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Three-star 2019 prospect one of five charged with capital murder

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One 2019 football prospect with multiple Power Five scholarship offers has much more pressing concerns than how many more he’ll add in the near future.

According to the Gadsden Times, 17-year-old Alabama high school football player Jesse Altman is one of five individuals who have been charged with capital murder in connection to the shooting death of 18-year-old Aaron “A.J.” Huff last week. Altman and two other teenagers, Broderick Lawrence Pearson and Lonterry Orlando Harrison, were booked into the Etowah County (Ala.) Detention Center Wednesday while two others were taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force; those teenagers, Kalab Blake Whitworth and Tyler Michael Abbott, have been charged as adults.

From the newspaper’s report:

While detectives have not commented on a motive for the shooting, after Abbott’s arrest they said it was believed that he and Huff knew each other and met in a parking lot about 7:30 p.m. last Thursday. There was what police described as an altercation, and the two left in separate vehicles. The vehicle in which Huff was a passenger stopped at the intersection of Hoke Street and Litchfield Avenue, and a gunman got out of the other vehicle and shot Huff. The driver of that vehicle took Huff to a nearby hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.

All five of those arrested were in the vehicle from which the shooter allegedly emerged; as of yet, police have not publicly identified the person they believe pulled the trigger

Altman is currently rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com and the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Alabama. According to Rivals.com, the 6-1, 285-pound defensive tackle holds offers from among others, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

Alabama and Florida State are also listed as having shown interest.

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

A Look Ahead: CFT’s Way-Too-Early 2018 Heisman Trophy Contenders

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We don’t really know much when it comes to the chase for the 2018 Heisman Trophy, but we do know with utter and absolute certainty that Archie Griffin‘s claim as the only back-to-back winner will hold true for yet another year.

That’s because fifth-year senior Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma claimed the 2017 version of the stiff-armed trophy and is off to the NFL.  As a matter of fact, of the Top 10 vote-getters in this year’s voting, seven of them are headed to the show — Mayfield, San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny (5th in voting) and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (7th) because of expired eligibility, with Louisville quarterback and 2016 winner Lamar Jackson (3rd), Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (4th), Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson (9th) and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (10th) opting for early entry into the draft.  And an eighth, junior Stanford running back Bryce Love (runner-up to Mayfield), is widely expected to declare for the NFL draft ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline.

That leaves just two of the Top 10 Heisman finishers who will return for the 2018 season — UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (8th) and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (6th).

That would seem to bode well for Milton as, since 1986, 21 Heisman winners played quarterback.  Since 2000, it’s 15 of 18 at the position.  Working against Milton?  The fact that there hasn’t been a winner from a non-Power Five program since BYU quarterback Ty Detmer won the Heisman in 1990.

With that as a backdrop, here’s a look at a handful of players who should be contenders for the 2018 version of the trophy, listed in order from the favorite on down — we had Mayfield No. 2, behind USC quarterback Sam Darnold, last year at this time.  And Jackson No. 4.  Just saying, is all.

(Writer’s note: class designation is based on what the player will be for the 2018 season.)

(Writer’s note, the sequel: If Love doesn’t declare, put him at the very top of the list of favorites.)

J.K. Dobbins, OHIO STATE, RUNNING BACK, SOPHOMORE
Going against Dobbins is, one, he doesn’t play quarterback and, two, true sophomores winning the Heisman are a relative rarity — only Lamar Jackson (2016), Mark Ingram (2009) and Tim Tebow (2007) have done it.  Outweighing those disadvantages is the fact that, with J.T. Barrett gone, the Buckeyes will lean even more heavily on a player who ran for 1,403 yards (7.2 ypc) as a true freshman as they break in a new starter under center.  And, the fact that the Buckeyes will take part in a handful of high-profile games, starting with TCU in Arlington Week 3, and should be in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt throughout won’t hurt the Texas native either.

KHALIL TATE, ARIZONA, QUARTERBACK, JUNIOR
The dual-threat extraordinaire ran for 1,411 yards, passed for another 1,591 and accounted for 26 touchdowns (14 passing, 12 rushing) — and he wasn’t named the starter until the first week of October.  He set the single-game FBS record for a quarterback with 327 yards rushing vs. Colorado, and ran for 200-plus yards on two other occasions.  While the abrupt firing of Rich Rodriguez would give some pause as to Tate’s future, if Kevin Sumlin, he of Johnny Football Heisman fame, is hired as the replacement, all bets are off and Tate will be in the thick of the stiff-armed discussion throughout the season — provided voters on the East Coast can stay up to witness his greatness, that is.

JONATHAN TAYLOR, WISCONSIN, RUNNING BACK, SOPHOMORE
Breaking the great Adrian Peterson‘s all-time FBS freshman rushing record and finishing sixth in the Heisman voting your first year out of the box earns you a lofty spot on any way-too-early list of this type; hell, it arguably earns you the top spot.  As long as Bryce Love doesn’t return to Stanford, Taylor will be the highest-returning vote-getter in 2018.  Add that to the Badgers being a run-first, run-in-the-middle, run-last offense, and Taylor being the bell-cow of that offense, expect the rising sophomore to be a part of the Heisman talk throughout.

NICK BOSA, OHIO STATE, DEFENSIVE END, JUNIOR
Surprise!  Yes, this is likely way, way too high for any defensive player, but there is a confluence of events that could play out that would at least allow Bosa to earn a mid-December trip to the Big Apple.  One, he already had and still has name recognition thanks in part to big brother Joey Bosa, an OSU All-American taken third overall in the 2016 NFL draft, and is decidedly on the media’s radar.  Two, he’s highly disruptive and productive in his own right — 16 tackles for loss, 8½ sacks s a true sophomore this past season.  Three, the Buckeyes are one of the highest-profile programs in the country.  If any defense-only player is to finally claim the Heisman, Bosa could have the best shot of anyone given his situation — especially if he has big games in marquee matchups.

KELLY BRYANT, CLEMSON, QUARTERBACK, SENIOR
Fun fact: in the 83-year history of the Heisman Trophy, no player from Clemson has ever taken home the award.  If Deshaun Watson, the most decorated Tiger of all, couldn’t win one, what chance does Bryant have to be the first?  That’s a damn good question, one that doesn’t have a ready answer.  In his first year as a starter, Bryant put up solid numbers, passing for just over 2,800 yards and rushing for another 665.  He added 24 total touchdowns for good measure — 13 passing, 11 rushing.  Maybe because he was still playing in Watson’s immense shadow, there was just never that “wow!” moment, even in a season that ended with another playoff appearance.  Perhaps another year removed from Watson will allow Bryant to blossom in what is his last year at this level.

MCKENZIE MILTON, UCF, QUARTERBACK, JUNIOR
Subject A: 296.9 yards per game passing, 51.3 yards per game rushing, 3.9 touchdowns per game
Subject B: 310.5 yards per game passing, 47.2 yards per game rushing, 3.5 touchdowns per game

Subject B is Milton in 13 games this past season.  Subject A is Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in 15 games, along with the stats he put up in winning the 2014 Heisman Trophy.  And Milton’s team won the national championship while Mariota’s squad fell short.  So there’s that, too.

WILL GRIER, WEST VIRGINIA, QUARTERBACK, FIFTH-YEAR SENIOR
With Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph off to the NFL, Grier is the top returning quarterback in the pass-happy Big 12.  Despite missing nearly three full games because of injury, and in his first full season as the Mountaineers starter, Grier’s 3,490 yards passing were fourth in the conference and 20th nationally; in passing yards per game, he was eighth (317.3).  His 34 passing touchdowns were eighth in the country as well, again, despite missing nearly a quarter of the season.  With his top target in the passing game returning as well, Grier is poised to put up big numbers yet again for Dana Holgorsen and WVU

JARRETT STIDHAM, AUBURN, QUARTERBACK, REDSHIRT JUNIOR
To the surprise of almost no one, Stidham announced last week that he’s pushing off the NFL draft and would be returning to The Plains for at least one more season.  Like Grier in his first year as the starter at the school to which he transferred, Stidham put up solid numbers — 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions and completed nearly 66 percent of his passes in finishing 20th nationally in efficiency rankings.  With two of the Tigers’ most productive running backs the past two seasons leaving early for the draft, Stidham should see his numbers rise as he shoulders more of the offensive load.  As is the case with the vast majority of the players listed, though, how well his team performs will very likely determine how deep into the Heisman discussion Stidham gets.

NICK FITZGERALD, MISSISSIPPI STATE, QUARTERBACK, FIFTH-YEAR SENIOR
This is my darkhorse(ish) Heisman selection.  Fitzgerald is a lot like Hurts, although he will have an offensive system in which he’ll be able to do more through the air now that new head coach Joe Moorehead, who turned Trace McSorley into a borderline Heisman threat at Penn State, is in Starkville.  Prior to injuring his leg in the Egg Bowl, Fitzgerald was well on his way to back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.  With Moorehead around, Fitzgerald is a near-lock to improve on the 4,205 yards passing and 36 touchdowns he’s put up the past two seasons as the Bulldogs’ starter under center.

JUST MISSED THE CUT
Houston DT Ed Oliver: There’s one defensive player listed above, which is already one too many based on Heisman precedent.
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa — A late entrant, the strong-armed Hawaiin could challenge the notion that a Nick Saban-coached QB can’t win the Heisman.
Missouri QB Drew Lock: The Tigers’ offensive coordinator was replaced by Derek Dooley.  Enough said.
Penn State QB Trace McSorley: Saquon Barkley‘s presence in the backfield will be McSorely missed by the entire Nittany Lions offense.
Georgia QB Jake Fromm: With the Bulldogs’ two top running backs leaving, I almost pulled the trigger on Jake from State Fromm.
Oregon QB Justin Hebert: If Willie Taggart would’ve stayed instead of bolting for Florida State, he likely would’ve nudged his way in.
Florida State RB Cam Akers: The fact that Taggart is now at FSU almost led me to opt for the rising sophomore as the darkhorse pick.
Clemson RB Travis Etienne: He averaged 7.2 ypc as a true freshman on a playoff team, but there was just no room at the Heisman Inn.
West Virginia WR David Sills: The former quarterback tied for the FBS lead with 18 touchdown receptions and gets Will Grier back.
NC State QB Ryan Finley: Out of all of the ones that just missed the cut, I have a sneaking suspicion this one I might regret the most.

Dan Mullen adds another Mississippi State assistant to Florida staff

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As is the case with most head coaches in new jobs, Dan Mullen‘s going with what he knows.

Florida announced Friday evening that Christian Robinson has been hired as one of the 10 assistants that will make up Mullen’s first UF coaching staff. Just as with the others already hired, Robinson’s duties and/or job titles weren’t detailed.

Last season, Robinson, who played linebacker at Georgia from 2009-12, served as a graduate assistant for Mullen at Mississippi State. It’s expected that Robinson’s job in The Swamp will involve the linebacking corps.

Prior to his time in Starkville, he was a defensive graduate assistant at Ole Miss from 2015-16.

Robinson is now the fifth member of Mullen’s MSU football staff to follow the coach to UF, joining Todd Grantham, Billy Gonzalez, John Hevesy and Greg Knox. Grantham was Robinson’s defensive coordinator for the latter’s last three years with the Bulldogs, and will serve as the Gators’ coordinator as well as likely helping out his former player with linebackers.

Mississippi State picks off Lamar Jackson four times, gets past Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

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It was far from Lamar Jackson‘s finest performance, and the sour swan song played a significant role in the talented quarterback (likely) finishing his time with the Cardinals on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

In what’s widely expected to be his final season at the collegiate level, Jackson accounted for three touchdowns but that wasn’t enough to overcome his turnovers as the U of L (8-5) dropped a 31-27 decision to No. 23 Mississippi State (9-4) in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.  The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will (likely) finish his career 1-2 in bowl games and the same 1-2 versus the SEC, with his lone win coming as a true freshman when he guided the U of L to a Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M.  They also fell to LSU in last year’s Citrus Bowl.

Jackson came into the game having not thrown an interception since a late-October loss to Wake Forest; he threw a career-high four in this one, including one deep in his own territory that led to a Keytaon Thompson rushing touchdown, the freshman quarterback’s second of the game, that knotted the score at 24-all with 13:25 left in the fourth quarter.  A U of L field goal six minutes later gave the Cardinals the lead back at 27-24; Thompson’s third rushing score with 3:39 remaining in the game proved to be the game-winner.

Jackson’s fourth pick of the game, with 2:31 left and the U of L trailing 31-27, helped seal the loss for the Cardinals.  MSU’s Mark McLaurin, incidentally, intercepted three of those passes and was named as the Player of the Game.

The U of L had a chance for a Hail Mary just beyond midfield to try to win the game in the last seconds, but Jackson’s pass was batted out of bounds as the clock ran out.

Thompson, in his first collegiate start, proved to be a difference maker for the Bulldogs, rushing for a team-high 148 yards on 27 carries to go along with the three scores.  He was quietly efficient in the passing game as well, going 11-of-20 for 126 yards in place of the injured Nick Fitzgerald and with his head coach, Dan Mullen, bolting Starkville for Gainesville.

Jackson finished the game 13-of-30 passing for 171 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with the four picks.  He also added a game-high 158 yards rushing.

The success of the dual-threat quarterbacks produced something on the ground not seen very often.

In the first half, Jackson also joined Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only players in FBS history to account for at least 50 passing touchdowns and 50 rushing touchdowns in their careers.   Jackson now has 69 career passing touchdowns and 50 on the ground.

Mississippi State’s win was the first for the SEC after the conference started the 2017 bowl season 0-3.  The SEC had been the only Power Five league without a win in the postseason.

Louisville has now won at least eight games in each of the last six seasons, including four under Bobby Petrino.  In fact, In Petrino’s four seasons in his second stint at the school, the Cardinals have won eight, eight, nine and nine games.