Manti Te'o

42 players named to initial Lott Trophy watch list


You know what this means, right?  Yep, we’re slowly inching closer to the start of a new season.

While that remains a little under four months away, one major postseason award has released its first watch list of the offseason, with the Lott IMPACT Trophy releasing its group of 42 players on the defensive side of the ball.  No finalists or semifinalists for last year’s award, won by Notre Dame Manti Te’o, are represented on this year’s watch list.

A total of seven conferences — the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt Conference being the lone exceptions — and three independents — Army, BYU and Notre Dame — are represented this year, including a total of 37 different football programs.

Of the seven schools with two players on the list, three come from the Pac-12: Stanford (DL Henry Anderson, S Ed Reynolds), UCLA (LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks) and Washington (DT Danny Shelton, LB John Timu).  Baylor (S Ahmad Dixon, LB Bryce Hager), Northwestern (DB Ibraheim Campbell, LB Damien Proby), Ohio State (CB Bradley Roby, LB Ryan Shazier) and Virginia Tech (CB Antone Exum, LB Jack Tyler).

The Pac-12 led all conferences with 11 players on the list, followed by the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 with seven apiece.  Players from the SEC and Mountain West (two) were also part of the initial grouping.

The Lott Trophy is named in honor of former USC and San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott, and is given out to the player who has the biggest IMPACT — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity — on their teams both on and off the field.

For the complete Lott Trophy watch list, see below:

Henry Anderson, DL, Stanford
Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army
Calvin Barnett, DL, Oklahoma State
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Nat Behre, DB, San Diego State
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Ibraheim Campbell, DB, Northwestern
Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Scott Crichton, DL, Oregon State
Alden Darby, DB, Arizona State
Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt
Steele DiVitto, LB, Boston College
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Jake Fischer, LB, Arizona
Chase Garnham, LB, Vanderbilt
Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Lamarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Devon Kennard, DL, USC
James Morris, LB, Iowa
C.J. Moseley, LB, Alabama
Damien Proby, LB, Northwestern
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
D.T. Shackleford, LB, Ole Miss
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Spencer Shuey, LB, Clemson
Derron Smith, DB, Fresno State
John Timu, LB, Washington
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
1 Comment

Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.