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Max Wittek, Marqise Lee sustain knee injuries; will undergo further testing

Sun Bowl Football AP

USC’s practice with live tackling for the first time this spring resulted in injuries to a pair of key offensive playmakers: projected starting quarterback Max Wittek and wide receiver Marqise Lee.

From USC’s official practice notes:

QB Max Wittek and WR Marqise Lee both suffered knee injuries during practice and sat out the scrimmage.  Lane Kiffin announced that both will have further testing before a diagnosis is announced.  Lee stood and cheered his teammates throughout the scrimmage, while Wittek rested on the trainer’s table with ice on his knee.

Of the two, it sounds as though Wittek’s could be more serious. How much so, whether a little, a lot or not at all, won’t be known until the results come back from the tests.

With Wittek sidelined (at least temporarily), Cody Kessler stepped in to complete 12 of 15 passes for 192 yards.

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Jameis Winston advisor tweets QB to cooperate with Title IX probe

Jameis Winston

Back in April, a lawyer for the alleged victim of an alleged 2012 sexual assault claimed that, because Jameis Winston had refused to cooperate, Florida State shuttered a federally-mandated Title IX investigation into the allegations.

It was reported five months later that FSU officials had spoken to the alleged victim for the first time a month before, even as the quarterback’s advisor, David Cornwell, released a scathing statement blaming the alleged victim for the delay in the probe.  While Winston had still not spoken to investigators looking into the allegations, that appears ready to change.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account Tuesday morning, Cornwell wrote that Winston will cooperate with the Title IX investigation.  Cornwell was said to be informing FSU officials of his client’s intent today.

What level of cooperation to which Cornwell is alluding is unclear.

In early December of last year, following a three-week investigation, the Florida State’s Attorney office announced that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between Winston and the alleged victim was not consensual, and that no charges would be filed against the player.  The state’s attorney in charge of that investigation, William Meggs, was highly critical of the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation into the alleged rape in a New York Times report earlier this week, a report in which the university subsequently expressed its disappointment.  The Tallahassee PD subsequently revised its policies when it came to handling sexual assault complaints in the wake of intense criticism it received.

In April it was reported that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.

Cornwell’s declaration comes one day after Winston was reinstated from his one-game suspension.  The reigning Heisman winner missed the narrow escape over Clemson because of a vulgar and obscene incident earlier in the week.

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A ninth one bites the dust as Texas boots OT Estelle

Mississippi v Texas

Monday brought word that the three indefinitely suspended Texas players would remain that way at least through the Kansas game this Saturday. As it turns out, one-third of that trio (likely) won’t ever play for the Longhorns again.

UT announced late Tuesday morning that Kennedy Estelle has been dismissed from the football team by head coach Charlie Strong. The only reason given was a “violation of team rules.”

The offensive tackle, projected to be a starter, had missed the last two games because of the suspension meted out after he played in the opener against North Texas.

What changed over the past 24 hours that brought about Estelle’s dismissal is unknown. What is known is that a new sheriff is most certainly in charge, and he’s brought a big ol’ broom to town with him.

Estelle had played in 16 games for the Longhorns, starting nine of those contests.

At least for now, the two remaining suspended players, wide receiver Daje Johnson and offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, are still on the team.  Both were projected starters entering summer camp.

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Auburn, LSU eyeing dismissed UGA DT

Gator Bowl Football AP

Despite a sketchy off-field résumé of late, it appears Jonathan Taylor could find his way back to the SEC after all.

According to a report from 247Sports.com ($), the former Georgia football player is drawing interest from both Auburn and LSU.  The defensive tackle already visited the latter this past weekend, and is expected to visit the former this coming weekend for their game against Louisiana Tech.

Louisville, led by former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, also reportedly has Taylor on its radar.

Taylor was arrested in March of this year following theft by deception charges against he and three other Georgia players.  Four months later, Taylor was arrested for the aggravated assault of a female and dismissed by UGA the following day.

A four-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2012 recruiting class, Taylor was rate as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Taylor played in 10 games in 2013 and was in line to be a significant part of UGA’s line rotation this season prior to his off-field escapades.

If Taylor lands at another FBS school for the 2015 season — he’s spending 2014 at a Mississippi JUCO — he’d be able to play immediately and have two years of eligibility.

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Major Applewhite reportedly applies for SMU job

Texas v Texas Tech Getty Images

If SMU is looking for a permanent head coach with deep Texas roots, this reported candidate would certainly qualify.  There could be, though, at least a little controversy over his potential candidacy.

In his weekly “Nine Things and One Crazy Prediction” column, the Austin American-Statesman‘s Kirk Bohls writes that “I’m told former Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has applied at SMU, but he couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.” And that was the extent of the mini-report.

The Mustangs are currently searching for a replacement for June Jones, who abruptly resigned earlier this month. The athletic department is expected to cast a wide net in looking for a successor, and the 36-year-old Applewhite, if the school wants to go the “first-time head coach with Texas ties” route, could certainly be in play.

Applewhite was a Texas Longhorn quarterback from 1998-2001, then served the next three years as a UT grad assistant. In between stints at Syracuse (2005) and Alabama (2007), Applewhite was the offensive coordinator at Rice. Then, from 2008-14, he served on Mack Brown‘s staff in various capacities: co-offensive coordinator, assistant head coach, running backs coach and quarterbacks coach.

Applewhite, though, would come to SMU with some, well, major baggage.

In January of 2013, Texas acknowledged in a press release that “Applewhite [had] engaged in inappropriate, albeit consensual, [sexual] behavior with an adult student during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl trip.” Applewhite acknowledged in a statement at the time that “[s]everal years ago, I made a regretful decision resulting in behavior that was totally inappropriate.”

Despite the controversy, Applewhite remained on staff for the 2013 season.  Upon the hiring of head coach Charlie Strong, however, Applewhite was given a one-year severance.

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Ex-USC player suing Kiffin, Trojans

USC v Arizona State Getty Images

With new coordinator Lane Kiffin on board, Alabama’s offense is off to a prolific and potentially historic start.

Thanks to Kiffin’s past, however, an issue has popped up that’ll serve as at least a minor inconvenience, if not an outright distraction.

Multiple media outlets reported late Monday night that Brian Baucham filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday in which Kiffin and his former employer, USC, are named as defendants. The Los Angeles Times writes that the former Trojan football player claimed in the suit that Kiffin and the school “were negligent by forcing him to play in a game when he was ill and that they did not follow the school’s injury-plan guidelines, leaving Baucham with cardiopulmonary damage and brain injury.”

On September 22 of 2012, nearly a year to the day prior to Kiffin being fired as USC’s head coach, Baucham fell ill during a game against Cal and was taken from the stadium to a local hospital via ambulance. He remained in the intensive care unit on a ventilator for two days before being released a short time later. He never played another down of football.

The lawsuit also claims that USC medical personnel told the player he was in no condition to play, but that the coaching staff played him anyway. “USC and head coach Kiffin were clearly negligent and acted with conscious disregard for Brian’s welfare and safety by forcing him to play … despite his verified medical history and seriously ill condition,” one of Baucham’s lawyers, Bruce M. Brusavich, told the Associated Press.

The suit is seeking unspecified damages for the former cornerback, who just recently received his degree from the university.

Kiffin has declined to comment on the suit, while USC’s athletic director offered the Times a very generic statement.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on this lawsuit, and due to privacy laws we cannot comment on the specifics of this case,” Pat Haden said. “I will say that I am confident that we provide excellent medical treatment to our student athletes and that their health is always our primary concern ahead of any athletic competition.”

This isn’t the first time USC is facing a lawsuit over an ex-player’s medical claims. In a lawsuit filed in late August of 2012, former USC defensive tackle Armond Armstead claimed that “team doctors repeatedly administered a painkiller to him that gave him a heart attack, and that after he recovered the school blocked his attempts to transfer and cost him a shot at the National Football League.”

Armstead wasn’t selected in the 2012 NFL draft, nor did he sign as an undrafted rookie that year.  After brief stints with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts (2012) and the New England Patriots (2013), Armstead retired from football in July of this year.

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UW Huskies lose RB Callier to another season-ending injury

Jesse Callier

For the second time in three seasons, Jesse Callier will see a season come to a premature end thanks to an injury.

According to both the Seattle Times and Tacoma News Tribune, the running back has a ruptured Achilles tendon and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.  Callier suffered the injury on the opening kickoff of Washington’s win over Georgia State Saturday.

“That’s a hard one to take, just a guy that’s a senior and some of the things that he’s been through,” head coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s doing such a great job for us. So that’s hard.”

Callier also missed most of the 2012 season with a torn ACL suffered in the first quarter of the season opener, so the fifth-year senior would seemingly be eligible for a sixth season from the NCAA. However, both the Times and News Tribune wrote that the injury effectively ends his collegiate career.

Thus, Callier will apparently end his collegiate career with 997 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes coming out of the backfield.

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Texas may get TE Greg Daniels back in time for Kansas on Saturday

Valero Alamo Bowl - Oregon v Texas Getty Images

In what was a fairly newsy news conference Monday in Austin, Charlie Strong announced that suspended players Daje JohnsonDemsond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle will remain suspended, and quarterback Tyrone Swoopes pulled a Joe Namath and said that his 1-2 Longhorns had their sights set on the College Football Playoff.

There was a bit of tangible, realistic, good news for the Longhorns on Monday, that tight end/glorified offensive lineman Greg Daniels is progressing toward seeing the field for the first time this season.

Daniels has not seen the field this season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in August. The time table at that point pointed toward an Oct 11 return against Oklahoma, so he appears to be ahead of schedule.

The senior has mostly been used as an extra blocker in his 25 career games after beginning his career on the defensive line. He has eight career catches for 118 yards; Daniels’ claim to fame was catching a 47-yard pass on Texas’ first play from scrimmage during UT’s 33-7 win over Iowa State way back in 2012, a play the Longhorns ran out of the Wishbone in tribute of the recently-passed Darrell Royal. That play was called by then-Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who has taken two jobs since then. So, yeah, it’s been a while since Daniels contributed anything of substance in the passing game.

But Daniels’ return to the field would still be an upgrade. Tight ends M.J. McFarland and Geoff Swaim have combined to produce five receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown thus far this season, so it’s not as if that position is a major portion of the passing game in the first place. Pairing Swaim with Daniels would give the ‘Horns two above-average blocking tight ends and, considering the state of the offensive line, that would be a sorely needed advantage.

Texas travels to Kansas on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

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UMass reportedly close to adding games with Tennessee, BYU and Army

Massachusetts v Vanderbilt Getty Images

After getting kicked out of the nest by the Mid-American Conference, Massachusetts football is currently falling to the ground at a rapid rate, hoping it can flap its wings and fly on its own before its body meets the dirt. The Minutemen will play their final season as a football-only member of the MAC in 2015, and will compete as an independent in 2016 and 2017, with anything beyond that still to be determined.

Considering the Minutemen are 2-26 since moving to FBS in 2012, getting back down to FCS as fast as possible should be on the table for 2018 and beyond, but a discussion for another time.

For now, athletics director John McCutcheon has the unenviable task of building a schedule as an FBS independent without the established history of Notre Dame, BYU or Army (Navy is dropping out of the independent game after this season.)

One of the challenges of filling a full, 12-game schedule is finding November games, when most of college football is knee-deep in conference races. But UMass has found an unlikely ally: the Southeastern Conference. SEC teams usually take a week off of conference play in November, and McCutcheon is poised to take advantage of that by securing a game and a paycheck in lining up a game at Tennessee for a game in November 2017.

The game between the Volunteers and Minutemen would be the first.

According to Matt Vautor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, UMass is set to announce games against fellow opponents BYU and Army past part of announcement for 2016-17 that will include as many as 10 games.

UMass currently has games lined up against Florida, Connecticut, Boston College, Rhoad Island and Old Dominion for 2016, and dates with Connecticut, Old Dominion, Temple and Indiana for 2017, according to scheduling tracker FBSchedules.com.

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Vanderbilt suspends RB Brian Kimbrow indefinitely

Brian Kimbrow

Vanderbilt running back Brian Kimbrow has rushed just once this season, a six-yard loss that resulted in a fumble. Sadly, that may be his only quote-unquote contribution to the team this fall, as head coach Derek Mason announced Monday that is his junior running back has been suspended indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

“No one player is bigger than the team. We’re not going to comment on anything else. It’s always about team,” Mason said Monday evening on his call-in radio show, according to The Tennessean.

Vanderbilt (1-2) ranks 105th nationally with 477 rushing yards, averaging 119.3 yards per game and 3.85 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman leads the ‘Dores in rushing with 77 carries for 377 yards.

Kimbrow has 748 career rushing yards with six touchdowns. A heralded pick up out of Memphis for former coach James Franklin, Kimbrow rushed for 413 yards as a freshman and 314 as a sophomore. Considering he may be stuck at minus-6 for his junior campaign, and that’s a pretty telling statement about the direction Kimbrow’s career is headed.

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Photo: Michigan giving away two free tickets to Minnesota game (with purchase of Coke products!)

Brady Hoke

You know it’s bad when the student newspaper is printing headlines like “Clock’s Ticking, Brady.” But perhaps the most accurate depiction of where Michigan football sits under Brady Hoke is this picture being passed around social media on Monday.

The Wolverines have drawn more than 100,000 to the Big House for 254 consecutive games – a streak the maize and blue protects more ferociously than a mother cougar guards its young. And with enthusiasm and confidence in the program sinking to Rich Rod-era lows (or worse?), Michigan brass has apparently decided to link up with Coca-Cola in hopes of filling Michigan Stadium.

Of course, by counting season ticket holders, media members, peanut vendors, janitors and anyone else who happens to wander inside the gates, Michigan will announce more than 100,000 no matter how many bleachers go untouched.

With Hoke waiting until Tuesday to make a decision on Saturday’s starter, it’s apparent now he needs to make the right decision. He needs to beat Minnesota.

Update: Michigan is pulling the promotion immediately. Whether it really was an unauthorized promotion, that somehow surely passed by a number of desks before the material above saw the light of day, or if this is the result of NFL-style “reaction is bad, so let’s change direction” public relations remains to be seen.

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Despite report of immediate eligibility, OU QB Mayfield remains in college football purgatory

Baker Mayfield

There was a report Monday from KWTV-TV sports director Dean Blevins that Oklahoma transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield‘s appeal to the NCAA has been granted, giving the former Texas Tech gunslinger the chance to play immediately.

“Baker Mayfield finally caught a break. And so did the Oklahoma Sooners,” Blevins reported. “The talented Texas Tech transfer won his appeal with the NCAA and has been granted a third year of eligibility. He is thus is immediately eligible to play for the No. 4/No. 3-ranked Sooners.”

But it’s not that simple, reports Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. Nothing is inside the jungle that is NCAA eligibility.

According to Aber, Mayfield’s status has been something of a collective bargaining discussion between Oklahoma, Texas Tech and the Big 12. Big 12 rules require players lose a year of eligibility for intra-conference transfers.

Even if Mayfield does not play this season, there is the possibility of Mayfield keeping his extra year of eligibility in exchange for sitting out 2014. “Sources close to the situation said there have been discussions between OU, Texas Tech and the Big 12 about the possibility of Mayfield retaining a year of eligibility if he doesn’t play this season,” Aber writes.

Mayfield met with the NCAA on Friday and, citing sources close to the quarterback, Aber writes that Oklahoma may at least win the right to put Mayfield on scholarship retroactive to the beginning of the fall semester.

Texas Tech has denied Mayfield’s transfer, and maintained that stance ever since the move was announced in December.

As a true freshman in 2013, Mayfield paid for the privilege of tossing a dozen touchdowns and 218 completions for 2,315 yards in eight games.

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Virginia K Ian Frye went 4-for-4 while his dad suffered heart attack in the stands

Ian Frye, Rob Burns, Zachary Swanson

Virginia kicker Ian Frye made all seven of his kicks Saturday, three extra points and field goals from 23, 41, 22 and 46 yards, during the Cavaliers’ 41-33 loss at No. 20 BYU on Saturday. Turns out, his day was much more impressive than any of us realized.

In a story that was told during the team’s Monday press conference and relayed over the Cavs’ official Twitter account, Frye’s father Mark suffered a heart attack inside the LaVell Edwards Stadium during the game.

Frye was notified while coming off the field for halftime – moments after he knocked in a 22-yarder to give Virginia a 16-13 lead – and was notified of the situation. Outside the locker room, Frye witnessed his father, clearly in pain, and being attended to by paramedics.

Frye checked on his father multiple times throughout the break, but remained with the team at Mark’s insistence. While receiving updates throughout the second half, Frye only informed three of his teammates, fellow kickers Dylan Sims and Alec Vozelinik and long snapper Tyler Shirley. Despite that weighing heavily on his mind, Frye knocked in a 46-yard field goal to keep Virginia within 27-19, and extra points to pull the Cavs within 34-26 and 41-33. Following the game, Frye was shuttled to the hospital, where he discovered his father, recovering from surgery and watching college football.

Frye was very complimentary of the BYU staff, especially athletics director Tom Holmoe, who visited Mark at the hospital and even brought him food.

Thankfully, with dad Mark’s health secure, the story can end on a happy note that brings everything full circle.

Considering the circumstances, I would say Frye certainly deserves it.

(Helmet sticker to Vanquish the Foe)

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Vols dismiss freshman RB Treyvon Paulk after domestic incident

KNOXVILLE, TN - Football Headshots

Somewhat abruptly, Tennessee’s present and future depth at the running back position has taken a bit of a hit.

According to Wes Rucker of GoVols247.com, head coach Butch Jones announced Monday afternoon that true freshman Treyvon Paulk has been summarily dismissed from the football team.  The dismissal was triggered by what Jones described as a “personal conduct” issue.

While Jones refused to elaborate on what led to the dismissal, it appears it was triggered by a rather significant off-field incident.  From Rucker’s post on the dismissal:

Paulk… struck his ex-girlfriend at a party over the weekend, according to a release from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Paulk “became agitated and struck her in the mouth with his fist” at the party, according to the KCSO release, which cited the incident report.

Paulk’s girlfriend — noted in the report as 18-year-old Chelsea Reece — had multiple cuts to her lips but refused medical assistance, according to the report.

The alleged victim declined to press charges.

Paulk was a three-star member of the Vols’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 12 all-purpose running back in the country and the No. 37 player at any position in the state of Georgia.  He didn’t play in any games this season as he continues recovering from a torn ACL he sustained his senior year of high school.

(Photo credit: Tennessee athletics)

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‘Miscommunication’ led to Jameis Winston dressing for Clemson game

Clemson v Florida State Getty Images

Jameis Winston was highly criticized in numerous corners, including here, for an “incident” over the weekend.

The Florida State quarterback was suspended for the Clemson game because of a vulgar and obscene incident earlier in the week. Winston dressed out in full football gear for pregame warmups, much to the chagrin of an incredulous Jimbo Fisher, who sent his starting quarterback to the locker room to change into street clothes.

Monday, Fisher was asked about the situation. In falling on the sword, the head coach took the blame for what he called the “miscommunication” that led to the brouhaha.

“That was a miscommunication between us and the locker room,” the head coach said Monday. “He was scheduled to dress the next day and the stuff was in the locker. He assumed he was going to dress in warmups and he went out. It got miscommunicated from our part. We should have never had (his uniform) in the locker. We saw it, corrected it. He was great about it. He went in and came back out.

“That was one part that slipped through the cracks getting that communication to the equipment people.”

That said, Fisher continued taking Winston for his decision-making and judgments that have led to situations like the one that got him suspended in the first place.

“He’s got to be smarter about these decisions and the things he says and does,” Fisher said. “You can have fun but you can’t do it at the expense of others or circumstance or situations. There’s an example and a respect you have to have for your organization and your family.

“Jameis is not a bad individual. He makes some poor choices on spontaneous situations to make people laugh. He does like interacting with students (to show) that he’s not a guy that can’t relate with (the students because he’s a high-profile athlete). He needs to continue to do that but he needs to do it with better judgment.”

Winston was replaced by Sean Maguire for the Clemson game, with the first-time starter helping the Seminoles pull off the overtime win.  In the first extended action of his career, Maguire completed 21-of-39 passes for 304 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.  The redshirt sophomore’s scoring toss was a 74-yarder to Rashad Greene with 6:04 remaining in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 17-all and essentially forced overtime.

As expected, though, Winston will be back under center for this Saturday’s game against North Carolina State after serving his one-game penance.

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Three suspended Texas starters will remain that way

Daje Johnson AP

For those Texas fans looking for some offensive help to return this week, and as it looks to continue its run to the College Football Playoff, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer.

At his weekly Monday press conference, head coach Charlie Strong confirmed that any player who is currently suspended will remain that way.  That means wide receiver Daje Johnson as well as offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle will not play in Saturday’s game against Kansas.

Harrison and Johnson were two of three Longhorn players — the other safety Josh Turnersuspended indefinitely in early August by Strong for violating unspecified team rules.

Turner has since dug his way out of Strong’s doghouse, while Estelle, Harrison and Johnson have yet to play in a game this year.

Getting Johnson back would certainly help the Longhorns’ offense — provided he stayed on the straight and narrow, which has proved to be elusive during his time in Austin.

Last year, Johnson missed two different late-season games because of off-field issues. He and teammate Chet Moss were suspended for the Thanksgiving gameagainst Texas Tech, then he was declared academically ineligible for the Alamo Bowl against Oregon.

When healthy — and staying out of trouble — Johnson totaled 757 all-purpose yards in 2013 and started six games in 2013. Johnson scored three touchdowns — one each rushing, receiving and on a punt return — along with being one of the team’s top return specialists.

An ankle injury cost Johnson playing time early last season as well.

Estelle and Kennedy were the projected starters at both tackle positions prior whatever issue it was that led to their suspensions.

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