Two ‘ahead of the curve’ in Arkansas’ QB race

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With Tyler Wilson off to the NFL after two seasons as Arkansas starting quarterback, arguably the main focus for the Razorbacks during their first spring practice under Bret Bielema is to at least begin the process of separating contenders from pretenders at the position.

One week into the 15 allotted spring sessions?  Two of the contenders appear to be standing a bit taller than the others.

In his first extensive comments to the media since spring practice began a week ago today, Bielema allowed that a pair of Brandons — Allen and Mitchell — have nudged ahead slightly in the chase to replace Wilson.

“I think there is no doubt on offense the key is going to be who is going to be our trigger puller, and I think Brandon Allen (pictured) and Brandon Mitchell both have shown that they’ve been ahead of the curve,” Bielema said in comments distributed by the school.

The fact that Allen and Mitchell would be ahead of the quarterback game just a handful of practices into the spring makes sense.

Allen, the presumptive front-runner heading into the spring, played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2012 as Wilson’s primary backup.  The four-star member of UA’s 2011 recruiting class started one of those games — the 52-0 lay-down at the hands of Alabama — and completed less than 50 percent of his passes (21-49) for one touchdown and three interceptions on the season.  As the No. 5 pro-style QB in his class, and on paper, it appears to be Allen’s job to lose.

Mitchell, on the other hand, comes into his redshirt senior spring after spending the 2012 season at the wide receiver position — for the most part.  In 2011, Mitchell served as Wilson’s backup after falling short in that season’s competition.

Technically speaking, though, it’s a five-man competition, with Brian Buehner, A.J. Derby and Taylor Reed (no relation) filling in the roster at the position.  The latter two came to the Razorbacks as transfers, Reed from Memphis and Derby from Iowa by way of the JUCO ranks.  Interestingly, Bielema chose to extensively single out the latter when questioned on the battle for the starting job.

“I would say that A.J. Derby has shown that he is definitely a guy that can manage a game,” the coach said. “He has been in that position and impressed us. He is a thirsty kid, who is always eager to learn.”

While Derby may be at least on the periphery of the discussion at the moment — and Reed could eventually based on experience alone (nine starts at Memphis as a true freshman in 2011) — there’s little doubt who has made the biggest impression thus far.

“I would think that the more reps we can get to those five guys the better off we are going to be, especially the top two in Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell,” Bielema said.

In other words, and until further notice, this is a two-horse race for the Hogs.

Georgia Tech dismisses leading rusher Dedrick Mills

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I believe this one would qualify as a significant development.

In a very brief press release, Georgia Tech announced Friday afternoon that Dedrick Mills has been dismissed by Paul Johnson from the football team.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of Tech athletics department rules.

The head coach is expected to meet with the media following practice later on this afternoon.

Regardless of the specific reason for the dismissal, Mills’ departure serves as yet another blow for the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.

Last season, Mills’ 771 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns led all Tech ball carriers.  169 of those yards came in the bowl win over Kentucky.  Mills put up all of those numbers as a true freshman despite being suspended on two different occasions for a total of three games.

Mills’ dismissal is the second huge blow to their 2017 running game as Marcus Marshall, who was second on the team last season with 624 yards, announced in late November that he would be transferring from Tech.  Less than a month later, he moved on to James Madison.

With those twin departures, Clinton Lynch‘s 415 yards last season makes him the team’s leading returning rusher.

LOOK: Notre Dame unveils alternate uniforms honoring Knute Rockne’s legacy

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As you may know, I’m hardly a fan of the alternate uniform craze.  These, though, I can very easily get behind.

Notre Dame on Friday released images of new uniforms the Fighting Irish will wear for their Nov. 18 game against Navy.  From helmet to shoes, the new duds will serve as a head-to-toe tribute to the legendary Knute Rockne.

The players will all have the name “ROCKNE” emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys, while the helmets replicate the leather ones of Rockne’s era.  The cleats also will pay homage to the era in which Rockne, also a former player at the school, coached the Fighting Irish to five national championships from 1918-1930.  In those 13 seasons, the Irish lost just 12 games under Rockne.

Additionally, the sleeves will be adorned with the words from one of Rockne’s most famous speeches.



Penn State OKs James Franklin’s new deal, reportedly worth nearly $6 million annually

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James Franklin is now in some very heady financial company.

Friday morning, Penn State’s Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation, as expected, unanimously approved an amended contract for their head football coach.  While no details were released — that’s expected to happen later today — it’s believed the amended deal will extend through the 2023 season.  Franklin’s old contract ran through 2019.

Additionally, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that the new six-year deal will average $5.8 million annually.  What Franklin’s compensation for 2017 and beyond will, again, be divulged later on today.

The average of $5.8 million a year would make him the fourth-highest-paid coach in college football, behind only Alabama’s Nick Saban and a pair of fellow Big Ten coaches — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

Set to enter his fourth season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin has an overall record of 25-15 at the school.  After a pair of 7-6 seasons to begin his tenure, 2016 was a breakout one for the program as they went 11-3 and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2008.

Expectations are extremely high coming off that breakout season as the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll.

WATCH: Chris Simms cops to accepting $100 handshakes at Texas

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Given the content, what could possibly go wrong in the comments section below?

Chris Simms was a quarterback at Texas from 1999-2002, starting for the Longhorns his last two seasons in Austin. During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show Thursday, Simms, now a studio analyst on NBC‘s coverage of Notre Dame football, freely admitted that he accepted “$100 handshakes” from what he described as “random” boosters at various times while at the school and part of the football team.

“He might have 10 football jerseys for you to sign real quick and you’d sign it, and then he’d… ‘hey, thanks for this I appreciate that’ and give ya a $100 handshake,” Simms said, before going on to say, essentially, it happens everywhere so get over it already.

“For people out there to think like that doesn’t happen, that’s just stupid,” Simms explained. “Like get over it, it’s not a big deal, it’s happening everywhere. It’s happening at Harvard, it’s happening at Division II schools, it’s going on everywhere.”

The pertinent discussion starts at around the 4:16 mark.