Penn State free agency free-for-all update

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As Ben noted Tuesday evening, the NCAA “clarified” its policies pertaining to the transfer of current Penn State football players out of that program to another, and it is still  essentially what it was the day the sanctions were announced: a roster shopping spree for all 123 other FBS football programs.

USC can still have the Nittany Lions’ star running back, despite the “limitations” thanks to its own sanctions.  Derek Dooley and his Tennessee  coaching staff will still be free to have communication with current Nittany Lions.

And, obviously, those two programs are far from the only ones viewing PSU’s roster as a blue-light special in college football’s version of Christmas in summer camp.

Here’s a very cursory look at what programs have publicly stated as far as their interest in current Nittany Lions players, while being fully armed with the realization that the interest in the Penn State roster goes much deeper than is being acknowledged…

— “If somebody was interested in coming to the University of Alabama, we would certainly entertain it.”

That’s Tide head coach Nick Saban, speaking on whether he would be open to overtures from current Penn State players.

The recruiting machine that is Saban, though, had some sage advice for the teenagers/young adults who may be looking to make a life-altering decision.

“The first thing I would say to a player is, this is not just about football. You’re there to get an education. I think you should think about your future in terms of your ability to be successful personally, academically and athletically.”

Of course, Saban and/or his staff has already been in contact with at least three PSU players, so the mileage on that quote may very when it comes to a roster’s need.

— “Auburn coaches spent part of the day Monday looking at film of current Penn State players and commitments and will probably continue that Tuesday.”

That quote comes from a national recruiting analyst by way of al.com.

The good news for Penn State as it relates to AU’s interest in its players?

“While no final decisions have been reached, I’m not expecting Auburn to actively pursue any current Penn State players or commits at the moment. They may continue to evaluate this fall and look at any potential January transfers.”

Art Briles and his Baylor coaching staff are “heavily connected to Penn State.”  After taking on three FBS transfers in less than a year, Briles is not shy in acknowledging he’s ready to add a fourth or a fifth or whatever number it takes.

“If people reach out to us, that says they’re willing to move on. If they do that, then we’re willing to talk,” said Briles. “If a guy can play, we’re going to look at him without question.”

Briles confirmed that one unnamed Penn State player has already approached the program regarding a transfer.

— “When the dust settles, I think there will be several players that entertain the thought of going somewhere else. So I think that any program that didn’t do homework prior to this decision coming out … was behind on that one.”

That’s Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, who’s shown in his first year with the Jayhawks that he’s far from averse to looking to transfers for immediate help.

— From ESPNLosAngeles.com:

UCLA coach Jim Mora said Tuesday that he “has his eye on a few” Penn State players and that a few have reached out to the Bruins to inquire about a possible transfer.

The first-year Bruins coach added that “I’ve talked to all the coaches about guys they might be familiar with and there are some positions we might look at a little more closely than others.”

— First-year Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez confirmed that his coaching staff has talked to “a couple guys, because we know ’em.”

He also stated that any movement, one way or the other, will be swift.

“I don’t know if any of them will come, or if it’ll work out with them. The turnaround’s going to be pretty quick. The timing’s not good for any of them.”

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.