Mid-season Biletnikoff check: Who’s leading the pack?

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Last season, USC’s Marqise Lee won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s finest wide receiver, beating out quality players such as Terrance Williams of Baylor, Stedman Bailey of West Virginia, DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson, Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas and Austin Hill of Arizona.

With this year halfway over, we’ve got another fine group of receivers vying for the award. Here are the top five candidates for the Biletnikoff at the mid-season point:

1. Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State — If the Biletnikoff was handed out today, Cooks would probably run away with it. Through six games, the junior already has 63 catches for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s caught at least two touchdown passes in five of his outings this year. He’s on pace to challenge the NCAA record for most receiving yards in a season (2,060) set by Trevor Insley of Nevada in 1999. Can he keep it up? With the meat of OSU’s schedule approaching, it’s going to be tough. Barring a collapse on his part, though, he has to be considered the heavy favorite to win his school’s second Biletnikoff, with Mike Haas being the other in 2005.

2. Antwan Goodley, Jr., Baylor — After catching a combined 19 passes his first two seasons, Goodley has burst onto the scene this year, emerging as the main deep threat in Baylor’s explosive offense. Goodley has 26 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns and is averaging an incredible 26 yards per reception. The junior leads the nation with five receptions of 60 yards or more and has two of 70 or more. With his combination of speed and strength, he’s looking like a potential high NFL draft pick next spring.

3. Mike Evans, So., Texas A&M — We all saw the way Evans dominated against No. 1 Alabama, catching seven passes for 279 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown run late in the game.  The 6-5 sophomore is Johnny Manziel’s No. 1 target, with 32 receptions for 737 yards and five touchdowns and a 23 yards-per-catch average so far.

4. Jared Abbredaris, Sr., Wisconsin — Abbredaris has an amazing knack for getting open and has become the heart and soul of the Badgers offense. His resume this year includes a 10-catch, 207-yard effort against Ohio State. On the season, he’s got 35 catches for 646 yards and five touchdowns.

5. Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado — Richardson has overcome a knee injury to become one of the best receivers in the country. He’s perhaps the lone bright spot on what is shaping up to be another dismal Colorado team. On the season, he has 35 catches for 660 yards and five touchdowns. He’s slowed down a bit after opening the year with two 200-yard receiving games.

Honorable mention: Jeremy Johnson, SMU; Tevin Reese, Baylor; Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; Jaelen Strong, Arizona State; Odell Beckham, LSU.

Months after losing love for football, ex-Mich. St. RT Thiyo Lukusa transfers to Arizona

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Six months after proclaiming he hadn’t been in love with football since high school, Thiyo Lukusa has apparently once again found his fondness for the sport.

On his Instagram account this week, Lukusa revealed that he has decided to transfer to Arizona and continue his collegiate playing career with the Wildcats. “Plans changed, I’ve changed, schools changed, but change isn’t a bad thing,” Lukusa wrote.

It’s believed the offensive lineman won’t be eligible to play in 2017. If that’s the case, he’d have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Plans changed, I’ve changed, schools changed, but change isn’t a bad thing. #beardown #wildcats #UofA

A post shared by Thiyo Lukusa (@tshiyombu_aubrey) on Aug 19, 2017 at 2:10pm PDT

In February, Lukusa confirmed that he would be transferring from Michigan State.

A three-star 2016 signee, Lukusa was rated as the No. 9 player at any position in the state of New Jersey. He played in eight games as a true freshman.

Entering the offseason, Lukusa was penciled in as the Spartans’ starting right tackle.

Ankle injury will cost Kentucky’s Dorian Baker ‘significant time’

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Unfortunately for Kentucky’s passing game, the speculation has come to fruition.

Over the weekend, Dorian Baker sustained an injury to his left leg during a scrimmage.  The initial talk had it as a rather significant injury; Monday, the Wildcats confirmed that the senior wide receiver suffered a fracture-dislocation in his left ankle.

As a result, Baker will, at bare minimum, miss what the school described as “significant time” to, potentially, the entire 2017 season.

“We’re very disappointed for Dorian, as he had a good offseason and was helping lead our receivers during preseason camp,” head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “However, we are hopeful for a full recovery and look forward to his eventual return to the field.”

If there’s a silver lining amidst the injury clouds it’s that Baker has a redshirt at his disposal, which would allow him to return for the 2018 season should the injury sideline him for all of this year.

In three seasons with the Wildcats, Baker has totaled 88 receptions for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns.  In 2015, Baker’s 55 catches and three receiving touchdowns led the team.  Last season, after overcoming an early-season hamstring issue, he caught 14 passes for 208 yards a pair of touchdowns.

Reigning national champ Clemson officially names Deshaun Watson successor

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The man charged with the unenviable task of trying to replace one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in college football history has officially been identified.

Upon the completion of spring practice earlier this year, Dabo Swinney stated that, if Clemson “played a game today, Kelly (Bryant) would be the” starting quarterback.  Fast-forward a little over four months, and Bryant is indeed the guy who will replace Deshaun Watson under center for the reigning national champions.

The announcement from the Tigers is the culmination of what had been a three-way fight for the job, but the head coach also seemingly left the door slightly ajar for the competition to, at least, bleed into the early part of the 2017 season.

“He has earned it and I am proud of him. It has been a great competition, but this part is over,” Swinney said in quotes distributed by the team. “[Redshirt freshman] Zerrick Cooper is the number-two quarterback, but [freshman] Hunter Johnson is right there. We hope to get all three quarterbacks experience in the first part of the season.”

A junior, Bryant has played in 12 games and exactly 100 snaps.  In that time, he has completed 13-of-18 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He’s added 35 carries for 178 yards and another three scores.

Redshirt sophomore Tucker Israel, who wasn’t even a part of the unofficial competition, is the only other quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level (four attempts last season).

Essentially a three-year starter, Watson was responsible for 8,702 of the 9,382 yards and 76 of the 80 touchdown passes for the Tigers the past two season.

Clemson will kick off defense of its national championship Sept. 2 at home against Kent State.  They’ll begin ACC play two weeks later on the road against Louisville.

Ex-Louisville QB Kyle Bolin named starter at Rutgers

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Four months ago today, Kyle Bolin wasn’t even a member of the Rutgers football program.  With the start of a new season less than two weeks away, Bolin is officially the triggerman at the most important position in the sport.

Monday, the Scarlet Knights announced Monday that Bolin has been named as the team’s starting quarterback.  Bolin had been involved in what was ostensibly a three-way competition with Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job exiting spring, as well as touted 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis.

“Really happy with the leadership that Kyle has brought to our football team,” head coach Chris Ash said. “He’s a really mature individual. Well-trained, well-coached in his past and just has got a wealth of experience and we’re really excited about what he’s going to bring to our offense.”

Despite his short time with the program, the move is not exactly a surprise as, one, Bolin has already been named a team captain and, two, he’s been taking more and more snaps with the first-team offense over the last couple of weeks.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

In early April of this year, Bolin opted to leave the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.  Less than a month later, he landed with the Scarlet Knights.