Charles Sims

Senior Bowl recognizes Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald’s practice efforts

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Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have to make room on his trophy shelf for at least one more award. Donald was named the top practice player at the Senior Bowl practices this week.

“Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle,” said Mike Smith, the coach of the Atlanta Falcons, in a statement released by the Senior Bowl. The Falcons coaching staff is coaching the North team in this year’s Senior Bowl. “I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s short in stature by NFL standards and doesn’t maybe have all the measurables, but he’s one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He’s done a very nice job both in the running and the pass game.”

Donald cleaned up on the college football awards circuit. He was named the winner of the Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award and Chuck Bednarik Award in addition to being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.

The Senior Bowl also handed out awards for the top players by position. Auburn’s Dee Ford was named the most outstanding defensive lineman, which is somewhat humorous considering Donald is also a defensive lineman. Northern Illinois defensive back Jimmie Ward, West Virginia running back Charles Sims, Iowa wide receiver C.J. Fiedorowicz, Notre Dame offensive lineman Zach Martin, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland and Auburn kicker Cody Parkey have all been recognized for their performance in practices this week as well.

Last year’s top practice player at the Senior Bowl was Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who went on to be the number one overall draft pick. Donald may not be the number one pick in this year’s upcoming NFL Draft, but his stock certainly could not be much higher at this point. With NFL scouts and coaches gathering at the Senior Bowl, what a potential draft pick does during practices at the Senior Bowl tends to carry more weight than anything that happens during the actual game, although ending the week on a high note with a solid game performance certainly helps.

WVU’s leading rusher to redshirt 2013 season

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Last season, Andrew Buie led West Virginia in rushing.  The running back won’t, however, get the chance to repeat that feat.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen announced Tuesday that the decision has been made to redshirt Buie for the 2013 season so the player can develop “mentally and physically.”

“He’s just going to develop mentally and physically and we’re going to leave it at that,” Holgorsen said. “He’s not going to play this year. He’s going to redshirt and I fully expect him to be ready to roll in the spring.”

Buie had been behind four other WVU teammates in the running back pecking order, with Holgorsen stating there was nothing else to the decision to sit the back for the season than the talent ahead of him.  One of the players ahead of Buie, Charles Sims, transferred in from Houston while another is a true freshman.

Another transfer, Pittsburgh’s Rushel Shell, will sit out the 2013 season and be eligible in 2014.

Buie led all Mountaineers with 851 yards rushing last season and tied for the team lead with seven rushing touchdowns.

CFT Predicts: the Big 12

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.

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Award named in honor of Earl Campbell releases inaugural watch list

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(Apologies; forgot to post this yesterday)

Just like bowl games, there’s another new postseason award that will be handed out after the end of the 2013 regular season.

After announcing its creation last August, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, by way of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce and SPORTyler, revealed Wednesday its inaugural watch list.  The initial group of players released by the Campbell Award consists of 35 players.

While the award ostensibly goes to the top offensive player in the country, it’s very much a Texas-centric trophy.  The release states that “the winner must meet one or more of the following criteria: born in Texas and/or graduated from a Texas High School and/or played at a Texas-based junior college or four-year college.”

As a result of that criteria, nine of the players are from the Big 12, while a total of 14 are from Texas-based FBS football programs.  The Pac-12 has five players on the list, while the Big Ten, Conference USA and Mountain West have four apiece.  One of the three SEC players to watch is, obviously, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

A total of 13 running backs were recognized, followed by quarterbacks (10), wide receivers (eight), offensive linemen (three) and tight end (one).

The newest award is named in honor of, of course, the former Texas Longhorn legend and College Football Hall of Famer.  He earned the nickname “the Tyler Rose” coming out of high school in the Texas city.

Below is the inaugural Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award watch list:

· Ross Apo, BYU, WR
· David Ash, Texas, QB
· Kolton Browning, Louisiana-Monroe, QB
· Damon Bullock, Iowa, RB
· Shane Carden, East Carolina, QB
· Kasey Carrier, New Mexico, RB
· Tim Cornett, UNLV, RB
· Cody Davis, Purdue, OG
· Adam Dingwell, San Diego State, QB
· Cameron Fleming, Stanford, OT
· James Franklin, Missouri, QB
· Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa, WR
· Ryan Grant, Tulane, WR
· Deontay Greenbury, Houston, WR
· Marion Grice, Arizona State, RB
· John Hubert, Kansas State, RB
· Nathan Jeffrey, UTEP, RB
· Jeremy Johnson, SMU, WR
· Chuckie Keeton, Utah State, QB
· Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, QB
· Venric Mark, Northwestern, RB
· Ty Montgomery, Stanford, WR
· Casey Pachall, TCU, QB
· Lache Seastrunk, Baylor, RB
· Charles Sims, West Virginia, RB
· James Sims, Kansas, RB
· Eric Soza, UTSA, QB
· Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State, WR
· Travis Swanson, Arkansas, C
· Zachary Swanson, Virginia, TE
· Eric Ward, Texas Tech, WR
· James White, Iowa State, RB
· Rodrick Williams Jr., Minnesota, RB
· Connor Wood, Colorado, QB
· Storm Woods, Oregon State, RB

Rushel Shell transferring to West Virginia

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Rushel Shell’s long, winding journey since leaving Pittsburgh has finally come to a conclusion.  Well, at least for now.

Anyway, the running back confirmed to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy that he will be transferring to West Virginia to continue his playing career.  Shell’s mother also confirmed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that her son is headed to the Mountaineers.

Shell will be compelled to sit out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2014.

For the record, WVU has yet to confirm Shell’s addition to the roster.

“Things went really well down at WVU,” Shell told McMurphy. “I enjoyed every moment of it. We toured the campus and facilities and I got a chance to hang out with other recruits and players on the team.

“They made my visit terrific and made me feel like family.”

In early April, Shell announced that he would be transferring from Pitt.  While it was initially thought Shell would transfer to UCLA — after being barred from playing for Arizona Statethose plans fell through and the player was subsequently connected to Kentucky and Ohio State along with WVU.

A report also surfaced in June that Shell was considering a return to the Panthers, although the team quickly put the stop to any such talk.

As the primary backup to Ray Graham last season, Shell rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman.  Both of those totals were good for second on the team, and tops among returning backs.

He was rated as the No. 6 running back in the country in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com.

Shell is the second transfer back WVU has picked up this offseason.  In June, Charles Sims announced that he was signing with the Mountaineers after leaving Houston.  Unlike Shell, however, Sims will be eligible to play in 2013 as he’s already received a degree from UH.