be given to the conference championship team. There are conferences other than the five large conferences which will have a path into the four-team playoff. Obviously if you win the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC or SEC conferences, you are going to be somewhere in the hunt, unless you’re a team that manages to win a conference and still lose two or three games. That will make it more difficult. The teams that are undefeated and win conference championships are certainly going to be under major consideration.

A conference champion who loses their starting quarterback in the last game of the season might possibly be downgraded somewhat. You are going to be looking at who are the strongest teams at the moment the decision is made. You’re also looking at which teams are capable of beating every other team that they face.

I think it is certainly possible that you would have two teams from the same conference selected with one of them not being a conference champion. Obviously they would have to be a very powerful team. I hate to speculate in certain areas because you paint yourself into a corner, but at the end of the year, what you are going to try to do is take the best estimation and decide who the four best teams in the country are. There are many ways to get to that, and being a conference champion is certainly one of those. The win/loss record is another. Strength of schedule and head-to-head competition would be important, and injuries, and some statistical data will be examined as well. For example, if two teams are somewhat identical, maybe two teams have lost one game each and are both conference champions. That’s when you might begin to look at statistical data.

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Vanderbilt names its starting QB for season-opener

Patton Robinette

Derek Mason has made his first major decision as the new head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The team’s quarterback competition is over. Mason was able to differentiate between redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary, senior Stephen Rivers and sophomore Patton Robinette with nine days remaining before the start of the season.

The result of the competition was announced on twitter:

Robinette played in nine games last year with one start. He threw for 642 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added 214 rushing yards.

“I’m excited for Patton as we prepare this team for the season opener next Thursday,” Mason said in a statement. “Patton has really made strides and consistently improved from the spring to now. I believe he has worked to earn this opportunity.”

The wording within the tweet from the team is interesting. Robinette was named the starter for the team’s opener against the Temple Owls. It doesn’t necessarily mean Robinette will be the team’s starting quarterback for the entire season. If Robinette struggles during the first few weeks of play, Mason may insert either Rivers or McCrary into the starting lineup.

“We have three solid guys at the position now, along with the talented freshmen” Mason said. “Johnny and Stephen are very capable quarterbacks and both worked hard to make a strong case for the starting role. They made this a difficult decision.”

With Vanderbilt officially naming its starting quarterback for opening weekend, we’re still waiting on a decision from two more SEC teams.

You’re up Alabama and LSU.

(Hat Tip: Washington Post)

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Report: Oklahoma’s Blake Bell is taking snaps at QB

Blake Bell

Blake Bell‘s full-time transition to tight end has been put on a slight hiatus.

Bell is still projected to become the Sooners’ starting tight end this season, but he’s also working at quarterback with Oklahoma’s second-team, according to The Oklahoman.

“Earlier this week, coach Bob Stoops said redshirt freshman Cody Thomas would likely be Knight’s primary backup, but according to sources, Thomas has been injured, which is why Bell has split second-team reps this week with true freshman Justice Hansen,” Jason Kersey reported.

Last season, only the Kansas Jayhawks had a worse passing offense in the Big 12 Conference than the Oklahoma Sooners. Bell played in 11 games and started eight at quarterback. He averaged a meager 149.8 yards passing in those contests.

Oklahoma’s coaching staff eventually inserted Trevor Knight into the lineup, and the freshman took full advantage of the situation with a stellar performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

This move isn’t meant to be permanent. It’s merely an opportunity to have an experienced signal caller ready if Knight were to be injured at any point during the season.

There is also an opportunity for the Sooners to revive the “Belldozer.” During Bell’s redshirt freshman and sophomore compaigns, he was a unstoppable in short-yardage situations. Bell rushed for 24 touchdowns prior to last season. Yet, he never took full advantage of his athleticism as the team’s full-time starting quarterback.

This opportunity may be a best-case scenario for Bell. He will continue to develop at tight end as one of the team’s primary targets, and he may even return to the role that made once made him a household game.

Thomas isn’t expected to miss a lot of practice time, though, and Bell’s reps at quarterback will likely cease upon his return. The Sooners should also expect the status of Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield to be clarified very soon.

A week from now the Sooners will have plenty of depth at quarterback.

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UPDATE: Fans won’t get to throw a pie in Harvey Updyke’s face

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr.

I don’t know who this’ll be more popular amongst, Alabama fans or Auburn fans. Or who’d more want to take a shot at him.

Regardless, Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan who poisoned the famed oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner a couple of years ago, has agreed to appear at a charity function in Mobile, Ala., next month, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported. At this charity event, which is being held to raise funds for a family whose young son died of cancer last month, “fans will be allowed to either dunk [Updyke] in a dunking booth or throw pies at his face,” Schlabach wrote.

Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his mother are helping raise awareness to the event, but it’s Updyke’s (potential) presence that’ll trigger the most attention nationally. The event’s organizer, Alabama fan T.J. Hodges, stated the “Updyke idea came from me thinking outside the box to raise money for the family” and that “I thought I’d take a chance and see if Harvey was interested in helping, and he said he’d do whatever we wanted.”

It did, though, take Updyke a while to get to that point.

“He thought about it and thought about it,” Updyke’s wife, Elva, told Schlabach. “His daughter said he needed to do it because it will show that he’s not as big of a nut as some people believe. He told them they can do whatever they want to him if it will raise money for kids.”

Updyke, as “Al from Dadeville,” infamously called into the Paul Finebaum radio show in February of 2011 and claimed to have poisoned the Toomer’s oaks after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He was subsequently arrested, charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage of an agricultural facility, a Class-C felony. He was sentenced to three years in jailhe served 180 days of the sentence — and was placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. During that probationary period, he has a 7 p.m. curfew.

Additionally, Updyke, who now lives in Louisiana less than an hour from the LSU campus, was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and has been barred from the following: any Auburn University property, any collegiate sporting event and speaking to the media.

While there was initial hope that the oaks could be saved, they were ultimately taken down after one final roll. New trees are expected to be planted next year.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.):  Who would have thought the opportunity to throw a pie in the face or dunk infamous Alabama fan Harvey Updyke in water would take a turn for the worse? OK, it was probably inevitable.

Upon the announcement that Updyke would make an appearance at a charity function in Mobile, Ala. for children with cancer, it turned ugly. The mother, Dee Dee Bonner, and wife, Katherine Webb, of former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron both received death threats on social media due to their help organizing the event. As a result, Updyke’s appearance has been cancelled.

“It seems to be taking away from the primary purpose, which is raising awareness for children’s cancer,” Bonner told ESPN.com. “We don’t want to take away from the focus. We needed to get away from it.”

“I think Mr. Updyke’s heart was in the right place with what he wanted to do, but I think too many people are still upset about what he did and haven’t gotten over it. I didn’t approve of what he did, but I think he really wanted to help.”

“We want to focus on the real heroes, which are these children fighting for their lives and their families.”

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Former four-star recruit calls it a career at Wisconsin

Vonta Jackson

The career of Wisconsin’s Vonte Jackson comes to an end before it truly got started.

Jackson suffered from a series of knee injuries which eventually cost him his career. As a senior in high school, Jackson tore the ACL in his left knee. A year later, as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers, he tore the ACL in his right knee. Jackson again injured his right knee Aug. 9 and didn’t return to the practice field.

“It looks like Vonte is going to have to take medical (aid) unfortunately,” Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus. “But he is in a good spot (mentally). We’ve discussed it. We’ve spent time together.

“His family is on board. Everybody knows it is the best thing.”

Jackson entered fall camp with an opportunity to earn playing time at safety. He also provided depth at running back when needed. But the team will now have to address both positions without Jackson’s contributions.

“I feel bad about it,” Andersen said. “But I feel good that he can move on in life now.

“He can close that chapter and go on.”

Jackson was considered a four-star recruit and the No. 2 recruit in the state of Wisconsin when he committed to the Badgers as part of their 2012 class.

(Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin athletic department)

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BYU finally confirms Jamaal Williams’ suspension

Jamaal Williams

BYU running back Jamaal Williams announced three week ago he was suspended for the team’s season opener against the Connecticut Huskies due to an honor code violation.

The school  finally acknowledged the suspension after Williams posted about it on twitter.

“We were caught off-guard a little bit by that,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Jay Drew Wednesday.

“This day and age, with social media and such, we don’t have rules against it. It just kinda surprised us. But these are big boys and girls, and they took it upon themselves to do that, and I am OK with it. I wish they would have communicated and collaborated with our staff. We have professionals that can help it go more smoothly. But they chose to do that, and took accountability for themselves. I am OK with that.”

The decision to suspend Williams is believed to stem from two incidents.  In February, Williams was suspected of underage drinking. The running back also admitted there was another incident in July.

Last season, Williams ran for 1,233 yards. But he may not have been ready for the start of the upcoming season.

The running back suffered a knee sprain during BYU’s scrimmage Wednesday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The injury was deemed “not serious”, but Williams will be evaluated on a daily basis.

With Williams out of the lineup, sophomore Algeron Brown will likely get the nod as the team’s starting running back against the Huskies.

The Cougars expect to have better communication the next time a situation like this arises.

“Yes, it is always smart communication-wise to talk about things [first],” Holmoe said. “We do it as a staff all the time, but when we don’t, something goes wrong. So, we are just trying to practice [that] and help them understand and practice good judgement.”

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Kent State will honor fallen teammate

Jason Bitsko

After the tragic loss of center Jason Bitsko, Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen said, “We are heartbroken by the news of Jason’s death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and everyone whose lives he touched.”

Bitsko was found unresponsive and passed away Wednesday.

The senior will provide inspiration for his team this season, and the Golden Flashes will honor him every time they take the field.

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes spoke of Bitsko Thursday and what he meant to everyone.

“Jason Bitsko was not just a Golden Flash, he was a son, he was a brother, he was a mentor, he was a friend,” Haynes told the Akron Plain Dealer’s August Fagerstrom.

Despite the loss of their son, Bitsko’s family found a way to make someone else’s life better.

(Photo credit: Kent State athletics)

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OL Joe Manley leaves Louisville, lands at WKU

Joe Manly

Joe Manley began his collegiate playing career in his home state of Kentucky.  While continue it there, he’ll do so in a different football program.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Manly suited up and practiced for the first time at Western Kentucky.  Just this past Friday, the offensive lineman had been granted a release from his Louisville scholarship.

Manly, a three-star member of the UofL’s 2012 recruiting class, played in nine games as a redshirt freshman last season.

Manly is the second Cardinals player to transfer the past week or so.  This past weekend, defensive back Lyn Clark decided to leave the UofL and transfer to an FCS program.

(Photo credit: Louisville athletics)

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Mark Dantonio, on Braxton Miller injury: ‘I felt bad’

Big Ten Championship Getty Images

With Braxton Miller going down with a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this week, Michigan State immediately became the favorite to win the Big Ten East according to most observes as well as the degenerates in Las Vegas.

Just because of that, though, doesn’t mean the Spartans are jumping up and down and gloating over the Ohio State starting quarterback’s 2014 demise.

“I felt bad,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said according to the Lansing State Journal when asked what he thought when he first ehard the news. “Braxton Miller is a great football player. He is a senior, has meant a lot to their football team. He is a great leader, a great young man. You don’t want something like that to happen. It’s a tough deal.

“But I would say this — we played without Max Bullough in the Rose Bowl [because of a suspension]. Usually when those things happen, people rise up. Everybody becomes a little bit better. What was a negative becomes a strength later.”

Dantonio wasn’t alone in his feelings.

“Aw, I mean that’s sad,” senior safety Kurtis Drummond said of the injury. “I never want to see any player get injured or have to miss games. For him to have to go through that, it’s definitely a sad time. I’m definitely praying for him and hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”

In the game that put the Spartans in the Granddaddy of Them All, Miller was able to get his on the ground against the ferocious MSU defense to the tune of 142 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Through the air was a different case during the course of OSU’s 10-point loss as Miller was held to just 8-of-21 passing (38.1 percent) 101 yards.

OSU and MSU will square off in the regular season Nov. 8 in East Lansing in what could still be, despite Miller’s absence, for an early-December trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten championship game.

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