Ricky Williams gave first-place Heisman vote to Te’o, not Manziel

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And before you ask, yes, it’s a ssslllooowww news day.

In becoming the first (redshirt) freshman to claim the Heisman Trophy in the 78 years of the prestigious award, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel finished a comfortable distance ahead of runner-up Manti Te’o.  Manziel was given a first-place nod on 474 ballots, Te’o on 329.  One of the ones who opted for the Notre Dame linebacker?  A certain former Texas Longhorn.

During a radio interview earlier this week and by way of the Dallas Morning News, Heisman winner and ex-UT running back Ricky Williams acknowledged that he Te’o and Manziel 1-2, in that order, on his Heisman ballot.  As a former winner, Williams is given the opportunity to vote on the award annually.

While Williams’ “snub” of a player from an in-state rival may stir up some in Aggie Nation, Williams’ response to a “second-guess” question was immensely more interesting and enlightening.

As you have no doubt heard, Te’o was embroiled in a bit of controversy last month as it came to light that he was the victim of an online hoax involving in part a “dead girlfriend.”  That emotional subplot — Te’o playing the majority of the season through the grief of losing his girlfriend (fake) and beloved grandmother (real) — was one of the myriad storylines heading into the New York City ceremony and was a significant reason according to many that the defensive player was even in the Heisman discussion.

When asked if he would still give Te’o his vote for the Heisman if he knew then what he knows now, Williams was unequivocal that he still would’ve thrown his first-place support to Te’o.

“I wouldn’t have,” Williams said when asked if he would’ve changed his vote. “I was watching that crap on TV. I don’t really watch the news that much, but it was on every day. Finally, when it got to Kathie Lee and Hoda [on the Today Show], I was like, what’s going on with this stuff? I didn’t get what the big deal was.

“To me, it’s like people are surprised that athletes are strange. Do you guys know what we do? Especially football players. To play football in the NFL, you have to be a little bit strange. Otherwise you would’ve given up a long time ago.”

Being Ricky Williams, he’s certainly qualified when it comes to the nature of being a bit strange.

Regardless, good for him.  Yeah, he’ll take some grief from Aggie fans, but he voted for Te’o based on the player’s on-field accomplishments (we think).  The fact that Te’o was duped has nothing to do with the linebacker leading the Irish to a perfect season and a spot in the BCS title game.  He may have been exposed against Alabama — who isn’t these days? — but his play through the first 12 games was very much Heisman worthy, as Williams and 328 voters would attest.

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.