2013 NFL Draft

Lather, rinse, repeat: SEC tops again in first-round draft picks

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By now, you know the drill.

With 12 players selected in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL draft, the SEC topped all conferences and tied the ACC (2007) for the most ever in the opening round.  The conference record had been 11 set in 2007.

The past three seasons, 32 of the 96 players selected have come from the conference that’s won the last six BCS championships.

Lagging well behind the SEC were the ACC (seven, which counts new 2013 member Syracuse), the Pac-12 (five) and  Big 12 (three).  Two players from football independents were taken, while the Big Ten, MAC (the No. 1 overall pick, with more on that below) and Conference USA had one player each taken.

The Big Ten, incidentally, narrowly avoided getting shutout in the first round of the draft for the first time since 1953 as Wisconsin’s Travis Fredericks (Dallas Cowboys) was selected with the second-to-last pick of the night.

The only conferences that did not have a player selected were the American Athletic Conference (née Big East), Mountain West and Sun Belt.

Of the 32 players taken last night, 14 were players who left collegiate eligibility on the table for early entry into the NFL.  10 of the 12 SEC draftees were early entrants, while four of the ACC’s seven fell into that category.

As far as individual schools go, Alabama from the SEC and Florida State from the ACC had three players apiece selected.  Florida, Georgia, LSU, North Carolina and Oregon were the only other programs with more than one player taken.

Just two of the 32 players selected came from non-BCS conferences (Central Michigan, Houston).

After the jump are some random notes and quotes sent out by the various sports information departments across the country regarding players selected in the first round of the NFL draft:

— Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher is the first-ever player from the MAC to be selected No. 1 overall; Marshall’s Byron Leftwich (the Herd didn’t move from the MAC to Conference USA until 2005) was selected with the seventh pick of the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, the previous high-water mark for a player from that conference.  The only other Chip selected in the first round was offensive lineman Joe Staley, taken 28th overall in 2007 by the San Francisco 49ers.

— Selected by the Oakland Raiders at No. 12 overall more than five months after nearly dying on a Houston Cougars practice field, cornerback D.J. Hayden became only the second Conference USA player selected in that spot or higher.  Memphis defensive lineman Dontari Poe was chosen at No. 11 by the Kansas City Chiefs last year.

— For the second time the past three years, a Texas A&M Aggie was selected No. 2 overall.  A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, taken by the Kansas City Chiefs, joined linebacker Von Miller (Denver Broncos, 2011) as Aggies selected in that slot.  All told, four Aggies have been selected second overall.  This draft also marked the first time in program history that an Aggie has been picked in the top-ten overall three consecutive years.

Ezekiel Ansah (No. 5, Detroit Lions) is the first BYU player selected in the Top Five since Jim McMahon was also taken No. 5 overall and also by an NFC Central/North club (Chicago Bears).

— With the selections of cornerback Dee Milliner (No. 9, New York Jets) and offensive lineman Chance Warmack (No. 10, Tennessee Titans), Alabama has seen a total of six of its players taken in the Top 10 of the draft the past three years.

— Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker was selected by the San Diego Chargers right after former teammate Warmack, marking the first time in NFL draft history that players from the same school had been selected with back-to-back-to-back picks in the first round (USC had three straight players taken in the seventh round of the 2011 draft).  Oddly enough, Alabama will be looking to become the first program in the BCS era to earn a crystal three-peat.

— Staying on the Tide tip, 14 players have been selected in the first round since Nick Saban took over in 2007, with 11 of those coming the past three years.

— North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper (No. 7, Arizona Cardinals) is the first guard picked in the top 10 since Colorado’s Chris Naeole was selected by the New Orleans Saints at No. 10 in 1997.

— Defensive lineman Dion Jordan (No. 3, Miami Dolphins) and offensive lineman Kyle Long (No. 20, Chicago Bears) are the first two Oregon Ducks selected in the same first round since 1972.

— Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is the first Clemson player to leave the school after his junior year and become a first round pick since Anthony Simmons was the 15th pick of the first round in the 1998 draft.  Trevor Pryce (1997) and Chester McGlockton (1992) are the other two Clemson juniors to come out early and be a first-round selection. At 20 years, 10 months and 13 days, Hopkins is also the youngest first-round draft choice in Clemson history.

— Saban, on adding to the Tide’s first-round legacy: “I think we are really proud of our players, first of all. We have had three first-round guys so far, and we have had three or four every year for the last few years. I am really proud of the coaches that helped develop them. It is great to be able to watch our player’s dreams come true in the draft.

— “While it took a while to find the right position for him to maximize his athletic potential,” Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said of Lane Johnson, who came to OU as a quarterback. “I have no doubt that he has a huge upside and will only get better with more experience playing tackle. Coach Kittle and Coach Patton did a tremendous job of quickly acclimating him to compete at a high level, while Coach Schmidt and our strength staff did an outstanding job of accelerating his physical development. Lane is a special individual and we’ll anxiously follow his progress this fall along with our many other Sooners in the NFL.

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.

San Jose State QB Malik Watson latest to take grad transfer route

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  The San Jose State Spartans marching band plays their fight song against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the second quarter on November 29, 2013 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California.  The Spartans won 62-52.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college football player has decided to ply his final season of college football wares elsewhere.

The latest to take that tack is Malik Watson, who announced via Twitter that he has “decided that I will not be returning to San Jose State for my senior and will be seeking elsewhere to pursue my dream.”  As Watson will graduate from SJSU this May, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 if he lands at another FBS school and enrolls in a grad program not offered at his former school.

Watson added that, as he awaits a new destination, he “will continue to train with my private QB coach in this meantime.”

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A California high school product who was born in Hawaii, Watson transferred from the junior college ranks to SJSU in 2014. After redshirting that first year, the 6-3, 208-pound Watson played in two games as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart.

In that time, Watson completed 9-of-15 passes for 59 yards and an interception. Of the 15 attempts, 14 came in the Week 3 loss to Oregon State.

Illini grad transfer T.J. Neal to visit WVU, Auburn

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMPER 27: Linebacker T.J. Neal #52 of the Illinois Fighting Illini arches of running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskersduring their game at Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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T.J. Neal does not yet know where he will continue his collegiate career, but it appears the linebacker has significantly narrowed the field.

A little less than two weeks ago, Neal, after being told by the coaching staff that they were planning to move him from middle to strongside linebacker, decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program.  As he will be a graduate transfer upon earning his degree in May, Neal will be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2016.

Enter West Virginia and Auburn, two teams which have been in contact with Neal and vice versa.  According to al.com, Neal will visit Morgantown this coming Monday, then head to The Plains a week later.

Upon the announcement of an impending departure, Illini head coach Bill Cubit said the Pennsylvania native “was talking about playing closer to home.”  Even as a move to Auburn would be the exact opposite of that, Neal seems genuinely excited over the prospects.

“Being able to play down there in Alabama, it’s like a dream come true,” Neal told Brandon Marcello of al.com. “From my high school, I never thought I’d play at a big-time school like Auburn. To have a chance now, it’s exciting to play against some of the top players in the country.”

According to blueandgoldsports.com, Penn State and Pittsburgh are/were also in play. It’s unclear if he’s visited or plans to visit those schools in his home state, although it was originally thought that the Nittany Lions could be high on Neal’s to-do list.

Not only is Neal a native of McKeesport, Pa., but Tim Banks, the Illini’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach the past four seasons, left in December to become the Nittany Lions’ coordinator.  PSU has also seen a pair of linebackers, Troy Reeder and Gary Wooten Jr., transfer out this month, meaning the opportunity for a starting job would certainly be on the table.

Regardless, Neal expects to make a decision shortly after the Feb. 15 visit to Auburn. He would then enroll in his new school of choice shortly after his graduation from Illinois.

Neal was a two-year starter for the Illini who finished second on the team in tackles (109) this past season.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten for his play in 2015.