Peyton Manning: I’m a Butch Jones fan

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Keeping true to his college roots is something Peyton Manning, a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback when the time comes, believes Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has the Vols heading in the right direction. While speaking at a charity golf tournament Monday, Manning showed support for the head coach of his alma mater.

“I really like Butch,” Manning said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m a big Butch Jones fan.”

Jones is ramping up for his second season in charge of the once dominant SEC and national power. Rebuilding the program after years under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley is a bit of a work in progress but Jones has generated some new enthusiasm around the program through recruiting. Just over the weekend former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara announced he was joining Tennessee.

“I think it’s going in the right direction,” said Manning. “I think Butch had a lot of work to do when he got here. He’s put in that work. He’s signing some of his players. Every coach wants to have their players. He’s been patient. At the same time, he’s been hard-working, as he was advertised to be. He’s done that. I just see it continuing to get better. I really do.”

Tennessee may not be ready to challenge South Carolina or Georgia for the SEC East just yet, but after finishing each of the past four seasons in the bottom half of the SEC East division, the Vols could be ready to start moving back up in the division. That needs to be the first goal for Tennessee this season, and it is not all that unrealistic. It will not be easy though, with road games at South Carolina and Georgia and a home game against Alabama.

Infant son of D’Onta Foreman passed away during Texas’ 2016 season

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As a father five times over, I simply can’t imagine doing what D'Onta Foreman did last season.

On the field, the Texas running back was an absolute beast.  He led the nation in rushing yards per game at 184.4 — next closest was San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey at 152.4 — while his 2,028 total rushing yards were second to Pumphrey (2,133).  On Nov. 5 against Texas Tech, Foreman ran for 341 yards, the third-highest total in Longhorns history.

In a profile that appeared on the NFL Network, Foreman revealed that, unbeknownst to those outside of the football program, his girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy on Sept. 16.  His son was born premature and weighed just 15 ounces at birth; 50 days later, the infant passed away — not long after Foreman’s historic performance against Tech.

In fact, Foreman learned of his son’s death as he was driving back to the hospital in Texas City after the game to be with him.

From HookEm.com‘s transcription of his interview with the NFL Network:

I always dreamed of having a boy and naming him after me and you know, just seeing him grow. You know, just loving him.

“He was a fighter, you know. He would like fight and he’s going to make it and everything will be fine.”

“I really didn’t know how to feel. I was like numb. I was driving and then I was crying while I was driving. I was crushed and I was so hurt. I feel like something was taken away from me before I even really got the chance to experience it.

While nothing can ever replace Foreman’s loss, there is a silver lining in his story as the back’s girlfriend is again pregnant.  The due date?  The same day D’Onta Vanton Foreman Jr. was born.

Foreman Sr. is one of the players who are part of the pool for the NFL draft, which will take place this Thursday in Philadelphia.

Via Twitter, safety Jordan Fogal says he’s leaving Utah

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Utah has become the latest FBS program to lose a player via the increasingly-popular graduate transfer route.

Jordan Fogal announced on his Twitter page this weekend that, “after many prayers and long discussions, I found it in my best interest to leave Utah and look to transfer to another university. The specific destination for the continuation of his collegiate playing career was not divulged in the missive.

The safety described his decision as “very difficult” as he said “Utah and the fan base here will forever hold a place in my heart and I will truly miss this place.”

As a grad transfer, Fogal will be eligible to play immediately in 2017 at another FBS school. This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

After spending two seasons at the junior college level, Fogal played in 11 games the past two years.  Fogal’s two interceptions last season were tied for fourth on the team.

The defensive back’s 2015 season came to a premature end after three games because of an injury. He then played in eight games in 2016 for the Utes.

Oklahoma State’s Jordan Brailford undergoes shoulder surgery, may be back before opener

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The injury-plagued career of Jordan Brailford (pictured, right) in Stillwater is apparently showing no signs of slowing down.

While the football program has yet to confirm it, Oklahoma State’s student newspaper, the Daily O’Collegian, has reported that Brailford has undergone a surgical procedure to repair unspecified damage in his shoulder. The Oklahoman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

It’s expected that the surgery will sideline the redshirt junior defensive lineman for up to four months, which would put him back in time to participate in the latter portions of summer camp. The Oklahoman notes that, via a team source, “Brailford’s availability for the opener depends on how quickly he heals and strengthens the shoulder.”

OU opens the 2017 season against Tulsa Sept. 2, although that game could be moved to Aug. 31.

A three-star 2014 signee, Brailford took a redshirt his true freshman season after suffering a fractured tibia. After playing in 10 games the following season, he missed all of 2016 because of a stress fracture in his foot.

He’s already received a medical hardship waiver for one of those seasons.

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.