Four-star 2015 TE chooses Duke over… USC?

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The times they are a-changin’” — Bob Dylan, circa 1964 but still relevant today, especially as it relates to one particular stop on the recruiting trail.

As you may or may not be aware, Duke football underwent a renaissance of sorts in 2014. In his sixth season with the football program, David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils set a school record in 2013 for wins in a season with 10 and earned its first-ever Coastal division title. Duke played in its first-ever ACC championship game as well, and played in a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s 92-year history.

Apparently, that momentum has bled into the 2015 recruiting season as the Blue Devils Wednesday picked up a commitment from Tyler Petite. Petite is a four-star 2015 recruit, rated as the No. 13 tight end in the country. Normally tight end verbals don’t warrant a mention here. This one, however, is different.

You see, Petite hails from the state of California and had narrowed his choices down to Duke and USC. So, yes — at least for now — Petite opted for the Blue Devils over the Trojans and to play his college football clear on the other side of the country.

It should be noted, however, that the decision was far from a no-brainer.

It was pretty much the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Petite told Rivals.com. “I got home from USC and I wanted to take some time, just a week, to kind of get back to neutral almost. You’re always going to be high coming off that last visit, especially with it being one of my favorite schools.

“I sat down with my family going through the pros and cons and I couldn’t find any cons for either school. Everything about both I just loved. One day I was thinking USC. The next day it would be Duke. Even my family had no idea. We all just thought both would be a great fit,” Petite continued.

“Then I was just sitting in my room one day and I thought, ‘For the next four or five years, where would I be most comfortable?’ Duke just came to me. It’s so much like my high school and that stuck with me. I went to bed that night and when I woke up it was still Duke. Then I went to bed again, got up, and it was Duke. Finally I went to my dad and told him.”

Still, kudos to Cutcliffe and his his staff for pulling a significant commitment from USC’s own state. The task, though, will now be for the Blue Devils to hang on to the commitment until February of next year as first-year Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff will no doubt be looking to flip Petite over the next several months.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.