Utes, Cyclones, UConn Huskies name starting QBs

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With the start of a new season less than two weeks away (fist pump), head coaches at various programs across the country are getting down to the business of naming a starter at the most important position on the field.

Kentucky and Purdue pulled the trigger on their starting quarterbacks Monday. They, though, weren’t the only ones.

In one of the more high-profile competitions left unsettled, Utah confirmed that the incumbent Travis Wilson had, to the surprise of some, fended off the challenge of Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

After starting the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, a concussion — technically, an intracranial artery injury — sidelined Wilson for the last three games and led to questions as to whether he would ever play the game again. Wilson, though, was cleared to participate in spring practice, albeit in non-contact mode, and was ultimately cleared medically for full contact.

His 16 interceptions last season were the second-most at the FBS level, leading some to believe Thompson would emerge from the summer camp fray as the starter.  In July, Wilson was cited for underage consumption of alcohol.

Neither of those, though, caused Wilson to be unseated.

“It was close,” Kyle Whittingham said of the competition. “It was just about a dead heat.”

The head coach also confirmed that Thompson will play, although he stressed that the Utes will not be a two-QB team; instead, they will be one that will look for opportunities to insert Thompson into the game and utilize a skillset that’s about 180 degrees from what Wilson brings to the table.

“It’s when we get the opportunity to put Kendal in and give him some work,” Whittingham explained. “He’s earned that right and you will see him play as well.”

Along with Utah, Iowa State and UConn both named starters at the position as well.

On the former front, ISU head coach Paul Rhoads confirmed that Sam Richardson will be his starting quarterback for the season opener against North Dakota State. Richardson was the starter for the first eight games of the 2013 season before he was benched — partly because of injury, partly because of ineffective play — in favor of Grant Rohach.

Those two were the main combatants this time around as well, with the coach citing leadership and Richardson’s quick acclimation to new coordinator Mark Mangino‘s offense as the data points that tipped the scales in the “incumbent’s” favor.

“Sam has displayed great leadership and that certainly includes poise in the pocket where he has been very much in control of our offense and of himself,” Rhoads said in a statement. “His understanding of the scheme and his decision-making has really grown in the last two weeks, and maybe as much as anything, he is throwing a great ball, an accurate ball, a tight ball and a catchable ball.”

On the UConn front, Bob Diaco announced that sophomore Casey Cochran had beaten out senior Chandler Whitmer for the Huskies starting job. The head coach said the difference between the two was “negligible,” but that the younger player’s leadership, oddly enough, was better than the veteran’s.

Whitmer started the first four games last season before being benched — in favor of true freshman Tim Boyle –after being the starter for every game in 2012, while Cochran started the last four games last year.

Boyle, who has been battling minor injuries throughout summer camp, is likely headed for a redshirt season.

North Carolina makes addition of Ohio State transfer RB Antonio Williams official

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North Carolina’s addition of a player from another Power Five program.

On his personal Twitter account earlier this week, Antonio Williams announced that he would be transferring to UNC.  A couple of days later, the Tar Heels confirmed that the running back has joined Larry Fedora‘s football program.

Williams will have to sit out the 2018 season because of NCAA rules.  Beginning with the 2019 season, however, he will have two seasons of eligibility that he can use at the ACC school.

Earlier this offseason, Williams had opted to transfer from Ohio State.

A four-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2016 recruiting class, Williams was rated as the No. 7 running back in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of North Carolina.  Williams ran for 318 yards and three touchdowns on his 63 carries the past two seasons; 290 of the yards and all three scores came this past season as he was the third back in a rotation that included Freshman All-American J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, who led the Buckeyes in rushing as a redshirt freshman in 2016.

Both Dobbins and Weber return this season, which was likely a trigger for Williams’ move from Columbus.

Nebraska AD: Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh ‘running a little bit scared right now’

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This is just the cutest, bless his heart.

As evidenced by the record-breaking spring game earlier this month, there’s an air of excitement once again surrounding the Nebraska football program, thanks in very large part to the return of Scott Frost as the head coach.  Riding that wave of optimism, new NU athletic director Bill Moos was a speaker at an Omaha Press Club luncheon Tuesday and, well, let’s just say that he may have initially been planning on dipping his toes into the feel-good spring pool but instead ended up doing a cannonball into the thing.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

We’re gonna run that uptempo offense we saw (at the spring game), and we’re gonna get the Blackshirts back to being Blackshirts. And that’s extremely important,” Moos said. “You’ve got Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh thinking, ‘We better put a little more into that Nebraska game coming up.’ And that’s the way we want it. They’re running a little bit scared right now. And they won’t admit it. We’ll leave that at that.

Nebraska will face both Michigan and Ohio State this season, with each of those serving as road games for the Cornhuskers.  Given the heat that seems to be growing under the highly-paid Harbaugh’s seat — finishes of third, third and fourth in the Big Ten East in three seasons in Ann Arbor — mentioning the U-M coach might be apropos.  But Meyer?  In his six seasons in Columbus, Meyer’s Buckeyes have lost three games combined in conference play; in three meetings under Meyer, OSU has woodshedded NU by a combined score of 181-55.

Perhaps, instead of the Big Dog of the conference, Moos should focus these early public comments on Paul Chryst, whose Wisconsin Badgers are the class of Nebraska’s division — Big Ten West champs three of the last four years — and have beaten the Cornhuskers in five straight meetings (three under Chryst) dating back to the 2012 Big Ten championship game.  Or even Kirk Ferentz, whose Iowa Hawkeyes have won three in a row in the rivalry, and by a collective 96-24 score the past two seasons.

Maybe start by finishing higher than fifth in your own division, where you were a season ago, and then work your way up?  Just a thought.

As the kerfuffle over Moos’ comments began to gain traction, the athletic director told the Associated Press in a text message that his words were “[a] bit tongue in cheek.”

“Meant to point out that the competition is aware that there’s a renewed energy at Nebraska and we aim to get back in the hunt,” Moos added in an apparent attempt to cram the toothpaste back into the tube.

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.