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Conference USA media poll tabs Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky as division favorites

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In the relatively brief history of the Conference USA championship game, there has never been a rematch of the previous season’s title game. If all goes according to plan as predicted by the media, that could change in 2017.

Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech were each the clear favorites to win their respective divisions in the Conference USA preseason media poll released today. Both programs received 20 first-place votes to easily be named the preseason favorites in the Conference USA divisions, setting the stage for a potential rematch in the Conference USA championship game at the end of the season. Western Kentucky is the two-time defending Conference USA champion, and Louisiana Tech has played in two of the last three title games, so it was hardly a shock to see both programs be named the preseason favorites by the media.

UAB returns to the football field this season, and the preseason poll suggests it will be a rocky return. The Blazers were picked to finish last in the West Division. After Louisiana Tech, UTSA picked up seven first-place votes to come in second in the preseason poll. Southern Miss, now a year removed from playing for the conference championship, received the last remaining first-place vote in the West Division.

Western Kentucky failed to gobble up all of the first-place votes in the East Division as well. Middle Tennessee received four votes, while Old Dominion picked up three. Marshall also received a first-place nod from the voters. New FBS program and conference member Charlotte was picked last in the East, as expected. Lane Kiffin‘s FAU Owls were picked to finish in fifth place.

Here’s how the preseason media poll in Conference USA looks. No picks for conference champion were made.

Conference USA East Division

  1. Western Kentucky (20 first-place votes)
  2. Middle Tennessee (4)
  3. Old Dominion (3)
  4. Marshall (1)
  5. Florida Atlantic
  6. FIU
  7. Charlotte

Conference USA West Division

  1. Louisiana Tech (20)
  2. UTSA (7)
  3. Southern Miss (1)
  4. North Texas
  5. Rice
  6. UTEP
  7. UAB

Former Florida State center Bryan Stork lands coaching job at Southern Miss

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When he played college football at Florida State, Bryan Stork was one of the top centers in the nation. Now, Stork is embarking on a new journey in college football as an assistant coach. Stork announced this week, via Twitter, he accepted a job offer from Southern Miss to be the new offensive line coach.

Stork was a part of two ACC championship teams at Florida State and the Seminoles team that won the BCS championship in 2014. He became the fifth player to win a college football national championship one year and then the Super Bowl (with the New England Patriots) the next. Though one of college football’s top linemen during his career, his NFL career was forced to be cut short due to injuries and concerns about concussions. In March, Stork announced his retirement from the league after suffering multiple concussions.

Louisville grad transfer QB Kyle Bolin tweets transfer to Rutgers

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Following Louisville’s spring game earlier this month, Kyle Bolin confirmed that he would be transferring from the football program.  A little over a week later, the quarterback already has a new team lined up.

Per a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account, Bolin wrote he’s “proud to say my next home will be at Rutgers University.” The football program has thus far declined to confirm Bolin’s addition to Chris Ash‘s roster.

Bolin is scheduled to graduate from the U of L next month, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Scarlet Knights this coming season.

Texas, Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss and Western Michigan were also considered potential destinations for Bolin.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

The arrival of Bolin couldn’t come soon enough for the quarterback-depleted Knights.

In mid-November, Rutgers had six scholarship quarterbacks on its roster.  By the beginning of December, that number had been cut in half as two of them, Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, left the program as graduate transfers while another, Mike Dare, left as a run-of-the-mill transfer.  The group was further pared earlier this month when Tylin Oden was dismissed for violating team rules and TCU transfer Zach Allen suffered a torn ACL.

With Allen’s injury, it leaves the Scarlet Knights with just one healthy signal-caller on scholarship at the moment — Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job.  Another will be added when 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis comes to campus this summer.

Rescigno, Lewis and Bolin will commence a battle for the starting job when summer camp opens in early August.

JaCorey Morris, USM’s top-rated 2016 recruit, has left Golden Eagles

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The highest-rated member of Southern Miss’ recruiting class last year has found himself on the outside of the football program looking in this year.

Multiple media outlets reported Friday evening that JaCorey Morris is no longer with the team. Just what led to the linebacker’s departure, and whether it was voluntary or involuntary, is very much an unknown.

Interestingly, Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald wrote that “USM head coach Jay Hopson [said] Friday that freshman linebacker JaCorey Morris won’t be with the squad for the 2017 campaign.” Some could interpret that phrasing as the door being at least slightly ajar for a return at some point beyond this season.

A three-star 2016 recruit, Morris was rated as the No. 24 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 22 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Originally committed to South Carolina, Morris instead became USM’s top recruit last year.

As a true freshman, though, he took a redshirt.

Mike Gundy looks to Southern Miss to plug opening on Okla. St. staff

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Once again, Mike Gundy‘s Oklahoma State coaching staff is complete.

Earlier this month, Marcus Arroyo announced that he had left his post as the Cowboys’ running backs coach to become the quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator at Oregon. Less than a week later, OSU announced that John Wozniak will take over the same post abandoned by Arroyo.

This is a homecoming of sorts for Wozniak as the coach served as an offensive graduate assistant at OSU in 2004.  He followed Les Miles to LSU and was on the Tigers football staff as an offensive quality control coach when they won the 2007 national championship.  Another title ring followed at Alabama in 2012, where he was a special teams analyst for Nick Saban‘s program.

“What I like about John is that he is a self-made guy who worked his way up and did it the hard way,” Gundy said. “I know him and I know he’s a hard worker and that he can recruit. He’s been with people who I’m close to, so I’ve followed his path along the way and we’re excited to have him back here with us.”

Wozniak had spent the past four seasons at Southern Miss as wide receivers coach and working with the special teams as well.  His first on-field role at the FBS level came as the special teams coordinator at Memphis in 2009.