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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

Unnamed assistant says former Michigan State staffer Blackwell acted unprofessionally

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Curtis Blackwell is no longer a member of Michigan State’s recruiting staff, and there’s at least one person inside the Spartans’ football building happy about that.

Blackwell interviewed, taken out in handcuffs and later suspended with pay in early February for his involvement in a sexual assault scandal involving Josh KingDonnie Corley and Demetric Vance. The three players were later dismissed from the program and are set to face charges, and Blackwell was let go at the end of last month.

But on Wednesday the Detroit Free Press obtained an interview an unnamed Michigan State coaching staff member conducted with MSU Police in which he lobbied multiple complaints against Blackwell’s status and conduct within the program.

Saying he was “not a Curtis guy,” the assistant accused Blackwell of improperly toeing the lines between his job as Michigan State’s director of college advancement and performance and his role as co-founder of the Sound Mind, Sound Body football camps, which he was (somehow) allowed to keep while on Michigan State’s payroll.

Those complaints include leveraging his status to pursue inappropriate relationships with parents of Michigan State players, taking a trip to a Spartans NCAA basketball tournament game on a booster’s dime and withholding critical information on SM/SB camp alums from the rest of the staff.

The unnamed MSU coach told police it was because “Curtis makes money off these kids’ parents,” through the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp, “so he is loyal to them.”

Whether or not the unnamed assistant or his colleagues approved of Blackwell’s work, the boss certainly did. Mark Dantonio hired Blackwell in 2013 and said he had no regrets about bringing him aboard. “I don’t have any regrets about bringing Curtis in. It’s just that things changed this year,” Dantonio said. “Up to that point, I think we were going in the same direction, but in the last four or five months I believed the philosophy just changed.”

Before his contract was allowed to expire on May 30, Blackwell enjoyed a raise to $129,000 a year after the Spartans’ Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff appearance following the 2015 season.

Three Mich. St. players charged with felony sexual misconduct named, dismissed from team

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After nearly four months of uncertainty, the identities of the trio of suspended Michigan State football players have been revealed.

Monday, the Ingham County Prosecutors Office announced that it would be charging three unidentified MSU Spartans in connection to an alleged sexual assault that took place on Jan. 16 at an off-campus apartment complex.  Tuesday, arrest warrants for third-degree criminal sexual misconduct, a felony, were issued for wide receiver Donnie Corley, defensive end Josh King and defensive back Demetric Vance.

Additionally, King was charged with one count each of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and capturing/distributing an image of an unclothed person.

Not long after the warrants were issued and charges were announced, head coach Mark Dantonio released a lengthy statement announcing that all three players have been dismissed from his football program.  Below is the statement, in its entirety.

With the criminal sexual conduct charges filed against Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance, I have decided that regardless of the final outcome of the criminal process, these three individuals have been dismissed from our program, effective immediately.

“When we choose student-athletes to come to MSU, we enter into a relationship with them and their families, and we welcome them into ours. We emphasize that success on the field is not enough, as I made clear when all three individuals were suspended four months ago upon us learning of the allegations. They also must embrace our core principles, which include integrity, respect and accountability. The individuals in this case put themselves in a compromising position and did not live up to the standards we have outlined for our program.

“Sexual assault has no place in our community, and I want to share my deep concern for the young woman affected and her family.

“This is an extremely challenging situation that we have taken very seriously and has affected everyone in this program. The high standards I have established for this program will not change, and the values that we teach to everyone in this program will be enforced. I expect all of our players and staff to conduct themselves in a manner that reflect the ideals of this university.

The most noteworthy of the players from a football perspective is Corley.

As a true freshman last season, Corley finished second on the team with 453 receiving yards, while his 33 receptions and three receiving touchdowns were third.  With the departures of Josiah Price and R.J. Shelton for the NFL, Corley was to have been MSU’s leading returning receiver.

That honor now falls to junior Felton Davis III (12-150-1).

King was a four-star 2016 signee who started two of the nine games in which he played as a true freshman.  A four-star 2016 signee as well, Vance took a redshirt last season.

Over a dozen players not involved in Michigan State spring game

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It’s been a strange few months for the Michigan State football team and head coach Mark Dantonio. In addition to coming off a shocking 3-9 campaign last season, the Spartans have been in the midst of an ongoing sexual assault investigation that has involved several players on the team and a support staffer.

Dantonio has discussed the allegations and investigations — vaguely — just once the past few months and there’s been what has amounted to a media blackout in East Lansing for spring football. The Spartans held their Spring Game on Saturday afternoon however but the most notable aspect of the contest was not the White team’s 30-23 victory over the Green team, but who wasn’t involved in the game.

Per MLive.coma whopping 15 players of the football team did not participate in the event and at least 10 were limited to the sidelines in sweatshirts. Perhaps most prominent of the names was that of tailback LJ Scott, a likely starter who has contributed significantly in the backfield.

All of the players were listed on the roster handed out to the media before the game, prompting the question as to why they weren’t involved.

The school and Dantonio have announced that several players were suspended this spring but have declined to mention any names connected to the probe or who is out injured. The spring game was televised on the Big Ten Network but it appears it may be many more weeks (or months) before we find out who exactly is involved in the ongoing investigation as MSU looks ahead to 2017.

Michigan State RB L.J. Scott hints on Twitter he may turn pro after 2017

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It would be unwise to guess what a college football player plans to do nine to 10 months from now, so overreacting to a single tweet dropped online over the weekend while watching the NFL Combine in Indianapolis may just be catching a player caught up in the fun. Michigan State running back L.J. Scott seemed to leave a hint online to his Twitter followers that he could already be looking forward to his go at the combine “a year from now.”

As a sophomore in 2016, Scott rushed for 994 yards and six touchdowns in a woeful season for the Spartans. Scott is considered one of the top running backs in the Big Ten heading into 2017, along with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Minnesota’s Rodney Smith, and Ohio State’s Mike Weber. Like Scott, Barkley and Smith will be juniors this fall and could also be in a position to consider making the leap to the NFL in 2018.

A total of 19 running backs declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft. The only position with more players declaring early for the draft was at wide receiver, with 27.