Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

AJ McCarron, Ryan Kelly
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57 centers named to Rimington Award spring watch list

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  The first watch list of the offseason has arrived.

The first for that honor this year is the Rimington Award, which on Tuesday released its spring watch list that is 57 players strong.  The Rimington Award, named in honor of former Nebraska standout Dave Rimington, is presented annually to the top center in the nation and is determined by the consensus All-American center pick from three existing All-America teams — Walter Camp. Sporting News and FWAA.

None of the finalists for the 2015 award, won by Alabama’s Ryan Kelly, are included on this year’s initial watch list as all three have since moved on with expired eligibility.

The ACC and SEC pace all conferences with eight watch listers apiece, followed by the AAC and Big 12 with seven each.  The Big Ten placed six, while the Pac-12’s three was the least of all of the Power Five programs.

All 10 of the FBS leagues, plus one independent (Notre Dame), are represented on the spring watch list, the full roster of which appears below.

AAC
Deyshawn Bond, Cincinnati, senior
Ryan Crozier, UConn, redshirt sophomore
Will Noble, Houston, sophomore
Drew Kyser, Memphis, sophomore
Evan Brown, SMU, junior
Brendan McGowan, Temple, redshirt senior
Chandler Miller, Tulsa, sophomore

ACC
Jay Guillermo, Clemson, senior
Alec Eberle, Florida State, redshirt sophomore
Freddie Burden, Georgia Tech, redshirt senior
Nicholas Linder, Miami, junior
Lucas Crowley, North Carolina, senior
Alex Officer, Pittsburgh, redshirt junior
Jason Emerich, Syracuse, redshirt senior
Jackson Matteo, Virginia, senior

BIG TEN
Joe Spencer, Illinois, senior
Sean Welsh, Iowa, junior
Brendan Moore, Maryland, sophomore
Mason Cole, Michigan, junior
Dylan Utter, Nebraska, senior
Michael Dieter, Wisconsin, sophomore

BIG 12
Kyle Fuller, Baylor, senior
Dalton Risner, Kansas State, sophomore
Jonathan Alvarez, Oklahoma, junior
Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State, junior
Austin Schlottman, TCU, junior
Tony Morales, Texas Tech, senior
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, redshirt senior

CONFERENCE USA
Michael Montero, FIU, senior
Dillon DeBoer, FAU, redshirt senior
Daniel Stephens, Middle Tennessee State, senior
Nick Clarke, Old Dominion, sophomore
Cameron Tom, Southern Miss, senior
Max Halpin, Western Kentucky, redshirt senior

MAC
Tim McAuliffe, Bowling Green redshirt junior
James O’Hagan, Buffalo, sophomore

MOUNTAIN WEST
Jake Bennett, Colorado State, junior
Asotui Eli, Hawaii, redshirt sophomore
Nathan Goltry, Nevada, senior
Arthur Flores, San Diego State, senior
Austin Stephens, Utah State, senior

PAC-12
Toa, Lobendahn, USC, junior
Coleman Shelton, Washington, junior
Riley Sorenson, Washington State, senior

SEC
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas, junior
Brandon Kublanow, Georgia, senior
Jon Toth, Kentucky, senior
Ethan Pocic, LSU, senior
Jamaal Clayborn, Mississippi State, senior
Robert Conyers, Ole Miss, senior
Alan Knott, South Carolina, redshirt junior
Coleman Thomas, Tennessee, junior

SUN BELT
Devin Mondie, Arkansas State, senior
Andy Kwon, Georgia Southern, senior
Gabe Mobley, Georgia State, sophomore
Steve Matlock, Idaho, senior

INDEPENDENTS
Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame, junior

Ex-Vandy RB Brian Kimbrow now an ex-MTSU RB, too

Brian Kimbrow
Associated Press
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Maybe the third time will be the charm for Brian Kimbrow? Or maybe there’ll be no third time, period?

That appears to be the case Kimbrow confirmed to Rivals.com earlier this week that he has walked away from the Middle Tennessee State football team. Not only that, but the running back has walked away from the sport, period.

“I just didn’t love football like I used to and wanted to focus on school and my forensics career,” Kimbrow told the recruiting website. “Just burned out for real.”

Kimbrow began his collegiate career at Vanderbilt as a four-star recruit in 2012. He ran for 748 yards and six touchdowns his first two seasons with the Commodores before he was indefinitely suspended early on in the 2014 season for conduct detrimental to the team. A month later, the then-junior was dismissed from the Vandy football program.

Kimbrow joined MTSU as a graduate transfer earlier this year and participated in spring practice with his new Blue Raiders teammates.

Tony Franklin resigns as Cal’s OC to take same job at MTSU

Tony Franklin Jared Goff
Cal athletics
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This is something you don’t see every day.

Cal announced Friday afternoon that Tony Franklin has resigned as the offensive coordinator of the Golden Bears.  Additionally, the football program confirmed that Franklin resigned so that he could take the same position at Middle Tennessee State.

The Blue Raiders subsequently confirmed in its own release that, in addition to his coordinating duties, Franklin would also serve as quarterbacks coach.  Franklin, who was MTSU’s coordinator in 2009, replaces Buster Faulkner, who left for the same job at Arkansas State earlier this month.

“As soon as we had the opening, Tony and I had conversations and he expressed his interest in coming to Middle Tennessee so we immediately started figuring out a way to make it work,” said head coach Rick Stockstill in a statement. “I am extremely excited about working with Tony again. He did a great job here the last time and I know our players will love playing for him.

“I know our offensive players will be eager to learn from Tony because he is one of the top three or four offensive coordinators in the business with a proven track record. Everywhere he has coached, his offenses have been one of the most productive in the country and I can’t wait for him to get here and start putting his plan into place.”

Franklin had spent the past three seasons as the coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Bears. In 2015, he added running backs coach as part of his responsibilities.

In 2015, Cal set school records for passing yardage (4,892), passing yards per game (376.3 ypg), passing touchdowns (44), total offense (6,879), total yards per game (529.2 ypg), total touchdowns (63), scoring offense (37.9 ppg, modern-era record), first downs (341) and first downs passing (201). Quarterback Jared Goff, responsible for most of those record-breaking statistics, decided to leave early for the NFL.

“I appreciate all of the contributions that Tony has made over the last three seasons to make our football program successful and all that he has accomplished throughout his career including the last six years we have spent working together at Cal and Louisiana Tech,” Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said. “I will miss him both as a colleague and a friend, but at this point in his career he has decided that this is the best move for him and his family. I respect and honor that wholeheartedly, and I wish both Tony and his family nothing but the best.”

“I am also extremely confident and excited that we will hire an offensive coordinator that will help us continue to grow upon our recent success and the foundation that Tony and all of our coaches have built at Cal. We have a terrific foundation in place now, and we will embrace the opportunity to hire an outstanding offensive coordinator that will help us continue to have success as a team and be one of the top offenses in college football.”

In addition to Cal and MTSU, Franklin has also been the coordinator at Kentucky (2000), Troy (2006-07), Auburn (2008) and Louisiana Tech (2010-12). Franklin had spent the last six seasons on Dykes-led staffs.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 24 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Donnel Pumphrey #19 of the San Diego State Aztecs runs with the ball in the first half against D.J. Dunn #34 of the Air Force Falcons in the Mountain West Championship game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which features a pair of games on islands and teams from four different conferences: AAC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West.

WHO: Middle Tennessee State (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
WHAT: The 2nd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: A 3-5 start to the 2015 season put Middle Tennessee State’s bowl eligibility in jeopardy, but Rick Stockstill‘s crew righted the ship and finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak.  Western Michigan was in control of its MAC West fate at 5-0 before back-to-back losses to Bowling Green and eventual division champion Northern Illinois essentially ended their conference title game hopes, although they did knock off Toledo in the finale to rip the West from the Rockets and hand it to the Huskies.  History is not on WMU’s side, however, as the Broncos have played in six bowl games previously… and lost all six.  What WMU does have on its side is a pair of receivers, Daniel Braverman (103-1,266-12) and Corey Davis (82-1,253-11), who combined for 185 receptions for 2,519 yards and 23 touchdowns. MTSU can move the ball through the air as well as Brent Stockstill has passed for 3,678 yards.  Offense should rule the day overall as both are prolific on that side of the ball — WMU’s 22nd nationally in total offense, MTSU 30th — while the Blue Raiders are in the middle of the pack defensively (51st in scoring defense).  The Broncos, meanwhile, are 78th in scoring.  With a win, WMU would win eight or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history; an MTSU win, meanwhile, would give that program exactly eight wins in three of the last four seasons.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee State, +4½
THE PREDICTION: Western Michigan 37, Middle Tennessee State 34

__________

WHO: San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)
WHAT: The 14th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Very quietly, Mountain West champion San Diego State is one of the hottest teams in the country, with their nine-game winning streak tied with Alabama for the second-longest streak nationally behind Clemson’s 16 in a row.  In fact, one more win for the Aztecs would tie the single-season school record of 11 set back in 1969 under Don Coryell.  The 10 wins are already SDSU’s first double-digit win season since 1977 and just the fifth since becoming an FBS program.  Cincinnati, on the other hand, won back-to-back games just once this season, although they didn’t lose back-to-back games at all in 2015.  The Bearcats are also dealing with some internal strife as starting quarterback Gunner Kiel will not play because of what are being described as “personal reasons.”  The Bearcats, though, are prolific offensively, ranking 24th in the country with 36.1 points per game.  The problem is that San Diego State is among the stingiest in giving up points, with their 17 points per game positioning the Aztecs 10th nationally in that category.  SDSU has given up 20 or more points four times this season, and just once, in a 27-24 win over Air Force, during their winning streak.  That said, the key to the game could be Cincinnati’s run defense: UC is 106th in allowing teams to average 5.0 yards per carry, while SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey‘s 1,554 yards are 10th nationally as he averages 5.5 ypc.
THE LINE: Cincinnati, +1½
THE PREDICTION: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 28

WKU QB Brandon Doughty headlines All-Conference USA team

WKU wins 35-19 over FAU
The Associated Press
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League champions Western Kentucky led the All-Conference USA team with six First Team announcements, but runner-up Southern Miss placed the most overall players on the first and second teams with 10.

Louisiana Tech posted nine first- and second-team honorees, followed by WKU with eight.

And new North Texas head coach Seth Littrell, in his second day on the job, got a reminder why he’s in Denton, as the Mean Green were shut out of the first- and second-teams for the first time since 1957.

The first and second teams can be found below:

First Team Offense

QB — Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky, Sr.
RB — Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
RB — Jalen Richard, Southern Miss, Sr.
OL — Sebastian Johansson, Marshall, Sr.
OL — Jaylen Hunter, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
OL — Andrew Reue, Rice, Sr.
OL — Cameron Tom, Southern Miss, Jr.
OL — Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky, Jr.
TE — Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky, Sr.
WR — Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech, Jr.
WR — Richie James, Middle Tennessee, Fr.
WR — Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky, Jr.

First Team Defense

DL — Michael Wakefield, Florida International, Sr.
DL — Trevon Coley, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
DL — Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic, Jr.
DL — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
LB — Evan McKelvey, Marshall, Sr.
LB — T.T. Barber, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
LB — Nick Holt, Western Kentucky, Sr.
DB — Richard Leonard, Florida International, Sr.
DB — Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech, Jr.
DB — Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
DB — Kalan Reed, Southern Miss, Sr.

First Team Specialists

K — Garrett Schwettman, Western Kentucky, Sr.
P — Dalton Schomp, Florida Atlantic, Jr.
KR — Deandre Reaves, Marshall, Sr.
PR — Richard Leonard, Florida International, Sr.
LS — Lance Schuffert, Southern Miss, Sr.

Second Team Offense

QB — Nick Mullens, Southern Miss, Jr.
RB — Kalif Phillips, Charlotte, Jr.
RB — Ray Lawry, Old Dominion, So.
RB — Ito Smith, Southern Miss, So.
RB — Anthony Wales, Western Kentucky, Jr.
OL — Michael Montero, Florida International, Jr.
OL — Reggie Bain, Florida Atlantic, So.
OL — Darrell Brown, Louisiana Tech, Jr.
OL — Jens Danielsen, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
OL — Michael Selby, Marshall, Jr.
OL — Rashod Hill, Southern Miss, Sr.
TE — David Morgan II, UTSA, Sr.
WR — Ed Batties, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
WR — Zach Pascal, Old Dominion, Jr.
WR — Mike Thomas, Southern Miss, Sr.

Second Team Defense

DL — Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte, Jr.
DL — Jarquez Samuel, Marshall, Sr.
DL — Michael Smith, Southern Miss, Sr.
DL — Jason Neill, UTSA, Sr.
LB — Anthony Wint, Florida International, So.
LB — Nick Thomason, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
LB — T.J. Ricks, Old Dominion, Jr.
LB — Brian Anderson, Southern Miss, Sr.
DB — Cre’von LeBlanc, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
DB — Bryson Abraham, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
DB — Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tennessee, Jr.
DB — Bennett Okotcha, UTSA, Sr.

Second Team Specialists

K — Jonathan Barnes, Louisiana Tech, So.
P — Tyler Williams, Marshall, Sr.
KR — Kylen Towner, Western Kentucky, So.
PR — Deandre Reaves, Marshall, Sr.
LS — Matt Cincotta, Marshall, Sr.