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SEC approves Alabama transfer Maurice Smith’s move on to Georgia

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Well would you look at that, adults acting like adults when it comes to what’s best for a graduated student-athlete.

The saga of Maurice Smith had grown more heated and contentious in recent days, with the Alabama defensive back wanting to transfer to Georgia but head coach Nick Saban steadfastly refusing to grant a release to another SEC program.  Wednesday, UA blinked and granted Smith a full release, including permission to move on to another team in the SEC.

However, the SEC still had to sign off on the move.  Friday, the conference did just that, announcing in a press release that Smith (take a deep breath) “has received a conditional waiver to Southeastern Conference rules that will permit Smith to transfer to the University of Georgia to pursue a graduate degree while having the option to complete his final year of athletic eligibility in either 2016 or 2017, with provisions dependent on the achievement of Smith’s stated academic objectives should he play in 2016.”

The conditional waiver comes with a couple of catches.

First, if Smith plays in 2016 and does not complete nine hours of coursework, he would be ineligible to play in the postseason, which would include the SEC championship game, a bowl game or the College Football Playoffs.  Secondly, if Smith does not earn his Master’s degree before the start of the 2018-19 academic year, UGA would be barred from seeking any other similar waiver until Smith either graduates or the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, whichever comes first.

The SEC actually waived two of its bylaws in granting the waiver, one that requires a transfer to have two years of eligibility remaining — Smith has one, plus a redshirt available if necessary — and one that states intra-conference transfers must sit out a season of competition.

In a statement, commissioner Greg Sankey indicated Smith’s academic prowess at UA played a role in his decision to grant the waiver.  Here’s to guessing that the heat Saban and the Tide had taken played a role as well.

“The standard for granting waivers has been clear and compelling evidence that there is reason for allowing an exception to SEC rules,” Sankey said. “I found, among other contributing factors, that a student-athlete who graduates in three years and exhibits a strong commitment to his or her academic future provides compelling motivation to help them achieve their goals on and off the field.

“An institution has an obligation to provide opportunities for graduate student-athletes to earn a graduate degree. Similarly, student-athletes have accountability to the universities that are providing the educational opportunities they enjoy. Maurice has clearly and passionately stated his desire for a graduate degree in Public Health. The conditions of the waiver allow him to achieve that goal and provide the institution with greater incentive to make his educational interests a priority.”

Unless they win their respective divisions, Smith’s old and new teams will not meet on the field in 2016.

In the release, Sankey also indicated that, because the way the rule is currently constructed places “our coaches and administrators in untenable situations,” it is time to for the conference to address the graduate transfer rule.

After leaving Miami, Darrion Owens lands at Houston

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Nearly three weeks after leaving Miami, Darrion Owens has found himself a new college football home.

Friday, Houston confirmed that it was officially added Owens to second-year head coach Major Applewhite‘s roster.  As the linebacker joins the Cougars as a graduate transfer from The U, he can immediately bolster UH’s defense in 2018.

This coming season marks the Florida native’s final season of eligibility.

Owens joined the Hurricanes as a three-star 2014 recruit.  247Sports.com had him rated as the No. 30 outside linebacker in the country.

After playing in 12 games as a true freshman, Owens opened 2015 as a starter but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2.  The past two seasons, Owens played in 25 games. In 13 games in 2017, he was credited with 35 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.

In announcing Owens’ transfer from The U, head coach Mark Richt stated that, after the two had talked, “he informed me that he feels his best opportunity to get the most playing time would be at another school.”

RB Tre Watson leaving Cal as grad transfer

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Cal lost one of their top running backs to a season-ending injury last year.  Now, they’ve lost him for good.

Tre Watson took to Twitter late Friday night to announce that, “after many months of discussion with my family and lots of prayers,” he has decided to transfer from the Bears.  He will be pursuing a master’s degree elsewhere, meaning he can play for another FBS school in 2018.

The upcoming season will be Watson’s final year of collegiate eligibility.

In a Week 2 win over Weber State this past season, Watson sustained a serious knee injury and didn’t play the rest of the year.  Prior to the injury, Watson’s 83 yards in less than five quarters worth of work this season were leading the team.

In 2016, Watson was second on the Bears in rushing yards with 709 and led the team with four rushing touchdowns.  he finishes the Cal portion of his playing career with 1,390 yards and eight touchdowns on 274 carries.

Frisman Jackson hired as Baylor’s WRs coach

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Matt Rhule has officially been reunited with one of his former assistant coaches.

Baylor Friday confirmed that Rhule has hired Frisman Jackson to be his next wide receivers coach.  In 2015 and 2016, Jackson served as Rhule’s receivers coach and passing-game coordinator at Temple.

This past season, Jackson was the receivers coach for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

“We are blessed to get Fris fresh off a successful playoff run at Tennessee,” Rhule said in a statement. “After having worked with him before, I know there is no one better suited to take our receivers group to the next level. His experience as both a college and pro player and coach gives him a unique perspective on developing our young men as elite football players, great students and quality men. His ability to teach and develop receivers is second to none. We are excited to welcome Fris, Lindsey, Anya and Forrest to the Baylor family.”

Jackson, who spent six seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver, has previously spent time on FBS coaching staffs at North Carolina State (2013-14), Northern Illinois (2012) and Akron (2010-11).  At each of those stops, Jackson was a receivers coach.

“I’m very excited to be back with Coach Rhule,” Jackson said. “I had a great time working with him at Temple. He’s a smart coach, he’s a fair coach and he’s a true family guy. I know he is going to do things the right way.

“Getting back with coaches I have worked with before makes the transition easy and smooth. Those two years at Temple were some of my best years as a coach. We had a great run and I’m looking forward to doing the same things at Baylor.”

Illinois DT Tito Odenigbo reportedly transferring to Miami

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Miami lost a pair of underclassmen starting defensive tackles to the NFL draft, putting a serious dent in the interior of its line.  A couple of weeks later, however, it appears The U has somewhat softened that early-entry blow.

247Sports.com reported Friday that Tito Odenigbo has decided to transfer from Illinois to Miami.  As Odenigbo would be coming to the Hurricanes as a graduate transfer, he would be able to play immediately for the ACC team in 2018.

The upcoming season would be the defensive tackle’s final year of eligibility.

This past season, Odenigbo started four of the 10 games he played for the Illini, and his 4½ tackles for loss were tied for second on the team in 2017.  All told, Odenigbo played in 21 games at Illinois, starting five of those contests.

Prior to the NFL’s deadline, tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton confirmed that they would be leaving Miami early for the NFL draft.