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North Carolina announces 17 new football signees

Larry Fedora AP

(Below are the bios released by North Carolina on the 17 new members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

Mikey Bart
Defensive End
6-3, 245
Buford, Ga. (Buford)

Pronounced MIKE-ee • Prepstar All-Southeast Region • Finished second in the county with 12.5 sacks • Earned first-team all-state as a defensive end and tight end • Played in the state championship game four times and won three of those • Was named the county player of the year • Ranked the No. 24 tight end in the country by ESPN.com, No. 33 by Scout.com and No. 81 by 247sports.com • Considered the No. 114 player in Georgia by ESPN.com • Team captain • Gwinnett County TD Club Player of the Year • Played at the same high school as current Tar Heel Nathan Staub • Coached by Jess Simpson • Helped lead his team to the state championship in baseball • Born Michael Joseph Bart on March 26, 1995 • Son of Karen and Tom Bart.

Lucas Crowley
Offensive Line
6-3, 270
Ponte Vedra, Fla. (Nease)

Rated the No. 5 center in the country by ESPN.com • Considered the No. 12 center in the country and one of Florida’s top 100 prospects by Rivals.com • Listed as the No. 20 center in the nation by Scout.com • Ranked the No. 50 offensive guard in the nation by 247sports.com • Named first-team All-First Coast • Member of the Jacksonville Times-Union Super 24 team • First-team all-state • MaxPreps Second-Team Medium Schools All-America selection • Prepstar All-Southeast Region selection • Coached by Shane Matthews • Born Lucas Wisham Crowley on Sept. 7, 1994 • Son of Dan and Laurie Crowley.

Dajaun Drennon
Defensive End
6-4, 230
Clementon, N.J. (Timber Creek)

Pronounced duh-WAN • Listed as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the country by 247sports.com • Considered the No. 10 player in New Jersey and the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the nation by Rivals.com • Ranked the No. 29 defensive end in the country by Scout.com • Ranked the No. 20 outside linebacker by recruiting analyst Tom Lemming • Played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Houston • Played for Team USA at the 2012 IFAF World Championships • Helped lead Timber Creek Regional to the South Jersey Group IV state championship • Considered the No. 49 defensive end in the nation by ESPN.com • Racked up 60 tackles and had 14 quarterback sacks as a senior • Participated in the US Army Combine • Coached by Rob Hinson • Born Dajaun Raleigh Drennon on Oct. 18, 1994 • Son of Ann and Raleigh Drennon.

Jordan Fieulleteau
Wide Receiver
6-3, 200
Raleigh, N.C. (Wakefield)

Pronounced fee-ALL-toe • Enrolled at UNC in January • Honorable-mention Parade All-America • Named to the North Carolina Associated Press All-State team and the NCPreps.com All-State team • Received the most votes on the AP all-state team • Prepstar All-Atlantic Region • Member of the ESPN 300 team • Ranked the No. 9 player in North Carolina by ESPN.com and the No. 43 receiver in the nation • Made 111 catches for 1,669 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior • Led the team in scoring • Wakefield was 11-2 and advanced to the state playoffs • As a junior, posted 86 receptions for 1,200 yards and 24 touchdowns • Third-most touchdown receptions in state history and second-highest reception total in a season • Has the most touchdown catches in the nation in past two seasons • Coached by Rod Sink • Son of Kendra Clarke • Born June 10, 1995.

Khris Francis
Running Back
5-9, 195
Durham, N.C. (Hillside)

Enrolled at UNC in January • Member of North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team • Considered the No. 29 running back in the country by ESPN.com • Ranked the No. 95 running back in the country by Scout.com • Listed as the No. 18 running back in the country by 247sports.com • Prepstar All-Atlantic Region • Ran 251 times for 2,100 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior • Also had 328 yards and five touchdowns receiving • Was twice named the conference offensive back of the year • Rushed for 2,251 yards with 31 touchdowns as a junior • Also added 90 yards in receptions with one touchdown • Coached by Antonio King • Son of Chris and Bobbi Hadersbeck • Born December 25, 1993.

Marquis Haynes
Bandit
6-3, 220
Jacksonville, Fla. (University Christian)

Pronounced mar-KEECE • Member of the Jacksonville Times-Union Super 24 team • Prepstar All-Southeast Region • Considered the No. 32 weakside defensive end in the nation by 247sports.com, No. 43 by Rivals.com and the No. 44 overall defensive end by ESPN.com • Ranked among the top 175 defensive ends in the country by Scout.com • Helped lead University Christian to a come-from-behind victory over Dade Christian in the 2-A state championship game • Named first-team All-First Coast on defense with 73 tackles and 25 sacks as a senior • Also had 219 yards receiving and two touchdowns as a tight end and served as the team’s kicker • Registered 21 sacks as a junior • Coached by David Penland • Also plays basketball • Born Marquis Jacori Haynes on Dec. 16, 1993 • Son of Maurice and Kim Haynes.

Brad Henson
Offensive Line
6-5, 295
Surf City, N.J. (Monsignor Donovan)

Named the No. 13 guard in the nation by CBSSports.com • Listed the No. 25 guard in the country by Scout.com • Rated the No. 11 player in New Jersey and the No. 26 offensive guard in the country by Rivals.com • Four-year starter • Named first-team all-state • Ranked among the top 25 offensive guards in the nation by ESPN.com • Coached by Dan Duddy • Born Bradley Winn Henson on Nov. 28, 1993 • Son of Bradley and Elizabeth Henson.

Johnathan Howard
Wide Receiver
6-4, 195
Rochelle, Ga. (Wilcox County)

2012 MaxPreps Small School All-America selection • Named to the ESPN 300 list of the nation’s top recruits • Listed as the nation’s No. 24 wide receiver and No. 22 player in Georgia by ESPN.com • Class A all-state selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution • Named the AJC’s Offensive Class A Player of the Year • Invited to the Macon Touchdown Club as one of the Super Seven athletes in middle Georgia • Had the second-highest single-season receiving total in Georgia history with 1,630 receiving yards as a senior • Also scored 19 total touchdowns and finished the season with 115 catches • Ranked the nation’s No. 75 wide receiver by Scout.com • Considered among the top 100 players in Georgia and the No. 92 wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com • Coached by Mark Ledford • Born Johnathan Jamaul Howard on Nov. 28, 1994 • Son of Lonnie and Veronica Howard.

Nazair Jones
Defensive Lineman
6-5, 250
Roanoke Rapids, N.C. (Roanoke Rapids)

Pronounced nah-ZEER • Member of North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team • Prepstar All-Atlantic Region • Competed in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Houston • Considered the No. 10 player in North Carolina and the nation’s No. 26 strongside defensive end by Rivals.com • Listed as the No. 9 player in North Carolina and the No. 17 strongside defensive end by 247sports.com • Ranked the No. 11 player in North Carolina and the No. 40 defensive end in the country by Scout.com • Also played at defensive tackle and on the offensive line • Born Nazair Tyrron Jones on Dec. 13, 1994 • Son of Tammy Jones.

Desmond Lawrence
Defensive Back
6-1, 175
Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Christian)

Prepstar All-Atlantic Region • Ranked the No. 8 player in North Carolina and the 28 safety in the country by Scout.com • Considered the No. 20 player in North Carolina and the nation’s No. 39 safety by Rivals.com • Played in the Oasis Shrine Bowl Game, an all-star game for players from private schools in North and South Carolina • Named 2012 All-Observer Team • Two-time all-conference and all-state performer • Received the Gridiron Great award for South Charlotte • Was a nominee for the US Army Bowl • Played on both sides of the ball and was an accomplished tailback as well as a standout defensive back • Rushed 139 times for 1,299 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead his team to the NCISAA 3-A championship • Also had 14 catches and a touchdown • Coached by Jason Estep • Born Desmond Lanell Lawrence on Nov. 30, 1994 • Son of Val Watters and Frank Lawrence.

T.J. Logan
Running Back
5-10, 180
Greensboro, N.C. (Northern Guilford)

Prepstar All-America • Honorable-mention Parade All-America • Rated a top-100 player in the country by CBSSports.com’s Tom Lemming • Member of Prepstar’s Dream Team (top 150 players in the country) • Ranked the No. 4 all-purpose back in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 2 overall player in North Carolina • Considered the No. 13 running back in the country by Prepstar • Listed as the No. 10 all-purpose back in the country and a top five player in North Carolina by 247sports.com • Earned AP all-state honors and was named North Carolina’s AP player of the year for 2012 • MaxPreps Medium Schools First-Team All-America selection • Rushed for 3,146 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior, averaging more than 10.7 yards per carry, despite playing I the fourth quarter only twice • Had 25 receptions for 344 yards and six touchdowns • Also completed all eight pass attempts for 144 yards and had 12 punt returns for 241 yards (20.1 avg.) • Rushed for 5,614 yards and 85 scores his last two seasons in at Northern Guilford • Set NCHSAA records with 510 yards and eight touchdowns in the state championship game as Northern Guilford completed an undefeated season and won the 3AA title • Coached by Johnny Roscoe • Born Tyrone Courtney Logan on Sept. 3, 1994 • Son of Tyrone and Sheila Logan.

Donnie Miles
Defensive Back
5-11, 200
Lawrenceville, Ga. (North Gwinnett)

Prepstar All-Southeast Region • Ranked among the top 100 players in Georgia by Rivals.com and ESPN.com • Considered the nation’s No. 38 safety by Scout.com • Is the No. 66 rated safety in the country by Rivals.com • Played defensive back and running back • Posted more than 50 tackles as a junior and rushed for 674 yards and nine touchdowns splitting time at tailback • Also made 24 catches for 269 yards • Team finished 11-2 and was ranked the No. 4 team in Georgia • Team won back-to-back 7-AAAAA championships • Coached by Bob Sphire • Grew up in Carol City, Fla., outside of Miami • Born Donnie Ray Miles on Aug. 3, 1994 • Son of Donnie Miles Sr. & Diane Turner.

R.J. Prince
Offensive Lineman
6-6, 300
Albemarle, N.C. (Albemarle)

Enrolled at UNC in January • Prepstar All-America • Named to the North Carolina Associated Press All-State team and the NCPreps.com All-State team • Named to the Charlotte Observers’ All-Observer First Team • Member of North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team • Competed in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl • Ranked the No. 33 offensive tackle in the nation by 247sports.com • Listed as the No. 41 tackle by Rivals.com • Considered the No. 36 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com and one of the top 10 in the South • Listed as the No. 34 offensive tackle by ESPN.com • Coached by Danny Akins • Son of Valerie and Roger Prince Sr. • Born April 19, 1995.

Ryan Switzer
Athlete
5-10, 175
Charleston, W.Va. (George Washington)

First-team Parade All-America selection • Named to the East team roster at the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl • Rated the No. 7 wingback by Tom Lemming • Two-time winner of the Kennedy Award, given to the West Virginia state player of the year • Only the sixth two-time winner in the award’s 66 years • Twice named the West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year • Twice named the Kanawha Valley Football Player of the Year by The Charleston Daily Mail • Class AAA all-state selection • Twice named the conference player of the year • Three-time first-team all-state • Two-time first-team all-state captain • Finished his senior season with 206 carries for 2,379 yards and 32 touchdowns • Also caught 20 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns and returned three interceptions for scores • Had another 40 rushing touchdowns as a junior • Scored 103 touchdowns in his prep career and finished in the top five in West Virginia history in touchdowns and points • Had more than 8,100 all-purpose yards • Is George Washington’s all-time leader in rushing, scoring total yards • 2012 Under Armour National Combine champion • 2011 SI.com honorable-mention All-America • Prepstar All-Atlantic Region selection • Coached by Steve Edwards • Helped lead George Washington to the 2011 AAA state basketball title • Was the AAA state track champion in the 4x100m and 4x200m relays • Son of Michael and Ashley Switzer • Born Nov. 4, 1994.

Mitch Trubisky
Quarterback
6-3, 205
Mentor, Ohio (Mentor)

Pronounced truh-BISS-kee • Enrolled at UNC in January • Named Mr. Football in the state of Ohio by the Associated Press, an annual award given to the top high school player regardless of division • Ranked the No. 19 quarterback in the country by Scout.com • Prepstar All-Midwest Region • Honorable-mention Parade All-America • Member of the ESPN 300 team • Is the most prolific passer in the Greater Cleveland area, becoming the first to pass for more than 9,000 career yards and more than 4,000 yards as a senior • Rated the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback by 247sports.com and the No. 3 player in Ohio • Passed for 4,063 yards as a senior, including 1,593 in four playoff games • Also rushed for 899 yards • Scored 108 points and was responsible for 51 touchdowns • Threw for 42 touchdowns and rushed for 18 • Team finished 12-2 and advanced to the state semifinals • Mentor was 30-8 during his three-years the quarterback • Among the top 10 passers in Ohio history with 9,126 yards and 92 touchdowns • Also rushed for 1,559 career yards and 33 touchdowns, averaging 4.1 per carry • Also served as Mentor’s punter in 2012 and had a 40.8 average • Coached by Steve Trivisonno • Son of Jeanne and Dave Trubisky • Born August 20, 1994.

Brian Walker
Defensive Back
5-11, 175
Charlotte, N.C. (Mallard Creek)

Member of the ESPN 150 team (top 150 players in the country regardless of position) • Considered the No. 14 cornerback in the country by ESPN.com • Member of the Rivals 250 team • Prepstar All-America and All-Atlantic Region • Member of North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team • Named to the NCPreps.com All-State team • Named to the Charlotte Observers’ All-Observer First Team • Considered the No. 12 player in North Carolina and the No. 39 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com • Listed as the No. 12 player in the state by 247sports.com • Ranked the No. 20 player in North Carolina and No. 59 cornerback in the country by Scout.com • Twice named I-Meck 4A all-conference • Picked off six passes as a senior and added 13 pass breakups • Team finished 13-1 and advanced to the state semifinals • As a junior, he had 30 tackles, 12 pass breakups and three interceptions • Coached by Mike Palmeiri • Born Brian Keith Walker on Nov. 7, 1995 • Son of Kelvin and Latonia Walker.

Greg Webb
Defensive Tackle
6-2, 310
Erial, N.J. (Timber Creek)

Prepstar All-America • Member of Prepstar’s Dream Team (top 150 players in the country) • Considered the No. 10 defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com and one of the top 100 players regardless of position • Considered the nation’s No. 12 defensive tackle by 247sports.com composite rankings • Ranked the No. 14 defensive tackle in the country by Prepstar • Member of the ESPN 300 • Listed as the No. 6 player in New Jersey, the No. 15 defensive tackle and the No. 159 player regardless of position by ESPN.com • Played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his senior season • Considered New Jersey’s No. 5 player and is ranked the No. 20 defensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com • Had a dominant junior campaign with 94 tackles, 24 tackles for losses, 13 sacks and three fumble recoveries • Missed the first two months of his senior season with a torn ACL • Returned for the NJSIAA South Jersey IV final and helped lead his team to a 57-27 victory in the championship game • Was a high school teammate of Dajaun Drennon at Timber Creek Regional High School • Posted 57 tackles, 24 tackles for losses and six sacks as a sophomore • Coached by Rob Hinson • Born Greg Jerome Webb III on Jan. 16, 1995 • Son of Virginia and Greg Webb Jr.

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Minnesota, UCLA added to Fresno State’s future slates

Fresno State v UCLA Getty Images

Last week, Alabama confirmed reports of a future game with Fresno State. This week, the Left Coast FSU confirmed a couple of additional future games with Power Five programs.

In a press release, Fresno announced that it has reached an agreement for a one-off game with UCLA. Additionally, an agreement has been reached for a home-and-home series with Minnesota.

The Bulldogs’ game against the Bruins will take place in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 2021, three years after a previously-announced game between the two programs will have been played. The series with the Gophers will involve a trip to Minneapolis for a Sept. 8, 2018 game, with a Sept. 7, 2019, return game in Fresno scheduled to conclude the contract.

“These games reflect our future scheduling philosophy as we look to find consistency over a 10-year period where we can create opportunities to bring in necessary income for the athletic department while also being able to showcase Fresno State football across the country,” FSU athletic director Jim Bartko said in a statement. “We will always look to balance our schedules with a mix of big-time opponents coming into Bulldog Stadium for the Red Wave to see.”

Fresno and Minnesota have never met in football. Fresno and UCLA have met eight times previously, with the latter holding a 6-2 edge in the series; the former, though, has won the last two — 17-9 in the 2003 Silicon Valley Bowl in 2003, 36-31 in a 2008 road win.

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Court says LSU lawsuit vs. John Chavis will stay in Louisiana

John Chavis

Things may not be looking all that great for LSU in the headlines lately, but things certainly have gone slightly better in the courtroom. The victory came against former defensive coordinator John Chavis, in that the lawsuit filed by LSU against Chavis will continue while another legal battle between Chavis and Texas A&M is ongoing.

“The court is concerned there is any way the Texas court can keep this case,” State District Judge Timothy Kelley said, according to The Advocate, with regard to the lawsuit in Texas. “I don’t see how they can have jurisdiction.”

Last November Chavis and LSU reached an agreement for a one-year contract extension. Not long after that though, Chavis packed his bags and headed to Texas A&M instead. His hiring at Texas A&M was made official in February. Now LSU is pursuing a $400,000 buyout from Chavis, which the former defensive coordinator says he is not on the hook for. Chavis believes Texas A&M owes LSU that six-figure buyout. Texas A&M thinks Chavis should pay it. It’s a bit complicated.

Right now the parties involved are having a legal battle to determine which state will get to host the lawsuit, which is the legal equivalent of flipping a coin for home-field advantage. Eitgher way, LSU is going to get paid $400,000. It is just a matter of that money comes directly from Chavis or Texas A&M. Or perhaps some sort of settlement could come into play, with Chavis and Texas A&M each paying some part of a reduced buyout. Who knows where this goes from here.

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Academic leaders question Oregon’s football budget

Rose Bowl - Oregon v Florida State Getty Images

We all have come to a pretty general understanding that sports drives revenue for universities, with football bringing the most money into the university. No athletic program generates as much income as Oregon (thanks Nike!), but academic leaders in Eugene would like to see more of that money be put to academic uses.

“Our administration needs to take more responsibility to fully exploit the opportunity that our athletic department provides — on behalf of our students, our faculty and our institution,”former business school dean Dennis Howard said Friday, per The Register-Guard. He was not alone in challenging Oregon officials to think hard about how the budget will be formed.

“It would be really good if we were all in this together and the athletic department was trying to help the rest of the university,”Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh said.

Oregon football really cashed in this past year with an appearance in the College Football Playoff championship game, not to mention the revenue share it receives from the Pac-12 and any money funneled in through its relationship with Phil Knight of Nike. The problem some have with all of the money coming in through Oregon athletics is every dime of it is spent on athletics.

“They have $98 million in revenue and, strangely, exactly $98 million in expenses,” Howard explained. “If you look back year after year, you will find that revenue and expenses match up almost to a penny. … When they get extra TV revenue, they do what they just did in February. They go to the president and the Board of Trustees and the coaches and the athletic director get raises, so expenses go up.”

There is something to be said for a football program that is capable of being self-sufficient in its operations, and it is far better than operating in the red on an annual basis. But how much should Oregon’s athletics department be contributing to the academic side of things? There may be no perfect answer to this question.

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LSU dismisses DT Trey Lealaimatafao following bar fight arrest

Les Miles

There will be no team vote when it comes to the status of defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao at LSU. Les Miles has sent him packing.

In a brief statement released Monday afternoon, LSU announced Lealaimatafao has been dismissed from the team by Miles. The statement confirmed the dismissal is a reaction to an off-field incident involving Lealaimatafao previously reported.

“Trey is no longer a member of our football team,” Miles said in his brief statement. “We have gathered information on this incident and we feel it’s best for us to part ways.”

Earlier this month Lealaimatafao was arrested and charged for simple battery and simple robbery. The incident allegedly occurred in the parking lot of a bar in Baton Rouge. According to the original reports, Lealaimatafao beat another man unconscious and punched that alleged victim’s girlfriend in the face. As if that was not enough, he also allegedly picked the male victim’s pockets before fleeing.

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With attendance plummeting, Akron president says he “would not have built that stadium”

Terry Bowden, Kyle Pohl

When Akron opened the doors on InfoCision Stadium in 2009, the university likely did not expect to see such a poor draw in home attendance just six years later. Now there is almost nowhere to go but up.

The NCAA football attendance records show Akron had a total of 55,019 fans come out to see an Akron home game. That would be really good for the Zips if it were just for one game. It wasn’t. That was the total home attendance for Akron for the entire 2014 season. As noted by The Akron Beacon Journal, that is roughly half of the total home attendance from the 2009 season for Akron, which also included six home games. And to show you the complete other end of the spectrum of college football in the state of Ohio, Ohio State set an all-time spring game record of 99,391 fans at this year’s spring game. The drop in attendance has caused Akron president Scott Scarborough to admit he may have gone a different way if he was involved in the past planning.

I would not have built that stadium,” Scarborough said to The Beacon Journal. InfoCision Stadium was built with a price tag of $61.6 million, part of an expansive $300 million project across the university. Make no mistake about it, Akron was in need of a new football stadium after playing years in the old Rubber Bowl, a venue that was off-campus and cost more to maintain than projected with an on-campus stadium. It should be noted Scarborough was not a member of the Akron community at the time the stadium plans were approved. He was the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration at The University of Toledo and Medical Center.

So what was to blame? It’s not really that hard to figure out when you go back and look at Akron’s record in previous seasons. After winning just three games in 2009, Akron had back-to-back-to-back 1-11 seasons, a stretch that included a coaching change to bring in Terry Bowden. The past two seasons have shown signs of improvement, with two straight 5-7 seasons heading into 2015.

It is also worth mentioning the MAC’s schedule includes a number of weekday games later in the season. That resulted in two Tuesday night games at Akron in November, which is a tough time slot to attract fans to games. The 2015 schedule should be better for Akron fans though, with five home games played on a Saturday, and that includes a home game against Pittsburgh.

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Ex-UCLA QB Asiantii Woulard on his way to USF

Nevada v UCLA Getty Images

Weeks after announcing his intention to transfer from UCLA, quarterback Asiantii Woulard has reportedly found a  new place to call home. The Winter Park, Florida product will be heading a bit closer to home, as Woulard announced he will transfer to USF.

“Decided to come home and play at the University of South Florida,” Woulard said on Twitter. “No past regrets at all, but looking forward to a new beginning in Tampa!”

Woulard will be forced to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will be eligible to compete for the starting job in Tampa starting in 2016.

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A quick review of this year’s realignment changes in college football

NCAA Football Navy Midshipmen vs Army Black Knights

In just two more days the latest round of college football realignment changes will become official. Don’t worry, the changes happening this season will barely move the Richter Scale compared to the seismic changes in past years. The realignment phase has died down in recent years, although we are keeping eyes on the Big 12 just in case. July 1 is the date on the NCAA calendar when any realignment changes become official, so it is worth reviewing just what changes are happening for this season so you are not confused later on.

There will be no changes in the power conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC), but there are some minor modifications in the Group of Five. Here they are.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

The conference with Big East roots will welcome Navy to the brotherhood this fall. The Midshipmen will be setting course for conference membership for the first time in program history after over a century as a football independent. With Navy now on board, the American Athletic Conference will have 12 football-playing members, split into two separate divisions and begin playing a conference championship game. The conference championship game will be played at the campus of the division champion with the best conference record (don’t worry, there are tie breakers in place).

AAC East: UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, South Florida, Temple

AAC West: Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa

CONFERENCE USA

Conference USA will officially put UNC Charlotte in the conference football schedule this season, but of course there will be no UAB in 2015. UAB’s short-term decision to shut down the football program has since been reversed, but the damage had already been done. The Blazers have no program to field in 2015, and they may not return until 2017. So in the meantime Conference USA will have 13 members on the football field. In a way, Charlotte will replace UAB for the 2015 season in the East Division. Everything else will pretty much be the same in Conference USA.C-USA East: FAU, FIU, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UNC Charlotte, Western Kentucky

C-USA East: FAU, FIU, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UNC Charlotte, Western Kentucky

C-USA West: Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, UTSA

MAC

No changes in the MAC this season, but this is the last season UMass will be scheduled to be an associate member in the conference. There has been no update on what the Minutemen will be doing in 2016 and beyond, so stay on the lookout for news on that front.

Sun Belt Conference

Again, no changes to mention for the Sun Belt Conference, but it is worth mentioning Georgia Southern and Appalachian State will be elihgible for postseaosn play this season should they meet the NCAA postseason win minimum during the regular season. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference championship last season but was prohibited from playing in the postseason due to the transition restrictions for programs moving up from FCS to FBS.

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SEC SIDs pick Auburn vs. Georgia for SEC title

NCAA Football - Aurburn vs Georgia - November 12, 2005

Alabama may be the defending SEC champions heading into the 215 season, but it is their Iron Bowl rival that is receiving the most praise and favorite label in the SEC in most college football circles this offseason. The addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator is one of the most noteworthy assistant coaching changes this year, and the Tigers return some good talent on the field in 2015. Now, according to their hard-working sports information directors that make the lives of college football media types so much easier on a daily basis, Auburn is the favorite to play for the SEC title in 2015. Their opponent? Georgia.

All 14 SIDs in the SEC were polled by Al.com, and Auburn received three first-place votes and three second-place votes from the seven ballots from SEC West representatives. Alabama received an equal number of first-place votes and one fewer second-place vote. Georgia was a more clear favorite in the other division, receiving six of seven first-place votes. Missouri was the lone program receiving the one first-place vote not awarded to the Bulldogs. Missouri has played in the SEC Championship Game each of the past two seasons representing the SEC East. As noted by Al.com, SIDs could not vote for their own school.

If these predictions hold true, we will get a preview of the SEC Championship Game in mid-November. Georgia will visit Auburn on November 14.

Auburn and Georgia have 10 combined appearances in the SEC Championship Game, but have never faced each other in Atlanta.

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Notre Dame RB Greg Bryant reportedly will be suspended for September

Greg Bryant, Brian Walker

With Everett Golson in Tallahassee and Malik Zaire the Captain Jack Sparrow of the offense, Notre Dame should be expected to run the ball quite a bit this fall. Rising junior running back Greg Bryant won’t be a part of that equation in September.

The former five-star recruit will be suspended likely for the first four games of the season, according to Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson. Irish247 first reported Bryant’s suspension and the four-game ban.

If Bryant’s suspension — which has not been announced by Notre Dame — is indeed for four games, he’d miss Sept. 5 vs. Texas, Sept. 12 at Virginia, Sept. 19 vs. Georgia Tech and Sept. 26 vs. UMass. The first game in which he’d be eligible to play would be a pivotal matchup against Clemson Oct. 3 in South Carolina.

While the optics of suspending a former big-time recruit aren’t good, there’s reason to think Notre Dame can absorb his absence with the backfield combination of Zaire, Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise. In a 31-28 Music City Bowl win over LSU, those three players handled 46 of Notre Dame’s 51 carries and totaled 244 of its 263 yards.

Prosise began cross-training at running back during spring practice and possesses the big-play ability Notre Dame’s been trying to coax out of Bryant since he arrived on campus two summers ago. Folston is a steady, reliable back who doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses to his game. And Zaire is a read option whiz with a physical, downhill running style.

It’s also worth noting Notre Dame’s entire wide receiver corps returns from last year, headlined by Will Fuller and his 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Bryant rushed 54 times for 289 yards and three touchdowns in 2014 as he largely was stuck behind Folston and Cam McDaniel on the Irish depth chart.

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Utah State dismisses top WR/returner JoJo Natson

JoJo Natson

The news when it comes to the Utah State football program isn’t limited to an automobile accident.

The Aggies announced very early Monday morning in a press release that JoJo Natson has been dismissed from the football program.  Not surprisingly, the reason for the dismissal is your garden-variety violation of unspecified team rules.

“We are extremely disappointed anytime we have to make a decision regarding the future of one of our student-athletes,” head coach Matt Wells said in a statement. “We will continue to support JoJo as he moves forward in his career.”

Natson’s forced departure will serve as blow to both the Aggies’ offense and special teams.

Last season, Natson’s 51 receptions and 504 receiving yards were second on the team. For that, he was named honorable mention All-Mountain West.

Additionally, Natson earned first-team All-MWC honors as a punt returner as he ranked first in the conference and tied for third in the nation with two punt returns for touchdowns, and first in the MWC and 10th in the nation in punt returns (11.7 ypr).

Oh, and, for good measure, Natson carried the ball 50 times for 498 yards (10.0 ypc) with three touchdowns in 2014.

And then there’s this tidbit from the school: “Natson… was the only FBS player in the nation during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons to record multiple touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning as he had three rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns as both a sophomore and junior.”

Suffice to say, he — and his production — will be missed.

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Two USU Aggies released from hospital following car wreck

Paul Piukala Taylor Graham

Thankfully, there’s some additional good news coming out of a potentially tragic situation.

In a press release, Utah State announced that two of its football players, senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from a hospital Sunday afternoon.  Adeoye and Taylor were two of five individuals injured in a car wreck late last week.

Two of the other three victims, defensive linemen Travis Seefeldt and redshirt junior Edmund Faimalo, are football players and remain hospitalized, as does former USU softball player Sara Vasquez.  The extent of the injuries sustained by anyone involved in the accident has yet to be released.

“First and foremost, thank you to everyone who has had these five Aggie student-athletes in their thoughts and prayers, including numerous representative from the Mountain West Conference and its member institutions,” said USU interim Athletics director Jana Doggett in a statement. “We also want to thank the first responders and all of the medical personnel who have worked so tirelessly to provide the best care possible to our family members. Everyone associated with Aggie Athletics, from its coaches, student-athletes, administrators, boosters and fans, are extremely thankful for the good news we have heard over the past two days on the condition of those involved in the accident. They are truly blessed.”

There remains no word on what impact the incident will have on the availability for the upcoming season of any of the players involved.

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Continuing Penn State series ‘a priority’ for new Pitt AD

Scott Barnes, Patrick Gallagher

While most, if not all, of the Pittsburgh fan base — and college football as a whole, really — would like to see the resumption of the Backyard Brawl, it’s an in-state rivalry that tops the to-do list of the new head of Pittsburgh’s athletic department.

Back in May, the head coaches at Pitt and Penn State, Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin, respectively, called for extending the Panther-Nittany Lion rivalry beyond the four-game series, which begins in 2016 and was announced back in 2011. The former’s boss agrees with that sentiment.

In wide-ranging interviews with both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scott Barnes, who started as Pitt’s new athletic director earlier this month, stated that the first phone call he made in his new post was to his counterpart at Penn State, Sandy Barbour. The discussion? Ensuring that she knows he considers the football series between the two programs a priority.

“Penn State, for us, we want to play that game as long as we can, home-and-home,” Barnes said. “We’re working hard to try to move that forward.”

While resuming the rivalry with West Virginia “is an important factor,” Barnes said, “Penn State’s a priority.”

Pitt and Penn State have a pair of home-and series scheduled for 2016-2019. The series, first played in 1893, has been on hiatus since 2000, a 12-0 win for Pitt at Three Rivers Stadium. Penn State, however, leads the all-time series 50-42-4.

Pitt and WVU, meanwhile, have squared off 104 times on the gridiron, with the first coming 1895. That series went on hiatus after the 2011 season when WVU moved from the Big East to the Big 12 and, a year later, Pitt from the same conference to the ACC.

There has been talk of resuming that rivalry, although nothing yet has come to fruition on that front.

“We’ve talked to Pitt, but they’ve got a lot going on, because they’re trying to get Penn State back on their schedule…they’re trying to figure out when they can squeeze us in,” then-WVU AD Oliver Luck said in the summer of 2013. “Their AD and I just talked last week, so we’re trying to get that set up. It’s all about dates. I think it will get done, but it’s all a matter of when.”

Oddly enough, it was announced two months after Luck made that statement that WVU had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series (2023-24) with… Penn State, of course.

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Jim Harbaugh to throw out first pitch at Detroit Tigers game

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics

Hey, if it’s good enough for Penn State’s James Franklin (twice, actually) and Urban Meyer of bitter rival Ohio State (in the Big Apple after an appendectomy) this offseason, it’s good enough for the newest and most visible Michigan Man.

Sunday afternoon, mlive.com is reporting, the Detroit Tigers confirmed that Jim Harbaugh will throw out the first pitch prior to Tuesday’s game at Comerica Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The online newspaper writes that “[t]he first-year Michigan coach is an admitted fan, and has shown an interest in the game in his short tenure in Ann Arbor.”

That fandom of the sport of baseball was on full display back in March as Harbaugh served as the first-base coach of the Oakland A’s during a spring training game.  The interest in the stick-and-ball game shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In addition to his current sport, Harbaugh played baseball at Palo Alto High School before signing with the football Wolverines. “Harbaugh said he was [a] .400 hitter until he started following [the] teachings of Charlie Lau,” the San Francisco Chronicle‘s John Shea tweeted. “He stopped hitting, turned to football.”

And, on a completely unrelated note, the 2015 FBS season officially kicks off in exactly 67 days…

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J.T. Barrett’s dad thinks Braxton should be starter heading to camp

J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller AP

When it comes to Ohio State’s much-discussed and dissected three-headed quarterback competition, some in the media and most non-OSU fans view Braxton Miller almost as an afterthought.

Most of the attention as to who will guide the defending College Football Playoff champions has been centered on J.T. Barrett, who got the Buckeyes to the cusp of a Big Ten title and playoff berth, and Cardale Jones, who won all three of his postseason starts to help give his team the national championship, with the former being the betting favorite of one Vegas wagering insider.  That very same player’s dad, though, has a different view of who the starter should be, at least entering summer camp.

“Of course I would love to see my kid start, but for me it always goes back to who was first,” Joe Barrett, J.T’s father, told Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch. “If Braxton hadn’t gotten hurt, I would still be waiting for my baby to get the chance to play. I was thankful J.T. got that chance … and we were all blessed that he was ready to compete, but like I have told everybody, I don’t want to see my kid take a position because of the misfortune of someone else.

“In other words, Braxton should get that position back, then everybody else should go try to take it from him.”

Or put another way, Joe Barrett doesn’t believe anyone should be Wally Pipp’d, even if it would be advantageous for his son. The thing is, all three have the type of résumés that screams “starter!”

Miller was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons before reinjuring his throwing shoulder during summer camp last August and sidelining him for all of the 2014 season. Barrett, who took over the Buckeyes’ offense in Miller’s absence, accumulated a Big Ten-record 45 total touchdowns — 34 passing, 11 rushing — before a leg injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan prematurely ended his redshirt freshman season.  That opened the door for Jones, the redshirt sophomore with the NFL-ready rocket launcher for an arm who stunned the college football world by leading the Buckeyes to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game; Alabama in the CFP semifinal; and Oregon in the CFP championship game.

Jones, though, was the only one healthy enough to fully participate in spring practice, the first sessions since offensive coordinator Tom Herman took the head-coaching job at Houston.  Both Barrett and Miller are expected to be 100-percent healthy for the start of fall camp.

Head coach Urban Meyer has declined to list a pecking order at the position heading into that camp, although the hope is that a starter will be named at some point in mid-August and allows the winner three weeks or so to fully prepare for the Labor Day night rematch with Virginia Tech.  Whether Barrett gets the opportunity to avenge OSU’s lone 2014 loss — and redeem himself for the 9-of-29 passing and three interceptions in the loss — remains to be seen, although it seems, at least right now, that player’s father feels he should have to earn the job back.  And that’s exactly how it should be as whoever goes under center for the Buckeyes in the opener against the Hokies should have to earn that right, not be handed the job because of past performances.

Here’s to guessing that’s exactly how Meyer and his coaching staff will allow the situation to play out.

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USU Aggies injured in car wreck upgraded to stable condition

Colorado State vs Utah State

A potentially tragic situation appears to have taken a turn for the better.

Saturday night, Utah State announced via a press release that four of its football players “are improving” and are currently listed in stable condition at a local hospital following a two-vehicle wreck. According to reports, the unnamed driver of the SUV in which the seatbelt-less football players were riding pulled out in front of a semi at an intersection and was broadsided by the tanker truck, which was hauling 52,000 pounds of milk at the time of the accident.

The five occupants of the SUV, which included a former female USU student-athlete as well as the football players, had initially been reported as being critically injured.

“The fact that they didn’t have seatbelts on, getting T-boned by a semi truck, they’re just lucky they’re alive,” a Utah Highway Patrol official told Salt Lake City’s FOX affiliate.

The injured football players were senior defensive lineman Travis Seefeldt (pictured, right), senior defensive lineman John Taylor, redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo and redshirt defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye. The fifth occupant was former USU softball player Sara Vasquez, whose eligibility expired this past spring.

“I’ve seen all four of our guys today and gotten reports back from Sarah that (she’s improving), but all of those guys are stable and trying to rest and recover,” head coach Matt Wells told the Logan Herald Journal. “Bottom line is they’re in a lot of pain and discomfort, but they’re very fortunate and we all are fortunate that they’re alive and they’re going to be OK eventually.

The school’s release states that none of those injured have been released from the hospital. There’s no word on what if any impact the injuries sustained in the wreck will have on the players’ availability for the 2015 season.

Seefeldt and Taylor exited spring practice as projected starters for the Aggies.

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