Getty Images

Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

1 Comment

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

No. 12 UCF completes perfect season with Peach Bowl triumph over No. 7 Auburn

Associated Press
9 Comments

If you’re going to go undefeated, at some point the quote-unquote other side of the ball is going to have to carry you. For No. 12 UCF, that point arrived Monday, in the most important game of the best season in school history.

One game after allowing Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson to throw for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a 62-55 double overtime win in the AAC championship, the Knights’ defense harassed and confused Jarrett Stidham throughout the afternoon, sacking him six times and fooling him into two game-changing interceptions to secure a 34-27 win over No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

The win secured the first winless-to-perfect 2-year turnaround in major college football history and, in Scott Frost‘s final game as head coach, secured UCF’s second New Year’s Six bowl win in the past five seasons. The Knights’ win moved mid-majors to 8-3 against Power 5 programs in BCS/CFP games, and joined UCF with Utah and Boise State as the only mid-majors with two major bowl wins over Power 5 opponents in the BCS/CFP era. UCF’s win also pushed the AAC to a 2-0 mark in the CFP era, following Houston’s win over Florida State at the close of the 2015 season.

Auburn (10-4) created the first break of the game by forcing a fumble at midfield, recovered by the Tigers’ Deshaun Davis. He was ruled down upon hopping on the lose pigskin at the Auburn 49, but replays showed Davis possessed the ball while still live with an ocean of green turf the only thing between he and the end zone. However, the play was not reviewable and, instead of a likely touchdown, Auburn was forced to settle for a 25-yard Daniel Carlson field goal after failing to convert a 3rd-and-4 at the UCF 8-yard line. 

Carlson missed a 53-yard try to open the second quarter, and UCF (13-0) answered with a field goal of its own, a 33-yard Matthew Wright boot to tie the game at 3-3 with 11:15 left in the first half.

Another fumble created the next break in the game, this time by Auburn. Stidham was forced into a fumble by UCF’s A.J. Wooten, which the Knights’ Tre Neal recovered and returned 36 yards to the Auburn 21. McKenzie Milton produced the first touchdown of 2018 two plays later on a 18-yard rush, putting UCF on top 10-3 with 8:51 left in the first half. 

UCF had a great opportunity to push its lead to 14 points when Otis Anderson broke free in the Auburn secondary, but Milton’s 3rd-and-8 pass was just out of his reach and the Knights punted. Auburn took over at its own 9 with 4:54 before halftime and methodically moved to the UCF 21 with under a minute left, but Stidham was sacked on 3rd-and-10 and Carlson converted 46-yard field goal.

UCF answered by moving 42 yards in five plays, setting up a 45-yard Wright field goal as time expired to push the lead back to a touchdown.

Auburn roared out of the second half gate, using a 72-yard kickoff return by Noah Igbinoghene to set up a 26-yard scoring toss from Stidham to Will Hastings to tie the game. Auburn then took the lead on a 10-play, 82-yard drive capped by a 4-yard Kerryon Johnson run.

But just when it seemed UCF might unravel, instead the Knights rallied. A 12-yard pass from Milton to Anderson tied the game at 20-20 with 1:20 to play in the third quarter, and an 8-yard toss from Milton to Dredrick Snelson gave UCF a touchdown lead with 11:36 remaining.

UCF then grabbed a stranglehold on the game when Chequan Burkett stepped in front of a Stidham pass and raced it 46 yards for a touchdown, handing the Knights a 34-20 advantage with 5:56 to play.

Auburn needed only 1:44 to pull back within seven on a 7-yard Eli Stove end-around, and the Tigers were given new life when Wright missed a 38-yard field goal with 2:18 remaining, his second miss of the fourth quarter. Stidham drove the Tigers to the UCF 21 with 24 seconds remaining, but an end zone heave was intercepted by Antwan Collier to seal UCF’s undefeated season.

Stidham completed 28 of his 43 throws for 331 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked a half-dozen times and picked twice in the fourth quarter, while Johnson was limited to 22 carries for 71 yards and one score.

Milton had his worst passing game of the season, completing only 16-of-35 throws, but still threw for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and led all ball-carriers with 13 rushes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

UCF defense dominating through one half of the Peach Bowl

Associated Press
Leave a comment

In a game that was supposed to be driven by offense, it’s been UCF’s defense that has taken control in Atlanta. The undefeated Knights have sacked Jarrett Stidham five times, forced one fumble, and held Auburn out of the end zone, claiming a 13-6 lead at the midpoint of the Peach Bowl.

Auburn created the first break of the game by forcing a fumble at midfield, recovered by the Tigers’ Deshaun Davis. He was ruled down upon hopping on the lose pigskin at the Auburn 49, but replays showed Davis possessed the ball while still live with an ocean of green turf the only thing between he and the end zone. However, the play was not reviewable and, instead of a likely touchdown, Auburn was forced to settle for a 25-yard Daniel Carlson field goal after failing to convert a 3rd-and-4 at the UCF 8-yard line. 

Carlson missed a 53-yard try to open the second quarter, and UCF answered with a field goal of its own, a 33-yard Matthew Wright boot to tie the game at 3-3 with 11:15 left in the first half.

Another fumble created the next break in the game, this time by Auburn. Stidham was forced into a fumble by UCF’s A.J. Wooten, which the Knights’ Tre Neal recovered and returned 36 yards to the Auburn 21. McKenzie Milton produced the first touchdown of 2018 two plays later on a 18-yard rush, putting UCF on top 10-3 with 8:51 left in the first half. 

UCF had a great opportunity to push its lead to 14 points when Otis Anderson broke free in the Auburn secondary, but Milton’s 3rd-and-8 pass was just out of his reach and the Knights punted. Auburn took over at its own 9 with 4:54 before halftime and methodically moved to the UCF 21 with under a minute left, but Stidham was sacked on 3rd-and-10 and Carlson converted 46-yard field goal.

UCF answered by moving 42 yards in five plays, setting up a 45-yard Wright field goal as time expired to push the lead back to a touchdown.

When he wasn’t under duress, Stidham was effective throwing the ball. He completed 16-of-21 passes for 140 yards, and Kerryon Johnson rushed 15 times for 59 yards.

Milton was off-target throughout the half. He came into the game trailing only Baker Mayfield as the nation’s most-efficient quarterback, but hit just 3-of-17 passes for 30 yards, though he did lead all players with 83 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Auburn will receive to open the second half.

UCF clinches NY6 bowl bid as AAC champs and Scott Frost avoids question about Nebraska

AP Photo
2 Comments

If you wanted an offensive shootout, you certainly got it in the American Athletic Conference championship game. After out-lasting No. 20 Memphis (10-2) for a second straight shootout victory, this time in a 62-55 double-overtime thriller, No. 14 UCF (12-0) will get their chance to score a signature victory against a power conference opponent in the New Years Six bowl lineup. At 12-0, UCF essentially clinched their spot in the big game bowl lineup to be determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee tomorrow. We may not have to wait quite as long to learn about the future of UCF head coach Scott Frost.

Memphis forced the AAC championship to go to overtime with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the game at 48-48. Memphis had a chance to win the game in regulation but could not convert on a long field goal in the final minute. UCF also could not take advantage of a last-minute possession and gave the ball back to Memphis by way of an interception. But little time remaining, Memphis could not get into field goal range. So the game went to overtime after 96 points and 1,399 yards of offenses.

After the teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, UCF opened the second overtime with a touchdown run by Otis Anderson. Memphis kept the game alive with a great fourth down conversion between Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller, but Ferguson was picked off a couple of plays later by Tre Neal.

It was the only interception of the game thrown by Ferguson, who passed for 471 yards and four touchdowns. Miller caught 14 passes for 195 yards and three scores and Memphis had two 100-yard rushers with Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. UCF’s box score was loaded a swell. McKenzie Milton passed for 494 yards and five touchdowns to overcome three interceptions in the game. Anderson rushed for 117 yards and Tre'Quan Smith accounted for 161 yards and two scores. Dredrick Snelson also had 145 yards and two touchdowns.

As the highest-ranked conference champion, UCF will be rewarded with the lone spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of Five conferences. It is only fitting this year’s spot goes to the only undefeated team in the country outside of Wisconsin (and if Wisconsin loses in the Big Ten championship game, UCF will be the only undefeated team in the country).

UCF may be heading to the Peach Bowl or another New Years Six bowl game, but Frost could be making his way to Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a storyline that was unavoidable for the ABC telecast in the beginning of the game, and for good reason. Frost has been one of the hottest names in the coaching carousel, and the undefeated run by UCF was a big part of the reason why that was the case. Various reports and rumors have suggested Frost is already on his way to Nebraska to be the next head coach, but nothing official has been announced on either end. Frost declined to answer the question about accepting the Nebraska job in his on-field postgame interview.

We’ll probably find out in the next 24-36 hours where UCF will be heading for the bowl season, and the decision of Frost will not be lingering too far behind if it has yet to be made official one way or the other by then. Memphis will still be heading to a bowl game as one of the top AAC representatives too, but it will not have the same prestige as the big bowl game lineup. Memphis head coach Mike Norvell could also remain a name to watch on the coaching carousel’s radar too.

UCF RB Jawon Hamilton out for the 2017 season following surgery for leg injury

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Saturday’s game between Maryland and UCF took a toll on the injury report for the Big Ten’s Terrapins, but UCF took a blow as well. Now, the Knights will have to play the remainder of the season with a new starting running back.

Jawon Hamilton had started UCF’s first two games of the season and accumulated 11 starts in his time at UCF, but a leg injury in the first quarter of Saturday’s game led to surgery and a premature end to his 2017 season. Hamilton shared the news of his surgery on his Facebook page, saying his surgery went well and already focusing on the fact he will have three years of eligibility to use. Hamilton will be eligible for three years because he will qualify for a medical redshirt with his season-ending injury coming so early in the year.

Hamilton rushed for 495 yards and four touchdowns last year but never got a chance to have the impact he was expected to have in the offense this season. UCF blew out their first opponent of the year, FIU, and allowed Hamilton to get some early rest, and his injury occurred in the first quarter against Maryland after a storm-altered layoff interfered with UCF’s football schedule.

Junior Taj McGowan and sophomore Adrian Killins now step in as the running backs that will fill the void. Neither is designated as the starter over the other on the depth chart this week, which means head coach Scott Frost either wants to keep both involved or see which one proves capable of carrying the load moving forward. McGowan rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, and Killins had a team-high 6.5 rushing yards per attempt in 2016.

The other option available would be 6′-0″ 248-lb freshman Cordarrian Richardson. The big freshman has carried the football 11 times for 39 yards and a touchdown in the early stages of the season. He may not be ready for full-time rushing duties just yet, but he certainly brings a sizable advantage in short0-down situations with a little help from his blockers up front. Don’t be surprised if Frost finds ways to get him involved in the game plan as the Knights potentially go with a bit of a running back by committee in the next few weeks.

UCF hosts Memphis this week in a key conference battle, with the Tigers owning the fifth-best rushing defense in the AAC coming in. After that, UCF’s next two games are against Cincinnati and East Carolina. The Bearcats and Pirates have really struggled against the run so far this season, with 19 rushing touchdowns combined and an average of 264.0 and 274.5 rushing yards per game allowed, respectively. That would seem to suggest UCF has a good three-week stretch to figure out how best to use the running backs before having to make any final decisions for the second half of the season.