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UCF QB Bortles makes NFL decision official, RB Storm Johnson joins him

Blake Bortles AP

As expected, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles is cashing in his NFL Draft stock at its peak. Bortles made his decision official on Monday afternoon, informing head coach George O’Leary he will enter the NFL Draft this spring. He will be joined by UCF running back Storm Johnson.

Bortles had been holding off on making his decision until receiving his evaluation from the NFL to get a better sense of where he may be expected to be drafted. After an impressive showing in the Fiesta Bowl victory over Big 12 champion Baylor, the input must have been promising for the Offensive Player of the Year in the American. Bortles has been moving up various draft boards over the last month and his performance in the Fiesta Bowl did nothing to take away from his momentum heading in to the draft season.

Bortles completed 67.8 percent of his pass attempts this season for 3,581 yards. Both were second in the league behind only Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who himself is considered a top draft pick candidate after leaving with one year of eligibility to spare. Johnson was the American’s leading rusher this past season as well. Johnson rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Where UCF goes from here now should be interesting. The Knights look to have a winning foundation set up for years of success within the American moving in to the new College Football Playoff era, but replacing the top two offensive players will leave for some interesting position battles heading in to the spring. Freshman William Stanback was second on the team in rushing this season with 443 rushing yards and six touchdowns, so he should be the leading candidate to lead the running game in 2014. Freshman quarterback Justin Holman played sparingly behind Bortles this season but could be a leading contender for the starting job in 2014.

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Gator QB Treon Harris charged for not having driver’s license

Florida v Florida State

New Florida head coach Jim McElwain has his first off-field “incident” with which to deal, and it just so happens to involve his starting quarterback.  According to the Gainesville Sun, Treon Harris was charged with operating a motor vehicle without a valid license.

Not only that, the Sun reports, the true freshman has never had a driver’s license. Harris’ attorney, Huntley Johnson, tells the paper that his client is in the process of getting his license and he expects the charge to be dropped once that occurs.

“That’s the way it’s usually handled in a case like this for a citizen, and he’s a citizen,” Johnson said.

There’s also this:

It’s believed this charge will have zero impact on Harris’ postseason availability, and he’s still expected to start in the Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina.  That, though, is far from official as the university will look into the incident.

Harris started the last five games of the 2014 season after taking over for Jeff Driskel following a late-October loss to Missouri.

In early October, Harris was suspended indefinitely after he was accused of sexual assault.  Less than a week later, he was reinstated after the accuser dropped the complaint.

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Georgia lands UAB’s leading tackler

UAB v Ohio State

For once, it’s not South Alabama that’s the beneficiary of a UAB transfer.

While Georgia has yet to confirm the addition, Jake Ganus took to Twitter Friday to announce that he has decided to continue his collegiate playing career with the Bulldogs.  The linebacker has one year of eligibility remaining, plus he has yet to use his redshirt season.

He will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Ganus started every game for the Blazers in 2014, leading the team in tackles with 70.  He was also tops in tackles for loss with 16.5 and second in sacks with six.

Over three seasons, Ganus started 33 of 36 games.

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Strong, ‘Horns have Texas-sized recruiting day

Charlie Strong AP

We don’t normally do much on the recruiting front here at CFT, but this is something that caused us to perk our heads up and take notice.

One of the reasons Charlie Strong was hired by Texas was for his recruiting chops as well as his coaching ability.  Friday morning, those chops were on full display.

Within minutes of each other, Mesquite (Tex.) Poteet High school teammates Malik Jefferson and DeAndre McNeal announced in a ceremony at their school that they have verbally committed to play their college football for Strong at Texas. And, at least as far as UT is concerned, it’s a very big deal, especially as it pertains to Jefferson.

A five-star recruit in the Class of 2015, Jefferson is rated as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Texas; and the No. 22 player overall in the country. Perhaps even bigger for Strong and UT is the fact that they beat out, among other finalists, Texas A&M.

Amidst the #WRTS hashtags and “swagcopters” from their in-state recruiting rivals, this was a significant development for Strong.

That, though, is not to downplay the addition of McNeal.  A three-star recruit according to Rivals.com but a four-star by others, McNeal is rated as the No. 24 athlete in the country.  McNeal also held an offer from A&M, and visited College Station in late October.

While not allowed to address specific recruits, Strong took to Twitter acknowledge a moment that may — or may not — signal a turnaround in Austin.

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Les Miles talks ‘distraction’ of Michigan speculation

Arkansas v LSU Getty Images

On Monday, Les Miles went on the record with LSU beat reporters denying that he has any interest in the Michigan job… without permitting the denial to be captured on video or audio recording devices.

Three days later, Miles publicly addressed UM’s rumored interest… without actually denying any interest on his part.

During a Thursday appearance on SiriusXM’s College Football Playbook show — seriously, so to speak, get satellite radio for that channel alone — the LSU head coach was, of course, asked about the situation earlier in the week and the manner in which he handled it. Miles said he addressed it, such as it were, because he didn’t want the speculation to become a distraction for a Tiger team prepping for the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl.

“What happened there was, it became such a constant question, there was not a … I couldn’t put it behind us,” Miles said according to mlive.com. “Our football team’s preparing to play a significant game against Notre Dame, and I certainly didn’t want a distraction in any way.”

Shortly thereafter, though, Miles seemed to intimate that UM’s search for a new head coach would go on without him, much as it did in January of 2011.  And in December of 2007.

“The only thing I can tell you is that I’m so for Michigan,” he said. “They have a process, they’re going to go through it. They’re going to get a great coach.

“I wish them the very best.”

UM’s search for a new head coach is in the middle of its third week.  At least for now, a significant focus of that search appears to be on reeling in Jim Harbaugh and bringing him back to Ann Arbor. Should that effort fail — and most indications are that it will — there’s a very good chance the university could circle back to the coach in Baton Rouge and make another run at bringing Miles back to his college home.  Whether that effort would be as fruitless as the university’s first two attempts remains to be seen, although history suggests it very much would.

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The 10 hottest – and 10 cheapest – tickets of the 2014-15 bowl season

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame Getty Images

Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger did a wonderful thing. As the paper’s Ole Miss beat writer, he wondered how much the average price of a ticket to the Rebels’ Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU was going for on the secondary market. He found his answer – $84.15 – and then wondered how that ranked against the other 37 bowl games.

So he looked it up.

He found that three bowls stand above the rest: the Rose and Sugar bowls, and the Pinstripe Bowl – pitting nearby and postseason-starved Penn State against nearby and excited-to-play-Penn-State Boston College. Kellenberger also found that three bowls were drawing so little interest that they didn’t show up at all on the secondary market: the New Mexico, Famous Idaho Potato  and Bahamas bowls.

Every other bowl game has tickets for sale on line, and the demand varies wildly.

Ten Hottest Tickets
1. Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Alabama – $239.25
2. Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State – $149
3. Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State vs. Boston College – $132.12
4. Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. USC – $98.84
5. GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State – $97.68
6. Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin – $92.01
7. Peach Bowl: TCU vs. Ole Miss – $84.15
8. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State – $75.45
9. Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois – $72.45
10. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State – $70.89

Ten Cheapest Tickets
1. Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech – $5.25
2. Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State – $9.25
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson – $13.95
3. Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice – $13.95
5. Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA – $15.12
6. Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota – $16.29
7. Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia – $18.82
8. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh – $20
9. Camilia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green – $22.14
10. Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke – $22.80

Seeing a so-called New Year’s Six Bowl like the Orange Bowl No. 1 on the list is shocking at first, but it does make some sense. Georgia Tech doesn’t travel well, sure. And, yeah, Mississippi State isn’t a short drive to Miami, and the Bulldogs must view the Orange Bowl as a consolation prize after heading into their last game in line for a semifinal berth.

But, still, worse than the Hawaii Bowl?

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P.J. Fleck signs six-year extension at Western Michigan, is now the MAC’s highest-paid coach

P.J. Fleck

Just a year after posting a 1-11 debut, P.J. Fleck is set to become the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference.

The Broncos announced a six-year contract extension, keeping Fleck signed through the 2020 season, worth $800,000 annually, plus incentives. The new contract will make Fleck the MAC’s highest-paid coach, nearly 45 percent higher than second place Frank Solich ($554,500), according to the USA Today coaching salary database.

Fleck was mentioned as a possible candidate for openings imagined (Illinois) and real (Pittsburgh).

“This is a wonderful time to finalize this contract extension and thank Coach Fleck for his commitment to the Bronco program,” said WMU President John M. Dunn said in a statement. “Success on the playing field, achievement in the classroom and engagement with the community have been the team’s hallmarks over the past year. The pride and excitement generated by our scholar- athletes, their coach, assistant coaches and staff are reflective of the very best in collegiate athletics. Using any measure, this is a successful program and one we want to continue and build upon for years to come.”

Western Michigan posted a seven-win improvement in 2014, leaping from 1-11 to 8-4 and a berth in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl versus Air Force. The Broncos finished one game shy of sharing their third MAC West Division championship. Combined with a number of facilities updates, Western Michigan is making a significant investment to a program that still looking for its first bowl victory and has won just one MAC title in the last 44 years.

Fleck signed what has been called the highest-rated recruiting class in MAC history in 2014 and could be even better in 2015.

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WVU QB Clint Trickett returns to practice, will play vs. Texas A&M

Clint Trickett

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has returned to practice after leaving the Mountaineers’ 26-20 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 18.

“Clint’s done such a good job for us over the course of the year,” head coach Dana Holgorsen told the Associated Press. “He’s responsible for us being in a bowl game — did nothing to change what I think of him as far as the starting quarterback. We know what kind of kid he is, what kind of competitor he is.”

However, Trickett will not automatically resume his starting role upon his return. Sophomore Skyler Howard finished the K-State game strongly, hitting 15-of-23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and led West Virginia to a 37-24 win over Iowa State in the regular season finale by throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 69 more yards.

“With that said, Skyler’s improving, he’s taking a lot of reps these last three weeks. I anticipate to have both ready to go and we’ll probably make a game-time decision on who starts and what the rotation will be.”

The most likely scenario is that both quarterbacks play in their Liberty Bowl date with Texas A&M depending on the situation. Trickett is the more accomplished passer, but Howard (12 rushes for 107 yards this season) is the greater threat to run the ball. Trickett completed 281-of-419 passes for 3,285 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season.

West Virginia will face Texas A&M at 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 29 (ESPN).

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Mariota, Gordon headline Phil Steele All-America team

Marcus Mariota

Everyone has an All-America team these days. Heck, now that they’ve got some free time I hear the folks at Serial are going to pump out their own 2014 All-America team next week.

However, in crunching out their own list of 25-odd players, no one crunches more data than Phil Steele. The man is already a quarter of the way through his initial work for the 2015 season.

Anyway, on to current matters, the 2014 Phil Steele All-Americans can be found below. Second through 27th-team All-Americans can be found here.

Offense
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
WR Rashad Greene, Florida State
TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota
C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Jake Fisher, Oregon
OL Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa

Defense
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
LB Scooby Wright, Arizona
LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
LB Bernardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
DB Landon Collins, Alabama
DB Gerod Holliman, Louisville
DB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
DB Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State
DL Malcom Brown, Texas
DL Nate Orchard, Utah
DL Shane Ray, Missouri

Specialists
K Brad Craddock, Maryland
P Tom Hackett, Utah
KR Mario Alford, West Virginia
PR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

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Jim Harbaugh declines to answer the Michigan question

Jim Harbaugh

With the stakes being raised in the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes and decision day looming, the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach will be asked about the Michigan job for as long as he remains the San Francisco 49ers head coach.

That’s the deal. Reporters know Harbaugh will decline to answer, and yet they ask anyway on the 0.0001% chance Harbaugh will reveal his destination to them at that precise moment. Or something like that.

Anyway, this time around it was San Jose Mercury-News columnist Tim Kawakami to ask the question. At first he charged right toward the subject at hand like a pole vaulter on approach.

Question: “Have you been offered a contract by the University of Michigan?”

Answer: “As you know, I only talk about the job that I have. We’ve been together a long time. Always been my policy.”

The second time around, Kawakami moseyed his way to the question the way a figure skater roams the ice while gearing up for his next move.

Question: “You have the history with Michigan. Is there a special affinity you have with that school that might supercede all other loyalties at this point?”

Answer: “Again, I really… I don’t talk any other job than the one I have. Or talk about anybody else’s process.”

And that was that.

In the event that Harbaugh becomes Michigan’s head coach, and Yahoo‘s Charles Robinson thinks it either happens by December 30 or doesn’t happen at all, he will likely only admit to being Michigan’s coach once he is wearing maize and blue and standing in Ann Arbor for his introductory press conference.

Until then, though, the 49ers have two games remaining, so get ready for two more weeks of this.

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Texas A&M and offensive line coach B.J. Anderson part ways

B.J. Anderson

Texas A&M dismissed offensive line coach B.J. Anderson on Thursday afternoon, the program announced.

Well, wait a minute. No, it was Anderson’s decision to leave a job that paid him $334,000 a year.

Semantics aside, the slide of Anderson’s offensive line typified the fate of the overall club under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Led by an offensive line featuring future first-round picks (and Mike Sherman recruits) Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, the Aggies started 11-2 in Sumlin’s first year, then slid to 9-4 without Joeckel, and then to 7-5 this season without Matthews, with offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi turning in an underperforming season.

Anderson spent six seasons working for Sumlin, three in College Station and three at Houston. Prior to that he coached the offensive line at Sam Houston State and Tarleton State, served as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M and coached at Stephen F. Austin prior to that.

Kansas feels like a natural landing spot for Anderson, considering the Jayhawks just hired another former Aggie assistant in David Beaty.

(Photo credit: Texas A&M athletics)
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Two years removed from USC, DeVante Wilson’s back in the Pac at Cal

DeVante Wilson

After a couple of years away from the FBS in general and the Pac-12 specifically, DeVante Wilson is officially back.

Wednesday night, Cal announced in a press release what Wilson, along with two other players, has been added to the football program. The defensive end comes to the Bears as a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.

“We had some obvious needs to address defensively,” head coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “It all begins with the pass rush and I feel like DeVante gives us an athletic, long and explosive pass rusher who is going to make us instantly better.”

Wilson was a three-star member of USC’s 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 20 weakside end in the country and the No. 38 player at any position in the state of California.  He tore an ACL prior to the start of his first summer camp, however, and never played a down for the Trojans.

The past two seasons, Wilson played at the JUCO level in California.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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BC extends Addazio’s contract through 2020

Steve Addazio

In the past week or two, Steve Addazio has seen his name connected to first the opening at Michigan and now Pittsburgh.  Apparently, though, he won’t be going anywhere.

Thursday afternoon, Boston College announced that it has reached an agreement on a new contract extension with Addazio.  With the extension, the head football coach is now signed through the 2020 season.

What if any financial bump Addazio may have received was not detailed.

“In just two years, Steve Addazio has done an amazing job with our football program,” athletic director Brad Bates said in a statement. “To lead a team to 14 wins and two consecutive bowl games during what was supposed to be a rebuilding process is a great accomplishment. Beyond winning, he has worked tirelessly to recruit top-notch student-athletes and develop lasting relationships with former players and the entire University community. He is one of the best motivators I’ve ever been around, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We are very fortunate to have him as our coach.”

In two seasons at BC under Addazio, the Eagles have won seven games each year and qualified for a pair of bowl games. In the two seasons prior to Addazio’s arrival, BC won a total of six games and didn’t qualify for a bowl game either year.

“I appreciate Fr. Leahy’s and Brad Bates’ support for our program and their confidence in me,” Addazio said. “I am also grateful to our student-athletes and our staff for their dedication and hard work. Boston College is a great, Jesuit Catholic education in a world-class city that competes in big-time college football and I am honored and humbled to be in this position.

“We have a lot more work to do, but I believe we are building the foundation for a great football program.”

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Vols’ leading rusher cited for underage consumption

Tennessee v South Carolina Getty Images

Unbelievably, there was a (gasp!) underage college student caught consuming alcohol a couple of weeks ago.  Even more unbelievable?  He was a football player!

That said, The Tennessean reported Wednesday night that Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd was cited Dec. 3 for underage drinking.  The 18-year-old Hurd, along with another male, were arrested by UT police, with one of the two transported to a local hospital.

Which one of the two was transported, though, is unknown.

Hurd, 18, and Hunter Rivait, who is listed as a student in a university student directory, were arrested by citation on Dec. 3 after police spotted a car with its lights on in a university dorm parking garage. Police found an unconscious male inside.

The initial University of Tennessee police report does not identify the unconscious male, who was later transported to a hospital.

UT officials said Hurd has been disciplined internally and will play against Iowa in the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl.

As a true freshman in 2014, Hurd led the Vols with 777 yards rushing.  The next-closest back was Marlin Lane and his 279 yards.

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Oregon confirms Ifo Ekpre-Olomu won’t be available for playoffs

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Unfortunately, at least as far as the postseason is concerned, the worst has been confirmed when it comes to a key piece of Oregon’s defensive puzzle.

Wednesday, multiple media outlets reported that cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained what’s believed to be a serious knee injury during practice Tuesday.  It was heavily intimated that Ekpre-Olomu had sustained at least an ACL tear, and would be unavailable for the College Football Playoffs.

Thursday, head coach Mark Helfrich confirmed as much, although he hasn’t yet detailed the specific nature of the injury.

That means the senior will miss the CFP semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl with Florida State, as well as, if the Ducks get past the Seminoles, the national championship game against the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl matchup.

Regardless of how you try to parse it, this is a significant loss for the Ducks.

Ekpre-Olomu was recently named first-team All-Pac-12, the third consecutive year he’s been accorded that honor, as well as a first-team Associated Press All-American. He’s started 40 straight games for the Ducks, and was viewed as a likely first- or second-round selection in next year’s NFL draft prior to the injury.

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Report: Jimbo Fisher set to be among five highest-paid head coaches

ACC Championship - Florida State v Georgia Tech Getty Images

The most successful head football coach over the past three seasons isn’t even one of the 10 highest-paid at the FBS level.  That, though, could be about to change.

According to a report from Warchant.com, “Florida State officials and head coach Jimbo Fisher are expected to announce a new long-term agreement, which will make him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, before the Seminoles take on Oregon in the Rose Bowl.” Fisher earned just under $3.6 million in 2014, which placed him 14th in the USA Today coaches salary database.

Per the report, “[t]he new deal, which is still being finalized, likely will place him in the top five.” If that’s the case, Fisher’s new deal would average in excess of $5 million annually as Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.058 millin), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5.006 million) and Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million) sit at Nos. 3-5, respectively.

The new deal is also expected to be for eight years in length.

Since 2012, Fisher’s Seminoles have gone 39-2 and won three straight ACC titles. Riding a school-record 29-game winning streak, FSU will look to win back-to-back national championships, having claimed the final BCS title following the 2013 season.

The Seminoles and Ducks will square off in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, with the winner facing the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl the same day in the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game.

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