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Penn State defensive lineman Garrett Sickels to enter NFL Draft

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Get ready to see another Penn State defensive lineman be picked up by an NFL team in the NFL Draft. Redshirt junior Garrett Sickels has announced he will be entering the NFL Draft this year, thus passing on the final year of eligibility he had with the Nittany Lions.

The All-Big Ten selection is coming off a season with a career high in tackles (47) and sacks (6) and proved to be a dominant force up front off the end of Penn State’s defensive line this season.

“This journey has been an amazing ride from my commitment to Penn State in 2012 to this past Rose Bowl game,” Sickels said in a statement released on Twitter. “I have made friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. I’m so unbelievably proud to call myself a Penn Stater. I take great pride in knowing me and my fellow classmates of the 2013 recruiting class have left Penn State in a much greater place then when we arrived.”

Sickels was one of the key recruits in Penn State’s Class of 2013 that remained committed to the program immediately after the program was slammed with NCAA sanctions at the time. That same class brought quarterback Christian Hackenberg, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, linebacker Brandon Bell and tight end Adam Breneman (who just finished off a stellar season at UMass), among others.

The loss of Sickels means Penn State will replace both starters at defensive end in the fall, although the Nittany Lions have some young options that have been waiting to get in the mix, including four-star addition in the Class of 2016 Shane Simmons, who redshirted this past season.

Ex-Alabama DL O.J. Smith tweets transfer to Minnesota

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After leaving one Power Five program, O.J. Smith has landed on his feet at another.

On his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts late Thursday morning, Smith announced that he is “Officially Family Of The University Of Minnisota !!!!” While the lineman says his move is official, the Gophers have yet to announce his addition to the roster.

If/when it comes to fruition, Smith will have to sit out the 2017 season, and will then have one year of eligibility to use in 2018.

Smith had announced in early June that he would be transferring from Alabama.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 recruiting class, Smith was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  The defensive tackle redshirted his true freshman because of an injury suffered in summer camp.

The past two seasons, he’s played in a combined two games and was credited with one tackle in each of those contests.

Protests growing over Michael Vick’s impending induction into Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

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One new addition to Virginia Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame is causing a bit of controversy and consternation and angst.

On July 11, it was announced that Michael Vick would be one of five inductees into the university’s Hall of Fame.  There is little doubt that, on the field, Vick was one of the greatest players in the history of Hokies football and, for that, he deserves a spot.

Off the field, some would argue, precludes him from such an honor.  After leaving Blacksburg, Vick served 19 months in a federal prison after being convicted on dogfighting charges.

As noted by the Roanoke Times,  there are two different online petitions on change.org (HERE and HERE) at the moment that are pushing for the university to reverse its inclusion of Vick as part of this year’s class.  As of this posting, nearly 100,000 individuals combined have signed the petitions, one of which notes that one of the school’s own criteria for inclusion is “[m]ust be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

“The College unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission,” a Facebook statement from Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, began. “Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President [Timothy] Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue.”

In response to the burgeoning brouhaha, the university released a statement defending Vick’s induction that includes shining a light on the former Hokies quarterback’s post-conviction actions.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports Hall of Fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete — who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

“In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports Hall of Fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction and time he served for his crime were also considered, and it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives. This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted. The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

Vick’s third-place finish in the voting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy is the highest ever for a Hokie.

The 2017 class, including Vick (for now), are scheduled to be inducted at a Sept. 22 ceremony. A day later, the same group will be honored at halftime of the football game vs. Old Dominion.

6-5, 287-pound 8th grader Jaheim Otis holds offers from Alabama, other SEC schools

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You may want to pay attention to Jaheim Oatis as he’s a rather big deal, literally and figuratively, on the recruiting trail.

Otis hails from Columbia, Mississippi, and will be in the eighth grade this school year.  What makes Oatis unique from other football recruits is that, not long after finishing up the seventh grade, he says he stands 6-4 and weighs in at 284 pounds; Scout.com lists him at 6-5, 287 pounds.

Even more unique?  Late last week, he revealed via his personal Twitter account that he has already received offers from Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Oatis isn’t all size, either, as evidenced by his running a 40-yard dash at Ole Miss earlier this year.

Oatis also plays baseball — he claims to have been clocked pitching at 84 mph — as well as basketball — he was the MVP at an AAU tournament this summer.  When it comes football, he plays offensive line along with tight end.

Bowling Green lands Cincinnati grad transfer John Kurtz

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Just ahead of the start of summer camp, Bowling Green has further solidified its depth and experience along its offensive line.

Appearing at the MAC football preview Wednesday, Mike Jinks confirmed that John Kurtz has been added to his Bowling Green football roster.  Kurtz comes to the Falcons as a graduate transfer, which would technically give him immediate eligibility.

“He played spring football for Cincinnati and was in the rotation for playing time on the offensive line,” Jinks said according to the Toledo Blade. “He’s a kid who has a chance to have an impact right away.

“The opportunity is there for him to play right away for us. This is a big ‘get’ for us.”

Jinks also hinted that Kurtz, who has two years of eligibility remaining, could be a redshirt candidate for the 2017 season as well.

Despite being just a two-star 2014 recruit, he was rated as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Kentucky.  During his time with the Bearcats, Kurtz played sparingly.