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The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

Daniel Rodriguez

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

A true American hero
If you don’t know the story of Daniel Rodriguez, you are truly missing out on one of the most inspirational narratives of the 2012 college football season. Short version: Rodriguez’s father passed away mere days after his son graduated from high school, a tragic turn of events that pushed the aspiring college football player into a military career.  Rodriguez ultimately served two tours of duty in the Middle East — one in Iraq in 2007 and another in Afghanistan in 2009 — and received the Bronze Star Medal of Valor and the Purple Heart for his time during the latter tour.  After leaving the military, he worked his way into becoming a walk-on wide receiver at Clemson.  On Saturday, Rodriguez caught the first pass of his collegiate career [/goosebumps], a mere four-yard reception during the No. 12 Tigers’ 52-27 beatdown of Ball State that was the culmination of well over five years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.  God bless you, Daniel Rodriguez, for what you’ve done for this country and for the inspiration that you’ve surely become to the countless individuals who’ve become aware of your uplifting story over the past few months.

No. 1 holds serve. No. 2? Meh
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 USC were favored by a combined 64.5 against Western Kentucky and Syracuse, respectively; only the former truly held up its end of the bargain.  The Tide, which vaulted past the Trojans into the top spot in the polls following its season-opening thumping of Michigan, had little trouble with 39-point underdog Western Kentucky, easily handling the Hilltoppers 35-0 in posting its fourth shutout in the past 15 games.  Quarterback AJ McCarron was again his quietly productive and efficient self, passing for 219 yards and four touchdowns in the win, while the Tide defense limited WKU to 224 yards and just 1.6 yards per rush attempt.  The Trojans, on the other hand, struggled mightily for 45 minutes against Syracuse in a “neutral-field” game in New Jersey.  Leading just 21-16 after three quarters of play, the Trojans ultimately pulled away from the unranked Orange in what became a 42-29 win.  Matt Barkley tied a school record — his own school record — with six touchdown passes, although he may have lost his starting center to injury for an extended period of time in what would prove to be a significant development given USC’s NCAA-related depth issues.  Add the two results together, and it’s very likely the Tide will do nothing but extend its lead over the Trojans when the next set of polls are released early Sunday afternoon.

Buckeyes’ Braxton ballin’
Braxton Miller accounted for 296 of Ohio State’s 411 yards of offense in the 31-16 win over UCF, the second win in as many tries for first-year OSU head coach Urban Meyer.  And, in those first two games, Miller has essentially been the entire offense for the No. 14 Buckeyes.  The sophomore quarterback has accounted for exactly 70 percent  (664 yards) of OSU’s 949 yards of offense the first two games, and has scored seven — three passing, four rushing — of the Buckeyes’ 11 touchdowns.  Once again, there was a reason Meyer has been downright giddy over the opportunity to coach Miller, and the player has shown exactly why the first two weeks of the season.

Klein’s Cats clobber ‘Canes
Yes, it’s Alliteration Day here at CFT.  And, yes, this very easily could’ve put Miami in the opposite category, what with it being the Hurricanes’ worst loss since the final game at the Orange Bowl in 2007.  Instead, however, Bill Snyder and Kansas State deserve some plaudits and recognition.  Simply put, the No. 21 Wildcats took The U to the woodshed and throttled their non-conference opponents 52-13.  KSU nearly doubled-up the ‘Canes in total offense (498-262); held a Miami offense that had rushed for 208 yards in the opener to just 40; and possessed the ball for nearly 15 minutes more than its competition.  Add in another productive day for quarterback Collin Klein — keep him in mind as the Heisman race creeps into the latter portion of the season — and it totaled a evisceration of the once-mighty U.  It also signaled to Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, et al that, when it comes to the race for the Big 12 title, do not overlook Snyder’s Wildcats.

RichRod rises
Hide your eyes, West Virginia and Michigan fans.  He’s back… with a vengeance.  After turning his back on his home state, and after nearly running one of the most storied programs in college football history straight into the ground, Rich Rodriguez landed on his feet on the other side of the country, taking over for Mike Stoops at Arizona.  And, in just two games, RichRod has scored the signature win of his brief desert tenure.  In a victory that was as dominating as it was surprising, the Wildcats took control of No. 18 Oklahoma State early on and never lifted its foot off the throat, whipping the Cowboys 59-38.  OSU actually outgained Arizona by nearly 100 yards, but four turnovers and 14 penalties for 157 yards ultimately ended up being the Cowboys’ undoing.  Regardless of how or why, though, the magnitude of the win for Rodriguez and the football program cannot be overstated.

LOSERS

Woo pig phooey!!!
With Tyler Wilson on the field, Arkansas was comfortably in control of its game with Louisiana-Monroe, cruising along with a 21-7 first-half lead that grew to 28-7 early in the third quarter.  After Wilson was injured and missed the final two-plus quarters?  All hell broke loose, shattering any hopes the Razorbacks had entertained in pushing its way into the BcS title game picture.  The Warhawks scored the final 21 points of regulation, including a touchdown with 47 seconds left, to send the game into overtime.  After holding the Razorbacks to a field goal on their first possession, ULM scored on a fourth-and-one, a 16-yard touchdown run by Kolton Browning — he of the 481 yards of total offense and four scores — that stunned all of Fayetteville and the whole of college football.  As Ben deftly noted, the 34-31 loss is far from a death knell for UA’s SEC title hopes, but it certainly doesn’t portend anything other than the Razorbacks once again being a West division also-ran — especially if Wilson is out for any length of time. Oh, remember, Arkansas hosts mighty Alabama next week.

College football
Last week, Savannah State was dropped 84-0 by Oklahoma State.  This weekend, the FCS school entered its game with Florida State as 70-point underdogs — and promptly lost 55-0 in a game that featured a running second-half clock and was then halted in the third quarter because of, ahem, inclement weather.  It was yet another insult to any fan with a lick of common sense.  And it’s the kind of scheduling crap that must stop, even as I’m fully aware that the Seminoles had almost no choice after being ditched by West Virginia.  The scheduling of overmatched teams by perennial Top 25 football programs is an embarrassment to the game, especially ones that involves FCS-level teams.  It’s a disservice to the sport and to the school’s fans, fans who are forced to pay regular-season prices for tickets, concessions, parking, etc. in an in-the-toilet economy for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.  Fortunately, the new playoff system that will be in place following the 2014 regular season, provided the new system as expected has a strength-of-schedule element, should go a long way toward ending the abomination that is games such as this one.  Until then, fans have no choice but to deal with the unsightly gorging on cupcakes in which many a program partakes.  And all the while paying full price as they choke on it.

2012 Big 10 football
The start of the new season hasn’t been kind to the Midwestern football conference.  Michigan was taken to the woodshed in front of a national television audience by Alabama, dropped by the defending BcS champions 41-14 in the opener in a game that wasn’t even remotely as close as the final scored may have indicated.  A week later, No. 13 Wisconsin, the odds-on favorite to represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten title game, was stunned by unranked Oregon State in Corvallis, a 10-7 loss that further dented the conference’s image nationally.  Not only that, but No. 16 Nebraska was decisioned 36-30 by UCLA of all teams, making the Big Ten the only conference this season to have three ranked teams go down in defeat.  Arguably the most impressive team in the conference two games in has been Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are ineligible for the 2012 postseason thanks to NCAA sanctions.  Add in Penn State’s off-field “issues” that have morphed into on-field struggles of epic proportions, and it appears 2012 could be a tough row to hoe for the Big Ten.  Speaking of which, Michigan State, the Big Ten hoe’s in your hands apparently.

New kids on the SEC block
It wasn’t the debuts for which either Missouri or Texas A&M were hoping.  Both schools were handed home dates for their new-conference openers, and kicked that gift horse square in the mouth.  The Aggies jumped out to a 17-7 first-half lead against No. 24 Florida before channeling their inner Mike Sherman, allowing 13 unanswered points en route to dropping its first-ever game in SEC play.  Likewise, Mizzou held a 17-9 lead in the third quarter before No. 7 Georgia ripped off 24 straight points to spoil the Tigers’ inaugural foray into the SEC.  There was a silver lining, however: both teams showed, at least for one game, they can hang with some of the best the East has to offer.  The other division, though, might be a different matter entirely, particularly for West member A&M.

Nittany Lions kicking themselves… or the kicker
I really hate to put Sam Ficken in the “Losers” category, but, damn son.  In the 17-16 loss to Virginia, the kicker missed a total of five kicks — four field goal attempts and one point after try.  Included in that total was a 42-yard attempt with no time left that would’ve given Bill O’ Brien his first win as Nittany Lions head coach; almost as soon as it left Ficken’s foot, however, it was destined to sail wide left, leaving O’ Brien and the Nittany Lions at 0-2 on the young season.  The way the loss transpired highlights just how devastating the NCAA sanctions were for the football program.  As part of those sanctions, any current player or incoming freshman was permitted to transfer without sitting out a season.  One of the handful of players to take advantage of those liberal transfer policies?  All-conference kicker Anthony Fera, who left for Texas shortly after the penalties were announced earlier this year.

Northeast football fans
The New York/New Jersey area absolutely loves its NFL football.  College football?  Yeah, not so much apparently.  The No. 2 team in the country, USC, and Syracuse played a game Saturday at MetLife Stadium — the new Meadowlands — in East Rutherford, N.J.  Not that you could tell a game was being played by taking a look at the stands, though:

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf)

The official attendance was announced at 39,507, which likely included anyone within a quarter-mile radius of the stadium.  Yes, the weather was bad — the game was delayed for more than an hour by storms — but the combination of one of the best teams in the country plus a team from the state of New York warranted a stadium that was, at bare minimum, three-quarters full, not one that was at best at a third of its capacity.

0-2=Uh-Oh
In games at Auburn that Gene Chizik has had Cam Newton under center, the Tigers are 14-0.  In games without Newton, AU is 16-12, including a 0-2 start to the 2012 season.  The latest post-Newton loss came at the hands of Mississippi State, which came away with a 28-10 win in the SEC opener for both schools.  The rumblings were there before the start of this season, and will certainly grow louder with the winless start: can Chizik win at Auburn without Newton?  Add in Chizik’s two-year Iowa State tenure, and the coach is 21-31 in games in which the 2010 Heisman winner has not been at his disposal.  It may not be a fair question, but it is a question that many, many individuals will ask in growing numbers if the losing continues.

Did you say “Utes?”
You ever have one of those days where you just knew you never should’ve even remotely considered getting out of bed?  Friday was that day for Utah.  Not only did the Utes loss to in-state little brother Utah State 27-20 in overtime, but — again — lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to yet another shoulder injury.  Wynn missed the the last two months of the regular season last year with an injury to the same non-throwing shoulder.  The loss to the Aggies, incidentally, was the Utes’ first since 1996, a streak of 12 straight wins that was snapped by the road defeat.

The state of Colorado
FCS-level Sacramento State 30, Pac-12 member Colorado 28.
FCS-level North Dakota State 22, MWC member Colorado State 7
CFT correspondent Max Cady, take it away…

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

No. 19 Michigan 31, Air Force 25: An Alabama Slammer hangover?  Whatever the case, the Wolverines were fortunate to come out of the home game without a second-consecutive loss to start the season, with the Falcons giving up the ball twice on downs in the last five minutes.

No. 22 Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17: With Tommy Rees coming off the bench in his first game back from suspension, the Irish kicked a 27-yard game-winning field goal with seven ticks left on the clock to escape with the win.

— No. 24 Florida 20, Texas A&M 17: Unlike the previous two games, the Gators were expecting a tussle in the Aggies’ first-ever SEC game.  And that’s exactly what UF got, falling behind 17-7 in the first half before scoring 13 unanswered points to remain unblemished on the young season.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The Tide has outscored its first two opponents 76-17, showing no signs of a 2010-style, post-title malaise. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 8 Arkansas

2. USC — The ho-hum three quarters of play vs. Syracuse notwithstanding, the Trojans are clearly one of the best teams in the country.  (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at No. 25 Stanford

3. LSU — Following an impressive waxing of a quality opponent in Washington, I was tempted to move the Tigers ahead of the Ducks.  And I ultimately gave into that temptation. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Idaho

4. Oregon — All you need to know about Oregon in Week Two is the Ducks rolled up 383 yards of offense and 35 points in the first half of its win over Fresno State.  Still, I had no choice but to drop the Ducks down a spot. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: vs. Tennessee Tech

5. Georgia — You go into an SEC member’s house — even a sparkling new one — and come out with a party bag that includes a 21-point win, you earn a spot at the big-boy table. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. FAU

HE SAID IT
“It took him seven years and two wars to get his first college reception. But he has no bigger fans than his teammates.” — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, speaking of a true American hero.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
(via KegsnEggs)

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Denard Robinson rushed for 218 yards, threw for 208 more and scored four touchdowns in Michigan’s win.  It was the third time he’s topped 200 yards in rushing and receiving in the same game, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat since at least 1996.  Texas’ Vince Young did it twice last decade.

— Making his first collegiate start in place of an injured Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in No. 9 South Carolina’s 48-10 non-conference romp over East Carolina.  Knowing the Ol’ Ball Coach’s penchant for “shifting directions” at the position, is a quarterback change in the offing for the Gamecocks?

— Clemson’s Spencer Benton booted a 61-yard field goal in the Tigers’ win over Ball State, setting an ACC record in the process.  Benton bested the old conference mark of 60 yards by Florida State’s Gary Cismesia in 2007.  He also broke the school record, which had been 57 yards by two different players.

— Quarterback Collin Klein scored four touchdowns — one passing, three rushing — in Kansas State’s rout of Miami.  He also threw for 210 yards on just nine completions.  In the past 15 games, incidentally, Klein has rushed for 30 touchdowns.

— Yes, it came against an FCS-level opponent, but Tennessee’s Tyler Bray completed 18-of-20 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns in the Vols’ 51-13 rout of Georgia State.  Justin Hunter, returning from a season-ending injury a year ago, was Bray’s top target, catching three of those touchdowns among his eight receptions and 146 yards.

Damien Williams rushed for 154 yards and scored four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 69-13 win over Florida A&M.  Williams became just the fourth player in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games.

— Wide receiver Andre Davis broke USF’s single-game receiving record with 12 catches for 191 yards and two scores, including a 56-yarder from quarterback B.J. Daniels with :38 left that gave the Bulls a come-from-behind 32-31 win at Nevada.

— In Minnesota’s drubbing of FCS-level school New Hampshire, Marquies Gray passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more — in the first half.  As the Gophers were up 30-0, the quarterback watched from the sidelines the second half.

— Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (no relation) had a career-long 92-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter of the loss to UCLA, a run that was the longest by a Nebraska player since Eric Crouch’s school-record 95-yard touchdown run at Missouri in 2001.  On his other 12 carries, by the way, Martinez totaled just 20 yards.

— Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater passed for a career-high 344 yards in the No. 23 Cardinals’ 35-7 win over Missouri State.

— Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo accounted for 405 yards of total offense — 271 passing, 134 rushing — in the loss to USF.

— TCU quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin combined for 17-of-17 passing in the Horned Frogs 56-0 win over Grambling State. Those numbers represent an NCAA record for most team attempts without an incompletion. The previous-best mark was 12-of-12 in 2002.

— With one against Stephen F. Austin Saturday, SMU’s Margus Hunt has now blocked nine field goals in his career, a new NCAA record.  In addition to the fied goals, the 6-8 defensive end has also blocked six extra point attempts.

— Ohio State senior cornerback Travis Howard intercepted three passes in the first six quarters of the young season — two in the opener against Miami of Ohio, one in this weekend’s win over UCF.

BEST WISHES…
… for a speedy recovery to Tulane safety Devon Walker, who suffered a fractured spine in a horrific teammate-on-teammate collision during the loss to Tulsa.  The senior was on the field for several minutes before being taken to a local hospital for further treatment.  In a statement, Tulane stated that Walker “is in traction with a lot of swelling in his neck” and “the current plan is for him to have surgery in the next one to two days.”  From all of us here at CFT, from Ben and I to our readers, many prayers and much positive energy are extended for a full recovery for the young man.

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Hip injury to sideline UNC QB Marquise Williams for spring practice

Marquise Williams AP

The bad news for North Carolina is that one of the top quarterbacks in its conference will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.  The good news?  The start of a new season is more than six months away.

In a preview article posted on UNC’s official website, the Tar Heels revealed that Marquise Williams will not participate in any of the 15 spring practice sessions because of a hip injury.  When and how Williams sustained the injury was not disclosed.

You can breathe easy, Tar Heel Nation, as the school stated that Williams “will return full speed in August.”

As a redshirt junior last season, Williams was third among ACC quarterbacks in passing efficiency in throwing 21 touchdown passes against nine interceptions.  His 788 rushing yards were 12th among all quarterbacks nationally, while his 13 rushing touchdowns were tied for fourth at the position.  The 35 total touchdowns were tied for 11th in the country.

With Williams sidelined, Mitch Trubisky will get a sizable portion of the first-team reps.  Despite all of Williams’ accomplishments, Trubisky could use the opportunity gain an advantage in what’s being described as a quarterback competition.

“There’s a lot of continuity with ’Quise coming back,” quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf said. “Marquise is our starting quarterback, and it’s been that way since the middle of the season when he kind of took the reins and went with it. But that’s not going to eliminate the competition.”

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Antonio Crawford’s divorce from the ‘Canes is official

Miami v Boston College Getty Images

After nearly a week’s worth of speculation, Antonio Crawford‘s status at Miami has officially been clarified.

Saturday afternoon, Miami officials confirmed that Crawford is no longer a part of the Hurricanes football team.  The divorce comes exactly a week after the cornerback took to social media to vent his frustrations regarding his perception of how he was being treated by the football program.

While Crawford deleted the rant, it apparently didn’t sit well with the coaching staff.

To where the Tampa native will transfer for his senior season is unknown.

Crawford, a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2012 recruiting class, started two of the 38 games in which he played the last three seasons.  Both of those starts came in 2013.

The defensive back likely would’ve entered summer camp as Miami’s top nickel corner.

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Badgers Settle on new RBs coach

Iowa Hawkeyes v Wisconsin Badgers

A couple of weeks after losing an assistant to an SEC school, it appears Wisconsin has found a replacement.

Citing a source close to the UW program, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported overnight that John Settle is set to be named as the Badgers’ new running backs coach.  Settle would assume the position vacated by Thomas, who left for the same joband a hefty raise — at Georgia earlier this month.

Settle is expected to arrive in Madison on Monday and begin work the next day.

When the move comes to fruition, it would serve as a campus reunion as Settle held the same job with the Badgers from 2006-10.  It would also serve as a working reunion as new UW head coach Paul Chryst had Settle on his 2014 Pittsburgh staff as running backs coach.

In between his UW and Pitt stints, Settle spent three years as an assistant in the NFL.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin athletics)

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TCU WR tweets he’ll finish career at Rutgers

SE Louisiana v TCU Getty Images

A wide receiver who began his collegiate career in the Big 12 will end it in the Big Ten, the player announced on social media Friday.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account, TCU wide receiver Cam White announced that he would be transferring to Rutgers and finishing out his collegiate playing career with the Scarlet Knights.  Because he will be a graduate transfer, White will be eligible to play immediately for RU in 2015.

This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

“I get to work towards my Masters at a great program academic wise man that’s a blessing,” White added in another tweet, although he does need to bone up on his Rutgers nomenclature.

Because of concussion issues, White did not play at all in 2014 for the Horned Frogs. In 2013, White was seventh on the team in both receptions (18) and receiving yards (182). The previous year was his best statistically, with his two receiving touchdowns fourth on the team and his 284 receiving yards good for fifth.

White was a three-star member of TCU’s 2011 recruiting class.

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UPDATE: John Chavis files suit against LSU, still in good standing with A&M

Louisiana Monroe v LSU AP

I can’t say with 100-percent certainty, but this might be the first time a college coach has filed a lawsuit against both his former and current employer over a contractual issue.

The parties involved are John Chavis, Texas A&M and LSU.  That’s one of the few things that are clear in this case.

In November of last year, it was reported that Chavis and LSU had reached an agreement on a one-year contract extension that would keep the defensive coordinator with the Tigers through the 2015 season.  A month and a half later, the first reports surfaced that Texas A&M had reached out to gauge Chavis’ interest in its coordinator vacancy; a week later, Chavis-to-TAMU was a done deal according to media reports.  Feb. 13, Chavis’ hiring by A&M was made official.

What happened between Chavis’ LSU contract extension and Chavis’ official A&M hiring is at the heart of a lawsuit filed Friday by the coordinator regarding a $400,000 buyout LSU is pursuing, KBTX-TV is reporting.  In  the lawsuit, Chavis claims he doesn’t owe the six-figure buyout… but if he does, A&M is responsible for paying it.

As for the particulars of the lawsuit, here’s what the television station has gleaned:

Chavis claims under his contract, he was given a right to terminate his employment agreement with LSU without cause with 30 days notice. If there were between zero and 11 months left on the deal, Chavis claimed he would owe nothing to LSU, but if between 11 and 23 months were left, he would owe $400,000 to the university.

On January 2, 2015, Chavis claims LSU Director of Athletics Joe Alleva demanded that Chavis pay the university $400,000. On January 5, Chavis says he turned in this 30-day notice to terminate the contract without cause, making his last day February 4.

“Based on Chavis’ notice of termination on January 5, 2015, the ‘termination date’ according to the Amendment was effective thirty days after the written notice served to LSU or (sic) February 4, 2015, which falls within the 11th month remaining and Chavis’ Employment Agreement,” reads the suit. According to Chavis, he does not owe LSU $400,000 as a result.

On the A&M side, Chavis’ suit states that his current employer is “currently obligated to satisfy or cause to be satisfied the liquidated damages, if any, associated with Chavis’ previous Employment Agreement with LSU.” The problem with that? A&M is “unwilling to tender the liquidated damages demanded by LSU because it does [not] believe that liquidated damages are called for under the Employment Agreement as mentioned above,” the suit claims.

I don’t know how this will play out on either side, but I’m going to make a double batch of popcorn, just in case.

UPDATE [9:00 p.m. ET]: John Chavis remains in good standing with his current employer.

Texas A&M University denied any claim that a suit has been filed against it by Chavis, nor does the institution agree that their new defensive coordinator owes the LSU Tigers anything.

Texas A&M released a short statement Friday night, via The Advocate:

UPDATE [10:55 p.m. ET]: Texas A&M University released a short statement early Friday evening. LSU responded in kind later that night.

LSU expects John Chavis‘ lawsuit to be dropped over matters of proper jurisdiction, while the university counter-sued its former defensive coordinator in order to claim the $400,000 buyout stipulated in his previous contract:

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Texas Tech’s DC David Gibbs plans to use Justis Nelson at CB

Jhajuan Seales, Justis Nelson

Defensive back Justis Nelson experienced a breakthrough season as a sophomore. Nelson was named an honorable mention to the All-Big 12 team and a First-Team Academic All-Big 12 performer. However, he didn’t find a permanent home in the Red Raiders secondary.

Nelson played both safety and cornerback last season. But where will new defensive coordinator David Gibbs use this fall?

“We’re going to start him at corner and teach him the corner techniques, because at least the first two days — maybe more than that — we’re just going to be in base defense with three linebackers and teach him to play corner,” Gibbs told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams.

Nelson, who came to Lubbock as a three-star athlete, began his career at safety before switching to cornerback. Due to depth issues, he returned to safety. While the Red Raiders staff expects him to be a starting cornerback, Nelson will likely play some safety during the upcoming season.

“There are going to be times when he’s going to have to play safety, which I’ve done it (with starting cornerbacks),” Gibbs said. “I’ve had my starting corner in base be a safety in nickel and be the nickel in nickel.

“If he has the ability to go play safety and he’s better than my third safety, then I’ll move him to safety and bring those other corners in the game and let them play.”

Nelson’s length at 6’2″ and 179 pounds makes him an ideal cornerback, and he’s already shown the ability to close on the ball to make a play. The Mesquite, Texas, native led the team with 16 pass breakups, which was the school’s highest total since 2002.

However, his new coach hopes Nelson can turn those broken up passes into interceptions during his junior campaign.

“Justis could have had eight freakin’ interceptions last year,” Gibbs said. “He (then-defensive coordinator Mike Smith) put him in the right position. He could have. He didn’t. He’s got to catch those balls. If he catches those balls, it’s a whole different game.”

Whether or not Nelson makes those catches or not, he is still one of the team’s best defenders. The flexibility he provides in the secondary gives Gibbs plenty of options as he instills a new scheme to improve upon last year’s 95th-ranked pass defense.

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Kansas State schedules two home-and-home series against SEC programs

Kansas State v Iowa State

The Kansas State Wildcats apparently learned a lesson after the Big 12 Conference was shut out of the first College Football Playoff. The program is now beefing up its future non-conference schedules.

Bill Snyder‘s squad decided to invade the SEC — that is, if Coach Snyder is still coaching the team in 2017 (and I wouldn’t bet against it).

Kansas State scheduled a pair of home-of-home series with SEC programs, according to ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy:

The Wildcats’ non-conference schedule prior to 2017 includes the South Dakota Coyotes, UTSA Roadrunners, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Missouri State Bears and Florida Atlantic Owls. Not one opponent from a power conference counted among the lot.

Not only is it important for the Wildcats to improve the team’s non-conference schedule, but games against SEC teams will improve the team’s recruiting presence in the Southeast.

Snyder’s staff showed more of an emphasis on recruiting traditional SEC states this year with six commitments from Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the 2015 class. The trend should continue with the team’s agreements to play four games against SEC opponents from 2017-20.

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Bret Bielema explains approach to recruit new coaches to his staff

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t want to do things like everyone else. That applies to his coaching hires, too.

First, Bielema made the surprise move to poach a sitting head coach from the MAC by hiring Dan Enos as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

He rounded out his coaching staff Wednesday with the hire of Jemal Singleton as the team’s new running backs coach.

Neither of these hires went through a traditional hiring process, though.

“To get to where we are today was kind of a unique process,” Bielema said, via CoachingSearch.com.. “I had a list of names. I was talking to [Air Force head coach] Troy Calhoun at the rules committee meeting, and Coach Calhoun would come watch us when we were at Wisconsin. I’d asked him about another coach that had previously worked for him, and he looked at me and said, ‘You need a running backs coach?’ ‘Yeah, I do, I’m losing my guy to the Saints.’ He goes, ‘I’ve got the guy for you.’ He mentioned Jemal.

“I was impressed the first time I read his bio. He hurdled past everybody else. I had a list of probably 23 coaches at one point. To finally get a chance to sit down with him Monday and visit was an easy decision.

“Whether that’s a normal process or not, I met with him, Coach Enos met with him, he had individual meeting time with every one of our offensive coaches. It’s just how I do it. I also have my secretaries sit down with him. I have my DFO sit down and have breakfast with him. I’ll have my recruiting staff take him to lunch. It’s a team atmosphere. You cultivate that in the way you recruit people.”

It can’t be too difficult to recruit a position coach when Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins form the best running back duo in college football. Singleton will simply be the beneficiary of the talent on the roster after impressing everyone around the Razorbacks program.

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Spurrier ‘letting legal system play out’ on 2015 signee

Shameik Blackshear

Arrested earlier this month, 2015 signee Shameik Blackshear remains a part of the plans for the South Carolina football program in 2015 and beyond.  Whether that will remain the case moving forward remains to be seen.

In his first public comments since Blackshear was charged, head coach Steve Spurrier said he and the program are essentially in wait-and-see mode, and that they’ll make a decision once the criminal proceedings have run their course.

We’ll let the legal system play out,” Spurrier told The State newspaper earlier today. “He’s claiming his innocence, so we’ll see what happens.”

Blackshear is alleged to have taken a purse and safe from a Mill Creek (SC) home Feb. 7. The total value of the items contained in the purse and safe totaled nearly $1,400. He was arrested at his high school and charged with one count of petit larceny.

If Blackshear is able to get past his legal hurdles, he has the type of potential to contribute to the Gamecocks’ defense immediately.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Blackshear was a rated as the No. 18 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.  Only two other Gamecock defensive signees in a class that ranked 19th nationally were higher-rated than Blackshear.

Blackshear, the first commitment to USC’s 2015 class when he verballed back in May of 2013, earned those lofty recruiting marks despite missing most of the past two seasons due to injuries, one of which was an ACL tear incurred last September.  Entering the 2015 season and prior to the significant knee injury, the 6-4, 245-pound lineman was the top-rated player in the state and was a Rivals.com five-star.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Rumors swirling that Daxx Garman is transferring from Okla. St.

Daxx Garman

If it were to come to fruition, this would certainly qualify as at least a mild surprise.

Speculation surfaced late Friday morning that Daxx Garman had called into the Oklahoma State football offices and quit the team.  SBNation followed that up by writing “[s]ources say that Garman skipped yesterday’s practice, called in and stated his intentions” to transfer from the football program.

Should Garman opt to transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school as a graduate transfer as he’s set to receive his degree from OSU in May.

The only official word from OSU, though, is you’ll have to wait a week and a half for the official word on Garman’s status.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph is widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the starting job heading into spring practice.

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Reporter covering Jameis Winston accusations details threats

Maryland Florida St Football AP

The allegations of sexual assault surrounding Jameis Winston affected any number of lives, including, as it turns out, one of the individuals charged with covering it.

In an absolutely riveting piece posted online Friday, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times details, among other things, the threats directed at not only himself but his wife as he played a significant role in covering the scandal from the very beginning.  From being accused of sleeping with Winston’s  accuser to accusations that he was tipped off by Alabama’s Nick Saban, the central theme from the Florida State community seems to be encapsulated in this message Baker received from an FSU student: “Why do you have to go around digging for s— (you) have no business in? The FSU nation is coming for u.”

And come after him they did as Baker writes “[f]ans bombarded my phone with more than 100 calls over a couple of weeks,” as well as having his phone number attached to “a gay personal ad on Craigslist next to a picture of a chiseled man wearing only boxer shorts and a Santa hat” and having “a photo of a stranger’s penis” sent to him. “Florida State fans wanted me to die of brain-eating cancer and in a car crash on my way home,” Baker added.

Unbelievably, it went downhill from there.

I was covering a high school football game one night when a Twitter post popped up on my phone:

You’re a marked man … Say goodbye.

My wife started worrying about me at home, so she reported it to the police and the FBI.

She spent that night combing through message boards, looking for other threats. Buried in the hundreds of vicious comments, she found a photo someone posted of the two of us. One of the trolls said our future children would be ugly.

When I called her on the drive home, she was in tears.

I didn’t know what to say.

Again, click HERE to read Baker’s entire account.

It should be said that the abuse and threats heaped on Baker and his wife likely came from a very small percentage of the FSU fan base. That said, it doesn’t make it any less sickening.

Speaking as someone who had death wished upon his then-three-year-old daughter… who had, and I quote, “ass cancer” wished upon his whole family… who, like Baker, it was hoped would exchange bodily fluids with an AIDS-infected monkey… whose home phone number had to be changed (twice) after “fans” found it and abused him and his family because he had the audacity to write something negative about Alabama or Ohio State or Penn State or whatever football program it was, I can say this with complete sincerity and utter authority: get a life, people. Seriously. It’s just football.

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Historic financial boon for SEC West coaches

Raining Money

Thanks to Dan Mullen and other developments this offseason, the SEC West has entered some rarefied financial air.

Late Thursday night, it was announced that Mullen and Mississippi State had, as expected, reached agreement on a new contract that includes both an extension and raise.  Financially, Mullen will be paid an average of $4.275 million annually over the next four years.

In December of last year, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze received a $1 million bump in pay that will push his total salary for the 2015 season to $4.3 million.  Earlier this month, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema was on the receiving end of a new contract that will pay him $4 million in 2015 and average $4.25 million over the next six years.

As part of a new contract announced in June of last year, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn will earn $4.1 million in 2015.  Add in the 2014 salaries of Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.1 million), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5 million) and LSU’s Les Miles ($4.4 million), and all seven coaches in the SEC West will make at least $4 million in the same calendar year; that’s the first time in the history of college football such a thing has happened in the same division.

To put it into perspective, just eight non-SEC West coaches in 2014 surpassed the $4 million barrier: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio ($5.6 million), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.06 million), Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.5 million), Penn State’s James Franklin ($4.3 million), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4.07 million), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($4.02 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($4.01 million).

Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt, armed with a new contract announced in January, are the only SEC East coaches in the same financial neighborhood as their West counterparts.  Next up on the East compensation food chain is Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who, thanks to his new contract signed in March of last year, will make around $3.5 million in 2015 after earning $3.4 million in 2014.

All told, the seven coaches in the SEC West will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million in 2015; according to the USA Today database, 11 coaches in the ACC — three (Boston College, Syracuse, Wake Forest) weren’t listed — made approximately $26.6 million combined in 2014.

For further perspective, the 11 coaches in the Sun Belt conference combined to earn a total of approximately $5.3 million in 2014.

And, while this coaching arms race is ongoing across not only the SEC West but all of college football — an arms race financed by the billions of dollars universities as a whole are making off of the sport — walk-ons are being ruled ineligible because they had the audacity to accept a place to live instead of going homeless.  Priorities, y’all.

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A&M distances itself from #WRTS hashtag connected to 2015 recruit

Daylon Mack

If you follow recruiting in general and Texas A&M specifically on Twitter, you know what #WRTS stands for.  If you don’t, it’s an acronym for “We Run This State,” an inference that the Aggies rule the recruiting roost in the talent-rich state of Texas.

Those connected to the football program have begun to distance themselves from that particular hashtag, and there’s a very specific reason why.

The father of 2015 A&M signee Daylon Mack, ESPN.com writes, “filed for the trademark to #WRTS with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June” while his son was a verbal commitment to the Aggies.  In fact, the photo in the upper right is of Daylon Mack and was posted to Twitter in late May (since deleted).

The same attorney who helped Johnny Manziel with his trademarks, Derek Gilliland, provided assistance to Coris Mack throughout this process.  The Mack family does not yet officially own the #WRTS trademark, but, when/if they acquire it, they could benefit financially by having the mark placed on clothing apparel or other goods that are sold.

Even as the Mack trademark situation was known back in December, there have been growing message board whispers that A&M was able to secure the services of Mack by, in part, allowing his father to attempt to trademark the hashtag and, thus, potentially profit from it. A&M jumped into proactive mode Thursday, ESPN again writes, as a statement from the Aggies “rendered the mark, at least at its school, virtually useless… in an attempt to disconnect from any appearance of impropriety.”  From the website’s accounting of the statement:

“Texas A&M has not had any plans — past or future — to trademark, purchase, or otherwise profit financially from #WRTS,” the school said in a statement Thursday. “Texas A&M was aware of Mr. Coris Mack’s trademark application but this trademark application had nothing to do with the recruitment of Mr. Daylon Mack as a student-athlete at Texas A&M.”

The school also said it has “disallowed licensees from using #WRTS in connection with Texas A&M trademarks, to include official logos, phrases and colors, in production of licensed goods. Texas A&M’s Office of Business Development, which oversees the university’s trademarks and licensing, is not a part of the athletics department, and is not involved in the recruitment of student-athletes.”

The AggieFBLife Twitter account, which ESPN explains “is run by a third party but connected to an athletic staff member with the Aggies,” still has the #WRTS hashtag in its profile as of this morning.

Mack had been committed to A&M before decommitting in mid-December of last year.  The four-star defensive end ultimately signed with the Aggies over Texas and TCU.

This Mack situation continues an odd relationship A&M and those connected to it have with trademarks, joining the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Johnny Football and the infamous Kenny Trill.

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Two Beaver O-linemen who have started games forced to retire

Grant Bays

At bare minimum, Oregon State’s depth along the offensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

According to the Corvallis Times-Gazette, offensive linemen Garrett Weinreich and Grant Bays (pictured) were two of the four players who have been forced into medical retirement from football. The other two are defensive end Glyeb Ewing and safety Zack Robinson.

Over the past two seasons, Bays had started 10 games for the Beavers, including seven at guard in 2014. The Oregonian writes that the lineman “was hobbled by a nagging back issue much of his career.”

A three-star member of OSU’s 2012 recruiting class, Weinreich has been hampered by a knee injury originally sustained during summer camp of his true freshman season. He started the opener in 2014, but aggravated the injury once again.

Robinson had played in 19 games the last two seasons while Ewing took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. The nature of the injuries that forced that pair to retire weren’t detailed.

(Photo credit: Oregon State athletics)

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Jon Gruden on Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: ‘Greatest coaching job of all time’

Jon Gruden

ESPN’s Jon Gruden is often criticized due to his bouts of hyperbole, but his stance on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may have redefined even his barometer.

What Ohio State accomplished last season was certainly astounding.

After the team lost to the hapless Virginia Tech Hokies 35-21 during the second week of the season, the Buckeyes changed gears and eventually ran roughshod through the Big Ten’s conference schedule and championship game, into the first ever College Football Playoff and grabbed the school’s eight national championship.

“Maybe the best coach in the SEC went to the Big Ten,” Gruden told Colin Cowherd during a radio interview, via CoachingSearch.com. “Urban Meyer did the greatest coaching job of all time. Winning a national championship with his third-string quarterback, I’ve never seen that before. … I’ve always respected him. Won two national titles at Florida.

“What he did at Ohio State, losing a Heisman Trophy candidate and then doing what he did with two different quarterbacks that were backups. Amazing to me.”

All of this came a year earlier than expected. Next year’s Ohio State squad was supposed to be the breakthrough team for Meyer in Columbus. Instead, the program is a year ahead of schedule and will almost certainly enter this coming season as the No. 1 team in the country.

However, none of that makes the most recent National Championship run the greatest in football history. Yes, the Buckeyes were forced to start three different quarterbacks. But all of them were more talented than…say…Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 National Championship.

In fact, Ohio State was considered a 12-point underdog to an absolutely loaded Miami Hurricanes squad that year. The difference in overall talent level from top to bottom was actually in Ohio State’s favor against the Oregon Ducks in January.

It was a tremendous run by Meyer and his Buckeyes, but this is another case where Gruden remains completely over the top with his comments.

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