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And the young shall inherit the ‘Horns, Heard leads UT past Rice

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After one of the longest weeks in recent memory, in which the team was shellacked in South Bend, leading to Charlie Strong to demote play-caller Shawn Watson and Mack Brown washing his hands of the mess he left behind, it was safe to say Texas needed this. Jerrod Heard and a bunch of freshman led the Longhorns to a 42-28 win over Rice, in what felt like a ceremonial turning of the page from whatever the past six years have been to whatever the next few years could become.

Heard, a redshirt freshman and a two-time state champion from Denton, Texas, earned the first start of his career and made an immediate impact, accounting for 78 yards (40 passing, 38 rushing) on an 80-yard opening touchdown drive. Heard and an explosive punt return unit (141 yards between returns by Daje Johnson and Duke Thomas) pushed Texas to a 21-0 lead after one quarter.

It was the third quarter, however, that showed the promise of what Texas football could become. Heard opened the frame by hitting true freshman John Burt for a 69-yard touchdown, the team’s first third quarter touchdown in 13 games. The Longhorns pushed the lead to 35-14 when true freshman Kris Boyd forced a Driphus Jackson fumble and true freshman Malik Jefferson picked it up and raced 26 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore D’Onta Foreman closed the quarter with a two-yard touchdown plunge.

In all, Heard finished the game by completing 4-of-7 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 10 times for a team-high 96 yards.

In showing its promise, Texas also revealed its limitations on Saturday night. While the Longhorns won the odd-numbered quarters 42-0, they lost the evens 28-0. Rice consistently exploited a soft underbelly in the Longhorns’ defense, rushing 58 times for 228 yards and converting 13 of their 17 third downs. Those stats allowed Rice massive advantages in first downs (30-11), total plays (96-38), total yards (462-277) and time of possession (44:02 to 15:58). If not for Texas’s explosive plays in the passing and kicking games and a 5-1 turnover edge, Rice could easily have won this game.

Texas (1-1) moves to 41-1 since 1966 against Rice; the ‘Horns have now marked a full 50 years since last falling to the Owls in Austin. The Longhorns will host California next week in a critical game for Strong and company. Rice (1-1) visits North Texas next week.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.