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Report: Vanderbilt will interview Stanford DC Derek Mason

Derek Mason AP

A few years ago, it would’ve been pretty odd to think Vanderbilt would go after a star coordinator from a perennial BCS contender.

But after James Franklin showed there’s actually some upside in Nashville, Vanderbilt can aim a little higher. Case in point: The Commodores are set to interview Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, according to CBS Sports’ Jeremy Fowler.

Since Mason became Stanford’s defensive coordinator Willie Shaw Director of Defense in 2011, the Cardinal have ranked among the top defenses in college football and cracked the top 10 in scoring defense (19 points per game) last fall. Mason was a Broyles Award finalist in 2013 and oversaw the development of star linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, among others.

One rumored candidate for the Vandy job won’t compete with Mason for it — Franklin’s defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop, will follow him to Penn State.

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Wrench thrown into Jayhawks’ plans as KU loses four-star RB

Traevohn Wrench

(Writer’s note: not literally lost, for those who were concerned about the player’s well-being.)

The highest-rated member of Kansas’ 2014 recruiting class will have to wait a year if he’s going to play in Lawrence as originally planned.

Multiple media outlets reported recently that Traevohn Wrench will be a non-qualifier academically at KU. Instead, the running back will go the JUCO route, playing the 2014 season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.

Wrench had signed with KU this past February.

The good news for the Jayhawks and Charlie Weis — if he’s still around in 2015, that is — is Wrench plans on resigning with KU and playing for them in 2015.

“I am 100 percent going to KU,” after spending time at Butler the player said.

That would be welcome news for a roster that needs as many quality football players as it can acquire. Wrench would fit in that category as he was a four-star member of KU’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 running back in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kansas.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Purdue suspends starting safety for first two games

Melvin Gordon, Taylor Richards

An off-field at the end of last year will cost Purdue’s defensive secondary at the beginning of this season.

Second-year head coach Darrell Hazell confirmed to the Indianapolis Star recently that Taylor Richards (no relation) will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season. Taylor was arrested last December and charged with operating while intoxicated (a vehicle, not on a patient) and underage consumption of alcohol.

The incident occurred after the postseason-less Boilermakers put the finishing touches on a one-win season.

Taylor has started 27 consecutive games at safety, so the loss of his veteran experience will certainly be a steep price to pay for both the player and the team. He will miss, incidentally, the opener against Western Michigan and the following week versus Central Michigan.

Additionally, fellow safety starter Landon Feichter will miss the first half of the opener. In the season finale against Indiana, he was flagged for targeting in the second half of the loss.

Feichter has started 25 straight games for the Boilermakers.

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Dismissed Bergeron seeking release from UT scholarship

New Mexico State v Texas Getty Images

Well, this is a plot twist most wouldn’t necessarily see coming.

Last Friday, multiple media outlets reported that Joe Bergeron had been dismissed by new Texas head coach Charlie Strong. The only reason given was the standard “violation of unspecified team rules.”

Five days later, the Austin American-Statesman is, citing unnamed family sources, reporting that Bergeron is “actively seeking a release from his scholarship.” It’s unclear why a player who has been dismissed would need to actively seek a release — speculation is that he’s been granted an unconditional one — especially considering said player’s next reported stop.

Again per the American-Statesman, Bergeron is looking at moving on to West Texas A&M to continue his collegiate playing career. That school’s athletic director confirmed that portion of the story to the paper.

Because that A&M is a Div. II program, Bergeron would be eligible to play immediately in 2014. Perhaps the release is a mere technicality, although, again, it’s unclear.

(Writer’s note: I’ve put out multiple feelers to divine what if any meaning this whole “release” angle has.)

The American-Statesman, though, sums up the overall situation very nicely:

Bergeron’s situation is perplexing. He was sent home from spring football practice for undisclosed reasons. But Strong talked up Bergeron during the coach’s bus tour in April and May and always included him in any discussion about the depth at running back.

Then prior to his appearance at Big 12 media day, Strong told the Statesman, “Joe’s back.” By week’s end, Bergeron was gone from the team for good.

Bergeron was one of four Longhorns reportedly dismissed late last week by Strong. The school has yet to announce the forced departures.

All told, seven players have been dismissed since Strong took over for Mack Brown.

Additionally, three more UT players are facing suspensions as the new football sheriff in Austin looks to open the eyes of his players to a new, and more demanding, style of discipline.

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Third legal strike and Herd RB is out

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Unfortunately for Kevin Grooms, in college sports, as in baseball, very, very rarely are you given a fourth strike.

Over the weekend, Marshall announced that the running back had been dismissed from the football program. The separation came a few hours after Grooms was arrested on a felony burglary charge as well as misdemeanors of domestic assault, petit larceny and fleeing on foot.

The arrest was Grooms’ third in a little over 15 months. In late April of last year, the back was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and obstruction. Seven months later, he was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with domestic battery and obstruction.

Head coach Doc Holliday reinstated Grooms before the start of spring practice, with the player exiting the 15 sessions as the clear starter at the position.

Grooms was a talented player who could never quite get his head out of his nether regions, though.

After redshirting as a true freshman — he was a three-star member of the Herd’s 2011 recruiting class coming out of high school in Hollywood, Fla. — Grooms led Marshall in 2012 with 737 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He was named Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year following that season.

Despite not playing the in the last three games last season due to a combination of injuries and his suspension, Grooms finished third on the team with 503 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns.

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Punishment up in the air for starting Utah QB cited for alcohol

Travis Wilson AP

As evidenced by his 16 interceptions last season — second most at the FBS level, and in just nine games no less — Travis Wilson had an issue with the on-field decision-making part of the quarterback equation.

As evidenced by a recent incident, the off-field decision-making could use some work as well.

Late last week, Utah’s starting quarterback — at least for now — was cited for underage consumption of alcohol. The citation was issued at a Tim McGraw concert and came courtesy of the Utah Highway Patrol.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Wilson was released at the scene.

What if any disciplinary measures Wilson will face are to be determined.

“We are still in the process of gathering information on the incident,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement released to the Tribune. “Once we have all the facts, we will handle the situation internally and determine any disciplinary action that should be taken.”

After starting the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, a concussion — technically, an intracranial artery injury — sidelined Wilson for the last three games and led to questions as to whether he would ever play the game again. Wilson, though, was cleared to participate in spring practice, albeit in non-contact mode, and was ultimately cleared medically for full contact last month.

Wilson will enter summer camp as the projected starter, although, Kendal Thompson, a transfer from Oklahoma, is expected to push the incumbent for the job.

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Bo Pelini suggests foul play by Ole Miss

Bo Pelini

There is an old football cliche that goes something like this: “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

And Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini stopped just short of accusing the Ole Miss Rebels of cheating during a recent recruiting battle.

Wide receiver transfer Damore’ea Stringfellow, who originally chose the Washington Huskies as part of the 2013 class, verbally committed to Nebraska during a visit this summer. After visits to Alabama and Ole Miss, Stringfellow, a four-star recruit, decided to flip his commitment and he will attend Ole Miss in the fall.

What happened in between?

“Read between the lines,” Pelini told Huskers Illustrated’s Michael Bruntz. “I think we all know what happened in that situation.”

Since Coach Pelini suggested it, let’s read between the lines about what could have possibly happened.

OK — I’m reading between the lines now — what could Ole Miss have done to flip Stringfellow’s commitment?

  • They paid him.
  • They gave him a car.
  • They offered his parents a job.
  • They told him he would start right away.
  • Young ladies were used as “campus aides” to woo him.

There really is an untold amount of possibilities we can think of based on Pelini’s simple suggestion.

Or — and this is far more likely — a teenager with plenty of options available to him changed his mind. Too bad the coach on the wrong side of the decision simply couldn’t accept that fact.

Pelini didn’t give much of an explanation for his outburst, but he seemed to lay the blame at the feet of Stringfellow’s parents.

“Especially when it’s a clueless parent,” Pelini said.

Pelini may think he knows what’s best for every kid Nebraska recruits, but he is not in any position to tell Stringfellow and his family what’s best for them.

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A deluge descends upon UCLA’s campus

Terrence Bowman #12

A water main break near UCLA’s campus has completely flooded large areas of the university.

The football team was forced to quickly move its gear from the onrushing water. The football field is almost completely submerged, and the weight room is reportedly in “bad shape.”

Here are other images from around UCLA’s athletic complex:

If you want to follow the NBC 4’s coverage of the water break, click the video below:

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Report: Three more Longhorns could face a suspension

Daje Johnson

When four players were dismissed from the Texas Longhorns program last week, there was speculation more players would follow. Three more players have been identified by HornsDigest.com’s Chip Brown as being at risk.

Wide receiver Daje Johnson and offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle all face suspension, according to Brown. The trio are apparently down to their “last strike” with the program.

It should be pointed out that Texas has not announced anything and these three players may simply be facing internal pressure to conform with head coach Charlie Strong’s new approach.

If we do take a moment to consider the possibility of any of these players being suspended, it would be a major blow to the Longhorns’ offense.

Harrison and Estelle are projected to the team’s starting bookends at offensive tackle. The Longhorns lack experience behind their starters and protecting quarterback David Ash with a pair of neophyte offensive tackles could prove to be disastrous. Kent Perkins, who is projected to start at guard, would likely be asked to move back to right tackle, while sophomore Camrhon Hughes would be thrust into the starting lineup.

At wide receiver, Johnson has shown the potential to be a dynamic play maker. While it may be difficult to replicate what Johnson can do within the offense, it could eventually prove to be an opportunity for a young receiver — whether it’s Jacorey Warrick, Jake Oliver or one of five incoming freshmen — to earn playing time and possibly produce.

It wouldn’t be surprising with Strong’s recent track record to find out that one or all of these players are eventually suspended, but we wanted to stress the fact that it hasn’t happened or hasn’t been announced at this time.

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Mizzou WR suspended due to a banned substance

Missouri v Vanderbilt

The Missouri Tigers’ war of attrition at wide receiver continues.

Sophomore Levi Copelin has been suspended for the 2014 campaign due to taking a banned substance.

“The reason I am suspended is that I recently bought an over-the-counter nutritional supplement from a local store, and used it as part of my workout routine,” Copelin said in a statement released by the schoool. “Unfortunately, I used it without clearing it with my strength coaches or trainers.  This supplement is legal and available to the public, but it isn’t approved by the NCAA, and as a result of using it, I failed an NCAA drug test.  This was a stupid mistake on my part, and I’m very sorry that I put myself and my team in this situation.  This is a hard lesson to learn, as I never had the wrong intentions. I also understand there aren’t any shortcuts to success.  There’s nothing I can do except dedicate myself to representing me, my family, my team, and Mizzou the right way going forward.  I’m very grateful to my coaches and my teammates for giving me a chance to overcome this.”

Last season, the Tigers had one of the most explosive wide receiver corps in college football. L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas were lost to the NFL, and budding superstar Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team in April.

The team will now rely heavily on seniors Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt. Copelin was projected to be the team’s fourth starter at wide receiver in its spread system. Instead, Copelin’s absence will provide an opportunity for a pair of true freshmen, Nate Brown and DeSean Blair, to make an early impact for the Tigers. The coaching staff could also turn to tight end Sean Culkin to provide a big presence — all 6-6 and 245 pounds of him — in the slot.

“This is a very unfortunate situation, but one that Levi created for himself,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said in the statement. “He’s paying the price for this mistake, and I commend him for owning up to it and taking responsibility.  Our strength coaches and trainers rely on our players to be careful of what they do on their own, and to always get approval from them first.  We’re disappointed that Levi didn’t follow this guideline, but we will support him during this time, and have high expectations that he will handle all of his responsibilities in the classroom, in the community and on the field in a first-class manner.”

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WVU’s Wendell Smallwood cleared of charges in murder case

Wendell Smallwood

Sometimes, as is the case with West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood, it’s far more prudent to allow the justice system to play itself out before a student-athlete’s future is determined.

Smallwood was arrested July 14 on charges of intimidating a witness involved in a murder case.

Wilmington (Delaware) police claimed at the time that Smallwood “tried to get a witness to recant statements implicating a friend (Zakee Lloyd) of his charged with first-degree murder.”

Lloyd, however, admitted to the crime, while Smallwood was a vital part of the investigation. The Wilmington Police Department issued a statement regarding Smallwood’s role in the matter:

Since his arrest, Wendell Smallwood has been fully cooperative with the Department of Justice and Wilmington Police Department including giving a full statement regarding his involvement in witness intimidation. He was fully prepared to testify truthfully in the upcoming trial, and his cooperation was instrumental to the State in securing today’s conviction of Zakee Lloyd.

There is no evidence of Smallwood’s involvement in the murder of Manuel Oliveras.  Moreover, despite the recorded phone call between Smallwood and Lloyd, there is no evidence that it resulted in a threat being conveyed to that witness.  In consideration of all of the facts and circumstances, including Smallwood’s full cooperation with authorities and the conviction of Zakee Lloyd, the State today entered a nolle prosequi on the witness intimidation charge against Wendell Smallwood.

Upon news of Smallwood’s involvement in the case, West Virginia University didn’t comment on the situation, and Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen wouldn’t discuss it during Big 12 media days. Instead, Smallwood remained on the roster, and he’ll now be able to return to the team without fear of suspension or dismissal.

Smallwood finished third on the team with 221 rushing yards in 2013, and he was second with 894 all-purpose yards.

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Jake Heaps expects to start at QB for the Hurricanes

Jake Heaps

Quarterback Jake Heaps hopes the third time is the charm.

Heaps is on his third team in four years. After unsuccessful stints with the BYU Cougars and the Kansas Jayhawks, Heaps has one year of eligibility left to make his mark with the Miami Hurricanes. And Heaps plans to make the most of it as the team’s starting quarterback.

“I didn’t come here to be the backup,” Heaps told the Miami Herald’s Susan Miller Degnan. “I made this decision for a reason. I came here to play, but you have to earn that. No one is going to give that to you, and that’s what I knew coming into this situation and that’s what I wanted.

“… That’s the only way you’re going to earn your teammates’ respect and gain their confidence. So for me, I’m very excited about this opportunity. This is my last year. I’ve given everything I have at this thing, and it’s extremely important for me to perform well — not only to win the job but for my goals and aspirations down the line as well.”

Heaps’ experience speaks for itself and provides him with an advantage in the Hurricanes’ upcoming quarterback competition. During his time with the other two institutions, Heaps played in 33 games and threw for 5,181 yards, 32 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.

The starting job, however, won’t be handed to the upperclassman. Although, the trek will be much easier to navigate without projected starter Ryan Williams in the running. Williams suffered a torn ACL during spring ball, which allowed Heaps to transfer to the University of Miami.

Heaps will compete with three young but very talented quarterbacks. Kevin Olsen is a redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit. Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier are a pair of highly touted true freshmen that could work their way into the mix with strong showings during fall camp.

“Many times you’re in a situation with quarterback battles, [and] it’s very easy to find a team that has a divided locker room, that in a lot of situations don’t handle this situation very well,” Heaps said. “It’s a testament to the group of guys in this quarterback room that there hasn’t been any division.

“I’ve tried to come in and be nobody but myself and show these guys how much I love the game of football. It has gone extremely well. These guys are great.”

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Disciplinary actions at Texas are helping recruiting

Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong had many challenges facing him when he took over as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns. The biggest of which was relating to high school coaches in the state of Texas after they became accustomed to the ways of Mack Brown over the past 16 years.

Strong’s recent disciplinary action — he suspended or dismissed six players last week, including two potential starters — wasn’t seen as a negative around the state. Strong is establishing a new culture in Texas, and high school coaches are taking notice.

“The high school coaches I’ve spoken with say they want to send players to a place where is sound discipline,” Daron Roberts, a Texas graduate who will coach at the high school level this season, told Bleacher Report’s Ben Kercheval. “Everyone knows that Strong means what he says.”

The high school coaches don’t just want their athletes to play for the University of Texas. They want them to become better men under the supervision of Strong.

“We’re in the development business,” Todd Moebes, the head football coach at Abilene Cooper High School, told Kercheval. “We want to make our players better citizens in society, but you also have to look at how that affects the program. I admire him.”

Strong is quickly setting the tone within his program and changing expectations around the state. And it’s working.

Texas currently ranks 20th overall in Rivals.com’s 2015 class rankings. The program didn’t rank in the Top 20 during Brown’s last full recruiting cycle. The team finished 24th. And the Longhorns received a pair of verbal commitments from wide receiver John Burt (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) and defensive lineman Du’Vonta Lampkin (Houston/Cypress Falls) since the suspensions.

It will take time for Strong and his staff to fully ingratiate themselves into recruiting the state of Texas, but the coach has certainly set the right tone early in his tenure.

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NCAA rescinds Oklahoma State’s practice penalty

Mike Gundy

The NCAA reversed its course, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys won’t be docked practice time this season.

Two months ago, the NCAA ruled the Cowboys’ football team fell below the minimum standard required as it pertains to program’s Academic Progress Rate.

A mistake in calculating the APR was brought to the NCAA’s attention by Oklahoma State, which brought the school’s APR score above the minimum threshold.

“Throughout this process the NCAA has been committed to having complete and accurate data,” OSU’s senior associate athletic director for compliance Kevin Fite said in a release. “We were provided a great deal of assistance in ensuring the information we were evaluated on accurately reflected our football team’s academic performance, based on APR standards. When the additional point was discovered earlier this summer, the NCAA staff promptly re-evaluated our situation and added the point, which took us out of the penalty range.”

The mistake apparently came when the school “discovered the recent graduation of a player from the 1990s which counted toward the APR score”, according to FOX Sports Southwest’s David Ubben.

The change in policy won’t have a drastic effect on how Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy approaches practice during fall camp or during the season.

“We haven’t used the 20 hours in a number of years,” Gundy said during Big 12 media days. “And when you put it down on paper, we end up being about 45 minutes short. We’ll incorporate a few new things in two-a-days prior to school starting, when we don’t have any limitations, and we’ll move forward. I’ve challenged the players with accepting responsibility to make up for that time during the week.”

Oklahoma State has shown marked academic improvement over the past two years, which lessened the original penalty, but the program will have to continue on its upward trend to avoid this situation in the future. Next time they might not be able to find a player from two decades ago that will able to help their cause.

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Urban Meyer wants LeBron James at OSU games

Wisconsin v Ohio State Getty Images

Basketball megastar LeBron James described his time with the Miami Heat as his “college experience.” Now that “The King” is “coming home” to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, The Ohio State University would like to expand on his so-called college experience this fall by making James a permanent fixture on the football team’s sidelines.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked about James’ return to Ohio during the Big Ten’s media days. Meyer made sure to point out he has an open door policy with James.

James is one of the world’s most famous athletes, and the reason to have him around is obvious. James is a living and breathing recruiting tool, and coaches love to use every tool at their disposal.

Unfortunately, NBA training camps open at the start of October, and James will likely miss the bulk of Ohio State’s conference games, unless he has an off day or two from practice and games.

If Meyer really wanted James around more, he could have done exactly what the basketball program did and bequeath a permanent locker to James somewhere in the football facilities.

After all, there appears to be more than enough room in the team’s new extravagant new locker room to grant “The King” a throne…

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Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes have national title expectations

Urban Meyer

On The Dan Patrick Show, Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer addressed multiple issues he deals with on a daily basis as the leader of one of the nation’s premier programs.

Expectations for the Buckeyes may the most difficult issue to handle. Ohio State doesn’t just compete for Big Ten Championships. The program is trying to compete for national titles each and every year.

“I think it’s real,” Meyer told Patrick. “I felt it on our team last year during our win streak. I try to watch that. I been through it now for quite a while. I try to give some experience to it and focus on that task at hand. No one forced these players to come to Ohio State. No one forced these coaches. You get these top five, six, seven programs and that’s the way it is. You have to win every game you play, embrace it and try to do it. If you can’t, you rebound and try to win the next one. We have a good handle on that here.”

The Buckeyes are a consensus Top 10 pick entering the season, and they were chosen by the media to win the Big Ten Conference. If the Buckeyes hold true to form, they will have a legitimate shot to be one of four participants in the the new College Football Playoff.

To listen to the entire interview, click the video below:

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