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Arkansas announces 2013 signing class

University of Arkansas Introduces Bret Bielema Getty Images

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 22 members of Arkansas’ 2013 recruiting class.)

Austin Allen
QB, 6-2, 210, Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Allen led Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships and was named MVP of both championship games. After his senior season, he was selected as Arkansas’ 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year. He was the 17th-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country and No. 3 player in Arkansas by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com also tabbed him as the No. 3 player in the state. He was an all-state player in his senior season, when he was 233-of-366 passing for 3,593 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 200 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing to lead Fayetteville to a 10-3 mark and the state title. Following his senior year, he was selected for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and started for the East Team. As a junior, he completed 270-of-420 passes, a 64.3 percent completion rate, for 4,150 yards and 46 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions. Allen also rushed for 300 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to a 12-2 record and the state crown. He was an active member of FCA and in his local youth group and also worked with local Boys & Girls Clubs. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton. Austin’s brother, Brandon, is a quarterback at UA and his father, Bobby, is the Razorbacks’ director of high school relations. Allen had multiple scholarship offers before choosing Arkansas.

Tevin Beanum
DE, 6-3, 235, Forrest City, Ark. (Forrest City HS)
Beanum was ranked as the No. 8 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and the No. 9 player in the state by 247Sports.com. He finished his senior season with 76 tackles, 7.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble while helping Forrest City advance to the 5A state playoffs and finish with a winning record for the first time since 2009. His first season of high school football was his junior year, and he recorded 50 tackles, including 5.0 sacks, and recovered three fumbles for the Mustangs. He volunteered at his local animal shelter while in high school. He was coached at Forrest City by Rich Trail.

Alex Brignoni
S, 6-1, 200, Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Brignoni helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships in his last two seasons. He was ranked as the No. 5 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com. As a senior, he was named to the all-state team after recording 89 tackles, six pass breakups and five interceptions on the way to the state title. Fayetteville’s defense allowed an average of 16.0 points per game over the final 11 games of 2012 after Brignoni returned from missing the first two games due to an injury. His junior year, he recorded 126 tackles and 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, as the Bulldogs finished 12-2 and won the state title. He helped Fayetteville advance to the state championship game as a sophomore. He was a member of FCA while in high school. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton and selected Arkansas over multiple offers, including Illinois.

De’Andre Coley
S, 6-1, 178, Miami, Fla. (Northwestern HS)
Coley was ranked as the No. 52 safety in the country by ESPN. As a senior, he helped Northwestern advance to the second round of the 6A state playoffs where the Bulls fell to the eventual state champions and ended their season with a 9-3 record. He recorded 68 tackles, including six sacks, one interception and 12 pass breakups as the defense held opponents to an average of 12.3 points per game and allowed seven points or less in seven games, including two shutouts. In his junior season, Northwestern’s defense allowed 20 points per game in an 8-2 campaign. He also ran track, where he was a member of the state runner-up team in 2012 boasting a 10.6 100-meter dash time and took the baton for the second leg of the 4×100 relay. He was coached at Northwestern by Stephen Field. Coley selected the Razorbacks over TCU.

D.J. Dean
CB, 5-10, 180, Newton, Texas (Newton HS)
Dean was an impact player on both sides of the ball at Newton, playing cornerback and quarterback. As a senior, he was named district MVP after leading the Eagles to the semifinal round of the state playoffs and a 13-1 final record. He recorded 34 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble and also passed for 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 1,014 yards and 20 touchdowns. In his junior season, he made 46 tackles and five interceptions while passing for 1,280 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing for 672 yards and eight touchdowns. He was coached at Newton by W.T. Johnston. Dean received several offers and chose Arkansas over Baylor and Utah.

Brooks Ellis
LB, 6-2, 215, Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Ellis helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships in his last two years and was named the state’s Defensive Player of the Year in each. He was ranked as the No. 4 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, and was rated 24th in the country at his position by 247Sports and 42nd by Rivals. As a senior, he was named to the all-state team despite missing the first two games after he registered 114 tackles, 16.0 for loss with 4.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery on the way to the state title. Following his junior season, he was also named the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s 7A Player of the Year. He recorded 86 tackles, 22.5 for loss with 13.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups at linebacker as the Bulldogs finished 12-2 and won the state title. As a sophomore, he started at safety and recorded 87 tackles, five for loss, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He was named the 2010 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sophomore Defensive Player of the Year and helped Fayetteville advance to the state championship game after recording 130 tackles, five pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He served as student body treasurer at Fayetteville and also was a member of FCA and the National Honor Society. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton and chose Arkansas over multiple other offers.

Denzell Evans
RB, 6-0, 205, Houston, Texas (Bellaire HS)
Evans was a three-year starter at Bellaire, rushing for 2,350 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career. He was named first-team all-district after his senior season when he rushed for 1,147 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead Bellaire into the 5A Division I state playoffs. As a junior, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry, totaling 997 yards on 135 rushes and scored 11 touchdowns while the Cardinals won seven games and qualified for the state playoffs. He gained 711 yards and scored eight touchdowns as a sophomore, when Bellaire played in the first round of the state playoffs. He was coached at Bellaire by Trey Hermann and Trey Sissom. Evans selected Arkansas over offers from Arizona State, Kansas State, Michigan State and Houston, among others.

Melvinson Hartfield
WR, 5-11, 183, Dallas, Texas (South Oak Cliff HS)
Hartfield played both sides of the ball for South Oak Cliff. In his senior year, he led a defense that allowed an average of 10.4 points per game while helping the Bears to nine wins and a spot in the 4A Division 2 state playoffs. On offense, he added 12 receptions for 324 yards and four touchdowns. As a junior, he recorded 46 tackles and one interception as the defense held opponents to 13.9 points per game and South Oak Cliff put together an undefeated regular season and advanced to the state playoffs. He was active in his local church and was coached at South Oak Cliff by Emmett Jones. Hartfield selected Arkansas over Kansas State and Texas Tech.

Hunter Henry
TE, 6-5, 238, Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Academy)
Henry was rated as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the nation by Tom Lemming. He was named to the PARADE All-America Team, named a first-team All-American by 247Sports.com and a second-team All-American by Max Preps. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 2 tight end in the country, and 247Sports and Scout.com tabbed him as the nation’s No. 4 tight end. ESPN ranked him as the No. 1 player in Arkansas, and Rivals and 247Sports had him as the No. 2 player in the state. As a senior, he caught 107 passes for 1,449 yards and 15 touchdowns while helping lead Pulaski Academy to the semifinal round of the 5A state playoffs. Following his senior year, he was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game, where he was voted a team captain and started for the White Team. He caught 64 passes for 1,093 yards and 16 touchdowns in his junior season as the Bruins claimed the 4A state championship and finished 14-0. He played on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, hauling in 45 passes for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns and registering 30 tackles, three for loss, and one fumble recovery while P.A. advanced to the state title game and finished 13-2. He was involved in his church’s youth group and an FCA leader at P.A., where he helped lead a food drive for the homeless. He was coached at Pulaski Academy by Kevin Kelley. Henry chose Arkansas over Alabama after receiving numerous offers.

Sam Irwin-Hill
P, 6-3, 215, Bendingo, Australia (City College of San Francisco)
Irwin-Hill is an ambidextrous punter, possessing the ability to punt with either leg, and ranked as the No. 1 junior college punter in America by 247Sports.com. He was named a first-team All-American as a sophomore after punting 44 times for an average of 41.7 yards per punt, including a long of 77 yards, and also dropped 15 punts inside the 20-yard line while helping City College advance to the California Community College Athletic Association championship game and finish the season 10-2. In his freshman year, he averaged 40.6 yards per punt with a long of 62 as the Rams won the CCCAA state title and ended the season with a perfect 12-0 mark. He was coached at City College by George Rush. Irwin-Hill selected Arkansas over Miami.

Denver Kirkland
OG, 6-5, 320, Miami, Fla. (Booker T. Washington HS)
Kirkland is a versatile lineman who was ranked as the No. 5 offensive guard in the country by Scout.com and 13th at the position by 247Sports.com, while ESPN tabbed him as the No. 12 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 overall prospect in Florida and Rivals.com pegged him 13th in the country at tackle and 19th overall in the state. His senior season, he was named first-team all-state after anchoring an offensive line that allowed Booker T. Washington to average 53.5 points and 431.2 yards of total offense per game and win the 4A state championship with a 13-1 final record. He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game following the state championship. As a junior, he was named first-team all-state after the Tornadoes won 13 games and advanced to the state championship game behind an offense that averaged 41.7 points and 404.9 total yards per game. He was coached at Booker T. Washington by Tim Harris. Kirkland chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Miami, Florida State and South Florida.

Reeve Koehler
OG, 6-3, 325, Honolulu, Hawai’i (Saint Louis School)
Koehler was ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in Hawai’i by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, with Rivals tabbing him as the No. 8 offensive guard in the country and 247Sports ranking him 14th at his position. Following a senior season in which he blocked for an offense that averaged 32.5 points per game, he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. In his junior year, the Crusaders topped 30 points in five of 10 games and averaged 31.8 points per game. Saint Louis won the Division I state title his sophomore season, when the offense averaged 40.8 points per game, including 39.0 points per game in the playoffs. He was actively involved in community service, including coaching youth league basketball and contributing to Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, MDA and beach cleanup. He was coached at Saint Louis by John Hao and Matt Wright. Koehler received numerous offers and selected Arkansas over Tennessee, Oregon, Cal and Kansas.

Ke’Tyrus Marks
DT, 6-1, 288, West Palm Beach, Fla. (Suncoast HS)
Marks was a three-year contributor at Suncoast who was selected to play in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game and the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast All-Star Game following his senior season. He was an all-district honoree after breaking Suncoast’s single-season sacks record with 19 as a senior as part of a 60-tackle season. In his junior year, he made 38 tackles, recovered two fumbles and forced one fumble for the Chargers. His sophomore season, he made 47 tackles, including seven sacks, and forced three fumbles. He has been involved in several community service outreach projects for the less fortunate, including cooking for the elderly and helping his church provide the homeless a place to shower. He was coached at Suncoast by Jim Clark. Marks chose Arkansas over multiple offers, including Wake Forest.

Korliss Marshall
S, 6-0, 200, Osceola, Ark. (Osceola HS)
Marshall started at running back for Osceola for three seasons and rushed for more than 4,100 yards and nearly 60 touchdowns. He was rated as the No. 6 overall prospect in Arkansas by Rivals.com and as the state’s 10th-best prospect by 247Sports.com. His senior season, he rushed for 1,711 yards and scored 24 touchdowns to earn all-state recognition and help lead Osceola to the second round of the 3A state playoffs. As a junior, he accumulated 1,421 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground as the Seminoles advanced to the second round of the 4A state playoff bracket. His sophomore season, he gained 973 yards and scored 12 touchdowns rushing. He was an active member of FCA and was coached at Osceola by Russell Leggett. Marshall selected Arkansas after receiving multiple offers.

Damon Mitchell
QB, 6-2, 200, Egg Harbor City, N.J. (Cedar Creek HS)
Mitchell was ranked as the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the No. 12 overall prospect in New Jersey by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com pegged him 15th in the nation at his position and 20th in New Jersey. In his senior season, he passed for 2,025 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 1,027 yards and 21 touchdowns to lead Cedar Creek to 11 wins and an appearance in the NJSIAA South Group 2 championship game. As a junior, he played quarterback and safety, passing for 859 yards and nine touchdowns and rushing for 937 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 43 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups on defense. He was coached at Cedar Creek by Tim Watson. Mitchell selected Arkansas over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Drew Morgan
WR, 6-0, 190, Greenwood, Ark. (Greenwood HS)
Morgan helped lead Greenwood to two undefeated seasons, two state championships in different classifications, and was named MVP of both championship games. He was ranked as the No. 7 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and as the No. 13 prospect in the state by 247Sports.com. He won the Landers Award as the state’s best high school player following his senior season in which he contributed on offense and defense to Greenwood’s 6A state championship and 15-0 record. He also was named the state’s Offensive Player of the Year after making 83 receptions for 1,122 yards and 14 touchdowns and 82 rushes for 764 yards and 19 touchdowns. He recorded 73 tackles, 20.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups on defense in 2012. As a junior, he caught 85 passes for 1,400 yards and 25 touchdowns while adding 89 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns for the 14-0 5A state champions. He was involved in FCA, assisted with Special Olympics and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. He was coached at Greenwood by Rick Jones. Morgan selected Arkansas over multiple offers, including Auburn.

Dan Skipper
OT, 6-10, 295, Arvada, Colo. (Ralston Valley HS)
Skipper was rated as the No. 32 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, the No. 4 prospect in Colorado and the No. 46 offensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com, and the state’s No. 5 prospect and the country’s 47th offensive tackle by 247Sports.com. He earned 5A all-state recognition as a senior, helping Ralston Valley average 35.8 points per game while advancing to the semifinal round of the state playoffs, and after the season was selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. His junior season, the Mustangs put together a 10-2 record and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. He was a member of student government all four years in high school, where he contributed more than 100 hours of community service and served his senior year as student body president. He also was a member of the National Honor Society and volunteered for a program to mentor incoming freshmen. His coach at Ralston Valley was Matt Loyd. Skipper received numerous scholarship offers and chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Tennessee, Ohio State and Michigan.

Tiquention Coleman
S, 5-10, 195, Mauldin, S.C. (Georgia Military College /Mauldin HS)
Coleman comes to Arkansas ranked as the No. 10 junior college safety in the country by 247Sports.com after starting every game in his two seasons at Georgia Military College. In 2012, he recorded 44 tackles, four interceptions, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble to help the Bulldogs advance to the Heart of Texas Bowl. As a freshman, he made 30 tackles and forced two fumbles as Georgia Military earned six wins with four shutouts. In his senior season at Mauldin, he helped lead the Mavericks to a berth the 4A state playoffs and as a junior he led a defense that held six opponents to 14 points or less on the way to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. He was coached at Georgia Military by Bert Williams and at Mauldin by Doug Shaw. Coleman selected Arkansas over Wisconsin and Arizona.

Johnathan McClure
OL, 6-4, 310, Wichita, Kan. (Butler CC/Wichita Heights HS)
McClure was an All-American in both of his seasons at Butler, earning first-team honors in 2012 and second-team recognition as a freshman. He was ranked as the No. 5 junior college offense guard in the country by 247Sports.com. He started all 12 games in his sophomore season, helping lead the Grizzlies to a No. 2 national ranking and the NJCCA Football Championship Game with an offense that averaged 45.2 points and 487.8 yards of total offense per game. In 2011, he anchored a line that allowed the offense to average 48.6 points and 499.3 yards of total offense per game as Butler finished the year 11-1 with a victory in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl. As a senior at Wichita Heights, he was named a first-team all-state performer by the Kansas Football Coaches Association after helping lead the Falcons to the 6A state championship game. He was coached at Butler by Troy Morrell and at Wichita Heights by Rick Wheeler.

Martrell Spaight
LB, 6-0, 220, North Little Rock, Ark. (Coffeyville [Kan.] CC/North Little Rock HS)
Spaight was a two-time junior college All-American at Coffeyville Community College. He was ranked as the No. 8 junior college outside linebacker in the nation by 247Sports.com and was 82nd in ESPN’s Junior College 100 ranking. He was a first-team NJCAA All-American and the Jayhawk Community College Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after collecting more than 100 tackles for the second consecutive season. As a sophomore, he recorded 130 tackles, 13.5 for loss with 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. His tackles total was fourth on Coffeyville’s single-season list. In his freshman year, he earned NJCAA All-America honors after making 101 tackles, 9.0 for loss with 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. As a senior at North Little Rock, he was a 7A Central all-state selection. He was coached at Coffeyville by Aaron Flores and at North Little Rock by Brad Bolding. Spaight selected Arkansas over Kansas State.

Myke Tavarres
LB, 6-2, 215, Lake Oswego, Ore. (College of the Siskiyous/Lakeridge HS)
Tavarres comes to Arkansas as a two-time all-conference selection at College of the Siskiyous in California. He was ranked as the No. 7 junior college outside linebacker in the country by 247Sports.com and 63rd in ESPN’s Junior College 100 ranking. He recorded 85 tackles, 12.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 2012, helping lead the Eagles to a 10-1 record, the most wins in school history, and the CCCAA Central Division championship. As a freshman, he made 51 tackles, 12.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks, one interception and four pass breakups. As a senior at Lakeridge, he collected 135 tackles, including 20 in one game and 17 the next week, and 5.0 sacks with one interception, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He was coached at Siskiyous by Charlie Roche and at Lakeridge by Tom Smythe. Tavarres chose the Razorbacks over offers from Boise State and Arizona, among others.

Carroll Washington
CB, 6-0, 175, Baltimore, Md. (Hartnell [Calif.] CC/Edmondson-Westside HS)
Washington was ranked as the No. 1 junior college cornerback and the No. 10 overall junior college player in the nation by 247Sports.com. He was an all-conference performer and collected 25 tackles as a sophomore in 2012 while adding three interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In his freshman season for Hartnell, he recorded 27 tackles, four interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while earning all-conference recognition and helping the Panthers to Coast Conference and Southern Division titles. He played on both sides of the ball in high school and made 38 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and one forced fumble on defense while catching 35 passes for 653 yards and one touchdown and rushing 21 times for 204 yards and two scores as a senior. In his junior season, he quarterbacked the Red Storm into the second round of the state playoffs, finishing the year 60-of-110 passing for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing 53 times for 437 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, he collected 11 tackles, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. He has volunteered at the Baltimore Boys & Girls Club, assisting with after-school programs. He was coached at Hartnell by Matt Collins and at Edmondson-Westside by Dante Jones. Washington chose Arkansas over Mississippi State, among others.

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Injury to sideline WKU’s second-leading rusher indefinitely

Western Kentucky v South Alabama AP

Whatever in-game breather Leon Allen was expected to get because of Anthony Wales‘ presence will, for the foreseeable future, be put on hold. Or entrusted to someone less experienced.

Wales sustained an undisclosed injury recently and will most certainly miss Western Kentucky’s opener against Vanderbilt Thursday. Head coach Jeff Brohm would only say that the running back is out indefinitely and his return is “a little bit down the road.”

Behind Allen’s 1,542 yards rushing and 13 rushing touchdowns last season, Wales was second on the team with 518 and five. He added 15 receptions for 127 yards coming out of the backfield for good measure.

Other than Allen and Wales, the only other running backs on the Hilltoppers’ roster who have carried the ball at this level are graduate transfer Anthony Davis (65 yards rushing in 2013 at Indiana, scout team player in 2014) and Darmontre Warr (29 yards total the past two seasons at WKU).

“There are some guys that we’re missing, but I like the guys we have,” Brohm said. “They’ve worked hard. At any point throughout the season, someone’s going to have to step up, and there will be a few this first game that will have to step up.”

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Sun Belt confirms Coastal Carolina’s addition in 2017

CCU SBC

Yesterday’s report has officially become today’s come-to-fruition news.

In a press release, the Sun Belt announced that Coastal Carolina has accepted an invitation to join the conference.  The Chanticleers will join the league for football in 2017, while they move all of their other varsity sports in a year earlier for the 2016-17 season.

Currently playing at the FCS level, CCU will begin a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision with its first year of full FBS status coming in 2018. While they will be eligible to compete for an SBC title in 2017, they won’t be eligible for a bowl game until 2018.

“On behalf of all of us at Coastal Carolina University, I’m honored to accept the invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference,” CCU president David A. DeCenzo said in a statement. “I am grateful to Sun Belt Commissioner, Mr. Karl Benson, for his steadfast support of CCU, and to the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors, who honored CCU by selecting their 12th member school.”

The official addition of CCU will give the SBC 12 members beginning in 2017, triggering a conference championship game. The conference will be split geographically into two divisions.

Further, the addition makes for a natural geographic split between East and West to allow for certain sports to compete in a divisional format. The six members that are located in the eastern half of the Sun Belt are: Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, and Troy. The six members in the western half are: Arkansas State, Little Rock, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, UT Arlington, and Texas State. Idaho and New Mexico State compete in the Sun Belt Conference as football only members. CCU’s location makes for a natural geographical fit to the Sun Belt as it borders both North Carolina, home of Appalachian State, and Georgia, home to both Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University join our membership,” the commissioner said in his statement. “The Sun Belt is a growing conference with a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and has all the tools necessary to move forward at the highest level of collegiate athletics. Under the leadership of President David A. DeCenzo and Athletics Director Matt Hogue, I expect the Chanticleers to be competitive in all Sun Belt sports and to represent the conference in a first-class manner on and off the field.”

(Graphic credit: Sun Belt Conference)

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Harbaugh has named UM”s starting QB — just not publicly

Zach Gentry, Shane Morris, Jake Rudock AP

Michigan released its depth chart Monday and declined to publicly name a starting quarterback, instead putting an “OR” between the two combatants for the job, Iowa transfer Jake Rudock (pictured, right) and junior “incumbent” Shane Morris (pictured, middle).  That, though, doesn’t mean Jim Harbaugh hasn’t done so privately.

On the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, Harbaugh acknowledged that both Rudock and Morris know who will start the opener against Utah Thursday night. And, according to the coach, keeping the upcoming opponent in the dark about the identity of the starter is merely icing on the cake.

“I feel like I want both of them to prepare that they’re going to be the starter, I want both of them going into this game with the mindset that they’re one play away or starting, that’s the mindset I always want our quarterback and backup quarterback [to have],” said Harbaugh. “They know [who will start vs. the Utes]…

“We know who’s going to start, we know who’s going to go in second or who is going to go in next. We want them both to prepare like they’re going to be the starter. I don’t know how to make it any more clear than that.

“If [keeping Utah guessing] is another positive or byproduct of it, then we’ll take that as well.”

Most observers believe that Rudock has the inside track to the job based on his experience — he was a two-year starter with the Hawkeyes — although Morris has reportedly had a strong camp.

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Auburn’s spring game offensive MVP abruptly leaves Tigers

Myron Burton Jr., Stephen Roberts AP

To say the least this is interesting timing on Myron Burton Jr.‘s part.

Just four days before the start of the 2015 season, Auburn confirmed that Burton has decided to take his leave of Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers football program.  No reason was given for what was as a “mutual” divorce between the player and the team.

Burton was a three-star member of AU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

His main claim to fame during his brief time on The Plains was being name as the offensive MVP of the annual A-Day spring game a few months back.  In that game, Burton portended a potential role this coming season by catching seven passes for 124 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

From al.com:

Malzahn said the Tigers will move receivers among the three main spots to compensate for the departure.

“We’ve got three or four guys who can play both,” he said. “We’ll move people around probably more than we have in the past. We do have some depth at receiver we feel good about.”

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Report: George O’Leary wants to step down as HC at season’s end, assume full-time AD role

Tulsa v Central Florida AP

If George O’Leary gets his way, UCF will, in a few months, be searching for its first new head coach in over a decade.

In June of this year, O’Leary added the title of interim athletic director to his full-time job as head coach of the Knights.  O’Leary has since hinted that he would like to assume the AD job full-time whenever his coaching career is done, which, as it turns out, may be sooner rather than later.

Citing two school officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Dan Wolken of USA Today reports that “O’Leary… has expressed a strong desire to assume the [AD] position full-time and step down as football coach at the end of this season.” A national search for a permanent AD is reportedly on hold as university leaders mull over the O’Leary option.

Should O’Leary land the full-time job — it appears that’s far from a guarantee as, even as he has the support of the president, others are opposed — he intends to promote offensive coordinator Brent Key to head coach. Key is set to enter his 11th season on O’Leary’s Knights coaching staff.

As noted, though, there are those who are against the idea of O’Leary running the athletic department on a full-time basis, especially as the “e” word continues to bubble just below the surface of the national landscape. From Wolken’s report:

However, there is significant concern among others at UCF about whether the 69-year old O’Leary, who has no prior experience in athletic administration and has been coaching in either college or the NFL since 1980, is up to the job, particularly with [former AD Todd] Stansbury and a handful of other senior-level staff members departing in recent weeks, leaving the department short-handed and somewhat in disarray.

“No one (on ground level is) tracking with the president on this,” one person said.

This would potentially be a bad time for UCF to have its athletic department in chaos, particularly if the Big 12 decides to expand. Because of its location and large alumni base, UCF is part of a group of teams that constantly comes up in conference realignment speculation.

O’Leary’s first head-coaching job at the collegiate level came at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001. After the infamous Notre Dame résumé flap, O’Leary spent a couple of years as an NFL assistant before taking over the Knights in 2004.

After an 0-11 first season, O’Leary has guided UCF to an 81-49 mark the last 10 years. The Knights have won four conference titles in that span — two in Conference USA, back-to-back AAC championships in 2013 and 2014 — and appeared in the football program’s first-ever BCS game following the 2013 season, a 52-42 win over Baylor.

Prior to O’Leary’s arrival, the Knights hadn’t played in a bowl game since their ascension to the FBS level in 1996; during O’Leary’s 11 years, the Knights have played in seven bowl games.

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Pat Haden: action taken on Sarkisian was ‘in best interest of USC’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden AP

In the wake of his embarrassingly inebriated incident earlier this month, some thought Steve Sarkisian should be suspended while still others thought a dismissal was in order. Pat Haden did neither, and Monday night he explained why.

During the course of and appearance on the “Trojans Live” radio show, the USC athletic director was asked about his handling of his head coach’s self-admitted inappropriate behavior and language at a school-sponsored function earlier this month.  Haden decided that a public admonition was sufficient for Sarkisian, who is seeking treatment to determine if he has an alcohol problem.

While he understands people will take issue with his tack, he said what he did was in the best interests the university, his coach and the Trojan football players.  From the Los Angeles Daily News:

“These kinds of decisions and particularly this one was given a lot of thought, a lot of careful thought,” Haden said. “Before the decision was made, I talked to and had conversations with medical professionals, trusted members of my staff, people I’ve known for a long time.

“We developed a confidential plan going forward. Steve has discussed the counseling part of it, which he’s started. I think it’s started off well, at least what he’s told me. Importantly, he’s approached it with an open mind.

“A lot of people are going to disagree with my decision. It happens all the time. But I believe the course of action we chose is in the best interest of USC and Steve Sarkisian. And maybe just as importantly, or more importantly, to our players and their best interest.”

While apologizing for his actions, Sarkisian stated that his behavior was caused by a mixture of alcohol and prescription medication.  A short time later, Sarkisian announced that he was handing over the vast majority of his play-calling duties to coordinator Clay Helton.

In the same radio interview, Haden claimed that he had no influence or input on that decision.

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Vols’ Andrew Butcher arrested on alcohol-related charges

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A college-age human being wrapped up in alcohol-related tumult?  Well I never.

The latest to encounter such an off-field entanglement is Tennessee defensive lineman Andrew Butcher (pictured, No. 52), with the Knoxville News Sentinel reporting that was arrested on multiple charges very early Sunday morning.  Those charges include public intoxication, underage possession of alcohol and violating a controlled access roadway.

As for what led to the arrest…

Records state an officer responding to a complaint of someone exhibiting drunken behavior on I-40 found Butcher “running around on 40 East near James White Parkway.”

“Upon contact with the defendant he had a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath, bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet,” the police report read according to The Tennessean.

A four-star member of UT’s 2015 recruiting class, Butcher was rated as the No. 7 weakside defensive end; the No. 16 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 178 player overall according to Rivals.com. The 18-year-old lineman was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, but subsequent knee surgery has sidelined him for summer camp.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Mark Helfrich, Rich Rodriguez

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 13-2, lost to Ohio State in College Football Playoff national championship game)

First thing’s first, replacing Marcus Mariota is not exactly easy for Mark Helfrich. The Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago leaves big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Oregon added one of the top quarterbacks in the nation to transfer schools this offseason with Vernon Adams leaving FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington to join the Ducks (he is now listed as the starter). The transition will go well enough for Oregon’s offense to continue making big things happen, especially with Royce Freeman looking to join the young crop of running backs expected to have a big season. The good news is Adams has a pretty solid offensive line back with starting experience, but road trips to Michigan State and Arizona State will be tough to return home with wins. Oregon finishes the season with two wins, which puts last year’s national runner-up on the fringe of the playoff conversation at the end of the season.

2. Stanford (Last year: 8-5, beat Maryland in Foster Farms Bowl)

Stanford will once again be Oregon’s biggest threat in the Pac-12 North this season, while Washington takes some time to rebound and Cal’s defense a major work in progress. Defense will be the consistent key to the Cardinal this season even though it returns just a small handful of starters from last season. The biggest concern for Stanford last season was a slow-starting offense. The offense finally started to click at the end of the year and must get off to a better start this year. Kevin Hogan has nearly his entire starting offensive line back this fall, and Stanford should have a decent running game to work with. Stanford gets Oregon at home and an early road trip to USC could be a toss-up.

3. Washington (Last year: 8-6, lost to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl)

I still believe good things are coming to Washington under Chris Petersen. I just think this is a step back before the Huskies start stepping forward. There are just too many holes on the roster right now after losing a load of talent to the NFL. Give Petersen some time though and Washington should be an improved team in 2016. This season could get off to a rough start on the road against Boise State and a home game against Utah State. Good for the Mountain West Conference. Not so good for the Pac-12. Washington also gets USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks in the middle of the year. Ouch.

4. California (Last year: 5-7)

No win total will justify how fun this team will be to watch this season. The offense is there with Jared Goff leading the offense. The defense is a different story, as it will struggle to slow down anybody. Cal suffered some close calls last season. Getting to six wins is not impossible if the Bears can get off to a fast start. I’m just not sure if they will do that. A 1-3 record before hosting Washington State is what I’m seeing in the cards, and that cannot happen if Cal is to go bowling this season.

5. Oregon State (Last year: 5-7)

Mike Riley left for Nebraska, and he may have taken the good vibes with him this season. In steps Gary Andersen, fresh off a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game last year. Andersen is a good enough coach to make Oregon State do some good things, but his defense returns just two starters and he inherits an unstable quarterback situation lacking in experience. They may be up and down in the first half of the season but they run into a wall starting with, believe it or not, Colorado.

6. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)

The Mike Leach experiment at Washington State may come to a close soon if things do not show promise and progress this season in Pullman. After winning just three games last season, the Cougars added some junior college experience to the roster this season. If Leach can channel his inner Bill Snyder (whom Leach once called a sorcerer), maybe the Cougars can scratch together enough wins to reach the postseason. I’m not sure I see enough of those wins though, especially in Pac-12 play.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. Arizona State (Last year: 10-3, beat Duke in Sun Bowl)

The Sun Devils do few things extraordinarily well, and getting out of the Pac-12 South unscathed will be difficult for every team in the division. So it must be the schedule, right? You may actually like Arizona State’s chances in the opener against Texas A&M in Houston, and they get USC at home a few weeks later. Tough road tests at UCLA and Utah before the bye week are not automatic losses, although those games could spell trouble. Fortunately for Arizona State,they score an upset at home on a Thursday night after a bye week against Oregon (setting up an eventual rematch in the Pac-12 championship game) and they will not lose again in the regular season. Quarterback Mike Bercovici finds a comfort level with receiver D.J. Foster as the Sun Devils put a streak together at the perfect time. While all that is happening, cannibalism within the division will help place Arizona State on top of the pile.

2. USC (Last year: 9-4, beat Nebraska in Holiday Bowl)

The Trojans were tabbed the media preseason favorite at Pac-12 media days. Sure, USC looks attractive, but don’t we need to see some more consistency out of Cody Kessler and to see Steve Sarkisian win a big game before buying into the hype? Throw in the fact this is a tough division, is anybody sure USC gets out of it without a couple of losses along the way? That said, they are in the running for the Pac-12 South crown, but I do not see them getting by Arizona State on the road the week after hosting Stanford. I have USC splitting those two games, but it could just as well end up being an 0-2 setback heading into the bye week (sure, I suppose it could also be 2-0). I also think USC comes back from South Bend with a loss to Notre Dame and a road game at Oregon is a probable loss as well.

3. Utah (Last year: 9-4, beat Colorado State in Las Vegas Bowl)

Utah is my wild card team in the Pac-12 South this season because they play what may be the best defense in the division, if not the conference. Utah will be extremely difficult to beat at home, but three tough road games ultimately hold Utah back from reaching the Pac-12 championship game (Oregon, USC, Arizona). I do think things get off to a good start at home against Michigan, spoiling Jim Harbaugh‘s debut as head coach of the Wolverines, and the next week against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. They even get a chance to knock off Arizona State at home in the middle of the season. Potential is there, but the offense needs to keep its foot on the gas to make any run.

4. Arizona (Last year: 10-4, lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl)

After coming up small against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last season, the Wildcats still look to be moving forward. Anu Solomon is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and should be ready for a big season with Caleb Jones back as his go-to receiver. The offensive and defensive lines have some holes to plug, but the Wildcats have linebacker Scooby Wright III at linebacker to pick up the slack in the middle of the defense. What I do not like about Arizona is the schedule. Arizona plays 12 straight games without a bye week. It will be a grind, but Arizona is capable of being in the hunt in this crazy division and may be welcoming that bye week at the end of the season if things fall into place again this fall. I think the final four games could be hitting a wall for Arizona though, as I have them losing three of the final four games (three of the final four on the road).

5. UCLA (Last year: 10-3, beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl)

The Bruins were the trendy pick last summer. Now it seems we are taking a much more scaled-back stance on UCLA. But why? UCLA returns a ton of starters from a year ago and has added a new defensive coordinator in Tom Bradley that should help. The talent is there with just one key position to address; quarterback. If Josh Rosen can step right in and have an impact, UCLA will be a contender in this competitive division. But freshmen, even the great ones, can make mistakes. Rosen has the hype, and there is a good chance to get comfortable early on with home games against Virginia and BYU and a road game at UNLV. UCLA can play itself into controlling the fate of the Pac-12 South coming down the stretch, but back-to-back road games at Utah and USC to end the season is not an easy draw.

6. Colorado (Last year: 2-10)

Colorado is not going to return to its 1990s powerhouse form in 2015, but we should see some signs of continued progress with the program under Mike MacIntyre. Colorado has a chance to enter October with a winning record, which would be a promising start. The Buffs return nine starters on defense and six on offense, so the hope is experience helps develop some talent to continue being competitive. Colorado lost some close calls last season. If they can turn a couple of those close games the other way, Colorado and a bowl trip is not out of the mix. Seriously.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Oregon over Arizona State

Oregon remains my team to beat, and they could be hitting a stride just at the right time by the time the conference championship game comes around. Oregon would be playing in the title game for the third time in five seasons while Arizona State would be in the game for the second time in three years. Oregon’s offense once again leads the way, but Arizona State gives them a run.

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Ex-‘Bama QB (again) named as Toledo’s starter

Phillip Ely AP

An injury derailed Phillip Ely‘s first season in Toledo. Fortunately, he’s going to get another go at it.

The Rockets confirmed Monday that Ely will start the program’s opener this Thursday against Stony Brook. The move comes a handful of days after Ely was named as one of four UT captains for the 2015 season.  Ely beat out Logan Woodside, who went 8-2 as a starter for the Rockets last season.

Woodside took over as the starter because of the injury to Ely, a torn ACL sustained in the second game of the season. Ely had been named as the starter ahead of Woodside a couple of weeks prior to the start of the 2014 season.

He passed for 337 yards in his first UT start, then threw for 204 yards against Missouri the following week before to sustaining the knee injury in the third quarter.

Ely began his collegiate career at Alabama in 2011 as a three-star recruit. After redshirting as a true freshman, Ely played in six games in 2012, completing three-of-four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in very limited duty. Ely was listed as the No. 2 QB the first three weeks of the 2012 season, but after that was listed as the co-backup to AJ McCarron along with redshirt sophomore Blake Sims.

In January of 2013 it was reported Ely was looking to transfer from the Tide. The summer of that year he transferred into the Rockets football program.  He sat out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Ely’s official return to the starting spot came the same day it was announced that two Rockets had been suspended for the first two games of the season, including 2014 MAC rushing leader Kareem Hunt.

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UCLA’s Ishmael Adams arrested for robbing Uber driver of cell phone

Ishmael Adams AP

Now we know a little bit more of the rest of the story. And, in the process, have what’s likely a first here at CFT.

While very few details were available at the time, it was reported late Monday afternoon that star UCLA cornerback Ishmael Adams had been arrested on a robbery charge and was sitting in jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond. Subsequently it was reported that Adams allegedly “used force” to take the cell phone of an Uber driver early Sunday morning, triggering what is right now a felony charge.

Adams was taken into custody a short time after the alleged incident, and has an initial court appearance scheduled for later this morning.

“We are aware of the situation and continuing to gather information,” a UCLA spokesperson said in a statement. “As this is a pending legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.”

Adams has started all 26 games at cornerback the past two seasons, and last year he returned a school-record two interceptions for touchdowns. Speaking of returns, he’s one of the top return men in the country and conference: last year, he returned 21 punts for a 9.2 average (26th in the nation) and returned 26 kickoffs for a 22.7-yard average (ninth in Pac-12).

This offseason, he was named to the preseason watch lists for both the Thorpe Award and Hornung Award.

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Reports: Coastal Carolina to join Sun Belt in 2017

The Great Wheel of Conference Realignment may have just taken its last spin. For now.

According to a report from ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, Coastal Carolina is set to join the Sun Belt as the league’s 12th and final member. The Chanticleers were finalists alongside Eastern Kentucky for the conference’s last remaining spot.

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Eastern Kentucky is said to be further along than Coastal Carolina in terms of department-wide infrastructure, but the Myrtle Beach, S.C., school has two things the Colonels do not that are paramount in this particular game of thrones: recent football success and access to large sums of money, and not necessarily in that order. Coastal has both of those things thanks to Joe Moglia, the billionaire former banking executive that is now the Chanticleers’ head football coach; Moglia is 32-10 in three seasons as Coastal Carolina’s head coach, leading the club to the FCS quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons.

Coastal Carolina’s addition would allow the Sun Belt to split into two divisions and stage a football championship game. (Nevermind the fact that the NCAA will likely deregulate championship games before Coastal’s arrival.) Coastal Carolina would figure to fit into an East division alongside Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Troy and South Alabama. Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State, Texas State, New Mexico State and Idaho figure to form a West division.

A formal announcement is expected Tuesday, where the school could stadium upgrades necessary for FBS admittance. Brooks Stadium holds 9,214; FBS teams are required to average at least 15,000 paid attendance over a rolling two-year period.

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Former Trojans DE Morgan Breslin suing USC over insurance claim

Morgan Breslin

Let’s put it this way: Pat Haden has had better fortnights.

With Steve Sarkisian‘s issues now in the rear-view mirror, there’s another issue popping up for the USC football program. Former defensive end Morgan Breslin has brought a lawsuit against his former school, claiming the school led him astray in choosing disability insurance.

A second team All-Pac-12 performer as a junior in 2012, Breslin’s senior season ended after undergoing surgery to fix a nagging hip injury in November of 2013. He had a cup of coffee with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, but in effect his playing career ended with that surgery.

Before his senior season, however, Breslin worked with USC on purchasing a disability insurance program through AmTrust at Lloyd’s, a process in which he says was led by a university-appointed insurance broker.

With his career now over, Breslin went to collect on his policy, only AmTrust has denied the claim and has filed paperwork in an effort to declare his policy void. So now Breslin is suing USC for what he says was inadequate coverage.

“USC controls all communications between insurers offering athletic insurance policies and the student athlete who will buy the policy,” the suit states, via the Los Angeles Daily News. “This is done through USC’s Compliance Department and the training and medical staff.”

Breslin is in search of “unspecified damages.”

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Once more, with feeling: LSU tabs Brandon Harris as starting QB

Brandon Harris

As Decision Day (or Indecision Day, in the cases of Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama) comes to a close, we’ve got one more school making a decision on a starting quarterback, and it may be one of the biggest choices of the entire season.

LSU head coach Les Miles announced Monday evening sophomore Brandon Harris had beaten junior Anthony Jennings out for the Tigers’ starting quarterback job.

Harris posted a quarterback rating nearly 60 points higher than Jennings in 2014, albeit in a much smaller sample size. Harris completed 25-of-42 passes 452 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in eight appearances; Jennings connected on 111-of-227 throws for 1,611 yards with 11 scores against seven picks. Harris also averaged 6.1 yards a carry with three touchdowns on 26 carries, compared to Jennings’ 2.7 yards per pop and no scores on 108 attempts.

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Of course, the LSU quarterback’s job is not to be a Heisman Trophy contender. In fact, his job is to limit turnovers and get out of the way so that Leonard Fournette can batter his way into Heisman contention.

It’s not a stretch to say quarterback play could be the difference between an SEC (or national) championship and a last-place finish. LSU signal callers posted a collective 128.26 passer rating in 2014, worst in the SEC West. A similar performance likely results in a seventh-place finish in 2015.

LSU opens the season against McNeese State at 7:30 ET Saturday on SEC Network.

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Michigan declines to name starting QB in initial depth chart

Shane Morris

Like his colleagues in Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee and ColumbusJim Harbaugh is going to take as long as possible to declare a starting quarterback.

The Wolverines released their initial depth chart Monday in advance of their Thursday night opener at Utah, and senior Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris share the first team spot. True freshman Alex Malzone and redshirt freshman Wilton Speight are still in a dead heat for the third spot.

Rudock, a transfer from Iowa, completed 213-of-345 passes (61.7 percent) for 2,436 yards (7.1 per attempt) with 16 touchdowns against five interceptions last year for the Hawkeyes. In limited action, Morris connected on 14-of-40 passes (35 percent) for 128 yards with no touchdowns and three picks.

Additionally, De’Veon Smith will start at running back, and Amara Darboh or Drake Harris will start at one receiver spot while Jehu Chesson or Grant Perry will share the other spot.

Michigan faces the Utes at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The network is pulling out all the stops for Harbaugh’s debut.

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UGA names UVa transfer Greyson Lambert starting quarterback

Greyson Lambert, John Huff

You get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback!

Following announcements at Texas, Florida State, Army and Ole Miss, Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced Monday Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert will start for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“There may be other or others who get in the game. But right now the thing that I know that he’ll start the game,” Richt said of Lambert, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Very, very close competition. Still being contested in my mind. But at this point we felt it would be wise to name a starter and get him ready to play in this ballgame. …  We’ll start playing ball that way and see how it goes.”

Richt said he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were “pretty sure” on Saturday, but gave themselves a couple of nights to let the decision marinate. Lambert and fellow signal callers Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta were informed before Monday’s practice session. Richt, however, did not rule out letting either of the runners-up see action on Saturday. “So it was very close, but coach Schottenheimer and I have decided that it would be wise to decide on who it is right now so we could kind of get it over with, so to speak, and maybe within a day or two everybody can kind of settle down and play football, think about winning,” Richt said.

Lambert tossed 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore at Virginia last season. In what could be the best “go to class, son” message ever, Lambert moved from Virginia’s backup quarterback to Georgia’s starter over the course of one offseason.

“We didn’t invite (Lambert) blindly,” Richt said. “We watched his film and felt like he could function and do the things that we’re going to ask the quarterback to do here at Georgia. But we didn’t say: ‘He’s gonna come in and be our starter’ by any means. We told him he would compete for that job and legitimately have a shot to compete for that job.”

Georgia hosts Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in a noon kickoff on SEC Network.

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