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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

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.

Appalachian State routs Toledo to win the Dollar General Bowl

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On paper, the Dollar General Bowl between MAC champion Toledo and perennial Sun Belt power Appalachian State shaped up to be one of the best matchups of the postseason. Games are not played on paper and that certainly played out down in Mobile, Ala. as the Mountaineers routed the Rockets 34-0 on Saturday night to cap off another season with at least nine wins for head coach Scott Satterfield.

It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t Toledo’s night early — and often. Despite entering the week with an offense that was in the top in the country in terms of scoring, the team couldn’t do much of anything on that side of the ball and recorded four three-and-outs. Record-setting quarterback Logan Woodside never could find much down the field and was pressure on nearly every drop back, throwing for only 124 yards while also tossing three interceptions. Running back Terry Swanson managed 44 hard-fought yards on the ground but didn’t see many carries down the stretch as the team fell further and further behind.

While not much was working for the visitors from the North, few things could go wrong for AppState. Taking advantage of several short fields, the run game didn’t need much to get going and tailbacks Jalin Moore (125 yards, three TDs) and Daetrich Harrington (72 yards) both made quick work of the MAC title holders. Quarterback Taylor Lamb closed out his career with the Mountaineers with a performance that may not have been statically stellar — eight completions, 131 yards, no touchdowns — but was nevertheless plenty in a game the team controlled from pretty much the opening kickoff.

While all those points were nice to have, they didn’t really need all of them given how well the Sun Belt’s top defense looked to stymie their opponents. Linebacker Anthony Flory was all over the place, hauling in a pick and recording eight tackles on the night as they held the most dangerous #MACtion offense to under 200 yards.

That gave the team yet another finishing kick as they won their fourth in a row to close out 2017 and enter with plenty of momentum heading to next season. The same could not be said for the Rockets, which still captured an elusive conference title this year but simply didn’t show up in the Dollar General Bowl and looked out of sorts from start.

Appalachian State rolls to big lead over Toledo as Dollar General Bowl hits halftime

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When #FunBelt meets #MACtion, you throw out the records. That is especially true on Saturday night at the Dollar General Bowl.

Appalachian State looked like they were the 11-win team and conference champion in the game, rolling to a 20-0 halftime lead over Toledo thanks to some timely turnovers and the hard-nosed running of their star tailback.

Junior Jalin Moore picked up where he left off at the end of the regular season by fighting for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 touches, grinding out carries against a loaded front and finding some rhythm as the game went on. That took the pressure off quarterback Taylor Lamb, who was just 4-of-8 for 61 yards but seemed fairly content to just hand the ball off — especially with backup Daetrich Harrington also running for 80 yards in the half on just seven carries.

The Mountaineers’ defense played their role in the big lead too, forcing a pair of turnovers that gave the team two short fields and generally limiting the high-powered Rockets offense to one of their worst performances of the year. Record-setting quarterback Logan Woodside managed only 76 yards and an interception but did seem to pick things up as the clock wound down in the second quarter. Running back Terry Swanson didn’t have any sort of lane to run through however and actually did well in recording 12 yards on the ground given that he was hit in the backfield or at the line on just about every carry.

While things didn’t quite unfold how many expected early in the game, Toledo is still plenty capable of putting up some points in a hurry so this one is by no means locked up for AppState. This was one of the better matchups of bowl season and that will be put to the test if things get interesting after the two teams emerge from the locker room.