Howard and Hutchinson have hope for Hoke

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Despite seeing their school take steps back in total wins each of the past couple of seasons, a couple of notable Michigan alums are coming to protect the back of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. Desmond Howard and Steve Hutchinson have each spoken out in support of the current Wolverines head coach, rejecting the idea Hoke may be on a hot seat in Ann Arbor.

“I think they’re headed in the right direction, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Coach Hoke,” Howard said in a story by MLive.com while making the rounds at the Super Bowl. Howard and Hutchinson are each among the many football personalities floating around New Jersey and New York this week. “Sometimes you got to take your lumps before you get to the top of the mountain. I don’t think people understand that. I’m good with it.”

Michigan had the Big Ten’s top-ranked offense in 2010 but the Wolverines have slipped in Big Ten total offensive ranking each season since, ending the 2013 season ranked 10th in the 12-team Big Ten in total offense. Howard warns any who suggest Hoke should be on a short leash that he has done some good things since arriving as the head coach to succeed Rich Rodriguez.

“Michigan won a BCS (game) championship for you lately, don’t forget about that,” Howard said, referring to the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech, a game neither team probably should have been in anyway.

Howard’s words of encouragement were echoed by Hutchinson.

“He has my support 100 percent,” Hutchinson said to MLive.com. “I don’t think you can put him on the hot seat. I think anytime you don’t get the results right off the bat, that phrase ‘hot seat’ comes up. A lot of times I know where it comes from, but I don’t think it’s justified here. People need to be patient and know we’re headed in the right direction.”

Hoke and Michigan have come under fire this week with the report of kicker Brendan Gibbons dismissal from the university and how it was addressed, or rather not addressed, by Hoke and the athletics department. That issue was not addressed by either former Wolverine, at least not in the MLive story.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.