Ricky Williams gave first-place Heisman vote to Te’o, not Manziel

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And before you ask, yes, it’s a ssslllooowww news day.

In becoming the first (redshirt) freshman to claim the Heisman Trophy in the 78 years of the prestigious award, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel finished a comfortable distance ahead of runner-up Manti Te’o.  Manziel was given a first-place nod on 474 ballots, Te’o on 329.  One of the ones who opted for the Notre Dame linebacker?  A certain former Texas Longhorn.

During a radio interview earlier this week and by way of the Dallas Morning News, Heisman winner and ex-UT running back Ricky Williams acknowledged that he Te’o and Manziel 1-2, in that order, on his Heisman ballot.  As a former winner, Williams is given the opportunity to vote on the award annually.

While Williams’ “snub” of a player from an in-state rival may stir up some in Aggie Nation, Williams’ response to a “second-guess” question was immensely more interesting and enlightening.

As you have no doubt heard, Te’o was embroiled in a bit of controversy last month as it came to light that he was the victim of an online hoax involving in part a “dead girlfriend.”  That emotional subplot — Te’o playing the majority of the season through the grief of losing his girlfriend (fake) and beloved grandmother (real) — was one of the myriad storylines heading into the New York City ceremony and was a significant reason according to many that the defensive player was even in the Heisman discussion.

When asked if he would still give Te’o his vote for the Heisman if he knew then what he knows now, Williams was unequivocal that he still would’ve thrown his first-place support to Te’o.

“I wouldn’t have,” Williams said when asked if he would’ve changed his vote. “I was watching that crap on TV. I don’t really watch the news that much, but it was on every day. Finally, when it got to Kathie Lee and Hoda [on the Today Show], I was like, what’s going on with this stuff? I didn’t get what the big deal was.

“To me, it’s like people are surprised that athletes are strange. Do you guys know what we do? Especially football players. To play football in the NFL, you have to be a little bit strange. Otherwise you would’ve given up a long time ago.”

Being Ricky Williams, he’s certainly qualified when it comes to the nature of being a bit strange.

Regardless, good for him.  Yeah, he’ll take some grief from Aggie fans, but he voted for Te’o based on the player’s on-field accomplishments (we think).  The fact that Te’o was duped has nothing to do with the linebacker leading the Irish to a perfect season and a spot in the BCS title game.  He may have been exposed against Alabama — who isn’t these days? — but his play through the first 12 games was very much Heisman worthy, as Williams and 328 voters would attest.

Oregon LB arrested for removing parking boot dismissed by Ducks

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In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle.  A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.  Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.

In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing.  That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.

The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.

Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons.  The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.

The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.

LB Darrin Kirkland announces transfer from Tennessee

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Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program.  The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.

“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”

As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018.  Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games.  In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.

North Texas dropping $625,000 to install new turf that naturally includes new design

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Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.

“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”

The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”

Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:

Kansas State AD open to scheduling Nebraska in the future

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Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).

Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:

“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”

KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.

Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.