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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Washington v Arizona State Getty Images

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Pac-12. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 11-2; beat Texas at Alamo Bowl)
The Ducks have been on the cusp of elite status as a program for the past four seasons. It’s time for the program to get over the hump and win a national title. This year’s squad may have the best chance to capture the school’s first national championship. It all starts with the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota is the best signal caller currently playing collegiate football. Yes, that includes Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Mariota may have hoisted the trophy last year if he didn’t suffer a knee injury late in the season which hampered his style of play. Mariota is extremely efficient as a passer, highly intelligent with his decision-making and a deadly athlete when he decides to run with the football. The Ducks also return key starters at vital positions. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu may have been the top players selected at their position in May’s NFL draft. Yet, they decided to return to Eugene.  The team’s leading rusher (Byron Marshall), tackler (Derrick Malone) and sack artist (Tony Washington) return as well. As Mark Helfrich enters his second year as head coach, there aren’t any excuses for the Ducks this season. It’s a national championship or bust. This is the year for Oregon to prove its more than a flashy offense and uniform trendsetters.

2. Stanford (Last year: 11-3; lost to Michigan State in Rose Bowl)
Cardinal faithful will almost certainly remind anyone who will listen that their team beat Oregon the past two seasons and claimed Pac-12 conference titles. However, the Cardinal simply aren’t as talented from top to bottom as the Ducks. The key players Oregon retained; the Cardinal lost. The team lost it’s leading rusher, tackler, sack artist and four of its starting offensive linemen. While Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan may be entering his second full season as the team’s starter, he’s a notch below the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12 conference.David Shaw is one of the best coaches in college football. This team will continue it’s winning ways. But Stanford will likely take a slight step backwards as the Ducks reclaim the honor as the best team in the Pac-12 Conference.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 7-6; beat Boise State in Hawai’i Bowl)
College football’s leading-returning passer resides in Corvallis, Oregon. Quarterback Sean Mannion returns for his senior campaign after throwing for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns. But Mannion won’t have Biletnikoff Trophy winner Brandin Cooks to throw to anymore. And that ‘s a good thing. Mannion’s experience behind center is a major positive for the Beavers, but Oregon State head coach Mike Riley admitted the coaching staff became enamored with throwing the football due to their dynamic duo at quarterback and wide receiver. This season, the Beavers will be more balanced on offense and more closely resemble the team that went 9-4 in 2012 instead of the one that was 7-6 last season. Senior Terran Ward and junior Storm Woods combined for 1,060 rushing yards last season. They should receive bigger workloads. With a more balanced attack, the Beavers hope to avoid another five-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The team seen during its 38-23 victory over Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl is the one Pac-12 opponents should expect to face Saturdays this fall.

4. Washington (Last year: 9-4; beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl)
The University of Washington did the impossible; they pried Chris Petersen out of Boise and made him their new head coach. Petersen inherits a talented roster built slowly over time by previous head coach Steve Sarkisian. After three straight 7-6 seasons, the Huskies finally broke through with an 9-4 campaign in 2013. The team then lost it’s head coach, quarterback and workhorse running back. Change of that degree will likely cause the Huskies to take a small step back during the upcoming season. While Peterson was ultra-successful during his eight seasons at Boise State, his team stumbled last year and lost four games for the first time in eight years. The last coach to have that type of success at Boise then finish with a four-loss team before moving to the Pac-12 was Dan Hawkins. Furthermore, there are still questions at quarterback for the Huskies. Cyler Miles hasn’t shown he’s ready to take over the team. Until one of the quarterbacks does, the Huskies will have to rely on a talented defense, particularly a defensive line that features nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha.

5. Washington State (Last year: 6-7; lost to Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl)
This will be Mike Leach‘s third year in Pullman, Washington. It was in Leach’s third year at Texas Tech he was able to lead the Red Raiders to a nine-win season. He won’t be as lucky with the Cougars. It’s taken Leach some time to implement the “Air Raid” offense that far north. This should be the first season in which it’s fully functional with senior Connor Halliday as the trigger-man behind center. However, the team’s defense struggled mightily in 2013 and finished 102nd overall. Leach’s run at Texas Tech was special, because he could out-scheme nearly everyone in the Big 12. But he could always rely on the talent he recruited in the state of Texas. The state of Washington doesn’t present the same level of talent. In three recruiting classes, only one former four-star recruit, wide receiver Gabe Marks, is expected to contribute for the Cougars this season. And that talent disparity will keep Wazzu toward the bottom of the Pac-12.

6. Cal (Last year: 1-11)
The hiring of Sonny Dykes as Cal’s head coach was an absolute disaster. The Golden Bears finished 1-11. They didn’t play any defense whatsoever. Players were leaving the program as soon as possible once the season ended. The only expectation for the team this season is to improve on last year’s record and actually win a conference game. Cal should be able to move the ball in Dykes’ version of the “Air Raid” offense. Quarterback Jared Goff enters his second season as starter after he put together a solid season as a true freshman. Plus, four of Goff’s top five receivers return. The Golden Bears will be able to throw the football, but the question is whether or not the defense will be able to stop anyone. History says no. Art Kaufman was hired as the team’s defensive coordinator this off season, and he has an uphill battle in front of him. Even when Dykes led Louisiana Tech to a 9-3 record, a national ranking and nearly defeated a Texas A&M team led by Johnny Manzielthe Bulldogs were the worst defensive team in college football. Dykes’ emphasis falls on the offensive side of the ball, and that is not going to change. It’s only a matter of time before Cal is looking for another head coach once the school’s new athletic director is named.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. UCLA (Last year: 10-3; beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl)
Expectations are sky high at UCLA. And they should be. In two short years, Jim Mora has completely rebuilt the culture in Westwood. Plus, the Bruins are fortunate to have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Brett Hundley. If Hundley declared for the NFL draft this year, he would have been a first-round selection. He’s projected to be a Top 10 pick for next May. The quarterback is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent on this roster. Senior Jordan James and sophomore Paul Perkins return in the backfield after combining for 1,107 rushing yards in 2013. Devin Fuller is a dynamic play maker out of the slot. And the defense may be even more talented. The two-way superstar Myles Jacks is one of college football’s top linebackers and a pretty good running back too. Erik Kendricks is highly instinctive and a tackling machine. Sophomores Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes will be one year better and impossible to move along the defensive interior. And the secondary is experienced with Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams returning. The No. 1 one goal for the Bruins will be to claim a Pac-12 championship, but this team has legitimate national championship potential. They simply have to get past Oregon and Stanford to prove they’re worthy of a berth in the College Football Playoff.

2. USC (Last year: 10-4; beat Fresno State in Las Vegas Bowl)
It’s hard to maintain momentum from one season to another. Although, USC appeared to regain its confidence and swagger as a program when it won six of its last seven games under the direction of interim head coach Ed Oregeron. Despite the team’s late season success, Oregeron wasn’t hired to become the team’s permanent head coach. Enter Steve Sarkisian, a former co-offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. Despite sub-par seasons by USC’s standards in recent years, the team has two things in its favor. First, the talent from the top of the roster to the bottom is always among the best in college football. Second, the team’s depth will continue to improve as the bottom of the roster is rebuilt after being previously hamstrung by NCAA sanctions. The Trojans will be led by a strong defense which features the potential No. 1 overall pick in May’s NFL draft, defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The unit finished 13th overall in total defense last season. The offense, meanwhile, will continue to grow under the direction of offensive coordinator Clay Helton and junior quarterback Cody Kessler. The offense played at a much higher level once Lane Kiffin was fired and Helton became the primary play-caller. It was a smart decision by Sarkisian to retain Helton on his staff.  All the pieces are in place for the Trojans to become a factor in the Pac-12 again. USC faithful has to hope Sarkisian was the right hire to keep them in the national conversation.

3. Arizona State (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl)
Since the Pac-12 South is generally considered the weaker division in the conference, it’s been somewhat overlooked that the Sun Devils played in the league’s championship game last year. Head coach Todd Graham has built a team that is known for its fast-pace offense and aggressive defense. In fact, Arizona State features the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the Pac-12 with Taylor Kelly behind center and Jaelen Strong creating mismatches for defenses. Kelly, in particular, has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. And running back D.J. Foster is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Arizona State may even be able to challenge UCLA and USC atop the Pac-12 South, but the team’s previously devastating defensive front is being completely rebuilt. The team lost it’s top tackler, sack artist and two-time Pac-12 Defense Player of the Year Will Sutton to the NFL. Graham will continue to blitz every chance he gets, but he no longer has the talent to win individual match-ups on a regular basis. The offense will score points, but the defense will have trouble stopping anyone. 

4.  Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Boston College in AdvoCare V100 Bowl)
Is the year the Wildcats are ready to take the next step under head coach Rich Rodriguez? During his first two seasons with the program, Arizona finished with an 8-5 record. The problem with Rodriguez is the passing game and defense suffer from the coach’s insistence to implement his offensive scheme, which is a zone-read heavy. The x-factor this season will be whomever Rodriguez’s names as his starting quarterback. Last season, B.J. Denker didn’t provide any consistency throwing the football. It will either be redshirt freshman Anu Solomon or senior transfer Jesse Scroggins which takes over the offense. Solomon reportedly has a slight lead in the competition during fall camp. These two will have to be better dual-threats out of the backfield than Denker was. And the defense has to be better after surrendering 401.1 yards per game last season. If these two things happen, the Wildcats will finish higher in the standings than CFT currently projects. But, it’s unlikely.

5. Colorado (Last year: 4-8)
A 4-8 record for any other program would be a disappointment. Colorado, however, isn’t just any program. It’s a school that went through an ugly divorce with previous head coach Jon Embree. Four wins by first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre was actually a three-game improvement. MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding a program in a similar fashion. He took San Jose State from a one-win team to 10 wins in three seasons. While the growth at Colorado should be far more incremental, the Buffaloes will continue to improve under the current coaching staff. The team returns 16 starters, including quarterback Sefo Liufau, and has a manageable non-conference schedule. There are at least five games the Buffaloes could be considered the favorites to win. It will be up to the coaching staff and players to steal one or two more wins from Pac-12 opponents.

6.  Utah (Last year: 5-7)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season with the program, and it could be his last if the Utes fall to the basement of the Pac-12 South. The problems start on the offensive side of the football. Whittingham used numerous different play-callers in recent years, but the Utes’ offense continued to sputter. Utah finished 76th overall in total offense during the 2013 campaign. Last season the defense wasn’t the team’s saving grace either. The Utes finished 60th overall in total defense. Whittingham will need key players to step up this season if the team has any hope of consistently competing in the Pac-12. Quarterback Travis Wilson has to improve after throwing 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as a sophomore. Another 5-7 season or worse will likely signal change within the program.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Oregon over UCLA

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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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Auburn dismisses Elijah Daniel following theft arrest

South Carolina v Auburn

Just days after being arrested for suspected theft, Elijah Daniel has been asked to leave the Auburn football program. Auburn announced the latest roster decision Saturday.

As previously reported, Daniel was one of three suspects in a theft investigation on campus. Daniel and two other former Auburn athletes — DeNorris James and Khalil Sellers — were the primary suspects in an on-campus theft investigation following various incidents over Auburn’s spring break. Daniel was charged with four counts of theft of property and four counts of burglary. Between the eight charges, six are considered felonies.

Daniel played in 13 games for the Tigers last fall, and he started in two of them.

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UAB gets two players drafted by NFL teams

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

For just the third time in program history, UAB has sent two players through the NFL Draft. It might end up being the last time UAB hears the school’s name mentioned during the NFL Draft.

UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the draft. In the sixth round, tight end Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The only other years UAB has had multiple draft picks in the same year are 2002 (Eddie Freeman and Bryan Thomas) and 1998 (Dainon Sidney and Izell Reese).

UAB made the decision to shut down the football program at the conclusion of last football season. The football program, despite being eligible for postseason play, did not play in any postseason bowl game. In the meantime, criticism of the handling of the shutdown and questions about why the program was shut down or if it had to be shutdown have continued. One report has suggested the program was financially viable.

We do not know whether or not UAB football will make a return. The earliest it was believed to be possible was 2016, and Conference USA has decided to close the door on UAB’s membership moving forward. Things look bleak, which is why moments like the NFL Draft should be cherished by those closely associated to the UAB football family.

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NFL Draft sees SEC take conference crown, FSU & L’Ville go 1-2

Florida State v Louisville

If there was one thing to be learned from this year’s NFL Draft, it is that the schools in the south are loaded with NFL talent. Big surprise, right?

After a bit fo a slow start, the SEC finished strong and sent more players to the NFL Draft than any other conference. By the time the last pick was made, the SEC had sent 54 players to NFL franchises, seven more than the ACC’s 47 players, even though Tennessee was blanked.

Here is how the power conferences stacked up:

The ACC was carried in a big way by Florida State, which set a new three-year record for most cumulative draft picks in the later rounds. Florida State had 11 players go to NFL teams in this year’s draft, including Jameis Winston as the number one overall player. While Florida State flexed plenty of draft muscle, Louisville had a big final day of the draft and ended just one pick shy of Florida State’s 11 players. Clearly Charlie Strong was able to transform the Louisville football program with plenty of talent before leaving for Texas. Hopefully he remembers their names.

Here is a look at the top draft factories this year:

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Tennessee blanked in NFL Draft for first time since 1964

Derek Dooley

The 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and for the first time since 1964 there was not a single player from the Tennessee Volunteers selected.

The lack of draft picks is the product of a program that had been trending downward under former head coach Derek Dooley. Despite his enthusiasm for the game, Dooley was not able to keep Tennessee chugging along as a power in the SEC and the talent coming in just was not up to par with Tennessee teams of the past.

The good news is things are already starting to trend upward for Tennessee. Butch Jones has sparked some new life in Knoxville and the roster should be loaded in 2015. Tennessee going two years without a draft pick is very unlikely.

Vanderbilt was also without a draft pick this year, but a pair of FCS programs in the state of Tennessee did not go without a pick. Tennessee State had two players drafted (offensive linemen Anthony Morris and Robert Myers). Tennessee Chatanooga had outside linebacker Davis Tull go in the fifth round.

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Pac-12 moves up in spring game attendance, B1G & SEC stay on top

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

The Pac-12 took advantage of a late Oregon spring game to slip past the ACC and Big 12 in the 2015 spring game attendance figures, but there was no catching te Big Ten and SEC this year.

The Big Ten locked up the top conference-wide spring game attendance in 2015 on the strength of Ohio State’s new national record for spring game attendance and perennial strong spring game crowds at Nebraska and Penn State and a surprisingly strong showing at Michigan. Big stadiums leave plenty of room for big spring crowds, and that worked in the Big Ten’s favor.

The SEC finished in second place this year in spring game attendance, although it should be noted the SEC should easily pass the Big Ten next year if Texas A&M holds a spring game in the renovated Kyle Field.

The Pac-12 moved past the ACC and Big 12 once Oregon packed in 35,808 fans for the spring game in Eugene. Oregon was easily the biggest spring draw in the Pac-12, flying past the 22,788 fans that attended the USC spring game.

Here is how the conferences stacked up in spring game attendance for 2015 (Source):

1. Big Ten: 410,943

2. SEC: 408,566

3. Pac-12: 118,691

4. Big 12: 113,339

5. ACC: 101,832

6. American: 39,848

7. Conference USA: 39,724

8. Mountain West: 29,447

9. MAC: 15,617

10. Sun Belt: 14,534

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Florida State sets new NFL Draft record for total draft picks

Nick O'Leary

Florida State has had 10 players selected in this year’s NFL Draft, putting the Seminoles in a tie for the most players drafted over a three-year period. One more Nole off the board and the record will be Florida State’s.

The record is 28 players drafted over three years. Florida State now shared the record with Miami (2002-2004) and USC (2008-2010). Florida State moved into the now three-way tie when tight end Nick O’Leary was taken by the Buffalo Bills (who have been loading up on ACC players this draft). O’Leary was taken by the Bills in the sixth round and the 194th pick overall. The Bills had already drafted cornerback Ronald Darby in the second round and running back Karlos Williams in the fifth round. Other Noles to be drafted include quarterback Jameis Winston (the number one overall pick), defensive tackles Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, center Cameron Erving, offensive guard Tre’ Jackson, receiver Rashad Greene, and cornerback P.J. Williams.

Time is running out for Florida State to set the record, but it is within sight. Offensive guards Josue Matias and Bobby Hart are still on the draft board.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m): The New York Giants drafted offensive lineman Bobby Hart, thus setting the new record.

 

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Navy long snapper is first Midshipman drafted in NFL Draft since 1995

Reese's Senior Bowl

This does not happen very often. The New England Patriots drafted Navy long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in Chicago. Cardona is the first Navy football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1995.

Former Navy tight end Kevin Hickman was chosen in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Offensive guard Mike Wahle was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft. Players from the service academies being drafted is quite the rarity. The last player from Air Force to be drafted was defensive end Bryce Fisher in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. In 2008 Army saw defensive back Caleb Campbell go in the seventh round to the Lions. Campbell snapped a stretch that started in 1998 without an Army football player being selected in the NFL Draft.

It has been a big couple of weeks for Navy athletics. Just last week Navy lieutenant Mitch Harris made his major league debut as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

UPDATE (3:57 p.m.): Navy notes Cardona is the first Naval Academy graduate to be drafted since Bob Kuberski in 1993.

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Clemson punter that declared early for NFL Draft gets drafted

Bradley Pinion

This is just a reminder that punters are people too. We may have poked fun at the idea a punter was declaring early for the NFL Draft, but we probably should not have. Clemson’s Bradley Pinion was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago by the San Francisco 49ers.

Pinion ranked 34th among FBS punters with an average punt distance of 42.59 yards per punt, but he was consistent and tested with 5.8 punts per game. As it turns out, whatever advice Pinion received regarding his draft position, it may have been pretty spot on considering the average draft position of punters in recent years. Only one punter drafted since 2008 has been drafted before the fifth round (California’s Bryan Anger went in round three to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 draft).

Pinion being drafted keeps a string going for punting specialists in the draft. A punter has been drafted in each of the past four drafts, including the 2015 edition, and in all but one draft since 1999.

It would be hard to imagine the 49ers drafting a quarterback with their former head coach, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

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Ali Marpet puts D3 Hobart on the NFL Draft scoreboard

Ali Marpet

Schools like Florida State, USC, Miami, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State will produce multiple NFL prospects on an annual basis. Hobart College will never be in that category, but the Division 3 football program in Geneva, New York has reason to celebrate this year. Offensive lineman Ali Marpet became the first player from the program to be drafted by an NFL franchise, and he is now the highest draft pick in the history of Division 3 football.

“I’ve said throughout this process, that whatever team drafts Ali is going to get an outstanding lineman who will learn and grow and have an outstanding NFL career,” Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg said. “The Buccaneers got an exceptional young man who is going to do great things. I have no doubt about that.”

Marpet was picked up late in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joined by fellow second-round offensive line draftee Donovan Smith of Penn State, the two picks are expected to move right into the starting offensive line to provide protection for the new franchise quarterback, Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Few were aware of Marpet for much of the fall, which is pretty much the norm for players from the lower divisions of college football, but he received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. The opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl in front of NFL coaches and scouts all week paid off in a big way. He later took advantage of an appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he continued to impress NFL folks.

Since 1990, a total of 19 players have been drafted by the NFL out of Division 3 according to D3Football.com. That list has included players like wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts from Mount Union, a D3 juggernaut.

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Marcus Mariota’s successor at Oregon will not be named today

Jeff Lockie

The Oregon Ducks, defending Pac-12 champions and College Football Playoff contender, will wrap up the spring practice schedule today in Autzen Stadium with the annual spring game (with some nice uniforms). Just days after seeing former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota be selected with the second overall pick by the Tennessee Titans, the question of who will ultimately replace Mariota in Eugene will be one popular question for head coach Mark Helfrich today. It also will not be likely to be answered definitively, which makes sense.

Earlier this week Helfrich joined his Pac-12 coaching fraternity for a spring conference call with the media. Asked about the quarterback situation, Helfrich said there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.

“I think ideally you are making that decision a week and a half before the first game,” Helfrich said, per The Oregonian. “The way you ramp up and build through fall camp, we are installing and doing different things. You want to put each of them in the best position to compete and play to their strengths. They you have a week and a half to prepare for that first game, that would be an ideal situation.”

The candidates to replace Mariota as Oregon’s next starting quarterback are Jeff Lockie, Taylor Alie, Morgan Mahalak, Travis Jonsen (he changed his name)and Ty Griffin right now, but FCS transfer Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington will join the program later this summer. Lockie and Adams are widely considered to be the top two candidates in the running, and Adams will get his chance to make his case once he arrives this summer.

As is the case at many college football programs in the spring, the quarterback question may have to wait. Lockie could put together by far the best spring performance today, but until Adams gets his chance to prove what he can do, Helfrich is wise to hold off on any decisions until much closer to the start of the season. This will be the first time Helfrich will be charged with naming a starting quarterback as well after taking over the program following Chip Kelly left for the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is currently attempting to build the Pac-12 All-Stars through the draft and offseason roster moves.

Helfrich inherited Mariota as his starter, so now Helrich gets to choose his quarterback.

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SEC McGriddles, are you lovin’ it?

Protesters Put Pressure On Fast Food Restaurants To Not Use Meat With Inappropriate Antibiotics Getty Images

Sometimes when you are on the road in the morning you might get a craving for a quick stop at McDonald’s for an egg McMuffin with sausage. We’ve al been there, right? If you happen to live in the SEC footprint, McDonalds locations areadvertising the sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle as the SEC McGiddle.

Charles Bloom, Senior Associate Athletics Director at University of South Carolina, caught a McDonald’s message board advertising the SEC McGriddle, and shared the image on his Instagram account.

SEC McGriddles

McDonald’s usually imprints the top of the McGriddle with the McDonald’s arches. Replacing that with something that would imprint any SEC logo would be pretty simple, so why has that not happened yet?

Also, what could a B1G McGriddle be? Bacon would seem obvious. Good luck with the “1” and the “G.”

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Vols spring winners dine like kings, losers not so much

Baked beans

The stakes were high at the Tennessee spring game last month. As some programs do with the annual spring game, the winners are treated to a feast while the losers are given a far less elaborate menu. But hey, in the end free food is still free food. Right?

At Tennessee, Butch Jones rewarded the players on the winning team with a steak dinner, complete with potatoes, pasta and fresh vegetables and chocolate chip cookies for dessert and more. The losers? Spaghetti O’s and baked beans.

 

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Florida State once again proving to be an NFL factory

Jameis Winston

Before the third day of the NFL Draft gets underway, three rounds have shown once again just what kind of NFL factory Florida State is. No school has had more players drafted in the NFL Draft through three rounds than the Seminoles, with six players being drafted in the first two days of the draft. Quarterback Jameis Winston highlights the selections as the number one overall pick from Tampa Bay.

Joining Winston as NFL Draft picks are offensive lineman Cameron Erving (1st round, 19th pick, Cleveland), defensive end Mario Edwards (2nd, 35th, Oakland), defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (2nd, 39th, Chicago), cornerback Ronald Darby (2nd, 50th, Buffalo) and cornerback P.J. Williams (3rd, 78th, New Orleans). Florida State is aiming to set a new three-year NFL Draft record for total picks. As noted by Tomahawk Nation, Florida State will need five more players drafted by NFL teams in the final four rounds to pass the mark of 28 drafted players previously set by Miami (2002-2004) and USC (2008-2010).

Speaking of Miami, the Hurricanes are represented quite well so far as well. Al Golden’s program has sent five players through the draft already, leading some to wonder why Miami was not better in the win total last fall. The same questions were asked of Washington, with four players drafted in the first three rounds. Miami and Stanford are tied for second-most draft picks so far with five each. Washington is tied with Florida, Oregon, Missouri and Louisville.

A few annual NFL factories from the SEC are lagging behind the competition, at least relatively. Alabama has had three players drafted so far, and LSU and Georgia each have had two. After being shut out of the draft last year, Texas is on the board with two drafted players. Ohio State has had two players drafted, but none in the first round. All that really means is the Buckeyes are going to be loaded in the fall, but we already knew that. We are still waiting for the first player from Notre Dame.

What about the conferences? The Pac-12 holds the lead so far with 25 players drafted in three rounds. The SEC is sitting in second place with 22 players, and the ACC is holding strong with 20 players as well. The Big Ten has had 15 players and that is more than twice the number of players from the Big 12 (7). We have had a handful of players from Group of Five conferences and small schools drafted so far as well. The American Athletic Conference (2), Mountain West Conference (2), Conference USA (1), MAC (1) and Sun Belt (1) all have been represented. So has the Missouri Valley Conference, Southern Conference, and the Division 3 Liberty League, each with one player drafted.

What will the story of the final day of the draft be? Can Florida State set the new three-year draft record? Will the Pac-12 reign supreme with total draft picks? What small school prospects will make a name for their programs and conferences?

We’ll find out later today.

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