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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Key transfers

Jake McGee

The lifeblood of a college football program comes through recruiting, but there are times when recruiting requires making sales pitches to experienced college football players as well. Seniors looking for a chance to compete for a starting job in the final year or years of eligibility can turn into great stories at any school, and this season is no exception.

We already took a look at some of the impact freshmen and the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season, but here is a look at some of the names you may already be familiar with looking to take advantage of a clean slate with a new program.

MICHAEL BREWER, VIRGINIA TECH, QB
With Virginia Tech looking for a new starting quarterback to replace Logan Thomas, the Hokies could be hoping Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer emerges as the best available option. The spring game failed to answer the question under center so the addition of Brewer figured to spice things up a bit. By all accounts it appears Brewer is making his case for playing time this fall as well, taking over the top spot in the depth chart during fall camp. Brewer appeared in just four games last season for Texas Tech, completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. He graduated this spring, making him eligible to play this fall for the Hokies.

JACOBY BRISSETT, NC STATE, QB
A change of scenery could be just what Jacoby Brissett needed after a disastrous 2012 season at Florida. With Jeff Driskel taking on the starter role for the Gators, Brissett made the decision to transfer to NC State, where head coach Dave Doeren will finally get a chance to coach him after attempting to recruit the quarterback to Wisconsin out of high school. Fortunately for NC State, Brissett’s desire to transfer to Miami was blocked due to a lack of room on the roster at the position in January 2013. Little did Miami know at the time the potential need for a transfer option  in 2014 (more on that later). Brissett played in five games in 2012 for Florida, completing 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Brissett will be the starting quarterback for NC State, and he will have a stable of healthy receivers and good running back depth surrounding him on the field.

JACOB COKER, ALABAMA, QB
Looking to find his third starting quarterback in six seasons, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not have been able to find a more suitable option through a transfer than Jacob Coker. Coker came to Alabama from Florida State, looking to get out from under the tremendous shadow cast by Jameis Winston. He does so with the personal endorsement of Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Coker could likely be a starter on just about any team in the country, but it is not a guarantee just yet Coker will be the Tide’s starter just yet. Coker will have to beat Blake Sims for the job and Saban is known to let these competitions play out as long as he needs before coming to a final decision, even if it means a week or two into the season.

BRANDON CONNETTE, FRESNO STATE QB
An opportunity to play his final year of eligibility closer to home and his ailing mother landed Brandon Connette at Fresno State. Leaving a promising and developing Duke program was surely a tough decision, but as far as football is concerned Connette appears to be landing in another good position as well. Connette is competing for the starting job at Fresno State, offering a bit of a different style than the Bulldogs had grown accustomed to under Derek Carr the last few years, but it is what Connette offers with his feet that could be beneficial for the Bulldogs in their quest to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns for Duke last season, a big reason why Duke was able to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and play for the conference championship. He may not wing it like Carr, but he did throw for 1,212 yards on 145 pass attempts last season, including 13 touchdowns.

DEE HART, COLORADO STATE RB
Colorado State has some big shoes to fill at running back after Kapri Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. It is clear the Rams like to run the football, so bringing in a running back from Alabama is certainly a good way to go for head coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama assistant who secured a new contract recently. Dee Hart, who is looking for a more prominent role in an offense rather than part-time work in the crowded and deep Alabama backfield, arrives at Colorado State and should slide right into the starting role right away. Hart, who has battled through various knee injuries already, had just 22 carries in 2013 and with T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide it looked as though getting many snaps was out of the question for Hart in Tuscaloosa this season. That should not be the case at Colorado State.

JAKE HEAPS, MIAMI QB
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Heaps. The former BYU and Kansas quarterback has arrived at Miami and may have done so at just the right time. With an injury to projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams in the spring, Al Golden left the door open for all possibilities to plug the hole, including transfer options. That left an option on the table for Heaps to find a better situation for the remainder of his eligibility. He was once a highly rated recruit but has struggled to match that expected potential. With the right pieces around him, like running back Duke Johnson, Heaps could finally be ready to enjoy some stable success on the football field this fall. Heaps is currently one of the top two candidates for the starting job at Miami.

MATT JOECKEL, TCU, QB
The former back-up to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M decided it was best to try and compete for a starting job at another program rather than go through another round at Texas A&M. That led senior Matt Joeckel to TCU, where he is eligible to play right away this fall and making his case for the starting job. Joeckel is in the thick of the competition at TCU with Trevone Boykin, who has started 15 games for the Horned Frogs. TCU head coach Gary Patterson could have some options though, with the possibility of moving Boykin to receiver and allowing more time under center for Joeckel addressing two areas of need with one decision.

GUNNER KIEL, CINCINNATI QB
Despite Cincinnati working incumbent starter Munchie Legaux back from injury, it looks like the new guy may be the number one option to lead the American Athletic Conference favorites. Gunner Kiel, who transferred to Cincinnati from Notre Dame, put on quite the show in Cincinnati’s spring game and brings plenty of potential to the passing game for the Bearcats. Kiel sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules and is now poised to take on the role of starting quarterback for a contender in the AAC as well as for a spot in a big revenue bowl.

WES LUNT, ILLINOIS QB
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit thinks the Illini can have the best offense in the Big Ten this season. That may not be totally unrealistic with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt, from Oklahoma State. Lunt arrived at Oklahoma State with loads of hype and potential as an early enrollee looking to succeed Brandon Weeden in 2012, but injuries quickly erased those plans in Stillwater. As he struggled to regain a footing on the depth chart, it became necessary to look for other options to compete for a starting job. Illinois had the need to improve at the position, and Lunt has become the top candidate for the starting job this summer.

JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA TE
This one came as a bit of a surprise, and is a pretty significant blow to Virginia. Jake McGee was Virginia’s leading receiver last season, and after transferring to Florida he fills a position in need of a major upgrade at Florida. Tight ends at Florida combined for four receptions for 42 yards last season. McGee had a little over 10 times as many catches for the Cavaliers in 2013 and should immediately give Jeff Driskel a competent target in the field. The two have already been developing some chemistry in fall camp, with highlight plays apparently giving the offense a lift. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper intends to make McGee a significant part of the rejuvenated Florida offense.

RUSHEL SHELL, WEST VIRGINIA RB
Going from one end of the Backyard Brawl to the other, Rushel Shell transferred from Pittsburgh to West Virginia last summer. After sitting out the 2013 season, Shell is ready to go and make his case for playing time in a West Virginia offense in need of some physicality. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said Shell has some of the best skills at the position this camp. In 2012, at Pittsburgh, Shell backed up Ray Graham but still accounted for 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia was seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense in 2013. Shell could help the Mountaineers improve on the ground as a key contributor.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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David Brandon will reportedly step down as Michigan’s AD

University of Michigan Introduces Brady Hoke

It appears Michigan’s athletic department — and likely its football program as well — is about to embark on a new direction.

Late Friday morning, UM announced in a press release that university president Mark Schlissel will conduct a press conference at 1:30 ET this afternoon. The only reason given for the presser was that Schlissel would be making an unspecified announcement.

It’s been rumored for weeks that embattled athletic director Dave Brandon is on his way out. Based on one report, that’s indeed both the case and the subject of the this afternoon’s media event.

The Detroit News subsequently confirmed that Brandon will be stepping down.

In addition to the woeful performance of the football team under Brady Hoke, Brandon has come under fire for the handling of the Shane Morris head injury; the corporate nature of home football games to go along with the pricing; and an embarrassing string of emails from the AD to various fans.

Should Brandon be out as all signs indicate, it would likely serve as the second-to-last nail in Hoke’s coaching coffin, with the last being driven in by the new AD just before he brings in his own hand-picked head coach.

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Tulane loses WR to season-ending ACL injury

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Tulane AP

Unfortunately for both the player and the team, reality matched the speculation.

Tulane confirmed earlier this week that Xavier Rush suffered an undisclosed knee injury during practice and would undergo further evaluation.  There were rumblings that the injury was related to the wide receiver’s ACL.

While the school has yet to confirm it, both the Baton Rouge Advocate and New Orleans Times-Picayune are reporting that Rush has indeed torn an ACL.  The Green Wave is expected to confirm the news at some point today.

As the senior has already used his redshirt season and he will not be eligible for a medical waiver, Rush’s collegiate career has come to an end.

Rush is currently second on the Green Wave in receiving yards with 295 and leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and a 19.7 yards per catch average. His 15 catches are second among receivers and third among all players.

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Reports: Kyle Allen to start at QB for A&M

Kyle Allen AP

The 2014 season began with Kenny “Trill™” Hill being mentioned alongside other Heisman Trophy contenders.  It could, though, end with a performance-based benching.

Officially, Texas A&M will not name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe until shortly before kickoff.  Unofficially, a change is in the offing at the most important position on the football field as both the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth and Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com are reporting that Kyle Allen will get the start in the non-conference home game.

Hill tossed six interceptions in the last two losses to Alabama and Ole Miss, leading to the quarterback competition being opened up yet again during the Aggies’ bye week.  He had been named as Johnny Manziel‘s successor in mid-August after a fight with Allen that began in the spring and continued on into summer camp.

Should Allen start against ULM, he’d hit the field with as impressive an on-paper pedigree as any player in the country.  Allen came to College Station this season as a five-star member of the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position.

Allen has thrown passes in four of eight games this season, going 23-38 for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

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No. 2 Florida State still unconquered, rallies to beat Louisville 42-31

Dalvin Cook

Before we get to what Louisville didn’t do, first let’s discuss what Florida State did on Thursday night: overcome a 21-0 deficit on the road, score 42 points over the game’s last 30 minutes and 33 seconds, drop 580 yards of total offense (and 380 in the second half) against the nation’s top statistical defense, and held the Louisville without a third- or fourth-down conversion until the game was put away. And in the process, No. 2 Florida State extended its winning streak to 24 games with a rise-from-the-dead 42-31 victory over Louisville.

With that out of the way, here is the list of things Louisville did not do that could have pushed this game the other way:

  • Turn a 1st-and-goal at the four into points on the game’s opening possession.
  • Recover a fumble by Florida State’s Karlos Williams at the goal line in the waning moments of the first half.
  • Hold on to the ball after intercepting Jameis Winston to open the second half.
  • Corral what would have been a possible pick six, which would have pushed Louisville’s lead to 31-21.
  • Convert a third down while the game was still in doubt.
  • Catch a 4th-and-2 pass with room to run while trailing 35-31 deep into the fourth quarter.

In the end, Louisville did just enough to give its fans (and the FSU-hating masses) just enough to hope, but not enough to actually put the game away.

Florida State trailed 21-0 late in the second quarter, and got on the board 33 seconds before halftime after Nick O’Leary recovered Williams’ fumble in the end zone to pull within 21-7 at the half.

Cardinals defensive back Gerold Holliman intercepted Winston – the reigning Heisman winner’s third pick of the night, and second to Holliman – on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, but Winston then forced a fumble as Holliman fought for extra yardage, and wide receiver Travis Rudolph hopped on the loose pigskin.

Louisville forced a turn0ver on downs on the next possession and then pushed the lead to 24-7 a minute later, but the two 50/50 plays falling Florida State’s way gave the Seminoles life.

Normally a 17-point road deficit is overcome through the battle-hardened strength only veterans possess, but true freshman teamed with Winston to overcome and then put away Louisville over the last 25 minutes of the game. Winston hit freshman Rudolph for a 68-yard catch-and-run score to pull within 24-14, and then true freshman Dalvin Cook accounted for 76 yards in an 80-yard drive, including a 40-yard touchdown dash, to make the score 24-21.

Florida State took its first lead with 12:48 to go in the fourth quarter when Winston hit Ermon Lane, another freshman, for a 47-yard pass that somehow threaded through three Louisville defenders, and came one play after Holliman let a possible pick-six bounce off his knee and land incomplete.

Louisville then regained the lead with 9:20 to go on a one-yard Dyer plunge, but the Seminoles re-took it for good with a 38-yard rush by Cook. The Cardinals’ next possession ended when a Will Gardner pass bounced off tight end Charles Standberry‘s hands on 4th-and-2 at the Louisville 39 with a shade over 150 seconds to go. Florida State scored three plays later when Winston hit fullback Freddie Stevenson for a 35-yard play-action touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-6.

Winston posted his finest performance of the season, overcoming self-inflicted adversity and a bum ankle to complete 25-of-48 passes for 401 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions (and one very important forced fumble), while Cook came off the bench to account for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches.

Gardner threw for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but did not rise to the moment when Louisville needed it, missing every third down pass until the game was out of reach. DeVante Parker carried the Cardinals’ passing attack with eight grabs for 214 yards. Dyer rushed 28 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, but tallied only 39 yards in the second half.

Louisville drops to a very painful 6-3 (4-3 ACC) on the season and heads to Boston College on Saturday.

Florida State improves to 8-0 on the year, and is now one win away from becoming the 11th team in the last 50 years to mount a 25-game winning streak.

After Clemson (17-10 deficit into a 23-17 win), N.C. State (24-7 deficit into a 56-41 win), Notre Dame (17-10 deficit into a 31-27 win) and tonight, this 2014 Florida State team has taught future opponents that they had best not bother even taking a lead; defeat is inevitable, and that’s just going to make it all the more painful.

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Georgia Southern drubs Troy 42-10, pushes winning streak to six

Willie Fritz, Kevin Ellison

One week after popping Georgia State to the tune of 69 points, 10 touchdowns in 11 possessions and 613 rushing yards, Georgia Southern kept the beat going with a 42-10 blowout of Troy on Thursday night.

Nine Georgia Southern rushers combined for 421 yards and six touchdowns on 63 carries. Quarterback Kevin Ellison led the way with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while also completing 5-of-9 passes for 31 yards, and Favian Upshaw added 96 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Tonight’s result means Georgia Southern, the top-ranked FBS rushing offense at a shade over 400 yards per game, has racked up 1,034 rushing yards in the past five days. They’ve punted twice in 22 combined possessions.

All that running limited Troy to just 44 offensive snaps. Five Trojans combined to rush 33 times for 141 yards, while two quarterbacks lifted only 11 passes with four completions for a combined 13 yards. The Trojans were held out of the end zone until the 1:18 mark of the fourth quarter, with the score already at 42-3.

In all, Georgia Southern outgained Troy 461-154 and held a 28-9 advantage in first downs.

The win pushes Georgia Southern to 7-2 and 6-0 in Sun Belt play with a trip to Texas State waiting next Saturday.

Troy (1-8, 1-4 Sun Belt) will host Georgia State next Saturday.

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NCAA upholds Todd Gurley suspension, won’t return until Nov. 15

Todd Gurley

The Todd Gurley saga has finally reached its final conclusion.

The NCAA announced Thursday night it had upheld Georgia’s appeal of his four-game suspension for accepting more than $3,000 in exchange for autographs.

Gurley has missed the last two games due to the investigation, and will miss the ninth-ranked Bulldogs’ dates with Georgia (Saturday) and Kentucky (Nov. 8).

“We are very disappointed in tonight’s decision by the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee regarding our appeal on Todd Gurley’s eligibility reinstatement,” Georgia said in a statement. “We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd’s immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling.  However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd’s return to competition on November 15.  The full attention of the Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday’s important game against Florida.”

The silver lining here for Georgia is that the Bulldogs should beat the Gators and Wildcats without Gurley, and then get a rested and hacked off version of the nation’s best runner back for No. 4 Auburn on Nov. 15.

Despite missing the past two games, Gurley still leads Georgia in rushing with 773 carries and eight touchdowns on 94 carries while catching 11 passes for 53 yards and completing his only pass for 50 yards.

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Former Iowa State coach, FSU and Vandy AD Clay Stapleton dies at 93

Toledo v Iowa State Getty Images

Former Iowa State head coach and Florida State and Vanderbilt athletics director Clay Stapleton passed away Thursday in Missouri City, Mo. He was 93.

Stapleton is best known for coaching the Cyclones’ famed “Dirty Thirty” 1959 team, remembered for putting together a 7-3 season with only 30 players on the roster. It was Iowa State’s first winning season in a decade. Stapleton went 42-53-4 as head coach from 1958-67.

Stapleton left coaching for athletics administration, first serving as the athletics director at Iowa State, where he was instrumental in the construction of Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum and hired future College Football Hall of Fame coach Johnny Majors as his replacement.

He then moved on to serve as athletics director at Florida State (1971-72) and Vanderbilt (1973-78).

Stapleton played at Tennessee, and served as an assistant coach at Wofford College (S.C.), Wyoming and Oregon State.

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Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly, K-State WR Tyler Lockett headline list of Campbell Trophy finalists

Tyler Lockett, Keenon Ward

The National Football Foundation on Thursday released its list of 17 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, college football’s highest scholar-athlete honor. Now in its 25th season, the Campbell Trophy is considered the academic version of the Heisman.

“We are extremely proud to announce this year’s National Scholar-Athlete Class,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “These young men have an unrelenting commitment to excellence in all aspects of their lives, and they represent all that is right in college football. They serve as living examples of our mission of building leaders through football, and they create an exceptional pool of candidates for the Campbell Trophy.”

To be eligible for consideration, finalists much be in their final year of eligibility, carry a GPA of 3.2 or higher, be listed first team on their respective teams’ depth charts, and have an outstanding record as of leadership and community service.

As a group, the players average a 3.69 GPA, a dozen are team captains, 15 have earned all-conference honors, six have received All-America accolades, four have been named their conference’s player of the year, and nine hold school records of some sort.

The 17 finalists are:

  • Terry Baggett, Army running back
  • Austin Damaschke, Concordia (Wis.) quarterback
  • Austin Hasquet, Northern Arizona linebacker
  • David Helton, Duke linebacker
  • Taylor Kelly, Arizona State quarterback
  • Nate Leonard, UTSA center
  • Tyler Lockett, Kansas State wide receiver
  • Mike Mancini, Trinity (Conn.) safety
  • Charles Moore, Tarleton State (Texas) safety
  • Mark Murphy, Indiana safety
  • Jordan Richards, Stanford safety
  • Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State (Ark.) quarterback
  • Mike Sadler, Michigan State punter
  • Caleb Schafffitzel, Missouri State safety
  • Tyler Varga, Yale tailback
  • Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern center
  • Zach Zenner, South Dakota State running back

All 17 finalists will receive $16,000 post-graduate scholarships and will head to New York City for the Dec. 9 awards dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria. The Campbell Trophy winner, in addition to joining a group consisting of Danny Wuerffel,Peyton Manning, and Tim Tebow, receives a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.

Penn State’s John Urschel won the honor in 2013.

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No. 2 FSU’s 23-game winning streak on the ropes, trails Louisville 21-7 at the half

Florida State v Louisville Getty Images

Thursday night in college football has a long history of seeing highly-ranked favorites see its dream season turn into ash in front of a raucous stadium, and it looks like another upset will get added to the lore tonight. Louisville has pounded No. 2 Florida State to the tune of a 21-7 first half lead in the ‘Ville.

After a scoreless first quarter, Michael Dyer put Louisville on top with a four-yard scoring dash at the 12:13 mark of the second quarter, and then pushed the lead to 14 with a 12-yard jaunt seven minutes later. The Cardinals then pushed the lead to 21 – and thereby put FSU’s 23-game winning streak on life support – with an 11-yard scoring strike from Will Gardner to Gerald Christian.

Florida State stole back momentum immediately after falling down by 21 by cooly marching 78 yards in six plays, saved by a third-and-goal rush at the 1 where a Karlos Williams fumble rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Seminoles tight end Nick O’Leary.

The 21-point deficit – brief as it was – is the largest Florida State has faced on its 23-game streak.

Todd Grantham‘s defense, ranked second nationally in pass efficiency defense heading into tonight with seven touchdowns allowed and 15 interceptions, has lived up to its billing, intercepting Jameis Winston twice (on consecutive passes, no less) and turning both opportunities into touchdowns.

Florida State’s defense, on the other hand, has let Louisville get what it wanted on the ground and through the air. Gardner has thrown for 179 yards, and Dyer already has 95 yards and that pair of touchdowns on 14 carries.

The lead could actually be larger, as a 71-yard pass from Gardner to DeVante Parker on the first play from scrimmage gave the Cardinals a first-and-goal from the four inside the game’s first minute, but a fourth-and-goal pass from Gardner to Christian fell incomplete.

Florida State will get the ball to open the second half on the biggest possession of the season for both teams. A Florida State touchdown makes the score 21-14 and officially pulls the game back into toss-up territory. A stop keeps Louisville in control, and FSU’s status as the second-ranked team back on life support.

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Gamecocks’ leading tackler out vs. Vols

Missouri v South Carolina Getty Images

South Carolina’s defense has struggled throughout the 2014 season with Skai Moore on the field.  Saturday, we’ll see how that side of the ball performs without him.

According to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, Moore will not play in Saturday night’s game against Tennessee as the Gamecocks look to get to within one win of bowl eligibility with a victory.  The linebacker injured his right ankle in the seven-point loss to Auburn last Saturday.

With Moore sidelined, sophomore Jonathan Walton will take his spot in the starting lineup.

Moore’s 51 tackles are currently tops on the team. He led the team in the same category as a true freshman last season.

The Gamecocks are currently 98th in the country and tied for dead last in the SEC (with Vanderbilt) giving up an average of 32.8 points per game, and 89th in the nation and 13th in the conference in total defense (437.5 yards per game).

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GaTech’s top two RBs ruled out vs. UVa.

Duke v Georgia Tech Getty Images

The depth of Georgia Tech’s Top-Five ground game will, once again, be put to the test.

The Yellow Jackets released their weekly injury report Thursday afternoon, with Zach Laskey and Charles Perkins listed as out for Saturday’s game against Virginia.  The former is dealing with  a shoulder issue, the latter a knee injury.

Laskey suffered his injury in the Oct. 18 loss to North Carolina and sat out last weekend’s win over Pittsburgh.  Perkins was injured very early on in the Panthers game.

This season, Laskey leads all Tech running backs in rushing yards with 595 (quarterback Justin Thomas has the team lead with 717).  Perkins is second to Lasky with 261.

Synjyn Days, starting in place of Laskey at B-back, led the Jackets with 110 yards on the ground against Pitt. Broderick Snoddy, who came into that game with 61 yards on the season, totaled 82 — on six carries — in the Week 9 win.

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Tulane’s second-leading WR suffers practice injury

Xavier Rush AP

Whether or not Tulane has one of its top offensive playmakers for this week’s conference matchup remains to be seen.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Xavier Rush suffered an injury during practice Wednesday.  While the school didn’t specify the nature of the injury, although the Times-Picayune reported that the wide receiver suffered what looked like a knee injury.

“He left practice with an injury and is still being evaluated” is all the school would say in addressing the situation.

Whether Rush plays in Friday’s AAC game against Cincinnati is unknown.

Rush is currently second on the Green Wave in receiving yards with 295 and leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and a 19.7 yards per catch average. His 15 catches are second among receivers and third among all players.

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Hoke ‘not at all’ worried about Peppers bolting Michigan

Appalachian v Michigan

Whether it be because of Brady Hoke‘s tenuous hold on his job or all of the tumult surrounding the football program or the injuries or the frustration borne out of everything, there have been some rumblings that highly-touted 2014 signee Jabril Peppers could — could — be thinking about a transfer from Michigan.

For what it’s worth, and at least publicly, the talent true freshman’s head coach isn’t the least bit concerned.

No, not all,” Hoke said during a radio interview Thursday when asked if he was concerned about Peppers’ transferring.

“He came here for a lot of different reasons, and one of them is, as a young kid, he’s always loved Michigan. That was his team growing up in New Jersey. He knows the value of an education. He’s doing great in school, and (knows the value of this) education and what it can do after football.”

Two separate leg injuries have cost Peppers significant playing time his first season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have played eight games this season, with the cornerback missing five full contests. He’s missed parts of two others due to the health issues.

As had previously been reported, Hoke allowed that a medical redshirt is a possibility. Then again, so is a return.

Michigan’s coach has not ruled out a potential medical redshirt season for Peppers, and he also hasn’t ruled out a return for the former five-star recruit at some point over the next four games.

He indicated Michigan will know “in the near future” what the ultimate fate will be for Peppers this season, whether he sits the rest of the way or attempts to come back and play.

If Peppers doesn’t play any additional games this season, he will be eligible for a medical redshirt.

Peppers was a consensus five-star recruit in 2014, rated as the No. 1 corner and the No. 3 player at any position in the country. Peppers served as the highest-rated recruit UM has ever signed since the founding of Rivals‘ back in 2002. The previous high was Ryan Mallett as the No. 4 player in the Class of 2007.

He earned a starting job at both corner and on the punt return unit.

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Sooners’ Joe Mixon reaches plea deal, avoids trial

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Provided he can keep his nose clean over the next year, Joe Mixon‘s legal issues will officially be behind him.

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that the touted 2014 Oklahoma signee has reached an agreement in which he offered up a public apology as part of an Alford Plea. Mixon had originally been charged with acts resulting in gross injury in connection to a late-July incident.

Mixon’s attorney, Kevin Finlay, released a statement addressing the development.

“Today, Joe has made the decision that entering an Alford plea to the misdemeanor and accepting the short period of probation was the best course of action at this point in his life. Joe does not want to be a further distraction to his family, friends, teammates and the University of Oklahoma.

“Joe would like to apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate chain of events. Joe looks forward to continuing towards his goal of becoming a successful student and athlete at the University of Oklahoma.”

For those wondering, an Alford Plea allows the accused to maintain their innocence even as they acknowledge that enough proof exists that they could be found guilty by a jury of their peers. In exchange for the plea, Mixon was given a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling.

In mid-August, Mixon was suspended by OU for the entire 2014 season, a punitive measure that meant the running back would be excluded from any and all team activities.  The one-year suspension came about after Mixon was accused of punching a woman in a late-July confrontation, breaking four bones in her face and leaving her unconscious.  Media covering OU viewed a copy of the security tape that caught the exchange, including the knockout punch, between the woman and Mixon; Mixon’s attorney had previously claimed the altercation was preceded by racial slurs.

Mixon was a five-star member of the Sooners’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the country.  He was the highest-rated member of an OU class that was ranked 15th in the country.

It’s expected Mixon will remain at OU and play for the Sooners in 2015.

UPDATED 1:19 p.m. ET: In a statement, OU president David Boren confirmed that, despite the criminal resolution, “Mixon will not play for out football team in 2014, including postseason competitions.”  As expected, “[h]e will have an opportunity to earn his way back on the team during the spring semester.”

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Bowlsby: LHN a boulder in Big 12’s TV road

Bob Bowlsby

If you love candor — remember his puppet comments after taking the job? — Bob Bowlsby‘s likely your kind of commissioner.  If you’re connected to the University of Texas’ athletic department?  Maybe not so much.

At the same luncheon Wednesday in which Bowlsby (once again) tapped the brakes on expansion, the commissioner also addressed the $15 million elephant squatting in the middle of his conference’s living room.  That pachyderm would, of course, be the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour television network subsidized by ESPN and dedicated to all things related to Longhorn sports.

It’s been a thorn in the side of the Big 12 ever since it was announced back in January of 2011.  It was a sore spot for Texas A&M prior for that school’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012.  And even as it hasn’t seen the widespread distribution as originally thought — like the Pac-12 Networks, still no deal with DirecTV after reaching one with DISH in March — it’s still an entity that will bring the athletic department an average of $15 million annually over the 20-year life of the contract, much to the chagrin, private or otherwise, of the rest of the league.

Bowlsby pulled no punches in addressing the hindrance the LHN could become in future television/media negotiations for the conference.  From the Oklahoman‘s transcript, with my emphasis added in a couple of spots:

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

Exactly how Bowlsby and the Big 12 can navigate its way around the 20-year LHN deal when it comes to future deals involving television or other new media entities, if it does indeed become the obstacle the commissioner suggests it could, will be one of the fascinating questions to see answered moving forward.  Especially as it pertains to the ever-present and expansion speculation that simply won’t completely go away.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman)

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