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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Playoff Darkhorses

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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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TCU WR tweets he’ll finish career at Rutgers

SE Louisiana v TCU Getty Images

A wide receiver who began his collegiate career in the Big 12 will end it in the Big Ten, the player announced on social media Friday.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account, TCU wide receiver Cam White announced that he would be transferring to Rutgers and finishing out his collegiate playing career with the Scarlet Knights.  Because he will be a graduate transfer, White will be eligible to play immediately for RU in 2015.

This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

“I get to work towards my Masters at a great program academic wise man that’s a blessing,” White added in another tweet, although he does need to bone up on his Rutgers nomenclature.

Because of concussion issues, White did not play at all in 2014 for the Horned Frogs. In 2013, White was seventh on the team in both receptions (18) and receiving yards (182). The previous year was his best statistically, with his two receiving touchdowns fourth on the team and his 284 receiving yards good for fifth.

White was a three-star member of TCU’s 2011 recruiting class.

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UPDATE: John Chavis files suit against LSU, still in good standing with A&M

Louisiana Monroe v LSU AP

I can’t say with 100-percent certainty, but this might be the first time a college coach has filed a lawsuit against both his former and current employer over a contractual issue.

The parties involved are John Chavis, Texas A&M and LSU.  That’s one of the few things that are clear in this case.

In November of last year, it was reported that Chavis and LSU had reached an agreement on a one-year contract extension that would keep the defensive coordinator with the Tigers through the 2015 season.  A month and a half later, the first reports surfaced that Texas A&M had reached out to gauge Chavis’ interest in its coordinator vacancy; a week later, Chavis-to-TAMU was a done deal according to media reports.  Feb. 13, Chavis’ hiring by A&M was made official.

What happened between Chavis’ LSU contract extension and Chavis’ official A&M hiring is at the heart of a lawsuit filed Friday by the coordinator regarding a $400,000 buyout LSU is pursuing, KBTX-TV is reporting.  In  the lawsuit, Chavis claims he doesn’t owe the six-figure buyout… but if he does, A&M is responsible for paying it.

As for the particulars of the lawsuit, here’s what the television station has gleaned:

Chavis claims under his contract, he was given a right to terminate his employment agreement with LSU without cause with 30 days notice. If there were between zero and 11 months left on the deal, Chavis claimed he would owe nothing to LSU, but if between 11 and 23 months were left, he would owe $400,000 to the university.

On January 2, 2015, Chavis claims LSU Director of Athletics Joe Alleva demanded that Chavis pay the university $400,000. On January 5, Chavis says he turned in this 30-day notice to terminate the contract without cause, making his last day February 4.

“Based on Chavis’ notice of termination on January 5, 2015, the ‘termination date’ according to the Amendment was effective thirty days after the written notice served to LSU or (sic) February 4, 2015, which falls within the 11th month remaining and Chavis’ Employment Agreement,” reads the suit. According to Chavis, he does not owe LSU $400,000 as a result.

On the A&M side, Chavis’ suit states that his current employer is “currently obligated to satisfy or cause to be satisfied the liquidated damages, if any, associated with Chavis’ previous Employment Agreement with LSU.” The problem with that? A&M is “unwilling to tender the liquidated damages demanded by LSU because it does [not] believe that liquidated damages are called for under the Employment Agreement as mentioned above,” the suit claims.

I don’t know how this will play out on either side, but I’m going to make a double batch of popcorn, just in case.

UPDATE [9:00 p.m. ET]: John Chavis remains in good standing with his current employer.

Texas A&M University denied any claim that a suit has been filed against it by Chavis, nor does the institution agree that their new defensive coordinator owes the LSU Tigers anything.

Texas A&M released a short statement Friday night, via The Advocate:

UPDATE [10:55 p.m. ET]: Texas A&M University released a short statement early Friday evening. LSU responded in kind later that night.

LSU expects John Chavis‘ lawsuit to be dropped over matters of proper jurisdiction, while the university counter-sued its former defensive coordinator in order to claim the $400,000 buyout stipulated in his previous contract:

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Texas Tech’s DC David Gibbs plans to use Justis Nelson at CB

Jhajuan Seales, Justis Nelson

Defensive back Justis Nelson experienced a breakthrough season as a sophomore. Nelson was named an honorable mention to the All-Big 12 team and a First-Team Academic All-Big 12 performer. However, he didn’t find a permanent home in the Red Raiders secondary.

Nelson played both safety and cornerback last season. But where will new defensive coordinator David Gibbs use this fall?

“We’re going to start him at corner and teach him the corner techniques, because at least the first two days — maybe more than that — we’re just going to be in base defense with three linebackers and teach him to play corner,” Gibbs told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams.

Nelson, who came to Lubbock as a three-star athlete, began his career at safety before switching to cornerback. Due to depth issues, he returned to safety. While the Red Raiders staff expects him to be a starting cornerback, Nelson will likely play some safety during the upcoming season.

“There are going to be times when he’s going to have to play safety, which I’ve done it (with starting cornerbacks),” Gibbs said. “I’ve had my starting corner in base be a safety in nickel and be the nickel in nickel.

“If he has the ability to go play safety and he’s better than my third safety, then I’ll move him to safety and bring those other corners in the game and let them play.”

Nelson’s length at 6’2″ and 179 pounds makes him an ideal cornerback, and he’s already shown the ability to close on the ball to make a play. The Mesquite, Texas, native led the team with 16 pass breakups, which was the school’s highest total since 2002.

However, his new coach hopes Nelson can turn those broken up passes into interceptions during his junior campaign.

“Justis could have had eight freakin’ interceptions last year,” Gibbs said. “He (then-defensive coordinator Mike Smith) put him in the right position. He could have. He didn’t. He’s got to catch those balls. If he catches those balls, it’s a whole different game.”

Whether or not Nelson makes those catches or not, he is still one of the team’s best defenders. The flexibility he provides in the secondary gives Gibbs plenty of options as he instills a new scheme to improve upon last year’s 95th-ranked pass defense.

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Kansas State schedules two home-and-home series against SEC programs

Kansas State v Iowa State

The Kansas State Wildcats apparently learned a lesson after the Big 12 Conference was shut out of the first College Football Playoff. The program is now beefing up its future non-conference schedules.

Bill Snyder‘s squad decided to invade the SEC — that is, if Coach Snyder is still coaching the team in 2017 (and I wouldn’t bet against it).

Kansas State scheduled a pair of home-of-home series with SEC programs, according to ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy:

The Wildcats’ non-conference schedule prior to 2017 includes the South Dakota Coyotes, UTSA Roadrunners, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Missouri State Bears and Florida Atlantic Owls. Not one opponent from a power conference counted among the lot.

Not only is it important for the Wildcats to improve the team’s non-conference schedule, but games against SEC teams will improve the team’s recruiting presence in the Southeast.

Snyder’s staff showed more of an emphasis on recruiting traditional SEC states this year with six commitments from Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the 2015 class. The trend should continue with the team’s agreements to play four games against SEC opponents from 2017-20.

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Bret Bielema explains approach to recruit new coaches to his staff

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t want to do things like everyone else. That applies to his coaching hires, too.

First, Bielema made the surprise move to poach a sitting head coach from the MAC by hiring Dan Enos as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

He rounded out his coaching staff Wednesday with the hire of Jemal Singleton as the team’s new running backs coach.

Neither of these hires went through a traditional hiring process, though.

“To get to where we are today was kind of a unique process,” Bielema said, via CoachingSearch.com.. “I had a list of names. I was talking to [Air Force head coach] Troy Calhoun at the rules committee meeting, and Coach Calhoun would come watch us when we were at Wisconsin. I’d asked him about another coach that had previously worked for him, and he looked at me and said, ‘You need a running backs coach?’ ‘Yeah, I do, I’m losing my guy to the Saints.’ He goes, ‘I’ve got the guy for you.’ He mentioned Jemal.

“I was impressed the first time I read his bio. He hurdled past everybody else. I had a list of probably 23 coaches at one point. To finally get a chance to sit down with him Monday and visit was an easy decision.

“Whether that’s a normal process or not, I met with him, Coach Enos met with him, he had individual meeting time with every one of our offensive coaches. It’s just how I do it. I also have my secretaries sit down with him. I have my DFO sit down and have breakfast with him. I’ll have my recruiting staff take him to lunch. It’s a team atmosphere. You cultivate that in the way you recruit people.”

It can’t be too difficult to recruit a position coach when Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins form the best running back duo in college football. Singleton will simply be the beneficiary of the talent on the roster after impressing everyone around the Razorbacks program.

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Spurrier ‘letting legal system play out’ on 2015 signee

Shameik Blackshear

Arrested earlier this month, 2015 signee Shameik Blackshear remains a part of the plans for the South Carolina football program in 2015 and beyond.  Whether that will remain the case moving forward remains to be seen.

In his first public comments since Blackshear was charged, head coach Steve Spurrier said he and the program are essentially in wait-and-see mode, and that they’ll make a decision once the criminal proceedings have run their course.

We’ll let the legal system play out,” Spurrier told The State newspaper earlier today. “He’s claiming his innocence, so we’ll see what happens.”

Blackshear is alleged to have taken a purse and safe from a Mill Creek (SC) home Feb. 7. The total value of the items contained in the purse and safe totaled nearly $1,400. He was arrested at his high school and charged with one count of petit larceny.

If Blackshear is able to get past his legal hurdles, he has the type of potential to contribute to the Gamecocks’ defense immediately.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Blackshear was a rated as the No. 18 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.  Only two other Gamecock defensive signees in a class that ranked 19th nationally were higher-rated than Blackshear.

Blackshear, the first commitment to USC’s 2015 class when he verballed back in May of 2013, earned those lofty recruiting marks despite missing most of the past two seasons due to injuries, one of which was an ACL tear incurred last September.  Entering the 2015 season and prior to the significant knee injury, the 6-4, 245-pound lineman was the top-rated player in the state and was a Rivals.com five-star.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Rumors swirling that Daxx Garman is transferring from Okla. St.

Daxx Garman

If it were to come to fruition, this would certainly qualify as at least a mild surprise.

Speculation surfaced late Friday morning that Daxx Garman had called into the Oklahoma State football offices and quit the team.  SBNation followed that up by writing “[s]ources say that Garman skipped yesterday’s practice, called in and stated his intentions” to transfer from the football program.

Should Garman opt to transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school as a graduate transfer as he’s set to receive his degree from OSU in May.

The only official word from OSU, though, is you’ll have to wait a week and a half for the official word on Garman’s status.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph is widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the starting job heading into spring practice.

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Reporter covering Jameis Winston accusations details threats

Maryland Florida St Football AP

The allegations of sexual assault surrounding Jameis Winston affected any number of lives, including, as it turns out, one of the individuals charged with covering it.

In an absolutely riveting piece posted online Friday, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times details, among other things, the threats directed at not only himself but his wife as he played a significant role in covering the scandal from the very beginning.  From being accused of sleeping with Winston’s  accuser to accusations that he was tipped off by Alabama’s Nick Saban, the central theme from the Florida State community seems to be encapsulated in this message Baker received from an FSU student: “Why do you have to go around digging for s— (you) have no business in? The FSU nation is coming for u.”

And come after him they did as Baker writes “[f]ans bombarded my phone with more than 100 calls over a couple of weeks,” as well as having his phone number attached to “a gay personal ad on Craigslist next to a picture of a chiseled man wearing only boxer shorts and a Santa hat” and having “a photo of a stranger’s penis” sent to him. “Florida State fans wanted me to die of brain-eating cancer and in a car crash on my way home,” Baker added.

Unbelievably, it went downhill from there.

I was covering a high school football game one night when a Twitter post popped up on my phone:

You’re a marked man … Say goodbye.

My wife started worrying about me at home, so she reported it to the police and the FBI.

She spent that night combing through message boards, looking for other threats. Buried in the hundreds of vicious comments, she found a photo someone posted of the two of us. One of the trolls said our future children would be ugly.

When I called her on the drive home, she was in tears.

I didn’t know what to say.

Again, click HERE to read Baker’s entire account.

It should be said that the abuse and threats heaped on Baker and his wife likely came from a very small percentage of the FSU fan base. That said, it doesn’t make it any less sickening.

Speaking as someone who had death wished upon his then-three-year-old daughter… who had, and I quote, “ass cancer” wished upon his whole family… who, like Baker, it was hoped would exchange bodily fluids with an AIDS-infected monkey… whose home phone number had to be changed (twice) after “fans” found it and abused him and his family because he had the audacity to write something negative about Alabama or Ohio State or Penn State or whatever football program it was, I can say this with complete sincerity and utter authority: get a life, people. Seriously. It’s just football.

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Historic financial boon for SEC West coaches

Raining Money

Thanks to Dan Mullen and other developments this offseason, the SEC West has entered some rarefied financial air.

Late Thursday night, it was announced that Mullen and Mississippi State had, as expected, reached agreement on a new contract that includes both an extension and raise.  Financially, Mullen will be paid an average of $4.275 million annually over the next four years.

In December of last year, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze received a $1 million bump in pay that will push his total salary for the 2015 season to $4.3 million.  Earlier this month, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema was on the receiving end of a new contract that will pay him $4 million in 2015 and average $4.25 million over the next six years.

As part of a new contract announced in June of last year, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn will earn $4.1 million in 2015.  Add in the 2014 salaries of Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.1 million), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5 million) and LSU’s Les Miles ($4.4 million), and all seven coaches in the SEC West will make at least $4 million in the same calendar year; that’s the first time in the history of college football such a thing has happened in the same division.

To put it into perspective, just eight non-SEC West coaches in 2014 surpassed the $4 million barrier: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio ($5.6 million), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.06 million), Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.5 million), Penn State’s James Franklin ($4.3 million), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4.07 million), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($4.02 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($4.01 million).

Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt, armed with a new contract announced in January, are the only SEC East coaches in the same financial neighborhood as their West counterparts.  Next up on the East compensation food chain is Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who, thanks to his new contract signed in March of last year, will make around $3.5 million in 2015 after earning $3.4 million in 2014.

All told, the seven coaches in the SEC West will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million in 2015; according to the USA Today database, 11 coaches in the ACC — three (Boston College, Syracuse, Wake Forest) weren’t listed — made approximately $26.6 million combined in 2014.

For further perspective, the 11 coaches in the Sun Belt conference combined to earn a total of approximately $5.3 million in 2014.

And, while this coaching arms race is ongoing across not only the SEC West but all of college football — an arms race financed by the billions of dollars universities as a whole are making off of the sport — walk-ons are being ruled ineligible because they had the audacity to accept a place to live instead of going homeless.  Priorities, y’all.

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A&M distances itself from #WRTS hashtag connected to 2015 recruit

Daylon Mack

If you follow recruiting in general and Texas A&M specifically on Twitter, you know what #WRTS stands for.  If you don’t, it’s an acronym for “We Run This State,” an inference that the Aggies rule the recruiting roost in the talent-rich state of Texas.

Those connected to the football program have begun to distance themselves from that particular hashtag, and there’s a very specific reason why.

The father of 2015 A&M signee Daylon Mack, ESPN.com writes, “filed for the trademark to #WRTS with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June” while his son was a verbal commitment to the Aggies.  In fact, the photo in the upper right is of Daylon Mack and was posted to Twitter in late May (since deleted).

The same attorney who helped Johnny Manziel with his trademarks, Derek Gilliland, provided assistance to Coris Mack throughout this process.  The Mack family does not yet officially own the #WRTS trademark, but, when/if they acquire it, they could benefit financially by having the mark placed on clothing apparel or other goods that are sold.

Even as the Mack trademark situation was known back in December, there have been growing message board whispers that A&M was able to secure the services of Mack by, in part, allowing his father to attempt to trademark the hashtag and, thus, potentially profit from it. A&M jumped into proactive mode Thursday, ESPN again writes, as a statement from the Aggies “rendered the mark, at least at its school, virtually useless… in an attempt to disconnect from any appearance of impropriety.”  From the website’s accounting of the statement:

“Texas A&M has not had any plans — past or future — to trademark, purchase, or otherwise profit financially from #WRTS,” the school said in a statement Thursday. “Texas A&M was aware of Mr. Coris Mack’s trademark application but this trademark application had nothing to do with the recruitment of Mr. Daylon Mack as a student-athlete at Texas A&M.”

The school also said it has “disallowed licensees from using #WRTS in connection with Texas A&M trademarks, to include official logos, phrases and colors, in production of licensed goods. Texas A&M’s Office of Business Development, which oversees the university’s trademarks and licensing, is not a part of the athletics department, and is not involved in the recruitment of student-athletes.”

The AggieFBLife Twitter account, which ESPN explains “is run by a third party but connected to an athletic staff member with the Aggies,” still has the #WRTS hashtag in its profile as of this morning.

Mack had been committed to A&M before decommitting in mid-December of last year.  The four-star defensive end ultimately signed with the Aggies over Texas and TCU.

This Mack situation continues an odd relationship A&M and those connected to it have with trademarks, joining the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Johnny Football and the infamous Kenny Trill.

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Two Beaver O-linemen who have started games forced to retire

Grant Bays

At bare minimum, Oregon State’s depth along the offensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

According to the Corvallis Times-Gazette, offensive linemen Garrett Weinreich and Grant Bays (pictured) were two of the four players who have been forced into medical retirement from football. The other two are defensive end Glyeb Ewing and safety Zack Robinson.

Over the past two seasons, Bays had started 10 games for the Beavers, including seven at guard in 2014. The Oregonian writes that the lineman “was hobbled by a nagging back issue much of his career.”

A three-star member of OSU’s 2012 recruiting class, Weinreich has been hampered by a knee injury originally sustained during summer camp of his true freshman season. He started the opener in 2014, but aggravated the injury once again.

Robinson had played in 19 games the last two seasons while Ewing took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. The nature of the injuries that forced that pair to retire weren’t detailed.

(Photo credit: Oregon State athletics)

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Jon Gruden on Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: ‘Greatest coaching job of all time’

Jon Gruden

ESPN’s Jon Gruden is often criticized due to his bouts of hyperbole, but his stance on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may have redefined even his barometer.

What Ohio State accomplished last season was certainly astounding.

After the team lost to the hapless Virginia Tech Hokies 35-21 during the second week of the season, the Buckeyes changed gears and eventually ran roughshod through the Big Ten’s conference schedule and championship game, into the first ever College Football Playoff and grabbed the school’s eight national championship.

“Maybe the best coach in the SEC went to the Big Ten,” Gruden told Colin Cowherd during a radio interview, via CoachingSearch.com. “Urban Meyer did the greatest coaching job of all time. Winning a national championship with his third-string quarterback, I’ve never seen that before. … I’ve always respected him. Won two national titles at Florida.

“What he did at Ohio State, losing a Heisman Trophy candidate and then doing what he did with two different quarterbacks that were backups. Amazing to me.”

All of this came a year earlier than expected. Next year’s Ohio State squad was supposed to be the breakthrough team for Meyer in Columbus. Instead, the program is a year ahead of schedule and will almost certainly enter this coming season as the No. 1 team in the country.

However, none of that makes the most recent National Championship run the greatest in football history. Yes, the Buckeyes were forced to start three different quarterbacks. But all of them were more talented than…say…Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 National Championship.

In fact, Ohio State was considered a 12-point underdog to an absolutely loaded Miami Hurricanes squad that year. The difference in overall talent level from top to bottom was actually in Ohio State’s favor against the Oregon Ducks in January.

It was a tremendous run by Meyer and his Buckeyes, but this is another case where Gruden remains completely over the top with his comments.

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Dan Mullen signs a contract extension with Mississippi State

Dan Mullen

All of the discussions regarding whether or not Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen will eventually leave Starkville to take another job at a different university should die down now.

After being linked to multiple openings over the past two years, Mullen signed an extension with Mississippi State Thursday through the 2018 season.

“Dan has done a phenomenal job in leading our football team the past six years, and we’re happy to be in a position to reward his efforts while making sure he’ll be able to continue building a championship program for Mississippi State,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement.

“Under Dan’s guidance, Bulldog football has achieved a level of consistent success unparalleled in our history, during which time we’ve been ranked No. 1 in the nation and appeared in elite bowl games. We’re proud Dan is our coach.”

HailState.com’s Bob Carskadon provided some of the contract details:

With an average salary of $4.275 million, Mullen becomes the ninth-highest paid coach in college football. He still trails Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and LSU’s Les Miles among SEC coaches, according to USA TODAY Sports.

Mullen shouldn’t be too concerned about where he stands in the SEC pecking order, though. It’s clear the school is committed to retaining its head coach after a 46-31 overall record — including last season’s 10-3 campaign — during his six seasons with the program.

“It’s a privilege to represent our university, our program and our fans here at Mississippi State,” Mullen said. “I appreciate Scott Stricklin and our administration who have given us the tools and resources to be successful and develop Bulldog football into a national brand over the last six years.”

“We spent five weeks ranked No. 1 last season for the first time, but we have only scratched this surface on what we can accomplish here. We have created a winning culture both on and off the field and built a program that has sustained success in the nation’s toughest conference. I’ve always said we are going to win a championship here, and I firmly believe that.”

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Oklahoma State announces official changes to coaching staff

Mike Gundy

Spring practice begins Tuesday for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Before a new season gets underway, the program needed to clean up some loose ends.

The school officially announced the hiring of five new assistant coaches to Mike Gundy’s staff:

Titles weren’t bestowed on former Buffalo Bills tight ends coach Greg Adkins, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo or Montana State offensive line coach Jason McEndoo, but they’re expected to serve in similar roles to their previous stops.

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MSU’s Mark Dantonio believes best players should play, including freshmen

Mark Dantonio

Those within the Big Ten Conference aren’t presenting a united front on the topic of freshman ineligibility.

A week ago, the league was trying to drum up interest among its members to support a potential rule change. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh even came out publicly in support of the possibility.

The league has yet to officially propose any changes but it wants to continue the “national conversation.”

Apparently, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio didn’t get the memo.

Dantonio’s comment clearly isn’t just a chance to appeal to recruits. He doesn’t appear to be an advocate of the rule in any form or fashion.

The coach could have worded his answer differently in order to tow the party line. He didn’t. He stated freshmen should play if they’re good enough after being directly asked about the issue.

If the Big Ten Conference wants the possibility of freshman ineligibility to become more than a national conversation, the league needs to develop support from its coaches.

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