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Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta steals show in Senior Bowl; Baker Mayfield leaves early

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The Senior Bowl can be a terrific opportunity for top senior prospects from the lower divisions of football to make a serious impact in the NFL draft cycle. On Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, it was Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta who shined the brightest in the annual Senior Bowl. Lauletta passed for a game-high 198 yards and three touchdowns to help the team of top seniors from the South blow out the North, 45-16.

Lauletta, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-CAA, took advantage of the opportunity against some of the top senior players college football had to offer in the top all-star game college football has. Lauletta connected on some big plays to LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark (who had five receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown). Lauletta was named the Senior Bowl MVP for his performance.

Lauletta also showed off the ability to send a laser into the end zone when needed.

The South also got a big game out of Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, who completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown. It was White who was one of the stars of the first half of the game. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny was also making plays all day long, ending his final college game with 64 rushing yards on nine attempts and one 73-yard touchdown reception (after Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert made a nice play to avoid pressure).

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had a slow start to the game once coming into the game for the North, but he was in control in the second half. Allen threw both of his touchdowns in the third quarter before ending his day with 158 yards and 9-of-13 passing.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield started the game for the North team but appeared just for a couple of offensive series before leaving the game late in the first quarter and then leaving the stadium entirely at halftime. After completing three of seven pass attempts for nine yards, Mayfield’s exit from the Senior Bowl came quickly. Mayfield reportedly left the stadium to return home to be with his mother, who was recently hospitalized for a heart condition. Washington State quarterback Luke Falk left Mobile, Alabama on Friday to attend the funeral services for former teammate Tyler Hilinski.

South Alabama safety Jeremy Reaves had a solid outing in his home stadium. Reaves was tasked with covering Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in coverage, and Reaves broke up two passes intended for one of the top tight ends in the country, including one on a two-point conversion try in the third quarter. Not too many players managed to cover Gesicki that well the past couple of seasons. Reaves also came up with an interception of Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee later in the third quarter.

Other players having solid outings included Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage (10 carries for 57 yards), Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup (3 receptions for 60 yards), and UCF wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (5 receptions, 79 yards, 1 TD).

There was a moment of comedy late in the game when UCF’s Shaquem Griffen was doing a sideline interview for the NFL Network. While discussing his chances of being invited to the NFL Combine and his tackling techniques, Griffen was alerted he was supposed to be on the field for punt coverage, which sent Griffen scrambling to get on the field before being pulled back to the sideline.

After having great weather all week long, the Senior Bowl moved to a running clock in the second half as the weather continued to turn nasty. And now, another Senior Bowl is in the books as some of the top seniors in college football now officially move on to pursue their NFL dreams.

Sam Ehlinger, Shane Buechele exit spring ball still vying for Texas QB job

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For 16 months now, Tom Herman has waited for one of his quarterbacks to take the bull by the horns. And for 16 months, the bull still hops freely around the ring.

Junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger quarterback opposite teams in Saturday night’s Orange-White game, and exited the spring the same way they began it: to be the guy who quarterbacks the Orange and White on Sept. 1 at Maryland. Ehlinger was 13-of-22 for 151 yards while Buechele hit 12-of-21 throws for 130 yards and a score; Ehlinger’s White team won the game, 23-13.

On the balance, Herman indicated that whoever ultimately wins the job will be the guy who can make plays without turning the ball over.

“At quarterback, when you hold the ball in this game, you have the hopes and dreams, goals, aspirations, everything of your teammates, of your loved ones in your hands,” Herman said. “When you think about it that way, you tend to be a lot more is cautious with it. Now that being said, from day one of spring ball, I told the QBs, experiment, rip it in there, man. Try to fit it in tight windows,
because I want you to have that confidence when you do. They’re never going to get yelled at for an interception in the spring that is, ‘Coach, I was trying to fit it in and I just missed on a couple inches’ or whatever. Now, if he does something really dumb, if he tries to throw an out route into a cloud corner or something like that and that gets picked, yeah, he’s going to hear about it. But I think building
confidence in your abilities and in the spring is important.”

Ehlinger would be the clear-cut quarterback if not for a handful of late-game mistakes in his true freshman season. He fumbled the ball away in double overtime of the USC loss, threw an end zone interception to clinch an overtime loss to Oklahoma State and tossed an across-his-body interception to allow Texas Tech to come from behind and beat Texas in November.

Whoever does win the job will wind up approaching the job the same way: throw the ball to Collin Johnson and Lil'Jordan Humphrey as often as possible. Johnson caught six passes for 91 yards and a touchdown, while Humphrey hauled in a game-high seven balls for 100 yards and rushed four times for 14 yards and two touchdowns.

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).