James Franklin

Johnny Manziel, Aggies blocking Missouri’s path to Atlanta

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The last time Missouri won a conference championship the nation was still in awe over Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon. Just two months after Armstrong took one giant step for man and one giant leap for mankind, Missouri opened the 1969 season with a 19-17 victory over Air Force. It was the first of nine wins for the Tigers that season, which ended with a Big 8 championship and a loss in the Orange Bowl against Penn State and Joe Paterno, in his fourth season as a head coach in State College. That is how long it has been since Missouri enjoyed a conference championship. It has been a long time to come for the school, and a victory on Saturday will present an opportunity to celebrate a conference championship generations in the making.

All that is standing in the way, for now, is Texas A&M and their 2012 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Get by the Aggies and then a date with Alabama or Auburn will await them in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

Missouri needs to win this game in order to make a trip to Atlanta. A loss by Missouri will send South Carolina back to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since the 2010 season. South Carolina has already wrapped up their SEC schedule for the year — the Gamecocks host in-state rival Clemson, of the ACC, this weekend — and they own the tiebreaker with Missouri thanks to a head-to-head overtime victory on October 26 at Missouri. Missouri should be feeling good about their chances against Texas A&M after going on the road and welcoming back quarterback James Franklin to the field. Franklin completed 12 of 19 passes for 142 yards at Ole Miss in his first game back after missing time due to a shoulder injury. Maty Mauk filled in admirably in his place, giving Missouri head coach Gary Pinkell a little extra confidence in knowing his team can keep moving forward in the face of adversity.

Texas A&M is coming off a 34-10 loss at LSU last weekend. It was a game that forced many to suggest Manziel fell out of the Heisman Trophy race. To be fair, it was Manziel’s worst performance as a starting quarterback over the past two seasons, with the 2012 Heisman winner completing just 16 of 41 pass attempts for 224 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions. Manziel did not get much support though, with the Aggies getting gashed for 517 yards by LSU’s offense, including 324 yards on the ground. That will serve as the blueprint for Missouri this weekend as well, and should work out well. Missouri has the SEC’s second-leading rushing offense behind Auburn, averaging 238.0 yards per game. The Aggies have allowed a SEC worst 221.0 rushing yards per game. If Missouri sticks to the game plan and lets Henry Josey control the tempo with steady carries mixed in with some complimentary Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy, the Tigers should be able to have their way with Texas A&M at home.

The key to utilizing the running game to their advantage will be keeping Manziel and Mike Evans, the SEC’s best wide receiver, off the field as much as possible. The Aggies have quick-strike ability any time that duo is on the field, but Missouri will counter with one of the SEC’s more turnover-happy pass defenses. Missouri gives up a lot of passing yards, so Manziel should be able to rack up some good numbers in his regular season finale. Missouri also leads the conference in interceptions, with 18 to 14 touchdowns allowed, so Missouri will also likely come up with some Manziel passes at times. Capitalizing on them will be important as much as running as much clock as possible.

Missouri may not want to get in to a shootout with Manziel and the Aggies, but Texas A&M has come up short  in a pair of high-scoring games this season already s it should not be something Missouri fears.

Fighting Illini live up to nickname as Lovie Smith calls early end to practice amidst fisticuffs

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 01: Head coach Lovie Smith of the Illinois Fighting Illini looks over the field against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Illinois 31-16. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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Lovie Smith is not a big fan of fighting amongst his Illinois players, a lesson he shared with his aptly nicknamed Fighting Illini squad Wednesday evening.

According to the Decatur Herald & Review, Illinois’ spring practice session yesterday came to an abrupt and premature end after a fight between players broke out.  The names of those involved in the fisticuffs are not known as the media hadn’t been permitted to view practice.

From the Herald & Review‘s report:

…a source said Smith wanted to send a strong message about how he hates fighting and considers it an inexcusable transgression that robs the rest of the team of a chance to concentrate on getting better.

The field was cleared at about 5:35 p.m., nearly an hour before practice was scheduled to end. The players were sent to the locker room and the field was quickly cleared of equipment. Reporters were told there would be no interviews and were told to vacate the Memorial Stadium facility.

The Illini, which finished 3-9 in their first season under Smith last year, kicked off spring practice feb. 14 and will conclude it March 10 with the annual spring game.

Andy Dodd tweets decision to transfer from LSU

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Fans sit in the rain during the Auburn Tigers against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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With spring practice getting set to kick of en masse all across the country, there’s more of the expected personnel attrition settling in and coming to light.

On his Twitter account Wednesday, Andy Dodd announced that it is in his “best interest” to transfer from LSU and continue playing college football elsewhere. “This decision was not an easy one, but it is what’s best for me moving forward,” the offensive lineman wrote.

Dodd was a three-star member of the Tigers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 guard in the country.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, the lineman played in eight games the next two seasons. He played in six games, with one start, in 2016.

Auburn adds FCS starting lineman as graduate transfer

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 12: Running back Peyton Barber #25 of the Auburn Tigers dives for the end zone during overtime in their game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on September 12, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Jacksonville State Gamecocks 27-20. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Another graduate transfer has made a move, albeit with a slightly different bent than most others.

Auburn confirmed Wednesday that Casey Dunn has been added to Gus Malzahn‘s football roster.  The center comes to The Plains as a graduate transfer, which makes him eligible for the 2017 season.

He also comes to Auburn from Jacksonville State, an FCS school that would’ve made him immediately eligible aside from the grad transfer exception.  Oh, and his new position coach is excited to have him in the personnel fold as well.

The past two seasons, Dunn was an FCS All-American.  While Dunn comes to the Tigers as a center who started 27 games at that position for the Gamecocks, he could play anywhere along the interior of the Tigers’ offensive line.

Malzahn is also very familiar with Dunn’s talent as the lineman started for the JSU squad that took him to overtime in 2015.

Longtime Wake Forest assistant completes Charlotte’s coaching staff

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 12:  Head coach David Bailiff of the Rice Owls and head coach Brad Lambert of the Charlotte 49ers meet to shake hands following Rice's victory over Charlotte at McColl-Richardson Field at Jerry Richardson Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
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Earlier this week, Brad Lambert added a longtime Power Five assistant to his Charlotte coaching staff.  Not long after, he has added another.

The 49ers announced in a release that Keith Henry has been hired by Lambert as his running backs coach.  The 49ers’ coach at that position last season, Damien Gary, will shift to wide receivers.

Henry and Lambert (pictured, left) were on the same staff at Wake Forest, so they have a previous working relationship.

“Keith brings a lot of experience to our program,” said Lambert in a statement. “Having coached on both sides of the ball, he brings an added dimension of a defensive perspective to our offense. We’re really glad he’s coming on board with us. He’s a North Carolina native who’s played in North Carolina and has recruited for many, many years in North and South Carolina. That will be a huge benefit to our program with the relationships he’s built over the years.

“He’s been very successful and been a part of winning football at Ohio, Wake Forest and Catawba.”

Henry spent 11 seasons with the Demon Deacons (2001-11). He coached on the defensive side of the ball for the first 10 years before spending his final season with the ACC school as special teams coordinator.  His last job on the offensive side of the ball came as wide receivers coach at Ohio in 1996.