Ameer Abdullah

Abdullah, Davis and Gordon headline Doak Walker Award watch list

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College football may be trending more to the passing game, but the Doak Walker Award reminds us all there are some top quality running backs playing key roles on their teams as well. This year’s Doak Walker Award watch list includes 53 of the nation’s top running backs. The list includes semifinalists from last year’s award, Mike Davis of South Carolina and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, the nation’s leading returning rusher, is also considered a top candidate.

Boston College’s Andre Williams was the winner of the Doak Walker Award last season. The award has gone to a player from a power conference each year since 2002. BYU’s Luke Staley and Rice’s Trevor Cobb are the only players from non-power conferences to win the award (although Rice was a part of the old Southwest Conference at the time Cobb won the award). Texas leads the nation with three Doak Walker Award winners. Arkansas, Texas Tech and Wisconsin each have two.

This year’s semifinalists will be announced on November 18, and finalists will be announced on November 24. The Doak Walker Award will be presented on December 11 during the annual awards show on ESPN. The watch list will accept nominees until October, so more names could be added along the way. Here is the full watch list as it stands right now;

Ameer Abdullah (Sr.), Nebraska
Jay Ajayi (Jr.), Boise State
Javorius “Buck” Allen (Jr.), USC
Leon Allen (Jr.), Western Kentucky
Terry Baggett (Sr.), Army
Bill Belton (Sr.), Penn State
Malcolm Brown (Sr.), Texas
Tra Carson (Jr.), Texas A&M
B.J. Catalon (Jr.), TCU
David Cobb (Sr.), Minnesota
Tevin Coleman (Jr.), Indiana
Alex Collins (So.), Arkansas
James Conner (So.), Pittsburgh
Marcus Cox (So.), Appalachian State
Mike Davis (Jr.), South Carolina
Kenneth Dixon (Jr.), Louisiana Tech
Jahwan Edwards (Sr.), Ball State
Kenneth Farrow (Jr.), Houston
Josh Ferguson (Jr.), Illinois
D.J. Foster (Jr.), Arizona State
Melvin Gordon (Jr.), Wisconsin
Michael Gordon (Jr.), Arkansas State
Johnathan Gray (Jr.), Texas
Todd Gurley (Jr.), Georgia
Kenneth Harper (Sr.), Temple
Alonzo Harris (Sr.), Louisiana-Lafayette
Derrick Henry (So.), Alabama
Bronson Hill (Sr.), Eastern Michigan
Joe Hill (Sr.), Utah State
Duke Johnson (Jr.), Miami
Jeremy Langford (Sr.), Michigan State
Daniel Lasco (Jr.), California
Shock Linwood (So.), Baylor
Robert Lowe (Jr.), Texas State
Tre Madden (Jr.), USC
Terrence Magee (Sr.), LSU
Raymond Maples (Sr.), Army
Byron Marshall (Jr.), Oregon
Kevin Parks (Sr.), Virginia
Christian Powell (Jr.), Colorado
Donnel Pumphrey (So.), San Diego State
Josh Robinson (Jr.), Mississippi State
William Stanback (So.), UCF
Cameron Stingily (Sr.), Northern Illinois
Kelvin Taylor (So.), Florida
Thomas Tyner (So.), Oregon
Jamaal Williams (Jr.), BYU
Jonathan Williams (Jr.), Arkansas
Trey Williams (Jr.), Texas A&M
Aaron Wimberly (Sr.), Iowa State
T.J. Yeldon (Jr.), Alabama
Kelsey Young (Sr.), Stanford
Zach Zwinak (Sr.), Penn State


Catch up on your watch lists released so far:

Maxwell Award (best player)

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)

Hornung Award (most versatile player)

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)

Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)

Mackey Award (best tight end)

Rimington Trophy (best center)

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)

Lombardi Award (best down lineman)

Butkus Award (best linebacker)

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)

Ray Guy Award (best punter)

 

Arizona signee My-King Johnson set to become FBS’ first active openly gay scholarship player

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the Territorial Cup college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.

The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.

In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.

“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”

Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.

From the Daily Star:

When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.

Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.

It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.

Central Michigan AD taking same position at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Wide receiver Samajie Grant #10 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates after scoring on a two yard rushing touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the fourth quarter of the Territorial Cup college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.

Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.

Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.

While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.

Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.

UTEP’s Theron Aych named new receivers coach at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Wide receiver Trey Griffey #5 of the Arizona Wildcats catches the ball in front of defensive back Jaterious Pouncey #48 of the Grambling State Tigers for a 34 yard touchdown in the third quarter at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Spring practice is already underway in Tucson but it took until the end of this week for Arizona to finally have a complete offensive coaching staff.

The Wildcats announced on Saturday that Theron Aych would be taking over as the team’s new receivers coach, filling a vacancy created when Tony Dews left for West Virginia.

Aych helped provide a nice boost to the Miners’ passing game in his one season in El Paso and spent five seasons at Division II Angelo State prior to that. He served as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Rams during his five-year stint before moving up to the FBS level.

The Pac-12 is no new experience for Aych though, as he served as a graduate assistant at Washington over a decade ago.

Aych should have his work cut out for him this spring with the team featuring plenty of young players at the receiver position while also dealing with the loss of standouts like Trey Griffey and reliable veteran Nate Phillips both gone.

Colorado rounds out new defensive staff with hire of former Purdue DC Ross Els

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Mike MacIntyre of the Colorado Buffaloes looks on prior to the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks defeated the Buffaloes 44-10.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Just in the nick of time, Mike MacIntyre has rounded out his new defensive staff for the 2017 season.

The Buffaloes announced on Friday evening that former Purdue defensive coordinator Ross Els would be joining the program and serving as inside linebackers coach. The release notes that Els’ paperwork was completed in time for him to join the team for their second practice of spring ball.

“Coach Ross Els brings a lot of energy,” MacIntyre said.  “He has great experience as a coordinator, positions coach and special teams coach, and we’re really excited about having his expertise in those phases in our program.”

Els adds plenty of experience to Boulder, having coached linebackers at New Mexico State, Ohio and Nebraska. In addition, he was the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator  and safeties coach last season.

The move completes the staff for the Buffs after seeing a number of coaches depart to Oregon with former coordinator Jim Leavitt.