Not dead yet: Toomer’s oaks showing signs of growth

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Nearly a year and a half after they were allegedly poisoned by a rival “fan”, the venerable Toomer’s Corner oaks on Auburn’s campus are still hanging in there.

Speaking to WLTZ-TV, AU horticulturist Gary Keever sounded guardedly optimistic on the future of the historic trees due to what appears to be signs of growth over the past few months.

“This means the trees still have food, and are still alive,” Keever said of the growth.  “This gives us hope that the trees might make it if they are starting to produce more foliage.”

While it’s long been assumed that the oaks would not survive the damage wrought by the pesticides, the thought of the trees actually making it is not exactly a foreign concept; back in July, Keever said he “[doesn’t] want to give a sense of false hope, but we’re not ready to say they’re definitely not going to make it.”

The station’s website wrote that Keever and other university officials will go up in a lift on Friday to check the leaf development and the branches at the top of the trees.

Harvey Updyke, the man accused of spreading Spike 80DF into the soil around the trees after the 2010 Auburn-Alabama game, was arrested in February of last year and originally charged with felony first-degree criminal mischief.  Three months later, he was officially charged with two felony counts of first-degree criminal mischief, two felony counts for unlawful damage, vandalism or theft of property from a farm animal or crop facility and two misdemeanor counts of desecrating a venerated object.

The case was scheduled to go to trial March 5 of this year, but was delayed late last month at the request of Updyke’s attorney.  No new trial date has been set, although another hearing will be held March 14 to hear motions presented by both the defense and prosecution.

(Tip O’ the Cap: al.com)

Bret Bielema reportedly interviewing for Colorado job

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Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.

Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.

The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.

He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.

Mel Tucker reels in 3-star RB who delayed signing after Dantonio retirement

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Mel Tucker secured his first signee over the weekend, which is impressive since he didn’t take the job until after the 2020 signing periods.

Jordon Simmons, a 3-star running back from Powder Springs, Ga., committed to Michigan State back in October but did not sign in the early period or the late period.

After Mark Dantonio‘s retirement the night before the February signing period, Simmons announced he would not sign with the Spartans the following day.

“Due to the unforeseen retirement of Coach Dantonio and after discussing things with my family, I have decided to delay my signing with Michigan State University until further notice,” he tweeted the night of Dantonio’s announcement. “I love everything that Michigan State has to offer and I appreciate the love and support that the fan base has shown me. However, with the uncertainty of the MSU program I have decided to take some time to weight out my options and think about where I will spend the next 4 years.”

After taking a couple weeks to consider his options and get to know his new head coach, Simmons inked with the Spartans once and for all.

The Simmons saga shows that, should players obtain a free release to play elsewhere if their head coach leaves in between the time they sign scholarship papers and their freshman seasons, most of those players would still wind up at their original school simply because they’d be out of options elsewhere.

Central Michigan CB Kyron McKinnie-Harper facing multiple charges, including pair of felonies

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Central Michigan football is the latest FBS program to face an off-field issue invoicing one of its players.

Friday, Jim McElwain announced that Kyron McKinnie-Harper had been indefinitely suspended from the Central Michigan football team for violating unspecified team rules. The school’s student newspaper subsequently reported that a warrant was issued for McKinnie-Harper’s arrest Feb. 13.

Per court records, McKinnie-Harper is facing one count of using a computer to commit a crime, one count of unauthorized computer access, one count of computer fraud and three counts of larceny by conversion. One of the larceny counts and the computer access charge are felonies. The others are misdemeanors.

“According to court records, police are looking at his Oct. 27 online activities,,” the paper wrote. No further details of what led to the charges has been detailed.

As for what type of prison time the cornerback could be facing if convicted? From the report:

McKinnie-Harper is charged with one felony larceny count of more than $1,000, less than $20,000. Conviction could result in 5 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. He also faces two misdemeanor larceny counts of $200, less than $1,000. A conviction is punishable by 1 year in jail and/or fines of up to $2,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. Using a computer to commit a crime is a felony that could result in 4-to-10 years in prison.

As a true freshman, McKinnie-Harper emerged as a starting corner the last half of the 2019 season. An unspecified injury kept the defensive back out of the bowl game in which Central Michigan football played following the 2019 campaign.

“The coach would not elaborate on the injury and McKinnie-Harper did not travel with the team, though other injured teammates did go to Albuquerque,” 247Sports.com wrote.

In his first season with Central Michigan football, McKinnie-Harper led the Chips in passes defensed with 10 and forced fumbles with two.

Nebraska WR Darien Chase cites struggles with mental health, depression in entering transfer portal

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Nebraska football added five wide receivers as part of its 2020 recruiting class. Not surprisingly, that group has seen a potential shakeup.

Utilizing his personal Twitter account, Darien Chase has taken the first step in leaving Nebraska football by announcing his entry into the NCAA transfer database. In the post, Chase revealed that he has “struggled with mental health and depression” for years and needs to transfer in order to be closer to family as he deals with his issues.

“I’ve lost a lot of family members and I have struggled with mental health and depression for the past 6 or 7 years and these events put me in a place I can never fall to again, and it is the best decision for me and my family for me to transfer closer to home,” the receiver wrote. “This decision has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make because it has nothing to do with the program or football, and there is truly no place like Nebraska, and I’ll always love GBR and all the love I’ve gotten just in the past year.”

Chase was a three-star 2019 signee. He was the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Washington.

Prior to committing to, then signing with Nebraska football, Chase had received scholarship offers from, among others, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah and Boise State. He took official visits to the latter two schools.

As a true freshman, Chase played in four games. That will allow him to take a redshirt for the 2019 season.

In that limited action, Chase caught one pass for 13 yards.

In addition to adding a handful of players at his position, Chase also saw offensive coordinator and receivers coach Troy Walters, who was his primary recruiter, leave the Nebraska football program last month.