Toledo

Ex-‘Bama QB (again) named as Toledo’s starter

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An injury derailed Phillip Ely‘s first season in Toledo. Fortunately, he’s going to get another go at it.

The Rockets confirmed Monday that Ely will start the program’s opener this Thursday against Stony Brook. The move comes a handful of days after Ely was named as one of four UT captains for the 2015 season.  Ely beat out Logan Woodside, who went 8-2 as a starter for the Rockets last season.

Woodside took over as the starter because of the injury to Ely, a torn ACL sustained in the second game of the season. Ely had been named as the starter ahead of Woodside a couple of weeks prior to the start of the 2014 season.

He passed for 337 yards in his first UT start, then threw for 204 yards against Missouri the following week before to sustaining the knee injury in the third quarter.

Ely began his collegiate career at Alabama in 2011 as a three-star recruit. After redshirting as a true freshman, Ely played in six games in 2012, completing three-of-four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in very limited duty. Ely was listed as the No. 2 QB the first three weeks of the 2012 season, but after that was listed as the co-backup to AJ McCarron along with redshirt sophomore Blake Sims.

In January of 2013 it was reported Ely was looking to transfer from the Tide. The summer of that year he transferred into the Rockets football program.  He sat out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Ely’s official return to the starting spot came the same day it was announced that two Rockets had been suspended for the first two games of the season, including 2014 MAC rushing leader Kareem Hunt.

Leading rusher one of two Toledo starters suspended for two games

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The season has yet to kick off and Toledo has already a suffered a pair of significant blows, one on each side of the ball.

The football program announced Monday morning that senior defensive end Allen Covington and junior running back Kareem Hunt have been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season. Other than “violating team policy,” no reason for the twin punitive measures was given.

The players will miss Thursday’s opener against Stony Brook, as well as the following week’s home game against No. 18 Arkansas. Both will be eligible to return for the Iowa State game Sept. 19.

Of the two, the loss of Hunt will be the most damaging.

Last season, Hunt’s total of 1,631 yards rushing was tops in the MAC and good for 10th nationally. His 16 rushing touchdowns were tied for 14th in the country.

Covington’s four tackles for loss were tied for sixth on the Rockets last season. He was expected to start at one of the end spots on UT’s defensive line.

Ezekiel Elliott one of 69 on Doak Walker watch list

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Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was the hottest running back exiting the 2014 season, and that momentum carried into the offseason as he’s one of the wagering favorites for the 2015 Heisman Trophy and claimed a prestigious amateur honor for good measure.  Not surprisingly, he’s landed on a watch lost that specifically honors the position he plays.

As part of the annual watch list dump in mid-July, the Doak Walker Award announced a group of 69 backs added to its preseason listing.  Included in that number are six backs who finished in the Top 10 in rushing yards in 2014: Elliott (No. 3), along with San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey (No. 4), Marshall’s Devon Johnson (No. 6), Pittsburgh’s James Connor (No. 7), Oklahoma Samaje Perine (No. 8) and Toledo’s Kareem Hunt (No. 10).

Connor and Johnson were semifinalists last year for the award won by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, as was 2015 watch lister Matt Breida of Georgia Southern.

Conference-wise, the Pac-12 led all leagues with 12 players on the list.  The other Power Five conferences has the SEC with 10, the Big Ten with eight, and the ACC and Big 12 with five each.  Amongst the Group of Five, Conference USA and the Sun Belt are tops with six apiece.

Arkansas, Oregon and USC were the only schools with two backs each listed.

2015 Doak walker Award Watch List

Two glaring omissions headline Biletnikoff watch list

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It’s not often that who’s not on what’s essentially a meaningless preseason watch list is the main storyline, but that’s the case when it comes to the Biletnikoff Award this year.

First, who is on the watch list for the award handed out annually to the nation’s top wide receivers: a total of 48 players at the position, which is actually a rather subdued number compared to other watch lists that come out this time of the year.

Headlining the four dozen receivers actually listed is Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins, who was a finalist for last year’s award that went to Alabama’s Amari Cooper.  Joining Higgins are 2014 semifinalists Sterling Shepard of Oklahoma and Nelson Spruce of Colorado.

Now, the players who was inexplicably excluded from the initial watch list? Auburn’s D’haquille Williams, first and foremost. The senior wideout was already named to the Maxwell Award watch list earlier this month. He’s considered by many to be the best receiver in the SEC — Mel Kiper has Williams as his No. 1 player at that position — yet four receivers from that conference are included.  The only receiver on the Biletnikoff watch list to also make Maxwell’s is South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper.

Williams missed three of the last four games last season because of an injury, yet still totaled 45 receptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns. Kiper may have him a bit overrated on his Big Board, but Williams certainly deserves one of the 48 spots allotted — or the award should at least make room for a 49th.  Or a 49th and 50th.

That said, Williams can, and probably will, be added to an in-season update from the folks at the Biletnikoff.  The same could be said for Player. No. 2: Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell.

Despite missing the last four games of the year because of a gruesome leg injury, Williams still led the Rebels in receptions with 48 and was second in yardage with 632.  Like Williams, Treadwell made the cut for the Maxwell, which is awarded annually to the best player in college football regardless of position.

Anyway, below is the complete Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list.

Victor Bolden, Oregon State
Devonte Boyd, UNLV
Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
Ryan Burbrink, Bowling Green
KD Cannon, Baylor
Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
Rashon Ceaser, ULM
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
River Cracraft, Washington State
Jared Dangerfield, Western Kentucky
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Josh Doctson, TCU
Travin Dural, LSU
Alex Erickson, Wisconsin
William Fuller, Notre Dame
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Donovan Harden, Georgia State
Carlos Harris, North Texas
Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Ajalen Holley, ULM
Cayleb Jones, Arizona
Corey Jones, Toledo
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
Marcus Kemp, Hawaii
Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Byron Marshall, Oregon
Mitch Mathews, BYU
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Jordan Payton, UCLA
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Jalen Robinette, Air Force
Demarcus Robinson, Florida
Alonzo Russell, Toledo
Artavis Scott, Clemson
Hunter Sharp, Utah State
Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State
Nelson Spruce, Colorado
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Michael Thomas, Ohio State
Shaq Washington, Cincinnati
Mike Williams, Clemson
Ron Willoughby, Buffalo

Butkus Award tabs 15 semifinalists

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The Butkus Award, given annually to the nation’s top linebacker, announced 15 semifinalists on Monday:

Stephone Anthony, Clemson
Myles Jack, UCLA
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
Denzel Perryman, Miami (Fla.)
Hayes Pullard, USC
Reggie Ragland, Alabama
Jake Ryan, Michigan
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Eric Striker, Oklahoma
Shaq Thompson, Washington
Ramik Wilson, Georgia

Of these guys, Kendricks leads with 93 tackles while Kikaha’s 19 1/2 tackles for a loss top all FBS players.

There’s a noticeable skew toward two conferences here: The Pac-12 has five players on the list, while the SEC has four. Two ACC linebackers made the list, while one from the Big Ten, Big 12 and independent ranks made it.

The Butkus Award is also presented to the nation’s top high school linebacker (Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith won it in 2012). The 15 semifinalists for that award:

Jerome Baker, Benedictine – Cleveland, Ohio (Ohio State)
Josh Barajas, Andrean – Merrillville, Ind. (Notre Dame)
Mekhi Brown, Carver – Columbus, Ga. (Alabama)
Ricky DeBerry, Atlee High School – Richmond, Va. (uncommitted)
Porter Gustin, Salem Hills – Salem, Utah (uncommitted)
Justin Hilliard, St. Xavier – Cincinnati, Ohio (Ohio State)
Jeffery Holland, Trinity Christian Academy – Jacksonville, Fla. (uncommitted)
John Houston, Junipero Serra – Gardena, Calif. (uncommitted)
Malik Jefferson, Ralph H. Poteet – Mesquite, Texas (uncommitted)
Leo Lewis, Brookhaven – Brookhaven, Miss. (Ole Miss)
Osa Masina, Brighton – Salt Lake City, Utah (uncommitted)
Joshua McMillon, Whitehaven – Memphis, Tenn. (Alabama)
Sherrod Pittman, First Coast – Jacksonville, Fla. (South Carolina)
Jahvoni Simmons, Ocean Lakes – Virginia Beach, Va. (Virginia)
Adonis Thomas, Central Gwinnett – Lawrenceville, Ga. (uncommitted)