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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big Ten Predictions

Purdue v Wisconsin AP

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 Big Ten. 

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

BIG TEN EAST

1. Michigan State (Last year: 13-1; beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)
Michigan State will have the best defense in the Big Ten, despite losing some key players from 2013. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will figure out how to get the most out of his defense and players like defensive end Shilque Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond will help make that task easier. The defending champs will be unlikely to start so slow on offense this season, as they did in 2013, with quarterback Connor Cook back and seasoned (and most importantly, confident). Michigan State’s offense should be balanced and reliant on the run with Jeremy Langford coming off 1,422 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Getting Ohio State at home is key as far as Big Ten play is concerned, but a week two trip to Oregon could keep the Spartans playing catch-up in the playoff discussion from the start.

2. Ohio State (Last year: 12-2; lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Here’s the thing with Ohio State. With or without quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State may still be the best team in the Big Ten this season, but with Miller lost for the entire season the idea of Ohio State running through the regular season unscathed becomes much less likely. In a season that was expected to be layoff or bust, the Buckeyes may have already gone bust, but this is still a talented team that could be favored in every game of the season, with the likely exception of a road trip to East Lansing in early November. JT Barrett will take over under center, lacking much experience and with a fraction of the potential of a healthy Miller, but the Buckeyes will find some ways to make it work. Afterall it is not as though the rest of the roster is lacking for players ready to leave their mark. Look for Ohio State to get a bit tougher on defense this season, with Michael Bennett anchoring the defensive line and Noah Spence on the edge after serving a suspension.

3. Michigan (Last year: 7-6; lost to Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Is this the year Brady Hoke turns the Michigan trends back in his favor? Only a handful of players on the roster now were not recruited by his staff, so his stamp is officially on this Michigan football program. The addition of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes with high expectations for improving the offense, which was dismal at times in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner and protecting the football. This was a team on the brink of losing at home to Akron but a play away from taking out Ohio State. You try figuring this Michigan team out. Moving tight end Devin Funchess to wide receiver was needed to improve the receiving position and should work well, and the running backs look to improve as well. Michigan’s defense is in the most in need of improving, cutting down on big plays allowed being the biggest concern. Adding star recruit Jabrill Peppers at defensive back could give a boost in that area.

4. Penn State (Last year: 7-5)
The James Franklin era gets underway with great enthusiasm but lingering concerns over roster depth. Penn State will have the talent at positions to do some good things and win a game they probably shouldn’t along the way (Ohio State and Michigan State at home?), but the depth concerns to lose a game they probably should not (Indiana in Bloomington, again?). The light at the end of the tunnel is there for Penn State, which is good news. Penn State also has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation with sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Offensive line concerns are legitimate of course, as they have been for years, but if Hackenberg stays healthy the offense can be effective. The defense on the other hand, could use some playmakers and some more brute force up front to bring pressure on opposing QBs and close down running lanes.

5. Maryland (Last year: 7-6; lost to Marshall in Military Bowl as ACC member)
Maryland receives no favors on the schedule in their debut season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terrapins join the new conference with possibly the best wide receiver unit in the conference. Stefon Diggs has the ability to break open a big play at any moment, and he plays in a division that sees some weaknesses in secondaries all over (except Michigan State). And do not forget about Levern Jacobs and Deon Long. Maryland’s biggest concern is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown upright to be able to get those receivers the football. The defense hit walls against explosive offenses in 2013 but returns a good number of upperclassmen, which is usually nice. A fourth-place finish is not all that unrealistic, but probably a reach for Maryland in 2014.

6. Indiana (Last year: 5-7)
The Hoosiers have an offense that is capable of giving every team in the Big Ten some fits. Credit head coach Kevin Wilson for making that happen since he arrived in Bloomington, but the defense is not a unit that will cause much fear on a weekly basis. The Hoosiers averaged 38.4 points per game last season, but the defense allowed 38.8 points per game. If the defense can just improve a little bit, then the Hoosiers should be seriously thinking about making plans for a postseason bowl game. It could be a rough start with the schedule though with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri. Getting to six wins may be a reach for Indiana unless they can get off to a good start. Running back Tevin Coleman could become one of the top running backs int he Big Ten.

7. Rutgers (Last year: 6-7; lost to Notre Dame in Pinstripe Bowl)
Rutgers is going to have a tall mountain to climb in year one in the Big Ten. Rutgers must go on the road to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State and hosts Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Getting to six wins to return to the postseason is a reach for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers does add Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, which should result in some better scheming and preparation, but Gary Nova is still the best option at quarterback and Rutgers has lost some key players over the last couple of years. Experience is thin. The defense could be picked apart by most teams n the schedule, which should be a constant area of focus for Rutgers.

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin (Last year: 9-4; lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
The Badgers fell shy of playing for yet another Big Ten championship last season, but now in a new division it looks as though Wisconsin has the easiest road to travel back to Indianapolis this fall. The Badgers will be led by one of the top running backs in the country, Melvin Gordon, and have a schedule worthy of legitimate playoff consideration if things go their way. A season-opening game against LSU in Cowboys Stadium is far from impossible and a home game against Bowling green should deserve more respect than it may get. Avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in crossover games is nice too. On offense there is a need to see some players step up to support Gordon and quarterback Joel Stave needs to be a bit more consistent. The defense will be good, not great, but needs to find a way to create more turnovers in 2014.

2. Iowa (Last year: 8-5; lost to LSU in Outback Bowl)
The Hawkeyes may not dazzle with their style of play, but it should be effective enough to make a realistic run to an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are anchored on the offensive line by left tackle Brandon Scherff and the rest of the line should do well in creating space for running back Mark Weisman. Iowa’s offense is designed to win some ugly games, and the defense should be capable of allowing for that to happen. Defensive tackle Carl Davis will lead the way up front along with defensive end Drew Ott. Iowa allowed just 18.9 points per game last season. The most challenging game on the schedule before late November may be a road game at Pittsburgh, but Iowa ends the regular season with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home on back-to-back weeks, with the division potentially on the line and Iowa in control of its own path.

3. Nebraska (Last year: 9-4; beat Georgia in Gator Bowl)
Nebraska will also have one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and the nation with Ameer Abdullah, but the Cornhuskers have some work to do in improving the supporting cast to become a top contender in the Big Ten. The Huskers will have some help on the defense with Randy Gregory entering the season as one of the top defensive ends in the conference, but Nebraska’s defense is a long time removed from the great defenses of the past. Bo Pelini‘s team has been consistent with the win total, but inconsistent on a game-to-game basis at times. With road games at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa, it looks like Nebraska could be staring at another nine-win season.

4. Minnesota (Last year: 8-5; lost to Syracuse in Texas Bowl)
Head coach Jerry Kill has done a tremendous job with building something at Minnesota, but the bar may have been reached by the Gophers for now. Minnesota needs to see big leaps from multiple positions in order to make a run at a top three finish in the west division. Minnesota needs consistency out of the quarterback position from Mitch Leidner. Running back David Cobb should help take some pressure off Leidner, but there will be a time when Minnesota needs a big third-down completion. The schedule is a challenge as well, with a road game at TCU and back-to-back road games in conference play at Nebraska and Wisconsin to end the regular season.

5. Northwestern (Last year: 5-7)
The Wildcats were a trendy pick by many in the west division throughout the offseason, but the late departure of Venric Mark and the loss of wide receiver Christian Jones will take a big toll on Northwestern’s offense, which was to be the strength of the team for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. That is a lot of offensive production lost by the Wildcats, and that does not even account for a new full-time starting quarterback in Trevor Siemian. Fortunately, Siemian is not without some experience in this offense without Mark, with Treyvon Green playing a solid role last fall. On defense, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo will rack up the tackle numbers but the rest of the defense can be exposed and the special teams break in a new kicker and punter.

6. Illinois (Last year: 4-8)
What will save head coach Tim Beckman? Three years in, Illinois needs to make a push for a postseason game if the heat is going to be turned down on Beckman’s job security. To get there, the Illini defense needs to improve in a hurry. The Illinois defense was shredded routinely last season and the offense was unable to keep up. Adding quarterback Wes Lunt after sitting out the 2013 season should help stabilize the offense, and should help the Illini keep up with the opposition, but the defense needs to find away to come up with some turnovers after not being able to last fall. re there six wins on the schedule? Yes, but it will be a battle to get there until the defense starts showing signs of improvement.

7. Purdue (Last year: 1-11)
There is nowhere to go but up for Purdue, hopefully. A trip to the postseason is a dream at this point, but the Boilermakers should make some improvements this fall. Head coach Darrell Hazell is in year two and the team should be starting to find its identity. On offense, Purdue managed just 14.9 points per game last season and the defense allowed 38.0 points per game. What should the realistic goal for Purdue be in 2014? Getting an extra touchdown per game and cutting one on defense would be a nice way to go. It still will not result in a winning season, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Michigan State over Wisconsin

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Kam Lott transferring from Rutgers to be closer to Fla. home

Kam Lott

After a couple of positives Saturday, Rutgers was due for a little bit of a downer.

Friday, reports surfaced that Kam Lott had decided to take his leave of the Scarlet Knights football program.  A day later, the cornerback took to social media to confirm as much.

In a missive posted to his Twitter account late Saturday morning, Lott explained that he had decided to transfer out in order to be closer to be closer to his family in Jacksonville. Fla.

Lott was a three-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

If Lott transfers to another FBS institution, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws.

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Notre Dame catches USC in Pro Football Hall of Famers

Hawaii v USC

Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its eight-man class that will be enshrined in Canton later this year.  Not so unexpectedly, the two most-represented colleges in that prestigious club coming in added to its respective totals.

Running back Jerome Bettis and wide receiver Tim Brown, from Notre Dame, as well as the late linebacker Junior Seau, from USC, are a part of the to-be-inducted octet.  Entering this weekend, the Trojans led all college football teams with 11 Hall of Famers; after today, the Men of Troy are tied with the Irish at 12 apiece.

The other 2015 first-year eligible inductees include former Dallas Cowboy and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Charles Haley (James Madison) and former Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields (Nebraska). Seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff (Nebraska) and contributors Bill Polian (New York University) and Ron Wolf (played college baseball at Maryville (Tenn.) College) are part of the newest class as well.

Behind the even dozen from ND and USC, Ohio State has nine Pro Football Hall of Famers, followed by Michigan and Pittsburgh (eight each) and Alabama and Syracuse (seven each).

The inclusion of Shields and Tingelhoff pushes Nebraska’s total to five, which ties them for 13th all-time with Arizona State, SMU and UCLA.

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D-III champs Wisconsin-Whitewater stays in-house for new coach

Kevin Bullis

In replacing a living legend, the most dominant program at the Division III level over the last decade didn’t have to look very far.

Friday, Wisconsin-Whitewater announced that Kevin Bullis has been promoted to the position of head coach.  Bullis has spent the past seven seasons with the Warhawks as a defensive assistant, most recently as defensive line coach.

Including Bullis, there were five finalists for the job.  The other four, who came from outside the program, were three head coaches — Wabash College’s Erick Raeburn, Urbana’s Dave Taynor, Ohio Northern’s Dean Paul — and one defensive coordinator — UW-Platteville’s Rob Erickson.

“We are thrilled to promote Kevin to the position of head football coach at UW-Whitewater,” athletic director Amy Edmonds said. “His passion, integrity and understanding of the holistic student-athlete experience stood out during the search and screen process. Kevin understands the rich history of Warhawk football and the entire university, and we are confident in his ability to continue our tradition of excellence both on and off the field.”

Bullis becomes the 21st head coach in the program’s history, but just the fourth in the last 60 years. He replaces Lance Leipold, who left to take the head-coaching job at Buffalo of the MAC.

During Leipold’s eight seasons at UW-W, the Warhawks went an astounding 109-6, which includes a current 32-game winning streak. The Warhawks also won six national championships in Leipold’s tenure, and lost in the championship game in another.

UW-W has claimed the last two titles, including a 42-34 Stagg Bowl win over fellow Div. III power Mount Union last month.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin-Whitewater athletics)

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Utah DC target Pendergast reportedly headed to NFL

Clancy Pendergast AP

Friday a report surfaced that Clancy Pendergast was the front-runner for the defensive coordinator position at Utah.  A day later, it appears the Pac-12 program will have to look elsewhere.

Instead of the Utes coordinator job, it’s being reported by FOXSports.com‘s Alex Marvez that Pendergast will be named as the inside linebacker coach for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.  Marvez did confirm, though, that Pendergast interviewed for the Utah job.

If the move to the NFL comes to fruition, it’ll put Pendergast back at the level in which he’s spent the majority of his coaching career.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

The Utes have been without a coordinator on the defensive side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

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Rutgers’ Sam Bergen granted sixth season of eligibility

Sam Bergen

It’s good news aplenty for Rutgers football this Saturday.

Earlier today we noted that a talented wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program.  Now comes word that Sam Bergen has received a sixth season of eligibility and will play for the Scarlet Knights in 2015, which the school announced in a press release.

A pair of knee surgeries sidelined the fullback for the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons, while yet another knee injury in the 2013 opener cost him the remainder of that season as well.

“I love it here. I love playing football. I love the offseason program, the camaraderie in the locker room. I just love everything about it,” Bergen said in quotes distributed by the school. “I can’t understand why someone would turn that down if they could potentially have one more year of it. Maybe I’m crazy but that’s the way I feel about it. I love Rutgers. The people here are great. It’s a great program. We played against the best competition in the country and if you love football it’s a no-brainer to me.

“I first started playing football in seventh grade. It’s been a huge part of my life for a while. I’m not ready to put down the helmet just yet.”

Bergen will become the fourth Scarlet Knight to play six seasons at the school, joining Brian Duffy, Edmond Laryea and Mason Robinson.

In the two seasons in which Bergen was healthy, 2012 and 2014, he played in 26 games. Bergen will be expected to continue to contribute on special teams, while also being looked at as a short-yardage/goal-line option.

With Michael Burton graduating, Bergen sees an opportunity to grab significant playing time in 2015.

“There’s definitely a void to be filled at the fullback position and I feel like I can be the guy for us who can step in and hopefully do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “There’s an opportunity there and I’m going to do everything in my power to take advantage of it.”

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Second long-time college assistant lands with NFL’s Browns

Kurt Roper

For the second time this week, an out-of-work college assistant has landed a job at the same NFL stop.

While nothing is official, Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com is reporting that Kurt Roper will be hired by the Cleveland Browns as a senior offensive assistant.  Roper had been swept out as part of Florida’s post-2014 coaching housecleaning, and hadn’t yet latched on elsewhere.

Roper had, though, been rumored to be a candidate for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

This will mark Roper’s first foray into the professional ranks as he had spent every one of his 19 seasons as a coach at the collegiate level.  Roper served as the Gators’ offensive coordinator for just one season, not retained after Will Muschamp was fired and Jim McElwain was hired.

Prior to that, he spent six very successful seasons as the coordinator at Duke.  Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, Roper had served as an assistant on coaching staffs at Tennessee (2005; 1996-98), Kentucky (2002-04) and Ole Miss (1998-2004).

Earlier this week, the Browns confirmed that former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips had been hired as wide receivers coach.

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Vols QB Nathan Peterman considering transfer to Pitt

Alabama v Tennessee

Three weeks ago, Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian stated that there was no indication that Nathan Peterman was considering a transfer, even as the speculation suggested otherwise.

Since then, Bajakian has left for an NFL job.  And now, it appears, Peterman is seriously considering a move away from Rocky Top as well.

Citing an unnamed source, Panther-Lair.com is reporting that Peterman is visiting Pittsburgh this weekend as he looks for a new spot to continue his playing career.  The interest would make sense on multiple levels, and for both sides.

First, the Panthers are woefully lacking in depth behind starter Chad Voytik.  In fact, Peterman could come in and challenge the incumbent immediately for the starting job as he would be a graduate transfer and thus eligible to play in 2015.

Secondly, Pitt’s new offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, served as the Vols’ coordinator from 2009-12 and helped recruit Peterman to UT.  Chaney abruptly left as Arkansas’ OC earlier this month to take the same job at Pitt.

A four-star member of UT’s 2012 recruiting class, Peterman was rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Florida.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Peterman started one game in 2013, breaking his hand in that loss to Florida, incidentally, and one game in 2014.

With true sophomore Josh Dobbs the future for the Vols at the position, it would likely be a wise move for Peterman to get out and use his remaining two seasons of eligibility elsewhere.

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Starting DE among four leaving Fresno State

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

The attrition train has hit Fresno State hard, especially along the defensive line.

In a press release Friday night, the Bulldogs announced that four players — quarterback-turned-wide receiver Myles Carr, defensive end Maurice Poyadue, running back/defensive back/wide receiver Dillon Root and running back-turned-linebacker-turned running back T.J. Thomas — have left the football program. No reason was given for the quartet’s departure.

In the release, the school stated that Poyadue and Root will remain on scholarship this spring as they are both close to graduating, while Carr and Thomas are no longer enrolled at the university.

“We are grateful to the student-athletes for their contributions to the program and wish them the best with their future endeavors,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said in a statement.

The most notable of the departures is that of Poyadue as he had started the past seven games of the 2014 regular season.  He played in all 13 games this past season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Poyadue, along with Carr, was one of four suspended for Fresno State’s Hawaii Bowl matchup with Rice for violating unspecified team rules.

Root’s absence will also be noticed, especially on special teams.  In 2014, Root, who was suspended for the 2014 opener, led the Bulldogs with 25 kick returns for 483 yards, while his 19.3 yards per return were second on the team.  In 2013, Root led all Bulldogs in kick returns (28) return yards (601) and yards per return (21.5).

He also caught 10 passes for 85 yards and averaged 5.6 yards on five carries in 2014.  His 596 all-purpose yards were fourth on the team.

Thomas ran for 71 yards on 11 carries last season.  Carr, who moved from quarterback after spring practice last year, did not record a reception.

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Real grass played role in LaDainian Tomlinson picking TCU

LaDainian Tomlinson AP

You hear all kinds of reasons why a recruit picks a certain school or crosses others off his list, and you’ll certainly hear more with National Signing Day right around the corner.  Never once can I recall having heard of a playing surface being a significant factor… until now.

In an interview with KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket, LaDainian Tomlinson was asked about the recruiting process and how he ended up at TCU. First, Tomlinson explained how Texas A&M never offering him a scholarship even as they wanted him to visit led him to very nearly sign with North Texas.

He didn’t land at UNT, obviously, as he ultimately signed with TCU. What exactly, in part, led him to the Horned Frogs over the Mean Green, and Baylor too? Allow Tomlinson to explain, as transcribed by the Dallas Morning News.

“TCU was a place that allowed me to stay close to my family. My mother was in Fort Worth at the time. I really needed to stay close to home, so it really came down to TCU, North Texas and Baylor, honestly. At the end of the day, TCU was probably the best place for me because they played on grass. Even in high school, I thought about this stuff. … I said, ‘Grass would be better than turf.’ North Texas had turf and even Baylor had turf.”

So there you have it: mom plus real grass equaled TCU in Tomlinson’s equation.  It takes all kinds, as the saying goes.

Whatever the ultimate trigger was, it was a boon for TCU football.

In the 31 years prior to Tomlinson’s arrival in 1997, TCU played in two bowl games.  During Tomlinson’s four seasons with the Horned Frogs, they played in three.  In 2000, Tomlinson’s last season as well as the program’s last without Gary Patterson as head coach, the Horned Frogs won 10 games, the first time that had happened since 1938.

Individually, Tomlinson set the FBS single-game rushing record with a 406-yard performance in a 1999 game against UTEP, a mark that stood until Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke it with 408 yards in November of last year.  One week later, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine shattered that record with his 427-yard effort.

A decade and half finishing off a career with 5,387 yards and 56 touchdowns, Tomlinson was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2014.

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Knee surgery likely won’t keep Michigan’s Jake Butt out of spring ball

Jake Butt

For the second time in less than a year, Jake Butt has undergone a surgical procedure.  This one, though, is decidedly less significant than the first.

A team spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that the tight end underwent microscopic surgery on his knee earlier this month.  It’s the same knee in which Butt suffered a torn ACL last February.

The procedure, which was deemed minor, is not expected to keep Butt out (get it?) of spring practice a month or two down the road.

The ACL injury cost him the first two games of the 2014 season, while a suspension cost him another.  In the nine games in which he did play, Butt caught nine passes for 211 yards, totals that were both third on the team.  His two touchdown receptions were tied for second.

As a true freshman in 2013, Butt finished third on the team in receptions (20), yards (235) and touchdowns (two). Butt, a four-star member of UM’s 2013 recruiting class rated as the No. 5 tight end in the country, is expected to play a significant role in new head coach Jim Harbaugh‘s offense, which, at least at Stanford, had a tendency to feature the tight end position.

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Reports: Rutgers reinstates receiver Ruhann Peele

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams

(Alliteration, it’s fun for the whole family, especially in the offseason!)

In early November, Rutgers suspended Ruhann Peele for the remainder of the 2014 season following an off-field incident.  Nearly three months later, he’s back.

According to both nj.com and ScarletScuttlebutt.com, the wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program and can now resume participating in team activities.  RU has yet to announce public Peele’s status with the team.

In late August, Peele was arrested and charged with simple assault after it was alleged that he had pulled the hair of a female accuser and scratched her face.  That charge was dismissed in December after the alleged victim failed to show for a court appearance, which helped pave the way for Peele’s return.

Peele had not played the first nine games of the 2014 season because of an unspecified upper-body injury.  He was medically cleared prior to the 10th game, which triggered the suspension.

In 2013, Peele finished fifth on the team with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team that season when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering spring practice back in the good graces of the football program, the redshirt sophomore is expected to be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Bret Bielema, Russell Wilson and a Dolphins interview

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

I don’t even know where to start with this, but, well, let’s just dive right in.

Bret Bielema interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Miami Dolphins a couple of years ago. He has now confirmed as much publicly and willingly and openly, too. Guess that’s one place to start.

Unbeknownst to the public in general and the media specifically, Bielema interviewed in “the winter of 2012,” as ESPN.com put it, for that open South Florida NFL gig. At the time, Bielema was the head coach at Wisconsin and was coming off a Rose Bowl appearance following the 2011 college football season with transfer Russell Wilson as his starting quarterback.

It’s that Bielema/Wilson/Dolphin dynamic that’s so utterly fascinating, if for nothing more than, based on Beilema’s own words, he’d possibly be in the NFL right now if the pro folks in Miami had just heeded his sage draft plan.  The following is prefaced by the ESPN writer herself noting that “Bielema insists this is true,” so there’s that.  And this:

He is a day and a half into his meetings, and is mapping out his plans with the Dolphins’ brass. He promises them a Super Bowl ring within five years if they pick Wilson, his quarterback at Wisconsin, in the upcoming draft.

The idea of selecting a 5-10 quarterback in the second round, which is where Bielema thinks they need to, does not go over well. They think he’s crazy.

“One hundred percent,” Bielema says.

“They all looked at me like, ‘You can’t say that. That’s the difference between college and pro. He’s undersized. He can’t throw.’ I was like, ‘OK, all right,’ and I honestly, that day, kind of pulled myself out of it.”

Pulling out that time, Bielema remained at UW for one more season, after which he pulled up stakes in Madison and headed to Fayetteville for the head coaching job at Arkansas.

The lesson here? Bielema, as is the case with pretty much every other coach, is more than willing to listen to overtures. Oh, he’ll listen, as the 2014-15 coaching rumor mill hinted atvery strongly hinted at — when it came to the opening at Nebraska.  Talking publicly about being “right” on a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Wilson just sets up NFL options for the future, too.

Just something to keep in mind on down the road, when the next few coaching carousels are spinning.

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LSU plans to pursue John Chavis’ buyout

John Chavis

When John Chavis left the LSU Tigers to become the defensive coordinator of the Texas A&M Aggies, he walked away from a $1.3 million contract.

Chavis reportedly wanted his annual salary increased to $1.7 million to make him, along with Auburn’s Will Muschamp, the nation’s highest paid defensive coordinator.

When LSU brass decided that wasn’t going to happen, Chavis refused to sign a new contract. Instead, Texas A&M stepped up to the plate and lured him away to College Station.

Whether or not Texas A&M matched Chavis’ asking price, the assistant coach won’t see the full amount of his contract next season due to a buyout in his previous contract with LSU.

Chavis owes LSU $400,00 as part of the provision, according to The Shreveport Times‘ Glenn Guilbeau. The school intends to pursue the money it is owed.

“I’m not sure if we’ll get it, but we’re going to try to get it,” LSU board member Ronald Anderson told Guilbeau. “That was part of his contract. It’s his obligation.”

Whether or not LSU receives the payment may determine the future of former defensive line coach Brick Haley. Haley is currently on staff, but he was replaced by Ed Orgeron. Unlike Chavis, Haley signed a new contract offered after the season. However, his status along with the $450,000 contract remain uncertain until Chavis’ situation is finalized.

Haley is currently serving as a staff “intern.”

“I’m told that by June, if he decides to stay, they’ll decide what he’ll be doing and that title would change,” Anderson said.

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Former Crimson Tide safety takes shot at LSU’s new defensive coordinator

HaHa Clinton-Dix

You can take the football player out of Alabama, but you can’t take the Crimson Tide out of the football player.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix left Alabama as a highly decorated safety before becoming the 21st pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft.

The safety didn’t take to Twitter Friday to rip the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or even the Minnesota Vikings, though.

Clinton-Dix’s contempt for the rival LSU Tigers remains strong, and he made sure to point out what type of hire the program made when Kevin Steele was named its new offensive coordinator.

The game Clinton-Dix referred to was the 2012 Orange Bowl. Steele was the defensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers at the time. His defense surrendered 595 total yards to the West Virginia Mountaineers on their way to scoring 70 points.

The embarrassing performance eventually cost Steele his job.

Despite the pitiful performance and being a few years removed from defensive coordinator duties, LSU head coach Les Miles was excited about Steele’s inclusion to his coaching staff.

“He has a great defensive mind and he’s an outstanding recruiter,” Miles said when the hire was officially announced, per ESPN. “He knows our players and our system and his knowledge of the SEC and the SEC Western Division makes him a great fit. We are very excited the Kevin will be joining our staff.”

Miles and LSU might be excited about the hire, but Clinton-Dix obviously thinks it’s a joke.

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Texas Tech cancels spring game, caters schedule to QB Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes

The spring game is an annual tradition in college football.

However, Kliff Kingsbury and his Texas Tech Red Raiders were forced to change up their spring schedule due to a couple of factors.

First, the Red Raiders won’t hold a spring game this year, according to the team’s official site.

“Due to the replacement of seating inside Jones AT&T Stadium, the annual Spring Game has been cancelled and there will be no other open practice opportunities for fans in Lubbock,” the statement read.

Also, the team will accommodate its projected starter at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is also a member of the baseball team.

“Individual practices dates will be determined on a week-by-week basis in order to accommodate sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ baseball schedule, the school announced. “Mahomes will pitch and play in the outfield for the preseason No. 5 Texas Tech Baseball team this spring.”

Mahomes started the final four games of the 2014 campaign, and the freshman’s performance was impressive. The two-sport star passed for 1,428 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions during that stretch.

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