39 DBs make up Thorpe Award watch list

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The interminable Watch List Week (Part I) continues unabated Friday morning, with the Jim Thorpe Award the latest to release its group.

Given annually to the nation’s top defensive back, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame announced earlier today a watch list consisting of 39 players. Four semifinalists for last year’s award — Alabama’s Landon Collins, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves (pictured) and Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt — are a part of this initial list.

The three finalists for last year’s trophy — winner Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State — were all selected in the May NFL draft.

All 10 FBS conferences were represented, led by five apiece from the ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA and Mountain West. The AAC, Pac-12 and SEC had four each.

A total of five schools placed two players apiece on the watch list: Arkansas State, Boise State, Florida State, Michigan State and UCF.  Of the 39 players, 19 are seniors, 13 are juniors and just seven are sophomores.

Below is the complete 2014 Thorpe Award watch list:

Kevin Byard, Middle Tenn, Jr.
Bryce Callahan, Rice, Sr.
Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern, Sr.
Sam Carter, TCU, Sr.
Jeremy Cash, Duke, Jr.
Donald Celiscar, Western Michigan, Sr.
Landon Collins, Alabama, Jr.
Blake Countess, Michigan, Jr.
Su’a Cravens, USC, So.
Donte Deayon, Boise State, Jr.
Quandre Diggs, Texas, Sr.
Lorenzo Doss, Tulane, Jr.
Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State, Sr.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon, Sr.
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech, So.
Clayton Geathers, UCF, Sr.
Jacoby Glenn, UCF, So.
Vernon Hargreaves, Florida, So.
Anthony Harris, Virginia, Sr.
Rocky Hayes, Arkansas State, Jr
Jeremy Ioane, Boise State, Sr.
Jordan Lucas, Penn State, Jr.
Marcus Peters, Washington, Jr.
Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss, Sr.
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State, So.
Jordan Richards, Stanford, Sr.
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, So.
Derron Smith, Fresno State, Sr.
D’Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
Trevon Stewart, Houston, Jr.
Brian Suite, Utah State, Sr.
Cam Thomas, WKU, Sr.
Triston Wade, UTSA, Sr.
Ryland Ward, Bowling Green, Jr.
Trae Waynes, Michigan State, Jr.
Tre’Davious White, LSU, So.
J.J. Whittaker, San Diego State, Sr.
PJ Williams, Florida State, Jr.
Sterling Young, Arkansas State, Sr.

Status of Wyoming QB Josh Allen for bowl game up in the air

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Josh Allen won’t be Fournetting or McCaffreying his team’s bowl game this season, but it’s still undetermined whether or not he’ll be able to play in it.

Allen has been dealing with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder that kept him out of Wyoming’s last two games of the regular season. While he’s been practicing with his teammates in preparation for the Dec. 22 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl matchup with Central Michigan, his status for the postseason game is up in the air.

It appears though, that, one way or another, a decision on the quarterback’s availability will be made over the next several days.

“I’m still getting better day by day,” Allen said according to the Laramie Boomerang. “It is still not where I think it needs to be or want it to be, but things are progressively getting better. Throwing is becoming a lot easier, more effortless. I am on the right track, but we will be needing to know an answer (if I’m playing) in the coming days.

“I will be in the training room 24/7, trying to get back on the field, trust me.”

It’s believed that the junior is playing his final season with the Cowboys as he’s projected to be one of the first three or four quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL draft if he leaves early. In fact, he was introduced with Wyoming’s seniors on Senior Day late in the regular season, a clear sign that he’s all but out the door.

Players such as Allen have until mid-January to officially declare for the April draft.

Last season, Allen completed exactly 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Through 10 games this season, and with less of a supporting cast around him, the 6-5, 240-pound redshirt junior has hit on 56.2 percent of his attempts for 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. His yards per attempt have gone down from 8.59 in 2016 to 6.61 in 2017, although he’s thrown a pick in every 42 attempts this season compared to one every 25 last season.

James Madison signs head coach Mike Houston to 10-year extension

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This won’t stop bigger programs from sniffing around its head coach, but James Madison is doing its best to show its commitment to the man.

The FCS powerhouse announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement on a 10-year contract extension with Mike Houston. The new deal would technically keep Houston with the Dukes through the 2027 season.

Houston’s old contract had him signed through the 2021 season.

“Mike Houston has proven to be the perfect fit as football coach at James Madison University, and we are thrilled that the Houston family has found JMU to be its perfect home,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said in a statement. “While Mike’s accomplishments on the field speak loudly, his most valuable role is guiding the student-athletes in our program, teaching them about leadership and about life, helping them to succeed in the classroom and building a culture of genuine care and compassion for each other. We look forward to many more victories on and off the field with Mike Houston at James Madison.”

Houston is in the midst of his second season as the sideline boss of the football program. In those two years, the Dukes have gone 27-1, with the lone loss coming to North Carolina in the third game of the 2016 season. He is 26-0 vs. FCS teams, capping his first season with a national championship by beating five-time defending champion North Dakota State.

JMU has also won 25 straight games, the second-longest winning streak in FCS history, behind only NDSU’s 33-game streak from 2012 through 2014.

Houston has the Dukes zeroing in on back-to-back titles, with top-seed JMU facing fifth-seed South Dakota State Saturday afternoon in one of the two FCS semifinal matchups.

“James Madison is a special place. Amanda, our boys and I want to be here and consider this home,” Houston said. “JMU approached me in the second half of the regular season to discuss an extended contract. During negotiations, there was significant interest from multiple FBS programs. Throughout the process, JMU was proactive in wanting to make a long-term commitment while ensuring that our staff could remain intact. I’ve turned down opportunities at the FBS level, and I did it because I believe in James Madison University. I believe in the leadership of Jeff Bourne, Senior Vice President Charlie King and President Jonathan Alger. I believe in their vision for our university and our athletics programs. I also believe in our student-athletes, everyone in athletics who supports us and the passionate fan base that cheers for us. I am committed to ensuring that the JMU football program is one that is a reflection of our outstanding institution. I’m committed to staying here because JMU is different.”

Georgia’s Latavious Brini arrested on felony forgery charge

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For the third time since winning the SEC championship nearly two weeks ago, a member of the Georgia football program has found himself on the wrong side of the law.

The Macon Telegraph and Rivals.com are both reporting Tuesday night that Latavious Brini has been arrested on a first-degree felony charge of forgery.  Brini was arrested shortly after six local time earlier today and released from the Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) Jail a couple of hours later after posting a $5,700 bond.

No details of what led to the arrest and charge have been released.

Brini was a three-star member of UGA’s 2017 recruiting class.  The linebacker hasn’t played a down for the Bulldogs as a true freshman.

Earlier this month, Natrez Patrick and Jayson Stanley were arrested on marijuana-related charges.

Phil Bennett leaves Arizona State staff

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The plan for success at Arizona State under AD Ray Anderson was to remove head coach Todd Graham and while keeping everything else the same — just with a head coach that was… better. And as we know, that head coach turned out to be Herm Edwards.

But not a week into his tenure, Edwards has already hit his first crossroads.

The Sun Devils announced Tuesday that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has left the staff over family matters.

The statement from Edwards:

“While I would have liked for Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett to remain on the coaching staff, I do appreciate the fact that he has chosen not to stay based upon family reasons,” said Edwards. “Family always comes first and right now he needs to turn his attention to that.  My top priorities right now going forward are to solidify our recruiting class and to assemble a defensive coaching staff.  Both objectives are moving along quite well.”

The question now will be who Edwards turns to as Bennett’s replacement. As we know, the new Devils coach has not coached in a decade and not coached in college in nearly three.

So this hire will be anyone’s guess.