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CFT Predicts: the Pac-12

David Yankey, David Shaw, Shayne Skov AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Pac-12.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Big Ten

Pac-12 North

1. Stanford (Last year: 12-2; beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl)
What happened last season?
Though Stanford lost arguably the best quarterback to ever pass through the program in Andrew Luck, the Cardinal did something it couldn’t when Luck and Jim Harbaugh were on The Farm: win the Pac-12. David Shaw is quickly ascending the list of best college coaches in the country. I mean, the guy did a Ted Talk. Clearly Stanford is big-time now.

So why are they ranked here?
The Cardinal are experienced and there really aren’t many glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is undefeated as a starter and has a solid offensive line and running game that brings back Tyler Gaffney. The defensive front seven returns plenty of starters too, including linebacker Shayne Skov. This is a solid team all around.

Anything else?
Things get a little more interesting schedule-wise in the second half of the season. The Cardinal play UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive weeks before ending the year against Cal and Notre Dame. Weather that schedule and Stanford will absolutely be in the national title discussion. And I’d like their chances of winning it all (meaning, by rule of the jinx, they’ll go 8-5 and OMG I’m so sorry, you guys [sad face]).

2. Oregon (Last year: 12-1; beat Kansas State in Fiesta Bowl)
What happened last season?
Another BCS win for the Ducks would end up being the final game for coach Chip Kelly, who left for the NFL shortly thereafter. But the important story line here is that the one-point safety happened and we are all now better off as humans for seeing it.

So why are they ranked here?
The Pac-12 North looks like it could play out in a similar fashion to the SEC East, where Georgia and South Carolina could be slotted in either order as 1A or 1B. Oregon is actually the preseason favorite to win the North (and the league’s championship game) — albeit by the slimmest of margins — but if it comes down to it, I’m going to go with Shaw over first-year coach Mark Helfrich.

Anything else?
There’s a lot of national focus on Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel as far as as quarterbacks go, but keep an eye on Marcus Mariota. This redshirt sophomore was efficient in his first year as a starter, throwing for 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. He has great size (6-foot-4 and 211 pounds) and athleticism.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 9-4; lost to Texas in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Just when you think Mike Riley is on the way out of Corvallis, he orchestrates one of the more dramatic turnarounds in college football. (Not that I thought Riley was on his way out or anything… Okay, I did.) The Beavers started 6-0 before exchanging wins and losses through the rest of the year, which ended in a bowl loss to Texas.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s good offensive firepower returning for Oregon State. This team has two capable quarterbacks in Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, and running back has both talent and depth. The question will continue to be on the offensive line can pave the way for OSU to have a better rushing attack than the one that ranked 101st in the country a year ago. On defense, the Beavers’ secondary should be a strength even with the departure of Jordan Poyer.

Anything else?
It wouldn’t be surprising to see this team 7-0 headed into a huge home game against Stanford — and playing in Reser Stadium can be a thorn for opposing teams. But there are no gimmes on the schedule once late October rolls around.

4. Washington (Last year: 7-6; lost to Boise State in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas)
What happened last season?
This can be summed up in highlights and lowlights. Highlight: beating Stanford, however ugly it was, 17-13. Lowlight: a regular-season ending loss to Wazzu in the Apple Cup. In overtime. Woof.

So why are they ranked here?
Steve Sarkisian isn’t on the hot seat, but it’s time to win more than seven games. Keith Price returns as one of the more talented quarterbacks in the Pac-12, but he’s also never experienced the luxury known as pass protection. If he has time, this is an offense that can put up a lot of points. The defense made major strides in 2012 under Justin Wilcox and will need to keep pace against a schedule that features plenty of good offensive opponents.

Anything else?
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is currently dealing with a broken pinkie. There’s optimism he can return by Week 1, though, as Sarkisian said it was a clean break. Jenkins will be counted on a lot this season in the passing game, so his health is crucial.

5. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
Yeah, Mike Leach‘s first season in Pullman didn’t exactly go as planned. The Cougars passed the ball a lot (go figure) but struggled to score and couldn’t stop anyone. But, hey, y’all beat Washington so huzzah!

So why are they ranked here?
There are still plenty of concerns on both sides of the ball, but Wazzu is not a team completely deprived of talent. Connor Halliday returns at quarterback, but the offensive line needs to come together to give him some more protection. Sacks and interceptions doomed the Cougars offense last season. If the offense can jell, a turnaround might start taking some form in 2013.

Anything else?
Wazzu doesn’t have to run the ball more, but they have to run it more effectively. This is a team that averaged 29 yards per game on the ground in 2012. Twenty. Nine. That’s, like, De’Anthony Thomas‘ yards-per-carry or something.

6. Cal (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Golden Bears lost their shine and Jeff Tedford was shown the door. Things got really bad at the end when Cal lost their final two games by an average of 45 points.

So why are they ranked here?
Sonny Dykes will win in Berkeley, it just won’t be this year. True freshman Jared Goff will be thrown into the fire immediately as the team’s starting quarterback, and the schedule is unforgiving.

Anything else?
Cal will likely lose three of their first four games, but we could still get a decent understanding of what this team can potentially accomplish in Dykes’ first year if they hang tough with Northwestern, Ohio State or Oregon.

Pac-12 South

1. UCLA (Last year: 9-5; lost to Baylor in Holiday Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Bruins took a huge step forward under first-year coach Jim Mora by winning nine games and making it to the Pac-12 championship. UCLA got torched by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl, but the Bears were playing their best football at the end of the year.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s a new edge in Pasadena that previously wasn’t there. That’s a reflection on Mora, and things are only looking up for UCLA. Brett Hundley returns as one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league. This is an offense that will need to find a replacement for Johnathan Franklin in the running game to take the pressure off of Hundley. The defense has to replace its entire secondary too. But this is a talented, young team.

Anything else?
Part of that talented youth is Notre Dame transfer Eddie Vanderdoes. The defensive lineman will be able to play immediately and he’s expected to do so.

2. Arizona State (Last year: 8-5; beat Navy in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) 
What happened last season?
First-year coach Todd Graham did a good job getting the Sun Devils to eight wins. And, of course, beating Arizona always helps.

So why are they ranked here?
ASU could be a sneaky good team this year. There’s a lot of hype in Tempe around Taylor Kelly, who already has a 3,000-yard passing season under his belt.  This team features 17 returning starters, including All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton. There’s room to grow at the receiver spot, but the Sun Devils have a good backfield with Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Based on their 2012 play, this is a team that can right in the middle of the Pac-12 South hunt.

Anything else?
ASU has an interesting and difficult early part of the season with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Winning both of those early Pac-12 games would be huge.

3. USC (Last year: 7-6; lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
USC went from the preseason No. 1 team to being unranked at the end of the season after losing a to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl in embarrassing fashion. Matt Barkley hurt his shoulder and couldn’t finish out his career with the Trojans. There were almost too many disappointments to list.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of question marks on offense with the departure of Barkley and receiver Robert Woods. Marqise Lee is back though and figures to be a huge part of the game plan — if he can stay healthy. There was a lot of staff turnover during the offseason, so it could take some time for everything to come together. And let’s not forget the depth issues affecting this team while it rides out the scholarship reductions from the NCAA. Still, it’s not like USC is lacking talent. That should be enough to keep this team from going under .500 this year.

Anything else?
Well, that’s the thing. Lane Kiffin can’t afford to go under .500 — or .500 at all —  and realistically expect to keep his job. The scholarship reductions hurt, but they don’t have any impact on failed two-point conversions, or switching numbers between plays midway through a game. Pull shenanigans like that and win seven again, and Kiffin could be headed for the unemployment line.

4. Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Nevada in New Mexico Bowl)
What happened last season?
Rich Rodriguez rebounded from his short Michigan gig by winning right away with Arizona. The highlight of the year included a 39-36 win over what was then a top-10 ranked USC team.

So why are they ranked here?
Matt Scott waited his turn and had himself a banner senior season. He left for the NFL as one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects. But while the Wildcats have to replace him, they do bring back Ka’Deem Carey, who was the country’s leading running back last year. Carey figures to be the focal point of the offense this year, which may need to win some shootouts again.

Anything else?
The defense was the worst in the Pac-12 last season at giving up points. Jeff Casteel is a fine defensive coordinator, so that’ll be a unit to watch to see if any significant improvement can be made.

5. Utah (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was another disappointing year for Kyle Whittingham. The offense, especially the passing game, couldn’t get going and Jordan Wynn had to end his oft-injured career earlier than he’d hoped.

So why are they ranked here?
Dennis Erickson been brought in as co-offensive coordinator to light a fire under one of the worst passing games in the Pac-12 last season. The defensive line loses three key players as well in Star Lotulelei, Joe Kruger and Dave Kruger. There’s a lot to replace and plenty of tough games on the schedule.

Anything else?
Erickson is more than just another offensive mind to add to the staff. He’s familiar with the recent Pac-12 landscape from his time with Arizona State. That should pay dividends for the Utes, but just how soon remains unclear.

6. Colorado (Last year: 1-11) 
What happened last season?
The Buffaloes were terrible and Jon Embree got fired. During Embree’s final press conference, it become abundantly clear from a national perspective just how much work this program has to do to get back to its former winning ways.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike MacIntyre did wonders at San Jose State. He’ll need to work those miracles again in Boulder, but 2013 looks like it could be another brutal year for this program. The Buffs have a dire QB situation right now, though it appears Texas transfer Connor Wood will get the nod. There is a lot of experience returning for Colorado (17 starters), but how long it takes them to adjust to MacIntyre remains to be seen.

Anything else?
It won’t count toward Pac-12 standings, but Colorado can make a big splash at the start of the season by beating Colorado State. When little is expected to go your way, grabbing a win over an in-state rival goes a long way.

——————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:
North
1. Stanford
2. Oregon
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Washington State
6. Cal

South
1. UCLA
2. Arizona State
3. USC
4. Utah
5. Arizona
6. Colorado

Ben’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford
John’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford

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Spinal condition forces Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt to retire

Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon State Beavers

For the second time in less than a month, a spinal condition has prompted a Power Five player to call it quits.

In a midweek Instagram posting, Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt announced that he is being forced to retire from the sport because of a medical condition.  According to Hunt, and which was subsequently confirmed by OSU, he was born with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.  It’s a condition similar to what prompted Florida’s Rod Johnson to step away from the game three weeks ago.

Below is Hunt’s social media missive.

“It was truly a blessing to have been apart of the #OregonStateFootball team but sadly my days of playing is over due to a condition that I was born with called #SpinalStenosis. This team will forever be my team and I will always support every single brother of mine on it through their football careers and life. And a message to all my teammates “just because I can’t play on the field with yall, best believe I’ma be on the sideline helping and watching yall strive towards greatness because our team is bound for great accomplishments in these upcoming years. I love all yall as my own brothers and I’ll always be here for every last one of yall” And to everyone else who has supported me throughout my career thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and God Bless you all!”

Hunt was a four-star member of the Beavers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 corner in the country by Rivals.com.  He was the highest-rated recruit in an OSU class that was rated 39th in the country and eight in the Pac-12.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hunt played in seven games in 2014.  He was expected to compete for a starting job in 2015.

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Nearly 30 percent of early entries weren’t selected in NFL draft

B.J. Catalon, Darrion Richardson AP

Not surprisingly, some of the players who left eligibility on the table for an early shot at the pros were left without a chair when the draft music stopped Saturday.

By the deadline in mid-January, a total of 84 players with eligibility remaining filled out their paperwork to make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.  As noted by Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, 24 of those 84 players went undrafted as the seven-round event concluded yesterday evening.

While that’s 28.6 percent, it’s actually a better rate than a year ago.  In 2014, 36.7 percent (36 of 98) of the early entrants went undrafted.  That total of 98 last year was a record number of draft-eligible players who left with eligibility remaining, which prompted the NFL to change its protocol in an attempt to roll back the number of players leaving early.

Getting back to this year, 16 of the 24 who weren’t selected came from Power Five football programs.  TCU was the only school with two early entrants who weren’t picked (running back B.J. Catalon, safety Chris Hackett), while two of the players came from non-FCS levels.

It should be noted that most if not all of the players in this group will sign as an undrafted free agent.

Below is the complete list of those who went undrafted.

SS Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
CB Jacoby Glenn, UCF
FS Chris Hackett, TCU
WR DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M
DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
TE Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
DT David Irving, Iowa State
WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston
DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
RB B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR Chris Harper, California
LB Max Flores, Northern Colorado
RB Dee Hart, Colorado State
RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky
WR George Farmer, USC
WR Nigel King, Kansas
OT Patrick Miller, Auburn
WR Zach D’Orazio, Akron
WR Tacoi Sumler, Appalachian State
OG Tyler Moore, Florida
WR Jaquel Pitts, Trinity International
LS Easton Wahlstrom, Arizona State
OLB Darien Rankin, North Carolina

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Ex-Gopher, Rutgers QB Philip Nelson to start over at S. Alabama

Philip Nelson AP

Whether or not you are of the belief that he deserves it, Philip Nelson is getting a second chance at an FBS playing career.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report from late this past week, Nelson’s father has confirmed that his son has moved on to South Alabama and will play for the Sun Belt program in 2015.  For what it’s worth, USA has yet to confirm the quarterback’s addition to its roster.

When it does, though, it may have some explaining and/or spinning to do.

In May of last year, Nelson, then a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, was arrested in connection to a vicious assault outside of a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was ultimately charged with first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, in an incident that left the victim, former Div. II football player Isaac Kolstad, hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The Kolstad family had released a statement at one point a year ago confirming that the 24-year-old Kolstad, who is married and has a young daughter, was on life support and had a portion of his brain removed after allegedly being kicked in the head by Nelson and punched by another male who is facing charges as well.  Kolstad, who Nelson’s attorney had accused of throwing a sucker punch that triggered the fight, is making steady progress from his injuries.

Nelson ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and credited for serving two days in jail.  It was concluded by a prosecution witness that the other male charged had caused Kolstad’s brain injury, which led to a plea agreement that also included a $300 fine.

In January of last year, Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers.  He was dismissed by the Scarlet Knights shortly after being charged in connection to the beating.

In 2012 and 2013, Nelson, who was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2012 recruiting class, started 16 games.  Nine of those starts came as a true sophomore in a 2013 season in which he led the run-heavy Gophers in passing yards (1,306) and passing touchdowns (nine).  He was also third in rushing yards (364) and rushing touchdowns (six).

Prior to moving on to USA, Fresno State, Georgia and Ole Miss were in the mix for his services.  Nj.com wrote that “the SEC schools moved on as the legal process dragged.”

Nelson will now have two years of eligibility remaining.

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Auburn dismisses Elijah Daniel following theft arrest

South Carolina v Auburn

Just days after being arrested for suspected theft, Elijah Daniel has been asked to leave the Auburn football program. Auburn announced the latest roster decision Saturday.

As previously reported, Daniel was one of three suspects in a theft investigation on campus. Daniel and two other former Auburn athletes — DeNorris James and Khalil Sellers — were the primary suspects in an on-campus theft investigation following various incidents over Auburn’s spring break. Daniel was charged with four counts of theft of property and four counts of burglary. Between the eight charges, six are considered felonies.

Daniel played in 13 games for the Tigers last fall, and he started in two of them.

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UAB gets two players drafted by NFL teams

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

For just the third time in program history, UAB has sent two players through the NFL Draft. It might end up being the last time UAB hears the school’s name mentioned during the NFL Draft.

UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the draft. In the sixth round, tight end Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The only other years UAB has had multiple draft picks in the same year are 2002 (Eddie Freeman and Bryan Thomas) and 1998 (Dainon Sidney and Izell Reese).

UAB made the decision to shut down the football program at the conclusion of last football season. The football program, despite being eligible for postseason play, did not play in any postseason bowl game. In the meantime, criticism of the handling of the shutdown and questions about why the program was shut down or if it had to be shutdown have continued. One report has suggested the program was financially viable.

We do not know whether or not UAB football will make a return. The earliest it was believed to be possible was 2016, and Conference USA has decided to close the door on UAB’s membership moving forward. Things look bleak, which is why moments like the NFL Draft should be cherished by those closely associated to the UAB football family.

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NFL Draft sees SEC take conference crown, FSU & L’Ville go 1-2

Florida State v Louisville

If there was one thing to be learned from this year’s NFL Draft, it is that the schools in the south are loaded with NFL talent. Big surprise, right?

After a bit fo a slow start, the SEC finished strong and sent more players to the NFL Draft than any other conference. By the time the last pick was made, the SEC had sent 54 players to NFL franchises, seven more than the ACC’s 47 players, even though Tennessee was blanked.

Here is how the power conferences stacked up:

The ACC was carried in a big way by Florida State, which set a new three-year record for most cumulative draft picks in the later rounds. Florida State had 11 players go to NFL teams in this year’s draft, including Jameis Winston as the number one overall player. While Florida State flexed plenty of draft muscle, Louisville had a big final day of the draft and ended just one pick shy of Florida State’s 11 players. Clearly Charlie Strong was able to transform the Louisville football program with plenty of talent before leaving for Texas. Hopefully he remembers their names.

Here is a look at the top draft factories this year:

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Tennessee blanked in NFL Draft for first time since 1964

Derek Dooley

The 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and for the first time since 1964 there was not a single player from the Tennessee Volunteers selected.

The lack of draft picks is the product of a program that had been trending downward under former head coach Derek Dooley. Despite his enthusiasm for the game, Dooley was not able to keep Tennessee chugging along as a power in the SEC and the talent coming in just was not up to par with Tennessee teams of the past.

The good news is things are already starting to trend upward for Tennessee. Butch Jones has sparked some new life in Knoxville and the roster should be loaded in 2015. Tennessee going two years without a draft pick is very unlikely.

Vanderbilt was also without a draft pick this year, but a pair of FCS programs in the state of Tennessee did not go without a pick. Tennessee State had two players drafted (offensive linemen Anthony Morris and Robert Myers). Tennessee Chatanooga had outside linebacker Davis Tull go in the fifth round.

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Pac-12 moves up in spring game attendance, B1G & SEC stay on top

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

The Pac-12 took advantage of a late Oregon spring game to slip past the ACC and Big 12 in the 2015 spring game attendance figures, but there was no catching te Big Ten and SEC this year.

The Big Ten locked up the top conference-wide spring game attendance in 2015 on the strength of Ohio State’s new national record for spring game attendance and perennial strong spring game crowds at Nebraska and Penn State and a surprisingly strong showing at Michigan. Big stadiums leave plenty of room for big spring crowds, and that worked in the Big Ten’s favor.

The SEC finished in second place this year in spring game attendance, although it should be noted the SEC should easily pass the Big Ten next year if Texas A&M holds a spring game in the renovated Kyle Field.

The Pac-12 moved past the ACC and Big 12 once Oregon packed in 35,808 fans for the spring game in Eugene. Oregon was easily the biggest spring draw in the Pac-12, flying past the 22,788 fans that attended the USC spring game.

Here is how the conferences stacked up in spring game attendance for 2015 (Source):

1. Big Ten: 410,943

2. SEC: 408,566

3. Pac-12: 118,691

4. Big 12: 113,339

5. ACC: 101,832

6. American: 39,848

7. Conference USA: 39,724

8. Mountain West: 29,447

9. MAC: 15,617

10. Sun Belt: 14,534

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Florida State sets new NFL Draft record for total draft picks

Nick O'Leary

Florida State has had 10 players selected in this year’s NFL Draft, putting the Seminoles in a tie for the most players drafted over a three-year period. One more Nole off the board and the record will be Florida State’s.

The record is 28 players drafted over three years. Florida State now shared the record with Miami (2002-2004) and USC (2008-2010). Florida State moved into the now three-way tie when tight end Nick O’Leary was taken by the Buffalo Bills (who have been loading up on ACC players this draft). O’Leary was taken by the Bills in the sixth round and the 194th pick overall. The Bills had already drafted cornerback Ronald Darby in the second round and running back Karlos Williams in the fifth round. Other Noles to be drafted include quarterback Jameis Winston (the number one overall pick), defensive tackles Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, center Cameron Erving, offensive guard Tre’ Jackson, receiver Rashad Greene, and cornerback P.J. Williams.

Time is running out for Florida State to set the record, but it is within sight. Offensive guards Josue Matias and Bobby Hart are still on the draft board.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m): The New York Giants drafted offensive lineman Bobby Hart, thus setting the new record.

 

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Navy long snapper is first Midshipman drafted in NFL Draft since 1995

Reese's Senior Bowl

This does not happen very often. The New England Patriots drafted Navy long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in Chicago. Cardona is the first Navy football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1995.

Former Navy tight end Kevin Hickman was chosen in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Offensive guard Mike Wahle was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft. Players from the service academies being drafted is quite the rarity. The last player from Air Force to be drafted was defensive end Bryce Fisher in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. In 2008 Army saw defensive back Caleb Campbell go in the seventh round to the Lions. Campbell snapped a stretch that started in 1998 without an Army football player being selected in the NFL Draft.

It has been a big couple of weeks for Navy athletics. Just last week Navy lieutenant Mitch Harris made his major league debut as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

UPDATE (3:57 p.m.): Navy notes Cardona is the first Naval Academy graduate to be drafted since Bob Kuberski in 1993.

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Clemson punter that declared early for NFL Draft gets drafted

Bradley Pinion

This is just a reminder that punters are people too. We may have poked fun at the idea a punter was declaring early for the NFL Draft, but we probably should not have. Clemson’s Bradley Pinion was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago by the San Francisco 49ers.

Pinion ranked 34th among FBS punters with an average punt distance of 42.59 yards per punt, but he was consistent and tested with 5.8 punts per game. As it turns out, whatever advice Pinion received regarding his draft position, it may have been pretty spot on considering the average draft position of punters in recent years. Only one punter drafted since 2008 has been drafted before the fifth round (California’s Bryan Anger went in round three to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 draft).

Pinion being drafted keeps a string going for punting specialists in the draft. A punter has been drafted in each of the past four drafts, including the 2015 edition, and in all but one draft since 1999.

It would be hard to imagine the 49ers drafting a quarterback with their former head coach, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

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Ali Marpet puts D3 Hobart on the NFL Draft scoreboard

Ali Marpet

Schools like Florida State, USC, Miami, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State will produce multiple NFL prospects on an annual basis. Hobart College will never be in that category, but the Division 3 football program in Geneva, New York has reason to celebrate this year. Offensive lineman Ali Marpet became the first player from the program to be drafted by an NFL franchise, and he is now the highest draft pick in the history of Division 3 football.

“I’ve said throughout this process, that whatever team drafts Ali is going to get an outstanding lineman who will learn and grow and have an outstanding NFL career,” Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg said. “The Buccaneers got an exceptional young man who is going to do great things. I have no doubt about that.”

Marpet was picked up late in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joined by fellow second-round offensive line draftee Donovan Smith of Penn State, the two picks are expected to move right into the starting offensive line to provide protection for the new franchise quarterback, Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Few were aware of Marpet for much of the fall, which is pretty much the norm for players from the lower divisions of college football, but he received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. The opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl in front of NFL coaches and scouts all week paid off in a big way. He later took advantage of an appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he continued to impress NFL folks.

Since 1990, a total of 19 players have been drafted by the NFL out of Division 3 according to D3Football.com. That list has included players like wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts from Mount Union, a D3 juggernaut.

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Marcus Mariota’s successor at Oregon will not be named today

Jeff Lockie

The Oregon Ducks, defending Pac-12 champions and College Football Playoff contender, will wrap up the spring practice schedule today in Autzen Stadium with the annual spring game (with some nice uniforms). Just days after seeing former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota be selected with the second overall pick by the Tennessee Titans, the question of who will ultimately replace Mariota in Eugene will be one popular question for head coach Mark Helfrich today. It also will not be likely to be answered definitively, which makes sense.

Earlier this week Helfrich joined his Pac-12 coaching fraternity for a spring conference call with the media. Asked about the quarterback situation, Helfrich said there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.

“I think ideally you are making that decision a week and a half before the first game,” Helfrich said, per The Oregonian. “The way you ramp up and build through fall camp, we are installing and doing different things. You want to put each of them in the best position to compete and play to their strengths. They you have a week and a half to prepare for that first game, that would be an ideal situation.”

The candidates to replace Mariota as Oregon’s next starting quarterback are Jeff Lockie, Taylor Alie, Morgan Mahalak, Travis Jonsen (he changed his name)and Ty Griffin right now, but FCS transfer Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington will join the program later this summer. Lockie and Adams are widely considered to be the top two candidates in the running, and Adams will get his chance to make his case once he arrives this summer.

As is the case at many college football programs in the spring, the quarterback question may have to wait. Lockie could put together by far the best spring performance today, but until Adams gets his chance to prove what he can do, Helfrich is wise to hold off on any decisions until much closer to the start of the season. This will be the first time Helfrich will be charged with naming a starting quarterback as well after taking over the program following Chip Kelly left for the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is currently attempting to build the Pac-12 All-Stars through the draft and offseason roster moves.

Helfrich inherited Mariota as his starter, so now Helrich gets to choose his quarterback.

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SEC McGriddles, are you lovin’ it?

Protesters Put Pressure On Fast Food Restaurants To Not Use Meat With Inappropriate Antibiotics Getty Images

Sometimes when you are on the road in the morning you might get a craving for a quick stop at McDonald’s for an egg McMuffin with sausage. We’ve al been there, right? If you happen to live in the SEC footprint, McDonalds locations areadvertising the sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle as the SEC McGiddle.

Charles Bloom, Senior Associate Athletics Director at University of South Carolina, caught a McDonald’s message board advertising the SEC McGriddle, and shared the image on his Instagram account.

SEC McGriddles

McDonald’s usually imprints the top of the McGriddle with the McDonald’s arches. Replacing that with something that would imprint any SEC logo would be pretty simple, so why has that not happened yet?

Also, what could a B1G McGriddle be? Bacon would seem obvious. Good luck with the “1” and the “G.”

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Vols spring winners dine like kings, losers not so much

Baked beans

The stakes were high at the Tennessee spring game last month. As some programs do with the annual spring game, the winners are treated to a feast while the losers are given a far less elaborate menu. But hey, in the end free food is still free food. Right?

At Tennessee, Butch Jones rewarded the players on the winning team with a steak dinner, complete with potatoes, pasta and fresh vegetables and chocolate chip cookies for dessert and more. The losers? Spaghetti O’s and baked beans.

 

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