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23 players make up Malzahn’s first Auburn recruiting class

Gus Malzahn AP

(Below are the bios released by Auburn on the new members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

Montravius Adams (DT; Dooly County HS; Vienna, Ga.): Strong, agile defensive line prospect … Under Armour All-America Game … 247Sports All-America … No. 2 defensive lineman, No. 14 overall by PrepStar … ranked as No. 25 overall, No. 3 DL by Rivals … No. 3 DT by Scout … No. 10 overall, No. 2 DT, No. 2 in Georgia by 247Sports … five-time player of the game his senior season for Coach Jimmy Hughes … recorded 127 tackles, 34 TFL, 7.5 sacks leading Dooly County to the Class A state title game … ESPN 150 … son of Debbie Young

Mackenro Alexander (DB; Immokalee HS; Immokalee, Fla.): Hard-hitting defender with versatile skills … totaled 154 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles as a senior playing outside linebacker for Coach Jerrod Ackley … picked off five interceptions as a senior, returning four for touchdowns, an Immokalee record … his 350+ career tackles set another Immokalee record … ranked No. 43 DB by Rivals … No. 50 DB, No. 96 prospect from Florida by 247Sports … No. 91 by Scout … Naples Daily News defensive player of the year … son of Marie and Jean Alexander

Cameron Artis-Payne (RB; Allan Hancock (Calif.) College; Milford (N.Y.) Academy; Harrisburg HS; Harrisburg, Pa.): Rated as the nation’s top junior college running back … enrolled at Auburn in January … rushed for 2,048 yards, 25 touchdowns in 2012 at Allan Hancock for Coach Kris Dutra, leading California Community College Athletic Association in rushing yards, yards per game, yards per rush and touchdowns … JC Athletic Bureau first team All-America offensive player of year … conference player of the week five times … rushed for 1,364 yards, 18 touchdowns as a freshman … all-California First Team Offense in Region IV by the California Community College Football Coaches Association … attended Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y. after high school … graduate of Harrisburg (Pa.) High … enrolled as a philosophy major at Auburn … son of Victoria Artis and David Payne

Peyton Barber (RB; Milton HS; Alpharetta, Ga.): Running back prospect with strong upside … rushed for more than 1,700 yards, 22 touchdowns as a senior playing for Coach Howie DeCristofaro … No. 32 RB, No. 48 prospect in Georgia by 247Sports … PrepStar all-Southeast … ranked No. 52 by Scout … son of Lori Barber … former NFL players Marion and Dominique Barber are his second cousins

Ben Bradley (DT; Hutchinson (Kan.) CC; HS; Norcross, Ga.): Outstanding junior college defensive lineman who enrolled at Auburn in January … recorded 43 tackles, 9.5 TFL and five sacks during the 2012 season, helping the Hutchinson Blue Dragons and Coach Rion Rhoades to a 9-3 record, a No. 12 national ranking and the Salt City Bowl championship … earned an associate’s degree in December … 91 tackles, 26 TFL, 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery as a senior at Norcross High for Coach Keith Maloof … Gwinnett Rivalries and GACA North/South all-star games … No. 9 DL prospect by 247Sports … Scout Top 100 … enrolled as a public administration major at Auburn … son of Keischa Bradley

Daniel Carlson (K; Classical Academy; Colorado Springs, Colo.): Versatile kicking specialist with tremendous leg strength … 10 field goals and 54 kickoffs for touchbacks as a senior for Coach David Bervig at The Classical Academy … top-ranked kicker nationally at Kohl’s Kicking Academy Underclassmen Challenge … ranked No. 4 nationally among kickers by Scout and Rivals … MaxPreps small school All-America … No. 8 ranking from 247Sports … U.S. Army All-American Bowl … Denver Post No. 6 in-state prospect and all-state Class 3A as a junior and senior … as a soccer player, helped TCA advance to state finals as a sophomore and junior … son of Jodie Carlson and Hans Carlson

Elijah Daniel (DE; Avon HS; Avon, Ind.): Talented two-way performer on the defensive line … Indiana first team all-state … team defensive MVP recording 85 tackles, 16 TFL, five sacks as a senior for Coach Mark Bless … Under Armour All-America Game … ranked No. 9 by Scout … No. 2 in state of Indiana and No. 8 DE by Rivals … PrepStar All-America … No. 2 in Indiana, No. 3 DE, No. 27 overall by 247Sports … MaxPreps Top 100 … ESPN 150 … his aunt Donna Fisher is his guardian

Devonte Danzey (OG; Hutchinson (Kan.) CC; HS; Tampa, Fla.): Experienced offensive guard who enrolled at Auburn in January … ranked as the nation’s top junior college prospect at offensive guard … first-team All-Jayhawk Conference for Coach Rion Rhoades as a redshirt freshman in 2012 after helping Hutchinson to a 9-3 record and a No. 12 national ranking … first team All-America … starting offensive tackle for a Hutchinson offense that scored the second-most points in team history and three times broke the 700-yard mark for total offense … ranked among Top 85 JUCO players by 247Sports … played high school football at Tampa Bay (Fla.) Tech for Coach Jayson Roberts, where he was team MVP and Tampa Tribune all-Hillsborough County … enrolled as a public administration major at Auburn … guardian is Patsy Ross

Marcus Davis (WR; American Heritage Boca-Delray HS; Delray Beach, Fla.): Dual-threat quarterback who could play receiver at Auburn … team had 12-1 record his junior year and advanced to state semifinals with an 11-1 mark as a senior … threw for 1,019 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions in 2012 for Coach Stacy Sizemore; he also ran for 846 yards and eight touchdowns … Florida Class 3A all-state … Rivals.com ranks him No. 41 nationally … No. 95 by Scout … No. 90 DB by 247Sports … Prep and Sports Florida-Georgia all-star game … son of Craig Davis

Kenny Flowers (LB; Hutchinson (Kan.) CC; Parkview HS; Lilburn, Ga.): Highly sought linebacker from the junior college ranks … contributed 95 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 4 PBU for Coach Rion Rhoades as a redshirt freshman in 2012 after helping Hutchinson to a 9-3 record and a No. 12 national ranking … rated No. 2 junior college ILB by 247Sports … Georgia all-state at Parkview High for Coach Cecil Flowe … son of Onethia Flowers and Kenny Flowers Sr. … father played at Clemson and in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons

Johnathan Ford (RB; New Hope HS; New Hope, Ala.): Capable in-state contributor at running back … gained 1,669 yards, 27 touchdowns as a senior for Coach Randall Taylor … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Class 3A first team all-state … ranked No. 35 by Scout … Rivals ranks him top running back prospect in Alabama … PrepStar all-Southeast … son of Hernandez and Terrie Ford

Khari Harding (DB; Edmond Santa Fe HS; Edmond, Okla.): Physical hard-hitter at safety … 109 tackles, three interceptions as a senior for Coach Lance Manning’s district champions … member of silver medalist Team USA in 2012 IFAF U-19 world championships … No. 3 player in Oklahoma, No. 31 DB by 247Sports … No. 43 by Scout … PrepStar all-Midwest … MaxPreps all-Oklahoma … Oklahoman all-state, all-district, all-Edmond … son of Corie Harding

Jeremy Johnson (QB; Carver HS; Montgomery, Ala.): Talented hard-working signalcaller who was named Alabama Mr. Football for 2012 … 3,193 yards, 31 TD passing as a senior and also rushed for 705 yards, 7 scores for Coach Billy Gresham at Carver High … more than 8,200 career passing yards … U.S. Army All-American Bowl … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic … ranked No. 12 in Alabama, No. 14 QB by 247Sports … Rivals No. 5 QB, No. 93 overall prospect … Scout No. 24 … PrepStar No. 90 overall, No. 7-ranked quarterback … Montgomery Advertiser all-metro player of the year … key part of Carver’s 2012 state championship basketball team earning first team all-state honors … son of LaTasha Johnson and Ojedita Johnson

Brandon King (DB; Highland (Kan.) CC; Thompson HS; Alabaster, Ala.): Outstanding safety from the junior college ranks … 118 tackles, 6 TFL last season at Highland CC … first team all-Jayhawk Conference playing for coaches Mike Beagle and Ryan Held … No. 5 junior college DB by 247Sports … all-Shelby County pick as a senior at Thompson High for Coach Bruce Hill, recording 116 tackles, 21 TFL, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries … son of Angelia King and Chris King

Carl Lawson (DE; Milton HS; Alpharetta, Ga.): Top-ranked defensive end with exceptional pass rush ability … 78 tackles, 44 TFL, 27 sacks as a senior for Coach Howie DeCristofaro … 87 tackles, 31 TFL, 15 sacks as a junior … 247Sports, Under Armour All-America first team … ranked No. 1 DE, No. 24 overall by 247Sports … top ranked DE, No. 4 player overall by Rivals … Under Armour All-America Game … PrepStar No. 6 player nationally, No. 2 defensive end … Scout ranks him No. 7 … son of Carl Lawson and Mignon Gregory … father played fullback for Georgia Tech

Nick Marshall (QB; Garden City (Kan.) CC; Wilcox County HS; Rochelle, Ga.): Talented dual-threat quarterback from the junior college ranks … passed for 3,142 yards, 18 TD and rushed for 1,095 yards, 19 TD for Coach Jeff Tatum at Garden City in 2012 … No. 4 junior college QB by 247Sports … played in 13 games at corner for Georgia in 2011 … 2010 Georgia Sports Writers Association Class A Offensive Player of the Year for Coach Mark Ledford at Wilcox County … Atlanta Journal-Constitution “Super 11″ selection, Class A Offensive Player of the Year … two-time Macon Telegraph Middle Georgia Offensive Player of the Year… led Wilcox County to the Class A title as a junior … set GHSA career record with 103 TD passes … son of Shalina Cliett

Kamryn Melton (DB; Dothan HS; Dothan, Ala.): Tremendous in-state cornerback prospect … recorded 64 tackles, two interceptions, eight PBU as a senior for Coach Kelvin White … 63 tackles, seven PBU as a junior … forced two turnovers in Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … AL.com Top 15 A-List … No. 35-ranked corner by Rivals … No. 47 by Scout … No. 20 prospect in Alabama, No. 48 DB by 247Sports … Dothan Eagle Super 12 … son of Zann Melton and James Melton

Deon Mix (OL; South Panola HS; Batesville, Miss.): Versatile, physical offensive guard prospect … first team all-state for Coach Lance Pogue … U.S. Army All-American Bowl … PrepStar All-America … ranked No. 39 by Scout … No. 5 player in Mississippi, No. 15 OL by Rivals … No. 10 in Mississippi, No. 35 OG by 247Sports … Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen … MaxPreps Mississippi Fab Five … son of Shonda Hervey

Earnest Robinson (WR; Pinson Valley HS; Pinson, Ala.): Potential-packed prospect at wide receiver … tallied more than 100 receptions, 1,900 yards during his high school career for Coach Matt Glover … Under Armour All-America Game … PrepStar No. 48 overall, No. 7 ranked receiver … ESPN 150 … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … ranked No. 14 receiver overall, No. 1 WR in Alabama by Rivals … No. 91 overall by Scout … No. 18 in Alabama, No. 59 WR by 247Sports … AL.com Top 15 A-List … son of Ramona Robinson and Earnest Robinson Sr.

Jason Smith (QB; McGill-Toolen HS; Mobile, Ala.): Versatile offensive threat who can contribute in a number of ways … 110-169 passing for 1,566 yards, 19 touchdowns as a senior for Coach Bart Sessions … also rushed for 849 yards, 16 TD helping McGill-Toolen to an 11-1 record … MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game playing receiver, with six catches for 134 yards … Mobile Press-Register Offensive Player of the Year … ranked No. 15 by Rivals … No. 32 by Scout … No. 6 in Alabama, No. 10 WR, No. 104 overall by 247Sports … PrepStar all-Southeast … also a basketball standout … son of Yolanda Smith and Jason Smith

Tony Stevens (WR; Evans HS; Orlando, Fla.): Speedy wideout who excels at the deep ball … 29 receptions, 516 yards, seven touchdowns as a senior for Coach Chip Gierke … U.S. Army All-American Bowl … No. 5 in Orlando Sentinel Central Florida Super60 … PrepStar All-America … ranked No. 95 overall, No. 11 receiver by Rivals … No. 21 by Scout … No. 23 in Florida, No. 24 WR by 247Sports … ESPN 300 … son of Keon Martin

Cameron Toney (LB; Huntsville HS; Huntsville, Ala.): Athletic linebacker with plenty of skills … recorded 107 tackles as a senior for Coach Scott Sharp … tallied 122 tackles as a junior … AL.com Top 15 A-List … ranked No. 23 by Scout … No. 14 in Alabama, No. 21 LB by 247Sports … Huntsville Times Elite Team … Class 6A Alabama honorable mention all-state … PrepStar all-Southeast … son of Taryn Toney

Dominic Walker (WR; Evans HS; Orlando, FL): Physical prospect at wide receiver … 36 receptions for 628 yards with seven touchdowns as a senior … played both receiver and safety for Coach Chip Gierke, helping the Trojans to consecutive district titles … No. 16 in Orlando Sentinel Central Florida Super60 … 247Sports Top 150 WR, Top 160 in Florida … PrepStar all-Southeast … ranked No. 95 receiver by Rivals … No. 77 by Scout … Offense/Defense All-America Bowl … son of Angela Collett

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Report: Texas A&M will pay $300,000 to ship in a new field from North Carolina

Kyle Field

For a university that takes such pride in their grass (seriously, go there some time), the playing conditions – or lack thereof – at Kyle Field last Saturday night had to be especially disheartening for Texas A&M. Heavy rain Friday night and Saturday morning combined with Kyle Field’s natural grass combined to create a playing surface that was hazardous at best and dangerous at worst.

“The field was kind of bad, but both teams had to play on it,” Texas A&M wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones told the Houston Chronicle after the game.

Rice head coach David Bailiff said “had some concerns” about even bringing his team out of the locker room to play the second half. (He did, and Rice lost 38-10). “I thought the grounds crew did about as good a job as anybody could do,” Bailiff said. “They kept the surface safe. Every time they saw a divot, they ran out there and fixed it.”

These post-game tweets showed his fears were not without reason.

According to a report from the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas A&M has a plan in place to fix the field, and will spare no expense to do it. Texas A&M officials plan to pay North Carolina-based company Carolina Green to ship an entirely new field to College Station.

The field will be moved in pieces inside 21 refrigerated trucks and begin installation the week of Sept. 29. Texas A&M System vice chancellor of marketing and communications Steve Moore says the process should take about four days.

“After the game, the chancellor asked the staff and the Kyle Field redevelopment committee to look at options,” Moore told the paper. “He wanted to know how to provide the best competitive playing surface we could going to forward and that’s what led to this process and the decisions that have been made.”

Carolina Green offers a thicker, more solid base that should allow the sod to take root in time for the Aggies’ next home game. And if there’s one silver lining to this story, it’s that the replacement comes at a good time: the Aggies are on the road the next three weeks, visiting SMU on Saturday, facing Arkansas at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 27, and visiting Mississippi State on Oct. 4. The sixth-ranked Aggies return to Kyle Field and their new surface on Oct. 11 to face No. 10 Ole Miss.

The new field comes at a cost of $300,000, but that’s chump change when you’re paying nearly half a billion dollars to renovate your football stadium.

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At long last, BYU to retire Jim McMahon’s No. 9 on Oct. 3

Jim McMahon

From the Department of Things That Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago, BYU announced Thursday it would retire former quarterback Jim McMahon’s No. 9 on Friday, Oct. 3.

McMahon will be enshrined into the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Seriously, the man quarterbacked the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl nearly 30 years ago, and has spent every waking second since then making sure we don’t forget it. Frankly, I’m surprised the man hasn’t broken in during the middle of the night (wearing his signature shades and utterly unnecessary head band, of course) and installed his own bust by now.

A tipster tells us the delay was on McMahon’s part, not BYU’s. Athletes are not eligible for enshrinement or jersey retirement until completing graduation, which McMahon apparently just recently finished.

McMahon, whose name and number will be permanently displayed on the LaVell Edwards Stadium press box, joins a group of a half-dozen former Cougars to have their numbers retired: Eldon Fortie (No. 40), Marion Probert (No. 81), Steve Young (No. 8) and Gifford Nielsen and Ty Detmer (both No. 14).

“I’m very proud of Jim finishing his degree. He is a competitor and a finisher. Completing his education at BYU is evidence of the type of person he is,” said his former coach LaVell Edwards. “Jim was a great leader and had a complete understanding of the game of football. He is very deserving of the hall of fame and having his jersey retired.”

McMahon left school in 1981 holding 70 school records after compiling 653 completions for 9,536 yards and 84 touchdowns with a 156.9 passer rating. As a senior, McMahon won the inaugural Davey O’Brien Award, the Sammy Baugh Trophy, and was named the NCAA Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind USC’s Marcus Allen and Georgia’s Herschel Walker.

McMahon will be honored in a ceremony during No. 21 BYU’s home date with Utah State on Oct. 4. The Cougars host Virginia on Saturday.

 

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Torn ACL, MCL ends season for Texas State’s Michael Orakpo

Corey Robinson, Michael Orakpo AP

Looking to get a fresh start at Texas State after getting the boot from Colorado State, Michael Orakpo will instead spend the next several months rehabbing a rather significant injury.

Earlier this week, TSU head coach Dennis Franchione confirmed that Orakpo will miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to a torn ACL and MCL.  The linebacker, who’s the brother of former Texas All-American Brian Orakpo, sustained the injury in this past weekend’s loss to Navy.

Franchione described the injury as “not a pretty sight to see.”

The injury also ends the playing career of the fifth-year season as he will not be eligible for a sixth season of eligibility.  It was also a career that reeks of what could’ve been.

In April of 2012, Orakpo, along with two now-former Colorado State teammates, were involved in what was described as the “savage beating” of fellow CSU students.  The trio was suspended by the program, ultimately charged with one count each of disorderly conduct, and eventually dismissed from the team.

Orakpo originally intended to transfer to and play for Baylor, but was removed from the roster — after having his own profile on the team’s official website — because of the baggage he brought from CSU.  He ended up at TSU and would be named second-team All-Sun Belt for his play during the 2013 season.

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Cincy’s starting RB, CB cited, with another Bearcat arrested

Hosey Williams, Junior Sylvestre AP

With a huge intrastate non-conference game looming two Saturdays from now, an incident that could turn into at least a mild distraction for the Cincinnati football program has reared its head.

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote Thursday afternoon that “[t]he future of two University of Cincinnati football players on scholarships is unclear after one was arrested and the second was cited when police responded to a weekend party near campus where gunshots were fired.”  In a press release, the school subsequently confirmed the arrest as well as a total of three citations issued to football players

The arrested one was freshman cornerback Alex Thomas, who was charged after attempting to flee police who had responded to the call of shots fired. Running back Hosey Williams was cited for disorderly conduct while intoxicated according to the Enquirer. The paper noted that Williams’ citation” indicates he refused to tell police where he attends school.”

The other two given unspecified citations were sophomore linebacker Ey’Shawn McClain and junior cornerback Leviticus Payne.

The incident that led to the arrest and citations happened very early Sunday morning.

“This kind of behavior is not acceptable and not indicative of the UC football program. Moving forward, we will continue to educate our players on making good decisions and being great representatives of the University,” a statement from head coach Tommy Tuberville read.

Houston has been suspended by the football program and “will not be eligible to participate in a game until his legal matter is completely resolved. He has a preliminary court date on Oct. 14 so he will miss at least four games and possibly more,” the school’s release read. The other three have been disciplined internally but remain on the roster and eligible to participate in games.

That’s particularly good news when it comes to two portions of the cited trio.  Williams is UC’s starting running back and, in the season opener in Week 3 — the Bearcats had byes the first two weeks — led the Bearcats with 103 yards on 14 carries. Payne, meanwhile, is on of UC’s starting corners.

Thomas and McClain are not listed on the Bearcats’ two-deep depth chart.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)

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Report: Tech fired Wallerstedt for suspicion of being under the influence

Matt Wallerstedt

Before you go there, yes, that would explain some of Texas Tech’s defensive woes.  Now, with that out of the way, we can move on.

Earlier today it was reported that Texas Tech had fired defensive its coordinator, Matt Wallerstedt, and replaced the second-year coach with Mike Smith.  The school has yet to confirm the move, although that’s expected at some point this afternoon of evening.

No reason for the abrupt dismissal three games into the season was given either, although it was believed to be performance-related as the Red Raiders’ defense had been gashed for almost 500 yards rushing against Arkansas.  As it turns out, that may not be the case.

From ESPN.com‘s Jake Trotter:

Texas Tech fired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt on Thursday after the coach was suspected of being at the school’s football building while under the influence of an unknown substance, sources told ESPN.com.

Wallerstedt was sent home from the facility Monday, according to a source.

What that alleged substance was wasn’t detailed by Trotter, and it’s highly, highly doubtful the university will divulge the circumstances surrounding the dismissal let alone any details of the alleged substance involved.

What we are certain of is this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of this particular story.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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VIDEO: Jameis Winston running out of chances in eyes of NFL

Jameis Winston

Personally, I could care less what if any impact the latest brouhaha involving Jameis Winston will have on the Florida State quarterback’s future NFL draft stock.  The only thing I care about are things like what effect it will have on FSU’s chances in the Clemson game… if will it further damage any shot at back-to-back Heismans… if it will have any bearing on the Seminoles repeating as champions… will it cause Winston to leave FSU early for the professional ranks.  That’s it.

It’s the college football angle and the college football angle only that interests me — unless it somehow becomes intertwined with the future of the Cleveland Browns either directly or indirectly.

The fine folks at PFT Live, however, are keenly interested in Winston’s draft stock and what impact it may or may not have in the eyes of NFL clubs and their scouting departments.  Unofficial data suggests that’s already happening as Mel Kiper has dropped Winston from No. 3 to No. 25 on his Big Board for the 2015 NFL draft.  An overreaction to the obscene and vulgar meme Winston publicly belted out?  Possibly, but the reality of the new NFL suggests it’s not.

As the esteemed and deftly-coiffed Mike Florio explains in this PFT Live segment, teams will likely be on the lookout for character issues of potential draft picks in the wake of the controversies involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  Taking that into account, and taking into account the myriad off-field hiccups Winston’s already stepped into during his two-plus years in Tallahassee, Florio opines that “for a guy that’s going to be the face of a franchise somewhere, there is enough evidence out there to have a concern that this guy isn’t ready and may never be ready to be the face of your franchise.”

“He’s running out of chances to convince the NFL he can come in and be that player who is the leader of your team both in the locker room and in the public eye,” Florio added.

For those who are interested in the NFL aspect of this situation, this two-minute clip is actually well worth your time.

 

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Reports: Texas Tech cans DC Matt Wallerstedt

Matt Wallerstedt

Go ahead and file this in the “whoa, didn’t expect this so soon” folder.

Within minutes of each other Thursday afternoon, both CoachingSearch.com and FootballScoop.com reported via Twitter that Matt Wallerstedt has been fired as defensive coordinator by head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Mike Smith is expected to take over the coordinating duties on that side of the ball.

Tech is expected to release a statement confirming the move at some point this afternoon.

The apparent decision to can Wallerstedt, in his second season at Tech, comes just five days after Arkansas ran over, through and around the Red Raiders in an embarrassing 49-28 loss Saturday in Lubbock. In that game, the Razorbacks ran for 438 yards while passing for just 61.

Smith, a 2004 TT graduate, held the titles of co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach.

As it stands now, the Red Raiders’ defense is second-to-last in rushing defense and 106th in scoring defense through three games.  Last season, Wallerstedt’s first, they were 74th and 90th, respectively, in those categories.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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Ark. St. can return remembrance crosses to helmets

Arkansas State Cross

The fact that an attorney complained to Arkansas State about memorial crosses placed on the football team’s helmets triggered action from the university, with the crosses being altered or removed so that only the initials of the dead remained.  It also, though, triggered an outpouring of criticism of the school from those who felt they caved to the interests of a single individual at the expense of the majority.

One of those levying the most pointed criticism was the Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian legal organization that had complained in a letter to the university that it had infringed on the private religious rights of the players.

In the end, they’re right back to a similar place where they were prior to the original complaint lodged over a week ago: the players can have crosses on their helmets, if they want them there. And they won’t be placed their by an employee of the school as before; rather, the players themselves will be able to affix crosses or any other NCAA-sanctioned tribute to former defensive lineman Markel Owens and former equipment manager Barry Weyer Jr., who both died back in 2013 in separate incidents.

The university allowed that it was wrong for the school to place the crosses on the helmets originally. “The sticker idea originated among the coaches and the coaches’ small group of football players on the Leadership Council,” a letter from ASU System President Charles Welch to the institute stated, also noting that the stickers were paid for using public funds.  That will not happen this time around.

According to the same letter, “[t]he display of these stickers will be totally voluntary and completely independent of university involvement. The university will not procure the stickers, purchase them, or affix them to the helmets.”

ASU officials had consulted with their counterparts at the Liberty institute to come up with a solution that allows the individuals to make the choice.  It also came after conversations with its own legal team and the NCAA.

“In the interest of allowing our student-athletes to memorialize their fallen colleagues, Markel Owens and Barry Weyer, it is the university’s position that any player who wishes to voluntarily place an NCAA-compliant sticker on their helmet to memorialize these individuals will be able to do so,” the letter from the university continued.

The Liberty Institute issued its own statement hailing what it referred to as “a great victory for the players of Arkansas State University!”

“According to the letter we received from the University and communications from the Arkansas Attorney General Office, the players will be allowed to place the original cross sticker design on their helmets in the original location if they so choose.

“The University officials and the Arkansas Attorney General did the right thing restoring the religious liberty and free speech rights of the players to have the original cross sticker design if they so choose and we commend them for doing so.”

A Red Wolve football player had complained that the school had violated his right to free speech because of the cross flap, which gained the interest of the institute. The school, though, denies the player’s right to free speech was infringed upon due to the university’s actions.

In the letter referenced previously, the institute was taken to task by the president for disseminating what it called misinformation over what led to the school’s initial decision.

The University’s response said “The foregoing facts are in stark contrast to the misinformation contained in your letter stating that the ‘students designed the helmet sticker,’ that ‘[e]ach teammate affixed the sticker to his helmet,’ and that the ‘stickers were designed by the students on their own.'”

The letter also said that all of this was done without the advice of counsel. The University argued that “Accordingly, when the school modified the stickers to avoid Establishment Clause concerns, no student speech was infringed.”

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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Sooners to debut alternate unis vs. WVU

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Because, of course, there’s something inherently wrong with their classic, iconic, traditional football duds.

Regardless, Oklahoma revealed Wednesday that they will be wearing alternate uniforms for the nationally-televised game against West Virginia Saturday night. This version is actually one of the different alternate combinations announced back in July but have yet to be worn.

Head coach Bob Stoops sounded positively thrilled over the debut of the uniforms.

We just thought we might as well use them. Since you got them, you eventually got to use them,” Stoops said.

As we wrote a couple of months ago, the Sooners will have a pair of alternate uniforms to choose from moving forward.

One adopts a white alternate helmet, while one features a wood grain pattern in the numbering, lettering and the helmet itself. The wood grain is supposed to be reminiscent of, a press release stated, “the weathered texture of the Sooner Schooner, a Conestoga reminiscent of the pioneer mode of travel employed by the hearty souls who settled Oklahoma Territory around the time of the 1889 Land Run.”

The newer uniforms also feature the phrase “47 straight,” a tribute to Oklahoma’s NCAA record winning streak running from 1953 through 1957.

The uniforms that will be worn in the Big 12 opener against the Mountaineers in Morgantown will have the wood-grain theme.

Oklahoma Uniform

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Status of starting Gamecocks guard for Vandy game up in the air

North Carolina v South Carolina

Already dealing with the loss of Mike Matulis until at least midseason because of a knee injury, South Carolina’s offensive line could be set to take yet another injury hit.

South Carolina confirmed Wednesday in their practice notes that Cody Waldrop did not practice again because of an unspecified injury to his left knee.  It was the second practice in a row that the starting guard, who was seen walking with the aid of a crutch, had missed.

The injury occurred late in the win over Georgia this past Saturday, and is expected to keep him out of this weekend’s game against Vanderbilt.

Waldrop has started the first two games this season at right guard.  Oddly enough, Waldrop became the starter because of the injury to Matulis.

If Waldrop is out e would be replaced in the starting lineup by Will Short.

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UConn, Mizzou schedule home-and-home for 2015, 2017

Bob Diaco AP

Using Bob Diaco’s favorite analogy, he’s baked one serious ingredient into his future schedule cakes.

Mizzou announced a home-and-home series with UConn to be played in 2015 in Columbia and 2017 in East Hartford, giving UConn its first power-five opponent of the Diaco era. UConn will travel to Faurot Field on Sept. 19, 2015 and welcome the Tigers to the Northeast on Sept. 23, 2017.

UConn already has a tough trip to Provo to face BYU scheduled for 2015 as well as non-conference home games against Villanova and Army. A home-and-home series with Virginia will be played in 2016 and 2017, while UConn has Big Ten bottom-feeders Illinois and Indiana on its 2019 and 2020 schedules. Adding an SEC opponent certainly will be a good test for Diaco’s Huskies.

UConn doesn’t do a whole lot for Mizzou’s future non-conference schedules, as there’s plenty of work to be done in East Hartford before Diaco gets the Huskies to a competitive level in the AAC, let alone on a grander scale. Mizzou faces FCS side Southeast Missouri State and travels to Arkansas State in 2015 while welcoming Purdue to Columbia in 2017.

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So who is Sean Maguire, other than being Florida State’s first-half QB vs. Clemson?

Sean Maguire

Chances are, Florida State won’t ask Sean Maguire to do too much in the first 30 minutes against Clemson Saturday night. With Jameis Winston getting himself suspended, Maguire will step in — and while it may not cost Florida State a win, swapping Winston for Maguire certainly makes Saturday night’s game in Tallahassee a little tougher for the ‘Noles.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes on Maguire:

– He’s a redshirt sophomore who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 220 pounds.

– Maguire completed three of five passes for 28 yards in garbage time this year and went 13 of 21 for 116 yards and a touchdown a year ago, again being used only in garbage time.

– The Sparta, N.J. native was rated by Rivals as a three-star pro-style quarterback out of high school. According to Rivals, Buffalo was the only other school to offer Maguire, who committed to Florida State in early June of 2011 (about 10 months before signing day).

– Florida State’s official website offers this:

ran a wing-T offense in high school which didn’t allow for many passing opportunities…made the most of the ones he got displaying good arm strength, touch, the ability to change ball speeds and ability to consistently throw a catchable ball with accuracy to all three levels

– The wing-T? Alright then. Good on him for sticking it out at his high school instead of transferring somewhere with a 21st-century offense, I guess.

Again, Florida State probably won’t ask Maguire to do a whole lot against Clemson other than hand the ball off. But if Clemson stacks the box with eight guys and forces FSU into some passing down situations, Maguire may need to make some throws — and if those don’t go well, the door could very well be open for Clemson to steal a win at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday night.

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Ripple effect of Auburn-Kansas State will be felt well beyond Manhattan tonight

Big 12 Football Media Days Getty Images

Kansas State hosts Auburn tonight in a game that’s not only massive for the outlook of things in Manhattan, Kan. This is a game that carries far-reaching implications in Norman, Okla., Waco, Texas, East Lansing, Mich., and across a large swath of the South.

If K-State pulls off the upset and Aggieville parties long into Friday morning, the Big 12 will get a massive boost as a whole. K-State’s road to the College Football Playoff would all of a sudden open up, even if it’s an unlikely path: The Wildcats’ Big 12 schedule sends them to Oklahoma and Baylor, while there’s a tricky road game at West Virginia in there, too.

It’d be foolish to doubt Bill Snyder, but chances are, K-State won’t make a serious playoff push. But the Wildcats would do Oklahoma or Baylor a huge favor by beating Auburn tonight — they’d give those teams another chance at a solid win over the course of a fairly light Big 12 schedule.

If one spot in the College Football Playoff comes down to a one-loss Big 12 team vs. a one-loss Big Ten team (looking your way, Michigan State), a win over a K-State team that toppled Auburn could go a long way toward the selection committee going with the Big 12 team. Oklahoma will have a win over Baylor or Baylor will have a win over Oklahoma, giving either side a better victory than Michigan State or any other Big Ten team will have this year. But if Oklahoma trips up Saturday at West Virginia or Baylor gets knocked off by Texas in Austin, a win over K-State could help counter-act that defeat.

Or consider this: Would a one-loss Big 12 team get a higher seed or spot in the playoff over a one-loss Florida State? If the ‘Noles fall to Clemson or Notre Dame in Tallhassee or Louisville on the road, would a weak ACC schedule come back to bite them? (Probably not, but it wouldn’t be a slam dunk.)

Those clinging to the hope of a Big Ten team making the College Football Playoff should be rooting for two things: Auburn to win tonight, and then chaos to reign in the SEC West. An Auburn win weakens the Big 12 while boosts a conference that doesn’t really need a boost. The Big Ten has an advantage over the Big 12 in its conference championship game, meaning there’s a good chance a one-loss Michigan State team faces a one-loss Wisconsin side in Indianapolis.

The best-case for the Big Ten would be for Michigan State to run the table, beat that one-loss Wisconsin team and have a resume of “hey, we took care of our business except for a nearly impossible task in Week 2 in Eugene.” That’s not a bad resume, even given the Big Ten’s awful rep.

Would a one-loss ACC or Big 12 team still make the playoff over a one-loss Big Ten team? Probably, but again, it’s not a guarantee.

The worst-case scenario for the SEC is Auburn loses tonight, but navigates its brutal SEC schedule with only one other loss and emerges as conference champions for the second straight year. The selection committee still would likely give Auburn a bid to the College Football Playoff, but it could hinder the conference’s chances of getting two teams in — especially since the East’s two top teams, Georgia and South Carolina, already have one loss.

Tonight in Manhattan will go a long way toward determining the landscape of the first College Football Playoff. Buckle up.

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Vols receiving corps battling high-ankle issues

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A lingering leg injury will sideline a key piece of Tennessee’s passing attack for at least another game, head coach Butch Jones has confirmed, while a separate injury issue could sideline yet another piece the same weekend — if not longer.

On his radio show Wednesday night, Jones stated that Von Pearson won’t play in UT’s game against Georgia.  That’s despite the fact that the Vols are on a bye this weekend and don’t play the Bulldogs until Sept. 27.

Pearson suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Week 2 win over Arkansas State, and didn’t play in the Week 3 loss to Oklahoma.  The goal now is to get the receiver back for the weekend after the UGA game.

“[R]ight now we’re really working exceptionally hard to get him back for the (Oct. 4) Florida game, but as you know, the body heals in different time frames,” Jones said. “It heals when it’s ready to heal.”

Pearson, a JUCO transfer, is third on the team in receiving yards with 98 and fourth in receptions with seven.

The status of another receiver is up in the air for the UGA game as well.  Josh Smith suffered a similar high-ankle sprain in the loss to the Sooners and won’t practice at all this week.

Jones said earlier in the week it’s not yet known whether Smith will play in the Vols’ SEC opener two Saturdays from now, even as there are reports that he’ll be sidelined for 2-6 weeks.

There isn’t a time frame on it,” Jones said. “He could be ready for Georgia, but we’ll wait and see.”

Through three games, Smith is second on the team in catches (10) and receiving yards (135).

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Tom Rossley returns, hopes to fix SMU’s offensive woes

Tom Rossley

The ship may be sinking, and this could be akin to rearranging the deck chairs, but SMU is not going down without an effort to turn things around in the here and now.

Earlier this week SMU interim head coach Tom Mason announced that he has added Tim Davis to his Mustangs coaching staff, with Davis’ job being to help with a porous offensive line.  While this next move is not yet officially official, it’s also directed at helping an inept offense.

Pending school approval, Mason has decided to add Tom Rossley as an offensive consultant.  Despite the addition not being official, the 68-year-old Rossley is already working with the coaching staff — and already causing some extra homework for the Mustangs’ upcoming opponent.

I’m investigating Rossley a little bit,” Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, whose Aggies play the Mustangs Saturday, said according to the Dallas Morning News. “I know he’s been put on staff, so there’ll be some adjusting going on in the first quarter, no doubt about that. Who knows what we’re going to get; we’ve got no idea.”

Interestingly, Rossley’s last job was at Texas A&M as quarterbacks coach from 2008-11.

Rossley’s name should be a very familiar one to SMU fans, too. From 1991-96, Rossley served as the Mustangs’ head coach and compiled a record of 15-48-3.

He’s proficient in spread-style offense, which was a significant reason for the decision to bring him back.

Aside from the SMU and A&M years, a sizable chunk of Rossley’s recent coaching career came at the NFL level at the quarterbacks coach of the Atlanta Falcons (1990); wide receivers and tight ends for the Chicago Bears (1997-98); Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach (1999); and offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers (2000-05).

(Photo credit: SMU athletics)

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