Sportswriters name Auburn’s Gus Malzahn coach of the year

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After guiding Auburn from a three-win season to the SEC championship and shot at a BCS championship, Gus Malzahn was named this year’s recipient of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America.

“Certainly, the job Coach Malzahn has done this year warrants this award,” said FWAA President Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times. “It is one of the best turnarounds in college football history and to do it in the first year at a school even adds to the accomplishment.”

Malzahn was helped along the way by a couple of miraculous plays, against Georgia and Alabama, but the Tigers developed a powerful running game that few teams stand a chance of slowing down. Auburn got better as the season unfolded, and they hit their stride at the right time to leap past Alabama in the SEC West and pull away from Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. With a little luck on their side in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, Auburn slid right in to the BCS Championship Game against all odds at the start of the season.

“This is a huge honor, and I’m very humbled to be named the recipient of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award,” Malzahn said upon hearing the news. “I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Robinson and looked up to him as a coach and as an individual. I accept this award on behalf of our entire coaching staff and players, which have done an outstanding job this year getting our program turned around.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the FWAA but apparently missed the deadline to cast my vote. If I had gotten my vote in, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe would have been at the top of my ballot, but Malzahn has as strong a case as nay of the finalists for the award. Turning around Auburn was bound to happen for Malzahn, but few could have guessed his first year on the job would have gone quite this well. Cutcliffe did win the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award.

Malzahn is the third coach to win the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award in his first season on the job at a  school, joining former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen in 2001 and Tom Cahill at Army in 1966. He is also the second coach from Auburn to win the award, joining Tommy Tuberville, now at Cincinnati.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly won the award in 2012. Alabama’s Nick Saban was the last SEC coach to win the award, doing so in 2008.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.

Fifth member of Jim McElwain’s first recruiting class at Florida to transfer

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Florida’s secondary continues to face some depth concerns ahead of the 2017 season. The depth chart lost Chris Williamson, multiple reports confirmed today, who is opting to transfer to a new school.

The former four-star defensive back was recently guided through a position change to pad the depth at the safety position this spring. Williamson has spent the past two seasons in Gainesville and has appeared in 14 games with one start. He came to Florida as part of the first recruiting class signed by Gators head coach Jim McElwain in 2015, and he is now the fifth player from that class to transfer, according to Inside the Gators.

From Inside the Gators;

Williamson is the fifth player from Jim McElwain’s inaugural recruiting class at Florida in 2015 to transfer from the program, joining running back Jordan Cronkrite (USF), offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer, tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (USC) and tight end/linebacker Camrin Knight (Georgia State).

The news of Williamson’s intent to transfer comes on the same day Florida revealed it will be without safety Marcell Harris for the 2017 season. Harris suffered a torn Achilles tendon that will force the fifth-year senior to miss the entire 2017 season.

Williamson will have to sit out the 2017 college football season if he transfers to another FBS program, according to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a program at the FCS level or below.

Report: Joe Flacco’s brother no longer part of the Western Michigan program

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P.J. Fleck may not be the only person leaving Western Michigan this year. It appears as though quarterback Tom Flacco could also be out.

As reported by Andy Pepper of WWMT-TV, via Twitter, Flacco has left the football program for what is now undisclosed reasons. The school has not announced or confirmed this development, but Hustle Belt has noted Flacco’s name is nowhere to be found on the team’s roster on the school’s official website.

Where Flacco goes next is anybody’s guess at this point. If he does end up transferring to another program, he will do so with two years of eligibility to use after sitting out the 2017 season. He would be eligible to play immediately this fall if he ends up at a lower division football program.

Flacco is the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback and former Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco. Maybe Tom is following in his brother’s footsteps. Joe Flacco started his collegiate career at Pittsburgh. After backing up Tyler Palko in 2004, Flacco opted to transfer to Delaware, where he helped get the Blue Hens to a national championship game, where they lost to the same Appalachian State that upset Michigan in 2007.