Alton Howard

Tennessee WR Howard takes leave of absence for spring

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Tennessee will be without one of their top players this spring. Wide receiver Alton “Pig” Howard will be taking a leave of absence this spring, although the length of time away from the team is not determined.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones confirmed the news Tuesday through multiple reports, including Go Vols Xtra, saying Howard is dealing with personal circumstances, but the extent of those circumstances is being held in private.

Howard was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver on the Vols with 388 receiving yards and he led the Vols with three touchdown catches last season as a sophomore. Howard will be expected to be a key player in the offense again in 2014, although a crop of young receivers should benefit from a few extra reps this spring in Howard’s absence.

Tennessee will open spring practices on Friday.

Tennessee can’t hold on to upset of Georgia

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Tennessee may have just clinched the spot for most painful loss of the season. After Georgia drove down field at the end of regulation to tie the game with seconds to spare, Tennessee had a touchdown wiped out by instant replay in overtime. Alton Howard swept to the right sideline and lunged for the end zone. Unfortunately for the Vols, that second effort may have ended up costing Tennessee the game. Howard lost control of the football at the one-yard line and the football went out-of-bounds for a touchback after the video review. A game-winning field goal by Marshall Morgan gave Georgia the 34-31 victory to keep BCS championship plans in order.

The win may have been a costly one for Georgia, with a number of players needing to be treated for injuries.

Without Todd Gurley going in to the game, Georgia lost their next top running threat when Keith Marshall had to be taken out with a left knee injury. He would later return t the sidelines on crutches and street clothes, but there is no update on the severity of the injury and none should be available until Mark Richt‘s regularly scheduled Sunday press conference. Wide receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley each had to be taken out of the game for leg injuries. Bennett’s injury was very alarming as it was to the same right knee he had previously suffered an ACL injury.The injury list continued to grow so much it even left Georgia without punter Collin Barber, who would be sidelined with a concussion.

The wild second half started with Tennessee cutting in to Georgia’s halftime lead and tying the game at 17-17. Tennessee’s defense came out with a new attitude after the break and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown brought the Vols back from a 17-3 deficit. The fourth quarter saw each team put up 14 more points. Tennessee looked to have the game’s momentum with a touchdown drive assisted by three separate fourth-down conversions. But if there is anything the past month has demonstrated it is that as long as Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is healthy, the Bulldogs have a chance. Murray, who set a new SEC career passing yardage record during the game, led Georgia down field for a game-tying score with seconds to spare. A short pass to Rantavious Wooten tied the game at 31-31.

Georgia will return home next week to play Missouri in another SEC East battle. Georgia has scored at least 40 points in Athens in each of their first three home games this season. How many players are available for the Bulldogs will remain to be seen.

Tennessee will continue a brutal three-game stretch after a bye week. In two weeks Tennessee will host South Carolina and the following week will visit Alabama.

Wake Forest adds 25 on signing day

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(Below is Wake Forest’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Wake Forest head football coach Jim Grobe on Wednesday announced the addition of 25 newcomers to the Demon Deacon football squad. Grobe announced the signing of 22 prospective student-athletes to National Letters of Intent and also released the names of three newcomers who enrolled at Wake Forest in January.

The signing class consists of players from 12 states including five from Florida and four each from Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. In addition, the Deacons received commitments from players in Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The class is evenly distributed on both sides of the ball. Wake Forest is adding 14 defensive players, 10 on offense, and one kicker.

The 25 signees mark the most since Grobe became head coach prior to the 2001 season. The previous largest class was 23 in 2003.

The Deacons will welcome four new offensive linemen including center Cory Helms (6-4, 290) from Milton High School near Atlanta and his high school teammate Josh Harris (6-4, 290). Wake Forest will also add linemen Cameron Gardner (6-5, 275) from Bailey, NC (Southern Nash) and Taylor Chambers (6-8, 300) from Columbia, SC (Irmo).

Three receivers will join Wake Forest next fall including wideout Tyree Harris (6-2, 180) of Marietta, GA (Marietta). The Deacons also signed a pair of tight ends/H-backs in Cam Serigne (6-3, 215) of Ashburn, VA (Briar Woods), and Brendan O’Neil (6-4, 220) of Burlington, MA (Buckingham Browne and Nichols).

Wake Forest added a quarterback in 6-3, 195-pound Michael Radford of Charlotte, NC (Country Day). Two running backs also inked with the Deacons. Dez Wortham (6-0, 205) of Frisco, TX (Hebron) is coming off ACL surgery last fall and John Armstrong (5-9, 165) of Orlando, FL (Olympia) has all the tools to become a slot receiver.

On defense, Wake Forest added five outside linebackers to fit its 3-4 scheme. The quintet includes Julian Thomas-Jackson (6-4, 210) of Dothan, AL (Dothan), Wendell Dunn (6-3, 210) of Miami, FL (Palmetto), Lance Virgile (6-2, 220) of Fort Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas), Ali Lamot (6-2, 200) of Mebane, NC (Eastern Alamance) and Duke Ejiofor (6-4, 220) of Houston, TX (Alief Taylor).

Both of Wake Forest’s new inside linebackers are already enrolled and will participate in spring drills. They include Marquell Lee (6-3, 220) of Pomfret, MD (Westlake) and Ford Howell (6-1, 225) from Memphis, TN (University School).

The Deacons will add five newcomers in the secondary including cornerbacks Deonte Davis (5-10, 170) of Snellville, GA (South Gwinnett), Josh Okonye (6-0, 185) of Sugar Land, TX (George Ranch), Brad Watson (6-0, 170) of Round Rock, TX (Round Rock), and Jalen Latter (6-0, 185) of Charlotte, NC (Vance) as well as safety Michael Stevenson (6-0, 175) of Clearwater, FL (Central Catholic).

Along the defensive front, Wake Forest signed Andrew Hauser (6-2, 235) of Covina, CA (Charter Oak). The Deacons have James Looney (6-3, 275) of Lake Worth, FL (Lake Worth) on campus as an early enrollee. Looney, a projected nose guard, is the younger brother of former Wake Forest All-ACC guard Joe Looney, now with the San Francisco 49ers.

Wake Forest also added a kicker/punter in Mike Weaver (6-1, 180) of Pine City, NY (Elmira Southside). Weaver has been out of high school for two years while pursuing college football opportunities after a stellar amateur soccer career.

Notes
• Lance Virgile, from St. Thomas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is from the same high school that produced Wake Forest great Brian Piccolo. The stadium at St. Thomas is named after Piccolo. At the time Piccolo attended the school, it was known as Central Catholic.
• With the addition of OL Josh Harris, Wake Forest will have three players named Josh Harris on next year’s squad. The senior Harris is a running back from Duncanville, Texas who has rushed for 1,760 career yards. He will be a senior in 2013. Another Josh Harris is a walk-on defensive back from Raeford, NC who did not see any game action last fall. The newest Josh Harris is an offensive lineman.
• The largest signing classes in the Grobe Era include this year’s group of 25, followed by 23 in 2003, and 22 in 2005 and 2000.
• Quarterback Michael Radford’s father, Michael, Sr., was a guard at Marshall when Jim Grobe was an assistant coach with the Thundering Herd (1979-83).

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 25 members of Wake Forest’s 2013 recruiting class.)

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