Todd Graham, son suffer in-flight scare on recruiting trip

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Given the amount of air miles college coaches log on the recruiting trail, they’re bound to run into some (literal) turbulence that ofttimes necessitates a change of drawers.  Last month, Todd Graham and a family member found themselves with such an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Two Fridays ago, the Arizona State head coach and his son, ASU running backs coach Bo Graham, were onboard a small plane en route to a recruiting visit in Dallas.  Cruising at 35,000 feet, a loud noise woke the elder Graham up to a scary scene: the plane was shaking, alarms were shrieking and the pilots were putting on oxygen masks as the aircraft had lost cabin pressure.

The plane then “started diving,” Todd Graham told the Arizona Republic, before leveling off at 10,000 feet.  The pilots made an emergency landing in Albuquerque and, after a brief layover, the Grahams continued — on a new plane — on to Dallas for the recruiting trip.

While both of the coaches were, after a sleepless first night, able to joke about the scare, it certainly left an impression.  Todd Graham was subsequently told that their incident was similar to the one that claimed the life of professional golfer Payne Stewart back in late October of 1999.

Stewart was on a private jet that lost cabin pressure and incapacitated all onboard, including the pilot and co-pilot.  The jet, which was on autopilot, ultimately ran out of fuel and crashed in a desolate field in South Dakota, killing all six who were on the plane.

A similar incident also claimed the life of LSU head coach Bo Rein before he ever coached a game for the Tigers.  Rein was, eerily enough, on a recruiting trip in January of 1980 when a plane in which he was flying, authorities theorized, lost cabin pressure and ultimately crash landed in the Atlantic Ocean.  No official determination on the cause of the accident was ever made, and the bodies of Rein and the pilot were never recovered.

“We’re very lucky,” Todd Graham said of his own brush with mortality.

“I was kind of in denial,” Bo Graham said of the surreal experience. “When you start off on the planes and they’re giving you the whole ‘When the mask falls down” speech, you never think it’s going to happen. But when it did happen, I was thinking, ‘Is this really going down? Right here?’ I mean, come on. In the desert of New Mexico? There are a lot better places to take a fall.”

Shane Buechele is almost Facebook official as starting Texas QB

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The college football season officially gets underway this week, but Tom Herman has another week to make some decisions about the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. If he had to make that call right now, Shane Buechele would be getting the starting nod in Austin.

“I’ve said over and over again that if we played a game tomorrow Shane Buechele would start,” Herman told reporters on Saturday, seemingly a bit frustrated with the question once again being asked, according to The Dallas Morning News. “We’ll get a depth chart to make it Facebook official, I guess. Is that what we’ve got to do?”

It is expected Herman will make a decision on his starting quarterback within the next week ahead of Texas’ season opener at home against Maryland of the Big Ten. Buechele was the full-time starter for the Longhorns last season, but a new coach taking over at a program tends to wipe the slate clean to start from scratch. Buechele has faced his stiffest competition for the job from freshman Sam Ehlinger, who enrolled in January and was able to work with the team in the spring.

Whatever his decision ends up being, Herman has not been overly optimistic about his offense. Instead, Herman has been praising the defense as the key to the upcoming season. For a team that allowed 448.3 yards per game last season to rank seventh in the Big 12 in total defense, and 31.5 points per game (8th in the Big 12 ahead of only Kansas and Texas Tech), Herman is either suggesting the defense has taken some strides in practices this year or the offense really does have a long way to go.

It should probably not come as a great surprise Texas may be better off on defense, given the brief Charlie Strong tenure. Strong was always known more for his defense so the seeds for a reputable defense may have been planted in Austin prior to Herman’s hiring. Now it is up to Herman to get the offense in gear.

Miami wideout Ahmmon Richards sits out Hurricanes’ scrimmage with pulled hamstring

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The focus in Miami’s preseason camp has been on the budding battle to be the starting quarterback but Mark Richt might have bigger concerns after an injury to another star offensive player.

The Hurricanes head coach confirmed to reporters on Saturday that receiver Ahmmon Richards missed the practice after he pulled his hamstring earlier in the week. Safe to say that’s not the kind of injury you want a burner like that to suffer right before the season starts.

The Palm Beach Post reports that senior Braxton Berrios stepped up in Richards’ absence during the scrimmage with six catches for 107 yards but things figure to be a little different against real opposing defenses this fall if his running mate can’t go full blast down the field like he potentially could.

Richards averaged 19 yards a catch last season and racked up nearly 1,000 yards through the air as a true freshman. He was expected to play a pivotal role in an offense that is breaking in a new signal-caller but, given the tricky nature of hamstring pulls and wide receivers, it could be a few weeks into the year before he trots out onto the field for the ‘Canes.

FAU-bound John Franklin III says he wasn’t having fun at Auburn

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John Franklin III has had a ton written about him for a player going on his fourth program in five years but here’s a little more.

The quarterback-turned-wide receiver recently gave an interview to Matthew DeFranks of the Florida Sun Sentinel on his decision to transfer to Florida Atlantic for his senior season and seemed to lob a subtle shot at his former coaching staff at Auburn while doing so.

The not “having too much fun” line will probably draw most of the attention but don’t discount the issue Franklin has with playing every snap. While he arrived on the Plains as a signal-caller, he gave way to Sean White as the starter last year and was moved all over the field in a variety of packages. This spring he changed positions to wide receiver full time as a result but decided to transfer before catching passes for the Tigers.

The former ‘Last Chance U’ star will now head to Boca to play for former coach Clint Trickett with the Owls. It’s not super clear what exact role he will have in the offense but hopefully for Franklin he can have a little more “fun” this season along the way.

Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough misses practice for second time

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A running back is on the loose in Tuscaloosa and no, that’s not as good as it sounds for the Crimson Tide.

Beat reporter Alex Byington noted on Saturday that star tailback Bo Scarbrough was noticeably absent from Alabama’s practice on Saturday when it came time for media viewing periods, the second straight time that he’s been out of sight on the field.

The Tuscaloosa News followed up on the matter and reports that Scarbrough’s attendance (or lack thereof) was “nothing serious” and Nick Saban confirmed as much later in the afternoon by saying the running back was sick with an illness that kept him out.

Sophomore Josh Jacobs also missed the viewing period on Saturday.

Scarbrough has had a light work load the past several months as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered in the national championship game. The presumed starter is still expected to be good to go for the season opener against Florida State but the absences at practice will at least make things interesting in the next two weeks at a crowded position on the depth chart.