Tyler Ferguson

Big Ten spring game wrap-ups

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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.”

CFT Previews: Playoff Predictions

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 19: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes prior to the game Northern Illinois Huskies at Ohio Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images)
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The College Football Playoff barrels into its third year of existence this fall. So far, everything has played perfectly to form: eight bids, eight conference champions. But threats to the status quo lurk. Notre Dame is capable of crashing the party, as is Houston. And there is the threat — and inevitability — that one conference gets two teams in the dance.

Let’s shake some things up.

Behold, CFT‘s super-official, extra-serious College Football Playoff projections:

Peach Bowl: No. 1 Florida State (13-0, ACC champion) vs. No. 4 Michigan (11-1, at-large)

Florida State romps through the regular season, tested only by a 10-point win over Clemson, an eight-point win over Louisville and a three-point squeaker over Florida at the close of the regular season. Michigan, meanwhile, builds momentum with five straight home games to open the season, leading to a cathartic road win at Michigan State and another over Big Ten West champion Iowa. Like 2006, Michigan heads to Columbus for a showdown with national title implications on the line. And, like 2006, the Wolverines fall, but two-loss champions in the Big 12 and Pac-12 allow Jim Harbaugh and company to become the first at-large berth in CFP history.

Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Alabama (12-1, SEC champion) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (12-1, Big Ten champion)

Each team follows its own beaten path to the Playoff. Ohio State overcomes an early loss at Oklahoma to romp through the rest of their schedule, which closes with back-to-back-to-back wins over ranked teams in Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa to close the regular season. Alabama, meanwhile, doesn’t lose until a raucous upset at Tennessee on the second Saturday of October but, for the third year in a row, the Tide ripped through the second half of their schedule — Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn — culminating in a revenge win over Tennessee for the SEC championship and CFP golden ticket.

So, there you have it. There’s basically no point in playing this season now, right?

Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer post at North Carolina

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 16:  Head coach Tim Beckman of the Illinois Fighting Illini gives instructions to his team against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Tim Beckman will no longer volunteer with North Carolina’s football program, it was announced Thursday night.

Head coach Larry Fedora indicated Wednesday his friend and former Illinois head coach was worth the cyclical round of bad press, but this statement from his boss indicated the decision was never run up the proverbial flag pole. Said UNC chancellor Carol Folt:

“When I first learned yesterday that Coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed. The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur. I continue to put a great deal of trust in Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and Coach Fedora to educate and develop our student-athletes and to ensure we meet the high standards we all expect at Carolina.”

Fedora agreed, or at least it was decided for him that he would agree.

“Tim will no longer serve as a volunteer with our program. I brought Tim here to help a friend gain experience from our staff, but after meeting with him today, we agreed his presence had become too much of a distraction.”

Added Beckman:

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Fedora gave me to stay connected to the sport and be around one of the best staffs in the country.  His willingness to help a friend was a benefit both personally and professionally.  I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or University and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC. I wish Larry and the program nothing but success going forward.”

Beckman was forced out at Illinois nearly a year ago today after an investigation by a Chicago law firm uncovered a culture of player mistreatment, where Beckman and his assistants routinely pressured players to play through major injuries, and belittled and threatened those who would not.

Beckman sat out the 2016 season, and now he’ll sit out the ’17 campaign as well.

Stanford names Ryan Burns starting QB; Keller Chryst to see action

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 1: Head coach David Shaw looks up at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks won the game 45-16. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Stanford has named Ryan Burns its starting quarterback, head coach David Shaw announced after practice on Wednesday evening.

A senior, Burns did not throw a pass last season. The only dent he recorded on the Cardinal’s stat sheet was 13 rushing yards on four carries.

Shaw also noted junior Keller Chryst will also see action in Stanford’s opener against Kansas State next Friday night.

“Ryan Burns will start and play a good chunk of the game,” said Shaw. “Keller Chryst will play as well. We’re going to play both guys and try to win a game.

“There hasn’t been a huge separation between the two. Both guys have played extremely well. Ryan has been enough ahead to get the nod.”

Burns has completed one pass in his career — a 13-yard connection against UC Davis in 2014.

Given that lack of experience, it’s a safe bet Burns’ (and Chryst’s) top objectives will be “get it to Christian,” “get it to Christian,” and “for the love of all that’s holy, get it to Christian.”

Stanford enters the season with an FBS-leading streak of 13 straight games reaching at least 30 points.

NCAA reportedly interviewing former Ole Miss recruits in probe into Rebels’ recruiting

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels celebrate his touchdown with teammates during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in  the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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You had to know Laremy Tunsil‘s draft night wouldn’t end on draft night.

In addition to costing him millions of dollars, the screenshots posted on the former Ole Miss offensive tackle’s Instagram account, the NCAA launched an investigation into the Rebels’ recruiting arm which, according to a report from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde, has now expanded beyond Tunsil.

Per Yahoo:

NCAA Enforcement representatives have visited Auburn and Mississippi State, and perhaps at least one more SEC Western Division school, this summer to speak with players who were recruited by Ole Miss. The players were granted immunity from potential NCAA sanctions in exchange for truthful accounts of their recruitment, sources said.

Those interviews indicate that the NCAA investigation has expanded beyond the spring focus on former All-American offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Ole Miss was already in the midst of a lengthy investigation which accused the Rebels of 28 violations — 13 of which came in football and nine under Hugh Freeze. The investigation was nearing its end until the draft night hack.

In the meantime, Ole Miss’s 2017 recruiting efforts have taken a beating.

The 11th-ranked Rebels open their season next Monday night against No. 4 Florida State in Orlando (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).