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College Football Playoff reveals new chairperson, six new selection committee members

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As expected, the group that will determine the four playoff semifinalists next season will have a new leader — with the group consisting of new members as well.

The College Football Playoff announced Wednesday that Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens has been named as the selection committee’s new chairperson.  Mullens replaces Kirby Hocutt, the Texas Tech athletic director whose two-year term is expiring Feb. 1.

Former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was the first CFP chair (2014-15).

“We are delighted that Rob will be stepping into this role,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “He is an experienced committee member, extremely passionate about college football, detail-oriented and brings a high level of energy that is perfectly suited to chairing the committee.”

As chairman, the press release stated, “Mullens will set the selection committee’s agenda, run its meetings and serve as the spokesman for the committee along with Hancock.”

“College football plays a vital role in intercollegiate athletics, and it is an honor to continue to serve on the CFP Selection Committee,” said Mullens. “I look forward to partnering with the other committee members and the staff to build on the strong foundation which has been created in the first four years of the CFP.”

Additionally, the CFP announced six new committee members:

  • Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, as previously reported
  • Former journalist/current journalism professor Paola Boivin
  • Former Rice/Clemson/Arkansas/Air Force head coach Ken Hatfield
  • College and NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott
  • Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury
  • Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin

There were five members whose terms are set to expire at the beginning of next month: Clemson AD Dan Radakovich, Arkansas AD Jeff Long, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, former Stanford/Notre Dame/Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham, former Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson and former journalist Steve Wieberg.

The six additions bring the committee back to a dozen voters, including Robert Morris president Christopher B. Howard (term expires in Feb. of 2020), former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer (2020), Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith (2020), former Southern Miss head coach Jeff Bower (2019), former Central Michigan head coach Herb Deromedi (2019) and Mullen (2019).

One of the nine suspended Florida players transferring from Gators

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Not surprisingly, one Florida Gator with off-field issues will be taking his leave of Gainesville.

Citing “my recent actions and coaching changes,” Jordan Smith announced on Twitter that he “will not be returning to the University of Florida and will be looking for other opportunities to further my education and my football career.” The redshirt freshman defensive lineman added that “Florida was amazing to me and I will always be a Gator at heart.”

The “recent actions” to which Smith referred in his tweet stemmed from a controversy that first surfaced in mid-August.

Smith was one of what were ultimately nine Gator football players who were indefinitely suspended in connection to the misuse of scholarship money in general and, specifically, for making improper charges on their student IDs at the school bookstore and then selling those items for cash.  A police investigation stemming from the allegations led to felony charges being filed in late September.

Seven of those players — junior wide receiver Antonio Callaway, junior defensive end Keivonnis Davis, sophomore defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, freshman linebacker James Houston, freshman linebacker Ventrell Miller, junior running back Jordan Scarlett and redshirt freshman wide receiver Rick Wellsentered into a pretrial intervention program in October and, if they make restitution and “comply with probation protocols,” the charges will be dismissed.

The cases involving Smith and the ninth suspended player, true freshman offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, remain open.  It’s believed that Telfort, who reportedly has 30 felonies pending, is transferring as well.

Callaway has decided to leave the Gators as well, although he’s moving on to the NFL and entering the draft247Sports.com reports that Davis’ playing career may be over because of injuries sustained in a scooter accident that occurred sometime after his suspension.

The status of the other five players with the football program moving forward is unclear.

None of the suspended players played a down for the Gators this past season.

Marcell Harris foregoes shot at sixth season, leaves Florida for NFL

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Instead of a chance at extending his collegiate career, Marcell Harris has opted to end it.

On social media Thursday, Harris confirmed that he will be leaving the Gators and making himself available for the NFL draft.  The fifth-year senior safety missed the entire 2017 season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in July and could’ve petitioned the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.

Obviously, he chose a different route.

In what turned out to be his last season on the field for the Gators, Harris led the team in tackles with 73 in 2016.  He started eight of the 13 games he played that year.

All told, he played in 37 games with nine starts during his time in Gainesville.

Heart condition ends Florida early enrollee’s career before it begins

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Randy Russell is a member of Florida’s 2018 class, and he’s already on campus in Gainesville with the aim of getting the fastest start possible on his college football career. But Russell won’t play a snap for the Gators, and it has nothing to do with his playing ability.

Russell announced Thursday his career has ended due to a heart condition. Florida spokesman Steve McClain said the condition was discovered during a physical exam conducted by Florida’s team doctors.

“A week ago, I began my journey as a student athlete at the University of Florida,” Russell wrote in a Twitter post. “Today, I was diagnosed with hypothermic cardiomyopathy. A heart condition that prevents me from continuing with the hopes of playing college football and becoming a professional football player.”

According to WebMD, hypothermic cardiomyopathy is “associated with thickening of the heart muscle, most commonly at the septum between the ventricles, below the aortic valve. This leads to stiffening of the walls of the heart and abnormal aortic and mitral heart valve function, both of which may impede normal bloodflow out of the heart.”

Symptoms range from chest pain and shortness of breath (both of which are exacerbated by exercise), to heart palpations, to even sudden death.

“As tragic as this is for Randy and his family to hear this news, this discovery is life-saving for him,” Gators head coach Dan Mullen said in a statement. “We will be fully supportive in any way we can for Randy and his family. He will continue to be a part of the Gator football family and we will assist him in his academic pursuits at the University of Florida.”

Russell was a 3-star safety from Miami’s Carol City High School.

Ron English hire completes Dan Mullen’s first Florida coaching staff

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Exactly 46 days after taking over at Florida, Dan Mullen has officially completed his first Gators coaching staff.

The football program announced Thursday morning that Mullen has hired Ron English as his safeties coach.  English, whose tenure as head coach at Eastern Michigan ended in controversy in Nov. of 2013, spent the 2017 season in the same role for Mullen at Mississippi State.

English was the defensive coordinator at San Jose State in 2016, his first coaching job in nearly three years following the controversial departure from EMU.  Prior to his five-year stint at EMU, English was the defensive coordinator at Louisville (2008) and Michigan (2006-07).

With English onboard, Mullen has finalized the titles for all 10 of his UF assistants:

  • Todd Grantham — Defensive Coordinator
  • Billy Gonzales — Co-Offensive Coordinator, Wide Receivers
  • John Hevesy — Co-Offensive Coordinator, Offensive Line
  • Brian Johnson — Quarterbacks
  • Greg Knox — Running Backs, Special Teams Coordinator
  • Ja’Juan Seider — Tight Ends
  • Sal Sunseri — Defensive Line
  • Christian Robinson — Linebackers
  • Charlton Warren — Cornerbacks
  • Ron English — Safeties