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Michigan DE pleads guilty to home invasion charge

Air Force Falcons v Michigan Wolverines Getty Images

A little over a week after being reinstated to the team by coach Brady Hoke, Michigan defensive end Frank Clark has pleaded guilty to a second-degree home invasion charge.

Clark (pictured, No. 57) entered the plea Tuesday at Washtenaw County Trial Court and will reportedly be sentenced on Oct. 23 — coincidentally, the same day that Wolverines running back  Fitz Toussaint will be sentenced for pleading guilty to operating while visibly impaired.

The two players were suspended during the offseason for their respective crimes and were actually charged around the same time as well. Clark’s charge stemmed from the alleged theft of a MacBook Air from a student’s dorm room this past June. Both did not travel with the team to Dallas for the season opening game against Alabama, but were back in action in Week 2 in a win against Air Force.

(Hat tip: Detroit News)

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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten

Purdue v Wisconsin

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

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

BIG TEN EAST

1. Michigan State (Last year: 13-1; beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)
Michigan State will have the best defense in the Big Ten, despite losing some key players from 2013. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will figure out how to get the most out of his defense and players like defensive end Shilque Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond will help make that task easier. The defending champs will be unlikely to start so slow on offense this season, as they did in 2013, with quarterback Connor Cook back and seasoned (and most importantly, confident). Michigan State’s offense should be balanced and reliant on the run with Jeremy Langford coming off 1,422 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Getting Ohio State at home is key as far as Big Ten play is concerned, but a week two trip to Oregon could keep the Spartans playing catch-up in the playoff discussion from the start.

2. Ohio State (Last year: 12-2; lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Here’s the thing with Ohio State. With or without quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State may still be the best team in the Big Ten this season, but with Miller lost for the entire season the idea of Ohio State running through the regular season unscathed becomes much less likely. In a season that was expected to be layoff or bust, the Buckeyes may have already gone bust, but this is still a talented team that could be favored in every game of the season, with the likely exception of a road trip to East Lansing in early November. JT Barrett will take over under center, lacking much experience and with a fraction of the potential of a healthy Miller, but the Buckeyes will find some ways to make it work. Afterall it is not as though the rest of the roster is lacking for players ready to leave their mark. Look for Ohio State to get a bit tougher on defense this season, with Michael Bennett anchoring the defensive line and Noah Spence on the edge after serving a suspension.

3. Michigan (Last year: 7-6; lost to Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Is this the year Brady Hoke turns the Michigan trends back in his favor? Only a handful of players on the roster now were not recruited by his staff, so his stamp is officially on this Michigan football program. The addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes with high expectations for improving the offense, which was dismal at times in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner and protecting the football. This was a team on the brink of losing at home to Akron but a play away from taking out Ohio State. You try figuring this Michigan team out. Moving tight end Devin Funchess to wide receiver was needed to improve the receiving position and should work well, and the running backs look to improve as well. Michigan’s defense is in the most in need of improving, cutting down on big plays allowed being the biggest concern. Adding star recruit Jabrill Peppers at defensive back could give a boost in that area.

4. Penn State (Last year: 7-5)
The James Franklin era gets underway with great enthusiasm but lingering concerns over roster depth. Penn State will have the talent at positions to do some good things and win a game they probably shouldn’t along the way (Ohio State and Michigan State at home?), but the depth concerns to lose a game they probably should not (Indiana in Bloomington, again?). The light at the end of the tunnel is there for Penn State, which is good news. Penn State also has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation with sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Offensive line concerns are legitimate of course, as they have been for years, but if Hackenberg stays healthy the offense can be effective. The defense on the other hand, could use some playmakers and some more brute force up front to bring pressure on opposing QBs and close down running lanes.

5. Maryland (Last year: 7-6; lost to Marshall in Military Bowl as ACC member)
Maryland receives no favors on the schedule in their debut season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terrapins join the new conference with possibly the best wide receiver unit in the conference. Stefon Diggs has the ability to break open a big play at any moment, and he plays in a division that sees some weaknesses in secondaries all over (except Michigan State). And do not forget about Levern Jacobs and Deon Long. Maryland’s biggest concern is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown upright to be able to get those receivers the football. The defense hit walls against explosive offenses in 2013 but returns a good number of upperclassmen, which is usually nice. A fourth-place finish is not all that unrealistic, but probably a reach for Maryland in 2014.

6. Indiana (Last year: 5-7)
The Hoosiers have an offense that is capable of giving every team in the Big Ten some fits. Credit head coach Kevin Wilson for making that happen since he arrived in Bloomington, but the defense is not a unit that will cause much fear on a weekly basis. The Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game last season, but the defense allowed 38.8 points per game. If the defense can just improve a little bit, then the Hoosiers should be seriously thinking about making plans for a postseason bowl game. It could be a rough start with the schedule though with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri. Getting to six wins may be a reach for Indiana unless they can get off to a good start. Running back Tevin Coleman could become one of the top running backs int he Big Ten.

7. Rutgers (Last year: 6-7; lost to Notre Dame in Pinstripe Bowl)
Rutgers is going to have a tall mountain to climb in year one in the Big Ten. Rutgers must go on the road to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State and hosts Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Getting to six wins to return to the postseason is a reach for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers does add Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, which should result in some better scheming and preparation, but Gary Nova is still the best option at quarterback and Rutgers has lost some key players over the last couple of years. Experience is thin. The defense could be picked apart by most teams n the schedule, which should be a constant area of focus for Rutgers.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin (Last year: 9-4; lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
The Badgers fell shy of playing for yet another Big Ten championship last season, but now in a new division it looks as though Wisconsin has the easiest road to travel back to Indianapolis this fall. The Badgers will be led by one of the top running backs in the country, Melvin Gordon, and have a schedule worthy of legitimate playoff consideration if things go their way. A season-opening game against LSU in Cowboys Stadium is far from impossible and a home game against Bowling green should deserve more respect than it may get. Avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover games is nice too. On offense there is a need to see some players step up to support Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave needs to be a bit more consistent. The defense will be good, not great, but needs to find a way to create more turnovers in 2014.

2. Iowa (Last year: 8-5; lost to LSU in Outback Bowl)
The Hawkeyes may not dazzle with their style of play, but it should be effective enough to make a realistic run to an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are anchored on the offensive line by left tackle Brandon Scherff and the rest of the line should do well in creating space for running back Mark Weisman. Iowa’s offense is designed to win some ugly games, and the defense should be capable of allowing for that to happen. Defensive tackle Carl Davis will lead the way up front along with defensive end Drew Ott. Iowa allowed just 18.9 points per game last season. The most challenging game on the schedule before late November may be a road game at Pittsburgh, but Iowa ends the regular season with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home on back-to-back weeks, with the division potentially on the line and Iowa in control of its own path.

3. Nebraska (Last year: 9-4; beat Georgia in Gator Bowl)
Nebraska will also have one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and the nation with Ameer Abdullah, but the Cornhuskers have some work to do in improving the supporting cast to become a top contender in the Big Ten. The Huskers will have some help on the defense with Randy Gregory entering the season as one of the top defensive ends in the conference, but Nebraska’s defense is a long time removed from the great defenses of the past. Bo Pelini‘s team has been consistent with the win total, but inconsistent on a game-to-game basis at times. With road games at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, it looks like Nebraska could be staring at another nine-win season.

4. Minnesota (Last year: 8-5; lost to Syracuse in Texas Bowl)
Head coach Jerry Kill has done a tremendous job with building something at Minnesota, but the bar may have been reached by the Gophers for now. Minnesota needs to see big leaps from multiple positions in order to make a run at a top three finish in the west division. Minnesota needs consistency out of the quarterback position from Mitch Leidner. Running back David Cobb should help take some pressure off Leidner, but there will be a time when Minnesota needs a big third-down completion. The schedule is a challenge as well, with a road game at TCU and back-to-back road games in conference play at Nebraska and Wisconsin to end the regular season.

5. Northwestern (Last year: 5-7)
The Wildcats were a trendy pick by many in the west division throughout the offseason, but the late departure of Venric Mark and the loss of wide receiver Christian Jones will take a big toll on Northwestern’s offense, which was to be the strength of the team for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. That is a lot of offensive production lost by the Wildcats, and that does not even account for a new full-time starting quarterback in Trevor Siemian. Fortunately, Siemian is not without some experience in this offense without Mark, with Treyvon Green playing a solid role last fall. On defense, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo will rack up the tackle numbers but the rest of the defense can be exposed and the special teams break in a new kicker and punter.

6. Illinois (Last year: 4-8)
What will save head coach Tim Beckman? Three years in, Illinois needs to make a push for a postseason game if the heat is going to be turned down on Beckman’s job security. To get there, the Illini defense needs to improve in a hurry. The Illinois defense was shredded routinely last season and the offense was unable to keep up. Adding quarterback Wes Lunt after sitting out the 2013 season should help stabilize the offense, and should help the Illini keep up with the opposition, but the defense needs to find away to come up with some turnovers after not being able to last fall. re there six wins on the schedule? Yes, but it will be a battle to get there until the defense starts showing signs of improvement.

7. Purdue (Last year: 1-11)
There is nowhere to go but up for Purdue, hopefully. A trip to the postseason is a dream at this point, but the Boilermakers should make some improvements this fall. Head coach Darrell Hazell is in year two and the team should be starting to find its identity. On offense, Purdue managed just 14.9 points per game last season and the defense allowed 38.0 points per game. What should the realistic goal for Purdue be in 2014? Getting an extra touchdown per game and cutting one on defense would be a nice way to go. It still will not result in a winning season, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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USC could be without starting guard for opener

Khaliel Rodgers

With the season opener exactly 10 days away, USC could be at less than full strength along the offensive line.

Starting guard Khaliel Rodgers, the school confirmed late Tuesday night, suffered a sprained knee during practice this week. He is expected to be sidelined for a period of 10-14 days.

With the opener against Fresno State set for Aug. 30, Rodgers’ availability for the game is, obviously, very much up in the air.

A four-star member of the Trojans, Rodgers’ was rated as the No. 1 guard in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 51 player at any position in the country. The 6-2, 295-pound Rodgers took a redshirt as a true freshman, but has been working with the first-team offense at right guard throughout summer camp.

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Texas Tech walk-on, D-II schools the options for Venric Mark

Ohio State v Northwestern Getty Images

As far as options go, it doesn’t appear Venric Mark has very many.

In the middle of last week, it was announced that Mark had abruptly and surprisingly decided to withdraw from classes and transfer from Northwestern for “personal reasons”. That decision came a handful of days after it was announced the running back had been suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for an unspecified violation of team rules.

According to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, one tack Mark may take is to become a walk-on at Texas Tech. The issues, though, that Mark is running into are twofold: one, he has yet to graduate — one class short of his degree — so he would have to appeal for a hardship waiver that would grant him immediate eligibility.

Fowler writes that “because Mark’s mother lives in Lubbock, [it] could facilitate a waiver.”  That’s far from a guarantee, however.

And the second issue Mark is running into is teams are up against the limit scholarship-wise. Additionally, Fowler notes, “Texas also said no because Charlie Strong is cleaning house and isn’t taking on new players at the moment.”

If the Texas native had graduated, “he’d likely be attending Houston in the fall,” Fowler stated.

The back has also spoken to Div. II programs West Texas A&M and Northwest Missouri State. He could play at any level other than the FBS and be eligible immediately without a waiver.

Mark, a redshirt senior, missed all but three games in 2013 due to injury and received a medical hardship waiver for the 2014 season. This will be his final season of eligibility.

In 2012, he led the Wildcats in rushing with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns.

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Saban still waiting for a QB to ‘take the bull by the horns’

As has been the case since the spring, and especially since the Florida State transfer arrived, Alabama remains the most high-profile FBS team with an open and undecided quarterback competition. And, it appears, that will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

Just 10 days before the opener, neither Jacob Coker, the presumptive favorite, nor Blake Sims, AJ McCarron‘s backup in 2013, have pulled away from the other. Head coach Nick Saban, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and the rest of the offensive staff are awaiting for it to go down, but it simply hasn’t happened yet.

And, seeing as we’re rapidly approaching opening weekend, it appears the formerly bristly Saban is getting a little anxious for someone to do just that — but not anxious enough for a premature trigger pull

“I would like to see somebody take the bull by the horns from a leadership standpoint, a consistency standpoint and win the job here sometime,” the coach said following practice Tuesday. “But we’re not going to make a decision until somebody does that.”

So, what if neither Coker nor Sims grabs the bull by the, uh, throat, before the opener against West Virginia? The Tide could very well be prepared to party like its 2011 under center. From al.com:

If that doesn’t happen, Alabama could very well play both Sims and Coker against West Virginia much like it did in 2011, when AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims split time in the season opener.

McCarron, of course, went on to grab hold of — eventually — the starting job for not only the 2011 season but the next two years as well. Saban can only hope that, eventually, either Coker or Sims does the same.

“One day one guy plays really well and you say, ‘Well, that looks like that might be it.’ And the next day the other guy plays really well,” Saban said. “I think the good news is we have two guys that I would feel very comfortable playing.”

Perhaps, comfortable enough to even play both in the same game depending on how the next week and a half goes.

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Irish OC missed start of camp as he battled prostate cancer

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwy2zge2nwezzgnjztm2yjm5nji4mwjiyjhlymzlzgq01 AP

And now we know the rest of what was, unbeknownst to most, a very serious story.

Earlier this month it was announced that Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock would “miss the first few weeks of preseason camp” due to what was described at the time as an undisclosed medical procedure. Tuesday, Denbrock spoke to the media and revealed the exact nature of his health scare: prostate cancer.

According to our own J.J. Stankevitz as part of his other gig at CSNChicago.com, Denbrock underwent routine medical testing for a life insurance policy. It was at that point it was discovered he had cancer.

All subsequent tests performed since the surgery have been positive, and the coordinator has returned to work. He isn’t though, back to 100 percent.

“I think it’ll be a little while,” Denbrock said when asked when he’ll be back to full strength. “I’m not going to say how much I’ve been involved with what’s been going on because my wife and doctor will probably hunt me down and get after me, but I’ve more than I anticipated I would up until this point. I haven’t tried to stress it or push it. Coach Kelly has been great about it, (as has athletic director) Jack Swarbrick and everybody here about letting me heal and get what I needed.”

Denbrock is in his first season as the Irish’s play-caller. During Danbrock’s absence, head coach Brian Kelly has taken over that responsibility.

In addition to coordinating duties, Denbrock serves as ND’s wide receivers coach. He’ll continue that part of his job description as well.

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Injuries cost KU its top two RBs for all of 2014

Brandon Bourbon, Ryan Reid AP

It’s not been a very good past couple of days for experienced members of Kansas’ backfield.

The Jayhawks confirmed Tuesday that running backs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox will miss all of the 2014 season due to injuries. The former tore an ACL during a scrimmage Sunday, the latter ruptured an Achilles’ tendon during Monday’s practice.

“I feel bad for both Brandon and Taylor,” KU coach Charlie Weis said in a statement. “They were looking forward to the opportunity to be the replacement for James Sims. I sat down with each of them individually and talked through their options and was happy that they chose to further their education while attempting to play again next year if things work out.”

One of the options being considered by both seniors is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.  Bourbon missed the entire 2010 season with a broken leg. A hamstring injury cost Cox all but two games in 2013, so a sixth season, if they so choose, would appear to be a slam-dunk.

This season, though, both of the losses are rather significant ones.  Last season, Bourbon ran for 191 yards and was second on the team with three rushing touchdowns. His 20 receptions were tied for third on the team.

Entering summer camp and heading into the season, Bourbon was considered the Jayhawks’ starting running back. Cox, who was listed as Bourbon’s backup, rushed for 468 yards during his only healthy season in Lawrence.

The twin injuries continue a long line of attrition at the position the past several months. In June, Darrian Miller, who finished second on the team in rushing in 2013 and 2011, left the team for personal reasons. A month later, four-star 2014 signee Traevohn Wrench, widely considered to be a lock to be an immediate contributor, failed to qualify academically and was forced to go the JUCO route this season.

The attrition means that Tony Pierson is the only running back on the roster that has carried a football in a game at this level — and he was moved to wide receiver last year. Safety Joe Dineen has been moved from safety to running back to shore up the depth at the position.

True freshman Corey Avery and JUCO transfer De’Andre Mann will now be expected to carry KU’s running-game load. Unless there’s further attrition, the plan is to keep Pierson, who missed five of the last eight games last season due to concussions, as a receiver.

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Alabama Class of 2015 receiver only eligible for 3 games this fall

No, we are not looking into the future at the 2015 Alabama outlook just yet, but this is a bit of an interesting story out of the state of Florida. One of Alabama’s recruits lined up for the Class of 2015, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, will only be eligible to play three games this fall for Monarch High School. The reason? An age restriction.

Ridley will be 19 years and nine months old following the third game of the season, which is the maximum age allowed for football players in the state of Florida by the Florida High School Athletic Association. That will allow Ridley to play in just three games this season for his high school in his senior season. His high school’s athletics director, James Klemke, told The Sun Sentinel there will be no appeal.

Ridley is a five-star wide receiver and top ten receiver nationally in the Class of 2015 according to Rivals. Ridley committed to Alabama in April as Alabama was already underway in organizing what will likely be another one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Staying in shape after he is done playing football will be key. It does not appear there are any restrictions on working out with his high school team after his eligibility runs out, but expect Ridley to do whatever he will be able to in order to stay in as close to game shape as possible as he prepares to head to Alabama.

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Jimbo Fisher comfortable with receiver position

Christian Green, A.J. Highsmith, Ladarius Gunter

Florida State lost a pair of wide receivers in the first round of the most recent NFL Draft, so you might think the Seminoles have some big shoes to fill. They do, after losing Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin. Fortunately, head coach Jimbo Fisher has recruited well since taking over as head coach and has options ready to fill in. If the season were to start today, Rashad Greene and Christian Green. Fisher, though, has faith in all of the tools in his toolbox at the position.

“I feel very comfortable with eight guys in that rotation right now,” Fisher said, according to the Associated Press. ”That’s not playing them all, but I’d feel very comfortable if they had to go into the football game.”

Greene starting was a given, of course. Despite a paid of first-round receivers on the field, Greene was Florida State’s leading receiver in 2013 with 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns. Green finished the year sixth on the Seminoles with 157 yards on 13 receptions. Running back Devonte Freeman finished fifth on the team with 278 receiving yards as well.

Of course, having a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Jameis Winston certainly helps the stability in the passing game as well. Florida State looks pretty stacked for the upcoming season, and the passing game should once again be effective and ready to break out some big plays along the way to a potential title defense.

Florida State opens the 2014 season in Arlington, Texas against Oklahoma State.

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ND Shamrock Series uniform shows switching to Under Armour was wise

Notre Dame 2014 Shamrock Series

Notre Dame has had a cringe-worthy history when it comes to the special Shamrock Series uniforms. Two years ago brought us one of the most bizarre helmet designs that looked more like a printing error with its asymmetry, and last season’s uniform was only a little better. With the season drawing near and Under Armour taking over as uniform apparel provider, there were many questions about how the new uniform partner would leave their stamp on the Shamrock Series uniforms after years of working with Adidas.

Score one in the win column for Under Armour, which has come a long way since throwing together this atrocity.

Notre Dame and Under Armour unveiled the new uniforms for the upcoming season, and did so in non-offensive fashion by keeping true to Notre Dame’s classic look for the home and away uniforms and a Shamrock series

This video suggests the designers are trying to tell a story with the new uniform, which seems to be a trend for uniform designers lately. You can buy into the whole storytelling concept as you see fit, but the Cliff’s Notes version probably simply states Notre Dame sticks to the blue, slaps on a matte logo on the golden dome, which now features a subtle touch of a diamond pattern. At a quick glance, Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series uniform looks like it should have been shipped to Pittsburgh for the Panthers, but this is far better than past iterations of the alternate look.

Under Armour has already left a solid impression on a classic look, something Adidas was never able to do with the Irish. What do you think about the new uniform for Notre Dame?

Photo via Notre Dame Athletics.

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It’s official: Braxton Miller to miss 2014 season

Braxton Miller AP

O-H!  UH-OH!!!

Unfortunately for Ohio State and the fans of its football team, their worst fears have been realized as OSU announced today that, as widely expected, starting quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the entire 2014 season.  Miller, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year reinjured his right(throwing) shoulder during practice Monday, with at least a couple of reports indicating that the he suffered a dislocated shoulder on a throw in which there was no contact.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Braxton and his family,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate injury to a young man who means so much to this program and to Buckeye nation.”

Other than he reinjured the same shoulder, the school declined to acknowledge the specific nature of the injury. They did allow that it was a non-contact play and the injury will require surgery to repair.

There is not timetable as of yet for surgery or a return to football activities.

Former Ohio State All-American wide receiver Joey Galloway, who was at yesterday’s practice, “said the injury to Braxton occurred on a rollout throwing a short pass toward the sideline.”

“He didn’t even get hit,” a source told Pete Thamel of SI.com. “He threw and it’s just a freakish thing. Everyone is scratching their head on how it happened.” Thamel added that Miller suffered a torn labrum, not a dislocation of his shoulder.

The injury didn’t go unnoticed all across college football and by former teammates.  And Las Vegas.

There was some good news, at least for now, amidst the gloom as Miller revealed that he will return to the Buckeyes for the 2015 season.  Miller is a fourth-year senior and has yet to use a redshirt.

He’ll use one this year and then, if he does return — he could change his mind and enter the 2015 NFL draft — he’ll be a fifth-year senior who would be poised to again lead his beloved Buckeyes.

“I love Ohio State and Buckeye nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever,” said Miller, who is 26-8 as a starter, including 24-2 the past two seasons, in his statement. “I am on course to graduate in December and I want to attend graduate school, and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season. In the meantime, I want to give all the support I can to my coaches and teammates as they chase a championship this season.”

That’s the future, though. The present is what currently matters most to OSU.

JT Barrett

JT Barrett

With the end of Miller’s season officially finalized, the Buckeyes will turn to, at least initially, J.T. Barrett.  The redshirt freshman had been in a battle throughout spring practice and on into summer camp with sophomore Cardale Jones to be Miller’s backup, only just recently moving into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Both Barrett and Jones received extensive work during the 15 spring sessions as Miller rehabbed the partially torn labrum he suffered in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, which was subsequently repaired in what at the time was described as minor surgery in late February.  That extra work for the two reserves continued into summer camp as Miller had been limited due to what was described as soreness in his shoulder.

While the pair have received additional reps because of Miller’s issues, it won’t help the game-day inexperience.  Barrett has never thrown a pass at the collegiate level, while Jones has thrown just two.

Despite the lack of on-field experience at this level, Barrett will enter the huddle with a fairly lofty recruiting pedigree and an assertive leadership style.

A four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class, Barrett was rated as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  Easily the biggest knock on Barrett is his arm strength, or lack thereof.  His offensive coordinator/position coach, however, says the former Texas high schooler more than makes up for lack of a cannon on his shoulder in other facets of the game.

“Extremely cerebral. Very magnetic leader,” Tom Herman said earlier this month of a player who’s turned out to be his new starting quarterback. “I think the kids kind of gravitate towards him.

“We’ve got to work on strengthening his arm. He’s a distant third in terms of Braxton and Cardale in terms of just rearing back and trying to throw it through a wall. But he makes up for it in his anticipation and his accuracy and all that. You don’t have to have a howitzer to be successful in college football. I’m very pleased with his continuing growth.”

Cardale Jones

Cardale Jones

Jones, a three-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2011 recruiting class who delayed his enrollment at OSU for prep school, was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country that year.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, then played sparingly in 2013; in 39 plays from scrimmage last season, Jones threw the ball twice (completing one for three yards) and ran 17 times (for 128 yards and a touchdown).

Meyer didn’t address just who will start the opener against Navy, although it was noted in the release that “[i]t was previously announced by Meyer on Saturday that Barrett, a 6-1, 225-pounder from Wichita Falls, Texas, had moved ahead of Jones for the No. 2 quarterback spot.”  Recently, Barrett has taken the lion’s share of reps with the first-team offense as he separated himself from Jones.

Taking all of that into account, there’s no reason to tap dance around it — losing Miller for the year is a significant blow to the Buckeyes and will certainly have an impact on the Big Ten Race.  It also may very well significantly impact the first year of the College Football Playoff as the Buckeyes, despite the Big Ten title-game loss to Michigan State, were the overwhelming favorites to claim the conference and emerge as the league’s playoff representative.  Miller is one of the most irreplaceable and indispensable players in college football; some would even argue that he’s the most irreplaceable and indispensable, given the unproven running backs in OSU’s stable and the coaching staff having to replace four of its five starting offensive linemen.

Even as it may seem like it in the here and now, the season’s not completely lost for the Buckeyes.  As, just to name a few, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel,  Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Florida State’s Jameis Winston have shown over the past couple of years, redshirt freshmen are perfectly capable of successfully leading their teams in their first seasons as starters.  One of those four (Winston) won a BCS title, while another (Golson) helped lead his team to the BCS title game.  Winston won the Heisman en route to the championship, while Manziel took home his while helping the Aggies win 11 games their first season in the SEC.  Mariota was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2012 as the Ducks won 11 games, including the Fiesta Bowl.

More than likely, the Ducks and Aggies would’ve qualified for the playoffs were that system around in 2012, the former in particular.

Then there’s this: USC’s Matt Leinart (2004), LSU’s Matt Flynn (2007) Alabama’s Greg McElroy (2009), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010), Alabama’s AJ McCarron (2011) and Winston (2013) all won BCS titles in their first year as starters over the last decade.

Who knows, Barrett could make it three seasons in a row for the second-year freshman/first-year starter phenomenon that’s done nothing but grow over the past handful of years.  And, for now, that’s about all Buckeye Nation can hang their title hopes on.

Well, that and a schedule that features just one team at the moment ranked in the Top 25 — No. 8 Michigan State in East Lansing.  That’s easily OSU’s toughest road game of the year, with other games away from The Horseshoe consisting of against Navy (9-4 in 2013) (in Baltimore), Maryland (7-6), Penn State (7-5) and Minnesota (8-5).  Their home slate features matchups against Virginia Tech (8-5), Kent State (4-8), Cincinnati (9-4), Rutgers (6-7), Illinois (4-8), Indiana (5-7) and Michigan (7-6).

According to FBSchedules.com, Ohio State’s 2014 schedule is tied for fifth-toughest, with Oregon, among the teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 10.  The .569 winning percentage of its opponents top that of defending BCS champion Florida State (.550), Oklahoma (.477) and Alabama (.473).

In other words, it’s not the cakewalk some have perceived to be.  It’s not exactly a football death march either, which means that, depending on how fast Barrett — or Jones — get acclimated, all the gloom and doom currently hanging over the football program could give way to a postseason full of possibilities.  Or it’ll be 2011 all over again in terms of the won/loss ledger.  One of the two.

 

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Backup Auburn DE transferring to Arkansas State

Arkansas State

For the second time in a little more than a year, defensive end Chase Robison is relocating to play football. The Auburn backup will hope to play a more meaningful role at his new school, Arkansas State.

According to information from A-State Nation, via Twitter, Robison will enroll and join the football program. Because he sat out the 2013 season after transferring to Auburn from Texas Tech, he should be eligible to play right away this season for the Sun Belt Conference contender. He will also be playing at the same program his father, Lanier Robison, once played.

Robison was never able to work his way up the depth chart at Auburn, but at Arkansas State he may have an opportunity to compete for a starting job. The former three-star recruit in the Class of 2012, according to Rivals, was offered a scholarship by Arkansas State but decided to accept an offer from Texas Tech. Maybe the third spot in as many seasons will allow Robison some peace and stability.

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Miami’s Rayshawn Jenkins could be back for spring ball

Virginia v Miami Getty Images

It has already been confirmed that one of Miami’s top players in its defensive secondary would not play at all this season.  Now we know when the player’s expected to resume football activities as well.

Miami announced Monday that Rayshawn Jenkins underwent successful surgery on his lower back Monday.  Because of the surgery, Jenkins’ 2014 season is already over before it began.

Jenkins is expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday, with rehab expected to take up to six months.  Such a timeline, though, would put the defensive back on track to return for the start of spring practice.

As a true sophomore last season, Jenkins started 12 of the 13 games he played at safety. His three interceptions were tied for second on the team, while he was a solo second with five passes broken up.

Jenkins, a three-star member of The U’s 2012 recruiting class, played in 10 games (two starts) as a true freshman that year.

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OSU’s CFP odds tumble on reports of Braxton’s season-ending injury

Braxton Miller AP

At some point this afternoon or this evening — maybe — Ohio State is expected to announce that starting quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season with a shoulder injury.

In late July, Ohio State was the prohibitive favorite from the Big Ten to claim the College Football Playoff at 10/1; Michigan State was 25/1 while Wisconsin was 33/1.  Those odds for OSU were at 10/1 in January, prior to Miller’s “minor” surgery in February.

They were also, at 10/11, heavy favorites to win the Big Ten over the former (15/4) and the latter (9/2).

Now?  In the wake of Miller’s injury, reportedly one of the dreaded non-contact variety, the Buckeyes have tumbled in the eyes of Las Vegas.

“Ohio State was a major contender at 10-1 to win the National Championship and considering Braxton Miller was a frontrunner for the Heisman at 15-2, this injury has impacted their odds drastically going from 10-1 to 18-1 amidst the rumors of the injury and now are confirmed at 40-1,” Kevin Bradley, Bovada‘s sports book manager, said. “Michigan State and Wisconsin will now surpass them as favorites for the Big Ten and only time will tell if we are over-adjusting on the Buckeyes, even though they still have a fairly easy schedule.”

It’s far from surprising that the odds have plummeted as they have seeing as Miller is one of the most irreplaceable and indispensable players in college football.  It’s nonetheless startling to witness such a precipitous drop, less than two weeks before the start of the season, for one of the preseason favorites to claim one of the four spots in the newly-minted College Football Playoff.

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UMass, touted RB Drew Harris ‘part ways’

Drew Harris

In early June, UMass made what was considered by many to be one of its most important personnel addition of the offseason.  Just a month or so later? That important addition is no more.

According to MassLive.com, head coach Mark Whipple confirmed that Drew Harris is no longer a part of the Minutemen football program. There was no specific reason given for the abrupt divorce, although the head coach didn’t appear too happy when discussing it.

“He’s gone. He left. It just wasn’t a good fit,” Whipple said. “Personally, he was a good kid, but it just wasn’t a good fit for the program.”

Based on his pedigree, Harris was expected to make an immediate and significant impact this season.

The four-star recruit was rated as the No. 22 running back in the country in the Class of 2012. With offers from, among others, Arizona State, Arkansas, Georgia, Miami, Michigan State, Penn State, South Carolina and West Virginia, the Pennsylvania native signed with Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, Harris failed to qualify academically and spent 2012 and 2013 at a prep school and a New York JUCO, respectively.

To where Harris may ultimately end up next is unknown.

“We’ve got too many other issues to worry about things I can’t control,” Whipple said when asked what Harris next career move will be

There was some concern that Harris may not qualify academically at UMass, however, although it’s unclear if that aspect played a role in the departure.

(Photo credit: UMass athletics)

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Ex-Herd RB Grooms lands at Liberty

After a trio of legal issues over the past 15 months, Kevin Grooms was summarily dismissed by Marshall in late July. A couple of weeks later, the running back has found a new home.

In a press release, Liberty announced that Grooms has enrolled at the school and will be a member of the Flames football team. Despite the fact that Liberty plays at the FCS level, Grooms won’t be eligible to play immediately in 2014. He will have one year of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

Below is a statement attributed to head coach Turner Gill.

“Kevin sought out our football program because he is at a point in his life where he wants to make some positive changes. He believes Liberty University would provide the type of atmosphere that would allow him to be successful in this endeavor. He understands that he will be expected to grow academically, athletically, socially and spiritually. We are excited to have the opportunity to work with Kevin and be a part of his growth and maturity.

“While Kevin has enjoyed success both academically and athletically at Marshall, the thing that made Kevin attractive to us is the fact that he has had some adversity and he wants to make changes in his life. Liberty University is a place that has always offered young people a second change and we are excited to be a part of that process in Kevin’s life.”

Most of the adversity to which Gill refers was of the player’s own doing.

His departure from the Herd came a few hours after Grooms was arrested on a felony burglary charge as well as misdemeanors of domestic assault, petit larceny and fleeing on foot.

The arrest was Grooms’ third in a little over 15 months. In late April of last year, the back was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and obstruction. Seven months later, he was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with domestic battery and obstruction.

Head coach Doc Holliday reinstated Grooms before the start of spring practice, with the player exiting the 15 sessions as the clear starter at the position.

After redshirting as a true freshman — he was a three-star member of the Herd’s 2011 recruiting class coming out of high school in Hollywood, Fla. — Grooms led Marshall in 2012 with 737 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He was named Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year following that season.

Despite not playing the in the last three games last season due to a combination of injuries and his suspension, Grooms finished third on the team with 503 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns.

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