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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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Malik Rucker to transfer from Iowa in search of ‘a better fit’

Indiana v Iowa

And, as if ofttimes the case, “a better fit” can be translated into “a better shot at meaningful playing time.”

As transfer day here at CFT continues unabated, Malik Rucker confirmed to the Quad City Times that he has decided to transfer out of Kirk Ferentz‘s Iowa football program.  The move, the Times notes, comes after the defensive back was unable to crack the spring two-deep depth chart.

Saying he was seeking “a better fit” in his transfer, Rucker acknowledged that the decision wasn’t a rush to judgment on his part.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about it and I need to do what is the best thing for me,” Rucker told the paper. “It’s a tough thing to do, but I feel like it is something I have to do.”

The school subsequently confirmed in a press release that Rucker will continue his college career elsewhere.

“We have honored Malik’s request to be released from his scholarship and we wish him well in the future,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a brief statement.

Rucker played in six games as a second-year freshman in 2014.  After joining the Hawkeyes as a three-star member of their 2013 recruiting class, Rucker took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Prior to signing with Iowa, the Minnesota native held scholarship offers from, among others, Arizona State, Duke, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina State, Texas Tech and Washington State. Arizona State, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina State, along with Iowa, were all finalists for Rucker’s services the first time around; it’s unknown if any of the first six will be in the mix during this second recruiting process.

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Three Mizzou reserves decide to transfer from Tigers

Missouri v Mississippi Getty Images

The post-spring pruning of FBS rosters continues Tuesday, with Missouri the latest program to see players leaving in search of greener playing-time pasture.

Multiple media outlets confirmed that a trio of Tigers — safety Shaun Rupert (pictured), offensive lineman Jordan Williams and  defensive tackle Evan Winston — have decided to transfer out of Mizzou. A team spokesperson confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that all three players leave the team in good standing.

Rupert is the most game experienced of the three, playing in 13 games last season after redshirting his true freshman season the year before. His action in 2014, though, came mainly on special teams.

Williams played in seven games the last two seasons, Winston four.

And, apropos of nothing winkwinknudgenudge, there’s this from Rivals.com‘s Mizzou website:

Unofficially, Missouri’s current scholarship count is 87, including the yet-to-be-enrolled 2015 signing class. Missouri has to get to 85 by the start of the season.

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Erstwhile Alabama RB Altee Tenpenny moves on to UNLV

Virginia Tech v Alabama Getty Images

Nearly four months after “parting ways” with Alabama, Altee Tenpenny has found himself a new college football home.

In a posting made to his Instagram account, Tenpenny revealed that he will continue his collegiate playing career at UNLV. The running back won’t be eligible to play in 2015 because of NCAA transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

Tenpenny was a four-star member of the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 back in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arkansas; and the No. 53 player overall by Rivals.com. Despite that impressive recruiting profile, Tenpenny didn’t contribute more than a couple of cents during his brief stay in Tuscaloosa.

In two seasons with the Tide, Tenpenny totaled 218 yards on 48 carries in a backfield that’s loaded with more four- and five-star talent than any in the country.

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Ozzie Mann, one-time starting QB, transferring from Ball State

Ball State v Iowa

A player who began the 2014 season as Ball State’s starting quarterback will begin the 2015 season at a different football program entirely.

Monday, Ball State announced that Ozzie Mann has decided to transfer from the university and pursue other opportunities.  Where those other opportunities may be for the Indiana native is uncertain, although, if he ends up at another FBS program, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season.

The fact that Mason lost out in this spring’s quarterback competition — Jack Miles, who took the starting job from Mann last year, took most of the first-team reps — seems to be the impetus for his decision.

“We want to thank Ozzie for his hard work and for representing our program in a first class manner,” head coach Pete Lembo said in a statement. “Depth chart decisions are never easy, but they need to be made. Ozzie has our full support and we will do whatever we can to help him with this next step in his career.”

Mason started six of the seven games in which he played last season, including the opener against Colgate.  For the season, he completed 116-of-197 passes for 1,281 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

A two-star member of the Cardinals’ 2012 recruiting class, Mason played in six games in 2013 after redshirting as a true freshman.

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UNC celebrates ‘May the Fourth be with you’ with ‘Tar Wars’ poster

Princess Leia

This time last week, North Carolina was celebrating “National Superheros Day” by tweeting out a photoshopped movie poster featuring Larry Fedora as X-Men’s Wolverine.

Seven days later, it’s Star Wars Day across the vast expanses of the Internet — “May the Fourth be with you,” “may the force be with you;” get it? — and all kinds of celebrities and sports teams are getting in on the fun a few months ahead of the seventh installment of the mega-successful space saga being released.  UNC, of course, has gotten in on the social media craze, and decided to add a couple of buddies to their latest creation involving their head football coach.

Fedora, of course, plays Luke Skywalker in the poster.  The other three are athletic director Bubba Cunningham as Obi Wan Kenobi; new defensive coordinator and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik as Han Solo; and wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer as Yoda.

And, hopefully, you’ll sleep a little better tonight being informed of this development…

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Ex-Gamecock one of two FBS players transferring to Kennesaw St.

Mason Harris, Maty Mauk

When the 2015 season rolls around, one FCS program will have a decidedly FBS flavor to it.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Kennesaw State has added defensive end Mason Harris and cornerback Dante Blackmon to its roster. The former comes to the Owls from South Carolina, the latter from Appalachian State.

Harris will have one year of eligibility remaining, Blackmon two. Both players will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Back in mid-January, Harris joined the mass exodus of players leaving the Gamecocks this offseason, He started one game in 2014, and played in 31 the past three seasons.

Blackmon started the first three games in 2014 before losing his starting job.  He started nine of the 22 games in which he played for the Mountaineers.

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Rosters from two 2011 Bama-LSU games littered with NFL draftees

Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU v Alabama Getty Images

When the two Alabama-LSU “Games of the Century” were played back in the 2011 season, we knew there was a tremendous amount of potential NFL talent on the field.  Now, with the 2015 NFL draft officially in the books, we can put a number on that potential.

And, actually, it’s a rather significant number as Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com reports that a whopping total of 45 players who played in the two Tide-Tigers games during that 2011 season — LSU won the regular season matchup, ‘Bama won the rematch in the BCS championship game — have been drafted by an NFL team.  Perhaps the most impressive number inside the number?  16 of the 22 defensive starters in those games were ultimately selected in the draft.

Given the fact that just one touchdown versus 10 field goals were scored in those two contests, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that the two defenses have littered recent drafts with players.

Another number?  Nine of the 44 offensive/defensive starters ended up becoming first-round picks.

Tide-Tiger players were picked in all seven rounds the past four years, and not surprisingly the top round was the opening one as 14 went on to become first-round picks.  The fifth round was next with 10, followed by the second (six), fourth (five), third (four), seventh (four) and sixth (two) rounds.

While 45 is a remarkable number, it still falls well short of the all-time record in this particular category: 52 of the players in the Miami-Ohio State title game following the 2002 season went on to be drafted.  Even more insane is that 37 of the starters in the Buckeyes’ upset of the Hurricanes ended up being selected in the next handful of drafts, with 18 taken in the first round.

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Belk named title sponsor of Tar Heel-Gamecock opener

South Carolina v North Carolina Getty Images

Because of course an already over-commercialized sport needs additional commercialization.

In a press release Monday, the Charlotte Sports Foundation announced that department store chain Belk has been named as the title sponsor of the 2015 North Carolina-South Carolina opener.  The game will kick-off at 6 p.m. ET Sept. 3 and will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The game will officially be promoted as “The 2015 Belk College Kickoff.”

“College football is at the heart of Southern lifestyle and Belk is excited to partner with the Charlotte Sports Foundation as the title sponsor of the Belk College Kickoff Game,” said Jon Pollack, Belk executive vice president, sales promotion, marketing and eCommerce. “The Belk College Kickoff Game is a great opportunity to engage fans and customers in the Southeast, as well as celebrate and support the Charlotte community.”

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Belk to bring top level college football games to Charlotte,” said Will Webb, executive director of the CSF. “We can’t wait for the Tar Heels and Gamecocks to take the field, and their fans to experience our great city.”

Belk is also the title sponsor of the appropriately named Belk Bowl, which is played in Charlotte and features, as this opener will, one team each from the ACC and SEC.

The Tar Heels and Gamecocks, former conference rivals in the Southern then the ACC, have faced each other 54 times, with the first coming meeting in 1903 and the last in 2013.  UNC owns a 32-18-4 edge in the series, although USC has won five of the last six dating back to 1988.

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WVU’s Russell Haughton-James arrested on felony burglary charge

Russell Haughton-James

With another weekend in the books, it’s time to, once again, reset the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

The latest to trigger a double-zero reset is Russell Haughton-James, the West Virginia offensive lineman who WV Metro News is reporting was arrested on one count of burglary Sunday night.  No specifics as to what led up to Haughton-James’ arrest have been released.

According to the North Central Regional Jail’s website, Haughton-James’ incarceration status is listed as “pre-trial felon.”

What if any impact this incident will have on Houghton-James’ status with the team is uncertain, although the team is aware of the arrest.

After playing in just two games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, Haughton-James has played in 24 the past two seasons.  In the 12 games he played in 2014, he was mainly a backup tackle.

(Photo credit: North Central Regional Jail)

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Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for next three years

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Getty Images

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports the Cactus Bowl will be played in Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — for the next three seasons, making it the fourth bowl game to take place in an MLB stadium.

The annual Big 12 vs. Pac-12 game will join the Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium), St. Pete Bowl (Tropicana Field) and Miami Beach Bowl (Marlins Park) as being played in a baseball stadium. The Emerald Bowl, now known as the Foster Farms Bowl, was played at AT&T Park in San Francisco from 2002-2013 before moving to Levi’s Stadium last year.

We’ve also seen regular season games take place at Wrigley Field (Northwestern-Illinois) and Busch Stadium (SIU-Carbondale-Southeastern Missouri State) in recent years. Notre Dame will face Boston College at Fenway Park this November as well.

Hopefully, whichever team wins this year’s Cactus Bowl will celebrate the way the Dodgers did after winning the NL West at Chase Field in 2013:

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Some good news for Tennessee: Peyton Manning sees more ‘Sunday bodies’

Butch Jones AP

Tennessee was shut out of last weekend’s NFL Draft, which on the surface can be viewed as a problem and/or indictment of the program.

But that’d be missing the larger point. A tidal wave of players will make the sophomore-junior leap while Butch Jones has pulled in a ton of top recruits since taking over in Knoxville. And perhaps the most famous Tennessee alum is seeing the improvements:

Per 247 Sports, Tennessee projects to have 14 upperclassmen starters in 2015, many of whom have been through plenty of close games over the last two years. Pairing that experience with their natural talent should begin to pay off for guys like Josh Dobbs and an offensive line made up of four upperclassmen and a very good sophomore right guard in Jashon Robertson.

But here’s the other thing about Tennessee: As of now, they don’t have any players projected as 2016 first-round picks in the way-too-early mock drafts that are out there (like CBS Sports, Walter Football and Bleacher Report). So perhaps there won’t be a mass exodus of talent out of Knoxville after this coming season, even if Manning sees the potential for plenty of these guys to make it in the NFL.

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‘Disappointed’ Dykes had no choice but to can Cal assistant

California v Northwestern Getty Images

A week or so after being forced to push one assistant off his Cal coaching staff, Sonny Dykes spoke publicly about the situation.

The Bears head coach acknowledged that he was “disappointed and surprised” after learning that Pierre Ingram was arrested April 16 and charged with solicitation of a lewd act in the midst of a prostitution sting.  Eight days after his arrest, Ingram, who served as Cal’s wide receivers coach as well as the football program’s recruiting coordinator, was dismissed by Dykes.

Dykes stated that, in essence, he had no choice but to can his assistant, even as it was a hard situation to go through on both sides.

“It’s hard when somebody you know goes through a hard time in their life, especially somebody that you know well,” Dykes said.

“Obviously, it’s not anything you ever want to hear. I was disappointed and surprised. I think everybody was surprised that knew Pierre, but we had to move on.”

Ingram had spent the past two seasons as the Bears’ running backs coach before moving over to receivers this offseason.

As far as a replacement goes, Dykes stated that the search is ongoing but is headed in the right direction. There is no timeline for a hire.

Dykes added he’s unsure if the title of recruiting coordinator will go to the new assistant or to someone already on his staff.

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Spinal condition forces Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt to retire

Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon State Beavers

For the second time in less than a month, a spinal condition has prompted a Power Five player to call it quits.

In a midweek Instagram posting, Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt announced that he is being forced to retire from the sport because of a medical condition.  According to Hunt, and which was subsequently confirmed by OSU, he was born with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.  It’s a condition similar to what prompted Florida’s Rod Johnson to step away from the game three weeks ago.

Below is Hunt’s social media missive.

“It was truly a blessing to have been apart of the #OregonStateFootball team but sadly my days of playing is over due to a condition that I was born with called #SpinalStenosis. This team will forever be my team and I will always support every single brother of mine on it through their football careers and life. And a message to all my teammates “just because I can’t play on the field with yall, best believe I’ma be on the sideline helping and watching yall strive towards greatness because our team is bound for great accomplishments in these upcoming years. I love all yall as my own brothers and I’ll always be here for every last one of yall” And to everyone else who has supported me throughout my career thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and God Bless you all!”

Hunt was a four-star member of the Beavers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 corner in the country by Rivals.com.  He was the highest-rated recruit in an OSU class that was rated 39th in the country and eight in the Pac-12.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hunt played in seven games in 2014.  He was expected to compete for a starting job in 2015.

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Nearly 30 percent of early entries weren’t selected in NFL draft

B.J. Catalon, Darrion Richardson AP

Not surprisingly, some of the players who left eligibility on the table for an early shot at the pros were left without a chair when the draft music stopped Saturday.

By the deadline in mid-January, a total of 84 players with eligibility remaining filled out their paperwork to make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.  As noted by Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, 24 of those 84 players went undrafted as the seven-round event concluded yesterday evening.

While that’s 28.6 percent, it’s actually a better rate than a year ago.  In 2014, 36.7 percent (36 of 98) of the early entrants went undrafted.  That total of 98 last year was a record number of draft-eligible players who left with eligibility remaining, which prompted the NFL to change its protocol in an attempt to roll back the number of players leaving early.

Getting back to this year, 16 of the 24 who weren’t selected came from Power Five football programs.  TCU was the only school with two early entrants who weren’t picked (running back B.J. Catalon, safety Chris Hackett), while two of the players came from non-FCS levels.

It should be noted that most if not all of the players in this group will sign as an undrafted free agent.

Below is the complete list of those who went undrafted.

SS Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
CB Jacoby Glenn, UCF
FS Chris Hackett, TCU
WR DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M
DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
TE Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
DT David Irving, Iowa State
WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston
DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
RB B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR Chris Harper, California
LB Max Flores, Northern Colorado
RB Dee Hart, Colorado State
RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky
WR George Farmer, USC
WR Nigel King, Kansas
OT Patrick Miller, Auburn
WR Zach D’Orazio, Akron
WR Tacoi Sumler, Appalachian State
OG Tyler Moore, Florida
WR Jaquel Pitts, Trinity International
LS Easton Wahlstrom, Arizona State
OLB Darien Rankin, North Carolina

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Ex-Gopher, Rutgers QB Philip Nelson to start over at S. Alabama

Philip Nelson AP

Whether or not you are of the belief that he deserves it, Philip Nelson is getting a second chance at an FBS playing career.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report from late this past week, Nelson’s father has confirmed that his son has moved on to South Alabama and will play for the Sun Belt program in 2015.  For what it’s worth, USA has yet to confirm the quarterback’s addition to its roster.

When it does, though, it may have some explaining and/or spinning to do.

In May of last year, Nelson, then a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, was arrested in connection to a vicious assault outside of a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was ultimately charged with first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, in an incident that left the victim, former Div. II football player Isaac Kolstad, hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The Kolstad family had released a statement at one point a year ago confirming that the 24-year-old Kolstad, who is married and has a young daughter, was on life support and had a portion of his brain removed after allegedly being kicked in the head by Nelson and punched by another male who is facing charges as well.  Kolstad, who Nelson’s attorney had accused of throwing a sucker punch that triggered the fight, is making steady progress from his injuries.

Nelson ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and credited for serving two days in jail.  It was concluded by a prosecution witness that the other male charged had caused Kolstad’s brain injury, which led to a plea agreement that also included a $300 fine.

In January of last year, Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers.  He was dismissed by the Scarlet Knights shortly after being charged in connection to the beating.

In 2012 and 2013, Nelson, who was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2012 recruiting class, started 16 games.  Nine of those starts came as a true sophomore in a 2013 season in which he led the run-heavy Gophers in passing yards (1,306) and passing touchdowns (nine).  He was also third in rushing yards (364) and rushing touchdowns (six).

Prior to moving on to USA, Fresno State, Georgia and Ole Miss were in the mix for his services.  Nj.com wrote that “the SEC schools moved on as the legal process dragged.”

Nelson will now have two years of eligibility remaining.

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