Oklahoma DB Jefferson, WR Stills to declare for NFL draft

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Being on the wrong end of a Cotton Bowl blowout to Texas A&M was not how Oklahoma wanted to end the 2012-13 season. Still, wide receiver Kenny Stills (pictured) and safety Tony Jefferson had stellar seasons and helped the Sooners to another 10-win season.

On the flip side, those efforts were good enough for Jefferson and Stills to declare for the NFL draft early. Reports of their departures surfaced this weekend, but OU made it official on Monday.

“We appreciate the contributions that Tony and Kenny have made during their time at Oklahoma,” coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “We wish them both the best as they pursue their opportunities in the NFL.”

Suffice to say, their presence will be missed in 2013.

Stills was the team’s leading receiver with 82 catches for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns. He finishes his three-year career in Norman with 2,594 receiving yards and 24 touchdown catches. Jefferson, meanwhile, was the team’s leading tackler with 119 total tackles. He also had a pair of interceptions, three pass breakups and five passes defended on the year.

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET: Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills have released statements on their decision to forego their final years of eligibility to try their luck in the NFL (courtesy of the Oklahoman)

From Stills:

To my Sooner Friends and Family,

I cannot begin to express how difficult it is to describe the emotions I have on this day as I announce that I will be entering the 2013 NFL draft. Becoming a player in the National Football League has been a lifelong dream and goal of mine that I feel I am now ready to make a reality. When I arrived in Norman three years ago, I could never have imagined the deep connection I would establish with such a warm community of people. Through the good and the bad, on such a large number of occasions, I have been humbled by the kindness of your hearts. As I get ready for the exciting next phase of my career, and recollect my time here in Norman, I feel it is important to express my appreciation to not only the fans, but also to all of the coaches and staff. I cannot thank you all enough for everything you have taught me and for the opportunities and support you have provided to me both on and off of the field. I will be forever grateful to The University of Oklahoma and can only hope my new colleagues will be as supportive and that the next stop on my journey is just as special.

From Jefferson:

My goodbye for now As I start my journey on to the next level Id like to thank the coaches, players, fans, and students at the University of Oklahoma. It’s been a dream that I didn’t even believe I was capable of dreaming. To attend an institution with such great people surrounding it makes me realize how blessed i was to come here. The coaches have had a huge impact in my life on and off the field i appreciate and owe it all to them for giving me the opportunity to showcase my abilities and not only making me a better player but essentially making me a better man. And to all the fans . I can’t express how much I love y’all . Y’all are committed and keep us players going when the growing gets tough. As this was one of the hardest decisions in my life I do have great faith in my future on and off the field because of all the love and support and guidance I have received at the university of Oklahoma. I will always live by the crimson cream , and continue to let every soul know , that there is only ONE Oklahoma ! Boomer sooner!

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.

Army’s Donovan Franklin tweets transfer to Kansas

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This is something you don’t see all too often.

Donovan Franklin (pictured, No. 26) tweeted out late Tuesday night that, “[a]fter careful consideration I am happy to announce that I have decided to continue my academic and athletic career at the University of Kansas.” Franklin had spent the past two years at the United States Military Academy at West Point, playing his college football for the Army Black Knights.

It’s unclear what led the slotback to leave the service academy and head to the Big 12 school.

Franklin was a two-star prospect coming out of high school in Maryland in Army’s Class of 2015.  After playing in two games in 2016, he carried the ball one time for seven yards this past season.

The 5-9, 185-pound Franklin was listed as a defensive back coming out of high school, and could assume such a role yet again with the Jayhawks.  That likely won’t happen this season, however, as it’s expected he will have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.