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Former UMass, Penn State TE Adam Breneman retires from football

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Former All-American tight end Adam Breneman has announced he will be retiring from football for good. Citing prolonged health concerns that stem back to his time at Penn State, Breneman wrote in a blog post the extent of the injury he suffered in 2014 was even more challenging to come back from than many had publicly known.

This is the second time Breneman has made the decision to retire, and this one will likely stick. Breneman retired briefly from the game in 2016, after his injury concerns at Penn State proved to be too risky to continue playing. Breneman had significant damage in his left knee that the All-American says required “complicated surgery and a long recovery process.” Doctors suggested his playing days would be over, but Breneman felt his knees became good enough to give a shot at playing in the NFL one more chance, which led him to revive his playing career at UMass. However, it was during his time at UMass when reality resurfaced for Breneman.

This past season things began to deteriorate quickly. Even though I enjoyed on-field success, I knew my knee was getting rapidly worse with every game I played. The consistent dream of playing in the NFL was my motivation to push through the pain. I knew what was happening, but I was afraid to accept it and be disappointed yet again.

When the season ended, I hoped with some time off and without the physical rigors of the season, my knee would begin to feel better. However, once I started training daily for the NFL draft in January 2018, I realized my situation had not improved. After additional medical evaluations and creative treatments, my doctors and I have come to the realization that there is no solution that will allow me to continue to play football.

Breneman was a key recruit of former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and a key face of the first full recruiting class to join Penn State following the hefty sanctions levied against the program in the Jerry Sandusky scandal’s fallout. Along with Christian Hackenberg, Breneman helped keep a key recruiting class mostly together.

Breneman appeared in 11 games for the Minutemen in 2017 with 764 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. The previous season, Breneman had 808 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for UMass after two years off from football. He appeared in 11 games for the Nittany Lions in 2013 and caught three touchdowns with 186 receiving yards in his first and only season on the field in Happy Valley.

Pitt adds CMU assistant Archie Collins as 10th assistant

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Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi now has his staff complete for the 2018 season, barring any unforeseen changes that could come after the next signing period. Archie Collins, who previously was an assistant at Central Michigan, will make join the Pitt coaching staff, although the specific role he will take on has yet to be formally announced.

“Archie is a fantastic coach and highly driven recruiter,” Narduzzi said in a released statement. “We wanted our 10th assistant coach appointment to be an impactful hire and we achieved that by bringing Archie to Pitt. I first met him when he was a high school coach in Detroit and later I had him as a graduate assistant. Archie went on to do really exceptional work at Central Michigan and he’ll be a great asset for our entire program. I’m thrilled to welcome him and his family to Pitt.”

It is expected Collins will work with the defensive backs at Pitt in some capacity after taking that role at Central Michigan and working as a defensive passing game coordinator with the MAC program. Pitt ranked 13th in the 14-team ACC in passing defense a season ago after allowing an average of 254.2 passing yards per game with 24 passing touchdowns given up with just nine interceptions.

Collins will have some potential talent to work with as Dane Jackson and Damar Hamlin come off their redshirt sophomore and sophomore seasons, respectively and some freshmen looking to have an impact beginning this spring. With Jordan Whitehead declaring a year early for the NFL, the defensive secondary will have some room to improve in 2018.

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

Toledo WR Cody Thompson announces return to school for 2018

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Toledo won the MAC in 2017, and the Rockets’ 2018 title defense has already received its first boost.Wide receiver Cody Thompson announced Tuesday he will return to school for his senior season.

Thompson made the announcement on his Twitter account. “After much thought and discussion with my family about my future, I have decided I am going to take my 5th year and play one more season at Toledo,” Thompson wrote. “I couldn’t be more excited about this decision, one more season in midnight blue & gold to bring another MAC championship trophy back to Toledo!”

Thompson played in only five games this fall after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 7. He finished the year with 28 grabs for 537 yards and four touchdowns, which still ranked third on the club despite missing nine games.

He led the club as a freshman and a sophomore in catches and receiving yards. As a freshman in 2015, Thompson hauled in 37 grabs for 825 yards and five scores, and upped all of those numbers in ’16, snaring 64 balls for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Toledo will lose starting quarterback Logan Woodside and backup Michael Julian to graduation, so Thompson’s return will help ease the transition to a new quarterback as the Rockets look to repeat as MAC champions.

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.