Pete Carroll ‘couldn’t stop crying’ after watching blind USC long-snapper play in game

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One of the most heartwarming stories you’ll ever see continues to give, even after the first week of the 2017 college football season has been put to bed.

In 2009, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Jake Olson, a teenage fan at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old).  It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.

Fast-forward a few years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015.  He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game.  While he didn’t see any real-game action either year, Saturday, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates as the long-snapper on an extra point — thanks in large part to a very classy assist from WMU head coach Tim Lester.

Watching from afar was Carroll, now the head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.  Following practice Monday, Carroll spent a significant period of time discussing just what it meant for Olson to play in a college football game, saying in part that he “couldn’t stop crying” because of what he had witnessed.

From the team’s official website:

That was an incredible moment. I’m so glad that (USC) Coach (Clay) Helton figured out a way to create the opportunity for Jake to show what he could do. This is just an extraordinary young man. Jake has done stuff throughout his life. From the time he was 10 years old, he has been doing remarkable things—he wrote his first book at 10—and onward. For a guy to out there and play in a college football game, snap a ball, they kick the extra point and make it, that’s just something, that’s just something about Jake. Jake’s a huge story. He’s one for all of us about courage and character and grit and vision and special qualities that few people would be able to hold onto. …

“He’s going to be a big factor. We’re all going to see him do a lot of stuff in this world. There’s nothing holding Jake back. I was so excited to see it, I couldn’t stop crying. It was thrilling. It was good to see a Trojan win too, but it was really something. …“I would have imagined that Jake would have been dreaming about playing for the Trojans, but the fact that it could ever come true, I would have not have thought that was possible. But then again, it’s Jake, so anything’s possible

“I would have imagined that Jake would have been dreaming about playing for the Trojans, but the fact that it could ever come true, I would have not have thought that was possible. But then again, it’s Jake, so anything’s possible.

 

On his Instagram account over the weekend, Olson gave a heartfelt thank you to Carroll for taking him in and embracing him as a 12-year-old.

“To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you,” a portion of Olson’s post read. “If you hadn’t made me a member of the Trojan Family when I was 12, I don’t know where my life would be. You are a special person, and I will be forever thankful for your generosity.”

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to achieve a lifelong dream and snap in a game for the USC Trojans. I cannot possibly thank all the people who have played a role in making this happen, but there are some people who I feel deserve special shout-outs. Mom, Dad, and Emma, none of this would have been possible without you guys. You have always been there for me, and there is simply no way I would be where I am today without your love and support. I am beyond blessed to have such an amazing family. Coaches Helton and Baxter, thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to show what I can do. You push me every day on the field, and I am lucky to have you as coaches and mentors. To all my teammates, especially my special teams unit, thank you for being there for me and allowing me to feel so comfortable as a member of the team. To my friends, thank you for always supporting me and helping me get where I need to go. To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you. If you hadn’t made me a member of the Trojan Family when I was 12, I don’t know where my life would be. You are a special person, and I will be forever thankful for your generosity. Yesterday was a big day in my life, and I am hoping it’s the first of many, so stay tuned. Thank you everyone. It means the world to me knowing that I can and have inspired many through this experience. #fighton

A post shared by Jake Olson (@jakethesnakeolson) on Sep 3, 2017 at 10:29am PDT

Brandon Wimbush exits spring as Notre Dame’s starting QB

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Brandon Wimbush entered the 2017 season as Notre Dame’s starter, but ceded control of the job over what can fairly be described as a rough junior season. He connected on just 49.5 percent of his throws for 6.8 yards per attempt on the year — numbers that ranked 92nd and 79th nationally, respectively — and was even worse down the stretch. He hit just 14-of-36 throws for for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two picks over the Irish’s final two games, a loss to Stanford and a Citrus Bowl win over LSU.

Enter Ian Book, a redshirt freshman who carried the Irish to that Citrus Bowl win, connecting on 14-of-19 throws for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Heading into the spring, the quarterback job was open between the rising senior and the rising sophomore. But, spurred by a strong spring game, Wimbush heads into the summer as the starter. Wimbush was the game MVP after connecting on 19-of-33 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns to lead the offense to a 47-44 win over the defense.

Afterward, Brian Kelly said Wimbush wasn’t guaranteed to take the first snap in the Irish’s opener against Michigan, but that things were indeed trending in that direction.

“It’s pretty clear that Brandon went out and got a chance to go with the first group and Ian played with the second group,” Kelly said Saturday. “That’s not etched in stone, but that’s the way they’ve been trending. I don’t think there was anything today that changed that… It’s 1A and 1B.”

Hot mic appears to catch Nick Saban criticizing Jalen Hurts

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There’s nothing newsworthy about a coach criticizing a player. That’s a large part of the job description, especially when that coach is Nick Saban. But to hear Saban criticize this specific player for this specific reason, well, the context of the situation screams newsworthiness.

During Alabama’s spring game on Saturday, ESPN microphones caught Saban apparently criticizing the throwing ability of Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts as the junior took off on a scramble. “Two years,” Saban says. “I mean, the third-team quarterback can move  the team right down the field throwing the ball.”

That comment comes amid two noteworthy developments in the Tide’s quarterback room. First, Hurts had an opportunity to take the bull by the horns on Saturday with Tua Tagovailoa nursing an injured left hand, but redshirt freshman quarterback Mac Jones was named the game’s MVP. (For what it’s worth, Jones went against the second-team defense while Hurts faced the starters.)

And second, Hurts’s father in no uncertain terms said this week that his son will transfer if he’s not the starter this fall.

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”

For what it’s worth, Saban praised Hurts while also criticizing his performance in Saturday’s spring game:

“I was not disappointed in the way Jalen played,” Saban said in his post-game press conference. “We have some guys that can rush, and even though we were rushing four guys most of the time, there was way too much pressure in the pocket for the quarterback to be able to operate like we would like. Jalen made some good plays and throws, and I’m sure if you were to talk to him he would say, ‘I wish there were things I did better and can improve on.’”

Colorado State adds Rice grad transfer V.J. Banks

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Rice’s loss has turned into a fellow Group of Five football program’s gain.

Saturday, Colorado State announced that V.J. Banks has transferred to the university and will play for Mike Bobo‘s Rams. As the cornerback will be coming to Fort Collins as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2018. The upcoming season will serve as Banks’ final year of eligibility.

Banks had announced on Twitter in late January that he had decided to transfer from the Owls.

Banks started 22 of the 36 games in which he played for the Owls, including 11 starts in 2016 and nine in 2015. The defensive back started the first two games of the 2017 season before an unspecified leg injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

For the Rice portion of his collegiate playing career, Banks totaled 75 tackles (one for loss), seven passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also returned seven punts for 30 yards (4.3 yards per return).

NC State board approves new deal for Dave Doeren

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In late November, after rejecting overtures from Tennessee in order to remain at North Carolina State, Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract with the university, pending the board rubber-stamping the agreement. This past week, that rubber met the stamp.

NC State confirmed that, on Thursday, the system’s Board of Trustees formally approved the new five-year deal for Doeren. The head coach’s new contract will now keep him with the Wolfpack through Dec. 31, 2022.

“We are on an exciting upward trajectory in football under the leadership of Coach Doeren,” said NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “He has assembled a terrifically talented coaching staff, as well, and that continuity and stability has been important to our current student-athletes and recruits.

“We are pleased that Dave will continue to lead NC State football, playing in one of the most challenging divisions in college football, the Atlantic Division of the ACC.”

In five seasons with the Wolfpack, the 46-year-old Doeren has compiled a 34-30 record, including a 15-25 mark in ACC play. The 2017 season was his best of the five, with a 9-4 overall mark that saw NC State finish in second place in the Atlantic after divisional finishes of seventh, fifth, fourth and tied-fourth the first four.

Under Doeren, the Wolfpack has played in a bowl game each of the last four seasons, posting a 3-1 mark in the postseason.