Even as Florida State is celebrating the return of one defensive underclassmen, the Seminoles have incurred an even bigger, albeit expected, loss.
Following up on reports that surfaced earlier in the week, FSU confirmed Thursday evening that All-American Bjoern Werner has officially decided to take his leave of the ‘Noles and ply his football wares at the next level.
“I’m grateful to Coach Fisher and Florida State for giving me the opportunity to be a Seminole and play for one of the top college football programs in the country,” Werner said. “I’ve learned so much from the coaches especially Coach [D.J.] Eliot and have been able to play with some of the best players in the country. After sitting down with my wife Denise and gathering as much information, I’ve decided to move on and enter the NFL draft. I’ve enjoyed my time at FSU and will cherish the time I spent as a Seminole.”
Even as Werner’s early departure was long considered inevitable, it’s a significant loss nonetheless.
Simply put, Werner was one of the best defensive linemen in college football over the past two seasons. The end currently ranks seventh in the NCAA in sacks per game and second in total sacks (13) while adding 18 tackles for loss. Following the 2012 regular season, he was named as the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and was accorded unanimous All-American status.
He’s considered a lock to be a top-10 selection in the upcoming NFL draft, and could easily move into the top five by the time April rolls around.
“I’d like to congratulate Bjoern on his decision to enter the NFL draft,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It’s the best decision for him and his family. Not only is he a great football player but he’s an unbelievable person. His leadership on and off the field will impact this program for years to come. I wish him nothing but the best and he will always be remembered as one of the great players in FSU history.”
Werner becomes the third Seminole to leave eligibility on the table, joining cornerback Xavier Rhoads and defensive lineman Brandon Jenkins.
In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.
Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.
Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.
The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.
Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.
The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.
Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.
The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.
Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.
Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.
There are a ton of interesting storylines as spring practice begins across the country but one of the most intriguing programs to watch might be in Orlando as UCF looks to simultaneously follow up an undefeated season while also transitioning to a new coaching staff.
ESPN’s Andrea Adelson wrote a good story on the Knights changing some things up under head coach Josh Heupel the past few months like eating with players during meals, new strength and conditioning regiments and the usual offseason stuff you typically wind up season. However there was one interesting nugget about the team’s playbook that the coach relayed:
In other areas, player input has kept a few things unchanged. Take the offensive playbook, for example. Heupel and (Scott) Frost share enough offensive concepts that the new staff has adopted the terminology that players already know on the plays they have in common. So in theory, that should allow the offense to hit spring practice, which started Tuesday, with much more familiarity than another program that has completely changed over its staff.
As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In Heupel’s first head coaching gig, it seems he’s taking that to heart.
It didn’t take long nor did David Beaty have to look far for Kansas’ new safeties coach.
The school confirmed on Thursday morning that graduate assistant Cassius Sendish, a former Jayhawks team captain and defensive back, would be taking over as the team’s new safeties coach to complete the staff for 2018.
“I am honored and proud to represent the University of Kansas football program,” said Sendish in a statement. “I hold this place near and dear to my heart and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at my alma mater. I can’t thank Coach Beaty and the rest of the football staff enough for allowing me to come aboard and be a part of something special.”
Sendish replaces Todd Bradford on the staff after he made the rather head-turning move to leave coaching and take a new job in the oil industry. Recently hired Bill Miller will continue to coach linebackers while the newest hire will team up with defensive coordinator Clint Bowen to handle the secondary.
There will be plenty of time for everybody to settle into their new on-field roles as the Jayhawks will open up spring practice on March 31st.