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.

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.