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QB Matthew Merrick leaving Longhorns to focus on academics

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Third on the depth chart and with little hope of climbing any higher, Matthew Merrick has decided to shift his focus to the first part of the word “student-athlete.”

Texas announced via a press release that Merrick has decided to leave the Longhorns football program and focus on his academics at the university. At some point in the future, particularly if an opportunity presents itself, either at UT or elsewhere, Merrick will reevaluate his prospects in the sport.

“I had a great talk with [offensive coordinator Tim] Beck, who was willing to help me with whatever I decided to do,” a statement from Merrick began. “After discussing it with my family, I’ve decided to step away from the football team and focus on my academics at UT. If an opportunity in football were to present itself in the future, that’s something I would consider, but for now, I believe it’s best to strengthen my academics as much as possible.

“I want to thank all of my teammates, the staff, Coach Beck and [head coach Tom] Herman for their support, and I appreciate all of the relationships I’ve built during my time with the team. I’ll always consider myself a Longhorn and will be rooting them on in the future.”

Merrick was the Longhorns’ No. 3 quarterback, behind starter Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger. A walk-on, Josh Covery, is also on the roster.

Jerrod Heard had moved to wide receiver earlier this offseason; it’s unclear if this development will ultimately lead him back under center, although that’s not a direction the program will head toward at the moment. The Longhorns are also pursuing LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris.

A three-star 2015 signee, Merrick was rated as the No. 56 pro-style quarterback in the country that year.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, then didn’t see the field in 2016.  In the fall of 2015, though, he was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.

Iowa State QB Joel Lanning now Cyclones’ starting middle linebacker

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Joel Lanning began the 2016 season as Iowa State’s starting quarterback, but by the end of the year he’d ceded the job to Jacob Park.

But just because Lanning is no longer the Cyclones’ top quarterback doesn’t mean the coaching staff is letting his other talents go to waste on the sideline. He became a running specialist toward the end of last season and may reprise that role in 2017. But that’s not all.

Lanning, who Iowa State lists at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, is also practicing at linebacker. And doing quite well at it.

“He’s the No. 1 mike linebacker for us right now,” linebackers coach Tyson Veidt told the Des Moines Register. “(He’s) doing a great job there running with the ones. It’s certainly his job to lose.”

Lanning’s quarterback style made him familiar with frequent contact. He rushed 121 times for 518 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns in 2016, including a 17-carry, 171-yard, five-touchdown effort in a 66-10 thrashing of Texas Tech.

While both Lanning and the Iowa State coaches are still trying to figure out what, exactly, Lanning’s role will be this season, it’s clear it will be a prominent one. It’s looking now as if Lanning will play primarily on defense while playing spot duty on offense. (Note to Lanning: make sure you switch shoulder pads when transitioning from quarterback to linebacker and vice versa.)

“Coach (Matt) Campbell told me, ‘If everything works, you’re probably going to be throwing up after all the games because you’re going to be playing so much,” Lanning told the paper.

Bob Stoops, on star QB’s arrest: ‘Very disappointed Baker put himself in that situation’

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Not long after Baker Mayfield‘s arrest on multiple charges, including resisting arrest, the Oklahoma quarterback issued a lengthy and heartfelt apology, saying in part that “I will earn your respect back and prove that I can handle myself in every situation, on and off the field.”

For the first time since that late February arrest in Arkansas, the man who will determine what if any playing time on the field Mayfield does or doesn’t miss because of the development publicly addressed the situation.

One day before the Sooners are set to kick off spring practice, Bob Stoops addressed the media. Of course, Mayfield’s situation was brought up, with Stoops describing himself as “very disappointed” that the player put himself in such a position.

Very disappointed that Baker put himself in that situation,” the coach said in his first public comments on the arrest. “He’s very hurt that he put himself in that position as well. I’m sure it’s hurt him. It’s embarrassed him. But he can overcome it and I’m sure he will as he moves forward.”

When asked if Mayfield would be facing any type of punishment from the team over the legal issues, which includes charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing the scene as well as resisting arrest, Stoops stated that since the case is “still ongoing, we won’t determine anything until it’s complete.” Stoops declined to address a question regarding the video of the arrest that was released earlier this month.

Mayfield, a finalist for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, will be permitted to practice with the team when the Sooners open spring practice Tuesday. OU will play host to UTEP top open the 2017 season Sept. 2 before traveling to Columbus the following weekend for what could/should be a Top-10 matchup with Ohio State.

Texas-Texas Tech rivalry somehow comes up during Congressional hearing

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Big 12 football was among the last topics you’d expect to come up during today’s Congressional hearing, but, given the news cycle these days, perhaps the unexpected should be expected.

As FBI director James Comey testified before Congress, Texas Representative Mike Conaway tried to equate the 2016 election with the Texas-Texas Tech football rivalry. Or something. See if you can make sense of this.

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Suddenly drawn into the inner-workings of Washington, Texas Tech sprung its head up to take advantage.

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Tune in next week, when the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry somehow gets drawn into the health care debate.

Colorado announces passing of Ralphie IV

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Colorado has announced that Ralphie IV, the Buffs’ retired, rumbling mascot, passed away Sunday. She was 19.

A month shy of the buffalo’s 20th birthday, Ralphie was euthanized after her longtime veterinarian determined wide-scale liver failure put her health in rapid and irreversible decline.”She was ready to go today,” caretaker John Graves said to Colorado’s official site. “It was very peaceful … almost 20 is fairly old for a buffalo.” Ralphie was buried in her retirement home of Henderson, Colo.

Donated to Colorado by Ted Turner, Ralphie IV was one of the longest-serving and most successful mascots in Buffaloes history. She served as the Buffaloes’ mascot from 1998-08, leading the charge for a record-tying 75 games, including six bowl games and CU’s 2001 Big 12 Championship victory.

“Ralphie IV will be greatly missed by all,” Graves said.  “It really is a sad day for the Ralphie Program, the University and for CU fans across the nation.  Fans knew Ralphie IV for her right horn that grew crooked, the Handlers that had the privilege to work with her knew her for her unique personality.

“She had a great career at the University and enjoyed all the times she led the football team onto the field, both at Folsom and at away stadiums. After retirement she lived a great life grazing away in her pastures. We lost a great buffalo, a great mascot, and a great icon.”