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Nation’s top tight ends named to Mackey Award watch list

Nick O'Leary , Darius Robinson

A grand total of 38 tight ends from around the country have been named to the John Mackey Award watch list. This is a refreshing total to lay eyes on when most watch lists seem to include about half of the nation’s players at a certain position by default.

The John Mackey Award is presented annually to the nation’s top tight end. It is named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who played his college football at Syracuse. Semifinalists for the award will be announced on November 17 and finalists will be announced on November 24. The Mackey Award will be awarded on December 10 in Baltimore.

The Mackey Award was first awarded in 2000. In the 14 years the award has existed, no school has had more than one Mackey Award winner. Last year’s Mackey Award winner was Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary was a finalist for the award last season and is listed on the watch list this season.

Here is this year’s Mackey Award Watch List:

Rory Anderson, Sr, South Carolina
Kennard Backman, Sr, UAB
Blake Bell, Sr, Oklahoma
EJ Bibbs, Sr, Iowa State
Pharof Brown, Jr, Oregon
Kyle Carter, Jr, Penn State
Kivon Cartwright, Sr, Colorado State
Gerald Christian, Sr, Louisville
Braxton Deaver, Sr, Duke
Thomas Duarte, So, UCLA
Luke Eakes, Sr, Northern Illinois
Evan Engram, So, Ole Miss
Billy Freeman, So, San Jose State
Darion Griswold, Jr, Arkansas State
Connor Hamlett, Sr, Oregon State
Hunter Henry, So, Arkansas
Mitchell Henry, Sr, Western Kentucky
Jeff Heuerman, Sr, Ohio State
Wyatt Houston, So, Utah State
OJ Howard, So, Alabama
Jesse James, Jr, Penn State
Malcolm Johnson, Sr, Mississippi State
Ben Koyack, Sr, Notre Dame
Tyler Kroft, Jr, Rutgers
Devin Mahina, Sr, BYU
Taylor McNamara, So, Oklahoma
Jimmy Mundine, Sr, Kansas
Johnny Mundt, So, Oregon
De’Marieya Nelson, Sr, Arizona State
Nick O’Leary, Sr, Florida State
Casey Pierce, Sr, Kent State
Sean Price, Jr, USF
Jay Rome, Jr, Georgia
Tyreese Russell, Sr, Eastern Michigan
Wes Saxton, Sr, South Alabama
Randall Telfer, Sr, USC
Eric Tomlinson, Sr, UTEP
CJ Uzomah, Sr, Auburn

The Rimington Trophy watch list (best center) was also released today. On Monday the watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award and Hornung Award were released.

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Family issues cost Fresno St. likely DB contributor

Randon Knotts

Unfortunately, a situation off the field will cost Fresno State a potential defensive contributor on it.

Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter confirmed to the Fresno Bee that Randon Knotts has decided to leave his football program. While no specifics were given, the coach pointed to the general “family issues” as the impetus for the departure.

“We like the progress he was making. He’s a really outstanding young man, but he has some family issues back home that he needs to go home and take care of,” DeRuyter told the Bee.

There was no indication that Knotts would be returning at any point in the near future, if at all.

Knotts was a two-star member of Fresno’s 2013 recruiting class and took a redshirt as a true freshman. The paper wrote that “Knotts in the spring got reps at safety as well as the nickel position.”

(Photo credit: Fresno State athletics)

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Baseball player rejoins LaTech football team

Taylor Burch QB (16)©Louisiana Tech Universityphoto by Donny Crowe

An LSU stick-and-baller did it earlier this month. Now, another FBS football program in that state will be the beneficiary of a similar move.

Earlier this week, Louisiana Tech announced that Taylor Burch (no relation) has joined the football program. And, actually, it’s rejoined; in 2010 and 2011, Burch was on the football Bulldogs roster.

Burch left the football team following the 2011 season and concentrated on baseball full-time the past two seasons after splitting his time between the sports. His baseball eligibility is expired, and he will be entering his final season of football eligibility.

While Burch served as the holder on field goal and extra point attempts, he will enter summer camp listed as a quarterback. During the last season of his first go-around with the football Bulldogs, the school noted Burch completed a 12-yard pass to on a fourth-and-four fake field goal against Houston.

(Photo credit: Louisiana Tech athletics)

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Police probe involving OU’s Mixon to extend into next week

Joe Mixon

For Oklahoma fans anxiously looking for the Joe Mixon situation to take its next step, you’re going to have to wait.

According to Tulsa World, a police investigation into the incident involving the highly-touted 2014 signee is expected to continue into next week, with an intimation that perhaps it could extend even further.  Once the investigation is wrapped up, the results will be sent to the district attorney, who will make a determination on whether charges will be filed.

We are not closer to making an arrest,” Norman Police Department captain Todd Gibson told the World. “and would anticipate having documentation to the Cleveland County District Attorney sometime late next week.”

Late last week it was reported that Mixon was involved in an altercation at a cafe just outside of campus. It was alleged that Mixon punched a 20-year-old woman in the face, breaking four bones.

In a statement released by his attorney a couple of days later. it was claimed that Mixon was merely acting in self-defense.

“This past Friday morning Joe Mixon found himself in a situation where he was subjected to both verbal and physical attacks from a very intoxicated and troubled young woman. As a result of these physical attacks, Joe instinctually defended himself against further harm.”

The release ended by stating “[a]s we have always maintained, Joe has done nothing wrong.”

Mixon was a five-star member of the Sooners’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the country.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Report: Jameis Winston stopped by police at gunpoint, handcuffed during 2012 incident

Jameis Winston

After a couple of months of relative quiet, Jameis Winston is back in the headlines for an off-the-field incident — from a couple of years ago.

According to a report from Rachel Axon of USA Today, the Florida State quarterback, along with teammate Chris Casher, was stopped by university police at gunpoint during an incident in November of 2012.  Winston was observed brandishing what one witness described as a long-barreled handgun on a hiking trail; it turned out to be a pellet gun.

Winston and Casher claimed that they were shooting squirrels with the pellet gun and informed people along the trail of the type of weapon they were carrying.

After the police officer “drew my firearm from its holster and pointed it at the suspects with my finger outside the trigger guard,” the two players were handcuffed and briefly detained. They weren’t arrested, charged or issued citations — FSU’s Code of Conduct prohibits possession of weapons, including pellet guns, on campus — and were released shortly after the incident began.

The pistol and pellets, however, were confiscated.

Oddly enough, that incident occurred a few hours before the continuation of an ongoing BB gun “battle” involving Winston and other Seminole football players that ended up causing more than $4,000 worth of damage.  The players made restitution and no charges were ever filed.

Those are two of what have been a handful of legal run-ins for Winston during his brief time in Tallahassee.

In July of 2012, Winston was accused of stealing soda from a Burger King, although no charges were filed  Late last year, he was investigated for the alleged rape of an FSU student in December of 2012; it was determined there wasn’t enough evidence in that case to pursue an indictment.

Then, in April of this year, Winston was cited for shoplifting seafood from a local grocery store.

Earlier this month, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner addressed his much-discussed incidents and acknowledged that he needs to be more accountable for his off-field actions.

“I’ve got to hold myself to a certain standard that the media may view me in, that the regular people may view me in, but I know I can do that because I’ve learned the true definition of being a leader and being a leader on and off the field,” the redshirt sophomore said during the ACC Media Days. “As a leader for the Florida State Seminoles, I not only have to respect the name on the back of my jersey, but I have a great university that is looking for me to be a great student athlete, and more importantly I have teammates that are counting on me.

“Accountability is something that’s very important to me, and so, yes, I have learned, and I’ve learned that leadership is more important playing the quarterback position than anything else.”

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BYU, NIU reach agreement on future series

BYU v Wisconsin Getty Images

It’s no Auburn-Clemson, but still.

Northern Illinois confirmed via a press release Wednesday that it has reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with BYU. Per the release, the series will begin on Oct. 27, 2018 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, while the Cougars and Huskies will play at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb on Oct. 24, 2020.

The 2018 game will mark the first-ever between the two football programs.

“BYU is an opponent that will bring a national name and a long tradition of success to our schedule,” NIU athletic Sean Frazier said in a statement. “I think this is a series that will make Huskie fans take notice and realize that we are serious about bringing top-quality opponents to Huskie Stadium and that now is the time to get involved with NIU Football.”

NIU had previously reached an agreement on a two-game series with Iowa those same two years. Both of those games, however, will be played at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium.

As a football independent, BYU already has 2018 games scheduled against, among others, Arizona, Utah, Utah State and Wisconsin, and 2020 games against Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and Virginia.

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Sun Devils add ex-Boilermaker LB

Steve Hull, Ruben Ibarra AP

Earlier this month it was reported that erstwhile Purdue linebacker Ruben Ibarra was visiting Arizona State.

A handful of days later, it appears the move out west has all but come to fruition.

While neither school has confirmed a departure/addition, the Arizona Republic has reported that Ibarra has informed the pertinent ASU officials that he has decided to transfer into the Sun Devils football program.

As Ibarra will be a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Sun Devils immediately in 2014. He will have one season of eligibility remaining.

Ibarra was a three-star member of the Boilermakers’ 2012 recruiting class coming out of the JUCO ranks. Ibarra played in one game his first season, then started two of the seven games in which he played last season.

At ASU, Ibarra will enter summer camp as one of a few players who could win a starting job at linebacker.

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Auburn, Clemson schedule 2016-17 home-and-home

Auburn Clemson AP

In the immortal recruiting words of Kevin Sumlin, yes sir!!!

In a release Wednesday, Auburn announced that it has scheduled a future home-and-home series with Clemson. The ACC Tigers will visit Auburn on Sept. 3, 2016 while the SEC Tigers will return the favor Sept. 9, 2017.

The football programs have met 49 times previously, with the last coming in the 2012 season opener. AU holds a decided 34-13-2 advantage in the series.

With the agreement and in those two seasons, Auburn will meet the SEC’s mandate of playing at least one Power Five conference opponent every year. AU had previously announced a 2016 game with Arkansas State.

For Clemson, it means the Tigers will face two SEC schools in both 2016 and 2017, the second being its annual in-state grudge match with South Carolina.

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Red Raiders reportedly add much-needed QB depth

Coat and Tie Football Portraits, Shimonek, Nic

This offseason has seen a veritable revolving door at quarterback for Texas Tech, with a whopping five players at the position leaving the football program.

Now, though, it appears the Red Raiders have somewhat reinforced its under-center personnel.

Nic Shimonek confirmed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal earlier this week that he has decided to transfer to Tech. The Texas native had been at Iowa for one season and was expected to compete or the No. 3 job with the Hawkeyes in 2014.

Instead, Shimonek will return to his home state and, after sitting out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, and possibly compete for the backup job in 2015.

The player will come to Tech initially as a walk-on, and will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning next season.

“I ran a similar offense to what Texas Tech runs all four years that I was on varsity in high school,” Shimonek told the paper. “I went up to Iowa, and that’s a pro-style offense. It would have taken two or three years to get adjusted to. In college football, you only have five years maximum to play.

“Plus, Texas Tech’s closer to home. My family can make more games. I just feel like Texas Tech, from what I’ve been doing, would be a better fit for me.”

Shimonek took a redshirt during his one and only season at Iowa. Houston, Rice and SMU were also considerations after he opted earlier this month to leave the Hawkeyes.

If Shimonek went to the Red Raiders looking for a better shot at playing time, that route is fraught with obstacles. True sophomore Davis Webb will enter 2014 as Tech’s unquestioned starter at quarterback and as a player with two more years of eligibility remaining after this season. Additionally, Jarrett Stidham, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015, announced back in March that he is verbally committed to the Red Raiders.

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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‘Noles Bovada’s overwhelming favorite to claim a conference crown

Jimbo Fisher AP

As expected, the defending BCS champions are getting some additional gambling love heading into the first season of the new College Football Playoff.

In odds released by Bovada.lv, Florida State was listed as a 4/11 favorite to win the ACC championship for the second straight season. Clemson, Louisville and North Carolina were next at 10/1 apiece.

Not only is FSU by far the most overwhelming favorite from any conference, but the gap between the next closest odds-wise is by far the biggest.

Oklahoma and Ohio State are 2/3 and 10/11 favorites to win the Big 12 and Big Ten, respectively. Baylor is “close” to the Sooners, relatively speaking, at 11/4 while Michigan State, which beat OSU in last year’s conference title game, was a good piece down the road from the Buckeyes at 15/4.

Earlier this month, the Seminoles were listed as Bovada‘s co-favorites with Alabama at 11/2 to win the 2014 title. The Tide (7/5) are the prohibitive favorites over BCS title-game runner-up Auburn (5/1) to win the SEC.

Purdue, on the other hand, is given by far the worst odds of ending its league title drought, with the Boilermakers, coming off a one-win 2013 campaign, coming in at 300/1. Boston College and Wake Forest of the ACC; Illinois and new member Rutgers of the Big Ten; Cal and Colorado of the Pac-12; Kentucky and Vanderbilt of the SEC all come in at 200/1.

And, for those who are curious, woebegone Kansas is at a disturbingly high 100/1 to win the Big 12.

Below are the most recent odds on the Power Five conferences, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Odds to win the ACC Championship
Florida State 4/11
Clemson 10/1
Louisville 10/1
North Carolina 10/1
Miami 12/1
Virginia Tech 12/1
Duke 20/1
Georgia Tech 25/1
Pittsburgh 40/1
Syracuse 66/1
Virginia 66/1
NC State 100/1
Boston College 200/1
Wake Forest 200/1

Odds to win the Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma 2/3
Baylor 11/4
Texas 7/1
Kansas State 10/1
Oklahoma State 10/1
TCU 14/1
Texas Tech 28/1
West Virginia 66/1
Iowa State 100/1
Kansas 100/1

Odds to win the Big Ten Championship
Ohio State 10/11
Michigan State 15/4
Wisconsin 9/2
Nebraska 11/2
Michigan 9/1
Iowa 14/1
Northwestern 40/1
Minnesota 66/1
Indiana 100/1
Maryland 100/1
Illinois 200/1
Rutgers 200/1
Purdue 300/1

Odds to win the Pac 12 Championship
Oregon 11/10
UCLA 11/4
USC 5/1
Stanford 6/1
Arizona State 12/1
Washington 14/1
Arizona 25/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
Utah 66/1
California 200/1
Colorado 200/1

Odds to win the SEC Championship
Alabama 7/5
Auburn 5/1
South Carolina 5/1
Georgia 6/1
LSU 13/2
Florida 12/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
Missouri 40/1
Tennessee 50/1
Arkansas 100/1
Kentucky 200/1
Vanderbilt 200/1

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UGA AD: ‘we’re upset’ over spate of arrests

Mark Richt AP

To say that Georgia has had its share of off-field issues this offseason would be an understatement.

Over the past few months, seven Bulldog football players have been arrested on charges of varying degrees of seriousness.  Two of those arrests, one of which involved a felony, occurred in the past week alone.

Suffice to say, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by head coach Mark Richt‘s boss.

People are upset, we’re upset,” athletic director Greg McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald, “and we’ve got to work even harder to try to do things that will help us avoid these problems but at the end of the day, a young person has to make a decision. You see that not only with 18-year olds but you see that with 50-year olds that make poor decisions.

“When you do have a problem, it makes you go back and just take another look, take a second look on what’s registering and what is not.”

McGarity and Richt have taken steps to curb the untoward behavior, although its yet to bear any real tangible fruit.

According to the Banner-Herald, “[p]layers this June spent a weekend with former special operations officers to work on team building and leadership.” Additionally, former players and university police officers have addressed the team in an attempt to change the mindset of those who may be in danger of stepping across the line off the field.

A mentor program was instituted shortly after McGarity took over as well, an offseason that saw a whopping 11 arrests in 2010.

Still, McGarity insists the onus lies on him to change the culture. And, right now, the AD doesn’t like what he sees.

“All this is a reflection of my leadership and that’s the part that basically disappoints me,” he said.

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Melvin Gordon’s no fan of back-to-back Kinnick trips

Wisconsin v Iowa

The Big Ten wrapped up its annual media days Tuesday, and one of the most talented players in the conference let everybody in on a little secret.

In a scheduling quirk, Wisconsin will play at Iowa for a second consecutive season. The Nov. 22 trip to Kinnick Stadium, as it turns out, doesn’t sit well with running back Melvin Gordon.

“I saw the schedule and I was like, ‘really, we have to go back?’” Gordon said according to HawkCentral.com. “I thought they would at least come here and get a little taste of Wisconsin.

“But I just have to be ready for it. I’ve been through it, so I know how to handle it this time. But I’ll probably bring some ear plugs with me this time or something.”

The reason for Gordon’s displeasure boils down to simple numbers. Or, more specifically, statistical numbers.

During a year that saw him rush for 1,609 yards, Gordon posted a season-low total of 62 yards in the Badgers’ 28-9 win over the Hawkeyes. It was the only game all season he was held under 4.5 yards per carry, and one of just three in which he was held under 5.7.

His longest run that day was 13 yards. Three of his carries netted him a total 35 yards; the other 14 saw him go for just 27, or under two yards per carry.

So, yeah, that afternoon is sticking in the Heisman hopeful’s craw.

“It was a rough game for me, man,” Gordon said. “I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. But the fans, man, it’s like everything I said in high school about Iowa, they had a paper right there and quoted everything from me.

“I had such a hard time with Iowa, I’m telling you. Their fans, they really got to me. I was just so upset. I was just so mad that the Iowa fans got in my head that game.”

Here’s guessing that, public consternation aside, 2013 Kinnick will serve as nothing but pure motivation for 2014 Gordon.

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Former Vandy player moves on to WVU

Wake Forest v Vanderbilt AP

A month and a half after leaving Vanderbilt a second time, Darien Bryant has found a new place to ply his football wares.

While the school has yet to announce his addition, a source with knowledge of the situation tells CFT that Bryant has decided to transfer into the West Virginia football program.  The tight end-turned-defensive lineman-turned-(?) will join the Mountaineers initially as a walk-on.

Bryant was expected to be in attendance at a team meeting Wednesday morning in his first “official” act as a Mountaineer.

As he graduated from Vandy in May, Bryant will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.  He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.

Ohio University was also a consideration for Bryant before he moved on to WVU.

Bryant was a three-star member of the Commodores’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 30 tight end in the country. Following his first departure and return to Vandy, he moved from that position to defensive end. In leaving Vandy for good, Bryant wanted to move back to offense and play H-back/tight end or be utilized as a big wide receiver (he’s listed at 6-4, 230); it’s unclear how he’ll be used in Morgantown.

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Dabo hands Spurrier a (gasp!) compliment

Clemson v South Carolina Getty Images

If you’re headed down to Hades in the near future, you best pack a parka.

Over the past several years — including this offseason on more than one occasion — Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier have engaged in a little bit of “friendly banter.” Compliments, though, have been few and far between for the head coaches of the state’s two FBS programs.

Until now.

During the ACC head coaches’ version of the ESPN car wash, the Clemson head coach was asked about his South Carolina counterpart in general and his career specifically. His response may surprise you.  Or floor you, as the case may be.

“If I can have half the career he’s had, I’ll count that as a huge success.” Swinney said according to GoGamecocks.com.

In actuality, it’s not that much of a surprise that Swinney would say something complimentary. While the two snipe verbally at one another, there’s an underlying respect between the two men that each has publicly acknowledged.

Now, with that said, get back to the sniping as that’s immensely more entertaining than the niceties. Or just go ahead and have that rasslin’ match. One of the two. Or both.

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Pair of 2014 LSU signees cited for misdemeanors

Davon Godchaux

It’s certainly been an interesting last couple of months for LSU’s Class of 2014 — and for one signee in particular.

Last week, incoming freshman Trey Lealaimatafao suffered what was initially feared to be an amputation-level injury to his arm after punching through a weight-room window. Fortunately for Lealaimatafao, the physical damage wasn’t as severe as initially reported and the defensive tackle was released from the hospital two days later.

One day after that, however, Lealaimatafao was arrested for allegedly stealing a bicycle from an on-campus library. Lealaimatafao was caught on surveillance video helping himself to an unsecured bike, and was issued a citation after eventually returning it to the police.

From the Baton Rouge Advertiser:

“He did admit to investigators (Thursday) that he did take the bike,” Lalonde said, adding that Lealaimatafao indicated he borrowed the bicycle and thought it was permissible to do so if the bicycle wasn’t secured.

(Writer’s note: ROTFLMMFAO.)

Oddly enough, Lealaimatafao is the second member of LSU’s most recent recruiting class to be cited for the same issue, joining fellow defensive lineman Frank Herron‘s Schwinntation back in April.

But wait, there’s more…

In addition to Lealaimatafao’s legal issue, fellow 2014 signee Davon Godchaux (pictured, courtesy of Rivals.com) was cited last Thursday for criminal mischief. The misdemeanor arrest “stemmed from an early morning July 21 incident in which firecrackers were thrown into a unit at LSU’s West Campus Apartments, causing a small fire that damaged a sofa,” the Advertiser wrote.

(Writer’s note: let he who has not tossed firecrackers at buddies indoors cast the first M-80.)

Of the two most recent arrests, Godchaux is easily the most highly-rated player. A four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Godchaux was rated as the No. 9 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.

Both players are expected to be disciplined, although it’s unclear if said punishment will include suspensions.

The off-field damage for the Tigers is not limited to the Class of 2014, however. Starting cornerback Jalen Mills was indefinitely suspended earlier this offseason after allegedly punching a woman in the mouth and being arrested on a second-degree battery charge.

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Wrench thrown into Jayhawks’ plans as KU loses four-star RB

Traevohn Wrench

(Writer’s note: not literally lost, for those who were concerned about the player’s well-being.)

The highest-rated member of Kansas’ 2014 recruiting class will have to wait a year if he’s going to play in Lawrence as originally planned.

Multiple media outlets reported recently that Traevohn Wrench will be a non-qualifier academically at KU. Instead, the running back will go the JUCO route, playing the 2014 season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.

Wrench had signed with KU this past February.

The good news for the Jayhawks and Charlie Weis — if he’s still around in 2015, that is — is Wrench plans on resigning with KU and playing for them in 2015.

“I am 100 percent going to KU,” after spending time at Butler the player said.

That would be welcome news for a roster that needs as many quality football players as it can acquire. Wrench would fit in that category as he was a four-star member of KU’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 running back in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kansas.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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