B.J. Denker, Myles Jack

Myles Jack one of 42 on Lott IMPACT watch list

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Yep, it’s that time of the year again.

Wednesday afternoon, the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation became the first of a slew of awards to release a preseason watch list, with 42 players making up the initial group for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.  There are 17 linebackers, eight defensive ends, seven safeties, five cornerbacks, three defensive tackles and two players listed as defensive backs for an award that’s given annually to the player who has the biggest IMPACT — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity – on their teams both on and off the field.

There are no finalists or semifinalists from last year’s award, won by UCLA’s Anthony Barr, on this season’s watch list as each has moved on to the NFL.

Of the six schools with two players on the initial watch list, four are from the Pac-12: Stanford (CB Wayne Lyons, S Jordan Richards), UCLA (LBs Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks), USC (LB Hayes Pullard, DT Leonard Williams) and Washington (DE Hau’oli Kikaha, DT Danny Shelton). The only other schools with more than one on the list were Duke (LBs Kelby Brown and David Helton) and Nebraska (S Corey Cooper, DE Randy Gregory).

Not so unexpectedly based on the above, the Pac-12 paced all conferences with 11 players listed, followed by the SEC (eight), the Big 12 and Big Ten (seven apiece), the ACC (six) and Mountain West (one). Independent programs (Army, Notre Dame) accounted for the remaining two.

The 11th Lott Trophy will be handed out Dec. 14 this year.

For the complete Lott Trophy watch list, see below:

Geoffrey Bacon, DB, Army
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Kelby Brown, LB, Duke
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Sam Carter, S, TCU
Henry Coley, LB, Virginia
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Corey Cooper, S, Nebraska
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Michael Doctor, LB, Oregon State
Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Collin Ellis, LB, Northwestern
Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor
Vernon Hargreaves, DB, Florida
David Helton, LB, Duke
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
Ben Kline, LB, Penn State
Cameron Lynch, LB, Syracuse
Wayne Lyons, CB, Stanford
Jaylen Milles, CB, LSU
Jonathon Mincy, CB, Auburn
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
Cory Morrissey, DE, Iowa State
Hayes Pullard, LB, USC
Cedric Reed, DE, Texas
Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
Deterrian Shackleford, LB, Ole Miss
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Derron Smith, S, Fresno State
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Jared Tevis, S, Arizona
Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Ramik Wilson, LB, Georgia

Rick Neuheisel is offended Jim Mora called his UCLA teams ‘soft’

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Head coach Rick Neuheisel of the UCLA Bruins gestures in the game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 50-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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After posting back-to-back 10-win, top-20 seasons, UCLA backslid to an unranked, 8-5 finish this season. Perhaps for that reason Bruins head coach Jim Mora decided to bring up the supposed state of the program he inherited during an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s show Tuesday.

“In our first interview, (UCLA AD Dan Guerrero) asked me, ‘When you think of UCLA? What do you think?’” Mora said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I’m thinking, what do I say here? Do I tell him the truth or something like it’s a great school and we can be great? I said, ‘I think you’re soft. I think the football team is soft.’

“Dan said, ‘That’s what I think, and we need to toughen it up.’”

Speaking on his own SiriusXM radio show Wednesday, Mora’s predecessor Rick Neuheisel took serious exception to that comment.

“All he did is go and paint the walls black and wear black on the sideline and think that that’s tough,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve been in the locker room. There’s all sorts of stuff about Sun Tzu and ‘The Art of War’ and pain and all that kind of stuff. He takes the team to Navy SEAL training. Congratulations, I’m glad you had the money to do it. But don’t talk about toughness with my football team.”

We’re not here to pick sides. In fact, our stance in the media is that we love all coaching wars of words — especially in the middle of February. But here are some facts to bring to the situation: since winning the Pac-12 South in his first season, largely with Neuheisel’s players, Mora has finished tied for second, tied for second and third in their own division. And against Stanford, the roughest, meanest team on UCLA’s schedule, Mora’s teams are 0-5, losing by an average of 35-19 — including a 31-10 blowout with a trip to the Pac-12 Championship on the line in 2014.

Nevertheless, it appears Neuheisel took the most umbrage with Guerrero’s supposed agreement with Mora’s assessment.

“We were 21-29, and I’m man enough to own that record. That’s the facts. That’s what we were, and I own it,” Neuheisel explained, via CBS Sports. “Jim Mora has done a nice job at UCLA, but to hear Dan Guerrero say that we were soft? That makes me bristle, because Dan Guerrero never came to practice. He never came to my office in four years. Not one time did he ever come and be a part of what was going on out there.

“I was told in my final year, ‘You make it to a bowl game, we’re fine.’ He knew we were bankrupt. He told me over and over, ‘Listen, we’ve got to lock arm and not make excuses. You make it through this, and we’re going to be fine.’ We knew what Brett Hundley was going to do. He ended up doing it. He just did it for Jim Mora. We go 6-6 and get to a bowl game, and I’m still let go. That’s business. No tears here. I understand the business. But the guy who was running the store knows for a fact we had nothing, and we were given nothing to get it done.”

Reports: Jake Spavital headed to Cal as offensive coordinator

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies chats with his quarterback coach Jake Spavital before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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It appears Jake Spavital won’t be out of a job for long.

A month and some change after “mutually parting ways” with Texas A&M, Spavital has reportedly found a new home out west. FootballScoop (where I also work) and Fox Sports reported Friday Spavital had found a new home at California, and on Wednesday Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman added that Spavital will receive a two-year deal in Berkeley.

Cal head coach Sonny Dykes and his new offensive coordinator have never worked together previously, but each hails from the same school of thought. Dykes rose the ranks while working under Mike Leach at both Kentucky and Texas Tech and under Mike Stoops at Arizona, while Spavital spent the past few years working for former Leach assistant Dana Holgorsen at Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia and with former Bob Stoops assistant Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.

Spavital earned just north of $486,000 in 2015 according to the USA Today salary database while the man he replaces, new Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, made $510,000.

Cal finished the 2015 season ranked seventh nationally in yards per play and 17th in scoring, but Spavital will be tasked with re-tooling the attack without future 1st-round pick Jared Goff at quarterback.

SEC commish Greg Sankey insists move to block Michigan spring break trip not a competitive one

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 13:  Greg Sankey the new commissioner of the SEC talks to the media before the quaterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 13, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Wednesday his move to block Michigan’s spring break practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., wasn’t what you thought it was.

Speaking to AL.com, Sankey said:

“That’s the national issue and if I’m the only that is going to speak about it, so be it. But it is one piece of this conversation that we don’t need to further. In addition, we need to understand that it’s really clear when people do things — push the boundaries — others follow and I think it is all in our collective best interests to say out-of-season sports using, in this case, spring break for practice purposes, is not appropriate.

He added: “What’s unfortunate is people try to reduce this to simply a competitive issue, which it is not.”

To which the nation collectively rolls its eyes.

We’ll have to wonder whether or not Sankey would have proposed the same legislation had Jim Harbaugh moved Michigan’s practices to, say, Carson, Calif., but the guess here is he would not. And if the maize-and-blue made their southward trek during a school week, it’s hard to believe Sankey would have sat idly by and let it happen.

No, Sankey would have done what was best for his constituents, while Harbaugh does the best for his.

So while Harbaugh offered his side of the story on Twitter earlier Wednesday….

… Sankey said he would not respond 140 characters at a time. Which is both a smart move (for him) and a shame (for the rest of us) at the same time.

“I’m not going to reduce what is an important conversation to some childhood use of Twitter,” he said. “This is an important issue.”

Delshawn McClellon transferring from Utes for final season

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Delshawn McClellon #10 of the Utah Utes catches a touchdown pass in the end zone against safety Trent Matthews #16 of the Colorado State Rams during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another senior deciding to use his final season of eligibility elsewhere.

The latest to do as much is Delshawn McClellon, who took to Instagram Tuesday to confirm that he has decided to leave Utah and finish his collegiate career at an undetermined locale. While the wide receiver gave no reason in the post for his decision, it’s likely based in part at seeking a better opportunity for more playing time.

McClellon will be leaving the Utes as a graduate, meaning he could play immediately in 2016 if another FBS school is his next stop.

You have been good to me Utah, met some real people and created great memories over the past four years. Couldn’t be more thankful for them helping me out with my situation years back. Crazy to think I’ll be suiting up with someone else next season but, I got to do what’s best for me.

“You have been good to me Utah, met some real people and created great memories over the past four years,” the receiver wrote on the social media website. “Couldn’t be more thankful for them helping me out with my situation years back. Crazy to think I’ll be suiting up with someone else next season but, I got to do what’s best for me.”

McClellon, who’s listed in his official bio as Utah’s fastest player (4.37 40), played in 31 games the last three years after redshirting as a true freshman.  The California native finishes his Utes career with eight receptions for 110 yards.