Gunner Kiel not on Irish’s spring roster, no longer with team

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The saga that is Gunner Kiel has taken yet another twist — likely the final one — as Notre Dame gets set to open spring practice.

The erstwhile Irish quarterback was not listed on the team’s spring roster released Tuesday morning, another in a long line of signs that he’s not long for the South Bend program.  At a preview press conference ahead of the opening of practice tomorrow, head coach Brian Kelly subsequently confirmed that Kiel “is no longer a part of the program.”

Kelly said a release from Kiel’s Notre Dame scholarship was finalized last Friday.

The confirmation from the team comes nearly two weeks after multiple media outlets had reported that Kiel intended to transfer from the Irish.  Those reports followed a couple of months worth of speculation that Kiel was leaning toward moving on from the Irish, even as the player denied in the run-up to the BCS title game that he had even given transferring a thought.

The No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2012, Kiel committed to Indiana in July of 2011 before decommitting three months later. In late December of that year, Kielcommitted to LSU… only to get cold feet two weeks before National Signing Day, reportedly in large part to pleas from mom to stay closer to their Indiana home.

On Jan. 17, Notre Dame announced that Kiel was a member of its Class of 2012 as an early enrollee.

Kiel, the nephew of former Irish QB Blair Kiel, participated in spring practice but was unable to beat out Everett Golson for the starting job. Kiel was the scout-team QB in 2012 while Golson led the Irish to a perfect 12-0 mark in the regular season and a spot in the BCS championship game.

After redshirting last season, Kelly said the door was open for Kiel to wrest the job away from Golson.

“We had created an opportunity for him to compete in the spring, so I was a little surprised from that standpoint,” Kelly said of the departure.

Along with Golson, 2011 starter/2012 closer Tommy ReesAndrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire will be a part of the quarterback competition beginning in the spring. Hendrix was a four-star member of Rees’ class, while Zaire, also a Rivals.com four-star player rated as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country, is an early enrollee as part of this year’s Irish recruiting class who will participate this spring.

UCF to be without starting LT for Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn

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UCF will have its head coach for one of the biggest games in the football program’s history, but they’ll be without their quarterback’s blindside protector.

According to Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel, Aaron Evans will not play in No. 12 UCF’s Peach Bowl matchup with No. 7 Auburn New Year’s Day.  The specific nature of the injury that will sideline the offensive lineman wasn’t detailed.

The past three seasons, Evans started 36 of 37 games at left tackle.  12 of those starts came during the Knights run to a perfect regular season and American Athletic Conference championship that helped propel them to a New Year’s Six bowl.

With Evans out, Jake Brown will likely get the start against the Tigers.  Brown started 11 games at left guard for the Knights this season.

Baylor reportedly losing QB Zach Smith to transfer

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Two-thirds of the way through a one-win season, Zach Smith lost his job as the starting quarterback at Baylor.  Nearly three weeks later, it appears the sophomore has decided to ply his future football wares elsewhere.

According to ESPN Radio‘s Central Texas affiliate, Smith will be transferring from the Bears football program.  An official announcement, either from the player or the team or both, is expected to go down at some point in the not-too-distant future.

As a true freshman, Smith started the last four games of the 2016 season because of an injury to starter Seth Russell.  He started six games this past season before true freshman Charlie Brewer started the last four.  Brewer is now the only scholarship quarterback the Bears have on their roster.

Smith will leave Waco having thrown for 2,997 yards and 21 touchdowns.  The highlight of his career was a 463-yard, four-touchdown performance in an eight-point loss to Oklahoma this past September.

Jalen Jelks eschews leaving early for NFL, will return to Oregon

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We haven’t yet reached the first-ever early signing period, and Oregon has already bolstered its 2018 defense.

Jalen Jelks confirmed to The Oregonian that he has decided to push off the NFL and will instead return to Oregon for another season.  The redshirt junior indicated that he needs to work on his game before he takes it to the next level.

“I’m back for sure,” the redshirt junior defensive end told the newspaper. “I talked to my parents and my family and everything and just probably the best decision for me is to make the best out of next season and make a lot more plays than I did this season.

“I missed a lot of plays, and if I can capitalize on that and translate it to next season I could contribute a lot to the draft.”

This season, Jelks led the Ducks in tackles for loss with 15; in sacks with 6.5; and in quarterback hits with four.  The tackles for loss were second in the Pac-12 to Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa‘s 21.5.

Rashaan Salaam’s 1994 Heisman up for auction, could fetch $300K

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A little over a year after his death, one of the most noteworthy pieces of Rashaan Salaam‘s athletic career finds itself up for sale to the public yet again.

According to the Denver Post, the former Colorado star running back’s 1994 Heisman Trophy will be auctioned off next month and is expected to sell for upwards of $300,000. A portion of whatever the trophy fetches will be donated to CTE research.

Salaam, who took his own life at the age of 42 last December, was diagnosed with CTE symptoms postmortem.

After rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Salaam in 1994 became the first, and thus far only, Buffaloes football player to win the most prestigious trophy in college football.  In 2013, Salaam sold the trophy to a sports memorabilia dealer who subsequently sold it to the unnamed individual who is selling it at auction. “The trophy also includes a letter from Salaam, acknowledging the 2013 sale,” the Post wrote.

Based on what we’ve found, the largest amount a Heisman Trophy has ever brought in was the $395,000 a California businessman paid for Minnesota’s Bruce Smith‘s 1941 award in 2005.