Outland Trophy watch list dominated by SEC

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The Pac-12 may have led the way with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, but no conference appears to have a higher quality selection of interior linemen than the SEC. The SEC has 19 players on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which honors the top interior lineman in college football. The SEC had at least eight more players on the list, released by the Football Writers Association of America, than any other power conference.

The Pac-12 has 11 players on the Outland Trophy watch list, followed by the Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 with nine each. The winner of the Outland Trophy will be chosen from the list of FWAA All-Americans at the end of the season. Semifinalists will be announced November 20 and the finalists will be determined November 24. A winner will be named on December 11.

One of the oldest individual awards in college football, the Outland Trophy has been awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman each year since 1946. The award is unique because it can be presented to an offensive or defensive lineman. Last year’s winner was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but an offensive lineman has won the award nine times since 2000. Nebraska leads the nation with nine Outland Trophy winners. Oklahoma has the second most with five and Ohio State follows with four winners. Five schools are tied with three Outland Trophy winners.

Here is this year’s Outland Trophy watch list:

G Vadal Alexander, LSU
C Jack Allen, Michigan State
DL Henry Anderson, Stanford
C David Andrews, Georgia
DL Michael Bennett, Ohio State
C Evan Boehm, Missouri
C Jake Brendel, UCLA
DL Malcom Brown, Texas
G A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OT Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
OT La’el Collins, LSU
OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
DL Christian Covington, Rice
DL Carl Davis, Iowa
DL Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
OT Jamil Douglas, Arizona State
OT Spencer Drango, Baylor
OT Cameron Erving, Florida State
C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
C B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OT Jake Fisher, Oregon
C Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
OT Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
OT Sean Hickey, Syracuse
OT D.J. Humphries, Florida
DL Chucky Hunter, TCU
OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
G Tré Jackson, Florida State
DL Grady Jarrett, Clemson
G Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers
OT Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
G Arie Kouandjio, Alabama
G Alex Kozan, Auburn
OT Eric Lefeld, Cincinnati
G Cyril Lemon, North Texas
DL Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech
G Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech
G Josue Matias, Florida State
C Mike Matthews, Texas A&M
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OT Andrus Peat, Stanford
DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
OT Corey Robinson, South Carolina
OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
C Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
OT Brandon Shell, South Carolina
DL Danny Shelton, Washington
C Jake Smith, Louisville
OT Donovan Smith, Penn State
G Quinton Spain, West Virginia
G Laken Tomlinson, Duke
C Max Tuerk, USC
OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
C Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern
G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
G Cody Wichmann, Fresno State
OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
DL Leonard Williams, USC
G Torrian Wilson, UCF
DL Gabe Wright, Auburn
OT Michael Yeck, BYU


Catch up on your watch lists released this week:

Maxwell Award (best player)

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)

Hornung Award (most versatile player)

Mackey Award (best tight end)

Rimington Trophy (best center)

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)

Ray Guy Award (best punter)

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.