Matt Flanagan has officially moved on from one former Big East program to another.
In a missive posted to his personal Twitter account Monday, Flanagan revealed that he will enroll at Pittsburgh in short order and continue his collegiate playing career with the Panthers. The tight end is expected to graduate in May from Rutgers, meaning he’ll be eligible to play immediately for his new team during the 2017 season.
This will be Flanagan’s final season of eligibility.
The past three seasons, Flanagan played in 33 games for the Scarlet Knights. In that time, he caught 18 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Flanagan also takes the student part of the student-athlete moniker very seriously. From nj.com:
The former Rutgers tight end told NJ Advance Media last November that his goal was to find a master’s program in a research-based science discipline. At the time, he called his decision “purely academic.”
At Rutgers, Flanagan is part of a select group of Rutgers students studying at the Aresty Research Center. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Flanagan spent three years researching with the hopes of publishing findings on the effects of Creatine — the same supplement made famous by MLB sluggers like Mark McGwire — and how it impacts the cells that synthesize bone.
At his new program, he’ll join a squad that doesn’t return any tight ends who have caught a pass at the collegiate level.
After losing its athletics director to another school, the University of Pittsburgh has a new athletics director ready to get to work. Heather Lyke , previously of Eastern Michigan, will reportedly take on the job at Pittsburgh according to multiple reports including The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Detroit Free Press and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.
Lyke, a Michigan alum and former senior associate athletic director at Ohio State, will replace Scott Barnes, who left to take on the same role at Oregon State. She will be the first woman to be an athletic director in Pitt’s history.
Lyke was a trailblazer during her time at Eastern Michigan. She was the first ever MAC Cartwright Award winner for all-around athletic department excellence in the 2013-2014 academic year. Among the accomplishments at EMU under Lyke’s tenure include the highest overall athletic GPA in school history and the highest graduation rates for athletes in school history. Last season saw the most successful football season in school history in decades leading to the first bowl trip for the program since 1987.
Lyke will leave EMU at a time the school is potentially set to invest in improving athletics facilities in a big way, and her leadership will be a big part of the reason why the university feels it appropriate to even consider spending so much money to improve the athletics programs even if students and faculty on campus have concerns about such budget proposals.
As for the future of the Pitt football program, the hiring of Lyke seems to have no drawbacks. Pat Narduzzi has done well since being hired to be the head coach, so there is little reason for Lyke to be looking to make a change on the sideline to hire her preferred coach. Narduzzi was actually on the selection committee for finding a new AD, so it stands to reason the new AD has the support of the football coach. This is not a situation where the new AD will be asked to make a quick change, so that’s good for Narduzzi and the football program. Whether Lyke has any desire to figure out a long-term stadium solution on Pitt’s campus might be worth watching, although that might be a reach.
Expect one of the football-related questions to Lyke be about the non-conference scheduling plans. Among those first questions will be Lyke’s thoughts about the Penn State series. The two in-state schools (now with two women athletic directors), resumed their previously abandoned series last fall and will meet again for the next three seasons. As is custom, new ADs tend to draw their line in the sand on such in-state rivalry questions.
And if she says the football team is going to bring back the mustard-yellow helmets on a full-time basis, then she may be the best hire Pitt has made in years right out of the gate.
Expected to be one of the backs that will help replace James Conner‘s lost production, Darrin Hall will instead be slow in making his way into the backfield rotation.
Hall sustained what was only described as a lower-body injury in Pittsburgh’s Pinstripe Bowl loss to Northwestern in late December. The unspecified injury is still lingering as Pat Narduzzi stated that Hall, the team’s third-leading rusher in 2015, will be limited for Pitt during spring practice.
“He might be back to 90 percent,” the head coach said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He will not go out there and risk any injuries this spring.”
The Panthers will kick off the first practice of the spring later today.
Hall’s 160 yards rushing last season were fifth on the team and third amongst returning running backs. Rising junior Quadree Henderson was second on the Panthers last season with 631 yards on the ground, while rising sophomore Chawntez Moss was fourth with 227 yards.
Conner, who led the team with 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016, is part of the prospect pool for the 2017 NFL draft.
After losing his starting job at USC after just three games last season, paving the way for young rising star Sam Darnold, Max Browne knew he needed to find a new place to play his final year of eligibility if he wanted to start again. Pitt wound up being the destination for the quarterback, and he’ll be bringing a motivation with him driven by the way things ended for him at USC.
Browne was pulled out of the starting job after a rough three-game start that included losses to Alabama and Stanford. Because Darnold fit in so well with the Trojans offense, leading the to a strong second half of the season and a wild Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State, the writing had long been on the wall for Browne that his opportunity to lead USC’s offense was gone. In December, Browne announced he was leaving the Trojans and moving to Pittsburgh to play with the Panthers.
“A lot of frustration, confusion, disappointment,” Browne said in an interview with Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com when describing his reactions to being informed by USC head coach Clay Helton he would no longer be the starting quarterback. “I don’t mean to be negative, but I also don’t want to be fake. That situation was not the easiest one on me, but I was happy to see my guys finish the season out the right way and get that Rose Bowl win, but it was tough.
As you might imagine, Browne is now provided with a little bit of extra motivation to make things right and prove he is worthy of a starting job, even if it comes in another program in a different conference in a completely new region.
“It’s in my blood, it’s 100 percent fuel to the fire, definitely drives me,” Browne said. “I think at this point in my career, being a fifth-year senior, you have to find your spark, and that’s definitely it. That’s what is definitely sparking me and wanting me to lead Pitt to a great season.”
Browne has just one final year of eligibility, and he is expected to be Pitt’s new starting quarterback after the Panthers lost Nate Peterman to graduation.
In opting to leave Miami in late January, Gus Edwards was restricted by the university from transferring to two of his top choices in Pittsburgh and Syracuse as they were on this coming season’s schedule. A little over a month later, the Staten Island native, who wanted to transfer and move closer to home as he was a new father, has found his new college football home in the same area of the country.
On its official Twitter account earlier Monday, Rutgers announced that Edwards has transferred into the Scarlet Knights football program. As Edwards will be coming in as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017.
The upcoming season will be the running back’s final year of eligibility.
Edwards was third on the team this past season in rushing with 290 yards. For his Hurricanes career, the 6-1, 230-pound back ran for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns on 186 carries.
A foot injury suffered in summer camp cost Edwards the entire 2015 season. He received a medical redshirt for that season.