Pitt DT Aaron Donald is having an amazing season

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Lost in all the hubbub over the crazy Heisman race is the fact that Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is having a season for the ages.

Forget Jadeveon Clowney. He’s been all hype up to this point. When it comes to picking the best defensive player in college football, it all begins and ends with the Panthers’ No. 97.

Consider for a moment that the NCAA record for tackles for loss in a season is 32 by Jason Babin of Western Michigan in 2003. But keep in mind that Babin achieved that mark as a defensive end.

Through 11 games, Donald currently has a nation-leading 26 tackles for loss. With two games to play, Babin’s mark is in jeopardy. But the crazy thing about it is that Donald is doing all this as an interior lineman. It’s extremely rare for a defensive tackle to surpass 20 tackles for loss in a season.

That’s not all Donald is doing. He also has 10 sacks — another amazing number for an interior lineman — plus 51 overall tackles, four forced fumbles, two pass breakups, 16 quarterback hurries and a blocked kick (that sealed Pitt’s win over Syracuse this past Saturday).

There’ve been a few defensive players over the years who’ve made runs at the Heisman, most recently Manti Te’o of Notre Dame last season. The fact that Donald is currently being overlooked just goes to show you that some people don’t really watch the games very closely, but instead rely on hype and hearsay when doling out awards and honors.

Lane Kiffin offers Matt Leinart’s 11-year-old QB son

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Lane Kiffin upped the scholarship game back in 2010 when he offered 13-year-old quarterback prodigy David Sills, now a star wide receiver at West Virginia, while he was the head coach at USC.  Nearly a decade later, Kiffin, now the head coach at Florida Atlantic, has his eyes on an even younger prodigy at the position — only this one comes with a famous surname attached.

Cole Leinart is an 11-year-old sixth grader who already stands 5-7.  If the last name sounds familiar it should as he’s the son of former USC All-American quarterback and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart.  Because of his size and his arm — and, yes, his name — the younger Leinart is already drawing glances from college coaches.

Well, at least one college coach, as this Twitter exchange Tuesday evening between Kiffin and Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports/The Athletic showed.

(As ESPN.com pointed out, “the NCAA doesn’t truly recognize football players as prospects until their ninth-grade year,” so there’s that.)

Leinart played at USC from 2001-2005.  One of the offensive assistants on Pete Carroll‘s staff during that time?  Kiffin, who served as tight ends and wide receivers coach the first four years before being elevated to offensive coordinator for Leinart’s final season with the Trojans.

Cole Leinart is on pace to be a recruit in the Class of 2023.  Raise your hand if you believe Kiffin will be the head coach of the Owls seven years from now… and then put ’em right back down as y’all are liars.

What really remains to be seen is whether Kiffin and whatever Power Five program he’s heading in 2023 will have an interest in one of his former player’s sons.

Following arrest, Minnesota RB Shannon Brooks’ status ‘evolving’

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A knee injury sidelined Shannon Brooks for the first half of 2018, but he’s been medically cleared to make his debut this season Saturday against Nebraska.  However, an off-field incident has left his status for the weekend up in the air.

Over the weekend, Brooks was arrested on one count of suspected domestic assault stemming from an incident involving his male roommate.  Monday, Brooks was released from jail after the city attorney’s office declined, for now, to press charges.  The St. Paul Pioneer Press, though, writes that “[i]t doesn’t appear Brooks will practice until the city attorney’s office comes to some resolution in its investigation.”

Head coach P.J. Fleck stated Tuesday that the running back’s status is evolving every day.

“One thing that we are always going to make sure is that we have every bit of information that we possibly can before we make decisions,” the head coach said. “Shannon understands that, and I know our administration understands that as well.”

Brooks suffered what was initially thought to be a season-ending knee injury during spring practice this offseason. In six games last season, Brooks rushed for 369 yards and five touchdowns.

Texas’ Jeffrey McCulloch involved in single-car accident after hydroplaning, hitting pole

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One member of the Texas Longhorns football program was involved in an off-field incident this week that, thankfully, sounds a little scarier than it (hopefully) turned out to be.

Tom Herman revealed Tuesday that Jeffrey McCulloch was involved in a single-car accident Tuesday.  Per the head coach, the linebacker hydroplaned on a wet, slick Austin road and hit a light pole.

McCulloch was treated at the scene and then went to a local hospital before eventually being released, the Dallas News reported.

However, the Austin American Statesman writes that “[a]fter complaining about neck soreness, McCulloch was expected to have a CT scan.”

“All early indications is that he should be OK,” Herman said. “Just want to make sure everything is good to go.”

On Twitter Tuesday night, McCulloch also indicated that he’s fine.

McCulloch, a junior, has played in all seven games this season, starting one of those contests.  He’s listed as the starting B-backer on the Longhorns’ most recent depth chart.

Suspect arrested in shooting of two FIU football players

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There’s been a rather significant development in an off-field incident involving a pair of Florida International football players.

According to WPLG-TV among other outlets, 29-year-old Lorenzo Shine has been arrested in connection to the Sept. 6 drive-by shooting of running back Anthony Jones (pictured) and offensive lineman Mershawn Miller.  Shine, who admitted to driving his girlfriend’s car at the time of the shooting, is facing two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

From the CBS affiliate in Miami:

Anthony Jones and Mershawn Miller were visiting Miller’s brother at his home in the 2400 block of NW 140th Street when a car pulled up and shots were fired from within the vehicle, according to police.

At least 16 shots were fired at those sitting on the porch. Surveillance video from a nearby home shows bullets flying, as two men run to the back of the house.

Using the surveillance video, police tracked down the owner of the car. The owner of the car said she didn’t remember driving it on the day of the drive-by. Lorenzo Shine, 29, then came out of the woman’s house and retrieved two bags and something from the car’s glove box which he put in one of the bags. He took both bags inside the house.

The homeowner consented to a police search of the residence for guns. Inside one of the bags that Shine had removed from the car was a 40 caliber pistol.

Shine had been released from prison in late June after serving time for armed robbery and burglary.  Police have been unable to unearth a motive in the shooting.

Jones was shot in the face and the back during the incident, while Miller, his high school teammate in Miami, was shot in the arm.  The latter was released from the hospital shortly after the incident, while the former required a lengthier stay, although he was released after a two-week hospital stay.

Jones, the nephew of former Florida State star Dalvin Cook, ran for a team-high 88 yards in FIU’s season-opening loss to Indiana.  He also accounted for a career-high two rushing touchdowns in the same game.  Miller saw his first career action in the opener after redshirting as a true freshman last season.

Neither player has played since being shot.