Sun Belt Conference

Butch Jones
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Tennessee vs. Appalachian State moves to Thursday night

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Fans of Tennessee and Appalachian State will not have to wait as long as they expected for their 2016 season opener. The Vols and Mountaineers have moved their season-opening date up two days to a Thursday night. The game, originally scheduled for Saturday, September 3, will now be played on Thursday, September 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

“The conference approached me during our recent athletics director meetings in Jacksonville about a request they had received from ESPN to move our season-opening game to Thursday night on the SEC Network,” Tennessee Athletics Director Dave Hart said in a released statement. “I visited with Butch Jones about it upon my return to gauge his interest prior to my conversations with appropriate campus personnel. He was very interested in making the change.”

This will mark the first time since 1938 the Vols will host a Thursday football game. Tennessee defeated Kentucky in a Thanksgiving game that season. The last time Tennessee played a home opener on a Thursday was in 1896. You remember that one, right?

The decision to move the game to a Thursday night timeslot helps move Tennessee’s home game out of the shadows of what is going to be one massive Saturday of college football. The Labor Day weekend is jammed with great contests, and moving a game to a Thursday night helps get the Vols, one of the potentially trendy preseason picks, some extra exposure. The Thursday line-up is becoming more crowded though, with South Carolina facing Vanderbilt on ESPN that same night. It feels kind of strange seeing a move like this to put two games involving SEC teams up against one another on that Thursday night, but I’m not ESPN’s program director.

57 centers named to Rimington Award spring watch list

AJ McCarron, Ryan Kelly
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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  The first watch list of the offseason has arrived.

The first for that honor this year is the Rimington Award, which on Tuesday released its spring watch list that is 57 players strong.  The Rimington Award, named in honor of former Nebraska standout Dave Rimington, is presented annually to the top center in the nation and is determined by the consensus All-American center pick from three existing All-America teams — Walter Camp. Sporting News and FWAA.

None of the finalists for the 2015 award, won by Alabama’s Ryan Kelly, are included on this year’s initial watch list as all three have since moved on with expired eligibility.

The ACC and SEC pace all conferences with eight watch listers apiece, followed by the AAC and Big 12 with seven each.  The Big Ten placed six, while the Pac-12’s three was the least of all of the Power Five programs.

All 10 of the FBS leagues, plus one independent (Notre Dame), are represented on the spring watch list, the full roster of which appears below.

AAC
Deyshawn Bond, Cincinnati, senior
Ryan Crozier, UConn, redshirt sophomore
Will Noble, Houston, sophomore
Drew Kyser, Memphis, sophomore
Evan Brown, SMU, junior
Brendan McGowan, Temple, redshirt senior
Chandler Miller, Tulsa, sophomore

ACC
Jay Guillermo, Clemson, senior
Alec Eberle, Florida State, redshirt sophomore
Freddie Burden, Georgia Tech, redshirt senior
Nicholas Linder, Miami, junior
Lucas Crowley, North Carolina, senior
Alex Officer, Pittsburgh, redshirt junior
Jason Emerich, Syracuse, redshirt senior
Jackson Matteo, Virginia, senior

BIG TEN
Joe Spencer, Illinois, senior
Sean Welsh, Iowa, junior
Brendan Moore, Maryland, sophomore
Mason Cole, Michigan, junior
Dylan Utter, Nebraska, senior
Michael Dieter, Wisconsin, sophomore

BIG 12
Kyle Fuller, Baylor, senior
Dalton Risner, Kansas State, sophomore
Jonathan Alvarez, Oklahoma, junior
Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State, junior
Austin Schlottman, TCU, junior
Tony Morales, Texas Tech, senior
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, redshirt senior

CONFERENCE USA
Michael Montero, FIU, senior
Dillon DeBoer, FAU, redshirt senior
Daniel Stephens, Middle Tennessee State, senior
Nick Clarke, Old Dominion, sophomore
Cameron Tom, Southern Miss, senior
Max Halpin, Western Kentucky, redshirt senior

MAC
Tim McAuliffe, Bowling Green redshirt junior
James O’Hagan, Buffalo, sophomore

MOUNTAIN WEST
Jake Bennett, Colorado State, junior
Asotui Eli, Hawaii, redshirt sophomore
Nathan Goltry, Nevada, senior
Arthur Flores, San Diego State, senior
Austin Stephens, Utah State, senior

PAC-12
Toa, Lobendahn, USC, junior
Coleman Shelton, Washington, junior
Riley Sorenson, Washington State, senior

SEC
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas, junior
Brandon Kublanow, Georgia, senior
Jon Toth, Kentucky, senior
Ethan Pocic, LSU, senior
Jamaal Clayborn, Mississippi State, senior
Robert Conyers, Ole Miss, senior
Alan Knott, South Carolina, redshirt junior
Coleman Thomas, Tennessee, junior

SUN BELT
Devin Mondie, Arkansas State, senior
Andy Kwon, Georgia Southern, senior
Gabe Mobley, Georgia State, sophomore
Steve Matlock, Idaho, senior

INDEPENDENTS
Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame, junior

NC State officially adds S. Alabama grad transfer, too

RALEIGH, NC - AUGUST 30: Players of the North Carolina State Wolfpack run onto the field prior to their game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Carter-Finley Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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Earlier in the day, reports surfaced that former Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley would be transferring to North Carolina State.

Not only did NCSU subsequently confirm that addition, but it was also confirmed that Joe Scelfo has officially been added to the Wolfpack roster as well.  Scelfo left South Alabama in mid-April. with NCSU as his reported destination at the time.

Scelfo had started 25 straight games at center for the Jaguars, including all 12 in 2015.  At the end of that season, he was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference by both the coaches and media.

Those a very good chance that Scelfo will open the 2016 season as NCSU’s starting center, replacing three-year starter Quinton Schooley.

Like Finley, Scelfo comes to Raleigh as a graduate transfer and will be eligible to play in 2016.  Unlike Finley, Scelfo will have just one season of eligibility remaining.

Ga. Southern announces addition of ex-Ga. Tech WR Micheal Summers

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 10: Mackensie Alexander #2 of the Clemson Tigers breaks up a pass intended for Micheal Summers #84 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during their game at Memorial Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)
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Micheal Summers may have left Georgia Tech, but the wide receiver hasn’t left the Peach State.

In November of last year, Summers abruptly left the Tech football program during the season; six months later, Georgia Southern confirmed that the receiver has been admitted into grad school — a higher education Master’s program — and will play for the Eagles as a redshirt senior.  The grad transfer will be playing his final season of college football in 2016.

Summers grew up in Statesboro, so the move to GSU serves as a homecoming for the 6-1, 200-pound receiver.

“It means the world to me to be able to come back to my hometown and play for the school that I grew up watching,” Summers said in a statement sent out by the school. “Being a positive role model for the youth in Statesboro means the most to me because when I graduated from Statesboro High and went up to Atlanta and Georgia Tech, not a day went by that I didn’t think about my family back home. I’m just so excited to enroll at Georgia Southern, start the Master’s program and be an Eagle.

“I’m a lot more mature than I was coming out of high school, so I know what to expect when it comes to being focused and attentive in terms of the option offense. My goal is to be consistent on the field and to build relationships with Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison, as well as the receivers like BJ Johnson and Montay Crockett. I just want to get there and get to know everyone and bring what I have to offer to Georgia Southern.”

Through the first nine games of the 2015 season, Summers was second on the team with 12 receptions before his abrupt departure. His 178 receiving yards were third while his two receiving touchdowns were tied for third at the time.

This past season, Summers started seven of nine games. All told, he started 26 games or the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.

Ex-Pitt QB Chad Voytik heading to Arkansas State, not FCS

Chad Voytik
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Just a few weeks ago it looked certain former Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik would be heading to the FCS to continue his collegiate playing career. That no longer will be the situation, as he will instead remain at the FBS level with a transfer to Arkansas State.

“I’m completely decided and 100 percent going there,” Voytik said, according to Cleveland Daily Banner. “The whole staff was extremely welcoming, and while every staff is like that when you’re on an official visit, there was something different about this staff that really drew me in and made me want to play for them.”

Voytik was originally heading to Eastern Kentucky but changed his mind to join the Arkansas State program after taking a visit over the weekend. He will get on Arkansas State’s campus on June 1 and begin working with the football program this summer.

Voytik will be eligible to play immediately this fall as a graduate transfer.