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Senior Bowl recognizes Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald’s practice efforts

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Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have to make room on his trophy shelf for at least one more award. Donald was named the top practice player at the Senior Bowl practices this week.

“Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle,” said Mike Smith, the coach of the Atlanta Falcons, in a statement released by the Senior Bowl. The Falcons coaching staff is coaching the North team in this year’s Senior Bowl. “I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s short in stature by NFL standards and doesn’t maybe have all the measurables, but he’s one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He’s done a very nice job both in the running and the pass game.”

Donald cleaned up on the college football awards circuit. He was named the winner of the Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award and Chuck Bednarik Award in addition to being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.

The Senior Bowl also handed out awards for the top players by position. Auburn’s Dee Ford was named the most outstanding defensive lineman, which is somewhat humorous considering Donald is also a defensive lineman. Northern Illinois defensive back Jimmie Ward, West Virginia running back Charles Sims, Iowa wide receiver C.J. Fiedorowicz, Notre Dame offensive lineman Zach Martin, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland and Auburn kicker Cody Parkey have all been recognized for their performance in practices this week as well.

Last year’s top practice player at the Senior Bowl was Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who went on to be the number one overall draft pick. Donald may not be the number one pick in this year’s upcoming NFL Draft, but his stock certainly could not be much higher at this point. With NFL scouts and coaches gathering at the Senior Bowl, what a potential draft pick does during practices at the Senior Bowl tends to carry more weight than anything that happens during the actual game, although ending the week on a high note with a solid game performance certainly helps.

Four-star recruits reign in first round of NFL draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Joey Bosa of Ohio State holds up a jersey after being picked #3 overall by the San Diego Chargers during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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A wild and controversy-laden first night of the 2016 NFL draft has long since been put to bed — one college football program may have ongoing and lingering night terrors, though — with the second round set to kick off in less than an hour. Before that, though, it’s time to take a quick recruiting look back at that first round.

There were a total of 31 players selected in that first round, with just four coming from non-Power Five programs — quarterback Carson Wentz (North Dakota State, FCS) to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2, cornerback William Jackson III (Houston, AAC) to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 24, quarterback Paxton Lynch (Memphis, AAC) to the Denver Broncos at No. 26, defensive tackle Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech, Conference USA) to the Carolina Panthers at No. 30.  Wentz, as you may have learned during the run-up to the draft, wasn’t ranked in 247Sports.com‘s 2011 composite rankings and received zero scholarship offers from FBS programs, with Central Michigan the only school from that level showing more than mild interest.  The other three?  They were two-star prospects according to that recruiting service.

Those stars, or lack thereof, though, were the exception rather than the rule.

Of the remaining 27 first-round picks in the 2016 draft, more than half (17) were four-star prospects coming out of high school, again according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings.  Of the players selected in the Top 10, seven of them were four-star recruits, with the lone exceptions being Wentz, Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey (2013 five-star) and Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin (not rated, zero FBS scholarship offers, began career as walk-on).

Aside from Wentz, Conklin, Jackson III, Lynch and Butler, every other draft pick was at least a three-star recruit coming out of high school.  Interestingly, there were nearly as many three-star recruits picked (four) as there were five-stars (five).

Including the No. 1 overall pick from Cal, quarterback Jared Goff, four of the first five selections were four-star prospects.  The first five-star selected was Ramsey; the first three-star was Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins at No. 12 to the New Orleans Saints.

Below is the entire first round of the 2016 NFL draft, with the draftees corresponding recruiting ranking in parentheses.

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, Cal (4*)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State (NR)
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State (4*)
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (4*)
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (5*)
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (4*)
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon (4*)
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State (NR)
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia (4*)
  10. New York Giants — Eli Apple, Ohio State (4*)
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida (5*)
  12. New Orleans Saints — Sheldon Rankins, Louisville (3*)
  13. Miami Dolphins — Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss (5*)
  14. Oakland Raiders — Karl Joseph, West Virginia (3*)
  15. Cleveland Browns — Corey Coleman, Baylor (4*)
  16. Detroit Lions — Taylor Decker, Ohio State (4*)
  17. Atlanta Falcons — Keanu Neal, Florida (4*)
  18. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly, Alabama (4*)
  19. Buffalo Bills — Shaq Lawson, Clemson (4*)
  20. New York Jets — Darron Lee, Ohio State (3*)
  21. Houston Texans — Will Fuller, Notre Dame (4*)
  22. Washington Redskins — Josh Doctson, TCU (3*)
  23. Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (5*)
  24. Cincinnati Bengals — William Jackson III, Houston (2*)
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers — Artie Burns, Miami (4*)
  26. Denver Broncos — Paxton Lynch, Memphis (2*)
  27. Green Bay Packers — Kenny Clark, UCLA (4*)
  28. San Francisco 49ers — Joshua Garnett, Stanford (4*)
  29. Arizona Cardinals — Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (5*)
  30. Carolina Panthers — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (2*)
  31. Seattle Seahawks — Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (4*)

Laremy Tunsil: ‘I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins’

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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For those expecting Laremy Tunsil to expound on Thursday night’s revelation, you were sorely disappointed.

Friday evening, following a strange hiccup that involved a purported allergic reaction, Tunsil was introduced to the Miami media as the first-round pick of the Dolphins.  Not surprisingly, Tunsil was asked about the events of last night, from the gas-mask bong hit to the hacked Instagram account displaying damning text messages that could leave Ole Miss in further NCAA hot water to seemingly acknowledging in the affirmative during a post-draft press conference that he had received money from a Rebels staffer.

Not surprisingly, the sequel, Tunsil wasn’t touching last night’s developments.

“I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins,” Tunsil responded in one variation or another when asked a handful of times about the video and potential NCAA issues.

In the aftermath of the allegations and admission, Ole Miss released a statement in which the university vowed to “aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

UMass chancellor scoffs at talk of disbanding football

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This month we’ve already seen Eastern Michigan emphatically push back against faculty-fueled talk of moving the football program down to the FCS level or disbanding it completely.  Now it’s a former MAC member doing some pushing of its own on a similar effort.

Thursday, the faculty senate at UMass urged officials at the university to vote on a resolution “to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.”  That blast served as the latest salvo in a nearly four-year effort by the senate to rid itself and its university of the sport.

As has been the case in previous efforts, they appear to have failed miserably as the motion was defeated by a 2-1 margin.  Saying “[t]his is now the third time in my four years that they have brought up a motion and have not succeeded,” chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy went on to praise the direction of a program that is now a football independent after leaving the MAC following the 2015 season.

I think the program is in good shape and (headed) in the right direction,” he said. “This was simply a small group of senators who have been carrying on this agenda for some time. And they’re not getting the support they need. …

“I can’t control what the Faculty Senate does. It’s a waste of this important body’s time, in my opinion, to keep bringing up this issue. We have lots of issues on the curriculum and we have lots of issues on our future planning and so forth. So I think the academic senate’s time should be more wisely spent than debating something over and over again.”

Like their former conference counterparts at EMU, UMass has struggled mightily of late.  Since becoming full-fledged members of the FBS in 2012, the Minutemen have posted just eight wins versus 40 losses.

Despite those struggles, “we have strong support from the alumni base and our own student body,” Subbaswamy said, “which we’re going to build even more once we start playing even more games on campus.”

FCS LB Ray Lewis III, son of ‘Canes legend, charged with sexual assault

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A former member of the Miami Hurricanes football program — and the son of a U legend — is facing some rather significant allegations at his current football home.

WMBF-TV in Conway, SC, is reporting that an arrest warrant was issued for Coastal Carolina cornerback Ray Lewis III in connection to claims that he had sexually assaulted two women.  The FCS player turned himself into authorities earlier Friday and was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The alleged incidents that led to the charges occurred in January.  From the television station’s report:

On Saturday, January 23, Conway Police officer responded to a local hospital, where the victims told police they were sexually assaulted at an apartment in the 2200 block of Technology Drive, according to a news release from the police department. Detectives were called to the hospital to take over the investigation.

Medical reports, victim statements, witness statements, and lab statements were presented to the solicitor’s office, and warrants were obtained for 20-year-old Ray Lewis III.

The arrest warrant alleges that Lewis did engage in sexual battery with an 18-year-old female with the knowledge that the victim was incapacitated and/or physically helpless from the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Ray Lewis IIIThe 20-year-old Lewis, the son of UM Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, spent two seasons at his father’s alma mater without ever playing a down before transferring to Coastal Carolina in January of 2015.  In 2015 as a redshirt sophomore, the younger Lewis played in 12 games for the Chanticleers.

Suffice to say, he has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.

Coastal Carolina, incidentally, will be making the move from the FCS to the FBS level for the 2017 season.  It was announced in September of last year that the Chanticleers will join the Sun Belt Conference for football beginning that season.