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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Six-Pack of Storylines

The Swami AP

Finally, after (nearly) seven long, agonizing months filled with seemingly nothing but arrests, suspensions, transfers, lawsuits and one Sharknado, the dawn of a new season is upon us.

In just 24 days, we’ll be hunkered down in front of the television taking in the glory that is the South Carolina Gamecocks playing host to the post-JFF Texas A&M Aggies. The day before that, the most addicted of us [/raises hand slowly at first, then proudly and defiantly] will take in the actual kickoff to the 2014 FBS season: FCS Abilene Christian at Georgia State of the Sun Belt.

In between now and then? Previews. Glorious, illuminating, voluminous previews as far as the eye can see.

We’ll kick off the look at the upcoming season the same way we have the past five years: storylines that you should pay attention to or could be in play in the coming months.

Proceed, and enjoy.

YOU KIDDING ME?!?! PLAYOFFS?!?!
No, Coach Mora, we’re not kidding. And we’re going to talk about it as a playoff has finally, thankfully come to the game of college football, and it will be, at least entering early September, the most talked-about aspect and overriding theme of the new season.

We’ll have a more in-depth primer on the particulars of the new system exactly three weeks from today (check out the repository for all of the preview posting dates HERE), but for now here are the bare essentials of what you need to know: the playoff will consist of four teams and two semifinal games — this year hosted by the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl — played on New Year’s Day followed by a stand-alone national championship game 11 days later at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. The four teams will be chosen by a committee consisting of 13 individuals, a group made up of former coaches, current and former administrators — five current athletic directors, one each from a Power Five conference, included — one retired media member and a former United States Secretary of State.

If you thought controversy was a thing of the past with the glorious death of the BCS? Think again as the new College Football Playoff and how the committee selects the four teams will dwarf just about anything we ever saw in the decade and a half under the old bastard of a system. Buckle up — and grab your popcorn — as it’s going to be one hell of a ride as the new system in general and the committee specifically works its way through what’s expected to be some serious and controversial growing pains.

Florida State v ClemsonJAMEIS’ ENCORE, FSU’S TITLE DEFENSE
Both Jameis Winston personally and his Florida State Seminoles as a team will have tough acts to follow in 2014.

All Winston did in his first season as a starter at the collegiate level was become just the second-ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy — along with an armful of other postseason honors — en route to leading his team to the last-ever BCS title. During that championship run, the Seminoles were a devastating football machine that destroyed just about everything in its path: FSU won every game but two — Boston College (48-34) and Auburn (34-31) — by at least 27 points; they won nine of the 14 by 30 or more. In other words, they were a veritable buzzsaw that will see a plethora of returning talent (15 starters), leaving the Seminoles as the favorite until someone knocks them off. That doesn’t mean the ‘Noles are without question marks, though, and not the least of which involves Winston.

The redshirt sophomore has had an, ahem, eventful last several months, from the rape allegations to the crab caper to media-created hiccups littered about here and there. He will enter 2014 with a Johnny Manziel-level of hype and will be under perhaps an even harsher microscope than Johnny Football ever faced at the collegiate level. What if any impact will the added scrutiny have on Winston on the field? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining how successful the ‘Noles are in their title defense. Well, that and replacing a couple of key pieces on both sides of the ball due to early departures for the NFL as well as the highly-respected defensive coordinator leavi… meh, who am I kidding. Barring a substantial injury outbreak, FSU will be a heavy, heavy favorite to stake its claim to one of the four spots in the inaugural CFP.

SEC LogoCAN THE SEC CLIMB BACK TO THE CFB MOUNTAINTOP?
For six consecutive years, from 2007 through 2012, the college football season ended the way it began: with an SEC team as the reigning BCS champion. Then 2013 happened as the conference of champions and its ballyhooed seven-year title run morphed into the conference of runner-ups as Auburn dropped a three-point heartbreaker to Florida State in Pasadena. The question now becomes, was it just a one-year blip or the beginning of a trend? The answer, of course, depends on who you ask and how much stock you place on a single season.

For an SEC fan, it’s resoundingly the former, and for good reason. At least on paper, no fewer than five of the teams in the conference — Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina — have the kind of talent that could translate into a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Hell, there could even be two teams from the preeminent college football league qualify for the CFP, with some folks already planting the seed that it would be a shame and/or a crime if half the field didn’t come from the SEC. Nonetheless, don’t let one title-less year fool you — the SEC is still the deepest conference in college football, with any team looking to grab the first-ever playoff trophy facing the very real possibility of going through an SEC squad — or two — to get it.

On the flip side, there are concerns, especially when it comes to the most important position on the gridiron. Quick quiz: who is the most experienced SEC quarterback entering 2014? Answer: Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace. Now, when the answer to that question is “Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace,” red flags fly up and sirens go off at an alarming rate. That’s certainly a cause for concern, with four of the five perceived favorites — Auburn and Nick Marshall being the lone exception — breaking in a new starter. Another? The gap between the SEC and the rest of the country appears to be shrinking, at least slightly. Oregon, Oklahoma — as it showed in the Sugar Bowl thumping of Alabama — Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan State, Baylor and Stanford all have the look of teams who could not only keep pace with the best the SEC has to offer, but could prove teams that trump the best the preeminent football conference in the country.

Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, it will be fascinating to watch how the conference as a whole reacts to being the hunter instead of the hunted.

California v OregonWEST COAST PREPS FOR AERIAL BOMBARDMENT
There may be question marks pockmarking the SEC at the quarterback position all across the board, but that’s not even remotely the case in the westernmost FBS conference.

Start with the main ingredient of two serious Heisman contenders — Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley — add in a dash of under-the-radar candidates — Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion — and a pinch of above-average quality — Washington State’s Connor Halliday, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, USC’s Cody Kessler and Cal’s Jared Goff — and you have a recipe for Pac-12 quarterbacks keeping defensive coordinators across the country awake and balled up in the corner in the fetal position.

How quarterback-driven will the Pac-12 be in 2014?  The two preseason favorites — by both the media and gamblers — are Oregon and UCLA; it’s no coincidence that Mariota and Hundley, especially the former, are viewed as being head and shoulders above their conference counterparts.  How those two perform will go a long way in determining how the conference race plays out — and whether either can push their respective teams and thus their league into the College Football Playoff this January.

Will MuschampSCORCHING SEATS FOR UF’s MUSCHAMP, UM’S HOKE
Many coaches will enter 2014 on the proverbial hot seat — we’ll have a more extensive look at that in a little over a week — but none more so than the two referenced in the headline.

And, of the two, there’s none higher-up on the Scoville scale than Will Muschamp, as he readily acknowledged earlier this summer.  First, the particulars: coming off an 11-2 season in his second year at Florida that raised the hopes of Gator Nation, the football program hit rock-bottom with a resounding thud and in near-historic fashion.  The 4-8 record was the worst since 1979; a bowl-less postseason was the first for a non-sanctioned Gators team since 1986; a second 3-5 record in SEC play in three years showed just how far behind the conference elite they currently are; and, arguably most embarrassingly, UF lost to FCS Georgia Southern in The Swamp.  The calls for Muschamp’s head on a platter from the media and fans alike were coming fast and furious.  So much so that the athletic director had to offer his beleaguered head coach an in-season vote of confidence. While Jeremy Foley has publicly supported the coach, there is growing concern behind closed doors that Muschamp may not be the man to lead the Gators out of the post-Urban Meyer morass — which actually started while Urb was lording over Gainesville — in which the program’s currently stuck.  One more season even remotely similar to 2013 — I’m guessing 8-5/9-4 with a bowl win to slightly cool down the seat — and the post-Muschamp era will begin in earnest.

Now, if Muschamp’s a Carolina Reaper in Scoville Heat Units, that would make Brady Hoke a, what, Bhut Jolokia?

Early on, it was all chili puppy dogs and pizza rainbows for Hoke in Ann Arbor.  In his first year at Michigan, the Wolverines went 11-2 and beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.  Most importantly, and even as it came between the tenures of Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, UM ended a six-game losing streak against hated rival Ohio State.  The honeymoon was hot, steamy and sweaty; the marriage since?  Ankle-length robes and open bathroom doors.  The Wolverines have gone a pedestrian 15-11 the last two years — two losses in minor bowls included — and returned to their losing ways in The Game.  Not only that, but UM has watched as “little brother” Michigan State has leapfrogged them, with the Spartans not only turning themselves into a force in the conference but a factor on the national stage as well.  Throw in some coaching changes, uncertainty at the quarterback position, an offensive line that’s subpar and suspect, just add everything all up and, like Muschamp, this could very well be a make-or-break year for Hoke.

Charlie StrongCAN CHARLIE MAKE TEXAS STRONG IMMEDIATELY?
The short, and likely correct, answer: nope. Or, unlikely if that makes you feel better. There are several unknowns when it comes to Charlie Strong taking over as Mack Brown‘s replacement at Texas. How will he handle the pressure cooker — created by media, fans and boosters alike — that is Austin and football-mad UT after coming from a hoops school like Louisville? More to the point, how will he handle the politicking and, even more importantly, the back-room games that are ofttimes played at a university and within an athletic department the size of the Longhorns?

Those are but a couple of the unknowns; here’s a known: Strong is a damn-fine head football coach, one who isn’t getting his just due as the home-run hire he was for UT. He may not have been the “people’s choice” to replace Brown, may not have even been the boosters’ choice, but, after Nick Saban or his agent spurned the reported nine-figure overtures, he was the best option for the Longhorns moving forward. Does that mean UT will be back on the stage immediately? Heck no, a point Strong somewhat controversially conveyed this offseason… and one he stated it for good reason.

The cupboard wasn’t exactly stocked or overflowing when Strong took over, with the coach doing some additional cleaning of the pantry the past couple of weeks.  Texas is behind at least Oklahoma, Baylor and, probably, Kansas State in the Big 12 let alone whatever their standing is nationally.  And, for good measure, keep in mind that this is a team that, over the past four years, has gone just 30-21, which is more Texas Tech University than University of Texas. Strong is a good coach; he’s not, however, an instantaneous miracle worker. Strong will need time to put his imprint on the football program, to trudge through the malaise and institute a much-needed culture change. Hopefully the athletic department, boosters and fans give him the time he will need to turn things around.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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A week before opener, Tim Beckman fired as Illini’s head coach

Tim Beckman AP

In the end, Tim Beckman‘s hot seat turned into an electric chair before the season even kicked off.

In a surprising move given only its timing, Illinois announced that Beckman has been dismissed as its head football coach.  The move comes exactly one week before the Illini open the 2015 season against Kent State.

The firing also comes more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported the beleaguered head coach, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger now instead of later.

“The preliminary information external reviewers shared with me does not reflect our values or our commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes, and I’ve chosen to act accordingly,” Thomas said in a statement. “During the review, we have asked people not to rush to judgment, but I now have enough information to make this decision in assessing the status and direction of the football program.”

The results, while preliminary, are damning, and show exactly why Thomas and the university had to make the move in the here and now. From the release:

During a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers, Thomas said he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. He also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

“Both of those findings are unsettling violations of University policy and practice and do not reflect the culture that we wish to create in athletic programs for our young people,” Thomas said. “I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field.”

Beckman has been fired for cause, meaning he will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.

Replacing Beckman on an interim basis for the entire 2015 season is offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.  The release stated that “the external review did not indicate any findings related to Coach Cubit.”

In three seasons with the Illini, Beckman compiled a 12-25 overall record and a 4-20 mark in Big Ten play. He likely would’ve been fired after the 2014 season, but the Illini managed to win their final two games to earn a bowl bid.

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Louisville’s stadium expansion to push capacity past UK’s

PJCS expansion

That title, however, comes with an asterisk.

First, though, Louisville officials announced at a press conference that the home of the football Cardinals, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, will undergo what’s projected to be a $55 million expansion.  The expansion will add approximately 10,000 new seats — the release explains “1,000 modern club seats, 65 new premium loge level boxes, and 10 exclusive field level suites” will be part of new seating — which will push the capacity of PJCS to around 65,000.

Additionally, the football facility will see a significant upgrade as well as part of the renovation.

The Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, which currently sits in the north end zone, will undergo a major expansion and facelift. The team’s weight room and conditioning center will double in size, creating a total of 20,000 square feet of work space for training, conditioning, and therapeutic support. A spacious player’s lounge, improvements for coaches’ offices and the team locker room, and expansive theatre-style meeting areas will also be among the enhancements for student-athlete development.

“We are extremely excited to launch this project and I know our fans are thrilled as well,” said athletic director Tom Jurich in a statement. “We worked extremely hard on this one to assure the timing was right before we moved forward. We feel that we have a plan in place that will excite our fans and continue to advance our program, which has truly gained a national stage with our university’s move to the ACC.”

Upon completion, PJCS will have a capacity greater than in-state rival Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium (61,000). Now the asterisk: Capacity had actually reached nearly 68,000 at Commonwealth in the late nineties prior to a current renovation that will actually reduce seating to the aforementioned 61,000.

Getting an attendance one-up on their rival, though, wasn’t part of the thought process, at least not publicly.

Whether or not UofL fans can consistently fill the additional seats remains to be seen.

(Photo credit: Louisville athletics)

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Lawyer for Jameis Winston’s accuser hired by Baylor rape victim

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The high-profile Baylor rape case has added a prominent new character, the Dallas Morning News is reporting.

According to the paper, nationally-known Title IX attorney John Clune of Colorado has been hired by the victim and her family to “investigate a number of issues surrounding the case,” including Baylor’s handling of it. A jury found earlier this week found that former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu had raped a former BU women’s soccer player in October of 2013, five months after his dismissal from Boise State.

Clune subsequently confirmed to the News in a phone conversation, as well as in a statement, that he is involved in the case.

“We are glad to see that President Starr and Baylor have chosen to conduct their own investigation and look forward to learning the outcome of that process,” Clune said in the statement. “Regardless of what facts these investigations may bare, there is a significant teachable moment here for all in higher education and we are hopeful that Baylor University embraces that great opportunity.”

A Waco attorney, Bill Johnston, is assisting Clune and his firm in their own investigation of BU’s handling of Ukwuachu.  It’s unclear if the attorneys’ investigation will extend to Boise State as well.

The hiring of Clune is perceived to be the precursor to civil action being pursued by the victim, although it’s highly unlikely the university would ever allow any lawsuit to see the light of day in a courtroom and would instead aggressively seek an out-of-court settlement.

Clune is likely most known as the attorney representing the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012.  He also represented a woman in a civil suit who claimed three Oregon basketball players raped her; that case resulted in an out-of-court settlement for the alleged victim in which she received $800,000 as well as free tuition and housing while UO admitted no wrongdoing.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Big 12 Predictions

TCU at Baylor

The Big 12 was left on the outside looking in of the College Football Playoff party a year ago, but it looks as though the odds are good the conference is not left out this season. TCU opens the 2015 season as the second-ranked team in the major polls and the Horned Frogs are joined by Baylor as popular picks to make a playoff push in 2015. But what about Oklahoma and Texas you ask? This year should see some improvements with both blueblood programs, although progress at each will be measured differently.

It is time for me to go on the record with some Big 12 predictions. Let’s just say I have a weird gut feeling about some of these.

1. TCU (Last year: 12-1, beat Ole Miss in Peach Bowl)
TCU returns a loaded offense with 10 starters coming back in 2015 from last season’s surging offense. That includes quarterback Trevone Boykin, who may be my top contender in the Heisman Trophy race this season thanks to his experience and supporting cast. TCU needs to replace just one offensive lineman, which puts TCU ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the conference. The schedule does have its challenges ahead of the Horned Frogs, including a season opener on the road against a solid Minnesota squad and road trips to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. But I think TCU can manage to get away with wins in all three. In fact, I see TCU winning every game on the schedule this season, which would be a remarkable feat for this program on the rise. Most importantly, if TCU does live up to this prediction, there is not a shot they miss out on the playoff at the end of the season. None. There are some questions on the defensive side of the football, but I trust Gary Patterson will be able to address those concerns enough to get by while the offense is cooking.

2. Oklahoma (Last year: 8-5, lost to Clemson in Russell Athletic Bowl)
I feel rather optimistic about the Sooners this season, although I wonder why I feel this optimistic. Heck, I’ve even calling for Oklahoma to win a road game at Baylor. Call it gut instinct if you will. Oklahoma lost every game against a ranked opponent last season and holes were exposed by Baylor and Clemson. But Oklahoma hung in there with Kansas State and TCU and the Sooners have the best running back in the conference with Samaje Perine. I’m looking for a big year from Perine, if the rebuilt offensive line can help him out. I think Oklahoma gets off to an OK start, with the game at Tennessee a toss-up (I have it marked as a loss right now). I think Bob Stoops comes through with some solid performances to surprise some along the way to a second place finish in the Big 12.

3. Kansas State (Last year: 9-4, lost to UCLA in Alamo Bowl)
Here is what I have come to learn about Kansas State over the years. Bill Snyder is a good coach and finds a way to put together a solid team more often than not. You can look at Kansas State on paper and suggest there is no reason to be too excited about the Wildcats in 2015, and that is fine. Snyder will find a way to make it all come together, and he will have three fairly easy games and a bye week at the start of the season to get it all worked out before jumping into Big 12 play. That could get off to a rough start as well, but the bye week before hosting Baylor could be huge. I think Kansas State finishes strong in Big 12 play after the bye week.

4. Baylor (Last year: 11-2, lost to Michigan State in Cotton Bowl)
This one is sure to raise some eyebrows, and I fully understand. Baylor is seen by many as a Big 12 favorite and legitimate playoff contender. Eight starters are back on offense, and nine more on defense. If not for a slip up at West Virginia last season, Baylor would have been in the playoff with an undefeated record. Just like last season, the margin for error is extremely thin for the Bears. This may be a solid test for Art Briles, as he looks to work his quarterback magic once more with Seth Russell taking over a talented offense. With an experienced offensive line protecting him and Corey Coleman and KD Cannon as targets and running back Shock Linwood in the backfield, things should look pretty good for Baylor, right? I’m going with the gut instinct again here to explain why I have Baylor down so low in the Big 12 standings. I think Baylor gets off to a great start, but hits a road block after the second bye week. I’m putting Baylor down for back-to-back losses against Kansas State and Oklahoma and one more two weeks later against TCU. But they may be the best three-loss team in the nation.

5. Texas (Last year: 6-7, lost to Arkansas in Texas Bowl)
When Charlie Strong was hired as the head coach of Texas I said it might take a few years for him to have the Longhorns ready to compete for a Big 12 title. Entering year two, I think we start to see some signs of progress. With a couple of coaching changes on the staff, the hope is the offense begins to show some more consistency and efficiency. The Longhorns have to decide whether to go with Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard at quarterback and replace both starting tackles on the line, but things should start looking a little more stable on offense. After experiencing a setback in the season opener in South Bend against Notre Dame, the Longhorns rebound before hitting TCU and Oklahoma before the bye week. We will see this season there is still work to be done for Texas to compete against the best fo the conference, but it should start proving to us things are getting better.

6. Oklahoma State (Last year: 7-6, beat Washington in Cactus Bowl)
Another relatively low expectation for the Cowboys compared to many of the preseason previews out there. The big hang up for Oklahoma State for me will be the schedule. The road game at Texas I think ultimately goes down as a loss as the Longhorns look to make a bit of a statement. A road trip to West Virginia could go down as a loss as well, and TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma could all be home losses as well. Oklahoma State is probably more likely to go 1-2 in those big three games in the last half of the season, but I have them as losses right now.

7. West Virginia (Last year: 7-6, lost to Texas A&M in Liberty Bowl)
West Virginia should once again be somewhere in the middle of the Big 12, and will be one of those teams capable of pulling an upset. West Virginia will not be a pushover and should have some back-and-forth games, but the Mountaineers are not quite equipped to make a run at the Big 12 title. They are dangerous though as long as Dana Holgorsen is commanding the offense and a defense returning nine starters (including safety Karl Joseph). West Virginia’s biggest weakness is in the trenches. There won’t be enough of a push from the defense and the offensive line may not be the most dependable. The start of Big 12 play could be rough (at Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State, at Baylor, at TCU after bye).

8. Texas Tech (Last year: 4-8)
The bets thing about Texas Tech is Kliff Kingsbury and his swagger. But good looks do not translate to wins on the football field, and Texas Tech is the textbook example of that right now. I have little faith in Texas Tech’s ability to be consistent enough on offense and I have even less confidence in Texas Tech’s defense to stop anything. Sure, shootouts may be fun to watch at times, but the Red Raiders need a lot of things to start turning around if we are ever going to see this program recapture the magic the Mike Leach era offered at times.

9. Iowa State (Last year: 2-10)
You may not find a harder working two-win team in the country than Iowa State. Yes, it could be another long season for the Cyclones, and that could place head coach Paul Rhoads in some unfortunate territory at the end of the season, but there should be some bright spots for Iowa State along the way. Wide receiver Allen Lazard will be tough to slow down and could have a big season. And hey, they’re not Kansas.

10. Kansas (Last year: 3-9)
I have Kansas down for one win this season and even that might be a stretch. New head coach David Beaty has his work cut out for him, but at least he is bringing some passion to the rebuilding project in Lawrence. He will need it with just three starters returning on each side of the football field, and his quarterback was injured in spring practice. If Kansas does not beat South Dakota State in week one (not a given by any means), then the Jayhawks will be staring down an 0-12 record this season.

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Sam Ukwuachu’s dad: Art Briles didn’t know of son’s past violence

Oklahoma State v Baylor Getty Images

The he said/he said when it comes to the disturbing Sam Ukwuachu situation has added yet another layer.

Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor in May of 2013 after being dismissed by Boise State, and was found guilty earlier this week of the rape of a BU student that happened five months after he moved on to the Bears.  It surfaced during the rape trial that, while at Boise, Ukwuachu was involved in at least one episode of violence involving his then-girlfriend, which some have surmised triggered his dismissal by BSU.

Art Briles claimed that Chris Petersendid not disclose that there had been violence toward women, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression.”  Petersen countered that, in the phone conversation described by the BU head coach, he “thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”

Petersen’s statement never mentioned specifically whether or not violence was discussed between the two coaches; in fact, Boise released a statement in the aftermath of the dispute that “Ukwuachu’s dismissal from the Boise State football team had nothing to do with accusations of any sexual assaults or with accusations that he physically assaulted any women.”

In the latest twist, Ukwuachu’s father, Felix Ukwuachu, stated during a radio interview that he heard the conversation between Petersen and Briles from the former’s perspective. And, according to the dad, Briles’ version of the events that preceded his son’s arrival in Waco is accurate. From KWTX.com‘s account of the radio spot:

Felix Ukwuachu, said in an interview with KWTX at his home in Houston, that he took a bus to Boise in May 2013 in order to pick up his son and met with Petersen who told him he was going to recommend the player to his “friend Art Briles.”

And he said he was in an outer office when Petersen placed the call.

“We could hear the whole conversation,” he said.

“Petersen said ‘Samuel is a dynamic player, a good boy’ (and) said he would be pleased if you take him into your school,” Felix Ukwuachu said.

Petersen “did not let Samuel go because of sexual abuse or any kind of abuse,” Ukwuachu said.

“Samuel was depressed, Samuel was homesick it was making him…think suicidal thoughts, so we decided that we told him you have to come home,” he said.

“Samuel was in good standing with University of Boise State, Boise state,” he said, and a transfer document that Baylor released confirmed that.

The fact that Briles and now the elder Ukwuachu claim Petersen vouched for the player in setting up the transfer might raise at least one eyebrow. In a damning report published shortly before the Ukwuachu, Texas Monthly wrote that “the two programs had some communication regarding Ukwuachu in which Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting the player’s efforts to get back on the field.”

Then again, a report surfaced this week that then-Florida head coach Will Muschamp decided against pursuing Ukwuachu “after a Boise State athletic department employee detailed Ukwuachu’s troubles with a girlfriend.” That employee relayed allegations of physical abuse of his then-girlfriend while at Boise. Some have questioned how Muschamp allegedly could’ve known of violence in Ukwuachu’s past and Briles specifically and BU in general didn’t.

Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation.

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Devlyn Cousin takes to social media to announce Cyclones departure

Devlyn Cousin

A little more than a week before Iowa State opens its season, the Cyclones’ depth along the defensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

On social media, Devlyn Cousin announced that he has decided to transfer out of the ISU football program and continue his playing career elsewhere. No reason was given for the abrupt departure.

Paul Rhoads subsequently confirmed the lineman’s departure.

“Devlyn and I met last night and he informed me of his decision to leave the football team and his intention to transfer to a school that is a better fit for him,” the head coach said in a statement. “He is going to stay in school at Iowa State for the rest of the fall semester and we will help him in the transfer process. We wish him success in his future.”

Cousin played in 16 games the past two seasons after redshirting as a true freshman in 2012.  He started two of those contests, with both starts coming in 2014.

In December of last year, Cousin was arrested and charged with simple serious domestic assault and obstruction of emergency communication after a verbal altercation with his girlfriend turned physical.  While he was indefinitely suspended, he ultimately was reinstated and entered summer camp No. 2 on the depth chart at tackle.

(Photo credit: Iowa State athletics)

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If rehab goes well, Hogs will lose Jonathan Williams to NFL

Jonathan Williams AP

At the rate things are going, Jonathan Williams may have played his final down as a member of the Arkansas football program.

Initially diagnosed with a foot injury that was expected to sideline him for an extended period of time, the Arkansas running back was subsequently ruled out for the entire season.  Williams, who sustained the injury during a scrimmage a couple of weeks ago, had two screws surgically inserted into his left foot to help promote growth and healing in a torn ligament.

If his rehab goes as expected, Williams said, he won’t be returning to the Razorbacks for the 2016 season.  Instead, he’ll make his way to the NFL as an early entrant in the draft.

Last season, Williams led the Hogs in rushing with 1,190 yards. His 12 rushing touchdowns were tied for the team lead with Alex Collins, who was second on the team with 1,100 yards.  The backs were the only FBS teammates to rush for more than a thousand yards last season.

Williams is Arkansas’ No. 10 all-time leading rusher with 2,321 career rushing yards. His 5.72 career yards per rush average ranks sixth all-time at Arkansas and his rushing total in 2014 was the eighth-best single-season mark in Razorback history.

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Andre Carter returning to Cal as student assistant coach

Andre Carter

A decade and a half after leaving Cal, Andre Carter is returning to the Bears football program.

The school announced in a press release that Carter has joined Sonny Dykes‘ staff in the capacity of student assistant coach.  Carter will assist Fred Tate in coaching the Bears’ defensive line.

Carter enrolled as an undergraduate at Cal earlier this year to pursue his bachelor’s degree in American studies.

“We are thrilled that Andre has returned to Cal to get his degree,” head coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “We are also looking forward to Andre being able to impart the knowledge he gained both on and off the field during a standout collegiate and NFL career to our players. He knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level of football and will certainly be a positive influence on everyone in our program.”

Carter was a consensus All-American in his final season at Cal in 2000.  His final two seasons, he was a unanimous first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a defensive end.

The 13-year NFL veteran hopes this position will help launch a coaching career at either the collegiate or professional level.

“Returning to Cal to earn my degree has been a life-changing experience,” Carter said. “I have already accomplished what I wanted to in football by playing at the highest level but there will be no greater feeling than earning my degree from one of the nation’s top universities. That’s why I’m back. …

“I feel I can impart the current players with the right way to play the game and the desire you need to have to be successful. There’s no greater satisfaction than becoming a coach.”

(Photo credit: Cal athletics)

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After leaving Irish for WMU, Anthony Rabasa leaves Broncos too

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Getty Images

As it turns out, Anthony Rabasa‘s stay in Kalamazoo was an extremely brief one.

Rabasa had transferred into the Western Michigan football program July 30, P.J. Fleck announced at the time.  Less than four weeks later, Fleck confirmed that Rabasa has decided to leave the Broncos and head back to his home in Miami.

From the sounds of it, the defensive lineman is giving up football entirely.

“He got here and he realized he wanted to move on with his life,” Fleck said. “We support him 100 percent. He’s a great kid. It’s just that football here wasn’t meant to be for him. He wants to head back down to Miami and start a career, which I don’t blame him for. He was in a battle here against some guys that are playing well.”

As a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, Rabasa would’ve been eligible to play immediately in 2015.

A three-star member of the Irish’s 2011 recruiting class, Rivals.com rated him as the No. 11 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 54 player at any position in the state of Florida. After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, he played in two games in 2012 and five in 2013.

He didn’t see the field at all for the Irish in 2014.

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Wolverine DT Bryan Mone likely lost for season with broken leg

Michigan v Indiana Getty Images

In the run-up to Jim Harbaugh‘s first game as head coach at his alma mater, Michigan has forced to deal with a significant health issue along its defensive line.

Harbaugh confirmed during a press conference earlier in the day that Bryan Mone sustained a broken bone in his lower leg during a recent practice session.  Harbaugh labeled the injury as “long-term,” intimating that the defensive tackle will likely be sidelined for the entire 2015 season.

It was a freak play,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve never seen it before in a practice or games.”

And just how did the freakish occurrence transpire? From mlive.com:

After Michigan’s defense blocked a field goal, Mone rolled out and attempted to block for Jabrill Peppers on a return attempt when his leg was rolled up, resulting in a broken bone in his leg.

Mone appeared in 12 games as a true freshman last season, making one start. He was projected to rotate at nose tackle this season.

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Five-star signee, Gators’ likely starting LT set to undergo surgery

Martez Ivey

On the same day Florida revealed that, as expected, they will go with two quarterbacks in the opener, they also revealed that one of the players who would’ve been charged with protecting them very well might not be available.

Prized 2015 recruit Martez Ivey has been dealing with an unspecified leg injury that dates back to his high school days.  The injury progressed to the point where medical intervention was necessary, with head coach Jim McElwain confirming that the offensive lineman will undergo arthroscopic surgery Friday.

With the season opener against New Mexico State nine days away, there’s no timetable for a return.

“This morning, Martez came in with a sore leg and we went and had it looked at,” McElwain said. “There was something existing there. We’ll get him in there and scope that tomorrow morning. Found a preexisting thing that was kind of bothering him. We’ll get that cleaned up.

“I have no idea exactly when his return will be. … He’ll be back. I don’t know how quickly or anything yet. But it’s not. … it doesn’t appear to be a season-ending thing or anything like that.”

The good news for UF is that, after the opener, they have games against East Carolina and Kentucky before its first “real” test of the season against Tennessee Sept. 26.  That game begins a stretch of five straight games against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

The 6-5, 302-pound Ivey was one of the highest-rated recruits in the country last season, with Rivals.com rating the five-star lineman as the No. 1 tackle in the country; the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 4 player overall.  He’s been working with the first-team offense and had been widely expected to be the starting left tackle when the season opened.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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NCAA denies Ishaq Williams’ appeal, won’t play for Irish in 2015

Ishaq Williams AP

As it turns out, Notre Dame won’t have Ishaq Williams on the field this season after all.

That much was confirmed by Brian Kelly, with the Irish head coach announcing Thursday that Williams’ appeal to the NCAA that would’ve allowed him to play in 2015 has been denied.  Williams did not attend classes at ND or any other institution during the spring semester, leading in part to the NCAA issue.

That’s how Williams’ situation differed from KeiVarae Russell‘s.  Russell attended classes during that same period, and, after re-enrolling in school in late May, was cleared by the NCAA earlier this month to play in 2015.

Williams had been formally readmitted to Notre Dame around the same time as Russell, and Kelly seemed mildly optimistic the player would be back on the field this year.

Williams and Russell were suspended for the entire 2014 season because of the findings rendered in an academic fraud investigation. Five players were initially suspended, with only safety Eilar Hardy playing at all in 2014. Bowling Green announced late last month that Hardy had transferred into its football program.

The defensive lineman had played in 24 games the two seasons prior to his suspension and was expected to be a starter in 2014.  Had he been cleared by the NCAA, he would’ve been a significant contributor in the Irish’s line rotation.

As for Williams’ immediate future…

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‘Neck instability’ sidelines starting Vols S LaDarrell McNeil indefinitely

Alabama v Tennessee Getty Images

A suspension to one of Tennessee’s most productive offensive players wasn’t the only negative news coming out of Knoxville Thursday.

On the same day Pig Howard‘s one-game suspension was announced, head coach Butch Jones also revealed that LaDarrell McNeil will be sidelined indefinitely for what’s being described as ‘neck instability.”  Jones acknowledged that the safety could miss an extended period of time because of the issue.

“LaDarrell McNeil, this one came kind of out of nowhere,” Jones said. “Very, very unfortunate. I feel for him. He’s had some neck instability there, so he’s undergoing further examination. But he will be out an extended period of time, and it could be a lengthy period of time.”

247Sports.com‘s Wes Rucker writes that “Jones said McNeil’s ‘life after football’ was going to be the program’s priority,” adding that “[c]oaches using phrases like that can be an ominous sign for a player’s future on the field.”

Whether the senior defensive back will be sidelined temporarily or permanently, it will serve as a huge blow to the Vols’ defense.

The past three seasons, McNeil has played in 36 games. He started 31 of those contests, including 24 the past two seasons.

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Pitt loses RB Rachid Ibrahim to season-ending Achilles injury

Rachid Ibrahim, Kendall Fuller AP

An experienced member of Pittsburgh’s backfield has been put on the shelf courtesy of a non-contact injury.

First-year head coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed Wednesday that Rachid Ibrahim sustained an injury to his Achilles tendon in “one of those freak accidents that happens.” The injury, which occurred earlier this week, will sideline the running back for the entire 2015 season.

While he won’t have a concrete impact on the field this season, Ibrahim is already doing what he can to have an impact off of it.

He was choked up shortly after they told him what it was and what the recovery time was,” running backs coach Andre Powell said. “That afternoon, he was in meetings and he was talking in meetings and communicating with the young kids. He’s tough, he’s a leader, and he’ll fight through it.”

Used mainly as a third-down, change-of-pace back behind reigning ACC Player of the Year James Connor, Ibrahim was fifth on the team with 263 yards rushing last season, although his 8.0 yards per carry were tops on the team.  He also had 11 receptions for 73 yards coming out of the backfield.

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Erstwhile Irish RB Greg Bryant says he’s reopening recruitiment

Purdue v Notre Dame AP

It appears that Greg Bryant has all but closed the door on a return to South Bend next year.  Or any year after that, for that matter.

Earlier this month, and after he was suspended for the first four games, it was confirmed that Bryant had been declared academically ineligible and wouldn’t play at all in 2015.  While head coach Brian Kelly stated Bryant would be , the running back’s father stated that, even as he would be returning to classes at the school, he wouldn’t be reporting for summer camp.

However, the school part won’t come to fruition as Bryant posted on Instagram that he participated in his first practice Thursday at ASA Miami, a junior college in Florida and is coached by a former Notre Dame staffer.

Additionally, Bryant stated that he has decided to reopen his recruitment.  While that doesn’t necessarily preclude a return to the Irish, it appears he will be looking in other directions to restart his FBS career in 2016.

Below is his complete social media missive.

Had my first practice with my new team ASA Miami today and it went great! They gave me a opportunity to wear #1 this season! I’ll be keeping everyone updated with highlights and games. Opening up my recruitment so my next move will be my best move. Kinda feel like HIGHSCHOOL again getting offers and everything hahah. Highlights coming soon.

Last season as a true sophomore, Bryant’s 289 yards rushing were good for second on the team. Bryant was a five-star member of the Irish’s 2013 recruiting class and was rated as the No. 3 back in the country.

If he returns to the FBS level next year, Bryant would have two years of eligibility remaining.

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