Associated Press

Stanford’s Solomon Thomas will forego remaining eligibility for NFL

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Just a few days after a dominating bowl performance, Solomon Thomas has made that performance the final clip of his collegiate highlight reel.

In a heartfelt — and lengthy — missive, Thomas announced that he was foregoing his remaining eligibility at Stanford and making himself available for the 2017 NFL draft this April.  As he had redshirted as a true freshman in 2014, the defensive end had two years of eligibility remaining.

This season, Thomas led the Cardinal in tackles (62), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (eight).  He was named first-team All-Pac-12 and was a second-team All-American according to, among others, the Football Writers Association of America.

Thomas has been widely projected as a first-round selection in the upcoming draft, and should only see his stock rise in the coming months.

Below is Thomas’ very classy farewell letter to the Stanford community, in its entirety.

To my Stanford family,

Since pulling out a symbolic Stanford tree and donning nerd glasses on National Signing Day in 2014, I have had the most amazing time of my life. I have grown and matured more than I ever could have imagined. I arrived at Stanford somewhat shy and uncertain; now I stand a curious, intelligent, dedicated, and motivated man who is ready to take on any challenge, including the NFL. With the support of my family, I have decided to forgo my last years of eligibility at Stanford and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

To my Stanford brothers, you all mean the world to me and I love you all. You each helped mold me into a better man. From laughing in the locker room, to sweating in the weight room, to grinding on the field — you are the reason I have loved every second of my time here. Our collective goal to not only be the best team, but also the best individuals, connects us on another level. You are all men I look up to as role models and aspire to be like. We have a special bond at Stanford, one that I am so proud to be a part of. I’m so lucky to have you as brothers: this is the most amazing blessing in my life.

Coach Shaw, you are the ultimate role model. Your influence and your values, have been permanently ingrained in me. Your loyalty to this program and your players is something that I will never forget.

I am so thankful to you for recruiting, coaching, and mentoring me.

I love you, Coach Shaw.

Coach Reynolds, you have taught me things that go far beyond football. Because of you and the lessons you have instilled in us, I have not only grown as a football player, but have grown tremendously as a man.

I love you, Coach Reynolds.

Coach Turley, you are one of the most respected men in this program. You push me past my limits and comfort –mentally and physically — to a new level as a man, athlete, and player.

I love you, Coach Turley.

I want to thank God, as without Him, nothing is possible. I want to thank my family for their unconditional love. I want to thank my brothers and coaches for all that we have shared in making these years the best of my life. I want to thank the entire Stanford family. Your kindness, generosity, and love have transformed me into the man I am today. You have changed my life in ways you will never know.

I am so honored, thankful, and grateful for my time at Stanford. I love this game so much and playing in the NFL has been my dream since I was six years old. The lessons I have learned at Stanford have more than prepared me for this next step. I am so blessed by all of the people who have touched my life here. These qualities will stay with me my entire life.

I am ready.

Forever a tree.

Forever a nerd.

Forever Cardinal.

With much love,
Solomon Thomas

Telly Lockette takes job at Florida State as TEs coach

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As Willie Taggart constructs his first coaching staff at Florida State, he’s added yet another familiar face.

Taggart, FSU announced earlier Thursday, has hired Telly Lockette as the Seminoles’ tight ends coach.  Lockette had spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Oregon State.

Prior to that, Lockette was a member of Taggart’s coaching staff at USF as running backs coach for two seasons and maintains deep ties to the fertile recruiting soil of South Florida.

“I’ve known Coach Lockette for a long time and am excited he is joining our staff at Florida State,” Taggart said. “He was an important part of my first staff at South Florida and has gained Power 5 experience with his last three seasons in the Pac-12. Coach Lockette is a tremendous recruiter and coach who does a phenomenal job developing student-athletes on and off the field. While we were at South Florida he was the primary recruiter for the Miami area and helped us sign a number of impact players, including Quinton Flowers, Khalid McGee and Deatrick Nichols. His expertise will benefit our current and future Seminoles.”

The job with Taggart at USF was Lockette’s first at any level of college football.  The first 10 years of his coaching career were spent at the high school level, including a five-year stint at Miami Central from 2008-12.

Amidst Arizona State chatter, Texas Tech DC David Gibbs signs contract extension

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Almost without fail, it pays to have your name circulating through the annual churning of the coaching rumor mill.

The latest example is David Gibbs, with the Texas Tech defensive coordinator being rumored as a target for the same job with Herm Edwards at Arizona State over the past few days.  Fast-forward to Thursday night, and Tech announced that it has finalized a new two-year contract extension with Gibbs.  The coordinator is now signed through the 2019 season.

According to the school, Gibbs’ pay will be bumped from $550,000 per year to $650,000.  That number puts Gibbs right in the middle of Big 12 DC pay.

“We are fortunate to have one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in Coach Gibbs,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a release. “Since the conclusion of the regular season, finalizing this new contract to keep Coach Gibbs at Texas Tech has been a priority for myself and [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt]. We look forward to continuing to build one of the nation’s top defenses in the years to come under Coach Gibbs.”

Long a punchline, the Red Raiders’ defense has steadily improved in the three years under Gibbs.  This season, their 27 takeaways led the Big 12 and are the most in a season for the football program since 2008.  They’re also currently seventh in the country with four defensive touchdowns.

With Gibbs back, he’ll have 10 returning starters with which to work next season.

“There isn’t a better person to work for than Kliff Kingsbury, and I’m looking forward to continue building this program with him,” Gibbs said. “There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I’m excited about the future of our team.”

RB Justin Crawford to skip West Virginia’s bowl game, begin preparing for NFL draft

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Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.

Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season.  Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.

“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”

Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons.  He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.

After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season.  Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.

SMU graduate assistant GJ Kinne to call plays in Frisco Bowl

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New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes has been busy assembling his staff as he prepares to jump right in the saddle to coach the Mustangs in the Frisco Bowl next week, but he will have one holdover from the previous staff to help call the shots on offense. Graduate assistant GJ Kinne will call the offensive plays for the bowl game, according to Adam Grosbard of The Dallas Morning News.

This would seem to be the most logical choice for Dykes to make in this scenario. Kinne has been working in the SMU system all season long under former head coach Chad Morris, who has moved to Arkansas with a handful of assistants. Having the most experience with the current roster and a better comfort level makes sense to have Kinne take on this responsibility so close to the bowl game. This will be a major promotion for Kinne, the former Tulsa quarterback, even if just for one game.

I certainly trust G.J. It’s going to be fun to give him an opportunity to be highly involved and it’ll be one of those things he remembers for the rest of his life,” Dykes said of the decision to have Kinne calling the offense from above. “When you’re a GA and you get to call a bowl game, it’s a pretty awesome opportunity.”

Just how smoothly this all goes is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, if things go awry, Kinne and Dykes can always just resort to going back to a chuck-it-deep mentality and see what happens.

SMU faces Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20.