Ex-Vol Da’Rick Rogers jumping into NFL draft pool

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Da’-da-da, Da’-da-done, at least as far as the collegiate level is concerned.

(Writer’s note: don’t worry, I groaned typing that as much or more than you did reading it.  Let’s all just move on and pretend like it never happened.)

One of the most naturally-gifted wide receivers in the country, Da’Rick Rogers saw his roller coaster ride — to be kind — at Tennessee come to an official end in late August due to what the player himself later admitted was failed drug tests.

After transferring to Tennessee Tech and getting his on-field house in order, Rogers caught 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012 for the FCS program.  Not so unexpectedly, that will be Rogers’ final season at Tech as the school announced Wednesday that the receiver has decided to bypass his senior season and enter the 2013 NFL draft.

In what turned out to be his last season with the Vols in 2011, Rogers led the team in receptions (67), receiving yards (1,040) and receiving touchdowns (nine).  Following that breakout year, the former five-star recruit’s future with the Vols was up in the air in early December of 2011… and still up in the air in March of this year… and indefinitely suspended in August.

How Rogers’ “uneven” past– again, to be kind — will impact his future draft status is one of the great unknowns in the player’s leap to the NFL.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.

Toledo, Jason Candle reach agreement on contract extension

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After just one year on the job, Jason Candle has earned himself some additional job security — or a bigger golden parachute should he be canned.

Toledo announced Wednesday that the university and its head football coach have reached an agreement on a contract extension.  Candle is now signed through 2021, meaning he received a one-year extension of his original five-year deal agreed to in December of 2015.

There was no word on what if any financial bump was included in the reworked contract.  Candle’s $675,000 salary in 2016 was second to Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck ($820,000) in the MAC.  With Fleck now at Minnesota, Candle is likely the highest-paid coach in the conference.

“Jason has played a very important part of the success of our football program over the last eight years, first as an assistant coach and now as head coach,” said athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader and teacher of young men, and has a great desire to elevate our football program to even greater heights. We look forward to his leadership for many years to come.”

Candle spent seven seasons as a Toledo assistant, the last four as offensive coordinator, before taking over the program after Matt Campbell left for the Iowa State job.  In his first year as head coach, Candle guided the Rockets to a 9-4 record.

“I’m very appreciative of the support and confidence that President Gaber and Mike O’Brien have in me and my staff,” said Candle. “Our program is built on a strong foundation of success, and we are focused on bringing a Mid-American Conference Championship to this great University.”