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VIDEO: Notre Dame spring game highlights

Everett Golson AP

News regarding the future playing surface at Notre Dame wasn’t the only football thing going on in South Bend Saturday.

For the fifth time in his tenure, head coach Brian Kelly put his Irish through their paces for the annual spring game to close out spring practice 2014.  Heading into the spring-ending session, the main storyline — well, one of the main storylines — was quarterback Everett Golson‘s return to the big stage — or at least the practice game for his eventual return to the big stage.

To see how Golson and his Irish teammates fared during the glorified scrimmage, click on the video clip below.  Or, in addition to that, you can head on over to Keith Arnold‘s house at Inside the Irish for the blog version of a detailed breakdown of how the Irish look exiting the spring and heading into the summer.

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Bo Pelini gets his feline on for ‘Huskers spring game

Bo Pelini Cat 3

If you ever wanted a microcosm of spring football games — and how they’ve evolved into more about entertainment than actual practice — may we direct your attention to Lincoln, Nebraska.

The ever-serious Bo Pelini, who’s never met a hat he didn’t want to throw or player whose ear he didn’t want to chew on, was getting set to lead his Cornhuskers out of the tunnel and onto the Memorial Stadium turf.  As the camera began to pan to the team as it prepared its entrance, with the crowd getting amped up and ready for their beloved Big Red to hit the field… wait a minute… it’s a little fuzzy, but is that what I think it is…

Bo Pelini Cat 2

No, it can’t be.  Then again…

Bo Pelini Cat 2

Yep, it is.  Bo Pelini, head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, gently holding a cat in the second photo and seemingly recreating the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” moment in the first.

For Pelini’s Twitter alter ego, it was game-set-match for the head coach.

(For those unaware of the Bo Pelini/Faux Pelini/Cat dynamic, you can click HERE to catch up on it a bit)

While it didn’t create the dusty atmosphere last year’s spring game did, Pelini dropping his guard and having a little bit of fun — after a very, very turbulent 2013 season — should be seen as a very, very good sign for the Husker faithful.

(Photo credit: Fake Bo Pelini’s Twitter account)

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Pitt RB Isaac Bennett to undergo shoulder surgery

Isaac Bennett AP

A worse-than-expected injury to one-half of Pittsburgh’s two-headed ground game monster will result in a medical procedure in the not-too-distant future, head coach Paul Chryst confirmed Friday.

Isaac Bennett originally suffered what was at first diagnosed as a sprained shoulder a week ago.  Subsequent testing determined the injury to be worse than originally thought, with the ultimate decision to perform surgery on the running back’s shoulder next week.

Bennett will miss the remainder of spring practice as well as the Panthers’ “voluntary” summer conditioning program, but Chryst is hopeful the junior will be ready in early August for the start of summer camp.

I’m not going to bet against him on this one,” Chryst said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I think he’ll attack [rehab]. I believe that.”

Last season, Bennett was second on the Panthers with 797 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.  James Conner (barely) topped the team with 799 and eight.  Ironically, Conner suffered a knee injury the same day Bennett hurt his shoulder, although the former is expected to participate in team activities this summer.

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Notre Dame ditching real grass, embracing the fake stuff

Oklahoma v Notre Dame Getty Images

That famed grass at Notre Dame Stadium that Rudy cut and lined to help work his way into a spot on the Irish football roster?  It’s gone.  Or, at least, it will.

During Notre Dame’s spring game Saturday afternoon — on the NBC Sports Network, incidentally — athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed that the stadium’s grass will be replaced with a version of FieldTurf.  Ripping out of the old and installing the new will begin shortly after commencement the middle of next month and is expected to be completed by the middle of August, well before the home and season opener Aug. 30 against Rice.

While Swarbrick stated that the university “had a strong predisposition to stay with a natural grass field,” the natural grass field had become unacceptable and embarrassing the past couple of years.

The move to the synthetic grass is hardly a surprise as Swarbrick has broached the subject numerous times in the past.  The surface was admittedly a mess last season, with the South Bend Tribune writing in late December that “the field was replaced three times between March and October of 2013, and by November it was a slick, divot-pocked surface that frustrated Irish head coach Brian Kelly, the Irish players and Swarbrick.”

Given the level of frustration in recent years, the university and football program had almost no choice but to go the FieldTurf route.

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Injury will likely sideline Utes’ Gionni Paul for start of season

Gionni Paul, Marcus Shaw AP

After transferring to Utah last year, Gionni Paul was forced to sit out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA regulations.  Unfortunately for the linebacker, he’ll have to wait even longer to officially begin his Utes playing career.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham confirmed Friday that Paul suffered a broken bone in his foot during a practice session Tuesday.  Whittingham’s timeline for Paul’s return is 5-6 months; the best-case scenario in that scenario would be for Paul to return in mid-September, after the start of the regular season Aug. 28 vs. Idaho State.  The worst-case would be a return a month later and missing upwards of six games, including three Pac-12 contests.

Paul, projected to be one of the Utes’ starting linebackers, suffered the injury after what his coach described as a fairly innocuous collision with teammates.

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary,” Whittingham said of the circumstance that led to the injury. “He didn’t get it caught underneath the pile or anything like that. He was just pushing off, an unfortunate situation, and it snapped.”

The injury to Hale is the second significant one the Utes have suffered to a starter at the position this spring.  In late March, Jacoby Hale tore an ACL that will likely keep him out for the entire 2014 season, although the team “hopes” he can return at some point.

In early January of 2013, it was confirmed that Paul was no longer a part of the Miami (Fla.) football team.  A short time later, Paul landed with the Utes and was idle all last season because of transfer rules.  Despite never playing a down for the Utes, Paul was voted a team captain earlier this spring.

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Davis Webb officially handed the reins of Texas Tech’s offense

Davis Webb

Heading into spring practice, there was little doubt that, barring injury, Davis Webb would exit the 15 sessions — and enter the 2014 regular season — as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback.  The past few months, Webb was named the MVP of the Red Raiders’ bowl win while the two main competitors for the job, Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer, both transferred out of the program.

Still, Webb had yet to be given the official nod. The day before Tech’s spring game, however, that little dance came to an end.

As expected, head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed Friday that Webb is his starting quarterback for the 2014 season. In addition to his record-setting bowl performance and attrition at the position, Webb was in “competition” with a pair of walk-on quarterbacks this spring — no other scholarship player at the position is currently on the roster.

Add it all up, and Webb is the unquestioned starter — unlike last season’s merry-go-round at the position.

“It’ll never be harder for him mentally than it was last year with that kind of yo-yo of starting, not starting,” Kingsbury said. “That was as tough as it will ever be for him. It’s downhill from here for him as far as mentally.”

Entering summer camp last year, Brewer was the favorite to win the job.  When a back issue flared up and sidelined Brewer, it was Mayfield, not Webb, who would replace the starter.  Webb didn’t get his first start until the sixth game of the season, but by the end of the year, and after one benching in favor of Mayfield, it was patently obvious — see the twin transfers — that he was Kingsbury’s best option under center.

In 2014, unlike the previous year, the weight of Tech’s passing attack will be solely on Webb’s shoulder… and that’s exactly how the player prefers it.

“That’s where I want it to be because I feel like it’s either do or die with me, and that’s what I want,” Webb said. “I feel so much more confident this year than I did last year.”

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Nick Saban tosses out first pitch at baseball Iron Bowl

Nick Saban AP

While it was “just” the stick-and-ball version, the Iron Bowl just wouldn’t be the Iron Bowl without Nick Saban being a part of the ballpark hoopla.

Prior to what turned out to be a 2-1 loss to Auburn, the Alabama head coach was tapped to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa Saturday.  Given how the latest football version of the Iron Bowl played out, it would’ve been appropriate if Chris Davis had been a part of the festivities; alas, that wasn’t the case.

Instead, it was Saban alone on the mound doing the rawhide toss in remarkably efficient fashion while also avoiding pulling the dreaded Baba Booey:

 

Not bad, Coach.  I’ll allow that you hit the black on the black on the plate, but, unless it was Manute Bol standing in the batter’s box, it was high and thus a ball.

In a completely unrelated matter, the 2014 college football season kicks off in just 137 days…

 

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Kliff Kingsbury shoots down rumor of playing in spring game

Kliff Kingsbury AP

Sorry ladies,  there will be no GQ head coach in tight football pants today.

Earlier this month, speculation was making the rounds that Kliff Kingsbury was considering playing a series in Texas Tech’s spring game.  With the Red Raiders’ spring finale later on today, the Tech head coach took the opportunity after practice Friday to shoot down the rumors of him again donning the shoulder pads and helmet for his alma mater.

I won’t be playing,” the 34-year-old Kingsbury, a former star Tech quarterback, said according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I know they would find a way to cheap-shot me if I was out there. …

“I have no idea where it came from. It was interesting. But I’ll just be coaching away. That’s the fun part for me now.”

So, instead of seeing video of Kingsbury working it on a football field in full pads again, you’ll have to settle for a clip of him busting a dance move on the practice field earlier this week.  Oh, and by the way, I’d click “play” on the video if I were you.  Trust me.

 

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Missouri State just says no to Green-Beckham

Dorial Green-Beckham Getty Images

As Dorial Green-Beckham looks to restart his collegiate playing career and rehabilitate his battered image, it won’t be happening at one Missouri Valley Conference school in particular.

In a preemptive strike against speculation Friday night, Missouri State president Clif Smart told the Springfield News-Leader that the former Missouri wide receiver is not welcome at his institution.  Even before Green-Beckham’s shocking dismissal Friday, Smart said that he, athletic director Kyle Moats and head football coach Terry Allen held a meeting to discuss the possibility of the receiver’s potential availability.

The result of that meeting was a mutual decision that Green-Beckham would not be pursued by Allen and the football program.

“That’s not the kind of player we recruit to our program,” Smart said, indicating just how far DGB’s stock has plummeted of late.

Green-Beckham had been a productive but troublesome player since joining the Tigers in 2012 as the top-ranked player in the country in that class.  Following three twos — arrests, suspensions and police investigations — in less than two years, Mizzou announced that it was cutting its losses and dismissing the talented receiver.

Playing at the FBS level in 2014 won’t be an option due to NCAA transfer rules, and neither will entering the NFL’s supplemental draft as he’s not three years removed from high school.  Other than sitting out the 2014 season entirely, Green-Beckham’s only other option would be to transfer to an FCS-level program like Missouri State — or even to the Div. II, NAIA or JUCO levels — if he wants to play football this upcoming season.

Regardless of the route he chooses in 2014, it’s very likely that he will make himself available for the 2015 NFL draft before the early-entry deadline in mid-January next year.

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Penn State’s Urschel joins elite group in winning Sullivan Award

John Urschel AP

When it comes to academics and football, it’d be hard if not impossible for any present-day player to top Penn State’s John Urschel.

In December of 2013, the offensive lineman was named the winner of the prestigious Campbell Trophy, commonly referred to as the “Academic Heisman.”  Friday night, Urschel added additional educational hardware to his trophy case as he was named the recipient of the 84th James E. Sullivan Award, presented annually by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) to the nation’s’s top amateur athlete.

Urschel was one of 19 semifinalists and two finalists for the award — Florida track and field athlete Cory Ann McGee and Nebraska volleyball player Kelsey Robinson.

In taking home the Sullivan Award, Urschel became the seventh college football player to stake his claim to the iconic honor, joining Felix “Doc” Blanchard (Army, 1945), Arnold Tucker (Army, 1946), Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007) and Andrew Rodriguez (Army, 2011)

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Urschel, Manning, Tebow and Rodriguez are the only college football players who have won both the Sullivan Award and Campbell Trophy.

In addition to his mental prowess, Urschel is also a pretty damn good football player.  A third-team All-American in 2013, the interior lineman was named first-team All-Big Ten each of the past two seasons.  He participated in the NFL’s scouting combine this past February and is expected to be selected in the upcoming draft.

Urschel’s academic career is not behind him, however; after earning a bachelor’s in mathematics in May 2012 and a master’s in mathematics in 2013, he has continued his work on a second master’s degree in math education.

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Ex-Duke QB knows the way to San Jose, but won’t transfer there

Dionne Warwick's 50th Anniversary In Show Business Gala AP

It’s been a mere 24 hours or so since Duke granted Brandon Collette a scholarship release, so there’s no decision been made as to where the quarterback may transfer.  We can, though, likely cross one potential destination off the list.  Probably.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday that Connette will not be transferring to San Jose State and playing for the Spartans.  Connette’s brother, Simon, is a junior safety at SJSU, leading to early speculation that the Mountain West school would be his primary focus, at least early on.

According to the Mercury News, however, there are football reasons why the one-year marriage — Connette will be a graduate transfer for his final season of collegiate eligibility — wouldn’t work.

…it would be tough for him with the Spartans. Spring practice is already complete, so getting him up to speed with the offense would be difficult.

With Joe Gray looking to be the leader to win the starting QB job, Connette could be seen as a valuable running threat at the position similar to how he was used at Duke. But the issue there is Blake Jurich is viewed as the guy to serve in that role and there’s a reluctance to move the fifth-year senior out of that spot to bring in a new player.

Connette is looking to transfer to a program in the state of California to be close to his ailing mother, who was diagnosed with brain cancer this past December.

With SJSU apparently not part of the transfer equation, the focus on a possible landing spot will shift to Fresno State and San Diego State, two schools that were mentioned as possibilities by the Wilmington News-Star.  There would be an opportunity for Connette to come in and win a starting job at both places as the latter is looking to replace likely NFL first-round draft pick Derek Carr while the presumptive front-runner for the latter, Quinn Kaehler, missed spring practice after undergoing elbow surgery.

Connette was offered a scholarship by Stanford during his high school recruitment, although it’s unknown if the Cardinal would maintain any interest in the player.

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Fashion break: ‘Noles unveils new unis, spectacular alternate helmet

Maryland Florida St Football AP

I’m really not one to give much of a damn when it comes to uniforms in general and the proliferation of myriad fashion combinations for football programs specifically, so this post is going to be short and bitter.

This evening, Florida State unveiled new uniforms the Seminoles will wear this upcoming season. As FSU is the reigning BCS champion I figured a note of the new duds should be made. So…

The new Nike uniforms appear at the bottom of this post. And you can see the official release HERE or whatever.

(OK, I overstated my disdain for such things a bit.  The new helmet appearing below on the right is fairly awesome… check that.  It’s absolutely spectacular.  Well Done.)

FSU Helmets

You can comment on said new uniforms — home, away and alternate versions — below if you’re so inclined and into that sort of thing… not that there’s anything wrong with that. Thanks in advance for your attention to this matter.

(Writer’s note: I was getting complaints, so the new duds appear after the jump.  My sincere apologies for the inconvenience.)

Continue reading »

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Surgery on fractured foot in the offing for Texas QB David Ash

David Ash AP

It’s at this point in the program where we’re compelled to state that the Charlie Strong era at Texas has gotten off on the wrong foot.

(Waiting for the groans to subside… and we’re good.)

In the run-up to the first Austin spring game for Strong next week, the Longhorns’ offense has suffered what will likely be a short-term blow as starting quarterback David Ash sustained a broken bone in his left foot during practice.  As a result, Ash will undergo surgery next week and, obviously, miss the remainder of spring practice.

The good news is that the football program expects Ash to be rehabbed and fully recovered for the start of summer camp in early August.  One of the negatives is the fact that Ash could use as many reps as possible, given the fact that the new staff is still installing coordinator Joe Wickline‘s offense.  Another negative?  The injury could be privately worse than the public prognosis, with speculation already making the rounds that this is an issue that could linger deep into camp and perhaps bleed into the regular season.

Regardless, and with Ash out for the foreseeable future, touted 2013 signee Tyrone Swoopes will move front and center for the Longhorns’ spring game a week from Saturday.  This could also be yet another factor that sways erstwhile USC quarterback Max Wittek to transfer to UT, which was already the front-runner for the player even before Ash’s issues.

The foot issue continues a recent mini-string of negative injury news for Ash.

Ash missed most of last year due to a concussion suffered early on in the season.  After incurring the original injury Sept. 7, Ash returned two weeks later only to see the concussion symptoms recur and sideline him yet again.  In late November, Ash was officially shut down for what little was left of the season.  In mid-January, he was cleared by the UT medical staff to resume football activities.

Because he missed most of last season, Ash has already applied for a medical hardship waiver that would give him an additional season of eligibility.

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Immediate eligibility at Oregon State for ex-Tide QB Del Rio

Luke Del Rio AP

When it was confirmed back in mid-January that Luke Del Rio had officially completed his transfer from Alabama to Oregon State, it was thought the quarterback would be forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

As it turns out, that’s not the case at all.

In an unexpected announcement Friday, OSU confirmed that Del Rio has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA and will play for the Beavers in 2014.  Del Rio was a walk-on with the Tide last year and did not play a single snap; because of that, the NCAA ruled that the player’s “unique situation warranted relief from the football transfer rules that usually apply.”

With immediate eligibility, Del Rio, who has been practicing with his new team this spring, will likely enter summer camp as the projected backup to starter Sean Mannion.

We were thinking he would not be eligible for the year and were preparing for him for the following season,” Beaver head coach Mike Riley said in a statement. “This is good news. It gives us one more guy in the mix immediately.”

Just three days prior to the announcement that Del Rio was transferring to the Beavers a couple of months ago, UA announced that the player was leaving the Tide football program.

Del Rio was a three-star member of the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 28 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Colorado.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, so he’ll have four years to use four seasons of eligibility beginning in 2014.

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Iowa State’s David Irving charged in connection to student riot, suspended

Iowa v Iowa State

One of these days, people will realize that security cameras and cell phones and social media have invaded every corner of our lives.

The latest example of that notion is Iowa State’s David Irving, who was charged Friday in connection to an on-campus student riot earlier in the week.  According to the Ames Tribune, the defensive end is facing charges of with fifth-degree theft, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief for his role in the imbroglio.  The latter charge is listed as a felony.

The charges come a day after a photograph showing Irving carrying a traffic sign through the midst of the riot was published in a local newspaper and across the Internet.  A total of eight people, including Irving, have been arrested in connection to an incident in which “more than 1,000 students gathered in Campustown as cars were flipped, street signs were taken and light poles were broken.” One student was hospitalized in serious condition in ICU after a light pole fell on him.

A separate report from the Tribune stated that “Irving was identified on video as being one of the people who pulled down one of the light poles, but not the one that is believed to have hit the student.”

As a result of the charges, Irving has been indefinitely suspended by the football program.

In 2013, Irving started eight of the 10 games in which he played.  In mid-November, Irving was arrested on a domestic assault charge and suspended for one game.  Charges against Irving related to that case were dropped two months later.

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