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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

Illinois grad transfer Tré Watson lands at Maryland

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As we tidy up from a day of opening presents and other such Christmas delights, how about we clean up some transfer news for good measure?

In late November, Tré Watson took to Twitter to announce that he would be transferring from Illinois.  Late last week, the linebacker took to the same social media website to announce that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Maryland.

As a graduate transfer, Watson is eligible to play immediately for the Terps in what will be his final season of eligibility.

In nine games this past season — he missed three because of an injury — Watson totaled 65 tackles, good for tied for third on the team. The linebacker’s 4.5 tackles for loss were tied for second on the Fighting Illini as well.

Last season, Watson earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after starting eight of 12 games and finishing second on the team in tackles with 102.

Watson becomes the fourth FBS player, and third from a Power Five program, to transfer to Maryland since early September, joining defensive lineman Byron Cowart (Auburn), Marcus Lewis (Florida State) and Rayshad Lewis (Utah State).  Cowart will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 as a grad transfer, while the USU Lewis transfer, the son of Miami Hurricane legend Ray Lewis, and the FSU Lewis can play in 2018 after sitting out 2017, leaving them with three and two years of eligibility remaining, respectively.

B1G’s best receiver opts to leave Maryland early for NFL

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Not surprisingly, an award-winning Big Ten wide receiver has opted to get paid for his on-field football work next year.

On his personal Twitter account very early Tuesday afternoon, D.J. Moore confirmed the expected, announcing that he has decided to forego his senior season and make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft. “I have had an incredible three years playing for the Terps and I will truly miss playing in front of our fans,” a portion of the receiver’s social media missive read.

Moore’s 80 receptions and were the most of any Big Ten player.  For that, he was named as the conference’s Richter-Howard Wide Receiver of the Year.

His 146 career receptions are good for sixth all-time with the Terrapins.  He’s also one of Maryland players to finish his career with 2,000-plus receiving yards.

Maryland spoils Tom Herman debut with 51-41 upset of No. 23 Texas

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This did not go according to plan for Tom Herman. In his coaching debut in Austin, Herman was unable to clean up enough mistakes and shaky play from his team as No. 23 Texas (0-1) dug a big hole early at home against Maryland (1-0). Despite a wild second half, Texas just could not get past Maryland as the Terrapins answered every threat from Texas down the stretch and delivered a knockout blow midway through the fourth quarter in the form of a Kasim Hill touchown. Hill’s fourth-quarter touchdown pushed Maryland’s lead to 44-34, which would end up being the final score. Maryland, who entered the game as an 18-point underdog, celebrated a 51-41 victory.

Hill scored the late touchdown, but the Terps were strong on the ground with Ty Johnson leading the charge with 127 yards and a score, averaging 11.5 yards per rush on the Texas defense, which may not have been as solid as anticipated at the start of the season. Maryland quarterback Tyrell Pigrome also got involved running the ball with 64 yards and a score to go with his 175 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air. It was more the kind of performance you would expect from a quarterback coached by Herman. Longhorns quarterback Shane Buechele had a productive afternoon with 300 passing yards and a touchdown and 21 rushing yards and a score, but too many poor passes soaring high or behind receivers led to near-interceptions and stalled any progress late in the game for a possible comeback.

Special teams gaffes and a defense unable to seize momentum were crippling for Texas (Maryland recovered a kickoff fumble and returned a blocked field goal for a score — although, so did Texas), but the offense was the most disappointing part of the Texas effort on Saturday. The Longhorns scored just 13 offensive points. Holton Hill gave the Longhorns a lead just three plays in the game with a 31-yard interception return for a score, and Hill returned a blocked field goal for another score later on. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps brought the Longhorns within three points in the third quarter with a 91-yard punt return for a score, but the teams traded blows from there to keep Maryland out in front the rest of the way. Texas hurt itself with over 100 yards in penalties as well.

So the Tom Herman run in Austin has some work to do. Transforming Texas into a Big 12 contender was not going to happen overnight anyway, and there are still 11 more games to play. Odds are we will still see a good number of positive developments from Texas moving forward, but a loss at home to Maryland is still a sour way to get things started. One thing you can say about a game like this from Texas is you have a laundry list of items you now know can be addressed. Let’s see how much of that laundry gets cleaned up in the next few weeks.

Maryland, however, showed some more reasons to be optimistic about the season than many probably thought possible. Wide receiver D.J. Moore (133 receiving yards) showed why he is one of the top receivers in the Big Ten, and Pigrome ran the offense well to keep things mixed up. This is a team that is still not on the same level as Ohio State or Penn State or Michigan, but it could end up being a team that could cause a few problems for any of those three at the top of the Big Ten East. This was a solid victory for D.J. Durkin.

Texas will host San Jose State next week before preparing for a major road test in Week 3 at USC. Maryland will be home next week for a home opener against in-state FCS opponent Towson.

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts