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Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

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If it seemed to you like there were an inordinate number of early cannonballers jumping into the draft pool, you were correct.

Four days after the Jan. 15 deadline, the NFL Friday announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the April draft.  That sets a new record for early entrants, breaking the mark of 98 set in 2014.  The past two seasons, there were 95 and 96 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In 2015, there were just 74.

The SEC was hit hardest by attrition with 26 players leaving early, although the ACC wasn’t far behind at 24.  The Pac-12 was next among the Power Five conferences with 17, followed by the Big 12’s 13 and the Big Ten’s 11.

Among Group of Five leagues, Conference USA lost the most with four.  The Mountain West saw three go early, with the AAC (two), MAC (one) and Sun Belt (one) coming next in line.  There were also two non-FBS players who left early, as well as two from Notre Dame.

As far as individual schools go, there were three that lost six apiece — Florida State, LSU and Texas.  Alabama lost five, while Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC all lost four apiece.  Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Stanford and Tennessee were on the losing end of three players each.

In addition to the 106 granted special eligibility — they’ll be listed at the end — the NFL also granted eligibility to 13 players who the league writes “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements.” Those players are listed below:

» Jordan Akins, TE, UCF
» Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
» Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
» Will Clapp, C, LSU
» Terrell Edmunds, DB, Virginia Tech
» Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
» Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
» Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
» Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
» Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
» Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
» Tre'Quan Smith, WR, UCF
» Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Courtesy of the NFL, below is the complete list of 106 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft:

» Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
» Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE, Toledo
» Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
» Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
» Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas
» Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
» Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
» Jessie Bates, DB, Wake Forest
» Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
» Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
» Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
» Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
» Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
» Geron Christian, T, Louisville
» Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
» Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
» Vosean Crumbie, DB, Nevada
» J.J. Dallas, DB, Louisiana-Monroe
» James Daniels, C, Iowa
» Sam Darnold, QB, USC
» Carlton Davis, DB, Auburn
» Michael Dickson, P, Texas
» Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
» DeShon Elliott, DB, Texas
» Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
» Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine
» Nick Gates, T, Nebraska
» Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
» Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State
» Rasheem Green, DT, USC
» Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
» Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama
» Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
» Holton Hill, DB, Texas
» Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
» Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
» Mike Hughes, DB UCF
» Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
» Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky
» Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU
» Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
» J.C. Jackson, DB, Maryland
» Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
» Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
» Derwin James, DB, FSU
» Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
» Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
» Courtel Jenkins, DT, Miami
» Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
» Ronald Jones, RB, USC
» John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
» Arden Key, LB, LSU
» Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
» Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
» Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
» Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
» Tavares Martin, WR, Washington State
» Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State
» Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
» Tarvarus McFadden, DB, Florida State
» R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
» Reginald McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
» Quenton Meeks, DB, Stanford
» Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
» D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
» Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
» Nick Nelson, DB, Wisconsin
» Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
» Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
» Dwayne Orso-Bacchus, T, Oklahoma
» Da’Ron Payne, NT, Alabama
» Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
» Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
» Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
» D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State
» Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
» Will Richardson, T, NC State
» Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
» Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
» Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Miss
» Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
» Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
» Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
» Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
» Andre Smith, LB, UNC
» Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
» Van Smith, DB, Clemson
» Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
» Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
» Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
» Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
» Maea Teuhema, T, Southeastern Louisiana
» Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
» Kevin Toliver, DB, LSU
» Travonte Valentine, NT, LSU
» Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
» Vita Vea, NT, Washington
» Mark Walton, RB, Miami
» Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
» Chris Warren, RB, Texas
» Toby Weathersby, T, LSU
» Jordan Whitehead, DB, Pittsburgh
» JoJo Wicker, DT, Arizona State
» Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
» Connor Williams, T, Texas
» Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue

Ex-Texas QB/WR Kai Locksley commits to UTEP

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Kai Locksley left the state of Texas, but has now found his way back.

The former University of Texas quarterback announced on Twitter Monday night that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career at UTEP. The Miners’ new head coach, Dana Dimel, addressed the development on his own Twitter account.

Locksley, whose father Mike is an assistant at Alabama, was a four-star member of the Longhorns’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 player at any position in the state of Maryland. After not attempting a pass or playing a down his first two seasons at UT — he ultimately transitioned to wide receiver — Locksley moved on to an Iowa junior college.

After spending the 2017 season at the JUCO, Locksley was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback at that level of football.

Former Michigan, Rice RB Sam McGuffie makes US Olympic bobsled team

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Sam McGuffie was one of the first recruiting sensations in the YouTube era, known for his prolific rushing stats (he ran for 3,121 yards and 44 touchdowns as a junior at Houston’s Cypress-Fairbanks High School) and his viral-ready ability to hurdle defenders.

Like this.

The McGuffie Movement never took off at the college level, though. As a star addition to Rich Rodriguez‘s first team at Michigan, he carried 118 times for 486 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman in 2008 before transferring home to Rice. McGuffie played three seasons for the Owls, but his impact faded with each passing year, from 883 yards in 2010, to 158 in ’11, to 16 yards on five carries as a senior in 2012.

McGuffie’s football career ended there, but his athletic career did not.

He tried out for American Ninja Warrior — on NBC! — in 2015.

Then last year he turned his attention to bobsled. And he is quite good at it.

USA Bobsled & Skeleton announced its roster for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics — next month on NBC! — which includes McGuffie. He will be on the push crew with pilot Codie Bascue, and also join Bascue on a two-man sled.

The US Men’s Bobsled team has collected 19 medals since 1928, including bronze medals in the four-man and two-man events in the 2014 Sochi Games, and a four-man gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The two-man competition will be held Feb. 18-19 and the four-man event will be Feb. 24-25. This year’s games are held in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Louisiana Tech destroys SMU in the Frisco Bowl to spoil start of the Sonny Dykes era

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Sonny Dykes began Wednesday full of optimism thanks to the early National Signing Day and the initial crop of recruits in his first SMU recruiting class. The new head coach on the Hilltop ended Wednesday night full of despair however, as his old team of Louisiana Tech laid an absolute beatdown on his new one in the Frisco Bowl by a 51-10 margin that really didn’t indicate how lopsided the game was.

All told, the Mustangs turned the ball over six times in the game — five in the first half, including two pick-sixes and a fumble on the very first play. It was a theme that was repeated early and often and probably a reminder that there’s a reason that new head coaches don’t coach their new team in a bowl game after a week on campus for good reason.

About the only thing that didn’t go the way of the Bulldogs came on their first drive as they squandered the opening fumble by shanking a field goal attempt in the red zone. That didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things as quarterback J’Mar Smith played nearly perfectly on all those short drives, throwing for 216 yards and a trio of touchdowns while also running one in on a fourth down sneak. Not a bad little performance with a school legend like Terry Bradshaw looking on from the sidelines.

Wideout Teddy Veal was the top target in the passing game and recorded five catches for 118 yards and a pair of scores as he got behind the defense numerous times. He formed a pretty hefty one-two punch with running back Boston Scott, who added another 110 yards on the ground to round out the offensive attack that simply took what SMU gave them up-and-down the field.

Skip Holtz’ defense was the real star of the show though, looking a good two steps faster than their opponents despite limping in with a .500 record as a team. Amik Robertson hauled in a 45 yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter while teammate Darryl Lewis followed things up with a 23 yard pick-six of his own in the second quarter as the Tech defense would have nearly won the game on their own even without their offense putting up points a plenty.

On the flip side, it appeared that SMU starter Ben Hicks spent too much of the bowl prep explaining the offense to his new head coach and not enough time getting ready for the game itself. The quarterback would up with three interceptions on the night (after tossing just nine all year) and needed several late drives to finish with 127 yards and a score. His inability to throw the ball to the right team hampered the send off of star wideout Courtland Sutton before he left for the NFL, though the latter did manage 68 yards on the night against some pretty tight coverage.

Louisiana native Trey Quinn also caught eight passes for 45 yards and a touchdown while Xavier Jones ran for 56 yards to lead the team on the ground in a very forgettable postseason return.

It wasn’t how any of them imagined things unfolding just up the road in the Dallas suburb of Frisco on Wednesday night though. Instead, just about everything went the way of Louisiana Tech as they gave their old coach from just a few years ago a rude introduction to his SMU tenure after a wild day of emotions for many in college football.

Devin Singletary sets C-USA touchdown record as FAU rolls in Boca Raton Bowl

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We understand why the respective conferences have their reasons for not launching a Group of 5 playoff, but it sure would have been nice to see Florida Atlantic play UCF, Toledo, Troy or Boise State on Tuesday night. Because the 7-win champions of the MAC East were no match for Lane Kiffin‘s Owls, as Florida Atlantic cruised to a 50-3 win over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Quarterback Jason Driskel and running back Devin Singletary starred for the 11-3 Owls, who closed the year on a 10-game winning streak that saw Florida Atlantic win by an average score of 46-21. Driskel completed 17-of-23 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 13 times for 67 yards and two more scores. Singletary broke the Conference USA single-season rushing touchdown record — a mark held by former Central Florida running back and now Singletary’s position coach, Kevin Smith — with his first rushing touchdown and racked up 26 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns.

Singletary, a sophomore, finished the season with 299 carries for 1,920 yards (6.42 a carry) for 32 touchdowns, five shy of tying Barry Sanders‘s FBS record.

After both teams missed field goals to open the game, Florida Atlantic opened the scoring with a 13-play, 79-yard drive that culminated in a 4-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Willie Wright, putting FAU up 7-0 with 1:08 to play in the first quarter.

Akron answered with a 12-play march that killed more than five minutes but ended at the FAU 2-yard line. Rather than go for a fourth-and-goal from the FAU 2-yard line, Terry Bowden opted for a 19-yard Nick Gasser field goal.

Florida Atlantic responded with another long drive, this time consuming five and a half minutes over 14 plays before scoring on a 3-yard Driskel run with 5:38 left in the first half. The Owls forced a punt on Akron’s next possession, and on the first play of FAU’s next touch Driskel hit Kamrin Solomon for a 63-yard connection. Devin Singletary finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds left before halftime, giving him 30 on the season — which set the Conference USA single-season record, breaking a tie with former Central Florida running back and current Florida Atlantic running backs coach Kevin Smith — to push the score at 21-3 at halftime.

Florida Atlantic forced a turnover on downs to open the second half, then notched Singletary’s second touchdown of the night, a 2-yard rush. That pattern continued for the rest of the night. Akron did not mount a serious threat, while Driskel and Wright added another touchdown connection (plus a Wright 2-point conversion) to push the lead to 36-3 to close the third quarter, Driskel rushed for a second score to open the fourth quarter, and Singletary closed his season with a 26-yard score to put Florida Atlantic at the half-a-hundred mark with 10:47 still to play.

As a team, Florida Atlantic racked up 577 yards of total offense with 29 first downs, while Akron (7-7) gained 146 yards of total offense with 11 first downs. Kato Nelson completed 9-of-15 passes for 80 yards while Manny Morgan led the Zips with 41 yards on 17 carries.