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Texas leads Notre Dame, 21-14, at halftime as QB picture comes into focus for each


Both Notre Dame and Texas kicked off the 2016 season still uncertain who would, or should, be their team’s starting quarterback this fall. Consider this season opening game a live audition of sorts. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly started by alternating his two quarterbacks, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, each series the Irish had the ball. Texas head coach Charlie Strong was a bit more reserved, starting the game with Shane Buechele for one full quarter before getting Tyrone Swoopes onto the field following a timeout. As the first half drew to a close, if that is enough of a sample size to base any important decisions, it appeared Kizer and Buechele were establishing themselves as the top options for their respective teams after leading, or finishing, two touchdown drives each. Buechele and Texas have the edge on the visiting Irish, 21-14 at the half.And what a half it was.

And what a half it was.

Notre Dame was first on the scoreboard when Kizer completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown to cap the opening drive of the game. The two had tried hooking up on the first offensive play of the game, but Kizer’s pass attempt fell incomplete. Fortunately for the Irish, running back Tarean Folston broke free for a 54-yard gain after breaking a tackle through the line of scrimmage. With a few blockers opening up a huge piece of open field on the right side of the line, Folston put the Irish inside the red zone for the first time this season. A few plays later, on 1st and 10 from the Texas 13-yard line, Kizer tried finding St. Brown once again in the end zone for the early touchdown. St. Brown later caught a fantastic pass from Kizer and did a somersault into the end zone after planting his hand on the ground to keep his movement going toward the end zone.

Buechele led Texas for a touchdown on Texas’ first possession, and he later finished off a second touchdown drive midway through the second quarter. He looked sharp as well with a good deep ball and perfect placement, and he received some good help from his receivers as well. Buechele dropped a perfect pass on the edge of the end zone sideline that was able to be hauled in by Armanti Foreman to tie the score at 7-7.

Texas later put together an impressive 16-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, which saw Swoopes make his season debut before Buechele finish things off with a short touchdown run from the one-yard line. After the Irish tied the score at 14-14 in the second quarter, it was Buechele again showing off his arm and dropping a ball in the hands of 68 yards to Jerrod Heard, who was taken down at the one-yard line. With a first and goal from the one-yard line, it took Texas three tries to push across the goal line against the Irish defensive line. It was Swoopes who took the snap and dashed to the right edge of the line with Notre Dame stacking the middle.

It was an eventful first half between the Longhorns and the Irish. In the second half it will be fascinating to see how the dynamic of the offensive decision-making goes at the quarterback situation. Texas has gotten some really good stuff through the air from Buechele, although Swoopes has produced on the ground. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is still getting most fo their offensive production with Kizer on the field.

North Carolina formally announces hiring of ex-Tennessee RBs coach Robert Gillespie

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The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”

Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.

Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.

In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach, al.com, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.