Houston corner continues rapid recovery from near-fatal injury

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With the holiday season fast approaching, how about a little Christmas cheer to end the year?

In early November cornerback D.J. Hayden collided with a Houston teammate and tore the inferior vena cava, the major vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.  The injury, normally associated with high-speed vehicle crashes, carries a 95-percent fatality rate.  Thanks to “the quick action of UH training staff and hospital personnel,” it wasn’t fatal in Hayden’s case.

Following emergency surgery to repair the damage and a week-long hospital stay to begin what was expected to be a lengthy rehab process, Hayden was released.  Six weeks later, Hayden is progressing more rapidly than expected as he was cleared Friday, FOX26 in Houston reports, to begin light workouts.

While working on a stationary bike and the elliptical machine might not seem like a lot, it was a significant step in the player’s recovery.

“It definitely is one of the biggest days of my life,” Hayden told the television station. “It meant a lot to me because I’ve been in the house watching everybody else work out and I’ve been itching to do something because I really can’t sit still.

“It meant that I’m healing and getting better.”

While it took some time for him to come to grips with how close to death he actually came — “I was crying. I was just thanking God.” — Hayden doesn’t consider it a miracle that he survived such a devastating injury.

“People remind me every day that I’m a miracle, I’m a miracle. I don’t feel like I’m a miracle.,” Hayden said. “I’m just regular, silly D.J., but yea I do have some who believe I’m somewhat of a miracle. At the end of the day it happened, people can learn from it, get inspired by it and I’m here and we’re still breathing.”

The station writes that “Hayden hopes to begin backpedaling drills in two weeks… [and] should be completely recovered in six months and ready for football activities at some point during the summer.”

Despite how the injury took place, Hayden’s goal remains the same: playing in the NFL.  Seeing how he’s fought back against these long odds, I’m not betting against him.

Lamar Jackson leapfrogged by Baker Mayfield as Bovada’s Heisman favorite

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So much for that wagering momentum, I guess.

Entering the 2017 season as not only the reigning winner but also as seemingly an afterthought, a pair of scintillating performances to open the year pushed Lamar Jackson to the head of Bovada.lv‘s Heisman Trophy pack.  Coming off a 26-point Week 3 loss to now-No. 2 Clemson in which he totaled nearly 400 yards of offense and three touchdowns, the Louisville quarterback has seen his odds lengthen a bit from 7/4 a week ago to 11/2 in Bovada‘s latest Heisman release.

Bovada’s new betting front-runner?  Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who went from 4/1 to 7/4.  Sam Darnold, 6/1, also saw his odds shorten slightly to a Jackson-match 11/2.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, 10/1 in the previous odds release, is now at 9/1, same as the holding-steady-from-a-week-ago Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

There’s also, interestingly, one true freshman on the board: J.K. Dobbins.  The Ohio State running back went from off the board to 40/1 odds.  His starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett, saw his odds go from 25/1 to 33/1.

Below is the latest set of 2017 Heisman Trophy odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv.

Illinois adds UCF grad transfer QB Pete DiNovo

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Illinois has an immediate addition to its quarterback room.  Or its wide receivers room, depending on how things play out.

Pete DiNovo confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times Monday that he has decided to transfer to the Illini.  The acknowledgment comes a month after DiNovo decided to transfer from Central Florida.

As a graduate transfer, DiNovo would be eligible to play immediately this season.  Per the player, a former high school teammate and former high school coach currently at Illinois played a role in his decision.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out,” DiNovo told the Times. “I can come up here and learn from Lovie (Smith) and everyone else on the coaching staff.”

DiNovo began his Knights career as a quarterback — he replaced Blake Bortles as UCF’s starter before being quickly replaced himself — before being moved to wide receiver before being moved back under center this offseason.  How the Illini will use DiNovo, who has an eye on a career in coaching after his playing days are over, remains to be seen.

UTEP stays in-house to replace fired OC Brent Pease

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Not surprisingly, UTEP will stay in-house following its in-season dismissal of one of its coordinators.

The Miners confirmed Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease had been fired.  A day later, the football program announced that Brian Natkin has been given the keys to the offense by Sean Kugler and will call the plays moving forward.

Natkin began the season as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.  He was an All-American tight end at UTEP a decade-and-a-half ago and became a full-time assistant at his alma mater in 2011.

Through three games, UTEP ranks second-to-last nationally in total offense at 204.7 yards per game and in yards per play (3.89). The Miners are also 125th (out of 130 teams) in scoring at 13 points per game.

The promotion of Natkin also means there will be some additional adjustments to Kugler’s staff.  Wide receivers coach Chuck Veliz will take over Pease’s other role as quarterbacks coach, while safeties coach Don Yanowsky assume Natkin’s duties as special teams coordinator.

Natkin will continue in his role as tight ends coach.

Oregon State QB Jake Luton discharged from hospital after leaving Wazzu game on a stretcher

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Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton was taken away on a stretcher after a tackle left him motionless on the Reser Stadium turf on Saturday.

Family members were called to the field, where medical professionals stabilized an apparently unconscious Luton and removed his face mask. The game continued, of course, as Oregon State lost to Washington State 52-23 despite Luton’s 179 passing yards and 22 rushing yards.

Luton tweeted on Saturday night that he’ll “be back.”

Luton has since been discharged from the hospital, according to The Oregonian, though his father posted a message stating Luton was probably dealing with a “thoracic spine fracture.”

Oregon State is off Saturday before hosting Washington on Sept. 30.