Vinnie Sunseri

Tide’s Sunseri one of record 98 players declaring for draft

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A draft-eligible Alabama rumored to be headed to the NFL — or not — will indeed be a part of a record-breaking pool this May.

Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri was one of 98 players included on the NFL’s official list, released Sunday, of players “who have been granted special eligibility” for the upcoming draft.  It was reported a week ago that the safety was leaning toward making the early leap into the NFL, although there was some vacillation as the redshirt junior waited until right up until the Jan. 15 deadline — plus the three additional days allotted to reconsider, provided there’s no signing with an agent — before making his final decision.

Sunseri is still rehabbing a torn ACL, which he suffered in a mid-October win over Arkansas.

The 98 players granted special eligibility by the NFL is a record, shattering and/or obliterating the old mark of 73 set just last year.  That standard broke the record of 65 set the year before that.  In 2004, just 43 players with eligibility remaining left school early.

For the second consecutive year, LSU led all schools with seven early entrants.  In 2013, the Tigers saw 10 players leave early.  Sunseri gave the Tide five players leaving early, the same number as USC and one-win Cal (?).  Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and South Carolina each saw four players take the early jump into the NFL.

2014 marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of early entrants has increased.

The number could have actually topped the century mark as four players who have left school early but have already graduated were not included in the NFL’s official count: Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

You can view the complete, official list of early entrants into the NFL draft:

» Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
» Nick Addison, DB, Bethune-Cookman
» Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
» George Atkinson, RB, Notre Dame
» Dion Bailey, S, USC
» Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
» Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
» Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
» Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
» Alfred Blue, RB, LSU
» Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
» Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
» Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
» Carl Bradford, DE, Arizona State
» Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson
» Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
» Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
» Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
» Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Alabama
» Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
» Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
» Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
» Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
» Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
» Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
» Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
» Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
» Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
» Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
» Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
» Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
» Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
» Khairi Fortt, LB, California
» Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
» Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
» Carlos Gray, DT, North Carolina State
» Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
» Terrance Hackney, T, Bethune-Cookman
» Vic Hampton, CB, South Carolina
» Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
» Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
» Kameron Jackson, CB, California
» Nic Jacobs, TE, McNeese State
» Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
» Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
» Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
» Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
» Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
» Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
» Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
» Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
» Marqise Lee, WR, USC
» A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
» Albert Louis-Jean, DB, Boston College
» Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
» Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
» Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
» Marcus Martin, C, USC
» Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
» Chris McCain, DE, California
» Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
» Viliami Moala, DT, California
» Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
» Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
» Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
» Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
» Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
» Jeoffrey Pagan, DL, Alabama
» Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
» Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
» Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
» Kelcy Quarles, DL, South Carolina
» Darrin Reaves, RB, UAB
» Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
» Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
» Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
» Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
» Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
» Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
» Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
» Richard Rodgers, TE California
» Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
» Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
» Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
» Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
» Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
» Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
» Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
» Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
» John Spooney, RB, Brown
» Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
» Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA
» Vinnie Sunseri, DB, Alabama
» De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
» Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
» Trai Turner, OG, LSU
» George Uko, DL, USC
» Pierre Warren, FS, Jacksonville State
» Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
» Terrance West, RB, Towson
» James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
» David Yankey, OL, Stanford

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.

Will Mark Richt coach again? “Oh yeah, no doubt”

Mark Richt

On Sunday the end of the line for Mark Richt at Georgia was finally reached. The Bulldogs and the head coach will go separate ways after a 15-season run in Athens, but this will not be the final stop for Richt as a head coach. On Monday, during a press conference with the media to address the coaching change, Richt was asked whether he will coach again.

“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Richt said in his response. “I’m going to listen to anybody that’s interested in talking to me,” Richt said when again asked about what’s next for the now former head coach of Georgia.

The press conference with Richt was a bit unusual for these types of settings. First, Richt continued to show his Georgia pride by wearing a black coat and red tie and had a Georgia pin on his coat. Second, he sat right next to Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who offered no insight whatsoever on what’s next for Georgia. When asked about the coaching search or the status for assistants, McGarity continued to shift the focus on Richt.

Richt expressed his enthusiasm for getting to coach one final game for Georgia. He will coach Georgia’s bowl game, wherever that may be, giving him one last chance to end a season with a bowl victory, which he has done nine times previously.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.