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CFT predicts: the ACC

Frank Beamer AP

Like the Big East, the ACC’s reputation in football has taken a dive in recent years. The conference has an insulting BCS bowl record and traditional powers (i.e, Florida State and Miami) can’t get back into the national championship picture.

That has an opportunity to change this season. Florida State is one of those preseason media darlings getting the “Watch out, this team’s back!” treatment. The Seminoles have fallen flat in the face of high expectations, though. Will this year be any different?

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the ACC should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State (last season: 9-4; won Champs Sports Bowl) 
I know, I know. This is the year the Seminoles finally get back in the BCS championship picture, right? Eh, I’ve heard that musical number before. Florida State should be good this season, but that good? The defense, though? Holy cow. One of the best in the nation last year in points allowed should be equally stout this time around. My concern continues to be the FSU offense. The ‘Noles couldn’t run the ball at all last year and the offensive line was downright awful at times. While the O-line should be more cohesive this season, the emphasis is currently on “should.”

2. Clemson (last season: 10-4; lost Orange Bowl) 
Clemson returns practically all its offensive weapons from a year ago, minus tight end Dwayne Allen and backup running back Mike Bellamy. The real loss for the Tigers is in the trenches along the offensive and defensive line — not to mention receiver Sammy Watkins for the first two games of the season due to a drug-related suspension. That could end up being problematic, and to me, that’s the difference between the Tigers and the ‘Noles. Tajh Boyd put up good numbers last year, but he can’t be under pressure the whole year. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables will try to turn the defense around.

3. North Carolina State (last season: 8-5; won Belk Bowl) 
The Wolfpack has one of the best players in the secondary in all of college football in David Amerson … who somehow was not a unanimous preseason All-ACC first-team selection. Anyway, N.C. State also has one of the better, yet under-the-radar quarterbacks in Mike Glennon. The Wolfpack return most of their starters from a year ago and get the benefit of skipping Virginia Tech on this season’s schedule.

4. Wake Forest (last season: 6-7; lost Music City Bowl) 
Jim Grobe enters his 12th season as the head coach of Wake Forest with an overall record of 68-67. The Demon Deacons were trending down for a few years after their 2007 Orange Bowl appearance, but this program seems to have regained some of its mojo last season. There’s some heavy turnover on the offense, especially along the O-line, but conference slate is manageable enough that Wake can manage a middle-of-the-pack finish.

5. Maryland (last season: 2-10) 
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Randy Edsall in his first season with Maryland. As much as I don’t think Edsall is the right fit for the Terps, he’s too good a coach — yes, he is; he took UConn (UConn!) to a BCS bowl — to have another season as disastrous as his first. In fact, Maryland can get off to a good start with an easy non-conference schedule (save West Virginia) to give the Terps some confidence heading into their Oct. 6 game against Wake Forest. Once November rolls around, though, things get tough with games against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina.

6. Boston College (last season: 4-8)
Boston College lost its two best players on either side of the ball — running back Montel Harris (rushed for 3,735 career yards) and linebacker Luke Kuechly — and Frank Spaziani has a grueling year ahead of him to try to save his job. BC’s program has tanked fast.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech (last season: 11-3; lost Sugar Bowl) 
The Hokies are almost always the favorite to win the Coastal, and this year is no exception. Logan Thomas is gaining a lot of offseason whispers as a potential high-round NFL draft pick because of his size, but keep in mind this will only be his second full year as a starter. Tech is just one of those teams that always knows who they are, which is why Frank Beamer enjoys annual success. The back-end of the schedule features two big games for the Hokies: at Clemson on Oct. 20 — the Tigers swept Va. Tech in two games last year — and at home against Florida State Nov. 8. According to these projections, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, it could be the first of two games between the Hokies and the Seminoles.

2. North Carolina (last season: 7-6; lost Independence Bowl)
Larry Fedora takes over a program that was firmly in the crosshairs of NCAA — the Tar Heels aren’t eligible to go to a bowl this season. The offense has playmakers in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard, so the scoring potential for Fedora’s spread offense is certainly there. Protecting Renner will be an offensive line featuring two all-conference selections in James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper.

3. Georgia Tech (last season: 8-5; lost Sun Bowl) 
The ACC Coastal field levels off and fast here. Georgia Tech returns 17 starters from a year ago, including quarterback Tevin Washington. Who Washington will throw to — when the Yellow Jackets throw — remains a question mark. For a team that runs the triple option, Ga. Tech has had some good receivers come out of the program in recent years, most recently Stephen Hill. The defense is a veteran group led by linebacker Julian Burnett.

4. Virginia (last season: 8-5; lost Chick-fil-A Bowl)
The Cavaliers upgrade their quarterback spot with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Linebacker Steve Greer returns after earning all-conference honors last year. I like the direction Mike London has Virginia headed and the schedule this season sets up well. No Florida State. No Clemson.

5. Miami (last season: 6-6)
The Hurricanes are dealing with a lot of turnover on offense and losing Ray-Ray Armstrong due to off-the-field issues hurts this team’s secondary. There really aren’t any guaranteed wins between mid-September and the season-ending game against Duke, either. Al Golden has one year under his belt in Miami, but this could shape up to be a rough one.

6. Duke (last season: 3-9)
The Blue Devils have 16 returning starters. Unfortunately, this team will be playing with wide receiver Blair Holliday on its mind. Holliday was involved in an offseason jet ski accident that put him temporarily in a coma. Coach David Cutcliffe will use it as a rallying point for his team, but it looks like another tough season for the Blue Devils. The final six games for this team (at VT, UNC, at FSU, Clemson, at GT, Miami) are brutal.

ACC champion: Virginia Tech

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

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Mizzou’s D-line guru could be headed for coordinator position at Illinois

South Dakota State v Missouri

Craig Kuligowski has worked with Gary Pinkel for the last 23 seasons, heading up the longtime Mizzou coach’s defensive line for the last 19 seasons dating back to their days at Toledo. But it appears the successful partnership may be coming to an end.

FootballScoop.com reported Sunday night that Illinois has offered Kuligowski a co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach position, and that he’s expected to take the position under Tim Beckman. Nothing is finalized, but Rivals’ Gabe DeArmond seconded the notion that Kuligowski could be on his way to Champaign.

Losing Kuligowski nine days before signing day would be a major blow for Mizzou, which has branded itself “#DLineZou” for the number of successful defensive linemen it’s produced over the last decade and a half. Perhaps no position coach has been more important to Mizzou’s successful transition to the SEC, with the Tigers’ defensive line annually one of the meanest, most disruptive groups in the powerhouse conference.

The list of players Kuligowski’s developed is impressive, headlined by former first-round picks Ziggy Hood, Sheldon Richardson and Aldon Smith — and 2014 All-American Shane Ray is expected to become the fourth. 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam was another Kuligowski protege, while Markus Golden and Kony Ealy recently put together strong careers in Columbia as well.

When Dave Steckel left to take the head coaching gig at Missouri State, Kuligowski was the top internal option to replace him as defensive coordinator. Mizzou, though, hired Memphis defensive coordinator (and former Tigers player and safety coach) Barry Odom on Dec. 23.

While it’d be a promotion at Illinois, taking a job there does carry plenty of risk. Kuligowski would take over a group that hasn’t had much success in three years under Beckman, ranking 71st, 100th and 88th in defensive F/+ from 2012-2014. Despite reaching a bowl game last season, Beckman isn’t on firm ground yet in Champaign and a step backward could lead to a coaching change less than a year from now.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter suggests, Kuligowski could be using Illinois’ offer as leverage to get a raise from his $299,500 salary. But with signing day fast approaching, expect a concrete resolution on this relatively soon.

 

 

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Coastal Carolina going with teal for new artificial turf

CCU Elon football

In the ranks of the Football Championship Subdivision, Coastal Carolina has been a program on the rise. Coming off a wildly successful, yet unfulfilling season on the field, the Chanticleers will have a new field to play on in 2015.

Yes, it will be teal.

“When the decision to install an artificial turf field was made, it only made sense that the turf be teal,” said Coastal Carolina interim director of athletics Matt Hogue in a released statement. “In addition to our winning tradition, we are known nationally for our distinctive color scheme. And it’s not just the color our teams wear, but a campus-wide identity. We felt this would be a great opportunity to further build that brand.”

To install this teal turf, Coastal Carolina likely had to get approval from Boise State to move forward with the installation of the teal-colored artificial turf. Boise State owns a trademark on non-green football fields, which means they control the licenses for any school wishing to install a non-traditionally colored football field. Boise State typically does not stand in the way of an alternate colored field, but will say no to any school looking to install a blue field.

Coastal Carolina’s official school colors include teal, which is far enough on the color spectrum from Boise State’s signature blue.

Coastal Carolina will be the seventh school to have a non-green playing field in 2015, unless any other school is installing a new playing surface this offseason. Other schools with a colored field are Boise State, Eastern Michigan, Central Arkansas, Eastern Washington, New Haven and Lindenwood.

Still waiting for Hawaii to go with this or Syracuse with an all-orange field.

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SEC schools still leading the way on the recruiting trail

Nick Saban

The SEC may have been served a little dose of reality this past college football bowl season with some bad losses in spotlight bowl games and Alabama being topped by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, but the demise of the SEC has greatly been exaggerated. In college football, recruiting is the lifeblood of a program, and schools in the SEC are doing just fine in this department with National Signing Day looming.

This goes much deeper than the annually impressive haul Alabama is piecing together. SEC schools are scattered throughout the recruiting rankings, a suggestion the conference is managing to lure plenty of good, quality talent as this recruiting cycle comes to a close.

According to the latest Rivals team recruiting rankings, 10 of the top 25 schools hail from the Southeastern Conference. That number includes all seven from the SEC West, with Alabama leading the way as the top-ranked team in the Rivals rankings. At No. 28, Missouri is a tad shy of the top 25. Kentucky (No. 33) is even ranked higher than programs like Michigan State (No. 35) and Arizona (No. 36) and Nebraska (No. 42).

One program from the SEC that has a much lower ranking than you might expect is Florida. At No. 100, the Gators have a long way to go to climb back atop the recruiting rankings, although odds are that can change in a hurry with Jim McElwain hoping to revive the Gators as a football power. While Florida is struggling, in-state rivals are not.

Florida State has consistently been one of the top destinations for high school talent, and this season is no exception to that rule. The Seminoles are ranked fourth in the Rivals rankings, just one spot behind another ACC program, Clemson. USC, from the Pac-12, is currently sitting in second place and likely to make a late surge over the next week and a half. Miami, the other power conference school in the state of Florida, has a top 25 class being put together by Al Golden as well (No. 22).

The reigning national champions from Ohio State should have a tremendous amount of depth next season. The Buckeyes did not see one underclassman declare early for the NFL Draft and Braxton Miller has now hinted at a possible return to Columbus. Throw that on top of what Rivals ranks the No. 7 recruiting class and Urban Meyer looks to have the Buckeyes situated in a very good position in the Big Ten for years to come. Only one other Big Ten program ranks in the top 25, according to Rivals.

Penn State, at No. 10, is now working with a full set of scholarships and is moving forward with a slightly more focus on quantity over quality. Penn State is without five-star talent but James Franklin is filling many roster spots with four and three-star talent that can have potential. No other Big Ten program cracks the top 25, although Wisconsin (No. 26) is right there and recently added a couple of solid players to the mix for 2015. Michigan has some work to do and will likely be a more solid threat in 2016, but Jim Harbaugh has managed to flip a four-star quarterback from Texas to Michigan, and there is plenty of hype surrounding the Wolverines moving forward.

You might be wondering about the Pac-12, especially given the rise of the conference as a whole on the playing field the last few seasons. Yes, the Pac-12 is doing just fine. USC has been a traditional force among Pac-12 schools and continues to bring in plenty of talent. But right now the Trojans are playing on a different playing field compared to the rest of the Pac-12. Oregon is the next highest-ranked team in the Rivals recruiting rankings, at No. 17. UCLA follows at No. 18, and Arizona State (No. 24) and Washington (No. 25) round out the top 25.

Everybody has a different philosophy when it comes to evaluating recruiting. Whether you believe in star rankings or not, the bottom line is coaches that tap the full potential of their players will be the ones that are successful and winning games. You do not necessarily need five-star players to win big. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. Neither team playing in next week’s Super Bowl has a player that was rated five stars coming out of high school, according to this study from SB Nation.

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Senior Bowl was a Twitter winner ahead of UFC and college hoops

Reese's Senior Bowl

The week between the NFL’s conference championship Sunday and the Super Bowl tends to be a rough one for sports on TV. But even when things look bleak, football finds a way to come out a winner.

Saturday’s Senior Bowl was the number one sports program being tweeted about yesterday, according to the overnight numbers from Nielsen. The Senior Bowl, which aired on NFL Network, saw a larger unique audience on Twitter than UFC Fight Night on FOX and a men’s college basketball game between Michigan and Wisconsin airing on ESPN.

Per Nielsen’s numbers, over 2 million Twitter users keeping tabs on the Senior Bowl, which was won by the North. The college football all-star event stayed just ahead of the UFC fight, which had 1.976 million paying attention on Twitter. The UFC event did have more unique authors (31,000 different unique authors) than the Senior Bowl (19,000 unique authors on Twitter).

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings: Unique Audience (1/24/2015)

1. Senior Bowl, NFL Network – 2,003,000

2. UFC Fight Night, FOX – 1,976,000

3. College Basketball (Michigan vs. Wisconsin), ESPN – 1,804,000

4. Spanish Primera Division Soccer (Cordoba CF vs. Real Madrid CF), beIN Sports – 1,775,000

5. NBA Basketball (Detroit vs. Milwaukee), NBA TV – 1,758,000

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings: Unique Authors (1/24/2015)

1. UFC Fight Night, FOX – 31,000

2. Spanish Primera Division Soccer (Cordoba CF vs. Real Madrid CF), beIN Sports – 26,000

3. Senior Bowl, NFL Network – 19,000

4. NBA Basketball (Detroit vs. Milwaukee), NBA TV – 14,000

5. College Basketball (Michigan vs. Wisconsin), ESPN – 13,000

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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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