Anthony Barr

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

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Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o ran away with last year’s Butkus Award, the honor given to the nation’s top linebacker. He beat out such quality players as Kevin Minter of LSU, C.J. Mosely of Alabama, Jarvis Jones of Georgia and Dion Jordan of Oregon.

With the 2013 season at the mid-way point, here’s a look at the top candidates for this year’s Butkus Award:

1. Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA — Barr has been lights-out for the Bruins thus far and is setting himself up to possibly be the first defensive player selected in the next NFL draft. Yes, he might get selected before Jadeveon Clowney. Why? Because he’s got size, speed, playmaking ability and, best of all, none of the drama that Clowney brings to the table. So far this season, he has 27 tackles, 10 of them for losses, four sacks and a nation-leading four forced fumbles. His disruptive presence has been one of the main reasons for UCLA’s first 5-0 start since 2005.

2. Shaquil Barrett, Sr., Colorado State — Barrett might be the best player you’ve never heard of. The senior leads the nation with 12.5 tackles for loss in his first six games. He’s also third nationally with 6.5 sacks, to go with two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. He had five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, with a quarterback hurry, when the Rams played No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, then followed that up with three sacks and two forced fumbles against UTEP.

3. Kyle Van Noy, Sr., BYU — Van Noy was one of the favorites for the Butkus Award coming into the season and he has not disappointed. Thus far, the senior has 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, four pass break ups and an interception return for a touchdown. The likely first-round pick is a big reason why BYU’s defense is among the best in the nation.

4. Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford — Murphy has been lights out for the Cardinal this season, collecting 22 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, two pass breakups and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. He’s one of the best pass rushers in the nation and, at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, he still has the agility to drop into coverage or chase runners out of the backfield.

5. Khalil Mack, Sr., Buffalo — Mack is an underrated player who NFL scouts are drooling over. He showed his value early in the season with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and a pick-six for a touchdown against Ohio State. On the year, he has 41 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble, three pass breaks ups and one interception.

Honorable mention: C.J. Mosely, Alabama; Ryan Shazier, Ohio State; Chris Borland, Wisconsin.

Cal hires Marques Tuiasasopo to coach quarterbacks

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Noah Westerfield #33 of the California Golden Bears runs onto the field prior to the start of an NCAA football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at California Memorial Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Former Washington quarterback great Marques Tuiasasopo is making his rounds through the entire Pac-12.

On Monday, California announced the hiring of the former Husky to coach the Bears’ quarterbacks and serve as the team’s passing game coordinator. Tuiasasopo served in the same capacity for UCLA last season, and previously worked alongside Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox at USC and his alma mater.

“It is important that the coaches on our staff have strong connections on the West Coast and Marques certainly has been a fixture in the football world on this side of the country for a long time,” Wilcox said in a statement. “The connections he has made over the years along with his familiarity with the Pac-12 will pay tremendous dividends for us in recruiting. Also, having been a former player he understands the game from the players’ perspective quite well and is enthusiastic on imparting the knowledge he has gained as both a player and young assistant coach to our players.”

Tuisasopo jumped into coaching as a strength and conditioning assistant at Washington in 2009, then moved on-the-field as an intern and later tight ends coach at UCLA.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Cal football family and to be coaching with Justin Wildox again,” Tuiasosopo said. “Justin is a great coach and an even better person. I look forward to working with the new coaching staff that is being put together at Cal and tapping into the program’s rich football history, building off that and bringing championship football back to this great University.”

Tuiasasopo spent four years as a quarterback at Washington, ending his run with an eighth-place finish in the 2000 Heisman Trophy voting, a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award and a Rose Bowl MVP trophy, leading the Huskies to the No. 3 final AP ranking, which still stands as the program’s highest year-end ranking since their 1991 national championship. He left school as the Huskies’ all-time leader in total offense and become the first college quarterback ever to throw for 300 yards and rush for 200 in the same game.

 

Cal reportedly hires former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to head defense

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 03: Head coach Tim DeRuyter of the Fresno State Bulldogs watches action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Fresno State 43-10.  (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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California will hire former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to serve as its defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports out Monday.

DeRuyter, of course, was the Bulldogs’ head coach through mid-October, where he was let go after starting with a 1-7 record. Prior to that, he led Fresno State to the 2013 Mountain West championship and shares of the MW West Division crown in 2012 and ’14. (And then Derek Carr graduated.)

A longtime defensive coordinator, DeRuyter previously served in that same post at Ohio, Navy, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M.

Gorley writes DeRuyter will be asked to transition the Bears from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment, a task he’s successfully completed in the past. He would take over a defense that finished last season ranking 122nd in yards per play allowed and second-to-last in scoring.

 

Michigan football going to Rome this spring

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 06:  A view of the Colosseum and Roman Forum during the Way Of The Cross procession held by Pope Benedict XVI on Good Friday April 6, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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The NCAA is going to shut down the ability to take a football team off campus during spring break starting in August, so Jim Harbaugh is making sure his program gets one more trip squeezed in. This one is going to require a passport.

This April, Harbaugh is taking the Wolverines to Rome for a “week of education and spring drills.” This is a direct response to criticisms Michigan faced when moving spring football practices to Bradenton, Florida last spring, nestled right in ACC and SEC recruiting grounds. The practices at the home of AS Roma, an Italian soccer club. What’s different about this one is the trip will come at the end of the semester instead of over spring break. Harbaugh just found a loophole.

“We were looking to provide our student-athletes with a great educational, cultural and international football experience,” Harbaugh said in a released statement. “I am excited that our student-athletes will be able to take advantage of this amazing educational opportunity, be exposed to another culture, and be ambassadors for the United States and the University of Michigan during our visit to Rome.”

Last week, the NCAA’s Division 1 Council voted to ban off-campus trips over scheduled off days from the academic calendar. But because this trip is not taking place over a spring break, the trip can, in theory, be used every year.

Just think, if Michigan had just gone to Rome last year instead of Florida, perhaps the feathers from the ACC and SEC would not have been so ruffled.

Harbaugh in Rome. This should be fun to follow.

New MLS stadium in San Diego could have plenty of perks for San Diego State football

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01: A general view of the San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs en route to Chiefs 37-27 win over the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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San Diego State is already locked in to continue playing games in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego through the 2020 season, which may be perfect timing. A move to build a brand new Major League Soccer stadium is projected to open its doors in 2020, and the plan is to have room for San Diego State to share the stadium as well.

As detailed by a report from The San Diego Union-Tribune, FS Investors is an investment group that owns the rights to apply for a MLS franchise in San Diego. While still working out the finer details of their bid, but the company is reportedly planning to purchase the land containing Qualcomm Stadium, demolish the existing stadium and use that land to develop a new venue that could seat between 20,000 and 30,000 fans. At the same time, other land would be set aside in order to reserve for a potential NFL stadium in the event the city makes a bid to lure the National Football League back to the city after the Chargers packed up and left for Los Angeles.

The firm also hopes it can attract developers to add housing and commercial options that will target San Diego State students, and perhaps add to the environment around a soccer and college football stadium for a more enjoyable game day experience for both.

An application for an MLS franchise is due January 31 and the firm hopes to receive approval from City Council without having to rely on a public vote.