From prison to the draft: leading rusher leaving NMSU for NFL

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While the NFL released Thursday the list of a record 65 underclassmen who will make themselves available for the April draft, the attrition to the professional ranks is not yet complete.

In a press release, New Mexico State announced that running back Kenny Turner has declared himself eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft.  Turner had one year of eligibility remaining but decided to leave it on the table for a shot at the NFL.

“First of all I would like to thank Coach [DeWayne] Walker, Dr. Boston and the NM State administration for giving me the opportunity to play Division I football at New Mexico State,” Turner said. “Coming out of junior college I had a few other offers to play Division I football, but after I visited New Mexico State I felt that it was home and I felt that it was the right decision for me. This was a very difficult decision I had to make but when it came down to it I was going to be 27 years old, and in the NFL and at the running back position, age is a factor. So I need to make the jump from college to the NFL. Again, I appreciate all the support and I enjoyed my time as an Aggie.”

The announcement is yet another step in Turner’s remarkable journey that’s a decade in the making, one that could’ve included (more) prison bars or a coffin but is instead headed in the direction of a career at the next level.

Turner began his college playing career at the junior college level in 2009 — his 2008 season was erased by a knee injury — before transferring to NMSU in 2010.  This past season, he led the Aggies in rushing with 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Additionally, he was second on the team in receptions (46) and receiving yards (514).

How he got to the point of being a productive player at the 1-A level, however, is a story of redemption and taking full advantage of a second chance.

In July of 2002, a 16-year-old Turner shot and wounded two individuals outside of an Orlando, Fla., gas station following a heated verbal altercation.  He was sentenced to five years in prison after being tried as an adult, and was subsequently released in June of 2007.

The full story of how Turner got from that July day in Florida in 2002 to New Mexico eight years later can be read HERE, and I’d strongly suggest taking a look at it to get the full picture of the self-inflicted wounds — and singular poor decision — the back has thus far overcome.

As far as his most recent decision, his head coach intimated that Turner should remain with the Aggies for another season, but nonetheless expressed support for this next step in the process — as long as Turner returns to get a degree.

“I walked through this process with Kenny (Turner), explaining the pros and cons of declaring for the NFL, and at the end of the day it was his decision and we will support him in any way we can to help him fulfill his dream of being an NFL player,” Walker said in a statement. “He understands through this process that he must graduate and Kenny promised me that he would take care of that piece of it. There is life after football and he understands that as well. We hate to see him leave but I do understand his decision and we are going to support it and we want to make sure he graduates from college.”

Iowa bar unlocks locker of free beer for Nebraska fans after first Huskers win

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Taking a page right out of the Cleveland Browns playbook, a bar in Iowa celebrated the first Nebraska win of the season by ceremoniously unlocking a case full of beer to distribute to Nebraska fans at no cost.

Barley’s, a bar in Council Bluffs, Iowa, handed out free Budweiser to Nebraska fans gathering to watch the game against the Minnesota Gophers on Saturday. The bar started the promotion in an effort to “being Iowa Nice,” as the bar is a common gathering point for Nebraska fans in the state of Iowa. Naturally, the case was full of Budweiser in bottles of red and white, Nebraska’s colors.

Bud Lite sponsored a promotion for Cleveland Browns fans that promised to hand out free beer to fans after the Browns won their first game of the season this year. Two years ago, a bar in Florida made good on a free beer promo during UCF’s dreadful 0-12 season. Leave it to Scott Frost to end one free beer promo and be a part of another.

With best start in program history, UAB is bowl-eligible for second straight year since return from being shutdown

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It was not so long ago that the UAB football program was seemingly shut down for good, but the Blazers have sure taken advantage of life after death. With their 29-21 victory over North Texas on Saturday, clinched bowl-eligibility for a second straight season after being brought back from their abbreviated hiatus.

Going further, UAB head coach Bill Clark is now three-for-three in putting together a bowl-eligible season at UAB. UAB went 6-6 in Clark’s first season on the job in 2014. UAB did not play in a bowl game, however, as the school announced the program was shutting down at the end of the regular season and no bowl trip would be taken by the program. Clark stuck with the university as it decided to bring the football program back beginning in 2017, and Clark coached the program to a record of 8-5 last season, ending with a loss in the Bahamas Bowl.

UAB is also 10-0 at home since being revived as a program. The 6-1 start is also the best start for the Blazers in program history.

UAB has never played in back-to-back bowl games in program history. The Blazers have only played in two bowl games since 1996, but they are primed to be playing in their third this bowl season.

UAB is now in first place in the Conference USA’s West Division and looking to lock down a division championship next for a chance to capture the Conference USA title for the first time in program history. Not too shabby for a program that was left on the curb just a few years ago.

Lining up first winning season since 2011, could Virginia play for ACC championship?

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In his third season at Virginia, Bronco Mendenhall has the Cavaliers surprisingly in position to play in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history. Considering the state of the program when he took over a few years ago, that is a solid achievement.

Virginia’s 28-14 win at Duke on Saturday improved Virginia to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC. On top of that, Virginia owns head-to-head tiebreakers against Miami and Duke. The only team sitting in front of Virginia in the ACC Coastal Division is Virginia Tech. If Virginia continues to handle their business the next few weeks with home games against North Carolina and Pittsburgh, that could set the stage for a showdown in Blacksburg on the final weekend of the regular season with the Coastal Division on the line.

Virginia Tech is 3-0 in the ACC. The Hokies have a schedule that is back-loaded with home games in the second half of the year too, although that includes some potential stiff challenges from Boston College and Miami in Blacksburg on top of Virginia on the final weekend of the year. Virginia Tech must also travel to Pittsburgh, where the Panthers are a tough team to figure out on any given week. You never know what could happen against the Panthers.

The remaining schedule may look more difficult for Virginia Tech, but the benefit of only having to go on the road just once for the rest of the season could give the Hokies the advantage.

Mendenhall may still have some work to do with the Virginia program, but after going 2-10 in his first season in 2016 and 6-7 last year, Mendenhall has Virginia eyeing up its first winning season since 2011. Whether or not that includes a trip to the ACC Championship Game at the end of the year, the 2018 season is already turning out to be a step forward for the program under Mendenhall.

LSU AD Joe Alleva wants SEC to overturn targeting suspension to Devin White

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During LSU’s win over Mississippi State on Saturday, Devin White was ejected for targeting on Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Because the ejection came in the second half of the game, White will be required to miss the first half of LSU’s next game. That next game comes up after LSU’s bye week, against Alabama. Now, LSU Athletics Director Joe Alleva is looking to get the SEC to overturn the targeting suspension to White, allowing him to play from the start of LSU’s home game against Alabama in two weeks.

According to The Advocate, Alleva contacted the SEC headquarters to discuss the suspension with league officials as early as Saturday night. Targeting penalties and ejections cannot be appealed by the league office, but that is not stopping Alleva from giving it his best shot.

Video of the play that led to the targeting penalty can be seen below. It definitely falls under the category of some of the weaker targeting calls seen in college football.

The official statement from the SEC regarding the targeting call, which of course was reviewed during the game and then upheld following the review, was “the QB on the play was defenseless at the time of the contact. By rule, all targeting calls are reviewed. The call was reviewed and confirmed.”

There is almost no shot Alleva will get his way with this call, but it will raise some worthwhile discussions about the targeting penalty as if there isn’t enough of that to go around. But don’t expect the SEC to overturn this call. Doing so would set a precedent the SEC and every other conference should look to avoid doing. At some point, college football has to live or die with its targeting rules and enforcement. But there should be an analysis done on these types of calls at the end of the year in an effort to enhance the way it is officiated throughout the country.