Big Ten coaches say they’re keeping distance from PSU players

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Many would probably agree that the most crippling sanction levied against Penn State by NCAA president Mark Emmert was the mass reduction of scholarships over the next four years.

The penalty is two-fold: a reduction of 10 initial scholarships for the 2013-16 signing classes and 20 total scholarships from 2014-17, giving the Nittany lions a 65-scholarship player cap.

It could take several years before Penn State is able to recover from that, and the NCAA did them one more by opening the transfer gates, allowing any player wishing to leave to do so without the slightest restriction based on conference, head coach or otherwise. On paper, that sounds like a good idea. Transfer restrictions can be, and often are, absurd. But the counter argument in favor of them has always been the free-for-all that would inevitably follow.

And what a free-for-all it’s been already.

CBSSportsBruce Feldman was first to report the free agent frenzy, and as of Wednesday, members of Illinois’ coaching staff were apparently hanging out in State College trying to grab a player or two*.

(*Illinois coach Tim Beckman denied coaches being present at PSU, however)

“We have chosen to stay at Penn State and opposing coaches are outside our apartment, was that the intention of the NCAA?” tweeted Penn State defensive back Adrian Amos

Embellished or not, there was a chaotic vibe coming out of Happy Valley.

Day 1 of Big Ten media days was more subdued. Partially because Nittany Lions running back Silas Redd wasn’t in attendance — he’s reportedly very close to signing with USC — and partially due to other Big Ten, coaches taking a by and large less-controversial approach when it comes to poaching from their fellow Big Ten member.

Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), Brady Hoke (Michigan), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Bo Pelini (Nebraska) and Kevin Wilson (Indiana) are among the coaches who said in one form or another that they would not actively pursue Penn State players.

“I made the decision as a head coach that we would not reach out to any Penn State players,” Bielema said. “One of the things that I’ve loved and appreciated about being in this conference is there is a genuine respect for everybody in our league. You are a Big Ten brethren.”

I have a problem with [recruiting Penn State’s players],” Meyer added. “I think if a player reaches out and says, ‘I’m outta here and I’m gone,’ a player has a right to do what he wants to do. But to go actively recruit, I have a problem with that.”

And, to be clear, that was the overall theme of coaches not wanting to get involved with Penn State: it would be the player, not the school, initiating the contact.

Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the coaching fraternity, where coaches generally look out for one another. And no other coach needs support like Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.

At the same time, the NCAA has made it abundantly clear that coaches are allowed to pursue any kid from Penn State that they want provided they give proper notification. Beckman and Purdue’s Danny Hope seemed less reserved — and, perhaps, more honest — about the possibility of recruiting Penn State.

“The NCAA has established the rules and the guidelines and obviously because they’re strong from an ethics standpoint, and as long as we’re compliant, we’re going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team,” Hope said.

And ethics be damned, Hope, along with any other coach seizing the opportunity, is doing the exact same thing Penn State players are allowed to do: look out for No. 1.

Saying otherwise is a PR move, and actually refraining from actively recruiting Penn State is the more humane course of action. But doing the right thing doesn’t equal wins, which is the most the most important metric for college football coaches. If a player can provide immediate assistance somewhere else, the natural reaction is to make it happen.

Funny how the NCAA thought Penn State was the school in need of a culture change.

Louisiana-Lafayette suspends 13 players arrested on felony charges

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This’ll certainly leave a mark on the ol’ depth chart.

Louisiana-Lafayette announced Tuesday night that a total of 13 players have been indefinitely suspended by head coach Mark Hudspeth.  Those 13 are tight end Matthew Barnes, defensive end Joe Dillon, left guard Robert Hunt, defensive back Denarius Howard, defensive end Jarvis Jeffries, defensive tackle LaDarrius Kidd, linebacker Terik Miller, defensive back Damar’ren Mitchell, running back Trey Ragas, defensive back Simeon Thomas, defensive back Levarious Varnado, left tackle D’Aquin Withrow and running back Jordan Wright.

While the school attributed the suspensions to a violation of unspecified team rules, KATC-TV is reporting that all 13 of the players were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft stemming from an incident earlier this month.

From the television station’s report:

According to investigators, surveillance video shows the 13 players going to a room on the fourth floor of the Huger Hall dormitory and stealing around $2,400 worth of items from the room. Police say the students surrendered after warrants for their arrests were issued.

Seven of those suspended started games last season — Hunt (13), Withrow (13), Mitchell (11), Dillon (eight), Jeffries (seven), Thomas (seven) and Howard (two).  Dillon was named a Freshman All-American by several organizations after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns with 12.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks in 2016.

Wright (pictured, No. 27) wasn’t a starter, but he was fourth on the team last season with 192 yards rushing.  With the departure of leading rusher Elijah McGuire (1,127 yards), Wright, Ragas and Darius Hoggins (281 yards last season) are expected to compete or the starting running back job this season.

UL-L is scheduled to open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana.

Louisville grad transfer QB Kyle Bolin tweets transfer to Rutgers

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Following Louisville’s spring game earlier this month, Kyle Bolin confirmed that he would be transferring from the football program.  A little over a week later, the quarterback already has a new team lined up.

Per a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account, Bolin wrote he’s “proud to say my next home will be at Rutgers University.” The football program has thus far declined to confirm Bolin’s addition to Chris Ash‘s roster.

Bolin is scheduled to graduate from the U of L next month, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Scarlet Knights this coming season.

Texas, Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss and Western Michigan were also considered potential destinations for Bolin.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

The arrival of Bolin couldn’t come soon enough for the quarterback-depleted Knights.

In mid-November, Rutgers had six scholarship quarterbacks on its roster.  By the beginning of December, that number had been cut in half as two of them, Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, left the program as graduate transfers while another, Mike Dare, left as a run-of-the-mill transfer.  The group was further pared earlier this month when Tylin Oden was dismissed for violating team rules and TCU transfer Zach Allen suffered a torn ACL.

With Allen’s injury, it leaves the Scarlet Knights with just one healthy signal-caller on scholarship at the moment — Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job.  Another will be added when 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis comes to campus this summer.

Rescigno, Lewis and Bolin will commence a battle for the starting job when summer camp opens in early August.

Nick Saban, on QB controversy: ‘there isn’t one’

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Consider The Nicktator perturbed.  Again.

Jalen Hurts (pictured, right) helped lead Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman last season and is seemingly the Crimson Tide’s unquestioned starter as we trudge toward summer.  Five-star 2017 signee Tua Tagovailoa (pictured, left), however, had an impressive first spring in Tuscaloosa, capped off with an excellent showing in the annual A-Day game this past weekend.

The true freshman passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns in what amounted to a glorified scrimmage, while the incumbent threw for 301 yards and a pair of scores.

Tagovailoa’s showing throughout the 15 spring practice sessions had led some to wonder whether there could be a quarterback controversy brewing at ‘Bama.  According to Nick Saban, that’s just the media being the media.

“Jalen Hurts played a lot of good football for us last year, and he’s certainly made a lot of progress this spring,” the head coach said by way of al.com. “Even though all of you in the press are trying to make a quarterback controversy out of nothing, which is what you’re doing right now, there isn’t one.”

LOOK: Jim Harbaugh hooks Pope Francis up with Michigan helmet, pair of Jordans

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There’s a series of words I’d never imagined I’d string together in a headline.

As you may have heard, Jim Harbaugh has taken his Michigan football team to Italy for an offseason European vacation.  As part of the trip, the team is in the Vatican City today and took in the Pope’s Wednesday address to the masses in St. Peter’s Square — the players and athletic director Warde Manuel sat amongst the crowd while the head coach and his wife were seated on the same stage as Pope Francis.

Following the address, and after a wait of nearly a half-hour, Harbaugh was able to meet with and speak to His Holiness.  The coach didn’t come empty-handed, either, as Pope Francis was gifted with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans.  Michigan-themed, of course.

“This is as good as it gets,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com after his meeting with the pope. “This has been the experience of my lifetime.”