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

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.