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DE Joe Kruger leaving Utah early for NFL

BYU v Utah Getty Images

For the seventh time (officially) since late November, an underclassman defensive lineman has left eligibility on the table for a shot in the professional ranks.

The latest to do the early deed is Joe Kruger, the Utah defensive end who announced Wednesday afternoon that he will not return to the Utes in 2013 and will instead make himself available for the April NFL draft.  The 6-7, 280-pound junior played in 37-of-38 games from 2010-12 with 14 starts. He started seven of the 11 games in which he played this season.

He led the team with six sacks in 2012.

“Joe and his family spent a lot of time making this decision and concluded that it’s in Joe’s best interest to forego his senior year of eligibility and enter the draft,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “Joe certainly has NFL potential and we wish him the best as he takes his game to the next level. The Kruger name has been synonymous with Utah football for a lot of years and we are very appreciative for all they have done for our program.”

Kruger’s brother Paul Kruger is a former Utes player and current Baltimore Raven.  He had another brother, Dave, who finished this past fall as a four-year starting defensive tackle.

Below is Kruger’s rather lengthy statement on leaving the Utes a year early:

“I am releasing this statement after much prayer, consideration and evaluation with my family in announcing that I have decided to forgo my final year of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft.

“These past three years, I have been honored to be a part of a very special group of teammates and coaches at the University of Utah. I have cherished what has been my amazing college experience. The privilege to play under someone as great as Coach Kyle Whittingham has been a tremendous opportunity. The experience of playing together with my brother Dave has been priceless. Now it is my journey to pursue a lifelong dream, which is to become a professional football player in the National Football League.

“This decision is one of the toughest that I have ever had to make. As I reflect on the University of Utah, my teammates, all of my coaches, the football staff, and most importantly the Utah fans, I am filled with humility and deep gratitude. These past years at Utah have been a tremendous learning and growing experience for me. I want to thank everyone at the University and all the Utes everywhere for their support.

“It is my hope in making this decision that the fans, coaches, teammates, and the Utah athletic department will continue to support me and my family as I take this next step in attaining my goals.

“My heart belongs to Utah and I wish continued prosperity and success to my Utah Utes!”

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BYU, NIU reach agreement on future series

BYU v Wisconsin

It’s no Auburn-Clemson, but still.

Northern Illinois confirmed via a press release Wednesday that it has reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with BYU. Per the release, the series will begin on Oct. 27, 2018 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, while the Cougars and Huskies will play at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb on Oct. 24, 2020.

The 2018 game will mark the first-ever between the two football programs.

“BYU is an opponent that will bring a national name and a long tradition of success to our schedule,” NIU athletic Sean Frazier said in a statement. “I think this is a series that will make Huskie fans take notice and realize that we are serious about bringing top-quality opponents to Huskie Stadium and that now is the time to get involved with NIU Football.”

NIU had previously reached an agreement on a two-game series with Iowa those same two years. Both of those games, however, will be played at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium.

As a football independent, BYU already has 2018 games scheduled against, among others, Arizona, Utah, Utah State and Wisconsin, and 2020 games against Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and Virginia.

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Sun Devils add ex-Boilermaker LB

Steve Hull, Ruben Ibarra AP

Earlier this month it was reported that erstwhile Purdue linebacker Ruben Ibarra was visiting Arizona State.

A handful of days later, it appears the move out west has all but come to fruition.

While neither school has confirmed a departure/addition, the Arizona Republic has reported that Ibarra has informed the pertinent ASU officials that he has decided to transfer into the Sun Devils football program.

As Ibarra will be a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Sun Devils immediately in 2014. He will have one season of eligibility remaining.

Ibarra was a three-star member of the Boilermakers’ 2012 recruiting class coming out of the JUCO ranks. Ibarra played in one game his first season, then started two of the seven games in which he played last season.

At ASU, Ibarra will enter summer camp as one of a few players who could win a starting job at linebacker.

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Auburn, Clemson schedule 2016-17 home-and-home

Auburn Clemson AP

In the immortal recruiting words of Kevin Sumlin, yes sir!!!

In a release Wednesday, Auburn announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with Clemson. The ACC Tigers will visit Auburn on Sept. 3, 2016 while the SEC Tigers will return the favor Sept. 9, 2017.

The football programs have met 49 times previously, with the last coming in the 2012 season opener. AU holds a decided 34-13-2 advantage in the series.

With the agreement and in those two seasons, Auburn will meet the SEC’s mandate of playing at least one Power Five conference opponent every year. AU had previously announced a 2016 game with Arkansas State.

For Clemson, it means the Tigers will face two SEC schools in both 2016 and 2017, the second being its annual in-state grudge match with South Carolina.

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Red Raiders reportedly add much-needed QB depth

Coat and Tie Football Portraits, Shimonek, Nic

This offseason has seen a veritable revolving door at quarterback for Texas Tech, with a whopping five players at the position leaving the football program.

Now, though, it appears the Red Raiders have somewhat reinforced its under-center personnel.

Nic Shimonek confirmed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal earlier this week that he has decided to transfer to Tech. The Texas native had been at Iowa for one season and was expected to compete or the No. 3 job with the Hawkeyes in 2014.

Instead, Shimonek will return to his home state and, after sitting out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, and possibly compete for the backup job in 2015.

The player will come to Tech initially as a walk-on, and will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning next season.

“I ran a similar offense to what Texas Tech runs all four years that I was on varsity in high school,” Shimonek told the paper. “I went up to Iowa, and that’s a pro-style offense. It would have taken two or three years to get adjusted to. In college football, you only have five years maximum to play.

“Plus, Texas Tech’s closer to home. My family can make more games. I just feel like Texas Tech, from what I’ve been doing, would be a better fit for me.”

Shimonek took a redshirt during his one and only season at Iowa. Houston, Rice and SMU were also considerations after he opted earlier this month to leave the Hawkeyes.

If Shimonek went to the Red Raiders looking for a better shot at playing time, that route is fraught with obstacles. True sophomore Davis Webb will enter 2014 as Tech’s unquestioned starter at quarterback and as a player with two more years of eligibility remaining after this season. Additionally, Jarrett Stidham, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015, announced back in March that he is verbally committed to the Red Raiders.

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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‘Noles Bovada’s overwhelming favorite to claim a conference crown

Jimbo Fisher AP

As expected, the defending BCS champions are getting some additional gambling love heading into the first season of the new College Football Playoff.

In odds released by Bovada.lv, Florida State was listed as a 4/11 favorite to win the ACC championship for the second straight season. Clemson, Louisville and North Carolina were next at 10/1 apiece.

Not only is FSU by far the most overwhelming favorite from any conference, but the gap between the next closest odds-wise is by far the biggest.

Oklahoma and Ohio State are 2/3 and 10/11 favorites to win the Big 12 and Big Ten, respectively. Baylor is “close” to the Sooners, relatively speaking, at 11/4 while Michigan State, which beat OSU in last year’s conference title game, was a good piece down the road from the Buckeyes at 15/4.

Earlier this month, the Seminoles were listed as Bovada‘s co-favorites with Alabama at 11/2 to win the 2014 title. The Tide (7/5) are the prohibitive favorites over BCS title-game runner-up Auburn (5/1) to win the SEC.

Purdue, on the other hand, is given by far the worst odds of ending its league title drought, with the Boilermakers, coming off a one-win 2013 campaign, coming in at 300/1. Boston College and Wake Forest of the ACC; Illinois and new member Rutgers of the Big Ten; Cal and Colorado of the Pac-12; Kentucky and Vanderbilt of the SEC all come in at 200/1.

And, for those who are curious, woebegone Kansas is at a disturbingly high 100/1 to win the Big 12.

Below are the most recent odds on the Power Five conferences, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Odds to win the ACC Championship
Florida State 4/11
Clemson 10/1
Louisville 10/1
North Carolina 10/1
Miami 12/1
Virginia Tech 12/1
Duke 20/1
Georgia Tech 25/1
Pittsburgh 40/1
Syracuse 66/1
Virginia 66/1
NC State 100/1
Boston College 200/1
Wake Forest 200/1

Odds to win the Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma 2/3
Baylor 11/4
Texas 7/1
Kansas State 10/1
Oklahoma State 10/1
TCU 14/1
Texas Tech 28/1
West Virginia 66/1
Iowa State 100/1
Kansas 100/1

Odds to win the Big Ten Championship
Ohio State 10/11
Michigan State 15/4
Wisconsin 9/2
Nebraska 11/2
Michigan 9/1
Iowa 14/1
Northwestern 40/1
Minnesota 66/1
Indiana 100/1
Maryland 100/1
Illinois 200/1
Rutgers 200/1
Purdue 300/1

Odds to win the Pac 12 Championship
Oregon 11/10
UCLA 11/4
USC 5/1
Stanford 6/1
Arizona State 12/1
Washington 14/1
Arizona 25/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
Utah 66/1
California 200/1
Colorado 200/1

Odds to win the SEC Championship
Alabama 7/5
Auburn 5/1
South Carolina 5/1
Georgia 6/1
LSU 13/2
Florida 12/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
Missouri 40/1
Tennessee 50/1
Arkansas 100/1
Kentucky 200/1
Vanderbilt 200/1

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UGA AD: ‘we’re upset’ over spate of arrests

Mark Richt AP

To say that Georgia has had its share of off-field issues this offseason would be an understatement.

Over the past few months, seven Bulldog football players have been arrested on charges of varying degrees of seriousness.  Two of those arrests, one of which involved a felony, occurred in the past week alone.

Suffice to say, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by head coach Mark Richt‘s boss.

People are upset, we’re upset,” athletic director Greg McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald, “and we’ve got to work even harder to try to do things that will help us avoid these problems but at the end of the day, a young person has to make a decision. You see that not only with 18-year olds but you see that with 50-year olds that make poor decisions.

“When you do have a problem, it makes you go back and just take another look, take a second look on what’s registering and what is not.”

McGarity and Richt have taken steps to curb the untoward behavior, although its yet to bear any real tangible fruit.

According to the Banner-Herald, “[p]layers this June spent a weekend with former special operations officers to work on team building and leadership.” Additionally, former players and university police officers have addressed the team in an attempt to change the mindset of those who may be in danger of stepping across the line off the field.

A mentor program was instituted shortly after McGarity took over as well, an offseason that saw a whopping 11 arrests in 2010.

Still, McGarity insists the onus lies on him to change the culture. And, right now, the AD doesn’t like what he sees.

“All this is a reflection of my leadership and that’s the part that basically disappoints me,” he said.

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Melvin Gordon’s no fan of back-to-back Kinnick trips

Wisconsin v Iowa

The Big Ten wrapped up its annual media days Tuesday, and one of the most talented players in the conference let everybody in on a little secret.

In a scheduling quirk, Wisconsin will play at Iowa for a second consecutive season. The Nov. 22 trip to Kinnick Stadium, as it turns out, doesn’t sit well with running back Melvin Gordon.

“I saw the schedule and I was like, ‘really, we have to go back?’” Gordon said according to HawkCentral.com. “I thought they would at least come here and get a little taste of Wisconsin.

“But I just have to be ready for it. I’ve been through it, so I know how to handle it this time. But I’ll probably bring some ear plugs with me this time or something.”

The reason for Gordon’s displeasure boils down to simple numbers. Or, more specifically, statistical numbers.

During a year that saw him rush for 1,609 yards, Gordon posted a season-low total of 62 yards in the Badgers’ 28-9 win over the Hawkeyes. It was the only game all season he was held under 4.5 yards per carry, and one of just three in which he was held under 5.7.

His longest run that day was 13 yards. Three of his carries netted him a total 35 yards; the other 14 saw him go for just 27, or under two yards per carry.

So, yeah, that afternoon is sticking in the Heisman hopeful’s craw.

“It was a rough game for me, man,” Gordon said. “I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. But the fans, man, it’s like everything I said in high school about Iowa, they had a paper right there and quoted everything from me.

“I had such a hard time with Iowa, I’m telling you. Their fans, they really got to me. I was just so upset. I was just so mad that the Iowa fans got in my head that game.”

Here’s guessing that, public consternation aside, 2013 Kinnick will serve as nothing but pure motivation for 2014 Gordon.

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Former Vandy player moves on to WVU

Wake Forest v Vanderbilt AP

A month and a half after leaving Vanderbilt a second time, Darien Bryant has found a new place to ply his football wares.

While the school has yet to announce his addition, a source with knowledge of the situation tells CFT that Bryant has decided to transfer into the West Virginia football program.  The tight end-turned-defensive lineman-turned-(?) will join the Mountaineers initially as a walk-on.

Bryant was expected to be in attendance at a team meeting Wednesday morning in his first “official” act as a Mountaineer.

As he graduated from Vandy in May, Bryant will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.  He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.

Ohio University was also a consideration for Bryant before he moved on to WVU.

Bryant was a three-star member of the Commodores’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 30 tight end in the country. Following his first departure and return to Vandy, he moved from that position to defensive end. In leaving Vandy for good, Bryant wanted to move back to offense and play H-back/tight end or be utilized as a big wide receiver (he’s listed at 6-4, 230); it’s unclear how he’ll be used in Morgantown.

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Dabo hands Spurrier a (gasp!) compliment

Clemson v South Carolina Getty Images

If you’re headed down to Hades in the near future, you best pack a parka.

Over the past several years — including this offseason on more than one occasion — Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier have engaged in a little bit of “friendly banter.” Compliments, though, have been few and far between for the head coaches of the state’s two FBS programs.

Until now.

During the ACC head coaches’ version of the ESPN car wash, the Clemson head coach was asked about his South Carolina counterpart in general and his career specifically. His response may surprise you.  Or floor you, as the case may be.

“If I can have half the career he’s had, I’ll count that as a huge success.” Swinney said according to GoGamecocks.com.

In actuality, it’s not that much of a surprise that Swinney would say something complimentary. While the two snipe verbally at one another, there’s an underlying respect between the two men that each has publicly acknowledged.

Now, with that said, get back to the sniping as that’s immensely more entertaining than the niceties. Or just go ahead and have that rasslin’ match. One of the two. Or both.

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Pair of 2014 LSU signees cited for misdemeanors

Davon Godchaux

It’s certainly been an interesting last couple of months for LSU’s Class of 2014 — and for one signee in particular.

Last week, incoming freshman Trey Lealaimatafao suffered what was initially feared to be an amputation-level injury to his arm after punching through a weight-room window. Fortunately for Lealaimatafao, the physical damage wasn’t as severe as initially reported and the defensive tackle was released from the hospital two days later.

One day after that, however, Lealaimatafao was arrested for allegedly stealing a bicycle from an on-campus library. Lealaimatafao was caught on surveillance video helping himself to an unsecured bike, and was issued a citation after eventually returning it to the police.

From the Baton Rouge Advertiser:

“He did admit to investigators (Thursday) that he did take the bike,” Lalonde said, adding that Lealaimatafao indicated he borrowed the bicycle and thought it was permissible to do so if the bicycle wasn’t secured.

(Writer’s note: ROTFLMMFAO.)

Oddly enough, Lealaimatafao is the second member of LSU’s most recent recruiting class to be cited for the same issue, joining fellow defensive lineman Frank Herron‘s Schwinntation back in April.

But wait, there’s more…

In addition to Lealaimatafao’s legal issue, fellow 2014 signee Davon Godchaux (pictured, courtesy of Rivals.com) was cited last Thursday for criminal mischief. The misdemeanor arrest “stemmed from an early morning July 21 incident in which firecrackers were thrown into a unit at LSU’s West Campus Apartments, causing a small fire that damaged a sofa,” the Advertiser wrote.

(Writer’s note: let he who has not tossed firecrackers at buddies indoors cast the first M-80.)

Of the two most recent arrests, Godchaux is easily the most highly-rated player. A four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Godchaux was rated as the No. 9 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.

Both players are expected to be disciplined, although it’s unclear if said punishment will include suspensions.

The off-field damage for the Tigers is not limited to the Class of 2014, however. Starting cornerback Jalen Mills was indefinitely suspended earlier this offseason after allegedly punching a woman in the mouth and being arrested on a second-degree battery charge.

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Wrench thrown into Jayhawks’ plans as KU loses four-star RB

Traevohn Wrench

(Writer’s note: not literally lost, for those who were concerned about the player’s well-being.)

The highest-rated member of Kansas’ 2014 recruiting class will have to wait a year if he’s going to play in Lawrence as originally planned.

Multiple media outlets reported recently that Traevohn Wrench will be a non-qualifier academically at KU. Instead, the running back will go the JUCO route, playing the 2014 season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.

Wrench had signed with KU this past February.

The good news for the Jayhawks and Charlie Weis — if he’s still around in 2015, that is — is Wrench plans on resigning with KU and playing for them in 2015.

“I am 100 percent going to KU,” after spending time at Butler the player said.

That would be welcome news for a roster that needs as many quality football players as it can acquire. Wrench would fit in that category as he was a four-star member of KU’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 running back in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kansas.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Purdue suspends starting safety for first two games

Melvin Gordon, Taylor Richards

An off-field at the end of last year will cost Purdue’s defensive secondary at the beginning of this season.

Second-year head coach Darrell Hazell confirmed to the Indianapolis Star recently that Taylor Richards (no relation) will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season. Taylor was arrested last December and charged with operating while intoxicated (a vehicle, not on a patient) and underage consumption of alcohol.

The incident occurred after the postseason-less Boilermakers put the finishing touches on a one-win season.

Taylor has started 27 consecutive games at safety, so the loss of his veteran experience will certainly be a steep price to pay for both the player and the team. He will miss, incidentally, the opener against Western Michigan and the following week versus Central Michigan.

Additionally, fellow safety starter Landon Feichter will miss the first half of the opener. In the season finale against Indiana, he was flagged for targeting in the second half of the loss.

Feichter has started 25 straight games for the Boilermakers.

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Dismissed Bergeron seeking release from UT scholarship

New Mexico State v Texas Getty Images

Well, this is a plot twist most wouldn’t necessarily see coming.

Last Friday, multiple media outlets reported that Joe Bergeron had been dismissed by new Texas head coach Charlie Strong. The only reason given was the standard “violation of unspecified team rules.”

Five days later, the Austin American-Statesman is, citing unnamed family sources, reporting that Bergeron is “actively seeking a release from his scholarship.” It’s unclear why a player who has been dismissed would need to actively seek a release — speculation is that he’s been granted an unconditional one — especially considering said player’s next reported stop.

Again per the American-Statesman, Bergeron is looking at moving on to West Texas A&M to continue his collegiate playing career. That school’s athletic director confirmed that portion of the story to the paper.

Because that A&M is a Div. II program, Bergeron would be eligible to play immediately in 2014. Perhaps the release is a mere technicality, although, again, it’s unclear.

(Writer’s note: I’ve put out multiple feelers to divine what if any meaning this whole “release” angle has.)

The American-Statesman, though, sums up the overall situation very nicely:

Bergeron’s situation is perplexing. He was sent home from spring football practice for undisclosed reasons. But Strong talked up Bergeron during the coach’s bus tour in April and May and always included him in any discussion about the depth at running back.

Then prior to his appearance at Big 12 media day, Strong told the Statesman, “Joe’s back.” By week’s end, Bergeron was gone from the team for good.

Bergeron was one of four Longhorns reportedly dismissed late last week by Strong. The school has yet to announce the forced departures.

All told, seven players have been dismissed since Strong took over for Mack Brown.

Additionally, three more UT players are facing suspensions as the new football sheriff in Austin looks to open the eyes of his players to a new, and more demanding, style of discipline.

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Third legal strike and Herd RB is out

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwezymfkotm5mdjhodhmowuxoguznda5ogrkm2uwnjc2 AP

Unfortunately for Kevin Grooms, in college sports, as in baseball, very, very rarely are you given a fourth strike.

Over the weekend, Marshall announced that the running back had been dismissed from the football program. The separation 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.

Grooms was a talented player who could never quite get his head out of his nether regions, though.

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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Punishment up in the air for starting Utah QB cited for alcohol

Travis Wilson AP

As evidenced by his 16 interceptions last season — second most at the FBS level, and in just nine games no less — Travis Wilson had an issue with the on-field decision-making part of the quarterback equation.

As evidenced by a recent incident, the off-field decision-making could use some work as well.

Late last week, Utah’s starting quarterback — at least for now — was cited for underage consumption of alcohol. The citation was issued at a Tim McGraw concert and came courtesy of the Utah Highway Patrol.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Wilson was released at the scene.

What if any disciplinary measures Wilson will face are to be determined.

“We are still in the process of gathering information on the incident,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement released to the Tribune. “Once we have all the facts, we will handle the situation internally and determine any disciplinary action that should be taken.”

After starting the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, a concussion — technically, an intracranial artery injury — sidelined Wilson for the last three games and led to questions as to whether he would ever play the game again. Wilson, though, was cleared to participate in spring practice, albeit in non-contact mode, and was ultimately cleared medically for full contact last month.

Wilson will enter summer camp as the projected starter, although, Kendal Thompson, a transfer from Oklahoma, is expected to push the incumbent for the job.

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