Regardless of what happens in one Power Five conference, one Group of Five league could be expanding.
Air Force and Colorado State of the Mountain West have reportedly made the cut as the Big 12 looks to expand by at least two teams and possibly four. That conference could make their expansion decision as early as the next month.
In the meantime, the MWC won’t be sitting idly by waiting to be poached as commissioner Craig Thompson confirmed Saturday that his conference will look to expand independent of what the Big 12 does. And, more to the point, Thompson doesn’t hide the fact that the league would like a presence in the state of Texas.
“I can say this — and I said it at our [football] media days. We have a lot of people saying, ‘If there’s an opportunity to be in your league, we’re interested.’ So there are numbers there,” Thompson said, without getting into any specifics. “I’ve challenged our membership to think about expansion — with or without losing [current] members. Do we look east? Do we look at the state of Texas, for example?
“So that’s probably going to be something we have to confront this year.”
The Salt Lake Tribune mentions current Conference USA members North Texas, Rice, UTEP and UT-San Antonio as possibilities from the state of Texas. The Sun Belt’s Arkansas State is also considered a viable option.
We have yet another member of the “Maybe the Third Time Will be a Charm” club.
Earlier Thursday, UTEP announced that it had added Kent Taylor to its roster as a graduate transfer from Kansas. As Taylor comes in as a graduate, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016, his final season of eligibility.
Last season, he led all Jayhawk tight ends with 15 receptions for 179 yards. He also scored his second career receiving touchdown.
In December of 2013, Taylor announced his decision to transfer from Florida to KU. He sat out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.
Taylor, a consensus four-star recruit, was rated as the top tight end in the nation by both Rivals.com and Scout.com in the Class of 2012. As a true freshman with the Gators, he caught a pair of passes, one of which went for a touchdown. He took a redshirt his sophomore season prior to transferring from UF.
With 2015 winner Derrick Henry of Alabama off to the NFL, there will be a new winner of the Doak Walker Award in 2016. Based on the projected performances of a couple of other finalists from a year ago, this year’s winner could very well come from the group below.
Thursday, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announced a watch list that contains a whopping 76 players. The Walker Award has ben handed out annually since 1990 to the nation’s top running back and is named in honor of former SMU great Doak Walker.
Two finalists for last year’s award have made the cut this preseason — LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
The SEC led all conferences with 13 watch listers, followed by the Big 12 (9), Big 12 (9), Pac-12 (9), ACC (8), Mountain West (6), Sun Belt (6), MAC (5), Conference USA (4) and AAC (3). There were also four from independents (BYU, Notre Dame).
Those two independents were two of the 13 schools with two running backs listed, the others being Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Cal, Duke, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, USC, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan.
Below is the complete 2016 Doak Walker Award preseason watch list:
It appears one of the most talented but unheralded running backs in the country has made his way out of his head coach’s doghouse.
In February of this year, UTEP’s Aaron Jones was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. In early March, head coach Sean Kugler said in a statement that “[w]e are waiting for the process to fully develop and once I have all the facts, I will evaluate the situation.”
Wednesday, Jones entered into a pretrial diversion program that will see the charge dismissed if he meets certain conditions. That same day, Kugler released a statement saying that, essentially, Jones had been punished enough.
“Aaron’s situation was handled internally as is the case with every player,” the coach said. “He has been punished harshly and I consider this matter to be put behind him, he will not be suspended further.”
Jones, who went to high school in El Paso, led the Miners in rushing in 2014 (1,321 yards) and 2013 (811). He sustained a season-ending ankle injury two games into the 2015 season; at the time of the injury, his 209 yards rushing were far and away the Miners’ leading rusher (Autrey Golsen, 19 yards at the time). Despite missing the last 10 games of the season, he finished third on the team in rushing behind Jeremiah Laufasa‘s 381 yards and LaQuintus Dowell‘s 276.
Even as he’s missed a total of 14 games because of injury, including four games at the end of his true freshman season in 2013, Jones is currently eighth on the school’s all-time rushing list.
Earlier today, Jones was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list.
Hey, at least this one is somewhat selective.
Continuing the preseason watch list dump is the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end and named in honor of the former Syracuse standout and NFL Hall of Famer. This year, a total of 45 tight ends appear on the award’s initial watch list.
Headlining this year’s preseason list is Clemson’s Jordan Leggett, a finalist for last year’s honor. Arkansas’ Hunter Henry was the recipient of the 2015 Mackey, which has been given out annually since 2000.
All 10 FBS conferences as well as one independent (Notre Dame) are represented, led by the SEC’s seven. The Big Ten is next with six, followed by the ACC and MAC with five apiece and four each from Conference USA, the Mountain West, the Pac-12 and the Sun Belt. The spread-happy Big 12, with two, has the fewest of not only the Power Five conferences but any league, period.
More than half (27) of the watch listers are seniors, with juniors making up 13 of the 45. The remaining five players are sophomores.
Below is the complete 2016 Mackey Award watch list: