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Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze is ‘man of God, man full of integrity’

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Hugh Freeze may have been blindsided by his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, but at least one of his former players has his back.

Homeless for stretches of his teenage life, Michael Oher was taken in by the Freeze family — a 2014 Bleacher Report article notes that “Oher spent one to two nights a week at their house” — while Freeze was the head coach at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  Oher went on to play football for Freeze in high school, with his compelling life story forming the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “The Blind Side.”

The player and the coach have formed a deep bond that stretches back more than a decade, a bond that hasn’t been broken despite the latter’s resignation as Ole Miss head coach under a cloud of controversy.

“He is a man of God and a man full of integrity,’’ Oher told USA Today Sports of his former coach. “I don’t know the full story but I’m willing to bet that everyone in the world had made a mistake that they have wanted someone to forgive them for.”

The offensive lineman added that without Freeze, “there is no Michael Oher and no “The Blind Side.'”

The news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.  Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze said earlier this week in his first public comments since his departure. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” he added.

On the same day Freeze resigned, coincidentally, Oher was cut by the Carolina Panthers.  Earlier this offseason, Oher was arrested after an altercation with an Uber driver in which the player allegedly bit the driver on the back.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

HBO releases new trailer for Joe Paterno movie starring Al Pacino

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We’re inching closer to the release date of HBO’s Paterno about former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and his story in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. Emotions already run high in State College whenever this subject is brought up and that seems like it will be the case again after today as the worst scandal in college sports history is relived and brought vividly to life on cable TV.

This is something that is happening however and HBO released a new, official trailer for the film on Friday that gives us an extended look at both Al Pacino in the title role and a bit more on some of the plot lines that are being brought to the silver screen.

In addition to starring Pacino, Barry Levinson is directing the movie, Riley Keough plays reporter Sara Ganim, Kathy Baker is Sue Paterno and Darren Goldstein was cast as former Nittany Lions coach-turned-whistleblower Mike McQuearyAs you can see in the trailer above, the film is mostly centered on what Paterno did or did not know about Sandusky — the team’s defensive coordinator who was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a prison sentence of at least 30 years.

Paterno premieres April 7th on HBO.

UConn head coach Randy Edsall: We’ve become a farm system, pay the players

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The FBI sting into college basketball malfeasance has gotten a lot of folks riled up on Friday afternoon, especially when it comes to NCAA rules and potential violations. This, in turn, is leading to everybody and their brother rehashing the argument to pay (or not pay) players.

While you would probably not have expected it, even football coaches are wading into the discourse and there’s a somewhat surprising line of thinking being taken by UConn head coach Randy Edsall on Twitter:

While Edsall’s first point about football coaches getting nervous about the FBI probe spilling over into their sport probably rings true, it’s not every day you see a head coach openly advocating for paying players and calling college football a farm system for the NFL.

The Huskies head coach’s latter tweet is referring to a proposal put forward by the SEC that was approved last month which essentially allows non-coaching analysts to evaluate film of recruits in ways they could not previously do so. This has led to many expecting programs (looking at you, Alabama) creating player personnel departments in even greater numbers to streamline evaluating prospects and allow certain staffers to handle more of the recruiting load.

Edsall is far from the first coach to advocate paying players but something says his comments on Friday will also mean he will just be the latest in a long line of advocates for advancing much the same cause, especially in light of the payments going on in college basketball that are just beginning to come to light.

Charlotte’s Greg Adkins reportedly Marshall’s new O-Line coach

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Country roads, take him home.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Charlotte assistant Greg Adkins is expected to return to his alma mater of Marshall to take over as the Thundering Herd’s next offensive line coach.

Adkins is well known around Huntington for his work with the team back in the early 1990’s when they were winning NCAA titles and making regular title game appearances at the then-Division I-AA level. He also had stops at Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and with the Buffalo Bills among others before being hired at Charlotte by Brad Lambert.

The return of Adkins fills the hole on Marshall’s staff after the departure of offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, who left for Oregon earlier in the week.