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Sun Belt commish issues statement on Arkansas gun law

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A highly-charged state law continues to garner the attention of the college football world.

Last week, the state of Arkansas legislature passed a law (House Bill 1249) that would allow concealed-carry handguns on publicly-owned property, which would include college sporting events.  A day later, and after realizing, amidst considerable controversy, the potential for alcohol-fueled fans to attend an SEC football game armed, the state’s senate voted to amend the law to exclude college sporting events.

The amendment still must pass through the House of Representatives, leading SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, with the University of Arkansas as a member of his conference, to release a statement Tuesday that was no doubt meant to apply pressure ahead of the vote.  Thursday, the Sun Belt’s commissioner, Karl Benson, followed suit out of concern for his membership, including Arkansas State in football.

During the last week I have followed closely the news articles regarding Arkansas House Bill 1249, and now also a potential amendment to what is now Act 562. Given that both the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University are members of the Sun Belt Conference — and as my colleague Greg Sankey of the Southeastern Conference has stated — I too support the Arkansas State Senate’s exemption in Senate Bill 724 that would prevent firearms from being allowed inside publicly funded stadiums and arenas in the State of Arkansas.

It’s unclear when the House will vote on the amendment.  Regardless of which version of thew law is finally agreed upon, it will go into effect Sept. 1.

Arkansas opens its 2017 season Sept. 2 against Florida A&M in Fayetteville.  Arkansas State’s home opener is a week later against the Miami (Fla.).

Alabama WR Raheem Falkins indicates he’s testing transfer waters

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It appears Alabama’s wide receiving corps will be thinning out prior to the start of spring practice.

On his Facebook page Wednesday, rising senior Raheem Falkins (pictured, No. 88) posted a photo of a letter he received from UA’s assistant director of compliance that grants other school permission to speak to the receiver regarding a potential transfer. The letter also indicates the restrictions that would be placed on any transfer.

In addition to any team in the SEC, Falkins would be barred from transferring to seven of UA’s eight nonconference opponents the next two seasons: Florida State, Fresno State, Colorado State, Louisville, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and The Citadel. The only nonconference opponent to which the player would be permitted to transfer is FCS Mercer, which will travel to Tuscaloosa this season.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2013 recruiting class, Falkins was rated as the No. 50 receiver in the country and the No. 15 player at any position in the state of Louisiana. He never caught a pass during is time with the team, and was expected to be buried on the depth chart once again this season.

A desire for a better opportunity at playing time is believed to be the trigger for the transfer decision.

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

Blocked by Kansas, Boise State DB transfers to Arkansas State

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After thinking he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Kansas, Darreon Jackson has instead lopped off the first two letters and added a “State” to his new home.

Wednesday morning, amidst the high school additions on National Signing Day, Arkansas State confirmed that it has added Jackson as a junior college transfer.  The signing comes exactly a week after it was reported that the defensive back, who previously announced his commitment to KU, was no longer being recruited by the Jayhawks.

Kansas backed off its pursuit of Jackson because of off-field incidents at the player’s previous school

Back in May of last year, reports surfaced that two Boise State redshirt freshmen — linebacker Marquis Hendrix and cornerback Donzale Roddie — had been expelled from the university in the wake of a Title IX sexual misconduct investigation.  An unidentified female BSU student had accused Hendrix and Roddie, along with Jackson, of coercing her into performing oral sex on at least three separate occasions.

Jackson was not expelled along with his two former teammates; rather, he was suspended for one year as he was found to have simply coerced the woman into oral sex with an unnamed recruit and had no physical contact with her.  That suspension was ultimately reduced for a suspension, although Jackson decided to leave Boise.

Jackson was never charged with a crime.

Arkansas State uses special teams and defense to earn Cure Bowl victory over UCF

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The second annual Cure Bowl wasn’t as dramatic as the first but it did deliver plenty more big plays. At least for one side.

Arkansas State jumped all over UCF early and did much of the same in the second half to run away with a 31-13 victory.

The Red Wolves did most of their damage as a result of several short fields setup by special teams and defense. They kicked off a 17-0 barrage in the first quarter with a blocked punt for a touchdown and found the end zone again thanks to three play drive that came about as a result of a short punt that landed at midfield.

Kendall Sanders hauled in a 75 yard scoring pass from Justice Hansen to open scoring in the second half and Arkansas State added another touchdown after recovering a fumble off a punt. Despite all that scoring though, the team managed just 235 yards of total offense in a relatively sloppy effort aside from those big plays.

The defense wasn’t too shabby either with six sacks and three takeaways.

UCF did claw their way back into the game during the second quarter after an extremely slow start, cutting the lead to just seven going into the locker room. Things would get no closer than that however, prompting head coach Scott Frost to even change quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. Starter McKenzie Milton didn’t have a terrible night (22-of-39, 175 yards, one touchdown) in front of the fans in Orlando but received no help from the team’s lackluster ground game.

It was not the way the team wanted to close out 2016 after completing one of the more remarkable turnarounds in college football this season. The Knights were 0-12 at this point a year ago and rallied to get to .500 and make a bowl but came out flat and never could get back into this one.

Part of the reason was because of the stellar play by the Red Wolves as they captured their third bowl victory ever that doubled as their eighth win of the season. Not bad after starting the year 0-4 and a heck of a way to close out an impressive run the past three months.