Sun Belt commissioner remains ‘optimistic’ about future of conference

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Which is hard to do if you’re Karl Benson, the former WAC commissioner who saw the Mountain West pick apart his conference over the course of the past couple of years of realignment. With the news yesterday that FAU and Middle Tennessee would be leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA — that was made official today in a release —  well, it’s been tough sledding for Benson as of late.

Yet Benson claims to be ‘very optimistic’ about the future of the Sun Belt in a statement released Thursday regarding the departures of FAU and MTSU:

“While I am disappointed that Middle Tennessee State University and Florida Atlantic University have elected to depart the Sun Belt Conference, the SBC is still very well positioned for the future and I remain very optimistic that the momentum that has been created in the past six months will continue to grow. The continuing 10 members of the SBC are committed to excellence and I am confident that the SBC will take advantage of these latest changes in the landscape. As I have stated many times in the past six months, the SBC will be a major player in the future, especially within its geographic footprint.

As for future members, there are several outstanding universities that have indicated interest in joining the SBC. While we have conducted research on these universities in the past six months, we will now focus on identifying the ones that will be the best “fit” for the conference and the ones that will contribute immediately in achieving our goal of being the best of the FBS conferences that currently do not receive automatic qualification into the BCS.

The future is still very BRIGHT for the SBC and I look forward to working with the leadership of the SBC in the coming days, weeks and months to continue the growth and development of this outstanding athletic conference.”

FAU and MTSU are the third and fourth departures from the Sun Belt to C-USA, joining North Texas and FIU. Those teams will be replaced by the trio of Georgia State, Texas State and UT-Arlington next season. Idaho and New Mexico State, formerly of the WAC, and Georgia Southern are also possible additions to the Sun Belt

Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker removes name from transfer portal

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The transfer portal taketh, the transfer portal giveth back.

After announcing late last month that he will place his name in the portal, Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker on Thursday revealed he had removed his name and will return to Blacksburg.

“I am taking my name out of the transfer portal and I truly believe it’s best to continue my career as a Hokie,” Hooker said in a statement posted to his Twitter account. “I regret the time that I’ve missed with my teammates in preparation for spring ball. I apologize to them and my coaches if I appeared to have a lack of commitment in what we are trying to achieve here at Hokie Nation.”

A native of Greensboro, N.C., Hooker redshirted in 2017 and then saw action in six games last fall. He did not total many snaps while serving as a reserve quarterback, but he did open his collegiate career with a 69-yard touchdown scamper in a 62-17 win over William & Mary in September. Hooker finished the year with 57 rushing yards and did not throw a pass.

However, his path to the field has cleared greatly in recent days.

In a bit of news that is no doubt related to Hooker’s reversal of field, Josh Jackson announced his plans to transfer to Maryland earlier this week. With Jackson out of the picture, Hooker will compete with junior Ryan Willis (who threw 364 passes last season) and fellow sophomore Quincy Patterson II for playing time in 2019.

Oklahoma State transfer one of three Georgia Southern players arrested

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I’m thinking this isn’t the most optimal of first impressions.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account in early December, running back J.D. King, who announced his decision to transfer from Oklahoma State two weeks prior, confirmed that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Georgia Southern.  Very early Sunday morning, the Savannah Morning News has reported, King (pictured) and two of his new GSU teammates, quarterback Ivan Corbin and running back Logan Wright, were all arrested for disorderly conduct.

The details of what led to the misdemeanor charges have not been divulged.

“We are aware of the situation and it will be dealt with internally,” Eagles head coach Chad Lunsford said in a statement. “We are disappointed with the decisions that were made and hopefully we can use it as a learning experience for our entire team as we move forward.”

King, who will have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, ran for 469 yards and four touchdowns on 99 carries as a true freshman for the Cowboys in 2017.  This past season, King’s production dropped to 153 yards and no touchdowns on 43 carries in 10 games.

After sitting out the upcoming season, King will have two years of eligibility remaining.

As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Wright was fifth on the team 308 yards rushing and tied for fourth with three rushing touchdowns.  Corbin, who has yet to attempt a pass at the collegiate level, will be fighting for a backup job as he enters his redshirt junior season.

NCAA grants Arizona State’s Tyler Whiley a sixth season

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The never-ending benevolence of the NCAA is on display yet again, with a playing member of the Arizona State football program the most recent beneficiary.

Citing multiple people directly familiar with the development, 247Sports.com has reported that Tyler Whiley has been granted a sixth season of eligibility by The Association.  Recent rule changes proved to be the impetus for the decision that will allow the defensive back to play in 2019.

From the website’s report:

Whiley… is benefitting from a change made to bylaw 12.8.1.7 called “redshirt year provision.” It allows relief from the five-year eligibility rule if an institutional decision is made to redshirt a student-athlete in his freshman season and a subsequent season is missed due to injury or other qualifying hardship.

Previously, players needed to have two seasons of incapacitation due to injury, illness or other issue in order to apply for a sixth year with the NCAA. That’s no longer the case and the rule change is retroactive to anyone still within their five-year eligibility window. Whiley is part of the first class of players able to benefit from the change.

While took a non-injury redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, then missed the entire 2018 season due to a serious injury to his right leg.  Those two factors triggered the affirmative decision for a sixth season of eligibility, which Whiley will be able to use in 2019.

Whiley played in 13 games in the season prior to his injury.  He will likely enter summer camp as a favorite to claim a starting job at safety.

Purdue confirms hiring of Auburn assistant Greg Brown

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Wednesday, Auburn announced the hiring of Wesley McGriff as secondary coach.  A day later, the man McGriff replaced was officially introduced by his new employer.

As expected, Purdue Thursday confirmed that Greg Brown has been added to Jeff Brohm‘s coaching staff as cornerbacks coach.  Brown had spent the past two seasons as the secondary coach for the SEC Tigers.

“We’re excited to have Greg join us,” Brohm said in a statement. “He is a veteran coach with nearly 40 years of experience at both the collegiate and professional levels of football. Greg will be a great addition to our staff.”

The move to West Lafayette serves as a homecoming of sorts as Brown spent the 1989 and 1990 seasons with the Boilermakers as defensive backs coach.

Brown has spent the past decade and a half at Power Five programs, including stops at Missouri (2016), Louisville (2014-15), Alabama (2013), Colorado (2011-12; 2005-09) and Arizona (2010).  Prior to that, he spent time with five different NFL teams over the course of a dozen seasons.