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Pat Narduzzi dismisses starting DE, suspends three other Pitt starters

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Preseason camps are opening across the country in the next week or so but one ACC team will do so without several key contributors.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced on Friday afternoon a slew of player-related discipline decisions and all four significantly alter the outlook for the Panthers during their upcoming non-conference slate to begin the season. Senior defensive end Rori Blair received the harshest punishment as he was dismissed from the program for “conduct detrimental to the program.”

As big of a loss as Blair is along the defensive line though, the team will also be without junior safety (and perhaps best defender on the team) Jordan Whitehead and starting middle linebacker Quintin Wirginis for the first three games of the year after unspecified violations of team policy. Starting offensive lineman Alex Bookser is also suspended for the season opener for “his involvement in an offseason legal situation involving a motor vehicle.”

“Our program’s foundation will always be built on discipline and personal responsibility,” Narduzzi said in a release. “These are highly disappointing situations but I am hopeful that each of these young men will be better, stronger and wiser after taking accountability for their actions.

“In addition to sitting out multiple games, Quintin and Jordan will continue to be held accountable to internal standards of conduct.”

The Panthers open against Bo Pelini’s Youngstown State squad before facing in-state rival and defending Big 10 champion Penn State in State College. Whitehead and Wirginis will also miss out on the team’s other non-conference game in Week 3 as Oklahoma State comes to Pittsburgh.

Narduzzi’s defense wasn’t all that good last season and the loss of so many key contributors for the opening three games will make life even tougher given the high-powered offenses they’ll see from the Nittany Lions and Cowboys.

2015 winner Desmond King of Iowa headlines Thorpe Award watch list

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Watch list season continues to roll along, with defensive backs getting their turn in the spotlight.

Monday, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame released the annual preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award.  Given annually to the nation’s top defensive back, this year’s watch list includes 39 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  No players from football independents were included.

Included in the group is Iowa’s Desmond King, the 2015 winner of the Thorpe Award.

The Pac-12 paces all conferences with six selections, followed by five each from the MAC and SEC.  The AAC, ACC, Big Ten and Mountain West all have four apiece, while the Sun Belt has three.  Along with Conference USA, the Big 12 brings up the rear with two.

Air Force (two), LSU (two) and Washington (two) are the only teams with more than one player on the list.

Most of the watch listers are juniors (13) or seniors (23), with the lone exceptions being a trio of sophomores — Florida State’s Derwin James, Pittsburgh’s Jordan Whitehead and Wyoming’s Andrew Wingard.

Below is the complete 2016 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list:

Jamal Adams, LSU, Jr.
Tony Annese, Central Michigan, Sr.
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado, Sr.
Budda Baker, Washington, Jr.
Bobby Baker, Georgia State, Sr.
Quin Blanding, Virginia, Jr.
Cody Brown, Arkansas State, Sr.
Sean Chandler, Temple, Jr.
Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
Zach Edwards, Cincinnati, Sr.
Nate Gerry, Nebraska, Sr.
Adoree’ Jackson, USC, Jr.
Eddie Jackson, Alabama, Sr.
Derwin James, Florida St., So.
Sidney Jones, Washington, Jr.
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State, Sr.
Desmond King, Iowa, Sr.
Roland Ladipo, Air Force, Sr.
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan , Sr.
William Likely, Maryland, Sr.
Shawun Lurry, Northern Illinois, Jr.
Marcus Maye, Florida, Sr.
Demetrius Monday, Kent State, Jr.
Deatrick Nichols, USF, Jr.
Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama, Jr.
DeJuan Rogers, Toledo, Sr.
Boise Ross, Buffalo, Sr.
Weston Steelhammer, Air Force, Sr.
Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State, Sr.
Jamar Summers, UConn, Jr.
Cameron Sutton, Tennessee, Sr.
Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson, Sr.
Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma, Sr.
Jaleel Wadood, UCLA, Jr.
Tre’Davious White, LSU, Sr.
Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh, So.
Marcus Williams, Utah, Jr.
Andrew Wingard, Wyoming, So.
Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech, Sr.

Alabama, Clemson each land two on FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Marlon Humphrey and Clemson offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins will be playing a rather important game in just a number of hours, but they each received one more honor for the 2015 season. Each was named to the Freshman All-America Team on Monday by the Football Writers Association of America.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers were among some of the more household names appearing on the Freshman All-America team from the FWAA on Monday. The FWAA also included first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman as its First Year Coach of the Year. Herman beat out finalists Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh. The Freshman All-American team featured 10 redshirt freshmen this season and included 12 players for both offense and defense, with five more specifically for special teams.

2015 FWAA Freshman All-America Team

OFFENSE

  • QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
  • RB Mike Warren, Iowa State
  • WR Penny Hart, Georgia State
  • WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee
  • WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  • OL William Clapp, LSU
  • OL Will Noble, Houston
  • OL Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
  • OL Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
  • OL Connor Williams, Texas

DEFENSE

  • DE Walter Brady, Missouri
  • DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
  • DT Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
  • DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
  • LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
  • LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
  • DB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  • DB Kareem Orr, Arizona State
  • DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
  • DB Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
  • DB Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

SPECIAL TEAMS

HEAD COACH

  • Tom Herman, Houston

Keenan Reynolds reclaims Div. 1 TD record as Navy drops anchor on Pitt

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Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds played his final college football game on his home field needing three touchdowns to reclaim the Division 1 career touchdown record he set earlier this month. In the fourth quarter, Reynolds ran for his third rushing touchdown of the game, his 88th career touchdown, to do just that. Reynolds rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another as No. 21 Navy (11-2) defeated Pittsburgh (8-5) in the Military Bowl, 44-28.

Pitt got off to a good start when Quadree Henderson returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but Navy scored the next 31 points by the midway point of the third quarter. To their credit, the Panthers battled back after falling behind 31-7. Pitt’s first offensive touchdown came on a Nathan Peterman touchdown pass to Qadree Ollison to cut into the Navy lead late in the third quarter. Two plays later, Pitt forced Chris Swain to fumble and Jordan Whitehead scooped the loose ball up and returned it for a 22-yard touchdown. All of a sudden, Pitt was only down by 10 points. A 15-yard touchdown run by Toneo Gulley early in the fourth quarter put Navy back up by 17 and the two teams exchanged touchdowns from there. It was somewhat fitting the final score of the game was the record-setting touchdown run by Reynolds, with 4:19 to play.

Navy’s record-setting quarterback led all players with 144 rushing yards, and he also took to the air more frequently than he is accustomed to doing. Reynolds completed nine of his 17 pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown. Just for good measure, Reynolds added a 47-yard reception, thrown by Swain, that seemed to catch Pittsburgh’s defense off guard. He just did not have the speed to keep from getting caught from behind. Reynolds will go down in history as one of the best players to play for the Navy football program, and he could very well go on to do so much more for this country.

Navy’s bowl win was the first of the bowl season for the American Athletic Conference. Before Navy’s victory, the AAC had gone a dreadful 0-5 this postseason. One of those losses came against the ACC, with Tulsa falling just shy against Virginia Tech in an offensive outburst. Navy’s 11 wins this season is a new program high. Year one in the AAC may have lacked a division or conference championship, but the Midshipmen left their mark on their new conference and ended the year with a solid bowl victory and some history. All things considered, this was a huge success for Navy this season.

You can argue Pittsburgh also had a successful year under new head coach Pat Narduzzi. Though the Panthers fizzled out down the stretch, the Panthers won eight games for the first time since joining the ACC and first time since 2010.

Navy will open the 2016 season right back in Annapolis, the site of the Military Bowl, on September 3 against FCS power Fordham. Pittsburgh will also open the season at home that same day against another FCS power, Villanova.

ACC coaches tab Deshaun Watson as Player of the Year

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The media, rightly, thought highly of Deshaun Watson when doling out its postseason awards.  Now, the league’s coaches are following suit.

The ACC Wednesday announced its all-league selections and honors as voted on by its head coaches, with the Clemson quarterback taking home the conference’s overall Player of the Year award.  Additionally, and not surprisingly, Watson was named as the Offensive Player of the Year.

Watson received 10 of the 14 first-place votes for overall Player of the Year, with Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams splitting the other two votes.  Watson received 11 first-place votes for the offensive award, followed by Williams’ two and Cook’s one.

Watson’s counterpart on the other side of the ball, Duke safety Jeremy Cash, was named Defensive Player of the Year, while Watson’s sideline boss, Dabo Swinney, took home Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Tigers to a perfect regular season and top seed in the College Football Playoff.  Cash received six first-place votes — Clemson’s Shaq Lawson had five — while Swinney’s 11 easily outdistanced North Carolina’s Larry Fedora‘s three.

Pittsburgh safety Jordan Whitehead was selected as the Defensive Rookie of the Year (nine first-place votes), while his teammate, running back Qadree Ollison, was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year (eight).  With five first-place votes each, Ollison and Whitehead were named co-Rookies of the Year.

Below are the first- and second-team offenses and defenses, again as selected by the conference’s coaches.  One note: coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players for any of the honors. In that vein, Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd, with 39 votes (first-place votes are worth three points), was as close to a unanimous first-team selection as you can get, with Cook’s 38 votes not far behind.

First-Team Offense
WR Tyler Boyd, Jr., Pitt (39)
WR Artavis Scott, So., Clemson (34)
WR Isaiah Ford, So., Virginia Tech (26)
TE Jordan Leggett, Jr., Clemson (22)
T Roderick Johnson, So., Florida State (33)
T Adam Bisnowaty, Jr.-R, Pitt (30)
G Landon Turner, Sr., North Carolina (36)
G Eric Mac Lain, Sr.-R, Clemson (30)
C Matt Skura, Sr.-R, Duke (35)
QB Deshaun Watson, So., Clemson (37)
RB Dalvin Cook, So., Florida State (38)
RB Wayne Gallman, So.-R, Clemson (30)
K Roberto Aguayo, Jr.-R, Florida State (32)
Sp. Ryan Switzer, Jr., North Carolina (29)

Second-Team Offense
WR Stacey Coley, Jr., Miami (20)
WR Kermit Whitfield, Jr., Florida State (20)
WR Canaan Severin, Sr., Virginia (17)
TE(tie) Jaylen Samuels, So., NC State ( 15)
TE(tie) Bucky Hodges, So.-R, Virginia Tech (15)
T Jon Heck, Jr.-R, North Carolina (19)
T Joe Thuney, Sr.-R, NC State (19)
G Dorian Johnson, Jr., Pitt (19)
G Caleb Peterson, Jr.-R, North Carolina (17)
C Jay Guillermo, Jr.-R, Clemson (14)
QB Marquise Williams, Sr., North Carolina (23)
RB Elijah Hood, So., North Carolina (29)
RB Qadree Ollison, Fr.-R, Pitt (20)
K Ross Martin, Sr., Duke (14)
Sp. DeVon Edwards, Jr.-R, Duke (23)

First-Team Defense
DE Shaq Lawson, Jr.-R, Clemson (35)
DE Ejuan Price, Sr.-R, Pitt (25)
DT Connor Wujciak, Sr., Boston College (28)
DT Nile Lawrence-Stample, Sr.-R, Florida State (27)
LB Steven Daniels, Sr., Boston College ( 28)
LB Brandon Chubb, Sr.-R, Wake Forest (24)
LB Ben Boulware, Jr., Clemson (24)
CB Jalen Ramsey, Jr., Florida State (36)
CB Mackensie Alexander, So.-R, Clemson (29)
S Jeremy Cash, Sr.-R, Duke (36)
S Jayron Kearse, Jr., Clemson (28)
P Alex Kinal, Sr.-R, Wake Forest (19)

Second-Team Defense
DE Mike Rose, Sr.-R, NC State (16)
DE Sheldon Rankins, Sr., Louisville (14)
DT Luther Maddy, Sr.-R, Virginia Tech (26)
DT Carlos Watkins, Jr.-R, Clemson (17)
LB Keith Kelsey, Jr., Louisville (20)
LB Micah Kiser, So.-R, Virginia (19)
LB(tie) Dwayne Norman, Sr., Duke (17)
LB(tie) Reggie Northrup, Sr., Florida State (17)
CB Artie Burns, Jr., Miami (26)
CB Des Lawrence, Jr., North Carolina (11)
S Quin Blanding, So., Virginia (21)
S Justin Simmons, Sr., Boston College ( 16)
P Riley Dixon, Sr., Syracuse (17)