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All-MAC LB taking grad transfer route out of Bowling Green

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An injury-plagued redshirt junior season will turn out to be the last for Austin Valdez at Bowling Green.

Late Thursday evening, Valdez took to his personal Twitter account to reveal that he planned to leave the Bowling Green football team and finish his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  A couple of hours later, the football program released a statement confirming that the linebacker has asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship.

“He plans to graduate and seek a graduate transfer opportunity. We wish him well,” the statement concluded.

As a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school if he so desires. The 2017 season will be his final year of eligibility.

Valdez started all 14 games in 2015, leading the team in tackles with 144 and tying for the team lead with 11 tackles for loss. Coming off that performance, he was named first-team All-MAC.

Slowed by nagging injuries the following season, he started eight of the 10 games in which he played in 2016. His 58 tackles were second on the Falcons.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Bowling Green suspends S CJ Pickrom after assault arrest

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This is normally the point in the program where we note a triggering of the resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker but, that was already been taken care of earlier today so we’ll just go ahead and move on.

Bowling Green has announced that rising true sophomore CJ Pickrom has been indefinitely suspended from head football coach Mike Jinks‘ program.  The Toledo Blade reports that the suspension stems from an incident that occurred Jan. 18 at a local drinking establishment.

From the Blade‘s report:

According to a Bowling Green police report, Pickrom consumed a shot of an alcoholic beverage, then was preparing to consume another shot when “an unknown person bumped into him and spilled the second shot.”

The report said Pickrom “became angry and struck a female that was standing nearby.” The report added that the female said she was not injured at the time, but later the mother of the female Pickrom allegedly struck said the female had a “minor concussion and incurred some medical bills” and also had sustained a black eye.

While Pickrom was initially charged with disorderly conduct, it was subsequently upgraded to misdemeanor assault.  The 18-year-old defensive back is also facing an underage drinking charge.

“We are aware of an incident involving CJ Pickrom,” Jinks said in a statement. “He has been indefinitely suspended from the team and will take part in the University’s student code of conduct process.

“We do not, and will not, condone this type of behavior in our program.”

As  true freshman, Pickrom played in five games.

Pick problems lead Bowling Green to make a change at QB

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In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4.  Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.

Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.

After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions.  A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.

Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.

LOOK: Teams across the country commemorate 9/11 anniversary

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As you are no doubt aware, tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of one of the darkest days this country has ever faced.

To commemorate and honor those souls lost in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, as well as the military that continues to keep us safe, teams all across the country used the Week 2 game-day stage to wear helmets and uniforms — and gloves and cleats — in remembrance of 9/11.  Below are but a few of those:

(Writer’s note: schools or fans, if I’m missing any — and I’m sure I am — forward them to me at John.Taylor AT nbcuni.com and I’ll add them.)