Mike Davis, Paul Rhoads issued reprimands by Big 12

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You have to hand it to the Big 12.  They certainly have a way of taking a smoldering pile of controversy and, in an attempt to put it out, toss 55-gallon drums of gasoline on it.

Saturday evening, the conference issued a pair of press releases addressing two of the situations that arose during and after Thursday night’s controversial Texas-Iowa State game.

Late in the fourth quarter, Longhorns running back Johnathan Gray appeared to fumble inside the five-yard line, with an Iowa State defender recovering with nothing but 95 yards between himself and what would’ve likely been the game-clinching touchdown with under two minutes remaining.  However, Gray was ruled down by contact and the call on the field stood upon further review in the replay booth.

One play later, UT scored what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown with :51 remaining.  Understandably, ISU head coach Paul Rhoads was livid afterwards, essentially saying that the game was taken away from the Cyclones by the officiating.

The criticism didn’t sit well with a league office that was responsible for a laughable “no video evidence” determination a day later, with the Big 12 issuing a public reprimand of Rhoads… while also intimating he’s lucky he didn’t receive a harsher penalty.

“Coach Rhoads violated Conference rules that prohibit coaches, student-athletes, athletic department staff and university personnel from making public comments about game officials,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “Although more severe action was possible he is being issued a public reprimand.  Coach Rhoads is also put on notice that future incidents may result in a more serious penalty.”

In addition to the public wrist slap of Rhoads, the Big 12 also publicly reprimanded Texas’s Mike Davis.  The wide receiver created more than a little outrage with a suspect “block” on a Cyclones defender well away from and at the end of a play.  It was a cheap shot that many thought would/should lead to a suspension for the player.  Instead, we get…

“In accord with the Conference’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct policy, Mr. Davis’ action was in violation of the rule prohibiting physically abusive acts toward an opponent’s team members during a contest,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “Given the heightened emphasis on player safety, unnecessary and illegal acts such as this have no place in the game and are unacceptable.  Mr. Davis is also put on notice that any future such behavior may result in a more serious penalty, including possible suspension.”

So, the Big 12’s way of dealing with a player attempting to take out the knees of an opposing player and a head coach who rightly questioned the officiating is to give them the same public reprimand?

Bravo, Big 12.  Bravo.  Solomon would be awed at the level of wisdom displayed over the past three days.

Brandon Wimbush exits spring as Notre Dame’s starting QB

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Brandon Wimbush entered the 2017 season as Notre Dame’s starter, but ceded control of the job over what can fairly be described as a rough junior season. He connected on just 49.5 percent of his throws for 6.8 yards per attempt on the year — numbers that ranked 92nd and 79th nationally, respectively — and was even worse down the stretch. He hit just 14-of-36 throws for for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two picks over the Irish’s final two games, a loss to Stanford and a Citrus Bowl win over LSU.

Enter Ian Book, a redshirt freshman who carried the Irish to that Citrus Bowl win, connecting on 14-of-19 throws for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Heading into the spring, the quarterback job was open between the rising senior and the rising sophomore. But, spurred by a strong spring game, Wimbush heads into the summer as the starter. Wimbush was the game MVP after connecting on 19-of-33 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns to lead the offense to a 47-44 win over the defense.

Afterward, Brian Kelly said Wimbush wasn’t guaranteed to take the first snap in the Irish’s opener against Michigan, but that things were indeed trending in that direction.

“It’s pretty clear that Brandon went out and got a chance to go with the first group and Ian played with the second group,” Kelly said Saturday. “That’s not etched in stone, but that’s the way they’ve been trending. I don’t think there was anything today that changed that… It’s 1A and 1B.”

Hot mic appears to catch Nick Saban criticizing Jalen Hurts

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There’s nothing newsworthy about a coach criticizing a player. That’s a large part of the job description, especially when that coach is Nick Saban. But to hear Saban criticize this specific player for this specific reason, well, the context of the situation screams newsworthiness.

During Alabama’s spring game on Saturday, ESPN microphones caught Saban apparently criticizing the throwing ability of Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts as the junior took off on a scramble. “Two years,” Saban says. “I mean, the third-team quarterback can move  the team right down the field throwing the ball.”

That comment comes amid two noteworthy developments in the Tide’s quarterback room. First, Hurts had an opportunity to take the bull by the horns on Saturday with Tua Tagovailoa nursing an injured left hand, but redshirt freshman quarterback Mac Jones was named the game’s MVP. (For what it’s worth, Jones went against the second-team defense while Hurts faced the starters.)

And second, Hurts’s father in no uncertain terms said this week that his son will transfer if he’s not the starter this fall.

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”

For what it’s worth, Saban praised Hurts while also criticizing his performance in Saturday’s spring game:

“I was not disappointed in the way Jalen played,” Saban said in his post-game press conference. “We have some guys that can rush, and even though we were rushing four guys most of the time, there was way too much pressure in the pocket for the quarterback to be able to operate like we would like. Jalen made some good plays and throws, and I’m sure if you were to talk to him he would say, ‘I wish there were things I did better and can improve on.’”

Colorado State adds Rice grad transfer V.J. Banks

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Rice’s loss has turned into a fellow Group of Five football program’s gain.

Saturday, Colorado State announced that V.J. Banks has transferred to the university and will play for Mike Bobo‘s Rams. As the cornerback will be coming to Fort Collins as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2018. The upcoming season will serve as Banks’ final year of eligibility.

Banks had announced on Twitter in late January that he had decided to transfer from the Owls.

Banks started 22 of the 36 games in which he played for the Owls, including 11 starts in 2016 and nine in 2015. The defensive back started the first two games of the 2017 season before an unspecified leg injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

For the Rice portion of his collegiate playing career, Banks totaled 75 tackles (one for loss), seven passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also returned seven punts for 30 yards (4.3 yards per return).

NC State board approves new deal for Dave Doeren

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In late November, after rejecting overtures from Tennessee in order to remain at North Carolina State, Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract with the university, pending the board rubber-stamping the agreement. This past week, that rubber met the stamp.

NC State confirmed that, on Thursday, the system’s Board of Trustees formally approved the new five-year deal for Doeren. The head coach’s new contract will now keep him with the Wolfpack through Dec. 31, 2022.

“We are on an exciting upward trajectory in football under the leadership of Coach Doeren,” said NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “He has assembled a terrifically talented coaching staff, as well, and that continuity and stability has been important to our current student-athletes and recruits.

“We are pleased that Dave will continue to lead NC State football, playing in one of the most challenging divisions in college football, the Atlantic Division of the ACC.”

In five seasons with the Wolfpack, the 46-year-old Doeren has compiled a 34-30 record, including a 15-25 mark in ACC play. The 2017 season was his best of the five, with a 9-4 overall mark that saw NC State finish in second place in the Atlantic after divisional finishes of seventh, fifth, fourth and tied-fourth the first four.

Under Doeren, the Wolfpack has played in a bowl game each of the last four seasons, posting a 3-1 mark in the postseason.