AJ McCarron to drive pace car at Talladega


Normally NASCAR news would fall under the purview of the fine folks at MotorSportsTalk.com, but when a two-time title-winning quarterback is involved we feel the need to at least touch on the subject.

The subject in this case is Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who will serve as the honorary pace car driver for this Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway it was announced Tuesday.  McCarron, a fan of the sport in general and the Alabama track in particular, said in a press release that he’s “always had a passion to get up to speed on the track.”

Unfortunately for the senior, he won’t actually be getting “up to speed” on the high-banked, restrictor-plate oval where speeds approach 200 miles per hour; in the pace car, McCarron will be limited to the pit road speed of 55 mph.

Prior to a Crimson Caravan appearance yesterday, head coach Nick Saban, who served as the grand marshal of the 2009 race and got to ride around in the pace car, was asked if he was concerned that the linchpin of his 2013 Tide offense would be tooling around Talladega at what’s essentially state-route speed.  Unless McCarron gets behind the wheel of a jet dryer and Bob Griese’s favorite driver Juan Pablo Montoya is in the area, and with all due respect to the questioner, there’s literally no danger involved.

Saban, though, indicated he’s had a discussion with his quarterback, and actually wishes he’d be going faster than 55 mph around the 2.66 mile layout.

Well, we talked about it,” the coach said according to al.com, adding, “If you don’t go 55 on the curve, you’re not going to stay up on the curve, so it’s actually safer to go faster.”

This weekend will mark the fourth consecutive year that a title-winning school from Alabama has been honored with a paint scheme — and one way cool helmet — on the No. 55/No. 15 Aaron’s car at the Talladega spring race.  Three of those paint schemes, of course, feted the Tide, while the Auburn Tigers were similarly honored in 2011.

Incidentally, former Atlanta Braves icon Chipper Jones will serve as the grand marshal for the race.

Nebraska, UCLA among teams interested in Arizona grad transfer QB Brandon Dawkins

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One thing’s for certain: Brandon Dawkins won’t be lacking suitors, including Power Five ones, in his quest to find a new college football home.

According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com, Florida Atlantic, Indiana, Nebraska and UCLA have all expressed interest in the quarterback. Rittenberg adds that Dawkins has plans to visit the campuses of FAU and IU in the coming weeks.

On Twitter late last month, Dawkins announced that he would be transferring from Arizona.

Dawkins is set to graduate from UA this coming May, which will make him eligible to play immediately in 2018 at wherever he lands. The upcoming season will serve as Dawkins’ final year of eligibility at the collegiate level.

Dawkins started nine games in 2016 and the first four games this past season before the force of nature known as Khalil Tate took over. All told, he played in 23 games during his four seasons in the desert. The 13 starts previously mentioned were the only ones of his UA career.

For the Wildcats portion of his playing career, Dawkins completed just over 56 percent of his 334 passes for 2,418 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He ran for another 1,582 yards and 20 more touchdowns.

Fractured foot will sideline Michigan’s Tyrone Wheatley for all of spring practice

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Michigan kicked off its on-field spring season Friday, and they did so without a legacy on the practice field.

Jim Harbaugh confirmed that Tyrone Wheatley Jr. will be sidelined for all of U-M’s spring practice because of injury.  Specifically, the tight end “fractured the (metatarsal) in his foot” during that first spring practice session.

Just how Wheatley sustained the injury wasn’t detailed by the head coach.

The good news is that Wheatley, the son of former U-M running back great Tyrone Wheatley, should be fully healthy for the start of summer camp in early August.

The younger Whitley came to the Wolverines as a four-star member of U-M’s 2015 recruiting class.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Wheatley has caught three passes each of the last seasons.  On those six catches, he has totaled 61 yards and a touchdown.

Reports: Bob Diaco finalizes deal with Oklahoma

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It appears Lincoln Riley has all but officially gotten his man.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Bob Diaco was expected to take a job on Riley’s Oklahoma football staff. Friday, Pete Thamel of SI.com tweeted that Diaco has finalized a deal to join the football program. ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg subsequently confirmed the initial report.

With all 10 of Riley’s on-field assistant slots filled, Diaco will serve as a defensive analyst for the Sooners.

Diaco spent the 2017 season as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska, let go after that one year following the firing of head coach Mike Riley.  Prior to that brief stint in Lincoln, he was the head coach at UConn for three seasons before being fired after going 11-26 during his time with the Huskies.

Prior to that, he was the coordinator at Notre Dame for four seasons from 2010-13.

Florida’s athletics facilities upgrade scheduled to be completed in 2021

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Dan Mullen is just breaking in his new office chair, but it will be a few more years until the new head coach to truly be able to get comfortable in his new digs. The University of Florida is scheduled to begin a complete overhaul of the athletics facilities in Gainesville this summer. When it is complete, a brand new state-of-the-art football training facility will be among the highlights of the $130 million project.

The new football facility is planned to occupy a space currently used by Florida’s baseball stadium. WOrk on the football facility will have to wait until the baseball program can move into its new stadium that is part of the renovation plans at Florida.

“With the change in facility locations for both baseball and football, we will now adjust the sequencing for these projects,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin said in a press release, according to Gridiron Now. “Baseball will need to be built first, which will allow us to repurpose the current baseball site and put the stand-alone football complex in that space.”

The new football training facility will take up a good chunk of the renovation costs with an estimated price tag of $65 million for a 130,000 square foot structure. Florida won’t have to wait until 2021 to use the facility, however, as the Gators should be expected to be able to start using the new complex as early as 2019 while the construction and renovation continues.