LSU exodus continues: Spencer Ware, Brad Wing departing for NFL

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Three times in the past two days, LSU underclassmen have officially announced they are leaving early for the NFL.  This evening, the official count is up to five.

Both running back Spencer Ware and suspended punter Brad Wing are confirmed early entrants into the April NFL draft, the school announced Friday.  Each had been considered two of the handful of Tigers giving serious consideration to an early move, particularly the latter following a suspension for what was reportedly multiple failed drug tests and cost him a shot at playing in this year’s bowl game.

The loss of Ware might actually be the lesser of these two given the stable of backs Les Miles has assembled in Baton Rouge, although the junior certainly possesses the physical talent and tools to succeed at the next level.  He finished second on the team in rushing yards (707) and led the club in rushing touchdowns with eight last season, with his production dropping to 367/1 thanks, again, to Miles’ stable.

“I feel confident that I am ready to go to the next level and I look forward to working hard in preparation for this next chapter in my life,” Ware’s statement read. “I want to thank everyone at LSU for all they have done for me over the last three years. I especially want to thank Coach Miles and his staff for helping me to develop on the field, and mature as both a player and a person. I also want to thank my teammates for all the support they’ve given me.

“I will forever where purple and gold as a badge of honor and I wish continued prosperity and success to the Tiger Nation.”

As for Wing, he was 11th in the nation with a 44.8 yards per punt average a year after he was 11th with a 44.4 average.  He was arguably most famous for being the first player to have a touchdown called back last season because of the then-new taunting rule.

As a redshirt sophomore, he had two years of eligibility remaining.

Can’t express enough love for Tiger Nation,” Wing wrote on Twitter after his decision was announced. “Thank you for making these 3 years so amazing. Love to the fans, my teammates and coaches.”

Linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Eric Reid and cornerback Tharold Simon had previously announced they would not be back for their senior seasons.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

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(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

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A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

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In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

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With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.