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Big Ten spring game wrap-ups

Tyler Ferguson AP

Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the Big Ten Saturday afternoon…

MICHIGAN STATE
To say that the Spartans’ quarterbacks struggled somewhat during today’s spring game would be an understatement of mammoth proportions.

MSU quarterbacks combined to go 22 of 53 for 386 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions.  Last year’s starter and presumptive front-runner for the job this season, Andrew Maxwell, completed just nine of his 20 attempts for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass.  The strong-armed Connor Cook, who has gained some ground on Maxwell this spring, threw for 217 yards and a scoring toss but also completed less than 40 percent of his passes (10-26).  Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor completed five of six passes — three to his offensive teammates, two to his defensive teammates.

All in all, it was rough outing at a position where the Spartans may have more questions exiting spring than they did entering it.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said that the incumbent would top the depth chart entering summer, but stopped short of anointing him as the season-opening starter.

“I think you leave here at the end of spring saying that (Andrew) Maxwell comes into the summer camp number one based on knowledge and consistency in terms of performance.”

For his part, Maxwell feels as if he’s done enough to retain the job.

“I feel like I’ve done everything that I could do to make my case to the coaches to be the guy, and I feel like every day I came out and got better,” the player said. “I took a competitive mindset to every practice, and the ultimate decision is with Coach D.”

– The Spartans’ defense accounted for two touchdowns in the Green team’s 24-17 win over the White squad: a Chris Laneaux 25-yard interception return and a fumble recovery by Kyler Elsworth that was returned 41 yards.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Burbridge caught five passes for 113 yards.

– Former MSU quarterback great Kirk Cousins, now Robert Griffin III‘s backup in Washington, returned to the East Lansing campus as color analyst for the Big Ten Network’s coverage of the game.  Based on Cousins’ comments, it doesn’t appear this will be his last rodeo in the booth.

“I want the football thing to last as long as it possibly can, but at the same time, in the offseason it makes a lot of sense to pursue other opportunities and prepare yourself for whenever football ends,” Cousins said. “And that’s why I’m here today, and it’s just a bonus I get to be back in familiar territory, watching the team that I love.”

– One of the coolest parts of the Spartans’ spring game was their helmets.  Specifically, the stickers on the back of the helmets honoring those who were killed or injured by the bombings at last Monday’s Boston Marathon.  Very classy gesture:

Michigan State Helmets

PENN STATE
If you were an individual looking for some clarity at the quarterback position coming out of the Nittany Lions’ spring game, you are likely somewhat disappointed at this point in time.

Following the game, head coach Bill O’Brien stated very firmly that neither Steven Bench nor Tyler Ferguson (pictured) had grabbed hold of the starting job and the competition would continue into the “voluntary” workouts and on into summer camp.  Both players completed nine of 15 passes, with Bench throwing for 99 yards and Ferguson 90.  Ferguson tossed two touchdown passes to Bench’s one.

As has been the case for most of the spring, the second-year coach was, for the most part, pleased with the duo’s performance.

“I thought they both (Bench and Ferguson) produced,” O’Brien said. “I thought both had some nice throws. Like everybody, coaches and players included, in every game you play, you wish you had some plays back. I’m sure they do too. I thought they both did some decent things out there today.”

In his post-game talk with reporters, O’Brien made it perfectly clear where the competition stands.

“I’d say, no, I’m not any closer as I sit here right now,” the coach said when asked about naming a starter. “Eventually, I’ll have to make a decision.”

O’Brien added that he will now go back and look at all of the spring practice tapes as they work toward naming a starter at the position.

The real competition, though, won’t begin until August; Christian Hackenberg, a five-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in this year’s class, will join the competition this summer, with most expecting the Virginia product to make a very serious run at the starting job as a true freshman.

– In front of 28,000 or so fans who braved the rain and snow and cold, the the Blue team (defense) dropped the White squad (offense), 67-47.  It was the second straight year the defense has “won” the spring game.

A big reason for the defensive win?  The Nittany Lions’ defense accounted for nine sacks, which counted four points apiece in the scoring system utilized by O’Brien.

– Youth was certainly served for the Nittany Lions as the school noted that all six players who ran, caught or threw a touchdown will be a freshman or sophomore this season.  Both of the front-runners for the starting QB job will be sophomores.

– Another of the young ones was running back Akeel Lynch, who led all rushers with 83 yards on his 13 carries.

– “I feel terrible because I love that city,” O’Brien said of the tragic events in Boston this past week. “I grew up 20 minutes north of that city and my brother Tommy is heavily involved in that city and so is my older brother and my dad and my mom so I feel terrible for them. … Boston is a very resilient city and we caught him last night so that was good.”

WISCONSIN
At the end of Gary Andersen‘s first spring as the Badgers’ head coach, and in the midst of a crowded quarterback competition, it was UW’s defense winning most of the plaudits in Madison Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to the “unique” scoring systems that are all the rage during spring games, the final score appears to be a high-scoring offensive affair: Cardinal 61, White 47.  The former team consisted of the Badgers’ defense, the latter the offense.

The game wasn’t a true measure of either unit, however, as Andersen lamented afterwards that “[w]e’re basically missing six starters right now on the defensive side that didn’t play a snap today, and four or five on the offensive side.”

Also, the fact that the game was televised on the Big Ten Network led Andersen to keep his team’s cards very close to his vest.

“I will say this: Defense today was very vanilla. Offensively, we were very generic, and defensively, we were very generic,” the former Utah State head coach said. “We did throw the ball, bottom line, and we did catch the ball better than we have all spring, and that was very encouraging.”

– The Cardinal team totaled 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the game.  As those plays were worth two points apiece, the defense scored 36 of its 61 points off those two types of plays.  They also earned 24 points off of eight three-and-outs.

– As far as the quarterback battle goes, two players, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips, received the vast majority of the reps.  Stave completed 15 of his 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Phillips went 8-of-13 for 82 yards.  The other quarterbacks on the roster, including former Maryland Terrapin Danny O’Brien, attempted just three passes each.

– Running back Melvin Gordon, who will be charged with the task of replacing Montee Ball, ran for a team-high 74 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on the ground.  He also added three catches for 35 yards.

– “Yeah, we’re in a good spot,” Andersen said when asked if his team is where he thought it’d be at the end of the spring.  “You’re never going to get everything you want. You’re never going to have it perfect. We wanted consistency. I think we got that. We wanted effort. I think we got that.”

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Texas Tech QB transfer stakes claim to Hokie starting job

Michael Brewer

After the conclusion of spring practice earlier this offseason, it appeared Mark Leal and Brenden Motley would be the two options to replace Logan Thomas at quarterback for Virginia Tech.  As it turns out, it’s the player with the least amount of experience as a Hokie who’ll get that honor.

This afternoon, Tech confirmed that Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer has won the competition for the starting job.  Because Motley, who exited spring as the starter, was hampered by a back issue, the competition had been whittled down to Brewer and Leal.

Brewer didn’t participate in spring practice — he arrived on campus in May — but made up significant ground on Leal since the start of summer camp.

“Both of the guys gave great effort and played very well in preseason, making it a very difficult choice,” head coach Frank Beamer said in a statement. “It was a very close race and we’re proud of both of them.”

Based solely on the timing of his arrival, the move is somewhat of a surprise.

In-mid January, Brewer announced that he would be transferring from Texas Tech after graduating this coming May.  Brewer wanted to transfer to either Texas or TCU but was denied a release to those Big 12 schools, leading to a very messy and public brouhaha between the two sides.

In March, Brewer announced his intention to transfer to the Hokies.

Brewer is a graduate transfer who will, counting this year, have two years of eligibility remaining.  In 2012 and 2013 with the Red Raiders, Brewer played in 13 games (no starts), threw for 440 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in 58 pass attempts.  He completed just over 70 percent of those attempts.

“Both guys are going to be needed in the season,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “You always need a good, solid starter and a good backup. Both of them need to be ready to go. Brenden Motley will be third on the depth chart and will continue to develop.”

Brewer and the Hokies open the season Aug. 30 at Lane Stadium against William & Mary.  Tech’s first real test of the season comes the following week against Ohio State in Columbus.

(Photo credit: Virginia Tech athletics)

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Jabrill Peppers, UM’s top 2014 signee, to be primary punt returner

Brady Hoke, Jabrill Peppers AP

One of the top freshmen in the Class of 2014 will be adding some additional responsibilities his first season at the collegiate level.  And, somewhere, Charles Woodson is smiling over the development.

While not really a surprise, and saying “we want improvement” in that phase of the game, Michigan’s Brady Hoke confirmed Friday that star 2014 signee Jabrill Peppers will be utilized as the Wolverines’ primary punt returner.  After averaging just over six yards a return last season, one of the fastest players in the most recent recruiting class certainly won’t do anything but help that unit.

That’ll be Jabrill,” the head coach said when asked about the job of returning punts. “I think, No. 1, we’re putting a lot of our best guys on the field. I think that’s a plus. I think we’ve had some (punt returners) in the last three years that have been decent, and sometimes maybe we haven’t fielded the ball as well as we should sometimes.”

In addition to his punt-return duties, Peppers will play an integral role in UM’s secondary this season, whether it be as a starter or a nickel cornerback. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said a couple of weeks ago that Peppers wouldn’t just be handed a job; with game day a week away, the defensive back has done just that.

Peppers was a consensus five-star recruit, rated as the No. 1 corner and the No. 3 player at any position in the country. Peppers served as the highest-rated recruit UM has ever signed since the founding of Rivals‘ back in 2002. The previous high? Ryan Mallett as the No. 4 player in the Class of 2007.

Oh yeah, and as I said, he’s kind of a fast human being.

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Volcano continues to threaten Penn State-UCF game in Ireland

Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano AP

Earlier this week it was reported that a volcano 900 miles away in Iceland could have an impact on the Penn State-UCF football game in Ireland.  Specifically, an eruption and the ensuing ash cloud could prevent the two teams from traveling to the Emerald Isle as air travel would be restricted or downright shutdown.

While the volcano has yet to full erupt, it’s threatening to.

In the latest development, it appears that sub-glacial eruptions have already taken place.  From the Associated Press:

Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano began erupting Saturday under the country’s largest glacier after a week of seismic activity rattled the area with thousands of earthquakes, the country’s Meteorological Office said.

The eruption prompted Iceland to raise its aviation alert level to red — the highest level on a five-point scale — indicating the threat of “significant emission of ash into the atmosphere.”

Seismic data indicates that magma from the volcano is melting ice beneath the Dyngjujokull icecap on the Vatnajokull glacier, Met Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said.

As of right now, Iceland’s Civil Protection Department said, “[a]ll airports are open and flights are on schedule.” How long that remains the case depends on whether there’s a full-blown eruption. The AP wrote that “it could take up to a day for the ice to melt,” meaning a cloud of ash and steam could still be released into the atmosphere, “or the eruption might remain contained beneath Europe’s largest glacier.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, UCF is planning on sending its equipment to Ireland at some point today, while the team and accompanying personnel will travel to the island Tuesday. The school told the Sentinel that while it “is aware of the eruption in Iceland and is monitoring the situation… they are working with their travel agency and have no plans to alter their travel schedule.”

And, if you’re interested in a live look at the volcano in question, click HERE.

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Petersen suspends one, dismisses another from UW Huskies

Derrick Brown

The new sheriff in town isn’t screwing around, in case his players haven’t previously noticed.

In a press release early Saturday afternoon, Washington announced that tight end Derrick Brown (pictured) has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by head coach Chris Petersen for violating unspecified team rules.  Additionally, defensive back Devon Washington has been dismissed from the football program for the same vague reason.

UW did state in the release that, “[t]o be clear, the disciplinary measures issued to Brown and Washington are the result of two unrelated matters.”

Brown is the only one of the two who had played for the Huskies, and that was just four contests the past three seasons. A three-star member of UW’s 2011 recruiting class, Brown originally came to the Huskies as a dual-threat quarterback. After throwing five passes his first two seasons, he moved to H-back during the start of summer camp in 2013. Prior to his suspension, he wasn’t listed on any two-deep depth charts.

As for Washington, he was a three-star member of UW’s most recent recruiting class.

(Photo credit: Washington athletics)

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UK WR to miss two games… after taking tennis ball to the eye

Kentucky v Vanderbilt

Well, this is one you don’t hear about every day when it comes to the game of football — a case of tennis eye costing a team a significant contributor.

Kentucky wide receiver Jeff Badet will miss at least the first two games of the 2014 season due to an eye injury he incurred recently. And, just how was the injury incurred? By, as previously reported here, an errant tennis ball.

Yep, the receiver took a tennis ball to the eye, with the aftereffects severe enough that it’ll cost him, at bare minimum, two games to start the season.

“We really believe catching tennis balls are great for eye-hand coordination,” said UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown. “It’s something (coach Hal) Mumme brought here when I was playing. Others have used it and I’ve used it and never had an issue. I’ve never heard of it being an issue for anybody else, either.”

Badet “has not practiced since I want to say the fourth or fifth day in camp,” Brown said, with the injury occurring two Tuesdays ago. The Wildcats’ first two games are against UT-Martin and Ohio University, at Commonwealth Stadium, so Badet’s availability isn’t critical.

Week 3, however, Kentucky travels to The Swamp to take on Florida. Head coach Mark Stoops intimated that Badet may not be available then, either.

“From what I understand, these injuries take some time, and we have to be very careful with that, that that type of injury,” Stoops said.

As a true freshman last season, Badet caught 22 passes for 285 yards.  During spring practice this year, Badet suffered a broken fibula, which had limited him during summer camp prior to the eye injury.

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SJSU suspends leading rusher for first two games

Jarrod Lawson AP

I’m not a head coach, nor have I ever slept at a Holiday Inn Express, but I wouldn’t think this would be the optimal way to head into the start of a new season.

San Jose State’s Ron Caragher announced Friday that Jarrod Lawson has been suspended for the first two games of the Spartans’ 2014 season. As a result, the running back will miss a home game against North Dakota and a road trip to Jordan-Hare to face Auburn. He’ll be eligible to return, following a bye weekend, for the game at Minnesota Sept. 20.

Other than “unspecified violations of team rules,” no reason was given for the rather significant punitive measures.

“He’s a great kid,” the head coach said. “He’s all into the ramifications and will do whatever to help the team. We look forward to his return.”

Lawson was easily the Spartans’ leading rusher last season, with his 788 yards easily outpacing Thomas Tuckers‘ 338. He’s also a threat out of the backfield, with 20 catches for another 223 yards in 2013.

The San Jose Mercury News does write, though, that Lawson “was expected to begin the year as a co-starter at running back along with… Thomas.”

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Venric Mark transfers to (West) Texas A&M

Vanderbilt v Northwestern Getty Images

A mere 10 days after he and Northwestern “parted ways,” Venric Mark has found a new college football home.

Speaking to ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad, Mark confirmed that he will use his final season of eligibility at West Texas A&M.  That was one of two Div. II schools Mark had considered, along with Northwest Missouri State.  He had also considered walking on at Texas Tech.

However, the latter option would’ve required him to file an appeal for a waiver that would grant him immediate eligibility as he’s one class short of graduating.  There were FBS programs willing to file the waiver, “[b]ut I couldn’t gamble with my last year with no guarantees,” Mark told Schad.

Mark, who is already practicing with his new teammates, mentioned Baylor, Texas State, Houston, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, SMU and Kansas as programs he looked into. Whether the interest was reciprocated is unclear.

As for choosing the D-II A&M, Mark said the proximity to his mom and an ailing grandmother proved to be a significant factor.

“This is an hour and half from my Mom. It’s the best fit,” Mark said.

In the middle of last week, it was announced that Mark had abruptly and surprisingly decided to withdraw from classes and transfer from Northwestern for “personal reasons.” That decision came a handful of days after it was announced the running back had been suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Mark, a redshirt senior, missed all but three games in 2013 due to injury and received a medical hardship waiver for the 2014 season.  In 2012, he led the Wildcats in rushing with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns.

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Bobby Bowden not a fan of the dadgum College Football Playoff

Bobby Bowden AP

A couple of years ago, prior to the formation of the College Football Playoff, Bobby Bowden enthusiastically stated that he would be willing to serve on a hypothetical committee that would hypothetically determine the hypothetical playoff participants.

I would be willing to serve on it,” the Florida State coaching legend said in June of 2012. “I think ex-coaches have a lot of wisdom. I watch the games. And I watch the game films on my iPad.”

Fast-forward 26 months. The CFP is entering its first season, replete with a 13-member committee that will select the four playoff teams at season’s end. Bowden, though, is not a part of it. In fact, there are just three former FBS head coaches (Barry Alvarez, Tom Osborne, Tyrone Whittingham) who will serve on the committee.

Coincidentally enough or not, Bowden is now voicing fear and trepidation over the playoff system as it’s currently constituted.

“I always thought they got one and two right. Really people don’t care about three and four,” Bowden said while attending the kickoff luncheon in Akron, where his son, Terry Bowden, is the Zips head coach. “It’s going to give more teams an opportunity to play for the national championship, but I like it the way it was. I’m not sure it’s going to work. Maybe it will turn out better. …

“Now No. 5 is really upset. No. 5 says we should have been in that dadgum top four. That’s what three said. You get the same debate going on down the line.”

(Writer’s note: I’ve said it before and I’ll continuing beating it into the ground for as long as it takes: it’s progress that we will be arguing over the Nos. 4 and 5 teams instead of the Nos. 2 and 3. Just like it’ll be progress when — not if — the field is expanded to eight teams and we’re arguing over Nos. 8 and 9 and not Nos. 4 and 5.)

Bowden also expressed concern over access for the Non-Power Five conferences — the AAC, Conference USA, MAC (his son’s current conference), MWC and Sun Belt.

“I don’t like that. I liked it where Boise State had a chance, where smaller schools have a chance.” Bowden said. “Now they’re just [favoring] the rich people, the schools that have it all.”

OK, two things Coach Bowden.

One, no Non-Power Five school ever played for the BCS championship, so there’ll be no difference under the new system if it never happens. Two, with the CFP, the highest-ranked Non-Power Five team is guaranteed a spot in a marquee — think old BCS — bowl game. That was not the case under the old system. In fact, during the 16 years of the old system, just seven Non-Power Five teams qualified for a BCS bowl berth. And those came in six seasons (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 (2), 2010, 2012). By the end of the 2021 season, more Non-Power Five teams will have played in CFP bowls in eight years than did in the entire 16-year history of the BCS.

Additionally, the Non-Power Five conferences will receive five times as much in revenue from the CFP than they did from the BCS.

In other words, the financial benefits and access are much greater and better, respectively, in a new vs. old comparison. Yes, it’s not a level playing field; thing is, it never was in the past, won’t be in the present and never will be in the future.

That said, a team like Boise State stands a better chance of winning a national championship now than under the BCS, if for nothing more than the fact that there are four slots open now on the road to a title instead of just two. Bump that field to eight and the little guys can once again be a yearly factor.

The CFP is far from perfect, but it’s a far piece better than the BCS.

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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 6 UCLA

Washington v UCLA Getty Images

2013 record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Pac-12 Conference (2nd in South division)
2013 postseason: Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (42-12 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 16/No. 16
Head coach: Jim Mora (19-8 overall; 19-8 in three years at UCLA)
Offensive coordinator: Noel Mazzone (3rd year at UCLA)
2013 offensive rankings: 35th rushing offense (196.6 ypg); 43rd passing offense (251.8 ypg); 38th total offense (448.5 ypg); 2oth scoring offense (36.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: nine
Defensive coordinator: Jeff Ulbrich (3rd year at UCLA)
2013 defensive rankings: 71st rushing defense (169.5 ypg); 40th passing defense (217.6 ypg);  54th total defense (387.1 ypg); 35th scoring defense (23.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Los Angeles
Stadium: Rose Bowl (92,542; grass)
Last conference title: 1998

THE GOOD
The talent on UCLA’s roster makes the Bruins contenders in the Pac-12 Conference. The play of quarterback Brett Hundley can place the team in national title contention. Hundley is among the Top 3 quarterbacks in college football along with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Like Mariota, Hundley would have a first-round pick in May’s NFL draft if he decided to declare early. But he decided to stay in Westwood. The Bruins will gladly continue to build around their talented quarterback. Hundley is an impressive athlete at 6-3 and 226 pounds. Last season. Hundley threw for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led the team with 748 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. One of the reasons Hundley returned to UCLA for his redshirt junior campaign is to become a better overall quarterback. Hundley did improve his decision making through the final six games of last season. He only threw one of his nine interceptions after Oct. 26. As Hundley continues to develop his overall game, the Bruins will be the biggest beneficiary. And top-notch quarterback play is a key ingredient for any program ready to make the jump from being good to great.

THE BAD
UCLA head coach Jim Mora is a defensive coach by nature. It had to drive him crazy to see the Bruins play as poorly on defense as they did last seson. The Bruins actually finished fifth overall in the Pac-12 in total defense, but that is more an indictment of the overall defensive play around the league. The country’s 71st overall rushing defense simply isn’t good enough. UCLA wants to be able to compete with any team in the country. And it has to be better on defense. The team relied heavily on two talented freshmen, Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark, along the defensive line last season. Both should naturally improve during their sophomore campaigns. While the team’s starting front is talented, the depth is questionable beyond Ellis McCarthy. Players such as junior Kevin McReynolds, need to provide quality reps as part of the team’s defensive line rotation for them to improve significantly against the run. Isaako Savaiinaea will also be inserted into the starting lineup to replace Jordan Zumwalt at inside linebacker. UCLA knows what to expect of senior linebacker Eric Kendricks, but Savaiinaea’s play could prove to be the difference in the Bruins’ defense as a whole. The Bruins’ progression on the defensive side of the football should be the primary indicator how far the team can go this season.

THE UNKNOWN
UCLA’s offense line was in constant flux in 2013. The team used four different offensive line combinations throughout the season. The team actually changed its starting lineup in six of its last seven games. A lack of continuity up front will have a drastic effect throughout the rest of the offense. While this shouldn’t be a concern which lingers between seasons, the Bruins have already started off on the wrong foot with at least one significant injury along this year’s offensive line. Left tackle Simon Goines will miss at least the first two games of the season after he had bone spurs removed in his ankle Aug. 9. Malcolm Bunche, a Miami transfer, has 13 career starts at left tackle, and he is expected to slide into the spot vacated by Goines. Once Goines returns, the coaching staff will have shuffle the starting lineup. How many times will they have to do so this season? Will Bunche slide inside to guard once Goines is healthy or he remain on the blindside? The fact of the matter is UCLA won’t have their top offensive line on the field until week three of the season with very little practice time as an entire unit. Goines is expected to return just in time for one of the Bruins’ biggest games of the season against Texas. However, he won’t have much time to build a rapport with the rest of the unit. The only ones who will suffer if the offensive can’t gel quickly are Hundley and the rest of UCLA’s skill positions.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Stanford
It’s been six years since UCLA defeated Stanford. To put that time frame into context, the 2008 season was Rick Neuheisel’s first at UCLA. It was Jim Harbaugh‘s second with the Cardinal. Stanford has gone on to become one of the most successful and intimidating teams in the Pac-12 Conference. The Bruins, meanwhile, have searched for an identity and found one under head coach Jim Mora. This game will be Mora’s opportunity to truly put his stamp on the program. It’s the last game of the regular season. Both UCLA and Stanford are expected to be battling for an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game. Since the game falls on a Friday, both teams will have short practice weeks. The Bruins want to prove they’re among the Pac-12’s elite and a potential national championship contender. Stanford is as tough a team as the Bruins will face all season.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: linebacker/running back Myles Jack
Hundley is the obvious choice here. There is, however, a natural curiosity that will draw college football fans and Heisman voters to Jack. On one hand, Jack is one of the best young linebackers in college football. On the other, he is a dynamic runner when the Bruins decide to hand him the football. Last season, Jack was third on the Bruins’ defense with 49 tackles. He also added seven tackles for loss and 13 deflected passes while dropping in coverage. On offense, Jack led the team with an average of 7.0 yards per carry. He only ran the ball 38 times, yet he was second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns. And Jack accomplished these numbers as a true freshman. The “runningbacker” simply brings a completely different dynamic to both sides of the football. He’ll be expected to make the big play on defense in crucial parts of the game. And the team clearly favors him when they’re around the goal line on offense. The novelty of Jack playing both ways will draw interest from fans around the country. It’s his talent and ability to play at a high level on both sides of the football that will make him a legitimate Heisman contender.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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USC’s Tre Madden a ‘game-time decision’

Tre Madden AP

The latest update on one of USC’s top options in the running game is not a positive one.

Tre Madden has been dealing with a lingering toe injury he suffered early on in summer camp.  Head coach Steve Sarkisian said after practice Thursday that “[w]e’re taking every precautionary action we can to make sure that Tre is great and ready to go when his time is called again.”

Madden’s time doesn’t appear to be the opener against Fresno State in a week as Sarkisian said the running back is “probably a game-time decision.”  The coach’s declaration came after Madden, who has been wearing a walking boot on his right foot, missed yet another practice session.

The player hasn’t practiced with his teammates since a scrimmage Monday night, and visited foot specialists Thursday and Friday in an attempt to speed up the recovery process..

“When you start messing with a running back and his feet or his toes, his ability to push off, they just don’t overnight, all of a sudden, get better,” Sarkisian said. “We’re trying to maximize his rest. We’re trying to keep him off his feet as best we can to get him as healthy as quickly as we can and hopefully have him ready to go for next Saturday.”

The injury bug has dogged Madden throughout his Trojans career.

During the first five games last season, Madden rushed for 583 yards and three touchdowns.  The last eight, three of which he didn’t record a carry as he battled a hamstring issue, Madden totaled just 120 yards and didn’t find the end zone.  His 703 yards were second on the team to the 785 yards for Javorius Allen, who figures to be the Trojans’ bell cow in the running game this year.

During spring practice in 2012, Madden tore an ACL and missed the entire season.

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‘Failure to monitor’ adds two years to GaTech’s probation

Paul Johnson AP

Thank goodness we still have the NCAA on the lookout for the well-being of the sport.

The latest example?  Thursday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “Georgia Tech has been censured by the NCAA for… failure to monitor” because of “a failure to keep records of phone calls and the rogue actions of a former football assistant coach.” That rogue coach is Todd Spence, who left the Yellow Jackets in January of 2012 after serving a one-game suspension for making impermissible phone calls to recruits.

While there was a “rogue coach” involved, it appears an incompetent — and former — compliance director is at the root of the latest NCAA issue.  Well, that and a broken and busted system, but that’s another topic for another day.

The NCAA’s two-year investigation, conducted with Tech’s cooperation, found multiple Level II violations, which are defined as a significant breach of conduct, committed in 2011 and 2012. Many stemmed from coaches on the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams unknowingly making impermissible phone calls to prospects. Coaches told the NCAA that they were acting under the incorrect instruction from a former Tech compliance director that they did not need to do so. Calls were often rendered impermissible due to a failure to follow a call-logging protocol.

In July of 2011, Tech was placed on four year’s probation and forced to vacate its 2009 ACC title in connection to impermissible benefits given to former star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas — and the school’s failure to cooperate with the NCAA investigation. This latest “egregious” act will tack on two more years of probation for Yellow Jacket football, which means the program will be sitting in the corner until the summer of 2017.  The school self-imposed the additional two years of probation.

“That is not something that sits well with me or with any of us here,” GT athletic director Mike Bobinski told the Journal-Constitution regarding the “failure to monitor” reprimand. “That’s not a good-sounding or good-feeling term. It’s not one we want to wear beyond this. As I told you before, it is clearly our intention this the last time we ever go down this road.”

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UofL’s DeVante Parker injures foot, to see specialist; WR tweets ‘I’m fine’

DeVante Parker, Jordan Streeter AP

This one has the potential to be a very significant blow to one of the most talented players in the country.

Late Friday night, Louisville sent out a press release announcing that DeVante Parker had suffered an injury to his left foot earlier in the day.  The release stated that the star wide receiver was examined by UofL team physicians, but will be sent to Charlotte “in the next couple of days” for further evaluation by Dr. Bob Anderson.

Dr. Anderson is a renowned orthopedic surgeon who specializes in ankle and foot injuries.  According to SBNation.com, “Anderson has recently seen and/or operated on Derek Jeter, Matt Schaub, Cam Newton and Julio Jones for their serious ankle or foot injuries.”

For his part, Parker attempted to downplay the growing gloom and doom hovering over Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

That’s all well and good, but a football program doesn’t send their star receiver out of state to see a foot specialist for a stubbed toe or athlete’s foot.

Perhaps the only silver lining in all of the uncertainty swirling around Parker is that, if he is sidelined for any length of time, the receiving corps is arguably the deepest unit the Cardinals have.  Then again, none of them will answer if you call out the name “Devante Parker.”

Last season, the 6-3, 211-pound Parker ended the year with 55 receptions for 885 yards and a school-record-tying 12 touchdowns. The last three years, Parker’s led the UofL in touchdown receptions. The last two, he’s led the team in both receptions and yards as well.

He’s widely regarded as one of the top receivers in the country entering 2014 after eschewing early entry into the NFL draft and returning for his senior season.

Louisville opens the season against Miami on Labor Day.

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NCAA denies Dorial Green-Beckham’s appeal

Dorial Green-Beckham

The fate of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been decided by the NCAA.

Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma in July after Missouri dismissed the talented receiver due to multiple off-the-field incidents. Oklahoma filed an appeal on Green-Beckham’s behalf last week. The NCAA officially denied the appeal Friday.

Oklahoma released a statement after the NCAA announced its decision:

“The University of Oklahoma has learned that the waiver request it entered on behalf of Dorial Green-Beckham has been denied by the NCAA. The University accepts that decision and will continue to provide the appropriate assistance to Dorial, just as it does with other students, in helping him grow personally from the many opportunities available to him at OU.”

Of course the University “accepts that decision.” It shouldn’t even be surprised by the outcome due to recent incidents with other members of its football team.

The tipping point for Green-Beckham at Missouri was an incident where he allegedly pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

It’s the type of incident the University of Oklahoma publicly stated “takes very seriously its obligation in cases like this…”

The school suspended its leading tackler, Frank Shannon, for the season after sexual assault allegations.  The school did the same to running back Joe Mixon after he allegedly punched a woman in the face and caused four broken bones.

If the Sooners found a loophole — in this case, the run off rule — to allow Green-Beckham to play this season, the school’s actions would have been seen as highly hypocritical. Instead, all three players won’t be allowed to play during the upcoming campaign.

Make no mistake about it — the Sooners were hopeful Green-Beckham could play this season. He’s mega-talent at wide receiver. Instead, the team will have to rely heavily on Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.

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Maryland’s leading receiver, senior linebacker arrested

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - Marshall v Maryland

The Maryland Terrapins may be without the team’s leading receiver from last season and a major contributor on special teams for an undetermined amount of time.

Junior wide receiver Levern Jacobs and senior linebacker Alex Twine were arrested Thursday on charges of second-degree assault. The original charges stem from an April 19 incident.

“We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more information” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall told the Baltimore Sun‘s Matt Zentiz. “We take these matters very seriously. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Last season, Jacobs led the team with 47 receptions for 640 yards. Although, Jacobs wasn’t expected to start for the Terrapins this season due to Maryland’s depth at wide receiver.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do at the receiver position,” Edsall told InsideMDSports.com’s Josh Stirn at the start of fall camp. “We’ve got to step it up a bit. We’re not looking for receivers that can just catch the ball around here. This isn’t flag football. This isn’t a 7 on 7. We’ve got to have complete receivers. We’ve got to get our receivers to do that and our receivers have got to make sure that they listen to Keenan [McCardell] and do exactly what they ask them to do. If they do that with the talent they have, they can be very good. But we’re not there yet and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Jacobs current predicament will create more opportunities for his younger brother, Tavion Jacobs, who impressed the coaching staff this summer.

Twine, meanwhile, made 12 starts and played in 34 games since becoming a member of the Terrapins. Twine provides critical depth at linebacker while serving as Maryland’s special teams ace.

Due to Edsall’s reaction to the their arrests, both will likely face suspensions from the team.

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Five-star RB plans to stay at Oklahoma

Photo credit: Rivals

Joe Mixon isn’t leaving the University of Oklahoma.

Mixon was suspended from all football activities for a year Monday after the Cleveland County (Oklahoma) District Attorney’s office charged him with one misdemeanor count of an act resulting in gross injury.

The running back maintains his innocence in the matter, and the automatic question asked was whether or not he would remain at the school after its decision.

Mixon emphatically answered the question via twitter.

As part of the suspension, Mixon will not be allowed to participate in team activities and he will be excluded from the team’s roster. But Mixon can remain a student at the university and eligible for financial aid under the “appropriate conditions.”

Mixon’s presence would have been a boost to this year’s backfield. The Sooners, however, are not devoid of talent at running back. Sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross will be relied upon this fall, and Mixon will join the team’s stable of running backs in 2015.

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