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ACC leads Bednarik Award watch list with 18 out of 85 players

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If you needed one more sign that summer is transitioning to college football season on top of the start of SEC media days, the Maxwell Football Club is here for you. Today, the Maxwell Football Club unveiled the watch lists for their two highest individual player awards; the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. The Bednarik Award is presented to the nation’s top defensive player in the country and has been awarded annually since the 1995 season when current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald won the inaugural award.

This year’s preseason watch list is certainly not lacking for players to keep an eye on. A total of 85 players landed on the watch list, with the ACC leading the way with 18 players. The Big Ten followed in the order with 15, and the SEC had 14 players named to the watch list. The Pac-12 had 13 and the Big 12 had 10. The American Athletic Conference led the Group of Five with six players named to the watch list.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the 2016 Bednarik Award, becoming the first player in school history to win the defensive award. Penn State has the most Bednarik Awards in the history of the award, with three players (LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor) winning four awards.

This year’s watch list for the Bednarik Award is below.

CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
S Marcus Allen, Penn State
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
S Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia
LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
S Quin Blanding, Virginia
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
LB Jason Cabinda, Penn State
LB Jermaine Carter, Maryland
S Sean Chandler, Temple
DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
LB Koron Crump, Arizona State
CB Duke Dawson, Florida
LB Troy Dye, Oregon
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
DE Kylie Fitts, Utah
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
DE Marcell Frazier, Missouri
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF
LB Porter Gustin, USC
CB Heath Harding CB Miami (Ohio)
DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
LB Travin Howard, TCU
LB Ben Humphreys, Duke
DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
S Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
S Derwin James, Florida State
DE Cece Jefferson, Florida
LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB Josey Jewell, Iowa
LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky
DE Arden Key, LSU
LB Micah Kiser, Virginia
DE Harold Landry, Boston College
DE Justin Lawler, SMU
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
DT Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
CB Iman Marshall, USC
DE Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
S Tray Matthews, Auburn
CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
NT David Moa, Boise State
LB Skai Moore, South Carolina
LB Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
CB Deatrick Nichols, USF
DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
DT Kendrick Norton, Miami
LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
NG Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
LB Shaq Quarterman, Miami
CB D.J. Reed, Kansas State
DE Malik Reed, Nevada
S Justin Reid, Stanford
DT Steve Richardson, Minnesota
DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State
LB Tegray Scales, Indiana
DT Conor Sheehy, Wisconsin
DE KJ Smith, Baylor
LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
LB Cameron Smith, USC
CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
LB Ty Summers, TCU
LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
LB Matthew Thomas, Florida State
LB Micah Thomas, Navy
CB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia
CB Kevin Toliver, LSU
DT Vita Vea, Washington
LB Azeem Victor, Washington
CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
LB Fred Warner, BYU
S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
S Kyzir White, West Virginia
S Jordan Whitehead, Pitt
DE Christian Wilkins, Clemson
S Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
LB Kenny Young, UCLA

Central Michigan adds former Oregon State interim coach Cory Hall to staff

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After coaching the second half of the season for Oregon State in 2017, Cory Hall is now making his way to the MAC. Hall has officially been added to the Central Michigan coaching staff, where he will serve as the team’s secondary coach and defensive pass game coordinator.

“We brought Cory in, and he made a presentation to the defensive coaching staff,” CMU head coach John Bonamego said in a released statement. “(Defensive coordinator) Greg Colby and the rest of us were impressed with his preparation and what he had to say. “There is no doubt he is a high-energy coach, and he’s a great fit for our program.”

Hall was named the interim head coach at Oregon State midway through the 2017 season following the removal of Gary Andersen. According to The Oregonian, Hall did not interview with new Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith to remain a part of the Beavers coaching staff in 2018.

Steven Montez throws 2 TDs, 2 INT in Colorado spring game

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Spring football practices concluded for the Colorado football program on Saturday with the playing of the annual spring game. Starting quarterback Steven Montez had his ups and downs with three total touchdowns and a pair of interceptions thrown in the scrimmage.

Montez led six and a half drives during the game, ending his day going 8-of-15 for 90 yards and two touchdown passes and two interceptions. He was also the leading rusher in the scrimmage with three carries for 43 yards. Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini shrugged off the two picks by Montez after the game in a postgame interview.

“That’s going to happen, especially if we’re calling stuff that’s aggressive, it’s going to happen,” Chiaverini said. “What I like about him is he comes right back. It doesn’t bother him. Some guys get shy and won’t let it go. He comes right back in that two-minute drill and pulls the ball and runs for 60 yards. I like the fact that the kid loves to play football. That’s something you can’t teach kids. He loves to play, he loves to compete.”

Montez completed 609.5 percent of his passes in 2017 for 2,975 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Colorado is coming off a 5-7 season, a year removed from playing for the Pac-12 championship in 2016. Colorado ended the 2017 season on a three-game losing streak to prevent the Buffs from being able to play in a bowl game at the end of the year.

Colorado estimates a total of about 4,500 fans attended the live scrimmage.

UCF, Lane Kiffin, Neal Brown among college football underdogs celebrating NCAA Tournament madness

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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a joy to watch over the course of the first few days. Highlighted by some significant upsets and some thrilling finishes, this year’s tournament has everybody talking, including college football coaches. This is especially true for college football’s non-power conference programs, who seem to be celebrating the upsets performed early on by schools like Marshall, Loyola-Chicago and, of course, UMBC.

UCF took to Twitter to extend congratulations to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after the 16-seed Retrievers became the first team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 seed, in which UMBC throttled No. 1 Virginia by 20 after an unbelievable second-half performance that left Virginia clueless how to respond.

UMBC has been the story of the first round for the historic upset of the Cavaliers, but FAU head coach Lane Kiffin claims he picked UMBC to win the game. In fact, Kiffin showed off a bracket in which he picked UMBC to win it all. Of course, such a bracket cannot be taken too seriously, especially after closer inspection reveals Kiffin went heavy with the underdog mentality throughout his bracket. Perhaps such a bracket strategy plays into the kind of mentality Kiffin is attempting to build at FAU.

Troy coach Neal Brown also used the UMBC upset to make a case for the Group of Five representation in college football to get more of a fair shake in the sport of college football.

Brown is not the only person to have this thought, although the idea has just as many on the other side of the fence as well. The College Football Playoff is a much smaller system to determine a college football champion and expansion is a hot-button topic of conversation for a variety of reasons. The current format allows for one guaranteed spot in a major bowl game for the highest-ranked conference champion from the non-power conferences, but undefeated UCF was still left out of the College Football Playoff last season and it may be a long time before a non-power conference champion gets a shot at the playoff.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach has proposed a 64-team college football playoff, but the most likely step for expansion of the playoff system will double the field to eight teams. That would still likely leave out some top non-power conference options, but it would leave the door open just a little wider for a team like UCF last year.

Former Navy LB Caleb King killed in fighter jet crash

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A routine U.S. Navy training flight that ended in tragedy had a college football connection.

Earlier this week, two Navy aviators were killed when a fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West, Florida, this past Wednesday.  Those who lost their lives were, according to the Associated Press, Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King, who served in the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron Two One Three (VFA-213).  Johnson was the pilot of the aircraft.

“[T]he aircraft crashed on final approach to Boca Chica Field following a training mission,” wrote.  While details are scant at the moment, below is from that website’s report:

The crash happened around 4:30 p.m., Hecht said. Both pilots onboard the Super Hornet ejected, he said. Initially, Hecht said a search-and-rescue effort for the aircrew was still ongoing around 6 PM, but later he said the pilots were recovered within minutes and taken by ambulance to the medical center.

An eyewitness, Barbie Wilson, told the crash “looked like something out of a movie.”

Wilson, who lives on the back side of the air station, said she stopped to watch an F/A-18 flying overhead, as she often does, and was shocked to see what appeared to be a massive malfunction in midair.

“Literally, the wings went vertical, and there was a fireball, and it just literally dropped out of the sky,” Wilson said.

King (pictured, left) was a linebacker for the Midshipmen football team from 2009-11.  He played in 38 games during his time at the military academy.

“Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the entire King family,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said in a statement. “We lost a dear brother and warrior. The entire Navy Football Brotherhood mourns the passing of a great American. We love you Caleb!”