Boston College RB Andre Williams jumps to second in HeismanPundit Staw Poll

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Another ACC player has emerged as a serious contender in this year’s Heisman race.

Boston College running back Andre Williams, fresh off a 263-yard performance that pushed him past the 2,000-yard mark for the season, debuted in second-place in the latest HeismanPundit Heisman Straw Poll released on Tuesday.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston held the top spot for the third week in a row, but he saw his point total drop as the result of two voters dropping him off their ballots. Winston grabbed six first-place votes, appearing on just those six ballots, and totaled 18 points.

Williams was close behind with 16 points. He did not garner any first-place votes from the 10-member panel of voters, but his appearance on eight ballots allowed him to leapfrog the rest of the field.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron grabbed two first-place votes and totaled eight points to move up to third place from fifth last week. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was fourth (1 first-place vote, 7 points) while defending Heisman winnerJohnny Manziel of Texas A&M was fifth (4 points). Oregon’sMarcus Mariota snared the remaining first place vote.

Now in its eighth season, the HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll is the college football world’s most trusted gauge of Heisman voter sentiment. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the past seven seasons, with the final 2012 poll correctly picking the top five finishers and the final 2011 poll picking the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country. Each week during the season they will pick three players. Tabulations for the preseason poll are tabulated like a real Heisman ballot, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll is released on Tuesdays throughout the season at HeismanPundit.com.

The HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll, 11/26/2013

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 18 (6)

2. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College — 16

3. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama — 8 (2)

4. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois — 7 (1)

5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — 4

6. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 3 (1)

7. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor — 2

8. (tie) Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State — 1

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh — 1

Number of ballots

Williams — 8

Winston — 6

McCarron — 4

Lynch — 4

Manziel — 3

The rest — 1

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

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Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

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Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

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As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.

Lane Kiffin on Art Briles: ‘He’s absolutely not a consultant’

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You just knew this was coming.

Lane Kiffin acknowledged to reporters covering his Florida Atlantic football team that he had turned to Art Briles, ousted as BU’s head football coach in the midst of the sexual assault scandal, for help and advice when it comes to the Owls’ offense, stating that “[e]very once in a while, I’ll text or call him and bounce something off of him.” The backlash over Kiffin even informally consulting with the disgraced coach was immediate, prompting him to clarify the state of his relationship with Briles.

“Somebody texted me and wanted to know why I hired Art Briles, and I was like, ‘What?'” Kiffin told ESPN.com‘s Chris Low. “He’s absolutely not a consultant and has never been to practice or spoken to our team. That’s classic ‘somebody trying to make it a story’ because it’s Art Briles and Lane Kiffin. …

“Kendal sent his dad our spring game to let him see how he was calling plays and running the system. I have not spoken to [Art Briles] about him watching that film. It was just his son sending his dad film so he could see what he was doing, nothing more than that.”

The Kendal mentioned would be Kendal Briles, Art’s son and Kiffin’s offensive coordinator.  Over the weekend, the younger Briles acknowledged that he’s sent film to his father, saying “[h]e’s definitely involved and we talk daily.”  From Low’s interview with Kiffin:

Kiffin said he’s called Art Briles “probably twice” to let him know that Kendal was doing a good job.

“He’s a coach’s dad just like mine, and I told him that his son is doing a really good job, which all dads, especially coach’s dads, love to hear,” Kiffin said. “It’s no different than when you call a player’s parent and tell them their son is doing well. And in the course of that, I’ve asked him a few questions because it’s obviously his [offensive] system that he’s run for years. So I’ve asked him a couple of questions about alignments of players or something like that.

So, there’s that.  Hope it clears things up.