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Ole Miss WR Sammie Epps charged with pot possession

Sammie Epps

An off-field incident could lead to on-field punitive measures for one of the newest member of the Ole Miss football team.

According to the Tupelo Daily Journal, wide receiver Sammie Epps was arrested late last week and slapped with a pair of misdemeanors.  Specifically, those were possession of marijuana and driving without valid license.

What led to the initial traffic stop by the Oxford Police Department wasn’t detailed.

We are aware of the matter and will address it once we have gathered more facts,” Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement.

Epps was a three-star member of Ole Miss’ 2014 recruiting class who was rated as the No. 27 tight end in the country. The 6-5, 215-pound Epps was subsequently moved to receiver.

(Photo credit: Ole Miss athletics)

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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Washington v Arizona State Getty Images

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Pac-12. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 11-2; beat Texas at Alamo Bowl)
The Ducks have been on the cusp of elite status as a program for the past four seasons. It’s time for the program to get over the hump and win a national title. This year’s squad may have the best chance to capture the school’s first national championship. It all starts with the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota is the best signal caller currently playing collegiate football. Yes, that includes Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Mariota may have hoisted the trophy last year if he didn’t suffer a knee injury late in the season which hampered his style of play. Mariota is extremely efficient as a passer, highly intelligent with his decision-making and a deadly athlete when he decides to run with the football. The Ducks also return key starters at vital positions. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu may have been the top players selected at their position in May’s NFL draft. Yet, they decided to return to Eugene.  The team’s leading rusher (Byron Marshall), tackler (Derrick Malone) and sack artist (Tony Washington) return as well. As Mark Helfrich enters his second year as head coach, there aren’t any excuses for the Ducks this season. It’s a national championship or bust. This is the year for Oregon to prove its more than a flashy offense and uniform trendsetters.

2. Stanford (Last year: 11-3; lost to Michigan State in Rose Bowl)
Cardinal faithful will almost certainly remind anyone who will listen that their team beat Oregon the past two seasons and claimed Pac-12 conference titles. However, the Cardinal simply aren’t as talented from top to bottom as the Ducks. The key players Oregon retained; the Cardinal lost. The team lost it’s leading rusher, tackler, sack artist and four of its starting offensive linemen. While Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan may be entering his second full season as the team’s starter, he’s a notch below the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12 conference.David Shaw is one of the best coaches in college football. This team will continue it’s winning ways. But Stanford will likely take a slight step backwards as the Ducks reclaim the honor as the best team in the Pac-12 Conference.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 7-6; beat Boise State in Hawai’i Bowl)
College football’s leading-returning passer resides in Corvallis, Oregon. Quarterback Sean Mannion returns for his senior campaign after throwing for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns. But Mannion won’t have Biletnikoff Trophy winner Brandin Cooks to throw to anymore. And that ‘s a good thing. Mannion’s experience behind center is a major positive for the Beavers, but Oregon State head coach Mike Riley admitted the coaching staff became enamored with throwing the football due to their dynamic duo at quarterback and wide receiver. This season, the Beavers will be more balanced on offense and more closely resemble the team that went 9-4 in 2012 instead of the one that was 7-6 last season. Senior Terran Ward and junior Storm Woods combined for 1,060 rushing yards last season. They should receive bigger workloads. With a more balanced attack, the Beavers hope to avoid another five-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The team seen during its 38-23 victory over Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl is the one Pac-12 opponents should expect to face Saturdays this fall.

4. Washington (Last year: 9-4; beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl)
The University of Washington did the impossible; they pried Chris Petersen out of Boise and made him their new head coach. Petersen inherits a talented roster built slowly over time by previous head coach Steve Sarkisian. After three straight 7-6 seasons, the Huskies finally broke through with an 9-4 campaign in 2013. The team then lost it’s head coach, quarterback and workhorse running back. Change of that degree will likely cause the Huskies to take a small step back during the upcoming season. While Peterson was ultra-successful during his eight seasons at Boise State, his team stumbled last year and lost four games for the first time in eight years. The last coach to have that type of success at Boise then finish with a four-loss team before moving to the Pac-12 was Dan Hawkins. Furthermore, there are still questions at quarterback for the Huskies. Cyler Miles hasn’t shown he’s ready to take over the team. Until one of the quarterbacks does, the Huskies will have to rely on a talented defense, particularly a defensive line that features nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha.

5. Washington State (Last year: 6-7; lost to Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl)
This will be Mike Leach‘s third year in Pullman, Washington. It was in Leach’s third year at Texas Tech he was able to lead the Red Raiders to a nine-win season. He won’t be as lucky with the Cougars. It’s taken Leach some time to implement the “Air Raid” offense that far north. This should be the first season in which it’s fully functional with senior Connor Halliday as the trigger-man behind center. However, the team’s defense struggled mightily in 2013 and finished 102nd overall. Leach’s run at Texas Tech was special, because he could out-scheme nearly everyone in the Big 12. But he could always rely on the talent he recruited in the state of Texas. The state of Washington doesn’t present the same level of talent. In three recruiting classes, only one former four-star recruit, wide receiver Gabe Marks, is expected to contribute for the Cougars this season. And that talent disparity will keep Wazzu toward the bottom of the Pac-12.

6. Cal (Last year: 1-11)
The hiring of Sonny Dykes as Cal’s head coach was an absolute disaster. The Golden Bears finished 1-11. They didn’t play any defense whatsoever. Players were leaving the program as soon as possible once the season ended. The only expectation for the team this season is to improve on last year’s record and actually win a conference game. Cal should be able to move the ball in Dykes’ version of the “Air Raid” offense. Quarterback Jared Goff enters his second season as starter after he put together a solid season as a true freshman. Plus, four of Goff’s top five receivers return. The Golden Bears will be able to throw the football, but the question is whether or not the defense will be able to stop anyone. History says no. Art Kaufman was hired as the team’s defensive coordinator this off season, and he has an uphill battle in front of him. Even when Dykes led Louisiana Tech to a 9-3 record, a national ranking and nearly defeated a Texas A&M team led by Johnny Manzielthe Bulldogs were the worst defensive team in college football. Dykes’ emphasis falls on the offensive side of the ball, and that is not going to change. It’s only a matter of time before Cal is looking for another head coach once the school’s new athletic director is named.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. UCLA (Last year: 10-3; beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl)
Expectations are sky high at UCLA. And they should be. In two short years, Jim Mora has completely rebuilt the culture in Westwood. Plus, the Bruins are fortunate to have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Brett Hundley. If Hundley declared for the NFL draft this year, he would have been a first-round selection. He’s projected to be a Top 10 pick for next May. The quarterback is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent on this roster. Senior Jordan James and sophomore Paul Perkins return in the backfield after combining for 1,107 rushing yards in 2013. Devin Fuller is a dynamic play maker out of the slot. And the defense may be even more talented. The two-way superstar Myles Jacks is one of college football’s top linebackers and a pretty good running back too. Erik Kendricks is highly instinctive and a tackling machine. Sophomores Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes will be one year better and impossible to move along the defensive interior. And the secondary is experienced with Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams returning. The No. 1 one goal for the Bruins will be to claim a Pac-12 championship, but this team has legitimate national championship potential. They simply have to get past Oregon and Stanford to prove they’re worthy of a berth in the College Football Playoff.

2. USC (Last year: 10-4; beat Fresno State in Las Vegas Bowl)
It’s hard to maintain momentum from one season to another. Although, USC appeared to regain its confidence and swagger as a program when it won six of its last seven games under the direction of interim head coach Ed Oregeron. Despite the team’s late season success, Oregeron wasn’t hired to become the team’s permanent head coach. Enter Steve Sarkisian, a former co-offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. Despite sub-par seasons by USC’s standards in recent years, the team has two things in its favor. First, the talent from the top of the roster to the bottom is always among the best in college football. Second, the team’s depth will continue to improve as the bottom of the roster is rebuilt after being previously hamstrung by NCAA sanctions. The Trojans will be led by a strong defense which features the potential No. 1 overall pick in May’s NFL draft, defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The unit finished 13th overall in total defense last season. The offense, meanwhile, will continue to grow under the direction of offensive coordinator Clay Helton and junior quarterback Cody Kessler. The offense played at a much higher level once Lane Kiffin was fired and Helton became the primary play-caller. It was a smart decision by Sarkisian to retain Helton on his staff.  All the pieces are in place for the Trojans to become a factor in the Pac-12 again. USC faithful has to hope Sarkisian was the right hire to keep them in the national conversation.

3. Arizona State (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl)
Since the Pac-12 South is generally considered the weaker division in the conference, it’s been somewhat overlooked that the Sun Devils played in the league’s championship game last year. Head coach Todd Graham has built a team that is known for its fast-pace offense and aggressive defense. In fact, Arizona State features the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the Pac-12 with Taylor Kelly behind center and Jaelen Strong creating mismatches for defenses. Kelly, in particular, has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. And running back D.J. Foster is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Arizona State may even be able to challenge UCLA and USC atop the Pac-12 South, but the team’s previously devastating defensive front is being completely rebuilt. The team lost it’s top tackler, sack artist and two-time Pac-12 Defense Player of the Year Will Sutton to the NFL. Graham will continue to blitz every chance he gets, but he no longer has the talent to win individual match-ups on a regular basis. The offense will score points, but the defense will have trouble stopping anyone. 

4.  Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Boston College in AdvoCare V100 Bowl)
Is the year the Wildcats are ready to take the next step under head coach Rich Rodriguez? During his first two seasons with the program, Arizona finished with an 8-5 record. The problem with Rodriguez is the passing game and defense suffer from the coach’s insistence to implement his offensive scheme, which is a zone-read heavy. The x-factor this season will be whomever Rodriguez’s names as his starting quarterback. Last season, B.J. Denker didn’t provide any consistency throwing the football. It will either be redshirt freshman Anu Solomon or senior transfer Jesse Scroggins which takes over the offense. Solomon reportedly has a slight lead in the competition during fall camp. These two will have to be better dual-threats out of the backfield than Denker was. And the defense has to be better after surrendering 401.1 yards per game last season. If these two things happen, the Wildcats will finish higher in the standings than CFT currently projects. But, it’s unlikely.

5. Colorado (Last year: 4-8)
A 4-8 record for any other program would be a disappointment. Colorado, however, isn’t just any program. It’s a school that went through an ugly divorce with previous head coach Jon Embree. Four wins by first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre was actually a three-game improvement. MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding a program in a similar fashion. He took San Jose State from a one-win team to 10 wins in three seasons. While the growth at Colorado should be far more incremental, the Buffaloes will continue to improve under the current coaching staff. The team returns 16 starters, including quarterback Sefo Liufau, and has a manageable non-conference schedule. There are at least five games the Buffaloes could be considered the favorites to win. It will be up to the coaching staff and players to steal one or two more wins from Pac-12 opponents.

6.  Utah (Last year: 5-7)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season with the program, and it could be his last if the Utes fall to the basement of the Pac-12 South. The problems start on the offensive side of the football. Whittingham used numerous different play-callers in recent years, but the Utes’ offense continued to sputter. Utah finished 76th overall in total offense during the 2013 campaign. Last season the defense wasn’t the team’s saving grace either. The Utes finished 60th overall in total defense. Whittingham will need key players to step up this season if the team has any hope of consistently competing in the Pac-12. Quarterback Travis Wilson has to improve after throwing 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as a sophomore. Another 5-7 season or worse will likely signal change within the program.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Oregon over UCLA

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2014 lost to torn ACL, Buffs’ starting DB Jered Bell seeks sixth year

Colorado Arizona NCAA Football AP

While Colorado has seen the last of a starting member of its defense for 2014, they likely haven’t seen the last of him at the school.

Last week, Jered Bell suffered a torn ACL during practice that will cost him the entire 2014 season. Because he already missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, the redshirt senior would make a solid candidate for a sixth season of eligibility.

That appears to be the tack the defensive back will take.

“It’s a shame being a guy with so much experience, good leader,”head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think he will come back (in 2015) for his sixth year. I believe that will all go through. He told me he wanted to if the knee heals right and (rehabilitation) goes as it should.”

Bell has played in 36 games when healthy for the Buffs, starting 14 of those contests. 11 of those starts came at free safety in 2013.

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Maryland announces ‘lifetime degree guarantee’ for athletes

Maryland Terps

Dubbing it “The Maryland Way Guarantee,” the University of Maryland is blazing a trail on which most, if not all, Power Five conference schools will ultimately travel.

The university announced Tuesday morning that, beginning in November of this year, it will offer a lifetime degree guarantee for student-athletes in all sports. Maryland is one of the first, if not the first, to offer such a guarantee in all sports, not just the revenue-producers in football and basketball.

The historic program coincides with the school’s official move from the ACC to the Big Ten last month.  It also comes a couple of weeks after a mediated settlement was reached in the lawsuits filed by both the school and its former conference.

“Our vision is to be the best intercollegiate athletic program while producing graduates who are prepared to serve as leaders in the local, state and global communities,” athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “We are confident ‘The Maryland Way Guarantee’ will further demonstrate our commitment to our student-athletes’ pursuit of a college degree.”

The school described the parameters of the program as follows:

Beginning in November of 2014-15, ‘The Maryland Way Guarantee’ will provide all incoming student-athletes with a multi-year scholarship guarantee. Pursuant to this program, should a student-athlete exhaust his or her eligibility prior to graduating, Maryland will guarantee his or her aid will continue through graduation. If a student-athlete is injured and unable to compete, we will guarantee his or her aid will continue through graduation.

Additionally, Maryland will provide tuition, books and fees for any student-athlete who leaves the institution in good academic standing and returns to complete his or her degree.

Again, student-athletes will be permitted, at no cost to them, to return to the university and obtain their degree at any point in their life.  Previously, and as is the case all across the country in every sport, Maryland student-athletes were offered one-year scholarships, which were subject to renewal every year.

Kudos to Maryland for taking a step that the rest of the power conferences will eventually take as autonomy begins to take hold.

(Photo credit: University of Maryland)
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Four-star LSU signee in ‘final phases of admission process’

Travonte Valentine

It appears LSU’s long wait for the arrival of one of its top 2014 signees is all but over.

Travonte Valentine‘s high school, Mike Tunsil, confirmed to the Baton Rouge Advocate that his former player has been cleared by the NCAA and will play for the Tigers this fall. The defensive lineman had been awaiting clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Valentine is expected to arrive on campus Tuesday and begin practicing with his new teammates in the next day or two.

For its part, LSU would only state that “Valentine is going through the final phases of the admission process.” “He has not been cleared to join the football team,” the school added.

As noted by the Advocate, Valentine must go through the NCAA’s mandated four-day acclimation period and won’t be in full pads until his fifth day of practice.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 10 Stanford

Ty Montgomery

2013 record:11-3 overall, 7-2 in Pac-12 (1st overall in Pac-12)
2013 postseason: Rose Bowl vs. Michigan State (24-20 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 11/No. 10
Head coach: David Shaw (34-7 overall; 34-7 in three years at Stanford)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Bloomgren (4th season at Stanford)
2013 offensive rankings: 22nd rushing offense (207.4 ypg); 92nd passing offense (197.9 ypg); 69th total offense (405.5 ypg); 45th scoring offense (32.3 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: five
Defensive coordinator: Lance Anderson (8th season at Stanford)
2013 defensive rankings: 3rd rushing defense (89.4 ypg); 96th passing defense (253.8 ypg); 16th total defense (343.1 ypg); 10th scoring defense (19.0 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Palo Alto, California
Stadium: Stanford Stadium (50,000; grass)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Everyone knows exactly what to expect of Stanford. The Cardinal will have a smash-mouth offense and a hard-nosed defense. Stanford overwhelms at the point of attack, and that won’t change any time soon. Stanford head coach David Shaw won’t allow the program to veer off course. When Shaw had to replace Derek Mason as defensive coordinator after four years with the program, the head coach promoted from within his coaching staff. Enter Lance Anderson as the new Willie Shaw Director of Defense. Anderson was originally hired when Jim Harbaugh took over the program. He’s coached the defensive line and linebackers. And now Anderson will provide stability to one of the most physical and intimidating defenses in the country. Continuity has become a staple of the Cardinal program.

THE BAD
There is no way to replace what Stanford lost when Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Ed Reynolds exhausted their eligibility and are now members of NFL teams. Skov led the team with 108 tackles. Murphy led the FBS with 15 sacks. And Reynolds was the team’s leader in the secondary. Junior Blake Martinez takes over for Skov, while senior A.J. Tarpley will become the leader of the defense. Senior Kevin Anderson will step in as Murphy’s replacement, but he only registered 1.5 sacks in 14 games last season. Kodi Whitfield will be the team’s new starter at safety. Each will live up to the team’s standards as well-coached and disciplined defenders, but it’s hard to imagine these three players replacing the production Stanford lost.

THE UNKNOWN
Since Harbaugh took over the program and Shaw replaced him, the big uglies have become Stanford’s calling card. Each week, whatever opponent Stanford plays absolutely knows they are going to get punched in the mouth by an overwhelming offensive line. Stanford plays with six or seven offensive linemen at any given time and situation. However, talent doesn’t always trump continuity up front. The Cardinal lost four of its five starting offensive linemen to the NFL after last season. Kyle Murphy (right tackle), Joshua Garnett (right guard), Graham Shuler (center) and Johnny Caspers (left guard) will replace Cameron Fleming, Kyle Danser, Khalil Wilkes and and David Yankey. The only mainstay is left tackle Andrus Peat, who just happens to be projected as first-round talent for the 2015 NFL draft.  Good offensive line play demands proper communication, technique and an understanding of what the man next to you is going to do each and every play. Stanford will once again feature a tremendously talented offensive line this season, but at what point during the season will this group completely gel and play at the level expected of them?

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. USC
This could easily be Oregon in this slot, but the Cardinal have beaten the Ducks two years in a row and the team will have the utmost confidence facing them again during the upcoming season. USC, meanwhile, was one of the Cardinal’s key losses last season. The Trojans were playing extremely well down the stretch and stole a 20-17 victory that was decided by a field goal with 19 seconds remaining in the game. The timing of Stanford’s meeting with USC this year is also important. The Cardinal hosts the Trojans the second week of the season with a national audience prepared to watch the game. The last time Stanford lost a game that early in the season was five years ago when it fell to Wake Forest 24-17. A win against the Trojans will help set the table in Pac-12 play and spur national conversation. A loss will likely place Stanford in the background as other teams programs roll through their early-season schedules.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: WR Ty Montgomery
Stanford doesn’t run an offensive scheme where a wide receiver (or any other skill position) will post the level of individual numbers necessary to win a Heisman Trophy. After all, Andrew Luck was the best  quarterback in the nation for two seasons, and he finished as the runner-up for the award twice. Montgomery, however, is one of the most dynamic offense weapons in college football. The wide receiver’s numbers are meager when compared to other receivers that play in spread offenses. Last year, Montgomery registered 61 receptions for 958 yards. While those numbers should be expected to improve during his senior campaign, Montgomery doubles as one of college football’s top kick returners. He was named a Walter Camp All-American as a kick returner. Stanford is expected to contend in the Pac-12 Conference again this season. Big plays from Montgomery in big moments might help Heisman voters overlook the fact he’ll never put up eye-popping numbers as a wide receiver. 

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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LaTech’s top WR granted sixth season

Sterling Griffin

Less than two weeks before the start of a new season, Louisiana Tech officially learned that one of its most productive offensive players in 2013 will be available in 2014 as well.

The Bulldogs announced in a release Monday that Sterling Griffin has been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. The wide receiver missed the entire season in 2010 (ankle) and all but the first two games in 2012 (ACL) with injuries, so the decision was a no-brainer for The Association.

“Sterling is what the sixth year rule is made for,” said head coach Skip Holtz in a statement. “This wasn’t something we were worried about as long as the NCAA looked at it with the doctor’s notes and the surgery notes, and it was well documented what was there.

“Any time you are dealing with it, it is always nice to have that final word. So, it was great when we got the call that Sterling has been approved for his sixth year and we are going to need him because right now it is going to be one of the staples on our offense on the perimeter.”

Griffin transferred from USF to Tech in mid-August of last year. His head coach with the Bulls, Holtz, is now the Bulldogs head coach.

Last season, Griffin led the team with 357 yards and was second in receptions with 33. He’s the leading returning receiver for the Bulldogs.

(Photo credit: Louisiana Tech athletics)

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MAC confirms ‘historic’ broadcast agreement

MAC Logo

Monday it was reported that the Mid-American Conference had reached an agreement with ESPN on an extension of its broadcasting agreement.

Tuesday said agreement came to fruition.

The MAC announced in a press release this morning that it has reached a 13-year rights agreement with a ESPN that will be, the league wrote, “the largest and most extensive agreement in the 68-year history of the Conference.” The WWL will now control the broadcasting of all MAC sports, football in particular, through the 2026-27 season.

Every MAC football game, for instance, will be broadcast on one of ESPN’s myriad platforms. Also from the release:

The Marathon MAC Football Championship Game and the MAC football regular season is the foundation for the national deal with ESPN. The 2014 MAC football regular season will be highlighted by national coverage of 14 mid-week games during the month of November on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 as the Conference race unfolds in both the East and West divisions. The Marathon MAC Football Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 pm ET will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

“This is a historic day for the Mid-American Conference,” said MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher. “ESPN and the MAC have a long history together and were visionary in embracing mid-week football which continues to be a significant presence on the ESPN college football calendar. The length of this partnership brings long-term stability for the Conference well into the next decade.”

While no specific financial terms have been released, it’s believed the MAC’s new deal will put it on par with other non-Power Five conferences such as Conference USA and the Mountain West.

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Hawaii AD clarifies ‘football going away’ comments

Ben Jay AP

More than a few eyebrows were raised yesterday when, at a Board of Regents meeting Monday, Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay was quoted as saying that “[t]here’s a very real possibility of football going away.”

According to Jay, the university’s athletic program will operate at a $2.1 million deficit this season and it has done so 11 of the past 13 years. Football is easily the most revenue-producing of all the sports, but it also eats through the most money. Add in the uncertain impact autonomy will have on all FBS football programs, and there’s a sense of trepidation throughout the schools in non-Power Five conferences.

A short time after those comments went public, however, Jay attempted to cram the toothpaste back from whence it came.

In a statement released by the university very late Monday night, Jay appears to claim his reported comments were taken out of context

My comments at the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics’ meeting were made in order to convey a sense of urgency regarding the need to address our current funding model. In no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration. Rather, I was suggesting that the department’s financial situation required that all possible scenarios be reviewed. Hopefully, going forward, there will be a priority placed on discussing the future financial needs of the UH Athletics Department. President David Lassner has expressed his support and we’ll call upon our many loyal stakeholders to help us ensure that we remain competitive within the future landscape of intercollegiate athletics. We owe that to our student-athletes and passionate fans.

“A very real possibility of football going away” is quite a long ways from “[i]n no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration,” but it’s Jay’s story and I’m sticking to that.

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Louisville WR has pot citation dismissed

James Quick, Byron Jones AP

In late May, Louisville wide receiver James Quick and Kentucky defensive end Jason Hatcher, former high school teammates, were cited for pot possession.

Hatcher saw his marijuana possession citation dismissed three weeks later after completing a marijuana education course. Two months later, Quick has followed the same path.

After completing the same marijuana education course, WDRB-TV reported, Quick has seen his citation dismissed as well. It was Quick’s first legal issue, but he will still be subjected to additional drug testing by the UofL.

A four-star member of the Cardinals’ 2013 recruiting class, Quick was rated as the No. 9 receiver in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Kentucky. He caught six passes for 73 yards as a true freshman last year.

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Report: no contact preceded Braxton Miller’s dislocated shoulder

Braxton Miller AP

As the whole of college football awaits official word from Ohio State on the extent of Braxton Miller‘s injury, more specifics on what would be a season-killing turn of events continue to trickle out.

According to ElevenWarriors.com, the Buckeyes quarterback suffered a dislocation of his right (throwing) shoulder during practice Monday.  It was reported overnight that the senior had reinjured his surgically-repaired shoulder.

Perhaps most disturbing and/or disheartening for the player and football program is that it appears there was no contact that preceded the injury.

An MRI will be performed at some point Tuesday to determine the extent of the damage and just how long Miller will be out.  Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com tweeted that, per a source, the “team didn’t know if he’d be out a day or a month or what.”

The initial reports had Miller’s entire 2014 season in jeopardy because of the development, although, again, the MRI will determine the timeline for a return.  SI.com wrote that “[t]he extent of the injury is unknown, but there is a general feeling of unease around the program.”  According to the Columbus Dispatch, “a quick return for Miller is not likely,” with the paper’s sources adding that “Miller could be facing another surgical procedure.”

It appears unlikely, however, that one of the preseason Heisman favorites will be available for the opener against Navy in less than two weeks.

Miller missed two games early last season because of a sprained knee, but the Buckeyes had the veteran and seasoned Kenny Guiton to fill in and continue what was then the nation’s longest winning streak.  This time around, the Buckeyes would turn to J.T. Barrett, recently named as the slight leader in the backup quarterback race, or even Cardale Jones; Barrett has never thrown a pass at the collegiate level, while Jones has thrown just two.

Both Barrett and Jones received extensive work during spring practice as Miller rehabbed the partially torn labrum he suffered in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson and was subsequently repaired in what at the time was described as minor surgery in late February.  That extra work for the two reserves continued into summer camp as Miller had been limited due to what was described as soreness in his shoulder.

UPDATED 8:49 a.m. ET: It appears Ohio State is going into a bunker-down mentality as it attempts to work it’s way through Miller’s injury situation.  From a press release sent out by the footbaqll program just a short time ago:

Interviews scheduled today with Ohio State assistant coaches and some student-athletes have been cancelled. An update on Braxton Miller will be provided once I have enough information to share.

UPDATED 1:22 p.m. ET: While the school has yet to confirm it, NFL.com‘s Gil Brandt (HERE) and ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy (HERE) are reporting that Miller will miss the entire 2014 season. OSU is expected to make an announcement on Miller’s status at some point this afternoon.

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Duke loses starting TE for all of 2014 with ACL tear

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Duke v Texas A&M

Last week, Duke lost its top defensive performer to an injury that will cost the player, linebacker Kelby Brown, the entire 2014 season.

Nearly a week later, the serious injury bug has slammed headfirst into the other side of the ball.

The Blue Devils confirmed Monday that Braxton Deaver suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during Monday’s practice. As a result, obviously, the tight end will be sidelined for all of the 2014 season.

No date for surgery to repair the damage has been determined.

“This certainly seems redundant after Kelby’s injury last week, but again our thoughts and prayers lie with Braxton and his family with this news,”a statement from head coach David Cutcliffe began. “While we’ll miss his presence on the field, the priorities with Braxton right now shift to his health and spirit. We do know that Braxton will continue to be a valued member of our program going forward.”

There is an outside chance Deaver will have recovered sufficiently to participate in spring practice next year, although that seems unlikely. He should, though, be fully healed by the time summer camp rolls around… should he decide to return.

Deaver is a redshirt senior who missed all of the 2012 season with myriad injuries — ACL tear, fractured knee cap, broken thumb — to go along with this ACL issue. Because of that, he could petition the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility, an appeal that would most certainly be approved.

The loss of Deaver is a significant blow to the offense. Deaver started all 14 games for the Blue Devils, finishing second on the team in receptions (46), receiving yards (600) and receiving touchdowns (four).

Deaver was suspended for the start of summer camp this year for unspecified reasons.

Deaver’s injury continued a rough stretch for the football program over the past several months. In addition to Brown’s injury, 2013 (because of injury) starting quarterback Brandon Connette transferred out — ultimately landing at Fresno State — while running back Jela Duncan is suspended for the entire 2014 season due to academic issues. At the time of his suspension last December, he was the Blue Devils leading rusher.

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Utes, Cyclones, UConn Huskies name starting QBs

Utah v USC Getty Images

With the start of a new season less than two weeks away (fist pump), head coaches at various programs across the country are getting down to the business of naming a starter at the most important position on the field.

Kentucky and Purdue pulled the trigger on their starting quarterbacks Monday. They, though, weren’t the only ones.

In one of the more high-profile competitions left unsettled, Utah confirmed that the incumbent Travis Wilson had, to the surprise of some, fended off the challenge of Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

After starting the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, a concussion — technically, an intracranial artery injury — sidelined Wilson for the last three games and led to questions as to whether he would ever play the game again. Wilson, though, was cleared to participate in spring practice, albeit in non-contact mode, and was ultimately cleared medically for full contact.

His 16 interceptions last season were the second-most at the FBS level, leading some to believe Thompson would emerge from the summer camp fray as the starter.  In July, Wilson was cited for underage consumption of alcohol.

Neither of those, though, caused Wilson to be unseated.

“It was close,” Kyle Whittingham said of the competition. “It was just about a dead heat.”

The head coach also confirmed that Thompson will play, although he stressed that the Utes will not be a two-QB team; instead, they will be one that will look for opportunities to insert Thompson into the game and utilize a skillset that’s about 180 degrees from what Wilson brings to the table.

“It’s when we get the opportunity to put Kendal in and give him some work,” Whittingham explained. “He’s earned that right and you will see him play as well.”

Along with Utah, Iowa State and UConn both named starters at the position as well.

On the former front, ISU head coach Paul Rhoads confirmed that Sam Richardson will be his starting quarterback for the season opener against North Dakota State. Richardson was the starter for the first eight games of the 2013 season before he was benched — partly because of injury, partly because of ineffective play — in favor of Grant Rohach.

Those two were the main combatants this time around as well, with the coach citing leadership and Richardson’s quick acclimation to new coordinator Mark Mangino‘s offense as the data points that tipped the scales in the “incumbent’s” favor.

“Sam has displayed great leadership and that certainly includes poise in the pocket where he has been very much in control of our offense and of himself,” Rhoads said in a statement. “His understanding of the scheme and his decision-making has really grown in the last two weeks, and maybe as much as anything, he is throwing a great ball, an accurate ball, a tight ball and a catchable ball.”

On the UConn front, Bob Diaco announced that sophomore Casey Cochran had beaten out senior Chandler Whitmer for the Huskies starting job. The head coach said the difference between the two was “negligible,” but that the younger player’s leadership, oddly enough, was better than the veteran’s.

Whitmer started the first four games last season before being benched — in favor of true freshman Tim Boyle –after being the starter for every game in 2012, while Cochran started the last four games last year.

Boyle, who has been battling minor injuries throughout summer camp, is likely headed for a redshirt season.

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Mississippi State loses starting RT to a torn ACL

Damien Robinson

At 6-8 and 325 pounds, Mississippi State offensive lineman Damien Robinson is one of the first guys a coach lets off the bus to impress or intimidate opponents.

The problem for Mississippi State is that will be the only contribution Robinson can make this season.

The team announced Monday Robinson will miss the entire season after tearing an ACL.

Robinson is literally and figuratively a massive loss for the team.

“That was a position you weren’t deep at. You were hoping that a Justin Senior and Rufus (Warren) could really spend this year in the supporting cast instead of the starring role,” Mullen told The Clarion-Ledger‘s Michael Bonner. “But hey sometimes in Hollywood you get your breaks at the right place and the right time.”

Senior is the more likely option to replace Robinson after Warren converted from tight end during the off season. But neither is guaranteed a spot. One of the interior linemen could be moved to tackle with a replacement sliding into the vacant spot.

“When an injury strikes the (offensive line) combination may change,” Mullen said. “That’s one of the things we have to be prepared to do and look, what’s the best combination going to be?”

For example, senior Archie Munoz, a three-year letter winner, could finally get his opportunity for a full-time role at guard if Jamaal Clayborn or Ben Beckwith prove capable of playing right tackle.

Robinson is a senior, but he could petition the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver and be granted a sixth year of eligibility.

(Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletic department)

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Report: Braxton Miller re-injures shoulder, could miss season

Braxton Miller

Does everyone remember when we wrote one of the most important positions on the Ohio State Buckeyes was the backup quarterback? Actually, it was yesterday. Unfortunately, it may have proven to be prophetic.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Sunday that the Buckeyes were expecting to “take a big step” Monday in regards to easing Miller back into regular practice repetitions after having offseason shoulder surgery.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Miller re-injured his surgically-repaired right shoulder during the Buckeyes’ Monday afternoon practice.

“The injury puts in jeopardy his playing status for the coming season,” Tim May wrote.

The actual severity of Miller’s injury will be determined Tuesday.

If Miller misses the season or any significant amount of time, it would be a devastating loss for the Buckeyes. Miller was considered a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. His experience and skill set were perfect to lead an offense that had questions marks at both running back and the offensive line. Miller could have carried the team until the offense truly started to gel.

Now, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who recently earned the role as the team’s No. 2 quarterback, is expected to lead the team into the regular season Aug. 30 against the Navy Midshipmen. Barrett was a four-star recruit the coaching staff eventually expected to be the future of the program. Well, the future is now.

Despite all of Meyer’s previous claims that Miller remains “right on schedule“, the team was easily knocked off-schedule if Miller’s injury is as significant as feared. And the Big Ten East becomes a wide open race for any team to claim.

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