Mariota wants to ‘hold off’ on NFL talk until season ends

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As the 2013 college football season has (sadly) reached its midpoint, more and more attention is turning to a pair of three-letter acronyms: the BCS and NFL.

Marcus Mariota and his Oregon Ducks have positioned themselves for a run at the former.  Conversely, many folks are beginning to think the quarterback should make a run at the latter following the end of the season.

Mariota’s 2013 season has been nothing short of spectacular and has placed him squarely on not only the Heisman radar, but on the NFL’s as well.  In playing time this season that essentially amounts to 17 quarters in the Ducks’ first six games — he’s played into the fourth quarter just once, and past the halfway point (roughly) of the third quarter in only three games —  Mariota has passed for 17 touchdowns and rushed for another eight.  He’s fifth in the country in passing efficiency  — a 60.6 completion percentage is pushing that rating down — and sixth in total offense per game at 358.3, again in large part because he’s yet to play a full game.

Arguably the most impressive thing Mariota’s done this season is something that he actually hasn’t done: in his 165 attempts, he’s yet to throw an interception.  Add in the fact that he has yet to lose a football — he fumbled once, vs. Tennessee, but recovered it — and Mariota hasn’t turned the ball over in 206 pass/run touches.

As Mariota is a third-year sophomore, he would be eligible for the NFL draft next April.  A trio of respected NFL draft experts have Mariota going third-overall in their latest mock drafts,  In his Monday Morning Quarterback posted yesterday, Peter King wrote that Mariota could be the No. 1-overall pick in the upcoming draft if he decides to come out.

As more and more NFL talk in connection to Mariota begins to surface, the player has not so unexpectedly brushed aside any rumblings of his leaving the Ducks, preferring to remain focused on the here and now and putting any conversations regarding an early leap to the professional level on the back-burner.

“My family and I have decided to hold off on these conversations until after the season,” Mariota told John Canzano of 750-AM in Portland during a radio interview Monday. “We’re obviously going to put the pros and cons together, and we’re going to do what’s best for the family.

“At the same time, my education is important… I love Oregon. I love the community. We’ll decide when the time is right.”

Selfishly, we hope Mariota stays in Eugene for another two years.  Realistically, no one could, or at least should, begrudge the talented young man if he decided to take said talent out of the non-paying collegiate game and ply his wares at the NFL level.

And if he truly does have the opportunity to go No. 1 overall?  That could make the decision even more of a no-brainer than it already may be.

Ex-USC DL Noah Jefferson won’t be transferring to Arizona after all

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In early March, Noah Jefferson announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Arizona.  Nearly five months later?

Never mind.

Wednesday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Jefferson will not, as previously expected, be playing for the Wildcats this season.  No reason for the abrupt and unexpected about-face was given.

The coach did, though, intimate that a future pairing between the player and the program isn’t out of the question.

Jefferson wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2017 for the Wildcats even if his move to the desert had come to fruition. He would’ve, though, had two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018 at his disposal.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson played in 14 games, starting one of those, as a true freshman. After starting the season-opening loss to Alabama last season, Jefferson never played another down for USC.

Hugh Freeze makes first public comments since exiting Ole Miss in disgrace

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For the first time since his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze has spoken publicly.  Somewhat.

In what was described as a brief interview with USA Today Sports Wednesday, the former Ole Miss head coach said his family and church have helped him get through the storm of the last few days. When asked if his family was standing by him, Freeze responded, “Oh, gosh, yeah.”

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze told the website. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” the former head coach added.

The stunning news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.

Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

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It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.

USC the media’s choice to win 2017 Pac-12 title

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Thanks to how they finished the 2016 season, USC is getting substantial preseason love heading into the 2017 season.  Not surprisingly, that affection continued Wednesday.

At the Pac-12 Media Days Wednesday, 28 of the 52 media members covering the conference picked USC to win the league’s title this season.  Another 22 picked reigning champion Washington to defend its title, while there was one vote each for Oregon and Utah.

Both USC and UW received 49 first-place votes when it comes to winning the South and North divisions, respectively.  Oregon, Stanford and Washington State received one first-place vote each to win the North Division, while Colorado, UCLA and Utah received the same for the South crown.

Also of note from the opening of media days:

  • The Pac-12 Championship Game will remain at Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020 as well.  The home of the San Francisco 49ers has been the venue for the conference’s last two title games.  New NFL stadiums in Inglewood and Las Vegas will be options beyond that.
  • Halftime of games broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks will be reduced from 20 minutes to 15.  In an attempt to further shorten the length of games, commercial breaks during those games will be reduced as well. “We are trying to be progressive and experiment with ways to manage the game presentation through a reduction of TV timeouts and some of the 30-second commercial spots,” commissioner Larry Scott said as the league targets three hours as the ideal game time.
  • The conference has centralized its replay reviews for all 12 teams this season after experimenting with centralization for two teams in 2016.