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UConn RB ‘serious but stable’ following fatal car crash

Martin Hyppolite AP

Running back Martin Hyppolite sustained significant injuries in a two-car wreck that involved one fatality, the Hartford Courant is reporting.

According to the paper, Hyppolite remains hospitalized at a New Hampshire medical facility in serious but stable condition after the accident that occurred Saturday morning around nine local time.  The specific injuries Hyppolite sustained in the crash were not detailed.

Hyppolite was a passenger in a 2004 Chrysler Sebring being driven by 20-year-old Ryan Merchant that slammed nearly head-on into a 2000 Buick driven by Bruce Larson.  The 74-year-old Larson, who was a New Hampshire judge, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The latest update on Merchant’s status is that he’s in critical condition.

The Manchester Union-Leader wrote Sunday that “early indications are the driver of the Sebring was attempting to pass when he hit the Buick, driver’s side door to driver’s side door.”  Police declined to say whether alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident.

Last season as a redshirt junior, Hyppolite played in 12 games, rushing for 69 yards on 19 carries.  50 of those yards came on a touchdown run in a late-September win over Buffalo.

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Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for next three years

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Getty Images

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports the Cactus Bowl will be played in Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — for the next three seasons, making it the fourth bowl game to take place in an MLB stadium.

The annual Big 12 vs. Pac-12 game will join the Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium), St. Pete Bowl (Tropicana Field) and Miami Beach Bowl (Marlins Park) as being played in a baseball stadium. The Emerald Bowl, now known as the Foster Farms Bowl, was played at AT&T Park in San Francisco from 2002-2013 before moving to Levi’s Stadium last year.

We’ve also seen regular season games take place at Wrigley Field (Northwestern-Illinois) and Busch Stadium (SIU-Carbondale-Southeastern Missouri State) in recent years. Notre Dame will face Boston College at Fenway Park this November as well.

Hopefully, whichever team wins this year’s Cactus Bowl will celebrate the way the Dodgers did after winning the NL West at Chase Field in 2013:

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Some good news for Tennessee: Peyton Manning sees more ‘Sunday bodies’

Butch Jones AP

Tennessee was shut out of last weekend’s NFL Draft, which on the surface can be viewed as a problem and/or indictment of the program.

But that’d be missing the larger point. A tidal wave of players will make the sophomore-junior leap while Butch Jones has pulled in a ton of top recruits since taking over in Knoxville. And perhaps the most famous Tennessee alum is seeing the improvements:

Per 247 Sports, Tennessee projects to have 14 upperclassmen starters in 2015, many of whom have been through plenty of close games over the last two years. Pairing that experience with their natural talent should begin to pay off for guys like Josh Dobbs and an offensive line made up of four upperclassmen and a very good sophomore right guard in Jashon Robertson.

But here’s the other thing about Tennessee: As of now, they don’t have any players projected as 2016 first-round picks in the way-too-early mock drafts that are out there (like CBS Sports, Walter Football and Bleacher Report). So perhaps there won’t be a mass exodus of talent out of Knoxville after this coming season, even if Manning sees the potential for plenty of these guys to make it in the NFL.

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‘Disappointed’ Dykes had no choice but to can Cal assistant

California v Northwestern Getty Images

A week or so after being forced to push one assistant off his Cal coaching staff, Sonny Dykes spoke publicly about the situation.

The Bears head coach acknowledged that he was “disappointed and surprised” after learning that Pierre Ingram was arrested April 16 and charged with solicitation of a lewd act in the midst of a prostitution sting.  Eight days after his arrest, Ingram, who served as Cal’s wide receivers coach as well as the football program’s recruiting coordinator, was dismissed by Dykes.

Dykes stated that, in essence, he had no choice but to can his assistant, even as it was a hard situation to go through on both sides.

“It’s hard when somebody you know goes through a hard time in their life, especially somebody that you know well,” Dykes said.

“Obviously, it’s not anything you ever want to hear. I was disappointed and surprised. I think everybody was surprised that knew Pierre, but we had to move on.”

Ingram had spent the past two seasons as the Bears’ running backs coach before moving over to receivers this offseason.

As far as a replacement goes, Dykes stated that the search is ongoing but is headed in the right direction. There is no timeline for a hire.

Dykes added he’s unsure if the title of recruiting coordinator will go to the new assistant or to someone already on his staff.

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Spinal condition forces Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt to retire

Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon State Beavers

For the second time in less than a month, a spinal condition has prompted a Power Five player to call it quits.

In a midweek Instagram posting, Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt announced that he is being forced to retire from the sport because of a medical condition.  According to Hunt, and which was subsequently confirmed by OSU, he was born with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.  It’s a condition similar to what prompted Florida’s Rod Johnson to step away from the game three weeks ago.

Below is Hunt’s social media missive.

“It was truly a blessing to have been apart of the #OregonStateFootball team but sadly my days of playing is over due to a condition that I was born with called #SpinalStenosis. This team will forever be my team and I will always support every single brother of mine on it through their football careers and life. And a message to all my teammates “just because I can’t play on the field with yall, best believe I’ma be on the sideline helping and watching yall strive towards greatness because our team is bound for great accomplishments in these upcoming years. I love all yall as my own brothers and I’ll always be here for every last one of yall” And to everyone else who has supported me throughout my career thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and God Bless you all!”

Hunt was a four-star member of the Beavers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 corner in the country by Rivals.com.  He was the highest-rated recruit in an OSU class that was rated 39th in the country and eight in the Pac-12.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hunt played in seven games in 2014.  He was expected to compete for a starting job in 2015.

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Nearly 30 percent of early entries weren’t selected in NFL draft

B.J. Catalon, Darrion Richardson AP

Not surprisingly, some of the players who left eligibility on the table for an early shot at the pros were left without a chair when the draft music stopped Saturday.

By the deadline in mid-January, a total of 84 players with eligibility remaining filled out their paperwork to make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.  As noted by Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, 24 of those 84 players went undrafted as the seven-round event concluded yesterday evening.

While that’s 28.6 percent, it’s actually a better rate than a year ago.  In 2014, 36.7 percent (36 of 98) of the early entrants went undrafted.  That total of 98 last year was a record number of draft-eligible players who left with eligibility remaining, which prompted the NFL to change its protocol in an attempt to roll back the number of players leaving early.

Getting back to this year, 16 of the 24 who weren’t selected came from Power Five football programs.  TCU was the only school with two early entrants who weren’t picked (running back B.J. Catalon, safety Chris Hackett), while two of the players came from non-FCS levels.

It should be noted that most if not all of the players in this group will sign as an undrafted free agent.

Below is the complete list of those who went undrafted.

SS Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
CB Jacoby Glenn, UCF
FS Chris Hackett, TCU
WR DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M
DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
TE Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
DT David Irving, Iowa State
WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston
DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
RB B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR Chris Harper, California
LB Max Flores, Northern Colorado
RB Dee Hart, Colorado State
RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky
WR George Farmer, USC
WR Nigel King, Kansas
OT Patrick Miller, Auburn
WR Zach D’Orazio, Akron
WR Tacoi Sumler, Appalachian State
OG Tyler Moore, Florida
WR Jaquel Pitts, Trinity International
LS Easton Wahlstrom, Arizona State
OLB Darien Rankin, North Carolina

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Ex-Gopher, Rutgers QB Philip Nelson to start over at S. Alabama

Philip Nelson AP

Whether or not you are of the belief that he deserves it, Philip Nelson is getting a second chance at an FBS playing career.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report from late this past week, Nelson’s father has confirmed that his son has moved on to South Alabama and will play for the Sun Belt program in 2015.  For what it’s worth, USA has yet to confirm the quarterback’s addition to its roster.

When it does, though, it may have some explaining and/or spinning to do.

In May of last year, Nelson, then a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, was arrested in connection to a vicious assault outside of a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was ultimately charged with first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, in an incident that left the victim, former Div. II football player Isaac Kolstad, hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The Kolstad family had released a statement at one point a year ago confirming that the 24-year-old Kolstad, who is married and has a young daughter, was on life support and had a portion of his brain removed after allegedly being kicked in the head by Nelson and punched by another male who is facing charges as well.  Kolstad, who Nelson’s attorney had accused of throwing a sucker punch that triggered the fight, is making steady progress from his injuries.

Nelson ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and credited for serving two days in jail.  It was concluded by a prosecution witness that the other male charged had caused Kolstad’s brain injury, which led to a plea agreement that also included a $300 fine.

In January of last year, Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers.  He was dismissed by the Scarlet Knights shortly after being charged in connection to the beating.

In 2012 and 2013, Nelson, who was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2012 recruiting class, started 16 games.  Nine of those starts came as a true sophomore in a 2013 season in which he led the run-heavy Gophers in passing yards (1,306) and passing touchdowns (nine).  He was also third in rushing yards (364) and rushing touchdowns (six).

Prior to moving on to USA, Fresno State, Georgia and Ole Miss were in the mix for his services.  Nj.com wrote that “the SEC schools moved on as the legal process dragged.”

Nelson will now have two years of eligibility remaining.

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Auburn dismisses Elijah Daniel following theft arrest

South Carolina v Auburn

Just days after being arrested for suspected theft, Elijah Daniel has been asked to leave the Auburn football program. Auburn announced the latest roster decision Saturday.

As previously reported, Daniel was one of three suspects in a theft investigation on campus. Daniel and two other former Auburn athletes — DeNorris James and Khalil Sellers — were the primary suspects in an on-campus theft investigation following various incidents over Auburn’s spring break. Daniel was charged with four counts of theft of property and four counts of burglary. Between the eight charges, six are considered felonies.

Daniel played in 13 games for the Tigers last fall, and he started in two of them.

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UAB gets two players drafted by NFL teams

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

For just the third time in program history, UAB has sent two players through the NFL Draft. It might end up being the last time UAB hears the school’s name mentioned during the NFL Draft.

UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the draft. In the sixth round, tight end Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The only other years UAB has had multiple draft picks in the same year are 2002 (Eddie Freeman and Bryan Thomas) and 1998 (Dainon Sidney and Izell Reese).

UAB made the decision to shut down the football program at the conclusion of last football season. The football program, despite being eligible for postseason play, did not play in any postseason bowl game. In the meantime, criticism of the handling of the shutdown and questions about why the program was shut down or if it had to be shutdown have continued. One report has suggested the program was financially viable.

We do not know whether or not UAB football will make a return. The earliest it was believed to be possible was 2016, and Conference USA has decided to close the door on UAB’s membership moving forward. Things look bleak, which is why moments like the NFL Draft should be cherished by those closely associated to the UAB football family.

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NFL Draft sees SEC take conference crown, FSU & L’Ville go 1-2

Florida State v Louisville

If there was one thing to be learned from this year’s NFL Draft, it is that the schools in the south are loaded with NFL talent. Big surprise, right?

After a bit fo a slow start, the SEC finished strong and sent more players to the NFL Draft than any other conference. By the time the last pick was made, the SEC had sent 54 players to NFL franchises, seven more than the ACC’s 47 players, even though Tennessee was blanked.

Here is how the power conferences stacked up:

The ACC was carried in a big way by Florida State, which set a new three-year record for most cumulative draft picks in the later rounds. Florida State had 11 players go to NFL teams in this year’s draft, including Jameis Winston as the number one overall player. While Florida State flexed plenty of draft muscle, Louisville had a big final day of the draft and ended just one pick shy of Florida State’s 11 players. Clearly Charlie Strong was able to transform the Louisville football program with plenty of talent before leaving for Texas. Hopefully he remembers their names.

Here is a look at the top draft factories this year:

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Tennessee blanked in NFL Draft for first time since 1964

Derek Dooley

The 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and for the first time since 1964 there was not a single player from the Tennessee Volunteers selected.

The lack of draft picks is the product of a program that had been trending downward under former head coach Derek Dooley. Despite his enthusiasm for the game, Dooley was not able to keep Tennessee chugging along as a power in the SEC and the talent coming in just was not up to par with Tennessee teams of the past.

The good news is things are already starting to trend upward for Tennessee. Butch Jones has sparked some new life in Knoxville and the roster should be loaded in 2015. Tennessee going two years without a draft pick is very unlikely.

Vanderbilt was also without a draft pick this year, but a pair of FCS programs in the state of Tennessee did not go without a pick. Tennessee State had two players drafted (offensive linemen Anthony Morris and Robert Myers). Tennessee Chatanooga had outside linebacker Davis Tull go in the fifth round.

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Pac-12 moves up in spring game attendance, B1G & SEC stay on top

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

The Pac-12 took advantage of a late Oregon spring game to slip past the ACC and Big 12 in the 2015 spring game attendance figures, but there was no catching te Big Ten and SEC this year.

The Big Ten locked up the top conference-wide spring game attendance in 2015 on the strength of Ohio State’s new national record for spring game attendance and perennial strong spring game crowds at Nebraska and Penn State and a surprisingly strong showing at Michigan. Big stadiums leave plenty of room for big spring crowds, and that worked in the Big Ten’s favor.

The SEC finished in second place this year in spring game attendance, although it should be noted the SEC should easily pass the Big Ten next year if Texas A&M holds a spring game in the renovated Kyle Field.

The Pac-12 moved past the ACC and Big 12 once Oregon packed in 35,808 fans for the spring game in Eugene. Oregon was easily the biggest spring draw in the Pac-12, flying past the 22,788 fans that attended the USC spring game.

Here is how the conferences stacked up in spring game attendance for 2015 (Source):

1. Big Ten: 410,943

2. SEC: 408,566

3. Pac-12: 118,691

4. Big 12: 113,339

5. ACC: 101,832

6. American: 39,848

7. Conference USA: 39,724

8. Mountain West: 29,447

9. MAC: 15,617

10. Sun Belt: 14,534

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Florida State sets new NFL Draft record for total draft picks

Nick O'Leary

Florida State has had 10 players selected in this year’s NFL Draft, putting the Seminoles in a tie for the most players drafted over a three-year period. One more Nole off the board and the record will be Florida State’s.

The record is 28 players drafted over three years. Florida State now shared the record with Miami (2002-2004) and USC (2008-2010). Florida State moved into the now three-way tie when tight end Nick O’Leary was taken by the Buffalo Bills (who have been loading up on ACC players this draft). O’Leary was taken by the Bills in the sixth round and the 194th pick overall. The Bills had already drafted cornerback Ronald Darby in the second round and running back Karlos Williams in the fifth round. Other Noles to be drafted include quarterback Jameis Winston (the number one overall pick), defensive tackles Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, center Cameron Erving, offensive guard Tre’ Jackson, receiver Rashad Greene, and cornerback P.J. Williams.

Time is running out for Florida State to set the record, but it is within sight. Offensive guards Josue Matias and Bobby Hart are still on the draft board.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m): The New York Giants drafted offensive lineman Bobby Hart, thus setting the new record.

 

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Navy long snapper is first Midshipman drafted in NFL Draft since 1995

Reese's Senior Bowl

This does not happen very often. The New England Patriots drafted Navy long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in Chicago. Cardona is the first Navy football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1995.

Former Navy tight end Kevin Hickman was chosen in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Offensive guard Mike Wahle was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft. Players from the service academies being drafted is quite the rarity. The last player from Air Force to be drafted was defensive end Bryce Fisher in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. In 2008 Army saw defensive back Caleb Campbell go in the seventh round to the Lions. Campbell snapped a stretch that started in 1998 without an Army football player being selected in the NFL Draft.

It has been a big couple of weeks for Navy athletics. Just last week Navy lieutenant Mitch Harris made his major league debut as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

UPDATE (3:57 p.m.): Navy notes Cardona is the first Naval Academy graduate to be drafted since Bob Kuberski in 1993.

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Clemson punter that declared early for NFL Draft gets drafted

Bradley Pinion

This is just a reminder that punters are people too. We may have poked fun at the idea a punter was declaring early for the NFL Draft, but we probably should not have. Clemson’s Bradley Pinion was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago by the San Francisco 49ers.

Pinion ranked 34th among FBS punters with an average punt distance of 42.59 yards per punt, but he was consistent and tested with 5.8 punts per game. As it turns out, whatever advice Pinion received regarding his draft position, it may have been pretty spot on considering the average draft position of punters in recent years. Only one punter drafted since 2008 has been drafted before the fifth round (California’s Bryan Anger went in round three to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 draft).

Pinion being drafted keeps a string going for punting specialists in the draft. A punter has been drafted in each of the past four drafts, including the 2015 edition, and in all but one draft since 1999.

It would be hard to imagine the 49ers drafting a quarterback with their former head coach, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

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Ali Marpet puts D3 Hobart on the NFL Draft scoreboard

Ali Marpet

Schools like Florida State, USC, Miami, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State will produce multiple NFL prospects on an annual basis. Hobart College will never be in that category, but the Division 3 football program in Geneva, New York has reason to celebrate this year. Offensive lineman Ali Marpet became the first player from the program to be drafted by an NFL franchise, and he is now the highest draft pick in the history of Division 3 football.

“I’ve said throughout this process, that whatever team drafts Ali is going to get an outstanding lineman who will learn and grow and have an outstanding NFL career,” Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg said. “The Buccaneers got an exceptional young man who is going to do great things. I have no doubt about that.”

Marpet was picked up late in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joined by fellow second-round offensive line draftee Donovan Smith of Penn State, the two picks are expected to move right into the starting offensive line to provide protection for the new franchise quarterback, Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Few were aware of Marpet for much of the fall, which is pretty much the norm for players from the lower divisions of college football, but he received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. The opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl in front of NFL coaches and scouts all week paid off in a big way. He later took advantage of an appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he continued to impress NFL folks.

Since 1990, a total of 19 players have been drafted by the NFL out of Division 3 according to D3Football.com. That list has included players like wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts from Mount Union, a D3 juggernaut.

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