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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Playoff Darkhorses

College Football Playoff Logo

The term “BCS busters” should be collectively erased from everyone’s memories.

It’s now time to figure out which teams have a glimmer of hope to rise from obscurity and claim a spot in the first College Football Playoff.

The Florida State Seminoles, Alabama Crimson Tide and Oregon Ducks are overwhelming favorites to participate in the inaugural playoff structure. But college football never quite works out like everyone expects.

Each team in the country is striving to be among the best. Only four will achieve this goal. Some have better odds than others. We here at CFT like to root for the underdog. As such, we’ll attempt to identify a team from each of the Power Five conference and one from the rest of the leagues that have an outside shot of playing with the big boys this season.

We advise not to bet on any of these teams, but they each have something that gives them a chance, albeit a slight one, to be a part of college football’s elite…

ACC: Virginia Tech Hokies
Any team that comes out of the ACC that isn’t the Florida State Seminoles should be considered a playoff darkhorse. The reasons the Hokies are primed to improve greatly from their 8-5 record last season are they are particularly talented and experienced along the offensive line and secondary. The enter left side of the Hokies’ offensive line, including center, is comprised of seniors. And right tackle Jonathan McLaughlin was named  second-team freshman All-American by College Football News. The Hokies’ ability to win in the trenches will improve the team’s running game from last year, particularly with sophomore running back Trey Edmunds ready to become the team’s workhorse. Plus, solid play from the offensive line will help Michael Brewer‘s transition after he transferred from Texas Tech. On the defensive side of the ball, the Hokies may have lost Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum to the NFL, but both of last year’s starting cornerbacks struggled with injuries. Sophomores Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller proved more than capable of stepping in and becoming play makers. Everyone will quickly learn whether or not the Hokies are a legitimate contender when they face a Braxton Miller-less Ohio State Buckeyes squad during the second week of the season. If Virginia Tech can go into the Horshoe and claim a major victory against the Buckeyes, the rest of the schedule is manageable, especially since it won’t face the Seminoles in regular season play.

Big 12 Conference: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Kliff Kingbury
‘s first season as Texas Tech’s head coach developed into a perfect example of style over substance. The excitement of a 7-0 start faded into five straight losses to end the regular season. Despite being as highly ranked as 10th overall, the Red Raiders couldn’t match up physically against the likes of the Oklahoma Sooners, Baylor Bears and Texas Longhorns. As Kingsbury continues to build the program in Year 2, the Red Raiders should be far more consistent. It starts at the quarterback position in the team’s Air Raid offense. Davis Webb started six of the team’s final eight games, and he was awarded the starting job during spring practice. Kingsbury played three different quarterbacks last and never found any consistency. Webb’s growth as a player during his sophomore season will only help the offense become more successful. Each of the linemen in front of Webb is experienced, and the receivers are expected to produce. The defense will continue to be a concern, but Texas Tech will enter each game under the assumption they can outscore any opponent. If the Red Raiders can navigate the Big 12 Conference, they’re toughest non-conference opponent is the Arkansas Razorbacks, who finished 3-9 last season. The opportunity is there for Texas Tech to take the next step as a program and potentially enter the national conversation.

Big Ten Conference: Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes will enjoy and possibly benefit greatly from playing in the Big Ten Conference’s new western division. Overall, the Big Ten Conference is wide open after the Ohio State Buckeyes lost Miller for the season. But that won’t matter for Iowa since they’re not scheduled to play the Buckeyes this season. Iowa not only avoids Ohio State, it won’t play the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans or Penn State Nittany Lions. The Hawkeyes cross-divisional opponents this season are the Indiana Hoosiers and Maryland Terrapins. And the team’s toughest non-conference opponent is the Pittsburgh Panthers. If the Hawkeyes don’t trip up during a game they’re expected to win — like we’ve seen previously in Kirk Ferentz‘s tenure — Iowa could cruise into the final two games against the Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers with an undefeated record. The Hawkeyes are then capable and possess enough talent on both sides of the ball to beat the primary opposition in their division. The Hawkeyes will do what they always do; they’ll run the football behind arguably the best offensive linemen in college football, Brandon Scherff, and they’ll play fundamentally sound football on defense. Their style of play leaves very little margin for error, but the season sets up perfectly for the Hawkeyes to have a little more wiggle room than they usually do.

Pac-12 Conference: Oregon State Beavers
Good quarterback play will grant a team the benefit of the doubt. Sean Mannion may not be an interesting as Florida State’s Jameis Winston or as dynamic as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Mannion doesn’t even draw as much attention as UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Yet, Mannion is the country’s leading returning passer. Mannion threw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns as a junior. The quarterback also has pieces around him. Last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, Brandin Cooks, is now in the NFL, but the team still has a massive target at tight end in Connor Hamlett and its top two rushers, Terron Ward and Storm Woods, return. Another overlooked aspect of the Beavers is how experienced they are on defense. Nine of the team’s defensive starters are seniors. The final two starters are juniors. Some of those upperclassmen will be starting for the first time, but the ability to be in the system over a period of time learning the scheme gives them an advantage. The Beavers even benefit slightly from their schedule. The team’s non-conference schedule should be a cakewalk. Oregon State hosts the Oregon Ducks in this year’s “Civil War.” Trips to USC and Stanford are the biggest obstacles in front of the Beavers in their attempt to go to their first major bowl game since they defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Fiesta Bowl 13 years ago.

SEC: Ole Miss Rebels
The Florida Gators are a popular choice to be the surprise team emerging out of the SEC. However, the Rebels should be able to reap the benefits from head coach Hugh Freeze‘s ability to stockpile talent during the upcoming season. The Rebels will have to survive the SEC West, of course, which is no easy feat. The Rebels finished 2-4 in the division last season, and the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers remain the teams to beat. Ole Miss, however, is littered with top talents primed to make a leap as a group. Former No. 1 overall recruit Robert Ndemkiche enters his second season in the program. He’s surrounded by senior edge rushers C.J. Johnson and Carlos Thompson and just nose tackle Isaac Gross. Sophomore Tony Conner quickly established himself as an intimidating presence in the secondary during his freshman campaign. On offense, sophomore Laremy Tunsil is one of the most physically talented left tackles in the SEC. Laquon Treadwell was an elite wide receiver recruit and made an instant impact as a true freshman. And senior quarterback Bo Wallace will lead the way. As the talent on this team continues to mature, the gap between the Rebels and the rest of the SEC West is quickly closing. If that same talent takes a major leap in their play this year, the Rebels could go from pretender to legitimate contender.

Best of the rest: Marshall Thundering Herd
One thing established during the BCS era was an undefeated team from the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Conference USA or MAC can work themselves into the national conversation. This year’s most likely candidate is Marshall. There are two reasons why the Thundering Herd can crash this year’s party. First, the team’s schedule is among the easiest in college football. The team should cruise to a 13-0 finish. Second, people love to see explosive offenses and elite quarterback play. Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has quietly built one of the most explosive offenses in college football.  The Thurndering Herd operates at a breakneck pace. Last season the team’s offense finished 12th in the country with an average of 500.4 yards per contest. And quarterback Rakeem Cato is absolutely electric. Over the past two seasons, Cato has thrown for 8,117 yards, 76 touchdowns. The combination of an undefeated record, explosive offense and a talented quarterback may be enough to insert Marshall into one of the playoff slots (even though it’s still highly unlikely).

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Florida transfer Gerald Willis seeking ‘run-off’ waiver for immediate eligibility at Miami

South Carolina v Florida Getty Images

Yeah, good luck with that.

A month after it was confirmed he he would be “transferring” from Florida, Miami announced in February that Gerald Willis would be transferring into the Hurricanes football program.  Normally a player in Willis’ situation would be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.

While that will very likely be the case with Willis, he’s giving immediate eligibility, Dorial Green-Beckham-style, the old college try.

In a conversation with CaneSport.com, Willis claims that he was actually dismissed by new UF head coach Jim McElwain.  The defensive lineman also confirmed that he has applied for a so-called “run-off” waiver with the NCAA.

From SBNation.com:

The “run-off” waiver is a little known provision of the NCAA handbook where a player can petition to be ruled immediately eligible if the NCAA finds that the player left their previous institution against their will, i.e. they were “run-off” from the program. Here are the requirements to apply for such a waiver, from athleticscholarships.net

  • Documentation demonstrating that the student-athlete would not have had the opportunity to return to the previous institution’s team for reasons outside the control of the student-athlete.
  • A written statement from the applicant institution that the student-athlete is in good academic standing and meets all progress-toward-degree requirements at applicant institution.
  • A written statement from the student-athlete’s previous institution indicating that the previous institution supports the request.

Willis’ self-proclaimed dismissal came after multiple physical run-ins with Gator teammates, so how he could argue that he could not return to the team for reasons outside of his control is head-scratching to say the least.  Additionally, as UF and The U are in-state rivals, it seems highly unlikely that the former would help the latter by writing a letter of support for Willis.

A decision on the waiver is expected at some point next month at the earliest.

Willis was a four-star member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 strongside defensive end in the country.  He played in five games as a true freshman last season.  Willis’ stay at UF was a brief one as, a couple of months after a verbal disagreement over a pair of cleats escalated into a physical altercation with a teammate, it was announced that Willis was leaving the program.

In addition to Miami, Willis told the Rivals.com website that Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M pursued him after he left UF.

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Hogs suspend Randy Ramsey as LB gets academic house in order

Corey Grant, Randy Ramsey

For the second time in six months, Randy Ramsey has some educational issues to clear up before moving forward.

Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema confirmed Monday that Ramsey has been suspended from the football program.  According to Bielema, the linebacker needs to clean things up academically, and needs to do it post-haste.

He has got to have some urgency in the classroom immediately,” Bielema said according to ESPN.com in explaining the suspension. “No off-the-field [legal issues], just got to get him going in the classroom because we invest a lot in them and we hope to have our biggest returns when they are sophomores, juniors and seniors and getting better.”

Ramsey didn’t travel to last October’s game against Texas A&M because of academic issues.

A three-star member of Bielema’s second Razorbacks recruiting class, Ramsey played in seven games as a true freshman last season. He started one of those contests, the Sept. 20 win over Northern Illinois.

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Jimbo to support Jameis draft night, serve as analyst next two days

Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston

Make room, David Shaw.  And, Jameis Winston, make room on your couch as well.

Earlier this month it was reported that Winston, expected to be selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the first-overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft, would not attend the Chicago festivities in person.  Instead, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner has decided to stay in his home state of Alabama to be close to his ailing grandmother, who is unable to travel due to health concerns.

According to tweet from a writer on Florida State’s official website, head coach Jimbo Fisher will be in Birmingham for the first round of the draft Thursday night, April 30, as well, offering support to a player who played a major role in FSU’s 2013 national championship.  After spending opening night with his former player, Fisher will then spend the next two days, Friday and Saturday, serving as a guest analyst on the NFL Network’s coverage of Rounds 2-7.

Fisher was also a part of the 2014 coverage of the draft, and acquitted himself quite well.

Shaw will serve as a guest analyst on the NFL Network as well.  The Stanford head coach will be the only college coach featured on the opening night of the draft.

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Pierre Ingram, Cal’s top recruiter, arrested for soliciting a hooker

Pierre Ingram

There has to be a recruiting/solicitation parallel in there somewhere, right?

Regardless, the latest individual to land on CFT’s “Days Without An Arrest” ticker is not a player but a coach, with Cal wide receivers coach Pierre Ingram arrested April 16 following a prostitution sting.  Ingram, who also holds the title of recruiting coordinator, was charged with misdemeanor solicitation of a lewd act.

The Contra Costa Times writes that Ingram “was arrested after he allegedly solicited an undercover officer online and then showed up at the Motel 6 on Embarcadero.”

There is no word from the school on what this does or doesn’t do to Ingram’s status with the football program moving forward, although an indefinite suspension will likely be the first order of business.

Ingram spent the past two seasons as the Bears’ running backs coach before moving over to receivers. He’s also widely considered the program’s top recruiter.

(Photo credit: Cal athletics)

UPDATED 5:24 p.m. ET: Cal has confirmed that Ingram has been placed on administrative leave, presumably paid, as they further assess the situation.  Ingram did not take part in Saturday’s spring game because of the incident.

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NIU suspends LB Rasheen Lemon after domestic battery arrest

Boca Raton Bowl AP

A mini-run of players diving headfirst into offseason legal issues continues, with Northern Illinois the latest program to take a hit.

The DeKalb Daily Chronicle is reporting that linebacker Rasheen Lemon has been arrested on a domestic battery charge. The charges stem from an incident that occurred April 12. No details of what led to the arrest have been released.

NIU officials learned of the situation late last week, and indefinitely suspended Lemon from the football program.

If the incident results in any type of game or games suspension, it would be a significant blow to the Huskies’ defense.

After starting two games in 2013, Lemon started every game in 2014 as a redshirt junior. Lemon was second on the team in tackles (90) and quarterback hurries (six), and tied for second in forced fumbles (two). He was also tied for fifth in sacks (2.5).

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Auburn does the expected, names Jeremy Johnson as starting QB

Arkansas v Auburn Getty Images

Earlier this month, Jeremy Johnson had yet to separate himself from the rest of the Auburn quarterback pack, even as he’s long been expected to be the successor to Nick Marshall.  Monday, the expected officially came to fruition.

Head coach Gus Malzahn took to Twitter Monday afternoon to announce, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Johnson has been named as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.  The anointing comes two days after Auburn’s spring game.

“Everyone in our program has 100 percent confidence in him!” Malzahn wrote in his tweet.

Johnson’s main competition had been redshirt freshman Sean White.  Jason Smith and Tyler Queen were also technically in the mix.

Last season as Marshall’s primary backup, Johnson completed 28-of-37 passes for 436 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. More than half of those pass attempts (21) came in the 2014 opener against Arkansas as Johnson started in place of Marshall, who was suspended following an offseason weed incident.

Johnson and Auburn will open the 2015 season Sept. 5 against Louisville in a neutral-site matchup in the Georgia Dome.

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Buckeyes title team feted by POTUS at White House event

Urban Meyer President Obama

As has been the case for at least a decade, winning a national championship has its presidential privileges.

Monday afternoon, Ohio State became the latest college sports team to be feted at the White House, with President Barack Obama hosting the Buckeyes three months after OSU claimed the first-ever College Football Playoff title.  OSU is actually the first college football team since Alabama in 2013 to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as Florida State was unable to manage a trip to D.C. last year to celebrate the Seminoles’ 2013 title.

This visit marked Urban Meyer‘s third, with the first two coming while he was the head coach at Florida.  Meyer was hosted by George W. Bush following the Gators’ first title in 2006, then by Obama following the second one for the 2008 season.

As for this trip, the President hit on several notes surrounding the Buckeyes, mentioning defensive end Joey Bosa‘s now-famous shoulder shrug as well as his newly-shorn locks; thanked running back Ezekiel Elliott for tucking in his shirt, with the preseason Heisman contender asking the POTUS for a little help with the recent rule change on crop-top jerseys; referred to Michigan as “a certain team up North;” and made mention of title-winning quarterback Cardale Jones‘ “12-gauge” nickname.

Wisely, the President didn’t wade into who should start at quarterback for the Buckeyes this upcoming season.  One member of the Buckeyes, though, did have a little fun at the POTUS’ expense.

The President was given a game ball and jersey by the football program.  He was also introduced to a pair of Buckeye legends, Cris Carter and the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

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WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez takes to Twitter to announce A&M transfer

LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Ross Cockrell

In Texas A&M’s Class of 2013, seven wide receivers were signed.  With this latest development, as SBNation.com notes, that seven has been whittled down to two.

On his Twitter account Monday afternoon, LaQuvionte Gonzalez announced that he has decided to transfer out of the A&M football program.  No reason was given for Gonzalez’s departure, which comes a week or so following the end of spring practice.

A four-star member of A&M’s 2013 recruiting class, Gonzalez was rated as the No. 30 player at any position in the state of Texas and the No. 234 player overall by Rivals.com.

As a true freshman in 2013, Gonzalez was fifth on the team with 21 receptions and 240 receiving yards.  His production took a precipitous drop in 2014, however, as he finished with just five receptions for 77 yards.

Ricky Seals-Jones and Jeremy Tabuyo are the only 2013 receivers still with the Aggies. That said, A&M is still loaded with talent at the position, mitigating all of those personnel losses.

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Ex-Utah State QB won’t be permitted to transfer to UW Huskies

Utah State v UNLV Getty Images

We don’t know yet to where Darell Garretson will be transferring.  We do, though, know one place where he won’t be.

ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad tweeted that the former Utah State quarterback will be unable to transfer to Washington.  Garretson had apparently expressed a desire in the Huskies, but because UW is a future USU opponent — the two teams will play in 2015 — the quarterback wasn’t given a release to that program.

As to where Garretson might end up, it was reported earlier this month that Oregon State is a very realistic possibility.  Part of the draw for Garretson to the Beavers is that his former Aggies offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Kevin McGivens, is now the quarterbacks coach at OSU.

Schad also noted that the West Coast OSU is a possibility.

After starting seven games as a freshman in 2013, Garretson played in just five games in 2014 before suffering a season-ending wrist injury.  It was announced late last month that he was transferring out of USU.

Garretson will be forced to sit out the 2015 season if he ends up at another FBS program.  Beginning in 2016, he would then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

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Georgia Tech, UCF announce future home-and-home series

Bitcoin St Petersburg Bowl - North Carolina State v Central Florida

George O’Leary‘s former team and his current one have agreed to meet on the gridiron a little further down the road, Georgia Tech and UCF announced Monday afternoon.

The Yellow Jackets will travel to Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 16, 2017, and will then host the Knights on Sept. 19, 2020. The 2017 game will mark Tech’s first regular season non-conference game in the state of Florida since Sept. 19, 1981, a 27-6 loss to Florida in Gainesville.

Tech and UCF have met three times previously, the first coming in 1996 and the last in 2000. All three of those games, played at Bobby Dodd Stadium, were won by the Yellow Jackets.

O’Leary has been the head coach at UCF since 2004. Prior to that, he served as Tech’s head coach from 1994-2001.

With the addition of Tech, UCF continues to bolster its future schedules, with previously announced series including Stanford (2015,2019), Michigan (2016), Maryland (2016, 2017) and Texas (2017). Tech had previously announced a future home-and-home with UCF’s in-state rival USF (2021, 2022), and now has games scheduled every year from 2017-22.

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Judge sides with Notre Dame in ESPN’s open-records lawsuit

Touchdown Jesus AP

In mid-January, ESPN filed a lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame contending that the school was withholding police documents involving alleged campus crimes committed by unnamed student-athletes, which would be a violation of Indiana’s open records laws.  Three months later, a judge has disagreed.

Monday, the South Bend Tribune writes, “[a] St. Joseph County judge ruled… that the University of Notre Dame isn’t required to give ESPN campus police department records because it’s not a public agency under state law.” While the judge sided with the private institution, he did so with some hesitancy and trepidation.

From the Tribune‘s report:

Superior Court Judge Steven Hostetler said he shared the Indiana public access counselor’s “discomfort” with the notion that a private party can exercise police powers without sharing records related to that power with the public, but that’s simply how the state’s Access to Public Records Act is written and has been interpreted.

Furthermore, the judge wrote in his 11-page ruling that “[t]his court will not strain the language of the statute in order to do what the Legislature has not, even though there are indeed persuasive reasons why the statute should be amended to read the way ESPN desires.”

ESPN had filed an open-records request with the university in November. An Indianapolis attorney representing ESPN told the Tribune he’s uncertain if an appeal of the ruling will be filed.

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Hoosier DL Ralph Green III arrested on battery charge

Ralph Green III, Nate Hoff, Jake Rudock AP

Well, so much for all of the feel-good in the post directly below this one.

According to the Bloomington Herald-Times, Indiana defensive lineman Ralph Green III (pictured, No. 93) was arrested very early Sunday morning following an off-campus incident.  Green was charged by Bloomington police officers with a trio of misdemeanors: battery, public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

As for what led to the arrest and charges…

Bloomington Police Department responded to a disturbance at the residence on North Lincoln and found Green struck the victim in the face, causing a complaint of pain, according to a preliminary police report.

IU has yet to comment publicly on the situation.

Green started nine of the 12 games in which he played as a redshirt freshman in 2013.  He played in 11 games (no starts) this past season, and is expected to be a significant part of the Hoosiers’ line rotation in 2015.

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Blind fan who inspired USC could play in a game for Trojans

Pete Carroll Jake Olson

If you can’t hardly stomach all of the off-field issues surrounding the game of college football, this may be the elixir you’ve been looking for.

A few years back, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Jake Olson, a teenage fan suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old).  It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.

Fast-forward roughly five years, and Olson is now an 18-year-old young man who became a long-snapper for his high school football team and is about to embark on his journey as a college student — at USC, of course.

Olson, the Los Angeles Times writes, “is a recipient of a Swim With Mike scholarship, awarded annually from the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship fund.” While he’s not a part of the Trojans’ incoming recruiting class, it appears that he will have part of his favorite team as a walk-on.

From the Times‘ report:

Olson, 18, was introduced as a Swim With Mike scholarship winner in February during an event where video highlights of incoming football players were shown to Trojans fans. He would join the program as a walk-on.

Olson said he was “stoked” to be headed to USC, which also accepted his sister.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said.

For Steve Sarkisian, it’s a matter of when, not if, Olson takes the field in a real football game.

“Someday, he’s going to snap in a game for us,” the head coach said. “When? I don’t know. But it will happen.

“When that day comes, it will be awesome.”

“I can’t even fathom what an extraordinary thing that would be,” Carroll said when asked about Olson playing in a game for his former program, with Olson, when the subject of preferential treatment came up, adding, “[I] just [want] the opportunity to prove myself like anyone else.”

Bravo to Olson, Sarkisian, Carroll and the entire USC program. That is going to be one special day when the young man takes the field for the first time.

(Photo credit: openyoureyes.org)

 

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After position switch, Wyoming QB Austin Fort to transfer

Craig Bohl

In revealing a few days ago that former Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman was sitting atop his depth chart, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl confirmed that 6-4, 218-pound Austin Fort would be moving from that position to tight end.

Less than a week later, the player is moving on entirely.

This weekend, Bohl confirmed that Fort has decided to transfer out of the Cowboys football program and continue his playing career elsewhere.  According to Bohl, Fort’s decision to transfer was triggered by his desire to play quarterback at the collegiate level.

The coach also confirmed that Fort will likely move on to the JUCO level initially.  If Fort had decided to transfer to another FBS program, he would’ve been ineligible to play immediately in 2015.

Fort was a two-star member of Wyoming’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

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Nevada OL coach Ron Hudson out for spring after heart surgery

Ron Hudson

We noted last week that Marshall defensive tackles coach J.C. Price recently underwent corrective heart surgery.  As it turns out, Price isn’t the only FBS assistant dealing with an issue involving the very essential organ.

In a story posted to the Reno Gazette Journal‘s website, writer Chris Murray details how, seven weeks ago, Nevada offensive line coach Ron Hudson underwent open-heart surgery to repair damage that was initially discovered during an emergency room visit last May.

From the report:

But after he started to develop symptoms — light-headedness and fatigue the biggest indicators — he finally went to the ER. After a battery of tests, it was determined he had atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. It would first be treated with medication. That helped, but it didn’t fix the issue. So, once Nevada’s season ended, he’d get an ablation.

That’s a fairly routine, although invasive, surgery in which abnormal heart tissue is melted away. Hudson went in for that surgery Feb. 25. It would be a 45-minute procedure and he’d be good to go.

“I went into the hospital, they put me to sleep and I woke up and said, ‘How did it go?'” Hudson said. “They said, ‘We didn’t do it.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ The doctor said, ‘We found a blood clot in your heart.'”

Open-heart surgery was performed the very next day, likely saving his life or, at the very least, prevented him from suffering a debilitating stroke.

“We’re incredibly lucky that he’s healthy,” head coach Brian Polian said. “That was an awfully scary deal.”

Per doctor’s orders, Hudson, who is in his third season with the Wolf Pack, is not permitted to coach this spring. He should be back on the sidelines beginning in summer camp this August.

What he’s gone through, however, has given the entire staff a new outlook on their professional and personal lives.

“”It puts things into perspective very quickly,” Polian said. “The fans and everybody, I don’t think they understand the level of commitment the coaches and players give. People tell you it’s not life or death, but we take this very seriously. When you see something like that, you take a step back and remember what’s really important. Obviously, being a husband and father is the most important thing for him.”

(Photo credit: Nevada athletics)

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