Record 65 underclassmen declare early for NFL draft

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Last year around this time, the NFL was announcing a record 56 underclassmen had left eligibility on the table in order to make themselves available for the April draft.

A year later?  Consider that record shattered.

The NFL announced Thursday that a total of 65 eligible underclassmen have decided to take their game to the next level.  Prior to last year, the record had been 53, first in 2008 then tied in 2010.

And, as is normally the case, there were a handful of players included in this year’s NFL list that had not been previously reported:

  • Jamison Berryhill, RB, Texas
  • Tiree Eure, TE, Minnesota
  • Dorian Graham, WR, Syracuse
  • Janzen Jackson, DB, McNeese State
  • Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
  • Ken Plue, G, Purdue
  • Johnny Thomas, DB, Oklahoma State
  • Phillip Thomas, DB, Syracuse

Interestingly, a pair of running backs who had previously announced they were leaving early — Washington’s Chris Polk by the school and Utah State’s Robert Turbin on Twitter — were not on the list released by the NFL.  It’s unclear why they weren’t included, and emails seeking clarification from the respective schools on the status of the players have not yet been returned.

(Writer’s note: a UW official responded to CFT’s email, writing that Polk being excluded by the NFL “[m]ust be a mistake on their part. He made it official on Jan. 2, and nothing has changed.”  In a followup email, the same official wrote “that the NFL considers him a senior since he never technically redshirted. Had he wanted to come back for the 2012 season, he could have gotten a year back (without any doubt), but no one had ever done the paperwork for that year (2008) for whatever reason.”  So, for accounting purposes, Polk is not considered an early entry by the NFL.)

(Writer’s note, the sequel: USU’s director of media relations, Zach Fisher, wrote that “because of being five years out of high school, [Turbin] is not classified as needing to be granted the special eligibility for the draft.”)

The running back position, incidentally, saw the most attrition, with 13 players at that position on the NFL’s list.  Defensive linemen (12), wide receivers (11), defensive backs (9) and offensive linemen (8) were the next hardest hit positions.  Tight end saw the least attrition with three players, while just five quarterbacks made themselves available for the upcoming draft.

Conference-wise, three accounted for well over half of the early entries — the ACC (14), SEC (12) and Pac-12 (10).  All 11 conferences lost at least one player, with the Big Ten (7), Big 12 (6) and Big East (6) accounting for most of the remaining future draftees.  A pair of players from non-Div. 1-A — Southern Illinois RB Jewel Hampton and McNeese State DB Janzen Jackson — were included as well.

As far as last year’s draft was concerned, it seemed to be a boom-or-bust proposition for those who applied for early entry.  While nearly half of the entire first round (15) consisted of juniors, redshirt or otherwise, the same number went undrafted.  Add in 12 players selected in the second round, and exactly 75 percent of the players in the early-entry Class of 2011 either went in the first two rounds or were not selected at all.

What does it mean?  Make the leap if you have the talent.  If not, jump at your own peril.

Anyway, for the complete list of underclassmen whose future lies in the professional ranks, click HERE.

Alabama LB Keith Holcombe giving up football for baseball

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After months of speculation, Alabama has officially lost a veteran linebacking and special teams presence. Probably.

Early last month, Nick Saban indicated it was unlikely that Keith Holcombe would return to the Alabama football team for a fourth season after playing three seasons for the Crimson Tide baseball team. In providing the latest update to the linebacker’s status moving forward, the head coach confirmed Wednesday that Holcombe had decided to forego playing football in order to focus solely on a career in baseball, although he did seem to leave the door at least slightly ajar for a future return to the gridiron.

“I think he would add a tremendous amount of experience, knowledge and diversity to our defense because he’s very smart if he decided to come back,” Saban said by way of al.com. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014, Holcombe played in 44 football games for the Tide the past three seasons. In addition to a team-high 11 special teams tackles during their run to the national championship, he was also credited with three pass breakups and two tackles for loss on defense in 2017.

On the baseball side, Holcombe started 87 of the 97 games he played, including 45 of 47 this past season as an outfielder. He was third on the team in hits with 51.

While he wasn’t drafted this past June, he was taken in the 37th round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Instead of signing with that baseball organization, he headed to Tuscaloosa on a football scholarship.

Jay Norvell stays in-house to fill hole on Nevada staff

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As it turns out, Jay Norvell didn’t have to look far to find an assistant to replace one who recently and abruptly bolted.

The Nevada football program announced Wednesday that Norvell has promoted Mike Chamoures to the position of safeties coach for the Wolf Pack. Chamoures spent the 2017 season, his first with the Mountain West Conference school, as a defensive quality control coach.

This will mark Chamoures’ first on-field job at the FBS level.

“Mike is an intelligent young coach who has earned the respect of many of our players with his experience and understanding of our defensive system,” Norvell said in a statement

“I’m very grateful to Coach Norvell and [defensive coordinator Jeff] Casteel for the opportunity and look forward to playing a bigger role in building the program,” Chamoures stated in his.

Chamoures will replace Courtney Viney, who left earlier this week for an off-field job at Oklahoma.

Ex-Baylor DC Phil Bennett calls legal firm interview a fraud, says Art Briles deserves to coach again

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Former Baylor head coach Phil Bennett says an interview he did for a law firm reviewing Baylor’s response to sexual assault scandal was a fraud because he was unable to go through the interview without an attorney by his side. In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bennett took issue with the review conducted by the Pepper Hamilton law firm.

“It was somewhere in January or February after our bowl game,” Bennett said of the interview he had with representatives from the law firm. “I told (staffers) it was a fraud set up from the get-go. I wanted to bring a lawyer in and to record it. I wanted protection. They would not talk to us if we did. They didn’t have a recording of it, either. That’s what bothered me. I was in there for 4 1/2 hours. They wrote notes. I wrote notes. They looked at mine. I looked at theirs. (The two investigators) were so out of touch with the structure of college football, it was comical.”

Bennett went on to explain when he realized there was no progress he was going to make in the interview.

“I said, ‘We are bringing these kids in and we take great pride in keeping them within the lines of university procedures. That’s our jobs. We are not getting the normal student.’ I wanted to be as real as I could with them. We are trying to teach these kids how to be in college and how to react in situations. She says, ‘Judicial Affairs should have known.’ As soon as she said that, I knew this was over.”

Despite the scale of the scandal at Baylor and the fallout that ensued, Bennett remains confident Baylor was really no different from any other college football program in the country.

“We had the same issues that everybody had,” Bennett claimed at one point in the video interview. “We tried to stay on top of things. Now, were we just a hammer? Probably not.”

Previous reports have detailed how members of the Baylor coaching staff worked around the typical Title IX procedures, which is what really brought the entire situation at Baylor to a boil.

Bennett also came to the defense of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, suggesting Briles was targetted because Baylor could not successfully fire Ken Starr as university president.

“Yes. I remember when this all started, my wife told me, ‘This is the sort of thing that gets you fired.’ I don’t know if this was true, but I was told by a member of the board that Art was never the objective. They were looking to fire Ken Starr. But Starr lawyered up. And the next on the pole was Briles.”

During the course of the interview, Bennett suggested Baylor was no different from other college football programs around the country

“Every night I say a prayer for him, that he will [coach again],” Bennett said of Briles. “I think without question he deserves to.”

Briles, of course, has struggled to land a coaching job since being fired by Baylor. A job in the CFL never took off after public outcry about his hiring, and he remains a bit of a pariah around college football as the dust still settles from the impact of the scandal in Waco.

Tom Herman says ideal Texas schedule would include Texas A&M rivalry

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Let’s face it. Until the day comes when Texas and Texas A&M get back on the same football field for a regular season game, this topic is never going to die. In the latest example of proving you can set your offseason calendar to the moment anyone from Texas or Texas A&M merely mentions the dormant rivalry, Longhorns head coach Tom Herman suggested reviving the rivalry with the Aggies would be a part of his ideal football schedule in Austin.

“In my perfect world, you would play one big-time Power 5 [non-conference] opponent,” Herman said in SiriusXM ESPNU Radio interview with Andy Staples and Rick Neuheisel this week. “To me, there’s a very logical one an hour-and-a-half east of us.”

Herman was clearly referring to Texas A&M when mentioning a logical option just 90 minutes east of Austin. Herman also expressed a desire to be able to play a true rivalry game at home in an alternating series similar to other Big 12 schools like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State playing each other and Iowa State playing in-state Big Ten rival Iowa. Texas A&M would fit that bill Herman is trying to address.

Of course, this is all the same old stuff we have been talking about since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC and the rivalry was put on ice after the 2011 season. Fans of both schools appear to have a much greater desire for the series to be revived, and coaches who have come and gone make it a routine to sound off on wanting to play their old rival to win fans over. But the fact remains the powers that be at both Texas and Texas A&M are standing firm on not wanting to play the other school again, even if there is a hint there are higher-ups who would be interested in seeing the series continue.

Both the big 12 and SEC require their members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent in non-conference play. It seems to be a perfect way for the rivalry to resume for both the Longhorns and Aggies. Instead, both schools continue to line up non-conference schedules without including the other, as is the case now through 2020 for sure, and likely for years beyond that with other matchups against power conference teams already lined up for years.