Alabama, Texas A&M and the Heisman

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Beyond all the national implications of Saturday’s huge Alabama-Texas A&M showdown, there is the matter of how it will affect the race for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Last season’s 29-24 upset win by the Aggies over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa helped propel Johnny Manziel to an improbable Heisman. His 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns was remarkable, but his performance against Alabama assured he would become the first freshman to take home the trophy.

Almost one year later, the situation has changed. Manziel is well-established as the premier player in college football, but the obstacles in place between him and another Heisman are many.

It’s no coincidence that there’s only been one two-time Heisman winner, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who captured the trophy in 1974 and 1975. But almost 40 years of perspective hints to us that Griffin’s repeat was probably a matter of happenstance, a case of the Heisman electorate temporarily falling asleep at the wheel

Think of some of the amazing players who had a chance to pull it off but couldn’t: Doc Blanchard of Army, Doak Walker of SMU, Roger Staubach of Navy, Billy Sims of Oklahoma, Ty Detmer of BYU, Matt Leinart of USC and Tim Tebow of Florida.  The failure of these players to win that second trophy raised the bar for future players attempting a shot at it. After all, the next player to match Griffin’s feat will have to be put on the short list of all-time college football legends, right? The Heisman electorate went against normal convention and selected a freshman last time around.  Casually doling out two Heismans is another story.

Add to that the matter of Manziel’s off-season, off-field antics, and the chances of him repeating are remote.

But if Manziel is going to be the one to defy history and take his place in that pantheon of all-time greats, it all starts with what he does on Saturday. A prolific performances against the Tide would give him plenty of momentum in the race and probably assure that he at least gets a return invite to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Playing poorly in a loss to Alabama means his Heisman hopes will be officially vanquished. He’ll have to be satisfied with his one trophy.

But Manziel isn’t the only Heisman candidate in this game. There’s also A.J. McCarron, the Tide’s senior quarterback. He led the nation in passing efficiency last season while guiding his team to its second-straight national title. While he’s off to a slow start so far, he has a chance to do what no other quarterback has ever done — win three straight titles. If he plays well in leading Bama to a victory over the Aggies, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation and have a chance to get to New York if he finishes the season strong. But if Alabama loses, you can probably kiss his Heisman hopes goodbye.

When these two teams last met, the Heisman race was a mess and waiting for a player to take control. Manziel did that. But this season they meet in the early stages of the race, with several strong contenders still vying for the trophy. It’s unlikely that the outcome of this game will have the same positive impact it had last year, unless we see another legendary performance take place.

Knowing Manziel and McCarron, it could happen.

Western Kentucky’s leading tackler taking grad transfer to Purdue

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A significant loss for Western Kentucky’s defense could prove to be a boon for Purdue on that side of the ball.

In an email to the West Lafayette Journal & Courier, Ben Holt confirmed that he has decided to transfer from Western Kentucky to Purdue and continue his collegiate playing career with the Boilermakers.  As he is expected to graduate from WKU in May, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2019 for the Big Ten school.

Holt is the son of Nick Holt, who has spent the past two seasons as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Purdue.  Ben Holt’s head coach his first two seasons with the Hilltoppers was Jeff Brohm, who is entering his third year in the same job with the Boilermakers.

This past season, Holt started all 12 games for the Hilltoppers.  He led the team in tackles with 116, tackles for losses with 11½ and quarterback hurries with nine.  His five pass breakups were good for third on the squad in 2018.

All told, Holt played in 38 games his past three seasons in Bowling Green.

Holt becomes the third former Hilltopper to transfer to the Boilermakers since Brohm came to West Lafayette.  Starting linebacker T.J. McCollum followed the coach in February of 2017, with starting offensive lineman Dennis Edwards following McCollum a year later.

Alabama LB Chris Allen undergoes surgery, per report

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The near-complete revamping of Nick Saban‘s coaching staff wasn’t the only football news coming out of Tuscaloosa late this past week.

According to al.com, outside linebacker Chris Allen underwent what was described as a minor surgical procedure on his knee Thursday.  The specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed.

Allen, who missed the entire 2018 season after tearing an ACL, is expected to be healthy enough to participate in spring practice, which kicks off next month.

A four-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2017 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 4 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Alabama.  As a true freshman, the Baton Rouge native played in seven games.

As noted by the website, Allen is set to be one of the Tide’s top backup linebackers on the outside this coming season.

Minnesota dismisses TE who allegedly punched cop in the face

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Yeah, that’ll do it.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota tight end Max Janes is facing felony charges after allegedly assaulting a police officer very early in the morning of Feb. 8.  It’s alleged that an intoxicated Janes was in the process of breaking into a post office when police officers responded, with the football player ultimately turning violent and allegedly punching one of the cops in the face.

From the Star Tribune‘s report:

According to the criminal complaint: Officers were dispatched to a welfare check on reports of an individual improperly dressed for the cold weather loitering outside the post office. They located Janes just as he gained unlawful entry into the building’s loading dock. Officers placed Janes in their squad car, but opened the rear door after he informed them that he needed to vomit.

Instead, Janes got out and punched an officer — causing demonstrable bodily harm, the complaint says. He was eventually restrained and booked at Hennepin County jail, where he was charged with fourth-degree assault of a peace officer and obstructing the legal process.

As a result of the off-field incident, Janes was dismissed from the football team.

“We have extremely high standards for members of our team and when those standards are not met there are consequences,” head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. “Law enforcement officers speak to our team and educate them multiple times a year, and we greatly appreciate those who protect and serve us on a daily basis.”

A preferred walk-on, Janes played in 13 games as a true freshman this past season.  The vast majority of his action came on special teams.

Wyoming’s OL coach shuffle continues with hiring of Ohio assistant

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Maybe the third time will be a charm?

Following the end of the 2018 season, Craig Bohl parted ways with his long-time offensive line coach Scott Fuchs and embarked on a search for a replacement. That search ended with Wyoming’s hiring of Klayton Adams; less than a month later, another search for a line coach was launched as Adams took a job as the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

A little over a week later, and while there’s nothing official yet from the Cowboys, Frank Solich confirmed to the Athens Messenger this past week that Ohio’s offensive line coach, Bart Miller, has taken the same job at Wyoming.

“Our coaches loved working with him, our players loved working with him. We appreciate what he was all about and how he helped our team be what it was last year,” the head coach told the Messenger.

Last season was Miller’s first with the Bobcats. As the newspaper noted, this will mark Miller’s fourth different school in as many years as he was on the coaching staffs at Minnesota and Air Force in 2016 and 2017, respectively.