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Texas Tech taps Western Michigan’s Kevin Johns as new OC

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A little piece of MACtion has found its way to Lubbock.

Tuesday morning, Texas Tech announced the hiring of Kevin Johns as Kliff Kingsbury‘s new offensive coordinator. In addition to coordinating duties, Johns will also serve as the Red Raiders’ inside wide receivers coach.

Johns replaces Eric Morris, who left Tech to take over as the head coach at Incarnate Word.

“We’re excited to have Coach Johns join our staff,” Kingsbury said in a statement. “He has a tremendous record as one of the top offensive minds in college football, and I know he will be a great resource for our staff and players. We’d like to welcome him, his wife Krista and his three sons to Lubbock.”

Johns comes to Tech after spending one season as the coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Michigan.  Prior to that, he was on Kevin Wilson’s Indiana coaching staff for six seasons — co-coordinator from 2011-13, solo coordinator from 2014-16.  he also coached quarterbacks and receivers during his time with the Hoosiers.

From 2004-10 Johns was an assistant at Northwestern.

“It’s a privilege to join the staff Coach Kingsbury has assembled,” Johns said. “Texas Tech has long been known as one of the top offenses in the country, and it’s an honor to work alongside Coach Kingsbury in continuing that tradition. I’m fortunate for the opportunity and can’t wait to get started.”

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

Texas Tech WR Keke Coutee declares for NFL Draft

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Texas Tech’s defense got good news earlier today, but the Red Raiders weren’t so lucky on the other side of the ball. Junior wide receiver Keke Coutee has announced he will declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Coutee made the announcement on his Instagram account.

Red Raider Nation, (w)ith so much thought and prayer through this difficult process, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft,” he wrote. “This was such a difficult decision I had to make for me and my family. Thank you all for an amazing 3 years at the best University there is. Lubbock will always have a special place in my heart and I will always call Lubbock home. #GUNSUPFOREVER!!”

Listed at just 5-foot-11, the Lufkin, Texas, native led the Big 12 in receiving yards, ranked second in catches and placed fourth in touchdown catches with 93 grabs for 1,429 yards and 10 scores. Beyond the Big 12, his 93 grabs were fifth nationally, his 1,429 yards place second in FBS — with a number of players yet to play their bowl games — and he is one of just 21 players with double-digit touchdown grabs. Only two players with more than 75 receptions bested Coutee’s 15.37 yards per reception average.

Coutee posted four games of double-digit catches for 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown this season, starting with a 12-catch, 186-yard, 1-touchdown effort in a 52-45 win over Arizona State on Sept. 16. He followed that up with 11 catches for 161 yards and a score in a 27-24 win at Houston a week later.

Coutee posted 12 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-35 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 4, and closed his collegiate career with 11 grabs for 187 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 38-34 loss to South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl.

He also led the club with a 31.5-yard average on 10 kickoff returns, including one touchdown.

 

Quinton Flowers leads USF to wild come-from-behind victory in Birmingham Bowl

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The 2017 season may not have checked off all of the goals for USF (11-2), but Charlie Strong and the Bulls have reason to celebrate at the end of the season after winning a wildly entertaining Birmingham Bowl with a 38-34 victory over Texas Tech (6-7) on Saturday afternoon. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers was the hero fo the day after putting the Bulls on his back in the second half, shrugging aside a woeful first half to pull USF from behind for the win.

Flowers ended his day with an MVP performance with 311 passing yards and four touchdowns and 106 rushing yards. It was Flowers who had to step things up in the fourth quarter, leading the Bulls to three touchdowns in the final quarter by using his feet and his arm to work the late game heroics.

Early in the fourth quarter, and just one play after an instant replay confirmed a call on the field marking the ball shy of the end zone, USF tried muscling their way across the goal line only to be overmatched by Texas Tech’s defensive effort to keep Darius Tice just out of the end zone on fourth down.

The Texas Tech stop preserved a seven-point advantage, but the battle of field position would still end up helping USF. After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, USF took over at the Texas Tech 43-yard line and worked their way into the end zone, this time ending the drive with Flowers running off to the right side to find a clear path for a game-tying touchdown.

Texas Tech took a 27-24 lead with just over five minutes to play with a 33-yard field goal by Clayton Hatfield, setting the stage for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers to try and deliver some last-minute heroics in his final college football game. Flowers needed just two plays before giving the Bulls a 31-27 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Texas Tech answered with a touchdown of their own, with T.J. Vasher somehow getting left wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass from Nic Shimonek.

But the Red Raiders left Flowers and the Bulls too much time to strike back, and strike back they most certainly did. Flowers once again delivered the heroics with a key 21-yard run on a 3rd and 10 and followed that up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants to go up 38-34 after the extra point.

The legacy of Quinton Flowers at USF will be one that will be remembered fondly, even if it never saw a trip to a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. But Flowers will leave with a handful of team records and his shoes will be big to fill for whoever is next in line in Tampa. After coming up just shy of an elusive AAC championship after a wild shootout loss against UCF in the regular season finale, it is fitting to see Flowers go out having led his team to a wild back-and-forth victory in a bowl game.

For three quarters, it appeared as though Texas Tech may get by the game using its defense, going against the grain of what is typically expected from a Texas Tech team. All of that crumbled in the fourth quarter, however, despite the goal line stand highlighted above. USF had over 400 yards of offense in the second half after a lackluster first half showing, and the Bulls edges the Red Raiders in first downs with 27 to Texas Tech’s 26.

The AAC improves to 2-1 in the bowl season with the win after Temple took care of FIU on Thursday night. Texas Tech gets the Big 12 off to a 0-1 start in the bowl season with the next games played on Tuesday by West Virginia (vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl) and Kansas State (vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl).

Texas Tech’s 2018 season will open with a neutral site game in Houston against Ole Miss of the SEC on Sept. 1, 2018. USF will begin the 2018 season at home on Sept. 1 against FCS opponent Elon. The Bulls will then host Georgia Tech and visit Illinois the following two weeks.

Shanked punt leads to USF tying Birmingham Bowl just before halftime

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After not doing much of anything on offense in the first half, USF capitalized on a late special teams mistake by Texas Tech to be able to tie the Birmingham Bowl at 10-10 just before halftime.

After a shanked punt by Texas Tech, USF took over at the Texas Tech 25-yard line. Two plays later, Quinton Flowers completed a 21-yard pass to Tyre McCants for the first touchdown scored by the Bulls in the game and perhaps gives a spark going into halftime. The USF touchdown was the end of a rough sequence of plays by Texas Tech in the final minutes of the first half.

On a 3rd and Goal from the seven-yard line, Nic Shimonek‘s pass was picked off by USF’s Jaymon Thomas, who returned the football 18 yards to give the Bulls a late offensive series starting at their own 18-yard line. The interception was the first turnover of the game and blocked Texas Tech from building on a 10-3 lead late in the first half. USF would have to punt the ball away on the possession, but the defense played well and forced the Red Raiders to be backed up to punting on their own 10-yard line on a 4th and 23.

USF’s failure to convert first downs has led to some short offensive possessions. USF was just four-of-nine on third down conversions and the Bulls were limited to just 107 yards of offense before the late scoring opportunity. Quinton Flowers completed just three of his 13 pass attempts for 31 yards, and he has five rushes for 11 yards before the 25-yard touchdown strike.

Texas Tech took the opening possession of the game to inside the red zone, but as so often has been the case this season, the Red Raiders stalled once getting past the 20-yard line and had to settle for a field goal by Clayton Hatfield. USF answered with a similar drive ending with a field goal by Emilio Nadelman.

The Red Raiders scored their lone touchdown of the half in the first quarter on a Shimonek pass to Keke Coutee from five yards out.