James Willis reverses course, spurns FSU to stay at UL-L

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It’s not often that a coach at a non-Big Five Conference football program turns down an offer from one in a power FBS league.  Thursday, James Willis did just that.

Wednesday, Louisiana-Lafayette defensive coordinator informed his boss, Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth, along with his players that he was leaving to take the linebackers coach job at Florida State.  Willis was set to replace Charles Kelly, who was promoted to coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt left for the same job at Georgia.

After some soul-searching overnight and a morning conversation with Hudspeth, however, Willis did an about-face and decided to remain at UL-L.

In confirming that he was staying with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Willis, formerly an assistant at both Alabama and Auburn, issued as heartfelt of a statement as you’ll find in this kind of situation.

“My decision to leave the Ragin’ Cajuns program has weighed heavily on me since I announced my decision to the players last night. After some soul-searching over night, I spoke with coach Hudspeth earlier today about this, and he invited me to remain with the Cajuns.

“It was hard to tell that group of young men, who just 12 months earlier had welcomed me into the program, that I was leaving. I could see the disappointment in their eyes when we talked. We asked them to buy into the system that we were teaching and the result was a Sun Belt Conference title.

“After thinking about things further, I feel I owe the players more than just one season after they responded so well to our philosophy. Professionally, I believe it is in my best interest of my coaching career to remain a coordinator instead of stepping back to become a position coach.”

Very, very classy, coach.  And essentially unheard of as well.

2013 was Willis’ first season with the Ragin’ Cajuns, leading a UL-L defense that was third in the Sun Belt — up from eighth the year prior to his arrival — and played a significant role in the football program’s second SBC co-championship.

(Photo credit: Louisiana-Lafayette athletics)

Ex-Penn State K Joey Julius tweets he’s ‘in full recovery’ in ongoing battle with eating disorder

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Monday brought word that cult kicking icon Joey Julius was no longer a member of the Penn State football team.  A day later, we have an update on Julius’ very personal but still public battle with an undisclosed eating disorder.

This past May, Julius revealed on Facebook that he “had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum Place” as part of his ongoing fight with the disorder.  On Twitter very early Tuesday morning, assured concerned fans that he’s “in full recovery” and has “been discharged from treatment for awhile.”

According to PennLive.com, Julius has been treated for an eating disorder at least twice in the last year.

While Julius is no longer a part of the Nittany Lions football team, he’s still in their thoughts, as head coach James Franklin expressed during his turn at the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday.

With decision coming ‘very soon,’ dismissed Duck Darren Carrington reportedly opts for Utes

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Despite the off-field baggage he brings to the table, Darren Carrington‘s talent could very well lead the wide receiver to another shot with a Power Five program — perhaps even one in his former conference.

Earlier this month, Oregon announced that it had dismissed Carrington, a move that came a couple of weeks after the senior was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants. According to a tweet from The Oregonian‘s John Canzano in the middle of last week, those circumstances are doing little to dissuade others as “[m]ore than one Pac 12 coach told me [last Tuesday] he was interested in… Carrington.”

More to the point, Canzano wrote that “the ex-Ducks receiver spent [last Tuesday] at Utah.”

Subsequent to that tweet, Carrington’s father, former NFL wide receiver Darren Carrington, confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend that his son had indeed visited Utah as well as received interest from other unnamed Pac-12 schools. The elder Carrington added that a decision on a new home would be coming “very soon.”

Then, Tuesday morning, word began to trickle out that Carrington had indeed opted for the Utes, although there’s been no official word from the player, his family or his rumored new program.

As Carrington, who expressed disappointment over how his time in Eugene ended, is already a graduate of UO, he would be eligible to play immediately for the Utes, or any other FBS program for that matter — even one in the Pac-12.  Camps all across the country will be kicking off in less than two weeks, which will lead to the Carrington camp expediting the transfer process.

Regardless of where Carrington ends up, his new team will be getting a gifted player with a consistent penchant for finding himself on the wrong side of headlines.

The senior’s 606 yards receiving last year were tops on the team, while his five receiving touchdowns were tied for first. His 43 catches were second on the team as well.

On the flip side, and in addition to his DUII arrest, Carrington was ruled ineligible for Oregon’s College Football Playoff Championship loss to Ohio State a couple of years ago; was cited for open container in October 2015; and was accused of breaking a man’s arm in a Halloween incident last year.

Report: Florida loses incoming frosh LB Nick Smith for six weeks

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Earlier this month, Florida lost one of the most experienced members of its defense to a season-ending injury.  This week, they have reportedly lost one of their youngsters on that side of the ball as well, albeit to one not as serious.

Citing a source close to the program, the Gainesville Sun has reported that Nick Smith underwent surgery on his left knee Monday to repair a torn meniscus.  It’s unclear how or when the linebacker suffered the injury.

As a result of the medical procedure, Smith will be sidelined for a period of at least six weeks.  Such a timeline would not only keep Smith out for the whole of summer camp, but for, at minimum, the 2017 opener Sept. 2 against Michigan in Arlington as well.

It should be noted that UF has yet to publicly address what if any health issues Smith may need to overcome.

A three-star member of the Gators’ 2017 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 79 outside linebacker in the country.  While Smith has been expected to contribute immediately on special teams, his expected absence early on exacerbates the dearth of available talent in UF’s linebacking corps.

From the Sun:

The loss of Smith is a blow to Florida’s depth at linebacker, a position that returns just four players who have started a game for the Gators.

Versatile playmaker Janarion Grant back to 100 percent for Rutgers

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The opening of the Big Ten’s Media Days Monday brought some welcome news for Rutgers fans.

One of the most explosive and productive players in the conference, Janarion Grant went down with a serious-looking ankle injury — at the end of a 76-yard touchdown — late in the first half of a Week 4 game against Iowa that ultimately ended the wide receiver’s 2016 season.  Grant was in non-contact mode this past spring, leading some to wonder whether he’d be available for summer camp or even the start of the upcoming season.

Yesterday, Chris Ash put any such fears to rest by declaring Grant completely recovered less than two weeks ahead of the start of camp.

“He’s 100 percent… He’s had a great summer,” the head coach said according to nj.com. “He was limited through the spring semester, but this summer he’s been pretty much full go for the majority of the summer. He looks great, he’s in great shape, he’s put weight back on. We’re obviously excited to have him back.”

At the time of the injury, Grant led the Scarlet Knights with 15 receptions and was second on the team with 143 yards rushing. His 562 all-purpose yards were tops in the Big Ten entering Week 4 play last year.

He had six touchdowns in those three-plus games and did it in a quartet of ways — rushing (three), punt return (one), kick return (one) and passing (one).

Suffice to say, Grant was named as part of the Hornung Award watch list earlier this month.  He’s on the watch list for the prestigious Maxwell Award as well.